WANA Wednesday: Mystery, History and Romance!

My writing friends have been busy these past couple of weeks! Like most writers, my To-Be-Read pile (or list on my Kindle, rather) runneth over, yet I had to snag these.

Bad ReligionFirst up, we have crime fiction from my IRL friend Jim Winter, the latest in his Nick Kepler P.I. series. This is one of the covers I designed a couple of weeks ago, and I had tons of fun with it! In Bad Religion, Nick and Elaine are shadowing the pastor of a suburban church. So far, they’ve found nothing on him, but one of Nick’s operatives comes across something that tells them they’ve been on the wrong track. But a collision on a lonely rural road keeps Nick from finding out what. It also forces Nick to look more closely at the church itself. Who’s really skimming the money? Is it Calvin Leach, the church leader who wants to be the next great televangelist? Is it Alex Pullman, whose real estate fortune was made paving over perfectly good neighborhoods to build upscale shopping malls? Is it one of the church board? Or is there more going on here, a religious schism that’s closer to Nick’s past than he imagined?

In the background is Nikolai Karpov, the Russian mobster who seemingly likes Nick enough to want to bring him into his organization. Meanwhile, Elaine is dealing with the disintegration of her marriage and what her budding partnership with Nick means, both personally and professionally.

It’s not obvious from Jim’s description, but there’s some great humor in here, too – enough that, when I was beta reading this at work several years ago (I had nothing to do), my coworkers kept giving me weird looks because I kept trying to stifle laughter. More info and buy links on Jim’s blog.

COLLATERAL CASUALTIES_BarnesNoble1-662x1024Want some more mystery and suspense? Kassandra Lamb has released Collateral Casualties, the fifth in her Kate Huntington mystery series. When a former client reaches out to psychotherapist Kate Huntington and reveals a foreign diplomat’s dark secret, then dies of ‘natural causes’ just days later, Kate isn’t sure what to think. Was the man delusional or is she now privy to dangerous information?

Soon she discovers her client was totally sane… and he was murdered. Someone is now trying to eliminate her, and anyone and everyone she might have told. Forced into hiding, she and her husband, Skip, along with the operatives of his private investigating agency, struggle to stay one step ahead of a ruthless killer. Skip and his P.I. partner are good investigators, but this time they may be in over their heads… and they could all end up drowning in a sea of international intrigue. More info and buy links on Kassandra’s website.

MASQUERADEHow about some history with a little romance? New out from Maria McKenzie is Masquerade, the second in her Escape Trilogy.

Celebrated actress Lavinia Hargraves performs her most challenging role offstage. Although born in 1872 to Daniel Taylor, a white man and wealthy landowner in southern California, Lavinia’s mother, Lori, is a Negro and former slave. Lavinia, who appears white, is desperate to hide her Negro ancestry, as well as pursue her dream of becoming the world’s greatest actress. After eloping with the much older Vernon Hargraves, owner of New York’s premier theater company, Lavinia is provided with all she could ever want: a new life as white, stardom on the stage, and an abundant supply of money. Soon Lavinia’s seduction by a young and handsome actor sets in motion a devastating turn of events. Dashing millionaire contractor Andrew Standish comes into Lavinia’s life at a time when she needs him most. However, the secret of Lori’s existence could demolish her daughter’s carefully constructed facade. To what lengths will Andrew go to uncover Lavinia’s past? More info and buy links on Maria’s blog.

Conquest-of-the-HeartIf you prefer your history with a lot of romance, Michele Stegman never disappoints (at least me!). Conquest of the Heart is “a lighthearted romp through the dark ages,” in which Madeline wants a big, brash, never-defeated-in-battle, Norman knight. What she gets, by order of the king, is a wiry Saxon who once studied for the priesthood instead of warfare. But is this gentle man she has fallen in love with entangled in the rebellion now sweeping the land?Ranulf wants to marry the girl next door. What he gets, by order of the king , is a lush, strong Norman woman who just might be a spy reporting his every move. He wants her in every way a man can possibly want a woman. But can he trust his heart to a woman who might have been sent to root out the struggle for freedom his people are engaged in? More info and buy links on Michele’s website.

ROW80Logo175Quick ROW80 update: This is it for Round 2! Or rather, Thursday is, I believe. I’ve made a good dent in re-reading Holly Lisle’s How to Write a Series, and the ideas for my next Saturn Society book keep coming, so I consider that a win! Next round, the words!

