mariealternate - 400CRB: Before we get into the specific subject of writing, can you share with us a little about Marie Lavender, her life, loves, likes, dislikes, ambitions?

ML: I am a girl from the Midwest, living with her family and several cats. On most days, you can find me managing me blogs, then trying to carve out some time later for writing, research or editing. I love spending time with my fiancé. My idea of fun is a relaxing evening at home and a home-cooked meal. Though I also love going out, and shopping…I love shopping. Whatever you do, keep credit cards away from me. LOL. I love to buy gifts for the people I love, and I enjoy adding to my huge book collection. And I often find myself working on different types of creative projects at home.

Let’s see…likes? I love romance, so I am a total sucker for not only good love stories in film, television and books, but also a nice romantic gesture in person. And I’m such a lucky girl to have a man who cares about things like that. I’m also obsessed with chocolate, especially dark chocolate. My favorite color? I love hot pink! Oh, and I enjoy collecting beautiful journals to put my stories in. Dislikes? I can’t stand injustices of any kind, whether it’s poor treatment of animals or people. I believe in total equality. Inside we’re all human beings, and that’s the only thing that counts. What else? I’m not too crazy about spicy foods, and bananas kind of turn me off. I think it’s a texture thing.

What are my ambitions? I’ve always wanted to write books for a living, and I’ve done that, haven’t I? I guess in some years down the road, I’d like to see one of my books in a major bookstore. That would be exciting! But as long as I’m living this dream, and I have a few minutes every day to work on one of my writing projects, I am a happy girl!

Second Chance Heart - final cover

CRB: I see you went to Ball State. I have some connections in Indiana, including a writing mentor in Fort Wayne, a brother-in-law who went to Purdue, and a nephew who also went to Ball State. How was college life in Muncie?

ML: I was a commuter so you couldn’t say I had a “typical” college experience. I was as social as possible, and I dated for sure, but I wasn’t a party girl or anything. Because of a certain medication, I didn’t ingest any alcohol. But I loved academia really. Sometimes I miss the atmosphere. It’s a completely different world there. When you can walk through the halls of the English Department, and instead of the craziness of world events around you, or the worries of bills and drama of real life, all you hear are healthy debates about authors in the past, it’s quite refreshing. And if you pay attention in class, they’re also teaching you to think for yourself, and question how things are done. So, I would say it was a very valuable experience.

CRB: Moving on to the crux. One of your blog personas is “Writing in the Modern Age.” What do you think is different about writing now as compared to writing in times past?

ML: Well, obviously technology has changed the medium of how we write. Sometimes I think I was meant to be from another time, the Victorian age perhaps. One of my professors called me a Luddite once, just because I still write some of my works by hand. But I also rely quite a bit on technology. I compose on the computer, and my smart phone is a necessary tool to keep me updated on emails and blogging.

I think the literary world has changed a lot, not only with the explosion of e-books and audiobooks, but also the approach. Once upon a time, authors were composing by hand and mailing their manuscript to publishers. Then we had typewriters, which made our lives easier in some ways. But, even if you disregard the advent of all of this technology, an author’s role has altered considerably. Suddenly, PR is mostly on us. And with the prevalence of indie authors in the publishing sphere, that happens more often than not. Publishers’ roles have changed too. They are looking for writers who can navigate this new writing world extremely well. And writers at any stage of their careers must adapt to these constant changes.

CRB: You write in so many genres, I wonder if you sometimes find it hard to keep focus, or if perhaps you sometimes pin a genre-label on a book after rather than before you write it.

ML: You are right. It is hard to keep focused, but I just tell myself, “Marie, pick a project already!”

LOL. I used to box myself into a specific genre or subgenre, but I have learned not to do that. Because I have so many writing projects going on at once, and they range from one end of the spectrum to the other, I have taught myself not to try to control a book. The characters are in charge, not me. SCHpromo4I listen to them. If I hadn’t, then I would never have written a children’s book or even science fiction. And though I may initially think a book is a certain genre, I am still aware that it can change by the time the story is completed. Some of my stories cross genres. It’s actually quite freeing to call myself a multi-genre author. Certain publishers are intimidated by authors who can bounce around like that, but I have seen other authors doing the same thing. And I’m not much of a conformist, so why would I want to be that way in my writing? Besides, keeping an open mind can bring you into worlds you never thought possible.

CRB: You are kind of a relentless promoter—and I mean that in an entirely good way. Your constant presence on Facebook helps keep your name and works before the public and undoubtedly helps sales. Does this impulse come naturally, or do you find it a distraction from your authorship?

