Thursday, January 31, 2013

A fairytale from the golden age of Hollywood: Letitia Fairbanks & Princess April Morning-Glory on Virtual Book Tour

What kind of a world would you create, if you had to do three good deeds to make it home again? The answer to that crucial question, as given by the title character in Letitia Fairbanks’s charming fairy tale, PRINCESS APRIL MORNING-GLORY, tells a unique and captivating story. Although she lives a fabled life in a paradise called Fairyland, the princess makes a fateful decision to step outside of her cloistered existence to face the outside world and all of its temptations. Once outside The Enchanted Forest, the princess longs to return home, but she is told by a benevolent wizard that she must first do three good deeds. She follows his sage advice and starts her journey home, performing three good deeds, peerless in the annals of fairy tales. But along the way, Princess April is tempted by the wicked Fairy Misery with the promise of riches and fabulous fairy wings if she remains in the outside world and does Misery’s bidding. Which life will Princess April choose?

For its writing, beautiful illustrations, and moral weight, PRINCESS APRIL MORNING-GLORY -- written and illustrated by Letitia Fairbanks over seven decades ago -- can be compared to such classics as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s THE LITTLE PRINCE and Walt Disney’s classic film FANTASIA.

PRINCESS APRIL MORNING-GLORY also comes with a fascinating history. Letitia Fairbanks was the niece of the fabled silent film stars Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Mary Pickford. When she was a little girl, Letitia’s family moved to Hollywood from Utah after Douglas Fairbanks appointed his brother Robert, Letitia's father, to be the production manager of United Artists, the film company formed by Fairbanks, Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith.

Letitia, who was born in 1913, spent much of her childhood through early adulthood at Pickfair, the legendary estate built by Fairbanks and Pickford, where she was surrounded by the luminaries of the time. When she started writing and illustrating PRINCESS APRIL MORNING-GLORY in her twenties as a homage to her recently-deceased uncle, Letitia derived inspiration for the illustrations from then-current Hollywood blockbuster films, as well as deriving her portraiture from a composite of that era’s celluloid legends, along with immediate family members including her mother, father and sister, Lucile. The book was first copyrighted in 1941 and has not seen the light of day since.

Despite the book’s glamorous provenance, it’s the story, detailed imagery, and moral framework of PRINCESS APRIL MORNING-GLORY that make it special, says Kelley Smoot Garrett, Letitia’s stepdaughter and the successor trustee of the Ella Letitia Fairbanks Smoot Family Trust. Kelley, born in Texas and raised in New York City, holds a bachelor of science in geological sciences from the University of Texas at Austin and worked as a consulting petroleum geologist from 1983-1995. She currently works in Austin as a business analyst/project manager for hi-tech companies.

Following the painstaking digital restoration of the original artwork by Kelley's husband, Danny Garrett, who, like Letitia, is an artist, Kelley has been collaborating with Amanda Millner-Fairbanks, the granddaughter of Letitia Fairbanks and Kelley's step-niece, to publish the long-lost manuscript. Amanda is a graduate of Smith College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Boston Globe, Newsweek, and the Huffington Post.

PRINCESS APRIL MORNING-GLORY’S theme of, “you create your own destiny from the three good deeds you choose to do,” Kelley says, gives the book the potential to become a modern classic for all ages.

About The Author, Letitia Fairbanks
Letitia Fairbanks was the niece of the fabled silent film stars Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Mary Pickford. Born in 1913, Letitia spent much of her childhood and early adulthood at Pickfair, the legendary estate built by Fairbanks and Pickford. When she started writing and illustrating PRINCESS APRIL MORNING-GLORY, in her twenties, as a homage to her recently-deceased uncle, Letitia used an ensemble of current celluloid legends as inspirations for her illustrations. The book was first copyrighted in 1941 and has not seen the light of day since.

In honor of Letitia, Kelley Smoot Garrett is sending Letitia Fairbanks' children's book, Princess April Morning-Glory on a virtual book tour February 4 - April 26 and is giving everyone a chance to win a free Kindle Fire HD!  If you would like to follow her tour or enter the giveaway, visit her tour page at Pump Up Your Book by clicking HERE.

