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Don't Fear the Reaper

Novel Concept Publishing, LLC’s newest release: Don’t Fear the Reaper  is now available on Amazon.

The day Nick Ramsay’s eighth-grade teacher drops dead in his classroom, Nick sees his first reaper.  When another cloaked figure appears at his grandmother’s bedside, Nick issues an order for the vile creature to leave her alone.


 This simple act of defiance creates a domino effect that brings Fate and Death to Nick’s door and reveals his true lineage, throwing his world into chaos.  To make matters worse, a group of rogue reapers declares war on humanity and Nick is the only one who can stop them.


Excerpt From Don’t Fear the Reaper:

The first time I saw a reaper, I thought I had fallen asleep in class again.

Mr. Sanchez was in the middle of reaming out Clyde for not having his homework for the hundredth time this year and mid-yell, his red face turned purple and he clutched his chest. When Mr. Sanchez fell to his knees, the sight of the black cloaked figure behind him nearly gave me a heart attack. My chest burned with the sudden rush of adrenaline and my throat tingled around the scream that begged to erupt, but I clamped my lips closed.

His silver gaze peered out of the hooded darkness, staring directly at me, like he knew I could see him. His bony hand reached out and came to rest on Mr. Sanchez’s head. The rotund teacher’s grey eyes rolled back and his breath wheezed from his half-open mouth.

“Call nine-one-one!” The cry broke my paralysis and I bolted to the front of the room, trying to recall the CPR instructions I had in health class last year. Thirty chest compressions then blow in the victim’s mouth. The silent instructions replayed in my head and I went into action.

It wasn’t until the E.M.T.s wheeled the dead body of Mr. Sanchez out of the room that Julia took my hand for support.

“Nick, you tried,” Julia said.

I looked into her golden brown eyes and that’s when I knew it wasn’t a dream. Her warm hand, her soft, teary voice, cracked through my defenses and I started to shake. “I couldn’t stop him from taking Mr. Sanchez.”

“Stop who?”

I opened my mouth to speak but before the words could tumble out, I snapped my lips closed. She was already looking at me like I had a few screws loose and this would only topple that look into the realm of disbelief. I didn’t want her to think I was any crazier than she already did. I turned away, wiping my misting eyes on my sleeve.

“Stop who?” she repeated, taking my arm and swinging me toward her.

“Death, who do you think?” I snapped, my tone harsher than I wanted, harsher than I meant to be and she recoiled. “I couldn’t stop death,” I said, softening my tone and taking a deep breath to cool my nerves. “I couldn’t stop Mr. Sanchez from dying.”

Before she could speak, the PA system whined into action. “Dylan Nicholas Ramsay, please come to the office.”

Aw, crap. What does Principal Murdock want now? I hung my head, grinding my teeth together for a moment as anger wiped away any trace of despair. “I gotta go,” I said to Julia and stepped out of her grip, trudging toward the office wondering just what Principal Murdock was going to lay on me this time. Was he going to throw that sappy sad expression at me again, the one that always made me feel like a lost reject? The look that made me feel like crap.

Mr. Murdock offered a tight smile when I entered the office. “Nick, how are you holding up?”

Jeesh, how the hell do you think I’m holding up? I just saw my teacher die. “I’m fine, sir.”

“I think you should talk with Mrs. Lambert for a spell,” Mr. Murdock said and delivered the look I expected.

“I said I’m okay.”

Mr. Murdock raised one of his wooly-mammoth eyebrows. “I understand you were yelling the entire time you were trying to revive Mr. Sanchez.”

Shock slammed into my chest, drying my mouth and shooting tingling waves over my skin. “Wh-what?”

“A few of the other students said you were yelling at someone or something while you were doing CPR.”

“I, uh, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I knew I was cussing the hell out of the reaper, but I didn’t realize I was swearing out loud.


Hey Folks…
I’m going on a wild blog tour for the month of April in celebration of the release of Crystal Illusions. I’m also giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card over at Bitten By Books on April 20th and the answers to the contest questions can be found along my tour stops below.

Sunday April 1st –
Monday April 2nd –
Tuesday April 3rd-
Wednesday April 4th –
Thursday April 5th (ish) –
Friday April 6th –
Saturday April 7th-
Sunday April 8th-
Monday April 9th –
Tuesday April 10th –
Wednesday April 11th –
Thursday April 12th –
Friday April 13th –
Saturday April 14th –
Sunday April 15th –
Monday April 16th-
Tuesday April 17th-
Wednesday April 18th –
Wednesday April 18th –
Thursday April 19th –
Friday April 20th – – $50 Amazon Gift Card.
Saturday April 21st –
Sunday April 22nd –
Monday April 23rd-
Tuesday April 24th –
Wednesday April 25th –
Thursday April 26th –
Friday April 27th –
Tuesday May 1st –

Thanks for swinging in and I certainly hope this tour gives you a glimpse into my life and you learn some funny and interesting facts along the way! Don’t forget to say hey on the blogs and let your friends know if I’ve made you laugh or think or even shiver.

