Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Interview with debut YA novelist Chelsea Vanderbeek

My special guest today is author Chelsea Vanderbeek and we’re chatting about her new YA novel, Forget Me.

Chelsea Vanderbeek started writing her first story in 2009, and even though that one was a complete dud she kept trying anyway. She had her debut, Forget Me, published in May of 2017. Though her work primarily stays in the YA Fiction category, she likes to experiment. She likes to try new things, too.

Welcome, Chelsea. Please tell us about your current release.
I had Forget Me published earlier this year. It’s about Sabine, a troubled teen who feels like life and God and all that mumbo-jumbo don’t really have much to offer her. She finally gets so fed up with it all that she ends up killing herself, but she doesn’t find the peace she thought she would.

What inspired you to write this book? Let’s put it like this: growing up shy, you come out with some stories. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the elements of Forget Me are fictitious, but my heart’s in there too. And the story was meant to be a realistic depiction and something I hope will resonate with my readers that are going through similar situations.

What exciting story are you working on next? I’m actually working on a book for writers about developing characters. It’s supposed to be a sort of quiz/interview/game book that really helps you get to know your characters (and even, you might say, spend some quality time). Developing characters is one of my favorite parts of writing (and I’ve been told my character writing is very deep and realistic), so I thought I could share some tips.

I’m also writing another fiction piece. It would fall under the LGBT category. Less of a “coming out” story and more of a “self-discovery” story. My main character Emily is of the “difficult” breed. Seriously. Sometimes when I’m working on this story, I feel like a parent dealing with their teenage daughter. We’ll see if I can manage to get her to cooperate with me.

When did you first consider yourself a writer? That would have to be the first time I ever finished a first draft of a story. See, in my early writing days I had a habit of starting stories, getting about halfway through them, and then tossing them to the side when my excitement waned. The first time I saw a first draft start to finish (which, incidentally, was the first draft of Forget Me) really sealed it for me. It was like “yeah, man. I can actually do this stuff.” Not to say that first drafts are the hardest part. Editing’s a whole other ball game.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write? Boy, wouldn’t that be a dream come true! Unfortunately, I’m not a full-time writer. I make other people’s coffee for a living. Writing happens whenever it can, like evenings and weekends. I’ll write in the car if I’m not driving. I’ve been known to write on my breaks at work. It’s really just whenever I can.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? Let’s see, I’ll let you in on one of my “quirkiest” writing quirks: I have a thing I do when I’m typing sometimes. I usually do it when I have writer’s block or I’m trying to think of what to type next. Like, I’ll backspace the last letter of the last word I typed, retype it, backspace it and type it again. I do it quickly and repetitively. Sometimes, I’ll even do the whole word. “Word,” backspace. “Word,” backspace. I have no idea why I do it, honestly.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Y’know, I really can’t remember wanting to be anything but a writer. I always loved reading, always liked English in school. Well… okay. I might’ve had that fleeting stage of wanting to be a singer or a veterinarian, but… for the most part, it was a writer. I was always a writer at heart I think; I remember narrating stories in my head when I was pretty young.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers? I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to read this interview, and also if you’ve decided to take the plunge and read my book! You can stop by my blog anytime if you wanna chat me up or get updates about what I’m working on ( I also want to thank Lisa for having me on her blog! *virtual high fives for all*


Happy to have you visit today, Chelsea.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Interview with suspense author Michele I. Khoury

Author Michele I. Khoury joins me today for a conversation about her new suspense novel, Busted.

Michele I. Khoury, an award-winning entrepreneur in the technology industry, lives in Orange County, California with her husband and two dogs, Bubbles and Thriller. While attending the University of California Irvine's Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Novel Writing program, she created Busted

Welcome, Michele. Please tell us about your current release.
Busted is about three people who collide over cocaine.

Impacted by the recession, twenty-four-year-old artist Gina McKenna is down to her last few dollars and days away from living in her car when a successful businessman buys a painting and commissions another. As their relationship evolves, she’s seduced by his charm and mesmerized by his luxurious lifestyle until she discovers he’s a drug kingpin. Her world turns upside down, and she struggles to survive vicious brutality.

