Thursday, October 9, 2014

Showcase with book excerpt and Q&A: The Dog Park by Laura Caldwell


By Laura Caldwell

It takes more than a goldendoodle to save a marriage. And stylist Jessica Champlin knows it. She and her ex-husband, investigative journalist Sebastian Hess had too many irreconcilable differences for even their beloved dog Baxter to heal. So they agreed  to joint custody and their lives settled into a prickly normalcy. But when Baxter heroically rescues a child and the video goes viral, Jessica and Sebastian are thrown together again, and her life takes some unexpected twists. Suddenly she's in the spotlight with everyone watching—the press, the new guy she's seeing, Sebastian and the past she never imagined she would face again. Soon there is only one person by her side – and it is the person Jessica least expected. She is willing to open up to as new normal…just as long as Baxter approves.

Laura CaldwellLaura Caldwell has established herself as a force to be reckoned with. Born in Chicago, Laura attended University of Iowa and Loyola Law School. After a year or so of practicing law, she started to feel a lack of creativity in her life - and began to write. After a few years, she took an extended sabbatical to focus on her writing. Since her debut in 2002, Laura has written mysteries, legal thrillers, women’s fiction, and non-fiction. In 2005, Laura returned to practicing law to defend a young man charged with murder. This case inspired her to start Life After Innocence Project at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and also became the subject of Laura’s first work of non-fiction, LONG WAY HOME (2009). Laura is currently a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. 

by Laura Caldwell

“Jess, enough with this, okay?” Sebastian said in a weary-trending-toward-cranky tone. He held out a small bag that read Neiman Marcus. My divorced mind ruffled through a few statements and questions — What is it? He never used to shop at Neiman Marcus. Judging by the size of the bag it would have to be an accessory. Jewelry? For me?

But the tone of my ex-husband’s voice had pretty much eliminated the possibility that it was a gift. Also, Sebastian hadn’t bought me jewelry in a long while, and except for my engagement ring, Sebastian never bought jewelry in the United States. Always it was when he was overseas, on a story. Like the beaded chandelier earrings from a country in Africa I’d never heard of and the vintage Iraqi headdress that I wear as a necklace.

Baxter — our blond, fluffy dog — was in my arms. I kissed him on the head. “I missed you, Baxy,” I said. “I missed you so much.”

He licked my chin, and his butt squirmed as he wagged his tail. Baxy’s fifteen pounds of dog against my chest was the most comforting weight in the world to me. When I finally put him down, he tore into my bedroom where he had toys stashed under a chaise lounge, which he hadn’t seen in a week while Sebastian had him.

As Baxter rounded the corner, I looked in the bag. I laughed.

“It’s not that funny,” Sebastian said.

“Oh, c’mon.” I lifted from the bag Baxter’s blue collar and leash that I had sewn gold stars onto — stars that had come from an old Halloween costume of Sebastian’s.

The party had been Harry Potter-themed, and as much as Sebastian would normally have dismissed it as ridiculous, it had been hosted by a journalist he had always emulated. And so Sebastian had been a wizard, dressed in a purple robe with stars and a pointed hat. It’s not that he hadn’t pulled it off, I just liked to needle him when I could. I also liked the idea of a guys’ guy like Sebastian having to walk around with a dog in bedazzled gear. Or maybe I hoped the goofy collar could lessen the pain of our weekly exchange — Here’s the dog back. It’s your turn to take care of this thing we both love like a kid, the dog we got when we were trying to keep our marriage intact.

“I mean, why would you even spend your time doing something like that?” Sebastian asked.

“You know that’s what I do, right?” I said. “I’m a stylist. I style.”

Sebastian said nothing.

“I don’t know why I’m surprised,” I said. “It’s not like you ever took my job seriously.”

“Jesus, Jess, that’s not true. Why do you say that?”

“I’m a stylist. You’re a journalist. You’re the legit one.”

“You’re saying that. Not me. I never said that.” Sebastian scoffed and shook his head.

