Thursday, March 9, 2017

Lala Pettibone's Act Two by Heidi Mastrogiovanni Tour


Lala Pettibone, a forty-something widow whose outrageous antics befit women half her age, has been imagining her sexy boss, Gerard, is as smitten with her as she is with him.  Enter Gerard's fabulous girlfriend from Paris.

After spending the rest of the day drinking wine straight from the bottle, Lala attends the monthly meeting of her Greenwich Village co-op, where the residents are informed that a toxic wasteland has appeared in the building's basement and everyone needs to pony up forty grand by the end of the week.

Ever the one to make limoncello out of lemons, Lala reluctantly decides to sublet her apartment and visit her Auntie Geraldine in Los Angeles.  Good things come her way in sunny LA, including Dr. David, a handsome veterinarian, and inspiration to transform her previously rejected, uproarious, screenplay into a novel.

Lala Pettibone's Act Two is a wonderfully hilarious, second coming-of-age novel.  Bridget Jones has absolutely nothing on lala in the Late-Bloomer-With-Maybe-Lots-of-Potential Department.

An interview with Heidi Mastrogiovanni:

1.  What inspired you to create Lala Pettibone's Act Two?

I absolutely love to make people laugh.  And I love authors who make me laugh.  I'm proud and humbled that I share a birthday with P.G. Wodehouse, one of the funniest and most charming writers I have ever had the great pleasure of reading.  So a big part of wanting to write Lala's story was the desire to make people laugh.

And, having lived through great sorrow and having found new happiness (with the wonderful help of my incredible friends and family) after I was widowed at the age of 41, i wanted to write a story that might give people a sense that there is always hope for new beginnings.

The desire to have fun was also a big part of the inspiration to write Lala's story.  I find that, more and more, I treasure making decisions about my professional life that bring me the most joy and fun.  I have a good time writing about Lala.  It was that way from the beginning.  And I'm having such a great time writing the sequel to her story.

2.  There are a few nods to theatrical blocking directions in your book.  Do you have a background in theatre?  How did it help inspire you?

I do, indeed.  I majored in Theatre and German in college.  I caught the acting bug in second grade, when I played the dormouse in my elementary school's production of "Alice in Wonderland."

I moved to new York City after college to work in the theatre.  The only thing I didn't realize was that apparently you need to have actual acting talent in order to be an actor!

That sounds a little too precious and self-deprecating...

I was part of a wonderful sketch comedy group in New York for many years, and occasionally I was funny in some roles, but they had to be exactly the right roles for me.  I didn't have the ability to make every role I was given real, and that's my litmus test for the kind of acting I admire.  In "Manchester by the Sea,"  just as a recent example, the acting was so brilliant, I felt as though I was eavesdropping on real people's lives.

As an aside, I just have to add that there is film footage somewhere of a show the sketch comedy group did, and on it I answer a question before my partner in the scene finishes asking the question.  Trust me, it is not pretty.

But working on stage made me very aware of how dialogue sounds, and I think this is an absolutely essential skill for a writer.  Theatre and film and television are all a wonderful part of the storytelling world, and I am always inspired by beautifully written works in the performing arts.  I truly think that there is nothing more inspiring than seeing and reading stories about relationships and about change.

3.  What initially attracted Lala to Gerard?

At the time Lala first met Gerard and had an absolutely instant attraction to him, she managed to bury the fact that Gerard looks like her beloved late husband's twin very deep in her subconscious.  In fact, when her best friend points out the startling similarity to her, Lala thinks she's crazy...

Lala has excellent taste in men...Gerard is smart and funny and charming and he works in the world of words, Lala's favorite place to be...and of course there's also that fabulous French accent...

4.  What made you choose Los Angeles as Lala's destination of choice?

That journey mirrors my own.  I moved to Los Angeles after living in New York City for many wonderful years after college.  Going from east to west in our vast country seems to me to be a quintessential pioneer's journey, and Lala's Act Two involves setting out to discover a new feeling of home for Lala when her tentative feeling of rebirth after the death of her husband is shattered.  It was time for her to find a new beginning, and Southern California seemed to me to be the perfect place to turn her face back toward the sunshine.