Miguel Lopez is a cocaine supplier with a weightlifter’s physique and “the rules do not apply to me” attitude. Maniacal and ruthless, he has no qualms about killing anyone who interferes with his distribution network, including Gina.

Dedicated to eradicating illegal drugs, DEA Special Agent Bobby Garcia spent months and hundreds of thousands of dollars working undercover to buy his way up the dealer chain to identify the moneyman. When his fourteen-year-old daughter overdoses on cocaine, he traces the blow to Lopez. As Bobby's mission becomes personal, he makes emotional decisions, which negatively impact civilians and his job. Unable to let go, he risks his career to orchestrate the biggest drug sting in Southern California. What happens isn’t what he expected.

When a deputy district attorney meets Gina at a party, he is smitten. As his attraction grows, so does Gina’s involvement with the DEA’s case, of which he is the designated prosecutor. Mindful of his professional ethics, he tries to stifle his feelings.

Sex and violence permeate the twists and turns of this cautionary tale about choosing one’s friends well.

What inspired you to write this book?
Ten years ago, I took a Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Writing Course from the University of California at Irvine’s Extension Program. One of the first assignments was to plot a novel. While driving home from class, the idea came to me. The following week I presented my outline, and my professor said, “This is fascinating. You have to write this book.”

Excerpt from Busted:
Chapter 1
Movie-Star Smile

The Laguna Beach Soup Kitchen leased a renovated warehouse where twenty-four-year-old Gina McKenna served dinner. She volunteered two nights a week along with a dozen others, and as she watched the bedraggled men, women, and children file through the food line in the onion-and-Lysol-smelling room, a walnut-sized lump formed in her throat.
The kids, displaying dirt-smudged skin and clothes, yanked Gina’s heartstrings the most. Every few months, she collected her stepbrothers’ and stepsister’s old garments and toys and offered them to the homeless children. Their reactions ranged from wariness to cautious acceptance to joyful appreciation.
Timmy, a skinny twelve-year-old boy, approached and bounced up and down as if he were on a trampoline.
High on cocaine. Having witnessed such manic behavior many times, she glanced at his parents, whose expressions reflected resignation. She didn’t know if they’d surrendered to their son’s drug usage, their circumstances, their fate, or all three. As she scooped mashed potatoes onto their plates, she felt powerless to help. Sorrow filled her.
Five years ago, when she began helping at the soup kitchen, she discovered the homeless were starved for more than food: they craved contact and connection. Often she was the first person who’d acknowledged them all day. If she had a little extra cash, she’d slip someone ten or twenty bucks. The money wasn’t much, but their gratitude was hugely rewarding.
A stoop-shouldered man shuffled over. He was in his midforties and wore multiple layers of grimy clothing.
“Hi, Sam,” Gina said, giving him a warm smile. The broken and enlarged blood vessels covering his cheeks and nose from alcohol abuse made him look seventy. Knowing he liked mashed potatoes, she added an extra spoonful. “Here you go.”
“Thanks,” he muttered and ambled along.
The empathetic soup kitchen director, conducting a fund-raising tour, escorted a gray-haired woman dressed in a chic black pantsuit and carrying a Louis Vuitton purse.
“Sixty percent of the homeless in Orange County are children,” he said.
The woman held her hand over her mouth, and her large diamond ring sparkled. “I had no idea.”
He nodded. “The OC is one of the wealthiest counties in the country, which makes real estate extremely expensive. The lack of affordable housing is a major problem.”
Gina glanced around the cavernous area, observing people standing on the perimeter holding their trays and waiting for a seat at one of the long tables. She hoped the wealthy woman became a patron, because more families kept showing up. For many, this meal was their only food of the day, and the sound of silverware scraping plates dominated the room.
The director pointed to the line. “Most people lived paycheck to paycheck, and when the recession claimed their jobs, they couldn’t pay their mortgage or rent. Eviction followed. People come here feeling ashamed, humbled, and hungry.”
Even though Gina had heard the spiel numerous times, she cringed. The director could be talking about her. She hadn’t sold a painting in the last two months; she'd depleted her savings; her six-hundred-dollar rent was due in ten days; and she had hardly any money left. The crushing anxiety over her looming homelessness haunted her. Needing to devote all her time and energy to her art, she’d decided tonight was her last time serving. As she secretly said good-bye and wished each person well, her heart was breaking.
The last in line was a forlorn ten-year-old girl, who waited patiently. Gina ladled the potatoes onto her plate, and when the child moved on, Gina couldn’t contain her tears any longer.
She’d helped feed the less fortunate, but they’d nourished her soul.