Until next time…



Dishing it up with Lisa Scott

Today I am dishing it up with Lisa Scott. Lisa is a writer and a voice actor that holds workshops that teaches parents and kids how to use character voices and sound effects to make reading more fun.



JET: Can you tell us about Flirts?


Lisa: I just started publishing my Flirts! collections this past summer. Each collection contains five short stories (8,000-12,000 words per story) that stand alone, but are also linked in the collection, with characters appearing in other stories. (my readers love that!) It all wraps up with a perfect happy ending. I’ve also published Beach Flirts! and Holiday Flirts! The plan is to release a new collection every few months. The stories are available as individual reads, or in the collection. Lots of new readers are discovering short stories, and are surprised how much they enjoy them. I have a group of ladies who read them on their lunch breaks. I’ve heard from mothers who enjoy them during their kids’ sports practices. Even some people who claim they don’t like short stories are enjoying them.


JET: What drew you to romance?


Lisa: I think any situation has the potential for a little romance, and I like the challenge of getting two people together under unlikely circumstances. I enjoy writing stories that make people smile, and I think my sweet, funny romances do that, so they’re always fun for me to create. I’m never at a loss for ideas.


JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?


Lisa: The frustrating agent/publisher search. Before indie publishing, that was your only shot—to submit to agents and publishers. I actually self-published before landing an agent and my book deal. Many times I thought of giving up. I’m so glad I didn’t.


JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?


Lisa: Submitting my romance novel to Belle Bridge Books this fall and getting an offer half an hour later. (Another romance publisher took 11 months to tell me no thanks. Half an hour for a yes was like a dream!)


JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?


Lisa: I loved the Little House series growing up, and read every Nancy Drew available. I grew up out in the country without a ton of friends, so reading was a wonderful escape.


JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?


Lisa: I’ve always dabbled in writing, whether it was for the newspaper in high school, for the literary journal in college, or humorous essays for a parenting website. After college, I pursued a career in the TV news industry and knew someday when I left that field, I’d focus on publishing fiction.


JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?


Lisa: When I was working on the middle grade novel my agent has out on submission, I was sprinkling in facts from the summer of 1977, when the story takes place. It’s set in North Carolina, and in doing research I discovered there was a major drought there that year. I became so caught up in incorporating real life details into my story, that I asked the weather guy at the station where I was working if he’d contact weather officials in North Carolina to find out the exact rainfall amounts for the summer of 1977. (I’d been thinking I’d make the weather for each day accurate to what really happened that summer.) When even they couldn’t find that information, I figured I might be going a bit overboard. Yeah, just a bit.


JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written – which one is your favorite? Why?


Lisa: No Foolin.’ That’s the romance novel Belle Bridge Books is publishing in November 2012. It’s the first in my Willowdale romance series. It’s a southern romantic comedy, but there are plenty of heart wrenching moments, too. Every time I re-read it, I laugh and cry. That’s always a good combination in a book. I love the characters, I love the journey and the heartache they face, and I love the resolution. I’ll be releasing related Willowdale Romance Short Stories on Amazon etc. preceding the release of the novel.


JET: Any advice for the novices out there?


Lisa: You’re never going to please everyone. Don’t be discouraged if someone doesn’t like what you’ve written. However, if you keep hearing the same criticisms, you might want to see if there’s some truth behind it. But no matter how good your writing, there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t care for your style.


JET: All right – now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. Starting with…Paper or Plastic?


Lisa: Plastic (but I do recycle.)


JET: Steak or Tofu?


Lisa: Chicken?


JET: Beach or Mountains?


Lisa: Maui? Because it has both.


JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?


Lisa: Elvis, baby!


JET: Leather or Lace?


Lisa: Lace


JET: Angels or Demons?


Lisa: Angels


JET: Paper or Digital?


Lisa: Digital


JET: Twilight or True Blood?


Lisa: Twilight


JET: Coffee or Tea?


Lisa: Tea, hot or cold, all day long


JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you’re working on now? What’s next?


Lisa: I’m just finishing Fairy Tale Flirts! which will be out in early January. Modern day love stories inspired by classic fairy tales—and the only magic involved is the real-life kind.


Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Lisa Scott and her work at the following places:!/ReadLisaScott



Thanks for joining us today and have a fun and safe New Year’s Eve!


See you next year!








My Christmas letter…

Hi folks!  Can you believe the holidays are already upon us?  My gosh this year went by in a blink. 


2011 has been crazy for weather here on the east coast!

Record-breaking snow in January.

A tornado in May.

Record heat in July.

A hurricane in September that knocked out power and closed schools. 

