Friday, June 29, 2012

Review of: American Caliphate

The last time Jila Wells spent time in Peru, it ended in blood and bullets. Her desire to return is nonexistent until Ben Jaurez walks back into her life. He promises better security and a big payday, but the real lure is finding the secret that lies hidden in the Moche pyramid. 

American Caliphate blends modern archaeology with ancient religious persecution, secret voyages, and a heavy dose of action. Doonan did a fantastic job of bringing together elements of historical facts and modern adventure. I enjoyed learning about the various cultures presented in this book. I had never heard of the Moche before, but their culture and the area they lived are both quite interesting to read about. The conflict between Spanish Christians and Muslims was not something I was terribly familiar with either. Doonen was able to set the stage early on so you could relate to and truly understand the choices the Ibanez family made, and hope for their success. 

Being that this is an action/adventure novel, you would expect some excitement to pop up occasionally. In this area, Doonan didn't disappoint. Heavy duty machine guns aren't a typical necessity on an excavation site, but with the people trying to stop Ben and Jila, extra precautions are probably a good idea. There was a very good balance between relaying historical facts to the reader and keeping the action moving. I was never bored while reading. I was continually fascinated either by the stories of Spain and Peru, or the archaeological crew trying to unravel mysteries and dodge bullets. 

Characters are one of the most important aspects of a book. If the characters aren't someone the reader cares about, the book will be lacking. American Caliphate offers a cast of interesting characters. Ben and Jila have a complicated past that is made apparent within the first few pages. Tomas and Diego Ibanez make only a short appearance, but I felt connected to them right away. Even the local drug lord was fun to meet and try to figure out. There were no flat characters, but I did feel like Doonan could have utilized his unique characters more than he did. The focus was so much on the mystery and search that the characters weren't delved into as much as they could have been. I would have liked to really get into their heads and emotions more. 

The multiple storylines were interesting as well. I wasn't expecting the CIA side of the story, but I enjoyed the different viewpoint it offered. Jimmy Segura manages to tangle himself into this story, and watching him try to escape it proved entertaining. I was a bit disappointed that the Ibanez storyline didn't continue throughout the book. I thought their story could have really expanded the scope of the book. I would have rather read more of their story than just have it summed up later by the other characters. The only other area of the book I had a small issue with was the editing. There were a surprising amount of errors for a traditionally published book. It wasn't a lot, certainly not enough to detract from the book, but being a writer myself I did notice the typos. Aside from that, the writing was very good. Doonan is a strong writer with a writing style that engages readers and pulls them through the story effortlessly. This was a wonderful book I would definitely encourage people to pick up. 

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. It was a fun, fascinating read. I learned a lot and was entertained the whole way through. It was a fairly quick read, great for summer! 

Who would I recommend this book to? Action adventure readers, history readers (especially those interested in South American history), those interested in archaeology, and anyone else looking for an entertaining book. Basically, if you're a fan of authors like Dan Brown, Steve Berry, or Michael Crichton you'll enjoy this book. 

Get your copy of American Caliphate today from Amazon in Kindle or Paperback

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Favorites from "American Caliphate"

My favorite part of books like this is the new things you get to learn. I am not a history buff by any means, but I do enjoy learning about people and countries and the history that helped a person or place become what it is today. 

There was plenty of new and exciting facts presented in American Caliphate. I had no idea Spanish Muslims came to the Americas. I really wasn't even aware of how they were treated in Spain, and that the government tried to pretty much get rid of all the Muslims during this time period. It gave me a better appreciation for religious freedom. The introduction of the Ibanez storyline painted a very good picture of why someone would be willing to leave their family, including a pregnant wife, to search for a place where they could build a new home where they were free to worship. 

This really was a fascinating book. The clash between the Spanish Inquisition and Muslims believers proved very interesting, but then you also got to learn about the Moche people and the mysteries surrounding their culture and history. It was a very interesting read. 

Get your copy today from Amazon in Kindle or Paperback

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Interview with: William Doonan

Yesterday you got a chance to learn a little more about William Doonan. Today, William was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for me. Read on to get to know more about his books and his writing. 

1. I assume your inspiration for "American Caliphate" comes from your own work on Moche excavations. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Otherwise, can you tell us more about your work? 

Yes, I'm a field archaeologist.  I teach archaeology and anthropology, but I've spent years working on excavations.  I've worked primarily in Central America, focussing on Costa Rica and Honduras.  I did my dissertation on the excavations of a Maya palace complex at Copan in western Honduras. 

More recently I moved on to a pyramid complex on the north coast of Peru where a culture called Moche built mud brick pyramids up until about A.D. 800.  Because it almost never rains on the north coast, we get incredible preservation, even mummies!  But mostly, we're trying to make sense of the Moche culture, figure out what they were about, and then ultimately, what happened to them.

2. Your novel opens by introducing three different story lines, two in current history, and one in 16th century Spain. How did you decide which story line to open with? 

Funny you should ask!  Originally I planned to open the novel with the second chapter, the one set in Spain in 1542.  It functions more or less like a prologue, and it's probably my favorite chapter in the book, partly because I spent so much time with it.  I had to be really careful to get the tone right, and to make sure I wasn't making any anachronistic mistakes, like having my characters ride bikes or send text messages. 

But I had an agent at the time who cautioned me against using that chapter to open the novel.  Her concern was that a reader might think the whole book was going to be historical fiction, and then they might either put it down, or get disappointed when they got to the next chapter.

So ultimately, because most of the action takes place in the present, I went with the current story lines and then snuck that historical chapter in when nobody was looking.

3. As Ben approaches Jila with the idea or joining the excavation in Peru, she questions the safety of the idea. What kinds of dangers would be present at a site like this in real life? 

Per has had some lingering public safety issues ever since the guerilla movements of the 1980s and 1990s were largely disbanded.  I was on site with a small team in 2005.  That summer, there were three other excavation teams working on the north coast.  Two got sick with typhus, and the other was robbed at gunpoint of their cameras and their computers.