What exciting story are you working on next?
My next book, The Sheriff’s Wife, is about domestic violence and abuse and is loosely based on ex-Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca. The book is fiction.

Sheila McKay is married to the Los Angeles County Sheriff, who blames the stress and pressures on his job for his abusive behavior. After one particularly brutal experience, she wondered who she could call for help? Known throughout the law enforcement community, her husband is one of the most powerful and popular cops in California. No one will believe her.

Where can she go? If she escapes to a friend’s or a family member’s home, he knows where they live, and that places everyone—including the children—in danger. If she seeks refuge in a shelter, chances are he’s been there, and if he hasn’t, he has easy access to addresses.

Should she have him arrested? Most police—out of fear of losing their job or retaliation—will invoke the code of silence and not charge a fellow officer. (This is what happened to Sheriff Baca’s wife.)

If Sheila was successful in filing charges then dropped them, she’d lose future credibility and protection.

Will she take him to court? As an expert witness, he’s testified many times and knows the system. It would be her word against his. Should she seek a conviction? If she won, he’d lose his job and would retaliate against her.

How she manages to escape, survive, and protect her three children is her story.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
This is an interesting question. I didn’t consider myself a writer until I received positive professional reviews on Busted, and the book was published. I equated “writer” with “author.” The writing class I attended consisted of many talented writers, and I remember being in awe and intimidated by their skills. Then, I stopped comparing myself and started observing their styles and studied what made their work effective.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I wish I could focus on writing my novel full-time. Every morning I walk our dogs for 1.2 miles, and workout three days a week. On Mondays and Fridays, my husband and I baby-sit our grandchildren. One day each week is dedicated to researching, writing, editing, and publishing my blog to promote Busted. (I’m amazed at how much time this requires.) I’m also an active board member of Human Options, a non-profit dedicated to ending domestic violence and abuse, which entails meetings twice a month. In addition, my husband and I are designing and building a new home. We’ve just completed the design stage, and the building stage will take another year and a half, requiring weekly visits to the job site. Every Wednesday, I attend my writing professor’s mentoring group along with six other authors from 6 to 9 p.m. So, to answer your question, sometime during the week I squeeze in six to eight hours to compose the next seven pages of my novel.

Just for fun:
I play cribbage on Thursday afternoons from 3 to 4:30, have lunch once a week with one of my friends, and in the evenings, I love to read. Also, on the weekends, we have dinner with friends, family, or see a movie.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m a perfectionist. Which is not the most efficient way to write. I’ve learned how to edit, and now when I’m creating, I’m simultaneously editing.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t have any lofty goals or aspirations as a child. However, during my first and second careers in the technology industry (one in the corporate world and one with my own business as an entrepreneur), I always wanted to write fiction. I’d write short stories and share them with my friends and co-workers. Their positive feedback encouraged me.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
If you’re interested in writing, I recommend taking a class from a qualified instructor. Be wary of “Writing Groups”; if they are not led or managed professionally, the negative critiques can be devastating and de-motivating. Also, do your research. I’ve seen many talented writers who are too lazy to dig into the details that make a story authentic. Lastly, writing is like a marathon, and with any endeavor, passion helps, but commitment is critical. I wish you the best!