Pump Up Your Book is an innovative public relations agency specializing in online book promotion & publicity for authors. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Interview with Rachel Reynolds, author of 'Four Seasons for Charlotte'


Rachel Reynolds is a special educator and freelance writer. She currently serves as the principal of the Dominion School, operated byCommonwealth Autism Service. You can find her writing at Richmond Mom,Hello Grief, Richmond Magazine, the webzine Insert Eyeroll, and her personal blog, See What You Meme. She is also the co-founder and executive director of CJ’s Thumbs Up Foundation (CJSTUF). In 2012, Rachel was awarded the Eagle Rare Life Award for Courage.
Rachel lives in Ashland, Virginia with her husband and two incredibly annoying (but completely adorable) cats. In her spare time, she obsesses over Don Draper, dark chocolate, and public radio personalities (not necessarily in that order). You can follow Rachel on TwitterFacebook, or Goodreads.
To find out more, please visit

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Rachel Reynolds.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

A: I have only been writing professionally for the last two years although writing has always been an interest of mine.  I love reading all kinds of books. In addition to my writing, I work as principal of a special education school for children with autism and help run the foundation we started in our daughter’s honor (CJ’s Thumbs Up Foundation)

Q: Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A: Four Seasons for Charlotte is the story of our lives during the year that my 3-year-old daughter was diagnosed and treated for a brain tumor.  Although she did not survive her cancer journey, we learned so many lessons along the way. We were encouraged and amazed by the support the community brought to our family in our time of need. The book captures the many lessons that we learned along the way.  I wanted to share this story in order to offer a parent’s perspective on grieving as well as provide tips and support for families or communities in similar situations.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

A: As I recounted the story of Charlotte’s diagnosis, illness, and eventual death, I was overwhelmed with a flood of emotions as I recalled those emotional events once again.  The other challenge I faced was trying to share advice or suggestions from what is a unique story. I know that every family’s situation may be different, but we experienced many things that I think are common to families enduring intense chronic illness and I think many people in similar situations may be able to relate. 

Q: Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it?  Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?

A: My press kit is online at  It includes a one-sheet about the book, reviews from other media outlets, my bio, a Q&A with the author, and a book group question guide.

Q: Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV?  What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

A: Since the book was released in May 2012, I have spoken to a variety of local groups in the Richmond area. I also appeared on our local CBS show Virginia This Morning.  A copy of the video is on my media page.  I continue to book appearances with groups, both locally and around the country, as we make contacts and generate interest.  I will be speaking at the Virginia Festival of the Book in March 2013. 

Q: Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is?  If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

A: I do not have an agent.  I am sure that if I had one, some of my PR for the book would be a little easier; however, we have made some great connections and I had a great publishing experience even without an agent. 

Q: Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

A: Before publication of the book, I did send advance copies to media contacts and some people that I knew who wrote on high traffic blogs.  This resulted in some guest blog post and/or book review opportunities on a variety of sites.  I also appeared as a guest on a podcast and had the TV interview experience mentioned previously. 

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

A: I have a few ideas in mind for subsequent books. I just need more time to write!
Q: Thank you for your interview, Rachel.  Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

A: You can look for me on Facebook and Twitter. My website is  The book is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and directly through the CJ’s Thumbs Up Foundation at  

Four_Seasons_For_CharlotteAbout Four Seasons for Charlotte

Rachel Reynolds shares a powerful journey in her memoir, Four Seasons for Charlotte. It is the story of an ordinary family bearing an extraordinary burden.
When Rachel’s three year old daughter Charlotte was diagnosed with a brain tumor, the world of the Reynolds family was changed forever. In Four Seasons for Charlotte, she recounts the events of the year of Charlotte’s diagnosis, treatment, and eventual death. Her chronicle of the family’s story is about more than the untimely death of a child. It is about harnessing the strength of a community, gaining perspective through tragedy, and finding light in a time of darkness.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Guest Post from Monica Daddio, author of 'Humanizing the Jaguar'

Monica Daddio was born and raised in Trenton, NJ. She attended St. Stephens and Holy Cross grammar schools, Junior 4, and Trenton High. From there went to wrok for Mercer County Elections Office. Most recently she has retired and relocated to the Bristol VA/TN area. Her passion and love has always been music and she will jokingly tell you that she is a professional listener. With a vast collection of over 500 artists, she has a wide range of musical taste and that’s how her story came to be. This is her tribute to the musicians and music she loves so much. To find out more visit her website at : or at

Things I didn’t know about becoming a publisher author

While finishing up my story “Humanizing the Jaguar” I sent out several query letters. If I did received a reply it was a no thank you. This was a big surprise to me, how little interest big publishing houses showed to a new author. Some other things that I was unprepared for include:

That the industry has changed dramatically in the last several years.
That one needs an agent to be published by a major house.
     But a publisher doesn’t want you unless you have an agent. I call this the circle effect.

That only 1% of new authors are signed yearly through a major publisher.
     Agents and publishers do not want to take the time familiarizing the public with a new author.

     They want already established authors this also includes the few new authors who are able to get the         attention needed to prove their work is saleable. 

That factual and self-help books have a better chance at getting picked up.
     That POD  (Print on Demand) companies have become much more accepted and it’s no longer a stigma to be self-published. New and established authors alike are using this new technology to their advantage.

Either way traditional or POD the author is still mainly responsible for promotion.

But with POD the author has more control of all aspects that include story content and what form of promotion they want.  

