Author Interview: Brian Laslow

bgs-fb-page-profile-shot This author interview features Brian Laslow. Brian Laslow has been in the business of security for over twenty-five years and his debut novel is called The Marijuana Project. The Marijuana Project explores the connection between morality and medical marijuana from the perspective of a security expert. I selected this title from the Book Club Reading List.

When did you decide to become a writer?
People over the years have told me what I do for a living (security consultant) is fascinating.Medicalmarijuana I took on a medical marijuana client and as I became engrossed in the debate, it occurred to me that the combination of the two things may make an interesting story.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It took me about ten months to write this book.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
This is my first novel. I wrote an industry book but that was a much different process.

What are you working on at the minute? What’s it about?
imagesI have the beginning of the sequel to The Marijuana Project but right now I’m mostly marketing the current book. Of course I’m also still a security consultant.

What is the hardest thing about writing?
For me it was making sure I’m in the right mindset for writing. there were times i forced it and the end result was not a good read.

What was the easiest thing about writing?
For me it was the plot formatting. I have an organized mind so it was easy for me to formulate the plot and know what was next to write.

soccer-ballWhat do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m a soccer Dad! I also enjoy cooking and woodworking. However, I work a lot.

What book/s are you reading at present?
Killing Reagan. It’s funny, I really enjoyed writing the fiction book but I enjoy reading nonfiction better.

What is your favorite book and why?
Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed. Very powerful story.

Nuns and Severed Limbs … A Religious-Historical Murder Mystery: Book Review of “A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary” by Donna Fletcher Crow

newly-crimsoned-reliquary (1)Donna Fletcher Crow’s A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary is the fourth installment of ‘The Monastery Murders’ series. You can read an interview with the author here. I selected this title from the Book Club Reading List.

Summary

The Monastery Murders series center on the characters of Felicity Howard and Father Antony. Felicity is an American citizen studying at the Anglo-Catholic College of the Transfiguration in Yorkshire. Antony is a church history lecturer at the College of the Transfiguration. He and his estranged older sister Gwena became orphans when he was ten and she was fourteen. They were taken in by an aunt and uncle in Blackpool.

The action in The Newly Crimsoned Reliquary starts about three months prior to the wedding of Felicity and Antony. saintFelicity heads to an Oxford convent to translate an early Medieval Latin document on the life of St Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford. Antony plans to join her soon to deliver a series of lectures for his seminar titled “God in Oxford”. However as soon as Felicity arrives at the convent a series of chilling events unfolds. First dismembered body parts suddenly appear in ancient holy reliquaries. Reliquary-Shrine-of-St.-Amandus-1250-1275Felicity discovers that a relic has been replaced by a severed human hand at the celebratory patronal festival in honor of St Frideswide at Christ Church:

“Sister.” Her voice was raspy with the effort of controlling the scream she felt rising in her throat. “Say a prayer and send the people away.” Dorcas stared at her openmouthed. “Do it!” She repeated. “That’s no relic, no matter how well preserved. That hand is fresh.”

Another relic has been replaced by an amputated human foot at the Ashmolean Museum. Then there is the mysterious disappearance of Monica, the Mother Superior, assaults on Felicity and a nun, and a fire even breaks out at the convent. Antony experiences professional loss when one of his students is found dead. It might just be that there is a connection between the Latin document Felicity is translating and the repeated series of attacks.
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Evaluation

The Newly Crimsoned Reliquary is expertly written. Most impressive is Fletcher Crow’s interweaving of the past and present with vividly detailed descriptions of historical events and current life in Oxford.

At the corner of Cornmarket and High Street she paused at Carfax Tower, which marked the center of Oxford. 18941953.019955c6.240Carfax was the Roman designation for crossroads, and surely this was the busiest intersection in the city. She glanced up at the clock on the tower that was all that remained of St. Martin’s, which had once been the official church of the city for civic events. Ah, just a few minutes until noon. She would wait and hear the Quarter Boys strike the hour before she went on. The two Romanesque figures stood with their hammers at the ready below the motto Fortes est Veritas: The Truth is Strong.

