Monday, December 31, 2018

My 2018 Reads

This was a busy reading year for me. I read 46 books, which is a new record for me. Taking part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge had something to do with that. I set my goal for 35 and then worried I wouldn't make it. The challenge is supposed to be fun, but it ended up stressing me out so I won't be doing it for 2019. I'd rather read as I wish and not have the pressure of reaching a goal.

I resumed listening to audiobooks after a lengthy break and made it through nine. There are a few I started but didn't finish in the allotted two week loan period on Overdrive, so I'm waiting to get them back to finish.

If you'd like to see all the books I read this year, visit my Goodreads page here.

Historical Fiction

I started the year on a bit of a historical fiction kick. It's one of my favorite genres. Here's the highlights of the ones I read:

Odd and True by Cat Winters. It's a wonderful book about the love between sisters that leaves you wondering if the monsters are real. I adored Cat Winters and plan to read more of her in 2019.

Alyssa Palombo's books The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence and Violinist of Venice are beautiful with stories that swept me away. I can't wait to read her latest The Spellbook of Katrina van Tassel, which I got for Christmas. I also interviewed Alyssa earlier this year, which you can read here.

Amalia Carosella's Helen of Sparta and By Helen's Hand were also fantastic. I love myths so Amalia's series swept me away with the story of Helen (of Troy) and her love for Theseus.


There were several debuts I read this year, most of them authors I know. If you have time, I recommend any of these.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is a book from my Pitch Wars 2016 group that has  great world building and a powerful story.

Another from my PW group is Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage. I had trouble putting this one down. It's intense and the way Zoje deals with mental and chronic illness was well done.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (also from my PW group) was a fun read. I don't often read romance, but this one made me swoon and laugh. I've recommended it to many patrons at the library where I work.

Frejya's Daughter by Rachel Pudelek is a great paranormal story about powerful women. I look forward to the next book in the series.

Planetside by Michael Mammy was one I enjoyed more than I expected and recommended we get a copy at the library. I liked the main character and the mystery kept me reading. I can't wait for the sequel in 2019.

The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amalia Berube and What the Wood Keep by Katya de Becerra were delightfully creepy.

I recently finished an advanced copy of The Perfect Assassin by K.A. Doore, which you'll see out in March. It's a fast paced story about an assassin with a moral dilemma and mystery to solve.

Enjoyed More Than Expected

Uprooted by Naomi Novak would have been one of my favourites if I hadn't wondered what the story was about most of the book. I expected more of a YA fantasy judging by the cover copy but it was so much more than described.

The classic The Giver by Lois Lowry was recommended to me by a co-worker. It was a fast read that I really enjoyed.

I listened to Arrowood by Laura McHugh and loved the gothic tale with a dark mystery. The only thing that would have made this book better was ghosts.

Omens by Kelley Armstrong is another I enjoyed more than I thought. I kept wanting to read one more chapter because the chapters are so short and I wanted to know what would happen. I read the first two books in her Cainsville series and am looking forward to more.

I'm very particular about witches but read three this year that I'd highly recommend.

The Witch House on Persimmon Point by Suzanne Palmieri was wonderful with it's legacy story, a creepy house, and ghosts. I want to read the other in the series.

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan follows a family of witches for several generations, which I love, though I wasn't keen on the last woman's story.

I also tried out an audiobook called Hexes and Hemlines by Juliet Blackwell. It was a light, fun mystery to listen to and I liked the way it respectfully dealt with religions.


I want to re-read Stephen King's The Dark Tower series but with so many books I haven't read, there hasn't been time. Instead, I'm listening to them on audio. I finished The Gunslinger  but have had to wait months for The Drawing of the Three to become available. I also listened to Eyes of the Dragon, which was the first Stephen King book I read when I was 12 or so. I've enjoyed returning to these books.

Honorable Mention

I was delighted that my friend Em Shotwell released another book in her Blackbird series this year. Blackbird Falling is Delia's story. I enjoyed the lighter tone of the first part of the book but when it took a darker twist, I was all in and loved it!

Superheroes Suck by Jamie Zakian was another fun read. I liked the different take on superheros, as problems rather than solutions, and the characters.

2019 Reading

My to read pile is overflowing. As mentioned, there are some series I want to continue with, and lots of books that I have yet to dig into. I'm always reluctant to mention new books I'm looking forward to as I know I'll miss some. Here's some that come to mind that are coming out in 2019...
You'd Be Mine by Erin Hahn

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

As mentioned earlier, Spaceside by Michael Mammy

And most importantly, my best friend and critique partner's book comes out! Don't miss Next Girl to Die by Dea Poirier. There have been some changes since the last time I read it, so I can't wait to see the final product!

