Monday, April 30, 2007

Drum Roll Please..FAB Winners!

Yeah, I'm late. I'm telling you - blame it on the weather. It was glorious out this week-end, and you couldn't have paid me money to come inside while it was light out. We had such great family time and I miss the week-end already. But, you really would rather just hear the winners* of our FAB week with R.L. LaFevers, huh? Well, I can't says that I blame ya. So without further ado...

Ali - You have won a signed copy of THEODOSIA AND THE SERPENTS OF CHAOS please send an e-mail to deeanddeedish at sbcglobal.net with your snail mail addy so that we may get that to Robin. Congratulations!

Debbie - You have won an ancient Egypt pen! Please send your snail mail addy to deeanddeedish at sbcglobal.net so that we may send that to Robin. Congratulations!

*As always, names were placed in a hat with multiple entries included for the posting on blogs. If we do not hear from the winners in one week, we will draw again. Thanks ~d&D

Take Care

Friday, April 27, 2007

FAB Interview: Maggie Gets The Dish From Theo

As FAB week draws to an end, I want to say a HUGE thank you to my partner in crime this week, the Lovely Miss Maggie. Her enthusiasm and help has been invaluable, I couldn't have done it without you babes.

If you'll notice the picture to your left, that's Maggie(isn't she beautiful?) reading her FAB copy of THEODOSIA AND THE SERPENTS OF CHAOS by R.L. LaFevers. Maggie, like a true Disher, fell in love with the book and had some questions, and in true FAB author style, Robin (R.L.) was able to get Theo to sit down and answer those questions for her (and us). So without further ado, I present to you the chat Maggie had with Theodosia Throckmorton.

Maggie: When did you first know that you could see the dark curses on things?
Theodosia: When I was four years old, I had my first trip to the museum with my parents. I had been dying to go for ages, and finally, as a treat, they allowed me to come with them. However, the minute I stepped into the museum, I shivered, overtaken by a horrible sensation, as if things were creeping along my skin. As my parents gave me a tour, I could hear faint rustlings and whispers, but my parents didn’t seem to notice a thing, so I was afraid to tell them. It had taken so long to convince them I was old enough to visit the museum, and I was terrified if I told them what I was sensing they’d decide I shouldn’t visit them there! So I pretended the things didn’t exist. It wasn’t until I was older and visited the museum more frequently that I was better able to understand what, exactly, I was seeing.

Maggie: When your Mum leaves for an adventure, do YOU have to do all of the cooking?
Theo: No. When Father remembers to go home, Cook makes us a lovely meal, but when he’s engrossed in his work at the museum, then he forgets all about important things like food and such. Sometimes, there’s the end bit of a loaf of bread and some leftover jam, which is why I have such a fondness for jam sandwiches. It’s a survival technique.

Maggie: Do you think it's more fun to be homeschooled, or would you like to go to regular school someday?
Theo: I’ve been to two boarding schools and they were both horrid, although Henry says that his is all right. The girls at the schools I went to all hung together in packs, like jackals or something. They didn’t like you if you got high marks (which I did) and if you weren’t good at sports (which I wasn’t) they didn’t like you either. Plus, if any of the other girls showed any signs of liking you, they would pounce on her and insist she be mean as well or they’d have nothing to do with her anymore. I’ll take my chances with the restless spirits and disgruntled dead things; much less terrifying than the girls I met at school!

Maggie: Since your Mum is from America, have you ever gotten to visit, or do you ever want to visit there?
Theo: I haven’t had a chance to so far, but I’d love to visit America! I’ve heard you have a spectacular museum of your own, I think it’s called the Metropolitan Museum. In New York, maybe? Anyway, I’ve heard Mum talk of it before. I also understand that you have some fascinating artifacts there dating from the early Native American peoples. Not quite as ancient as Egyptians, but fascinating, nevertheless.

Maggie: Why is your brother so weird? (I have two brothers, and they are really weird too. I just can't understand them!)
Theo: I’m convinced it’s because of how attracted he is to grubby things. I think all that dirt he absorbs through his skin affects his brain or something.

It has been such a FUN FAB week here at dee & Dee, Maggie was a great help, Theodosia Throckmorton was absolutely charming, and R.L. LaFevers was so generous with her time and proved how very FAB she is. Thank You Robin and Theodosia for indulging Maggie and I, we had an absolutely lovely time.

Don't forget, the two contests end tonight. Click here for a chance to win a signed copy of the book and click here for your chance to win an amazing gold ancient Egypt pen. Winners will be announced tomorrow.

Take Care

Thursday, April 26, 2007

FAB: Chari-Dee Gets The Dish From R.L. LaFevers

One of my favorite parts of FAB week is the chance to ask the wonderful authors interview questions. One of my least favorite parts of FAB week is the chance to ask the wonderful authors interview questions. It is most definitely a love it and dread it sort of task. I am such a Fan Girl of my FAB picks that I never know what to ask or how to ask it in a way that won't make me sound like a blabbering fool. Thankfully, all of the authors are such FABulous people that their answers make my silly questions look good. And in truth, R.L. LaFevers had such great answers she made my questions seem fantastic! So read on my lovelies and get the dish on Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, writing, and what's next from R.L. LaFevers!

Chari-Dee: What prompted you to write children's books?

R.L. LaFevers: That’s an interesting question. I started writing again after I became a SAHM with my two sons. We read books all the time, we were absolutely steeped in children’s books, and I found myself reading my favorite childhood books to them and was struck by how timeless children’s books were, how deeply the got under our skin, more so than much of the adult fiction we read. And as I wrote more and more, I found myself drawn to writing for and about children. At first glance, it would be easy to assume that it was because I was around kids and reading so much kid’s fiction, but it was deeper than that. I think it has to do with the core themes that writers explore, because all writers have certain themes they are drawn to, and my themes tended to be about becoming aware of and stepping into one’s personal power; of that moment kids learn that they can act in a very real and separate way from their parents. I think that’s also the reason I write fantasy, because using fantastical powers is such a great metaphor for personal powers that kids begin to exercise and embrace. Another thing I learned recently while doing a class with a number of other published children’s authors, is that we discovered we all had a very strong sense of giving voice to our child selves, who never had a chance to be heard due to various familial circumstances and dynamics. So the real reason I write for children is probably deeply enmeshed in that.

CD: It can't be easy writing a children's book, as there is generally expected a subtle lesson to be involved. Do you find that a tough balancing act? Making the story enjoyable, yet putting a bit of life lesson in there? Do you go into a book knowing what the underlying message will be?

R.L.: You know, I emphatically don’t believe in putting a lesson in a children’s book. I think when you set out to write a book with a lesson, kids can smell it a mile away and it’s the kiss of death. Also, if you write a great story, the lesson is there, whether you intend it to be or not, and it will have developed organically, and I fully believe that any lessons in a kid’s book should evolve organically from the characters’ own journey rather than because the author wanted to teach readers something specific.

And sure, there have been many times I thought I knew what a story was going to be about—not because I planned it, but because I thought I could see the theme emerging as I worked. However, by the time I got to the end of the book, the theme had morphed on me. Werewolf Rising is a great example of this. I thought it was going to be about learning to control oneself, one’s power and one’s strength, but in the end, it ended up being about intolerance and bigotry. Or so it seems to me.

The other angle to this is you can’t really control what theme or lesson readers take from your work. The writer is only one half of the equation, and the reader brings their own history, perspective, and worldview to the reading process, which is the second half of the equation. So how that all balances out in the end is very case specific. An example of this was a conversation I saw on a blog regarding how I’d handled the concept of British colonialism and stolen national artifacts, but the truth is, I never intended to make a political statement on any of those things; they just grew out of the story I was telling.

With Theodosia, there were certain themes I wanted to explore, but there was no lesson I intended to teach. If anything, I simply wanted the story to validate young readers’ experiences of feeling overlooked by their busy parents, or feeling like they were aware of important things that no one else around them (especially the grown ups) were paying attention to.