Here we were again — in the ruts of a much-treaded argument.

He pointed at the bag. “That stuff is not what you do with your styling business anyway. You dress people.”

“Do you even know what that means?”

Why did I do this? What made me want to bug him, to try and draw him into this crap?
Because it’s all you have left.

That was the thought that answered me, and it rang like a bell, a few loud chimes. Then the sound died into the distance, drifting away, just like we had done.

The strong muscles of Sebastian’s jaw tensed, clenched. He ran a hand over his curly brown hair that was cut extra short for the summer. “Of course I know what that means. To an extent.”

In total, Sebastian and I had known each other for seven years — five of them married, the last of them divorced — and yet we still didn’t have a handle on what the other did for a living. Sebastian deliberately withheld, and so I guess I did it, too, in retribution.

“Look, Jess—” Sebastian fake-smiled “—we’re talking about the collar, right?”

I looked in the bag. “The collar and the leash.” I picked them up and jangled them together for effect.

“First of all, look at those.” Another shake of his head. “Baxter is a boy. Hell, he’s three years old. Bax is a man now.”

At the sound of his name, Baxter tore into the kitchen and dropped a white rubber ball at our feet, his tail thumping. Throw it for me, I could hear him thinking. C’mon, throw it for me.

Like a true child of divorce, Baxter always seemed to know when to deflect the situation.

I picked up the ball and threw it down the hall. He scampered after it, sliding a little on the hardwood floors.

“He’s a man who likes this collar and leash,” I said, lifting the bag a little.

“How do you know he likes it?”

“He prances around.”

“Baxy does not prance,” Sebastian said.

“You know he does.”

I both hated and loved the familiar feel of the conversation, the verbal poking at one another.

“He’s a fifteen-pound prancing machine,” I added, another jab.

“He only prances,” Sebastian pointed out, “when he’s really happy.”

“Exactly. And he prances when he’s wearing that collar. Point made.”

Sebastian just looked at me.

“Anyway…” I said, then let my words die.

“Anyway,” he repeated.

A beat went by. Baxter ran into the kitchen again, dropped the ball. He was a mini goldendoodle — a mix of golden retriever and poodle — and the golden part must have had strong genes because the dog would retrieve all day if we let him.

Sebastian lifted the ball, tossed it again.

“Baxter brought something else back,” he said, pointing at the bag.

I looked inside again. A white plastic bag was folded over and lay at the bottom. I picked it up and lifted a cellophane bag from inside. “Rawhide,” I read from the package. “Huh.” I looked at it — half-eaten. I looked back up at Sebastian. “Did you feed him this while he was with you?”

Sebastian raised his eyebrows, gave a slight smile.

That mouth, with its fuller bottom lip. It still got me sometimes. There was the rest of Sebastian, too — the strong body, wide shoulders and long arms that felt so good wrapped around me. But it was that lip most of all that used to get me. I ignored it, looked instead somewhere in the area of his forehead.

“You know that’s like giving your kid a bowl of taffy?” I said. “It’s completely unhealthy.”

“He’s got to eat more than raw chicken and raw eggs,” Sebastian said.

“That was one week that I did that!” I said. “One week.”

I’d been led by our dog trainer to give Baxter a raw diet, lured by the promises of a glossy coat and exceptional health. But when you have your dog every other week, raw foods are hard to keep around all the time. (And kind of unpleasant to serve.)

Sebastian sighed a little and searched my eyes with his. But then he opened his mouth. “I’m on my way to the airport.”

Wounds, no longer old, felt jabbed, hurt again. Sebastian was a war correspondent, one of the most well respected. His job had long been our sticking point — his need to go overseas, and his agreeing to not tell anyone, including his spouse, where he was headed. I knew military spouses had to deal with that, but I hadn’t married military, and I hadn’t realized the extent of his investigative writing — the embedding with the troops, the being in the middle of the action.

So he was off once more. I knew better than to ask where he was going.

