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Scott Pinsker is Visiting!

The Second Coming: A Love Story

“The Second Coming: A Love Story” by Scott Pinsker

Published as… Theological Thriller; Mystery; Contemporary Fiction
Published on… 6 June 2014

Scott Pinsker’s Boom Baby Blast

1. One Random Fact: During the pro poker boom in the early 2000s – back when poker was on TV all the time – I represented Phil Gordon, who was the co-host of Celebrity Poker Showdown on the Bravo Network. Following a celebrity poker tournament that Phil emceed at the Super Bowl (Eddie George beat Jerome Bettis at the final table) I noticed that our media event generated more publicity than any other party during Super Bowl week, sans one: The Playboy Party. That gave me an idea… and as fate would have it, one of the celebrity poker players in our tournament, Kato Kaelin, was working for National Lampoon at the time…

Long story short: I became the creator and executive producer of National Lampoon’s Strip Poker, which was filmed at the notorious Hedonism II nudist resort in Negril Jamaica. The film aired on DirecTV and InDemand PPV… and was absolutely, completely horrible. AWFUL! An utter abomination. (Spending 12 days at Hedonism II for the filming wasn’t so terrible, though.)

2. Fictional Character You’d Really Like to Be: E.T. ‘cause then I could TOTALLY score some free Reese’s Pieces.

3. Your Authorial Theme Song: Well, my two favorite groups / artists are Tori Amos and Iron Maiden. (I keep waiting for ‘em to go on tour together, but they never do.) But given the topics addressed in The Second Coming: A Love Story, I suppose my authorial theme song should be Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Great tune! (It’s interesting: The Prince of Darkness can steal souls, command Demons and battle God… but for whatever reason, he’s apparently not a very good fiddle player. With all the “evil” rock stars burning in Hell, you’d think someone could’ve given him fiddle lessons…)

4. Favorite Part of Being a Writer: The ability to create worlds, people and brand-new realities. It’s almost godlike! Sometimes you even start to feel detached from the “real world” because the false-realities you create with a pen are preferable. I can’t speak for all writers, but when I’m deeply, fully engaged in my craft, the separation between fiction and non-fiction becomes almost nonexistent.

And that’s when the madness begins…

5. Name of Your First Pet (Can include family or significant others…): My first pet was a German shepherd named Kevin, back when I was very young. I think I also had a cat named Kevin. Maybe even more than one cat named Kevin. (Why the name Kevin? No idea.)

Currently, I have two rescue cats: A psychotic black cat named Jinx, a chubby white-and-gray cat named Leeloo (in honor of Milla Jovovich’s character in The Fifth Element), and a 10-year-old, 220-pound American Mastiff named Leon.

(I also have two kids… who consider me THEIR pet. Woof!)

6. Music, Television or Silence While Writing: No television. Never ever. Too distracting. I mostly write in complete silence (although the Demons in my head occasionally break-out in Gregorian chants).

Sometimes I like to listen to music. To me, music is an emotional bookmark: Just one song or note can instantly transport you to a different time and place. It’s uncanny: If you’re trying to wrap your head around a certain emotion, music is – in the language of gamers – a “cheat code.”

So is alcohol: Music and alcohol both have the power to heighten emotions and lessen inhibitions. Sometimes that’s helpful.

Sometimes it’s not.

7. Early Riser or Night Owl: Let me put it this way: They say “the early bird gets the worm” but y’know who gets the worm even before the early bird? The night owl.

And besides, even though the early worm MIGHT get the worm, it’s worth noting that the late-rising mouse gets the cheese – and the early mouse gets its neck snapped in a mousetrap.

8. Favorite Season: I live in Florida, so I’m obviously a sun-lover. Here in Florida, seasons don’t really mean much; it’s always nice and warm. But calendar-wise, I enjoy winter the most: Football season is underway, my birthday is around the corner (I was born on January 10, which is probably why I’m such a big football fan: I was literally born of first and 10!), and there’s a bunch of great holidays, like Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa (although I NEVER seem to get any good gifts on Kwanzaa).

9. Did You Always Want to be a Writer: Hmm… Is a writer who you are? Or is it what you do? (That’s actually a rather profound question, when you stop and think about it.)

If it’s who you are, then I guess I’ve always been a writer. Even when I wasn’t writing, I was still a writer – hijacking my skill-set for other endeavors. Being a storyteller is a transferrable talent: From high school run-ins with angry teachers to pick-up bars with gullible coeds to PR clients in dire need of crisis communications, there’s a great deal of versatility to storytelling…

For decades, I did my best to avoid being an author of books, however. Lord how I tried! Writing books – at least for me – is an arduous, painful, dreadfully unpleasant task. Speechwriting for others is easy: It’s their life, their story, and I’m happily shielded from the consequences. But writing a book? Telling a story that’s truly a piece of me – and letting total strangers poke around, meet my alter-egos and dissect my inner-most thoughts? Aaahh!! It’s like standing naked on a street corner during rush hour! Writing is a form of exhibitionism… and I guess I’m naturally shy.