But most recently the wave of the future is for all authors to have blogs, websites, and any and all kinds of social media to get their stories out there. Internet is the home of authors today making our products available on sites such as Amazon and the Kindle since the brick and mortar stores are fading away we have to keep up with the times. I’ve learned this is certainly a new type of market then it was just a few short years ago.


How do you tame the untamable? Bryan Wharton has been through more than any child should bear, leaving him emotionally scarred. When his new family proves to him that love and encouragement do exist, Bryan pursues his only dream. With the friendship and support of a few boys from school, they succeed in making their wild fantasies of becoming rock stars a reality. Through their hard work they rise to fame, while Bryan’s confident, cocky attitude generates animosity within the group. After a particularly grueling ordeal, he meets a young woman who captivates him in ways like no one else ever has. Donna’s ignorance over who he really is and her genuine concern during their fleeting time together allows him to freely open up to her. The two form a bond, becoming oddly entwined. After getting back to what Bryan knows best, he realizes he needs to devise a way for Donna to be near him for what he believes is his own selfishness. Donna was ready for an adventure knowing she’d become the envy of young women worldwide and was hoping that this could lead to more. What does this mean for the two-friendship, love or? As an added bonus this book also includes a game. There are many music clues scattered throughout the text. How many of the hidden clues can you find?

Interview with Penny Kim, author of 'Desert Wedding'


Penny Kim is a Washington, DC lurker and resident of Alexandria, Virginia. She is active in several area book groups that span several genres, from murder mysteries to chick lit and beyond. Currently working on her second book, her debut novel “Desert Wedding” is a compelling coming of age story for the Millennium generation.
To purchase Desert Wedding, click here.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Penny. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

A:Hello! I live in Alexandria, Virginia and have been writing ever since I can remember. The first book I ever wrote was called Cutie the Dinosaur. I wrote it in grade school and all of my teachers thought there was a mistake when I submitted it for an award—they just couldn’t believe I had written it. I think that’s the most fun about writing, how it shocks people closest to you.

Q: Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A: Desert Wedding is a riff on the classic chick-lit wedding story. It takes on the oftentimes bizarre rites-of-passage that comes with getting engaged and married, told through the lens of two best friends—Elsie and Res—living in Phoenix, Arizona. After planning my own wedding I had a very clear sense of why I needed to write this book. There is so much friction that goes on during this process and at the end I realized it was all part of the crazy, life-changing experience. The arguments aren’t really over the invitations or the flower arrangements but about your role as a part of a new, emerging family. I wanted to write about that journey. We like to hide the friction and focus on the window dressing, but it’s really that friction that makes a wedding such a rite of passage for a woman.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

A: This was a very cathartic, personal book for me and I think distancing myself from the characters was a challenge. These characters are certainly exaggerated fragments of personalities from my life. Certain characteristics of Res, for example, are based off of someone very familiar to me.  Elsie is my shrew, a compilation of women I’ve run into over the years who have a take-no-prisoner attitude. It was a challenge at times to make her likable, but I think her relationship with the sweet, accommodating Res is an important one. It teaches her to catch flies with honey and soften up some of her aggression.

Q: Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it? Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?

A: Yes, the press kit contains a press release, testimonials from reviewers, a book cover image, a sample chapter, an author bio, and an author interview.

Q: Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV? What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

A:I’m attending several events with local book groups in the area, with plans for a more extensive tour in the summer.

Q: Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

A:No agent yet!

Q: Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

A:Story Girl Press really focused on social networking and creating buzz before the book came out.

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

A: Yes, I’ve gotten quite addicted to the writing process and have a few ideas for where to take the characters in a sequel!

Q: Thank you for your interview, Penny. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

A: Yes! You can buy a paperback copy of the book on Amazon, or you can download it to your Kindle at the following link:


There is nothing more exciting than when your best friend gets married. And for Elsie McKenna, it seems like she’s got the maid of honor thing figured out. But as the big day date gets closer and wedding planning takes over, Elsie’s friendship with the bride-to-be, Res, begins to go downhill. To make matters worse, Elsie’s boyfriend, the long-suffering Jonah, becomes increasingly distant. It’s not too soon before Elsie begins to wonder if there’s something in the air in Phoenix, or if it’s just a nasty case of wedding fever.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Interview with Marc Cortez, author of 'A Gangster's Garden'


Marc Cortez began his storytelling career in the third grade, when he entered a school writing contest and won with his story THE ANT WHO STOLE EASTER. Since then he has become a marketing writer and frequent blogger, leveraging his writing skills into success as a business executive and entrepreneur. With A GANGSTER’S GARDEN, he has turned his lifelong passion for storytelling into a full-length novel. Mr. Cortez studied creative writing at the University of California, Los Angeles, and lives in California with his wife and two children. A GANGSTER’S GARDEN is his first novel. To purchase A Gangster's Garden, click here. To find out more, please visit him at

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Marc.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

A: I remember writing as early as the third grade, entering and winning a school writing contest with my story The Ant Who Stole Easter.  When I began my career as an engineer, I would often write technical presentations and papers, and this progressed to brand creation and promotion as I moved into business marketing and strategy.  And when I became an entrepreneur, storytelling became my lifeblood:  I was convincing people to invest in me and my company simply by crafting a compelling story.  So writing A Gangster’s Garden feels like a natural progression from the stories I’ve been writing all my life.