How about you? Think you might just have to add to your overflowing TBR list or pile? If you’re doing ROW80 – or even if you’re not – how did you do on your goals this spring? Please share – I’d love to hear from you!


Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

WANA Wednesday: An Interview with Maria McKenzie, plus ROW80 Update

I have a special treat this week for WANA Wednesday. Today, I’m interviewing indie author and In Real Life writing pal Maria McKenzie. Her first book, The Governor’s Sons, was blow-me-away awesome! I have her new book, Escape, on my smartphone waiting to be read!

And now, here’s Maria:

JMP: Have you been published by a big publisher? Small press/epub? Independently? Please share your publishing experience. What made you decide to take this publishing path?

MM: I chose to independently publish my books. About two years ago, I tried to get traditionally published, but after multiple rejections I decided to try independent publishing, and I have no regrets. I knew other writers who were venturing there, but I think what pushed me over the edge was what agents and publishers were starting to ask for. One e-publisher asked that you submit your own artwork, and some agents were requesting publicity plans. Since more and more is required of new authors, I figured I’d do everything myself!

JMP: I don’t blame you! Those were all big factors in my decision, too. Now that you’ve tasted the control and flexibility that comes with indie publishing, are you still pursuing a traditional publishing contract, or perhaps an agent?

MM: No, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever try again. Right now I have complete control of all my projects, and I can write what I want.

JMP: Boy do I hear that. Big publishing is really risk-adverse to anything that’s a bit different, or doesn’t fit neatly into an established genre – which is definitely how I saw The Governor’s Sons. What do you do (or have you done) for a day job? Has this informed or inspired your writing in any way?

MM: I was a librarian for thirteen years. I resigned when I had my first child back in 1999.  I really enjoyed being a reference librarian and digging up facts, and I love history. Now I write historical fiction, and half the fun for me is in the research!

JMP: One thing I loved about your books is how I felt like I was there! It’s obvious how your former day job and love of research has served you well. What about other inspirations – have there been any particular events, places, things you’ve seen/heard/read that inspired the overall premise of a book, its events, or any of the characters?

MM: My first book, The Governor’s Sons, which I published last year, was inspired by Essie Mae Washington-Williams’s memoir, Dear Senator. Williams is the love child of South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond and his family’s African American maid. Her story really touched me and made me think, what would have happened if a southern governor fathered a son by a black woman, and that son grew up to become a civil rights leader.

JMP: Dear Senator sounds like a fascinating read, and has been on my non-fiction TBR list since I read about itWhat inspired your latest book?

MM: My latest novel, Escape, was inspired by my own marriage. Not long after I got married, I thought about how sad it would have been if my husband and I had known each other 150 years earlier. We were an interracial couple living in North Carolina at the time, and a century and a half earlier, we wouldn’t have been able to marry.

JMP: I thought about that with the relationship in The Governor’s Sons, too. Living in a post-Civil Rights society, it’s hard for me to imagine – but sadly true. Tell us more about your current or upcoming release.

MM: Escape: Part One of the Unchained Trilogy is my latest release, and here’s a brief synopsis:

Daniel and Lori love each other, yet to live as one in 1856, they must escape from the unyielding society that imprisons them.

Lori was born a slave in North Carolina, yet by chance was raised alongside Daniel in a wealthy abolitionist household. The sudden death of Daniel’s mother catapults Lori back into bondage.

Relegated to chattel on a rice plantation, Lori lives in constant fear under the tormenting scrutiny of Daniel’s wretched Aunt Lucinda.

After Daniel fails to convince his relatives to free Lori, he is compelled to devise a daring escape. Although a life threatening endeavor for both of them, Lori’s freedom is priceless to Daniel, and he’s willing to pay such a price for her love.

People have asked about the trilogy and the significance of the titles, so here’s that information in a nutshell:  The title of the trilogy is Unchained.  Lori was born a slave, but escapes from slavery.  Her granddaughter, Selina, who passes as white, carries the secret of her African American ancestry like a painful chain, bound around her heart. Only when she tells her family the truth can she free herself from the pain of that secret. Escape is part one of the trilogy. While Lori escapes from bondage, her daughter, Lavinia, escapes from living as a “Negro.”  In part two, Masquerade, Lavinia becomes a great actress in New York, all the while hiding her true identity.  Revelation is part three, and in this story, Lavinia’s daughter, Selina, reveals the truth about her ancestry. For what to expect in each part of the trilogy, visit the novel page on my website.

