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Book Review: ‘April Snow’ by Lynn Steward

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Title: April Snow
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Author: Lynn Steward
Publisher: Lynn Steward Publishing

I thoroughly enjoyed reading April Snow, book two in Steward’s Dana McGarry Series. In this instalment, we follow beautiful, sensitive, and independent Dana as she, now newly single, travels from her home-base New York to London to relax for a couple of days following her recent filing for divorce.

Hurt and vulnerable, Dana can’t help question her decision to end her eight year marriage, while at the same time wonder about her career as buyer for B. Altman, her true calling in life, and who she really is deep down. She must also learn to take care of herself and not make everyone else a priority.

In London, a helpful priest, Father Macaulay, guides her and helps her ponder these questions. Doors begin to open and she goes back to New York with the possibility of two new career paths. She also starts taking riding lessons and becomes involved with a handsome and wealthy man who seems to care for her deeply, becomes her mentor, and suggests a daring move that might launch her career. All appears to be moving well. But then, fate shows her face in the most unexpected and tragic of circumstances, and once again destiny puts Dana to a test.

Lynn Steward has a special talent when it comes to writing about women who are strong yet sensitive and vulnerable. Her knowledge of the fashion business speaks for itself; the story sparkles with authenticity. I found the dynamics and cut throat aspect of the fashion industry especially fascinating. Readers will love Dana and following her ups and downs as she tries to fulfil her journey in life. The story moves at a quick, comfortable pace, making this a great leisurely read. The secondary characters are interesting and Steward will make you love them or hate them. April Snow is an entertaining, compelling sequel to A Very Good Life and I can’t wait for book three. Recommended.

My review was originally published on Blogcritics

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Book Review: ‘A Very Good Life’ by Lynn Steward


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A Very Good Life is the first book in an exciting new series by successful business woman now author Lynn Steward.

In this story, which crosses over from the literary to women’s fiction to romance, Steward takes us to 1970s Manhattan, home of the sophisticated and the elite. There, we meet Dana McGarry.

Dana has everything — a successful job at a prestigious department store, a handsome lawyer husband, a beautiful home, and loving family and friends. But things aren’t always as perfect as they appear to be, aren’t they?

When Dana’s husband begins to drift away, and demands at her job require that she behaves unethically, her world begins to crumble. She finds herself at a crossroads. Will she make the right decisions and stay true to herself and her vision of what a ‘good life’ should be?

This was a wonderful read! It reminded me of novels I read years ago by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Female readers will no doubt empathize with Dana as she struggles to keep her career and marriage together. She is strong, but also caring and sensitive. Readers will also be swept away by the setting. With vivid detail, the author brings Christmas in 1970s New York City alive in all its splendor. I really felt transported in time and place, felt the snowflakes and smelled the holiday trees. The characters are sympathetic and interesting and, of course, the antagonist is just one of those persons the reader will love to hate.

Steward has created a wonderful world of drama in this new series. Book two is supposed to come later this year and I’m really looking forward to reading the new installment. If you love women’s fiction and are a fan of strong female protagonists, I recommend you pick this one up. It won’t disappoint.

Find out more on Amazon.

Visit Lynn Steward’s website.

My review was originally published in Blogcritics.

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Interview with Lynn Steward, author of ‘A Very Good Life’


AVGL LS in library
Lynn Steward is a successful business woman who spent many years in New York City’s fashion industry in marketing and merchandising, including the development of the first women’s department at a famous men’s clothing store. Through extensive research, and an intimate knowledge of the period, Steward created the characters and stories for a series of five authentic and heartwarming novels about New York in the seventies. A Very Good Life is the first in the series featuring Dana McGarry.  

About the Book

Although Lynn Steward’s debut novel, A Very Good Life, takes place in 1970s New York City. it has a timelessness to it. Dana McGarry is an “it” girl, living a privileged lifestyle of a well-heeled junior executive at B. Altman, a high end department store. With a storybook husband and a fairytale life, change comes swiftly and unexpectedly. Cracks begin to appear in the perfect facade. Challenged at work by unethical demands, and the growing awareness that her relationship with her distant husband is strained, Dana must deal with the unwanted changes in her life. Can she find her place in the new world where women can have a voice, or will she allow herself to be manipulated into doing things that go against her growing self-confidence?

A Very Good Life chronicles the perils and rewards of Dana’s journey, alongside some of the most legendary women of the twentieth century. From parties at Café des Artistes to the annual Rockefeller Center holiday tree lighting ceremony, from meetings with business icons like Estée Lauder to cocktail receptions with celebrity guests like legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. Steward’s intimate knowledge of the period creates the perfect backdrop for this riveting story about a woman’s quest for self-fulfillment.

Purchase on Amazon.

Interview

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00031]Q: Congratulations on the release of your book, A Very Good Life. What was your inspiration for it? 

A: I always enjoyed business-related writing and thought a non-fiction self-help book, with life-lessons I learned along the way, would be a fun project.  But, as often happens when you put yourself out there, I discovered another path and took it: I developed a TV pilot about New York in the seventies because, as they say “Write what you know” and I know New York. I’m a native of Long Island, and between attending school and working, I spent twenty-two years in Manhattan. I was so overwhelmed with ideas, the TV series expanded to five seasons! Appropriately placed in the New York City of 1975, which was International Women’s Year, the plots in the series intermingle fashion legends, business icons, real events, and untold stories, providing a behind-the-scenes look at inspirational women in the worlds of art, fashion, and business.