Fletcher Crow provides a rich picture of religious culture and history. Some readers might get a bit impatient with the amount of religious detail or worry that it interferes with the story. However the careful detail is perfectly appropriate given the subject matter of religion practices from past to present-day and adds complexity to the story. There are thoughtful reflections on the role of religion in society today. Philosophical issues even emerge as Antony is called in at the last minute to debate the existence of God at the Secular Atheist Student Society.

After all, how did one prove the existence of God? His field was church history. He knew the classic approaches: the ontological argument, the first cause argument, the argument from design, and the moral argument. A full university course at the least. Better, a lifetime of study and thinking. How to present that in a limited time to a hostile audience?

Despite some of the more grisly details the personal element to the story is not lost. The romance between Felicity and Antony continues to flourish. Felicity becomes friends with Antony’s actress sister Gwena after she unknowingly sees her performance in a theatrical play at the Oxford Playhouse. Antony deals with family problems such as his uncle’s declining health and reconciling with his relationship with Gwena.

Conclusion

I highly recommend The Newly Crimsoned Reliquary to anyone who enjoys a good murder mystery. Although this is the fourth book in a series, the story stands alone. One does not feel the need to have read the previous books to understand the plot although it is extremely likely that they will want to go ahead and read them.


A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary (The Monastery Murders #4) by Donna Fletcher Crow (2014).
229 Pages.
Greenbrier Book Company, LLC
Purchase it at Book Club Reading List here
Purchase it on Amazon
Add it to Goodreads

New Cover Reveal: “The Marijuana Project” by Brian Laslow

The next book on my reading list is Brian Laslow’s The Marijuana Project.bgs-fb-page-profile-shot Brian Laslow is an expert in the field of security. The Marijuana Project is his debut novel. I selected this title from the Book Club Reading List.

Here is a synopsis of the book provided by the author:

The Marijuana Project is a fiction based on fact novel about a security consultant who has an ethical dilemma about taking on a medical marijuana client. You could call it a security expert’s journey through the ethical weeds. It discusses the medical marijuana debate and security issues within a fictional suspense story.

Needless to say I look forward to several enlightening evenings reading this story.

Author Interview with Donna Fletcher Crow

This latest author interview features Donna Fletcher Crow. Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of several works including the book I am currently reading, A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary. A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary is the fourth installment of ‘The Monastery Murders’ series. I selected this title from the Book Club Reading List. newly-crimsoned-reliquary (1)

When did you decide to become a writer?
I have written all my life. Before I could write I told myself stories. I was an only child living on a farm, so I had a lot of quiet time to fill. I became a professional writer when I wasn’t getting pregnant as we were hoping and I didn’t want to go back to teaching–English, of course. It took me 9 months to write my first book and then I got pregnant with our daughter.

How long does it take you to write a book?
That depends on the book. I can do 2 or 3 “normal” novels in a year, but an 800-page epic like Glastonbury took me 3 years to write.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Forty-five. Whichever one I’m working on at the moment is my favorite, but I am best known for my Arthurian epic Glastonbury which covers 1500 years of English history from the birth of Christ to the reformation.

What are you working on at the minute? What’s it about?
We are in the final stages of publishing An All-Consuming Fire, book 5 in the Monastery Murders. I am holding my breath that it will be out before Christmas because this is a Christmas novel: A Christmas wedding in a monastery, what could be more romantic? And Felicity has never been happier, in spite of her over-bearing mother who wants to turn the whole event into a royal affair and Antony’s worries over the television series he is narrating on the English Mystics. Then Felicity takes on responsibility for directing an Epiphany pageant for Kirkthorpe’s wayward youth. At least, most of the vexing disruptions occurring on the filming locations are miles away from the Community of the Transfiguration. Until the threats move closer. Close enough to threaten Felicity’s life.

Will the murderer stalking the Yorkshire Moors shatter the joy of Felicity and Antony’s Christmas wedding?

