Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Stories Behind the Story By Liza Perrat

Today, we celebrate the release of WOLFSANGEL by Liza Perrat. L'Auberge des Anges, a wonderful series with characters so rich and vivid that readers feel that they are part of the story. The first in the series, SPIRIT OF LOST ANGELS, remains a Traveling Book favorite. This is why Sisterhood of the Traveling Book is pleased to present....the story behind the story.

I believe that historical fiction is not only about long-gone people and events. It is also about us, and how the past –– our ancestors, and the stories of how they lived –– have shaped us into what we are today. History repeats, and people remain essentially the same, whatever era we live in; whatever historical upheavals and disasters we are faced with. I initially set out to write only one historical fiction book, Spirit of Lost Angels, but with these things in mind, I have ended up with a trilogy –– L’Auberge des Anges historical series.

I am Australian, but I live in a rural French village and inspiration for the first book in the series, Spirit of Lost Angels, came to me on an afternoon walk when I literally stumbled over a 300-year-old stone cross on the banks of the Garon River. I learned that this is one of the well-known Fifteen Crosses Walk of the village. Named croix à gros ventre (cross with a big belly), it is engraved with two entwined tibias and a heart shape. The date carved into the old stone is 1717, and the cross commemorates two children who drowned in the Garon River.

I was intrigued. Who were these children? How old were they? How had they drowned, and where are they buried? From the local historical organisation, I learned the children were four and five years old, and are buried in the cemetery of a neighbouring village.
I felt the urge to write the story of these lost little ones; to give them a family, a village, an identity. Thus was born the Charpentier family, the village of Lucie-sur-Vionne, the Vionne River and the family farm –– L’Auberge des Anges (The Inn of Angels).

Even before I had finished writing Spirit of Lost Angels, I knew the characters had more tales to tell, and I wanted to continue the story of this family, their farmhouse and their village, and what might have been their lives during different historical eras and upheavals such as the French Revolution, World War II and the Black Plague. The characters already had strong bonds: their village of Lucie-sur-Vionne, L’Auberge des Anges (Inn of Angels) farmhouse, and their bloodline. They also shared the same profession of healer woman, midwife, and angel-maker.

But I wanted something stronger to connect these kinswomen, and this is where the small bone-carved angel pendant, passed down through the generations, came into existence. Many mysterious stories and legends encompass this angel talisman. From where did it come, and from what type of bone is it sculpted? Some of the characters believe it was most likely sculpted from seal or ox, or walrus tusk. Those with wilder imaginations opt for mammoth bone, and those with a more macabre slant reckon on human bone. 

To be honest, I haven’t quite decided where the little pendant comes from. I do have several ideas though, which I’m having fun exploring in the third novel in the series: Midwife Héloïse – Blood Rose Angel, set in the same French village, during the 14th century Black Plague years. By the end of this final book in the series, I hope I will have found a satisfyingly enigmatic “history” for my angel necklace, for its journey through the ages has become as important as the journey of the women who wear it.

The second book in the series –– Wolfsangel –– follows the descendants of the Charpentier family of L’Auberge des Anges when, a hundred and fifty years after the French Revolution, the village of Lucie-sur-Vionne comes under the heel of the German occupation. This story was directly inspired by a true-life WWII event, but if I revealed which particular event, that would truly spoil the story! Suffice it to say, since I visited the site of this tragedy many years ago, it has haunted me and I knew I would write a story about it one day. Information about this true-life war-crime can be found in the Author’s Note section at the back of Wolfsangel

While historical accuracy is important, I feel the characters and the story they tell are even more crucial. I wanted to let these people tell the tale of Wolfsangel with passionate honesty, without evading the horrifying truth. I wanted them to evoke the facts about life and love and the choices we make, and I wanted them to capture the readers’ imagination and empower them to think about their own lives.

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a nurse and midwife for fifteen years. When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her husband and three children for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator,
and a novelist.

Several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.

