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Sara Tells us How

Woodhouse Hall Book Cover Woodhouse Hall
21st Century Austen Book 3
Sara Marks
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Illuminated Myth Publishing
Publication date: October 28th 2019

Woodhouse Hall
Sara Marks
Publication date: October 28th 2019
Genres: AdultContemporaryRomance


Amelia is stuck in the worst dorm on campus for a whole year!  She’ll have to make the best of it in Woodhouse Hall and her roommate Jenna will be her new best friend, Amelia’s sure of that.  Jenna’s sweet personality and openness to new things incite the matchmaking-genius in Amelia to find the perfect boyfriend for her new bestie. She shoots high by attempting to entice Eric, the President of the Student Government, to fall for her roommate. Amelia’s past success makes her confident they will be a couple in no time. When that turns out to be a disaster, she is forced to face the lies she’s told herself about her strengths and her assumptions about the people she loves. Over the year, Amelia learns who she is, what she wants, and how to fight for what’s really important.

This novel, inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma, will have you laughing, crying, and finding a little of yourself in one or all of the characters.

Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it? Why do you think it is different and your approach is unique?

I work at a university so I see a lot of college students through my days, weeks, months, and years. I get to know some of them and what they’re struggling with. The 21st Century Austen series are modernizations of Jane Austen books and she wrote about people in this same age group. Modernizing it means considering college students and how different they are from other adults and people the same age who don’t go to college.

Emma, the book that inspired Woodhouse Hall, is about a woman of immense privilege. She has the life she wants without having had to compromise like others around her. She sees herself as skilled at something she has merely been lucky to get right. It’s something common for all of us to understand and happens often in our early twenties. I want readers to see that mistakes and failures aren’t the end of the world but lessons that can help us make better decisions. 

How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? Do you have a set of notes or a note book where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time?

Woodhouse Hall happened very quickly. I write my first draft during National Novel Writing Month events. There are three a year: the big one in November and then two smaller ones in April and July. I was going to write a different project in July 2018 but this idea suddenly came to me and I was able to write the whole thing in a few months. I did the research as I wrote and edited, talking to college students around me. From start to release day it took less than a year and a half to work on this book.

I do have a lot of journals and notebooks where I collect my notes, outlines, research, and character details. Each book will take at least one notebook.

How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?

Research is my bread and butter. I’m a research librarian so I can get lost in the research process because I enjoy it so much. How much time depends on the topic. If I know a lot about it, I don’t spend too much time. The research for Woodhouse Hall required a little research about how buildings are added to the national register of historical buildings and talking to college students about life in dorms. It didn’t take long at all. Another book is going to take place in a candy shop, which I know nothing about. It’s going to take extensive research that will involve eating candy!

What resources do you use? In general and for the last book that you wrote

The resources depend on each book. For Woodhouse Hall I was easily able to find a lot of resources online. The government puts up a ton of information about getting a building listed on the historical register. I also looked up blueprints of dorms and costs so I made sure plot points happened accurately. I like going to places and talking to people as part of the research process. It helps me understand context of things that happen and I get great stories to include. I can also see how people interact with each other in a setting.

Do you have any pets? Do they help you write?

I have a cat and a dog. Neither are helpful when writing. Sabine, the cat, wants to be left alone. Cedric, the dog, wants to be the center of my attention. He likes to sit in my lap, making it difficult to work. I have to leave the house everyday if I want to get anything done. It’s probably why I can write and publish books the way I do. When I go out to write, I can focus and just check items off my to-do list.

Do you have an unusual hobby?

It’s not unusual but I’m also a knitter. Before I decided to start self-publishing, I was doing so much knitting that I was creating my own patterns and still sell them online. I still knit, especially when I’m not writing. I try to make sure I knit at least one item for every story I write. I have so much yarn I just shop in my own house when I’m ready to knit something else.

If you could choose to live in another country/town – which would you choose? And why?

I love Paris and my plan is to retire there in thirty years. My plan is to continue writing full time while I’m there. I love Paris and have since before my first visit ten years ago. I love the food and history. Anytime I can manage a way to insert Paris into what I’m writing, I do. Phi Alpha Pi has a major scene happen there but not Woodhouse Hall.

Do you people watch to find characters for your books? How do you do this? What is the funniest thing you have seen that you have incorporated into a book? Or do you add some traits from your family and friends into your characters?