What is the hardest thing about writing?
First drafts! I love research–sometimes I think I write just as an excuse to get to do the research, both the reading and the onsite work in England. I also enjoy rewriting. I know many writers hate this phase of the job, but I have always been fortunate in working with topnotch editors who have taught me so much about my craft.

What was the easiest thing about writing?
I wouldn’t say the research is easy, it can be slogging hard work and frustrating at times, but it’s still the most fun. There is also a great pay back time when the printed book arrives and you actually hold it in your hand for the first time.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
download (3)I can’t imagine not having some part of the process going on: planning, researching, writing, editing, promoting. . . it really is endless. But I do love to read, drink tea and garden. One thing that tops it all, though, is playing with my grandchildren!

What book/s are you reading at present?
I have followed the maxim to “write what you like to read” and I love reading English mysteries. The one I have going at the moment is Peter Lovesey’s Down Among the Dead Men, one of his Peter Diamond mysteries. I started reading Lovesey way back when his Inspector Cribb Victorian mysteries were on PBS Mystery! I got to meet Peter a couple of years ago at the St Hilda’s Crime Writers’ Conference in Oxford when I was researching A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary.

What is your favorite book and why?
janeaustenOh, that isn’t a fair question to ask someone who lives and breathes books! It’s easier to start with favorite writers. No problem there–Jane Austen right off the top. I’ve been a Janeite all my life. Persuasion is my favorite of her books. My own Elizabeth and Richard Mystery, A Jane Austen Encounter, follows the Jane Austen trail visiting each one of her homes.
My favorite crime writer is Dorothy L. Sayers. Busman’s Honeymoon might be my favorite of her titles, although The Nine Tailors is superb, too.

Technological Suspense and a Musical Love Story: Book Review of “Love is the Bridge” by Denise Weeks

My first book review of 2016 is about Love is the Bridge by Denise Weeks.bridge-cover-final (2) You can read an interview with the author here. I selected this title from Cheap Kindle Books.

Summary

The story centers on the main character of twenty-two year old musician Paige Campbell who lives in Dallas, Texas. Paige has musical synesthesia:
rainbowpiano

she could not only hear the pitch of a note, but she sensed its color as well. B-flat was a warm silky green, F-sharp the bittersweet blue of a lonesome pond. Talk about a psychedelic rainbow organ, she had one built in.

Paige works for her Uncle Hans at his music store, Hans’ Music Haus. She also takes classes at the Dallas Music Academy and plays gigs playing piano and singing whenever she gets the opportunity. The action begins with a crank phone call at the music shop and a business meeting with Alan McConnell who hires Paige to sing radio jingles for his advertising agency and quickly escalates into a full-on suspenseful cyber-attack. The story follows Paige as she is increasingly stalked with endless phone calls, text messages and emails. Her email account, Facebook page and music files are all hacked and that eventually leads to her suspension from college and the loss of her job at the music store.

The key element that ties Paige and Alan together is the prototypical artificial intelligence test system designed by Alan for his business of writing advertising jingles. Alan notices that the artificial intelligence experiment does several strange things and cannot be turned off.

“The task he had set it was to analyze three successful commercial jingles and tell him what they had in common, what it was that made them so good at what they did. But the system seemed to have closed all those files and stopped working on the task around three AM. As if the software had gotten bored and gone off to do something else.

AIInitially Alan wonders if his artificial intelligence system has turned into a conscious free agent. But eventually he is forced to consider the possibility that perhaps his system is somehow become inhabited by a paranormal or spiritual entity. Together Paige and Alan must confront the “ghost in the machine” to find out who and what is after Paige to break the hold this system has taken over their lives.

Evaluation

Love is the Bridge is driven by lively and, at times, comedic dialogue between the main characters marked with pop culture and computer programming references. The realism of the dialogue in the urban Dallas setting provides a nice contrast to the more atmospheric and unique elements of the work such as the ghost or entity in the artificial intelligence system and the experience of the events from the perspective of Paige’s synesthesia.

The work successfully ties together many thought-provoking topics in a mix of genres. Philosophical issues to do with consciousness, the nature of mind, and body, truth, free will as well as implications of artificial intelligence and the role of technology in our everyday lives are explored.