She has completed four novels and one short-story collection, and is represented by Judith Murdoch of the Judith Murdoch Literary Agency. 

Spirit of Lost Angels, the first in the historical L’Auberge des Anges series was published under the Triskele Books label in May, 2012. The second in the series –– Wolfsangel –– was published in October, 2013, and Liza is working on the third novel in the series –– Midwife Héloïse – Blood Rose Angel –– set during the 14th century Black Plague years.
Liza is a co-founder and member of Triskele Books, an independent writers’ collective with a commitment to quality and a strong sense of place.

Liza reviews books for the Historical Novel Society and Words with Jam magazine. 

Contact and Other Information

Twitter: @LizaPerrat
Twitter: @TriskeleBooks

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sisterhood of the Traveling Book interviews Wedding Belles Author Beth Albright

1. You made the jump from Hollywood actress to writer. Had you always wanted to be a writer?

I have always been a writer. I can’t even remember the moment. I was born with stories in my head. I have always been a writer, a storyteller. I’m from the Deep South—we’re all storytellers but the best part is that when I am observing the world, my head and heart are always creating stories. My earliest memories are of me writing, even just love notes to my mom that were so flowerey and went on and on. I simply just loved writing. I entered every contest and even won some awards! I stopped when I became a talk show host and literally talked for a living, but storytelling was a hobby to me, and so I diligently enforced my goal of becoming a wordsmith. I admired those literary writers who always had just the perfect word up their sleeve and could pull it out without thought, like drawing a breath. Eventually the characters took over and I listened. I love telling their stories.

2. How much of your acting career goes into your books? Can you tell us a bit more about your background?

The biggest part of the acting career that goes into the books are the fact that I love to write in first person narrative and “become” the character. First person narrative is what comes easiest for me. And I do have a sense of tension because of my time on Day of Our Lives. Actually my favorite career was my talk show on the radio. I LOVED being LIVE for 4 hours a day, controlling my environment behind the mic and asking all the questions. I think everyone has a story to tell, and I loved getting their story out there to my audience. Writing is just the same, except I’m telling all the stories and my characters are my guests on my “show” All of my previous incarnations are alive and well in my new career as an author! And I love it!
All of it has influenced me in such a positive way. The soap was living the written word and I absorbed that like a sponge! I know I wanted to write, but at the time I was thinking of TV and movie scripts. Somehow, I always came back to novels. It allows me to paint better pictures. But most importantly, I just love people! I love listening to stories and then re-telling them. As a radio talk show host, I got to listen and talk with people for four hours a day and more! It was fantastic. I could always imagine what they were saying to me as a novel or a movie. And in my head I was writing it as a novel. Life in general plays out in my head with words, telling stories like from a novel. In the Deep South, storytelling is part of our culture. On a warm summer night, the front porch beckons as the fireflies glitter around the yard, and we gather under the porch light to tell stories.

I have had so many funny great moments! I was in a studio in LA when we had a small earthquake. I was actually a guest of Larry King watching him do his show. That freaked him out so bad as the mic began to swing while we were live on the air! Then there was the time that I ran into Oprah at Spago! Oh my
gosh, I nearly died! I had just interviewed her by phone on my radio show and so when I saw she was there, I sent her a note but the host said, just go over and see her, she is so easy.” I was still so star-struck. I went over to her and she asked me and my husband to sit down with her for dessert! It was thrilling as we sat together and had a chat…WITH OPRAH! I’m still not over it!

But, the funniest thing that ever happened to me was a time when I was on The Young and The Restless. I have always been a tad, well…plump. A size 8-10 is supersized in Hollywood so I decided I needed an all-in-one girdle for my big day. JUST AS THE DIRECTOR SAID, “ACTION” I walked to my mark and felt my left breast pop out of my girdle and swing for sweet freedom! The girdle had snapped under all that pressure. Needless to say, one side of me was “bouncier” than the other!

