Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Author Friend Marie Lavender Revisits--Read About SECOND CHANCE HEART, her new Contemporary Romance

I enjoy hosting Marie, a woman after my own heart! She's a worrier who needs to take life less seriously (that's me through and through!) and says her guilty pleasure is dark chocolate, but I don't consider that guilty--after all, dark chocolate, as long as it's over 70% is great for the heart. Was I happy to hear that great news!

Enjoy visiting with Marie, as I always do.

About Marie

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. 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 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. 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" (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 Cafe and Other Ramblings; Ramblings, Musings and Other Things; Soulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things


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?


Amazon Universal link:

Book Trailer


"Are you all right?" a deep voice boomed behind her.
She swung around and lost her footing in her high heels. Her hands caught a solid chest, a warm male, and the familiar smell of Tommy cologne. She gazed up at Vincent, as he towered a good nine inches over her, and was about to pull away when she realized his arms began to encircle her. It was too close, she thought. She was still too raw for this.
"Dana Nelson, will you always be in my mind?" he murmured, then lowered his lips to hers. The kiss wasn't hard, wild or demanding like it had been at the inn. It was slow and soft, his tongue exploring the smooth inner surfaces of her mouth in a lazy fashion. And yet, there was more to the kiss somehow, an element she couldn't pinpoint. Dana thought it might be reverence, but decided against it. If he still felt anything like that for her…well, it just wasn't possible. Still, the way he cradled her head with one hand left her knees weak even as he nursed at her mouth. The heat of his body, pressed hard against hers, was an added enticement.
Logic kicked in, though, and she shoved at his chest until he gave in, stepping back. "I can't do this. You said a friend. In your offer, you said you wanted to be my friend, she accused.
His gaze darkened, almost with pain, she thought. "Is that what you want?" he said softly.
Because she didn't know how to respond, she stepped away, gazing up at the blanket of stars and the full moon blessing the night sky.
His voice beside her was a thrill as the reverberation moved along her skin. "If we watch long enough, we might catch a shooting star."
His famous words, she thought, and as the familiarity of them rained over her, she murmured an agreement. The stars glittered above them, and she couldn't help thinking how right it seemed to be next to him again. Yet, she knew she shouldn't think that way. Just because they knew each other as children, and had been high school sweethearts, did not mean they were meant to be.
When his hand moved naturally in hers, she began to wonder if she was lying to him or just herself. At the thought, she tensed and began to pull away, but he held her hand tighter, the clasp too perfect to deny.
"Relax, Dana. Just look. Here, there are no complications. It's just you, me and the stars."

You, the Author

Bio, publication history, etc. Tell us more about yourself! Readers love to know about the authors, and this would give you the chance to make them feel close to you!

I come from a pretty small town in the Midwest. I live with my family and three cats. I have been writing for over twenty years. I am a multi-genre author of 22 books. Solstice Publishing discovered me in 2012, and I have been part of the Solstice family ever since. I love exploring other worlds through my writing, either in modern settings, historical time periods, or in fantasy worlds with paranormal creatures or superhumans. 

If you have 2 hours free time tonight, what would you rather do? Why?

I would probably get comfortable in my favorite reading nook and pick up a great book, maybe a paranormal romance. Other than writing, reading really relaxes me. Or, I’d spend some quality time with my fiancé.

What kind of books do you love to read? Why?

I love to read romance, of any subgenre usually, but my favorites are contemporary, paranormal romance and historical romance. As for why I love to read romance, “love” has been an obsession of mine since I was a kid. I’ve always been a hopeless romantic at heart. And I think it helps that I found true love as well.

What type of music do you enjoy relaxing to?

I guess I’m pretty eclectic when it comes to music. I like new age, pop, electronic, Celtic, some kinds of rock and even the old sounds like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. Mostly I like music that seems a little different than the usual stuff you hear on the radio.

What is your stress buster?

Reading can help me relieve stress. And sometimes I like to cook at home, even make up my own recipes. Writing can relax me too. When I’m in the midst of writing a scene, learning about the characters, and the story is pulling at me, I feel an immense feeling of freedom. Other than that, I’m pretty creative, so I enjoy doing other types of artistic projects. And I’m a bit of a shopping freak.

