Monday, July 20, 2020

Look What's Out Now- Interview with DK Marie on Latest Book Taste of Passion

Today, Taste of Passion is available to buy! You can find it here. 

1.      Taste of Passion is book 3 in your Opposites Attract series. Can you tell readers a little bit about the first two books? 

Each book in the series can be read as a stand-alone. The main characters are different in each one but are all friends or family. For example, in the first book, Fairy Tale Lies, main characters, Greta and Jacob, are the siblings of Cindy and Will from Taste of Passion. Tanner, from the second book, Love Songs, is good friends with Jacob and Will.

FAIRY TALE LIES: Greta, a high-society princess, meets working-class man, Jacob. He has the heart of a prince but doesn't fit into her world, and he has no interest in conforming. They don't belong in the other's story but discover they might be each other's happily-ever-after. 

LOVE SONGS: Tanner turned his back on music years ago, but when he joins a band temporarily to help a friend, his heart and body sings for Maggie, the sexy lead musician of ThreePence. They'll have to adjust their dreams or become another sad love song.


2.      How does Taste of Passion continue the series?

As mentioned above, the stories are separate but entwined. In the first book, Fairy Tale Lies, you meet Cindy and Will (as secondary characters to Greta and Jacob). Cindy is Greta’s sister, who believes Jacob is beneath dating. Someone to mess around with but not bring home to meet the parents. Will is Jacob’s troubled older brother. During Fairy Tale Lies, he was living with his brother as he got his life in order after nearly destroying it with drugs and partying. In Taste of Passion, Cindy and Will are the Maid of Honor and Best Man in their sibling’s wedding. They are in charge of planning a wedding weekend party. At first, they can’t stand each other, but deep-down enjoy sparring and trading insults. In this book, the reader follows the journey of them finding a way to let go of their past to have a future together while visiting with characters from the first two books. 


3. What character was the most fun to write for Taste of Passion?

Witnessing Will, in the background of the other books, overcoming his demons made me fall for him. However, Cindy was delightful to write. She has a wicked sense of humor that had me laughing and wanting to high-five her. She also brought out Will’s playful side, which was an extra treat.


4. What is a major theme in this book and how is it developed?

Letting go of the past to embrace the future.

The theme was developed quietly in the first book's background and given center stage in this one. In Taste of Passion, readers will experience firsthand, Will and Cindy struggling with how they view themselves and how their choices affect them in the present.

5. For fans of your first two books, what growth or changes in the characters can they expect to see?

In the previous stories, Cindy comes across as fun, but shallow. In this book, you’ll understand this is a defense to keep from getting too close, fearing she is unlovable.

With the first two books, readers saw Will rebuilding his life, in Taste of Passion, they see the internal damage he struggles with and how it shapes his choices and view of himself.


6. Was there anything particularly difficult to write when working on Taste of Passion? If so, how did you overcome it?

The psychological damage caused by Will’s past drug use was heartbreaking to write. I’ve never dealt with addiction, but have people close to me who have battled those demons. It is a long, difficult road that leaves wounds of guilt, fear, and pain (alongside triumph and strength of fighting something incredibly powerful).  For me, there was no “overcoming” it. I wanted to write his story. Drug/Alcohol abuse touches just about everyone (either as a user or loving someone who is grabbling with this disease). In most books, recovery and the lasting effects are glossed over. People seem to magically have the fortitude to stop using and move past it with ease, or the long-term effects are ignored. As if it all was something as simple as “manning-up.” I wanted a realistic story of this struggle and its fallout, so I wrote it, showing the gritty heartbreak, but hope and hard-won happiness.


7.  Do you plan on continuing the series? If so, what are some things fans can expect to see in upcoming books?

Yes! There is a fourth book in Opposites Attract due out sometime in early 2021. When reading Taste of Passion, pay attention to Harper and Lucas. 

Fans can expect the same steamy, heartfelt story that feel so real the characters could be their best friend or lover.