3. Some of the characters in The Sassy Belles are hoots! Growing up in the South, how many of them are based on people you knew?

The Sassy BellesAll of these wonderful funny women are an amalgamation of my favorite women in the mom, my best friends, my grandmother, and my aunts. They are so hilarious and out-spoken. I love writing them into my characters! And in the novels, the reader will enjoy the women all gathered around the old kitchen table with their Krispy Kremes or Keebler concoctions and support each other and laugh. In times of crisis or celebration, we always ran to my grandmother’s kitchen table and talked and laughed through everything. Those memories really inspired the novels. I can’t recall a memory to this day that soothes me and makes me happy like those days growing up down south sitting around that table with my mother, grandmother, aunt and my life-long girlfriends. The reader is really in for a treat because they will get to “sit” at that table with us!

4. Having feet in both places, what made you write about the South vs. Hollywood? Will you continue to write about the South after the Belles Trilogy is finished?

Oh, absolutely! I love the SOUTH like no place else on earth! Writing The Sassy Belles was my attempt at curing a huge bout of homesickness. I was needing my Sassy sisters and my mom and so I began—writing about Tuscaloosa so I could be there. The south is a place that is so different form anywhere. The culture is of people who are so close, and warm and welcoming. An open-door-and-food-on-the-table kind of place. Plus the people are so funny. They just say what they think, like my character, Vivi. The women I know there are the strongest of women and still always act and dress like a lady. That is appealing in itself! Tuscaloosa is a college town, with a rich pre-civil war history. It’s full of gorgeous antebellum homes, a fabulous old wide river, great restaurants and of course, the national champion college football team, the Alabama Crimson Tide! It is my Disneyland, my nirvana! I love it there and that passion, I hope, will come through the writing! I do love my Tuscaloosa!! I always said, Hollywood’s got nothin’ on the Deep South. We have our own brand of everything there, food people hospitality. I write what I know and love, so that’s Tuscaloosa for sure!

5. Word has it that your books are now going to have recipes included in your books. Care to share one?

Sure! Here is my very favorite southern dish!

Fried Green Tomatoes

3-4 large green tomatoes
1 cup corn meal
¼ cup flour
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup canola oil

Slice tomatoes and mix meal and flour together with a fork to make sure it is blended well. 

Salt and pepper tomatoes and dip in milk. Next batter them in the flour and meal mixture. 

Pour enough canola oil in large saucepan to cover the bottom of pan but not the tomatoes. 

Don’t put too many slices in pan at one time. They should never overlap or touch each other. 

Fry over medium to high heat until golden brown. Place on paper to drain and serve hot.

Cooking like a Sassy Belle -- Peach Cobbler

6. Please tell us about your new release Wedding Belles.

Wedding Belles is a super fun and funny story all about trying to get Vivi to the alter BEFORE she pops! She is seven months pregnant! But first she and Blake along with a funny cast of characters have to do something about the fact that there is “another woman” in the grooms life! Here is the description we used on the back of the book:

Seven months pregnant and head over heels in love, Vivi Ann McFadden is busy pulling together the final details for her wedding to Lewis Heart, famous play-by-play announcer for the Crimson Tide. But with two wedding-planners-gone-wild and a psychic giving her advice, a missing wedding ring and the ceremony happening on the same day as the wildly popular Crimson Tide kickoff game, chaos reigns supreme. Luckily, maid of honor Blake O’Hara Heart is on the job. She’ll tackle this wedding if it’s the last thing she does! But not everyone is cheering for the happy couple. News of the upcoming nuptials has brought Lewis’ old flame back to town and she’ got a secret that could mean the end of Lewis’s marriage… before it even begins.

Wedding Belles on Goodreads 

Wedding Belles on Amazon 



                         The Sassy Belles   Wedding BellesSleigh Belles

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Patricia Sands Talks Travel and Home Exchange

Patricia Sands
In my new novel, The Promise of Provence, the protagonist goes on a home exchange in the south of France. You’ve heard how authors are always told to write what they know? Well, I know about home exchange and I love to spread the word.

