Interview and Giveaway: Raven’s Kiss by Toni Lotempio


Hello!  I’m Toni LoTempio, author of Paranormal Romance/Romantic Suspense/YA Fantasy!  I’ve been writing ever since I was old enough to read, when I didn’t like the endings of the stories my mother read me I simply rewrote them J  Even though I write mainly in the paranormal genre, I have also written straight horror, as well as contemporary romance/suspense.
In 1995, I joined the staff of SUSABELLA PASSENGERS AND FRIENDS, a pulp magazine for collectors of antique children’s literature (Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, etc.)  Currently I’ve written over 300 articles for that magazine, and I was the first recipient of their Margaret Sutton Award for Distinguished Writing in 1998.  I joined the staff of NIGHT OWL REVIEWS IN January 2011 as the suspense reviewer/columnist.  My column, DARK STREETS, which features articles on suspense authors and their novels, is featured on a monthly basis. I love to spotlight new talent, so if you’re a suspense author, please contact me!
In 2007, Whiskey Creek Press published BOUND BY BLOOD, a tale of possession, and EBONY, which deals with zombies and the dark side of man. EBONY was #2 on the Fictionwise bestseller list for e-books for the month of July 2007, beating out Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story. (and no one was more shocked than I, LOL) In 2010, after countless attempts to land another agent, I took the advice of a fellow author HP Mallory, and self published NO REST FOR THE WICCA, which has been on Amazon’s list of top one hundred in Occult since March 2011.  My short story, THE SACRIFICE, appears in the e-published anthology KISS ME KILL ME, and I also have a YA fantasy, MY SUPERHERO SISTER on B&N and Amazon.  A complete listing of my books appears at the end of this bio.
Currently single, I work full time and live in Clifton, NJ, with  my muses:  Rocco, Maxx, Gata and Trixie.  (Rocco is also known as Rocco the SciFi Blogging Cat and has appeared on the SciFi Saturday Night website and radio show, and also on the Kids Need To Read website where he holds the distinction of being the first (and possibly only!) blogging cat to support this charity!)
I love hearing from fans, so please feel free to friend me on FACEBOOK, and visit my website,  Rocco and I post daily M-F on his blog,
Toni LoTempio Books:
Bound by Blood – Whiskey Creek Press, trade paperback & e-book, Feb. 2007 (paranormal suspense)
Ebony – Whiskey Creek Press, trade paperback & e-book, July 2007 (paranormal suspense)
Witch’s Pawn – Echelon Press, trade paperback & e-book, December 2008 (horror)
Nom de Plume – Whiskey Creek Press, trade paperback & e-book, November 2008 (contemporary romance)
It’s in the Cards – Whiskey Creek Press, e-book, February 2010 – (paranormal romance)
Out of the Ashes – Whiskey Creek Press, e-book, May 2010 – Fantasy
No Rest for the Wicca – Amazon & B&N Pub-It, e-book, September 2010 – paranormal suspense
My Superhero Sister – Amazon & B&N Pub-It, e-book, Trade Paperback – January 2011 – YA Fantasy
Kiss Me, Kill Me – Amazon & B&N Pub-It, e-book anthology –February 2011 – Short Story, “The Sacrifice”
Raven’s Kiss – Amazon & B&N Pub-It, e-book, & Trade Paperback April, 2011 – Paranormal Romance


What inspired you to write this book? 

 I wanted to write a book without my staple of vampires, and I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of parallel time ever since I first saw it on Dark Shadows, so I just did some research and decided on Shapeshifters. I mean, think about it. You can turn yourself into anything you want? That’s kinda cool.

What is your favorite screen? 

 By screen I assume you mean movie? Gone with the Wind hands down. It’s got it all, romance, drama, and a kick-ass heroine.

Who was the hardest character to write? 

Finn, simply because at times it’s hard for me to get inside a man’s head
Which character was the easies for you to connect with? – Raven, without a doubt. I took a lot of my qualities (especially the snarkiness) and infused her with them.

Was there anything taken out of the book that you were upset about? 

since it’s self-published, no. but I have worked with editors who have removed stuff that I scratched my head over

Who is the biggest inspiration in your life? 

My friend Vi who lives in Arizona- she is, as I’ve always said, My Muse

Is there anything that inspires you that you have never told anyone about? 

sometimes when it’s quiet and I think about my parents, and how much I miss them – their belief in me and my writing has always inspired me.