But apparently he felt some kind of duty to try and make nice. “It’s a small conflict.”

A “small conflict” could mean a bloody, ruthless battle in a small Middle Eastern territory. But “small conflict” did not mean small casualties. Sebastian himself had returned from a “small conflict” with a gash across his collarbone that looked a lot like someone had tried to cut his throat. He still hadn’t told me what had happened.

I still didn’t know where he’d been because the newspaper never published his piece for whatever reason.

Baxter ran back into the foyer, a blue earthworm toy hanging from his mouth.

“C’mere, Dogger,” Sebastian said. His own nickname for Baxter. He picked him up. “I suppose you’re going to the dog park now?” he asked me. I thought I heard another small sigh.

“You know that you can still go to the dog park, right? I didn’t get that in the divorce.” I paused, made my voice kinder. “I don’t know why you don’t go when he’s with you.”

Sebastian shrugged, petted Baxter. “I thought I would find a park by my neighborhood. But they’re not the same. He doesn’t have his buddies.”

I stayed silent. Even when we were together, I was the one, more than Sebastian, who took Bax to the park. And even when Sebastian did, he didn’t often talk to the owners of Baxter’s dog buddies, like I did. Sebastian was intent on quality time with the dog, throwing Baxy’s ball over and over, then having him sit and stay for minutes on end before he could retrieve it. He taught Baxter tricks that his father had taught their family golden retrievers over the years. We got the dog shortly after his dad died.

So it seemed obvious to me that Sebastian could continue to do those things in another park. I hadn’t expected him to miss the park that we went to, as he apparently did. But I guess change is tough for everyone, even a tough guy like Sebastian.

He stood. “I should go.”

I knew better than to ask when he’d return, because I knew the answer. When I have the story. That’s what he always said.

I used to think, Why aren’t we your story? I want to be your story.

We had made a plan — move from New York, where we were living at the time, to Chicago (his hometown) where he would work as a regular journalist. It “worked” for a little while. A year or so. But ultimately Sebastian couldn’t stop. He couldn’t explain why, but he had to be the correspondent who crossed enemy lines in the middle of the night. I encouraged him to let me in. Keep the job, I’d said. I’d get used to worrying about him, I’d told him. That was okay. But bring me into the fold, tell me what you do, what you feel when you’re there, how I can support you when you’re here.

He decided that it would be breaking confidences and so he couldn’t tell me — not about the stories he was covering, where he was covering them or who he was covering them with. I could read the pieces in the paper, usually a day or two ahead of everyone else. So I would know then, for example, that he’d been in Afghanistan, embedded with a Navy SEAL team that took out a top-level terrorist. I would also read the byline and see that he sometimes had cowriters. But he couldn’t fill in any blanks. He couldn’t answer questions. And if the story had been killed and never published, he couldn’t give me any clues. Or he wouldn’t. Same thing.

His inability showed me the gaps in our relationship. I had to decide if I could live with the not knowing, the having to make a leap of faith to trust him, when the fact was I knew little about how my husband spent his professional life. And, therefore, much of his life.

I decided I couldn’t do that. Or maybe I just couldn’t live with the disappointment of not having the kind of love I wanted. I’d thought that with Sebastian I’d had the kind of love my parents had, the kind I’d felt once before. But neither turned out to be true. And eventually, with Sebastian, the ball I’d been pushing uphill for so long started to roll back over me.

Now I looked at Sebastian, said nothing, just stared into his eyes, and some bigger strength kicked in. I was past that, I told myself. I was way past it, and I was past him.

I’d started my life over once before. And under much, much, much worse circumstances. I knew I could do it again. I could survive.

Neither of us said anything. But I felt a joint sense of tiredness. We’re done.

“Okay,” I said, just to say something.

When Sebastian didn’t reply, the moment of pause gave me time to make a decision. I decided then I wasn’t just going to survive. I was going to thrive. I was going to come alive.

Right now. Those words intoned through me.