After meeting with professionals in the entertainment industry, I realized that the main character needed more drama and the plots had to be developed, and I felt the best way to do that was to convert the pilot into a novel.  A Very Good Life is the first in a five-book series inspired by the TV show and featuring Dana McGarry.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: Dana initially comes across as an underdog. She is extremely likeable, has a soft demeanor,  and tries hard to please, but she is being treated shabbily by her husband at home and her superiors at work.  Readers start routing for her immediately, hoping she will succeed in her quest for self-fulfillment. Can she find her place in the new world – International Women’s Year – where women can have a voice, or will she allow herself to be manipulated into doing things that go against her growing self-confidence?

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: I started developing the TV show approximately three years ago, spending the first year and a half researching historic facts, places,  and events from the period, and creating the characters.   I did not have writers block or any  bumps along the way. The story just kept writing itself.  Characters I thought would play an important role, never made it to the page, and others that I least expected became my favorites.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A:  I again go back to “Write what you know.”  New York City, especially Murray Hill, is home to me.  As a child I was often in Manhattan visiting my grandparents in their Italian neighborhood on 106th St Street.There is so much to draw on when writing about a place or topic that is familiar, or part of your soul. I lived many years a few blocks from B. Altman, and I was in the store practically every day, as well as Mary Elizabeth’s tea room, the lectures at the Metropolitan Museum with Rosamond Bernier, and, of course, the exciting costume exhibits at the Met staged by Diana Vreeland.  I have great affection and enthusiasm for the real and fictional characters, and the period, and I think that is translated to the page.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: No anxiety at all. I think it helps to be prepared with good research, photos for inspiration, and organized files, readily available when an idea is sparked at the keyboard. I think, no matter your subject, organization is key. Your mind cannot possibly keep everything neatly filed and available when you need it. My iPad has been tremendously helpful for note taking, and I constantly use it in conjunction with my computer.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time? 

A: My favorite time to write is early in the morning, preferably around 5:30 a.m., when my mind is clear, it is peaceful, and there are no interruptions. I won’t allow myself to even peek at e-mails, I don’t want anything to distract me for at least three hours. I am always surprised and disappointed how fast that time goes.

Q: How do you define success? 

A: Being at peace with one’s self, happy to face a new day.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: I believe that may be a problem. I quickly learned that writing becomes an all-consuming passion; you effortlessly and selfishly  block out everything and everyone.  I find author interviews in The Paris Review give good and interesting insight into the minds and lives of writers, and, while all are very different people, they share an intensity that even I, at my inexperienced level, could relate. With that being said, I think if you really long to get that story on paper, you will find a way;  structure a routine, a time of day to be alone. It’s difficult to write many hours straight, so you will welcome the company of family and loved ones.  Just try to curb your enthusiasm and don’t expect others to care what your favorite character did in the last chapter; trust me, they rather wait to read the book!

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: Orwell got the driven part right, but I did not have a horrible experience; surprisingly exhausting, considering I was seated in one spot for hours and not running a marathon. But, yes, the editing is stressful and tedious; you pull one thread, and everything else falls apart. The passion, however, or as Orwell said, the demon, returns you to the same place the next day.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: I have met the most wonderful people on this new journey: kind, helpful, and patient. I have had two high energy careers, and I am enjoying the peaceful world of not only writing, but of writers.

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Book Review: Crazy Quilt by Paula Paul

The last time I’d cried because of a book was years ago and the culprit was Marley and MeCrazy Quilt is such a different book yet so alike in many ways. Both deal with death and loss, both are incredibly moving stories, and both remind us how short and precious life is.

The story begins when our protagonist, Flora Adams, decides to visit her hometown of Lubbock, Texas, following her recent breast cancer treatment. In a way, she’s running away from a dull marriage and from her newly near encounter with death. However, unexpected events compel her to stay in Muleshoe, a little town in the New Mexican border. There, her life becomes entangled with a quirky, wise old man who’s dying of cancer and who’s being evicted from his home, as well as with his troubled teenaged granddaughter. By helping the old man through this difficult time and by becoming a mother figure to the girl, Flora is able, at least partly, to heal herself and deal with her own fears. Ultimately, she’s able to empower herself and find the courage to live her life to her full potential, based on what she really wants and needs and not on somebody else’s agenda.

I absolutely loved Crazy Quilt. Not only is the prose beautiful and interlaced with vivid images and perceptive observations about life and death, but the characters are so incredibly real and compelling that I felt myself there with them, sharing their emotions and tribulations. There are also segments and lines of dialogue that are straight-out funny and made me laugh out loud–a nice relief from the usual heavyness of the subject. This is a novel that will make you ponder, will make you cry and will make you have those “A-ha” moments. Once in a while a novel comes along that has so much substance it makes you think about your own life. This is one of those novels, and one you won’t forget in a long time. Highly recommended.

Visit the author’s website.

Purchase from Amazon or University of New Mexico Press.

My review originally appeared in Blogcritics.

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Read a Chapter: Women’s Fiction ‘The Third Grace’ by Deb Elkink

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the women’s fiction, The Third Grace, by Deb Elkink. Enjoy!

