Monday, June 29, 2009

Review ~ A Stroke of Magic by Tracy Madison

You know how freaky it is, to expect one taste and get another? Imagine picking up a can of tepid ginger ale and taking a swig of delicious, icy cold peppermint tea. Alice Raymond did just that. And though the tea is exactly what she wants, she bought herself a soda.

No, Alice’s life isn’t exactly paint-by-numbers. After breaking things off with her lying, stealing, bum of an ex, she discovered she’s pregnant. Motherhood was definitely on her “someday” wish list, but a baby means less time for her art and no time for recent hallucinations that include this switcharoo with the tea. She has to impress her new boss, the ridiculously long-lashed, smoky-eyed Ethan Gallagher, and she has to deal with her family, who have started rambling about gypsy curses. Only a soul-deep bond with the right man can save her and her child? As if being single wasn’t pressure enough!

Alice Raymond use to have it all: a great job at an art gallery (that allowed her to focus on her own art), a cool apartment in the city, and a terrific boyfriend. Yep, she had it all. Until she found out she was pregnant and that terrific boyfriend is actually married. But hey, things start looking up again. She landed a good, if slightly boring, job at an ad agency, her new boss is dreamy, and she’s discovered she is the descendent of a gypsy and has magical powers. Not bad right? Wrong.

Because Alice is really scared about being a single mother. She misses her job at the gallery where she felt it was much more than a job. And mostly, the ghost stuff just scares her a little. Plus, her boss, Ethan is more than a little unnerving. He’s sexy, he’s smart, and he likes her. It should be a good thing but after her disasterous relationship with Troy (the no-good-cheating-jerk-boyfriend-with-a-wife-Troy), Alice’s confidence is a tad bit shaky. Until …

Miranda appears and tells Alice that she must find her soul mate before her baby is born or terrible things will happen. That’s enough for Alice. With the help of her best friend, Chloe, sister Elizabeth, and wacky grandmother Verda, Alice sets out to find the man of her dreams. Luckily, Ethan is quite handy. And very willing. But can Alice be sure that he is the one? Can she put her future, that of her unborn daughter’s, and everyone she loves in the hands of Ethan?

Ms. Madison and characterization go together like chocolate and strawberries. Alice’s feelings, thoughts, and actions were never forced and I sympathized with her at every turn. When Alice, trying to hide her pregnancy from Ethan blurted out, “I miss sex.” I spit out my McDonalds sweet tea. And when she hits reply all to an email, my stomach dropped for her (because let’s face it, who doesn’t fear one day doing the same thing?). Ms. Madison’s characters are real people and for that, she gets big points.

The magic continues with Alice’s tale and thank goodness Ms. Madison has more books on the way because I am all tied up with Miranda’s girls. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Things I Liked

~ I am always a little wary of first person stories. So many ways the writing can go wrong. No such wrong turns here! Not only was Alice her own person, with a voice completely separate from Elizabeth’s, but Ms. Madison wrote a person who is truly laid back and comfortable in her own thoughts. It was a joy to read.

~ I loved that Miranda’s (the ghostly gypsy grandmother) personality developed in Alice’s story. In Elizabeth’s book, she was sort of one-dimensional – just a ghost but with Alice, we learn a little more about Miranda (like that she likes Three’s Company). I only hope she gets that much presence in future books.

Things I Didn’t Like

~ I know Ethan is Alice’s soul mate but the romance lacked a little sparkle for me. They came together easily and their differences were resolved just as easily (well, mostly). Maybe I am more for suffering lovers though! 

Additional Info

~ Published ~ June 20, 2009

~ Price ~$6.99

~ Author Website ~

Friday, June 26, 2009

New Historicals!

Thanks to Facebook, I ran across this website called The Season and I have to say, I love it! Published every quarter, Beverley Kendall gives us a glimpse of what is coming up in historical romances. How did I not know that Julia Quinn's new novel comes out next Tuesday? Joy! 