Are there any books you read in 2018 you loved or ones coming in 2019 you're looking forward to?

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Blackbird Falling Release Day!

Happy Book Birthday to Blackbird Falling by Em Shotwell!

I'm thrilled to help Em launch this amazing book! I finished an advanced copy yesterday and loved it!

This is the perfect follow up to Blackbird Summer. It pick up a year after BBS left off. We see Delia struggling to come to terms with the horrible things that happened to her (no spoilers in case you haven't read BBS yet) and navigate the world as a new mom.

Before I continue with my review, here's a bit about the book.

Meet Delia. Gifted. Magical. Broken.

Hell hath no fury like Delia Caibre—Gifted single mom with the power to make people love her, and a chip on her shoulder the size of the Mississippi.

When last summer left her broken by a monster, and abandoned by the man she trusted, Delia pulled herself up and vowed to never let anyone hurt her, or those she loves, again. So when Thomas Richard shows up, begging forgiveness and flashing his hundred-watt-smile, Delia lets him know that it will take more than dimples and promises to win her back.

Besides, raising her daughter, Genevieve—whose Gift is rare and stronger than anyone in the magical Caibre family—leaves little room for things like dating. But Thomas is persistent. And cute…and it would be nice to feel carefree and nineteen.

Until a masked-man from her past wields a Curse that leaves Delia’s beloved sister on her deathbed, and makes off with Genevieve. It will take the most powerful in the Caibre family to put things right. But bringing her broken family together may prove impossible, even if not doing so means their destruction.

You can buy your copy here.

The first part of this book has a lot of sweetness as Delia gives Thomas a second chance. I was swooning and laughing. Em is a master at writing those sweet, awkward scenes. Though Delia is dealing with her grief and PTSD, I found the first bit fun.

I admit, I was a little worried that the book would continue in that vein, which would have been fine but I was craving the chaos and darkness that I know Em can deliver. And deliver she did.
When Genevieve, Delia's daughter, is taken, there's no stopping the Caibre family from getting her back.

I loved what Em did with the story. Kidnapping of a child is a common trope, but in this story, totally necessary as Gen has the coveted gift of vigor. I don't want to spoil the book, but what Em down with the Gifts and families had me enthralled. I didn't want to stop reading.

Em's characters are complex and emotionally troubled in their own ways. She writes with compassion and humor. I love the world she's built and I can't wait for more!

Where can you find out more about Em and her Blackbird series?

Em Shotwell is a mom, writer, cancer survivor, foster youth advocate, podcast producer, and a casual geek--among a million other things. Sometimes she writes books about misfits and the people who love them.

When she’s not frowning at her computer screen, Em enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, or indoors daydreaming and wishing she could play the banjo. 

Find her on her website, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Get your copy of Blackbird Falling here.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Another Concert Adventure

Last night I went to see two musicians whose careers I've followed for decades...and it was amazing!

It took a little wheeling and dealing at work to get the time off to see Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. A co-worker was nice enough to cover my shift, so I'll owe her big time. Going also involved about ten hours of driving and keeping my kids up later than they should have been one night (my youngest doesn't do well if she misses her bed time).

I've been a Slash fan since Guns n' Roses's first album and have bought all the albums he's put out (I still have Slash's Snakepit on cassette). One would have thought I'd have jumped to see Gn'R on their reunion tour when they came to Toronto, but honestly, I wasn't into it.

When I heard Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators was coming, I wanted to go because I love their albums. I can put one on when I'm having a rough day and it makes things better. They're like comfort food for my soul. Hearing the songs live and seeing them preformed was a touching experience.

Slash wasn't the only reason I wanted to go. As I counted down the days to the show, I told everyone, "X days until I see Slash and Todd Kerns!" Most people know Slash, but everyone asked who Todd Kerns was, which gave me the chance to talk about my favourite Canadian band Age of Electric (if you peek at my What I'm Listening To page, you'll see they've been helping me with my latest book). I was even late leaving work one day because I was educating a co-worker on AoE, playing her songs off my phone. It's not often I get to geek out like that. I've been an AoE fan since I saw their video for Aphrodisiac Smile on Much Music way back when (I've been unsuccessful in obtaining a copy of it though). I saw them at Edgefest in the late '90's but sadly missed them on their re-union tour a couple of years ago.

I've been to two shows at Rama and I always find it a little awkward. I want to get up and rock out but most of the audience sits. We all paid a lot for our tickets so I'm not going to be inconsiderate and stand so no one can see. We had a woman in front of us who stood almost the whole show. I'd sat behind her but my husband switched seats with me so I could see without the obstruction.

The opening band Republica was pretty good. The singer has more of an old school metal sound to his voice that you don't hear often anymore and some of their songs have a thrash tint, but not too much that made them too heavy.

