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Archive for May, 2011

Author Interview with C.W. Gortner

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Jerelyn’s  (I-F-Letty) Interview with C.W. Gortner

C.W. Gortner has to date three published works.  His first The Secret Lion has been republished as The Tudor Secret, an excellent mystery set in the Tudor Court of Edward VI.  The Last Queen is about the little known (in this country at least) Juana, daughter of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, their most Catholic Majesties of Spain; she was the elder sister to Henry VIII first queen, Catherine of Aragon. Also, he has written The Confessions of Catherine De Medici, who was Queen of France, mother to three kings of France, and two queens.


Jerelyn: First I would like to thank Mr. Gortner for agreeing to be interviewed for the PBS blog.

I first heard of you while reading the blogs of favorite authors Sharon Penman, and Susan Higginbotham to name a few. They praise your work.  It must be gratifying to have such support from these ladies. How important to you was their support?

C. W.: It’s always marvelous when other authors like and support your work; I do it myself. Sharon Penman in particular has been a long time favorite of mine, so her praise has meant a lot to me. Authors can be competitive by nature, but I’ve found that in the historical fiction community, by and large we tend to cheer each other on. Maybe because most of us are also devoted readers of the genre and we welcome its growth, rather than see other authors as a threat.


Jerelyn: What drew you to this time period?

C.W.:  I’ve always been fascinated by the Renaissance. It’s a time of great upheaval, tragedy, glory, and accomplishment, when we cast off medieval restrictions and bask in the classics of antiquity, as well as forge new directions in art, science, and religion. It’s not an easy time by any means, but it gave birth to some of history’s most fascinating characters as well as some of the world’s most famous artists. A multi-faceted genius like Leonardo da Vinci, for example, could only be a product of this time. It’s no wonder that even today we refer to people with diverse talents as a “renaissance” man or woman. This is an era when we begin to re-define ourselves as individuals and recognize the infinite realm of possibilities within us.


Jerelyn: It is a said that this is a notoriously difficult time period to write about.  Did you find this to be true?

C.W.:  I think recreating any era of the past is difficult. The research alone can be staggering, with volumes of books and documents to get through, and even the most reliable sources can contradict each other or be maddeningly obscure on something of significant importance to you as the writer. Also, the act of bringing to life people who lived over five hundred years ago carries a weight of responsibility, in that you need to make them accessible to the modern-day reader without betraying the time in which they lived in. It can be a delicate balancing act, to say the least.


Jerelyn: I have to admit to you that Secret Lion/The Tudor Secret sat on my shelf for nearly a year, before I read it.  Quite frankly I was Tudor-ed out, and the inundation of mediocre novels about this time period had also turned me off.  So I was a bit surprised and relieved at how fresh I found the The Tudor Secret to be.  Will you tell us about it?

C.W.:  Sure. I wrote it years ago, after my first two historical novels were rejected repeatedly by publishers. My agent at the time had grown doubtful about her ability to sell a straight historical by me—the genre hadn’t yet regained its popularity—so she suggested I try my hand at a mystery. Evidently, the historical mystery/suspense arena had more male authors and she thought it might be a good area to break me into. I wasn’t that interested, to tell you the truth. I was so depressed over having been rejected by thirteen publishers that the wind had gone out of my sails. I took several months off to research, however, and started to re-discover my childhood fascination with the Tudor era. I’d always loved the foibles and extravagances of the English court, and larger-than-life personalities who inhabited it, but I’d also felt it was overwritten. I started searching for something unique to build my story upon; as I explored the oft-neglected period between Edward VI’s demise and Mary Tudor’s coronation—a mere footnote in history—I got excited. Then I came across information about the spy system set up to protect Elizabeth I and that got me to pondering what such a system might have looked like before Elizabeth became queen. Thus, was my story born. It proved my most challenging book to write because of the intricacy of its plot but also one of my most rewarding.

Fast-forward five years. No editor wanted to publish my so-called mystery, so I ended up leaving my agent and publishing the book with a small independent press that only had online distribution. As time went by, the book gained notice. Eventually, it attracted the attention of my current fabulous agent, who called me out of the blue to see what else I had stashed in my desk. She went on to sell The Last Queen and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici to Random House at auction, as well as the now-titled The Tudor Secret and next two entries in the series to St Martin’s Press and Hodder & Stoughton in the UK. Ironic, huh? Just goes to show, perseverance is key in this business. You never know when things will turn around.


Jerelyn: I love the story about dancing at Hampton Court, would you share?

