Friday, June 28, 2013

Welcome, Kathleen Irene Paterka!

Writing can be a lonely endeavor and the authors I communicate with are very special to me. Kathleen Irene Paterka is so lovely, warm, talented and funny, and I am very excited that she's here today to talk about her latest novel, Royal Secrets, which is now available for sale. Welcome, Kathleen!

I’ve always been fascinated with the British royals. What little girl doesn’t want to grow up and be a princess? How hard could it be? True, you might have to give up your privacy, but there’s no denying the job includes some great benefits. All the gold crowns and sparkling tiaras a girl would ever want to wear. An unlimited budget for the latest fashions and gorgeous shoes. A Cinderella coach with liveried footmen to take you wherever you need to go. Life in a Castle, with servants ready to attend to your every need. And on your wedding day? The British royal family certainly knows how to put on a wedding.

Brides! Weddings! I love them! My day job as staff writer at a real American castle which hosts numerous weddings (nearly 200 last year) feeds my fix for royalty and romance. When I began daydreaming about a plot for a new book, my love for all things royal and weddings came into play. But it wasn’t until my daughter Abby and her husband moved to Las Vegas a few years ago, that I really started thinking. Las Vegas, the wedding capital of the world. Voila! The framework for a new story was born.

Want to know a secret? Though my new novel ROYAL SECRETS has an “official” release date of July 1, 2013, it’s available now! ROYAL SECRETS tells the story of the Royal Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, and of Lily Lavender, whose family is distantly descended from the British royal family. Immersed in the regal world of weddings and romance, Lily grew up believing in brides, grooms and happily-ever-afters. It seemed her destiny and royal birthright to someday assume a position as wedding coordinator in their family-owned wedding chapel business. But when her mother Mimi’s third marriage eventually fails, Lily’s dreams of her own happily-ever-after quickly fade. She’s no longer interested in a life of assisting brides walk down the aisle into a life of disillusionment and possible divorce. Lily turns her back on The Royal Wedding Chapel and leaves Las Vegas to fashion a life of her own. Years later, Lily—now a single mom—discovers her teenage daughter has run off to Las Vegas, lured by Mimi to help run the chapel. Determined to save her daughter from the broken dreams of Sin City and the nonsensical world of which family fairy tales are made, Lily returns to Las Vegas. But nothing prepares Lily for the royal drama which awaits her… or the sins and secrets she stumbles across that threaten to close the chapel and ruin her family forever.

Sound interesting? Read on for the Prologue…

There’s a reason they call this town Sin City, my mother told me long ago when I questioned her about something I’d heard at school that day. But when I asked about the secrets part, Mimi had refused to explain. “You’re much too young to hear about such things, Lily,” she said and left it at that.
I wandered away, a confused eight-year-old, my head filled with even more questions. How could Las Vegas be full of sin and secrets when it was filled with so much sunshine? Growing up in this town, in the ornate, spacious villa behind Mimi’s Royal Wedding Chapel near the center of the Strip, I saw the glitz and glamour. It shimmered and sparkled like the beautiful brides in their wedding gowns gracing the aisles of the chapel. Peeking around the pews, I saw their glowing faces, heard the vows exchanged, witnessed the beginnings of so many happily-ever-afters.
And then I grew up.
It took a while—around the time Mimi’s third marriage, the one to Jack’s father, collapsed—for me to discover the truth. Las Vegas is full of sin and secrets. Most of them stay in Vegas, left behind to be cleaned up by maids and blackjack dealers who sweep away the debris. Others get carried home like guilty luggage, busting up marriages and businesses and causing bankruptcy.
I’m forty years old, and that na├»ve little girl I used to be disappeared long ago. She learned that happily ever after is merely an illusion and that sins and secrets can weigh just as heavy on your heart as our family’s heirloom tiara can weigh on your head. The dazzling crown, in the special display case behind bulletproof glass in the lobby of the Royal Wedding Chapel, gleams like the fortune it is worth. But the antique combs pinch and the diamond diadem is a burden. How my grandmother managed to keep the jewel-encrusted crown on her head when presented to the Queen is the stuff of which family legends are made. With my grandfather descended from British nobility and in distant line for the throne, the tiara is a priceless treasure, proof of our family’s heritage.
As far as I’m concerned, though, that tiara is exactly where it belongs: safely behind glass, viewed from a distance. It glitters and sparkles, but the pain isn’t worth it. Dare to wear it, as I did once, andjust like the secrets hidden in Sin Citythe pain and guilt will tear you down. I’m lucky I managed to yank it off in time.
And I refuse to allow that tiara to ruin my daughter’s life the way it almost ruined mine.