It's also a way for Lala to come back to her roots, however reluctantly she does that.  She grew up in Santa Monica and went to college on the east coast.  She swore she would never go back west...and I enjoyed putting her in a position where she had to make going back 'home' work for her.

5.  Do you see yourself in Lala or would you say you're both complete opposites?

I very much see myself in Lala.  We're alike in so many ways, both in terms of certain major aspects of our history and in terms of our values and idiosyncrasies.  I was also widowed at an early age, and I also found love again, as Lala does.  And I love to eat and savor wine and talk a bit too much, just like Lala does!  We share a vast love of language and of senior dogs.  We both love to take long walks and we love to exercise.

We're both only children, and we both never wanted to have kids of our own...We both always wanted to be the kind of crazy, fabulous aunt that nieces and nephews treasure.  The list goes on...

Oh, and Lala and I both overuse ellipses in our writing.

Really, she's a younger version of me...with a fabulous apartment in New York, which I don't currently have, but I'm thinking about shopping for one...

6.  You have a background in screenwriting.  How does writing a novel differ from writing a screenplay?  Do you have a preference?

There are many similarities and many differences.  I love writing screenplays because I love writing dialogue.  In the case of both forms of storytelling, I always want the journey to be about relationships and about change.  And, for me, a story that I want to read or see has to have a hopeful ending, so I always try to put that in my screenplays and novels.

Both novels and screenplays are at their best, I think, when they convey a story that is rich and layered without being convoluted.  I think it's essential to write in a lean style that is still full of nuance.  I think anything that is over-written is hard to get through as a reader.

My current preference is novels, because I love what I feel is the freedom in the novel form to convey inner thoughts.  Screenplays require a very visual approach and they, to a great extent, rely on what is happening in the moment to convey the story.  But I truly do love writing both.  I love spending time with words.  I'm a voracious reader of novels and of screenplays, and I think any writer has to constantly be absorbing examples of their medium.

Screenplays generally have a three-act structure (though goodness knows there are a lot of screenplays that don't), and novels don't require that.  But I actually really like the three-act structure as an audience member, so I tend to write prose with that structure in mind.  I do think novel writing gives the writer more freedom to experiment because novels can be almost anything, whereas screenplays really do have to follow some kind of classic screenplay format.  But I really do love them both!

7.  Favorite book-to-screen movie adaptation?

It has to be "To Kill A Mockingbird."  The actors are brilliant, and they created those unforgettable characters in a way that I can only think of as being like magic.  Gregory Peck was incredible as Atticus Finch, and he earned a well-deserved Oscar for that performance.  And the young actors who play the kids?  Absolutely amazing.

8.  How do you think Lala would do on the big screen?

I have to confess that I wrote it with a movie adaptation in mind.  So I think and hope that it would do well on the big screen.  I think of Lala as a slightly older, American version of Bridget Jones, and I have to say that I really enjoy watching and re-watching all the Bridget Jones movies.

I love romantic comedies that star smart, strong, vulnerable women who take a journey of change and growth.  I'd love to think that the role of Lala would be one that brilliant comedic actors like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kristen Wiig, Amy Schumer (and how great is it that we have a growing list of wonderful women starring in films!) would have fun with.  Of course, if the always-fabulous Kate Winslet played Lala, it might be a form of revenge for an American actor playing Bridget Jones!

9.  The novel has much humor and wit.  How big of a role does comedy play in your daily life?

I'm going to be melodramatic and say that comedy is my life.  Comedy and kindness...and alliteration...

The classic film "Sullivan's Travels" really encapsulates my idea of why comedy is so important.  Joel McCrea's character is a successful producer who is mistakenly jailed.  While he's in prison, he sees how much comfort funny movies bring to the prisoners.  I think comedy brings solace, and I think it helps carry us through the challenging times.