Q: Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A:  I’m fascinated in the rich worlds that grow in the cracks of society, especially when those hidden worlds crash into our everyday lives.   Set in Denver, A Gangster’s Garden is about a teenage boy killed in a botched street-gang hit and what happens to everyone touched by the shooting.  The story follows gang leader Benicio de los Santos, the hit’s intended target, as he plots revenge against his bitter enemy King Diaz for murdering his family two years earlier; and as his plans begin to unravel he rediscovers his lost faith and searches for redemption.  Meanwhile, across town in a wealthy Denver suburb, Miguel and Carmela Rodriguez struggle to come to terms with their son’s murder in the same neighborhood they fought so hard to overcome.  Both Miguel and Carmela go searching for answers on their childhood streets, with very different outcomes. 

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

A:  The biggest challenge I faced in writing A Gangster’s Garden was making my main character, gang leader Benicio de los Santos, a sympathetic figure instead of a stereotype.  How do you get readers to care about the leader of one of Denver’s most violent Mexican gangs?  I did it by painting the framework of the world that he lived in:  the warped yet internally-consistent morals of his gang set, the pain and loss he feels for his slain family, the rules he’s constructed about him to give his world a sense of consistency.  I try to show that he’s not a simple street thug; he’s a general, planning his enemy’s destruction out of love for his fallen family.  And in his twisted world it all makes perfect sense. 

Q: Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it?  Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?

A:  All of my press information is available on my website,  It includes my biography, Chapter 1, a summary of my book, and a very compelling video trailer (a 75 second “mini-movie” of A Gangster’s Garden,

Q: Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV?  What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

A:  I’ve been primarily promoting my book online, through a virtual book tour with book review and interview sites.  I have had an invitation to speak at a town hall meeting in Salinas, California, a town with a huge gang problem, and I plan on meeting many of my readers in person.  And I would love to appear on radio and TV to discuss my book!

Q: Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is?  If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

A:  I published A Gangster’s Garden myself, and so don’t currently have an agent.  With self-publishing becoming so prevalent these days, I think the agent’s role continues to evolve with the industry.  But I still think an agent is invaluable to getting broader exposure.  Are there any agents out there looking for a new author?

Q: Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

A:  I spent so much time writing A Gangster’s Garden that I hadn’t thought too much about promotion until after my book was finished.  In that regard, I suspect I’m like most new authors:  we don’t think at all about the marketing process until we’re at the end.  So I’ll make sure I start promotions much earlier for my second novel. 

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

A:  I’m currently working on the sequel to A Gangster’s Garden, tentatively called Santos, Uncolored. Benicio de los Santos is a fantastic, charismatic and complex character, and I want to finish the journey he began in A Gangster’s Garden.  I’m also working on a story of historical fiction, with a working title of Stalking Zodiac.  Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was always fascinated by the Zodiac killer, made all the more compelling because he was never caught.  But what if someone knew who he was?  

Q: Thank you for your interview, Marc.  Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

A:  Thank you very much!  A Gangster’s Garden can be found in print and ebook formats, on Amazon or directly from  


Deep in the heart of Denver’s Five Points varrio, an innocent teenage boy is killed in a gang-related shooting. The intended target, gang-leader Benicio de los Santos, assembles his Latin Disciples into a Denver basement to plot their revenge. Does it matter that the hit planned for him killed an innocent boy? No. What matters is how careless his main enemy, the Sureño Daggers, have become. His cholo brethren demand the bloody removal of their enemy's chief, King Diaz, and the quick takeover of Sureño drug turf. But Santos recalls a lesson from Sun Tzu - that true generalship destroys rather than counters enemy plans - and so commands his soldados to do nothing. He’ll avenge his wife and son’s murder on his terms, when he decides. Across town, a family struggles to come to terms with their son's murder. Businessman Miguel Rodriguez wonders what led his son down to the varrio in the first place, the very streets he’d fought so hard to overcome. He’d renamed his son precisely to distance him from their varrio past, despite the repeated protests of his wife Carmela. Wouldn’t life as a white Julian Ross, mingling with Denver’s elite, offer more than a brown Julio Rodriguez? They’d fought about the name change for years. And now, with Julian gone, Miguel realizes that the only way to find his lost son is to return to his childhood streets. A GANGSTER’S GARDEN is a story of murder, faith and redemption, set in Denver's Five Points varrio.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ten Unknown Facts About the World of Booze and Cocktails, as Described in Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, by Mark Spivak

We have Mark Spivak as our guest today!  Mark is the author of Iconic Spirits and is on a blog tour giving away a Kindle Fire HD!  Woohoo!  Fill out the form below the guest post and you might be the next winner!