CD: Theo is your first book about with a female lead (and I adore the dedication*) was there a reason behind going with a female this time?

R.L.: There was no particular reason other than just following a creative urge to try something different. I’d been surrounded by boys for years and my first five books were boy books, then for some reason I was struck by wanting to write a book for my own inner eleven year old self. I’d also thought for a long time that there should be more big fantasy adventures for girls, so I sat down and thought really hard about what book I would have loved to have read. I really wallowed in my eleven-year-old self and tried to write the book that would have been my favorite at that age.

Another component of the book was that it irks me that the word bossy or “being too clever for your own good” still gets applied to girls more often than boys. You rarely hear a boy being described as bossy—he’s confident or a natural born leader. I decided the perfect revenge would be to write a book where those very traits in a girl would be her shining strengths, the very things that allowed her to save her parents and her country.

Another concept that found its way into this book was kids’ abilities to notice things that adults around them no longer pay attention to. As a kid, I can so clearly remember knowing when someone had been in my room, even when nothing had been disturbed, or the ability to feel when someone was looking at you. Kids are so open to the world, in ways we adults have forgotten or discarded, and I wanted to explore that. But it could just as easily been explored with a boy protagonist as with a girl.

CD: Theo has such vast knowledge of Egypt and ancient myths, how much research did you have to do for this book? Have the things that Theo knows and love been something you have always been interested in?

R.L.: Well, my husband jokes that I am a writer so I have an excuse to do research, and he’s only half kidding. The truth is, I am mad about research. I’ve always loved it. Even when I was little I adored walking into libraries or museums because I knew I was in the presence of Knowledge. Answers to the Ancient Mysteries lay all around me and I only had to know which books to read in order to find those answers. It’s always struck me that the myths from ancient civilizations weren’t just a story, but were something the people of the time truly believed were true. What if they were real? What would that be like and how would that affect our world? This question is always in the back of my mind and the best place to explore it was in writing. So Theo’s love of research and working out puzzles were totally my own. As was her love of ancient Egypt. I’ve always been fascinated with Ancient Egypt and thought it was ripe for story possibilities.

I would have loved to be able to actually travel to London and the Valley of the Kings, but alas, my research budget did not allow for that. I collected a number of books on Ancient Egypt and archaeological findings and expeditions in Egypt, as well as some on the history of Egyptology, Egyptian myths and magic. I also did a lot of research on Edwardian London, trying to get a sense of the political and social climate, as well as just the logistics of living in that time period.

The internet was indispensable for my research. I was able to locate pictures of the British Museum near the turn of the century, find old archival photographs of the museum’s interior, as well as its displays and groups of school children who visited the museum. I was also able to find out when lifts went into operation in London and what sort of vehicles were in use. I was even able to find old street maps of London so that I could give an authentic feel to the world I was building and get the locations of things correct, although I did use artistic license with a couple of them.

CD: Theo has quite the job of removing some of the curses from these ancient objects, how did she find those removal techniques?

R.L.: Once again, research comes to Theodosia’s (and my!) rescue. All of the magic used or referred to in the book came from my own research into the magical practices of ancient Egyptians. The execration figures, sandstone from the tomb walls, amulets, all the magic was taken from scholarly works on the ancient papyri and writings of the time. Since her parents and the other curators were practicing Egyptologists and archaeologists, they would have had the books and papers and other research material at hand, and Theodosia was able to access them.

CD: Will there be more from Theo? If so, can you tell us a little about her next adventure?

R.L.: Theodosia’s not one to rest on her laurels. Her adventures continue in Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris, where, as a reward for discovering a new section in Thutmose III’s tomb, she is allowed to attend a formal reception in honor of one of the museum’s directors. While there, she announces that one of the most prized artifacts in his private collection—a mummy—is a fake.

This creates all sorts of problems for Theodosia (adults so hate being told they’re wrong!) including her grandmother insisting on finding her a new governess right away. Theo is also sent down to the museum’s creepy basement, or catacombs, as she calls them, to inventory all the junk that’s been collecting down there for ages. While there, she stumbles onto an artifact that just might be the Staff of Osiris, the wand the Egyptian god of the underworld used to maintain power over the dead…

CD: I think that these books will spark the imagination of so many young readers, what book was the first you can remember that sparked your imagination?

R.L.: Boy, the first one that I can remember is probably The Chronicles of Narnia. I so wanted to be Lucy! My dad gave me those books when I was eight, and I read them once a year for the longest time. Loved. Those. Books. I also remember another book, maybe even earlier, but I can’t remember the title of it. It was about a girl who discovered a fairy/elven kingdom behind some hedges, and when she had to leave, they gave her a ring that would glow whenever there were elves or fairies about. I so wanted a ring like that!

Another thing that totally sparked my imagination was my father. My parents were divorced and we had to shuffle back and forth a lot, often on loooong tedious car rides. And my dad would recite 19th century British poetry to us to keep us entertained on these long trips. The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Highwayman, Rudyard Kipling, all sorts of these deep, emotional poems (recited in his deep, gravelly voice) really instilled a love of the romance of history and bravery and the ultimate sacrifice of Man, and I think it was a huge influence on me and my writing tastes. Not to mention my love of all things British. ;-)

CD: Do you have any advice for your readers that may one day want to write stories like that of Theo?

R.L.: Read. A lot. Write. A lot. Let yourself play in worlds you create. Experiment. Take creative risks. Stories are one area where kids can have total control over their world, so go for it.

I knew at 8 years old I wanted to be a writer, but so many adults (perfectly well-meaning ones!) told me how hard it was to be a writer, how much competition there was, how much rejection there would be. They were trying to protect me from the hardships of life. But you know, sometimes the most satisfying experiences are the hardest ones; those are the experiences that force us to grow and change and learn. All of which writing has taught me to do.

So I say to kids don’t let the well meaning adults discourage you from your dreams. Keep working at what you love, and even if for some reason you don’t achieve a specific goal (publishing a book, acting on stage, whatever) you will still have had a much richer life by having been so involved in a creative pursuit.

I want to offer my most sincere THANK YOU to R.L. LaFevers for joining us this week. I absolutely ADORE her work, and I think that Theo is going to capture the imagination of many new readers for years to come! Be sure to join us tomorrow as Maggie gets the dish from Theodosia herself! And don't forget to enter this weeks contest for a signed copy of Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos and the contest for an ancient Egypt pen!

Take Care

*The first part of TATSOC dedication: To clever girls everywhere who get tired of feeling like no ones listening.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

So many goings-on, so little time...

Just a really quick, short post to direct everyone over to Laura Florand's blog today. Laura posted an interview featuring both of us, along with pictures that some of you may remember.

In all actuality, this was posted yesterday. And we're all going to pretend that I'm telling you to go there yesterday as well, right? Because I did NOT log on all day yesterday. I didn't even turn on my computer yesterday. I did not know that Laura had this interview up until today. So.

Regardless, it is here. Go read it if you want a chance to learn a little more about the people behind this site.

In other news, don't forget to tell us which god/goddess you'd like to know in order to win an Egyptian-type pen, and tell us what item will have future archaeologists scratching their heads for your chance to win a signed copy of the FABulous Theodosia and The Serpents of Chaos.

Keep Turning Those Pages,
dee

PS- If you're wondering about the title of this post, Maggie just giggled every time she read the words "goings on" in Theo's book. For some reason, that particular phrase just struck her as hilarious, and I couldn't help including it during this week.

Where the Girl Readerz Are

Since my FAB pick this month is R.L. LaFevers and she writes children and YA books, and since her new book THEODOSIA AND THE SERPENTS OF CHAOS is about such a strong girl, I thought I'd introduce you to this great site I found for young readers. ReaderGirlz is a website designed for young girls to get inside a book. To have a chance to talk with the author and find out what was going on inside their minds while they wrote. ReaderGirlz is a site that gives young readers the tools they need to start their own reading group and a safe way to talk to other readers about the books they love. With a MySpace page and group young readers have a chance to ask questions and form relationships with one another. ReaderGirlz do not skirt the harder issues instead they confront them head on and help young readers find a way to talk with their parents as well. So, grab your young ReaderGirl and check out their manifesta and explore the site - I really think you'll be glad you did.

