Monday, October 26, 2009

INTERVIEW with Marcia Gruver

I was first taken in by the beautiful cover of Diamond Duo, and then was more than delightfully surprised when I found myself unable to put it down. I was so fully enveloped in the book, I think I even skipped a meal or two because I was reading so much. Chasing Charity and Emmy's Equal were the same way. The rich history and warming characters of the series swept me up into their lives. So when Marcia Gruver agreed to be a guest on my blog today, imagine my delight!

CW: I love the characters of Bertha and Magda in this series. Are they based on anyone in real life?
MG: Not intentionally. Although, I've been accused of being the inspiration for Bertha. Hate wearing shoes. I do love down-home, quirky people, and I come from a long line of them. I have an aunt who reminds me a little of Magda. She has a hilarious sense of humor, yet a no-nonsense air about her. In retrospect, I guess it's official. . . I'm Bertha. Aunt Jackie is Magda!

CW: Readers often have a favorite character from a trilogy. Who was your favorite character in the Texas Fortunes to write?
MG: In the early days of the series, it was Bertha. She was so much fun to write! Even I didn't know what she might do next. About midway through book two, Emmy Dane stole first place in my heart. Emmy's the consummate rascal. In Chasing Charity, she gets to do all the naughty things we're tempted to do, yet don't always follow through. That little voice in your head telling you things like: "Go ahead! Take that extra slice of cheesecake. What's a few extra pounds? Honey, put those Louis Vuitton shoes on your husband's credit card! You deserve them!" Yeah. . . that voice is Emmy.

CW: What is the most challenging aspect to writing for you?
MG: Jumping off the whirlwind of life and sitting down to write. I don't do well with distraction. I'll sit at my desk for as long as it takes to get the words down, but if I get distracted for more than a minute, there goes my day.

CW: Do you have any interesting writing quirks?
MG: Who me? Of course not! I know you're not talking about my cup of green tea on one side of the desk, bowl of trail mix on the other. Or the phone turned down, not off, the blinds opened just so, and the television on in the next room- loud enough to hear but not to distract. My Internet thesaurus and dictionary of etymology always open in the background? You're not talking about any of those things, right?

CW: How do you like to spend your time when you are not writing?
MG: We travel quite a bit, though not by choice. My husband's job has him all over the country. His last assignment was in Carrizo Springs, a little town deep in South Texas (not coincidentally the setting for Emmy's Equal), and now he's in North Dakota, as far north that he can go and remain in the country. I love to jump in a car or hop on a plane and go see him. We recently bought a place in the Texas Hill Country. It's quite rugged, but breathtakingly beautiful. I like to drive up there and plan the home we hope to one day build. I'm not allowed to say "retirement" home though. My workaholic husband claims he'll never retire.

CW: And last, the question I am dying to ask: What are you currently working on? As a fan, what can I look forward to next?
MG: Thanks for asking! I'm very excited about my next project. I've contracted with Barbour Publishing to write a three-book series entitled Backwoods Buccaneers. It's the tale of three generations of land pirates-- a band of misguided crooks who make their living by raiding and stealing in the aftermath of the civil war. The story begins in Scuffletown, North Carolina, and makes its way down the Natchez Trace to Uncertain, Texas. It's quite a departure from Texas Fortunes, and I can't wait to introduce my latest cast of characters to my readers. Exciting stuff!

Exciting stuff, indeed! Thank you, Marcia, for taking the time to answer these questions!

Emmy's Equal by Marcia Gruver

Journey back to Humble, Texas one last time! When we last saw Emmy Dane, she was reconciling with her best friend Charity Bloom. Now we get to see her on her own in EMMY'S EQUAL, the third book in the Texas Fortunes series.

Emmy is on a trip with her parents and Bertha Bloom to Carrizo Springs, Texas, and she is not happy about it one bit. Then she meets ranch foreman Diego Marcelo and things start to look up. Diego is trying to run the Twisted R Ranch, despite constant disagreements with John Rawson's son Cuddy and his own mother. Having the Blooms and Danes as guests is not making this task any easier for him. When an unexpected situation arises, Diego and Emmy will have to learn to work together, or risk losing the ones they love.

EMMY'S EQUAL is a great ending to this trilogy, seamlessly returning readers to scenes from the first book, reviewed here. Emmy was the most interesting character for me, as she was so tough and selfish. Gruver has a gentle yet powerful writing style that captures the richness and simplicity of the times, as well as the dangers and ruggedness of the unfamiliar terrain.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cowboy Christmas Winner

Today is Friday, which means I get to announce the winner of the Cowboy Christmas Giveaway! So without further delay...

The winner is Hope Chastain! Congratulations.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this Giveaway, especially Mary Connealy for making it possible.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga

Warning: do not read this book without reading The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl first.

GOTH GIRL RISING picks up the story right where it left off. At least for Kyra (AKA Goth Girl). Back from her time in the mental hospital and still dealing with her mother's death, she wants nothing more than to get re-connected with Fanboy and her previous life. Unfortunately, Fanboy is not the person he used to be...

My first thought when I started this book was that it felt so good to be back in Brookdale. It was great to see the same characters again, like The Spermling and Cal, and especially great to see the new Fanboy. It was also neat to see things from Kyra's perspective, and the close ties to Neil Gaiman's Sandman series is sure to please many comic book fans.