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  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Greenbrier Book Company, LLC (December 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1937573001
  • ISBN-13: 978-1937573003

WINNER OF 2012 BOOK OF YEAR AWARD
The past casts a long shadow — especially when it points to a woman’s first love.
Her name was Mary Grace until she fell in love with the French exchange student visiting her family’s Nebraska farm. François renamed her “Aglaia” — after the beautiful Third Grace of Greek mythology — and set the seventeen-year-old girl longing for something more than her parents’ simplistic life and faith. Now, fifteen years later, Aglaia works as a costume designer in Denver. Her budding success in the city’s posh arts scene convinces her that she’s left the country bumpkin far behind. But “Mary Grace” has deep roots, as Aglaia learns during a business trip to Paris. Her discovery of sensual notes François jotted into a Bible during that long-ago fling, a silly errand imposed by her mother, and the scheming of her sophisticated mentor conspire to create a thirst in her soul that neither evocative daydreams nor professional success can quench. The Third Grace is a captivating debut novel that will take you on a dual journey across oceans and time — in the footsteps of a woman torn between her rural upbringing and her search for self.

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Chapter One

Light from the floor lamp winked at Aglaia through the garnet wine as her guest swirled the glass upward—winked as though it shared Aglaia’s secret, just waiting for her to ask her question again. But she held back. She was pacing herself . . .

She studied the profile of Dr. Lou Chapman, the critical eye and the nose thrust aggressively into the bouquet of the vintage. She shifted on the sofa and reached for her goblet to mimic Lou’s actions, careful not to slosh her own wine over the rim. She didn’t want to appear gauche; it was awkward enough trying to draw outfrom Lou the information she needed to prevail in her search.

Maybe she shouldn’t have asked the professor up following the theater tonight after all, she thought. Work had beendemanding of late, and this afternoon’s traffic brutal in the drenching rain. She’d arrived back at her apartment with no time to slouch into relaxation—just a few minutes to pin her hair into a messy nest and slip on the sapphire chemise that now lay against her skin, silky as a French boy’swhisper.

“Nice legs,” Lou said.

Aglaia crossed them instinctively but caught herself before saying thanks, realizing just in time that the compliment was intended for the wine. Feeling foolish, she straightened her back and feigned a worldly, knowing air.

Lou picked up the bottle, tilted it towards the light, and read the label through the bottom half of trendy spectacles. “Where did you purchase it?”

“At Santé on East Sixth Avenue,” Aglaia said with a shrug, as though she stopped in at the posh Denver cellar regularly on her way home from work rather than just the once—last week for a tasting with her wine appreciation class. But Aglaia wondered if she’d ever truly appreciate wine. This bottle of imported pinot noir had cost her dearly but it was worth the money to gain Lou’s confidence and, besides, Aglaia’s growing collection of corks in the green bowl on the coffee table proved she was recovering from her habit of temperance.

With eyes closed Lou sampled the wine, swished, sucked air in past pursed lips. “Subdued, earthy with a subtle berry, long finish. Excellent choice.”

Aglaia couldn’t detect earth or berry, but she was glad now she hadn’t caved in to her first impulse to grab a domestic merlot at half the price.

“A toast to your enduring success in the arts,” Lou said, wine stem raised, “even if it is in the private sector instead of the university, where talent like yours belongs.”

Glasses clinked; the two women sipped.

Aglaia swallowed the astringent and watched Lou’s eyebrows, the most animated part of her face. They signaled her mood, usually dipping downward at the outer edges in world-weariness but arched now in approval. Lou’s slate-cold eyes themselves were flat, two dimensional, and gave nothing away.

Aglaia angled her glass and looked into its blood-red interior. Wine was a symbol of communion, she thought, and she was using it with carnal deliberation to seal this relationship that had so much to offer her. As she lifted the glass to her lips again, she hoped her own silhouette projected an image of glamor. Alcohol had been taboo in the home of her youth. In her current lapsed state, the mere thought of consuming it was intoxicatingin itself—and emboldening. She was about to pose her question again when Lou spoke up.

“The costumes in tonight’s performance were remarkable, but your Phantom stole the show.”

“Not myPhantomexactly,” Aglaia said.

“Don’t be coy. You’re obviously an accomplished artisan and you deserve to be discovered.”

Heat rushed to Aglaia’s cheeks but she knew she’d earned the praise. Her boss at Incognito Costume Shop wouldn’t let another employee touch the feature pieces contracted for the production, and they’d shown well on stage tonight.

Earlier this evening the curtains had closed to robust applause, but Aglaia waited until the last scalloped hem and tip of a feathered cap disappeared into the wings before joining in with the rest of the audience. When she recognized a critic from the Denver Post dashing backstage for an interview with the cast, she knew for certain that the name of Aglaia Klassen, up-and-coming costume designer, would appear again in the weekend reviews; her creations had worked their usual opening night magic. Indeed, Aglaia herself had been transported in her imagination to the play’s setting of the world-famous opera house in Paris.

Paris! It was the city of her dreams where, in just three days’ time, she’d finally be walking in the flesh. Aglaia took another sip to sober her elation over the imminent business trip, particularly regarding her plans for how she’d spend her free time there. Of course this would include a whirlwind tour of the city sights but other, admittedly idealistic, aspirations were at the forefront of her mind and had been all evening.