C.W.:  Oh, yes. That was an experience I’ll always treasure. During my research, my partner and I visited Hampton Court. We happened to arrive on a day when the palace had costumed entertainers demonstrating different dances of the era to tourists in the great hall. After several demonstrations, they called for volunteers. Naturally, no one obliged. If you’ve seen a sixteenth century dance, you’ll understand why. But my partner leaned to me and whispered, “Are you kidding me? You’re standing in the very place where Anne Boleyn danced with Henry VIII and you’re not going to volunteer?” He was right, of course. I adore Anne Boleyn and the thought of somehow following her footsteps proved too seductive to resist. My hand shot up. I’m afraid I was rather clumsy, but the smiling lady in costume with whom I danced looked just as I imagine Anne must have, with flowing dark hair and a marvelous laugh, so I could have fallen on my face and not cared!


Jerelyn: I understand there is a second book in this series.  When is that scheduled for release?

C.W.:  In 2012. I’m in the process of writing it now. It begins a few months after the end of The Tudor Secret. Brendan returns to court at Cecil’s behest to protect Elizabeth from a web of intrigue being spun around her by the Spanish ambassador, Renard, and her own sister, Queen Mary. This time, Brendan is more experienced and thinks he knows how to handle the treachery, but he’s in for quite a surprise, not the least of which is at Elizabeth’s own hands. It’s a darker, more suspenseful tale and I hope readers enjoy it.


Jerelyn: Your second novel and first biographical fiction novel is The Last Queen about Juana of Spain.  I found her fascinating. Will you tell us about her?

C.W. : She’s an intriguing character, in that she’s truly the last queen of the medieval Spanish bloodline to inherit the throne and yet she’s been completely obscured by lurid myths that really downplay her importance both as a woman and a queen. I heard about her while growing up in Spain (I’m half-Spanish by birth) and was fascinated by the stories of Juana la Loca, the mad queen who dragged a coffin around with her and ended up locked in a castle. Years later, when I decided to write about her, my research led me to discover a very different and untold story, one of passion, betrayal, and immense courage.


Jerelyn: You seem to be drawn to, and very sympathetic to the plight of these royal pawns, both in The Last Queen and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici.  Why did you feel their stories deserved to be told?

C.W.:  As a culture, we often only get to hear the sides of the victors in history, and mostly, from the voices of men. It’s getting better, but many women, particularly those like Juana and Catherine, who’ve been saddled with unsavory reputations, suffer from the verdict of history because of relentless stereotypes. Their complexity is diluted both by a rush to pigeonhole them (oh, she was mad and that one was evil) and by a male-dominated view of history. For example, I found no evidence that Catherine de Medici poisoned anyone; I found little evidence to suggest that Juana was mentally unbalanced from childhood, yet these fallacies persist, almost to this day, in part due to the legends constructed around their personae. I felt it was important to give them a chance to tell their side of the story, to unfetter them from their own dark legends and set them as women within the context of their time. I’m always intrigued by the untold stories under the veneer of history and what these women might have said, had they been given the chance.


Jerelyn: Male writers do not always write convincing women, but your women are so well written, so I can tell you really identified with them.  Where does this come from, this empathy?

C.W.:  I can’t really say. Perhaps it comes from being in Spain with a lot of strong women around me—my mom, my grandmother, my aunts, my cousins. They used to gather in the kitchen to gossip and tell stories and I was always among them, wide-eyed and big–eared. I loved hearing them behind closed doors, while the men napped or drank or watched television; they had a world apart, where secrets were revealed. I think I absorbed some of their sensibility; I certainly to this day have more women friends than men. I invariably find women more interesting.


Jerelyn: Catherine De Medici is one of the more maligned historical characters.  A bit like say Richard III or Edward II.  Do you think she was a victim of her enemies’ propaganda?

C.W.:  Absolutely! And a victim of her own mistakes, which she didn’t set out to make, yet caused horrific ramifications in at least one case. We must remember that Catherine de Medici was not a princess trained to rule; she was expected to bear the children of the king’s second son and fade into comfortable obscurity. Her tenacity and zeal to defend France and her sons’ throne from a rapacious nobility and horrific religious conflict catapulted her into the spotlight, but she was still seen as an Italian, a Medici, a parvenu— and she was not loved. I find it sad that to this day, there is almost no reminder of her anywhere in Paris. There’s a great memorial to those who died in the Massacre of St Bartholomew but she has been erased. She forestalled the French Revolution by nearly two-hundred years; she almost single-handedly preserved the monarchy for the accession of one of France’s most beloved kings, Henri IV, but she’s still looked at askance, a foreigner, not really a patriot. She’s been relegated to the shadows, the reptilian Madame Serpent who would do anything in her lust for power. Now, that’s enemy propaganda at its best.


