Saturday, June 29, 2013

#BookChat THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY by Maria Andreu

COMING NEXT SPRING… The Secret Side of Empty

BOOK BLURB for “Secret Side of Empty”
You've heard the news stories.  Now hear the real story.
M.T. is starting her senior year with a lot going for her.  She gets great grades, has a best friend she met in kindergarten and a boyfriend who is sweet and into her.  But life – at least as she knows it – is about to end.
M.T. is what the news calls “illegal” – she came to the U.S. with her parents as a baby and never got the right papers that allowed her to stay.  She lives in fear of her family getting deported, in even more fear that she’ll have to go to the home country she doesn’t even remember, of people finding out her ugly secret and of the increasingly volatile situation at home.  When senior year is over, the protected world she’s found in her small parochial school will disappear.  Without a social security number, she won’t be able to go to college, get a job or, maybe worst of all, get a driver’s license.

But she’ll worry about all that later.  First, she’s got a senior year to take on.

A Note from the Author, Maria Andreu:
The fulfillment of great dreams feels best when shared, which is why I'm inviting people to Like my Facebook page and come along with me on the fabulous and improbable journey of publishing my first novel.

Why does it feel so unlikely to get to fulfill my dream?  Well, like M.T., the main character of my novel, I was once an undocumented immigrant, which means I spent my teenage years in fear of getting deported from the only country I've ever called home.  I grew up feeling totally American but knowing that a choice my parents had made for me when I was too young to have a say made me unwanted in my homeland.  Although I got my papers through amnesty when I was 18, for years I carried the shame and secrecy of that experience.  So going from little girl hiding in a Tijuana shack waiting to cross the border to published author living all my dreams feels incredibly lucky and nearly impossible.  But I am living proof that dreams do come true.

The Secret Side of Empty is a novel about a teen girl whose life, as she knows it, is going to end after senior year.  It's not just run-of-the-mill, end-of-high-school anxiety... it's really going to end.  Her parents brought her to the U.S. undocumented as a baby, so she's what the news calls "illegal," although she's an American teenager through and through. With no social security number, she'll have to watch as her friends go off to college, get after-school jobs and drivers' licenses and travel overseas on the senior trip, while her life goes into the dangerous shadow of the undocumented.  No one knows the big secret she's keeping, not her best friend Chelsea and not her super-cool boyfriend, Nate.  Things have gotten pretty bad at home too, so she can't turn to anyone there.

What's it like when you have nowhere left to turn and are stuck in circumstances you didn't create and which are beyond your control?  The Secret Side of Empty explores the fear, the hope and how the human spirit ultimately prevails.

Be the first to get updates on the cover, new tour stops, and fan-only content by liking the author's Facebook page here:
The book is already getting industry buzz and news coverage, so Like the FB page to get updates on that as well.


Maria Andreu is an author and immigration rights activist.  She lives in beautiful Bergen County, New Jersey with her two wonderful middle schoolers.  At the age of 12, she wrote in her diary, "Most of all, I want to be a writer."  Growing up undocumented and poor, she never imagined that dream might come true one day.  Her work has been published in Newsweek, The Washington Post and The Star Ledger and her first novel, The Secret Side of Empty, will be published by Running Press in Spring, 2014.

Monday, June 24, 2013

#NewRelease SINS OF THE FATHER by Krystal Milton #RomanticSuspense

 Genre: Fiction, Women’s Fiction, suspense
 Release Date: 6/15/13
 Synopsis:  Sins of the Father a riveting story of struggle, courage and self discovery as Annalynn McKae desperately seeks the truth about her father as he stands accused of being a ruthless and sadistic serial killer that has been on the loose for twenty-six years.
Annalynn McKae has never experienced much tragedy in life except the illness of her mother who has been plagued with Rheumatoid Arthritis since she was eleven. The disease has left her mother’s body stone like, leaving the care of both mother and daughter on Alexander Mckae her adoring father. It was because of his unwavering dedication to their family that she couldn’t believe, wouldn’t believe the horrible reality of what her father really is when he is accused of being the notorious Potomac Creek serial killer.