ML: A little of both really. I mean, sure, it does distract me from my writing at times, but I am a bit of a perfectionist in a lot of ways. I’m committed to bringing the best quality not only to my books, but also to my blogs. And I sincerely want to help other authors in whatever way I can. We’re all in this crazy world together. Why shouldn’t we support each other?

Honestly, I enjoy blogging and I’ve met so many wonderful people on my writing and publishing journey. So, I guess it’s just natural for me to try to expand my blogs as well as I can. In the process, maybe it will bring exposure to my work. Perhaps it won’t. But I get a lot out of promoting my fellow authors. And I sincerely love hosting different events. It’s a ton of work, but still enjoyable. I am a fair-minded person, so I want readers to enjoy everything as well.

CRB: Quite naturally, the final questions in these interviews are usually about the future. So, with thanks for your comments and insight, I’m going to go there, too. I know from your posts that you’re working hard on a project. Care to share more about it and tell us how you feel? Excited? Frustrated? Ready to switch to something else? All or none of the above?

ML: A bit of everything right now! LOL. I have two big projects. One is Upon Your Love, the third and final book of the Heiresses in Love Series. UYL is a Victorian romance, which I am also terming a family saga. There is quite a bit of suspense in the novel as well. UYL details the journey of Adrienne Hill, a character whom readers met in the second book of the trilogy, and they get to find out all about her and the trouble she tends to find. New characters are introduced, and we get to familiarize ourselves with previous characters as well. The approach to the novel is complicated, with multiple storylines that intersect. This book was truly a labor of love. I adore the characters and the story. The book took me well over a year to write, and quite awhile to edit. I’m on my final read-through, then I should be ready to send it out to beta readers and critique partners by the weekend, or at the latest early this next week. And I am seriously divided on that! I’m relieved, of course, to be at this point finally. And excited to get it published as soon as possible. I am frustrated that the journey took as long as it did. I know that sequels can sometimes be pretty complicated, though. Yet, I’m also a little sad that it’s the last book of the series, and I am, in a way, saying goodbye to characters I have grown to know and love for the past, well, fourteen years (the first novel took me many years to write and perfect). So, it’s a bittersweet ending for me.

And without even meaning to, I also started writing a science fiction romance titled Blue Vision. It has been a relief to work on an additional project at the same time. It makes the sadness of leaving the Heiresses in Love series a bit more bearable. And in the midst of all of this, I began planning for other book series and projects. As for Blue Vision, which will be book one of the Code of Endhivar series, I am almost finished writing it and ready to start editing. I don’t want to give too much away, but it is about a woman who goes on vacation and finds a surprise awaiting her in the forest. The stranger she meets is different from others, but she can’t figure out why. In truth, he isn’t from Earth and he has a dire mission to complete. But, you’ll learn more when the book comes out.

After these projects are sent to beta readers, I’m kind of looking forward to a little break before I attempt a new story. I have so many works in progress at different stages, but sometimes I just have to tell myself to focus, which I did with UYL and Blue Vision.

CRB: Terrific interview, Marie. I thank you. My readers thank you. Now, on to more about you, your books, and how and where to find them.

Second Chance Heart - final coverBook blurb for Second Chance Heart

After a wild storm forces her to take shelter in a small town inn, Dana Nelson thinks that all she has to worry about is a brief stay before she heads back to the city. She gets far more than she bargained for…

The last thing she expects is to run into an old flame, and even worse, the man who broke her heart twelve years ago. She’s sure that the only thing remaining between them is a strong attraction for another.

She can’t be more wrong…

The more time she spends with Vince Reynolds, the more she begins to believe she can trust him again. But, can she put her faith in the one man who captivates her, body and soul, or are some wounds too deep to heal?


“I’m going to bed,” she stated with finality as she rose from her chair. 

            “Fine,” he replied.

            She went upstairs to her room, still unsettled, plagued by those dark eyes of his. As she was still in her business suit from the trip, she undressed quickly and donned a pale pink knit nightgown, yanking it over her subtle curves. She glanced around the bedroom. She’d been given the Peach Room, painted in its namesake. It gave off a Victorian appearance with a walnut bed covered in a fine white spread, which was quite soft to the fingertips. Nearby sat an antique desk for writing letters. A Baroque, gilded mirror was nailed against one wall, and she caught the light dusting of freckles upon her nose and cheekbones in the reflection there.

She released a breath, shaking her head at the way her heart raced. It was infuriating that the man still affected her. She’d thought Vince was out of her life for good. She slashed a brush through her thick, shoulder-length mane of flame red curls, and told herself to relax, that the past couldn’t hurt her anymore.

            A soft knock could be heard then and with a frown, she went to the door. 

            Vince stood on the other side. His wavy, dark brown hair was ruffled, as if he’d mussed it with his hands, a habit of his she remembered quite well.

