Friday, February 16, 2018

Books by Stuart R. West

As promised yesterday, here is a selection of Stuart R. West's books.  Stuart is a lifelong resident of Kansas, which he considers both a curse and a blessing. It's a curse because...well, it's Kansas. But it's great because…well, it’s Kansas. Lots of cool, strange and creepy things happen in the Midwest, and Stuart takes advantage of them in his books. Call it “Kansas Noir.” Stuart writes thrillers, horror, and mysteries usually tinged with humor, both for adult and young adult audiences. I hope you enjoy his books as much as I do. 

*Peculiar County

Blurb: Growing up in Peculiar County, Kansas, is a mighty...well, peculiar experience. In 1965, things get even stranger for Dibby Caldwell, the mortician's fifteen-year-old daughter. A young boy's ghost haunts Dibby into unearthing the circumstances of his death. Nobody—living or dead—wants her to succeed. James, the new mop-topped, bad boy at school doesn’t help. Dibby can’t get him out of her head, even though she doesn’t trust him. No, sir, there's nothing much more peculiar than life in Peculiar County…except maybe death in Peculiar County. 

"Peculiar County. The name fits like a glove. Try it on and see for yourself." Gail Roughton, paranormal, suspense and fantasy author

*Bad Day in a Banana Hammock

Blurb: Zach wakes up with no memory, no phone, and no clothes except his stripper g-string. And oh yeah! There’s that pesky naked dead guy in bed next to him. Problem is Zach's not gay. Or a murderer. At least, he doesn't think so. Only one person can help him, his sister, Zora. Of course, Zora's got problems of her own—she has three kids at home and is eight month's pregnant with the fourth. So she’s a bit cranky. But that’s not going to stop her from helping her brother. With kids in tow, the siblings set how to find the true killer, clear Zach's name, and reassure Zach he's not gay. 

“An hilarious murder mystery romp. Ride along with Zach and Zora on this most entertaining of mysteries.” -Heather Brainerd, author of the Jose Picada, P.I. mystery series. 
“Bad Day in a Banana Hammock will have you wiping up tears of hysterical laughter.” -Suzanne de Montigney, author of the Shadow of the Unicorn series.
“A fun, quirky whodunit so full of wild antics, it will keep you guessing...when you're not giggling.” -Heather Greenis, author of The Natasha Saga.

*Secret Society

Blurb: Leon Garber has his reasons for ridding the world of abusive people, call it justifiable homicide. Opportunity comes knocking from Like-Minded Individuals, Inc., a global company fulfilling the needs of clients: new identities, security, and even lists of potential “projects.” But let’s not call it “serial killing” (such a nasty term). For Leon, it’s a dream come true.

However, LMI has put a target on Leon’s back, with no indication of why. LMI, the police, sanctioned hit men, and a vicious psychopath are after Leon. He collides with other Like-Minded Individuals: The Good Samaritan Killer, The Mad Doctor, Donnie, and Marie (don’t ask). Heads are chopped, dropped, and swapped as Leon fights for his life. But nothing will keep him from finishing his current project. Not even the chance to fall in love. Sometimes a killer business idea is just that. Killer.

"Secret Society of Like-Minded Individuals pulls you in for a furious ride, sure to give you chills. Dark, gritty and meaty fun." -Meradeth Houston, author of the Sary Society series.
"A brilliant thriller about a society of serial killers with just a dusting of humor. Suspense fans will not be disappointed."-Heather Greenis, author of the Natasha Saga.
"Dexter meets Dilbert. Take a serial killer, cross it with the bureaucracy of the damned & the game is on."-5 star USA Review

Writer Bio:
Stuart spent 25 years in the corporate sector and now writes full time. He’s married to a professor of pharmacy (who greatly appreciates the fact he cooks dinner for her every night) and has a 25-year-old daughter who’s dabbling in the nefarious world of banking.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Meet Stuart R. West, My First Guest of 2018.