After the play, as Lou had driven through the city to take her home, Aglaia barely heard her scholarly assessment of the musical score because she was caught up in her thoughts of international travel. When Aglaia did speak, it was to articulate the undercurrent running though her subconscious for most of the performance—for most of her life, it seemed. That was when she’d casually brought the subject up with Lou.

“I wonder how someone can just disappear in Paris.”

Lou, slowing to make the turn onto Aglaia’s street, had said, “I suppose you’re talking about the masked villain spiriting the fair maiden away to his lair beneath the OpéraGarnier.”

“No, I mean nowadays, in real life. How would someone find a missing person in Paris?”

“That’s hardly the first question that comes to mind in critiquingThe Phantom of the Opera,” Lou had said, and she coughed out a laugh as if expecting an analysis of the play’s Faustian implications or something as cerebral. Aglaia’s own interests were much more intuitive, and she’d let the matter drop as Lou pulled into the space facing the apartment block, armed the car lock, and followed her up the steps while pontificating on the literary elements of the script.

Lou had remarked on Aglaia’s use of the Greek mask of tragedy as a pattern for the Phantom’s own disguise—a clever adaptation—and her mirroring of Hellenistic fashion in the simplicity of the heroine’s robe, guessing correctly that Aglaia’s inspiration had come from the Greek style of the Opéra’s architecture.

But all the while, right up to the time Lou had opened the wine, Aglaia was reviewing and reframing her question—her quest—regarding Paris. Lou, a sociologist at Platte River University and a jetsetter, was versed in things European, and Aglaia could use an expert at this point. Her Internet surveillance over the past month had turned up nothing very helpful.

Now Lou plucked a cat hair from the arm of the loveseat and Aglaia regretted not having vacuumed more thoroughly—Lou probably had a cleaning lady. Before the other woman could resume her intellectualized thread of the discussion on the evening’s entertainment, and at the risk of sounding fixated, Aglaia ventured a third query.

“So, Lou, if you were looking for someone in Paris, where would you start?”

This time Lou heard her, though she frowned. It clearly wasn’t her topic of choice. “Well, maybe I’d launch an investigation through the préfecture or contact the American embassy. Sightseers must go missing now and then. Or,” she gibed, “are you afraid of getting lost yourself when you’re over there, all alone in the big, bad city?”

Aglaia ignored her sarcasm. “It’s not a tourist issue.”

“You’re referring to a resident?” Lou asked with her eyebrow cocked. “The telephone book then, I suppose.”

The local phone book, of course. Aglaia would start with that notion as soon as she got to Paris. It might be a long shot, but she had this one chance for disclosure and she wasn’t going to let it slip away. She knew now how she would begin her on-site manhunt and felt herself unwinding for the first time all night.

But then the apartment buzzer rasped.

She didn’t expect anyone. Before she could answer it, the door was bumped open by her elderly mother. Tina Klassen, cheeks perpetually rouged by prairie wind and high blood pressure, was caught midsentence as though continuing an interrupted dialogue, her Low German accent still discernible.

“. . . and your father is in such a hurry to get home, Mary Grace. When harvest is wet like this and so late, you know how tense he is.”

She pronounced it “tanse” and, more out of habit than necessity, threw a Plautdietsch word into her ramble here and there—about the rain rotting the crops on the Laundt and about how Henry was waiting in the Trock outside. The tongue of the Klassen heritage was still spoken in many rural Mennonite households, but it was just partially understood and strictly avoided by Aglaia herself. She hoped Lou didn’t catch Tina’s flat, sticky words and the use of her old name, which Mom still hadn’t given up after all these years—or wouldn’t give up.

Maybe it was just as well. Tina wasn’t able to pronounce “Aglaia” correctly either, no matter how many times she was reminded that it rhymed with “I’ll pay ya.”

Tina pushed farther into the apartment. “Your father needed to pick up a tractor part none of the local dealerships had, and I don’t like it when he drives alone so long and so far. I only have a minute, dear. I brought you some fresh-baked Zwieback.

Aglaia was trying to lose a few pounds before the trip but—oh!—those rolls smelled delicious. The aroma disarmed her; she knew she should be hustling Tina out the door but couldn’t find her words.

“Did you get my parcel?” her mother asked, not yet noticing Lou sitting on Aglaia’s couch. “I didn’t know I was coming to town or I would have waited to bring it along and saved the postage. But I wanted to be sure it got to you before you left on your trip.”

In fact, when Aglaia received the package yesterday after work, she immediately began to tear at the brown paper, piqued about what her mother might be sending, until she saw the two-word title on the spine glaring through torn edges: Holy Bible. Annoyance at her mother’s intrusiveness soured her then and rose again now like acid in the back of her throat. Tina knew Aglaia was disinterested in religion—and that was an understatement.

Before Aglaia could shut the closet door, her mother spotted the packet amongst the shoes in the shadow of the coats and reached down for it. “Why, it’s right here,” she said. “Didn’t you read the note to call me?” Aglaia hadn’t gotten that far in her unwrapping, and she recoiled as Tina shoved the bundle at her. Then her mother glanced up, for the first time seeing Lou in the living room. “Oh, my,” Tina said, tightening the knot on her kerchief, “I didn’t know you had company.”

