Book Reviews: The Good ~ The Bad ~ The Ugly « eNovel Authors at Work – A Resource for Indie Writers

I wanted to share this post with all of my writer and reviewer friends. As both, I appreciate Julie Whiteley’s insight.

Julie Whiteley is a highly rated Goodreads and Amazon Reviewer with  one thousand+ Reviews posted on Amazon and Goodreads. Julie has gone upmarket with her blog with a new design: The Book Review. …

Source: Book Reviews: The Good ~ The Bad ~ The Ugly « eNovel Authors at Work – A Resource for Indie Writers

Book Review Friday – Type and Cross by Staci Troilo

Type & Cross E-Book CoverStaci Troilo’s new novel, Type and Cross, starts with a tragedy beyond comprehension. At first, the family impacted the most appears detached from the emotional aspects of losing one of their one. However, that facade is soon fractured into a million pieces as the family learns they’ve never been put together with much more than scotch tape.

Staci Troilo visited this blog a few weeks ago to talk about how she came up with the idea. She mentioned that the initial concept came from real life. However, I’m glad she specified the family in the novel does not resemble her own.

Vanessa and Royce Keller should have a charmed life, but the reader soon discovers that life certainly isn’t green in their garden. It’s a shade of brown, ugly and wilted, maybe even beyond repair. Ms. Troilo creates a type of dysfunctional family in this portrait, and the emotions and actions played out by the grief-stricken parents come across as real and riveting. Once I stepped into the lives of the Kellers and Cathedral Lake where they live, I didn’t want to leave, despite the horrors facing the family.

Using the death of their daughter, Hope, as the catalyst from which all change occurs, a family in mourning emerges to reveal the lack of both communication and understanding between them all.

Type and Cross allows the reader a voyeuristic look at life with the Kellers at the most crucial point in their lives, and from that intrusion, the reader learns that even the most damaged and destroyed of relationships can be salvaged with love.

By the end, when I’d completely fallen in love with this family, the grass turned green and light flowed into the home. Hope returned in the guise of the newly landscaped yard and the purchase of a nursery where Vanessa and Royce will work together to create a new type of family and life.

I didn’t want the story to end, but was heartened to read that Ms. Troilo plans to release a sequel that follows the son Jensen as he copes with the aftermath of his sister’s death.

If you love family dramas, believable characters, and realistic dialogue, then you’ll fall in love with Type and Cross, just as I did.

NOTE: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Click here to read my review of Staci’s first book, Mystery, Ink – Mystery Heir.

mystery heir cover better copy

Author Wednesday – Lorna Lee

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpgWelcome to Author Wednesday and my interview with Lorna Lee, the author of  Never Turn Back, a work of historical fiction that is based on a true story about the life of Lorna’s grandmother. She’s also published her memoir, How Was I Supposed to Know? The Adventures of a Girl Whose Name Means Lost.


Welcome, Lorna. I love something that one of my heroes claimed about her writing. Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Did this happen to you with this book?

Never Turn Back is a perfect example of the subject choosing me. The character is based on my maternal grandmother and her grim life. She and I could not be more different in personality. I remember her as a controlling, stubborn, mostly miserable woman who trudged through her days with a yoke of duty burdening her. She sighed a great deal. Conversely, I try to find the positive in people and any circumstance that comes my way. Her story, however, is a compelling one—one that my family urged me to tell (even as fiction because she kept too many secrets for me to weave a complete narrative based only on the selected stories she revealed). When I told her story to friends at social gatherings, amazement and intrigue were always the response. “Lorna, you have to write a book about her!” And so I did.

It sounds as if you didn’t have much choice. Is there a message you try to convey to your readers?

While the humorous voice of my memoir is so different from the serious tone of the novel, both books are about human perseverance through seemingly impossible circumstances. My grandmother and I certainly approached life differently in terms of our attitudes and had different challenges to face, but we both had multiple tragedies in our lives, with which we coped in our own ways. My books are about the unsinkable human spirit.