About Kathleen
Kathleen Irene Paterka is the author of numerous women’s fiction novels which embrace universal themes of home, family life and love, including ROYAL SECRETS and the James Bay series (FATTY PATTY, HOME FIRES, LOTTO LUCY and FOR I HAVE SINNED). Kathleen is the resident staff writer for Castle Farms, a world renowned castle listed on the National Historic Register, and co-author of the non-fiction book FOR THE LOVE OF A CASTLE, published in 2012. Having lived and studied abroad, Kathleen's educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts degree from Central Michigan University. She and her husband live in the beautiful north country of Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

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Connect with Kathleen!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Welcome Victoria Barbour!

I love meeting fellow Canadian authors, and I was so happy when a mutual friend introduced me to Victoria Barbour. Welcome, Victoria!

Romancing the Rock

When I was in my twenties and living in other parts of Canada, there was nothing I enjoyed more than bringing my friends home to Newfoundland. I couldn't wait to show the place off with visits to George Street (hot Nfld guys), Cape Spear (the most easterly point in North America) and Signal Hill (great for parking with the boys you meet on George St.) What I loved more than anything was that those friends fell in love with Newfoundland too. 

When I started writing romance, I couldn't imagine a better setting for my stories. There's such a mix of urban and rural cultures, and I love the juxtaposition between the two. Over the years I've submitted to traditional publishers and received the subsequent rejection letters. I often wondered if it was the location. I even thought about changing it, but in the end, I know who I am as a writer. I'm a Newfoundlander, and for me, the greatest compliment I think a reader could ever give me is to feel compelled to learn more about this awesome rock in the sea. That's why I decided to self-publish Against Her Rules. This novel wouldn't be the story it is if it were set anywhere else. 

I believe without great characters, especially the supporting cast, and a setting ripe for romance, a novel just can't flow. One of the most interesting things that's happened since publishing Against Her Rules is the feedback from my fellow Newfoundlanders. They're surprised they are enjoying a romance set here. I guess if you live in a place, you can't always see the beauty. I sometimes wonder if I hadn't lived away for so much of my adult years if I would see it myself? But I'm so glad I do. 

One of my favourite passages in the novel has nothing to do with the romance—it's the reaction my hero has when he first spots the Heart's Ease Inn. Here's an excerpt: 

At first glance you’d think this was a desolate place. Its isolation and the sparse landscape made you think of loneliness. But then subtle things stood out. The blue jays fighting over seeds in a feeder shaped like the sun. Crisp white sheets flapping in the air, despite the mist, the clothesline dancing in the wind. Even the way all the tips of the small juniper trees pointed in the same direction.
Looking toward the water, the view was breathtaking. White caps formed on the waves, and still he could see gulls riding them out with ease, as if this was their own personal surfer's nirvana.
Shutting off the engine, he stepped out and took a deep breath. The wet, cool air filled his lungs. He smiled. This might be a good project after all.