So the biggest concerns for me and my group were health and safety.  We worked with people we trusted.  We made sure our cook bought food tthat was more expensive than she otherwise would have in hopes of staying healthy (which we mostly did).  And we were really careful about moving around.

I did payroll for our local excavators.  So every week I'd have to pay out the salaries, all in cash.  And the nearest bank was about an hour away.  So I made sure that I never moved around at the same time.  I never told anyone when they were getting paid.  Sometimes it happened a couple of days early, but I never got any complaints about that.  And we made sure everyone understood that you don't wander around by yourself, and by all means, don't be flashy.

4. Tomas and Diego Ibanez live in 16th century Spain, keeping their Muslim faith a secret. Is the atmosphere of intolerance you describe in the book an accurate picture of how Muslims were treated at the time? 

I think so.  I did a lot of research into this time period because it fascinates me.  Two summers ago, I spent some time in Seville, Spain, where I had an investigator license at the Archive of the Indies, which is the repository for all the documents of the Council of the Indies which was the administrative body that Spain used to manage the affairs of Empire.

Because the Spanish government wanted tight control of the Americas, nobody was allowed to travel there without a license from the Council.  Muslims were prohibited from sailing across the Atlantic, but then again, there were no longer any Muslims in Spain officially. 

When Queen Isabella completed her Reconquista (reconquest), she finally defeated the Moors, the Muslims of southern Spain.  Non-Christians were not especially welcome.  The Jews were expelled, and ultimately the Muslims were forced to convert or to leave.  Of course many were quite wealthy, had been living in Spain for centuries, and were unwilling to do either.  So they worshipped in secret.
5. The third story line, one that involves the CIA, steps in on the excavation of the Moche pyramid. In your field work how often does law enforcement (of any kind) get involved with an archaeological dig? And for what reasons might they become involved? 

I would say that law enforcement very rarely gets involved.  We have to be a little bit careful because in the process of excavating pyramids, it's not uncommon to find pottery, sometimes very valuable pottery.  Sometimes too, gold and other precious metals.  As such, guards are always present, day and night.  You won't see them unless you really pay attention, but they're there.  Keep in mind too that we're walking around with computers, cameras, transits, radar batons, and GameBoys.  So we have to be careful.

That being said, we are licensed to be there, and certified by both the Ministry of Culture, and local shamans who have to meet with us to assure themselves that we will be respectful of their ancestors. 

6. Bringing together two faiths, Muslim and Christian, in this book must have been a challenge. How did you approach writing about each religion's view point? 

I think I started with the premise that these were men and women of a certain time.  Their sensibilities and motivations were different than our own, but from my readings and my work at the Archive, I got the sense that both Muslims and Christians were sincere in their beliefs.  I suspect there was a lot more interfaith tolerance in the colonial Americas than there is in some parts of the Americas today.

7. The archaeologists face dangers from many sources, but one the it probably common to many dig sites is weather. How does the predicted El Nino storm complicate their work? 

El Nino is so rare that it's not a huge concern.  Also, being a college professor, I have to teach during the year, so the only opportunities I have to excavate are in the summer, which is of course the winter in South America, and the weather is quite nice.

When I worked in Honduras, we had to pack it all in at about the end of May when the rainy season began.  The Maya built their pyramids and palaces out of stone, and you can't excavate stone buildings in the rain because it's too dangerous.  Something could shift.

8. Who are you favorite authors? 

Elmore Leonard - I think he's the best living writer.  I like the Venetian mysteries that Donna Leon writes.  Scott Turow is great.  Joe Konrath is outrageous.

9. Do you have any interesting habits or rituals when you write? 

I have two sons, age 6 and 4, so most of my interesting habits involve getting up to fetch socks or juice boxes.  But I do push myself.  I write almost every day, and I have a bunch of projects going at once, so if I get hung up with one, I move on to something else.

10. Can you tell us about your first novel, "Grave Passage," and any future projects you might be working on? 

I've spent most of the last twelve summers lecturing on cruise ships for at least two to three weeks at a pop, so I've gotten to visit some fantastic places, but I've also learned a lot about cruise ships, and cruise ship culture.  And because every cruise I've ever been on has been filled with people sitting around the pool reading mysteries, I decided to write a mystery just for them.

So I figured I'd need a protagonist who fits right in, so I made him 84 years old.  All cruise ships have security teams, but technically if they're in international waters, jurisdiction is unclear, so that's where my guy comes in - Henry Grave is a detective who investigates crimes on cruise ships.  And yes, crimes happen on cruise ships.  Grave Passage was published in 2009, Mediterranean Grave in 2011, and the third installment, Grave Indulgence will be out this July.

12 million people take a cruise each year.
Most have fun.
Some die.
Henry Grave investigates.


Thanks so much to William for telling us more about his books and his writing and life. Don't forget to get your copy of this fascinating book from Amazon in either Kindle or Paperback

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Introducing: William Doonan

This  week's featured author is William Doonan, author of American Caliphate, and the award winning Henry Grave Series. Read on to find out more about William and his writing. 

William Doonan is an archaeologist and professor of anthropology in Sacramento. He has spent many years conducting excavations in Central and South America. He is also a veteran cruise ship lecturer, traveling the world and speaking on topics as diverse as the Trojan War, piracy in the Adriatic, and the peopling of the Americas.
Doonan is also the author of three mystery novels.  Grave Passage and Mediterranean Grave  recount the adventures of an octogenarian detective who solves crimes on cruise ships.  His new archaeological mystery American Caliphate was released by Dark Oak Mysteries in April 2012. Doonan lives in Sacramento with his wife and two sons.
You can stay up to date on what William and his books by visiting his website or his blog, where he blogs about undead conquistador mummies. 

And don't forget to get a copy of American Caliphate in Kindle or Paperback, and come back tomorrow for an interview with William!