Tina seemed to have shriveled even since the last time she and Henry made the two-hundred-mile pilgrimage to Denver—a city, a state, a lifetime away from their Nebraska farm. Aglaia looked down on her though she wasn’t tall herself. She looked as far down on Mom as she looked up at Lou. Tina’s jacket didn’t hide the dowdy housedress and her shoes were muddy. Aglaia was sorry again that she ever gave her mother a key to the apartment. Resigned she made introductions.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Lou arose and offered a manicured hand. “Do come in,” she said, as if she were the hostess. Aglaia didn’t blame Lou for wanting to compensate for her own uncomfortable silence.

But Tina, a teetotaler, now eyed up the wine glasses and Aglaia could almost hear her judgmental thoughts about her daughter’s rejection of long-held Klassen values. Aglaia couldn’t risk letting Tina make further comment in Lou’s presence and took hold of her mother’s arm to steer her towards the outer hallway.

“Isn’t that Dad honking outside? You have a long drive home tonight.” That was true; they wouldn’t get back until well after midnight. “I’ll walk you down.”

“No, no. I need to explain.” Tina, flustered, ripped the butcher’s paper fully off the cumbersome black leather book, exposing it to Lou’s purview. “I found this when I was digging around under the basement stairs. I haven’t opened that trunk since the summer the French boy came to stay with us. You remember?”

Did she remember? It was all Aglaia could do to keep her memories under wraps.

Tina was opening the Bible now to the dedication page. “It says, ‘Presented to François Vivier from the Klassens.’ I thought to myself, that boy must have meant to take this home with him, since he carried it to church every Sunday he was with us, and to every Wednesday prayer meeting.”

Horrified, Aglaia opened her mouth to protest, but no sound emerged. This was worse than she first imagined—worse than her mother simply sending her a Bible for reasons of maternal concern over her spiritual state. Tina was trotting out the one aspect of Aglaia’s life she’d been trying to hide, especially from Lou. Not only was this a Bible that linked her to a personal religion, but it was the very Bible owned by the person who’d totally reformed her religion.

“He wrote notes into the margins, starting right here in Genesis,” Tina said. She pointed to a finely penciled script but, thankfully, didn’t read the misquotation aloud: In the beginning, the gods created.Tina went on, “It was too small for me to make out without my reading glasses there in the basement, and Henry was about to leave for town so I had to rush if I wanted to get it into the mail. Can you see what it says?” Tina held the book out at arm’s length for a moment before giving up. “Anyway, I decided that, since you were going to Paris, you should pack it into your suitcase and take it to him.”

Aglaia bit down hard to stop herself from exclaiming and kept her face turned towards her mom so that the other woman wouldn’t discern her mortification. She heard Lou say under her breath, “Ah, hence the questions,” and was immobilized by her mother’s proposition—in fact, by her own resolution—to find François, which sounded completely ridiculous when spoken aloud.

“Mom, I have no idea where he lives,” she said, but in her heart she wanted to shout, If only I knew where he lived!

Tina responded, “He said he was going back to that famous school. What was it called?”

“The Sorbonne, but that was years ago.” Aglaia kept her voice curt, not wanting to give Lou—who was openly eavesdropping—any reason to suppose she’d put up with the nonsense of taking a Bible along to France. “Who knows what’s happened to him since? It’d be impossible to find him.”

Aglaia doubted her mother would yield to the argument. Once she got a bone in her teeth, she was stubborn. Aglaia wouldn’t mention that looking for François had been her daydream all along. Hoping her own voice didn’t reveal her desire, she quickly added, “Besides, I’m in Paris for only a few days.” Only a few days allotted to explore the world’s most elegant city, an impossible few days to run an old heartthrob to ground.

Tina’s wrinkles deepened as her forehead puckered. True to her nature, she persisted, “I just know he’d want this precious Büak.”

As if François would care about that Bible, Aglaia thought.

Tina fiddled with the cover, thumbing the gilded edges that on her Bible had long ago lost their shine. A museum postcard slipped from between the pages to the floor, image facing up, immediately recognizable to Aglaia. She hadn’t seen the postcard for fifteen years and she stared at it, transfixed all over again by the sculpture of the three nude women. Helpless, she plummeted into the memory of that first viewing like a pebble into the pond behind the barn, once again sitting with her family around the table with François on the warm May night he came to them—seated close to him, touched by his breath.

Tarrying together, the three marble nudes stand silken in the light, immortal young sisters polished with the ages—arm encircling waist, head on shoulder. Mary Grace is intoxicated with them, captured on one of the many glossy cards he brought to show off Paris to his American host family. She doesn’t pay attention to his descriptions of the Eiffel Tower or the bridges, but only to the timbre of his voice, the poetry weaving through his hesitant English.

He turns to her for a moment and says, “They have your name, non? Les TroisGrâces—Mary Grace.”

Her brother grins and kicks her under the table but she ignores him. She’s consumed with the statues and with François’s fingertips tracing the two-dimensional outline, caressing the nymphen forms as though they’re warm and living flesh. She’s disconcerted because her own womanhood is so new. Does he mean to excite her? 

Lou stepped forward to pick up the card before Aglaia shook her reverie.