Jerelyn: You write about the humanist education she received, and in turn gave her children.  Do you think this was one of the reasons she was much more religiously tolerant, than other Catholic rulers of that time?

C.W.:  Yes, and I believe that during her early years in Italy, as a Medici who knew her own family had vied and bribed their way to the Holy See, she learned that faith and religion are two very different things. She didn’t harbor the fanaticism of Philip II or entrenched fear of Catholic reprisal of Elizabeth I; she truly “did not wish to make windows into men’s souls”, to use that famous catch phrase of Elizabeth’s. Catherine remained Catholic in her observances but her own letters and numerous public declarations confirm she sincerely believed that the two faiths should, and could, co-exist, as they shared a basis in the same fundamental teachings. In this, as in other aspects of her personality, she was ahead of her time.


Jerelyn: I admit that I always felt that she was horribly wronged by Henri II and his mistress Diane de Poitiers.  Modern sensibilities get in the way some time, a 43 year old woman, mistress to a 14 year old boy.  How do you get past such things when writing?

C.W.:  By looking at it through the prism of the age; this goes back to what I said earlier, about how historical fiction writers have to make these characters accessible to modern-day readers yet never betray the era in which they lived. In the sixteenth century, especially at court, a fourteen year-old prince was considered nearly a man. There was no acknowledged prepubescent period; boys and girls went from childhood to adulthood directly. However, it doesn’t say much for Diane’s scruples and I took that into account while crafting her character.


Jerelyn: What was the most surprising thing you discovered in your research?

C.W.:  That Catherine de Medici loved animals and espoused a nascent animal rights movement at court. Her apartments were filled with birds and dogs and she even had bears and monkeys; she couldn’t tolerate cruelty to animals and she really did have the decrepit lion cages at Amboise renovated. When she traveled, she brought her animals with her. It must have been quite a sight, to see the queen-mother ensconced in her carriage with her bears ambling behind.


Jerelyn:I read about your travels, what are your favorite places from each of your characters’ lives?

C.W.:  From Juana in The Last Queen, the spectacular medieval city of Toledo in Castile; from Catherine in The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, the sublimely feminine chateau of Chenonceau; and from Brendan in The Tudor Secret, the Tower of London for its history and impregnability.


Jerelyn: What are you reading now?

C.W.:  Research for my next stand-alone historical, which I have to keep under wraps until I get the okay from my editor and agent to announce it. I’m also reading Margaret George’s excellent Elizabeth I.


Jerelyn: Who are your favorite authors?

C.W.:  There are too many to cite here and I don’t want to leave anyone out 😉 Suffice to say, I’m a fan of most of the historical fiction authors writing today. I love the energy and diversity in our genre right now.


Jerelyn: Do you think sites like PaperBackSwap are helpful to authors?

C.W.:  Any place where writers and readers can meet is helpful. I’m always intrigued by the many ways in which the internet has facilitated communication with readers and vice versa.


Jerelyn: Do you think that social media has helped you in marketing your books?

C.W.:  Very much so; word-of-mouth recommendations are, in the end, the best way to sell a book. If I tell you, “Wow, I loved this!” and you trust my opinion, you’re far more likely to pick up that book the next time you’re looking for something to read. Despite all our fancy technological advances, we’re still human and we still need to talk to each other. Talk markets books. It’s that simple.


Jerelyn: What are your feelings about Amazon and Barnes and Nobles customer reviews?

C.W. : I think that except in cases of outright cruelty, everyone has a right to their opinion and everyone’s opinion is subjective. I browse customer reviews when I’m looking to buy a book but I’m rarely influenced by them. I’ve just read too many novels that other people disliked and vice versa. I prefer to make up my own mind, and the only way to do it is to read the work if I’m interested.


Jerelyn: What is next for you?

C.W.:  I’ve just finished I, Isabella of Castile, my next stand-alone historical novel about the youth and tumultuous early reign of Spain’s famous crusader queen, for publication by Ballantine Books in 2012. I’m currently writing the next book in the Spymaster Chronicles.


Jerelyn: Thank-you Mr. Gortner!

C.W.: Thank you for having me, it’s been a pleasure.


