Book Review Friday – Knowing Vera by Rachelle Ayala

Knowing Vera by Rachelle Ayala takes the reader on a wild and suspenseful journey from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to Australia’s wine country. The plot turns and twists made my neck hurt and my brain foggy, but the challenge of following all the conflict made for an interesting and exciting journey. Star-crossed lovers missing clues and questions of paternity abound in this romantic thriller. The reader only sees the plot unfolding through Vera’s eyes. The first person point of view allows the suspense to build because all we know is what Vera feels, sees, and unravels one layer at a time.

Ms. Ayala is a talented writer who creates a wide range of fiction. I’m amazed that the author of Knowing Vera also write Michal’s Window and Hidden Under Her Heart. Both of those earlier works are superb examples of her range in writing fiction that compels the reader to love the main characters, flaws and all. That takes knowledge of craft and an innate ability to gauge the correct amount of tension to keep the reader eager to start the next chapter.rachelle-books-2013

The book is filled with scenes of graphic sexual encounters but never does it tumble into the realm of “sex for sex’s sake.” The scenes are crafted to help the reader understand the love between two of the characters and the horror of sexual feelings that arise at inappropriate times with a despicable character.

Knowing Vera is also filled with detailed descriptions of the setting. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco in general because it’s one of my favorite cities, and I’ve walked across the bridge twice and always thought about the emergency phones and the warnings against committing suicide from the bridge. Ms. Ayala’s details are accurate and concise.

If you enjoy romance, tension, suspense, and thrilling and surprising plot twists and outcomes, then I suggest you get your copy of Knowing Vera for your some great reading snuggled up in front of the fireplace with the paperback or your Kindle. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Author Wednesday – Rachelle Ayala

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Welcome to Author Wednesday. I am so very excited to welcome back Rachelle Ayala, the very first author to participate in Author Wednesday in March 2013. Rachelle has just published her new novel, Knowing Vera.  Rachelle is never afraid to tackle the big issues in her writing such as her novel released earlier this year, Hidden Under Her Heart. She  writes dramatic fiction that crosses genres and boundaries, while featuring strong but flawed characters. Even though she writes emotionally challenging stories, she’s never afraid to address controversial topics. However, she is an optimist and laces her stories with romance and hope.

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Welcome back, Rachelle. I’m pleased you dropped by for another visit. You are such a prolific author, I wondered when  you first discovered your voice as a writer.

My voice comes from my passions. I’ve been told that my voice changes for each book I’ve written. If you take my first novel, Michal’s Window, and compare it to my latest novel, Knowing Vera, you might wonder if the same author wrote both books. I don’t intentionally seek a particular voice. Rather, the voice comes from the character I’m portraying. Michal, the first wife of King David, is a very different woman from Vera, a Filipina-American nurse. I’m not sure if I’ve discovered my voice or if I ever will, but I trust that each book I write will be uniquely mine.

I’ve read both Michal’s Window and Hidden Under Her Heart, and I would have to agree with your assessment of your voice within those novels. I look forward to discovering where your voice goes to in Knowing Vera. You have such a strong presence as an author.What is your vision of yourself as a writer?

My foremost goal is to take the reader on a shared emotional journey with me as my characters grow and become more true to themselves. I hope this character emotional development resonates with my readers and causes them to examine their lives and live up to their fullest potential. I believe stories are the means for people to connect with others and experience lives they have not lived. As a writer, I’m privileged to share my private dreams and visions with my readers. Reading and writing brings people together and fosters community in a way that gives us understanding of others and hopefully makes the world a better place.

You’ve stated that very eloquently. It’s the best thing we can do as writers. Describe your current projects.

My current project is a character-driven romance without any elements of suspense: no kidnappings, murders, fighting, car chases, and nefarious plots to take over the world. I set out to write this story to stretch my abilities as a writer. Can I keep the reader interested when no one is in danger? Can I move the plot without a villain pushing the buttons? Will two ordinary people fall in love without life threatening excitement? Of course, every story involves conflict and tension, and this story is about two people with opposing goals in life, an investment banking intern and a guitarist for a bluesy rock band. The story is set in Berkeley and provides the backdrop for both character transformations.

You always seem to be stretching yourself as a writer. What knowledge have you acquired recently that might assist other writers?

Someone asked me to describe my writing process, the steps I take to write a novel. When I actually sat down to draft it out, I discovered that each of my stories had their own independent set of events. I did not have a step-by-step process. One story came from filling out a character interview for an online class I was taking. Another one stalled about a third of the way through and had to be rewritten from scratch. My first one consisted of several different branches where I wrote each branch to completion and then selected the final version. Finally, there was the one I wrote straight through from page one to the end without looking back. The takeaway to all this is to stop worrying about process and engineering a story and just write. Storytelling is an art and having someone look over your shoulder with a stopwatch or word-count tracking stifles creativity. Write more and worry less. We’re all unique and our methods are unique, even between stories.