8. Do you have any other news to share with us?

An audiobook of Fairy Tale Lies is in the works and will hopefully be out soon!

Celebrating Vaughan's Divorcing Mr. Right Release

M.C. Vaughan's latest book Divorcing Mr. Right drops today! You can find the book here.

To help us celebrate the release, we interviewed Vaughan about the book. Here is that interview:

1. Divorcing Mr. Right is book 3 in your Charm City Hearts series. Can you tell readers a little bit about the first two books?

Sure thing! The first in the series, “The Reluctant Princess,” centers on Zara, a struggling artist. One of her side gigs is a painting faces at children’s birthday parties while wearing  popular cartoon princess costume to whom she bears a striking resemblance. It’s a good thing it pays well, because she doesn’t love kids. Imagine her surprise when she can’t take her eyes off the hot single dad who…what?...asks her out.

Next up, “Pictures of You,” centers on Grier, a socialite whose parents kick her out of their diamond-studded nest. Determined to land on her feet, she enlists the help of her recently-back-in-town childhood crush, Quint. They almost hooked up in high school…can they make a go of it as adults, despite the way he betrayed her in high school?


2. How does Divorcing Mr. Right continue the series?

Divorcing Mr. Right centers on Brooke Buras, who’s a free-spirited violinist. When the story begins, she’s in Las Vegas to help with her brother’s sort of-shotgun wedding. She meets a completely-off-limits man—her brother’s best friend, Luke. Things heat up between them, and she decides to cut loose. After all, she’ll never see him again.


It’s never that easy, is it?

3. What character was the most fun to write for Divorcing Mr. Right?

Honestly, they were all a blast to write, but Brooke is near and dear to my heart. She’s always ready to laugh and make light of ridiculous situations. She is a determined optimist, but suffers through bouts of Imposter Syndrome, and is confident hard work is the only thing that will settle her nerves (hmm…*taps chin and stares in mirror*…sounds familiar). Best of all, she isn’t ashamed of her romantic appetites. Sex is healthy, and fun, and is an amazing way to express your attraction to another person’s mind, body, and soul.


4. What is a major theme in this book and how is it developed?

The major theme in this book is how is that being in your twenties is really hard. Everyone expects you to have your ish together because you are supposedly an adult. Often it feels like your friends got some secret How to Life manual and are three steps ahead. Eventually, you need to give up comparing yourself to others and figure out how to carve your own path. But how do you run toward something without making your family and friends feel like you’re running away from them?


5. For fans of your first two books, what growth or changes in the characters can they expect to see?

The protagonists from the first two books, Zara and Grier, are settling into their relationships and careers. Things are going well for both of them—not fairytale well, because bills, but they are both content in love, friends, and work. Unintentionally, they are serving as examples of what Brooke could have—a happy, devoted relationship and a career on the rise.


6. Was there anything particularly difficult to write when working on Divorcing Mr. Right? If so, how did you overcome it?

Oof, YES. I overwrote this sucker by about thirty thousand words. World-building in Las Vegas, side scenes with secondary characters, and insider’s view of their jobs that, on second read, maybe eight people would care about. The characters were a joy, but the window dressing around them? Too much detail, even though I really enjoyed writing about those delightful tacos.


7.  Do you plan on continuing the series? If so, what are some things fans can expect to see in upcoming books?

Casting Her Crush, the fourth and final book will feature Melinda Cole, their fourth roommate. So, what’s up with Melinda?

At sixteen, she underwent life-saving heart surgery. Ever since, the hyper-efficient stage manager has no patience for wasting time. She devotes herself to what matters most—her friends, her parents, and her job. Once upon a time, her boyfriend had a spot on that list. Then he broke up with her out of nowhere. So now? She's diving deep into her work at Baltimore's cutting-edge theater company, with an eye on becoming a director by next season.