Quick Questions:

Black or White – Charcoal Gray
Coke or Pepsi – neither – Iced Tea
Cat or Dog – Hah, Cat definitely (or the four I have at home will kill me)
Cake or Ice Cream – I’m an ice cream gal – especially pistachio
Summer or Winter – Fall
Print books or ebooks – Print! I’m old fashioned that way J

You can purchase this book:

Check out more here:

July 5 – Final Stop: Author Toni LoTempio

Interview and Review: Best Kept Secret by Amy Hatvany

Details:  Best Kept Secret by Amy Hatvany

  • Pub. Date: June 2011
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
  • Format: Paperback , 352pp
  • Sales Rank: 112,606
Cadence didn’t sit down one night and decide that downing two bottles of wine was a brilliant idea.
Her drinking snuck up on her – as a way to sleep, to help her relax after a long day, to relieve some of the stress of the painful divorce that’s left her struggling to make ends meet with her five-year old son, Charlie.
It wasn’t always like this. Just a few years ago, Cadence seemed to have it all—a successful husband, an adorable son, and a promising career as a freelance journalist. But with the demise of her marriage, her carefully constructed life begins to spiral out of control. Suddenly she is all alone trying to juggle the demands of work and motherhood.
Logically, Cadence knows that she is drinking too much, and every day begins with renewed promises to herself that she will stop. But within a few hours, driven by something she doesn’t understand, she is reaching for the bottle – even when it means not playing with her son because she is too tired, or dropping him off at preschool late, again. And even when one calamitous night it means leaving him alone to pick up more wine at the grocery store. It’s only when her ex-husband shows up at her door to take Charlie away that Cadence realizes her best kept secret has been discovered….
Heartbreaking, haunting, and ultimately life-affirming, Best Kept Secret is more than just the story of Cadence—it’s a story of how the secrets we hold closest are the ones that can most tear us apart.


First, can you please tell us about your inspiration for this book?
I began writing the story as a direct result of my own emotional experiences around being a mother and a recovering alcoholic. While the characters and plot are fiction, Cadence’s emotional turmoil during her descent into addiction and her journey back to sobriety are largely based on what I went through. As I worked on the emotional side of getting sober, it became clear to me that there is a special, intense kind of shame that accompanies being a woman who was drunk in front of her children. It’s that shame which forces so many of us to keep our addiction secret, for fear of what might happen if we tell someone the truth. We’re terrified of the stigma and possible consequences, but keeping this secret can have devastating – even deadly – results.
I know that this was a very personal topic for you to writing about what challenges did you face while writing this book?
I think the most challenging aspect of the story was developing Cadence as an empathetic character, a woman who at her core, loves her child more than anything else, and yet slowly descends into the grips of this horrifying addiction. It was important for me to show her vulnerabilities, and for the reader to hopefully understand that her drinking was simply a behavior she used to soothe deeper inner turmoil, the same way a woman with an eating disorder uses food (either controlling or bingeing on it) to manage her emotional strife. She didn’t understand how easily she’d develop a physical tolerance to alcohol, and how emotionally dependent she’d become on the temporary “escape” alcohol gave her from her pain.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t want to absolve her of anything – she is accountable for her behavior – but I also I believe that there is a tendency in our culture to look at mothers who struggle with addiction with enormous judgment and disdain. I think it’s easy to see a woman like Cadence and be adamant that we would never be like her. So the other difficult task I faced was trying to show the reader that in many ways they are like Cadence, even if they never pick up a drink. So many women struggle with feelings of shame and inadequacy, and while we all cope with them in different ways, I wanted Cadence to embody our society’s typically accomplished, professional woman, trying to be and have it “all” in her life. I wanted to show what happens to her when she is blindsided by something she can’t fix or figure out on her own, and how difficult it is to ask for help when she was conditioned to be totally self-reliant. People wonder how a soccer mom ends up drunk, driving the wrong way on the freeway and kills herself and/or others, could have kept her problem hidden. BEST KEPT SECRET is my attempt to give them an honest answer.
Is there anything that was edited out that you felt very strongly about?
Thankfully, I have an amazing working relationship with my editor and we agreed on what the book needed from the start. If anything, with her exceptional insight, the book is more complete.
So there are many women out there facing this challenge every day – What would you say to them?
I’m not a big one for giving advice, especially to someone who is struggling with drinking, but I can say that once I opened my mind to the idea that I didn’t have to figure out the issue on my own, my life began to get infinitely better. The most important thing I would say is that they are not alone.
Who is your favorite character in the book? 
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but that’s like asking a mother to choose a favorite child! I love different characters for different reasons: Charlie, because he loves his mother so fiercely and without judgment. Jess, because she is such a support in Cadence’s life. Andi and Nadine, because they both gently call Cadence on her crap. And Cadence herself, because I know the kind of pain she suffered, and I know what it took for her to find her way back to a better life.
Who was the hardest for you to write?
Cadence, no doubt. While we share emotional similarities, it was important for me to maintain distance from her, but also climb inside her thoughts and feelings enough to flesh her out as a believable, empathetic character. Finding that balance was challenging, but in the end, I feel like I managed to pull it off.
What is one topic that you would love to write about but never have?
Hmm. That’s an interesting question! I’m not sure I know. My ideas tend to come to me after I’ve finished a project, so I rarely am thinking ahead to what I’ll write next. I find that it’s more effective for me to stay in the moment and focused on the task at hand, otherwise, I’m easily distracted!
Now some quick questions:
Coke or Pepsi? – Neither. I don’t drink soda!
Iced Tea or Lemonaide? – Iced Tea. No sugar, lots of lemon.
Black or White? – Black. I’m far from a fashionista, so it’s my go-to color. Slimming, and easy to match!
Day or Night? – Day. Definitely a morning person.
Beach or Pool? – Beach!!!
Summer or Winter? – Summer, in Seattle, though please, where it doesn’t get too hot!
Card or Flowers? – Flowers AND card. With a personal note.
Lake or Ocean? – Ocean, always. Something about it just soothes my soul.
Thank you so much Amy for taking the time to be interviewed.  Your honesty bring more to this book and it’s story.

