Monday, October 31, 2016

What Inspired Me to Write About Gangs by Christina Hoag

I'm so pleased to have Christina Hoag as my guest today. And her post is so interesting. Read on and enjoy!

Having written both a nonfiction book and a fiction book about gangs, people often ask me why gangs?
I first encountered gangs as a young newspaper reporter in New Jersey, when I was assigned to write a story about a notorious motorcycle gang delivering Christmas toys to a local hospital. I went to interview them in a small suburban house, very normal-looking apart from the bunch of Harley choppers out front and its rather gloriously hirsute occupants, who insisted they belonged to a “club” not a gang. I was fascinated by them and their chosen lifestyle. They had established their own society with its own rules, dress, language and culture within mainstream society. What drove people to do that? I wondered.  A side note: A couple years later, I saw one of “club members” at a New Jersey prison where I’d gone to interview an inmate for another story. So much for the “club,” I thought.
Years later, on a magazine assignment, I interviewed gang members deported from Los Angeles to El Salvador, where they had landed like fish out of water because they’d left Salvador as babies and small children during the civil war. It was a country that they identified with, but really didn’t know. Some of them barely spoke Spanish. They had joined and formed gangs in Los Angeles because their families had moved to predominantly Mexican-American neighborhoods that had long-entrenched gangs.
The Central Americans formed their own groups for protection, but because they weren’t U.S. citizens, they later were vulnerable to deportation when the government started cracking down on immigrants with criminal records. The stories of the young men I interviewed were really rooted in an unusual outcome of both a civil war and the immigrant experience. They ended up staying in my mind to form the genesis of my novel, Skin of Tattoos.
Talking to the young men in El Salvador also reignited that previous interest in gangs from when I had interviewed the motorcycle guys, and I started reading about and researching gangs in earnest over the following years. I covered numerous gang issues as a reporter for the Associated Press in Los Angeles, talking to gang members, people who worked with them, people who worked against them, ie. cops. Again, I was struck how they live in a parallel universe that is driven by values that are completely the antithesis of mainstream society, as in the more violent and feared you are, the more respect you gain.
There are many factors leading to gang formation, but in essence, gangs are driven by the human need for belonging to and approval of a group, and because some sectors of our society feel excluded from mainstream society, they form their own societies instead. Gang culture is alien to most of our lives and an extreme consequence of socioeconomic marginalization, but everyone can relate in some way to feeling excluded, of needing to belong, of wanting approval. That’s the universal theme that’s inherent in writing about gangs.

About Skin of Tattoos
Los Angeles homeboy Magdaleno is paroled from prison after serving time on a gun possession frameup by a rival, Rico, who takes over as gang shotcaller in Mags’s absence. Mags promises himself and his Salvadoran immigrant family a fresh start, but he can’t find either the decent job or the respect he craves from his parents and his firefighter brother, who look at him as a disappointment. Moreover, Rico, under pressure to earn money to free the Cyco Lokos’ jailed top leader and eager to exert his authority over his rival-turned-underling, isn’t about to let Mags get out of his reach. Ultimately, Mags’s desire for revenge and respect pushes him to make a decision that ensnares him in a world seeded with deceit and betrayal, where the only escape from rules that carry a heavy price for transgression is sacrifice.

Says Kirkus Reviews -- “Hoag is a talented writer, summoning Mags’ world on the page with remarkable empathy and detail…A well-crafted, engaging novel about an ex-con trying to break free…surprisingly nuanced and wholly enjoyable. Readers will become quickly invested.”
About the author:
Christina Hoag is a former reporter for the Associated Press and Miami Herald and worked as a correspondent in Latin America writing for major media outlets including Time, Business Week, Financial Times, the Houston Chronicle and The New York Times. She also authored Girl on the Brink, a romantic thriller for young adults (Fire and Ice YA/Melange Books, August 2016) and co-authored Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence, a groundbreaking book on gang intervention (Turner Publishing, 2014).

Available in ebook and paperback on Amazon:

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Shiver from the Silver State by Mariposa Cruz

Fun with a spooky story and a great new book to check out.

I work near the McCarran loop which winds through the cities of Sparks and Reno, Nevada.  It circles through business districts and around tree-lined neighborhoods the average speed limit is 50mph. In the section near Rattlesnake Mountain around 9:00PM several motorists reported seeing, a young girl sprint across the busy road, her white nightgown flapping in the evening breeze.
The public was outraged. What sort of parents would allow their daughter to wander near such a dangerous road in the dark of night? The authorities searched the neighborhood, but found no trace of the wayward little girl.  The site where she was seen was near a quiet meadow where the Donner Party camped before they made their fateful journey through the mountains.
Reno is best known for its casinos, summer events and winter skiing. Step away from the glittering lights and the ring of the slot machines and you may hear the whispers of regret in the desert.
For me Halloween isn’t simply a day, but a season to enjoy scary movies and spooky stories.  One of the things I love about Reno is its colorful past and ghost stories. What ghosts haunt your neighborhood?