Max Cameron spent his teen years as the heartthrob star of the number one family sitcom in the U.S. But now, nine years after his wild child lifestyle forced the cancellation of the show, he'd be lucky to score a spot on bad reality television. ​​To reinvigorate his career, Max and his cameraman buddy have cooked up an idea they hope will turn viral. At the height of his popularity, he’d visited ​his number one fan as part of the Grant-a-Wish program​, and an experimental surgery gave her a shot at a full life.​ Dropping in on her today would be ratings gold.​

Melinda has zero idea why the star of her teenage fantasies has crashed her theater’s auditions for Antony and Cleopatra. Or why he’s bearing allergy-triggering flowers, a cameraman, and his trademark platinum smile. Before she can ask, the theater's producer claps his eyes on the Max Cameron and sees a stunt casting opportunity. Melinda argues that Max’s acting style is all wrong for the stage. The producer makes her a deal—if Melinda convinces Max to do the show and pulls Bard-worthy performance out of him, then the open director’s slot in next season’s lineup is hers. Challenge accepted, but she must keep her crush on lock. The worst thing she could do is fall for the leading man. No one would take her seriously again...


8. Do you have any other news to share with us?

All of my children passed their spring distance learning classes! And no one fainted or had a colossal tantrum! I’m treating all of that as win. My nearest and dearest are healthy (and a little bit bored), but that’s everything I need out of life right now.


9. Do you have a sample of your current work you could share with us?


Yes indeed! Here’s the first scene from Casting Her Crush


Melinda Cole bit the inside of her lips to keep from losing her ish. For the past hour, the play’s director, Karen, had stared at the mosaic of headshots taped to the rehearsal room’s wall. This was ridiculous. Reviewing tomorrow’s call sheet should have taken twenty minutes, max, and Melinda still had fifteen other production tasks to cross off her list. As Karen’s new stage manager, her whole job was to ensure a smooth production, start to finish.

Karen, however, made this nearly impossible.

“Are these really all the actors we’re expecting?” The director’s boho skirt flared as she spun toward Melinda.

“Yes. A dozen of the region’s up and coming actors, all right there.”

Karen parked her chin on her fist. “I don’t know.”

On a personal level, Melinda liked the older woman. She was smart, kind, and always ready to crack a joke. Professionally though, yikes. They were on opposite sides of the spectrum. Melinda fired off decisions, closing loops and picking up slack, whereas Karen referred to her dithering style as her “process.”

Melinda called it a vortex of inefficiency.

The hours that Karen’s process had siphoned away made Melinda want to scream. Or cry. Scry? Nope, that’s what the augurers do in Act IV, Scene XII. That kind of scrying would be welcome. Melinda would love to know if all of her professional compromise and diplomacy would land her the director’s slot for  next season’s winter show.

Eyes on the prize, Cole.

Melinda hugged her tablet device tight to her chest. Since she’d danced with death as a child and fought through a long, slow recovery, she’d developed a raging case of impatience. Unfortunately, spiky blood pressure was a no-go, so she employed meditative breathing techniques and took back a measure of control.

“While you’re thinking about final changes to the call sheet,” she said as she backed toward the door. “I’ll check with facilities about the boiler.”

Baltimore had recently shed the heat and humidity of summer, and the crisp October days were a welcome change. Full winter cold would come soon, though, and actors don’t emote well while shivering. If it were her theater, she would have prioritized the replacing the unreliable old clunker higher than the lobby renovation, but Donn Gallagher, the Charm City Players’ Executive Producer, thought an interior design facelift would be a bigger draw for an audience.

Karen stood to inspect the glossy pictures. “It’s just…none of them scream Mark Antony to me.”

Groan. Escape had been so close.

“They’re a good group.”

Were they her dream options? No, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. After her recently ex-boyfriend, Nathan, unexpectedly pulled out of the production, she and their freelance casting director had scrambled to scrape this list of actors together.

Irritation flared in her chest. Nathan. First he breaks up with her, then he quits the show, leaving not only her but the whole damn production in the lurch. Actors were the worst. Unreliable, needy, always the centers of their own stories, and often outright liars.

