Friday, May 27, 2016

~ Take a Waltz Down INSPIRATION STREET! ~

Please welcome former columnist turned author Darrell Laurant to the spotlight!

I first “met” Darrell when I ran across his blog, “Snowflakes in a Blizzard.” Darrell, tell us what you mean by that title.

It has to do with the fact that there are currently more than 15 million books listed on Amazon. I was standing at my living room window in Lake George, NY one day, watching it snow (it snows a lot up here), when the thought occurred to me that getting noticed as a new writer these days is like a snowflake trying to stand out in a blizzard. Hence the name for a free book marketing service that I started to help other authors who are struggling to have their work recognized and appreciated.

That analogy is so apt! When did your love for writing start?

In the womb, probably -- my mother is an excellent writer. When I was about 8, I mimeographed a little newspaper and sold it around my neighborhood for a nickel. I suspect people bought it because they thought it was cute. I'm no longer cute, but still writing.

That sounds just like the way Stephen King got his start! What is something you struggle with when you write?

How much is too much and how little is too little. As a longtime journalist, I'm very conscious of the need to engage readers without boring or tiring them, and that's a fine line to walk.

Indeed! Give us a brief glimpse at your road to publication. 

It was a bit unorthodox. With my first book, "Even Here," I went to an acquaintance who ran a printing company and asked if he would print my book with nothing upfront and let me pay him back out of the money it brought in. To my amazement, he agreed, and the book sold over 3,000 copies in just a local area. (He got repaid).

That's the first time I received that answer! I know you are retired now, but could you tell us a bit about what it was like being a columnist?

I had a wonderful job with a small daily in Lynchburg, VA -- so wonderful that I passed on a couple of offers from larger papers and stayed there more than 30 years. As a columnist, I generally produced stories that fell somewhere in between editorials and news. I could write about people just because they were interesting, and not because they'd done anything newsworthy in the previous five minutes. And because I was the only writer on staff with a photo next to my column, I wound up as a sort of mini-celebrity in the community (mixed blessing). My editors gave me a lot of leeway, and at four times a week, I came up with over 5,000 columns during my career, trying never to repeat any of them.

Wow! I'm sure that was a challenge! Do you have a job/hobby outside of writing? What is it and how does it mesh with your writing?

I also run the aforementioned Snowflakes in a Blizzard (, which meshes quite well.

Do you have any other hobbies that you’d like to share?

Reading, traveling, playing pool, finding new music to listen to and participating in a couple of fantasy sports leagues.

Ugh! My husband does fantasy sports, too. He really enjoys them! Where do you live?

In Lake George, NY, which is beautiful but a bit cold -- winter comes early and spring comes late. Maybe someday we can afford to flee to a warmer refuge from December through March. I make a better snowbird than penguin.

Ha! Love that! I'd rather be a snowbird, too! Share with us a little about your family. Married? Kids? Pets?

My wife Gail and I are both Upstate New York natives and have been married for more than 40 years. We have a daughter in Lynchburg, a son in Colorado and four grandchildren. We also love dogs and have three, a German shepherd and two malte-poo "ankle biters." They're more fun to watch than TV.

Which leads right into my next question. If you could be any animal, what animal would you choose, and why? 

A tiger, because I'm not as assertive as I should be. Tigers are very assertive.

What was one of the best Christmas presents you ever received?

My Kindle, on which I am currently juggling about 12 books.

Me, too. I didn't think I would like it, because I was more old school and into paper books, but when you can hold dozen of books in one hand, what's not to like? What CD is in your CD player right now?

"Bittertown," by Lori McKenna, whom I just recently discovered. Like Neil Young, Steve Earle, Springsteen and others, she has kind of a quirky voice, but it works.

Name your favorite children's story.

The Secret Garden.

Interesting... What was your nickname growing up or now?

In Lynchburg, it was "Durl," because that's what "Darrell" sounds like with a southern accent.

Reminds me of the Bob Newhart Show when there was Larry, his brother Darrell, and his other brother Darrell. 

What is your biggest pet peeve?

1. Failure to communicate. It irks me, for instance, when I send out an article query and never get a response. No matter how busy an editor claims to be, how much time does it take to hit "reply" and say either "Would like to hear more" or "Thanks, but not for us"? If it's the latter, you can then move on to someone else, instead of being on permanent hold.

2. (A tie). The fact that it's become incredibly difficult to contact with a real human being on the phone. The automated systems that confront me rarely address whatever problem or issue I may have, and so often there is no alternative. I guess that also goes back to communication.