And a historic blizzard that knocked out power lines all over Connecticut just in time for Halloween.

And no sign of a white Christmas.  😦



Not your average year by any means and along with these memorable weather events came some of our own family memories.



My daughter turned sixteen this year and had a hell of a birthday bash. She got a job at the local Friendly’s soon after her birthday in March and continues to work and dance and have a generally crazy schedule this school year. She hasn’t gotten her license yet because of her crazy schedule but we’re hoping she can fit the required classes in between now and the end of January and have her license before she turns seventeen.


My son has been just as busy as my daughter. Between basketball, baseball Jukido and guitar lessons, he’s one busy boy. He earned a blue belt this year in Jukido this year and is looking forward to getting to the next level. He also asked me to write a book with him this year and what a blast to be able to get into my son’s twelve-year-old mind!  He has some very intriguing ideas and I’ve had the joy of teaching him how to flush them out and create something fascinating.  We’re hoping to get the first installment of The Death Chronicles out in 2012.

My husband has been having fun with his pool league and playing paint ball with the neighbors in the spring and fall when we aren’t making the trek to our summer place. During the summer we live for the weekends on the beach and it was a challenge this year with my daughter’s work schedule, but we still had time to enjoy Maine. Now that the season is over, we’re focused on the holidays and trying not to get hung up with the mental countdown to opening day in May.  Our day jobs have kept us on our toes too and my husband got some well deserved accolades at work – he was honored with a service excellence award this year.   


As for me, it’s been a busy year on the writing front. Beyond releasing three novels and two short story anthologies, I took the plunge into the publishing realm this year with a writing colleague of mine. Jason Halstead and I opened the doors to Novel Concept Publishing, LLC in May and we’ve been blessed with some stellar submissions. As of December 23, 2011, we have three published authors under our label with two more queued up for early in 2012. I can’t begin to tell you how fulfilling it is to help another author hone their book into a sharp captivating story and see it published. The only thing that has outshines that experience was hitting the number one spot on Amazon’s Horror/Occult list in November. Now we just need to get our authors to that acclaimed milestone…


On that note, I bid farewell to 2011 and want to wish you all a happy and healthy 2012!


Guest Spotlight with Wilf Nussey

Today, I have a Wilf Nussey in the special guest spotlight. Wilf was a newspaperman for forty years, all but four of them in Africa. He was the foremost foreign correspondent for the Argus group of newspapers for many years spanning most of Africa’s transition to independence and its continuing upheavals. Before that he was a freelance correspondent in Kenya for British and North American media and lived and worked in Britain and Canada. Assignments have taken him to the Middle East, Far East, Europe and New Zealand. Five years after becoming editor of a small newspaper, he quit to live in the bush and write books and has produced four successful documentaries. Now he and his wife live a few metres from the sea at Simon’s Town in South Africa’s Cape.



JET: Can you tell us about Darts of Deceit?


WILF: It’s an adventure thriller inspired by my knowledge from experience of Southern Africa and the strange situation when white rule had collapsed in Rhodesia, apartheid was collapsing in South Africa, and the Soviet Union was collapsing – all in roughly the same time span. There were fears then of a hard-core backlash in Russia. This story is one scenario of how that might have happened: by triggering major violence in volatile parts of the world, including Southern Africa, to distract the world’s attention and give the Russian extremists a chance to reassert their strength. It also involves fairly typical American and British deviousness in exploiting such situations to their own advantage, and the involvement of the South African apartheid regime as the only real power in the region. The story unfolds around two main characters, one a former Rhodesian, the other a Mozambican, both veterans of the Rhodesian and Mozambique wars.


JET: What drew you to thrillers?


WILF: I enjoy thrillers (when they are well written) as escapist relaxation between reading historical books and novels based in history, specially naval history.


JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?


WILF: Finding an agent and a publisher. Over more than a decade scores of agents have turned down this book, and others I have written, most summarily, some with nice comments about my chapters and synopses, plus a “but…”. Then I read about Rebel ePublishers and wrote direct because what attracted me was that they had been through the same mill of rejection so they were sympathetic.


JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?


WILF: Getting accepted by Rebel. I had amusing experiences along the way, mostly from pompous people who turned up their noses as if I was offering porn.


JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?


WILF: A whole fleet because since childhood I have read voraciously. Some in any old order are Rudyard Kipling, Rider Haggard, Percy Fitzpatrick, John Steinbeck, Patrick O’Brian, C S Forester, Jack London, Charles Dickens (of course), Richard Dawkins, Ed McBain, the list is long.


JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?


WILF: I thought about it often while sitting in planes and airport lounges, or waiting in hotels, reading books to kill the time. I decided to tackle writing books when I became sated with the bureaucracy and trivia of newspaper administration – that


after a lifetime of reporting, most of it as a foreign correspondent. I wrote a couple of documentaries, then a collection of stories about small rural town which I thought was damned good but didn’t sell because the publisher did nothing to promote it.


JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?


WILF: I did all the crazy things as part of my job as a foreign correspondent: going into war situations with troops, rooting around in the backyards of African dictators, grubbing about in the bush, experiencing the hypocrisy of politics and diplomacy, meeting a host of fascinating people. There were many most interesting facts. Years ago when I first came across an AK-47 I predicted it would replace the spear as the symbol of Africa. I was fascinated by the goodwill I found among ordinary people in Africa, those swamped by conflict and exploitation and politics who still somehow survived and, like me, merely wanted to live a good, safe life. I am still entranced by the huge, diverse beauty of Africa in spite of all its dangers and problems.


JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written – which one is your favorite? Why?


WILF: Of novels, this, my first. Of stories, one I wrote in my collection about a small powderhorn picked up by an English farmer in Africa and claimed by a wizened old African witchdoctor. Both reflect Africa, the rough and the smooth and the mysterious.


JET: Any advice (from a writer’s standpoint) for the novices out there?


WILF: Be thick-skinned, be tough, keep trying, do anything (within reason) to get yourself noticed.


JET: All right – now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten…starting with…Paper or Plastic?


WILF: Paper.


JET: Steak or Tofu?


WILF: Steak.


JET: Beach or Mountains?


WILF: Mountains.


JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?


WILF: Rock-n-Roll.


JET: Leather or Lace?


WILF: Leather.


JET: Angels or Demons?


WILF: Demons.


JET: Paper or Digital?


WILF: Paper.


JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?


WILF: Silent films.


JET: Twilight or True Blood?


WILF: Dunno.


JET: Coffee or Tea?


WILF: Tea.


JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you’re working on now? What’s next?


WILF: Been doing an autobiography for the family, a collection of anecdotes from many journalists about covering Africa, and working on another novel, probably around old African gold.


Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Wilf Nussey and his work at the following places:


Facebook url:


Website url:


Thanks for joining us today.  Don’t forget Todd Russell’s on tap on Friday. 


Until then,



The Gift of “Now” Is the Best Gift We Can Receive

I am an indie author/publisher. I can say that because of a gift that I finally “got”; one that we all have, but usually don’t open. Curious? Good!

 In 2010, I went for my annual physical as usual. The routine blood tests all came back normal like usual, and I went on with my day. There was a gift waiting for me, one that had been there since I was born; but once again I failed to open it.

 Then, my phone rang. I needed to come back in because my mammogram had something suspicious on it. After another mammogram and biopsy, I got another call. The call that finally got me to open my eyes…the call that finally got me to open the gift.

 I had breast cancer. I could go on and on about my feelings, my fears, the surgery, the radiation, the healing, but that is not what this blog is about. This blog is about what getting cancer forces you to do. It forces you to finally open your eyes and see the gift that has been waiting for you from the moment you were born.

It is the gift of “now”.

I finally understood that anything that I wanted to accomplish in my life should not be put on a back burner for “someday”. Someday is not guaranteed. We all run out of “someday” sooner or later. But I did (and do) have “now”. Nothing brings this home to us like the threat of no longer existing.

And so, once I was done with all of the radiation, I committed to writing 5 days a week, at least an hour a day. No matter what. Why? Because “now” is all I had; all any of us have.

I had always wanted to write a novel. Had started a couple but never finished. This time, I knew that if I wanted it to happen, it was up to me to make sure that nothing stopped me. Not even “someday”.


Gastien Part 1: The Cost of the Dream was born from that. I self-published for many reasons. I did not even try to go the traditional route. I wanted freedom. I did not want to wait (remember “now”?). I wanted to control my own destiny in regard to my writing. Gastien Part 1: The Cost of the Dream came out for Kindle and NOOK on August 1, 2011. Paperback arrived shortly after.

I am releasing Gastien Part 2: From Dream to Destiny the week of December 12th. If the formatting and downloading go without glitches, it should be “live” by the time this blog posts!

I am not going to use this blog to talk about the drama/romance series of Gastien. You will find links above at the end of my post. I hope you take a moment to read the descriptions and reviews from those. I simply want to share the gift of “now”.

I could never have imagined how exciting it would be to hold my own book in my hands! It is a feeling that I am glad I got to experience. Cancer did that for me. I had always heard there were blessing to cancer, but thought it was b.s. Not so. The gift of “now” is the greatest gift there is…and it is free and available to all of us.

The cancer is gone. It was caught very early and my doctor says to plan on eventually dying from something else. Yes, of course. No one gets out of here alive. That is why I am moving right into the third book in the Gastien series. It is time. Now!

I hope this holiday season each one of you reading this will accept the gift that has always sat there, waiting for you to open it. I can’t give it to you. Only you can. It is your gift of “now”. Open it. Please.