And suddenly it seemed clear what I had to do right then, how I had to conduct myself going forward. There would be no more seeing life as an endurance exercise. No more considering dates just because a software program told me I should. I wouldn’t just react to Sebastian or the lack of him. I would stop seeing everything as a reminder of the lives past. I would open my eyes and see things differently.

I would be different.

“Have a good trip,” I said, and I opened the door.

Excerpted from the book THE DOG PARK by Laura Caldwell.  Copyright © 2014 by Story Avenue, LLC.  Reprinted with permission of Harlequin.  All rights reserved.

Describe your latest book in 15 words or less.

THE DOG PARK is about a couple who shares joint custody of their dog who becomes suddenly famous when a video of him goes viral.

What inspired you to write THE DOG PARK?

I’d been writing mysteries and thrillers for a while, including six books featuring my series character, Izzy McNeil. I had one book left in my contract and started plotting the seventh. At the time, I had just gotten my puppy, Shafer, and was head over heels. My publishers pointed out that my social media posts and photos had gone from books and mysteries to dogs and dogs and dogs. And they had an idea — why not write a novel involving a dog? A great beach book, something fast-moving and a little sexy. And maybe, just maybe, a happy ending. I was in.

In THE DOG PARK, we meet Baxter, a loving and lovable goldendoodle. Is there a real-life Baxter? Who were the doggie models for Baxter?

My dog, Shafer, was a typical goldendoodle puppy — adorable and friendly. And she was a big walker, so we walked all over the city, good weather or bad. (I live in Chicago and so Shafer, like the rest of us, had to wear boots and eight layers and complain as little as possible.) Shafer met people everywhere. And after she started spending a few days a week with a well-known dog walker, she started to know people on the street I’d never met. I wondered what it would be like if Shafer herself became really well-known. Say from a video or something. Baxter from THE DOG PARK was formed.

Jessica Champlin seems fond of adorning Baxter in flashy accessories. How does your furry friend feel about such snazzy duds?

Shafer seems to feel good about sparkly collars but put her in a coat and gives me about 20 minutes.

What are you doing to reach out to readers and dog enthusiasts?

Every book signing has been dog-friendly and encouraging. We had them at pet stores and boutiques that allow dogs. We gave part of the proceeds to rescues and I did a promotion at a PAWS 5K run.

If you could compare your dog to any celebrity, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Shafer is her own celebrity! She knows she should update her Twitter page more often. But she makes people happy wherever she goes. She loves to work a crowd at the beach.

Why did you choose to make a dog the central character of the novel?

We wanted THE DOG PARK to be entertaining and fun, but my publisher really wanted a book with strong characters and strong relationships. Shortly into the book, I realized that Baxter, the dog whom I’d seen as more of a sub character (albeit one who drives much of the action), was definitely much more. Just like a lot of our pets, Baxter is a creature with his own personality. His own preferences and tastes and quirks.

What do you read for pleasure?

Right now I'm reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I started it a few times and put it down. Now that I’m into it, I look forward to reading it all day. That’s one of my favorite feelings in the world. I’m also looking forward to reading The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin.

What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

Overlaying all of the book is the profound, and yet often profoundly different, relationship that each different person has with their dog. There’s also the fact that social media has changed everything. It’s thrilling, but a little jarring and scary, to think that a person can be unknown at breakfast and trending on the news that night.

What was most difficult about writing THE DOG PARK?

Reliving when Shafer was hit by a car. But it was cathartic.

What’s next for you? Are you working on anything new?

Anatomy of Innocence, an anthology pairing thriller writers with exonerees to tell the story of how wrongful convictions happen.

How was writing THE DOG PARK, a contemporary romance, different from your previous mystery and thriller work?

I couldn't help but have long-buried secrets revealed. You never get the mystery writer out of your blood.

What was your favorite scene in THE DOG PARK?