Yes. Communication is key. Thanks for joining us today! Now let's hear a little bit more about INSPIRATION STREET...

Blurb ~

This book describes some of the intriguing people who have lived in the 1300 and 1400 blocks of Pierce Street in Lynchburg, Virginia, but it is also more than that. Through what they accomplished during the days of segregation and beyond, these individuals represent 100 years of African-American history in microcosm.

Author Bio ~

Darrell Laurant is a veteran of more than 40 years in journalism, serving as a sportswriter, reporter and columnist for newspapers in South Carolina and Virginia. Inspiration Street is his fourth book, following Even Here: A Small Virginia Community, a Violent Decade (1992); A City Unto Itself: Lynchburg VA in the 20th Century (1997), and The Kudzu Kid, his first novel, published in 2014. A history major at Belmont Abbey College near Charlotte, North Carolina, he has long been intrigued by the effects of the past on the present and future. The issue of race, especially in the South, has been of particular interest. Laurant retired from the newspaper business in 2013 in order to devote more time to his other writing. He now lives and writes in Lake George, New York. He and his wife Gail have two children—Jeremy Laurant, of Fort Collins, Colorado, and Cindee Layne, of Lynchburg Virginia—and four grandchildren.

You can purchase INSPIRATION STREET here:

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

~ Who Wouldn't Be Interested in a GHOST IN THE RAIN? ~

Please help me welcome Marie Treanor with her exciting release, GHOST IN THE RAIN. Marie brought along her rock star hero--and y'all know how I feel about rock stars. So, without further ado, I give you Dan Stewart!

Tell me about yourself? You're a rockstar. Why? What are your strengths & weaknesses?

My name is Dan Stewart. I used to play keyboards in a rock band called Bad Mouth. Aye, that band. Why? Because I love music and when I was 18 years old I wanted to see if I could be famous. Or infamous. Strengths? I’m a good musician, I think. I’m good at organizing people and business. And I suppose I look after my friends, whatever happens, or whatever they’ve done. Weaknesses? I can be too focused and selfish, lose my sense of proportion. I’ve behaved as badly as most rock musicians and I’ve let my friends do the same – with terrible consequences.

What’s your family like and how does your upbringing affect you now?

My family was always hard working, when they had work. They taught me loyalty and to always try as hard as I could. We weren’t well off. I grew up in a housing scheme in Glasgow, but my mum encouraged me to stick in at school, and to go to uni. I got the others – my pals Liam and Ross and Mick - to do the same, so we could all go to Strathclyde University together. That’s where we formed Bad Mouth and met Islay. Once she joined the band, it really took off and we all dropped out of uni. My parents thought we were nuts.

How did you and Kate meet? What was your first impression of her?

She came at me with a pepper spray. I thought she was insane. Beautiful but insane. No, she arrived in the middle of a storm to study some 18th century letters that I’d acquired along with Invershiel House up in the Highlands. I liked what she got out of those letters, how she perceived the people behind them. I liked that she was afraid of the dark, like a kid, and yet wouldn’t give in. I liked her sense of humour, the way I could talk to her about anything, even the weirdest… I just liked her.

What is it that you want out of life?

When I find out, I’ll let you know. I want to make a difference. And I want to play music. Beyond that, Kate’s opening doors to a life I never imagined before.

Has life handed you any major disappointments?

(Glaring) Are you kidding? You do know what happened to Bad Mouth? Liam, Ross, Islay, are all dead. That’s major. Though disappointment doesn’t quite cover it.

Yes, quite tragic! What CD is in your CD player right now?

A new solo album of Mick’s – the bass player from Bad Mouth. Best thing he’s ever done. I played keyboards on a couple of tracks. Sounds good. When it comes out, you should buy it.

I might just do that. Thank you for joining us today! Now let's hear a little bit more about GHOST IN THE RAIN...

Blurb ~

A haunted Highland house, battered by storms and murder... 

Notorious rocker Dan Stewart isn’t anything like Dr. Kate Yorke imagined. Arriving at his remote home in the Scottish Highlands to research some valuable letters - only to discover he’s forgotten their appointment - Kate soaks up the Gothic atmosphere of Invershiel House. But it’s the owner who truly fascinates her.