And be sure to check in tomorrow for my FAB interview with R.L. and Friday for Maggie's interview with Theo. And in case you haven't yet, make sure to scroll down and enter our contests!
Take Care

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

FAB: Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers

Don't forget, dear Lovelies, that you have a chance to win a signed copy of this very book and that you also have a chance to win a very cool ancient Egyptian pen. To learn how you can win a signed copy of the book click here. To learn how to win the pen you need just click here. You have until Friday at noon to get your entries in, and the winners will be announced on Saturday. And with that little bit of housekeeping out of the way...

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers
(JCC)

Theodosia Throckmorton has her hands full at the Museum of Legends and Antiquities in London. Her father may be head curator, but it is Theo-and only Theo-who is able to see all the black magic and ancient curses that still cling to the artifacts in the museum. When Theo's mother returns from her latest archaeological dig bearing the Heart of Egypt-a legendary amulet belonging to an ancient tomb-Theo learns that it comes inscribed with a curse so black and vile that it threatens to crumble the British Empire from within and start a war too terrible to imagine. Intent on returning the malevolent artifact to its rightful place, Theo devises a daring plan to put things right. But even with the help of her younger brother, a wily street urchin, and the secret society known as the Brotherhood of the Chosen Keepers, it won't be easy . . . she quickly finds herself pursued down dark alleys, across an ocean, through the bustling crowds of Cairo, and straight into the heart of an ancient mystery. Theo will have to call upon everything she's ever learned in order to prevent the rising chaos from destroying her country-and herself!

This JCC is excellent. It sums up the book so nicely, that I don't even have to do that with this dish. Which is truly wonderful because I loved this book so much I want to give spoilers. Big globs of information that would give away everything you need to learn by reading the book. That's what happens, unfortunately, when I really love a book, I want to discuss it in detail and that's good if the person or persons I'm discussing it with have read the book, but bad if they have not. I will have my chance to discuss the book in detail however, when Theo is the Cherry Forums Book Club pick starting June 1st. I hope to see you there :).

Theodosia Throckmorton is a very clever girl. She loves the museum where her father is the Head Curator, and she loves seeing and learning about all the artifacts that come into the museum. This is a good thing, because just like the JCC says, Theo has the ability to see the curses that are attached to many of the artifacts that come into the museum, but she can't share this information with the adults surrounding her because they simply will not listen to such a young girl, "...even if that girl just happens to be the daughter of the Head Curator of the museum and is rather cleverer than most (or so I've been told; oddly, I don't think they meant it as a compliment)."

When Theo's mom returns home after a six month dig in Egypt, she brings many new "treasures" into the museum, and Theo knows right away that they are cursed and even though she has no idea what the curse is yet, she knows she will have her work cut out for her trying to rid them all, "Removing curses is not a task for the faint-hearted or financially strapped; unfortunately, I am both."

When the Throckmorton's return to the museum after Christmas holiday, they discover that the artifact her parents most cherish from the recent dig has been stolen. Theo knows she must get it back, not only because her parents need that for their exhibit or because she has yet to take the nasty curse off of it, but because once she does find the missing artifact her parents will have to see her and know what a help she is and finally give her the attention she really wants from them.

Theo's search for the missing artifacts leads her into some very dangerous territory, but Theo finds help in some very unexpected places:her brother, a street urchin, and even a secret organization of men sworn to protect England against the same dark curses Theo works to remove.

Theo takes us on an exciting journey that leads all the way to Egypt and back and has you biting your fingernails as the mystery mounts. I loved Theo. She is so smart, so brave, and yet so vulnerable all at the same time. Theo teaches us that girls, even the young ones have power. Theo with her amazingly organized brain (she writes down her recipes for removing curses) shows us that things are not always as they seem, be it an artifact leaking curses or the people in our lives, and she handles the obstacles set in her path with imagination and true grit.

"It takes a surprising amount of courage to place one's hand into an unseen area when your mind is thinking about vermin." This one sentence stood out for me, because of the deeper meaning in there. There is a little Theo in all of us, we just have to remember her, reach past the vermin in our mind, and grab hold of the unknown. Feel the fear, but instead of letting it stop us in our tracks, use it to take that leap of faith.

To learn even more about Theo, visit her website, where you can read her blog and even read an excerpt from TATSOC.

Take Care

Monday, April 23, 2007

FABulous BOOKS!!! R.L. LaFevers

Last year, my son Bear was still at the point where books were only fun if they had pictures. To be fair, he was only 7, but if the book had no pictures, Bear couldn't fathom it being worth his time. Even if the book had pictures, say a chapter book from a recent movie (a movie he couldn't wait to watch) he would lose interest fairly quickly because there just weren't enough pictures. To be honest, I was a bit perplexed. I mean, I LOVE books, no pictures means I get to use my imagination. The problem, it turned out, was I wasn't buying the right books. Why would he want to sit and read a book about SpongeBob when he could just turn on the t.v. and watch it? So, I bought a few other non-movie or t.v. show related books, and read them to him. Unfortunately, we had the same problem, Bear would lose interest about 3 Chapters in.

And then one day all that changed. I started reading Bear THE FORGING OF THE BLADE by R.L. LaFevers. Two pages in and Bear was hooked. Heck, the whole family was hooked. What started out as a "try it you may really like it" prodding, turned into computers, t.v., phone, everything turned off, while the entire family sat on the couch and I read. I read of a boy who's father was missing along with all of the other blacksmiths in the area. I read of a boy who watched as he and his mother were about to lose everything. And I read of a boy who would do anything to see that his father came home and his family and neighbors were safe. I read until my voice was hoarse and my family, The Hubs included, sent various wails of "awe, just a little more. Please!" singing into the air.

I read the entire Lowthar's Blade Trilogy to my family over the course of a couple of weeks. And as I read, I watched Miss Beautiful and Bear crunch their little faces up in anticipation, in a bit of heart-stopping what-will-happen-next rapture that told me I was no longer the only reader in the house. Bear has dyslexia, he struggles behind his friends to read just below grade level, but he goes to his tutoring sessions, and he does his homework, and then he sits down with one of his beloved LBT books, to see how much more work he needs to do before he can read these books himself. He is transported when he reads these books, he is Kenric. He sees what a book can do for the imagination that no video game, t.v. show or movie can do.

R.L. LaFevers is my FAB pick, because she has the imagination - the skill with the pen - to capture her audience like magic. She has made readers out of children that swore books were only good if they had pictures. The worlds she has created with her words have shown children of all ages that READING IS FUN. She has inspired children to pick up a book and that alone makes her FAB.

Her books, make her double FAB. Tomorrow, I'll post my dish on LaFevers newest book, THEODOSIA AND THE SERPENTS OF CHAOS, Maggie and I will have interviews with Theo and R.L. on Thursday, and post winners of the contests on Friday.

Oh, but I've only mentioned one contest, right? Guess I better fill you in on the secondary contest. To enter for a chance to win an ancient Egyptian pen (seen here), and in honor of some of the ancient Egyptian gods that Theo introduces us to in her adventures, we'd like you to invent your very own Egyptian god. One that you'd like to see that would help you. Mine would be Dawnascrub - goddess of Dirty Dishes, and she would bless my house with no dirty dishes for an entire week (or eternity, I won't look a gift horse in the mouth). Anything you want. Name them and tell me what they are for, and you are entered! And if you haven't yet, be sure to enter this contest for your chance at a signed copy of THEODOSIA AND THE SERPENTS OF CHAOS.

Good Luck and Take Care

Saturday, April 21, 2007

HHW: Wrapping it up!

I'm wrapping up the Hometown Hero Week with this final post, a sort of tribute to my hometown. I'm also announcing the winner of the signed copies of Hope Tarr's THE HAUNTING and Elaine Fox's GUYS & DOGS and MUST LOVE DOUG.