I love the first scene – the post-divorce banter, the love of the dog.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

#Giveaway and Review: Mercy (Beartooth, Montana #5) by B.J. Daniels


The hunt for a killer leads to a battle between justice and desire… 

For U.S. marshal Rourke Kincaid, there's the law…and then there's his law. When the two don't agree, he always trusts his instincts. A killing spree has gripped the Northwest, showing a strange connection that only he sees, and now the old rules of justice no longer apply. Forced to turn rogue, he goes deep undercover to track his mysterious female suspect to a quiet, unassuming cafĂ© in the wild, isolated mountains of Beartooth, Montana. 

But encountering Callie Westfield complicates his mission in ways he never expected. As suspicious as she seems, her fragile beauty and sexy charm get to Rourke. Then the gory crimes begin anew. With his heart suddenly at war with his instincts, he has only two options. Either turn Callie over to the law, or put everything—including his badge and his life—on the line to protect her.

Mercy by B. J. Daniels

I love B. J. Daniels, she rocks as an author.  In her latest book, we have a serial killer loose who is killing men.  Rourke Kincaid is out to get is man - but is it a man ???  You have to read this book to find out the who done it.  It is full of twists and turns and keeps you on the edge of your seat through the entire book.  It is set in beautiful Montana.  I absolutely loved this book.  It has mystery, romance and suspense. 
 I give it 4 stars.

B.J. Daniels

B.J. Daniels' life dream was to be a policewoman. After a career as an award-winning newspaper journalist, she wrote and sold 37 short stories before she finally wrote her first book. Since then she has won numerous awards including a career achievement award last year for romantic suspense.

She lives in Montana with her husband, Parker, two Springer Spaniels, Jem and Spot, and a temperamental tomcat named Jeff. When she isn't writing, she snowboards, camps, boats and plays tennis.

Can't wait to see if you won???  Buy the book below!

Highlight: Famous Phonies: Legends, Fakes, and Frauds Who Changed History (The Changed History Series) by Brianna DuMon


The world's earth-shattering, history-changing movers and shakers are all well documented . . . right? Hardly! Take Homer, the author of The Iliad and The Odyssey. His famous epics have inspired generations of writers and launched Western literature as we know it. Only problem, he never existed. No author named Homer ever traveled ancient Greece penning those really long stories about gods and heroes. So, who did author the books?

Other famous historical figures did exist, just not as you'd think. A man named Confucius really did live and breathe. But he wasn’t the wise old sage we learn about today. Instead of dropping quotable bits of wisdom, he preferred whacking people over the head with his stick. In the Middle Ages, an invented king inspired crusades, and in the 18th Century, a fake robot helped ignite the digital revolution. History is loaded with illusory figures that have left their mark on our world.

Faux Figures: Legends, Fakes, and Phonies Who Changed History is the first in a new nonfiction middle grade series that will explore the underbelly of history, making you question everything you thought you knew about history’s finest. It’s perfect for the history buff, the reluctant reader, or that kid who loves the strange and unusual. And who doesn’t? 

Famous “Fakes”:
The Yellow Emperor * Gilgamesh * Homer * Pythagoras * Confucius * Mary Magdalene * Hiawatha * Prester John * William Shakespeare * George Washington * The Turk * Major William Martin

Brianna DuMont

I'm a self-proclaimed history buff with a degree in Art History and Archaeology as well as Classics. I'm always traveling in search of great museums and historical sites to visit. When I'm home, I'm an independent historian and full-time writer and quickly becoming best friends with my local librarian. My middle grade nonfiction series, The Changed History Series, debuts in October revealing the underbelly of history!


Monday, October 6, 2014

SHOWCASE: Web of Betrayal: There's No Hiding in Cyberspace by Clare Price


There’s No Hiding in Cyberspace

The year is 1994, the dawn of the Internet Age, when companies from Silicon Valley to London are fighting to claim the billions to be made on the new information highway. 

Peter Ellis, an aggressive investigative reporter struggling to repair his damaged reputation after being framed for rigging a story, attends the Consumer Electronics Show and learns that a skilled programmer known for cracking secure computer code has mysteriously disappeared. 