The thoughtful and tense story of technological stalking is complimented by a romance. The electric attraction between Paige and Alan grows as they become more entwined in each other’s lives.

love-brain-121106

And then he kissed her. For real.

She felt her blood racing around inside her, the corpuscles like slot cars about to fly off the track. Incredibly, she heard the music of the spheres with her skin, in a rainbow of Skittles colors.

The romance theme is heightened near the end of the book with the meeting and hint of budding passion between their respective best friends Anndréa and John.

Conclusion

Love is the Bridge will appeal to a wide audience. This book is for anyone who enjoys a fast-paced read and is interested in topics of technology, romance, the mind, artificial intelligence and music. The energy of the writing makes it easy to envisage the book as a great movie.
I give this work five stars.


Love is the Bridge by Denise Weeks (2014).
256 Pages.
Purchase it at Cheap Kindle Books here
Purchase it on Amazon
Add it to Goodreads

 –Nighttime Narratives

Final Cover Reveal of 2015: Donna Fletcher Crow’s “A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary”

As the year draws to a close I am pleased to reveal the cover of the next book at the top of my reading list. This book is called A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary by Donna Fletcher Crow. Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of several novels as well as children’s books, nonfiction works and plays. A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary is the fourth installment of ‘The Monastery Murders’ series. I selected this title from the Book Club Reading List.
newly-crimsoned-reliquary (1)

Here is an enticing description of the book by the author:

“Now don’t get into trouble,” Antony warns Felicity as he sends her on her way to Oxford. Never mind that she’s going to be living in a convent translating an ancient manuscript for the nuns. Trouble will find Felicity. And this time it comes in a most shocking way when fresh body parts start showing up in ancient holy vessels. Shadows from deep in the past lurk in Oxford’s hallowed shrines to imperil the most courageous.

Author Interview: Denise Weeks

The author interview features Denise Weeks. Denise Weeks is the author of the award winning Bliss Sisters adventure series by her alter-ego Shalanna Collins and various other novels including Love is the Bridge.bridge-cover-final (2) You can read a synopsis of the book by the author here. I selected this title from Cheap Kindle Books.

When did you decide to become a writer?
At age six, when I had chicken pox and missed the second week of first grade. My dad had brought home several books for me to keep me occupied, including Howard Pyle’s Robin Hood and the original Peter Pan. (I don’t remember when I learned to read, but it was around age four, WAY before school; I got into trouble at school because I already knew how to read. But anyway, this was 1965.) He was talking to me about books and I discovered these tomes had not fallen from the sky like the Bible and the CRC Math Tables, but were written by mortal men and women. At that moment I determined I would figure out how to tell my stories, the ones my stuffed animals and dolls and I acted out during the lonely-only-child days before the Internet and cable teevee. It didn’t hurt that writers at the time were considered public intellectuals and got lots of respect . . . unlike now. LOL!

Books are important. My father believed that, my teachers (throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and most of the 1980s) believed that. They are worthy of your time and most of them have something to teach you. Whether a story is “slow-moving” or “gets right to the shooting,” it’s usually something that will feed your soul. That’s why I am spending my life writing them.

How long does it take you to write a book?
I can get through a first draft in a few months, or it might take a year or more. Then I’ll go through several more drafts and refinements. Some of my books have come faster. However, it always depends on what else is going on in real life to take up my time.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
As Denise Weeks (my mundane identity), I have two traditional mystery series. NICE WORK is the first in the Jacquidon Carroll Snoop Sisters series and won the Oak Tree Press contest to be published. MURDER BY THE MARFA LIGHTS kicks off the Ariadne French mysteries with a somewhat paranormal take on things. LITTLE RITUALS is a screwball literary chick lit story of a grown woman’s coming of age through exploring ritual and luck. LOVE IS THE BRIDGE is a techie ghost story romantic suspense that investigates the nature of reality and asks whether anyone is truly safe on the Internet (and being so dependent on technology.)