I HATE being exposed like this… but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake this God-awful compulsion to share these stories…

So more than anything else, I guess I became an author because I had exhausted all other options.

About the Book

A nationally-recognized marketing expert, Scott Pinsker has worked with a vast array of sports stars, business leaders, and Grammy-, Emmy- and Golden Globe-winners, managing everything from crisis communications to PR campaigns. His analysis of publicity trends has been showcased multiple times on, where he occasionally contributes as a marketing expert. He has also written for the Washington Times, Breitbart and Bulldog Reporter.

Pinsker developed the concept for The Second Coming: A Love Story almost 15 years ago, while attending law school in Washington, DC. As the author tells it:

According to Christian theology, the Devil is thousands of years old and deviously brilliant. I remember wondering one night, if such a creature didn’t want you to know who he was… then how would you know? How could you out-think a creature that’s not only smarter than you, but also thousands of years more experienced and capable of supernatural powers? We get fooled by ordinary people every day – and most of the time, they’re not particularly clever! So what ‘prayer’ would we realistically have to outwit the Prince of Darkness?

Then I had a further thought: If the Devil really wanted to con mankind, he wouldn’t appear with a pitchfork and horns. All those horror movies have it wrong; that’s too obvious. Instead, his best tactical option would be to appear as a holy man – and to attach himself to the faith of his target audience. Because if I were Satan’s publicist, that’s what I’d recommend.

But what if we raised the stakes even further, and now there were TWO self-declared saviors – one who preached to Red America, the other to Blue America? And what if the key characters in the story were all modern day updates of the major characters from the Bible? What would happen then?

Well, you’re about to find out!

For the last 15 years, I’ve been meticulously researching the subject matter, studying ancient texts and combing through the delicate intricacies of Christian eschatology. The end-result is The Second Coming: A Love Story. You needn’t be a theologist to fall in love with this story, although it certainly won’t hurt: I’ve woven-in countless clues and subtle references to the identity of the true Second Coming – and to the identity of Satan – throughout.

No matter your faith, no matter your background, this book will challenge you to reconsider the very nature of existence. And that’s the God-honest truth.”

Buy the Book at Amazon

About the Author

Scott Pinsker Author Photo
Scott Pinsker lives in Tampa Bay, Florida, with his wife, two young boys, two rescue cats and his 220-pound mastiff. This is his debut novel, and it’s the first in a trilogy. The follow-up, Three Days Later: A Revenge Story, will be released in 2015.

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Elizabeth McKenna is Visiting!

Venice in the Moonlight

“Venice in the Moonlight” by Elizabeth McKenna

Published on… 2 October 2013
Published as… Historical Romance

Elizabeth McKenna’s Boom Baby Blast

1. One Random Fact: I fell in love with my husband in high school, though we didn’t date until we were in our mid-twenties.

2. Fictional Character You’d Really Like to Be: Nancy Drew. She had great clothes, drove a convertible, and solved mysteries. What more could you want?

3. Your Authorial Theme Song: Since I write romance, I’m going to go with Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”.

4. Favorite Part of Being a Writer: I love meeting new people through my social media sites. For shy people like me, the internet is wonderful.

5. Name of Your First Pet (Can include family or significant others…): Maggie was the name of the black lab my husband and I bought the month we were married. She died six years ago and I can still cry about it. She was the sweetest dog.

6. Music, Television or Silence While Writing: Silence is the best when I’m writing fiction. In my day job as a technical writer, I often listen to classical music (I find myself too distracted if I listen to other genres).

7. Early Riser or Night Owl: I’m an early riser. My day starts at 4:30 am and ends around 9 pm. I actually don’t like this schedule. I would prefer to sleep until 7 or 8 am – maybe when I retire!!

8. Favorite Season: I live in Wisconsin and get all four seasons, but Fall is definitely my favorite.

9. Did You Always Want to be a Writer: Yes. I was a Journalism major in college, though I didn’t start writing fiction until I was around 40 years old.

About the Book

Considered useless by his cold-hearted father, Nico Foscari, eldest son of one of the founding families in Venice, hides his pain behind gambling, drinking and womanizing.

After her husband’s untimely demise, Marietta Gatti returns to her hometown of Venice in hopes of starting a new life and finding the happiness that was missing in her forced marriage.

When Fate throws them together, friendship begins to grow into love until Marietta learns a Foscari family secret that may have cost her father his life. Now, she must choose between vengeance, forgiveness, and love.