My Thoughts:

This was by far the most honest and heart -breaking stories I have ever read.  It made me take a really hard look and how something so simple can turn into something huge without even realizing it was happening.  A glass of wine for Cadence turned into a devastating problem, one that she was aware of, but could not save herself from.  The consequent issues that she is faced with are a mother’s worst nightmare.  Especially as she looks back and sees the danger she had put her son in and what she exposed him to along the way.  It was a book that I could not put down even through my tears and feeling expossed because I could put myself in these shoes and it was painful.  I think that Amy Hatvany took on one of the toughest subjects out there and made a piece of art out of it.  It is so personal and at the same time feels like a warning to be careful with the decisions you are making.  All I can say again and again is that this is a powerful story and one that I think every woman should read.  

My Rating:

5 Penguins –  This is an amazing yet heart wrenching story that comes very highly recommended!
* I was provided a copy of this book from Amy’s publicist for review. This did not affect my review and opinions of this book.

Review and Author Interview: Skinny by Diana Spechler

Skinny: A Novel (P.S.)

Skinny by Diana Spechler

Product Details

  • Pub. Date: April 2011
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Format: Paperback , 368pp
  • Sales Rank: 222,623


After her father’s death, twenty-six-year-old Gray Lachmann finds herself compulsively eating. Desperate to stop bingeing, she abandons her life in New York City for a job at a southern weight-loss camp. There, caught among the warring egos of her devious co-counselor, Sheena; the self-aggrandizing camp director, Lewis; his attractive assistant, Bennett; and a throng of combative teenage campers, she is confronted by a captivating mystery: her teenage half-sister, Eden, whom Gray never knew existed. Now, while unraveling her father’s lies, Gray must tackle her own self-deceptions and take control of her body and her life.
Visceral, poignant, and often wickedly funny, Skinny illuminates a young woman’s struggle to make sense of the link between hunger and emotion, and to make peace with her demons, her body, and herself.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book.  I picked it up and to be completely honest did not want to put it down. I could completely relate the Gray – eating issues seems to be running crazy in our society and I for one have been affected.  This book take a very bold stand and the connections between food and pain both emotional and physical.  It is a very hard topic to write well and Diana Spechler  does an outstanding job of putting into words what some many women and teens face day in and day out.  I really enjoyed that the way that this was done was not necessarily through traditional relationships but partly through Grey giving up her entire life in New York City to be a counselor at a “fat camp” after she thinks that she finds out her father had another daughter after he dies suddenly.  She leaves behind a boyfriend but quickly falls for another guy at camp.  She also had some trouble with a wicked girl at camp.  It never ceases to amaze me how twisted a character can be in a book and bring me right back to times in my history that I would rather forget.  I loved the different characters in this book.  They all had their own challenges.  It made the book very well rounded.  The end was a bit abrupt for me, mostly due to the fact that I wanted more.  I wanted to see where things were going to go.  

My Rating

For sure this book rates 5 stars for me.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has faced food challenges or emotional eating.