Thriving business? Check.
 Sexual exploits with a rockstar? Check.
Complete independence? Check.
Elsie Walsh had it all. Or so she thought. Until Scottish hunk Campbell Scott showed up on the doorstep of her bed and breakfast. He’s making it pretty hard for her to stand by her one rule: No sleeping with the guests. She’s denied some of the world’s hottest actors, musicians, and even royals... but how can she keep Cam out of her bed, when he’s invaded her head and her heart?
Campbell Scott went to the wilds of Newfoundland with one thing on his mind: sketch some birds, and then get back to his playboy lifestyle in London. But one look at his sexy hostess and there’s a whole lot more in the air than sea birds. Rejection isn’t part of his vocabulary, and Cam sets out to not only convince Elsie that he belongs in her bed, but by her side at the Heart’s Ease Inn. 
Victoria lives on the island of Newfoundland, and is fiercely proud of her home. She can imagine no better setting for her works, and hopes that her readers will one day come to witness Newfoundland and Labrador's rustic beauty for themselves. When she's not writing, or trying to convince people to visit her home, she's busy with her day-to-day life as a mother, wife, and marketing communications specialist. 
She was born in St. John's, and raised above her family's fish and chips restaurant. She has traveled and lived in other parts of Canada, but chose to make her home where her heart has long resided. Victoria has a degree in History from Memorial University of Newfoundland, with a minor in Newfoundland Studies. The only thing that stands between her and a Master's degree in History from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia is her thesis. She has a background in broadcast journalism, advertising, and marketing. She is a proud member of both the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and their affiliate chapter, Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada (RWAC). 
Victoria counts herself lucky to be surrounded by an incredibly supportive family, and thanks her husband daily for his unerring faith in her, and for being a wonderful father to their infant son.  

Connect with Victoria!

Buy Against Her Rules!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Welcome Layne Wong!

A while back, I wrote a guest post for Kobo Writing Life  and one of the comments led me to a gorgeous book called Shanghai Love by Layne Wong. I was intrigued so when out of the blue I was contacted about Layne, I immediately asked her to guest post. Shanghai Love has such a beautiful cover, and the story is so fascinating and unique. I haven't yet read it, but I definitely will. Welcome, Layne!

Thanks, Sam. I wrote Shanghai Love as homage to my Asian heritage and Jewish conversion.  China’s openness to accept Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler was unusual and a little known historical fact; I was drawn by the convergence of these cultures during an especially dark time for mankind. 

I traveled through China and spent time at various Shanghai and China sites where Peilin and Henri lived and traveled—the Hongkew District, the Chinese longtangs, the Ohel Moshe Synagogue, village night markets, the Kadoorie’s Marble Hall, and the spectacular Bund.
The novel is a reflection of my own personal struggle for identity.  The Chinese culture heavily emphasizes the group over the individual.  Yet I believe there’s room for both.  Peilin wrestles with her identity beyond obedient daughter-in-law and “ghost wife.” In the larger context, she opens herself up to Henri and a community unfamiliar to her.  Peilin shares her healing knowledge of herbs and Chinese medicine for the good of all society. 

The story incorporates the historical shame that accompanied mixed relationships.  I grew up in California; yet when I was young, my parents warned me of serious consequences to interracial marriages.  In fact during my parents’ time, they could’ve been arrested for a relationship outside their race.   I did marry outside of my Chinese culture, luckily at a time when the laws were revoked.  Still the social stigma lingers among many.  Shanghai Love is a classic tale of love prevailing over adversity.

Awareness builds understanding.  In this ever-evolving society--where children of mixed heritages are the fastest growing population in America--I wanted to inspire others to embrace their diverse backgrounds as well as their own uniqueness.

Chinese herbs are an additional passion that I’ve incorporated into the novel.  I worked as an herbal technician in an acupuncture office and became fascinated with these healing assets, their connection to nature, and their uses.  Like Henri, I could sit in Peilin’s herbal shop and watch her for hours.  The sights and smells of this organic medicine draw me in like a kid at Disneyland!

I’m an avid reader, TV fan and moviegoer.   I highly respect Amy Tan (Joy Luck Club, One Hundred Secret Senses), Helen Simonson (Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand), Kathryn Stockett (The Help), and Lisa See (Peony In Love, Snowflower and the Secret Fan). I love the works of Ang Lee (Life of Pi), Steven Spielberg (Lincoln, The Color Purple) as well as Spielberg’s collaboration with Tom Hanks (Band of Brothers, The Pacific).  These and many other talented storytellers are a continual source of inspiration.