If you would like to learn more about C.W. Gortner visit his website http://www.cwgortner.com/

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici was published in trade paperback today, May 24 and Mr. Gortner has donated a copy to be given away in a drawing for those who comment. A winner will be chosen at random. Good Luck!



Mystery Monday – Mariner’s Compass

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler (Book Six in the Benni Harper mystery series)

Review by Vicky T. (VickyJo)


The first thing I thought of when I saw a series of mysteries with quilt patterns for titles was, “Uh-oh.  This could be—different.”  I enjoy quilts, but I’m not a quilter.  And while I like mysteries, and I like crafts, I am a bit leery of combining them to any great degree.  I have to say that I shouldn’t have worried; Earlene Fowler has this combination down perfectly.

Fool’s Puzzle” introduces us to Benni Harper, a woman in her mid-30’s who was raised on her father’s ranch in central California.  Benni lost her mother when she was six, and her grandmother Dove stepped in and raised her.  She married her high school sweetheart Jack, and lost him to a car accident about a year before this first novel begins. She must leave the ranch that has too many memories, and make her own way in the world by becoming the curator for the local folk art museum.  During the course of the series, Benni comes to terms with widowhood and opens her heart to a new man, Gabriel Ortiz, the newly-hired chief of police in her hometown of San Celina.  We see the culture conflict between a California cowgirl and a Latino cop, and come to care about the secondary characters which people the novels.

“Mariner’s Compass” is the sixth book in the series, and happily Ms. Fowler just keeps the plots coming, the characters growing, and the homespun sayings rolling along!  There is no murder in this book, “just” a mystery, and I have to say it’s sort of refreshing.   I always wonder how these fictional towns can sustain murder after murder!  And Ms. Fowler must wonder that too, as she has changed locales for the various books, and in this book, abandons murder altogether.

Benni receives word that she is the sole beneficiary of Jacob Chandler’s estate.  Mr. Chandler has passed away quite suddenly, an apparent heart attack.  He has left everything he owns, all his assets to Benni.  There’s only one catch: she must spend two weeks in his house, alone, in order to inherit.  If she fails or refuses, everything goes to the federal government.  Now, we can’t have that!  Benni is game to try this, mostly because of one huge mystery.  She doesn’t know who on earth Jacob Chandler is (or was) or why he would leave all his worldly possessions to her, a total stranger.

Imagine Benni’s surprise, and unease, when she discovers that Jacob Chandler kept a scrapbook with information about Benni in it.  Her missing denim jacket is hanging in his closet.  Her favorite brand of imported German hot chocolate mix is in his kitchen cupboard.  And Chandler, whose hobby was wood carving, had carved a beautiful horse head, and named it after Benni’s first horse.  As if all this isn’t bad enough, Benni soon learns that Chandler has set up a sort of scavenger hunt for her to work on.  Can Benni track down enough clues to solve the mystery of Chandler’s identity and why he chose her to inherit his estate before the people in Chandler’s life who believe they should have inherited take matters into their own hands?

I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery.  Fowler left a few clues scattered in the story for a good detective to spot, and the ending was enough of a twist to be very satisfying.  I’m so glad she has continued on with Benni’s adventures.  I will definitely keep reading this series!

Fantasy Friday – Shady Lady

Friday, May 20th, 2011


Shady Lady by Ann Aguirre

Review by reacherfan1909

My Grade: B-  (3.8*)

Ann Aguirre hit it big with the Corrine Solomon series.  In this third outing, Corrine and her ward, Shannon are back at her second hand pawn shop in Mexico City.  But Corrine made a powerful enemy of Mexican drug lord Montoya and she’s still looking over her shoulder.  Good thing too.  A lovely set of silver salt and pepper shakers are left on her steps in a box.  Thinking them the last of some stock she acquired, she opens the box.  It’s Eros and Psyche.  Using her gift, which has become almost painfully strong, she reads the history of one of the set, even seeing the woman who will eventually buy it, but she hesitates over the other half and just can’t touch it.  When Kel Ferguson, the Hand of God arrives, she knows it can’t be good.  Big, bald, tattooed, he’s a guardian, a rather surly one, and is only there when she’s in serious trouble – the kind that can get her dead.  The salt and pepper are dangerous.

Corrine and Kel head to a local witch who tells them the salt and pepper are hexed, and a very powerful directed hex for Corrine.  She can show them who did it – a man working blood magic.  Then she sends them to a powerful witch to get the hex removed. On the way back to the shop and her upstairs apartment, a sniper shoots at them.  Montoya has found her and in nothing flat, she, Shannon and Kel are on the run along with Butch, the demon fighting chihuahua.