As Shalanna Collins, I write YA fantasy/adventure. APRIL, MAYBE JUNE is a Golden Rose Grand Prize Winner about two genius-girl preteen sisters who undertake a journey to rescue their rebel cousin . . . but things are not at all what they seem. It investigates the question of what family is, and what is an appropriate sacrifice to keep family safe. CAMILLE’S TRAVELS is the story of an abused runaway who finds even more trouble on the road in the form of a magician who is pursuing her. She and her companions hide in a Renaissance Faire, on a freight, and at the National Hobo Convention (yes, there really is one.) But they’re actually just searching for the safety of a home.

LOVE IS THE BRIDGE is a book of my heart, but so is LITTLE RITUALS, and I am partial to the Bliss Sisters who star in APRIL, MAYBE JUNE.17790446 However, as every writer will tell you, my favorite book is the one I’m currently working on.

What are you working on at the minute? What’s it about?
THE DARKNESS AT THE CENTER is a YA/middle grade that is NOT fantasy . . . unfortunately, because it’s about the secrets of sexual abuse. Elise Francis witnesses the death of her beloved piano teacher, but hooray, a Great Man agrees to take her on. But he turns out to be a toucher and neck-patter and caresser. Her mother, focused on the scholarship she wants Elise to get to a music conservatory, says it’s all minor and she’s only with him for the summer, and that she must be encouraging him anyway, and that he has no prior accusations . . . in other words, she can’t get anyone to take her seriously. And, anyway, maybe it’s normal and she’s just overreacting. But when she starts dreading any sort of touch at all and becomes a mess in school and at piano, something has to give. She must decide whether to make the piano her life, or choose another path (and get away from the situation at the same time.)

I’m also working on the second Ari French mystery and have another Denise book in outline form. I always have more than one project going so that I can flip among them.

What is the hardest thing about writing?
Knowing that many people just aren’t going to like the work. Not everyone is going to like every book. So many people love current best-sellers, but I don’t share the love every time. It’s hard to know that your best work will appeal to some readers, but will be so-so to others. You would like everyone to love your stories, but it just isn’t possible. As Ricky Nelson sang, “You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.” Write the book you want to read, and you’ll always have at least one fan!

What was the easiest thing about writing?
It comes easy, once I apply bottom to chair and get off the Internet. Of course, then there’s all the editing and polishing to do.erato_the_muse_of_love_poetry-400 But the characters generally come to me first, and they show me their situation and dilemma, and from there the Muse sings and it flows. Whether it’s any good or of interest to anyone but me–well, that’s another question.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
pianoI play the piano. I talk to my online friends. I walk and play with our Pomeranian. I love to travel and take photographs of what we visit. I also garden and cook (but not very well!) I play chess, but only recreationally. I love to do book signings and go to conventions and book fairs to meet fans and readers. There’s always more promo to do, and that’s not nearly as much fun.

What book/s are you reading at present?
C. S. Lewis’ REFLECTIONS ON THE PSALMS.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (re-read)
The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick. (You have to take that one in very small doses, so it should keep me busy for a while.)

What is your favorite book and why?
It’s a tie between THE GREAT GATSBY; TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD; THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE; and THE EGYPT GAME. Wait–what’s that last one? Well, I came upon Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s book as a fifth-grader when my best friend and I were reading through the Newbury awards shelf, and I was very taken by the story of the children who decided to re-create ancient Egypt in the back yard. That’s not nearly all there is to the story, but I named my character April Bliss after the heroine, so you know it stayed with me. Readers today often think it is too slow-paced, but I feel they are the ones who’re missing out.

Dark Family History and Psychological Drama: Review of Melinda Clayton’s ‘Entangled Thorns’

et-cover-200-x-300 (1)Entangled Thorns is the third book in Melinda Clayton’s Cedar Hollow series. You can read an interview with the author here. I selected this title from Cheap Kindle Books.