Blurb for Ladies Man:
Clark Stevens has always had a way with women, but his teenage daughter despises him.  When his daughter comes to live with him fulltime, he enlists co-worker, Julie Wahl, to coach him on parenting skills.
As a single mom and paralegal, Julie, has successfully balanced family, work and swing dancing. After heartbreak on the dance floor, the last thing Julie needs is an office romance.  But she can hardly say no to a colleague in need, especially one with dark brown eyes and a killer grin.
“This one’s great. C’mon.” Julie grabbed his hand. Before he could object, she had led him to the center of the dance floor. Julie introduced him to Moira and her boyfriend, Denton. The willowy redhead in the front line hugged her, and all the other dancers greeted her warmly.
“I don’t know how,” Clark protested. He vaguely remembered stumbling through the Electric Slide at his cousin’s wedding. A significant amount of beer had been involved. How did he wind up in the middle of the dance floor with the most popular girl?
“Watch me,” Julie told him. Okay, he could manage that. He’d be happy to spend the entire night watching her in her snug, faded jeans if it didn’t mean embarrassing them both on the dance floor.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Out of the Mouth


Our neighbors at the RV Ranch run the gamut of personalities from timid to tenacious, ages fifty to ninety-five, active to sedentary. We might not choose each other as friends if in a different setting. In
fact, not everyone at the Ranch becomes a friend or even an acquaintance. Maybe because I'm a writer, I thoroughly enjoy mingling with all types of, people.

In the late afternoons, we gather around the fire telling stories and getting to know one another all over again each winter. We call it happy hour because of the social fun and not necessarily what we drink.

Our oldest happy hour person
So pull up a chair, grab your drink of choice be it water, coconut juice, or beer and eavesdrop on what I've heard over the last week.

It’s my way or the Nazi way.

I only buy one pot pie at a time. Don’t know if I’ll be around long enough to eat another one.

He got five quail with one shot.

Slow down. The speed limit’s five.

Be careful in the wood pile. A scorpion got me in the knee yesterday.

This poodle is the best duck retriever around.

Don’t go four wheelin’ with Edna. She’ll get you killed.

See that blood by the chair? That was the biggest damned rattle snake I’ve ever seen.

Did you hear the coyotes this morning?

He divorced his wife because he didn’t want to be married to a grandmother.

Leaves rained down. Did you see the size of that hawk? I think he was after that dove.