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Thank you for joining me today!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Interview with romance author V.C. Buckley

Romance author V.C. Buckley joins me today to chat about her new ‘new adult’ contemporary, Hanami.

During her virtual book tour, V.C. will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

V.C. Buckley was born in an isolated government facility and shipped off to an Island in Southeast Asia where she grew up braving tropical thunderstorms and warding off evil villains. At sixteen she was discovered by an agent and jetted off all over the world. Her stories come from gritty moments of her childhood to the glitz of her travels. She now lives in Manila with her husband, two kids and an herb garden that has hijacked her balcony.

Welcome, V.C. Please share a little bit about your current release.
Hanami is the love story between SAKURA SHINTANI, an heir to Japan’s most notorious crime family, and KENJIN KIYOHARA, the son of Asia’s most influential tycoon. Their two worlds collide when Sakura is forced to attend an Heirs program in an exclusive institution for the world’s richest. There, she tries to get by under the radar, but fate had other plans as she is thrust into a world where she will have to look inside herself and pull the strength she needs to keep from seriously harming anyone.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired by the idea of strong women living in a world of fools. The truth is, women aren’t weak. They can take care of themselves, and I wanted that embodied in a young person such as Sakura, a person who has no fear… even from death.

Excerpt from Hanami:
He snatched her backpack and swung it around his shoulder.

“Hey!” she protested, lunging for it.

Jin stepped aside, evading her grasp. He smiled to himself, taking long strides toward his car. He could hear her feet going after him.

Mr. Fujimaru was already by the car, holding the door open. His guards stood waiting like goons by the sidewalk.

“Look,” she said, grabbing his elbow before he could duck into his car, “I don’t care if you rescued me. I am not going with you! I don’t even know you!”

Her words cut right through him.

She lunged for her bag again, but Jin threw it into the farthest corner of the back seat.

He looked at her tilting his head down, their height difference apparent. He thought about what she said.

She doesn’t know me? His forehead creased. Was he really that invisible to her? He felt like someone had just slapped him across the face. He took one long look at her before ducking into his car.

He was confused. Any girl would jump at the chance to be with him—she should have been honored and groveling at his feet for rescuing her! What was wrong with her?

He felt her slide into the seat next to him, her knees slightly touching the side of his thigh. But before he could think, she reached across him, leaning her upper body against his lap to grab her bag. Jin froze.

She straightened back up, clutching her bag to her chest. Her eyes met his with a piercing glare, and a wave of heat suddenly swept over him.

Jin looked away, landing his gaze on her reflection on the car door window. Even with an angry face, she still looked so beautiful.

Jin smiled, tilting his head to the side to get a better look. I should stop this, he told himself, but it was too late. She was too interesting to be left alone.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am rounding out the third and final sequel to Hanami. Fans of Sakura and Jin have been asking me for the release date, but all I can tell you is that book two will be released next year (2018). I am very excited because so much has happened since the first book, and the fans of this story will be treated to more exciting moments between the two, along with a few surprises.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The moment I completed my very first book, I considered myself a writer. I was probably around seven years old. I used to write fairy tales and made small illustrations along with them. As I got older, I found interest in writing clean romance with strong heroines and daring heroes. I dabbled a bit in all genres, including Young adult, paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi and historical, but one theme remained throughout and that was the romance between strong women and the men that deserved them. Hanami is my debut novel though, and it’s a contemporary new adult romance.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Aside from being a wife and mother of two, I write full time. It has become my passion and I am excited to see how many books I can show to the world. When I’m not writing, I practice different disciplines of Martial Arts, specifically with a focus on weapons. I am currently engrossed with Kendo, the ancient art of Japanese sword fighting, and I am also in training for an international competition in China for the Tai Chi sword forms. As for time… I just find the time. When there’s a will, there’s a way!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I handwrite all my first drafts! This is a method I am used to and I think better scribbling away on paper rather than pressing on a keyboard. Also, my mind tells the story to fast, and I can only catch up with it when I write it down.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be many things, and I even dared to try and become those things.

