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Welcome Jeff Lee!

I am delighted to welcome Jeff Lee to my blog today! I first encountered Mr. Lee’s fresh and laugh-out-loud-funny brand of satire during the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Competition, and I’m so glad I did! The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour remains one of my favorite books of all time, blending a cast of larger-than-life characters with improbable adventures, humor-a-plenty, and a dash of heart.

Jeff’s debut was also my introduction to Moe “Fish” Fishbein and his posse of unlikely bounty hunters/repo men. Fish being Fish, apparently he wasn’t content to sit on the sidelines. Jeff (wisely) followed his muse and followed up with Hair of the Dog, aptly described as THE MALTESE FALCON meets GET SHORTY. ‘With his armload of tattoos, Buddha-licious grin and old school Harley chopper, Fish is the go-to guy for showbiz A-listers with runaway spouses and agents whose celebrity clients have jumped bail.’

 

In Chump Change, the third installment of the series and described by yours truly as Carl Hiaasen meets ‘Get Shorty’ with a body count, Fish, Kenny, and Einstein are back at doing what they do best.

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00007]CROOKED TV PREACHERS. PSYCHO SHOWBIZ MOMS. NAKED ROMAN ZOMBIES. PORN STARS WHO TALK LIKE COLONEL KLINK.

You gotta love this town.

You think it’s easy being the Bounty Hunter and Repo Guy to the Stars? Just ask “Fish” Fishbein. If he isn’t trying to corral a heavily lubricated ex-rocker, he’s flying down the freeway in a repoed Wiener Mobile, chased by the pistol-packing deadbeat who owns it.

A bail bondsman hires him to track down a crew of unwise guys who blew off their court date to snatch L.A.’s monthly parking meter take — 300 grand in quarters. Then they start dropping like flies. And Fish has to catch the killer.

Maybe it’s the city’s armed and dangerous Parking Meter Czar. Or his brother-in-law, a corrupt televangelist who needs some serious coin to bankroll his foray into Bible-based porn. Or the Rev’s wife and co-minister, who’s bat-shit crazy about toddler beauty pageants. Or, it just might be the defrocked talent agent who’s dying to make Fish a reality TV star.

With more than seven tons of quarters at stake, bodies are dropping faster than turn-downs on America’s Got Talent. And if Fish and his hog-riding buds, Kenny and Einstein, don’t nab the killer in a hurry, they could get eliminated themselves.

 

Chump Change is author Jeff Lee’s third book in his Fish Fishbein series, following The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour and Hair of the Dog. If you enjoy the whacko characters, situations and fast pace that Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard bring to the party, check out all of Fish’s big adventures.

 

Here’s my review:

I’ve been a Jeff Lee fan ever since Vonda Mae Ables set off on a girls’ road trip with her two best gal pals and one good-for-nothing boyfriend’s dead carcass stashed in the RV’s freezer. The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour introduced us to Moe Fishbein and his fellow bounty hunters/repo men. These unforgettable side characters got some much-deserved page time in Hair of the Dog.

Now they’re back on the hunt for some petty-yet-deadly criminals in Chump Change. The perps steal an armored car full of parking meter change, missing a court date in the process. Enter Fish, Kenny, and Einstein. What starts out as a simple middle of the night bad guy grab turns into Barnum and Bailey’s when scheister lawyer-turned wannabe reality show producer ‘Arnie babe’ turns up with a camera crew. Not that Moe isn’t Hollywood material, but this is a serious liability to the element of surprise.

And the dead body on the back porch isn’t helping either.

Since their quarry keep turning up dead, Fish, his crew, and Detective Carlos Santana (LOL) follow the trail back to LA’s crooked Parking Czar, a sleazy televangelist with a penchant for porn, and the local mob scene. Think Carl Hiaasen meets ‘Get Shorty’ with a body count, and you’ve got one helluva story. Definitely recommend!

 

And now for the good part – a chat with one of my favorite cyberpals, ABNA alum and wonderful writer, Jeff Lee.

 

Moe, Kenny, and Einstein are quite the trio, and as near as I can tell, the only honest and ethical dudes in your La-La land fictionverse. Who or what inspired these characters (confession – I’ve been wanting to ask for years if The Three Stooges played a part)?

 

Funny you should ask about Fish, Kenny and Einstein. People who’ve known me for a long time swear that those characters represent different parts of what makes me, me. You’ve got three bright guys (OK, the jury’s still out on the contents of Kenny’s cranium) who, while they may not have much respect for a lot of the system, they try to get by the best they can without stapling, folding or mutilating any major statutes. All this, while taking as much time as possible for a little V-twin therapy and a healthy chortle from time to time.

 

Gotcha! They do say that every character represents some aspect of the author’s psyche, so I’m convinced yours is a quite a wonderland! Speaking of La-La Land, the Los Angeles setting is a vibrant and vital part of your series – practically another character in it’s own right, from glitz and glamour to seedy underbelly. How much of this imagined L.A. was inspired by the real city?