You’ve written a memoir and an historical novel. What are your plans for your next books? 

So far, I’ve written two books in two different genres. Either I don’t want to be pigeon-holed or I want to be known as a “genre-jumper!” I’m seriously contemplating writing pure fiction next. It would be a murder mystery with a humorous twist—quirky characters in outlandish situations.

That would be quite a leap, but I operate that way, too. I’m always trying to challenge myself as an author. Since you’ve published two books, you must have reviews, so what’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

Since Never Turn Back was my first stab at fiction (although based on a true story), getting feedback about not knowing which events or characters were real and which were fictional was high praise. I knew I succeeded in my goal at writing believable fiction.

We all get them, so we might as well talk about them. What advice can you give to other writers about receiving a bad review?

Some bad reviews are simply because the reader didn’t care for the book’s subject matter or characters. If that’s the case, remind yourself that, no matter how much you want to, you can never please all of the people all of the time. As writers, we must stay true to our characters and our stories. If the bad review is of your work (i.e., hard to follow plot or unnatural dialogue), see if there is anything you can learn from the review to improve your writing. As humans, we crave the accolades; but as wordsmiths and storytellers, we learn quite effectively from our mistakes if we are willing to keep an open mind.

Excellent advice. So tell us the one sentence pitch for Never Look Back?

“Meri Vaarsara had a dream and something to prove; she also had incredibly bad fortune and even worse timing.”

Very intriguing. I love the contrasts. How did you choose the title? 

My grandmother was a very stubborn woman. When she decided to leave her home and family in Finland as a young woman, she left and never turned back. When she left Paris to come to a very disappointing America, she never considered going back. Her pride stopped her. The title came from what must have been her life’s guiding credo. I knew the title before I started writing the first line of the book.

Is the book traditionally or self-published? 

This book, like my memoir, is self-published. Before I wrote my memoir, I knew nothing about the publishing aspect of writing. I thought that once you wrote the manuscript and got an agent to represent you, your work as a writer was done. Ha! When my memoir manuscript was nearing completion, I started doing my homework about publishing. I discovered that even if I could get an agent interested in my manuscript, I would have the lion’s share of marketing responsibility even though they would get the lion’s share of any royalties. Yes, there is more prestige associated with being traditionally published. But there is more freedom as an Indie author. If I have to do the marketing anyway, I decided to try self-publishing and avoid the inevitable waiting for rejection letters. My skin is too thin for all of that anyway.

I thought the same thing after I finished my first novel. I’ve gone both routes, and I’ll take the Indie route any day. I’m so glad you stopped by today. Your first attempt at fiction sounds very interesting, and I hope you’ll stop by again when you get that murder mystery written.

LornaAbout Lorna Lee:  In her former life as a sociology professor, Lorna published many academic and research papers. Creative writing is her new path since her premature disability retirement in 2006 because to Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome.

Never Turn Back is her second book and first novel. Her first book is a memoir entitled How Was I Supposed to Know? That book was awarded Best Memoir, 2012 by the Adirondack Writing Center in their Annual Literary Award Contest. In 2010, she was a finalist in the memoir genre of the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Contest with her short story, Monkey Business.

Lorna currently lives with the man of her dreams and the dog of her dreams in the home of her dreams in the Portland, Oregon area. She keeps herself busy by writing, quilting, walking, meditating, and blogging.


Blog: Lorna’s Voice 

Never Turn Back page on Lorna’s Voice

How Was I Supposed to Know? page on Lorna’s Voice

Never Turn Back on Amazon

How Was I Suppose to Know? on Amazon


Book Review Friday – Starting Over

StartingOverI’ve been a fan of Michele Shriver’s writing since reading After Tenwhich I would call contemporary women’s fiction. She switched to writing contemporary romances during the Romance in a Month class, and the result was The Art of Love, which I reviewed a few weeks back. While writing The Art of Love about two college students, both art majors, finding their way to one another despite their differences.