JMP: Maria, thanks so much! I can’t wait to read Escape, and I know I’ll be looking forward to the next book as soon as I finish it! Your blog has some fascinating stories about famous historical people – including some in entertainment – that no one knew were of African ancestry.

What about you? Have you ever read historical fiction featuring interracial romance? Do you find it hard to imagine a time when interracial marriages were prohibited in many places? Do you have any questions or comments for Maria? We’d love to hear from you!

Maria’s books are both available on Amazon as eBooks, and in print.

Quick ROW80 Update: I haven’t received the print proof for Home for the Holidays yet. I did get a chance to mark revisions for Chapter 4 of Hangar 18. So far so good!

What is WANA? It stands for We Are Not Alone, a guide to blogging, social media and networking for authors by Kristen Lamb. It’s writers helping writers, whether or not we’ve taken the course, and proving that we really are not alone!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

WANA Wednesday: Lots of News to Share!

I’m trying something new today. So many of my author friends have new releases. I want to share this exciting news with my blog readers!

What is WANA? It stands for We Are Not Alone, a guide to blogging, social media and networking for authors by Kristen Lamb. Many of my author friends have taken the  WANA class, either with me, or another offering, and I met them online at one of the many WANA hangouts. I have a lot of IRL (In Real Life) author friends, too – and they are also not alone.

So here’s what some of my friends have been up to lately. Who knows, you may find your next book to read here – there’s a bunch of good ones!

My IRL friend and fantastic beta reader Michele Stegman released her short story, “A Pirate’s Tale,” last month. This is a different kind of romance, as it’s told from a third character’s point of view. Normally, this would be tough to pull off, but it totally works here, as it adds to the mystery and suspense of “what will happen?” Also, this story has a special place in my heart – I got to read it before the release, and I designed the cover! 🙂 If you’re looking for something fun and quick to read, I highly recommend this one. More info at A Pirate’s Tale | Michele Stegman.

My IRL friend Maria McKenzie recently released her new novel, Escape: Book One of the Unchained Trilogy. The Unchained Trilogy is an explosive three book series of love, deceit, emotional destruction and in the end, forgiveness. In Escape (Book One) Daniel and Lori love each other, yet to live as one in 1856, they must escape from the unyielding society that imprisons them.

I loved Maria’s first book, The Governor’s Sons. This story of a slave and the white man she loves promises to be every bit as good. It’s on my Kindle app, and I can’t wait to read it! More info at Maria McKenzie: Release Date of Escape, August 21.

Myndi Shafer celebrated the release of Shrilugh, a YA fantasy and her debut, a couple weeks ago. Shrilugh is the story of a recent high-school graduate wrongly accused of trying to murder her step-sister, who flees her vengeful stepfather with an otherworldly stranger through a mystical Door. It’s already getting some great reviews, and sounds like a great read! Ebooks are available at Smashwords, Amazon and iTunes, and it’s also available in trade paperback. More info at TODAY’S THE DAY! « Myndi Shafer.

Fabio Bueno also has a debut release in YA Fantasy. In Wicked Sense, witches inhabit our world, organized in covens and hiding behind a shroud of secrecy—the Veil. Skye’s London coven sends her to Seattle’s Greenwood High to find the Singularity, an unusually gifted witch who may break the Veil and trigger a dangerous new era of witch-hunting. More info at WICKED SENSE – Book Release! – Fabio Bueno, Author.

Louise Behiel celebrates the release of her second novel, Family Lies. I’ve read her first, Family Ties, and really enjoyed it, so I’m definitely looking forward to this one! Family Lies promises plenty of suspense, surprises, and family dynamics as the characters learn of secrets that make them question everything they value. More info at My Latest Release, Family Lies is the Featured Book Today | Louise Behiel.

Prudence MacLeod has been busy too. Last month, she released Hunter, an action-adventure story featuring aliens, psychic attacks, and a bit of romance. (Sounds like my kind of book! :D) She’s offering Hunter and another of her books, Moira, for free through the end of September. Even better, let her know you’ve downloaded one, and she’ll enter your name for a drawing at the end of the month for a $25 gift certificate from Purple Raven Boutique on Etsy, or $25 in editing services from Powder River Editing. More info at Valkyrie Rising, Prudence MacLeod’s Blog.: Free books and Bling!.