Sins of the Father is a fiction novel about a young woman discovering life and its faculties, but also the suspense filled journey of powering through struggles no matter what they may be and gaining a vast perspective of how ones ties to family can be their ultimate demise. 

“I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this book or not but I have to admit I did.  It is not my normal Genre but I did like it… The pacing was good.  Had a nice flow.  This was a story that I wanted to get to the ending quickly (to find out who dunnit)  Which is a good thing.  Means I didn't want to put it down…“- Tammy from Media Comb

“I finished reading your book.. Twice. It was amazing. I loved the edge you've given and it is some part which I haven't considered really It was really brilliant… is really very well written…”- Niyati from

“that book is very deep and I enjoyed reading… the way you write is unexplainably wonderful I was hooked by the first page… as far as detailing and making sure that everything is in its correct manner you are on top of it hands down, not to mention catching the eye and keeping it. I love how it goes from one thing to another, kinda keeps you wondering which is something I like in a book.” – Kayla McClinton

Excerpt – Sins of the Father

There hasn’t been a time I can remember where she wasn’t sick or in pain. As she grew older, her body seemed to take on the shape of a penguin, her back arched, knees bent, and her hands flopped over at the wrists angled towards the floor. Father had to be my rock, since mother couldn’t tend to me the way she used to; her body no longer allowing her to hold or caress me.
I remember the days when she used to cry, her eyes begging me to understand how much she longed to touch me, to place her hand on my face to feel its texture, to smooth her fingers through my hair to braid it.
She couldn’t help me with prom, couldn’t even hold a camera to take a picture. Mother couldn’t even dress herself, the task daunting as her fingers barely moved anymore.
Her arms were frail but littered with little lumps from the nodules underneath her skin. She barely talked or went out into the sun due to the inflammation of her glands in eyes and mouth.
Most often she ate through a straw and even when that became too much, was given an IV drip to keep her fluids up. Father or I applied her eye drops thrice a day to ease the dryness in her eyes.
As I opened the fridge taking out a pack of chicken cutlets, I thought of how important my father has been for both of us. He has attended every ballet recital, spelling bee, soccer event, tennis tournament, acceptance speech, graduation…any monumental element in my life, since mother could not.
And on top of all the excruciating childhood memorials, he still made time to work sixty hours a week, and attend every wellness care, chiropractic and therapeutic doctors visit with mother.
He still made time to help with her daily routine. When the part time nurse we hired needed to leave early or take an extra day off, father would be there to take over. He never let me miss a class, seeing my friends, or school event to care for mother.
It was the guilt that kept me home instead of going to UCLA in California like I wanted. It was the thought of not giving back to the people who cared for me so deeply that kept me home, attending the local Georgetown University so that I could help. 
I got a part time job at Stella’s boutique between Wisconsin Ave and M Street, father’s position in the bank being influential in getting the job.
I was able to have lunch with him sometimes since our jobs were so close, attend my classes, complete the household chores, hang out, work, and be there for my parents. It’s the least I could do, since father gave his life basically, for my mother and me.
It was because of this dedication to our life and family, that when the pounding on the door interrupted my meal preparation, when the police stormed in with big bold letters SWAT on their back, helmets on their heads, guns in their arms pointing here, there, everywhere, that the reality of who and what my father really was didn’t seem plausible.
I denied everything they said. All the accusations were wrong. My father was a sweet, humble, hard working, brilliant, loving husband and father. My father was not a rapist, neither was he a narcissist. He definitely wasn’t a killer, their killer…The Potomac Creek Killer.

 About the Author:

Krystal Milton is a self-published author living in New York with her two children. She has been an avid reader and writer since her teenage years, but recently self published her debut novel Deception in June of 2012. Since then she has published four other titles including; Charge that to the Game, Field Advantage, Blitz, and Say a little Prayer.
When she isn’t reading or spending time with her children, she writes on her blog DWED- Defining Women’s Evolution in Discovery Blog and works on creating new Characters, situations and circumstances for her readers to enjoy.
 Want to connect with the Author?
You can find her current titles in Ebook on:
Barnes and Noble
IBooks (Deception)

Rafflecopter Code: for giveaway from 6/10-6/30

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Should Authors Review Other Author's Books?