My guest today is Stuart R. West, an author whose work I enjoy very much. I've read several of his books and the Zach and Zora series tickled my funny bone to the extent of laugh-out-loud, OMG humor while Peculiar County and Dread and Breakfast both gave me the chills a la Stephen King. Dread and Breakfast, in particular, reeled me in with its seemingly innocuous premise but quickly turned into something quite dark and disturbing. I didn't see the all too believable twist in the tale coming which made the book all the more satisfying. I hope you enjoy Stuart's wit as much as I do and don't forget to visit tomorrow Friday, 16th February 2018, for a showcase of some of his books.

Q: When and why did you start writing? What is it about writing that satisfies you the most?
A: Hey there, Victoria, thanks so much for having me on your blog. I started writing about six
years ago when the company I’d worked at as a graphic designer for 27 years closed up shop.
At the time I was devastated, not wanting to start over in the corporate world. That was when I
realized I absolutely abhorred the corporate world. So I took up writing (along with cooking
which my wife greatly appreciates) to run away from Big Business. To me, the most satisfying
thing about writing is typing “The End.”

Q: What is one subject or genre you would never write about and why?
A: That’s easy! Erotica! (You’re very welcome, everyone!). To me, sex in books or movies is
interesting for about the first minute, then it’s *yawn* “isn’t this something I’d rather be doing
myself?” Honestly, I don’t know how erotica writers do it. There’re only so many different ways
to describe body parts.

Q: What type of scene do you find the hardest to write? Funny, romantic, scary, or sad?
A: Outside of erotica (see above), action is the hardest for me to write. Which is kinda dumb, I
realize, since I usually include lots of action in my books. It’s challenging. Car chases are
particularly tough to write as I think they lean more toward visual entertainment. Doesn’t mean I
don’t write a lot of ‘em, though. Call me a writing masochist.

Q: What advice about writing do you wish you had given yourself early in your writing
A: Don’t write 18 novels in six years! Just don’t do it, Stuart! Don’t make me cover over there!

Q: Do you read your reviews? If so, how do you celebrate the good and get over the bad?
A: Of course I read my reviews! Any writer who says they don’t is pulling your leg. I celebrate the
good notices with a smarmy grin, a haughty attitude, and walk around like the la-de- da King of
Writers. To the naysayers, I say, “clearly they don’t know what they’re talking about. Hmph.”
(Then I go curl up in a ball and cry myself to sleep.)

Q: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be and why?
A: That’s another easy one! Why, I’d be the President of the United States, of course! After
all...anyone can do it, right?


Q: What is the best or most memorable compliment you ever received?
A: Eight years or so ago, I bought a six-pack of beer at the local convenience store. The clerk said,
“Can I see some I.D?” With a grin, I happily whipped my driver’s license out. Of course, when
she started laughing at my age, the preceding compliment lost a bit of its luster. Note...this hasn’t
happened EVER again.

Q: What is the most memorable class you’ve ever taken?
A: In college, I took something called “The Psychology of Satisfaction.” During the first lecture, the
professor (a giggling mad-man) told us the nature of the course is that we didn’t have to stay for
lectures, didn’t have to take any tests, and we were free to do whatever we wanted (although
there were five mandatory parties I had to attend). Still wondering how I managed a “B.”

Q: Are you a glass half full or half empty kind of person? Or is the glass just malformed?
A: I’m more a “Quick! Keep the glass filled to the rim!” kinda’ neurotic.

Q: Which of the four seasons do you like/dislike the most and why?
A: Winter! Ugh! People weren’t designed to negotiate snow and ice and freezing temperatures. I
mean, honestly, we’re not walruses.

SPEED QUESTIONS: Straight YES/NO answers, unless you want to add a few
words to qualify the answer.

Have you ever:
Lied about your age? Yep! And dang proud of it, too!
Called in sick to work when you weren’t sick? Hmm...does a hang-over count as being sick?
Eaten ice cream straight from the carton? You mean there’s a different way to eat it?
Worn odd socks? Pretty much daily. Doing my best to keep the romance alive!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

My Best Seller Badge

I am so proud to have been awarded a Books We Love Best Seller Badge! This is the culmination of a lot of hard work - not just by me as the author but also by my publisher, Jude Pittman. Jude's dedication to Books We Love is beyond anything I ever expected when I signed with the company.