GOTH GIRL RISING brings a harsh and brutally honest voice from a confused girl. At times she is downright unlikeable, and yet readers will find themselves wanting good things to happen to her. Though this book deals with issues like suicide and the death of a parent, it is also about hope and overcoming the things that can sometimes hold you back. A top notch follow-up from Lyga, and I would love to see more from these characters!

Monday, October 12, 2009

One Lovely Blog Award!

Wow, my first award! Thank you to Carman of A Sequence of Continuous Delights for passing this award along to me. I am honored. If you read Christian fiction, be sure to check out her blog, she writes fantastic reviews!

Here are the rules of the "One Lovely Blog Award":

Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link. Pass the award to up to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Here are the people that I'm sending the award to:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

INTERVIEW with Mary Connealy plus GIVEAWAY!!!

A very special treat for you this week! Mary Connealy, author of the recently released COWBOY CHRISTMAS, has graciously answered some questions for your reading pleasure. I also have one author copy of the book to give away to you! Keep reading for more info.

CW: What is a typical day of writing like for you?
MC: I'm kind of all over the board so it's hard to say typical. I have a job three days a week. Then home the rest of the time. I try to write 1,000 words a day seven days a week. I often write more but try to never write less. But sometimes I do that in one long run and sometimes I do that in five short sessions. I'm an insomniac so it's not unusual for me to write late into the night just to pass the waking hours.

CW: Of all the characters you have created, who is your favorite?
MC: Right now I am just crazy about Belle Tanner, a secondary character in Montana Rose. I had more fun with her than is legal is seven states. She is the absolute antithesis of Cassie Dawson, the sweet, overly-obedient wife in Montana Rose.

I also really loved Elijah Walker in Cowboy Christmas. For some reason I always have a lot of fun with heroes, the heroines are who give me trouble. Elijah is just more of the same. The clueless guy with the knight-in-shining-armor-against-his-will reflex. He doesn't want to get stuck taking care of Annie Talbot, but it falls to him and he can't shirk.

CW: How do you find inspiration to create the villainous characters in your novels?
MC: Giving villains a real character is often easy to forget. We tend to just make them all unflinchingly bad and that's it. But I try to not do that. A villain needs a back story to be truly interesting. And honestly, though I don't think we're that aware of it when we read, a truly three dimensional villain is often the real strength of a story. It gives the story depth. I had Claude and Blanche Leveque be nasty characters but I hope I made them the kind of villains you love to hate.

CW: Some of the action scenes in your novels are very graphic (falling down a flooded ravine in Petticoat Ranch, avalanche in Calico Canyon, etc). how close have you come to the things that have happened in your stories?
MC: Wow, Chelsea, you're talking to a woman who once tripped on her way to the mailbox and almost had to just stay there on the ground. MY KNEE HURT. I live a very sedate life. no avalanches, no floods. I hit a cow once with my car. Very upsetting. The cow wasn't real happy either. That's about the extent of drama in my life.

CW: Cowboy Christmas was recently released, and we know there are two more books coming in the Montana Marriages series. What can we look forward to after that?
MC: I already mentioned The Husband Tree. Here's a little bit about The Husband Tree:

Belle Tanner buries her third worthless husband and makes a vow over his shallow grave. She's learned her lesson. No more men.

Silas Harden just lost his second ranch because of a woman. The first deserted him when times got tough. Now he's had to quit the whole state of New Mexico to avoid a trumped-up shotgun wedding and the noose of matrimony. He's learned his lesson. No more women.

Belle Needs hired hands to move a cattle herd late in the season and there's no one around but seemingly aimless Silas. She hires him reluctantly. Silas signed on, glad for the work, though worried about a woman doing such things as hiring drovers, only to find out he's the lone man going with five women, including a baby still in diapers. After the cattle drive is over, he might as well shoot himself to speeds up the process of being embarrassed to death.

A fast approaching winter.
The toughest lady rancher you've ever seen.
A cynical cowboy who has to convince five women he's right for their ma... and then convince himself.
And one thousand head of the crankiest cattle who have ever been punched across the backbone of the Rockies.

And just a bit about book #3 of the Montana Marriages series. Wildflower Bride release next May:

Glowing Sun, a white woman raised by the Flathead tribe, has never met a man she didn't want to pull a knife on, including the man who's determined to marry her.

CW: As as member of multiple blogs, how do you feel the internet is affecting the way authors interact with their readers and fans?
MC: I love it. I can't stand to think about my life without all the great writer friends I talk to daily and all the great notes I get from people who've read my book. It can really end up taking a lot of writing time so I need to be careful. But I love the internet.

Thank you Mary, for taking the time to talk with me!

To enter to win COWBOY CHRISTMAS, you can 1) leave a comment on this post (one entry), 2) sign up to follow this blog (another entry), and 3) link to this contest on your own blog (send me a link, third possible entry). Enter to win up to three times! Winner will be drawn at random and notified by e-mail next Friday, October 16th.

Good luck!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cowboy Christmas by Mary Connealy

Annie Talbot is on the run from an evil, terrifying man. With no one else to turn to, she goes home to her father's ranch and finds it in ruins. Elijah Walker swears never to trust women again after the last one left an enormous hurt in his life. But when he meets Annie, he knows she needs him in her life. Which she indeed does, if she wants to survive her past.

COWBOY CHRISTMAS has one of the scariest pursuits from villains as I've ever seen in a Christian fiction novel. Connealy continually surprises me with her intensely graphic scenes. They blend so seamlessly with her incredibly tender moments that reader's will find themselves feeling the gambit of emotions.

Connealy's stories demand your complete attention until the last page is turned. A welcome book for the upcoming holiday season.