Ten Unknown Facts About the World of Booze and Cocktails, as Described in Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, by Mark Spivak

1. The connection between moonshine and NASCAR: The racing circuit has been careful to cover this up, in their efforts to portray the sport as clean, wholesome family entertainment. All the early drivers were bootleggers. They jazzed up their cars to avoid the revenue agents, raced informally among themselves, and in 1947 got together and founded NASCAR.

2. Absinthe was once considered to be the most dangerous substance on earth, the repository of all the evil in the universe. One drink was considered sufficient to send someone on a downward spiral of alcoholism, insanity and death. Absinthe was banned in the U.S. in 1912, and not legalized again until 2007.

3. Millions of cases of Campari and other bitters are sold each year, yet the taste receptors on our tongues warn us not to drink them: Bitter substances are regarded as potentially toxic or poisonous, yet they are also regarded as some of the sexiest potions on earth.

4. The worst epidemic of mass drunkenness is history was the Gin Craze, which occurred in 18th century London; 15-20% of the population was drunk for nearly 50 years.

5. Spirits baron Sidney Frank made his initial fortune with Jägermeister, a German herbal liqueur that tasted like NyQuil mixed with mouthwash. In 1996, he invented Grey Goose from the flash of an idea, and sold it in 2004 for $2.2 billion.
6. Nearly 60% of the Cognac sold in America is consumed in hip hop clubs.

7. Bacardi went bankrupt three times before becoming the world’s pre-eminent rum brand.

8. The worldwide demand for Scotch whisky was actually created by a microscopic bug---phylloxera---that devastated French vineyards toward the end of the 19th century. No grapes meant no Cognac, so consumers turned to Scotch for solace.

9. Bourbon was recognized by an Act of Congress as America’s native spirit, a “distinctive product of the United States.”

10. John Paul Dejoria was homeless twice in his life. He started John Paul Mitchell Systems on a shoestring, went on to found Patrón Tequila, and today is ranked by Forbes magazine as the 66th wealthiest person in America.


Mark Spivak is an award-winning writer specializing in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He was the wine writer for the Palm Beach Post from 1994-1999, and since 2001 has been the Wine and Spirits Editor for the Palm Beach Media Group, as well as the restaurant critic for Palm Beach Illustrated. His work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, Ritz-Carlton, Continental, Art & Antiques, Newsmax, Dream of Italy and Arizona Highways. From 1999-2011 he hosted Uncorked! Radio, a highly successful wine talk show on the Palm Beach affiliate of National Public Radio.

Mark began writing Iconic Spirits after becoming fascinated with the untold stories behind the world’s greatest liquors. As a writer, he’s always searching for the unknown details that make his subjects compelling and unique.His latest book is Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History.

Visit Mark’s website at

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Pick up your copy of Iconic Spirits at Amazon:


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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Interview with LC Kanon, author of 'Spring Break'


LC Kanon is a native of Chicago, Illinois and has lived and worked in various locations across the country. A first-time author, LC was driven to write after reading far too many thrillers with damsels in distress. Compelled to meld the drama of chick lit with action and suspense, LC began writing and never stopped. Her first book, “Spring Break,” mixes coeds and cartels in a bloody romp through Mexico. When she’s not writing, LC enjoys watching kung fu, taking long drives, and walking along sandy beaches.
To purchase Spring Break, click here.

Q: Thank you for this interview, LC. Can you tell us what your latest book, Spring Break, is all about?

A: It’s about a group of coeds who run into a Mexican drug cartel while on spring break in Cancun. A lot of action ensues, especially when two of the girls break off from the group and decide to take on the cartel—guns blazing!

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters? 

A: My main characters are a “mean girls” foursome made up of Leigh, Eva, Gia, and Joy. They are spoiled Scottsdale coeds who are going down to Cancun to do what they do best: party. They run into Guero, a cartel kingpin, described as a “Mexican Ken doll.” He is not pleased when they insert themselves into cartel business.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination? 

A: I got inspiration for Leigh’s personality and appearance from a close friend of mine. Her “mean girls” friends are totally made up but their personalities are familiar. For example, I think everyone has crossed paths with a “Gia,” a really nasty, popular girl who is used to getting her own way.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write? 

A: This book began with the plot, which was so interesting to me that I started writing and couldn’t stop. That’s when you know you have a good idea, when it just won’t leave you alone until you finish it. I feel like I was seeing my characters around me constantly, it was very inspiring and a great motivation.

Q: Your book is set in Cancun. Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular? 