What is your favorite food? What food do you seek when you’re sad, sort of a comfort food?

For comfort food, anything home cooked works, like chicken and noodles, or homemade soup. Mac & cheese or pizza are also good options. And I absolutely love risotto. When I’m sad, I’m drawn to chocolate as well, which probably isn’t a good thing, huh?

Describe yourself in one word.


If a fairy grants you one wish and one wish only, what would it be? Why?

To get married to my fiancé, and to live a full life. Why wouldn’t I want to marry the love of my life? And helping people, even in small ways, can give you purpose.

What’s your biggest regret in life?

Worrying too much, I think. Sometimes I have to force myself to remember to not take life so seriously.

What is the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

Well…it was unintentional, but a tornado enthusiast took me for a walk and we ran into a wall cloud. Suddenly, we realized a storm was coming on, and the makings for a tornado. There was so much debris flying around. Gravel and other particles were coming toward our faces! I even got some of it in my eyes. We had to run back to the car, go home and take cover until the big storm passed. Later, we found out that a tornado had been spotted on the edge of town, so we’d probably been skimmed by a part of it. Adventurous certainly, but pretty scary at the same time!

What makes you happy/sad/disappointed/frustrated/hopeful/angry? (Pick one)

What makes me happy is being in the arms of the man I love.

What are your wildest dreams/fantasies/kinks/quirks?

My dream is to live on a beach somewhere, to have a beautiful house by the ocean. A fantasy of mine is to time travel, perhaps to the Victorian era or the middle ages. I’d love to visit a castle and see what it was like to live then. Another fantasy is to meet a real life vampire. If they were real, I’d have all sorts of questions. Hence why the character Desiree from Second Nature turned out the way she did. LOL.

How would readers find out more about you?

They can visit my website at

I also have three blogs: Marie Lavenders Books!, Writing in the Modern Age and the I Love Romance Blog. They can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Your writing

When did you write your first book? How long did it take you to write it?

I’ve been writing stories since I was about nine years old. My first real novel? That took me about eight or nine years to write, and I started it when I was 20 or 21. Since then, my writing timeline has shortened quite a lot.

Did you encounter any obstacles in writing? What are they? How did you overcome them?

Oh, yes, with my first book manuscript, research was definitely a problem. It was hard to narrow the story down to a specific time period, and even when I did, it became difficult to find the right information. It was hard to find enough information on French history during the Second Empire. Eventually, I was able to find enough to pull the book together. I also struggled with edits, even though I worked within a critique group. When I went to send the manuscript to literary agents, I was rejected so many times that it was hard not to get discouraged. Soon, I realized that I had to find a new way of doing things, and I began to look directly for publishers that didn’t require an agent. Solstice offered me my first book contract in August of 2012, and the novel was published in February of 2013. I look back and now I see that the big thing that got me through it was persistence and perseverance. I never gave up trying to get published traditionally.

How did you feel when you receive your first contract? What did you do? Any celebratory dinner, dance, event, etc to commemorate the occasion?

When I received the email offering the contract, I was so shocked that I probably stared at the screen for a good ten minutes with tears in my eyes. After that, I was calling everyone I could think of, including my fiancé, to tell them about the news. We went out to dinner to celebrate.

Any writing peeves, things you wish you could improve on, things you do with exceptional talent?

I think with every manuscript, you encounter new issues. But, I’m better now at avoiding POV shifts within a scene than I was when I first started out.

What kind of books do you love/hate to write? Why?  

As aforementioned, I just love writing romance stories. There is something about portraying the relationship between the hero and heroine that compels me. And my loyal fans know that I love to complicate the hell out of my characters’ lives to make things exciting. LOL. But, I also love to work out of my comfort zone. I’ve learned not to avoid writing certain genres, but to let the muse guide me. This is how I stumbled into writing mysteries and even children’s fantasy. Once I said I’d probably never write science fiction, but that was fear talking. This year, I started working on a sci-fi romance, and the journey has been surprising and a lot of fun. I can literally say that now I write in multiple genres. Would I ever write horror? At one time I would have said ‘no’. Now? I guess we’ll see what happens. If it’s meant to happen, it will. I don’t intend to write nonfiction either, but who knows? Maybe the muse will surprise me with that one as well.