Tina squinted at it. “I hope that French Jung didn’t take such a picture into church with him.”

“Perhaps he was using it as a bookmark,” Lou said. She turned the card over and Aglaia saw it was blank except for the museum information printed on the back. “Pradier, 1790-1852. Les TroisGrâces—the Three Graces,” Lou read aloud. “Your François appreciated the female form, I see—good taste.”

Aglaia attempted to change the course of conversation. “Mom, it’s too bad I didn’t know you were coming tonight or I’d have gotten you and Dad tickets for the play.” Not that they ever attended the stage.

But Lou, looking at the photo again, continued in spite of Aglaia’s red herring. “Pradier sculpted in the neo-classical style and used the ancient Greek mythsas subject material. The Three Graces, companions of Aphrodite, were very popular, and you can see that Pradier included their signature themes of fertility, beauty, and hospitality in this work. Note the way he utilized plants and jewels to get his idea across.” She stretched her arm out so that mother and daughter could see what she meant, but Aglaia knew Lou’s point would be lost on Tina. “The mythology of Greece made its imprint throughout history along many avenues,” Lou said. “For example, the plot of The Phantom of the Opera may well have had its origins in the story of Europa, the beautiful maiden who was stolen away by Zeus disguised as a bull.”

Tina scrunched her face in confusion.

As for Aglaia, she’d first heard the Greek tale whispered into her eager young ear by François’s impassioned young lips, and then read it again in Bulfinch’s Mythology, a text she discovered in twelfth grade on the shelves of the school library after her curiosity about the gods had been aroused. Her reading matter since her childhood days might surprise and even disturb Tina if she understood its content; it wasn’t quite the holy pap Aglaia was brought up on. But Tina’s disapproval wasn’t her concern at the moment, for Lou—satisfied with her examination of the postcard—was now craning towards the Bible as though she wanted to get a good close look at it next.

“Mom, I’ll take that,” Aglaia said. She reached for the book.

Tina handed it off to her readily. “Then you will return it to the boy? I knew you’d agree that it’s just meant to be.”

Aglaia intended only to get it out of sight—out of Lou’s sight, especially. The thought of delivering it was preposterous. But she zipped it into the front pouch of hersuitcase, packed and ready on the entry table. There was time enough to deal with it later, after she got rid of her mother and recouped her image with Lou, who probably thought she was totally incompetent about now.

Reprinted from The Third Grace by Deb Elkink. © 2012 by Greenbriar Book Company.

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Interview with David S. Grant, Author of BLOOD: THE NEW RED

David S. Grant is the author of ten books including Corporate Porn, Bleach|Blackout, Hollywood Ending, and Rock Stars. His latest novel, Blood: The New Red, is now available. David lives and writes his weekly rock, travel, and NBA columns from New York City. For more information go to www.davidsgrant.com Twitter: @david_s_grant

Q: Thank you for this interview, David. Can you tell us what your latest book, BLOOD: The New Red, is all about?

Blood: The New Red begins at an after party where Mickey, an ex-adult movie star turned supermodel, is aligning himself with one of top Designers of Seventh Avenue.  While trying to land a job on the runway Mickey is thrown into the center of a scene where sex is often the motivation, the wine is served by year, and cocaine is back in full force.  Juanita, Mickey’s girlfriend is having difficulties staying sober, fully clothed, and off of her famous boyfriend.

Mickey goes to work for Fashion icon Paul Johnson, one of the two top Designers in NYC.  The other is Sandy Johnson, another Designer who will stop at nothing including murder to guarantee victory.  A runway exhibition has been scheduled for the two to compete in and find out who truly is the best Johnson.  Mickey will be Paul’s top model, and Sandy has found a homeless person nicknamed Kung Fu Master to show his line.

In addition to getting his new line in place, Paul Johnson is also buying chain saws, the louder the better, to put the special in this special event.

Did you know that you can’t be sentenced to prison if actively seeking help at a mental facility?  Paul Johnson knows this.

Somewhere between the girls, counting Vicodin pills, and show preparation Mickey has grown a conscience and no longer likes what he sees.  He believes (and his psychiatrist agrees) that he has the power to change what’s happening around him.

Days before the show Kung Fu Master turns up dead and there is an attempt on Mickey’s life.  After a brief period of unconsciousness Mickey is back, is told that Juanita and brother Cheeks are now also dead and that he must continue with the show.  After all, what would Steven Tyler do?

The night of the show is laced with celebrities and models on the runway as well as one particular popular day-time talk show host that may or may not be murdered on the runway.

In the end only one Johnson will walk away, although this is temporary as Mickey has the last word.

Right before he pops his last Vicodin.

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

Mickey is an ex-porn star returning to model in New York City.  He initially has to decide between the top two current designers: Paul Johnson and Sandy Johnson, simply known as The Johnsons.

Paul and Sandy on the outside appear very different, but once you see their day-to-day you realize they are very similar.  Their drive and motivation rule over all other personal attributes.  They want to WIN!

This is not Mickey’s first time in the game.  Despite his too cool for the room aura it is evident that Mickey has matured from his “acting” days and now understands who really runs the business.  Despite being caught knee-deep between The Johnsons, Mickey and his manager have a knack for viewing situations from the outside looking in.