Monday, June 25, 2012

New Book: American Caliphate

We're dipping into the Action Adventure genre this week with William Doonan's novel, American Caliphate. Now I am a big fan of Dan Brown, Steve Berry, and movies like National Treasure, so I've been excited to start the feature on this book and get to know more about William and his writing. Read on to find out more about American Caliphate, and stop back by every day this week for an interview with William and the review. 

"Nothing decays on the north coast, not even faith. Archaeologists Jila Wells and Ben Juarez reluctantly return to Peru to join Professor Beckham’s distinguished team at Santiago de Paz pyramids. Jila is still haunted by the prior dig which ended in a near-fatal ambush. But the ruins hide a document that will shock the Islamic world. Details found in an ancient diary tell of an illegal expedition to Spanish Peru, intending to bring the word of Allah to the pagan Americans. As the archaeologists brace for the ravages of El Niño, Jila and Ben hurry to complete their excavations. But they’re not the only ones interested in this project. Other forces are determined to keep the document hidden." 

You can get your copy of American Caliphate in Paperback or on your Kindle today!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

One Lovely Blog Award!

Thanks so much to Linda Ulleseit for giving me the One Lovely Blog Award! Linda is a fellow author with Briona Glen Publishing, and her first YA novel, "On a Wing and a Dare," was recently released. Her middle grade picture book, "Xavier's Desk Monster," was also recently signed with Briona Glen also! You can follow Linda and her books on her blog

Check out the interview questions that go along with the award! 

1. What is your favorite color?


2. What is your favorite animal?

I have always loved horses, but I've had very few opportunities to really be around them. Maybe someday!

3. What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?

Dr. Pepper 10 - It gets me through a lot of late night studying!

4. Do you prefer Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook. Twitter is on my list of things to figure out how to use

5. What is your favorite pattern?

I love abstract geometric patterns, especially when they're really colorful

6. Do you prefer giving or getting presents?

I love giving people presents. It's so fun to see them get excited. 

7. What is your favorite number?

11. Mainly because it's kind of random and doesn't get much attention

8. What is your favorite day of the week?

That depends on which day of the week I get out of classes early! But really, it has to be Saturday since my awesome husband is home and I get to hang out with my kiddos too. That doesn't happen nearly often enough while I'm in school. 

9. What is your favorite flower?

Candy Striped Cosmos

10. What’s your passion? 

Using my creativity and talents to enrich people's lives. I love to write, paint, sew, teach yoga and gymnastics, cook, and yes, clean teeth! 

Now I get to share some of my favorite blog with all of you!

Jennifer Comeaux - (Jennifer Comeaux, author of "Life on the Edge") 
Author Jenni James - (Jenni James, author of "Pride and Popularity")
Tales from the Baby Blue Barn - (Nancy DeMarco, author of "Finding Sara")
Diiarts - (M.M. Bennetts, author of "Of Honest Fame")
Books and Other Things - (Loretta Proctor, author of "Middle Watch")
BGDenvil - (Barbara Denvil, author of "Sumerfod's Autumn")
Eolyn Chronicles - (Karin Rita Gastreich, author of Eolyn")

Friday, June 22, 2012

Review of: Sumerford's Autumn

All of England sits back warily as the turmoil between the Plantagenets and Tudors continues in the form of young men claiming to be the rightful heirs to the throne and Henry the VII plotting ways to be rid of the supposed usurpers. The temperature inside Sumerford castle is no less tumultuous, though they have no kings and renegade prices to battle. Instead they are faced with mental instability, criminal activity, dangerous revolutionary ideals, and a young maid servant who manages to completely disrupt Ludovick Sumerford’s entire life. 

The best part of this book for me was the characters. Every single player had depth and personality, an interesting history, and a questionable future. The uncertainty of the future each of them seemed to carry around on their shoulders made me anxious to keep reading. The three youngest brothers had a great dynamic. At times you really couldn’t tell whether they despised one another or loved each other, and always there were secrets. The father was an enjoyable character as well. He had some unpleasant qualities, but I felt like I understood his reasons for being the way he was and I still found him interesting to read about. Watching this family move through trials and tragedy is an emotional journey. Ludovick, the main character, changes significantly, but the others do as well. Even Alysson, the female lead, is quite a different person at the end of the book. Her naiveté cannot last long in the Sumerford household. Denvil did a great job of not letting any of her characters remain static. The fact that they did grow and change helped to bring their story to life. This was definitely a character driven story.

The love story between Ludovick and Alysson is another very enticing aspect of this book. I had been concerned at first that the Earl’s son and the chambermaid was not going to be terribly inspired, but Denvil added her own twist to a commonly used plot element to make it unique. Alysson’s youth and rather sheltered life leaves her uncertain and hesitant when it comes to Ludovick’s attentions. And she isn’t helped by Jenny, the oldest son’s new wife, who fills her head with ideas and expectations about Ludovick that aren’t exactly chaste or welcome. It was very entertaining to go back and forth between the two characters, being in each person’s mind, but knowing they were frequently misunderstanding each other. Denvil managed to keep the tension going between them through the entire book, and although I didn’t love the last chapter, I was satisfied with how their relationship turned out. 

Sumerford’s Autumn is a beautifully written book as well. Denvil brought an air of believability to the story with the language and atmosphere, and also her attention to detail. I felt like she captured the time period very well with her descriptions of the land, castles, clothing, and foods. Denvil is a very descriptive writer, which does help tremendously to build a scene and get readers acquainted with the era, but it does need to be kept in check. Through the first half I enjoyed knowing how everything looked, and what people wore. As I got further into the book, though, I felt like the description impinged on the story. Detailed descriptions of the clothing worn or the drapes in a room bogged down the action of the story at times. I already had a visual of how they dressed and what the buildings looked like by this point. Later in the book I wanted to get into the excitement more than read long passages of description. The pacing through the first half was great, but I wanted the story to move more quickly during the second half and build up to the climax. Instead there were short bursts of activity punctuated by long periods of dialog or description toward the end of the book. 