Summary

The story centers on the impoverished Pritchett family of the small town Cedar Hollow, located in the mountains of West Virginia. Each chapter of the book is devoted to the perspective of a single character. The two main characters are sisters Beth Pritchett Sloan and Naomi Pritchett Wells. Other members of the family contribute their point of view including Beth’s daughter, Marissa Elizabeth Sloan, Beth and Naomi’s mother, Geraldine Porter Pritchett, and Beth’s husband, Dr. Mark Sloan. The character of Kay Langley, whose family owns the local diner in Cedar Hollow, also sheds light on the family and its history.

The notorious Pritchett family dealt in the business of making moonshine in homemade stills and bootlegging.
vintage-still-was-once-used-to-produce-moonshine-whiskey-which-known-as-white-lightning-31111044

Mention the name Pritchett to nearly anyone in those parts and they’ll inevitably have a story to share, not just about whiskey running and illegal activities, but about drunken brawls and countless other outlandish behaviors.

mashbarrelsThe youngest members of the Pritchett family participated in the business in a variety of ways, ranging from guarding the ‘mash barrels’ (pictured right) from hordes of rats during the fermentation period to a task known as ‘taster duty’. Starting as early as age one, the children were forced to ingest the moonshine:

The more extreme our reaction to the squeezing forced into our mouths, the better the quality of the ’shine was believed to be.

After the unexpected death of their thirteen year old brother Luke, fifteen year old Naomi and seventeen year old Beth got on a train to Memphis never to return. Twenty-seven years later, Naomi is a successful novelist and Beth lives with her husband Mark and their two children in an upscale suburb outside of Memphis, Tennessee, using alcohol in an attempt to suppress unpleasant childhood memories and the death of her brother.

“I suppose I had thought— or hoped, at least— if I could just put enough distance between me and Cedar Hollow, I could erase the memory of Luke’s death. I couldn’t, of course. If anything, the older I got the more vivid the memories became.”

A letter from Kay Langley prompts Beth and Naomi’s return to Cedar Hollow together with Beth’s seventeen year old daughter Marissa to finally reconcile with the past.

Evaluation

hazy_morning_light_by_mashuto-d7brgj6Entangled Thorns is magnificently written. Clayton brings to life what it was like to grow up in poverty in mid-century Appalachian life. The striking descriptions of Beth, Naomi and Luke growing up amongst the rich flora and fauna in rugged mountain country gave realism to the story and remain unforgettable images to my mind.

I couldn’t deny the beauty of the sunrise, the colors stretched across the sky above the dark backdrop of mountains. A wispy haze hung across the valley, and dew still sparkled on the grass. Somewhere in the distance a mourning dove called, the solitary notes hanging in the still air. In another few minutes the haze would be gone, replaced by the sultry humidity of a West Virginia summer, but for a moment I was transported back in time, running barefoot through the wet grass on a cool summer morning, with Naomi on one side and Luke flying ahead, fishing poles bouncing on his shoulder.

Clayton also skillfully navigates the story through diverse viewpoints to compose a rewarding story. The viewpoints are depicted by an inner dialogue with six different characters. This allows the reader to experience first-hand what each individual character is feeling, gain an understanding of how the events turned out the way they did, and how each character perceives the events and each other. That Beth takes her daughter, Marissa, along as well back to her hometown means that we are given the outlook of three generations.

The stark reality of alcohol abuse is handled by Clayton with insight and sensitivity. The narrative reveals the effects of abuse on all members of a family as well as the abusive patterns that surround them at present. The individual development of the complex cast of characters illuminates how abuse tends to continue through generations. Yet this inspiring work is optimistic in that it explores how one may try to bring closure to the cycle of abuse and move forward in life.

Conclusion

The book is the third installment in the Cedar Hollow Series but the story is self-contained and stands on its own. Since I enjoyed this book so much, I intend to learn more about Cedar Hollow and all of Melinda Clayton’s works are now on my must-read list. I rate this book 5/5.

A final note: at the end of the book Clayton has included some reflective questions for book clubs to consider after reading her book. These questions are a useful tool for a first-rate book that is particularly suitable for discussion in a book club. The various points of view presented in the story mean that a great number of people will likely identify with one or more of the characters.