 

I spent my whole career as an advertising copywriter and creative director – almost forty years – in L.A. And look, every city is a melting pot, right? They all have their diverse neighborhoods; their high rent districts; their soft white underbellies. But the City of the Angels comes factory-equipped with a level of gonzo-ness you just won’t find anywhere else. Maybe it’s the Kardashians and all the red carpet interviews. Maybe it’s the fat and gluten-free bottled water. If you keep your eyes and ears open, there’s an inexhaustible wealth of sights, sounds, people and places just begging to be satirized – or at least chuckled at. That’s why most of my L.A. locations are real, like the deli full of standup comics and gigantic, full-color “Jewish Porn” photos of cold cuts on rye; or the Malibu seafood restaurant with the Harley-eating potholes in the parking lot and menu selections right out of “The Rockford Files”. You gotta love this town.

 

Indeed, and you’re totally giving me the itch to visit L.A. again. I adore so much about your stories, but I think the over-the-top side characters and antagonists are my favorites. From sleazy lawyer-turned-reality-show-producer ‘Arnie Babe’ to Televangelist and Bible-based porn broker Reverend Dr. George Stonewall Rogers to his wife, stage mom from hell Janelle Rogers, you create some of the most memorable monuments to human vice. How do you come up with these characters and their quirks?

 

All I can say is I like my villains to be memorable. And the best way to do that is to make them just ever so slightly ridiculous. Look at the news — or anything on the History Channel pertaining to Hitler, the Third Reich or even Bernie Madoff. Our villains all tend to be serious guys who demanded to be taken seriously. (OK, maybe with the possible exception of Mussolini and Hermann Goering – they were pretty damn comical to watch.) I mean, when was the last time you heard a joke begin with the words, “A priest, a rabbi and Michael Corleone walk into a bar…”? And since all villains need to have a fatal flaw, I like to give them something the reader can recall in the middle of an afternoon meeting and bust a gut laughing.

 

I’d say you’ve exceeded those expectations, my friend! Care to drop a few hints about what’s up next for Fish and the boys, pretty please?

 

Writing Chump Change, I had such a good time with reality TV I’m thinking seriously about taking another shot at it. But we’re still in the very early stages here.

 

Ooooh, I would LOVE to read it! How have you found Indie publishing?

 

Interesting question. I’ve both worked with a publisher and as an independent (make that self-published) writer. The people at the publisher were nice, warm, very polite and supportive. But since they were a small publisher, there was no budget or resources to publicize or market my writings. (I understand that with major publishers, it’s the same story.) So, I was the one who had to get it done – and I did it exceptionally badly.

As an indie writer, I still have to find an audience for my work, as well as pay for designers and take care of the actual publishing part myself. But I love the independence, the feeling that I, alone, am responsible for my voice as a writer.

 

It’s definitely a process, and I can relate to muddling through the murky waters of marketing and promo. As for being responsible for your voice, you’ve got a lot to be proud of there. Your writer’s voice really shines! Any other projects on the horizon? I’m always looking for great new reads!

 

I mentioned before that I had been with a small independent publisher. Unfortunately, they decided go out of business a couple of weeks after publishing one of my other books. Which meant everything I had written for them was now out of print and unavailable on Amazon, or any other book selling site. We’re talking two other titles: Hair of the Dog, which was another very funny Fish Fishbein novel. And Bird Boy, a Stephen King-like cautionary tale about extreme teenage bullying and where it could lead.

My next step will be to self-publish both books, once I get Chump Change going.

 

I do hope you can get those titles back out soon. I loved Hair of the Dog! Random question just for fun – dark chocolate or milk?

 

Both. If you’re talking shaving a little over a slice of homemade cheesecake, it’s gotta be dark.

But then again, there are times when only a Kit Kat will fill the bill.

 

Hmm, dark chocolate and Kit Kats – you’re speaking my language. Top three absolute favorite books?

 

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard

Anything written by William Goldman

 

Excellent choices! I adore William Goldman, too, and do hope he gets around to The Princess Bride sequel 🙂

Thank you so much for the wonderful interview! To learn more about Jeff, please visit his website. You can also connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. Chump Change is available now Amazon, along with The Ladies Temperance Club Farewell Tour.

Writers’ Journeys (Alternate Title: Sometimes You Get Encouragement When You Need it The Most)

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 2.27.51 PMSometimes, you get encouragement at just the right time from just the right people.

So I’ve been a little bummed lately. Oh, the milestones have come and still roll in: my first publication, getting representation, being reviewed by some top notch editors. We should all have these problems, right?

But the rejection train isn’t a fun ride. Feedback is great, because if a writer knows what to fix, she (or he) can fix it. Higher word count? Sure thing! More emotional depth and characterization? You got it! Grounding in the setting? Okie dokie!

 

But what does one do about this?

“The writing is very good but…mermaids are turning out to be a tough sell.”

“We are having a hard time selling the mermaid books, even though this one seems like a lot of fun!”

Or this?

“I liked the author’s naughty sense of humor…while I enjoyed the insider look at the city, romances set in foreign locales are generally more difficult to sell.”