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An Interview With Author Tracy Madison

Good morning happy readers! Today I am pleased to introduce Tracy Madison, author of A Taste of Magic and the upcoming, A Stroke of Magic. Tracy and I "met" after I did a review of A Taste of Magic and luckily, I was able to get my hands on an ARC for A Stroke of Magic. Look for my review of Stroke in the next few days. But until then, enjoy reading more about this magical writer!

First off, as a writer and avid reader, one thing I always want to know from published authors – when was The Moment when you knew you were going to be a writer?

I don’t think I ever had one defining moment. To quote my mother, I’ve always had an “impressive” imagination. Add that to my love of books, well…deciding to become a writer was more of a gradual realization.

Do you read books over and over again? What are your favorites?

Not as much as I did when I was a kid. I loved the Trixie Belden mystery series and had to have re-read each book multitudes of times. That being said, this past year, I’ve re-read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and Lightning by Dean Koontz. Those two books right there will show you how varied my fiction tastes are! I have favorites in nearly every genre, which means I have far too many to list, and literally every week my answers would be different. This past week, for example, I’ve been reading Iris Johansen and loving her Eve Duncan series. Next week, I’m reading a debut women’s fiction title (A BUMP IN THE ROAD) by Maureen Lipinski, and I can already state that I’ll be loving it.

Each month on my personal blog, I share the titles I read in the previous month, and even I’m surprised when I type my list up each month, because I really do read a little bit of nearly everything!

You participate in the Novel Girls Blog. Tell us a little about what you do there. How did you get involved? Do you always know what you’ll post beforehand or do you write at the seat of your pants blog entries?

I love my fellow Novel Girls! We’re a group of women who each had/has a debut book releasing in 2009. We virtually met last summer when Jenny Gardiner (author of the awesomely hilarious book Sleeping With Ward Cleaver) hooked us up. As to what we do there, well---we mostly share our opinions and experiences as debut authors, along with slices of real life stuff. We choose our topics usually a month or two ahead of time, and on my day (Mondays) I post on that week’s topic. And no, normally I don’t pre-write them, but I usually have already thought about what I want to say so the writing of each post is fairly simple.

Allow me just a minute to brag about the rest of The Novel Girls. Our “first” release in 2009 was Lesley Livingston’s amazing Wondrous Strange. It’s a young adult novel filled with fantasy and fairies, and is truly a delight to read.

Jillian Cantor’s release coincided with the release of my debut, A Taste of Magic. Her novel The September Sisters is a young adult drama that is poignant and heartfelt and brought a few tears to my eyes. She tells a powerful story of loss, love, and coping through the eyes of a young girl.

On June 9th, Maureen Lipinski’s debut A Bump in the Road released. It’s on my list to read next week, and I can’t wait to delve into it! The story follows how one woman’s unexpected pregnancy alters her life in humorous and emotional ways. Maureen is an exceptionally funny woman, so I am positive I’ll be chuckling through A Bump in the Road.

Last, but not least in any way, is Lisa Patton’s debut release, Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter, which is set to release on September 29th. She tells a story about a Southern belle who moves to rural Vermont to open a B&B with her husband. The book is described as heartwarming and hilarious, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

I know you have four children and a very busy household. Is it difficult to find time to write?

My household is loud, busy, and sometimes more than a little crazy. Unfortunately for me, I’m one of those writers who cannot write new material in the midst of noise that belongs to me. Meaning, if I’m at home, then the noise of kids playing, arguing, etc., belongs to ME, and I can’t *not* pay attention to it…but if I take my laptop to the library or a coffee shop then that noise doesn’t belong to me, so I can focus. Weird, I know, but there you have it.

So, to answer your question, it’s not really time that’s the issue, it’s the hectic nature of my household. During the school year, I can work around the kids schedules and write during the day, but throughout the summer things become a little tougher. So, in the summer months, I tend to stay up really late and write when the house is sleeping, and then on other days when I’m awake, I’ll steal away to a coffee shop. Most of A STROKE OF MAGIC was written at a Caribou Coffee just up the road from me. :)

Now, light editing and revision work I can manage much better at home, even with the noise. The difference, I think, is that when I’m editing I’m not really in “storytelling” mode, because the bones are already there.