Things don’t go smoothly at Catemaco, but they do get the curse lifted, as well the personal bad luck hex Corrine wasn’t aware she was carrying – and we learn more about the formidable Kel.  Once again, Montoya’s men are ahead of them, already at their hotel.  Kel takes care of things and they rush to Laredo, Texas to get Shannon to a safe place before following their desperate plan – find Montoya’s arch rival, Esteban,

Finding Esteban is no problem, because after getting Shannon to safety, Kel and Corrine are kidnapped and separated.  She’s the ‘guest’ of Estaban.  He has a challenge for her, a test of her ability to think and of her ability to discern the past by reading objects.  Allowed to take one person, she and Kel are dropped in a jungle somewhere and left to unravel Esteban’s puzzle.  Along the way, Corrine becomes more and more attracted to Kel as he lets down his guard and reveals more of himself and how he became what he is.  In the process, he becomes one of the more interesting characters to emerge from the series.  With everything on the line, and a very short time to get things done, the pair manage to do more than work together.

The strength of this book is the characters, and that’s also the weakness.  Esteban is well done, Shannon adds to the story, but then disappears, and the story is mostly a two character drama.  The plotting and pacing are both very good, as is the writing quality itself, a big plus in the world of messy, unpolished work.  What I didn’t like is something that seems to be endemic lately – women with indecisive love lives.  Be it mystery, UF, paranormal, we have a large group of strong leading ladies who can’t seem to make up their minds about the men in their lives.  It’s a character trait I find especially annoying.  I blame Janet Evanovich.  The Ranger-Morelli whipsaw has been driving me nuts for years and many authors seem hell bent on incorporating this kind of ‘torn between two lovers’ nonsense in their series.  It’s gotten old, trite, and overused.  Give it a rest already!

Then, at the very end, here comes an old love back into her life.  Sigh!  I could have done without that too.

Is Shady Lady worth a read?  Absolutely, especially for Anne Aguirre fans.  It is interesting, well written and you don’t need to have read the previous books to follow the story, though it helps.


Author Interview with Kate Pearce

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Author Interview with Kate Pearce by Misty (millywv)


Misty:  What inspires you to write?

Kate: It’s a combination of things. I need to write to get all the stuff out of my head to make room for the new stuff and I have this strange desire to communicate with people. The communication thing is weird because in real life I’m actually very quiet.

Like a lot of authors I started to write because a) I thought I could do it better than some published authors and b) because I couldn’t find the type of books out there that I wanted to read, especially back in the day for erotic romance.

Misty:  In your writing, you have tackled historical romance, historical erotica, contemporary erotica, paranormal romance, and sci fi/futuristic. Which was your favorite time period and/or genre to write?

Kate: The historicals are still my favorite, because I’m an ex-Brit history major. I’m just happiest in that time period. I also love writing the really dark edgy sexy books. Writing American contemporary is the hardest thing I do because despite having lived in California for 13 years, its not natural for me. LOL. Writing paranormal and futuristic is also fun because you get the pleasure of making up the rules and creating the world.

Misty:  Do you do much research about time periods or themes before you start writing?

Kate: Yes, I do a lot of reading and googling. Sometimes I spend a whole day researching and end up writing 2 paragraphs about that particular thing that end up in the book. But as a history major I’m good at research and I love it!

I never think about the theme of the book. I usually only see it after I’ve written the first draft and then I sometimes go back and elaborate in the rewrite.

Misty:  Writing a book is a huge undertaking and must be a labor of love. Are you sad when you finish a book and say goodbye to the characters after spending so much time with them or are you just happy it is over so you can move on?

Kate: I’m lucky that I’ve been able to write a lot of series. For me that’s ideal because I get to visit with some of my older characters in the new books. For example, I’m currently writing book #7 in the ‘Simply’ series and it features the son of one of the earlier couples featured in book #.3 I’m also the sort of person who daydreams about my characters and imagines their lives after they leave my books. (writers are odd, you know.)

Misty: As a working mother and wife, do you ever find it difficult to balance family and work?

Kate: Absolutely. I have 4 kids between the ages of 22 and 9 who all have different needs. Sometimes I’ll spend a whole day just driving kids places and get very little writing done. It can get very frustrating, however my husband knows the signs and usually steps up and takes care of the kids when I’m on a really tight deadline.

Misty: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if so, how do you over come it?