I realize not everyone wishes to travel far and wide. Some people are happy to never venture far from where they live. I have to admit I am a travel fanatic. Ever since I spent a year working and traveling in Europe at the age of 21 in 1967, I’ve been hooked.
I love to experience life in different parts of the world, some more than others. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate my wonderful hometown of Toronto and all it has to offer but when I have the opportunity to go further afield, I do my best to make it happen. This quote from Mark Twain resonated with me many years ago.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
There are many parts of the world I have yet to visit but I believe the greatest travel lesson I’ve learned is this: if you have a desire to go somewhere, no matter how unattainable you feel that dream may be, chances are you can make it happen. If this idea calls to you, then read on.
In today’s uncertain economy, there’s no question untold numbers of travel plans and vacations have been shelved. Often the cost simply squashes dreams. The solution I offer you right here, right now … in fact go ahead and Google it as soon as you finish reading this …two simple words … HOME EXCHANGE.

I first seriously looked into this concept of swapping homes about 12 years ago and was instantly intrigued. I had heard of it over the years and finally decided to check it out. Why on earth had I waited so long? You’ll ask yourself the same question! My husband and I have since enjoyed 8 home exchange vacations.
When we first mentioned what we were doing to friends, the reactions ranged from horrified, “You’d let perfect strangers stay in your house?” to excited, “I’ve always wanted to do that!” When one person screwed up his face and asked, “You’ll sleep in a stranger’s bed?” we asked how many strangers had slept in the last hotel room he booked. Think about it.
Every one of our exchange vacations has been wonderful and the truth of the matter is you connect in a personal way with your exchange person/couple/family. With some, we have developed a close friendship and others we simply keep in touch from time to time but a connection certainly occurs.
Living in a home in a different part of the world, whether it is a foreign land or a different area of your own country, provides a more complete cultural experience than staying in a hotel. You are instantly part of a community and neighbors or friends of your exchange family will have been asked to introduce themselves to you to see if you need assistance with anything. It’s an amazingly friendly and personal process. For families with children the benefits are even greater as there are homes with toys and yards. Car exchanges are often offered and specifics such as non-smoking homes or pet-free or child-free can be requested. On the other side of that, you can also find pet owners looking to swap.

The possibilities are endless. Our longest exchange was two months (September, October) in a beautiful home in the middle of a private vineyard in the Var region of France. We were in the hills but just a half-hour from the coast and even got to help with the grape harvest (at our request). The other holidays were in Portugal, Italy, London, Vienna, a second in the south of France, and California.
Flexibility is the key! Without getting into all the details here, there are excellent home exchange websites that have been established since long before the internet. In those days they produced catalogues of their listed properties. With e-mail, the ability to connect is simple and before you ever commit to an exchange you can get to know each other. Interior and exterior photos are exchanged as well so you can determine if the property is acceptable to you. All the websites have FAQ pages and are happy to answer personally any other questions or concerns. Obviously the cost of your trip becomes significantly lower when accommodation is free. We have never experienced one problem and you find your home as you left it (or possibly even tidier!) when you return. What I love best about this is that it reaffirms my belief that most people are good and honest and just like you. You will hear these words from the many people on these exchange sites who write about their experiences. Give it a try!
There are excellent exchange websites, well organized and detailed. Memberships are very reasonable. Some are specialized with regard to age, profession, or culture. Here are a few in no particular order, just to make it easy for you to get started:

HomeLink International - established in 1953 and spanning 27 countries – 39,000+ listings in 143 countries
Seniors Home Exchange – exclusively for the over 50 age group
Intervac Home Exchange – since 1953 – over 30,000 listings, 80% in Europe – excellent intro video HomeBase Holidays – over 25 years of reliable international exchanges

Try it! Whether it’s a weekend enjoying The Big Apple, a romantic rendezvous in Paris, a month hiking and taking cooking classes in Italy, golfing in Ireland, sailing in New Zealand or simply exploring whatever corner of this wonderful world beckons you. Home exchange can enhance your experience and make your dreams affordable. You’ll like it!
Photos courtesy of Patricia Sands

The Promise of Provence: A Novel

The Promise of Provence: A Novel
Surprise, shock, and a shift in her comfortable life tumble into Katherine Price’s world when least expected. The future she has imagined suddenly vanishes, leaving little to focus upon beyond her career and the caregiving her elderly widowed mother might require.