Monday, October 17, 2016


Please join me in welcoming Joe Cosentino to Muse Monday. Tell us about your latest venture, Joe.
Writing a series of novels is like giving birth to a brood of kids. You struggle, fret, scratch your head, give up, ponder, try again, and love every minute of it. As an avid mystery reader and past professional actor, I joined the two to create the five Jana Lane mystery novels. I was overjoyed when so many readers loved the humor, romance, clues, red herrings, plot twists and turns, quirky characters, insider show business mayhem, revealed secrets, and shocking endings in the novels. It was also gratifying to hear that some readers preferred the e-books and others enjoyed wrapping their arms around the paperbacks. I was cursed by quite a number of readers who told me they began one of the novels with the intent of reading a chapter before bed, but unable to put it down they finished the book in the wee hours of the morning. However, I was in for a surprise when some of my family members, friends, and colleagues at my college, where I am a professor and department head, told me they have no time to read. That seemed incredible to me. Not reading is like not breathing. They said they spend their time at the gym, in the car, at work, and doing chores around the house. The solution came to me as if I were Jana Lane solving a grand mystery caper: do an audiobook that they can listen to while accomplishing all of their active tasks.
After posting the book on Audible in search of a narrator/producer, I was incredibly fortunate to find Charissa Clark Howe. Charissa captured the essence of Jana Lane perfectly, and she also did a fine job with all the other characters in the novel: Brian (Jana’s husband), Rocco (Jana’s producer), Jackson (Jana’s best friend), Mark (Jana’s greatest fan), Tamara (Jana’s sister), Scott (Jana’s father), Simon (Jana’s agent) and more. Balancing humor, romance, and mystery perfectly, she hit every beat. I couldn’t wait for the ending, and when it came I was totally surprised! Since the novel takes place in 1980, Charissa’s delivery evoked that wonderful period. I could see the hairstyles, makeup, jewelry, fashion, as well as hear the music of that era. Charissa’s narration put me smack in the middle of the action.
In PAPER DOLL I share my love of movies and moviemakers with my readers. I have always been fascinated with ex-child stars like Hayley Mills, Shirley Temple, Patty Duke, and Brooke Shields. My heroine, Jana Lane, is an ex-child star who has lost her self-esteem as an adult. Through the course of the book, Jana not only solves the mystery of her past, but also reclaims the courage and fortitude she had as a child. This is an important message for all of us.
After reading PAPER DOLL, you’ll want to read the other four Jana Lane mystery novels. Sorry, they aren’t available on audiobook, only in ebook and paperback.
I also have three other books on audiobook. DRAMA QUEEN, the first Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), is narrated by Michael Gilboe. It’s a comedy mystery about a college theatre professor (like me) who uses his acting skills to impersonate others and uncover murder mysteries. DRAMA QUEEN was voted Favorite Mystery of 2015 in the Divine Magazine Reader Poll.
Also, the talented actor Joel Leslie, who has quite a following in the audiobook world, is narrating my THE NAKED PRINCE AND OTHER TALES FROM FAIRYLAND (releasing in November, Dreamspinner Press), and A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (releasing in December, Dreamspinner Press) which takes place on the gorgeous island of Capri.
So grab the popcorn, curl up in your movie seat, and enjoy the audiobook of PAPER DOLL, the first Jana Lane mystery. As they say, your first is always special.
PAPER DOLL, the first Jana Lane mystery
Jana Lane was America’s most famous child star until she was attacked on the studio lot at eighteen years old. Now a thirty-eight-year-old beauty and mother of two living in a mansion in picturesque Hudson Valley, New York, Jana’s flashbacks from her past turn into murder attempts in her present. Jana visits the California movie studio she once called home. This sends her on a whirlwind of visits with former and current movie studio personnel. It also leads to a romance with the son of her old producer—Rocco Cavoto—the devilishly handsome filmmaker who is planning Jana’s comeback both professionally and personally. Jana uncovers a web of secrets about everyone she loves, including the person who destroyed her past and threatens to snuff out her future.
Bestselling author Joe Cosentino won Divine Magazine’s awards for best mystery novel, best humorous novel, and best contemporary novel of 2015. As an actor, he has appeared in principal roles in film, television, and theatre opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married.

Thursday, October 13, 2016



The welcome mat is out.
I have an aversion to certain noises. Football on TV sends me running after an hour of the noise. The constant roar is so annoying. Televised car races affect me the same way, although I love a day at the races. There’s nothing like spending a sunny day sitting on a grassy hill with a good red wine and a roast beef sandwich while watching a car race. But NOT on TV.

Then there is another noise, a certain pitch a motor can produce that doesn’t just send me running; my scalp crawls, my eardrums tighten, and my head pounds.

FDW doesn’t have the same reaction. In fact, he barely notices. Of course, it helps that he has a high frequency hearing loss. Where am I going with this?

The new RV, fifth wheel, is working out well…for lots of reasons…except for a few glitches that have cropped up. The noise.

First it was the refrigerator. The motor hums, but not with a pleasant white noise hum. Oh no. It’s the hum that assaults my eardrums and corkscrews into my brain. Luckily, it doesn’t run 24 hours a day, and I can’t
hear it in the bedroom. But, big BUT, it has to stop.

FDW put it on a list of things to report to the manufacturer.

Then the temps dropped enough to turn on the furnace. Ahhhhhggggg. The fridge noise paled in comparison to the furnace. The whine is the most excruciating pitch. My whining about the whine is the only more obnoxious noise (according to FDW). But honestly, I couldn’t sleep.

The call was made, the repairman dispatched, and I’m on the way to my happy place. I’m pleased to report the repairman winced right along with me when we flipped on the furnace. See?? It not just me! Now, we wait for parts. We aren’t using the furnace. Wish I could shut off the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, we’re enjoying the life. Some of the Happy Hour Gang has returned, and we had our first cookout. Steaks were excellent, company was even better.
Sadi got to visit, all by herself. The Big RV, as she calls it, is like her personal playhouse. And Nana lets her rearrange it anyway she wants.