Elizabeth McKenna’s latest novel takes you back to eighteenth century Carnival, where lovers meet discreetly, and masks make everyone equal.

Buy the Book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Elizabeth McKenna Author Photo
Elizabeth McKenna works as a full-time technical writer/editor for a large software company. Though her love of books reaches back to her childhood, she had never read romance novels until one Christmas when her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene). She had always wanted to write fiction, so she combined her love of history, romance and a happy ending to write her debut novel Cera’s Place. Her short story, The Gypsy Casts a Spell, is available for free on her website She hopes you will enjoy her latest novel, Venice in the Moonlight, as much as others have enjoyed her previous works.

Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin with her understanding husband, two beautiful daughters, and a sassy Labrador. When she isn’t writing, working, or being a mom, she’s sleeping.

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Dariel Raye is Visiting!

Dai’s Dark Valentine

“Dai’s Dark Valentine” by Dariel Raye

To Be Published on… 14 February 2015
Published as… Paranormal Romance

About the Book

Three-hundred years is a long time, but left to its own devices, what began as the vendetta of one man can grow to encompass even more formidable hatred.

Daitre Salons is a beautiful but naïve heiress whose true heritage has been kept secret even from her. Now, her abilities are emerging and her father’s enemies want her dead, but what bothers her most is that her new husband “in name only” insists on treating her like a child.

Joban Beaucoup, professional guard to the Salons family, and dark fey (alternate spelling from Vodouin origin), has chosen to leave the quaint yet suffocating French town of his orphan-childhood and venture to the Americas, but he needs one thing he cannot concoct, despite his magical abilities – a wife.

When Joban agrees to marry Daitre and take her to the Americas with him, he carries her three-thousand miles away, then whisks her three-hundred years into the future to assure her safety, but while Daitre struggles to adjust to this strange new world, manage her newfound powers, and make peace with her feelings for Joban, Joban learns that even here, their enemies have followed them, now more deadly than ever.

Pre-order the Book at Amazon

“Tryst” by Arie Lane is Going on Sale!

On January 6th, I hosted for the release blitz for Tryst by Arie Lane. Now the book is going on sale this weekend (1/23-1/25) for $0.99!

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Merry Farmer is Visiting!

Trail of Hope

“Trail of Hope” (Hot on the Trail, Book Two) by Merry Farmer

To Be Published on… 24 November 2014
Published as… Historical Romance

About the Book

Callie Lewis is alone on the Oregon Trail. After her brother’s death, she has been left to fend for herself on a journey she never wanted to take. Her only hope for safety and a life at the end of the road is to become a trail bride and wed grieving widower John Rye. But John is harboring secrets that could end their hasty marriage before it has a chance to begin.

When a vicious tornado wakes John from the stupor the death of his wife left him in, he is ready to embrace Callie and the new life they could have together. But John is not the only one with designs on his new wife. Miles away from civilization, in a wagon train bristling with secrets and suspicion, John must catch a thief, fend off his rival, and reclaim his life to build the future Callie deserves.

In their darkest moments will they bring each other hope?

About the Author

Merry Farmer Author Photo
Merry Farmer is an award-winning author of historical romance. She lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats and enough story ideas to keep her writing until she’s 132. Her second novel, The Faithful Heart, was a 2102 RONE Award finalist and her unpublished futuristic novel A Man’s World won first place in the Novel: Character category at the 2013 Philadelphia Writer’s Conference. She is out to prove that you can make a living as a self-published author and to help others to do the same.

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Danielle Stewart is Visiting!

Chasing Justice

“Chasing Justice” (Piper Anderson, Book One) by Danielle Stewart

Published on… 14 January 2014
Published as… Romantic Suspense

Spotlight on this Free EBook

About the Book

Piper Anderson has been given a fresh start in the picturesque town of Edenville, North Carolina. But her plans of settling into a normal life are derailed when she witnesses a prominent judge in her community committing a violent assault. Running from her own past and fueled by a passion to make the judge answer for his crimes, Piper is forced to decide if she’ll play by the rules or achieve justice in her own way.

Complicating things further, Piper finds herself fighting a powerful attraction to rookie cop, Bobby Wright. Although she’s increasingly enamored with Bobby, his staunch belief in the justice system is in stark contrast to her own. She may not share his opinions about the effectiveness of the law, but she certainly can’t deny how safe she feels when she’s in his arms or how every kiss leaves her desperate for more.

For Piper, the idea of finally living an ordinary life with a man to love is tempting. However, fate keeps placing the judge, quite literally, in her path. Will she decide the only way to win is to be as wicked as the judge, but with righteous intentions? And more importantly, will Bobby choose to let her go, or follow her as she crosses the line and takes justice into her own hands?