Caddy Rowland



Buy links (for Gastien Part 1: The Cost of the Dream): For kindle readers For nook readers To order paperback

As of the date I wrote this, Gastien Part 2: From Dream to Destiny was in the process of being released. Please check the above sites to see if this book is now available by typing title of my name in the search. If not, it will be very soon!

Folks – thanks for swinging in today and I hope Caddy gave you the same rush of inspiration that she gave me when I read this post!

Later this week I’ve got Wilf Nussey and Todd Russell on tap – swing in and say hi if you get a chance.

Until next time,



Dishing it up with VH Folland

Today, I have the pleasure of dishing it up with VH Folland. VH Folland is a British author with a lifelong interest in aviation and engineering. On a school trip to Kew Gardens most of the class were looking at the plants, and one small child was staring up at the planes on Heathrow approach. A career spanning IT, media, and engineering gave this interest plenty of time to grow. Along the way, an extra hour was found in the day for writing books.



JET: Can you tell us about Conflict of Interest?


VH: Conflict of Interest is a sequel to The Docks, continuing Harry’s story. I’m hoping to complete a series of novellas and novellettes charting Harry’s moral progress from a hardened crook to a vaguely grubby grey. The difficult part was making sure it works even if readers haven’t read the first book, without giving continuing characters long introductions that slowed the story.


JET: What drew you to adventure fiction?


VH: I’ve always enjoyed it, from sci-fi as a child moving on to thrillers by authors like Alastair MacLean and Gavin Lyall as I grew up. I prefer the everyman heroes – normal people in extraordinary situations.


JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?


VH: Confidence. Having the belief that your book is good enough to submit (and that you should stop making revisions and actually submit it) is a stumbling block for a lot of authors, and I’m no exception.


JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?


VH: The first time I got a publication offer from a publisher. I was absolutely over the moon, because it was the first time it was confirmed that actually my books were good enough to be published. The close second was walking into Waterstones and seeing my books on the shelf. I did take a photo of the books, but luckily the staff are used to enthusiastic authors and didn’t think me too strange.


JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?


VH: Gavin Lyall, who I always enjoyed for the detail in his work and his rather unique gift of giving inanimate objects, notably aircraft, their own distinct characters. Also, Alastair Maclean for his mastery of the first person narrative (and the unreliable narrator)


JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?


VH: I started writing rather young, when I was still at school, and have a range of articles and non-fiction out under various pennames. I don’t think I ever really stopped writing.


JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?


VH: That would have been for Fire Season. Delving around the cockpit of a live nuclear bomber/maritime patrol aircraft definitely counts as the craziest. The most interesting fact would be how to rig a stationary unpowered aircraft up as a transmitter and radio station, although I had to omit most of the detail and set up for the sake of story pacing.


JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written – which one is your favorite? Why?


VH: Difficult to say. Usually it is whichever one I’m working on right now, since I tend to get enthusiastic about my projects.


JET: Any advice (from a writer’s standpoint) for the novices out there?


VH: Don’t quit. It is very easy to get discouraged, and there are a lot of rejections along the way, but if you quit you’ll never get published. The second most important thing is not to be afraid to ask for help. There are a lot of people out there who can provide advice, assistance, and help if you ask.


JET: All right – now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten…starting with…Paper or Plastic?


VH: Paper – if you get an idea, it’s harder to write on plastic.


JET: Steak or Tofu?


VH: Steak


JET: Beach or Mountains?


VH: Mountains, there are fewer tourists.


JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?


VH: Rock (ok, metal)


JET: Top 10 best seller or Unknown Back Shelf Find?


VH: Back Shelf Find.


JET: Sword wielding ninja or Gun toting momma?


VH: Gun-toting momma – never mess with a mama bear with cubs.


JET: Paper or Digital?


VH: Paper. I know, I’m a luddite.


JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?


VH: Cheesy Horror


JET: 2012 Mayan Prophecy Believer or Ain’t Gonna Happen?


VH: I believe their calendar reaches the end of a cycle, rolls over, and carries on, much as ours did in 2000 (although hopefully without the Y2K issues…).


JET: Coffee or Tea?


VH: Tea


JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you’re working on now? What’s next?


VH: Two stand-alone novels. I am working on two more novellas in The Docks series to finish the story, one in note form, one mostly finished. I also have some short stories to follow Fire Season, which are in editing for a possible collection.


JET: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about V.H. Folland and his work at the following places:



Thanks for joining us today! Next week we have Caddy Rowland and Todd Russell on tap, so swing by while you’re drinking that eggnog!


Until then,



Today in lieu of my normal Manic Monday post, I have a special guest – Author Ellis Hoff. Ellis lives in Medina, west of Minneapolis. Just over a decade ago, while trying to balance kids and a corporate job, it became evident that something had to give. That something was the job. And, although being a full-time mom wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, it offered enough flexibility for her to pursue her dream of writing. She wrote before everyone was up, and after they went down for the count. She wrote at the beach, at ball games and in the pick-up lane at school. She carted her kids to libraries and bookstores to pick the brains of published writers, and squeezed in some night classes.

