Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Featured Author: Marie Lavander

Bestselling multi-genre author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 21 other books. Mystery Blogger Award for 2017. A to Z Blog Challenge Survivor in 2016. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title - winner of the "Broken Heart" themed contest and the "I Love You" themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers' Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers' Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. 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 AuthorsDB.com. Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five 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, science fiction, mystery/thriller, dramatic fiction, literary fiction and poetry. She has also contributed to several multi-author anthologies. Her current series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Magick Series, The Blood at First Sight Series and The Code of Endhivar Series. 

--- INTERVIEW --- 

1. Tell us about yourself.

Well, I’m a girl from the Midwest. I come from a pretty small town in Indiana. My family has always been very close. I’m into shopping, reading, creative projects (I design my own book covers sometimes, and whatever else strikes my fancy), and, of course, immersing myself in my characters’ worlds. I don’t mind the occasional night out, but I’m just as comfortable experimenting with a new recipe at home and cuddling with my fiancé while we watch a good movie. As I’m not sure if you mean my favorite book by any author, or one of mine instead, I’ll just say that my favorite book now is still Dark Lover by J.R. Ward. Though I’m current on the series, I have a soft spot for that book. Wrath is a total hottie, and I love the Black Dagger Brotherhood!

2. Could you share your experiences as a writer? 

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was nine years old. I feel like I’ve been writing stories all my life. In 2010, I got into the self-publishing craze, and in 2012, I received my first book contract from a publisher. I’ve been with Solstice Publishing ever since. Now and then, I still release books on my own, though. I’ve published in historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, dramatic fiction, literary fiction and poetry, but I have works in progress in so many other genres and subgenres (dystopian and time travel, to name a couple).

3. Do you have a favorite place where you write your books?

I usually write in a journal or simple one-subject notebook while in bed right before I fall asleep. But sometimes I’ll write in the living room, dining room or some place outside. I’ve also written at cafés in the past. One day, I plan to have an official writing room in my house, just like Virginia Woolf insisted a woman should have.

4. How do you handle negative reviews?

If there’s decent feedback, then I’ll go back into the story and check the details mentioned to see if I can learn anything from the comments. However, if the individual is being negative just for the sake of being mean, I try to brush it off and move on. It’s just better all-around to stay professional about the whole thing.

5. Can you tell us more about Directions of the Heart?

Sure! Directions of the Heart is a collection of tales with heartwarming moments and others that just as easily make you cringe or cry. It’s not to be taken lightly, but all my early readers loved the book. DoH, as I affectionately term it, is a journey of drama, romance and passion, as the characters encounter loss, growth, redemption and healing. Though I love them all dearly, the excerpt I’ve provided is from one of my favorite stories in the collection. The novella is titled “A Touch of Dawn”.

6. Aside from this, are you working on other books right now?

Yes, I am editing a futuristic paranormal romance/urban fantasy, which is also book two of the Blood at First Sight Series.

7. How long did you write Directions of the Heart?

I wrote all four novellas years ago, but it’s been six months since I went back and fully revised the tales in preparation for this book.

8. Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

Definitely! I think it’s half the battle. I always try to pick the best cover that honors the story and the characters, at least if I have any say in the matter.

9. Are you planning to shift genre in the future?

I don’t think that’s an issue right now. I consider myself a multi-genre author; that keeps my mind open to new ideas and experiences. I don’t like boxing myself in. Plus, the stories continue to flow in various directions. A while back, I surprised myself by writing a horror scene. So, I try to not to dictate that I am in one specific genre these days.

10. Any message to your readers?

You can find a full list of books on the ‘My Books’ page of my author website. I run three blogs; Writing in the Modern Age, the I Love Romance Blog, and Marie Lavender’s Books!. The best places to track me on social media are probably on Google+, Twitter and my Facebook profile or my official author page on Facebook. I also have a YouTube channel that you can follow. Additionally, you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter for periodic updates.
Embark on a remarkable journey of drama, romance and passion…

In all of these amazing stories, there’s one burning question…is love worth the risk?

Without You

Reece and Jenna are two childhood friends separated by time and distance. Can they find a way to heal their bond, or perhaps forge a new one?