Here's the deal though - the "hero" in these books is not a man from Fredericksburg, at least in my mind. The main male lead is sometimes from very far away from Fredericksburg, either in miles or time, actually. But that's ok. Because as you may (or may not) have guessed - the "Hero" in the books that I'm featuring during HHW is really not a man at all - it's all about the town.

The idea of a themed week, featuring books that feature my hometown, came to me a while back, when I saw an article about Hope Tarr in my local paper, then picked up MUST LOVE DOUG in the store. Both of the books are set in Fredericksburg, both are actually set in "Old Towne", and I've really come to love that place even more this past year. I have some really great friends (like Hannah and Burton) that live in the Old Towne area, on historic Caroline Street, and they have shown me a side of the 'Burg that I never would have imagined. From private "Founder's Day" parties (that coincided with my husband's birthday), to special events at the Rec Center where the Dixie Jims play at least once a month, to different pubs and restaurants that hold 'open mic' nights virtually every night of the week for local musicians, I've been welcomed and encouraged to expand my horizons. Not everyone is lucky enough to have good friends introduce them to such a cool scene, I realize that. But I've still never met a stranger on Monday's at The Tav (or Colonial Tavern, Home of the Irish Brigade, as the sign on the building says), or Thursday's at Happy Endings. And this past week, I was heartily welcomed to Tuesday nights at Bistro Bethem (or The Bistro, to most). Featuring a superb menu and a full wine list, with amazing local artist's work displayed on their walls, The Bistro is yet another place to hear hometown musician's playing their hearts out for their very loyal fans. Of course, with my friends Hannah and Jim, and my new friend Hope, I had quite an amazing time!

Some people have love affairs with people, and I understand that. I have one with my own hero, my husband Shane. Some people have love affairs with a job, or an object. I've seen those enough to understand that. And some people have love affairs with a city. If ever I were to leave my husband (which is highly unlikely!), it wouldn't be for another man. It would be for a second floor walk-up, open floor planned, studio apartment, with a claw-footed tub, built in bookshelves, and floor to ceiling windows that open onto a balcony overlooking Caroline Street. Yes, my "other" love affair is with my 'Burg, and both Ms. Tarr and Ms. Fox do a marvelous job bringing my 'Burg to life in their books.

When I went in search of GUYS & DOGS last spring, it really was for research. I was starting to get really serious about my writing, reading all sorts of books about craft, style, technique, voice, and I wanted to see how an established author handled setting. What better way to see that than by reading a book supposedly set in my hometown. I'd be able to see how much liberty she took with the place, how much she let the town enter into her story, if the town actually became part of the story or was just backdrop. It was eye-opening to me, seeing my beloved 'Burg in the pages of a book. Over a year later, having grown even more familiar, more intimate, with my town, reading MUST LOVE DOUG and THE HAUNTING was even better than that long-ago research read. The love for my 'Burg has seeped into my own writing already, and seeing two other skilled women navigate and detail the streets and feelings of my town has given me encouragement.

Thanks Hope and Elaine, for doing such a wonderful job of showing the world what a wonderful place this town is!

As for the winner - danetteb get in touch with me for your books. Please e-mail me at deenddeedish @ sbcglobal . net (remove the spaces, ok?) and put "dee, I'm a Hometown winner" in the subject line so I can find your e-mail easier, and get your books out quicker. Make sure to include your mailing address!

Keep Turning Those Pages,

dee

Friday, April 20, 2007

FAB: Werewolf Rising by R.L. LaFevers


The following is a classic post from the dee & Dee archives. Michael was our first ever guest disher, and it just so happens, that this R.L. LaFevers book was the first ever contest prize. Enjoy! And don't forget to enter the contest!
WARNING: Michael has included a few SPOILERS!! Don't be too mad at him, he's never done this before. He got a little excited seeing his picture up there, what can I say?

The main character in this book is Luc. Luc is almost thirteen when the book starts. He lives with his aunt and uncle, because his parents are dead. He doesn't really like living with his aunt and uncle because his uncle is mean to him.

Luc has nightmares. He dreams about a beast. He thinks HE is the beast. As his 13th birthday gets closer, Luc starts to change. He can run faster, and he wants to eat squirrels. He's normally a slow motion guy, and a vegetarian.

Luc's other uncle, Ranger, shows up to take Luc away to where the rest of Luc's family lives. Ranger then tells Luc that his family is made up of wolves, and Luc is also a wolf. Luc doesn't believe Ranger at first, until Ranger turns into a wolf in front of Luc. Luc is nervous and excited at the same time.

Luc learns that his parents are dead because of wolf hunters. He also learns that his other uncle was part of their death. Luc is angry with his uncle about this. He runs away to find his uncle.

I liked this book. It had wolves in it, and I like wolves. The wolves ate weird things, like big deer. It was a book, but it was more like an action movie. Luc doesn't really think everything is fair in the pack, but he still likes the pack better than where he was living before. He feels like he finally found a home in the pack. At the end, there was a big wolf beside him, and they were running, and they went home together. Home is where all of the good things happen.

I hope that Robin writes another book. It doesn't have to be about Luc, but I like her writing. I liked the "Falconmaster" and the "Lowthar's Blade" trilogy. They're really cool. I think everybody else should read her books too.

Hot Stuff by Leanne Banks and Janet Evanovich

Just a quick reminder, we have FAB week running right now, so scroll down, check out the posts and enter for a chance to win! I will be posting a dee & Dee classic review this afternoon of my FAB pick, R.L. LaFevers book Werewolf Rising, and we have so much more planned so stay tuned! And now, on with the dish...


HOT STUFF by Janet Evanovich and Leanne Banks
(BCC)

Dear Reader,

Cate Madigan isn't asking for trouble. Her wacky Irish family is constantly playing matchmaker for her with men who leave much to be desired. All she wants is peace and quiet and a nice place to live while she saves her money from tending bar in a lively Boston pub. Okay, so what if her roommate is a cross-dressing lounge singer named Mary Longfellow? In exchange for cheap rent, all she has to do is take care of his plants and collect his mail when he's out of town. And then...Marty disappears. At the same time, a bullmastiff named Beast shows up with instructions from Marty to take care of him. Can Cate handle this 120-pound bundle of joy who wants to devour everything in sight? Ex-cop Kellen McBride has decided to make Cate's bar his nightly hang-out. But is he just there for the beer? Or does he have an ulterior motive for getting close to Cate? When Cate comes home to a ransacked apartment, she realizes Kellen knows more than he's saying. Problem is, he's turning up the heat in her life - in more ways than one. Soon Cate finds herself in deep trouble with mysterious stalkers, a lovesick would-be boyfriend named Patrick Pugg, two friends who are looking for love, and the very sexy, possibly dangerous Kellen McBride. The south side of Boston has never been wilder...

This BCC is classic Evanovich style. Make it sound wacky, include the characters names, but pretty much exaggerate everything else that is in the book. It will be easier to explain if I do it in a point-by-point but not really sort of way. Make sense? Oh good. Cause now I'm confused!

Let's just start at the beginning - Cate's family: Yep, all Irish. Yep, all trying to play matchmaker. In fact, the book starts with family dinner and set-up at Cate's parents. I loved this scene. Cate's family is so endearing. Dinner at the Madigan's is like dinner at my folks, every man for himself. If you don't act fast you don't eat. Period. Be careful putting your hands out for seconds, because if someone beats you to it, you'll end up with tine marks in your hand. The man they are setting Cate up with this time is the Patrick Pugg mentioned in the BCC. Patrick is great. Total bad-ass wanna-be. Refers to himself in Third Person, speaks in short sentences and goes for the Neanderthal attitude. Pugg also has a way of sticking with it, after figuring out that he can wear most women down and into the sack just to get rid of him.