There was one other area I struggled with a bit. There’s a bit of a spoiler here, so feel free to skip this paragraph. At one point Ludovick is visited by a blue phantasm that speaks to him. I was surprised Denvil chose to include this aspect of supernatural, but I was interested to see where she would take it. I had hopes that it would play a significant role in the story. The identity of this ghost and what it wanted with Ludovick was a mystery I was interested in seeing solved. However, I felt rather disappointed when this aspect of the book didn’t develop into anything terribly significant. Toward the end of the book the ghost’s identity is revealed and the reason for his presence is explained. Ludovick didn’t uncover the information, or puzzle it out, it was simply given, and in the end it had very little bearing on the story at all. I was disappointed that the ghost didn’t have more impact on the story. 

As a whole, the book was enjoyable. I cared about the characters and was invested in them pretty early on. The family’s activities and the mystery surrounding what each brother was doing and how it would turn out also kept my attention throughout the book. I did have issues with the pacing in certain parts, but overall I did like the book. 

Would I recommend this book? Yes, but it’s not for everyone. The heavy descriptions and slower pacing through parts will be a struggle to those used to fast paced action and adventure. The romance was not intense enough for serious romance readers. Those looking for an in depth mystery novel probably won’t be satisfied because many of the mysteries are solved either quickly, or with little exploration from the characters. In some cases the answer was presented to the reader straight out, although learning what Brice’s true business involved was an exception. It's also not for younger readers at all because of graphic violence, sexual discussions that were quite explicit at times, and a fair amount of profanity. 

Who would I recommend this book to? I don’t think this is a book that will very easily entice readers from other genres, but I think historical fiction readers will love it. There is a great deal of interesting history presented, thorough descriptions that seemed very accurate, and very good attention to detail. I had no trouble at all believing the characters were a part of this time period. 

You can get your copy of Sumerford’s Autumn today on the Amazon US and Amazon UK stores. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Favorites from "Sumerford's Autumn"

The Sumerford household is an interesting one. I can imagine some of their more interesting qualities were quite common to the era, but reading it in today's day make for a fascinating family dynamic. Describing each family member would give away secrets of the book, so I'll limit myself to touching on my favorite character and why I enjoyed him so much. 

Ludovick Sumerford is the youngest son, which means he will basically inherit nothing from his father. Knowing this drives him to seek out his own fortune, and shapes him as a character. One of the more interesting aspects of the book for me was watching Ludovick grow in response to his experiences and the relationships he builds. He starts off rather cocky and more concerned with his self than those around him, but Ludovick's life takes several unexpected turns and the reader gets to watch as he responds to those trials, growing and changing. I won't give anything away, but one of my favorite parts of the book was Ludovick's final conversation with his father. It was a beautiful moment. 

You can get your copy of Sumerford's Autumn now on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Interview with Barbara Gaskell Denvil

Barbara Gaskell Denviil, historical fiction author, is here today to answer a few questions about herself and her writing. Thanks to Barbara for taking the time to share with us. Keeping reading to learn more about Barbara and her books. 

1) What was you inspiration for Sumerfords Autumn?

I had many, many inspirations for writing SUMERFORD’S AUTUMN, but the principal one was a book by Ann Wroe about the so-called pretender Perkin Warbeck who claimed to be the younger of the two princes in the Tower. I found this young man’s story so terribly tragic and – although I tend to think his claims were very believable – it makes no difference whether he was truthful or simply confused – he was still a tragic figure and his life was horribly bleak. I do not think historians have given his story or his claims sufficient interest. His behaviour was highly unlikely for a simple fraud – and he certainly frightened the life out of King Henry VII for many years. He has been too easily dismissed by historians who have simply denied him credibility without even any basic investigation or questioning the possibilities. So although my story is fiction and covers the many adventures of one fictional family – the core of my plot is the existence of this Perkin Warbeck character – and the doubts as to his real identity.

2) When picking time period for this novel, what made you decided on the early Tudor era? 

For many years I have been interested in the mid to late 1400s, which covers the reigns of Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VII. I consider all three kings unusual, extremely different, and totally absorbing characters. These were fascinating times of enormous upheaval, and changing conditions, and of course the devastation of the Plantagenet kings and the arrival of the Tudors was the most significant change of all. I do not like the sound of Henry VII, and he was an extremely unpopular king at the time – but this just makes the era more interesting. I have researched this historical period in some length and depth and the period has subsequently become so alive to me that I find myself walking the old narrow lanes of medieval London in my dreams. I love to write books set during that time. My earlier novel SATIN CINNABAR was also set against that era.

3) Alysson is a fascinating character. How did you develop her story? 

Alysson was a very rudimentary character when I started and basically she then almost wrote herself. My characters usually take over – they come alive to me and decide their own personalities. Alysson took advantage of her initial beginning – which gave her considerable scope – and then she grew from there of her own accord. I wanted her personality to be a foil to the budding arrogance of Ludovic, since he had been brought up a lord whereas she had suffered misery, loss and poverty from an early age. Their relationship was to grow from these contrasting attitudes.

4) The four brothers in the Sumerford family are all very unique. Was keeping their particular characteristics from getting mixed up a challenge? 

I’m so glad you found the four Sumerford brothers interesting and unique. Keeping them very separate in personality was not really a challenge however, as they also came alive quite quickly for me and promptly wrote themselves from then on. I do find this in every book I write, for my principal characters (often some of the minor ones as well) soon seem so real to me that I can imagine them leaning over my shoulders as I write and voicing their dialogue straight into my ears. I know many authors experience this same phenomenon. It is actually one of the most enjoyable side effects of writing, and I feel as though I am making lifelong friends as I go deeper into the book. I would certainly recognise them all if I met them in the street. I never base them on real people – they are just themselves. Characterisation is certainly important to me, and I am delighted that other people seem to find my characters as real as I do.

5) Each of the three younger Sumerford sons are engaged in various clandestine activities. How did you choose what each brother was engaged in?  