One character from the book, the main character’s mother Liz, wouldn’t leave Michele alone so she wrote a second romance, Starting Over. I love all of Michele’s work, but I was particularly taken by this story because Liz, the plucky hero, is closer to my age and faces singledom as a vibrant woman in her fifties.

Liz faces the same dilemmas all women face as she grows older, but Michele does not wallow in the pity party of analyzing wrinkles, weight gain, and gravity pulls. Instead she emphasizes the beauty of the mature woman–beauty gained from living and learning and loving. Those things can’t be bottled by Oil of Olay or shot up in a botox treatment. Liz may have lived a few decades, but it has only enhanced her inner glow and aroused her passions to new heights.

When her new man comes for dinner the first time, the action in the kitchen both astounded me and gave me ideas! It’s refreshing to see a woman of Liz’s age still passionate about both her cooking and her sexual appetite.

Even though Liz has gained wisdom through her years of raising a daughter and divorcing the father, she still has many things to learn about love, and Michele Shriver takes us on that journey with her. It’s a lovely ride filled with bumps, love, sensuality, and humor. No matter your age, you’ll enjoy Liz and cheer for her ultimate success as a woman who has many more years left to enjoy what she’s learned.

Age is merely a number attached to our legal documents. It has nothing to do with how attractive we are or what we’ve achieved. Liz defies definition by her age, and that’s a good lesson for us all to learn. I thank Michele for creating such a well-rounded and passionate woman. Love never gets old nor does a little spiciness in the kitchen.

Starting Over will be officially released on Tuesday, December 9, but you can order yours now. It’s only $0.99 cents, and it’s a fantastic read by a lovely author. Click here to order your copy.

Book Review Friday – A Time of Traitors

A Time of Traitors

David Lawlor has written another action-packed historical thriller, where Liam Mannion and the other characters come alive on the pages of A Time of Traitors. Some of the traitors in this third book of the series are obvious; others subtly disguised as compatriots; and yet others a complete surprise as the novel unfolds. From Ireland to London, the story sweeps from back rooms, cozy parlors, and seamy joints in London’s Soho District.

The story, while set in 1921, is timeless despite the specific details of the struggle between the Irish Republican Army and the British. Mr. Lawlor shows the horrors of war and expresses some universal themes about love, loyalties, revenge, and treacheries. There are times when this universality allows the reader to forget time, only to be delivered into a place where life can change in an instant and turns on the simple decisions made in anger and jealousy.

The characterizations in A Time of Traitors are rich, adding depth to even minor characters such as Charlie Curtis:

His head was large and square, with thick lips and wide nostrils. In fact, everything about him was over-sized – as though he had been cobbled together from parts in his own scrap yard – from his wide nostrils to the thick folds of skin that ran up each side of his mouth, from the shovel hands to the broad, bony shoulders. The only thing delicate about his block– like appearance was the care and attention he bestowed to his thinning hair. Charlie had spared no effort in its oiling and sculpting – somehow working its sparse tendrils into a swirling sinuous wave that, miraculously, managed to cover his large dome, albeit forsaking the back and sides as a lost cause to be left bare to the elements.

Liam’s fiance Kate is a strong female lead and a match for Liam and his loyalty to his family, friends, and country. In the midst of violence and danger, their love is sweet and romantic–a much needed antidote to the war and not-so-peaceful truces between the opposing factions. The young boy Albie is not soon forgotten with his Camelot-like devotion to his mentors. Mr. Lawlor turns him from an idealistic young boy into a Dickensonian character with shocking outcomes. Liam’s father Dan is modeled after Mr. Lawlor’s own father, and the affection for his character is deftly drawn in this novel, as well as the previous two.

The evil characters come across as the worst nightmares for anything civil and gentile, and serve as a perfect foil for the heroes of this book.

I’m a fan of both David Lawlor and Liam Mannion, and I fervently hope that just because this is the third book in the series, it is not the final one.