Wednesday I wrote about the Three Nevers of Social Media, one of which was “don’t flame other writers in reviews.” This then led to yesterday’s post, Should Authors Write Bad Book Reviews? And, I have to say, you were all BRILLIANT. I was traveling all day, nearly going blind reading your debate over this issue on my iPhone. Yet, this got me to thinking….
Uh, oh. Right? *smells something burning*
For the moment, hold your digital tomatoes. Bear with me and just noodle this.
Is is fair for authors to write book reviews?
I am not taking a side because I am still pondering the idea, myself. 
My story: I was a reader long before I became an author. I reviewed like crazy and am an Amazon top-1000 reviewer. Once I was a Vine reviewer, but quit that program because I could never turn down a book, and all my free time was consuming reading and reviewing.
Then I became an author and the rules changed. The first thing I did was go back through my Amazon review pile and delete all the one-star reviews on books. Is this fair to the readers? who had been warned off of some truly bad books? Possibly not. But I was warned that as an author, it would be unfair for me to give one-star reviews because I could be seen as a competitor.
I continued to give reviews because I truly enjoy reading and reviewing. I figured if I stayed with 3 stars and above, I would be safe. WRONG! I gave a 4 star review to a writer friend. I had previously given her a 5 star to the first book of her series. I liked it and thought it was a great story. Unfortunately, I did not like how the main characters reacted to the new challenge and sympathized with a minor character. I mentioned it in my review, because I figured not liking a character is a "reader's" reaction. Any reader can like or dislike a character, right?
True, but when the character is a friend's nearest and dearest creation, they can take it personally. So end result. I lost a friend. I was very sad and depressed about it for a while, and I deleted the review from Amazon as soon as she asked me to. But being emotional and sensitive authors we are, I also deleted the 5 star review to her previous book because I was angry and felt used.
Which gets to the question. Should we give any reviews now that we're "behind the scenes" "insiders"?
If you've been following my blog, you'll see that I still do. But my guidelines have changed. If it is a book I picked up as a reader would, meaning I browsed Amazon or Goodreads, clicked on and bought the book, or loved a previous book by the author, I will give a reader's review, meaning I will talk about my opinion, what I liked or disliked. I will not pick about grammar, story structure, point of view, head-hopping, walk-the-dog, and other things that editors should have picked up. I will occasionally post a 2 or 3 star review if it is a famous nationally known best selling author who I don't know personally because at this level, my reader hat is more important.
If I don't like a book and can't give it a 4 or 5, I'll ask myself. If I didn't know this author from social media--if this author and I hadn't gotten to know each other on a friendly level on forums--would I have ever picked up his or her book? Would I have known about this book? If the answer is no, I would not have naturally read this book, I decide I'm not the target audience for the book and will leave it unreviewed. I also believe I can still be friends with other authors without liking their books. After all, we have a lot more in common being authors and going through the writing process, than whether their genre suits me or their writing style meshes with mine.
That leaves me with the freedom and fun of gushing over books I truly love and can easily write nice things about. Because I don't want to silence myself when it comes to loving books just because I'm an author. I read a ton more books than I write, and when I've discovered a gem, I want the freedom of speech to say something about it. Whether I'm an author or not.
What do you think? Do you think it's fair for authors to give reviews?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Why I Bought the Last Three Books on my Kindle #amreading

Have you bought a book lately? How about an ebook? Recently, I wrote about my reading habits in a post on Rebecca Berto's Novel Girl Blog - I Never Met A Free Book I Didn't Download. Today, I'll examine why I would actually buy a book when there are so many free ebooks out there every day.

Here is a snapshot of my recent Amazon Purchase History:

June 21, 2013 - Act Like You Love Me by Cynthia Madsen $2.99 - Ugh, can you believe this was an accidental purchase? I was scrolling down a list of free and bargain books from one of the mailings lists I subscribe to, and their short marketing blurb caught my eye.