“While there are some very fun moments…the humor skewed just a bit broad for my tastes.”

And this?

The writing is pretty strong and pacing good, however, I just don’t think it’s a good fit for our list.”

“I really enjoyed this manuscript!  The problem is I’m just not sure how we can break this out in a big way.”

 

Granted, these are very nice rejections from some top notch industry professionals (many of whom asked for a look at future projects), but at the end of the day, they’re still passes. So what to do? Well, one can wallow, or one can keep revising and hoping. I’ve been doing the latter, but it’s still pretty discouraging.

That’s usually a good time to go and commiserate with other authors who’ve endured exactly the same thing, some for longer than I’ve been writing. I had the opportunity to do just that a few days ago. Parnassus Books in Nashville hosted wonderful authors Jenny Milchman and AJ Scudiere in a night of sharing their writers’ journeys. I first met Jenny through the ABNA community and had the pleasure of meeting her in person a few years ago on her cross-country tour of Indie Bookstores. She is an author’s author, dedicated to supporting her fellow writers regardless of their path to publication. Reading her Made It Moments blog series never fails to inspire me. Hearing about her path to traditional publication, which took over ten years, served as a reminder to have hope (and remain patient).

I met AJ last year at Killer Nashville and enjoyed her panel discussions. She also encountered similar challenges and ultimately found success through the small press route. They were both very generous and candid with the pros and cons, the struggles, and the message that there is no right or wrong path to publication – there’s finding the path that’s right for you.

So where does that leave me? Well, I have more work to do, more decisions to make about which projects may be better suited for the indie route and which have a better shot with traditional, but I’m definitely more energized and motivated. I’m fortunate to have the support of two wonderful and hardworking agents and a network of fellow writers and beta readers, and I do have time. I have to remind myself about that last point – it’s not a race.

Thanks also to fellow author friends Jaden Terrell and Teal Haviland for making the evening even more fun and inspiring!

Welcome Debbie Herbert!

2013-11-02 13.08.28I am delighted to welcome fabulous author Debbie Herbert to my blog. Debbie is a fellow member of team Aponte Literary, represented by our wonderful agent Victoria Lea, and I had the great pleasure of meeting her and M.V. Freeman at the 2013 Southern Magic Reader Luncheon. After reading and loving Siren’s Secret, I just HAD to have her on my blog.

It’s no secret that I love mermaids and the mythology surrounding them, so imagine my delight to find another aficionado in my circle of writer pals!

 

 

9780373885824(3)Shelly Connors is good at keeping secrets. The safety of her family and of her species depends upon quiet co-existence with humanity. It may be a lonely co-existence for Shelly as a half-breed, but she’s accepts her lot in life between land and water as best she can.

 

When she catches a serial killer in the act, though, guarding her fins takes a backseat to fighting for her life. Pursued by the monster, Shelly must decide whether to take matters in her own hands and have the killer face seaborne justice, or trust the attractive and engaging local sheriff. Sure Tillman Angier is easy on the eyes and damn good at his job, but Shelly’s been burned by human men before. Can she trust him with her secret and her heart as they work together to stop a deranged and deadly madman?

 

 

Thanks for being here with me today, Debbie! I’m a bit of a mythology nerd, and as such I very much enjoyed the bits of mermaid lore you wove into your story, as well as your unique spin on how these supernatural beings integrate into the human world. What drew you to mermaids as a subject (aside from the fact that they’re absolutely fascinating)?

 

I appreciate the opportunity, Dana!

 

I see mermaids as symbols of feminine beauty and strength. My theory is that even (or especially) young girls are drawn to the whole idea of mermaids because archetypically they represent power balanced with maidenly grace. Besides, who wouldn’t want to be a beautiful mermaid playing with dolphins all day long? I’ve always loved the ocean and beaches and as a child fantasized about what magic might lay deep beneath the water.

 

Your mermaid heroine is such a wonderful blend of toughness and vulnerability, with a dash of down home Southern charm to go along with her exotic nature. She literally has a toe (or tailfin) in two different worlds, not really belonging to either, but she’s forced to put herself and her kind in danger in order to bring a killer to justice. We readers experience her heartbreaking struggle to find acceptance, not just from her love interest Sherriff Tillman Angier, but from within. What inspired Shelly?

 

Shelly has a mermaid mother and human father and struggles to find acceptance on land and at sea. Except for her maternal aunts and cousins, the merfolk shun her and she is not allowed to tell her secret to humans for fear of rejection and putting her kind at risk of exposure. To top it off, her parent’s marriage was a failure and she’s determined not to repeat her mother’s mistake by denying her mermaid nature and moving away from the sea. If she falls in love, the man will have to accept her as she is because anything less is bound for failure.