Cate's living arrangement: Yep, Cate lives with Marty Longfellow. Cross dressing lounge singer at the bar Cate tends at. But she isn't living there trying to save money. Cate is living there so she can work her way through college without being under the watchful eye of her family and not have to take out student loans. And Mary is hardly ever there. Perfect for Cate.

Kellen McBride: Total hottie, with a Big Bad Wolf kinda smile. When he shows up at Cate's bar, she knows his type. After all her mom always said, Easy on the eyes, hard on the heart. But Kellen seems to be just as persistent as Pugg, only not nearly as annoying while he does it. But something about him warns Cate he can't be trusted. It just so happens, that when Marty disappears, Cate finds out that Kellen has been investigating Marty. But Kellen may have gone in the bar to get close to Cate so he could get close to Marty, but he knew almost immediately Cate was the type of girl he could never resist.

The Friends: I'm not sure how I missed the looking for love part of these two women, but I did. Sharon, a divorced real estate agent, and Julie, a southern gal working the party trolley who decorates her condo with lawn furniture, are Cate's very best friends. Sharon is obsessed with a mysterious tenant, and Julie loves to watch the world from her window until time to work at night. Sharon's attempts to see the new tenant, and Julie's family stories are quite funny. Yep, Julie and Sharon both find love, but I never saw them as looking for it. More like it found them.

The Mystery and The Dog: When a stranger calls looking for Marty and he refuses to take the call, and then the caller continues to keep calling every hour on the hour, Marty takes off for a private party in Aruba. The next day a breeder shows up with Beast. A huge puppy, that seems to be good natured but not to bright. He eats Cate's thong in the book, but other than that, he really doesn't destroy or devour anything else. So I'm not sure why they tried to make him sound like Bob from the Plum books. Beast comes with a note from Marty that says he is a trained guard dog, and with the strange man calling he wanted Cate to have him close while he was gone. When Cate and Marty's condo keeps getting broken into and Cate starts being threatened by a very wealthy woman, Cate and Kellen have to figure out exactly what it is Marty was up to and what these people want and soon.

I really did enjoy this book. I was nervous. As you know, the Full series of books that Evanovich co-writes with Charlotte Hughes has been leaving me cold (I wasn't even able to force myself to finish the last release in the series) and Evanovich's re-released romances are just OK. But I love Leanne's voice in Romance, and from her series books, I knew that Evanovich was good with Mystery, so it sounded like a match made in Heaven.

It's a short book. Only 281 pages, and for the price that's a bit depressing. There are the typical POV problems I've come to expect from anything JE writes that isn't First. We have some Third Om and some Third Limited, and I had really hoped that Banks being on board would remedy that particular problem with these books. But - no go.

Aside from the length and the POV problems I actually have no complaints. Evanovich and Banks blend nicely. The humor that is all Evanovich comes through, and the great dialogue and realistic characters I've come to expect from Banks definitely shine through. I think the Banks involvement helped to tamp down some of the usual wackiness that is Evanovich, and it was a nice change of pace to see a dog that wasn't all about pooping and eating.

So who else has read this? I want to know what you thought? Could you tell that Banks was a part of this book? Did you think the balance was good? Are you looking forward to more? I know I am. And hopefully, I won't grow tired of them like I did the Full series.

Take Care

Thursday, April 19, 2007

FAB Contest Announced

Oh how I love FAB weeks here at dee & Dee! It is so much fun getting to introduce ya'll to great books and then having the chance to GIVE one away! And this months FAB pick is no different. R.L. LaFevers has generously agreed to send the winner of this months contest a SIGNED copy of her new book THEODOSIA AND THE SERPENTS OF CHAOS.

In TATSOC, Theo's mother returns from an archaeological dig in Egypt with all sorts of interesting (and cursed, but we'll get to that in a later post ) artifacts. So R.L., Maggie, and I thought it would be a neat to think about future archaeologists and what artifact from the 21st Century might they find in a dig and be puzzled over? Or maybe they aren't puzzled, perhaps they are intrigued. That's completely up to you. To enter the contest to win a signed copy of TATSOC, leave a comment here (on one of the FAB posts) telling us what the artifact would be, if future archaeologists would find it interesting or puzzling, and why.

Remember, be creative and HAVE FUN. Grab your kiddos and let them enter as well. If you want EXTRA entries in the contest simply post a picture of the book and the JCC (click here for the post) on your blog and link back to us. Please make sure to leave a comment so we know you did it, and we'll add in extra entries for you.

Good Luck and Take Care

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

FAB Week - Where Kids (and R.L. LaFevers) Rule!

I'd like to introduce you to dee's lovely daughter, Maggie. Maggie will be my partner in crime throughout my upcoming FAB week, and we will be introducing you to the FABulous new book, Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by dee & Dee fave - R.L. LaFevers.

And don't let those beautiful looks fool you, Ms. Maggie is one smart cookie and there is no way I could come close to doing this week and book justice without her. So please join me in welcoming Maggie and helping her to feel right at home here at dee & Dee.

And now that you've met Maggie, may we introduce you to our FAB pick:

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers
(JCC)

Theodosia Throckmorton has her hands full at the Museum of Legends and Antiquities in London. Her father may be head curator, but it is Theo-and only Theo-who is able to see all the black magic and ancient curses that still cling to the artifacts in the museum. When Theo's mother returns from her latest archaeological dig bearing the Heart of Egypt-a legendary amulet belonging to an ancient tomb-Theo learns that it comes inscribed with a curse so black and vile that it threatens to crumble the British Empire from within and start a war too terrible to imagine. Intent on returning the malevolent artifact to its rightful place, Theo devises a daring plan to put things right. But even with the help of her younger brother, a wily street urchin, and the secret society known as the Brotherhood of the Chosen Keepers, it won't be easy . . . she quickly finds herself pursued down dark alleys, across an ocean, through the bustling crowds of Cairo, and straight into the heart of an ancient mystery. Theo will have to call upon everything she's ever learned in order to prevent the rising chaos from destroying her country-and herself!

As you know, this is not a typical FAB pick for us here at dee & Dee but let me explain; I am a reader, and like most avid readers, I started at a young age:

I was barely two when my mom wrote that entry in my baby book, and I've been told that I was reading for myself (and anyone with patience enough) at the age of 3. Reading is such a fundamental part of learning and of life. Reading provides an escape from day to day problems and as children it allows us to travel the world and sharpen our imagination. So children's book have a special place in my heart. Especially children's books as wonderful as this. Theo is going to open up a world for young readers that they never knew existed. They will be excited about reading and love the adventures that Theo takes them on.

So please stay with us this week for fun contests, interviews, and dish on Theo and other R.L. LaFevers books. Grab the kiddos and embark with Maggie and I on a fun filled week of adventure!

To learn more about Theodosia Throckmorton before the dish officially begins, you can explore her website, read her blog, and view her bookshelf, you simply have to click HERE.

Take Care ~ Maggie and Chari-Dee

FAB WINNER ANNOUNCED!!


This is just going to be short and sweet, because we're actually starting a new FAB week TODAY. I know, right. We finished FAB, went into HHW (that contest is still running, so don't forget to enter!), now back to FAB. Does it ever stop? Uh, no.

Chari-Dee has a great FAB author this month, and I know that you guys will enjoy this week. Plus, you can actually encourage your children to check us out as well. Stay tuned for more FAB fun!

Thank you to the amazingly FABulous Samantha Graves for being part of this week. Her new book, SIGHT UNSEEN, is in stores now. You really don't want to miss the book, it's just THAT good. Don't forget to check Sam out on her own site, and on her podcast with Lani Diane Rich (Will Write For Wine).

Finally, LIS - get in touch with me. Send an e-mail to deeanddeedish @ sbcglobal . net (take out the spaces!) and put "dee, I'm your April FAB winner" in the subject. Please include your mailing address. I will get your info to Sam, and she will get your book in the mail. Thanks to everyone that asked questions, posted book info, and checked in each day to read more about Sam. It was a very fun week for me! I hope it was for you as well.