Slash was phenomenal. He gets up there and plays his heart out, and looks awesome doing it. He didn't try to work the audience, but he's Slash, he doesn't have to. It was amazing seeing a rock legend that I've followed since my early teen years play live.

The whole band sounded great. They are tight and played their own material sprinkled with songs from Slash's self-titled solo album and covers of Fall to Pieces and Night Train. My only critique was that there was little interaction with the crowd. I like when bands work the audience a little more. I saw Sebastian Bach in July, and that man knows how to interact with a crowd. But it wasn't a huge deal. I'd go see them again in a second.

As much as I loved Kennedy up on stage, doing his thing, the highlight for me was when he turned the mic over to Kerns to sing two songs. Yup, this woman lost her shit, which amused my husband greatly. He did Doctor Alibi and We're All Gonna Die from Slash's solo album. Kerns was great on stage. While he played bass, he interacted with the crowd and tossed picks like there was no tomorrow. Unfortunately, I wasn't close enough to acquire one. I wished I'd had an AoE shirt to wear to the show.

Nothing has touched seeing Chris Cornell three years ago, and I don't think anything will top that because the circumstances in my life at the time gave that show extra meaning. But I think Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators isn't far behind.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Stonebearer's Betrayal Cover Reveal and Guest Post!

I met Jodi one night on Twitter while I was working on the manuscript that got me into Pitch Wars. I'm excited to help reveal the cover for her debut, Stonebearer's Betrayal, which sounds really good! It will be out November 13, 2018 through Immortal Works Press.

Before we get to Jodi's beautiful cover, here's her guest post...

Moved by Magic and Music

There’s an assumption that writers sit in a coffee shop and channel their muse. If the right mix of chemicals hit their brain at the right time, wonderful words pour out onto the page. For those creative people where that set up actually works, kudos to you.

It’s often said, “there is no wrong way to write.” For every writer there is a special set of magic needed to make the words happen. For me, I love finding magic in the world around me. Sometimes it’s in the details of a flower or a dragonfly’s wing. Sometimes magic finds me when I read stories and the words on the page fly into my mind and create pictures. Sometimes I feel magic in the deep emotional throb of an impressive musical piece.

And sometimes I have to beat down my muse with a flyswatter and shake the words out of her.
While writing Stonebearer’s Betrayal, I explored ideas from compelling TV shows I grew up watching and put them together into one gripping story. There’s the attractive intrigue of immortals that stems from watching The Highlander – with Adrian Paul. There’s the drama of an intense life and death situation from old school ER with George Clooney. There’s an ample splash of magic from unnumbered 80’s cartoons. And finally, there’s my personal belief that girls can do hard things.

Here’s to finding your own special magic, dear reader. You too can do hard things.

Thank you for the inspiration, Jodi! Now to show you Jodi's cover!

To get you ready, here's a bit about the story:

A secret society of immortals tasked to protect the world.
A demon bent on revenge.
And a girl brave enough to fight for her family when the two collide.
When Archdemoness Wrothe stirs the ashes from a long dead war, it rekindles a fire that threatens to burn the world. The immortal Stonebearers have the power to bring her down, if they learn of her awakening in time.
Katira didn’t believe the legends. It wasn’t possible for a person to bend the very fabric of reality or live forever. She didn’t believe in the dark mirror realm either or that forces were at work to destroy the waking world.
That was before the first demon shadow hound came for her.

You can pre-order it on Amazon.

Growing up, Jodi L. Milner wanted to be a superhero and a doctor. When she discovered she couldn’t fly, she did what any reasonable introvert would do and escaped into the wonderful hero-filled world of fiction and the occasional medical journal. She’s lived there ever since.

These days, when she’s not folding the children or feeding the laundry, she creates her own noble heroes on the page. Her speculative short stories explore the fabric of dreams and have appeared in numerous anthologies and SQ Magazine, while her novels weave magic into what it means to be human.

She still dreams of flying.

You can find Jodi at her website, and the usual places, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Next Girl To Die Cover Reveal and Guest Post by Dea Poirier

I'm thrilled to share this cover as it belongs to my best friend and critique partner, Dea Poirier. I've been with her through every step of this book and read it a couple times at various stages. Dea worked hard and I'm so proud of her.

Before I show you her beautiful cover for Next Girl to Die, Dea shares her thoughts on how the story came together.