I do and it often shocks my friends how much I’m paying attention to everything. I was in Boston with some friends, walking to a chocolate shop for a tour. Behind us was a couple who had clearly been on a few dates but not that comfortable with each other. I walked between our two groups, listening to both my friends and the couple. Later, over lunch, we were talking about the couple and they were shocked at how much I had over heard.

Sometimes these things make it into books but usually I watch to see how people talk and what these things show me about them, even if its assumptions people will make. I often think about what people think about me when they see me in cafe’s working. These things work their way in to everything I write.

The funniest thing that ended up in Latkes of Love, specifically, was when a friend and I had lunch in Salem, MA during the Women’s Soccer championships this past summer. There was a guy at the bar there and he was far more enthusiastic than anyone else in the bar. I wrote the entire thing into a disastrous date for a character. I don’t want to spoil it but it was magnificent.

About the Author

Sara Marks is a librarian with two masters degrees and plans to never stop getting over educated.   She likes the idea of having all the academic regalia she can ever possess. She cries at nearly every movie she sees (ask her about when she cried at a horror movie), but it’s full-on weeping for Disney animated movies. She loves reading nearly every genre but likes to write women’s fiction, romance, and even horror. You have to balance out the reality of the world if you’re going to be a hopeless romantic! Her heroines are women who don’t want the expected life, rarely worrying about their age, weight, marriageability, or fertility. 

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It gets White

Let it Snow Book Cover Let it Snow
Sue Moorcroft
romance, women's literature, family
Harper Collins

This Christmas, the villagers of Middledip are off on a very Swiss adventure…

Family means everything to Lily Cortez and her sister Zinnia, and growing up in their non-conventional family unit, they and their two mums couldn’t have been closer.

So it’s a bolt out of the blue when Lily finds her father wasn’t the anonymous one-night stand she’d always believed – and is in fact the result of her mum's reckless affair with a married man.

Confused, but determined to discover her true roots, Lily sets out to find the family she’s never known; an adventure that takes her from the frosted, thatched cottages of Middledip to the snow-capped mountains of Switzerland, via a memorable romantic encounter along the way…

Family sagas and then second chance love collide in this feel good novel that sorts out a tangled set of relationships.

I liked that the parents were a same sex couple and that not only had they had a very long life together, but that they had weathered some tricky issues with both women wanting babies at the same time, and subsequent, and later, affairs.

The book showed the difficulties that children of same sex couples can have at school, but that they can also grow up to be ‘normal’ and well balanced adults. Demonstrating that the lack of a male figure in their family was no deterrent to a happy childhood and future careers etc.

The novel was well rounded and the style was coherent and well written. The storyline took us to pubs and Switzerland and singing and included a lively dog for those readers who need a family pet to be included. There was enough drama and misunderstandings to allow for the norm of this type of genre with a happy ending

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Why to defy: Laura explains

Immortal Defiance Book Cover Immortal Defiance
Dulcea’s Rebellion, #1
Laura Maybrooke
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
Laura Maybrooke
Publication date: October 10th 2019

Some things never die. Hope. Heroes. Defiance. Things take a strange turn for Dulcea, the elven enchantress turned war heroine and Dragonmistress, when a countryman’s betrayal lands her in enemy hands. As she awaits her execution, a stranger with mysterious powers offers her another chance at life. Will she die here or risk what sinister fate he has in store for her? Can Dulcea reclaim her rightful place and lead her army once more? Or does Krath, the man who travels the Realm of the Dead as one of its own, prove to be the obstacle that fells her rebellion? … Or will this immortal vampire warrior turn out to be the best chance she has of defying the ancient evil arising in the west?

Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it? Why do you think it is different and your approach is unique?

Immortal Defiance is a slow-burn paranormal fantasy romance, where the lines blur between heroes and villains, and where things are far from what they seem. In its heart is an elven heroine who finds that not all heroes are good… or even alive.

The story of Immortal Defiance is a story of friendships, love, valor, and courage against the backdrop of a freedom war, set in a medieval-like world. There’s magic, elves, talking dragons, vampires, ancient castles, and a cure that may be deadlier than the poison.