What do you think about editing?

Editing is a necessary evil. I really don’t know anyone who loves it, except for editors and proofreaders. Most authors know that editing makes them better writers, though there is a lot of groaning and sighing involved in the process. Reluctantly, we have to resign ourselves to editing, or readers won’t even bother reading our work.

Where and when do you write? Tell us about your favorite work place and time. Any special reason?

Wherever and whenever I can. At home, in the car, outside at a park, in the most obscure places I find the muse calling to me. And my characters have no sense of time. Usually, they wake me up in the middle of the night (or prevent me from falling asleep), and compel me to write a scene or at least jot down enough notes so that I can get some much needed rest. Probably the place where I spend the most time writing is my bedroom. Of course, I have to be quick about it because my cats tend to hate when the focus is on my journal instead of them. LOL.

How do you write? Do your characters come to you first or the plot or the world of the story? How do you go on from there? Maybe you can give us an example with one of your books.

Scenes come to me pretty randomly, and in any order during the composition of the story. Only after I have written as much as I can in that manner can I sit down and start doing some plotting and outline, then learning more about my characters. Afterwards, I start all the research. Then I fill in all the blanks with scenes or chapters. When I start out with an idea, I might have a basic idea of the plot or characters, but I don’t know the big details.

One scene that came to me randomly was from Second Nature. When I first wrote it, I had no idea that it would turn into a whole paranormal romance/urban fantasy series, or anything about the Other World. This is what I had when I first began:

Desiree struggled to awaken. There was a jostling movement, and the sound of an engine. Her body began to tingle all over. She opened her eyes to see that she was lying across the backseat of a car. As her vision cleared fully, she could discern the shape of the driver. Wide shoulders, short black hair. She shivered. Dear God, she was a captive! She should have called the cops right away. At least then someone would guess what had happened to her.

“You’re safe,” a voice rasped.

Her voice was hoarse when she replied, “I don’t believe you.” 

“I don’t blame you, but I assure you it’s true.”

The deep rumble of his tone reverberated through her body, lighting fires where they shouldn’t be. She sucked in a breath and tried to sit up, but her wrists and ankles were bound, making her body little more than dead weight. She moaned at the situation she found herself in. She was dressed, she realized. Fully dressed in jeans and a camisole. That was very … enterprising of him.


Do you see how that could have gone in any direction? The more scenes I wrote, the more the story began to unfold. A world was created, a world I could almost touch.

What books can you recommend to aspiring writers to improve on style, character development, plot, structure, dialogue, etc?  

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird has some great tips. Beyond that, I don’t have any specific recommendations with regards to books on those elements of writing. I do suggest that aspiring writers follow as many writing blogs as possible, however. Such articles will save you more often than not. C.S. Lakin’s Live Write Thrive site is invaluable with lots of writing tips! And The Write Conversation is a pretty good site. Also consider joining a writer’s workshop or critique group. Peer critiquing is a great thing, because what you won’t notice in your own work, others will. But, never forget to trust your own instincts either.

What is your must-have book for writing?

I would recommend Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, simply to help cut through some of that constant clutter in your mind.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Never, ever give up! The only person who loses if you do is you. Learn to care about your dreams, and pursue them as well as you can.

Your books

What genre(s) do you write? Why do you write the stories that you write?

I write in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry.

Why do I write what I write? Because the stories call to me. The characters compel me. The stories must be told, or I’ll never get any peace. But seriously, for a writer, asking why he or she writes is like asking, ‘why does your heart beat’? Because it does. We write because we can’t imagine ourselves doing anything else. Getting up in the morning, going through our daily routines, that’s normal. But, listening to the voice in your head that says, “Go write. The story needs to be told”? That’s priceless. That is our purpose for living.

Among those that you’ve written, which is your favorite book and why?