Reclusive and abrupt, Dan is haunted by the deaths of his fellow band members, especially his one time lover Islay Lamont, whose shade seems to flit around the grounds in the rain. But the ghost is not the only mystery Kate encounters. Light bulbs disappear around her – and only Dan knows she’s scared of the dark. Then she trips over a dead body which inexplicably vanishes.

It becomes a race against time to find the identity of the body and the killer. And to discover if she and Danny have any kind of future together. Or even at all...

A World of Gothic is a Gothic Mystery Romance Series by authors all over the world. For information on other titles, check out A World of Gothic Facebook page:

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Excerpt ~

I had to acknowledge that my peace was churned up by his unexpected presence here. It wasn’t even an unpleasant feeling; in fact it felt rather…exciting. But it was disturbing.

I took off my glasses and rubbed my eyes. I suspected Dan Stewart carried such disturbance wherever he went. If I thought about it, the whole house felt different now. As if its peace had gone too; as if it had sprung to life, eager, waiting.

Mocking my own silly fantasy, I stood abruptly and paced around the room, trying to recover my lost concentration. I suspected I was just tired and would work much faster and much better after a good night’s sleep.

I paused by the window to watch the storm. Although the thunder had stopped, the wind and rain were still blasting the trees and rattling the window. Close-up, I could feel the draught through my thick sweater. On impulse, I retrieved my phone from my bag and tried to capture the raging storm on its camera. But it looked too tame on the screen, not deep or dark enough, no real movement in those black clouds still scudding and swirling across the sky. I wished I could paint. For a moment, I even wished I could be part of it, to go outside in it again. There was nothing to stop me, except common sense.

I smiled to myself and lowered the phone, just as a movement in the garden below caught my eye. Someone was out in this. Someone not remotely dressed for it either. Through the darkness and the almost opaque mist of rain, I could make out only that it seemed to be a woman wearing only some kind of floating, white, wispy garment, more like the loungewear of wealthy women of past centuries than anything anyone would wear today for any purpose. The odd garment shimmered as the figure glided across the lawn, impossibly graceful.

On impulse, I raised my phone again and snapped.

Perhaps she moved too quickly. Nothing of her showed on the screen except an indistinct blur of light against blackness. Frowning, I looked again out of the window, but the woman had gone. Vanished.

Gone back inside if she’s got any sense whatsoever.

I could tell myself that, and believe it. I just couldn’t quite silence the tiny voice in my head that whispered I might just have seen a ghost…

And then, before I could laugh myself back to sceptical normality, another figure strode into view. Two figures. A man and a large dog. The dog was trotting along at his side, sniffing the grass. Even in darkness, the man was unmistakably Dan Stewart. He seemed to be wearing the same old khaki jacket. I could see the rain running off him in rivulets. It hadn’t seemed to touch the ghostly woman…

He stopped, gazing ahead, and slowly turned as if looking for something, or someone. Just for a moment, I was tempted. I even raised my phone hand. But it felt too wrong to take a picture of him without permission in his own home. He was facing the house now and without warning, he tipped back his head and caught me staring down at him.

I felt frozen in that distant gaze. Forcing myself, I gave a feeble wave and dragged my eyes free towards the black, wooded hills and the furiously scudding sky. Still, I was aware of him striding back towards the house. I even heard his voice calling to the dog which loped after him.

Restlessly, I abandoned the window. I needed to go to bed. My eyes, my mind, were all far too tired.

Ellie had been quite blasé about leaving the letters out of their locked cabinet. “Even if anyone knew about them, who’d steal them round here?” she’d said reasonably. I took her at her word and just stuffed my own notebook into my bag before picking it up and heading for the closed door, where I paused, because I could hear footsteps pounding up the stairs.

My heart drumming, I waited for them to pass before I left the room. They strode closer, along the hall, and I held my breath. He’d go past; he must go past…

The door flew open, and Dan Stewart stood there, scowling at me. Raindrops stood out on his wet hair and clothes.

No, he wasn’t pretty. But there was something devastatingly attractive about that rough, bony face and those big, grey eyes that seemed much darker than before.

“Did you take any pictures?” he asked abruptly.

A rock star and a ghost. Two characters to get your heart racing. 

Author Bio ~

Marie Treanor lives in Scotland, in a chaotic house by the sea, together with her eccentric husband, three much too smart children and a small dog who rules them all. Most days, she avoids both housekeeping and evil day jobs by writing stories of paranormal romance and fantasy.

Marie is the award winning author of over forty paranormal romances - Indie, New York and E-published.

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