The brothers’ activities were very much part of their personalities. Gerald’s idealistic morality was always a part of the book’s plot, for he is prepared to die for what he believes. Brice is the self-serving and amoral opposite of Gerald – although I did not want to make him an all out villain. He has his motives, his beliefs, and his standards – they are just very different from other people’s. Ludovic grows up through the book. He starts young and rather self-serving like Brice – particularly since he expects to be left penniless unless he provides for himself – but he is actually very idealistic underneath, just as decent young men often are. He learns from his unusual experiences, and develops his maturity and his moral objectives directly through the events he suffers throughout the book. He ends up being far nicer and more tolerant than he is initially.

6) There is an element of political intrigue that floats in the background of the story. How much research did you do to create a believable political atmosphere? 

I have done an enormous amount of research on the political background of this book – but I did not use even a quarter of it. I do not want the book to seem like a history lesson! On the other hand, some aspects of the political turmoil are integral to the plot. This is an era I have actually been researching for about 10 years so it seems quite normal to me to just carry on – setting the story against a setting which seems entirely real to me now.

7) What drew you to writing historical fiction? 

I started writing fantasy since I adored the element of escapism and magical insights, combining this with a lifetime of an extremely vivid imagination and unusually active dream life. I wanted to create something from my own busy head and make it seem as real as possible. Then for my first novel FAIR WEATHER I wrote of a time switch, and needed a genuine historical background for that. I began to develop my hobby of historical research into something more specific, and soon discovered that this absorbed me more than the fantasy.  I promptly became engrossed with historical fiction – and I’ve never looked back. I do still write fantasy as well – but that has taken rather a back seat.

8) Who are your favorite authors? 

My list of favourite writers is very diverse and very, very long – Shakespeare, Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, Dorothy L. Sayers, P.G. Wodehouse, Mervyn Peake, - I could go on forever.

9) Do you have any interesting habits or rituals when you write?

 I don’t think I’m at all interesting when I write – I become lost to reality. I huddle over the computer and disappear into the world I am writing about. Sometimes when I need to think out a small problem or readjust some aspect of the plot, then I will get up and make tea, do housework or become involved momentarily in anything that leaves my head free to think. Then – when I’ve found my answer – I rush back to the computer and whatever I had started doing is forgotten. I like to play classical music as I write – but nothing with words, as that would distract me. I become rather manic.

10) Can you tell us about any other books or future projects in the works? 

 I am writing the final draft of a new work of historical fiction – set a little earlier this time in 1482/3 - entitled BLESSOP’S WIFE. This time the storyline is more concerned with the ordinary people of the time rather than the earls and dukes. However, the political background (this time the death of Edward IV and the rise of Richard III) is once again entirely integral to the plot. I finished the book some months ago, but have now taken it up again for a final edit and rewrite, which is my usual habit. It helps to leave a gap between the first and final draft in order to get a hopefully more objective view of the book. However at the same time I have three other books boiling around inside my head – a possible sequel to FAIR WEATHER – a possible sequel to SUMERFORD’S AUTUMN – and a completely new book also set during the 15th century. It makes me rather schizophrenic I suppose – but I would find life impossibly boring if I did not have a whole world of characters and events constantly exploding inside me. I just hope my work gives pleasure and entertainment to my readers.


Thanks so much, Barbara, for answering these questions and letting us get to know you a little better. 

Don't forget you can get a copy of Sumerford's Autumn now on US Amazon store and the UK Amazon store.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Introducing: Barbara Gaskell Denvil

This week our featured author is Barbara Gaskell Denvil. Barbara is the author of Sumerford's Autumn, a historical novel set during the beginnings of the Tudor reign in England. Read on to find out more about Barbara and her writing. 

BARBARA GASKELL DENVIL, has been a writer all her life. Born in
Gloucestershire, England, she soon moved to London and quickly built up a career
publishing numerous short stories and articles while also working as a literary reviewer
and critic for BOOKS & BOOKMEN and a literary editor, television script writer, editor,
and publishers’ reader.

She then spent many hot and colourful years sailing the Mediterranean and living in
various different countries throughout Europe.
When her partner died, she moved to rural Australia where she still lives amongst the
parrots and wallabies, writing full time before contemplating further travels.

Her first finished novel, FAIR WEATHER, is a dark, intense and atmospheric fantasy
set partially in England in the 1200s. The storyline is based on considerable historical
content, but the plot centres around the eternal battle of good and evil.
Her second novel – SATIN CINNABAR, is a medieval crime adventure which
commences on the battlefield at Bosworth 1485, and covers the fist few difficult months
of the emerging Tudor dynasty.

Barbara’s love of late medieval history and many years of meticulous research
have enabled her to bring the period vividly to life and her new historical adventure
SUMERFORD’S AUTUMN is once again set during the early years of the Tudor
dynasty and is an epic, wide ranging mystery with elements of both romance and Gothic

You can stay up to date on what Barbara is doing and writing by visiting her blog at or by following her on Facebook

Monday, June 18, 2012

New Book: Sumerford's Autumn

This week Barbara Gaskell Denvil's historical novel, Sumerford's Autumn, will take us back to the time of the Tudor's gaining power and the Plantagenet's trying to regain what they lost. Within such thick conspiracies and danger, a love story will unfold. 

"Utterly disinterested in politics, war, or power and with no expectations of inheriting more than his father’s casual contempt, since his three elder brothers take precedence, Ludovic, the Earl of Sumerford’s youngest son, settles to a life of smuggling to embellish his non-existent fortune.

Four sons, four secret and complicated agendas, and four very different personalities combine to create an atmosphere of brooding and aggravated unease at Sumerford Castle. The earl watches his sons’ varied interests with considerable misgivings, in particular his mentally unstable heir’s new wife, a strangely unorthodox woman. Then everything changes.

It is the very end of the 15th century, and Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor dynasty, sits on England’s throne, but how long he will remain there is unsure for there are other claimants to the crown. One names himself Richard Plantagenet, though the king dubs him Perkin Warbeck, and it is Ludovic’s brother Gerald who is risking his life to prove this is no pretender but the rightful king. 