I think Upon Your Return, my first novel, a Victorian romance and book one of the Heiresses in Love Series, is still my favorite. Fara Bellamont, the heroine of the novel, is someone I can really relate to. She is a woman out of her time, who defies the standards for women in Victorian France, and as the series progresses, you’ll meet another woman out of her time in New Orleans.

Where do you get your ideas? Do you jot them down in a notebook, in case you forgot?

Yes, I do take notes when necessary. Usually, I just write the scenes, then type them up and save them to my flash drive. Where do they come from? I guess they come from the muse, an invisible creature on my shoulder who whispers things in my ear. LOL. Really, I’m not that crazy. Not entirely, anyway.

But seriously, I’m not always sure where my ideas originate. Sometimes I am inspired by something someone said or did, by a place I visited, or even by the most random object I come across. At other times, the ideas virtually appear out of nowhere. This brings me back to my hypothesis that writers’ minds are like sponges, absorbing numerous experiences, holding a jumble of thoughts inside, sometimes that seemingly make no sense, and then one day our brains decide to spit something out, something with enormous potential. An idea forms and we take it from there. This veritable alphabet soup in our minds suddenly creates clarity.

Which book is the closest to your heart? Why?

Can I make it a series? The Heiresses in Love Series is very close to my heart. I feel like I am the characters at times. And I think part of it goes back to the idea that, in a way, I am a woman out of my time. I can imagine that in a past life, perhaps I lived in Victorian times. And as writers, the more time we spend with characters, the closer we are to them, and they become a little like old friends. The book I am writing and editing now is the final book in the series, and it is somewhat bittersweet knowing I have to say goodbye. Though I will hold the stories and the characters so dear. Always.

Which of your books feature your family/friends, etc? What characters are modeled after them? Why?

I can’t say I modeled any after them. The closest one I have is not published, but a time travel romance work in progress. I modeled the hero, Christophe, after my fiancé. I never intended to really; it just sort of happened. I began to see similarities in both appearance and personality that I couldn’t deny. Most of all, it was his heroism that drove me to keep modeling the character him. But that’s a story for another day.

Which of your heroes/heroines is most similar to you? Why?