So very true, and it can be applied to all of life as well. Even though you experiment with technique, is there a common thread or theme in all your books?

All my books involve a heroine who is not living up to her potential. She is weighed down by self-doubt, negative emotions, or dissatisfaction with where she is in life. Sometimes she doesn’t really understand herself and what she wants or needs from life. She could be running from her problems or denying she needs to change, but the events of the story force her to face her flaws and she changes to embrace her own potential and believe in her dreams. The hero undergoes similar changes. He also has flaws and real issues and he’s not just a background prop. Even though they are initially attracted to each other, neither is able to truly love in a healthy manner until they’ve solved their problems. Love, acceptance, forgiveness, and being true to yourself are the common themes in each of my novels.

What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

The absolute best thing for me is when a reader is so immersed in my story world that they feel as if they were one of the characters. I’ve had many reviewers say that about each of my books. One said she had book hangover where she didn’t want to leave the story and was sad that it ended. Another said she was the character, living, eating, breathing, dreaming the story as if she were there. That is the state I’m in while writing my story and to think that readers can share that experience makes me very fulfilled as a writer.

Rachelle, it’s been a pleasure to host you once again on Author Wednesday. I hope you’ll drop back around when your next work is published.

clare-violinAbout Rachelle Ayala: Rachelle has written four romantic novels. Michal’s Window is a powerful, emotional journey as lived through the eyes of Princess Michal, King David’s first wife. Broken Build is a story of healing where a man learns to love and trust the woman who destroyed his life. Hidden Under Her Heart is a heartfelt love story combined with controversy over difficult decisions, and Knowing Vera is a suspenseful, cross-cultural romance mixing an unsolved murder, adventure, and hot, steamy love scenes.

Links:

Website: http://rachelleayala.me

Blog: http://www.rachelleayala.com

Follow @AyalaRachelle on Twitter

Subscribe to mailing list for upcoming books and giveaways. http://eepurl.com/lR5kv

Book Review Friday – Split Second Lifetime

@PCZick

Book Review Friday – Split Second Lifetime by Denise Kahnsplit_second_cover

Music plays in the background of my life. Right now, I’m listening to Dixie Chicks because it’s just that kind of morning. Usually I prefer Mozart while I’m writing, but today it’s my Indigo Girls Pandora station where like-tuned musicians play.

I don’t know much about music except that I love it in all its forms. I dabbled with the flute in high school and college—still have an old silver plated instrument high on a closet shelf somewhere. I sang in choirs all my life until I reached the ripe age of eighteen and flew out of the safety net of my home. I love music, and I like to sing to it in the car, shower, and at my desk while I work. I love to dance to good music, which I do at my dance class and occasionally in the aisles of the grocery store. Yes, music lifts my mood, inspires me, and allows me the freedom to soar above the mundane.

That’s only one of the reasons I loved Denise Kahn’s Split Second Lifetime. The story revolves around music, which sits at the core of the novel. Kahn’s writing is lyrical and magical. Her main character Jebby is a music ethnomusicologist, and she takes the reader on a journey of discovery of the music of Uzbekistan in Central Asia. Jebby and her team are producing a series of CDs on native music from around the world. She meets Dodi on the plane to Paris before she embarks on her journey. The meeting is powerful, but the visions Jebby begins to see while on this journey are at once disturbing and intriguing. Those visions—set in the southwestern United States—haunt her as she attempts to figure out the connection. In Uzbekistan, it all comes together as she travels through the country with Dodi, her team, and escort.

Music creates the setting and influences the characters. Kahn’s descriptions of her surroundings are always at the forefront, whether in real time or in her visions of past lives.

The novel is rich in description, symbolism, and synchronicity. The two story lines—present day and past life exploration—eventually meld together as Jebby continues her journey in search of talented musicians and soul-lifting music.

I recommend reading this book if you are willing to transport yourself into an adventure beyond what can be seen right in front of you. Kahn knows her music and her setting, and she combines it all with a creative touch in her writing. I loved the story and the lyrical prose. I’ve already downloaded her latest release, Obsession of the Heart.