Peter’s quest to find the missing programmer unwittingly pits him against a brilliant hacker and deranged killer with an agenda of his own: taking revenge on the man who ruined his life—computer industry luminary David Lockwood—who is now poised to introduce a product that will change the Internet forever. 

As Peter is drawn into the deadly game of betrayal and murder, he is faced with losing everything he holds dear: his career, his one true love, even his own life. Can he find the programmer’s encoded disk—which the holds the key to the killer’s identity—before his luck runs out?

Clare F. Price

Clare witnessed the birth of the commercial Internet firsthand as a research director with the Gartner Group, the global leader in information technology consulting. As a principle analyst in Gartner’s Internet Strategies Service, Clare assisted many of the world’s biggest technology companies (IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, HP, Sun Microsystems, Oracle) in their bid to make the information highway a reality. 

That experience prompted her to write her first novel, WEB OF BETRAYAL, set in 1994 at the birth of the Internet. Fury is unleashed when a long simmering grudge match between a brilliant hacker turned killer and a renegade tech visionary erupts into murder and betrayal, and a struggling reporter risks his life and one true love to find the truth. 

Clare began writing at age five with her short story, “My Dog Nicky.” In her career she has been a business journalist, tech industry journalist, Internet industry analyst and a VP of marketing for several software startups. 

Clare is an Ohio native and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. degree in Rhetoric. She currently lives in Sacramento, California with her two Shetland Sheepdogs, Dan and Toby. 

Visit her website

Q. What inspires your writing?
A. Love of story, Love of Characters, Love of Words. 

Love of Story: From childhood I loved making up stories, sometimes even more than reading them. From preschool I organized my family and friends into plays and story games

Love of Characters: I love creating a new character but I say I only do part of the work. I may give them a name and backstory but they often create their own story as the book goes along. 

Love of Words: I love the flow of words, how they sound when a sentence really works well. I love using words to paint a picture that the reader can really sink into, that fires their imagination and lets them really identify with the character’s story.    

Q.  What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
A. The creative process of developing a story, a plot and helping my characters come alive. As a new book develops I’m often swept along with the action. My characters own their world and as much as possible I let them run with it. When I start writing I really enter that world and sometimes when I’ve been writing for a long stretch it feels like “the bends” when I come up from writing and reenter the real world. 

Q.  What is the toughest part of being a writer?
A. I would say editing because I have to cut things that I’ve enjoyed writing. There were three chapters in Web of Betrayal that I cut because they were driving the plot in the wrong direction including a really great murder scene. It was painful! But I followed that great writing advice from Stephen King, “Murder your darlings.”

Q.  If you could not be writer, what would you do/be?
A. I’d be a political strategist. I’m a news junkie. I love the gamesmanship and complex maneuvers of political strategy or really most strategic challenges. I guess that’s why I choose to write thrillers. 

Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?
A. Never Give Up! It has taken me 20 years to get Web of Betrayal published. I kept with it because I believed in this story and eventually rewrote the manuscript five times. I’m really glad I stuck with it to see it come onto the market.   

Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?
A. Gone with the Wind. A classic, epic story, larger than life characters, a historical narrative. Set in a pivot time for the world.  I think I’ve read it at least a dozen times.

Q.  Which character from ANY book are you most like?
A. From girlhood, Nancy Drew. She is smart, independent, skeptical, curious, adventurous and always willing to take a risk. She is out in front not hiding behind the boys like so many stories for young girls used to be (when I was growing, thankfully not now).

Q.  What character from all of your books are you most like?
A. Peter Ellis, the main character of Web of Betrayal, is definitely my alter ego in many ways. I drew from my experiences as a technology and business reporter for many of his life and experiences. I like to believe I share his passion for news, for reporting, and an unflagging desire to find the hidden truth. 