Entangled Thorns (Cedar Hollow Series Book 3) by Melinda Clayton (2013).
219 Pages. Thomas-Jacob Publishing, LLC
Purchase it at Cheap Kindle Books here
Purchase it on Amazon here
Add it to Goodreads here

 –Nighttime Narratives

New Cover Reveal! “Love is the Bridge” by Denise Weeks

As I finish up my book review of Melinda Clayton’s superb Entangled Thorns, I am excited to reveal the cover of the next book on my reading list. This book is called Love is the Bridge by Denise Weeks.bridge-cover-final (2) I selected this title from Cheap Kindle Books.

Here is a synopsis of the book provided by the author:

LOVE IS THE BRIDGE is a literary ghost story and a tale of romantic suspense with strong techie elements.
Have you ever considered how vulnerable you are to cyber-attack through your cell phone, Facebook page, e-mail accounts, and even any files that might be accessed by a remote system while you are connected to the Internet? Paige Campbell had never considered that she had anything to worry about until she got the first crank call. By the time her Facebook page is hacked and one of her files changed so that she is suspended from college and accused of plagiarism, she’s beginning to believe that someone–or something–is out to get her. But who could be doing it but a stalker, a hacker, or–as it claims it is, a “Casper”? Can there actually be a “ghost in the machine”?
Alan McConnell doesn’t believe in ghosts and thinks it’s outlandish to claim that his prototypical AI test system (for writing advertising jingles) has become the portal by which a ghost (or at least a paranormal entity, which he also doesn’t believe in) has entered our material plane. But after his studio experiences several problems and strange events, he concludes that there is a hacker with access to his studio, probably the same person behind this “haunting” complained about by his client Paige Campbell.
The young entrepreneur hired Paige to sing radio jingles for his advertising agency, and is determined to help her solve her problem (as well as his own) by catching the hacker. But is it a crafty and cruel programmer they’re dealing with, or a ghost (as it claims) who has mistaken Paige for someone else, and is determined to haunt her until she lifts the curse it believes she has set on it during a previous life? The attraction between Alan and Paige threatens to interfere with their attempts to rid themselves of this problem. Still, they can cope with everything–until the night they’re trapped in the studio with what is either a menacing entity or a clever killer. Or possibly both.
Is code the only thing executing out there on the Web? Exactly how safe are we in cyberspace? Not to get too Phildickian, but the question arises as to what can be real, and just how fragile your reality may be. Paige draws readers into her synaesthetic world and Alan illuminates the techie viewpoint as they attempt to figure out who or what is turning her life upside down–while they try to resist their strong romantic attraction.
The book is a page-turner for those who are into technology, ghosts, stalkers, or music and its many charms (and effects on the physical world), but it’s full of charming banter between Paige and Alan, Paige and her best friend Andi, and Alan with his best friend John. It has amusing moments and isn’t a heavy, panic-inducing doomball.
No explicit sex, not even making out. No serious cussin’. No typos or howlers–no, REALLY! The story is set in Texas, but it could take place anywhere that there’s a Wi-Fi signal connecting people all over the world. Themes include: TRUTH. (Everyone has a personal truth that may not be the same as the universally accepted truth.) ILLUSION: All is not what it seems. Privacy, authenticity, secrets. Grudges damage the one who is holding them, much as acid destroys its container. What goes around comes around. Knowing and being known are paramount in life. To thine own self be true. Music is the song of the universe and everyone/everything vibrates to some sort of frequency. Joe Bob says check it out!

Author Interview: Melinda Clayton

This author interview features Melinda Clayton. She is the author of several books including Entangled Thorns. Entangled Thorns is the third book in the Cedar Hollow series. You can read a synopsis of the book here. I selected this title from Cheap Kindle Books. In the interview, Melinda thoughtfully describes her path to becoming a writer, the writing process, the books which influenced her and what she is currently reading and writing among other things.