Kate: Not really. 🙂 Sometimes I’ll realize I’ve written myself into a corner and I’ll just think the situation or scene through and usually my brain comes up with a solution. I do try and read widely though and do other creative things to refresh my imagination. I find that helps to prevent burnout.

Misty: I like to think that those who are gifted enough to be writers must truly love books. As one of the the gifted, what books have you loved reading?

Kate: I am a voracious reader and I have thousands of dearly loved books. I could go on all day about writers that I love and who have influenced me, but I’ll stick to a few: Rosemary Sutcliff, Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Dorothy Dunnett, Ian McEwan, Linda Howard, Emma Holly and Mary Balogh. Just wonderful inspiration.

Misty: What future projects do you have planned?

Well, I have a contemporary erotic romance called Raw Desire coming out with Kensington Aphrodisia at the end of August, and book #3 of my Tudor Vampire Chronicles, Mark of the Rose, comes out the first week of September. Next year in February 2012 will be Simply Carnal, book #7 of the House of Pleasure series.

Misty:  How long have you been a member and what is your favorite thing about PBS?

Kate: I’ve been a member for a couple of years. As I mentioned, I’m a voracious reader and it is a great way to get rid of books and get some of the older ones I’ve been after. I also like the discussion groups. Some of those ladies are FUN!

Misty:  Lastly, who is hotter, Gerard Butler or Colin Farrell?

Kate: I usually prefer Irishmen to Scots, but in this case, I’d go for Gerard, because he was so perfect as a Spartan. LOL



To find out more about Kate Pearce, you can go to her web-site: www.katepearce.com

Kate has generously offered to provide 2 books as prizes to members who comment on this interview.  2 winners will be chosen at random. Good Luck!

Simply Sexual


Kiss of the Rose

I’ll give away a copy of Simply Sexual and a copy of Kiss of the Rose because both of those are special and start the series. 🙂


Thank you Kate and Misty for a great interview!

Memories, Musings and Miscellany from our MoM’s

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Today our featured Member of the Month is Ani K. (goddessani). Ani was named our Member of the Month in April 2008.


I’ve been a member since 7.25.2005.

I first learnt about PBS over at Adwoff (the Nora Roberts messageboard). There were a few posts about it but I didn’t pay much attention. Then, someone I “knew” over there posted some more info about it. I clicked on the link and then PMd her to get some additional information. The truth is this place looked too good to be true. When she confirmed it was as simple as it says: post a book, mail a book, get a book, I had to join. Sadly, I don’t remember who it was that got me started anymore.

PBS is where my friends hang out! I’ve been a MOM and a Games Mod and I was a Tour Guide for awhile too. I’ve made many friends here that I am as close to as my real life friends. I pop on a few times a day, even from work if I’m not busy, to see what’s happening. I currently run the longest running, with only one host, game on the board in the Games Section: my monthly tea swap. So I check in there and any other games I’m in to see what’s happening.

I go into Club Members Thoughts to see what’s important to people. I don’t often comment but I usually read through it. I also check out Love & Romance and Random Acts of Kindness regularly.

I’ve read for as long as I can remember. I was 4 when my youngest brother was born. My grandmother brought me a copy of the Elves and the Shoemaker and read it to me while my mum was in hospital. A few weeks after the excitement of having a new baby in the house had worn off, I told my mum I would read to her. I picked up the book and started reading. She thought I had simply memorized what each page said but flipped to another page and I read it perfectly. I guess there was no stopping me after that!

The book that meant the most to me as a child was Charlotte’s Web. I was terrified of spiders and bugs and with two younger brothers, I was always coming across them! I remember I was about 7 or 8 and had a young reader’s copy of Charlotte’s Web. I was sitting outside in the afternoon sun reading it. I fell for Charlotte! I turned my head and there was a spider’s web. With the sun glinting off it, it seemed the most beautiful and wondrous thing I’d ever seen. After that I was never afraid of spiders again. Worms, however, are still another matter! LOL

As a teenager, the books The Diary of Anne Frank and Mrs Mike (Benedict & Nancy Freeman) were influential to me.

Books that have impacted me as an adult include My Name is Asher Lev (Chaim Potok), How the Irish Saved Civilization (Thomas Cahill), The Daughter of Time (Josephine Tey), Schindler’s List (Thomas Keneally), and The Snow Goose (Paul Gallico). Generally, I’m a huge romance reader but those are the books that impacted me the most.

I am currently reading Tales from Home (Shirley Ann Howard), Kitty Goes to War (Carrie Vaughn on CD) and Past Tense (Samantha Hunter on my Nook). I’m never reading just one at a time!