What would you do for a second chance at your first crush?

   The perfect summer read if you're a fan of lovable characters, witty observations, charming storylines and adorable relationships...

There was no cover and there was a free book listed right above it and one right below it. So I clicked and clicked down the list downloading. I think I realized my mistake right AFTER I hit the Buy Button. Since I am an author and I don't like returns, I went back and read the description, looked at the cover and decided, yes, well, I might read this book, so I kept it, but haven't started it.

June 20, 2013 - Almost by Anne Eliot $0.99 - I opened up my daily Lendle Insider Newsletter to check out what they have. The voice in the book description was awesome.

At a freshman party she doesn't remember...Jess Jordan was almost raped.

...Almost. Very nearly. Not quite. Three years later, Jess has managed to make everyone believe she's better. Over it. Because she is....Almost. Very nearly. Not quite.

Unfortunately, until Jess proves she's back to normal activities, her parents won't discuss college. So, she lands a summer internship and strikes a deal with hockey jock, Gray Porter: He gets $8,000. She gets a fake boyfriend and a social life.

Jess has no idea Gray signed on for reasons other than money. She also never expects to fall in love. But Gray's amazingly hot, holds her hand all the time, and makes her forget that he's simply doing his job. It's like having a real boyfriend
...Almost. Very nearly. Not quite.

Gray Porter is hiding secrets of his own. About Jess Jordan. About why he's driven to protect her, why he won't cash her checks, or deny her anything she asks.  

The cover? Lacking and I wouldn't have given it a second look. But the repetition of "Almost. Very nearly. Not quite." and the hidden secrets made me pick the book up. Oh, and 99c, impulse. There are a lot of fake boyfriend stories, and most of them are trite and boring. But what sold me was the voice. The voice in the description promised a voice I'd like to spend time with. SOLD. I started reading this book immediately and love the snarky voices of both characters and the geeky environment they're in.

June 20, 2013 - Don't Leave Me, James Scott Bell $0.99 - This book appeared in an email newsletter of free and bargain books. Since I subscribe to them all, I don't know which one. What sold me was that I knew about James Scott Bell and his writing books. I figured it wouldn't hurt to check out what the guru has to say in his own book. I didn't really need the cover or description to hit the buy button. It was 99c, so I bought it and started reading. I would like to say I'm entirely thrilled by it. But the writing style is dry, at least to me, and I'm not connected to the lead character no matter how many bad things happen to him right off the bat. It's too much of a pile-on. But hey, don't argue with the master. He's worked everything in: the initial car crash, the dangerous opponent, the death of wife, mystery caller, the sympathy inducers (pet the dog characters, two of them, a mentally handicapped brother and a little girl who is bullied), the caring career (schoolteacher), the mother with Alzheimers, the heartbreaking backstory, the mental obstacles (PTSD), the hint of a possible romance (another teacher), and a fire at his house within the first 10%, but I'll probably put the book on the backburner because I just didn't feel for the main character. All these things are happening to him out of control, but there wasn't enough of a voice or character connection for me to care. Maybe it's a man's book, of course.

So that's the story of the last three ebook purchases I made. The common thread here is email newsletters. But beyond that, it's the blurb or name recognition. I never glanced at the reviews before buying because I didn't want to be influenced. I usually read reviews after I've finished the book and written my own review and then go through to see who agrees with me.

What about you? Where do you find your books? What makes you buy and ultimately read?

Monday, June 17, 2013

#AuthorInterview Meinos Kaen - Children of the New Era #dystopian

1. Hi Meinos Kaen, tell us a bit about your latest book.
My latest and first book is called Children of the New Era. It's a Sci-Fi set in a semi-dystopian England, in a future where a large part of the world population is now born with supernatural abilities, following an incident the causes of which were never fully discovered or disclosed.

Set up like a non-fiction book (like World War Z, to make a famous example) it's a fugitive's published recollection of the various events brought to light on a blog he administered, concerning the people living in this new era and their problems in dealing with the world around them, their family and friends, the government and sometimes even themselves, especially when it comes to young people. If you remember that certain Twilight Zone episode, you can guess why teens and younger persons having supernatural powers does not always make for a 'Good Life'.