And now I have a special treat for everyone.  I was very excited with Diana agreed to do an interview!  Let’s see what she has to say:

Where did the ideas of Skinny come from?
Everyone I know, present company not excluded, struggles with body image issues and/or with food. We all think we’re too fat or too thin, too flat-chested or too hairy or too hook-nosed. We eat too much or we eat the wrong things or we don’t eat enough or we beat ourselves up over what we eat. The energy we expend fixing, hiding, and hating our “flaws” fascinates and depresses me. At the risk of sounding simplistic, we’re doing it for love; we think people will love us more if we’re perfect, and love us less if we’re imperfect. The insular world of weight-loss camp struck me as a good place to explore body image in all its societal, psychological, and political glory.
Describe for us Skinny in just 3 words.
Loss. Hunger. Love.
Which character was the hardest for you to write?
My protagonist’s boyfriend, Mikey, is a stand-up comic. He was tough to write because I worried that I wasn’t making him funny enough. It’s not easy to write a character who’s funnier than you.
Which character was the easiest to write?
My protagonist, Gray, came to me the most naturally because she’s more like me than any of the other characters in the book. With that said, to varying degrees, I’m part of every character I’ve ever written.
Was there anything edited out that you really wanted in the book?
No. My editor, Jeanette Perez, is a dream editor. She’s not heavy-handed. She never says, “Change this! Cut this!” Instead, she’ll say, “This part isn’t working. What do you think?” And ten times out of ten, I’ll agree with her. Then, together, we’ll discuss ways to fix the problem. She gives me a lot of creative freedom, but she also consistently makes my work so much better.
Is there anything you want to say to the young girls out there struggling with these issues?
Talk about it. Tell your mom, your best friend, your therapist. Don’t hide. Don’t feel ashamed. You’re not alone.
Also: Enjoy this brief period of life when you can come home from school, stick a frozen pizza in the microwave, polish it off, go out for ice cream with your friends every day, and not gain an ounce. All of us on the other side of twenty-two are jealous.
Did you always know you would be an author?
Yes. It was the only thing I ever wanted. When I was seven years old, I wrote a twenty-four-page story with a pencil and had my mother type it for me. My elementary school literary journal published it: Shana and The Magic Quilt. Because the title is abstract, I’ll tell you what it was about: a girl named Shana with a magic quilt.
What is more challenging for you, writing or editing?
The initial writing process is a struggle because inevitably, my self-doubt creeps in: “This sucks! You suck!” (My self-doubt has a limited vocabulary.) Sometimes my self-doubt doesn’t so much creep as barge in, knocking me over the head with a baseball bat. Then I can’t write at all. So I try to get through a first draft as quickly as possible. Once I have a first draft, I can breathe, and then start moving the blocks around, playing with the sentences, teasing the themes out, and bringing the characters more fully to life. That’s the fun part.
Tell us how you got published.
Here’s the Reader’s Digest version: My first novel, WHO BY FIRE, started as a short story I wrote when I was a twenty-three-year-old graduate student. When I finished school, I started developing the story into a novel. A couple of years later, one of my best friends, the unfairly talented author and all-around fabulous human being, Cristina Henriquez, read a draft and told me that she thought her agent, Kate Lee, would like it. She was correct, and within a year, Kate began approaching the publishing houses with my manuscript. Sounds brilliant so far, right?
Except that that the thing didn’t sell. I got rejection letter after rejection letter. Many editors were kind. Some even gave useful feedback. One was alarmingly angry, as if by just writing the book, I had inflicted undue harm on her. I cried and drank vodka and contemplated the futility of life. Then I got back to work.
After a year of revising, my magical agent sold WHO BY FIRE to Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins. I was twenty-eight years old. When I got the call, I was at a kickboxing class at my gym, fighting an imaginary villain. I ran outside the gym and cried tears of shock and joy and jumped up and down in my sports bra. I’ll never forget what Kate said: “Stop crying. I have to read you the offer letter.”
What do you need to write?  Specific foods or drinks?
Tea. Water. Gotta stay hydrated.
And some fun quick questions
Dog or Cat?
I love big dogs with trashy reputations. I had a Rottweiler when I was a teenager. Now my parents have a pit bull.
Coke or Pepsi?
I stay away from that stuff these days, but I used to be semi-addicted to Diet Coke.
Almond Joy or Mounds?
Almond Joy. I love nuts. Does that sound slutty?
Laptop or desktop?
I work on a laptop, but I dream of one day having an ergonomically responsible desktop computer with a gorgeous, eye-soothing, flat-screen monitor. And a massage therapist to stand behind me, working on my knots and occasionally telling me that I don’t suck at all, that my work is pure genius, that I should really stop working so hard and enjoy a few Oreos.
Summer or Winter?
Summer! I love flip-flops.
Music or TV?
I haven’t owned a television with channels since childhood. What have I missed?
Black or White?
I wear a lot of black, not because I’m morbid or even particularly fond of black; I just don’t trust my fashion sense enough to branch out.