If you have any nominations for Member of the Month, submit them to us here.  Your nomination will not “expire”–anyone you nominate will have a chance at getting Member of the Month if enough nominations accumulate over time. Each month the person who has the most votes accumulated when the Newsletter goes to press gets to be Member of the Month and gets a newsletter mention and a nifty MoM icon to wear on profile and forum posts with pride.  So go for it! Tell us who’s helped you in the Forums, who’s been a great swapper, who in your opinion is a credit to PBS.  We are keeping a list of all the nominated members.  Who knows–one of them might be YOU!

Author Interview with Celeste Bradley & Susan Donovan

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Jerelyn’s (I-F-Letty) Interview with Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan


Jerelyn: I would like to thank and welcome Celeste Bradley who is the author of 15 historical romance novels and Susan Donovan who has 13 contemporary romance novels under her belt to the PBS blog.   This is a unique experience for me interviewing two authors.

They are co-authors of a new novel, A Courtesan’s Guide to Getting Your Man, which will be released May 24, 2011, by St Martin’s Press.

Hi PBS! We’re very happy to blog here!


Jerelyn: Will you tell us how you became writers?

Celeste: I became a writer by accident. I’ve always been creative and I worked as a professional artist for years before writing my first page, but I’d given up my studio to stay home with my darling babies–and I lost my tiny little mind with boredom. Love babies, don’t love Baby-Land! I read a wonderful romance and wondered if I could create something so rewarding. That book, FALLEN, sold within a year and was nominated for a Best First Book award by the Romance Writers of America. I suggest that everyone who loves words and stories give writing a try.

Susan: I majored in journalism in college and worked as a newspaper reporter for many years, but I’d always told myself I’d have my first novel written by the time I was forty. (Which, when you’re twenty-five, sounds like it will never actually happen to you.)  Anyway, one day I was thirty-nine and figured I better get to typing.  I am not a patient person – just ask anyone close to me – so I gave myself one year to get a publishing contract and an agent. Looking back, I suppose I was a bit hard on myself, but it worked. Within a year I’d written close to three novels and had an agent and a two-book contract with St. Martin’s Press. I’ve been writing ever since.


Jerelyn: How did this collaboration come about?

Celeste: Susan called me up with a great idea about two women in different times and how the lessons of the past can teach us to live in the present. We ruled out magic antique shoes and haunted houses and decided that what we needed was a diary, a shocking, secret expose of a life lived without boundaries and without fear.


Jerelyn: Would you tell us about A Courtesan’s Guide to Getting Your Man?

An uptight young museum curator, Piper Chase-Pierpont, uncovers the secret memoirs of a famous Boston abolitionist and discovers that this respectable local icon had a past that would set the historical record on fire! This diary offers an intimate entry into our courtesan, Ophelia Harrington’s soul and provides a way to tell the raw and scorching truth about an astonishing life. For our modern character, Piper, this truth causes a paradigm shift of tectonic proportions!


Jerelyn: You both write very strong but quirky characters that are in no way perfect. What draws you to write about such women?

Are there any other kind? All women are strong–we are wired to take on the world, not to mention feed it and diaper it as well! And I think everyone is quirky–some of us just do a better job of hiding it. We are inspired by ourselves, each other, our friends, our families and sometimes even our pets!


Jerelyn: Are you funny in real life? Does it just pop out in your writing?  I can’t imagine you sitting down to write and saying “funny time”

Celeste thinks Susan is flat-out hilarious. Susan thinks Celeste is funny in a sly way. We keep each other thoroughly entertained!


Jerelyn: I would like to ask you about some of my favorite characters.

Jerelyn: Susan, I must admit to you that I had never read your books, I am a history girl after all.  But I went out and bought a few my first one was Take a Chance on Me.  I read most of this out loud to my husband because he kept asking me what’s so funny.  I loved Hairy he has to be the most unique character I have come across for a very long time.  Where did Hairy come from?

Susan: Ah, my man Hairy. I loved that little Kotex-wearing dog. He was a particularly homely Chinese Crested with skin allergies and incontinence, and he witnessed a murder. I made him up, of course, but in order to get his personality right I spent a day at a Chinese Crested dog rescue in Maryland. Yes, they are the ugliest creatures God ever put on this earth, but by the end of the day, I actually started to think of them as cute. Hairy was crucial to the story in “Take a Chance on Me.” Despite his many outward flaws, he was sometimes downright Zen compared to the human characters in the book.