 

Sherriff Tillman Angier is such a complex and relatable character. So many of us struggle quietly with caregiver fatigue – be it looking after a terminally or chronically ill relatives, aging parents, or in Tillman’s case, someone disabled. So many caregivers are idealized as stalwart and stoic, which is unrealistic and, I would argue, potentially damaging to those who actually live these situations day in and day out. You show us the good, the bad, and the ugly, complete with resentment, anger, and a longing to escape that are natural, human reactions to the stress involved. At the same time, you show us the honorable, caring man struggling to do the right thing, and I loved that. How did you balance these two aspects of Tillman’s character?

 

Thanks, Dana. I don’t mind sharing that I have an adult son with severe autism so I’m quite familiar with the struggles of caring for someone with special needs and trying to maintain balance in my life with other family relationships, a job and everything else that goes along with being a well-rounded person. With Tillman, I tried to show that despite the less-than-saintly feelings that come with caretaking, what matters is the actions we take and the lessons we learn.

To me, every character – like every person – has flaws that they work to overcome.

 

My son was recently diagnosed, so I was definitely able to relate to the struggles of a caregiver. Every complex, relatable hero/heroine needs an equally complex antagonist. You aren’t afraid to go dark (another aspect of your writing that I really admire!). How hard was it to get into serial killer Melkie Pellerin’s head?

 

I don’t know what it says about me, but it was immensely interesting to try and get in the head of a character with a value system so opposite my own. At every step of the way, I tried to imagine what would motivate a killer to commit such crimes and what happened in his life that made him so amoral. I also tried to show him as a real person with problems and one that could occasionally demonstrate glimmers of kindness in his dark world. I believe human nature is a continuum between absolute goodness and absolute evil.

 

So… two other mermaids plus a few surprise supernatural residents of Bayou La Siryna equals many more adventures in the series… Hooray! Can you give us any hints about what is to come?

 

Absolutely! Book Two of the Dark Seas series, Siren’s Treasure, will take up the story of Shelly’s cousin Jet, and is scheduled to be released this fall by Harlequin Nocturne. In many ways, Jet is the opposite of Shelly. She’s physically strong and mentally tough but nevertheless, has a hidden vulnerability that’s exposed when her ex-boyfriend pirate is released from prison and returns to the bayou.

It’s The Hunt for Red October meets Southern Gothic.

Book Three of the series, Siren’s Call, will be Lily’s story. Lily is the mysterious siren who enchants men with her voice . . . until she meets the one man impervious to her charms. This book will be released in 2015.

 

Mermaids, pirates, and hidden treasures, hooray! Just pre-ordered my copy of Siren’s Treasure. Random question just for fun – dark chocolate or milk?

 

Dark chocolate flavored with chili and sea salt. And it’s good for you! Well, probably not in the quantity I eat, but there are worse vices.

 

Hmm, a bit of spice and salt to balance the sweet. I dig it! Top three absolute favorite romance books?

 

authorphotoOh, that is so hard! Okay, I have to go with Pride and Prejudice as Number One. Mr. Darcy is the ultimate romantic hero. Second, I adore Amanda Quick historicals and my favorite is Ravished which plays upon a Beauty and the Beast theme. And third, I’ll go with Ransom by Julie Garwood for its humor and the manly highlander hero. Who doesn’t love men in kilts? Since I’ve chosen all historicals, I’ll add a contemporary book for honorable mention even if it isn’t strictly a romance: Alice at Heart by Deborah Smith which is about a mermaid from North Georgia seeking love and acceptance.

Thanks for letting me visit, Dana!

Thank you so much for the wonderful interview. To learn more about Debbie, you can visit her website, follow her on Twitter, find her on Goodreads, and check out her Facebook Fanpage. Siren’s Secret is available now from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Harlequin. Siren’s Treasure is available for pre-order, too, and will be released November 1, 2014.

 

Cover Reveal for ‘Jade’s Spirit,’ by Jessi Gage!

Whenever I pick up a book written by Jessi Gage, I know I’m going to smile, swoon, and share an adventure with unforgettable characters. I loved Reckless, the first in her Blue Collar Boyfriends series, so I’m very excited to share the cover and blurb for the second, Jade’s Spirit.

 

JessiGage_JadesSpirit_1400pxWhen exotic dancer Jade seeks refuge from an abusive boyfriend in her grandmother’s aging Victorian home, she finds she’s not the only houseguest. A dream-invading incubus has taken up residence, and it wants Jade’s soul. Fortunately, a flirtatious lawn-care provider has a trick or two up his sleeve for dealing with hauntings. And he has definite rebound-guy potential—if only he would stop inviting her to church.

The virginity vow Emmett “the lawn guy” Herald took when he was seventeen has become legendary in Dover, Vermont. Ten years later, everyone is waiting to see if he’ll blow a decade of “waiting for marriage” now that he’s dating the new girl from the big city. Even Emmett thinks he has met his match in the vivacious Boston beauty. In fact, he’s starting to think virginity may be overrated.

A spark of attraction ignites between Jade and Emmett, and quickly grows into a roaring inferno. But with a demon fanning the flames, attraction has never been so perilous.