Tan coverthe-golden-graveA Time of Traitors



Author Wednesday – Carol Ervin

???????????????????????????????I’m pleased to introduce Carol Ervin to Author Wednesday. Carol’s first two books are a part of a historical fiction series. The Girl on the Mountain and Cold Comfort will be joined by the third in the series, Midwinter Sun, later this month. Today she’s stopped by to talk about her newest endeavor which takes her from historical fiction to science fiction. Dell Zero is the story of a society that uses drugs to control everyone. Dell-Zero - Ebook

Welcome Carol. I’m intrigued that you made the jump into science fiction. Tell us a little bit about Dell Zero and how it’s been received.

Dell Zero is the story of a society that uses drugs to control everyone. The main characters are Dell, a young (un-medicated) woman who has grown up outside the system, and John, an old-timer who is hundreds of years old and unhappy about living forever. One reviewer called the story bio-punk; another said dystopian. I think of it as futuristic. I like science fiction that’s based in reality, and I think elements of this story, such as character behavior, are true today.

Making it relevant to our society today even though it’s futuristic is an excellent way to draw in readers. What’s your one sentence pitch for your book?

In a society of humans medicated to live forever, only newborns like Dell think and act independently, and they will change everything.

How did you choose Dell Zero as the title? Has it been the title from the very beginning?

When I started Dell Zero, there was no Dell, just John, a disillusioned, confused man, hundreds of years old. Early-on, I added Dell to the story, and she took over. So the story that began as John 316 changed to Dell Zero. My sister, the book’s first reader, suggested the title.

I like it because it’s unique and easy to remember. Is the book traditionally or self-published? Why did you choose one over the other?

Dell Zero is my third self-published book. I love the opportunity to do it all myself, and I wouldn’t do it any other way. The self-pubbing tools offered by Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace are wonderful. I’ve proved I can be successful (at least in my own estimation), and I like not being handled by a publisher or agent. I also like formatting the books myself, and the ability through digital publishing to make changes at any time. However, I would not be self-published without the wonderful community of self-published authors on the Internet who help each other. I give a lot of credit to authors Victorine Lieske, Rachelle Ayala, and others who led the way and continue to share good advice.

I like all those things about being an Indie Author as well. There is a tremendous support system out there. It’s one reason I do Author Wednesday. I like giving other Indies exposure. Since this is such a departure from your previous works, tell us you conceived the plot.

Dell Zero: The idea of a society made immortal by drugs came to me on the road to a week-long fishing trip. The week was rainy, so I had a lot of cabin time, and of course I’d brought along my laptop. So any time we weren’t fishing, I was making notes, creating details of the society and exploring plot ideas. At the time I was also developing Midwinter Sun, the third book in my historical fiction series. All year I went back and forth between these two books. Both have two narrators, and both are in present tense.

I’m impressed that you could switch back and forth so easily. Tell us a bit about your writing rituals?

I’m a planner, not a “pantser,” and a heavy re-writer. I’m editing before I finish a sentence. I make tons of notes and then do four or five drafts, and I rely on feedback from trusted readers.

I’m a pantser until I get deep into the novel and then the planner in me takes over. You’ve now tried two very different genres. Are there other forms you’d like to try?

I’d like to try different approaches to narrative fiction. I wrote two books this year in present tense (Dell Zero and Midwinter Sun), and I liked that so much I’m not sure I can go back to past tense. All four books are in third person, and I’m ready to try first person. Midwinter Sun is a love story. I might write another love story in first person.

Tell us about your latest endeavor.

Midwinter Sun is the third book in the Mountain Women series, and continues characters and settings from the first two books. But unlike the others, it’s told from the point of view of two characters: May Rose, the main character of the first book, and Barlow, the man she rejected years ago. The story reunites these characters fifteen years later. It’s been fun, being in both heads and re-building their relationship.

What advice can you give to other writers about receiving a bad review?

If you have good feedback from a group of writers you admire and trust (or support from agent, editor, and publisher) and these people approve your work, then pay no attention to a bad review. There’s a huge range of reader preferences and expectations, and no book will ever appeal to everyone.