Case in point—Nathan’s agent had supplied a doctor’s note claiming he had mercury poisoning from eating too much sushi. Bullshit. Nathan hated sushi. Unless he’d been force-fed ahi, no way was this a legit excuse. Plus, the doctor who’d signed off on the note happened to be Nathan’s aunt. Double bullshit.

Much as his lies plucked her nerves, she wouldn’t call him out. Her life would be easier if she wasn’t forced to work with her ex. In fact, this recasting could be the best thing that had ever happened to her. She’d have the freedom to be one hundred percent professional, focused on the work, and not blur the lines with her personal life like she’d had to do every time she and Nathan had worked on a show together.

 “They’re all good, that’s true.” Karen twisted her ginger and silver hair into a bun. “But is good enough? Mark Antony needs to be charming, sexy, commanding. An alpha male willing to be dominated by lust and love. I’m thinking Tom Hardy, Idris Elba, Javier Bardem.”

Inwardly, Melinda sighed. The list was all settled, buttoned up, put to bed, and here came Karen, wanting the impossible.

“They’re unlikely to be available,” she said evenly.

“No kidding,” Karen said, cackling. “I mean I want that kind of…what do they call it? Big dick energy? Men with experience who are confident they can tackle any challenge. I mean, honestly. Do any of these people rev your engine?”

Well, no, but it had only been a minute since she and Nathan had broken up. She wasn’t in the right headspace for all that, and never again with a co-worker. Crushing on cast members was a doomed move.

“They’re all really handsome,” she said.

“So’s a Ken Doll. But we need every member of the audience to either want him, or want to be him.”

“Don’t pre-judge. Give them a chance to show you that during the auditions.”

“I will, but I’ve worked with most of them before.” Karen rocked on her heels with her hands clasped behind her back. “According to my recollection, none of them convey sex god.”

Melinda laughed. “Was Antony a sex god?”

“Obviously, to hook Cleopatra. She could’ve had anyone.”

“Anyone with power. Don’t forget what the dramaturge told us. Their relationship was as much about that as it was about sex. After Caesar was murdered, Cleopatra tried to secure power again through a relationship with a man who commanded a third of Rome’s armies.”

“True, true. But I still want Mark Antony to scream sex god.”

“Do any of them have a following?” asked a gravelly voice from behind them.

Melinda’s back stiffened.

“Jesus, Donn.” Karen slapped a hand to her chest. “Don’t sneak up on us.”

“Apologies. That wasn’t my intention.” The thin man with an even thinner mustache sidled up to the headshots. “If these gentlemen have a built-in following we can leverage, let’s factor that in the casting decision. It’s vital that this show is a success.”

As producer, Donn was primarily concerned with the marketability of the production. Theater was a business as much as a craft, and they couldn’t afford for the show to play to half-empty houses. Not if she wanted to direct here in the future.

“Some of them have a bit of a following.” Melinda pointed toward a photo of a sweet-eyed actor with a jaw that could cut glass. “James Jacinto played Horatio in Stratford’s Hamlet, and Dalonte Anderson starred in The Shakespeare Theater’s production of Othello last year.”

Before she could offer recent career highlights for the rest of the men, Donn cut her off. “Impressive, but will that sell tickets?”

Karen crossed her arms over her chest. “Aren’t ticket sales your job, Donn?”

“Yes, but you could make it easier.”

“Are you kidding?” Karen leaned into his space. “Per your request, I set it in twenty-first century Silicon Valley because that would allow us to sex up the costumes, do product placement, and make it more accessible to audiences.”

Melinda pursed her lips. She’d argued with Karen and Donn about the time period, but had lost out. Still, the cognitive dissonance of Mark Antony running around in a hoodie or a three-piece suit and Cleopatra in a Vera Wang ball gown cramped her brain.

The past should stay in the past.

Donn smoothed his mustache. “This theater is in a precarious financial position due to the unexpected expenses uncovered by the lobby renovation. If this show doesn’t do well, we should be prepared for difficult conversations about the number of productions we stage next season. The winter show would be first on the chopping block.”