I think I am a cross between Fara Bellamont from Upon Your Return, and Desiree Edwards from Second Nature. Both are warriors at heart. Though I can’t say I have any strength with numbers, like Fara does.
Who is your strongest/sexiest/most lovable/hottest hero/heroine? Why?
Good Lord! You had to ask. At one time, I would have just said Grant Hill from Upon Your Return. He is, for sure, a sexy captain. But, the hottest? Oh, it would have to be Alec from Second Nature. He has that whole mysterious vampire-gentleman thing down pat.
Have you ever wanted to write your book in one direction but your characters are moving it in another direction? What did you do in such a situation?
Yes, it happens sometimes. Eventually, I have to let go and allow the character’s free reign. Sometimes other ones butt in, and that makes for good sequels later on. With Upon Your Love, the book I’m currently editing, I had to listen to the characters completely and it turned out better than I even imagined.
Tell us more about your latest release, Second Chance Heart.
Second Chance Heart acts on the premise of whether forgiveness is possible between two people with a long, painful history. Dana Nelson runs into her ex one night, and it only gets complicated from there.
Any new projects, work in progress?
Yes, there is Upon Your Love, book three of the Heiresses in Love Series, as aforementioned. I am also finishing up a sci-fi romance, titled Blue Vision. Additionally, I intend to re-release my backlist under this pen name, after revising them. They will come out as anthologies in various genres. Recently, I also had an idea for a new series, The Misfits. This will be a romantic comedy, and book one is a BBW romance titled Chasing Ginger. And just last week, I had another idea for a romantic suspense called Witness. So, as you can see, I never run out of ideas. With over 100 works in progress, how can I?
Do you outline your books or wing it?  Describe your process.  
A little of both. I wing it first, and then start outlining later.
How do you decide on setting?
Unless the scene is dependent on a specific setting, I worry about it later, when I’m doing my research.
What genre(s) do you write in?  Why?
As aforementioned, I write in various genres, but I favor romance and its subgenres.
Has your muse always known what genre you would write and be published in? 
I think it always did, but I have learned to keep an open mind in case new ideas come to me that might not be so conventional.
What is your favorite part of writing?
Being immersed in a scene, the characters and plot playing out in my head like a movie. 
What is your least favorite part of writing?
I have a love/hate relationship with research. Though I find it incredibly fascinating at times, it can be a real pain to find the exact answers to the questions I have during the writing process. It’s not always easy.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of editing.  How about you?
No, unless there is a glaring error and I can’t move on without fixing it, I usually wait until the entire manuscript is written before worrying about that pesky thing called ‘editing’. 
How much research was involved in writing your book?  How did you go about it?
In Second Chance Heart, I did enough research to fill in the details of the story without bogging it down in facts. At the time I was writing it, I had a word count limit because I aimed to submit it for a specific multi-author anthology for charity. When that project fell through, it gave me the ability to be a bit more flexible with the story’s length.
How did I do the research? I do most of my research online. For SCH, I learned about the cities/towns mentioned in the story, as well as any points of interest that had a bearing on the plot. Then I did character worksheets to learn more about the characters. Any additional details I added later.
What’s the strangest thing you have ever done in the name of research? 
Oh, I research a lot of strange things. From watching videos on dueling to the kind of swords that exist out there all the way to researching how a dead body decomposes, a writer’s world can be very interesting.
What inspired your latest release?
I was inspired by the topic of ‘forgiveness’, so I took it a step further with a story. I wanted to see if forgiveness was even possible, after some pretty harsh things happened between the characters. I wasn’t quite sure how the story would turn out, though, until I was done.
E-books, print, or both?  Any preferences?  Why? 
Oh, I like both well enough, but I prefer reading paperback novels because of the tactile feel of the story. I have to admit I get more absorbed into something I can touch.
Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?
I feel like I always wanted do this; it just naturally happened. Ever since I could construct a sentence, I’ve been writing fiction. Before that, stories were still playing out in my head. Eventually, I decided to put them somewhere – on the page.
Tell us about your hero or heroine.  Give us one of his/her strengths and one of his/her weaknesses.
Dana is a strong woman who has made a life for herself out of pretty unfortunate circumstances. A strength? She is very loyal, and quite loving. One weakness is that can be too independent, and she lashes out when she’s hurt.
What books are on your nightstand or by your chair? 
Right now, they’re from various genres as I’m trying to get through my current TBR pile to make room for others. They are as follows:  The Turret by James W. McAllister, The Shadows by J.R. Ward, Redeemed by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast, The Witch of the Wood by Michael Aronovitz, Unglorious War by Maxine Flam, Winner Takes All by Nora Roberts, and Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove. 
What’s your favorite film of all times?  Favorite book? 
The Princess Bride is my favorite movie. My favorite book is Dark Lover by J.R. Ward. 
What music “soothes your soul”?  Do you listen to music as you write? 
Definitely! The Pandora app is my savior. I often listen to it as I’m writing or doing other tasks. Any music by Lights, Ellie Goulding or Owl City soothes me. Of course, there are so many others. 
Do you have a favorite book from childhood? 
I have several. I remember The Bobbsey Twins and The Boxcar Children. I liked those Choose Your Own Adventure books. I used to read The Baby-sitters Club series. And when I was thirteen, I discovered Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause, my first exposure to paranormal romance, though in YA form.  
If you could be dropped into any book as a character, who would you be and why? 
Oh, I’d love to be Desiree from Second Nature! I want to meet my fantasy vampire so badly! LOL. 
Tell us a secret, something the blogosphere doesn’t know (can be about yourself or your books)
I am planning an erotic romance series, though I probably won’t publish the books under this name.
Bookmark or Dog ear?
Either one. I don’t care as long as I don’t lose my place.
Favorite junk food?
Favorite way to relax?
Chilling under the TV, watching a movie at home with my fiancé.  
Do you have a guilty pleasure? 
Dark chocolate! And I am totally obsessed with finding the right book cover for each of my books!
3 must have items if you were stranded on a tropical island? 
My genius of a fiancé, unlimited writing equipment, and lots of books! I guess it wouldn’t hurt to have a compass, though, would it?