Q.  Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?
A. The Hobbit. I would have to say that is my second favorite book of all time. It’s full of adventure, heroes and big epic battles as well as good life lessons like self-sacrifice and true friendship. It’s another one that I often turn back to for joy, adventure and inspiration. I would love to have Tolkien’s gift of truly creating a whole new universe for my characters, but I’ve tried writing fantasy and Sci Fi and it’s not my strong suit.  

Q.  What is your favorite season?
A. SPRING. I am an eternal optimist and love to see the earth bloom and the birds sing again after winter.

Q.  What inspired your book cover(s)?  Or what is your favorite book cover and why?
A. I wanted a cover that would invoke the title of the book, Web of Betrayal, and the heart of the story – a man caught in a web. What I love about the way this cover is designed is that we don’t know if the man caught in the web is the perpetrator or the victim. That’s part of the mystery of the story. 

Q.  Are you working on something new?
A. Yes, I’m working on the sequel to Web of Betrayal, called Search. It picks up the main character Peter Ellis 20 years later and introduces two new ones that I’m really excited about. It’s about Peter’s search for a purpose after experiencing great loss and another character’s search for her missing daughter.  I’m at the plotting and character building stage. Just getting to know everyone again.

Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?
A.  Thanks to everyone who takes a chance on reading new authors just getting started. I hope the new stories we tell will be as enjoyable as their old favorites. I would love to hear from anyone who has read my book or even visited the Website about what they think about the story or the impact it may have had on them. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Highlight: The House on Sunset by Sarafina Bianco


Sarafina Bianco was once a high school English teacher with dreams stretching far outside the classroom. When her boyfriend of a year and a half cheated on her with a girl named Lacey, Sarafina found herself alone, eventually looking online for a replacement beau. 

That’s how she met Mike. 

The House on Sunset is a memoir, a collection of reminiscences, scattering the ashes of a broken home and putting each to rest. Each chapter is a different glimpse into the cycle of domestic violence. 

Everyone could fall victim to abusers.

Sarafina Bianco

Sarafina Bianco graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor of Science in secondary education, English. An avid reader and learner, Fina took her passion for words into a classroom before starting a writing career. Life, as it usually does, pulled her from the classroom and she saw that as an opportunity to use her voice against domestic violence, blogging under this pseudonym since 2009. 

You can find her words at Sarafina has left the classroom for good, in hopes she can be an advocate for women, men and children who are still living inside of their nightmares. She currently lives in St. Louis with her husband and their three dogs.

Friday, October 3, 2014



Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of 25 published and forthcoming books, including WHERE WE BELONG, WHEN I FOUND YOU, WALK ME HOME, SECOND HAND HEART, DON'T LET ME GO, and WHEN YOU WERE OLDER. New Kindle editions of her backlist titles FUNERALS FOR HORSES, EARTHQUAKE WEATHER AND OTHER STORIES, ELECTRIC GOD, and WALTER'S PURPLE HEART are now available. Also available is THE LONG, STEEP PATH: EVERYDAY INSPIRATION FROM THE AUTHOR OF PAY IT FORWARD, her first book-length creative nonfiction. She has two new novels forthcoming from Amazon Publishing in 2014, TAKE ME WITH YOU in July and THE LANGUAGE OF HOOFBEATS in December.
An avid hiker, traveler, and amateur photographer, she has just released her first book of photos, 365 DAYS OF GRATITUDE: PHOTOS FROM A BEAUTIFUL WORLD, currently available for Kindle.
She is co-author, with publishing industry blogger Anne R. Allen, of HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE: A SELF-HELP GUIDE.
Her best-known novel, PAY IT FORWARD, was adapted into a major motion picture, chosen by the American Library Association for its Best Books for Young Adults list, and translated into more than 23 languages for distribution in over 30 countries. The paperback was released in October 2000 by Pocket Books and quickly became a national bestseller. LOVE IN THE PRESENT TENSE enjoyed bestseller status in the UK, where it broke the top ten, spent five weeks on the bestseller lists, was reviewed on a major TV book club, and shortlisted for a Best Read of the Year award at the British Book Awards. Both BECOMING CHLOE and JUMPSTART THE WORLD were included on the ALA's Rainbow List, and JUMPSTART THE WORLD was a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards. WHERE WE BELONG won two Rainbow Awards in 2013.
More than 50 of her short stories have been published in The Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train and many other journals, and in the anthologies Santa Barbara Stories and California Shorts and the bestselling anthology Dog is my Co-Pilot. Her stories have been honored in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and the Tobias Wolff Award and nominated for Best American Short Stories, the O'Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize. Three have been cited in Best American Short Stories.
She is founder and former president (2000-2009) of the Pay It Forward Foundation. As a professional public speaker she has addressed the National Conference on Education, twice spoken at Cornell University, met with Americorps members at the White House and shared a dais with Bill Clinton.
For more information, please visit the author at