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

I like to use real life situations as the motivation and then embellish as needed.  The actual characters are pure fiction; of course all characteristics are pulled from someone, right?  I’m definitely not saying there isn’t an ex-model-ex-porn star-model working the runways today, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t one named Mickey!

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

I usually have an idea, an “out” I guess, but I rarely end up using it.  My process is pretty basic, starting with an idea that develops into a high level outline by chapter.  The outline helps me move the story along, though not necessarily defining where the story will end up.  This makes the process more organic, allowing the writing to tell the tale as it unfolds versus full plotting.

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

New York IS the fashion industry and also a wonderful playground for fictional characters.  The saying “I can get anything I want in the city” also applies to characters set in NYC: they have access to everything.  BLOOD: The New Red looks at the fashion industry, but also brings in other aspects of the city including the media, obsession with psychiatrists, and of course the unique neighborhoods throughout Manhattan. Without writing fantasy, how many cities allow a character to go from a margarita bar to a design studio to a high end TriBeCa brothel and still have time to meet their dealer?  Only one I know of.

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

It’s a major part.  New York City is the Mecca of fashion and Seventh Avenue breaks even the greatest designers and models at some point.   It’s a matter of timing and luck.  For my book, Fashion Week is the light at the end of the tunnel, each chapter escalating toward the moment (or moments) on the runway.  The city provides a backdrop for everything from diversity to the work environment to clubbing to murder. 

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

A:  Sandy Johnson is eating oysters with Ralph, a known hit man.  They are discussing a quandary Ralph recently encountered when he was asked to “take out” one of two men standing next to each other.  He “took out” the man on his right, but was later informed that this was the wrong person; instead the target was the man standing to THEIR right (facing toward Ralph.)  Ralph shows little emotion telling the story.  Sandy agrees with Ralph as he shoves another oyster into his mouth.

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

Here’s an excerpt from chapter 1 of BLOOD: The New Red.

Always look like a rock star. This is the number one secret on how to be famous. I’m wearing chains, lots of chains. Eye shadow, lots of eye shadow. I’m standing on the second level of the Grand Hotel, overlooking the bar area. My manager tells me this is where I need to be standing. In five minutes I will move across the room and stand next to a long mirror where one of the Hiltons will walk by and notice my reflection. A photographer will be close by and be sure to get the picture. This mirror has been placed here for this sole purpose. My manager tells me not to stare at the mirror. If you asked me to list my weaknesses, this may be my number one fault.

DJ Shingles, the newest (which means hottest) DJ, is playing on a middle level between the first and second floors. There is barely enough room for him let alone the overflowing ashtray and oversized stocking cap. Rumor has it this is his last show, despite this being his first. There is talk that he is moving into production and will be working with a major player in the hip hop industry, depending on who is hot at the time. DJ Shingles is wearing an Armani black button-down shirt with the sleeves ripped off. Very last year, but this is more a statement than a miscalculation on his part. Last season is the new season.

My manager signals for me to make my way across toward the mirror. A reporter from GQ is following me and asking me questions about who I’m going to sign with and whether or not my past will affect my future. I get her number, tell her I’ll call her later, and then blow her off as I approach the mirror. Always leak your press, never tell. This is secret number three on how to be famous.

Four widescreen televisions are fastened to the wall behind the bar. All are showing TMZ. An orange haired girl wearing a Betsey Johnson dress sees me staring at the television sets. She walks over and whispers in my ear, “It’s the new CNN.”

A waiter carrying a tray of wine from 1980 is walking by. Every 15 minutes another waiter, another tray, another year will walk by. Welcome to the world of fashion parties. Ten percent content, ninety percent presentation.

A man who goes by the name Dontay hands me a coffee cup that is full of scotch. My manager tells me to sip it and not cheers anyone. Any buzz that insinuates I’ve been in rehab and have put my porn career in the past is good press and can only help my modeling career. As scheduled, I’m approached by someone with the last name Hilton.

The Hilton is wearing a blouse that is considered the color Ocean, the new blue, but since Aquamarine blue was in fact the new blue for last season and last season is in this season, no one should be caught dead in Ocean. Unless of course she is being ironic. If so, she will have to mention this to at least three people during the course of the evening.

“Mickey, you’re back! I mean, uh…” Hilton looks at the coffee cup. “Welcome back!” She tips her coffee cup to me.

I glance around at the guest list, wondering who has the most juice at the party, but am distracted by the waiter walking through with wines from 1990.

“Good year for cabernets,” Hilton says, then grabs her blouse. “Last season is the new season, huh?” She laughs and looks fidgety as lights pop around us. At one point Hilton puts her arm around me and kisses me on the cheek. FLASH. Mission accomplished.

“I miss you, Mickey. We should get together sometime, you know, have a cup of coffee, or something.”

Sure, I tell her and then she leaves because she has a rule about spending over forty hours a week on the Lower East Side and this season many Fashion Week parties have been in LES, the new SoHo.

According to my manager, I need to make my way to a reserved table next to the bar where Paul Johnson is sitting. My manager also says to ignore the temptation of champagne. I have a job to do tonight.

Act like you’ve lived this moment a hundred times over. This is the forty-third secret on how to be famous.