A: I vacationed in Mexico for several years and always loved the energy around spring break. It has a fun vibe and offers the perfect location for the girls’ extra-ordinary journey.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story? 

A: Yes, these girls are out of their element in Mexico, and the otherworldliness fuels their bad behavior. I think the debauchery and party-like attitude some of these girls have on spring break was really important because this fuels their misdeeds early on in the novel.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening? 

A: Only three girls made it out of their hotel alive, and they have just arrived at a location they think is safe. One of the girls, Leigh, just got off the phone with Guero, a cartel kingpin. She is trying to negotiate her way out of Mexico but conversation doesn’t go well. The page ends with Leigh concerned Guero is closing in on their location.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts? 

A: How long had they been there—three hours? Four? Night had fallen, and Leigh could feel the pull of the tide mark the passage of time. When the meal was finally over, the group went out to the elegant patio for yet more cocktails. Soft music hummed from invisible speakers. The humidity made the sharp smell of the liquor even more noticeable. Leigh could hear the rhythmic crashing of the waves, which instead of being comforting made the situation seem more claustrophobic. By this time, Leigh found herself in solitary company. Danny and his friend had sequestered Gia and Joy on one end of the patio. Both girls seemed delighted at this, and even if they weren’t, they were too drunk to stave off their advances. For his part, Mr. Jiménez had quarantined Eva on a low chaise camouflaged by some strategically-placed foliage. Seated a few feet away, Leigh noticed Jiménez was doing the most of the talking, his low voice carrying into the night. Eva was not motioning for assistance and was even shooting him several shy smiles. Feeling the numbing effects of the alcohol, Leigh wanted to melt away entirely. She let her attention wander to a lit pathway exiting the patio. She got up with the intention of doing a little investigating, and maybe finding the bathroom. No one noticed as she walked down the winding pathway, which ran parallel to the beach. She was invisible to the group as she disappeared behind the dining area, the pathway ending a few yards away in front of a large, windowless building. It was the same in appearance as the white-washed resort, and Leigh thought nothing of trying the door, annoyed to find it locked. Walking quickly back down the little path, she noticed a boat rising and falling with the waves just off the shore. This boat looked very fast, with clean lines and no clutter onboard. Finding everyone on the patio where she left them, Leigh walked up to Danny. “Hi, sorry to interrupt,” she began, as Danny continued his intense conversation with Gia. Leigh stomped her stiletto on the ground in drunken annoyance. “Hello! I have to pee people!” she cried out. Without turning, Danny shoved an electronic key card at her so he could continue speaking with Gia, who never looked up to acknowledge her friend. Leigh snatched it from him, tracing her steps back to building and gently placing the key card on the electronic pad. The door opened with a click, revealing several more doors. Leigh opened each one with the same key card, her brow furrowing at all the security. There were no doors in the entire Sol II resort, Leigh mused, which means this must be Jiménez’s private residence. Intensely buzzed and getting hungry again, Leigh immediately located a very ornate bathroom in one cavernous hallway. Flipping on the light, she attended to the necessary business and did some primping. Her unease with Joy and Gia, coupled with the inattention of the other dining companions, didn’t exactly put her in the best of moods. Grabbing her bag, she exited, quickly realizing after a few turns that she had no idea how to get back out. The twisting hallways didn’t assist her drunken navigation. Further complicating matters was the lack of overhead lights, and Leigh wasn’t about to go searching for a switch. She could only hear her heels clicking on the tiled floors as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. “Oh this is it. This is the way,” Leigh declared to the empty hallway, feeling her buzz give way to sobriety as she realized she was getting lost. Burying her growing panic, Leigh walked down a hallway she thought was the exit, only to find all the doors lining it locked. She advanced towards the last door at the end of the hall. Holding her breath, she placed the key card next to the pad. It chirped back at her, and the door clicked open. With a yelp of success, she opened it. Weird, Leigh thought, as the room’s cool air made her hair stand on end. Leigh kept walking forward, the lights coming on with each step. After a few tentative steps, all of the lights flew on, highlighting a very long, narrow room. Surveying her surroundings, it took a few moments for Leigh to register what she was seeing. The room was packed to the ceiling with racks of small, white packages tightly wrapped in plastic. She leaned down to investigate and shot up just as quickly. “Fuck me,” she whispered. She knew what she had stumbled upon and immediately felt her stomach drop. Midway down the aisle, Leigh glanced toward the exit closest to her, a door located at the opposite end of the room. She made a beeline for it. Fumbling at the handle, she hastily inserted the key card, hearing the chirp of recognition as she pushed it open. Soon after entering she stumbled over what felt like a pile of rugs. Leigh let out a tiny yell as she fell, landing in something wet and sticky. Pulling herself to her knees in the pitch black, she fumbled for her purse, located her phone, and activated her flashlight app. She followed the artificial beam of light to a shoe, then a leg, and then to a torso. Where she expected to see a head there was nothing. A musty, metallic scent hit her like a brick wall, and she pulled herself slowly to her feet, shining the light on the rest of the room. There were eight or nine torsos, all without heads, all piled neatly on top of one another. Leigh felt the rush of blood in her ears, bile rising in her stomach. After a few moments, it subsided, melting away into a disturbing calm.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, LC. We wish you much success! 