When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I was a sophomore in high school, and I had a wonderful English and creative writing teacher. His name was Lenny Horowitz. I wrote an essay for his class, and he read it out loud in front of the other students and told everyone it was clever. Later I found out he went back into the staff lounge and told all my other teachers that I was a good writer. I was going through a time in my life when I was getting lots of messages every day about what I couldn’t do, what I was not good at. So this was the right message at the right time. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer.

However, there’s a big chasm between wanting to be something and actually being it. It took me quite a few years to get across it.

How did you feel when you heard you were going to be published for the first time?

Scared. Deeply scared. I had this sinking feeling that the novel would be released and no one would even notice. That not only would it not sell well, but nobody would even know it existed to be purchased. And that’s not exactly paranoia, because it happens all the time. I still remember when a good review of it came out in Publishers Weekly. Then I started to get excited.

If you could be any animal, what would you be?

A cat or a dog at my house. Of course, I know that’s not technically possible, because I can’t be myself and my own pet simultaneously. Then again, I can’t be an animal, so it’s all hypothetical anyway.

If being a pet at my house is against the rules, I’d like to be a bird of some sort. Especially a great heron or a condor, one of the birds that can soar for ages on air currents without even flapping their wings. I’ve always envied those who can fly.

Is there a movie or book you would love to live in or visit?

It may sound like a strange answer, but… no. Because I like books that tackle tough subjects. And of course: no conflict, no story. So I loved Flowers For Algernon, Of Mice and Men, and more recently The Book Thief… but I wouldn’t want to live there. That’s the joy of a book, the way I see it. We get to visit places on the page, places we know we wouldn’t ever really want to go. It’s a safe way to “travel” and experience.

What three things can you not live without?

1) Nature. I get a bit squirrelly if I don’t get outdoors now and then. I love to hike and kayak and camp in my little campervan, and it seems to put me back together emotionally.
2) My work. I’m happier when I write than when I don’t.
3) Home. My home is sanctuary-like for me, and I can’t imagine not having this safe place to come back to.

That said, really the three things I can’t live without are food, water, and shelter, and if I lost any or all of the above, I would survive. But they are important to me, so they are the things I would least want to lose.               

What are your thoughts on e-books versus hard copies?

I’m for them. Both, actually. About 95% of my book sales these days are in Kindle ebook format, so I’m not about to complain about ebooks. Plus, I find people who do complain about them slightly suspect. After all, you have your choice. If you want paper, buy paper. The idea that ebooks will somehow destroy paper books and cause them never to exist again strikes me as a bit silly. I’m old enough to remember when the same hand-wringing was going on over audio, if you can believe such a thing.

For myself and my own reading, I like both. Different formats for different times.

Another thought on that: An awful lot of people say the same sentence to me on the subject. They say, “I like the feel of a book in my hands.” That’s all well and good, but when I ask if they’ve ever tried e-reading, the vast majority say no. So now that’s not so good. Now that’s what we call “contempt prior to investigation.” To compare two things, you have to have tried both.

I wish more older people would discover the e-reader, because they’re great for older eyes.The font is adjustable.

I guess that’s one of those subjects where you don’t want to get me started.


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