 

Jade’s Spirit is scheduled for release on August 1. I’ve put in in my TBR list on Goodreads. To find out more about the talented mistress of wonderful cross-genre delights, Jessi Gage, here are some helpful links:

Website | Blog | Facebook Fan Page | Twitter | Goodreads | Newsletter Sign-up

Conferences, Fangirling Diana Gabaldon, and Fun with Critique Partner and Gal Pal Sophia Jones

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 6.24.48 AMI’ve been quite fortunate. As a (relatively) new author, I’ve found tremendous support and a wealth of opportunities through my network of colleagues near and far, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few of my favorite authors over the past 5 years of my writing career. Thanks to author, critique partner, and dear friend Sophia Jones, Diana Gabaldon is now on that list.

 

I highly recommend attending conferences and author/reader events, large or small, to aspiring authors. After all, Killer Nashville not only expanded my network, it provided the means of landing my wonderful agents. Aside from those benefits, conferences serve as a balance to the often solitary business of writing. Arizona Dreamin’ did just that – with workshops on craft, editing, marketing and promo, as well as two REALLY useful how-to sessions on avoiding procrastination and successfully executing writing sprints, the conference was both informative and flat-out fun!

 

And, of course, I had a blast being a fangirl! I fell in love with Diana Gabaldon’s epic Outlander series, and James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, after marathoning my way through the first seven books. No easy feat, as the books are freakin’ HUGE. So I was over the moon excited at the prospect of meeting the woman who birthed some of the most compelling and memorable characters I’ve encountered.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 6.21.00 AMShe proved to be as witty, engaging, and entertaining as her characters, and gracious with her advice to writers in the audience. I was inspired and heartened to learn that she, too, began her writing career in the midst of juggling her primary career as an academic researcher with the demands of motherhood – this resonated with my own journey and gave me hope that I *may* not be quite so insane as I’d first been told when I started writing (while juggling an academic research career, two small children, and a husband who spends half of the month traveling). Or, if I am a bit insane, at least I’m in good company.

 

She was quite amused and (I think) pleased with my Pocket Jamie, and was gracious enough to pose for a photo after signing my copy of The Outlandish Companion Vol 1.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 6.23.12 AMShe shared details about the upcoming television adaptation, including her nickname for Sam Heughan (‘Sheugs’), and told us she’s been quite pleased with the footage she’s viewed so far. With that seal of approval, I’m even more excited for the August 9th premiere. She also promised more Lord John books – much to my delight when I asked the question – and mentioned plans for a series involving Master Raymond, prehistoric time traveler and Claire’s ancestor. This confirms the information under FAQ: About the Characters on her website, and based on the novella in which he and the Comte St. Germain appear once more, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

 

And I’ll definitely read it!

 

Thanks to author and organizer, Morgan Kearns, and her team for this wonderful event, and to Sophia Jones for hosting me in her beautiful home city of Phoenix, Arizona (and for the day trip to Sedona). She also took me to The Tilted Kilt, which seemed quite appropriate given the occasion.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 6.23.55 AMAfter a marathon session reading Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (after which my husband declared ‘Hooray! I can have my wife back now!’), I’m still in love with the series, characters, and look forward to the next installment. As usual, Diana Gabaldon leaves us with as many questions as answers (though the convergence of several plot lines was quite satisfying). No spoilers, but be prepared for some major heartbreaks, as well as more than a few moments of reckoning, and an ending that will tug at your heartstrings. Basically, all the things you know and love about the Outlander universe but better than ever!

 

All in all, it was a great conference, a great experience, and I hope to be back for more next year!

Say Hello to Bob Simms, and His Little Demon, Too!

I’m am delighted to welcome Bob Simms to my blog today so he can share his charm, wit, and wicked sense of humor, along with the insider scoop on his devilishly clever urban fantasy, The Young Demon Keeper. I was lucky enough to find this gem of a story (and writer) during the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Competition and I’m so glad I did! With a fast-paced plot and unforgettable characters, this clever story left me wanting more.

 

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 10.25.26 PMThe Young Demon Keeper is a darkly humorous fantasy novel set in modern-day London.

When Paul summoned a slave demon to do his every bidding, he thought it would be really cool. Instead, he got Scarth, a hybrid that was as magical as a damp sponge but not as intelligent. His only talents seem to be invisibility and to eat: toasters, gravel, furniture, but especially ice-cream. Oh, and people.

Featuring demons, trendy priests, garrulous occult bookshop owners, muggers, publicans, evangelists, porters, witches, and wizards.

Oh, and then there’s the really strange characters.

 

 

Here’s my review:

Be careful what you wish for . . .

Paul wished for a demon slave to bring his every fantasy to fruition (an X-Box 360, Lauryn the hot office temp). Instead, he got stuck with Scarth, quite possibly the most annoying demon that hell ever spawned. He’s destructive, he’s irritating, and he’s a bit . . . thick. He also has a nasty habit of eating people when he can’t score some ice cream. What is Paul to do when even hell won’t take him back?

I absolutely adored this fresh and witty tale and recommend it to urban fantasy fans! With a fast-paced plot and quirky, unforgettable characters, it will leave you wanting more.