With her kids now grown, Hoff’s undergone a transformation of her own, turning up the suspense aspect of her storytelling and diving into the thriller genre full force. Sins of the Mother, her debut thriller, is the book she always knew she’d write.

JET: Can you tell us a little more about Sins of the Mother?

Ellis: Sins covers a couple of days in a sleepy little county that’s seen hard economic times and, recently, a possible child abduction. The story’s protagonist, Maryanne Levine, is a deputy in the Lourie County Sheriff’s Department, and bored silly with mundane tasks and thankless paperwork until the other shoe drops. A woman goes missing in Lourie, the mother of the missing girl, and she’s handed a leading role in the investigation. As vulnerable as she is smart, Maryanne soon finds the case bigger and darker than she could have ever imagined. As she races the clock to find both mother and daughter, she’s drawn into a web of secrets, betrayal and madness that just might be her own undoing.

JET: What drew you to thrillers?

Ellis: I guess it’s a twisted fascination with “worst case scenario”. I think we’d all —although, I should probably just speak for myself — like to know how we’d manage under uncontrollable circumstances. Throw out the day-planner and the other comforts of ordinary, and try it on the fly. Race the clock. Walk on the wild side. See what, push come to shove, we’re really made of. Writing suspense, and reading it, may be as close as I ever need to be, but who knows? Life is unpredictable.

Tattoos are the hot new accessory for a lot of my female friends (kind of like hair extensions a few years back), but I tell them, and they laugh, that I’m holding out on the off-chance that I may have to go on the run one day and don’t need an identifying emblem blazed through several layers of my epidermis. The thing is, deep down, I’m not joking.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

Ellis: Finding myself. Discovering what I really want to write. I had some success with romantic comedy, enjoyed, and still do, penning it immensely, but I think I’ve always known that there was another door I needed to unlock. Something a little edgier. I think being focused improves the quality of writing, so I’m here in thrillers and trying my best to take as many hostages as I can.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

Ellis: The first time I typed “the end” on a manuscript. There are rewrites and edits, sure (not to mention the trials of trying to sell), but still…finishing an entire book was a very memorable moment. It’s a feat that has lost little appeal over the years.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

Ellis: This is a great question.

My mother was a huge reader. She read everything, and had a ten-to-twelve book stash in her nightstand at all times. She introduced me to Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart when I was about eleven or twelve. I loved those books, we both did. So, when I first started writing, at the tender age of about thirteen, I stole the English governess voice and it sounded…like a mid-western teenage girl trying to sound like an English governess. Painful to say the least. Then, one day, she handed me a book she’d just read by a new author. You might have heard of him.

Stephen King.

I was transfixed. So…you could just write the way you saw things? Have people talk the way they talk, think the way they think, no mandated rules of propriety? Excellent.

It changed my world. I nixed the virginal governess on the spot and started writing in my own voice. Funny thing about your own voice, it grows with you.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

Ellis: Fourth grade, originally.

Ms. Michenski, my English teacher, gave us a writing assignment. We’d been reading short stories all month, so she asked us to write one of our own. Mine got me an A+ and my mother a scolding from Ms. M for doing my homework. My mom woke me up when she got home from conferences to tell me about it, more pleased than pissed, and that put me on course.

Although it would be years before I’d actually try my hand at becoming a professional writer, I remained committed on some level and have always written. I was in my thirties when I finally decided to put writing on the front burner, so to speak, and watch it cook.

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

Ellis: Most of what I’ve done, that turned out to be crazy, was neither intentional or sought. I’m the woman who gets cornered by the crazy uncle at a wedding reception who feels the need to share that he’s being stalked by the US government, carries a crossbow in his trunk and asks if I’d like to see it.

I, not so long ago, visited a long-time girlfriend who’d gotten herself into a bit of trouble. I didn’t realize how much until she abandoned me with her new roommate — in a desolate house where a scream would be lost — who wasted no time telling me about how he’d just gotten out of prison after seven years for aggravated assault. Oh, and that wasn’t the worst of it. He went on to tell me about how, in a bar fight, knowing the cops had been called and that he’d probably being going back (back?) to prison, he came to life in his telling of how he chewed his opponent’s finger off and kept it in his cheek until he was shoved into the back of a cop car. He seemed to think this was justified, humorous and clever. “Worth seven years?” I asked as if I were interviewing him (out of instinct, I probably was) and he considered before answering, “Probably not.” It was half an hour before my friend returned, but it seemed like an eternity. I did, however, between shudders I tried to conceal, sop up what I could of his mindset. This man was polite, couldn’t have been a better host. Was I warm enough? Did I need a more comfortable chair? Would I like to wear his jacket? Smoke a little rock?