That’s excellent advice. How does your immediate family feel about your writing life?

My husband is very glad that I have stories to write, because he knows I would not be content as a retired person without something to keep my mind and fingers busy. I think my kids are proud.

I’m so glad you stopped by today, Carol. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you a little bit better. We’ve crossed paths before in our various writing groups, but I’ve never had the pleasure of chatting with you. I wish you success in all your writing endeavors.


From Carol Ervin: I’ve been a teacher and business owner, and now am happy to write full-time. (married, two kids, two grandkids). I grew up in a small town in Ohio, and have lived most of my life on a farm in West Virginia.

Click links below to purchase books and contact Carol
Dell Zero – Amazon
Cold Comfort – Amazon
The Girl on the Mountain – Amazon
Twitter: @carolervin6

Author Wednesday – Marsha Roberts

???????????????????????????????Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I’m excited to introduce you to Marsha Roberts if you’ve not already had the pleasure. Marsha has penned a book that is not only delightful to read, but it is an inspiration to all of us who’ve never quite fit into the “mold” set before us by society. Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer and her Parable of the Tomato Plant is the title of her funny, touching, and loving story story of her life told as parables for living a happy and fulfilling life.MBBCover2014

I’m so happy you’re here to talk about your writing, Marsha. I’m enjoying your book, and it’s always a great honor and pleasure to get to know the authors behind the words. I have a very specific vision of myself as a writer–that’s why I use the photo of the old manual typewriter for Author Wednesday–so I always like to ask authors about their visions. What is your vision of yourself as a writer?

Great question! I think of myself as a spinner of tales; it’s just that my tales happen to be true, pulled from my life – good times, bad times, adventures, hopes and dreams, and dogs! Telling someone about yourself with total honesty can be and should be very personal, almost intimate. When I write my stories, I imagine the reader sitting across from me, and I feel like I’m talking directly to my companion, the reader.

You’ve accomplished that very well. Reading your book makes me feel as if I’m sitting at the kitchen table with you, sharing a cup of coffee. Did you try to convey a particular theme to your readers?

My main theme is how incredibly magical life is. In my experience, there are times in life when the magic is so clear and vivid that it just about slaps you across the face! Then there are those times where it seems to have totally disappeared. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind that we forget how miraculous our very existence is. I know, I’ve done it many times. My book is about the crazy amount of faith that it takes to find the magic (the joy!) in our lives every day. Finding it and keeping it.

That is such an important message for everyone. I’m curious about the title. How did you choose it?

HA! I know it is an insanely long title! OK, it happened like this. First off, it was called The Parable of the Tomato Plant because at a very low point in my life, I found this little story I had written about the unlikely gift of tomato plants from a surly neighbor and the unexpected lesson that came out of it. I wrote it down on a few legal pad pages and tucked it away in a drawer I rarely used. I totally forgot about it, but it was waiting for me and was there at the precise moment I needed encouragement. One of life’s many little miracles. That “parable” was the beginning of my book, but it grew into something much bigger than I had initially intended. In a way, it had a life of its own. When I finished the first draft, it was like God was tugging at my sleeve, “Marsha, it’s not enough, you have to go deeper, you have to share more.” And so I did and that’s when it became Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer and her Parable of the Tomato Plant.

I love it. After reading some of the book, I think I know where the “mutinous” part originates, but please share with others why you used that particular word.

The little girl on the cover? That’s me. When I came across that photograph, the first word that came to mind was ~ mutinous!

Yes, that certainly is conveyed in that look. Are you going to write more in this genre?

Absolutely. I definitely plan to write two more books in the “Mutinous Boomer” Series, but not just yet. I spent most of my adult life as a producer, first with films and videos, but mainly stage. My husband is Bob Rector, who you have also interviewed about his incredible book Unthinkable Consequences. He wrote and directed our theatrical production Letters from the Front, and I produced it. This beloved show toured American military bases all over the world for fifteen years. In fact, a lot of the stories in my book revolve around the miraculous nature of that project. Letters has been on leave for a while (which gave us both time to write our books!), but now it’s time for it to be on active duty again. The show has always been described as “healing,” and we know that the troops, their families, and the veterans need us now more than ever. And we miss them. In the coming months, my focus will be on getting our show on the road again. Which will give me more stories to tell!