*goes off to grab the rest of the series*

 

And now for the good part – a chat with one of my favorite Cyberstalkees, er, Cyberpals, fellow ABNA alum and wonderful writer, Bob Simms.

Paul, your hapless protagonist, is one of those everyman type of characters who I found relatable and oddly endearing, in spite of the fact that he’s summoned a demon. Who or what inspired this character and his decision to dabble in demon summoning?

 

Someone told me every portrait an artist paints is, to some extent, a self-portrait. Three of the main characters, Paul, Ess and Oz are to some extent facets of myself, but in a less pretentious way than this sentence makes it sound. Paul was me when I left school and started work: insecure, social awkwardness bordering on terror, and his growth through the book was my journey to the self-confident, really cool guy I am now. Of course, that took me thirty years or more, whereas Paul manages it in a week, the jammy git!

You found him endearing? Where were you when I left home?

As for demon keeping, I like stories that take established memes and turn them on their head. Some really successful stories do that: Buffy (the vampires running away from the pretty girl), The Saint (the burglar who rights wrongs) and Firefly (the spaceship captain who is a bit of an idiot). It started with the idea of, what would happen if instead of an all-powerful demon, you summoned a really useless one?

 

You are a really cool guy now! As for me, I suspect I was an equally awkward nerd-girl when you left home, well before I came into my own as a fun and fabulous grown-up (sort of) Supernerd Extraordinaire. Tell us a bit about Scarth, a.k.a. the world’s most pathetic demon? How did such a creature emerge from your imagination?

 

Poor Scarth. He’s as much a victim caught in the machine as Paul. He’s not intelligent enough to be evil, or good come to that. He started off as a naughty puppy, but instead of savaging a box of tissues or throwing up on the Axminster, he breaks furniture and eats people.

 

I understand that a few of your female readers have a soft spot for the maniacal little dimwit. Much like Paul’s Wiccan gal-pal, Ess, I confess I found him sort of pathetically adorable (from a reasonable distance). What is it about this creature, and his unwilling master for that matter, that makes your readers cheer for him?

 

Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 8.56.28 AMThat was the biggest surprise. My daughter even knitted a Scarth doll for me (Though of course, as I’m a manly man, it’s an action figure). Perhaps he brings out the mothering instinct. You have to condemn his actions, but it’s not his fault. He was brought up in the pits of torment. He’s not really going to be socially responsible. And he has a childish joy in simple things like music and ice cream, new experiences for him. I think people empathize with Ess, and just see him as misunderstood.

 

Aw, that is so adorable, er, I mean, that is, he’s so full of manly demon menace… I have the next installment waiting for me in my Kindle queue. Care to drop a few hints about what’s in store for me with Thicker than Water, pretty please?

 

I think most authors go through a maturing process. Your first book tends to have your favorite jokes, your cleverest wordplay, and your influences are most plain to see. Later books (hopefully) have better crafting and development. Thicker Than Water is less serial. Three intertwined plots move in parallel. Ess and Oz reappear, but this time they descend deeper into the otherworld, meeting other mythical creatures that live in London ignored by most of us. There’s vampires and young romance, but I promise you mine don’t bloody sparkle!

 

Oh, goody! I adore Ess, and Oz is one of my favorite characters in your series, randy old goat that he is. And you’re absolutely right, vampires should NOT sparkle. Most of my favorite stories involve mythical, magical worlds that parallel reality, especially when the magic spills over into the ‘real’ world. I look forward to following Ess and Oz on their adventures in hidden London. How have you found Indie publishing?

 

At first, it was easy. I formatted the content, uploaded it and told my friends. Bingo. They were very kind. Then strangers bought it and were also very kind. The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards helped. The thrill of seeing your name on a book cover is second only to the thrill of receiving your first royalty cheque for £10.

What’s hard is keeping up the momentum. I’m an artist. An artist, dammit! Even worse, I’m English, and we really don’t like self-publicizing. That’s why, if you ask an Englishman how he is, after winning the lottery and establishing a harem of super-models, the best you’ll get is, “Not bad. I can’t complain” When I’m rich and successful I’ll have people do that for me, but for now I have to force myself to blow my own trumpet. Still, I can’t complain.

 

*Barely resists urge to comment on blowing one’s own trumpet*

Really, you should know better than to leave me with such an opening. I find marketing difficult as well, but I’m glad you’ll let me help blow the metaphorical trumpet and spread the word about your work. (Bob also won’t tell you about that wonderful Publisher’s Weekly review he received for Demon Keeper, but I will!)

Any other projects on the horizon? I’m always looking for great new reads!

 

Ha ha! Well, thank you for the implied praise. You tell the nicest lies.

Unawares is another London urban fantasy, much darker than the others, where it’s really hard to tell the difference between the good angels and the fallen ones. Ess and Oz establish themselves further in Blood Rush, where they encounter a special police squad. I’m currently working on a fourth Ess and Oz adventure, this time set in the more salubrious art world of London. No vampires or demons, but danger from a more surprising direction.