Author Wednesday – Denise Kahn

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Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I’m very pleased to introduce Denise Kahn, an amazing woman and author. She was raised in a home filled with music; she’s traveled the world; and she’s a polyglot as she speaks five languages fluently. She’s held jobs with airlines and in the music industry. She incorporates all these loves and experiences into her novels. She’s written three novels so far: Split Second Lifetime, Peace of Music, and Obsession of the Heart. Peace of Music and Obsession of the Heart are part of a trilogy. They can be read as stand alones.  She is currently working on the third book of this series.OBS BookCoverImage Peace_of_Music_Cover_for_Kindle split_second_coverWelcome, Denise. I have so many questions for you, it’s hard to know where to start. So I’ll start with a very basic question about your writing, and we’ll go from there. What messages or themes do you try to convey to your readers? 

Spreading the power of music through words, as well as writing a good story that is both entertaining and informative.

Does this mean you incorporate this message/theme into all of your novels?

It seems that in everything I write music always finds its way into the pages.  I have always been in awe of this beautiful gift that is music, and have continuously tried to portray its magnificence and its incomparable power.  Music is probably the only thing nations have not gone to war over.  As in politics, nations might not agree with one another, but people of all countries still respect that other nation’s music.  How wonderful would it be to solve the world’s problems with music!  In all of my novels music is the ‘glue’ that keeps everything together.

That’s a very astute observation and so true. Music is a commonality we share with people of all races, religions, and cultures. With this in mind, how much of a role does setting play in your novels?

I lived overseas half of my life, in several countries in Europe, and traveled extensively.  Then I worked for the airline industry and did even more traveling.  I am sure that is why my settings are mainly in other countries, and from there characters of different nationalities unfold.

If you could invite two other authors over to your house for dinner, who would you choose?

Jules Verne and James Michener. I grew up reading their books, and we share a passion for travel and adventure.  Can you picture how much fun we would have between the poulet au champagne and the coconut ice cream!  But, as they are both deceased we would have to have this dinner in the ‘next life’.  However, contemporary authors would be P.C. Zick and Roz Morris, as I believe we have the same writing interests.  Of course, I would cook something amazing (love to cook), having thoroughly researched their favorite foods.

I like just about every type of food, Denise, and would be honored to sit at your table since I so admire your sense of description in your work. So since you write about music, do you listen to music while writing?

I like all music, well maybe Rap not so much, especially since you have to listen to the words so carefully.  It defeats the purpose of ‘zoning out’ which is what happens when I’m writing.  I get so focused that fireworks could be going off, and I wouldn’t hear them.  But my favorite kind of music is Spanish/South American (classical guitar/contemporary), but again, I love all music, from opera to traditional folk songs from different nations.  Something is always playing in the background.  I couldn’t imagine a world without music.  Something would definitely be missing.

I agree on all counts. I’m listening to New Age instrumental right now. I do love Latin rhythms, too, but when I’m writing I try not to listen to music with lyrics. If a movie was made about your success as a writer, who would play you? 

Meryl Streep because of her flawless accents (and who wouldn’t want to be played by the Great Meryl!?)  I am a linguist by trade and speak several languages, five of which are fluent, and all of them are with native accents.  By the time I was four I spoke four languages fluently, thanks to my dad, brilliant man that he was.  He knew the secret:  Expose your children to foreign languages at the earliest age possible.  They are like sponges and completely void of inhibitions.  I continue his legacy.  I always tell parents to speak their mother tongue to their child, especially if they are not from the same country.  If both parents are then I suggest the children watch cartoons, films and listen to songs from Spain or France, or whichever language they decide.

Good advice. Thanks for stopping by today, Denise. You’ve given me a thrill today because I can officially slip the word polyglot into this post.

Denise Kahn photoAbout Denise Kahn: My very first memory of life was the sound of my mother’s glorious voice singing to me, most likely a Brahms lullaby, and I’m convinced that is why music always has a delicious way of creeping into my writing and becomes one of the most important elements.

I spent twenty years in Europe because of my father, who was with the U.S. Diplomatic Corps, and my mother who was an opera singer. I worked mainly as a simultaneous interpreter and translator as I am a linguist and speak several languages.  I also worked in the airline and music industries.
I am a proud mother of a gallant Marine who served in Iraq, and among the members of our household you will find Louie the cat, so named because of his clawing love of Louis XV and XVI furniture, and surely thinks he must have been a fearless Marine in one of his former lives.

Links:

Split-Second Lifetime

Peace of Music

Obsession of the Heart

Website/Blog: www.4AGAPI.com
Email: Denise@4agapi.com

Twitter: @DKpolyglot

Book Review Friday – Elly Hays by Lori Crane

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Two families, opposing purposes, and common ground grace the plot of Elly Hays by Lori Crane. However, in the best tradition of star-crossed purposes, much tragedy occurs before the discovery of universal emotion between two factions.