Jerelyn: Celeste, I loved Button from your Liar’s Club series, but Melody from your Runaway Bride’s series stolen my heart.  I read parts of this out to my husband for the same reasons I stated above.  Where did she come from?  BTW my favorite scene is when she comes out in her Pirate get up.  Oh and Gordy Ann hysterical!

Celeste: I love Button! I think he needs his own fan page.

Melody was inspired in part by my own beautiful daughters, who were the most angelic little nightmares you could imagine! Since they were in their teens, I brushed up on my toddler knowledge with the child of some friends. Little Frankie Jean IS Melody–incredibly smart and darling and destined to give her parents a heart attack!


Jerelyn: Do you have a favorite character?

Celeste: My favorite character will always be Izzy Temple, from my first novel Fallen. She was like a best friend!

Susan: Hairy, of course!


Jerelyn: Do you think sites like PaperBackSwap are helpful to authors?

Absolutely! We love it when people swap books! Being able to test-drive a new author through swapping or using the library might create a life-time reader for that author. The discussion forums are full of great information on old favorites and new releases. We have lost much work time to browsing PBS!


Jerelyn: How do you feel about the role of social media in the marketing of your work?  Is it helpful or just another distraction, from what you really want to be doing?

Celeste: Before I became used to Facebook, for instance, I thought it must be a terrible distraction and I couldn’t understand how people could spend so much time on it. Now, however, I can’t wait to visit with my FB pals! So, yes, it is a huge distraction, but I have never been in such close touch with my readers before.


Jerelyn: What do you read?  Do you have an auto-buy author?

Celeste: I read everything. I read biographies, romance, sci-fi, crime, a little horror, history . . . I could go on for hours. Auto-buy author: Kate Atkinson, a UK mystery author. Her characters are so rich and real.

Susan: I love Darynda Jones! I can’t wait for her next book!


Jerelyn: Thank you both very much!

You’re very welcome! If your visitors would like to test drive A Courtesan’s Guide to Getting Your Man, our publisher, St. Martin’s Press, has rereleased two of our novellas (Celeste Bradley’s “Wedding Knight” and Susan Donovan’s “Have Mercy”) in e-book form for $1.99 — and it includes a WHOPPING big excerpt of A Courtesan’s Guide to Getting Your Man!


If you would like to read more about Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan you can go to their web sites at http://www.celestebradley.com/ and http://www.susandonovan.com/.


Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan have generously offered a copy of their book, A Courtesan’s Guide to Getting Your Man to a member who comments on this interview. A winner will be chosen at random. Good Luck!

Mystery Monday – Child 44

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Child 44 by  Tom Rob Smith
Review by Cheryl R. (Spuddie

#1 Leo Demidov mystery set in 1950’s Russia. Leo is a State Security agent–one of those who arrests the people who are guilty of traitorous actions, who are to be “questioned” (read: tortured) and then either sent to the Gulags or executed. Of course not all these people are actually guilty–but Leo is so indoctrinated into the “party line” that he just doesn’t see it that way. If you are accused, then you MUST be guilty and deserve whatever you get.

Until a vicious, ambitious co-worker who has it in for him inserts Leo’s wife’s name into another prisoner’s confession and thus Leo is asked to investigate his own wife and then denounce her. He refuses, and he and Raisa are sent to do the lowest of lowly jobs in a remote manufacturing community. Shortly after their arrival, Leo finds the body of a child in the snow–stripped, its stomach cut out and soil stuffed in its mouth. Horrified, Leo realizes that this crime must have been committed by the same person who killed the son of another agent back in Moscow months earlier–a crime that he helped to cover up and officially called ‘an accident’ without ever actually seeing the body or crime scene.

Suddenly he is gripped by the need to solve this crime and to his dismay as he secretly begins an investigation, discovers dozens of other similar murders occurring in small towns along the railroad line, all having been covered up by the State and never formally acknowledged as murder. With the help of some others willing to risk their skins, Leo and Raisa gather information and knowing full well it means execution at the end of the line if they are caught, set out to stop the monster preying on Russia’s children.

What a wonderful book! Not the details of the story, mind you–those were nothing short of horrible. It seems very well-researched and also well-written; the author manages to make you somehow take Leo’s side even though at the beginning he is a high-ranking officer in a machine that systematically terrorized and destroyed the whole vastness of the Soviet Union.

I was able to figure out the plot twist well ahead of time with the carefully laid down clues the author left, but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story. Dark, graphically violent and deeply philosophical, this book won’t appeal to everyone, but I personally am very much looking forward to the next entry in the series.