Against the background of the brothers’ diverse and complex passions and the menacing and intensifying political situation, the family hides and protects its mysteries. And Ludovic, although looking for something quite different, finds romance in the unlikeliest place. But it is danger, not love, which finds Ludovic first. Drawn into conspiracies of treason, Ludovic faces arrest and imprisonment. Soon, haunted and tortured on the rack, this youngest son seems likely to lose his very minor fortune, his barely awakening romance, and possibly even his worthless life. But once again not everything is as it appears."

Sumerford's Autumn is available now in the US Amazon store and the UK Amazon store. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: SNAP: The World Unfolds

Maxie Gwenoch is finally beginning to feel like her years of working her way up in the entertainment news industry are paying off. The high salary and incredible perks offered by SNAP made signing the contract easy. But when she joins the SNAP team, there are a few things that seem a little off, least of which is the company ringtone that sounds like blood being pumped through a heart. The real trouble starts when Maxie learns the secret of who really runs SNAP and why she was hired. She starts to wonder exactly what she signed away when she joined SNAP. Was her life worth the jets and Paris shopping trips? 

Vampire books are one of those types of books that, for the most part, people either can't get enough of, or would never even think of reading. I'm somewhere in the middle. I've read some good vampire books, and I've read some really crappy ones. Vampires alone won't entice me to read a book. Usually it will turn me off because I've read more bad vampire books than good. Often, the bad ones are a poor attempt at copying a more successful book, hoping the theme alone will get them some decent sales. I didn't know which I would get when I started reading SNAP: The World Unfolds.

What I look for in a good story, vampires or no vampires, is a good story line, strong writing, and memorable characters. So, let's see how SNAP measured up. 

First, the characters. It's not surprising that the main love interest, Jean-Louis, is gorgeous. Who ever makes ugly vampires? But I found him to be a fun character even if his looks were a little stereotypical. He had a complex background that made him memorable, and his responses to Maxie and the events in the book made him stand out. Maxie was a little harder for me to get into at times. When it came to work, she took control and handled herself like a pro, for the most part. When it came to Jean-Louis, it was like reading an emotional roller coaster. I felt like she slipped into teenager mode every time she thought she'd been slighted. It was an odd combination that I did feel fit a lot of the time. I'm okay with a woman breaking down and feeling like she's going to lose it, but not all the time. I would have liked to have seen Maxie be a little stronger in the relationship aspect of the book. 

The writing left me with no complaints. I thought Drier had a strong voice and clean writing. She stayed consistent with each of her characters, kept a good pacing through the entire book, and developed the idea of her book very nicely. 

Now, on to the story line. Not being a huge vampire fan, a did enjoy the vampire aspect of SNAP. I thought Drier did a great job making this into a more historical story by pulling in European history to explain the rise of the vampires how the feud developed. I thought turning the vampires into Hollywood starlets throughout the centuries was a really fun idea. The "House of Night" books used that idea a little, but I liked the way Drier used the vampires discovering the entertainment business as a way to make money and be a part of the human world safely. The only issue I had with the story line was that when I reached the end of the book I didn't feel like the story ended. Now, I know this is a series, but each book in a series should have an end to the story within that book. The unfinished overall story pulls readers to the second book, usually. In SNAP I felt like I still hadn't reached a conclusive ending for the book as much as I would have liked. It did make me want to read the second book, but I still would have liked a more concrete finish to this book. 

Overall, I did enjoy SNAP: The World Unfolds. The romance between Maxie and Jean-Louis was compelling. There were some sexual scenes, but nothing graphic. The overlying story and characters were entertaining and made you care about what happened to them. It was a fun read. 

Would I recommend this book? Yes, but it's probably not for everyone. It's a good casual read that you'll zip through pretty quickly. 

Who would I recommend this book to? Well, readers definitely have to be open to vampires to enjoy this book, although they don't have to be super vampire fans to like it. Older teens would probably enjoy this, but I wouldn't recommend it to younger teams because there are some mild sexual scenes and some of the themes are more adult in nature. I think the main audience for this book would be a combination of chick lit fans and vampire fans. 

SNAP: The World Unfolds is available now on Amazon, as well as Michele Drier's other books. Click on the links below to get your copy today, and don't forget that SNAP and Edited for Death on currently on sale for $0.99 on Amazon as part of the two week Book Blowout put on by the Indie Romance Writers Group. 
SNAP: The World Unfolds
SNAP: New Talent
Edited for Death

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Favorites from "SNAP: The World Unfolds"

I'll admit, I'm not a big vampire book reader. I enjoyed "Twilight" and read a few of the "House of Night" books, but that's really my whole vampire repertoire. So I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading SNAP: The World Unfolds. Would I find the sparkly, altruistic type of vampire, or the hungry, out of control variety? In reality, it was something in between. 

At first I wasn't so sure about Drier's choice to stick with many of the traditional myths surrounding vampires. I worried it was going to lack a new angle to the commonly used vampire aspect. What changed my mind was Drier's use of history when it came to explaining the vampires. 

Drier pulled from times of the plague to set the back story, used the changes in technology to push new lifestyles on the vampire families, and blended these not-quite-human beings into the modern age of the entertainment industry very well. I enjoyed the story of how the Kandesky's came to the place they are in at the start of the book. Even drawing on very traditional vampire mythology, there was a new and interesting twist to these vampires. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Interview with Michele Drier

Along with sharing her vampires with us this week, Michele was kind enough to answers a few questions about the Kandesky Vampires, her mystery novels, and even a little about herself. Read on to find out more about Michele and her writing. 


1. What was your inspiration for SNAP: The World Unfolds? 

Like almost everything that’s good in my life, it came from my daughter!  Well, that’s stretching the truth a little.  I love mysteries and a mystery was the first book I wrote. When I was talking to my son-in-law he said, “Look at the size of the mystery section in a bookstore.  Then look at the vampire section.  You choose.” And vampires, fantasy, paranormal are all wildly popular.