I loved Bob’s book. And what a wonderful project to be able to put together as a couple. You two are the golden couple! We all get those reviews, so tell me the best thing that’s ever been said about your book from a reviewer?

Well, if you mean an “official” review, Kirkus Reviews called my book “An optimistic look at the magic of life.” Perfect! But, if you are referring to reader reviews, there’s the one who said she loved my book so much she read it twice and the guy who called it “5* Soul Candy!” But, I think the one who summed it up the best was author Diane Harman who wrote, “This is simply a wonderful book which offers hope to everyone who has ever struggled with almost any human condition. Confessions belongs on the nightstand. When hope is not at hand, it can be.”

I was just thinking that this book is a wonderful one for restoring faith. I’ve been bookmarking like crazy. What else do you want readers to know about Confessions?

I’m very pleased to announce that Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer and her Parable of the Tomato Plant book is now available as an audiobook! For many years, the star of Letters From The Front was a wonderful actress by the name of Della Cole. Della and I have traveled the globe together entertaining American troops. I share some of these adventures in my book, and since Della was actually there during many of them, she is able to bring a personal warmth to the narration that you rarely hear in an audiobook. Just like you said eariler, reviewers have often commented that my style of writing is like sitting down with an old friend, sharing life lessons over a cup of coffee. Della’s approach to the narration definitely captures that tone, and I couldn’t be happier that she’s my “voice.” She’s fabulous!

That sounds like a wonderful partnership. Marsha, it’s been a pleasure to have you stop by today. I wish you and Bob success on all your future endeavors and hope you’ll both keep in touch.

Thanks so much for having me here on Author Wednesday, Patricia. You are a lovely host!

MRoberts-HS-7-14About Marsha Robert: After years of producing Corporate Theatre for clients such as IBM and Coca-Cola, Marsha Roberts developed, produced and marketed Letters From The Front, the only professional theatrical production to tour military bases around the world. This heartfelt show touched hundreds of thousands of lives, toured stateside and abroad for fifteen years, was the first play ever to perform at the Pentagon and became known as The World’s Most Decorated Play. The daunting process of getting this never-been-done-before production off the ground and onto a worldwide stage gave her a keen awareness of what it takes to overcome life’s obstacles and find the miraculous in the commonplace. She shares many of her experiences in her inspirational memoir Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer and her Parable of the Tomato Plant.


Author Wednesday – John Hazen

???????????????????????????????Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I interview John Hazen who is now fulfilling his dream of writing novels. He’s working on his fifth book, but today he’s going to talk about his latest novel, Fava, an action thriller filled with intrigue and plot twists. Fava poster front

Hello, John. I’m glad you stopped by today. Your latest novel sounds very exciting, but before we talk about that why don’t you tell readers a little bit about your writing life. What are your writing rituals?

Other than a need for copious amounts of coffee, I can’t say I have many writing rituals. In fact, I’m quite undisciplined as a writer, which can be both a blessing and a curse. I’m not an outliner; the story creates itself as I progress. I have a general theme, an overall concept, and an ultimate outcome, but the details work themselves out along the way. I like to believe that as a result my writing doesn’t come out formulaic or predictable.

I work a bit like you do. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who writes that way. Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Describe a time when a subject chose you.