Melinda cringed. Cutting the winter show, typically the most experimental in the season, would mean losing her shot to stage a lighter, romance-centered production by a woman playwright whose work caught her eye two years ago in Edinburgh. She hungered for the chance to show Nathan that he’d been wrong. During their break-up, he’d had the audacity to claim her career had stagnated while his was on fire. They were in different tracks, though, and she had to climb the rungs one at a time behind the scenes.

Donn scanned the pictures, and pointed to one. “Just pick this fellow. He’s the most handsome man. Pretty people on the posters always sells more tickets.”

“Ah, one of your guiding principles,” Karen said.

The rehearsal room door creaked open. The new assistant stage manager, Imani, peeked through the crack.

“Um, Melinda?” she said. “There’s a…situation?”

Oof, she’d have to work with Imani on her assertiveness. The most effective stage managers were clear and firm in their instructions and requests. They didn’t phrase every statement like a question.

“An actor is here to see you?”

“He must be confused. Tell him we haven’t called to confirm audition times yet.”

“I did, but um…” Imani shifted her weight. “He said he’s not here to audition, and that he wants to talk to you?”

Jesus, what if it was Nathan? He’d texted her an apology for dropping out of the show, but she hadn’t responded. If he was here and looked healthy, Donn might be tempted to sue him for breach. As much as her ex-boyfriend might deserve a lawsuit, she didn’t want him to be ruined financially.

“I’ll talk to him.” She marched toward the door.

Imani twined her arms together. “So, one other detail? You should probably know that it’s Max Cameron.”

Melinda stumbled, but caught herself on the chair. Apparently, she also needed to coach Imani on not burying the lede. Max Cameron? This made no sense. She hadn’t seen her teenaged celebrity crush in nine years, and he had zero business here.

Dollar signs practically danced in Donn’s eyes. “The television star?”

Former television star,” Karen said. “Since his fall from grace, he hasn’t worked much. The more interesting question is, how do you know him, Melinda?”

For a reason she would never share with work colleagues.

“I don’t,” Melinda said. Not really. Before turning back to her bosses, she schooled her features. “Sorry for the interruption. I don’t know what this is about, but I’ll deal with it and be right back.”

This had to be an elaborate joke, but why? And by whom? Her little sister was a dedicated prankster. As a recent college graduate she didn’t have money to waste on impersonators, but maybe she’d called in a favor to celebrate the anniversary of Melinda’s surgery.

“Be right back? Are you kidding?” Karen asked. “I’m coming with you. I want to meet Max Cameron. I’m old enough to be his mother but I thought he was absolutely adorable.”

Hadn’t everyone in America?

“You’ll be disappointed.” An audience was the last thing Melinda wanted, but Karen, Imani, and Donn stuck to her like gaffer’s tape as she marched down the hall. “That can’t be the real Max Cameron standing out there. If he is I’ll do shots with you on opening night.”

“You’ll finally do shots with me?” Karen said.

If he’s out there, but Karen, I’m telling you,” she said as they rounded the corner. “Max Cameron is not…”

Melinda stopped short. There, in his Hollywood heartthrob glory, stood the star of her teenaged dreams. She’d know him anywhere.

“Max Cameron’s not what?” he asked.


10. Do you have anything you want to share with the readers?


Just that I am so appreciative of your time! Ooh! Wait—one more thing. Pro-tip… You know the little gas pump icon on your dashboard’s gas gauge? There’s a little arrow that will tell you on which side of the car your gas tank lives. There. Now I have shared all of my wisdom with you.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

This Week's Throwback Thursday: A Taste of Evil


CBG's first Throwback Thursday book comes to you from our lovely owner, Cassie Knight. 