When did you decide to become a writer?
I remember knowing I wanted to write at a very young age. I think I was around eight or nine years old when I first read Johanna Spyri’s Heidi, after which I decided I wanted to live on a mountain and write books. But it wasn’t until my late thirties, early forties that I made the leap. I’d been a practicing psychotherapist for years when circumstances dictated we move from Colorado to Florida. My kids were very young at that time, and I wanted to be more available to them. The move provided the perfect opportunity for a career change. I started out writing for several online magazine sites on topics related to mental health, then had some articles picked up in print, followed by a couple of short stories. In 2009, I decided to take the plunge and write my first full-length novel.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It takes about a year for me to write a novel between 55,000-75,000 words. I’m quite slow! I do a ton of research as I write because it’s important to me to get the details right. For example, if, in my novel, I mention that it was raining on a certain day in Memphis, Tennessee, it was. Readers will probably never notice those details, but it’s important to me that I get it right.

I also do something other writers say you should never do, which is edit as I go. Each time I sit down at the computer and open the manuscript, I read back over what I wrote the day before. Sometimes (rarely) I leave it as is. More often, I make changes. This makes for an extremely slow process, but it also ensures the novel says what I want it to say.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve written six novels and one how-to guide (on self-publishing, which is available for free download on my website). In some ways, my first (Appalachian Justice) is my favorite, and readers, overall, seem to agree. Writing that book was an interesting experience because it almost felt out of my control. I’d jump up in the middle of the night to go write down ideas or plot details. I was completely immersed in the process.

But in another way, Blessed Are the Wholly Broken, my first out-of-series book, is my favorite. This is probably partly because it was a completely different experience – for example, it’s told from a male point of view – but also because I hope I continue to grow and develop as a writer as I go along, and Blessed was written several years after Appalachian Justice. I was a more experienced writer by the time Blessed came along.

What are you working on at the minute? What’s it about?
I recently published my sixth novel, Making Amends, and although I’ve taken a small break since then, I do have some ideas sketched out for the next one. It will be set in small-town Tennessee (readers of Blessed Are the Wholly Broken may recognize the attorney who pops in from time to time), and will follow the eldest daughter of a very dysfunctional family from the moment she discovers her parents murdered in their home, until after the trial of the sibling who is accused of the murder.

What is the hardest thing about writing?
The solitude is the hardest thing for me. I’ve met and attended functions with a handful of other writers in Florida, and I belong to several online writing/blogging groups, but overall there’s a lot of alone time when one is writing. Every so often I have to make myself get outside to get some fresh air and sunshine.

What was the easiest thing about writing?
By far, the easiest thing is the schedule. At the time we moved and I decided to take the plunge, I was used to working sixty hour weeks and answering emergency calls night and day. The ability to set my own schedule while spending time with my kids and doing something I love has been a true blessing.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to read, of course, and I also love being outdoors, whether that’s piddling around in flower gardens or visiting one of Florida’s natural springs. What I love most of all, though, is cheering at my sons’ soccer games, whether they’re playing themselves, or coaching younger children I’m a little bit of a sports fanatic in that way.

What book/s are you reading at present?
I always have several books going at once. Right now on my nightstand I have The Last Breath, from Kimberly Belle; The Maze Runner, by James Dashner; and The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion, by Fannie Flagg.

What is your favorite book and why?
That’s a tough one. I don’t know that I can say I have one all-time favorite, but I definitely have books that stand out in my mind for whatever role they played in my life or whichever way they connected with me. Heidi, mentioned earlier, is one of them, along with all of Laura Ingall’s (Little House) books and Louisa May Alcott’s (Little Women) books. Those books sparked my imagination and turned me into a life-long reader.

I’m a huge fan of Steinbeck because he had the ability to convey so much with so little. His writings can be very stark and simple on the surface, but roiling underneath. Same with Kent Haruf (author of Plainsong). That’s an incredible skill.

As for contemporary works, I enjoy Elizabeth Berg, Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen King, Greg Iles, and – my dirty little secret – any good true crime stories I can get my hands on. I love reading anything that makes me question the motivations behind the choices we make, both fiction and nonfiction.

 –Nighttime Narratives