            He sighed, didn’t speak for a moment. “I’m…so goddamned sorry, Dana.” His dark eyes were strangely haunted. “I’m sorry.”

            She tried to block his view of her nightgown. “For what?”

            “You know what for.”

            Dana froze, her heart skipping a sick beat. He was apologizing now? After all this time? “It doesn’t matter now,” she said in a hoarse tone.

            “The hell it doesn’t. You don’t think I know you, Dana? I know what it looks like when you’re hurt. And that look you gave me downstairs nearly killed me. Those blue eyes of yours always did.” He rubbed at his chest absently, and she looked at the movement like his hand was a foreign object.

            She doubted part of what he said, and wondered if he was trying to appear more considerate. Why couldn’t he stay mean? She could hate him easier. “Fine. You said your piece. Now go away.” 

She began to shut the door, but he blocked it with his hand. Even as she gasped, he shouldered his way inside and kicked the door closed. He reached for her when she would have backed away, his lips blocking her protests. It was a mistake, a total mistake, she thought in a stunned instant. But, the lure of his mouth was too strong, and she sank into his kiss anyway, whimpering as his tongue swirled over hers. His dark flavor was too enticing. Her breath caught up in her throat, and her body began to burn, to come alive. She remembered the passion between them very well. If she was totally honest with herself, it had been missing with Finn.

“You’re mine,” he muttered hoarsely against her mouth. “I should never have forgotten that.”

            Caught between his body and the wall, she could hear the remorse in his tone, but her mind just seemed to stop working. None of it seemed to matter as he kissed the hell out of her. His heat was familiar, so welcome close to her body, and she curled up to it. His arms encircled her and there was a sense of safety, not danger. When his mouth moved over her throat, her eyes closed automatically.

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Marie’s Bio

Bestselling multi-genre author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 21 other books. Nominated in the TRR Readers’ Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial’s Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 10 Authors on Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for over twenty years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 22 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. Marie also has works that appeared in several multi-author anthologies. Her current series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Magick Series and The Blood at First Sight Series.

A list of her books and pen names are as follows:

Marie Lavender: Upon Your Return; Magick & Moonlight; Upon Your Honor; Second Nature; “Lovers Like Us” (featured poem from the book anthology, Poets & Writers in Action); A Little Magick; Second Chance Heart

Erica Sutherhome: Hard to Get; Memories; A Hint of Scandal; Without You; Strange Heat; Terror in the Night; Haunted; Pursuit; Perfect Game; A Touch of Dawn; Ransom; Leather and Lace

Kathryn Layne: A Misplaced Life

Heather Crouse: Express Café and Other Ramblings; Ramblings, Musings and Other Things; Soulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things

 Links to Marie’s Books and Info About Them


9781250045423It’s been five years since I last visited Olen Steinhauer, and the absence has been too long. Liberation Movements and particularly The Bridge of Sighs proved that he is much more than a masterful creator of thrillers. He also delves into character and creates voices on a par with top-notch people like Ian McEwan. Maybe that’s extravagant praise, but not by much.

All the Old Knives takes us to a quiet restaurant in Carmel CA, where again CIA operative Henry Pelham is reconnecting with colleague/lover “Celia Favreau, nee Harrison.” They haven’t seen one another for some years. Not since an incident in Vienna involving an airplane (Details dribble out over the course of the narrative.), after which Celia severed her ties with the CIA, married a retired businessman, had a couple of kids, and settled down. Pelham is here to pin down some mysterious details about her role in the incident for a report he ‘s preparing, a report that could be quite damaging to the careers and/or reputations of the CIA personnel involved. There’s a suggestion that if Celia’s answers don’t match up, Pelham’s prepared to give the nod to a hit man.


Usually, I’m no fan of an author’s withholding information that a narrator holds in his/her mind merely for the sake of building tension or enhancing an ending. In this case, though, Steinhauer makes it work. I’ll say no more. The conversation is masterful. A probe here, a revelation there. They still obviously have feelings for one another, but they are just as obviously protecting themselves. Half-truths are the order of the evening. And the action and ending depends on both characters guessing correctly which truths are full or halves. We get lots of flashbacks with action, so we’re not confined to the restaurant. But the focus is always this conversation. It’s a fascinating contretemps with a nicely ambiguous ending.

sitting up clapping



51ex6foMsQL._SL300_This is my first venture into the international thriller world of Joseph Finder with The Moscow Cluba bit outdated per recent Russian events, but still worth a look.

Charlie Stone is not in the greatest place in his life. His wife’s walked out, and the CIA calls him back to duty from cliff-face just as he’s assuaging his sorrows by mountain climbing in the Adirondacks. The duty is the unpleasant errand that involves reopening old wounds inflicted when his father had been disgraced–jailed even–during the McCarthy-era pogroms.