2. What gave you the idea to blend Hollywood and vampires? 

This actually DID come from my daughter. I began reading paranormal/vampire books. Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Kelley Armstrong (whom I really like) and saw that there was also a strong streak of romance between species, but I still didn’t have context. My daughter said, “Look at Hollywood.  Look at celebrities.  They only come out at night, they all wear huge sunglasses, they get driven around in limos with tinted windows, they could all be vampires!”
I wanted to write these stories not from the vampires’ point of view, though, but from the point of view of a normal person who interacts with them because of her job. Voila, celebrity gossip media! 

3. How did you decide how much of the traditional mythology surrounding vampires and werewolves to use in this book? 

This is a tough question.  I didn’t want my vampires to just be mindless killers. If your characters are going to have eternal life, centuries of violence and grabs for power day in and day out would get old. After all, all vampires were people, “regulars”, before they were turned.  I used a more traditional version of vampires and werewolves—frightening killers that roam in the dark—for one of my vampire families but the main family, the Kandeskys, evolved a different way to live. 
But even they only drink blood, including a version of “Bull’s Blood” a Hungarian wine similar to a merlot—only theirs isn’t merlot—avoid the sun, don’t reflect in mirrors.

4. Can you tell us about any research you did into legends about the creatures you used? 

In school, I occasionally watched the soap opera “Dark Shadows” and loved the campy style and how Barnabas interacted (confession: I also just saw the movie. Johnny Depp and fun!), but late night movies also showed Bela Lugosi biting a sweet, young thing’s neck.  I’ve read Dracula and seen the play, read The Historian.  I’ve done a LOT of research on Vlad the Impaler, traditionally the genesis of the Dracula legend and researched “vampire food” and “vampire donors.”  I’m no expert, but I keep an eye out for anything new on the topic.

5. The feud between the two vampire families is deeply rooted. How did you develop their back story? 

I had the bare bones, the fact that the feud goes back to the early 15th century, but I needed a cause. Finally I decided that the heads of what would become the Kandeskys and the Huszars had to have a falling out because they were so close. It began inadvertently as an almost father and son tiff over territory and lifestyle. After all, the worst feuds are those that began as loves. There isn’t a more implacable enemy than someone who’s love and caring isn’t returned. 
I’m writing the full back stories of the major vampire characters now. The first, Plague: A Love Story will be published in June.  The second, Danube: A Tale of Murder, will be out by late summer. 

6. SNAP is the first book in the series "The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles." Do you have a planned number of books, or will the series be more serial? 

The series is turning out to be more serial.  Originally, I planned for a trilogy: SNAP: The World Unfolds, SNAP: New Talent and SNAP: Love for Blood.  Now with the two back stories—both novellas are fitted in between New Talent and Love for Blood—it’s up to five in the Kandesky Vampire Chronicles and I have another two more SNAP novels in my head, clamoring to get out.  I don’t know now how far it will go. These vampires are addictive!

7. Technology is beginning to affect the vampires in SNAP. Did that aspect present any difficulties when plotting out the book? 

Actually, the vampires may be from the 15th, 16th, 17th centuries, but they’ve taken to technology like a fish to water.  This curiosity and interest in the world begins in Plague: A Love Story, when Stefan hires Jean-Louis to help him start a business.  Stefan doesn’t even know how to read and write until Jean-Louis opens up a whole new universe, and from then on he’s like a sponge. The biggest difficulty is that I want to make sure when I introduce a technology, it’s appropriate for the time. I spend a lot of effort working out the timelines in my head.

8. Do you have any interesting habits or rituals when you write? 

The first time I saw the movie “Romancing the Stone,” I cracked up at the scene in the beginning when the novelist finishes her latest, sits there crying in her pajamas and then gives the last can of tuna to the cat. Now this comes back to haunt me.  I don’t know if it’s a ritual, but I’ve become too good at ignoring my surroundings.  As I was writing Plague, I spent a lot more time in 15th century Hungary then I did washing dishes, doing laundry, and as for floors, HA!  And the poor cat just stands next to me and meows pitifully. I’m not a lot of fun when I’m writing!

9. Who are your favorite authors? 

There are several whom I always read. Elizabeth George in mystery, Antonia Fraser in biography and history.  I loved Barbara Tuchman and reread her often, particularly A Distant Mirror.  I like thrillers by Robert Crais and Daniel Silva. I like discovering new (at least to me) authors.  Right now I’m reading a mystery by a young Irish writer, Tana French. It has beautifully written characters and I’m intrigued with her internal discussions. I read short-listed Pulitzer and Booker nominees and love to find authors who write out of the box.  Currently Hilary Mantel, who won a Booker for Wolf Hall is one as was John Fowles. They stretch the language and pull apart rules for construction.
And I can’t forget Janet Evanovich!

10. Can you tell us about your other books and any future projects? 

As much as I adore the Kandeskys, and ooohhh, Jean-Louis, I’m also working on my second mystery.  That’s a series (not a serial) with Amy Hobbes, a newspaper Managing Editor, as the protagonist.  I’ve gotten some very nice reviews of the first one Edited for Death, (out in paperback and ebook!) and many say they’re waiting impatiently for the next one. It’s started, with a working title of Labeled for Death.  I have to do some research on varietals at the Wine Institute in San Francisco and oddly enough I’ve had several people volunteer to help with this!

Thanks so much for having me as a guest!


Thank you to Michele for taking the time to share with us today. I'm sure you're all intrigued by the Kandesy's now, especially Jean-Louis, so pop over to Amazon and get your copy of SNAP: The World Unfolds today. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Introducing: Michele Drier

This week's featured author is Michele Drier. Michele is the author of The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles and Edited for Death. Read on to find out more about Michele. 

"I was born in Santa Cruz, California to a family that migrated west to San Francisco in 1849.

Unfortunately, they never found gold, nor did they buy (and hang onto) any California land.