Fate has other plans.

June in Provence is full of promise when Katherine arrives from Canada, eager to feel renewed by her surroundings. Endless rows of lavender prepare to burst into pink and purple blooms. Fields of sunflowers flow in golden waves among vineyards and olive groves. Ancient hilltop villages beckon. It’s the postcard setting she envisioned, but is that all she needs?
After a year of heartbreak, Katherine has impulsively agreed to a home exchange in the south of France. Colorful locals, a yellow lab named Picasso, and the inspiring beauty of the countryside breathe new life into her days.
Seeking to shed the pain of betrayal and loss, she struggles to recapture her joie de vivre and searches for the answer to a haunting question: is it too late to begin again?
As Katherine explores the romantic cobblestone lanes of medieval towns, discovers the intoxicating pleasures of Paris and savours the sun-kissed Côte d'Azur, she begins redefining the possibilities in her life.
An enduring story of hope and change in life’s later years is woven through the author’s love-letter to France. Like a well-travelled friend, Patricia Sands invites readers into a world she loves and entices them to linger.
"Be prepared to fall in love with Provence! This is a story that will draw you in with its vibrancy in setting and characters. A must read for any woman with a desire for romance and travel." Steena Holmes, author of Amazon bestseller Finding Emma

Monday, July 15, 2013

Q&A With Claire Cook

CLAIRE COOK/Sisterhood of the Traveling Book Q&A

Q. One of your favorite sayings is "Midlife Rocks." Why? 

A. It's a great time of life! You've figured out who you are, and I think finally letting go of trying to be all things to all people allows you to live the life you want to live.  

After decades of procrastination and sixteen years as a teacher, I wrote my first novel in my minivan outside my daughter's swim practice when I was forty-five. At fifty, I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the movie adaptation of my second novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. If that doesn't allow me to say "Midlife Rocks" I don't know what does! 

I love sharing my story because I think it's important to get the word out there that when it comes to becoming a published author, or whatever your buried dream might be, there's no expiration date. I don't even think there's a "best by" date. In one of the many gifts of midlife, I've learned that I don't have to write everybody's books, just mine. One of my gifts as a novelist is to make people laugh. And also to recognize themselves and their quirky families and maybe feel a little bit better about them. I play to my strengths. I understand people, so my novels are character-driven. I'm a huge eavesdropper, which has taught me to write dialog that rings true. I try to bring my unique qualities to write the books that only I can write. 

Q. How has having your novel Must Love Dogs made into a major movie changed your writing career? 

A. Every time the Must Love Dogs movie plays on TV, which is all the time, it sends me new readers. As an author, all you really want is for readers to discover your books, so that’s been a huge gift. Beyond that, I don’t really think about it. I’ve had other novels optioned for film since, and maybe some day another one will make it all the way, but I don’t spend my time worrying about it. I’m too busy trying to write the best books I can write! 

Q. You have an active website and use social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to communicate with your readers. How do you find this helpful? 

A. I think social media is a great way to help new readers find my books, and I'm lucky that I really enjoy it. The challenge is not getting so sucked in that it encroaches on my writing time.  

Having direct communication with my readers has even begun to help me write my books. I can ask a question and get instant answers, and I know my readers enjoy being a part of the process. While writing Time Flies, I asked everybody to share their favorite songs from high school, as well as old clothing and makeup memories. It was fun for all of us and also gave me some great authentic details for the novel.  