I wrote Immortal Defiance and its sequels (it is the first book in a trilogy) because I wanted to explore a soul-reaching connection between two unlikely people. Dulcea and Krath’s story is a story of overcoming conflict. On the surface, these two people, an elven lady and a vampire, are as dissimilar as can be, but they may yet discover that differences are often only skin deep.

I feel the approach is unique, because I’ve not yet read a book with elves, vampires, and dragons, questioning whether something perceived as evil can be good or neutral. Also, I wanted to explore a more realistic way in how our mortal elven heroine might overcome her prejudices and see the man who our vampire truly is (and he is no Mr. Nice Guy), and yet still come to appreciate him for exactly who he is.

Enemies to best friends to lovers is one of my favorite tropes, and one you’ll find for this series as whole.

What do you read when you are ill in bed?

The same as on any other day – whatever I am currently reading on my Kindle. Or these days, my Kindle App on my smartphone. More likely than not, it’ll be something from my favorite genre (see answer below).

What is your favorite genre?

I read a lot of fantasy. Serve it to me with a side of slow-burn romance, and I am a happy camper. I also like suspense and thrillers and historic romance, but the fantasy genre is my favorite.

If you could recommend a living author – who would it be? A dead author?

For a living author, C.J. Sansom and his splendid Matthew Shardlake series. For a dead author, I struggle between J.R.R. Tolkien and Jane Austen, and… let it be undecided. May each of you make their own decision, based on the genre you more prefer.

What have you done with the things you wrote when in school?

Rewrote them time again. I have been writing since my early teenage years, for about 25 years now. Immortal Defiance, the slow-burn paranormal fantasy romance now releasing, is based on writings began during those days. To my memory, it took about twenty years and four complete rewrites to come to this situation, to the release of the first book in the trilogy.

I have spent a long time with these characters and know them like the back of my hand. I have grown up and matured along with their story, rewriting it to suit my current level as a writer.

Do you have an unusual hobby?

I would call it anything but unusual these days, but growing up in a small northern European town, it was an oddity. Like… 25 – 30 years ago. I am talking about gaming. Us gamer girls were a little odd back then. I am still an avid gamer; I love playing RPG games. They often have excellent stories; some of them could easily compete with many other forms of entertainment.

If you could be any fictional character, which would you be? And why?

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. She is one of my favorite heroines. She is bold, smart, and loves to read! But she can also admit to her mistakes and learn from them.

If you could choose to live in another country/town – which would you choose? And why?

I have long loved Scotland. The image of its highlands appeals to me on a deeply spiritual level. I have visited the country before and hope to do so many times still in the future.

What would you take on a desert island to read if you could only take 3 books?

For my love of romance, Pride and Prejudice. For my love of fantasy, the Lord of the Rings. And for my love of mystery/suspense, any of C.J Sansom’s Shardlake novels.

Would you like to add a jpg of yourself? Or something that is important to your writing? Why is it important? Does it have an emotional impact?

I am pleased for this question. I have long also been an artist, for over 20 years. I find that my writing and art hobby support each other. Art allows me to bring my characters and scenes to life in a way that nothing else can.

I would like the show your readers a piece of my artwork featuring the leading lady Dulcea, together with her friend and dragon guardian, Amparo Darksun; both enjoying a rare moment of peace.

In case anyone is interested in seeing more, I post a lot of my artwork on my twitter account ( and also at:

Author Bio

 “I live in my own little world. But it’s ok, they know me here.” (Who besides me has this fridge magnet; raise your hand!)

 That’s sometimes what it feels like. Who says stories aren’t real? I live in the land of the Midnight Sun and Polar Nights, together with my husband and daughter, and a cast of fantasy characters running around in my head. It’s busy here. Care to stay and chat a while?

 Laura Maybrooke is an 80s’ child, who works too much and writes too little, but who’ll never say no to a thrilling romance, a high fantasy adventure, or a cookbook full of delicious treats she’d like to bake

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Going Alone?

Plus One Plus None Book Cover Plus One Plus None
by Emica Mao
Women's Fiction, Romance
Pub Date 16 Jul 2019

Plus One Plus None is a candid monologue of a single introvert named Zita who expected to be married someday but instead ended up single in her 40s. Like most girls, when she was in her 20s, she felt like she had all the time in the world and everything would just fall into place within the usual timeline. Except that sometimes, things don't turn out the way you expect them to be which you may only realize after several years have slipped by.

