Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Christmas in August!

Squee!  And assorted other excited noises!  It feels like Christmas... for two reasons.  One is that seeing my book going out into the world always feels as exciting as opening a shiny new parcel and waiting to find out what's inside.  The other is that the book in question is the snowy story I've mentioned a few times on this blog... The Santa Next Door.  Although it's not officially released until early December, it's already available exclusively from Amazon on the Kindle Select program.  Look, here's a picture! 

Oh, and if you missed the earlier mentions of the story, you can find a sneak peek into the snowy opening here and an introduction to the lovely Sue and Bryn here.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Book Review: The Witness by Nora Roberts

The WitnessThe Witness by Nora Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are only two things you really need to know about this book: I couldn't put it down, and it made me cry. Just in case that's not enough to convince you that you need to read it NOW, I suppose I should explain the reasons behind my love of The Witness.

From the first, I empathised with the intelligent but socially inept heroine, Elizabeth. We first meet her as a vulnerable teen making her first foray into rebellion, and while most of us manage to dye our hair and sneak into clubs without drastic consequences, Elizabeth's rebellion leads her by degrees into a terrifying situation where she will need all her intelligence just to survive. 

Nora Roberts has gone to great lengths to set up a character who could convincingly outwit a group of Russian gangsters and hack into top secret files, so that despite the high drama of the story, it never steps beyond the bounds of possibility.With such an outstanding heroine, of course we need a hero to match, and again Roberts delivers a treat in the form of the local police chief, who displays a convincing (and endearing) blend of pushiness and charm.  The supporting cast are all beautifully drawn too, but the focus of the book never strays too far from this unlikely couple: the woman in hiding and the man whose job is to ferret out the truth. 

Throw in some truly dark villains, cute puppies, and a country hideaway that made me want to go shopping for real estate, and the scene is set for the thrill(er) of the century. I don't want to say too much about the ending because it would be easy to slip in a spoiler, but I'll just confess that I'd wondered how on earth the heroine's dilemma would be resolved, and the solution left me both stunned and tearful. The Witness is a real emotional rollercoaster of a book!

View all my reviews

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Blog Visit: Keeping the Dream Alive at Nancy C Weeks' blog

I was delighted when fellow Crimson Romance author Nancy C Weeks, whose Wednesday Interview I so much enjoyed, offered to return the favour.  She invited me to pay a visit to her blog to talk about keeping the writing dream alive, a topic which, as a writer and a life coach, is close to my heart!  Not only that, but she allowed me to share one of my favourite photos of the lovely part of the country where I live and work.  Thanks Nancy!  The link is below if you'd like to see what Nancy had to ask... and find out why dragons feature in the interview!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Book Review: Sing You Home

Sing You HomeSing You Home by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've found Jodi Picoult's books a little hit and miss in the past, and this is the first I've read in a while. I picked it up based on a friend's recommendation, and soon saw why they'd labelled it a must-read. There is nothing heavy-handed about Picoult's treatment of two big issues: gay parenting and choices about IVF and embryos (or, as the annoying lawyer insists on describing them, 'pre-children').

Her two heroines, Zoe and Vanessa, are warm, realistic, lovable but not-too-perfect characters, whose lives and choices we come to understand, not only through their present-day interactions, but through some superbly chosen moments of memory. I particularly liked the fact that we are even led to understand how Zoe's ex-husband, Max, becomes vulnerable to the homophobic church group that ultimately leads him to oppose Zoe in court for possession of the embryos that were frozen during their marriage.

Another fabulous strand of the story is Zoe's career as a music therapist. Although I knew the profession existed, I knew very little about the job, and reading this book gave me a fantastic picture of how music can be used to help people who are emotionally and physically in pain.  If I was a bit more musical, I think I'd be tempted to retrain and follow in Zoe's footsteps.

All in all, this is a thoughtful, many-layered, absorbing rollercoaster of a book which had me both laughing and crying out loud.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Writer Wednesday Interview: Nancy C Weeks

Today I'm delighted to welcome Crimson Romance author Nancy C Weeks to my blog.  Hi Nancy!  When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I think I have always wanted to be a writer but never thought it was something I could do. Honestly, I didn’t believe I was smart enough to write a book.  I don’t know why I had so little faith in myself. When I meet people now and hear my words coming out of their month, “OH, I could never write a whole book,” I give them a hug ― because I’m a big hugger — and tell them that they sure the heck can write a book if that’s their passion.

How did you come to start writing Romantic Suspense?

Since I love reading the excitement of romantic suspense almost as much as I love the romance, I decided to begin my writing career in that genre. I throw an element of supernatural into the suspense to add to the conflict and tension.

‘In the Shadow of Greed’ has both paranormal and hi-tech aspects to it – what did you do to research the different sides of the story?

In the Shadow of Greed was a real challenge to write because I really don’t have a technical bone in my body. Here is a little secret you may not know about me. I hate math. Yep, seriously ‘piercing headache’ hate it and I’m really bad at it. LOL.

So how did I decide to create a character like my brilliant, Dr. Sarah Tu? Well, I guess I wanted to create a character that was different than me-very left brain, not only extremely intelligent, but a woman who was very comfortable being the world’s leading mathematician and cyber security specialist. 

I do love research. In the Shadow of Greed had me living weeks in my research cave devouring IT science publications and goggling government law enforcements websites like the FBI for inspiration.  The wonderful character Sarah Tu developed into was such a joy to write.