Your debut novel, A Taste of Magic, is a fun ride into the world of magic and romance. The second book, A Stroke of Magic, hits bookstores at the end of this month. Tell us a little about the inspiration for these novels.

For me, all of my inspiration for all of my fiction material starts with character—not plot. And then, almost 100 percent of the time, it’s the heroine who crawls into my brain and refuses to leave me alone. A Taste of Magic started with Elizabeth (who wasn’t actually named at the time). At first, I had no idea there’d be even a smidge of magic in the book, as the story began with the idea of a somewhat bitter ex-wife who has to bake her ex’s wedding cake for his wedding to his new bride—all because of a glitch in communication.

How would she feel? Would she do it? Could she do it? I’ll be honest—I tried to ignore Elizabeth’s voice in my head for a while, as I was working on another project at the time, but dang! This woman wouldn’t leave me alone. So I played with the idea for a while, but something felt flat…wrong, even…and I couldn’t figure out what it was. The idea of the magic, and the Gypsy bloodline, opened up to me then, and I ran with it. I had the most fun writing A Taste of Magic than I’d ever had before. I was hooked.

A Stroke of Magic evolved naturally from A Taste of Magic, as Alice (the heroine in Stroke) is Elizabeth’s sister. I SO couldn’t wait to start her story, but knew there was no sense in spending time writing it if A Taste of Magic didn’t find a home, so I (again) ignored the voice in my head for a long time. And then I sold A Taste of Magic in a 2-book deal, so I was able to tell Alice’s story. I was thrilled! And I had just as much fun writing A Stroke of Magic as I did writing A Taste of Magic.

I love that the heroine’s name in Taste is Elizabeth Stevens. Did Bewitched play a role in the book’s concept? (Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens)

You are (I think) the first person who’s caught on to the Bewitched angle with Elizabeth’s name! As I said, the Gypsy magic wasn’t part of my original inspiration, and Elizabeth wasn’t even named at that point, but yes—once I focused in on her magical bloodline, Bewitched definitely came to mind. No, Elizabeth isn’t a witch (she’s a gypsy)—but the story I wanted to tell was one filled with humor, magic, and some odd-ball family members, which immediately made me think of Bewitched. I’ve been a fan-girl of Bewitched since I was a little girl, so it definitely made me smile naming Elizabeth!

I adore the book trailer for A Taste of Magic. Were you involved in the creation of the trailer? Tell us a little about the process. (you can view the trailer on Tracy's website)

Isn’t it fun? I so love my book trailer for A Taste of Magic! Diane Whiddon-Brown from Novel Website Design created my book trailer, and she did a fantastic job. She asked me some questions about what I’d like to see, the tone I’d like expressed, etc., and then she delivered two different trailers for me to review. I liked one better, but wanted a few of the aspects from the other trailer—which she was happy to include. The end result is the trailer I have now. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to have a trailer created for A Stroke of Magic, but whenever I do have another book trailer designed, I’ll definitely want to use Diane’s services again.

Are you part of a critique group or do you have just one or two beta readers? How did you find your critique partners?

I am involved in a critique group, and let me just say this: my books are better because of their input. Hands down better. I am so lucky to have these amazing gals as my first, second, and sometimes fourth and fifth eyes! I think finding the right critique partners is difficult, but essential. Two of my critique partners are members of my local writing group, and the other three are long-time writing friends. One of them sees my fairly raw writing, while a couple others help me out after I’ve polished once or twice, and the rest are there if I still need another opinion. They all rock.

So, A Stroke of Magic is due out on June 30th. Can you tell us a little bit about what you might have coming up?

Well, I wasn’t going to mention this just yet (and it’s not even on my web site yet), but I recently sold the next two books in the series. Yay! Book 3 will likely be a spring or summer 2010 release, and book 4 *should* squeak in before the end of 2010. I don’t have official titles or release dates yet, but I’m happily writing away on book 3. I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but for anyone who reads A Stroke of Magic, they should easily be able to figure out who the heroine is in book 3. As to book 4? That will be Scot’s story and I am wicked excited to write it!