2. What genres do you like to write in? Do you pay attention to genre rules or bend them?
My loves are Sci-Fi and Fantasy, but I like to experiment. I consider genre rules something more akin to guidelines, to bend if you need and want to. After all, it's because of rule-bending that we have, for one, so many flavors of Sci-Fi. Space Opera, Hard-Sci-Fi, Horror-Fi... The list goes on.

3. What kind of books do you like to read? Which authors influenced you?
I'm probably one of the biggest book-worms you'll ever find. I read whatever strikes my fancy at the moment. Just last month, I bought two books on psychology -one on basic psychology and the other on PTSD- and read World War Z for the third time.

Speaking of World War Z, Max Brooks has influenced me heavily in writing Children of the New Era, as stated above. And I've always aimed to write as Oscar Wilde in The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Quite the high bar, I know.

4. Are you a character driven or plot driven writer?
I love my characters, they're the centre of the story. Without them -and without them being well developed- the story can't go anywhere, or it just goes somewhere bad.

But every time a new idea for a scene or even a story comes to me, it's always what happens that first appears in my mind, not who does it. So, yeah... I guess I'm a Plot Driven Writer.

5. Do you have any advice for writers who are just starting out?
Get an EDITOR. I made the mistake of not getting one on my first release, and I suffered for it. No one would review the thing -English is not my first language no matter how much I study it, so some errors can always escape your notice- because of the errors, and a second look is a must on plot and pacing. You are not your own harshest critic, no matter what people say. Also, get Social and blog.

What is the most exciting adventure you've been on? Did you incorporate it into a story?
My most exciting adventure? Hmm... Definitely my Scouts Summer Camp back when I was 14. On the fourth day of camp we were given this mission: hike to the top of a mountain, make camp and spend the night, come back the following morning. I woke up in the middle of the night at the sound and sight of four-legged canid shapes prowling the surroundings of the tent. Nerve-wracking, but I'd do it again... With a halberd, this time.

I haven't included that in any story I've written, but I might, one day. If the plot allows.

Who is your favorite character?
Probably the narrator, Henry 'The King' Powell. I had a critic that he's maybe too eclectic, that they can't narrow him down to a typology of character. One moment he's a responsible and self-aware person, critical on his country and his dystopian society. The other he's short of juvenile, snapping with jokes and sarcasm at people who dare not appreciate Drew Struzan.

But the thing is, I grew up meeting and befriending people who acted the exact same way. One moment we're discussing the latest Internet meme, the next we're talking about the merits of gun control. Real people do not adhere to character tropes, and when it's translated into fiction I think the story is always better for it.

Who was your most difficult character?
Michael789. Returning to what I said above, real people do not adhere to tropes. But for story reasons I needed someone who always said the wrong things. I had to remember every step of the way to keep him realistic. Give him some instances where he happened to say the right things, circumstances permitting.

You don’t have to tell us, but who in your life did you pattern him/her after?
Many unfortunate encounters. Let's leave it at that.

Any kissing scenes?
Not this time. Maybe in the sequel... * checks the manuscript * Yep. It's there.

What sparked the idea for?
No matter the genre, an author needs to research. You want to write a thriller? Research the setting. You want to write drama? You should probably research psychology. You want to write Sci-Fi taking place in the future? You have to research everything. Creating your own timeline means having to take into account its evolution, how the planet went from what it is at the moment of your writing to what it is in your book.

I’m positive that many authors share my opinion. And just like me, I bet that they feel just a little bit frustrated that they don’t get to show all their work. When you write a fictional story, you have to create chances for exposition that go hand in hand with the pacing of the plot, and most times that means not being able to show everything in one sitting. Then, I read World War Z.

Max Brooks has done something incredible. Through many smaller stories he narrates a longer one spanning decades, and at the same time he exposes his world on all levels: Political, social, geographical. The disabled wanting to aid the war effort. The reaction of the various nations to the early alarms. The psychological effects of the war. One of the previous questions was about being a plot or character driven writer. Max Brooks made a Background Driven book.