 

Now, now, Bob, I don’t lie about books. My age, yes, books, NEVER! Thank you so much for the wonderful interview! To learn more about Bob, please visit his website and blog. You can also connect with him on Twitter: @Snodlander1. The Young Demon Keeper, Thicker than Water, Unawares, and Blood Rush are all available now Amazon.

In the meantime, here is an excerpt from The Young Demon Keeper to whet your reading appetite.

***

“Jesus, you scared me,” said Paul.

The stranger winced. “Please, a little consideration. We don’t use His name.”

“Who are you?” asked Paul. “You’re not…you know…are you?”

The stranger chuckled. “No, don’t worry. He’s too busy to deal with individual souls, unless you’re very special. The curse of scaling up, I’m afraid. He’s very good at delegating, though. Let me introduce myself. I’m Lord Roath.”

“Lord Roath?” repeated Paul. “The Destroyer of Peace and Whatnot of Souls?”

“Crusher of Souls. You’ve heard of me?” he asked, pleasantly surprised.

“Sort of. Scarth keeps sacrificing things to you. Cats, newspapers, gravel, pretty much anything, really. I’ve told him to stop, but it’s like talking to a brick wall. Well, worse really, because at least brick walls don’t look like they’re listening.”

“Ah, yes, sorry about that. My fault, really. For the best part of three ages, Scarth has been part of my fiefdom. It’s embarrassing, quite frankly. What he expects me to do with them all is beyond me. It wouldn’t be so bad if he included the odd sacrificial virgin or saint, but what can you do? Between you and me, he’s just a little bit simple. It takes forever to get an idea into his head, but then he just won’t let go of it, no matter how much you torture him. It took nearly five hundred years in a lake of molten rock before he stopped picking his nose.”

“I sympathise. I feel I’ve spent an eternity in hell just the last two weeks. Still, it’s all over now. I’m sorry, I didn’t know you would come in person to collect him. I hope you weren’t busy or anything.”

“The thing is, Paul,” said Roath, wrapping an avuncular arm around his shoulders, “I’m not here to collect him.”

“You’re not?”

“No. Oh, it’s all in the small print, perfectly legal and all that, but the version of the summoning spell you used has a clause in it that gives us the option to refuse the return of goods. Sorry, chum, but you’re stuck with him. A demon’s not just for Christmas, you know. Look on the bright side. How many of your friends can say they have their own personal demon to command?”

“But he’s so useless. He doesn’t understand most of the orders I give him, and he keeps eating things.” Paul looked anxiously around the deserted car park and then said in a conspiratorial voice. “I think he’s eaten a couple of people too.”

“Yes, he does that. Not strictly necessary, of course. Being a demon, he doesn’t actually need to eat, but he does have a remarkable appetite. Still, just point him at people you don’t like, and that will turn your frown upside down.”

“I hardly think this is a joking matter,” said Paul.

“I wasn’t joking,” answered Roath.

 ***

Howling for Jessi Gage’s ‘The Wolf and The Highlander’

I’m am over the moon excited to welcome Jessi Gage back to my blog so she can share juicy details about the latest installment in her Highland Wishes series. I adored Wishing for a Highlander, a historical romance mixing unforgettable characters and setting with a dash of the paranormal. Jessi is a master of genre mash-ups and isn’t afraid to tackle complex and unconventional heroines, as she proves in The Wolf and the Highlander.

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 10.28.31 PMAnya’s been a bad girl. A vindictive plot against one of her clansmen backfired, resulting in her grave injury. Scarred and crippled, she finds nothing lovely about herself, and doesn’t expect anyone else to either. But when a magical wishing box sends her to another dimension, she becomes the most valuable prize imaginable.

While hunting a rare marbled boar, Riggs, a trapper in Marann’s western forest, hears a strange cry. Distracted from the hunt, he loses the sow but finds instead something more valuable than a whole cart packed with marbled boar skins. A woman. She is delicate, and her ears are curiously rounded. She is not wolfkind. Maybe she is the miracle his people have been hoping for.

Riggs must bring Anya to King Magnus, because breeding rights belong first and foremost to His Majesty, who needs an heir. But the female calls to a primal part of him. He longs to keep her in secret and take her as his mate. But if he gives in to the temptation, he could single handedly bring about the end of civilization.

 

 

If my gushing isn’t enough to convince you, getting the insider scoop from Jessi ought to do the trick.

I love redemption stories, and you’ve created quite a set-up for Anya. As the spiteful villainess in Wishing for a Highlander, her come-uppance is brutal and seemingly final. Though she’s a strong woman (my favorite kind of heroine), she’s got quite a long way to go on her journey to her HEA. What inspired you to write her story?

 

Hi DB! Thanks for having me! I love stopping by to talk shop with you, and your enthusiasm means the world to me!

I’ll be honest, I had a book written that had been rejected by a ton of agents. It was called Wolf Bride. It featured what I now understand to be a waifish heroine who had a lot of interesting things happen to her but who never acted and took matters into her own hands.