Keep turning those pages,
dee

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

HHW: MUST LOVE DOuG, Elaine Fox


So, it's Two-fer Tuesday here, thanks to horrible winds that took out both my power and my internet satellite yesterday. And for all of you that heard about the tragedy down the road from me in Blacksburg, please keep those folks in your thoughts and prayers.

This is my final Dish for Hometown Hero Week, and it's a super great way to be ending this special "theme-week" with you guys. I'll have the final Hometown Hero Week Wrap-up post on Saturday, to announce the contest winner of the three books that we've Dished this week, THE HAUNTING by Hope Tarr and GUYS & DOGS and BEWARE OF DOUG, both by Elaine Fox. Let me tell you a bit about BEWARE OF DOUG now though...

He's nobody's best friend!
Lily Tyler's very interested in her sexy new neighbor, private jet pilot Brady Cole. Brady could really go for smart, gorgeous Lily. The fire that's generated whenever they're together isn't just chemical... it's nuclear!
But then there's Doug...
The real ruler of the roost - Lily's noisy, nasty, matchmauling pooch - Doug likes to greet anyone he dislikes with yaps, nips and very unpleasant surprises, And Doug does not like Brady. (Doug, in fact, doesn't like anybody - except Lily, of course. And, oddly enough, the squeaky clean, partner-track attorney whom Lily's domineering dad would love for his dutiful daughter to marry.)
Brady's no canine fan to begin with - and Doug's the devil-dog incarnate! But Lily could never get serious with anyone who doesn't click with her precious puppy - so Brady's going to need a lot more than great looks, smooth charm, and hot passion to get himself out of the doghouse and into Lily's life!

It sounds pretty light from the BCC, doesn't it? Well, it's lighter than some of the books I Dish here, but really, it's not a fluff read. Plus, this BCC doesn't even begin to touch on some of the things that really interested me about the book.

The girl. Lily Tyler is a blast. She's an English professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. She has a very nice and orderly life, with her students, her neighbors, and her friends all having their own places in her heart. She tries not to think too much about her domineering Dad, but the way he insinuates himself into her life makes it difficult. She's got issues, of course. Most of them center on her trying to live her own life while not disappointing her father, walking that tight rope between seeking parental approval and fulfilling your own dreams. It's a theme that I enjoy seeing, and Ms. Fox does it well enough in this story.

The guy. Brady Cole is sex on two wheels. Well, at least he was. Now, he's trying to make a fresh start, and that includes not falling into old habits. He wants to see if he can try to be friends with a woman before going to bed with her, as all of his past relationships went too far too fast, and ended in disaster.

The dog. Doug. What a dog is Doug! He's even got his own POV. Ms. Fox does a terrific job of catching glimpses of what's going on in Doug's head and making him real for us. I never thought I'd enjoy being inside the head of a bossy pooch, but Doug was just too mischievous not to enjoy.

The friends and family. Friends play a big part in this second 'Burg book. Besides Megan Rose (and Sutter) from GUYS & DOGS, we also get to see Georgia and Penelope again. The four women get together to walk their dogs, to hang out, and to help each other through a few more of life's surprises during this story. Brady's brother and Lily's dad show up, each with their own special way of advancing the story. And there are even a few new people introduced, some with hidden secrets that not even a trained dog can detect.

The romance. Ahhh, the romance. It starts out rocky enough, with Lily first meeting Brady as he literally roars into her life on a Harley. Her initial feelings about him ( Didn't everyone know about pilots? They were all cocksure and obnoxious. She knew. She'd seen Top Gun. ) was so typical of Lily. There were some steamy encounters, of course. Lily was trying to deny her attraction to Brady, and Brady was trying to not re-make past mistakes with Lily. It boiled down to some really entertaining scenes, with a very satisfying love story that seemed more than realistic.

The setting. How could this be featured in my Hometown Hero Week if I didn't mention the town? Again, Ms. Fox features the 'Burg to perfection. Between stops at Hyperion (one of my favorite Old Towne coffeestops, to Mary Washington, to dinner at Augustine's, local places are prominently and proudly described. Right down to the running jokes about there being only a handful of eligible men in the entire town ( a sentiment with which many of the local women seem to agree), Ms. Fox captures the feel of Fredericksburg, brings it to life within the pages of her book, and almost seems to make it a character of its own.

BEWARE OF DOUG is available in your local bookstores, indie stores, and possibly even in the chain department stores and supermarkets still. If you get the chance, pick it up. It's a great read, deeper than the BCC indicates, but still light enough to be truly enjoyable. As it follows the story that began in GUYS & DOGS, I'm hoping that Ms. Fox is already at work on the stories of the other two women, Georgia and Penelope. You'll be the first to know if I get to read them!

Don't forget to enter the contest for your chance to win a signed copy of both BEWARE OF DOUG and GUYS & DOGS by Elaine Fox, as well as a personalized copy of THE HAUNTING by Hope Tarr. Just tell me why your hometown should, or should not, be featured in a book for an entry. For five entries, copy the BCC and cover of either THE HAUNTING or BEWARE OF DOUG onto your own blog, then come tell us in the comments. Contest ends Friday, and I'll announce the winner on Saturday. Good luck!

Keep Turning Those Pages,
dee

HHW: GUYS & DOGS, Elaine Fox

Hometown Hero Week continues with Guys & Dogs, by Elaine Fox. If you've been around here form the beginning, you read my personal blog, or you have read through all of our dishes, you know that Guys & Dogs is one of the very first "reviews" I ever posted. I'm re-posting it here, and adding a bit at the end, because I have more to say about the book now (after a re-read and some experience doing this). Take a look at the original dish:





I just finished Guys & Dogs by Elaine Fox. I've never read any of her books before, though I have noticed them in stores. I actually went to Borders to look for this book last week, but couldn't find it, so they ordered it for me. I really wanted to read it after reading a very short review in my local newspaper. Normally, I'm not big on reviews, because everyone has different feelings about books, and I don't trust very many people out there when it comes to recommendations. I have different standards than most people, and I also hate being told what is 'good' or 'really awful'. Please know that this doesn't apply to my friends, though, and I truly love it when you guys tell me what books I should get. I mean, I TRUST you guys, and besides, you all have great taste.

Anyhoooo... I had to pick up this book because it's supposedly set in my town. The heroine, Megan Rose, has recently moved to Fredericksburg. Basically, reading it was a study in research, to see how much of a place shows up in books, if the author had actually ever been here, if the places were real. See, it just ticks me off when I read a book that is set someplace that I've been, but I can't recognize the place from the description. I mean, if you've ever been to NYC, you know that you can't see the Statue of Liberty from Tiffany, right? You also know that the Crab Cooker is NOT on the beach in Newport Beach, California. It's close to the beach. You can see the beach. They have damn good clam chowder. But on the beach? Not so much. It's a pet peeve of mine, and I wanted to see how close Ms. Fox came to capturing the spirit of my 'Burg.

She did ok. Well, better than ok, really. She made up a few places, and that's to be expected. She made the town seem much smaller than it really is, but not smaller than many of its longtime residents want it to be. But all in all, she did a decent job of letting the reader get a feel for my town, without the town losing anything. Plus, she mentioned Sammy T's, for which she deserves my undying loyalty.

Sammy T's is such a cool place. She calls it "a Fredericksburg institution". And it is. It's also happens to be the end-of-the-mommy-daddy-date-night place for me and Shane. It's our secret escape to the days before the rest of our lives seemed so busy. We discovered it our first year here, almost 6 years ago. It was my mission to go to every restaurant in "Old Town" with my husband. We found Sammy T's after wandering the streets one night. It seemed inviting, so we snuck in. The place was awesome. The waitress was welcoming, the atmosphere was relaxed, and they had beer bottles from all over lining the walls. Plus, they make the best chocolate mousse I've ever had in my life. And Shane swears by their Apple Crisp. The coffee cups are bottomless, and the booths are comfortable. It has since become the place we head to before we head home, if we're out alone. We love it there. So Ms. Fox gets bonus points for adding it to her book.