As for the paranormal aspect of the story, that’s one part imagination and nine parts belief that the world is a very mystical, magical place. There are mysteries that we have yet to discover. Can a young woman’s soul trapped in a coma touch the mind of a stranger? Well, until you can prove to me it’s impossible, I choose to believe in the possibility of the concept.   

Did you know from the start that there would be a sequel, ‘In the Shadow of Evil’, or did that come later?

Actually, I wrote In the Shadow of Evil first. In the Shadow of Greed came a year later and it was a real defining moment for me as a writer. It proved to me that I wasn’t just a one book author. Once I began writing In the Shadow of Greed, I knew this was going to be five book series called The Shadow series.

I think every author has a story that lives in their head for years before they have take to plunge to try and write it down. For me, that story was In the Shadow of Evil - Jennie and Jared’s story which will be released 26 August. As soon as I finished the first draft, I was very proud of myself, but also a little lost. What now? What was I supposed to do?

At the end of In the Shadow of Evil, a secondary character named Hanna Tu was left lying in a hospital bed in a coma. Something had to be done with Hanna’s story because it began to haunt me in the early hours of the morning.

Then a thought hit me. The oldest brother, Jared McNeil found his happy-ever-after with his heroine, Jennie McKenzie from the aftermath of a serial rapist’s attack on Hanna Tu. Where would that same incident lead the youngest brother, Jason McNeil? They both experienced the horror of Hanna’s attack.

I knew that if I had a second book in me, it would have to be Jason’s story because that story line was part of In the Shadow of Evil, but who was going to be the heroine? Was I going to wake Hanna up and allow her for fall in love with Jason?

After an extensive research into severe head injuries, that possibility just didn’t seem believable. So I created Hanna’s sister, Sarah Tu. Sarah may be a brilliant mathematician and very successful in her field of study, but her personal life is a real mess. Combining Sarah and Jason’s lives was a fun challenge, but the contrast made for some great conflict.

How would you sum up the philosophy, or message, behind your books?

This is a very hard question to answer, but I’ll give it a try. If I had to sum up one message behind the Shadow series in a whole is that love will not only survive but flourish under the cruellest conditions. In the Shadow of Greed, Jason and Sarah are able to find their happy-ever-after despite the terror that my villain puts them through. Singer’s entire motivation was based on one thing, greed. Sarah and Jason’s life’s meant nothing to him as long as he got what he wanted. But despite his greed, Jason and Sarah’s love overshadowed the evil.

Earlier this year, you took on an A-Z challenge on your blog.  Do you enjoy a challenge, and what aspect of your writing have you found the biggest challenge? 

Yes, I did enjoy the A-Z challenge, but it really was a challenge to post a new, hopefully exciting blog post every day. I created my blog to dip my foot into the world of promotion. I needed to establish my name and brand as a writer. What happened next was very surprising. I actually love blogging: sharing bits and pieces of my life, how I feel about things, promoting people, who like me, have dreams they are working every day to achieve.

Which brings me the second part of this question: what aspect of my writing I find the biggest challenge? Well, hands down, the hardest thing about being a writer is PROMOTION. Talk about dragging myself out of my comfort zone...

In a perfect world, I would just give my book away to anyone who would like to read it because that is why I wrote it.

I’m very proud of both In the Shadow of Greed and In the Shadow of Evil, and getting my name and book in front of the reader is hard work, but very necessary. Today, there are so many different avenues to purchases books, Amazon being only one venue. It is so easy for my books to get lost in the volume. It is up to me to make sure I do everything I can to keep that from happening.

What aspect of writing a book do you enjoy most?

Easy question. I love the writing. Nothing makes me happier than a day where I have nothing to do but hide in my writer’s cave and allow my mind and fingers to disappear into the world I have created and see where the story takes me.

Do you have a favourite book on writing that you would recommend to beginning writers?

YES! I love The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expressions by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglist.  It’s imperative that writers learn to use their senses in their stories to draw out emotions in their readers. This book was a godsend for me.

Where should we go to find out more about your books? 

You can find In the Shadow of Greed here:

Barnes and Noble:
Crimson Romance:

In the Shadow of Evil is up for pre-order on Amazon here:

BONUS QUESTION: You come from Maryland – does Maryland really have the best cookies?

Funny you should ask that question. I really don’t know if Maryland is famous for their cookies, but I’m famous for mine. I don’t bake pretty...but I do bake a dang good cookie.

Nancy C. Weeks


Stephanie, thank you so much for having me on your blog. This has been so much fun.

Thanks, Nancy.  It’s been a pleasure having you to visit.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Santa has a cover!

So...  it's official.  My Christmas novella, The Santa Next Door, now has a cover, and I love it! 
That's about it really.  Oh, except that if you missed an earlier sneak peek of the opening, you can read it here.  Now I'm just waiting for a release date.  Hopefully some time around Christmas...

Sunday, 4 August 2013

About Writing Conferences on the Book in a Week Blog

I'm on the Book in a Week blog this week with an article about why every writer should attend a writing conference - real or virtual - at least once, and preferably once in a while.  It's great to get together with other writers to share ideas and information... but if you want to read all 7 reasons, come over and see me at

By the way, if you missed my previous post about this year's Romantic Novelists' Association conference, read on here to find out why it was so much fun! There's even a link to Miranda Dickinson's fabulous vlog.