Fellow WANA author Angela Orlowski-Peart celebrated the release of her well-nurtured baby – her debut Young Adult paranormal/fantasy novel, Forged by Greed. It’s the story of two Seattle 16-year-old Shape Shifters, Jatred and Jasmira, who are torn between following their hearts and protecting the order of the world. The path of the star-crossed lovers leads only to destruction. More info at Forged by Greed published! | Angela Orlowski-Peart.

And just this weekend, my IRL author friend Tonya Kappes has a new release in her Magical Cures Series. A Charming Cure is the second in the series and full of June Heal and all her fun. Tonya’s blog is well worth a read for authors – she’s also the author of The Tricked-Out Toolbox and has all kinds of great promotional tips for writers. She shares all the details of how she prepared for the release of A Charming Cure on her blog at Author Tonya Kappes: A CHARMING CURE RELEASE DAY!

Did I miss anyone? If you’re a WANA friend or an author I’ve connected with, and you have exciting news to share, let me know! I’ll be glad to give you a shoutout in the next installment of WANA Wednesday.

All of the books linked above offer free samples, so check them out! And whether or not you’re an author, what do you think? See something that sounds good here? I’d love to hear from you, so please drop a comment below!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Gotta Read ‘Em: Historical Fiction and Science Fiction

I’ve read some excellent books lately, many that are worth sharing. Looking for something to read? Here are a couple of sure winners!

If you like historical fiction with a good bit of romance, then you should definitely check out The Governor’s Sons by Maria McKenzie.

The story starts in 1936 with Ash Kroth, a young law student in a nameless Southern state whose ultimate ambition is the governor’s mansion. He’s smart, white, comes from a well-connected and moneyed family, and is driven to succeed. The only thing he didn’t count on was falling in love with one of the family’s maids – who happened to be black. As the romance develops, so does Ash’s character, as he learns what’s really important, and what isn’t important at all. Then the story takes a somewhat unexpected turn… and picks up in 1964.

Ash is now a popular, segregationist governor with three teen children who all present their own challenges. His son Gavin is getting mixed up with the wrong people – racists willing to resort to violence to achieve their ends. To add to the volatile mix of human conflict, Harland Hall, a well-known, black civil rights leader, is coming to town. As this crucible heats up, we see the effects of lies past and present while the characters all try to cope with the fallout.

Although billed as historical romance on Amazon, I would consider this historical fiction or a coming of age story, because the romance is only the first half of the book. One thing I admired about the book was that the characters used historically-accurate dialogue, rather than terminology that would be politically correct today. Despite the offensiveness of these terms, this added realism to the book and enhanced the reader’s sense of being there. While gripping and emotional, the relationship doesn’t resolve in a way that romance readers typically expect. The book’s description is a clue to this, as the second half takes place almost 30 years after the first half. Thus, I wasn’t too surprised about the romance, and still found the story and its ending satisfying.

The Governor’s Sons is available as an ebook and in print from Amazon.



Moving in a completely different direction, “The First Key” by Prudence MacLeod is science fiction with a good dose of magic, in the tradition of Star Wars and that universe’s Jedi knights. It’s a short story of roughly 10,000 words, and includes a second, unrelated short as a bonus.

In “The First Key,” Branah is a young warrior mage apprentice who thinks he knows it all – until he’s sent off with a new master, the enigmatic Jen-jen. Recognized as one of his society’s most powerful mages with controversial methods and philosophies, Jen-jen disappeared many years before, and appeared at the former mage-leader’s death to whisk Branah away.

They wind up on a backward planet with a controlling, misogynistic culture, and when Jen-jen unwittingly breaks one of its highest laws, all hell breaks loose, and Branah must pick up the pieces while figuring out where he fits in as both a mage and a warrior.

Jen-jen and Branah are delightful characters, and even in a short story, it was fun to watch their master-pupil relationship develop as Branah discovers that not only doesn’t he know it all, he in fact knows very little. The world is a technologically-advanced one with space travel and also magic, much like the Jedi in Star Wars, and this story will definitely appeal to readers who enjoy that world. I’m glad to see this appears to be the first of a new series, because I’m looking forward to more!

“The First Key” is available on Amazon and Smashwords as an ebook.

Have you read any good books lately? Please share! I’m always up for a good read. 🙂