Birth of a Crime Novel

by Dea Poirier

Once upon a time, I never dreamed I’d write anything like NEXT GIRL TO DIE. Several years ago, I wrote thrillers, but they were of the YA supernatural variety. I never thought about writing suspense or mysteries until my agent suggested it. She’d mentioned that she had many editors clamoring for dark, female protagonists that were a bit morally gray, and she suggested that I might be able to write characters like that. Within my YA projects, I already had a penchant for morally gray, so I decided to give it a shot. Though I’ve watched plenty of crime shows, listened to true crime podcasts, and know way more about serial killers than any human should know – I wasn’t confident about writing a book so entrenched in crime and mystery – especially from a detective’s point of view. It came in layers, so, so many layers.

After watching way too much SVU, bingeing on other crime novels – I started NEXT GIRL TO DIE. I’d never tried writing something like it, didn’t even know if I could. But I started researching small islands that could make a creepy home for this story. I wanted something remote, but not too remote. And finally, Vinalhaven Maine stood out to me as the winner.

I wrote the first draft furiously – and shortly after I got the bones of the story down, my grandmother died. Though it did not come as a shock, she’d been in failing health for a while, it was still a blow. My grandmother helped raise me, I lived with her most of my life, so losing her was akin to losing part of myself. In NEXT GIRL TO DIE, my main character Claire is grieving the loss of her sister, a death she’s been grieving for 15 years. Writing this book helped me pour my own pain, my own struggles with grief into something. And I found that it helped. I was able to write out my pain, to etch some of that into Claire’s soul.

After writing that first draft, I edited it, added layers to the story, and poured my heart out into a small town with many secrets – and a heroine that has just as many, if not more.

Now that you know how the book came together, here's the beautiful cover!

Solving the case will avenge her sister—unless the killer finds her first.

It’s been fifteen years since Claire Calderwood’s sister, Rachel, was brutally murdered in their small hometown in Maine. Claire has finally carved out a life for herself as a homicide detective in Detroit, but the past comes calling when the local police back home ask for her help with a murder eerily similar to Rachel’s.

Still haunted by Rachel’s cold case, Claire returns home, hoping to solve the crime and finally put her grief to rest. As she starts investigating, the last thing she needs is tenacious journalist Noah Washington asking questions she’s not ready to answer. But like her, Noah won’t give up until he finds the truth—and Claire reluctantly finds herself relying on him more and more when disturbing new details about Rachel’s death come to light.

When the killer strikes once again, Claire knows he’s not done. Now he’s set his sights on Claire, who will have to find the courage she needs to survive a deadly confrontation years in the making.
NEXT GIRL TO DIE set for release May 1 2019, is now available for pre-order on

Dea Poirier was raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, where she found her passion during a creative writing course. She studied computer science and political science at the University of Central Oklahoma. She later spent time living on both coasts and traveling the United States before finally putting down roots in central Florida. She now resides somewhere between Disney and the swamp with her husband, son, two dogs, and two cats.

Find her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, or Bookbub.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Impostor Syndrome Lives Here

My blog has been sorely neglected for a while now. Not only have things been very busy between working two jobs and writing, I've had the worst case of impostor syndrome. I have a number of half written blogs but then good ole anxiety kicks in. All the ways people will view what I'm saying negatively run through my head. Who am I to post about anything?

The world is not kind. Everyone knows that. Trolls lurk online in every nook. People are more willing to share their negative thoughts than their positive ones these days. Putting anything out there is a gamble.

It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there. I learned that quickly in my news days. I worked for a small town radio station that everyone loves to complain about. It was, and still is, hard not to get offended when people do because I know how hard those at the station work and how much they care. Given, some complaints are justified, but most are people wanting to rant and because the people on the radio are faceless and easy targets--much like those on the internet.

Then why do I worry so much about posting a blog? There's more of myself in my posts than when I wrote and read news on the air. The events I wrote about for the news were not my opinions, thoughts, or experiences. Here they are.

How do you get past impostor syndrome and the anxiety?

You suck it up and try your best. Be kind to yourself (something which I need to learn) and not so critical. You can hide away, but that won't accomplish anything. It's best to surround yourself with supportive people to help you through those dark times of doubt. Remind yourself that the voice that holds you back lies. Your words, thoughts, creations are important. They add something to the world. You never know who is reading/listening. You may change someone's mind, opinion, or life.

The universal truth is not everyone will like what you do. And that's okay. I try to teach my children that it's okay not to like something or someone, but it's not okay to rip things or people apart. Opinions are subjective. As writers, we learn that fast when other people read our work. I wish the world would shift so that people didn't feel obligated to agree with what others liked to fit in and that a difference of opinion was respected, not viewed as threatening. If that were the case, maybe we'd have an easier time releasing our work into the world.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Crossing Off Another Concert on the Bucket List

A recent trip to my parents' place happened to coincide with one of my favourite singers performing a reasonable distance away. After a six hour drive, my husband and I drove another hour to see Sebastian Bach perform at a small venue.