As we work through breaking in this new fifth wheel, I’ll take you along the pros and cons of full time RV life!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Please welcome my guest, Leanna Sain.
Being an author is a special kind of great. What other profession lets you create some really “wicked” characters, let them do their evil deeds and then either punish them like they deserve or else, let them get away with it so they can continue their dastardly deeds? It’s like being a master of your own little universe. Heady stuff, indeed. 
The only downside that I can see is that you tend to get emotionally attached to the characters you birth into being. Even the wicked ones. It’s hard to “kill your darlings,” as William Faulkner urges. Since authors put so much of themselves into their work—yes, even the “baddies”—that it's like killing a little part of yourself each time you need to do it. Masochistic? Maybe…to an extent. 
I’m one of those people who like things to end “happily ever after.” I hate books and movies that leave you hanging, or where you have to make up your own ending. I mean, with all that’s going on in this world, I read or watch a movie to ESCAPE reality. 
Yes, there has to be conflict…lots of it. That’s what makes the story exciting. It needs multiple smaller climaxes, all building to THE MAGNIFICENT CLIMAX, but at the conclusion, all the loose ends need to be tied up to make a satisfying experience. At least that’s my philosophy. 
I tend to write in first person POV. It helps me be in the character's skin, to see through their eyes. Even if I change POV, I'm always seeing, thinking, tasting, smelling, sensing through that character. I sort of like it when it's the bad guy. It’s a way to "act out" without getting in trouble for it. :o) 
Sometimes it makes me feel like I have multiple personality disorder. That happens when the character pushes me out of the driver's seat, and takes over, veering the plot off in an amazing twist I never saw coming. It makes for a more vivid tale, helps readers “become” the character, but it’s a little disorienting. The first time it ever happened, I was startled to find tears running down my cheeks as I typed. I was “feeling” the emotions of my character. To be honest, it freaked me out a little.  
In my newest mystery, Red Curtains, one of my characters is a homeless woman. I know, I know; depressing, right? And what did I know about homelessness? Before I did my research, the answer was, "Not much.” Now, I know way more than I really want to know. The statistics are staggering, but what can we DO about it? Well, readers who buy my book will be helping me help. I’ve decided to donate a portion of book sales to the “Stand Down” program I mention in the book. Raising awareness through an enjoyable read, combined with raising funds for them…it might not be much, but it's something. 
Red Curtains has it all.  Wicked villians? Yes, both the ones you might expect and the ones that surprise you. Wickedly funny scenes? Those too. I’m a romantic comedy lover. I prefer snarky comedy. I expect to have my readers smiling a lot, giggling often, and sometimes even laughing out loud. To top it off, I have some wickedly delicious recipes included at the end of the book. Red Curtains will more than satisfy all your “wicked” needs. For more information about me or my books, visit my website:
Like my author page on Facebook:

Monday, October 10, 2016

DANGLE A CARROT...CAKE! #suspense #romance

Penny Sparks has secrets that can ruin a presidential contender, got her family murdered…and mark her as the next hit.

My editor dangled a juicy, carrot and now I’m salivating. Hmmm…maybe it was carrot cake, which would make my taste buds really sit up and take notice.
After completing book four in my Love and Murder Series and sending it to her three months behind schedule, she is still fighting for me to get a 2016 release date. Yes! (fist pump)
The down side to this great news is I have virtually little time to prepare for the release. It takes months to get appearances lined up, to find blogs to guest on, promo to plan, and the biggest of all…reviews. Reviews are the hardest to come by. A recent poll asking readers why they don’t leave reviews for books they’ve read, such as on Amazon, gave several reasons. Some of which are:
1.      They don’t think of doing it

2.      They don’t think they can write one

3.      They didn’t think they were allowed to write an Amazon review if they didn’t buy the book from Amazon (if you’ve ever ordered anything from Amazon, you can leave a review)
So, I’m throwing out a challenge and a request, here and soon on my newsletter. If you’ll take the time to write an honest review, I’ll send you the eBook for free. I need ten reviews to give it a
kickstart. If you’ve read the other three in the series, I guarantee you’ll want to read The Power of Love and Murder. Tell a friend.
I don’t have an exact release date, but send me an email and I’ll put you on my list.
Blurb for The Power of Love and Murder
For thirteen years, Penny Sparks has managed to hide from the political powers who murdered her family. When she unwittingly exposes her true identity, not only is she marked for death, but the people closest to her risk meeting the same fate. 

Jake Winters is out of rehab and coming to grips with his demons. When he meets his sister’s roommate, Jake believes Penny might be that someone who can help him find life after rock star status…until her secrets blow up his world. 

With a government agent turned hitman closing in on her, Penny and Jake race to expose the presidential contender behind the murders of her family. Even if they win the race with death, the murder that stands between them could end their hope for a new life.