In real life, my professional career has been in environmental protection, so Rachel Carson holds a special place in my heart. But more germane to the question, I believe she’s correct: the subjects have chosen me for each of the four novels I’ve written. Two of my books emerged from unanswerable questions that swirled around in my head for years. Fava (Black Rose Writing, 2014): “What would happen if a “Pillar of Islam” were to be removed?” and, Aceldama (as yet unpublished): “What if a person were to stumble upon one of Judas’s thirty pieces of silver?” The subject presented itself in a different way for my novel Journey of an American Son, (to be released by Black Rose Writing in November 2014). I found a diary my grandfather kept on a 1920 business trip he took going from Boston to Calcutta, India. At that time, travel was somewhat arduous; he traveled by train, boat, car, and even rickshaw. Along the way he encountered lepers, geishas, and silent film starlets. It struck me as a great starting point for a novel.

I’m impressed by so much of what you said in that answer! We have a lot in common, since all my novels tend to have an environmental theme, and Rachel Carson is one of my heroes. I love the idea of your grandfather’s diary. What an experience. I can’t wait to read it. Do you have a favorite character that you created?

All my characters are like my children and what type of parent would I be if I favored one over another? Seriously though, one of my favorite things is when I introduce a minor character simply to advance the plot but, as I continue writing, that character grows before my eyes. Soon he or she becomes a major figure, integral to the book itself. In Fava, Special Agent Will Allen was introduced as a roadblock for the protagonist, Francine Vega, to overcome but eventually he teams with her to help save the world. In Journey of an American Son, Walter Jones was Ben Albert’s sergeant during the First World War, but I bring him back to help Ben’s wife in her attempts to free her husband from jail in Calcutta after he is framed for murder. These characters tend to be my richest because I’m developing them for myself as well as for the reader.
I also like to take famous historical figures and peel away the myths that surround them to show them as real human beings. The three characters I’ve dealt with thus far are Ulysses S. Grant, Mahatma Gandhi, and Judas Iscariot!

You pulled in the big guns. What’s your one sentence pitch for Fava?

Can a beautiful, talented New York TV reporter thwart a maniacal plot to exact the ultimate revenge for 9-11 before it plunges the world into war?

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

A review of Fava by Midwest Book Reviews contained all the things an author likes to hear: “terrific premise,” “holds the reader’s entertained attention from beginning to end,” “very highly recommended,” but the part the got me the most was when they noted it was “deftly written.” High praise indeed. On a local level, I did a book signing at a bookstore, and they posted the event on Twitter. A man I’d never met retweeted it saying I was one of his favorite writers, and he was glad they were supporting me. Made my day, I must say.

That’s a great thing, for sure. How did you choose the title?

The title Fava didn’t become apparent to me until about half way through the book. In fact, the reader won’t become aware of what the title means until exactly the same time, which I think is kind of neat.

I like that. I can’t wait to figure it out. If you could invite two other authors over to your house for dinner, who would you choose?

My favorite all-time book is To Kill a Mockingbird so I’d love to meet Harper Lee, but I know how much she cherishes her privacy, and I would be reluctant to invade on that privacy. So, the two I would pick are J.K. Rowling and Doris Kearns Goodwin. I am in such awe of the Harry Potter series. It would be such a thrill just being able to converse with the person who could create such a world. I’ve loved a number of Kearns Goodwin’s books. No Ordinary Time is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Also, I’ve seen her on news programs. She’s so interesting and knowledgeable on so many subjects that I’d imagined she be a wonderful dinner companion.

Excellent choices. I’d like to know why Harper Lee never wrote another book! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, John. I hope you’ll come back when your next book is published. And I promise to move Fava up high on my TBR list.


JohnHazenAbout John Hazen – John began writing novels relatively late in life, but once he started he hasn’t looked back. Inspired by Lynn, his wife of more than thirty years, he pursued the dream of becoming an author and is now working on his fifth book as well as several screenplays. Degrees from Rutgers, The New School and NYU— and a lifelong passion for learning and a love of history—influence him as a writer.



Links to books and social media sites



Dear Dad:



#Florida Setting for My Novels

Florida Setting 1I’m featured today on Francis Guenette’s blog Disappearing in Plain Sight in a guest post on the location of my novels. Please check it out and Francis’s wonderful review of Trails in the Sand. 3-D1


Click here for the guest post and the insightful blog.