So, I decided that I would write another novel, a prelude of sorts that would focus on the world I had spent so much into creating. The result of that decision is Children of the New Era.

Describe a scene in your book where you would have liked to be in. Which character would you be and what would you have done instead?
In my book's future timeline there's been a long war, called The Borders War because most of the geopolitical borders as we know them have been altered because of it. Among the many engagements, the Battle of Barcellona is described by one of the characters as 'the day the world realised that old ways of warfare were well and truly dead'.

Call me a masochist, but I would have wanted to be there. Just to see the faces of the soldiers of an army as their millions in technology suddenly became useless in the face of only one person. Maybe I would have been one of the fleeing soldiers, or maybe I would have been their opponent. Either way, I wouldn't have done anything different.

If you could go back and change the ending to any novel you’d like, which would it be and what would be the change?
Twilight, to: rocks fall. Everyone dies.

… Okay, more seriously, [SPOILER ALERT]I would have changed the finale to Carrie, from Stephen King. I would have made her survive, start a new life somewhere else. After all they put her through, she deserved it.

Have you ever fallen in love with one of your characters? Was your husband/wife jealous?
I'm not married. And no, never with one of my own characters. Other authors', though... * remembers fondly his teen-hood crush on a blonde-haired Ravenclaw *

What is your greatest fear?
Being helpless.

What keeps you up at night?
Once, it was attacks of Hypocondria for the latest media-marketed disease. Then I grew up.

Right now nothing ever keeps me up at night... Except maybe a bad case of indigestion.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you began this journey?
Just how important an editor is.

Tell me what a typical day looks like.
Boring, until I do something to make it awesome. I never ever want my life to become a routine.

What do you want your readers to walk away with after reading your novel?
Wanting to know more about the world I created, and wanting to see what adventures can take place in it.

Describe your childhood. What were some of your favorite activities? Games?
I was very introverted as a kid. Always looking for my father's approval. Not very sociable. I loved reading and playing videogames and, when it was summer, hide and seek. Summer because it was the only time I could go outside, when we moved to our mountain house. I lived in a bad neighbourhood.

Did you dream of being a writer or something else?
At first I wanted to become a firefighter. Then a lawyer. … I know. What kind of kid wants to be a lawyer?

Let me get this straight. Something I didn't even tell the wife I don't have and you want me to come out with it to complete strangers on a blog? Sure, why not! Drum rolls, please.

I, Meinos Kaen, did not -I repeat, I did not-... Like The Godfather. There, I said it.

Meinos Kaen - SciFi author, reviewer and blogger. I love music, Parkour, videogames, and anything fiction. As long as it's good. Otherwise, I'm going to find you Liam Neeson style.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

#CoverReveal BEING KALLI by Rebecca Berto #NA #Romance

Being Kalli by Rebecca Berto
Publication date: TBA
Genre: NA Contemporary Romance

There are two things you should know about Kalli Perkins.

1. She’d rather do it in public than be alone with a guy.

2. She loves her little brothers more than her mom does.

Kalli doesn’t pretend to be a good girl. At nineteen, she’s never been in love and doesn’t ever intend to be. She has her issues handled. She’s managed to keep the secret of what happened to her nine years ago from her mother, although her mother’s usually high anyway and barely notices Kalli or her little brothers.

One night at a party, Kalli makes a bet with her friend, Nate, that could change everything. Their friend, Scout, tells them there’s no uncrossing the friendship line once it’s crossed—even though they were both drunk. But Kalli can’t imagine how anyone could want her damaged self for anything more.

She didn’t count on Nate. Nate’s very capable of satisfying her not only under her clothes, but in her heart, too.

She just doesn’t know it yet.


Rebecca Berto is a new adult contemporary romance author. She is also a freelance editor.

She writes stories that are a bit sexy, and straddle the line between Literary and Tear Your Heart Out. She gets a thrill when her readers are emotional reading her stories, and gets even more of a kick when they tell her so. She’s strangely imaginative, spends too much time on her computer, and is certifiably crazy when she works on her fiction.