What made it even better was that a Canadian band I discovered a couple years ago opened for him! I've wanted to go see The Standstills since I bought their CD. I think I was one of the only people that were there to see them too.

The Standstills were fantastic! The only problem was that, being right up at the stage, we couldn't really hear the vocals. The speakers that the vocals were mixed with were to the side of the stage and slightly behind us. That didn't stop us from rocking out!

After their set, I even scored a set list!

The bonus was that my husband really liked them! I'd had him listen to their CD a few times but after seeing The Standstills live, he's a fan. He'd like to see them play again. Looks like we'll be watching for another tour date!

If you'd like to check them out, here's their website!

Sebastian Bach was amazing. He was funny, knew how to connect with the crowd, and still sang his heart out. He sounded amazing, even though it was hard to hear the vocals being right at the stage. The teenager in me was freaking out for sure.

My next concert adventure will be Slash (another rocker I've been a fan of since my early teen years) featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Fun fact: I'm also excited to see Todd Kerns. Who, you may ask? He was the singer/guitarist in my favourite Canadian band Age of Electric and now plays bass for Slash/Myles Kennedy.

Monday, April 16, 2018

History, Women, and Music - Interview with Alyssa Palombo

Last month, I saw a copy of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palombo. I got excited because I know her from Twitter and purchased the book, which I started reading that evening. Though I fantasy is my most read genre, I also love a good historical fiction. Alyssa's book swept me away. I really enjoyed the story of Simonetta Cattaneo as Sandro Botticelli's muse. After reading it, I picked up her other book, The Violinist of Venice, the story a woman named Adriana d’Amato who learns to play violin and becomes a lover of Antonio Vivaldi. This one also swept me away and because it spans so many years had a more epic feel to it.

I'm excited for her upcoming book about Katrina Van Tassel from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, being a lover of dark and creepy stories.

Since I enjoyed her stories so much, I asked Alyssa if she'd take time to do an interview from my blog and she graciously agreed!


1)  What inspired you to write about Adriana, Simonetta, and Katrina? Why was it important to tell their stories?

The answer to this question varies slightly for each character, so I’ll go in order 😊

Adriana: I think it is generally important for authors of historical fiction to tell the stories of people whose stories may not have been told or appreciated in their time, or by history as it has been written. Adriana d’Amato is a fictional character, but I found the lives of women in 18th century Venice fascinating: they had a lot of freedom in some ways, and were burdened by a great many restrictions in others. Too, as a musician myself, I am always interested in the lives of female musicians in the past. Adriana’s story takes place at an interesting time for female musicians: women could achieve great fame as singers on the opera stage, but female instrumental performers and composers were still mostly unheard of (save for within some religious institutions). I wanted to explore how this atmosphere would have affected this character I created, who is a passionate musician and learns to be a composer.

Simonetta: Simonetta Vespucci was an actual historical figure about whom we know very little, which is a shame because I find her fascinating (obviously, since I wrote a whole book about her!). One of the things that we do know is that she was known throughout Florence, and much of Italy, for her beauty. She was treated in a way that was not too far off from our own celebrity culture today: women copied the clothes she wore, and men waited outside her house hoping to speak to her or even just catch a glimpse of her. I found the parallels really interesting to explore as a writer. And, of course, she is supposedly the model for Botticelli’s famous painting The Birth of Venus. The artist-muse inspiration, and the stories behind great works of art, is another theme that I love to both write and read about (and which I delve into in The Violinist of Venice as well, of course).

Katrina: Katrina Van Tassel is also not a real historical figure, but she is a character in one of America’s best known works of literature, so she feels very real in a lot of ways. I’ve always adored “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, but the sexist way that Irving’s narrator describes and speaks about Katrina always got under my skin. I wanted to take this story that I loved and give Katrina a chance to tell it her way. Turns out she had quite a story to tell!

2)  Your first two books were set in Italy, how did your visit help you research?

Visiting Venice was absolutely crucial to me in completing The Violinist of Venice. Venice is such a
strange and unique place; a city that floats on the water. I had to see it for myself to make sure that I could write about it in a convincing way. By the time I went there, I had done the research on the time period, Vivaldi and his music, etc., so seeing the city, experiencing how people moved around in, was the last piece of the puzzle. With Florence, it was immensely helpful to visit some of the exact locations that feature in the book, so that I could accurately describe them and place my characters in a firm space. I was also reminded (that research trip was actually my second visit to Florence) that art is just everywhere in that city, and that the period I was writing about – the Italian Renaissance – was the birth of all that. I let art and the love of beauty permeate my writing as I continued to work on the manuscript.

3)  How hard it is to write historical fiction when you don’t have lots of information about the figure you want to write about?