"This was one of the first books I edited for Champagne Book Group back in 2012. I love this book. It was released June 2012. It holds a fond place in my heart because of the story and author. Julia, the protagonist, is a ghost essentially working on finding out who killed her. As a ghost. She's interesting and there's something very poignant about her that I liked. The author is a complete delight to work with, and she had me hooked with how she wove the story, mixing the paranormal with the mystery and suspense. Working on this one, and some others, really set me on a path to where I am today--the owner of Champagne Book Group. Yes, this is a business but the authors and their stories are so important. I love bringing their terrific stories to readers."

Want to know more? Check out the book at CBG's bookstore here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

This Week's Editor's Pick: Girls Who Wear Glasses by Jennifer Inglis

This week's editor pick comes to us from Jodi Christensen

Girls Who Wear Glasses by Jennifer Inglis. You can buy the book here.

Here is what Jodi had to say about it:

Plus-size, awkward and bookish, Rachel has lived by the adage; Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses. Until they do. When she meets a handsome guy with mismatched socks in a coffee shop, everything changes. Now she has to decide if she’s willing to take a chance on being herself with no apologies, if she’s willing to stand-up for the job, the man, and the life she’s dreamed of.

Anyone with a sense of never quite fitting in will relate to this story. This journey of self-discovery is chock full of laughter, awkward moments, self-depreciating humor, and quick wit. Rachel is possibly one of the most relatable and honest characters I’ve come across. Pretty much everyone knows a Rachel, which ups the appeal by a mile.

There are many moments of self- acceptance that happen in her own mind, but nothing, and I mean nothing, beats the moment when Rachel publicly accepts who she is.

Honestly, at least once in every scene I found myself thinking how relatable Rachel was. Her struggles with real life issues of self-acceptance, self-esteem and self-love hit close to home for people everywhere. I truly wanted to stand up and cheer for her so many times. Kudos to Jennifer for creating such a wonderful character!

Jodi Christensen is a new editor with the CBG family. When she's not editing or writing she's building her own bookcases and exploring cemeteries and ghost towns. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

An Interview with Alex Kiefer from K.M. Tolan’s Knight of the Open Road

Author K.M. Tolan was gracious enough to give us an inside look at Alex Kiefer, his protagonist for his latest book Knight of the Open Road before he becomes a knight. Here’s what Alex had to say: 

Where are you from?

Near New Marshfield, Ohio.


What do you like about your home?

Not a whole hell of a lot, but at least folks won’t be bothering me out there now.


What do you dislike about your home?

Too damn many memories of Dad being a nutcase and all that railroad junk out there.


Where do you go for refuge?

Went in the Army but that didn’t work. Guess I’ll just hit the road once I sell this farm the parents left me.


What is it refuge from?

Dad talking crazy about some place called Hobohemia. Building a steam locomotive in the barn. That sort of thing.


What do you do to relax?

Just walk around the backwoods. Beer here and there.


What motivates you?

Doing something that counts. Makes a real difference. Precious little of that going around these days.


What’s your life’s dream?

(laughs) Not feeling like shit every time I think of my folks. Maybe finding out who killed them.


What would you do to make your dreams come true?

Put a bullet in whoever took my parents out.


What would it look like if you didn’t get that dream?

You mean like this? Hopping from one suck job to another and feeling useless?


What stands in your way of happiness right now?

Probably me. Hell, I don’t know what I’m doing other than living from day to day. Crap past and shit future.


If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?

Go back and somehow make up with Dad and Mom.


What do you look for in a life partner?

Someone smarter than me.


Is there anyone you can trust?

Trusted my squad in the Army. Maybe Frank, Dad’s friend, though he’s crazy as a coot too about railroads.

What’s your life motto/philosophy, summed up in a sentence?

Rangers had this motto. Of their own accord. Means you keep going forward knowing damn well you’re stepping in some shit.


Lastly, are you happy with the person you are today? If not, in what ways would you like to change?

Hell, I’m not happy. Kind of obvious, right? I want to know who killed my parents. I want some pride back. More than that, I want to do something that means something. Thought it was the Army, but then so did a lot of people who ended up on the wrong end of that stick.