I weaved this remarkable connection between the Asian and Jewish culture into the narrative tapestry so that others could experience love’s everlasting capacity amid a journey of difficult choices during turmoil.  I hope your readers will enjoy the book and I welcome any questions, comments or stories they’d like to share!

Layne Wong is a novelist and advocate for stories that infuse personal heritage into the narrative tapestry. Weaving her Chinese legacy with that of her Jewish conversion, her debut novel explores a little known historical connection when these cultures collided as a result of Hitler's rampage and World War II.

Peilin is betrothed to Kwan Yao, the only son of a wealthy pearl farmer. Months before their wedding, Yao is killed by the Japanese in the Nanjing Massacre—but the Kwans insist on proceeding with the wedding anyway, and beautiful Peilin is married to a ghost husband. When an uncle passes away, the Kwans send Peilin to Shanghai to manage their family’s herbal shop. Meanwhile, in Berlin, Henri graduates from medical school just as Hitler rises to power. Henri flees to Shanghai, where he’s befriended by Ping, a young disfigured rickshaw driver—and Peilin’s brother. When Ping introduces Henri to Peilin, Henri becomes fascinated with Chinese herbs and the exotic culture surrounding him—and falls in love with Peilin.

The gripping tale of an unlikely love in a tumultuous time and place, Shanghai Love is a classic story of love’s triumph over adversity.

Connect with Layne!

Twitter- @laynewong1

Buy Shanghai Love!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

BEA and Book Buzz 2013

For the past year, I've been communicating online with the most talented, funniest and kindest writers in a group called The Chick Lit Goddesses. We've bonded over books, families, relationships and promoting. I knew I had to meet these writers in person and what better place than New York City during Book Expo America?

Eight of us decided we would host an author event at Stone Creek Bar and Lounge on May 30, 2013 in New York City and embarked on planning a rocking party we called Book Buzz 2013. I couldn't believe I was actually going to my favorite city in the world and would finally get to hug these amazing women who I chatted with all day every day. If that wasn't fantastic enough, I was invited by Kobo to appear at their Kobo Writing Life booth at BEA to sign copies of Finding Lucas and meet readers and authors. When I saw my name listed among the prolific bestsellers who were also being featured, well, I cried. It's not often that all of your dreams come true, but mine had.

So, very early Thursday morning, I hopped in a cab with enough time to have a coffee and some breakfast at the airport before we took off for NYC. Or so I thought. When I got to the airport, it was packed, but I wasn't worried because I still had two hours before my flight. One hour and 59 minutes later, my head was about to explode. With one minute to make my flight, I raced to my gate, red-faced and near tears, just as they were taking my bag off the plane. I still can't believe I made that flight!

I landed in New York, shaking with excitement because I was being picked up by Francine LaSala, who has quickly become one of my closest virtual friends. We are so similar that it's actually eerie. Both small and blonde, we have kids close in age and are both professional editors. In fact, we have recently gone into business together editing indie manuscripts. So, if you're an indie author and would like to have two editors for the price of one, check us out! But I digress. :)

Meeting Francine was like finding a long lost sister, and we laughed so hard the entire weekend that our stomachs ached. She is truly my soul sister. We raced to my hotel, and to my surprise, I had gotten the penthouse. I had recently turned 40 and going to NYC was my big celebration, but the penthouse? I felt truly special and took full advantage of my weekend away. Francine and I went to meet the awesome Meredith Schorr, who has also become a piece of my heart. I love her, and she is as beautiful and easy to talk to in person as she seems online. We lugged the boxes of books and swag for our Book Buzz event to the bar, and met Jon, the owner of Stone Creek Bar and Lounge, who helped us pull this off.