I’m a big fan of those email forwards that ask you to describe yourself in five words and then forward to everyone you know. What five words would you use to describe yourself?

You know, this is sort of perfect for me right now, because I’ve become a Sims 3 addict…and in the Sims 3, you get to choose *five* traits to personalize your Sims characters. So…my five traits are:

1. Artistic

2. Bookworm

3. Loner

4. Charismatic

5. Friendly

Tracy, I really enjoyed the interview! Thanks for joining me today!

Thank you so much for having me here today! I loved answering all of your questions! I’d also like to share that I’ll be at Night Owl Romance on June 30th for a totally cool virtual signing.

And now for the giveaway! Tracy wants to know:

If you could have one magical power, what would it be and why?

Post your reply in the comments and Monday, June 29th and Tracy will choose the one she thinks is the funniest. That person will receive a signed copy of A Taste of Magic.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Update Me Baby

Every morning when I boot up the laptop to start my job search I inevitably do a few things first:

1. Immediately hit Google Readers and check out what my fav bloggers are doing. 
2. Go to USA Today Life section and read Lifeline Live and Pop Candy
3. Check email
4. Read local newspaper online

And then I finally search for jobs. That's the worst part of my morning. But when all that is done (and the baby is fed, changed and happily talking to his favorite toys) (oh and the laundry is in and I have enough clean bottles and the grocery shopping is done) ... when all that is done I start to think about my novel. And with that comes thinking about this blog. And then I feel guilty because I really don't keep it up like I should. So I'm sorry for that. This week a few things have kept me from writing a blog post. Just a few are:

Searching for the best book to read

And my heroine's changing personality. Suddenly she has become a tad crazy and her schemes are getting out of control. I've been having such fun plotting but the actual writing is kind of tense. I've re-written one scene at least five times and it's not working. None of my peeps are talking. 

Oh and I'm bummed because Reading Romance Books is no longer as of this Saturday. The owner of the site has decided to shut down. So no more reviews over there. I had a few coming up and one was for a great new book due out in July called A Stroke of Magic. I also had an interview planned with the author. So look for that here sometime in the next two weeks. 

For now I am off to surf the Internet while baby is busy in his swing laughing at his pacifier. Here's hoping my characters start talking and a miracle happens and I get a job. You can't have it all, but you should have some, right?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

4 Points That Make A Story

Over on Argh Ink, Jennifer Crusie posted an interesting discussion on what a reader or movie goer really takes away from a story. She asserts that the structure of a story - the acts, the turning points, the black moment - is not what a reader really remembers about a book. It's something an author must constantly think about in order to keep her plot in line, but it's not what makes the reader love a story. You can read more about her theory here and her inspiration for the theory here.

She brings up a valid point. There are moments in a book that really capture a reader. And as a writer, I see those moments as being the best ones to write. I think they are the ones a writer looks back on and is most proud of. Those are the moments that MAKE a story. 

So it got me thinking - what are the four points in my current WIP? And should those moments be highlighted in a synopsis to a potential agent or editor?

Quickly thinking, here are my four favorite moments:

1. Olivia falls in love with Patrick during a knock down, drag out fight with his wife. 
2. Olivia's family - mother, father, Jeremy and Lucy - make a pact to help find Olivia a husband and the person who finds her a husband first gets a horse.
3. Olivia tracks down Patrick at the theater and confesses that she has written a book about him. 
4. The rose garden.

I see, very quickly, that all these moments are in Olivia's POV. This tells me something although I am not sure what. Several thoughts come to mind but the biggest one is that this is Olivia's story and Patrick is merely secondary. Do I want it that way? I don't know. 

Think of your favorite book or your current WIP. What four points make the story for you? And what do those four points tell you about your book, the book you are reading, and you as a person? Because I very much think that not everyone is going to have the same four points.