Yes, I'd gone the find an editor/agent, traditional publisher route and never quite hit the right moment. As a senior, and two-times breast cancer survivor, I was also very much aware of what I wanted to achieve in what time I still have. Take note, not what my lifetime expectancy may be, but what I have now.

Getting published was my dream. Holding a book with my name on the cover was what it was all about for me. The fact that I might earn an income from it was a secondary consideration at that time. With each book I have written I have tried to make it better, which brings me to a comment I frequently hear when I talk to people about writing - 'Oh, I could write a book.'

Yes, you could. Anybody can but - and there is a but - are you prepared for the long haul? Big name authors, like big name actors, tend to not happen overnight. Some are truly gifted writers but they still have to put in the work of getting the story out of their heads and onto paper. Even though all writers have a different process, writing is a lonely occupation. I have only ever once met one author who could talk and write at the same time - during a very lively conversation around a table with several people involved she produced about 3000 words worth of work. I have no idea how much it needed to be edited, but the point here is that she got that many words out of her head and onto the page.

And there's another point - your work always needs to be edited and preferably not by you. Spell and grammar check are good but not perfect tools. The more you have learned your craft by reading, attending workshops and conferences, or being part of a writing group, the better your writing will be. You can learn to edit your work, especially to get rid of things like passive voice and filtering, the overuse of 'was', 'had', but those other eyes will spot things that you can and will miss. Cognitive science explains that a neural pathway is created when we do something right. Too bad that also happens when we do something wrong.  This builds both good and bad habits so it's easy for our minds to slip by default into existing neural pathways.

For me, writing is exciting. I'm not a fast writer by any means, but when the work is done, the cover revealed (thanks to Michelle Lee, Books We Love's artistic director) I know I've done the best I can. I may never be a New York Times best selling author, but my Books We Love best selling author badge means everything to me.

Monday, January 15, 2018

How to Freak Out a Cat

Having a bath in the middle of the day seems decadent to say the least. But hang on a minute, I hear you say, isn't this post about cats? Well, gentle reader, bear with me and all (figuratively speaking) will be revealed.

I wasn't expecting any visitors or phone calls so the time was ideal to lock the doors, blindfold the goldfish (if we had one) and take that soak in the tub.
Amongst my lovely Christmas gifts was a new fleecy robe, luxuriant bath salts, and a packet of Royal Jelly Face Firming Sheets. Hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do from time to time.

Now, our cat is fascinated with water. It doesn't faze her in the least. Let a tap drip and she'll drink it. Run an inch or so in the bottom of the tub and she'll paddle in it and play with it. I've even had her sit on the counter with her tail flicking through the stream of water running into the basin. On this occasion, she sat watching the proceedings with interest while I set candles in the niche, loaded my favorite Bryan Ferry CD into the player and poured a glass of wine.

All was ready except for the face mask. This I carefully took from the package and patted it on to my carefully cleansed and defoliated face. At this point, the cat was still riveted to the steaming, swirling water, reaching out now and again to pat the surface as if she was testing for heat. I stepped into the
tub and closed my eyes as I sank into the all-encompassing warmth. Aah, bliss. This was the life. Candles, music, wine, relaxation.

Um, not. A strangled shriek shocked me upright and I opened my eyes to find the cat staring at me with a stricken expression. She reached over from her perch on the edge of the bath, sniffing my face, then reached out a paw and carefully patted my cheek. She then sniffed her paw and looked at me again before letting out a worried little chirp.

Now I never expected this reaction and, rather than being able to continue my lovely soak, the cat's continued and increasing distress gradually got to me. Being on my own I had left the bathroom door open so I could hear Bryan Ferry in all his glory. At this point, our oldest cat meandered into the doorway and stopped, his eyes wide in disbelief when he caught sight of me. He carefully backed away and a moment later he was sitting at the front door crying to be let out.

By now the water had cooled, the candles were burning low, Bryan was on his last track and I needed to get out of the tub to pour another glass of wine anyway.  I stepped out, dried myself and shrugged into my lovely, fleecy robe. The final step was to peel off the face mask, splash my face with cool water and pat dry. The cat, now convinced that the alien interloper had departed, begged to be cuddled and snuggled into my shoulder as soon as I picked her up.