Author Wednesday – J.J. DiBenedetto

???????????????????????????????I welcome J.J. (James) DiBenedetto to Author Wednesday. James is the author of the paranormal romance Dream Series. The seven books in this series are James’ first published work, but it’s a prolific batch of fiction. The titles: Dream Student, Dream Doctor, Dream Child, Dream Family, Waking Dream, Dream Reunion, and Dream Home.EbookDreamStudentCoverSmallerDreamDoctorCoverSmaller





Hello, James. It’s nice to have you here today. You’ve written seven books in your Dream Series, which is very impressive. I wonder if you convey the same messages or themes in all of your books. 

I didn’t really set out to preach or to convey any particular message, but as the books have gone on, I see my beliefs coming through. I think the books emphasize the importance of compassion, and empathy, and a healthy respect for the power you have (whatever kind of power that is) and the importance of taking responsibility for your actions, no matter the cost.

That’s interesting. I do that with my own work, and before I know it a message emerges, which conveys my own belief system. Do you have a favorite character that you created?

Sara, the heroine of the Dream Series – I couldn’t have written seven (and counting!) books about her if I didn’t love her. What I like best about her is that while she is the heroine, and she does save the day, she’s definitely flawed and very human. She gets jealous and angry and has very irrational moments. And while she always tries to do the right thing, she sometimes has a lot of trouble figuring out what that actually is.

I bet you have fun putting her in new situations and deciding how she will react. What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

I really loved one review of Dream Doctor, which takes place during Sara’s first month of medical school, where the reviewer wondered if I was a doctor or otherwise involved in medicine, because the book rang so true. That was high praise for the research I did, because other than going to the doctor myself when I’m sick, I’m about as far as you can get from that!

What’s your one sentence pitch for the series?

“What if you could see everyone else’s dreams?” – that’s the pitch for the entire series, really.

That’s an intriguing concept. No wonder you’ve written seven books with a character you love and a great idea. How long do you estimate it took you to take the series from an idea to a finished, published?

Fifteen years or so! I had the first idea in 1997 or so, and I wrote a (pretty bad) novel-length first draft. Then, I rewrote that to a slightly better second draft. And then it just sat there on my computer for a really long time, until, in 2012, a friend sold her first novel to a publisher, and I said to myself, “Hey, if she can do it, so can I!” I dusted off the old draft, rewrote it again–changing the whole thing from third person POV to first person, which was what the story needed all along, only I hadn’t realized it for such a long time–and then the next three books followed, one right after the other.

Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in one of the books

My favorite scene in Dream Student is a quiet and touching scene between Sara and her father, where she admits to him how much she loves her new boyfriend.

Let’s talk about your writing life. If you listen to music while you’re writing, what is it?

Usually classical music, and always something I’m very familiar with. If it’s music with lyrics, or something new, I get distracted too easily – it has to be something that’s just “there” so that it provides some comfort but I can still keep focused on what I’m doing.

I’m the same way. No lyrics allowed while writing. How about setting. Do you set your books in the place you live?

Places I live, places I used to live, places I visited, all of that! Sara’s college in Dream Student is my college with the names changed; the apartment building she lives in in Dream Family is the building I lived in when I first moved to Washington, D.C.; her mother-in-law’s house is modeled on my cousin’s old house. “Write what you know,” right?

Thanks for stopping by today, James. It’s been a pleasure to learn a bit more about you and your work. Happy writing.

IMG_1771About J.J. – J.J. (James) DiBenedetto was born in Yonkers, New York. He attended Case Western Reserve University, where as his classmates can attest, he was a complete nerd. Very little has changed since then.

He currently lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his beautiful wife and their cat (who has thoroughly trained them both). When he’s not writing, James works in the direct marketing field, enjoys the opera, photography and the New York Giants, among other interests.

Links to books and social media sites (Amazon Author page) (book #1 on Amazon) (book #1 on audiobook) (book #2 on Amazon) (latest book – #7 – on Amazon) (blog) (audiobook samples of all books available on audiobook)