I don’t know what it is, but I seem to inspire the oddest, sometimes alarming, confessions of virtual strangers. Especially now that I am a writer, and often introduced that way. It’s true, I think, that everyone has a story. And some of them, true or not, are doozies. My husband’s leery of some of the folks I’ve given a listen to, and I suppose with cause, but I’ve gotten some good character-creating tips firsthand over the course, and have made use of them.

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written – which one is your favorite and why?

Ellis: The last is the one on my mind. It took me a while to get here. I really like Sins. I particularly like how Maryanne defies the stereotypical physical attributes of heroine status (lithe and pin-up pretty), but with a heart that won’t let her roadblock what her head tells her is out of her reach. Her internal battle exemplifies her vulnerability and spirit.

I also feel that Reck, the lead male and Maryanne’s composite opposite, is compelling, especially as we uncover his emotional liabilities.

And then there’s the plot. I like a good twist, or two, myself.

JET: Any advice for the novices out there?

Ellis: Yes.

Write. And keep on writing. Do not stop to do research unless it’s absolutely necessary. There will be plenty of time for that later. With this big, wide world that comes into your house every day, invited or not, you know way more than you think you do. Go with your instincts and stay in the moment for as long as you can.

I’ve been in classes with writers far more eloquent and seasoned than I who keep submitting their first three chapters for review. Combing over them, perfecting them.

No one sells three chapters.

Also, let your characters face the situation you’ve created without coddling them too much. Sometimes it’s hard not to be protective, but you’ve done your job, let them do theirs. It will only make them stronger. I don’t know anyone who lives over a safety net, so let them loose and see what happens.

JET: All right – now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten…starting with Paper or Plastic?

Ellis: My own fiber-fused bags. In a pinch, paper.

JET: Steak or Tofu?

Ellis: Steak.

JET: Beach or Mountains?

Ellis: Beach.

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

Ellis: Rock-n-Roll.

JET: Leather or Lace?

Ellis: Leather.

JET: Angels or Demons?

Ellis: Angels.

JET: Paper or Digital?

Ellis: Digital.

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

Ellis: Cheesy B rated Horror.

JET: Twilight or True Blood?

Ellis: Totally with the True Blood. OMG, hooked!

JET: Coffee or Tea?

Ellis: Coffee.

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you’re working on now? What’s next?

Ellis: I’m writing “Sisters of Privilege” which puts Maryanne, of Sins, on the trail of her sister’s missing son. It also brings her back to Lourie County, where some unfinished business awaits.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Ellis Hoff and Sins of the Mother at

Thanks for joining us today!

Until next time,



Today I have the pleasure of dishing it up with Jonathan DeCoteau, author of “The Storm World Series”

Jonathan, can you tell us about the Storm World books or about your most recent book?

My most recent title is The Fluent Sculpture of Time. It deals with the idea that science has conquered death and an aging grandfather must decide if he wishes to live forever or join his late wife in death.

The Storm World Trilogy is more of a Christian apocalyptic series following a teen who must fulfill a prophecy and face the storms sweeping the world if the world is to survive.

What drew you to YA fantasy?

I always loved reading books with supernatural twists, whether they were YA or otherwise. It only felt natural to write one.

What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

The road to publication itself. Presently, only one of my books has been published in trade paperback form by a small press. It’s a hurdle I still face.

Which authors had the most influence on you growing up?

As a child, I loved Roald Dahl. When I was nine, I thought that the idea of basing a book on a chocolate factory was sheer genius. As an adult, I still find his short stories memorable.

When did you know you wanted to take the plunge in the writing world?

As soon as I started imagining the stories I read as vividly as if I was seeing them in real life.

What’s the most interesting fact you uncovered?

When researching the idea of early Christian mummification for the Storm World books, I had to say that I wasn’t aware that it even existed. It’s still a strange, paradoxical world to me.

Of the novels you’ve written, which is your favorite?

The Storm World books, while not the best received, are the ones that are most personal to me.

Any advice for novices?

Actually, I still am one. If I had to give any advice, though, I’d say that if the rejections and reviews haven’t stopped me (and maybe they should have!), then don’t let anything stop you!


Paper or plastic?

I’m for reusable bags.

Steak or tofu?

There’s no competition. Steak.

Beach or mountains?


Country or Rock-n-Roll?

Rock-n-Roll—specifically, eighties synthpop.

Angels or demons?

Angels all the way.

Paper or digital?

Doesn’t matter to me—it’s the book that’s important.

Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B-Rated Horror?

Whichever’s funnier.

2012 Mayan Prophecy Believer or Ain’t Gonna Happen?

We’ll still be here in 2013, and the bills will still have to get paid.

Coffee or Tea?

Coffee—only if there’s a lot of sugar and cream. Otherwise, soda.