The story was pretty good too. Megan is a vet, and she's come to town and taken over her dad's animal hospital. She ends up befriending a Brittish billionaire, Sutter Foley, talking him into adopting a dog, and falling in love. Along the way, there are new friends, tabloid reporters, a wacky secretary, and dog-napping charges to keep Megan and Sutter on their toes. It was cute.

This was not a "You must rush out RIGHT NOW and buy this book" like some of the others that I've reviewed. The book did distract me for the morning, and that was bad. But I enjoyed the distraction, so that was good. If you're at the store, and you need something light to read, and you see it, pick it up. It's worth the few hours of your time. It had a good feel, and was pretty enjoyable.

And besides, she mentions Sammy T's. That alone is worth the price I paid for the book!



Well, after reading the book again, then looking at the Dish above, I don't have all that many changes to make. You can still get GUYS & DOGS in many of your bigger book stores, and many of your indie stores may have it as well. I know that you can order it from any of the online retailers. It really is a decent read. I think I enjoyed it more the second time I read it though, just a few weeks ago. I am in a different place in my life now, and the story appealed to me in different ways. Plus, I actually got to meet Elaine (and her charming sister!) in Boonsboro last month, and I think that may have colored my view just a bit.


Don't forget that you have until Friday to tell me why your hometown SHOULD or SHOULD NOT be the setting in a book. Tell me about the nosy neighbors, tell me about the Mom&Pop diner down the street, tell me about the crime, or lack of crime. It doesn't matter to me, but I want to hear all about your hometown. Plus, if you're willing to post the cover pic and blurb from either THE HAUNTING, by Hope Tarr, or BEWARE OF DOUG, by Elaine Fox (I'm posting that one later today!), then you'll get five extra entries. I'll pick a winner at random from all of the entries, and the winner gets signed copies of all three of the HHW books. Best of luck!

Keep turning those pages!

dee

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sweet and Deadly by Charlaine Harris

I love re-prints. Seriously. It's how I found Christina Dodd's Prescott Sisters Trilogy, and many more I have never dished on. Re-prints are like getting a new book by your favorite author, Jenny Crusie's Manhunting and Anyone But You come to mind (I bought the HC releases and the new paperbacks just to feel like I was getting a new Crusie, even though I owned the older versions already). A re-print can hold our hand while we walk down memory lane, introduce us to a new/old author, or in this case, allow us to see how one of our favorite author's work has changed over the years. So without further ado...

Sweet and Deadly by Charlaine Harris
(BCC)

Catherine Linton has returned to her hometown of Lowfield, Mississippi, unconvinced that the death of her parents in a car crash six months earlier was an accident, And her suspicions are confirmed when she stumbles upon the dead and beaten body of her doctor-father's longtime nurse. There are secrets being kept in Lowfield, and the town where Catherine grew up may be the same place where she is sent to her grave...

To be totally lame - This BCC is sweet. Short and sweet that is. And you know how I loves me a short and sweet BCC. Truth be told, though, I didn't even read it until just now. You know, Harris is a must buy for me, and this was no exception. I will say, the front cover stating "THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR'S FIRST BOOK" was a thrill. I discovered Harris around her third Dead book, Club Dead, and immediately went in search of her other titles. I wasn't very fond of her Aurora Teagarden series (they were just OK), but I LOVE Lily Bard (and am quite sad there are no more planned right now), and Sookie of course is my fave (probably because she was my first) and Harper quickly found a place on my keeper shelf. So, a chance to read the book that started it all, was just too much excitement to pass up on!

The first thing I noticed was that this book was not written in First Person. Every book I have ever read by Harris has been First, but this one, her very first one, was written in Third Om. The voice was most definitely that of Harris, but the change of POV threw me for a few pages. It was odd, seeing the short sentences that seem so natural for a First character written in Om, and at times it felt rather choppy.

Six months ago, Catherine Linton's parents were killed in a car accident. Murdered, actually, as some one had tampered with the car. The killer is still out there, and Catherine has been living back in her hometown of Lowfield, working at the weekly paper, until the killer makes his next move. Her parents death changed Catherine in many ways, she's become withdrawn from all of her old friends, and she knows the townspeople think she's become an eccentric crazy person.

When Catherine goes target shooting on some of the land she rents out, one hot Saturday morning, Her mother had raised her to be a lady. Her father had taught her how to shoot. , she discovers a body in the rundown old shack on the property. Numb with disbelief, Catherine heads straight to town to tell the sheriff. But once the identity of the victim is discovered, Catherine finds herself on the suspect list.

Leona Gaites had been Catherine's doctor-fathers nurse for all of Catherine's memory. Not a particularly friendly woman, Leona had no family and just as many friends. But this now makes three people close to Catherine murdered, and Catherine is sure they have to be connected. But as the investigation wears on, it becomes clear that the old unfriendly nurse had quite the lucrative side business, and she was making quite a bit of money off secrets the townspeople of Lowfield would rather have kept silent.

With her co-worker at the paper (and tenant), Tom, digging to find the truth of the matter (like any reporter, and her boss Randall taking on a new role in her life (that of boyfriend), Catherine's life continues to become that not of her own, as the townspeople begin to start confessing their sins. Catherine knows she needs to find the killer, not only to clear her own name, but to find the truth of what happened to her parents. When she loses yet another person close to her, it becomes clear that she needs to know who is doing this and fast, before she becomes next on his list.

The cast of characters in Lowfield are amazing. Harris captures the essence of the small town south like no other author I've read. The racial tension of the times (the book was originally published in 1981), the way we know everyone in town and how we rarely notice the changes time has on them until forced to, "...,and for a moment the hand of time lay heavy on her shoulder....This pleasant , hearty, proud man was going, bit by bit."

And once again, this was classic Harris. The first line of the book is, She passed a dead dog on her way to the tenant shack. And we come full circle as the last says, ...a little boy cried over his supper because his dun-colored dog had been missing for four days.

It really was an interesting reading experience. I kept wondering, would I have chosen this for FAB? But I couldn't really think in those terms, I mean, I would have been maybe 5 at the time this was released, and though I was reading at the age of 3, I don't think my momma would have allowed me to read this.

They saw their barge....the answering sound of the horn drifted, melancholy and beautiful, over the dark morning river.

Take Care

Sunday, April 15, 2007

HHW: THE HAUNTING, Hope Tarr


Finally, Hometown Hero Week is here! This is going to be a really short "week" for me, because frankly, there aren't all that many books written about my "hometown" (unless you count the endless number of Revolutionary and Civil War books!). That's sad, because my hometown (or at the least the one I'm claiming at this stage in my life) is an incredible place. The three books that I'll be spotlighting this week are all centered right here, in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

For me, the historic district of Fredericksburg (affectionately known as "Old Towne", "Downtown" or just "the 'burg" to many) is one of the most wonderful places I've ever been. The streets are dotted with buildings that have stood through two wars, including major battles that left the town in tatters during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. In fact, Fredericksburg is one of the few towns that can claim the rather sad honor of being "destroyed" in both wars fought on American soil.

But it's not just the history of the place that you feel when you walk the streets. The town seems to literally pulse with the energy of the people that live here, within the small section of town where most everyone knows each other and there is practically no such thing as an outsider. I've got some wonderful friends that live on Caroline Street, one of the main streets in Old Towne, and they have introduced me to a town that I never dreamed existed. I've been welcomed into a group of people that don't care where I come from, or what I do for a living, but are willing to share their time with me when we meet. It's amazing!

In Hope Tarr's latest book, THE HAUNTING, she writes about a contemporary woman living in Old Towne and the man from her past that haunts her... literally. Check out the BCC:

Red-Hot and Union Blue
Investigating a noise in the attic of her historic home, Maggie Holliday encounters a handsome man in a Civil War uniform. Her calls her "Isabel," seduces her in ways the shy academic had never dreamed of... then literally vanishes.
With every fleeting visit, Maggie's mysterious lover - Ethan - takes her closer to the edge of ecstasy and madness. Is he really a ghost? Far from chilling her, his touch is incendiary - it all feels so real and so very, very good. And so very familiar...
Ethan insists Maggie's the reincarnation of his long-lost love. And after a few incredible nights in his arms, Maggie is inclined to believe him. But does she dare surrender to a passion that transcends time, tragedy... and even death?