My mother named me Michael, after author and actress Blanche Oelrichs, who wrote under the name of Michael Strange.  After months of saying, “Yes, she’s a girl.  Yes, her name is Michael,” my mother finally caved and I became “Michele.”  I was read to as a child, and needed always to have a book with me.  My maternal grandmother belonged to a writing club in San Francisco in the early part of the 20th century and wrote poems and jingles—one of which won her a travel trailer during the Depression.

I’ve lived in San Francisco, the Bay Area, the Central Valley, the Sierra, Southern California and the North Coast.

My first career was in journalism, and I spent seven years as a staff writer with the San Jose Mercury News.  After returning to Humboldt State University to complete school and work on a master’s, I fell into my second career, as a non-profit administrator.

I’ve worked in the arts and social services and always considered non-profit management my career passion.

I’ve also spent time as a reporter and editor for daily papers in California, including twelve years in management.  I was the city, metro and executive editor for daily newspapers in California’s Central Valley.  During this stint, I was a judge for three years for the California Newspaper Publisher’s Association Better Newspapers competition and won two awards for directing Investigative/Enterprise stories

For the last several years, I’ve managed non-profit agencies including a legal organization serving roughly 10,000 senior citizens in Alameda County.  In 2006 and 2007, I was a judge for the selection of Coro Fellows, a national nine-month long fellowship in public agencies and administration run by the Coro Foundation in San Francisco.

I’m a member of the Society of California Pioneers and Sisters in Crime and live in California’s Central Valley with a cat, skunks, wild turkeys and an opossum (only the cat gets to come in the house)." 


You can learn more about Michele and her books at, and you can stay up to date on everything that has to do with Michele's mysteries and vampires by following her on Twitter at @MicheleDrier. 

And don't forget to get a copy of her books! 
SNAP: The World Unfolds
SNAP: New Talent
Edited for Death

Monday, June 11, 2012

New Book: SNAP: The World Unfolds

Amazingly enough, this is the first vampire book I've had on The Edible Bookshelf. So we're in for something new this week in that sense, but in another sense vampires are a familiar topic for just about everyone today. The real question is, what kind of vampire book is this? Read on to find out!

"SNAP, a multinational celeb TV show and magazine, is the holy grail for Maxie Gwenoch. When she snags the job as managing editor, she's looking for fame, fortune and Jimmy Choos. What she finds is a media empire owned by Baron Kandesky and his family. A family of vampires. They're European, urbane, wealthy and mesmerizing. And when she meets Jean-Louis, vampire and co-worker, she's a goner. 

The Kandesky vampire family rose in Hungary centuries ago. They gave up violence and killing to make a killing on the world's commodities markets and with that beginning they built SNAP, an international celebrity multimedia empire. Now cultured...and having found food substitutes for killing...they’ve cornered the world market for celebrity and gossip journalism.

They haven't fully left the past behind. Their Hungarian neighbors and rival vampire clan, the Huszars are starting to ramp up attacks, maybe looking to start a war to take over all the Kandeskys have built.

Maxie believes she's found her ultimate career. She doesn't realize that she's found a family feud like none other, a centuries-old rivalry between vampire families, with her as the linchpin. Bells ring with Jean-Louis, but she doesn’t realize they’re alarm sirens until she learns that Jean-Louis is second in command of the Kandeskys...but by then it's too late." 

Michele Drier's, SNAP: The World Unfolds, is the first book in "The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles," and it is currently available now Amazon for only $0.99! So take advantage of the low price being offered for a limited time as part of the two week Book Blowout put on by the Indie Romance Writers Group. Another of Michele's books, Edited for Death, is also currently on sale for $0.99 on Amazon as a part of the same promotion, and will be featured next month on the blog, so get your copy now before the Book Blowout ends on June 22nd. 

Book two of The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, SNAP: New Talent, is also currently available on Amazon

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Review of: On a Wing and a Dare

Tradition means everything in Tremeirchsen, and the elders expect the young people of their town to hold to what they have been taught. For Emma, that isn't easy when her father's plans for her future keep her from everything she loves. For Evan and Davyd, tradition must be set aside when the flying horses that are the town's livelihood start dying, but taking the lead may cost them more than they expected.

Now, some poeple might not think they would enjoy a book about flying horses, but I think those readers will be pleasantly surprised with this book. "On a Wing and a Dare" is so much more than a kids' book about horses. The three main characters struggle with breaking tradition at the risk of losing their families, unravelling the mystery of what is killing the flying horses, and getting tangled up in a love story that may break the brothers apart. Every aspect of the horse side of the book was very well done. The equine language added an element of reality to the story that really helped to draw readers in. I have always loved horses, but even those unfamiliar with the beautiful animals will fill right at home in the barns. 

The mystery surrounding the illness that begins claiming the horses lives and threatens to destroy the whole town is another great part of this book. Linda keeps the investigation of the illness spread carefully throughout the book with hints that keep you reading without overloading the reader. She blends the worry over what will happen to the herd and town right up to the last chapter. I enjoyed how the decisions about saving the horses flowed so well into the difficult relationships of the book.

Speaking of relationships, I think the complex emotions and histories between many of the characters was what really pulled everything together and made this story shine. The love story between Emma, Evan, and Davy's is a beautiful part of the book. Emma's youth and naive nature makes her decision between the two brothers that much more agonizing. The threat that either young man ending up with Emma will tear their relationship apart, possibly forever, makes readers look forward to and at the same time almost dread the decision. 
It was a beautiful love story, but every relationship in the book had depth and meaning, pulling readers into every aspect of the book. 

Would I recommend this book? Yes, it's a heartwarming story of family, love, and mystery. 

Who would I recommended this book to? This book is categorized as YA fiction, and for the most part I agree. Teens and even middle grade readers will love this book. The story and romance is perfect for young readers with no bad language or sexual overtones. However, its a book plenty of adults will enjoy too. Those who love horses, never grew out of YA books, and anyone who enjoys a sweet and charming story. 

On a Wing and a Dare is available now on Amazon and Smashwords in ebook format, and will soon be available in paperback as well.