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

Thank you for having me, for more information on my writing and BLOOD: The New Red please check out http://www.silverthought.com/blood/ and http://www.davidsgrant.com. Follow me on Twitter: @david_s_grant.

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Interview with Karen Glick, author of ‘Questions in the Silence’

Karen Glick lives outside of Philadelphia. She is a clinical psychologist whose other interests include writing, painting, and acting. When not feverishly engaged in these pursuits, she enjoys spending time with her four children, husband, cavalier king charles spaniels and cats.

Karen has just published her first novel, Questions in the Silence.

Visit her website at http://www.bellalunavoicecompany.com/.

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

Q: Thank you for this interview, Karen. Can you tell us what your latest book, Questions in the Silence, is all about?

I always wanted to write a novel and had many false starts where the idea or the characters just didn’t sustain my interest.  Finally, the idea for Questions in the Silence emerged from two of my life passions: (Don’t ask about the others!)psychotherapy and a spiritual approach to life.  The protagonist, Ari Rothman, is a young Jewish woman whose childhood is flavored by unusual dreams and visions. Some of her dreams are derived from her Jewish education, but others are more mystical and cryptic. These experiences inspire her to become a seeker of spiritual truth, not limited to her own religious upbringing.  At the same time, she is driven to find her life purpose and feels she may find it in helping people through psychotherapy.

Questions in the Silence chronicles Ari’s personal growth from her childhood when she feels like an outsider because of her precocious approach to life, to her search for a life partner, and her attempts to initiate a mature relationship with her parents.  At the same time, in her professional life, Ari faces mounting conflict when she tries to integrate her traditional training as a psychologist with her intuitive abilities.  Her struggles come to a head when she treats her first long-term client whose problems resonate deeply with some of her own issues.

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

Ari Rothman is a sensitive dork who really doesn’t fit into her peer group very well.  Her loneliness reinforces her interest in the spiritual world and she spends a lot of time searching for meaning in life and worrying constantly whether she will ever find her true purpose.  Since she spends so much time living in her head, her real relationships sometimes suffer.  Once she decides that she can best fulfill her purpose by becoming a psychotherapist, her next challenge becomes balancing the advice of her supervisors and her strong intuition about patients.

The supporting characters include a neurotic but loving mother who teaches Ari about the importance of boundaries in relationships, her boyfriend, Evan, who starts out as a study partner and becomes the key to Ari’s discovery about meeting her own needs, and James, Ari’s first long-term client, who comes from a very different background, but whose therapy forces Ari to question her own family relationships.

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

There are some components of my characters that are drawn from my life.  To some degree, Ari’s struggle to incorporate things she knows intuitively into her work mirrors my own.   I must emphasize she is truly a fictional character, as are all of the other characters in the book, although I am fortunate enough to have experienced people who may have added some of the dimensions to the characters.  In particular, some of Ari’s experiences such as her Jewish education, meditation adventures, and training as a psychotherapist were suggested by some of my own experiences.

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

My writing began with a strong sense of the fictional characters, their backstory, and their current struggles.  Each day as I wrote, I felt that the plot should be driven by the way the characters would interact, knowing them as I do.  When I was finished with the first draft, I had a better vision of the plot and my revisions were all about cutting out  a lot of writing that didn’t further either the plot or key knowledge about the main characters.

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

I love the Philadelphia area and have lived here since college.  Philadelphia is a great city for the exploration of ideas like spirituality and psychotherapy.  My familiarity with attending college and graduate school here provided a strong foundation for Ari’s development.

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

Not really.  Much of the story really takes place in the minds of the characters.

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

Ari, the main character, has just attended her first college party.  In her attempt to reinvent herself, she overindulged and is suffering the consequences.  On page 69, she is filled with remorse and is worrying how her overdrinking may have affected her relationship with her roommate and with her romantic interest, Charlie.

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

Saturday morning. Ari rolled on her side to read the time on her clock…six thirty five. She groaned. Why was she awake?  She peered at Evan who was sleeping so silently she watched the sheet over his chest to make sure it rose and sank with each breath. His face was totally relaxed, and she loved to look at the way the early morning light played with the golden highlights in his wavy hair and his long eyelashes. The stubble on his chin seemed so dark, forming a blue gray contrast to his pale skin. She lay quietly next to him, trying to match the rhythm of his breathing, wishing to fall back asleep and to share his dreams, he looked that peaceful.

But sleep wouldn’t come. So, she slipped out of bed and walked over to the couch. Pulling a soft old afghan around her shoulders, she sat down and closed her eyes to meditate, a form of Sabbath observance for her. She immediately felt as though she were drifting in a downward pathway, but she was able to maintain a relaxed, detached posture and she did not pull back from the sensation of slowly falling. As she descended, she became engulfed in a glowing indigo light. She sensed another presence with her and curiosity briefly coursed through her mind. She heard a voice answering her unspoken question…Eliyahu. And then there was complete silence. Ari’s old blue afghan had grown to encompass the entire universe and everything was wrapped in its comforting softness. At some point, when she opened her eyes, Ari wasn’t sure how long she had meditated, or even if she had fallen asleep. She patted her blanket with affection, thinking how much she loved the color blue. She could hear Evan stirring faintly in the alcove, so she went to investigate.

Thank you so much for this interview, Karen.  We wish you much success!

 

 

 

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