Strange Heat

Spurred by her friend’s close call, Victoria decides to take a risk and prove the lifestyle she led was her downfall. But as Tory sinks deeper into the tumultuous abyss of desire with the mysterious Rick, can she climb back out before it’s too late? Or does she even want to?


Struggling to run her family’s farm on her own, Sadie takes on a hired hand, Matt. As they grow closer, so does the danger. Someone wants her legacy. Can they combat this new threat, as well as the demons of the past, before Sadie loses everything, including her life?

A Touch of Dawn

Caitlyn thought she’d be in the dark forever. But with the light came Jack, the police consultant who found her. Can they take a journey of healing together, or will Caitlyn retreat into the darkness of her mind, where she lived for so long?

(CONTENT WARNING: With an abuse awareness theme in this collection, there may be triggers here for past trauma sufferers. However, HEAs are guaranteed.)

Excerpt from Directions of the Heart

At the behest of a soft tone, his spine straightened. Recognizing the voice right away, he turned off the burner and spun away from the half-seared scrambled eggs. “Everything all right, Caitlyn?”

“Jack?” she repeated the pained plea, and his stomach clenched.

“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?”

“I…I don’t know. I need to talk to you. Can you come?”

“You got it. I’ll be at your house in a few minutes. You hang on.”

“I’ll try,” she managed and it broke his heart. He hung up, grabbed a fitness shake from the fridge, threw on a pair of shoes and was out the door. He went for a run every morning in his neighborhood so he knew how to be fast.

He wasn’t kidding. He didn’t live far away from her either. Since his clients were always traumatized, it was useful to be on call. And to be prepared for any situation. Anything. Slit wrists, hangings, panic attacks, nervous breakdowns. The list went on. And he could get a psychiatrist pal on the phone at the touch of a button if admission or medications were necessary. It also helped to have an excellent memory; he could dictate all his notes to his recorder after any session.

But, nothing…nothing had ever scared him like her soft plea. It was hard to admit the woman had gotten to him, but she had. And he wasn’t going to lose her.

When he pulled the car up, he shut it off as quickly as possible, shoved the keys in his pocket then scrambled from the vehicle. Jogging up the walk, he pounded on the door.

Caitlyn’s mom appeared with a worried look. “Mr. Thomas?”



He pushed past her, casting pleasantries aside. “How is she?” he demanded as he turned to face her.

Mrs. Johnson wrung her hands. “I don’t know. I’m not sure what’s wrong. She…” She shook her head.

“Where’s Caitlyn?”

The woman pointed the way. 

Jack followed a corridor to a small bedroom. Pink walls, pink spread. Caitlyn had thrown a red blanket over the window to block out the light. He saw a huddled form beneath the bedspread, reached out and threw back the fabric. 

He sat down to get a look at her. Caitlyn rocked, wet tracks down her face. She must’ve been crying. Her eyes were shut tight and her hair was wild. She wore a pair of lavender sweats, and was pretty much unresponsive to his touch. He checked for marks on her arms and wrists, but found nothing. So she hadn’t tried to hurt herself.

He suspected what was happening, but could only try to pull her from the nightmare. It was too easy for someone who had been traumatized like she had to revert to a catatonic state and he wished that hell on no one.

“Caitlyn? Caitlyn, it’s Jack. Jack Thomas, remember?”

No response.

A small sound came behind him, and he glanced back to see her mother cover her mouth. It didn’t matter right now. It couldn’t.

“Come on. Come back to me. Caitlyn, can you hear me? It’s going to be okay. I’ll help you get through this,” he vowed, and almost choked on the words. He pushed through the panicked flutter in his chest, gathering her into his arms.

“Caitlyn, I won’t let them hurt you anymore, okay? No one will. It’s just you and me. You. And me. I’m going to take care of you, I swear,” he said with his lips pressed to her temple. “Come back to me, sweetheart. Come on.”

He tried once more, unaware what words spilled out of him. Desperation alone drove his actions. As he cradled her to his chest, a fruity scent drifted into his nostrils. Strawberries, he thought. He felt the strangest combination of rightness and deep concern. “The world needs you, darling. Don’t hide away. Come back to us. Please.”