As I mentioned, there’s not a ton of information available about Simonetta Vespucci – in many of the books I consulted while researching she is quite literally a footnote. So it was quite frustrating to not be able to confirm some details for certain – where her wedding had taken place, for instance – but then at other times it was liberating, as I was free to choose the scenario I liked best out of a few possibilities, and fill in the blanks that history had left. When researching a little-known woman from history, one avenue is to research the notable men in her life or of her time period – in the case of this book, I read a lot about Lorenzo de’ Medici. And reading about the period generally – the everyday little details – can also help to give an idea of how people lived at that time, and how their world may have shaped them. So there are lots of ways in even if there isn’t a lot of information about the person you’re writing about.

4) What do you love most about writing historical fiction?

I’m a total history nerd, probably unsurprisingly, so I love being able to incorporate all the fascinating, weird, and unexpected historical information that I find and become obsessed with into my stories. I think historical fiction is probably as close to a time machine as we’ll ever get. I love being able to illuminate pieces of the past that may have been unknown to my readers, while also drawing parallels to our world today.

5) Why do you think it’s important to write strong, independent women, especially ones who lived during times when women were supposed to be submissive?

There have always been women who yearned and worked for change – that is how change has happened, after all, and it’s important that we remember that. Women have changed the course of history many times over, and we shouldn’t forget that.

It’s important to acknowledge that a woman writing in the 21st century can never completely set aside her modern lens; can only imagine what it would be like to live without the rights that we have today. But I try to narrow my focus somewhat and zero in on what is important to the women I am writing about. I think it’s important to show that women – that people in general – were not all that different in the past compared to today. We still want many of the same things, have the same goals and ambitions and desires, enjoy the same things, etc.

6)  Who is your favourite character you’ve written so far?

Charlotte Jansen, who is Katrina’s best friend in The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel. She isn’t in the original “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”; she’s a character that I invented. She’s like me in a lot of ways, and in other ways is a woman I wish I was more like. She also has some…interesting abilities, which is cool and was very fun to write. I love and feel connected to all my characters, but Charlotte just has a special place in my heart.

7) How much research do you do for your novels?

As much as I need, and sometimes more! There’s a lot that I learn along the way that never makes it onto the page, but the more understanding you can have of a person/place/time period, the better. I read a lot of books related to my subject, of course, and also look at paintings from the period (portraiture is great for getting a feel for clothing and hairstyles) as well as maps. Primary sources such as letters have been tough for my Italian novels, as I don’t read Italian fluently, so I’ve had to rely on translations that I’ve found in books. I did have some primary sources in the forms of Vivaldi’s music and Botticelli’s artwork, of course! And whenever possible I travel to the location where my books are set and see the sites, visit museums, speak to tour guides and docents, etc. And there’s always those things you can find with a quick Google search – though that often leads to falling down lots of rabbit holes!

8) What’s your writing process?

I write whenever I can make the time – weekends, evenings after work, my lunch break. I’ll take a day or two off here and there to make sure I don’t get burned out, and I find that a little time away from a project can help me come back to it with a fresher perspective. Once I’ve got a first draft, I send that to my agent for her notes, and she gives me her feedback and we usually discuss over the phone. Then I’ll fill in whatever research holes still exist and do a round of revisions before sending on to my editor. Then she and I will continue to work on it together.

9) What are you currently working on?

I’m currently doing more research for my upcoming fourth novel, which I can’t say too much about yet 😊 I’m making another research trip for that in a couple months, and then I’ll be revising this summer to get it in to my editor by my deadline. I did a ton of research up front for this one (and it’s also about a period/historical figure I already knew a lot about) and yet there is still so much more I need to know! It’s my most ambitious project yet – there are two narrators, one a man (who is an actual historical figure) and one a woman (who is fictional). It’s different from my first three novels in that it’s got a lot of politics and is rather dark, and also hews extremely closely to actual historical events. That’s all I’ll say for now!

10) Are there any historical figures you hope to write?

I’d rather not name names, since I don’t want to commit to anything, so to speak – there’s no telling if a project will work or not until it’s underway. But I will say that there are a couple ladies of Italian history that I’d love to write about, and the project I am considering for after book four is turned in is about a historical woman, one not well-known but with a connection to someone very famous.

11)  Since we like the same music, I have to ask, what are you listening to now?

Yay, I love this question! 😊 I’ve had Nightwish’s Decades pretty much on loop since I saw them live last week – hearing some of the older songs live gave me a whole new appreciation for them! And speaking of Nightwish, I’m also LOVING the new Auri album, which is Tuomas Holopainen and Troy Donockley’s side project. It’s just gorgeous music; I’m not even sure how to describe it: maybe a touch of Nightwish mixed with folk-rock and classical music? I’ve also had Evanescence’s Synthesis in pretty heavy rotation since it came out in November. Lastly, I’m very much looking forward to Kamelot’s new album, which will be out April 6 – I love the two songs they’ve released from it so far!