Rebecca Berto lives in Melbourne, Australia with her boyfriend and their doggy.

Author Links:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

#NewRelease WHITE SWANS - REVELATIONS #fantasy #historical

Announcing a new release
Book: White Swans: Revelations
Author: annamaria Bazzi
Release date: June 5, 2013

White Swans: Revelations

Book Blurb:
After attempting to accept her fate in the strange fishbowl world, Kendíka decides it’s impossible. Call her a pet, will they? Determination revived, she tempts her “master’s” fury by trying to make life better for the people of Deverow’s Duchy. She will bring technology to the Regency era or end up a swan trying.
Still longing for a higher station in her new existence, Jillian sets her sights on Harry, the Count of Paddington. The only problem? Getting the man to take notice of her. Perhaps discovering some common ground—besides their rabbit-like features—will do the trick.

About the Author:
Although born in the United States, Annamaria Bazzi spent a great deal of her childhood in Sicily, Italy, in a town called Sciacca. Italian was the language spoken at home. Therefore, she had no problems when she found herself growing up in a strange country.
Upon returning to the states, she promised herself she would speak without an accent.
She attended Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Computers with a minor in Spanish.
Annamaria spent twenty years programming systems for large corporations, creating innovative solution, and addressing customer problems. During those years, she raised four daughters and one husband. Annamaria lives in Richmond Virginia with her small family where she now dedicates a good part of her day writing.

You can visit or contact annamaria at:
You can write to annamaria at:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

#AuthorInterview Norwood Holland #blogtour MINUS ONE

1.       Where did the idea come from for the book?
Minus One’s inception and inspiration was biographical.  Right out of law school I worked as a Concierge at the Washington Marriott.  I befriended two Bellman, a Latino and an Egyptian.  That summer we hung out.  DC is an international is both a small southern town and international.  Most think of it as just a political seat of government, but it’s so much more.  It’s also the city of my birth and I love the diversity.  I thought the setting and eclectic friendships would make great elements in a story.  I wrote the first draft in the 90s and it has gone through many changes.  While the story has a biographical inspiration it is entirely fictional. 
2.       What genre does your book fall under?
It’s a mystery, a who dunit.  I use the classic murder mystery format opening with a body.  I tried to make it a thriller as well and in the process discovered why they are two completely different genres.  One involves discovering the villain while the other involves chasing a villain and in a thriller it’s difficult to write about pursing an unknown villain.
3.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
As it turns out the cover model is an actor.  His name is Donnell Turner and I discovered him on line in independent film on  I contacted him and he agreed to pose.  It turns out he had posed for a few other book covers.  For the character I orginially saw him as a Lou Diamond Phillips image but he’s too old now.   I would cast a new young Mexican American Jeremy Ray Valdez.  I would also cast the Egyptian actor Ahmad Izz to play Medhat. 
3.       What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Minus One is a modern day tale of the three Musketeers--all for one and one for all--without the happy ending.
4.       Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My books are independently published.  I started my own publishing imprint, Windmill Books.  I steer away from the term self-published because a lot of urban writers continue to give the self published books a bad name with poorly edited products.
After years of rejection by publishers and agency I decided to publish myself.  On my second book with the 3rd one in production I haven’t looked back.  I have come to believe that gatekeepers don’t really know what the reading public likes and they are more often guided by their own subjective taste.  Very few agents and editors are interested in characters of color believing they are not marketable based on certain ignorance.  It being shown they are making a huge mistake ignoring this market.
5.       How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
One year.  I set a daily goal of one page a day.  So theoretically I would have a book in 365 days.  That method generally works.  Some days I would only write a paragraph and other days I would write 20 to 30 pages—I call those gifts.
6.       What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I generally followed the Mystery formula where the book opens with a body.  I also used a flashback narrative retrospective to open.  It’s the method by which I tell the story that distinguishes it.  I got the idea from the movie Mildred Pierce to make a first person narrative that starts the story in media res, that is, in the midst of things.  It’s a pretty effective method and so sublime very few realize there on a journey back to the beginning. 
7.       Who or What inspired you to write this book?
What inspired the story was a fierce argument I witnessed between the real life Medhat and Julio.  Even back then I knew their relationship had the makings of good story.  Julio and Medhat were inspired by actual real life buddies Medhat and Julio.  But that’s as far as the comparison goes.  I can’t emphasize enough that this is a work of fiction.  The novel has some unrestrained and indulgent sexual scenes all of which are a figment of my imagination.  I don’t want readers to get the wrong idea.
8.       What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
 All the relationships are mixed, racially and culturally, but the only one, Drew and Nina, is affected by racism.  Drew is in love with a Latina whose father objects to her dating a black man.  Multiculturalism is a given throughout the book yet at the dawn of 21th Century race remains a major obstacle the Black man.  In addition to the suspense of solving the murder I think the reader will find interest in how Drew reacts and copes with the situation.