I should mention that this is an Extreme Blaze by Harlequin, and it more than earns that distinction. As the Blaze moniker denotes, it is a very, very hot book. But that's not all it is. It's a love story that begins in tragedy, but ends (as most good romances do) with happiness. Maggie is a heroine worth waiting for, and Ethan has been doing that for years (one hundred and forty five years, to be exact!). She's a little troubled, a tad independent, and very adventurous. She's also full of fire, though she doesn't always recognize that about herself, nor is she willing to admit it. When Ethan enters her life, she slowly realizes that nothing is impossible, even falling in love all over again.

I enjoyed this book as much for the storyline as I did for the descriptions of some of my own favorite haunts (no pun intended!). For me, nothing beats reading a book and being able to picture it in your head, actually being able to see the street that the heroine walks down, see where she's shopping, where she goes to dinner. With this story, not only could I picture it, I could actually drive by if I wanted. That's the beauty of having a Hero from your own Hometown. And that's why I'm hosting this "week".

You know me. If there is a way to do it, I'll have a contest where I can give away signed books. This week is no different. You'll have the chance to win signed copies of each of the three books that I'm featuring this week. All three of them take place right here in my hometown. To enter to win a copy of today's book, all you have to do is spread the word, or share your story. Yep, copy the cover and BCC onto your blog, or post the info about Hope's book to your favorite loop, group, or forum, and be sure to let us know where you posted in the comments. OR In the comments you can tell me why your hometown (make sure you tell me where you live) should (or should NOT) be the setting for a book. Tell me what makes it special and unique, or why nobody would ever want to write about it. I'll leave the contest open until Friday, to give you all time to blog/post or comment. Next Saturday, I'll have a short post announcing the winners. Don't be shy - this is your chance to shine!

Also, as a bonus, Hope told me yesterday that she might be stopping by here. So if you have any questions for her, please feel free to ask them in the comments section. And be sure to drop by your local bookseller and pick up a copy of THE HAUNTING. It's a love story you don't want to miss!

Keep turning those pages!
dee

Friday, April 13, 2007

FAB Interview - Samantha Graves


As promised, I've got an "interview" with FABulous SIGHT UNSEEN author Samantha Graves. For more about Samantha and her FABulous book, check out her website. You'll be able to get info on SIGHT UNSEEN, her podcast with Lani Diane Rich entitled Will Write For Wine, news on her upcoming releases, and links to her alter-ego, CJ Barry.


Here, Samantha candidly shares info about her writing, why she switched genres, and much, much more. Enjoy!


The new book ~

dee: Tell us about the new book, Sight Unseen, in five sentences or less.

Sam: Sight Unseen is about Raven Callahan, a female art thief with a psychic touch who lives on the edge, and an ex-street cop named David "Dax" Maddox who is on a mission to catch a killer. When Raven's co-worker is kidnapped in exchange for a priceless painting, their paths collide. What follows is a race from the streets of New York City to the heat of Havana as they try to stop a deadly game of revenge. Along the way, Raven and Dax uncover the dark secrets that hide within everyone--Sight Unseen.


The new genre ~

dee: What made you decide to switch genres? Was it hard to make the switch?

Sam: I have wanted to try writing contemporary for some time now, and I figured after five futuristics, it was time. The switch was surprisingly easy. The biggest change was the kind of research I need to do for contemporaries versus futuristics. My futuristics were romantic suspense so that part was the easiest.

dee: How receptive was your agent to your genre switch?

Sam: I'm blessed with a great agent, Roberta Brown, who has enormous faith in me and is willing to listen to any ideas. She was really excited when I pitched Sight Unseen to her and told me to go for it. So I did. It's nice to have that kind of support.


dee: Is there a difference in the way that you write your stories in different genres? By that, I'm wondering if the process is different? Do you research different?

Sam: My process is pretty much the same. I have a slew of charts to fill out for every book. It gives me the foundation to build the story and characters on. That will probably never change.

Research is very different. Since many of my preferred locales are exotic, I do a tremendous amount of research to be sure to capture the essence of the locale correctly. With futuristics, if I need something like a place or a vehicle or weapon, I simply create it. With contemporaries, I have to go find what I want. The world-building changes dramatically.


Support and growth ~

dee: How has your writing changed over the years?

Sam: I think it's grown leaner and meaner. LOL Seriously, I seem to be writing tighter, and my pace has picked up.


dee: Why did you decide to write under a different name in the new genre? Didn't you want to build on your existing fanbase?

Sam: My futuristics never occurred on Earth, always on other planets. Because of that, I felt it was best to write under a different name. Although I think my futuristic fanbase would enjoy my contemporaries, I didn't want to cause any confusion. I wouldn't want someone to pick up a CJ Barry expecting science fiction and be disappointed when they realized it was a contemporary. That said, creating a new writing identity is no small feat! I think I'll stick with just the two.


dee: What writing organizations do you belong to, and how has that helped in your writing career?

Sam: Romance Writers of America was the first one I joined, followed by my local chapter which is the Central New York Romance Writers. Between the two, I learned about the business of writing, and it is a business, just like everything else. I would not have sold my books if it weren't for them. I also belong to the Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal chapter and the Kiss of Death chapter. Both are great because they target the subgenres I write in.


Fun, faves and the future ~

dee: What's up with the podcast? Are you guys really as fun as you sound? And how did you end up liking slightly expensive red wines? And what is your favorite wine?

Sam: The podcast! I LOVE doing the podcast. Lani and I have an absolute blast with every episode. I never would have considered a radio show because I don't feel I have a good speaking voice. But Lani kept asking me and I finally gave in. I'm glad I did, because it's really fun. We look forward to it every week.

I have been trying new wines for about eight years now. I love going into a store and picking out a different winery or country. It's like a box of chocolates! I have a few favorites as you might guess, but I really love Duckhorn Merlot from Napa Valley ($45), Wild Horse Pinot Noir from CA ($20), Ruffino Chianti from Italy ($10), any Niagara region ice wine($$$), and Bully Hill Equinox Blush from New York Finger Lakes ($8).


dee: What is your very favorite book ever? Why? What's the most influential book you've ever read? Why? (Yes, they can be the same!)

Sam: I'd have to say Sweet Starfire by Jayne Ann Krentz on all points. It was the first romance I ever read, and it also happened to be a futuristic. That was the book that started me on the journey of reading and writing romance so it's pretty special. I bought a used copy at a bookstore, and it's on my shelf. I still drag it out and re-read it once in a while. :-)


dee: What's next on your horizon? Any current projects? Can you give us a sneak peek?

Sam: Right now, I'm working on Jillian's book Out of Time, which is the second book in this two-book series. Let's just say you can expect more exotic locales, steamy romance, and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing who the bad guy really is.

Thanks so much for having me on Dee and dee. Happy reading everyone!


And thank you, Samantha Graves, for an enchanting behind-the-scenes look into your life, your upcoming projects, and your wine cellar!

Be sure to get your entries in for the contest. I'm going to extend it until first thing Monday morning, just to give you guys a bit of extra time. We've got a few entries so far, but I happen to know there are more of you out there that would LOVE a signed copy of SIGHT UNSEEN. All you have to do is either copy the blurb and cover of SIGHT UNSEEN onto your blog and link here (and remember to tell us in the comments!) OR you can mention it on your favorite loop, group or forum (again, be sure to tell us in the comments here!). And just because that's the kind of person I am, I'm going to give you an extra way to get entered... drop into the comments and ask Sam a question. Yep, that's right - you'll get one entry for asking a question. Contest will be closed at 12:00pm EST Monday, 16 April. Don't miss this one!

Keep Turning Those Pages!

dee