I love words, and I love when words are put together in a smart and inventive way to make people smile.  A great example for me is the Caption Contest in The New Yorker.  The magazine prints a cartoon, and people send in caption ideas.  I swear, I look at those cartoons, and I got nothing.  I mean, no ideas for a funny caption.  And then I read the three captions the magazine chooses for us to vote on, and they are brilliant and hilarious.  It's both inspiring and humbling.  And it's comedy.  Seeing those captions always makes me smile.  Smiling is a wonderful thing to do.  Every day.  As often as possible.

10.  What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

That it's never too late to begin again.  That there is nothing more important than kindness (especially to those who are most vulnerable, such as children and animals) and generosity.  That it's possible to find new happiness after great sorrow.

That a short-waisted woman can find cute outfits to wear if she goes shopping with the right friends who will tell her the truth about which clothes don't work on her...

That too much champagne is never enough...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Newsletter Writing: Being Gender Specific

I read a lot of newsletters.  It's the quickest way for authors, publishers, agents, marketers, and bloggers to keep me up to date on what's happening.  I spend hours a day reading them.  Hours.  Thousands every day.  I love it!

We've had several discussions lately about how to 'up your game' on your newsletter.  You want something that is going to keep your audience coming back.  Let's face it, the average household doesn't spend a lot of money on books.  Considering giveaways, contests, and reader copies, the average reader doesn't need to ever buy a book.  How do you get them to buy your book?  They have to know who you are.  They have to like you.  If they feel a connection with you, they will buy your book.  Your newsletter is your chance to establish that connection with them, as well as keep it going.

As a newsletter writer, you HAVE to stop being so gender specific!  This isn't political!  I know what's going on in the world today and I'm sure some of you jumped to that conclusion.  This has nothing to do with gender issues at all.  It's a simple fact that you are costing yourself money.

Horror authors:  There are women out there like me that eat it up!  I will gladly spend money to buy a book that I know is going to be full of violence and gory good fun!

Romance authors:  There are men out there who love romance and erotica!

By making your newsletter gender specific, you're alienating an entire fan base.  Do NOT open your newsletter with 'Hey gals!'  or 'Hey ladies!'  or 'Yo bro!'  Simply don't do it.  If you're sending your letter out to males or females, you're missing the other half.  No matter how famous you are or how much money you make from writing, every sale counts.  Stop costing yourself sales!

As a consumer, it comes across quite clear to me. When you're gender specific, you're actively going out of your way to not build that author/reader connection.  If you start off with 'Yo bro!', I know you're not talking to me.  You're actively asking me to not take part in your writing world.  You're telling me NOT to spend any of my money and buy your book.  Why would you do that to yourself?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Our new logo!!

I am so excited!  I know a few of you have already noticed it!  Our new logo is finished!  I've been planning to have one made for years.  As with most things, unless I have a sticky note right in front of my face, it isn't happening.  But it's finished!

A huge, huge thank you to Simon Critchell for this!  I didn't know it when we began discussing it, but this is exactly what I wanted!

What does this mean?  It means I'll finally be putting together business cards!  I'll finally be printing up tote bags and t-shirts!

If you haven't seen it, here it is one more time (because it makes me smile and fills me with joy!):

Gather Her Round release day!

Try it before you buy it!  Go here and read an excerpt!


In critically-acclaimed Alex Bledsoe's Tufa novel, Gather Her Round, a monster roams the woods of Cloud County, while another kind of evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Love and tragedy are not strange bedfellows among the Tufa.  Young Kera Rogers disappears while hiking in the woods by Needsville.  When her half-eaten remains are discovered, the blame falls upon a herd of wild hogs, a serious threat in this rural community.  In response, the county's best trackers, including game warden Jack Cates and ex-military Tufa Bronwyn Chess are assembled to hunt them down.