In Plus One Plus None, Zita retells her story as how it unfolded. She shares her unfiltered thoughts, reflections, actions (and inactions), mistakes, imperfections and realizations at every stage in her life. Her musings and anecdotes include various topics from dating, pursuing personal goals, dealing with intrusive questions like "how old are you?" and "when will you get married?", to facing the possibility of not being able to marry and get pregnant within one's prime years, and coming to grips with the possibility of staying unmarried and growing old alone.

Who may learn from Zita's story?

- unattached singles in their mid-30s or 40s who sometimes wonder why they are still single or ended up single because it is when you reach this age when you begin to realize that there's a chance that some of the things you expected to happen in your life may not happen after all (versus when you are in your 20s to early 30s when you're brimming with confidence that everything would happen within your expected timeline);

- the single who complains about her single status and blames it on her busy schedule, lack of dating opportunities and other external factors;

- the shy single or the homebody single who doesn't go out a lot but expects to find a boyfriend;

- the choosy single who starts zoning out on the first date the moment she spots something she doesn't like about her date or who refuses to go out on a second date once the guy isn't her type but claims she's open to "dating";

- the praying single who asks God to send her The One but doesn't do her part to make it happen;

- the single who says she wants to get married and have kids someday but her actions and innermost thoughts say otherwise;

- the single who relies on pure hope and luck in meeting her Plus One someday; and

- the single who claims every new year is going to be "the year" but doesn't do anything new or different each year.

Just remember - each person has different values, fears, challenges, imperfections and reasons for being single and though Zita's fears, challenges, imperfections, circumstances and reasons for being single maybe different from yours, you may use Zita's story as a cautionary tale to reflect where you are right now in your single life and determine what needs to be done to make things happen in your life within your target timeline.

If you are single and you are already doing something about your single situation, or you never run out of dates, or you love to go out to mingle, or you already have a boyfriend, or you are right on track with your relationship goals, there is no need to read Zita's story unless you are naturally curious about other people's life stories or curious to hear one's story of unexpected spinsterhood.

Plus One Plus None is a short and concise read that gives a snapshot of single woman's introspection of 15 years of her single life in 140 pages (for paperback) and 178 pages (on kindle).

Don't let another year quickly slip away only to realize that you are a year older and nothing significant happened in your single life again.

 I rather liked this story and the way the story was told by the narrator - who seemed to be somewhere on the spectrum, but determined to live as normal a life as she could.
However, I do have some criticisms -one of which was on every page and nearly every statement - the use of LOL. Not only is this very outdated in terms of current language use, but it really irritated by the time it was repeated and repeated and repeated. 905 of these should have been cut out.
The bit about prayers was not for me and in my opinion seemed not to fit the the general trajectory of the story. Which led to the final chapter. Oh dear. Where did this come from? It turned into a self-help book. Which was not what it originally appeared to be, but reading the author’s comments it clearly was. This really reduced my admiration for the story as it turned each chapter on its head and even though it was not aimed at me, it felt too prescriptive as a self-help book.
So my star rating zoomed down to a 2.

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No friend of his

Imaginary Friend Book Cover Imaginary Friend
Stephen Chbosky
horror, fantasy, fiction, adult
Orion Publishing Group
Pub Date 01 Oct 2019

Leaving your house in the middle of the night.
Knowing your mother is doing her best, but she's just as scared as you.

Starting a new school, making friends.
Seeing how happy it makes your mother.
Hearing a voice, calling out to you.

Following the signs, into the woods.
Going missing for six days.
Remembering nothing about what happened.

Something that will change everything...
And having to save everyone you love.

I don’t read Horror stories much – my imagination is too wild – and I get nightmares, but this one I couldn’t put down.

And what this is really, is the battle between Good and Evil – as is common in fantasy novels, with a child/ren at the core of it. But who is really the Good? And who really the Bad? That is the stark choice that the children have to make – at an age when their brains are still very malleable and have yet got to the age of knowledge.

I found myself cheering for the boys and their defence of having a tree house – but what it did to the boys’ brains was spooky and eerie. And then there was the ‘luck’ or payment perhaps and..

I liked the style of the author and found it easy to read, clear and whilst not a short book, the story didn’t get boring. An amount of editing out of some of the scenes might of helped, but still excellent in its genre.

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