Thank you, Alyssa, for doing this interview. It was lots of fun!

Don't forget to pre-order your copy of The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel! I can't wait for this one!

About the Author

ALYSSA PALOMBO is the author of The Violinist of Venice and The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, as well as the forthcoming The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel. She has published short fiction pieces in Black Lantern Magazine and The Great Lakes Review. She is a recent graduate of Canisius College with degrees in English and creative writing, respectively. A passionate music lover, she is a classically trained musician as well as a big fan of heavy metal. She lives in Buffalo, New York.

Find her online at her website, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Read What You Love

If a book sounds good, I'll read it no matter the category. Adult, young adult, middle grade, it doesn't matter. Give me a story that will hook me, good characters and writing, and I'm set.

I'm surprised how many adults apologize for what they read. Why should people feel guilty for the type of book(s) they enjoy? It mostly happens with young adult books. I've had many adults feel the need to justify why they are reading them, though I didn't say a thing.  Don't do that. Read what you love, what makes you happy, and don't apologize for it. If you aren't into a genre of book that others enjoy, that's fine. Not everyone likes the same things.

I've heard of people who put down those who enjoy romance books, which isn't cool. There have been people who turned their nose up when I told them I read mostly fantasy. I'm not going to apologize for what I enjoy reading, nor will I put down someone for reading a book I'm not interested in. We all have our genre preferences, but one isn't better than others.

There seems to be a desire to say we like a book when someone else says they do. This makes no sense. I've slowly gotten over the need to gloss over my dislike of a book when someone tells me they liked it. I'll tell them it just wasn't for me. I don't slam the book, that's in poor taste. I may say what in the book didn't appeal to me or if something specific bothered me, I'll mention it. It's always interesting to hear what appeals to other people and why.

My daughter brought home Among the Hidden, about a boy who must remain hidden at home because he's a third child which is illegal in that society. Though it was a book intended for about grade six, it was really good. I looked forward to reading it each night with her. She got the second book in the series but we didn't finish it because she wasn't that into it. I'd like to go back and finish the series. I recently finished The Giver, also a junior fiction. I had a hard time putting it down. I loved the story. I love Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia. I know some adults who won't look at them because they believe they are only "for children." If you've tried to read a book and couldn't get into it because of the story or the writing, that's fine, at least you tried.

Over the past year I've read more young adult books. Not intentionally, they just happened to be ones I picked up because I wanted to read the story. Some of them I've had a hard time putting down! My oldest is 12 years old so I'm enjoying reading young adult books and thinking of what may appeal to her. I can't wait until she's ready for some of the titles I've read and we can discuss them!

Let's stop making reading a competition and understand that everyone likes different things. It's fine to disagree with someone's opinion on a book, but there's no need to be mean about it.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Enchanted: Magic Spark Release Day!

Today is the release of the first of a trilogy by Pen and Kink Publishing. Each book has three stories about magic and romance by Em Shotwell, Wendy Sparrow, and Sara Dobie Bauer.

I love these ladies and the stories they write! That's why I loaned my blog to my good friend Em Shotwell again. For more about the stories in Magic Spark, check out the blurbs at the end of Em's post!


By Em Shotwell

To celebrate the release of my new novella (first in series and included in an amazing anthology with two other awesome authors!) I have decided to share the playlist I used for inspiration, and why each song worked for this series. Some are creepy and some are fun. Some are dark and some are actually kind of funny. (You can find the complete playlist on Spotify at )

Creep (Kina Grannis version)

The sadness evoked by this song is consuming. I especially love this version, the singer’s voice is haunting. For Creep, it isn’t necessarily the lyrics that make it a perfect fit for this series, but the emotion I feel when I listen. This was on repeat from book one to book three while I worked at telling the Murphey sisters’s stories.

Lyric: But I'm a creep. I'm a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here.

Why this lyric works: The Murphey women are witches—but their life has been anything but easy, and magic has nothing to do with it. Their family is dysfunctional. Their mama was an alcoholic and their dads weren’t around. The happiest times were spent at their Grandma’s house—she herself a seasoned witch. Now, even though they have come into their power, they never feel quite like they fit in. They each compensate in their own way—but it is hard to leave childhood scars behind. Even for a witch.

Where did you sleep last night? (Leadbelly version)

This song is so creepy and perfect for this book series. The lyrics work for each story in a different way. Cheyanne is trying to get back her cheating fiancé, Marchland is trying to escape an obsessive man, and Bradley is trying to outrun a dead man. The sound of Leadbelly’s voice singing “don’t lie to me,” gives me chills.