Kara's boyfriend Duncan Gowen mourns her death, until he finds evidence she cheated on him with his best friend, Adam Procure.  Seeking revenge, Duncan entices Adam to participate in their own boar hunt.  Later, Bronwyn and Jack stumble across a devastated  Duncan, who claims a giant boar impaled Adam and dragged him off.  As this second death rocks the town, people begin to wonder who is really responsible.

Determined hunters pursue the ravenous horde through the Appalachians as other Tufa seek their own answers.  Between literal beasts in the woods and figurative wolves in sheep's clothing, what truths will arise come spring?

What reviewers are saying:

"The latest this marvelous series combines human drama with just a touch of otherworldlly m agic.  The split nature of the Tufa community is further explored, but Bledsoe never reduces the two sides to basic good vs. evil, as he allows his characters to make their own choices." --Library Journal

"Readers need not have read the previous Tufa books; this title works well as a stand-alone and a spectacular addition to the series.  A must-read for fantasy or literary-fiction fans and also a perfect fit for a mystery lover seeking something a little different." --Booklist

"Bledsoe comfortably inhabits the space where rural fantasy and magic realism overlap and makes it his own." --Publishers Weekly

Want more information?  Take a look at the music behind the book on Alex's author page!

Sins of Empire release day!

Sins of Empire is the first book in a new series set in the Powder Mage Universe.  Take a look at it below.  Then, I hate to say this, but skip Amazon.  Instead, go here and buy an authographed copy!  Of course, if you're not an autographed copy junkie like I am, the book should be available at all of your normal book purchasing places (including Amazon!).


A world on the cusp of a new age...
The young nation of Fatrasta is a turbulent place -- a frontier destination for criminals, fortune-hunters, brave settlers, and sorcerers seeking relics of the past.  Only the iron will of the lady chancellor and her secret police holds the capital city of Landfall together against the unrest of an oppressed population and the machinations of powerful empires.

Sedition is a dangerous word...
The insurrection that threatens Landfall must be purged with guile and force, a task which falls on the shoulders of a spy named Michel Bravis, convicted war hero Mad Ben Styke, and Lady Vlora Flint, a mercenary general with a past as turbulent as Landfall's present.

The past haunts us all...
As loyalties are tested, revealed, and destroyed, a grim specter as old as time has been unearthed in the wild land, and the people of Landfall will soon discover that rebellion is the least of their worries.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Skulls by Tim Marquitz review

Cover Art:  Jessica Lucero

Life held little interest for Jacob...until he found death.

Abused and neglected, Jacob's only solace comes when he is alone in the woods or in the arms of his new girlfriend.  But when he stumbles across a hidden bunker filled with human skulls, he finds there is more than just empty blackness behind their lifeless stares.  Through their eyes he watches them die.

With every glance, he witnesses another murder, the memories of the dead playing out inside his mind until reality becomes a blur.  A primal cruelty awakening, Jacob returns to the morbid comfort of the skulls, over and over again.  But when he happens upon a fresh skull, a victim tortured and slain for his amusement alone, he knows his time has come.  Face to face with death, Jacob must choose whether to resist the darkness that dwells inside or condemn himself forever, murdering his innocence on the edge of an axe.

I've read a few of Tim's books, but this one really took me by surprise.  I'll admit, I bought it simply because it was out of print and I knew I'd want it for his shelf in my library.  I planned to read it eventually.  Over the weekend, I felt it calling to me and I quickly became lost in it.

The description in this book is astounding.  Tim uses minimal words and crafts them to create an experience.  You don't even have to close your eyes to be 'there' in the story.  I could actually taste the nasty, microwaved steak in my mouth.  I'm seriously blown away.  I don't remember the last time I read such vividness.

I've come to know Tim as a gore master.  In this book, there's some of it, but it's not as rampant in some of his other works.  I feel like he kept it on a leash in order to add more terror than blood.  He completely succeeds.  This is a terrifying story.