Moral of the story? Don't take a spa session with an audience, feline or otherwise!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

What Makes a Character Memorable by Victoria Chatham

So here we are in our last Round Robin topic for 2017. How did December come around so fast? It’s almost as if the year went by in a blur before my eyes. We’ve had some really interesting topics and a variety of views on them. Our final post for this year is what makes a character memorable?

For me, it has always been about how a character’s flaws shape them. In the first of Marie Force’s Gansett Island series, it’s Mac and Maddie’s vulnerabilities that shape them. In Georgette Heyer’s Regency romp Frederica, it’s her determination to find a suitable match for her sister that drives her to deal with several setbacks.

Our characters are not perfect, nor should they be. In building a character we need more than the color of their hair and eyes, their height and build, and their origins. We need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are and how they build on the one and overcome the other. We need to know their greatest fears and what caused these fears in order for them to grow and change, challenge themselves to feats of extraordinary courage or deal with the realization of their failures.

We have to uncover the humanity in them and then expand that on the page. Watching movies is a great way to understand how to build your characters. You only have to look at the Star Wars movies, or Elle in Legally Blonde, or any of the characters in The Holiday. We see the changes in them with each beat of the movie. We feel for them, laugh or cry with them and hopefully, we can imbue our own characters with that same depth of realism.   

Victoria Chatham
Marci Baun
Dr. Bob Rich
Beverley Bateman
A.J. Maguire
Anne Stenhouse 
Rhobin L Courtright

Friday, October 27, 2017

What Is Your Preferred Genre and Would You Change It?

Our Round Robin Topic for October is: In what time period do you prefer to set your stories – past, present, or future? What are the problems and advantages of that choice? Would you like to change?

This is a topic that caught my attention right away. Some writers stick to just one genre whether it be romance, thrillers, cozy mysteries, sci-fi, or whatever. Although I mostly write Regency romance, I also like the Edwardian period of history but set my last book, Brides of Banff Springs, in the more recent historical era of 1935.

I never set out to write historical anything. My first attempt at a novel was a western contemporary romance. Knowing nothing about ranches or rodeos meant I had to do quite a lot of research, and that fascinated me. There was no internet or Google in 1998 which meant trips to the library, phone calls and fax requests to cowboys, ranchers, and stock contractors. One lead led to another and I became a regular visitor to the then Western Heritage Centre in Cochrane, Alberta, which had the most amazing archives and a wonderfully knowledgeable archivist.

It wasn’t long before I had more material than I could ever use. Discussing this wealth of information with a workshop presenter, I was told to first ‘write the damn book’ and then decide what portions of my treasure trove to drop in it. That approach just did not work for me and I let that novel go because I made such a mess of it.

But the research bug had bitten and it wasn’t long before I attempted my first Regency. I have to say that, having grown up with my all-time favorite author, Georgette Heyer, it was more an homage to her than anything else. However, because there are strong elements of adventure in it, I’ve been told it’s not true Regency romance.

I have also had it pointed out to me on more than one occasion that by swapping my genre I am cheating my readers as they have come to expect the Regencies from me. That may be so to some degree but, in all honesty, I get bored. Just as I don’t always want to read Regency romances, I don’t want to write them either.

I have never wanted to be pigeon-holed in life which has made for a very varied work history. I’ve carried this into my writing as, if I’m bored with what I’m writing, it’s going to show which is not good for me or my readers. There is also the aspect of writing different genres under pseudonyms. Nora Roberts, born Eleanor Marie Robertson, writes as J.D. Robb, Jill March, and Sarah Hardesty. Jayne Ann Krentz writes under seven different names including Amanda Quick and Jayne Taylor. I have enough trouble writing as one person, let alone working with other personas.

I am currently working on the third novel in my Berkeley Square Regency series. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, but what comes next will be a completely different beast as I am contemplating writing women’s fiction. As writers, although we have much to thank all our readers for ultimately we have to be true to ourselves for our best work to emerge. If that means mixing it up from one genre to another wherever and whenever the story is set, then so be it. After all, it’s the story that really matters.

Check out what these fine authors have to say on the subject.