I also love hearing what resonates for readers in my books, and I think it's helped me become a better writer. So if you're reading this right now, I hope you'll connect with me! Go to to start. 

Q. What's your process for writing a novel?    

Claire Cook Writing SpaceA. When I'm writing a first draft, I write two pages a day, seven days a week. So, essentially, I'm living in the book, thinking about it all day long. I've noticed my best ideas come in the shower, on the elliptical machine at the gym, at red lights when I'm driving, and when I wake up in the middle of the night. I jot things down all day long - on notecards, in notebooks, on the backs of receipts. 

I don't outline, because it would make it feel like a term paper. I try not to think too much or try too hard, because when I do, my writing goes flat. I have a sense of who my main character is, and because my books are written in the first person, my entry point tends to be capturing my protagonist's voice. Then, because I'm essentially writing slice-of-life novels, I think about what makes the book begin today instead of another day. Once I find that little explosion, then I have my jumping off point. The characters react to that, and there's a ripple effect. I just keep following those ripples... 

I love talking about my books, but only after they're written. For me, talking about a book that isn't written takes some of the energy away from it, and I start to feel that I've actually finished today's pages, when I haven't written word one. 

Q. You seem to know a lot about metal sculpting. Have you done it yourself or did you research it? What is your interest in it, and why did you give this artistic expression to your main character in Time Flies?  

A. I choose professions for my heroines that I think my readers will find interesting, and I often hear from readers thanking me for giving them ideas for their own lives. I do tons of research for my novels, because I think those authentic details are crucial for believability. As for my own personal experience with metal sculpting, I have tried it under close supervision, and I found it really, really hot, loud, and scary. I am a metal sculpting wimp. 

Q. Why did you choose to focus  on phobias in Time Flies? 
Time Flies

A. I stumbled across the fact that forty percent of women experience a full-blown phobia at some point in their lives, often brought on by stress, and I was really struck by that and wanted to learn more. I also absolutely hate driving on big, busy highways, and would drive only on back roads in some cities if I could get away with it. I know lots of other women who feel the same way, so I thought it would be relatable.  

Q. Reinvention appears to be a theme in your books and in your life. Besides reading your novels, what advice would you would give to women contemplating their own reinvention? 

A. First of all, know that you're not alone. Almost every woman I've talked to over the years has gone through, or contemplated, some kind of reinvention in her life, often more then once. Beyond that, my top five reinvention tips: 

  1. Rise above the negativity. Whatever the motive, lots of people will tell you why you can't or shouldn't do whatever it is you want to do. You just have to decide to do it anyway. You might want to protect yourself a bit in the beginning, too. I didn't tell anyone about my first novel until it was finished. You don't need anyone's permission - just do it! 
  2. Be who you really are. The big buzz word these days is branding, but I think of it as authenticity.  This is the first job I've ever had where I wasn't pretending, or at least trying to pretend, to be a slightly different person. Who I am and what I write are totally in synch. There's tremendous power in that! 
  3. Confound expectations. If everybody's doing it, it's already been done. Put a little surprise in everything you do. Originality counts! 
  4. Do something nice for someone. It's easy to get needy when you're struggling to figure out what's next, but many of the great things that have happened to me were triggered by something nice I did for someone else. People talk; your actions determine what they say. As one of my characters once said, karma is a boomerang. 

Get your tech together. Everything you need to know about the world you want to conquer can be found online. Get your computer skills up to speed - fast! Take a class or find a computer mentor. Research. Network. Create an online presence on Facebook and Twitter. The Internet is a great equalizer - and there are so many opportunities out there just waiting for you to take advantage of them!  

                        MAKING THE MOST OF MIDLIFE

CLAIRE COOK wrote her first novel in her minivan when she was 45. At 50, she walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the adaptation of her second novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. She is now the bestselling and award winning author of ten novels, including Wallflower in Bloom and Time Flies. Read excerpts of her novels and visit her writing and reinvention pages at