We're faced with a bit of a mystery.  We know there's a serial killer and that the skulls belong to him/her.  We don't know who the serial killer is.  Now, I was able to figure it out pretty quickly.  Thankfully, there was enough misdirection that most of the book was spent questioning myself.  I thought I knew who it was, but it was just a hunch.  I could easily have been wrong.  Normally, when I can figure out the mystery, it's a rough point with me.  In this case, I'm not even mad.  I had so much fun waiting to find out that I was right!

I only have one minor complaint.  I despised the addition of the last chapter.  Now, I realize that not everyone reads like I do.  People have different tastes and require different endings.  I do see the necessity for it.  I just hated it.  So, consider yourself warned.  If you get to the end of chapter twenty-five and you feel sated, stop.  Don't read the last chapter.  If, however, you need things wrapped in a neat little bow, continue reading.

Friday, March 3, 2017

A Debt of Survival by L.F. Falconer

I don't normally push books on you.  I tell you they're available and usually whatever information I have about them.  You can make your own decisions.  This time, however, it's a bit different.

If you like psychological thrillers, you NEED to go buy this book!  NOW!  Why?

Falconer's thrillers are breathtaking.  They're beautifully written and will mess with your head.  She has a penchant for the horrific.  Instead of pulling out all of the gore and messiness, she goes straight for that part of your brain that knows when something isn't right.  Then she worms her way in and begins to dissemble everything you know to be true.

Having devoured everything she's written, I've been waiting months for this one.  I'm actually upset that I somehow slept through the release date.  Otherwise this would already be in my hands and everything in reality would stop until I was finished reading.

The dead don't always sleep.  After doing his stint in the army, Don lattimore buried his battlefield demons deep inside and settled comfortably into Diablo Springs.  Serving as county sheriff, for nearly two decades he's enjoyed the tranquility of the Nevada desert until the day he discovers evidence of satanic activity inside an abandoned house.  Now he's trapped in a showdown with his own nightmares.  Threatening to fulfill a chilling prophesy, something inside him has clawed itself free.  The good people of Diablo Springs begin to die and the only way Lattimore can put a stop to it comes with a steep price--a price he's unwilling to pay.  But to save his community and family, he must.  And time is running out.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Bluff by Julie Dill

Cover Design:  Ashley Ruggirello

Description:  Seventeen-year-old Chelsea Knowles is your average teenager.  But she's harboring a secret that very few people know:  she and her dad can't pay the bills.  Broken by his wife leaving, Chelsea's father ignores his parenting responsibilities.  Between cheer costs, grocery bills, electricity, and other financial burdens, Chelsea knows it'll be up to her to keep the lights on.  She manages to sneak into a casino, and her first big poker win sparks the beginning of a downward spiral.  Money stops being a problem, but a complicated web of lies begins to spin out of control, threatening to reveal her bluff.

An interview with author Julie Dill:

1.  As a professor, do your students ever influence your characters or writing?

Yes, I would say my students have always influenced my writing in some way.  Also, I taught in public schools at the elementary level, and definitely some of the characters/settings (or even life situations)  have influenced the way I write.

2.  During your writing process- do you brainstorm with your students, colleagues, or family?  Or, do you prefer writing alone?

I read some early drafts of scenes of Bluff to friends and family and got feedback, and I guess it was positive enough to keep moving forward with the project.  Also, I have a critique group, and we're always bouncing ideas off of each other.  I've been with the same 3 ladies for several years, and I really value their opinions and input.

3.  Do your students read your writing?  What are their thoughts?

My students have not read any of my creative work.  I teach English composition, and that's a whole different ballgame.  However, my students have expressed interest in Bluff and are eager to check it out.

4.  What influenced Chelsea's character development?

It's weird how a character evolves.  I really tried to create a unique character - a high school girl who wasn't the norm.  My personal life, as a teenager, could not have been more opposite than Chelsea's so I really had to get outside of what I knew and what I was comfortable with to get in Chelsea's head.