What are you working on next?

Christmas shopping, actually. Everything else falls on the back burner until that wraps up.

Thanks for having me!

Folks, you can find out more about Jonathan DeCoteau and his books on Amazon.

Swing in next week when we have Laura Vosika, Ellis Hoff and V.H. Folland on tap.

Until then,



Manic Monday with Piper Maitland

Welcome to another Manic Monday. I’ve got Piper Maitland on tap today talking about her writing journey. Piper lives on a Tennessee farm with her family. She is the author of the vampire thriller, Acquainted With the Night (Berkley/November 2011). She is currently working on the sequel, A Requiem for Daylight. Piper has also written novels under the name Michael Lee West.

Without further adieu – here’s Piper…

When I was a tiny girl, I watched Dracula movies on the Late, Late Show, and I would get so frightened, I’d scream for my father to walk me back to my room. For years, until I discovered boys and lost my fear of the undead, I slept with a crucifix around my neck and garlic under my pillow.

I didn’t begin writing seriously until I was a junior in nursing school. I cobbled together horror stories in an airless closet under the staircase and pinned my rejection slips on the wall. We’re talking floor-to-ceiling wallpaper here. Some of the slips had tiny indentions in the paper, as if the editor had stabbed them over and over with a sharp pencil, or maybe a butcher knife.

The free wallpaper continued for a decade. My family begged me to give up this crazy dream and go make cornbread. I made the cornbread, but kept writing, Lord knows why. I just like words and making up stuff. There’s no telling how much weight I gained from stress eating–and corn bread was a favorite. It still is.

Despite setbacks and slammed doors, I kept writing. One Mother’s Day, my eldest son wrote me a letter: To my Mom. I’ve never seen anybody work harder than you and get nowhere. But I love ya.

I didn’t have a PhD in literature. I didn’t know any writers. If I saw an infinitive, I gleefully split it. I thought a plot had something to do with gardening, as in a “plot” of land. But I kept going. I got up at dawn to write so my avocation wouldn’t interfere with family life, and I stayed up late. I joined a writing group. The members were spread out all over the country, and we communicated via snail mail.

I continued to paper my walls with rejection slips. I wasn’t published, but I was still a writer. It’s easy to spot one. We have ink stains on our hands and clothes; and we can’t go two seconds without thinking, “What if….?”

A long time ago, someone advised me to be a “bit like a weed.” I embraced that advice. In 1988, I submitted a short story to a very fine literary journal. The editor in chief wrote me a two page rejection letter. It basically said, Dear Horrible Writer, You suck. Stop sending us stories or we shall cry. Etc, etc.

Somehow I persevered. My first novel was published in 1990. I was 38 years old. Like my mama says, I was the opposite of an overnight sensation. Now I’m 58. I no longer work in a closet, but I don’t have an office. I roam around the house with my laptop. If the weather isn’t too grim, I will sit outside with a legal pad.

After years of writing southern fried novels, I got the idea to write about vampires during the winter of 2008, while I drove to the grocery with my son. He’s a biochemist, and we began playing the “what if?” game. What if vampires weren’t allergic to garlic? What if they had a biological basis for their blood cravings?

I knew it would be a risk. But I’d started out writing horror fiction, and I was longing to write something different. So what if it wasn’t published? That’s not the point. The point is to have a rollicking good time while you’re writing. A writer writes because we love words and because we’ve a burning desire to put those words onto the page.

The character of Caroline Clifford took shape while I shopped in the Publix bakery, and by the time I’d made it to the check-out line, I was eager to get home and start writing.

I pulled from my science background to try and create an unusual strain of vampirism and to explore the physiology behind it. My fact checkers were “in house”–my husband, a physician, and my younger son, a biochemist. Jude Barrett, a main character in the novel, is a biochemist. I showed it to my agent, some writing friends, and my mother. My agent believed in the manuscript from the beginning. Friends were divided. My mother freaked. “Oh no,” she cried. “Go back to writing unplotted Southern fiction.”

I decided I loved tying my heroines to the train tracks. The experience of writing a paranormal novel infused a new joy in the writing process. But it wasn’t easy. I had a lot to learn about plotting and pacing. As a self-taught writer and die-hard pantster, I had to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

Since I am overly fond of writing about food (and I love feeding my characters), I had to learn how to trim the fat and get the action moving. I plunged into workshops and writing classes. I’m still taking classes. I just finished a year-long mentorship with author Lori Wilde, and I’ve taken a steampunk workshop with author Theresa Meyers. The learning has just begun, but I’m having a blast.

Acquainted With the Night was published this November by Berkley. To be sure, I will be celebrating with cornbread.

You can find out more about Piper and her books at

Thanks for swinging in today. Don’t forget to swing in on Friday when I’m dishing it up with Jonathan DeCoteau.

Until then,