I wanted to be a doctor, so I became a pre-med student in college.

I wanted to dabble in the fashion industry, so I became a model at the age of sixteen and travelled all over the world doing fashion week and shooting for big names and powerhouse brands.

I wanted to be a Chef, so I enrolled into culinary and graduated with honors. I opened a restaurant and did that for many years.

I wanted to be many things, and I became many things, but one thing remained: it was Writing. The story telling never stopped. So despite all the achievements, deep in my heart, I knew I wanted to be a writer. It was the one constant thing from beginning to end. It was just a matter of letting other people read my work, because I wrote only for my own enjoyment, but now, I wanted to see how far I can take this. Ultimately, we all want to do things that will be a lasting legacy… To leave our mark in this world, to show that we had lived... That we truly existed, and we made good use of our time.


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Friday, January 12, 2018

Interview with dark fiction author Sue Rovens

Dark fiction author Sue Rovens is here today and we’re chatting about her new suspense/horror novel, Track 9.
Sue Rovens is a suspense/horror indie author who is an active member of the Chicago Writers Association. Her two novels, Badfish and Track 9, are available in both paperback and Kindle formats. A third novel is being processed in her head - the hope that this year's NaNoWriMo (2017) will see the first draft of this tale.

When not working on writing, Sue collects antique advertising, clocks, and radios. She likes to watch movies, read, and indulge in the occasional piece of cheese. She also runs, slowly. Geese have been known to out-lap her.

In order to pay the bills, Sue works in Milner Library at Illinois State University. She has been there for just over 26 years.

Please tell us about your current release.
Track 9 is a hit-the-ground-running story about a couple trapped in a haunted train station in Rain, Germany. It’s a character-driven examination focused on the “underbelly” of people – what happens to individuals when they encounter the unknown, from both a mental and physical standpoint. It’s a suspense story with swaths of horror mixed in.

Each of the four main characters deals with serious flaws. In order to survive, they have to overcome or outrun these issues. That’s where things get sticky and where the tension builds. When people have to face challenging situations head-on, they can be their own worst enemy. It’s all about what happens next that drives the story.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was in Germany about 11-12 years ago and was really taken by the enormity of the train stations. To an outsider, they were so daunting and overwhelming. I used that feeling and created a story around it.

What exciting story are you working on next?
For this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month – which takes place in November), I am going to start work on a story about a hoarder who lives next to a funeral home. I have the basic concept in mind, including the other main and supporting characters, but when I actually start writing, anything can happen.

It will be in the suspense/horror genre along with my other two novels (Badfish and Track 9).

I am also in the process of revising my second book of short stories – In a Corner, Darkly: Volume 2. I put it out initially in 2013, but have decided to take it off the market and re-do it. I’ve pulled three of the original stories and put in three newer ones. Once it’s finished, it’s going to be much better, cleaner, and more professional.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably in 2012, when my first book of short horror stories was published. I would love to do it full time, but until my sales can pay my bills, it’s a part-time activity.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
No, it’s part-time. Other than writing, I run two to three times a week and lift weights twice a week. I also spend time reading (an important aspect of being a writer).

Finding time to write is difficult. I assume that most writers who have full-time jobs would say the same thing. When I am working on revisions, a short story, or a novel, I would say I set aside two evenings a week and at least one weekend day to focus on writing.

I’m not one that can write EVERY day (except during NaNoWriMo). It feels too forced and I end up just “filling space on the page”.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have to have a game open on the computer at the same time as I am writing. I go to it once in a while, just to give my mind a breather. It’s not something that takes away from my work. It’s the perfect mindless activity I can do at the computer while I’m thinking through scenes or dialogue.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Yes! I would encourage your readers to experience my “style” of suspense/horror. I don’t write gore for gore sake. My writing is more psychological/character driven with plots that move forward at a consistent pace. To read the first chapter of Track 9, visit my blog –


Thank you for being here today, Sue!