5.  You yourself are a poker player.  How does poker serve as an underlying metaphor in the novel?

I'm a recreational player, and I only play a couple of times a year.  I think that the game of poker represents challenges - trying to get ahead and outsmart your competition.

6.  Many adolescents have to take on a the role as parent in their households.  What role did you play in your household growing up?

I came from a home that Chelsea would envy.  My household was nothing at all like hers.  I had a hapyp childhood, and unlike Chelsea's dad, my dad worked very hard to provide for us.  My mom was a stay-at-home mom, and we had stability.

7.  What inspired you to write Bluff?

I was reflecting on my first visit into a poker room, and in the early nineties there were hardly any women at all.  Even today, you can still walk by a poker room and notice that the majority of the players are men.  I think when you're developing a character it's important to raise the stakes as much as possible (pun intended.)  With Bluff, I really wanted something different and that wasn't already "out there."

8.  Chelsea's father doesn't fulfill his role as a parent after her mother leaves him and leaves Chelsea to become a provider.  How does Chelsea cope with both parents' absence?

She manages.  She doesn't have a choice.  I think down deep Chelsea is longing for some maternal guidance, and that's why I wanted her to have Ms. Stella.

9.  What attracted Chelsea to gambling and casinos?

Initially, it was her attempt to try to get some quick cash.  But long term, it became escapism.  She could enter this world where she didn't have to think about all of her responsibilities and just escape.

10.  Where did you write the majority of Bluff?

It's extremely difficult for me to write at home.  I get too distracted with things like laundry, my dog, Ellen, and naps.  The majority of Bluff was written in coffee shops or the Panera Bread near my house.

11.  What made you choose Bluff as the title?

I love one-word titles, especially in YA.  Since Chelsea's life is basically one big bluff - lies to her dad,  her friends, Nate and others- I thought it was fitting.

12.  Who was your favorite author growing up?  Has it changed?

I have many.  Alice Walker and Bille Letts are up there.  I once attended one of Bille Letts' book signings, and I remember standing in line staring at her thinking how does that woman come up with these characters?  her characterization is phenomenal.  And who doesn't love Alice Walker?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Undead Cheesehead by Scott Burtness Release

It's finally here!  If you haven't been following Scott's Monsters of the Midwest series, you probably know him anyway from his fabulous charity work with Vampire Books for Blood.  Personally, I'm a fan of his writing as well as his generous and witty personality.

Stanley's lonely.

Before the strange events of the past few months, the self-proclaimed alien abductee and T.V. crime drama aficionado would drink and bowl with his friends, Herb and Dallas.  But no one's seen hide nor hair of Dallas in the longest, and Herb's been spending all of his time with his girlfriend, Lois.

That just leaves Stanley, and Stanley's lonely.

Everything changes when Stanley becomes a zombie.  With each bite, he gains a new friend.  Soon, he has more friends than he would've ever thought possible.  If he could just sink his teeth into Herb, Lois, and Dallas, they'd all be together again, and everything would be perfect.

This is book three in the series.  Let me show you a glimpse at the first two.

In Wisconsin Vamp, we get to meet Herb.

In Northwoods Wolfman, we get to read Dallas' story.

If you're into nerds, dorks, monsters, and a rollicking good time, go give this series a shot!  I have hard copies of the first two on my shelf and as soon as Undead Cheesehead is available in hard copy, it will be joining them.  Keepers!

Giveaway Notice

All winners of giveaways will be notified as soon as their name has been drawn. Each winner will have two weeks to respond in order to receive their prize. Prizes cannot be delivered without an email/physical address. Any prizes that are not claimed within a two week period will be forfeited.


All books (unless otherwise specified) belong to me already, have been borrowed, or are sent to me by the author, publisher or review company for review. I do not receive any monetary rewards for reviewing books. The opinions expressed in my reviews belong solely to me.