Norwood Holland is a freelance writer, lawyer, and author of the Drew Smith legal thriller series based on the capers of an urban trial attorney.  He is a graduate of Howard University School of Law with a bachelor’s degree in English from Fisk University where he studied under the renowned Harlem Renaissance author Arna Bontemps.  Holland favors D.C.'s local color in his fiction and currently writes the blog devoted to promoting independent authors among other things. 

He has served in several government agencies including the National Labor Relations Board and a number of Washington’s top national law firms.  In the mid 90s Holland began freelancing for the local media.  Some of his credits include The Writer Magazine, the Examiner, and Black Literature Magazine.  Minus One follows up on the success of Sleepless Nights, the first in the Drew Smith Series.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Vera Custodio Cooks: Kare-Kare

Vera Custodio, from my upcoming novel, Knowing Vera, cooks a peanut-flavored meat and vegetable stew. Most of the ingredients are found easily, except for the key one, bagoong [fermented salty shrimp paste]. If you're in Silicon Valley, Marina Foods has jarred "Mother's Best Ginisang Bagoong" in three flavors, Classic, Spicy, or Sweet. While you're there, grab a couple cans of Calamansi Juice Drink, and have it with the Kare-Kare.

1-1/2 pound beef cross-cut hind shank (Chamorro de Res Cortado)
1 pound beef tripe, menudo
1 pound boneless pork loin roast
1 pound beef rib-eye steak
1 Tbsp Azafran en Flor (dried Safflower blossoms) soaked in hot water
1 tsp tumeric
1 large onion, chopped
1 Chinese eggplant, sliced
2-3 bunches baby bok choy
1 bundle sitaw, Chinese long beans, cut into 2 inch pieces (about ½ pound)
1 cup ground peanuts [grind roasted peanuts in a food grinder]
½ cup peanut butter
1 Tbsp fish sauce, pata
½ cup shrimp paste, bagoong
1 Tbsp minced garlic
4-6 cups water, just enough to cover the meat
1 Tbsp cooking oil
Salt, pepper to taste

1.      Cut all meat into either strips or cubes, about 1” x 2”
2.      Simmer meat with chopped onion in a large stockpot 3 hours until tender, or 35 minutes in a pressure cooker
3.      After meat is tender, add ground peanuts, fish sauce, turmeric, and colored water. Simmer 5-7 minutes
4.      While doing step 3, heat oil in a wok and brown the garlic. Throw in all vegetables and cook 5 minutes. Add cornstarch mixed with small amount of water to thicken.
5.      Transfer cooked vegetables into large stockpot and place on top of the meat mixture.
6.      Garnish with the dried safflower blossoms. Serve with steamed rice and plenty of bagoong on the side [let each diner add to taste]. Enjoy!

(Traditional recipe has a banana flower bud. If not available, either skip, or substitute peeled and shredded green papaya)
(Traditional recipe has ½ cup annatto seeds soaked for coloring. If not available, soak dried safflower blossoms or 1 Tbsp achiote or annatto powder)
(Traditional recipe uses ox-tail, but this cut is hard to find and relatively expensive, so substitute beef shank and steak.)