Ms. Crane takes the reader on a journey back to 1812-1818 in what the U.S. government dubbed the Mississippi Territory, but the Creek Indians deemed theirs. The setting of the novel is in present-day Alabama. I was transported into the lives of the Muscogee Creek village, with the warrior Tavf Hokkolen at the center of the story’s conflict. I understood both Tavf’s grief and the tribe’s resentment and hatred of the white men who they saw as stealing land, felling trees, and desecrating their sacred ground.

Their story parallels and collides with the Rodgers family who’ve come to the territory for land they received from the U.S. government. Their fear of the “savage” Creeks seems justified, and their story is filled with tension as they make every effort to stay on despite the continuing harassment from the Creeks.

Crane’s creative descriptions and plot movement never takes sides and allows the reader to see the conflicts from all angles. Both sides are villains; both sides are heroes.

The juxtaposition of the parallel, yet opposite, lives gives Elly Hays a unique perspective. I love that Crane took the life of one her ancestors–Elly Hays Rodgers–and imagined what life must have been for Elly, her husband, and their eleven children when they moved onto a beautiful piece of land right in the middle of what the Creek’s declared as theirs, but what the U.S. government determined as belonging to the new country. To the Creeks, the Rodgers’ family is just one more white family invading their land. To the Rodgers, the Creeks are the ones acting improperly.

Whenever I read good historical fiction, I realize that our struggles today are nothing compared to those who went before us. That’s what Elly Hays is—good historical fiction that allows me to appreciate the present while sending bouquets of admiration to women such as Elly.

I thank Lori Crane for bringing her to light and showing us once more that perhaps our similarities are much larger than any differences we might have with our fellow humans on this Earth.

Why I’ll Never (probably) Endorse Free Ebooks

Terri Herman-Ponce

There’s a whole subculture surrounding free ebooks and I think many readers love them and many writers don’t.

I realize this is a generalization and it may not be entirely accurate, but I’ve got strong feelings about free ebooks. In particular, offering them and/or endorsing them.

See. Here’s the deal. I’m an author and I work hard (sweat, blood, and tears hard) to craft my stories. For me, it takes months (and months and months and months) to draft, edit, revise, tighten, edit again, revise some more, and edit one last time before a novel comes close to seeing the light of day. This involves countless hours and sleepless nights of thinking about craft, worrying about red herrings and tension, trying to remember details written earlier (and often months ago), and figuring out where the story needs to go while also keeping the reader engaged. It also involves shying away…

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Author Wednesday – Lori Crane

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Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I welcome Lori Crane who writes historical fiction. She’s an avid Civil War buff. She also loves researching her ancestry and brings one of her forebears to life in her latest release Elly Hays.elly cover_small_web Lori is on a virtual book tour, and I’m pleased she found the time to include Writing Whims on her stop. Read to the end of the interview for information on entering some of the giveaways she’s holding during her tour.

 

 

Hello, Lori. I’m so happy you’ve stopped by today. I’ve only read your most recent released, Elly Hays, so I’m wondering if all your books have a common theme or thread?

Yes, my books are set in the deep south of early America and are written about my family. The Okatibbee Creek series begins with Okatibbee Creek, set in Mississippi during the Civil War. The sequel, An Orphan’s Heart, continues through the war and ends in Texas in 1890. The third, Elly Hays, goes back in time to the War of 1812 in Alabama to see how it all began for the Rodgers family. My other series, Stuckey’s Trilogy, though not about family, is about the place I grew up. The first, The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge, takes place in Mississippi in 1901. The sequels, Stuckey’s Legacy and The Curse of Stuckey’s Gold, which take place in coastal Georgia and back in Mississippi, will be released in 2014.

Why have you chosen to write about this particular theme?

My love for this time and place emerged from genealogical research. Most of my family came to America from England in the early-mid 1600s, so I have four hundred years of American stories to tell. I’ve researched my family tree since before the Internet was invented, and now, mumble-mumble years later, I realize there’s so much more to family history than birth dates and tombstones.

I admire how you’re able to take real people from your geneology and create stories about them. Are you planning to continue writing in the same genre?

I will continue the Okatibbee Creek series as long as I find interesting female ancestors to write about. Since there are more than 9,000 people in my family tree, most likely, yes.

Wow–9,000 people in your family tree–you’ll be writing forever! What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

My favorite review was for Okatibbee Creek and said, “Thank you, Lori Crane for the professional, well researched material, but thank you even more for taking us down through history with a compassion seldom found today.” That really stuck out to me as someone who “got” it. That story was very dear to me as it was my third great grandmother’s life. I tried to write it in a compassionate and thoughtful manner that she would have been proud of, and that review made me feel like I accomplished that.