A: Thank you!


An all-expenses paid trip to Cancun for spring break? It wasn’t exactly a hard sell for Leigh, Eva, Gia and Joy, frenemies from Arizona Southern University. But all is not well in the land of silver or lead. Soon after arriving, Leigh and the girls stumble upon some cartel carnage—a bloodbath of debauchery that makes even their wildest desert party seem tame.
Instead of doing the proper thing, like contacting the authorities, the girls venture down the rabbit hole in this tale of sex, lies, and bloodshed. Everything changes when Leigh makes the acquaintance of Guero, a cartel kingpin who is none too pleased with her newfound lust for blood money.
These vengeful coeds aren’t on campus anymore, and after Guero lets them know just how serious he is, they make a run for the border no one will ever forget.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Interview with James Mace, author of 'I Stood with Wellington' and 'Forlorn Hope'


James Mace was born in Edmonds, Washington, and grew up in Meridian, Idaho. He joined the U.S. Air Force out of high school, and three years later changed over to the U.S. Army. He spent a career as a soldier, including service in the Iraq War.
In 2011, he left his full-time position with Army Guard and devoted himself completely to writing. His series, “Soldier of Rome – The Artorian Chronicles”, has been a perennial best-seller in ancient history on Amazon. In 2012 he branched into the Napoleonic Era with the short novella, “Forlorn Hope: The Storming of Badajoz”. This was soon followed by the full-length novel, “I Stood With Wellington”.
He also co-wrote the critically acclaimed screenplay, The Evil That Men Do.
Visit him at
Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, James.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

A: According to my Mum and Dad, I’ve been telling stories since I was about six. They even recently found a two-page short story about Indiana Jones that I wrote for school when I was about ten. My first actual start as a professional writer began around 2002, when I started writing bodybuilding and fitness articles for as well as a magazine called HardCore Muscle. The magazine was the first time I actually got paid for writing. I wrote my first book, Soldier of Rome: The Legionary, as a cathartic means of passing the time when I was in Iraq with the Army Guard in 2005.

Q: Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A: This is actually a pair of books that tell one larger story. Though all my previous works has been set in Rome, I always had a fascination for the Napoleonic Era of the early 1800s. The Duke of Wellington was always one of my heroes, and so it was only a matter of time before I branched out into this time period. I also noticed that while history textbooks from this era are common, novels are extremely rare; the only exceptions being Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series, as well as the more recent Napoleonic Wars trilogy by Adrian Goldsworthy.

The first book I wrote, Forlorn Hope: The Storming of Badajoz, is a very short novella, and was a way of testing the waters to see if I could write about something other than Imperial Rome. I knew I wanted to eventually write a novel about the Battle of Waterloo, but since that would be a very large undertaking; I elected to scale it down to an earlier engagement, the Siege of Badajoz in southern Spain in 1812. The very term Forlorn Hope comes from this time period; during a siege, cannon would blast large breaches into the outer walls, and the Forlorn Hope were the first hundred or so volunteers whose task was to gain a foothold long enough for the first wave to exploit during the main assault. As one can imagine, chances of being killed or maimed were extremely high. In this story, the main character, Lieutenant James Henry Webster, receives news that his wife died in childbirth back in England. Thinking he has nothing left to live for, he impulsively volunteers to lead the Forlorn Hope. He only comes to regret this decision when it is too late, as he realizes he now has a daughter, and it is for her that he should live. The crux of the story is the actual assault, with Webster leading his men, bound by duty to see his mission through. I spared no details, and like my other works, the battles are written with extremely graphic detail.

I was relieved when I saw how well Forlorn Hope was received, as it garnered strong accolades in both the U.S. and Britain, quickly becoming my best-seller. It was then that I decided to go ahead with my novel on the Waterloo Campaign of 1815.

I Stood With Wellington begins with Napoleon’s first abdication in 1814, follows his escape from exile, return to power, and the climactic battle between he and Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815. James Henry Webster returns as a captain in the elite British 1st Regiment of Foot Guards. His colour sergeant is an Irishman named Patrick Shanahan, who is also a survivor of the Forlorn Hope at Badajoz. There are three main story arcs, the primary one focusing on Webster, Shanahan, as well as a number of the enlisted men in their company. Another arc gives the French perspective from that of Napoleon, the extreme difficulties he faces in reconstituting his once grand army, while battling his own failing health. The final arc is that of Wellington himself. Though previously unbeaten in battle, he had never faced Napoleon, who he viewed as the master of war. He also knows that the fragile European coalition will collapse if he and his Prussian allies, under Marshal Gebhard von Blucher, cannot hold in face of Napoleon’s juggernaut.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

A: Research was a bit of a challenge; not due to lack of material, but rather because there was so much of it. As in all my books, I refuse to change known historical fact, so I had to make certain I kept as much integrity as possible. In Cornwell’s Sharpe series, he has a bit more leeway, as not only are his main characters fictitious, but so is their entire regiment. In my story, I am inserting fictional characters into an actual British regiment.