After a few moments, a shudder went through her and a small voice whispered, “Jack?”

“That’s right. I’m here, honey.”

Tears filmed her eyes. “I, I was back there again. In the cellar.”

“Shh…I know. I’m so sorry. But you’re here now. You’re safe in this house, and with me. You just go ahead and cry it out, hmm? Then you can sleep.”

She sobbed hard as he held her tight. Soon, she quieted to the occasional sigh and he pulled back to look at her. Her face was flushed and wet from her tears. He caressed her cheek. “How ya doing?”

She shook her head.

“All right. That’s fine. It’s a hard road, but I know you can do it. I’ll help you.”

“You really mean it,” she whispered, her tone incredulous.

He nodded. “Yeah, I do.”


Her skin was so soft beneath his hand and he had to stop himself from stroking further. “How are you sleeping?”

She didn’t answer.

“That’s what I thought.” He looked at her mother. “Mrs. Johnson? Could you get her sleeping pills?”

The woman slipped out of the room.

“What about your antibiotic? The pain medicine? Have you been taking those?”

“Yes. They make me a little nauseous.”

“Sorry to hear that, sweetie, but they are necessary. And if you do use the sleeping pills, don’t try to drive, okay?” She murmured an agreement.

When her mother returned with the pill bottle and some water, Jack measured out a tablet, then watched as Caitlyn took it, eyeing her throat. “Good, that’s good. I’ll stay till you get to sleep, but we need to talk this out soon. All right?”

She nodded.

Satisfied, he held her against his shoulder, the minutes passing, until she went limp and her breaths evened out. It shook him that he could’ve held her forever, and he wouldn’t have had a problem with it. He checked her eyelids to be sure she slept before he covered her up with the bed’s blanket and spread, and cleared out of the room.

Mrs. Johnson followed him. “What was that? What’s going on?”

“Your daughter almost went into a catatonic state. What happened was too traumatic for her.”

She sat down on the sofa abruptly as if she’d lost the strength to stand. “But…I assumed I could handle her. I thought she would be okay.”

“This is more than anyone can handle alone. And she won’t be all right for some time.”
She frowned. “Then she needs a professional.”

“You want a therapist? Fine. I can do that—”

She stood up. “You? But, why?”

“I have the credentials. I told you before.”

“I don’t have the money. This isn’t necessary—”

“I’m not asking for money,” he cut across her complaints. “Do you realize what just happened in there? She trusts me. It’s good for Caitlyn to have someone to rely on right now, and she trusts me. She needs an anchor. Do you get that?”

She nodded slowly, and then frowned. “I don’t understand her. She’s despondent. She won’t even look at me or talk to me. I hear her cry at night, but she clams up when I’m around. She won’t let me touch her at all. What made her like this? Was she abused? I haven’t seen any obvious bruises on her. Of course, they might have been hidden by her clothing. I…I just thought she’d want to be home after being gone so long.”

He sighed, sweeping a hand through his hair. “Mrs. Johnson, do you know what happened to your daughter?”

“Of course I do. She was kidnapped, held for a while. And when they said there was no ransom demand, it made no sense why she was even taken.”

“No. Do you know what really happened to her?”

She got quiet. “I…wasn’t told. And she won’t say anything.”

His tone dropped low, stark, but he couldn’t have prevented himself from expressing it if he’d tried. “It’s a living nightmare, not knowing if you’ll die from physical abuse or neglect from one minute to the next. Do you know where they kept her? In a dark cellar, locked up, caged for their pleasure. That’s why she couldn’t stand the light and is still sensitive to it. Three months in the dark, terrified, battered, half-starved and raped constantly. Can you imagine anything worse?” 
By the time he was done with his soliloquy, Caitlyn’s mother was weeping. Hard. He crossed the room and grasped her shoulders, but didn’t move to embrace her. He couldn’t offer much sympathy to the woman right now; it wasn’t in him. The past was closing in on him fast. The flash of a dark closet with only a rim of light at the bottom was all he could see for a moment, but he managed to shake it off. 

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