It’s always a wonderful feeling to know a reader “got” what we set out to accomplish. As a fellow writer, I’m always curious about the advice you give to other writers about receiving a bad review?

As everyone knows, you WILL get bad reviews. One bad review for Okatibbee Creek said there were too many names in the book, and it looked as if I was simply trying to mention all my ancestors. Well, the reviewer was exactly right. While writing the story, I gave a lot of thought to how many names were too many, and I admit there are a lot of names. But I did this for a reason. I did the math and found there are probably more than 200,000 descendants of the family living in America right now, and that number will double or triple within the next twenty years, so I would rather make those 500,000 people happy than to water the story down to please one reviewer. I tried to mention everyone, so if/when a descendant picked up the book, they would see their great grandfather’s name and know where he fit into the story. In my experience, I think the key to dealing with a bad review is to write the story in a way that you stay true to yourself. Then you can shrug off a bad review, knowing you wrote what you did for a reason.

That’s excellent advice. Thanks for giving us a little bit of insight to your stories. Now, for the giveaways!

GIVEAWAYS

1. EBOOK!  Every comment on this post during the book tour (November 4-16) will be entered to win an eBook of the first or second book in the Okatibbee Creek series, Okatibbee Creek or An Orphan’s Heart. Your choice of Kindle or Nook. One winner will be chosen. Prize will be delivered by email. Winner will be posted here in the comments on November 17, 2013. Visit each stop of the tour to increase your chances. An eBook will be given away at each stop. Tour schedule is posted at www.LoriCraneAuthor.com.

2. $25 AMAZON GIFT CARD! If you sign up for Lori’s newsletter by November 16, you will be entered into the drawing for a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card. One winner will be chosen. Prize will be delivered by email. Winner will be announced in the newsletter on November 18, 2013. Sign up at www.LoriCraneAuthor.com.

 

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About Lori Crane: Lori is a historical novelist specializing in the 17th-19th centuries of the American south. She is active in historical preservation as a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Daughters of the American Revolution, United States Daughters of 1812, and the Historical Novel Society. She is also a full-time musician and a member of the Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

 

LINKS

Website http://loricraneauthor.com/

Blog http://loricrane.wordpress.com/

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Lori-Crane/e/B00ATIQW8M

 

New Release – An Unlikely Goddess

UnlikelyHello and Happy Veterans Day to all those who have and are serving the United States.

Today I’m happy to announce the release of Mohana Rajakuman’s new novel An Unlikely Goddess, winner of the SheWrites New Novelist Award, 2011. Watch the trailer for the book on YouTube:

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

An Unlikely Goddess

By Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

The Hindu goddess, Sita, is said to have been born from the Earth.

King Janaka discovers the beautiful infant and in her beauty, believes in her divinity. He raises her as his own daughter……

Prologue

Unlike her namesake, Sita’s first mistake was being born.

A girl, her mother thought, eyes dark in abject terror. What if he leaves me? She swallowed, increasing the dryness in her post-delivery mouth, the stiches across her abdomen itching. No water. Only ice chips until her bowels passed the tests. Mythili pressed back against the pillows. She closed her eyes, pushing her fingers into the sockets until the darkness was punctuated by bone-white stars. She wished she could as easily tune out the gurgles of the baby in the bassinet beside her.

Yet, even premature and unwanted, Sita was obliviously happy to enter the world, beaming her infant smile at anyone or anything she saw: the nurse, her aunt, her mother’s back, the noxiously-pink cement walls of the Madras hospital in which she found herself. Several pounds underweight, she was otherwise fine—a petite, brown-skinned baby with tufts of black hair crowning a smooth scalp. How could she be expected to know that from her first breath she was, and always would be, a living reminder of her mother’s failure to produce a first-born male heir?

Though swaddled and placed in the bassinet immediately after delivery, her eyes were alive with motion. She blinked up at the faces of passersby, but they were admittedly few, so instead, she followed the blinking lights, the creeping shadows and the occasional appearance of a nurse. Everything about the world kept her busy with delight until sleep washed over her little body

“Look at that smile,” the young nurse said, cradling Sita against her flat bosom.

“Aamam,” Priya, the childless aunt, agreed, rubbing a forefinger across the baby’s somewhat wrinkly face.

Instead of replying, Mythili, Sita’s mother, pulled a see-through blue sheet up to her chin and turned her face away.

Link:

Amazon purchase link