Another surprising challenge came from conflicts within primary sources and firsthand accounts. An example of this is where I depict a certain French officer leading an assault through the gates of a British stronghold. Certain eyewitness accounts state he was not there at all, while others ascertain that he was. In any high-stress situation, you can have a hundred participants who will later give you a hundred different versions of the same story. In these instances, I simply had to use my best judgment and use that which I thought was most plausible.

Q: Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it?  Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?

A: I do not have a press kit.

Q: Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV?  What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

A: I have not at this time, though I am looking into pitching my book on Radio Boise.

Q: Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is?  If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

A: I’ve never had an agent. When I made ready to publish my first book, Soldier of Rome: The Legionary, back in 2006, I pitched it to hundreds of agents; those who responded all said there was no market for my works. I tend to now question their judgment, as my Soldier of Rome books went on to become best-sellers in Ancient History on Amazon and Amazon U.K. While I do feel agents still have their place, particularly if one is trying to get picked up by one of the big publishing houses, their necessity has been greatly diminished with the rise of eBooks and the ability of independent authors to publish their own works.

Q: Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

A: I did a press release as soon as I Stood With Wellington was released.

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

A: Historically, the British Empire was not involved in another major conflict until forty years after Waterloo, so there was really nowhere else to go with this story. That is why I wrap up the main story arcs with an epilogue, taking place twenty-one years later. It is really too bad that there was nowhere else to take this story, as readers have told me they were really drawn into the characters and wanted to read more about them.

I am continuing to write, and have returned to work on my fifth Soldier of Rome novel, which I intend to have out this spring. This will be followed by the sixth and final book of that series. I have numerous other projects on the backburner, so you will see new historical novels from me for many years to come.
Q: Thank you for your interview, James.  Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

A: Amazon and all of its affiliates, i.e. Amazon U.K., carry my works, and are available to order through any book retailer. They are available in eBook digital format through Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Kobo eReader.


In February, 1815, after nine months in exile, Napoleon Bonaparte, the deposed Emperor of the French, escaped from the Isle of Elba. Seizing the initiative while the European powers bicker amongst themselves at the Congress of Vienna, Napoleon advances towards Belgium with an enormous army, where the combined forces of Prussia and England are cantoned. The French Emperor knows that if he can achieve a decisive capture in Brussels, it will shatter the already fragile European alliance.
Leading the allies is Sir Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington; the venerable British field marshal who defeated Napoleon’s best generals in Spain, yet who the emperor had never personally met in battle. Napoleon knows that if he can draw away Wellington’s chief Prussian ally, Gebhard von Blucher, and destroy his army first, he can unleash his entire might against the British. A victory over the unbeaten Wellington will cripple the alliance even further, as it will then deprive them of both English soldiers and financing.
In Belgium, Captain James Henry Webster has finally returned to a line regiment after being terribly wounded at the Siege of Badajoz three years prior. He is given command of a line company within the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, the elite of the British Infantry.
A series of indecisive clashes will lead to a collision between the two greatest military minds of the age and the bloodiest single day of the entire century, as Wellington and Napoleon lead their armies to either immortality or oblivion. For Captain Webster, he fights for both his nation and to protect his young daughter in Brussels. Along with the rest of the Guards Division, he finds himself at the apex of the battle, where the fate of the entire world will be decided; at a place called Waterloo.


In the spring of 1812, the British army under Sir Arthur Wellesley, Earl of Wellington, has driven the French from Portugal. With Napoleon obsessed by the invasion of Russia, Wellington turns toward Spain. The way is barred by two fortresses, Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz. When Ciudad Rodrigo collapses after a short siege, Wellington prepares to break the fortress of Badajoz, the most formidable stronghold in Europe.
Lieutenant James Webster is in mourning following the loss of his wife, and he volunteers to command the small group that will lead the assault. Second in command is Sergeant Thomas Davis; recently diagnosed with a fatal illness, he prefers a valiant death in battle. Breaches have been blown into the walls of the southern bastions, Trinidad and Santa Maria, and here Wellington will unleash the 4th and Light Divisions, while launching diversionary assaults on the northern San Vincente bastion, as well as the Badajoz castle. Together with one hundred volunteers, the Forlorn Hope, Webster and Davis will storm the breach.