After a great lunch with Meredith, I jumped into a cab, hoping my newly straightened hair wouldn't curl in the heat wave. Sweaty and dishevelled, I arrived at BEA for my Kobo appearance. I couldn't believe that I was sitting at their booth as an author, on a schedule with Abbi Glines, M. Leighton, Liliana Hart, CJ Lyons, Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, Tina Folsom, Jasinda Wilder, Deborah Cooke and Elizabeth Reyes. It would never have happened without Mark Leslie Lefebvre, who is the director of self-publishing and author relations at Kobo. He helped make my dreams come true, and I owe him a debt of gratitude.

After tossing my book at anyone willing to take it, chatting with wonderful people who stopped by the booth and getting to know Shayna Krishnasamy, self publishing and author relations coordinator, it was time to get ready for Book Buzz 2013! (By the way, both Mark and Shayna are authors so be sure to check them out!)

Francine brought me a coffee (how did she know that I need coffee at all times?), and we booted back to my hotel to get ready. Meredith met us, and we mutually admired how great we all looked. We walked into our event to set up, and I had to take a moment to mentally capture what was happening because standing there was my longtime writing idol, Eileen Goudge. Bending down (because she is so tall and elegant), she wrapped her arms around me, and I sighed. How did I get so lucky to be hugged by a writer I had admired for so long? Thanks to Twitter, Eileen and I have become good friends and forged a deep connection that only grew when we actually met.

And then my heart swelled as I met the other authors I had come to love. The stunning and uniquely talented Cari Kamm, writer and publisher extraordinaire, Lucie Simone, the lovely and funny Heather Thurmeier and sweet, wonderful memoirist Jen Tucker. But the person who made the event a success was uber blogger and author, Julie Valerie, who is perhaps the most interesting person I've ever met in my life. And a huge thank you goes out to our sponsors for Book Buzz 2013--Diversion Books and Shpilka Vodka.

The authors of Book Buzz 2013!

The event was a massive hit, and by the end of it, we had not only created an annual author party but had solidified a magical bond. I love these women.

Friday it was back to BEA with Francine and Julie, and I was so excited because I was finally going to meet the book publicity and PR star Amy Bromberg, who I'd gotten to know through one of my favorite book blogs, Chick Lit Central. I hugged Amy so hard I might have broken her, but she didn't seem to mind. We then went to lunch with Meg McAllister, PR goddess and so down to earth and hilarious that I can't wait to see her when she's in Toronto. The lunch was so memorable that we have coined ourselves "The Real Housewives of BEA" and someone now needs to pitch it.

Friday night was dinner at Eileen Goudge's, and I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my life. Eileen cooked us an incredible dinner, and her husband, entertainment reporter Sandy Kenyon, was so charming and gracious. We women became so close that we are already planning our next visit.

More champagne, please!

Though for some, the might had wound down, Lucie, Meredith and I kept the party going and stopped by the Kobo celebration. By 2 a.m., we were exhausted and I had lost my voice from talking so much. Lucie, Meredith and I covered every topic, and I almost didn't want to get out of the cab so we could keep chatting. Instead, we decided to meet for lunch before Lucie left for LA. I didn't want to let her go! Lunch was as wonderful as every other incredible moment, and then Meredith and I headed over for the last day of BEA.

Meredith and I spent so much time together, and both she and Francine made sure I was taken care of at every moment. I loved seeing New York City with New Yorkers, and having dinner with Meredith and a friend of hers, teaching the bartender how to make a Caesar (is it a Canadian drink, I wonder?), chatting about our lives and loves and eating steak the size of our table was like being with people I had known forever. And I will know all of these women forever.

After I had shopped for my family and navigated my way from my hotel to Times Square and back by myself  (anyone who knows me knows that this was a massive feat never before accomplished), it was time to go home to Toronto and back to real life. I had never been away from my kids for so long, and I missed them and my husband like crazy. But I was so happy to know that I could do this and feel comforted that everyone was okay without me for a few days.

The four days I spent in NYC were a time I will never forget. It was my first time traveling as an author (I have a feeling it won't be my last!), and I felt proud and ecstatic that what I have worked so hard for had come true. The events changed my life, for sure, but it is the women I met who have made my life better, and I have found people I call friends, sisters and colleagues. I am so very lucky. Until BEA and Book Buzz 2014!