Complications ensue, and before long poor Charlie is a fugitive sought be every police force and secret agency on the planet as he searches for a document associated with Lenin. Not only are the various alphabet agencies after him, but there is a consortium of Soviet and Washington moles who desperately do not want the Soviet Union to go democratic. To avoid that they plot to blow up–well, I’m certainly not going to spoil the fun by revealing what (and whom) they plan to blow up. Suffice it to say it’s a big deal.


Of course, Charlie and wife Charlotte get caught up with each other and with the various factions as the action proceeds. The writing is not the best–often sacrificing character for action and depth for thrills–but Finder scores very, very high on the “CAN’T PUT THIS DOWN” index. Lost some sleep over not being able to stop at chapter’s end, so there’s no denying the power of fast-movement and intriguing plot. If you’re looking for that. Look no farther. You’ve found Finder.



9780375706417Back in the day–way back, say twelfth century back. Before the invention of the novel–poets in the courtly love tradition liked to compete over who could put their lovers in more difficult circumstances and draw out an affair.  In one example, there was a wealthy landowner whose daughter was allowed to appear in public only at Sunday mass, and thiat under heavy chaperonage. At the communion rail, her lover sighed, “Alas.” The next week the maiden asked “For What?” The next week he answered “For Love.” And things went on from there for months and months before there was even a tryst, let alone a seduction.

Well Ha Jin outstrips all those guys with his Waiting. The book was short-listed for the pulitzer, and I’d have been happier to see it win than The Goldfinch. even though I think it  falls a step short of Pulitzer material. Nevertheless, Waiting  is a remarkable novel.

You can read it almost as a study on how life in a totalitarian society creates depression and hopelessness. You can also read it as a love story so completely beyond anything in the modern western world that you have to struggle to join the situation. Here’s what I mean.


It’s the sixties. Lin enters into an arranged marriage in his mid-teens. His wife, Shuyuh, has strict, old-style parents who actually bound her feet, a fashion quite uncommon. Lin resents the coercion that forced him into the union, doesn’t love Shuyuh, is embarrassed by her awkward gait and homely looks, never appreciating the advantages the marriage brought to his family. There is a consummation and a subsequent daughter, but no sex after that.

Lin gets out of his little village and away to a Shanghai suburb as soon as he can. He becomes a doctor in the army. Apparently, everyone is connected with the army one way or another. He’s based in a compound where movement is restricted and opportunities for forming relationships fall considerably short of the odds on

Nevertheless, he and nurse Manna Hu, fall in love. However, they have little or no opportunity for consummation, and are both so fearful of the consequences that they hold off… and hold off . . . and hold off. . . .

Lin sends Shuyu a monthly allowance and is granted leave to visit her annually. He agrees with Manna Hu to ask for a divorce. Such an act requires the approval of a village official, and the whole village sees Lin’s request as abandonment of his matrimonial obligations in general and of his wife and daughter in particular. Not to mention his interfering brother in law who stirs up the villages agains Lin. This whole ritual goes on for 18–that’s EIGHTEEN–years, which is the soonest a divorce can be granted without the wife’s approval. Shuyuh has agreed to the divorce every year, but each time withdrawn her consent in court under her brother’s influence.

But, finally, the divorce comes, and Manna Hu and Lin are married and have to come to terms with a relationship that has been suspended while they each grew in different ways, side by side, but never touching. Lin is incredibly passive and insecure, always second-guessing himself, finding it almost impossible to take the initiative in any difficult situation. He accepts his lot. Truth be told, he’s not such a lusty lad either, or he would have had more than one wet dream in thirty years and would have had a much harder time resisting physical contact with his one and only.

Manna Hu, pretty much realizes these character weaknesses early on, but in her late twenties, she’s already an old maid, is seen as attached to Lin even though they aren’t married or even engaged, so she’s trapped herself into unavailability by connecting with him. It’s worse than Hawthorne’s Salem. She doesn’t have to don the scarlet letter to be branded, and she doesn’t even get to have sex or a daughter to be condemned. So even though she’s much less diffident than Lin, she’s done for in the romance department before she even gets started.

Despite the difficulties of getting us to suspend our disbelief in this extreme circumstance, Jin pulls it off. We agonize for these two, partially because Jin takes inside their hearts and lets us see how weak and bewildered they are. Weak, anyhow, in relation to their circumstances. By the ambiguous ending, we’ve reached a life-affirming place in the tale, though subsequent events may prove that seeming affirmation false. But the possibility for happiness and even nobility of the human spirit in the worst of environments shines through.