Lyric: My girl, my girl, where will you go. I'm going where the cold wind blows. In the pines, in the pines. Where the sun don't ever shine. I would shiver the whole night through.

Why this lyric works: This is absolutely perfect for Cheyanne’s story on so many levels. Her heart is both hot and cold and she is out for revenge—and is driven by a deep hurt. Never cross a witch.

Graveyard by Devil Makes Three

This song works for all stories—but especially for Marchland. Her story starts off innocent and sweet and twists and turns and lands somewhere dark. I had to rewrite this story twice because the first two versions were too dark for a romance anthology. My editor asked me if I’d been watching too much American Horror Story (there is nothing gory in my tale…just creepy). Of course I took this as a compliment.

Lyric: It starts off just the Whiskey and Wine. Miles of travel and some real good times. But it ends in a dark corridor. Where there ain't no windows. And there ain't no doors.

Why this lyric works: The instrumentals are what works so well in this song—but the lyrics are perfect too. It is hard to choose one lyric, because the song works so well. Just…just go listen.

Psycho Killer by The Talking Heads

Confession. I love this weird song. It is on my workout mix, lol. There are so many songs that work for their creepiness, but I think this works for another reason. My novella series is dark and twisty—but it is also campy and tongue-in-cheek. It is very aware of its own ability to go over-the-top. That is why Psycho Killer made it onto the playlist.

Lyric: I can't seem to face up to the facts. I'm tense and nervous and I can't relax. I can't sleep 'cause my bed's on fire. Don't touch me I'm a real live wire.

Why this lyric works: This song is campy and fun, as is These Roots Run Deep, This Hollow Heart, and These Resting Bones. This song—and especially this lyric—works best for Bradley’s story. While her oldest sister Cheyanne embraces her darkness, and her middle sister Marchland has made her peace with it, only Bradley is terrified of the power she possesses. She just wants to blend in and disappear…easier said than done when you are a witch meddling in magic.

One more just for fun!

Sticks and Stones by The Pierces

This song is just pure fun for anyone writing a girl-power witchy story! It has been around for quite a long time, but it works for the Murphey girls as if it were written for them. It is upbeat and has fun with its dark lyrics (much like Cheyanne in These Roots Run Deep).

Lyric: Oh. Hey, lover boy. Oh, now do you believe me? That’s not all that I can do. Sit back down. I’m afraid we won’t be leaving. Can't undo my spell on you.

This lyric works for Cheyanne and Brett, Marchland and Chase, and even Bradley and the Professor.

I hope you enjoyed this short playlist. If you did, go check out the entire list on Spotify, then check out the first in my Murphey Family Saga, available in the anthology: MAGIC SPARK. My story is titled, THESE ROOTS RUN DEEP. Then visit me on facebook and let me know what you thought!

Em Shotwell is a Mississippi native turned Louisiana local who writes about misfits and the people who love them. You can learn more about her books by visiting her at She’d love to connect on Facebook, too!

Want to know more about Magic Spark? Here's a bit about the three stories...

“When Demigods Court Death” by Wendy Sparrow
As the demigod of fertility, Aster Slone has a thriving doctor’s practice. In fact, the incidence of
triplets has made it too thriving. He needs more time with his neighbor the demigoddess of death to dampen his powers. Chandra Linton being gorgeous and sweet makes his task less of a hardship. Hitting the zenith of heretofore-unknown powers without enough exposure to her match is killing Chandra. Accepting all that her crazy, but hot neighbor says is her destiny…well, it muddles her convictions, but her real concern is: does Aster want Chandra because she’s the woman he desires or because she’s Death?

“These Roots Run Deep” by Em Shotwell
Spitfire, New Orleans weather girl, Cheyanne Murphey has everything, and that is exactly how she likes it. When she discovers evidence of her fiancé’s philandering, she refuses to let her perfectly cultivated image fall to pieces. Cheyanne has worked too hard, dragging herself up from the trailer park into New Orleans’ society, to give in without a fight…even if that means trading a year of her life in exchange for a love incantation from her ancestor’s spell book.

A skyclad, moonlit dance, a mysterious potion, and magic gone awry leave Cheyanne with a very peculiar life lesson: love can take on many forms, so be careful what you wish for.

“Destiny’s Dark Light” by Sara Dobie Bauer
In modern day Charleston, lonely white witch Cyan Burroughs has waited her whole life to lead the battle against dark witches and eventually meet the man she is fated to love. A tragic trolley accident brings Liam Cody into her life. He is her destiny, but he’s also in love with someone else. Now, Cyan and her magic family must find the dark witch who caused the accident while Cyan fights her feelings for Liam—a charming Irishman with secrets of his own.

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