I ended Wishing thinking I might like to give Anya a story. But Wishing was finalized when I realized that Anya would be a much better heroine for my wolf-man-hero, Riggs, than the waifish character I had originally written.

After 2 years of doing nothing with the story, I opened up Wolf Bride, retitled it The Wolf and the Highlander, and started rewriting it with Anya as the heroine. As I rewrote it, I felt the magic happening. Chapter by chapter, Riggs’s world became more vivid to me. The plight of his people, wolfkind, became more desperate. I fell in love with my fantasy world all over again and got to give Anya a chance to earn her redemption.

Riggs and Anya work so much better than Riggs and my waif, Elsa, whom I am glad the agents I queried didn’t fall in love with the way I had hoped back then. Just goes to show you, sometimes those gatekeepers know what they’re talking about *winks*

 

How wonderful that you were able to turn Wolf Bride around and link it to the Highland Wishes series! It just goes to show how it pays to hold on to old manuscripts, because you never know when they’ll turn into gold later!! Tell us a bit about your hero Riggs and his wolfkind and world. What makes him the ideal hero for your tortured heroine?

 

Riggs is wolfkind. Created by the goddess Danu, wolfkind were designed to have the bravery and loyalty of wolves and the beauty and longevity of the Fae. Long ago, wolfkind rebelled against Danu, and she brought a curse down upon them. The rate of female births dropped slowly over the years until now there are only a few females left who are young enough to conceive. This is the world my heroine, Anya, gets swept to by the magical wishing box from Wishing.

One of my favorite authors is Karen Marie Moning. She writes the Fae as sexy, smart, diabolical, and magical beings. They meddle in human affairs because, secretly, they’re fascinated by us, but if you catch them at it, they’ll sniff and say they only did it to amuse themselves.

I wanted to write a world where there this kind of mischief (magical wishing boxes, feuding gods and goddesses) goes on behind the scenes and where a little bit of the magical breaks through to help the hero and heroine find their destinies. I’m hoping to bring more of that magic out into the light in future books in the Highland Wishes seriesJ

As to why I wrote Riggs, well, I kind of like a hairy hero. Beards are in, right? They are for me, anyway. It’s hard to tell who is more in love with my 6’8” hairy, bearded, virginal hero, my heroine, or me!

 

Hmm, hairy men are all kinds of sexy! And I love that you’ve woven such a fascinating mythology into your fictionverse. In spite of being of another realm, do kilts play a big…role in the story (pleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyes)?

 

YES! There are kilts! LOL!

I based my fantasy wolf-world on Iron-age Ireland. I made my wolf-men sort of Celt-y. Noble wolf-men wear kilts, but they take them off to hunt (Don’t want to get blood on the tartan).

 

Hooray! I cannot wait to dig in to this installment, and I’m sure it will leave me wishing for more. Can you give us any hints about what’s next in the series?

 

I’m working on Constance and Wilhelm’s story (mentioned in Wishing when Melanie and Darcy go to Skibo Castle in Dornoch). It will be called The Highlander’s Witch. It’ll probably be a novella, though I’ve been known to say that and then end up with a novel on my hands…

Then I’ll be writing the story of King Magnus and Seona. These are characters you will meet in The Wolf and the Highlander. It’ll be a delicious story of magic and healing, maybe even magical healing of the sexy kind, LOL! I can’t wait to write it.

 

Wonderful! I very much enjoyed Constance and Wilhelm in your first book and look forward to their story, as well as another visit to the Wolfkind realm. How have you found the transition to Indie publishing?

 

I love indie publishing. Like love LOVE it. I love the control. I love the freedom. I love being able to monitor everything and make changes if needed. It’s a lot of work, but so rewarding. Most of all, the indie community has been hugely helpful. They are so free with information and advice.

 

Any other projects on the horizon? I’m always looking for great new reads!

 

Oh my goodness, yes! Keep an eye out for a contemporary romance box set by me and Wendy Ely and eight other awesome authors! It’s going to be out in July if all goes according to plan, and it will contain ten full-length novels for the price of one ebook.

All the books are “book one’s” in a series, so you can spend the price of one ebook to try out 10 authors and possibly discover your next guilty pleasure series. My book will be Reckless, the first in my Blue Collar Boyfriends series.

Later this year, I’ll be releasing Jade’s Spirit, BCB book 2 and Cole in My Stocking, BCB book 3. It’s a busy year for me, but an awesome one too!

Awesome! The BCB series is such a wonderful concept, and I very much enjoyed Reckless. Thank you so much for the wonderful interview. To learn more about Jessi, please visit her website. The Wolf and the Highlander is available now:

Amazon | B&N | iTunes | ARe | Kobo | Google Play | Goodreads

 

Thanks for having me, DB! For your readers, here’s a link to my Rafflecopty GIVEAWAY. It runs though the 23rd. Up for grabs:

1st Prize Ecopy of The Wolf and the Highlander & a $25 Amazon gift card

2nd Prize Ecopy of The Wolf and the Highlander & a $5 Amazon gift card

3rd Prize Ecopy of The Wolf and the Highlander