**Should Not Be Classified as Christian Romance**

Piper Anderson Series:
Book 1: Chasing Justice
Book 2: Cutting Ties
Book 3: Changing Fate
Book 4: Finding Freedom
Book 5: Settling Scores
Book 6: Battling Destiny

Piper Anderson Extras:
Choosing Christmas – Holiday Novella – Chris & Sydney’s Story
Betty’s Journal – Bonus Material(suggested to be read after Book 4 to avoid spoilers)
Saving Love – A Piper Anderson Series Novella

Buy the Book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks or Kobo

About the Author

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DJ Donaldson is Visiting!

Louisiana Fever

“Louisiana Fever” by DJ Donaldson

Published on… 5 March 2014
Published as… Mystery

DJ Donaldson’s Guest Post

What inspired you to start writing, and when?
Oddly, the thought that I wanted to become a novelist just popped into my head one day shortly after my fiftieth birthday. Part of this sudden desire was a bit of boredom with my real job. I was an anatomy professor at the U. of Tennessee and had accomplished all my major professional goals: course director, funded NIH grant, teaching awards, and many published papers on wound healing. So I guess I needed a new challenge. And boy did I pick a tough one.

I wondered, how does a novice like me learn to write fiction? Taking a few writing courses is an obvious answer. But I had the vague feeling that there were a lot of unpublished writers teaching those courses and I worried that all I’d learn was how to fail. I’m not saying this was the best way, but I decided to just teach myself. I bought ten bestselling novels and tried to figure out what made each of them work. What tricks were the authors using to hold my attention? What made these books so popular? In a sense then, maybe I didn’t teach myself. Maybe Steven King, Robin Cook, Pat Conroy, Michael Palmer, Larry McMurtry, and James Michener did. In any event, eight years later, I sold my first book. So, it took me about as long to become a published novelist as it did to train for medical research and teaching.

What is your preferred genre?
My first book was a mystery. As a beginning writer, that seemed like the best genre for me because mysteries have a classic structure that guides the behavior and direction of the main characters. In a very general way that structure provides those characters with goals and motivation: Goal: find the killer. Motivation: It’s their job. The genre also provides a structure for conflict: The killer doesn’t want to be found, so he will try to thwart the investigation. I had no idea that my first book would lead to six more with the same characters.

After six series mysteries I took a break to try my hand at writing stand-alone thrillers. (Stand-alones have a different cast of characters in each book.) Someone once asked me what the difference is between a mystery and a thriller. There can be a lot of overlap in the two, but generally thrillers put the main character in danger throughout the book. In mysteries, the danger often arises only when the protagonist begins to close in on the killer.

I have to say I like series and stand alones equally well. If you look at my list of published novels (seven forensic mysteries and five medical thrillers), it’s obvious that I’ve drawn on my academic background to write both kinds of books. They say to “write what you know”, and I have. Except that for every book, It’s taken about six months of intensive research to learn a lot of necessary material, both scientific and otherwise, that I didn’t know when I started the book. That research has been a lot of fun. For one book, I spent a week in Madison Wisconsin, visiting dairy farms… even had a milk cow poop on my shoes. (Okay, I didn’t like that part much.)

What was the hardest part of writing LOUISIANA FEVER?
Did you learn anything from writing that book and what was it?
My intention in each book is to reveal more about my two main characters, Andy Broussard and Kit Franklyn by putting them in situations that cause them to change and grow. And the more books I write about them, the harder it is to develop these little character arcs. LOUISIANA FEVER was number four in the series, so my two protagonists were already fairly well fledged out when I began work on the book. At that time, I had no idea what would face them in the new story, or how they would react. But as pieces of the project took shape, opportunities appeared, as they always seem to do. In fact, those arcs for Andy and Kit turned out to be more significant than I ever expected. Strange as it sounds, in each book my characters teach me something new about themselves.

Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants?
I do a lot of planning and thinking before I start writing. In my mysteries I always know who the killer is and why he did it. Knowing who he/she is establishes a lot of the story and tells me who some of the other characters should be. If I didn’t know who did it when I started writing, it would be impossible to scatter the appropriate red herrings and real clues throughout the book. Even my medical thrillers all have a surprise reveal at the end. Those revelations have to be carefully set up. Having done all that planning, I then have to be sure I don’t make it all too obvious. Many of my readers who write Amazon reviews say they were surprised at the end. Occasionally though, a reader will think the story was too predictable. I’m never sure exactly how to take that. If they mean all the loose ends were tied up and everybody got what they deserved, fair enough. Because that’s exactly my intent. Our real lives are full of unresolved conflict and irritation, including hearing about killers and rapists who get off on technicalities. I think people read to escape that world. I want my readers to smile with satisfaction at the end of my books.

Are any of your characters based on real-life friends or acquaintances?
I’m sure my characters contain parts of many people I know. At first I was worried that they might recognize themselves and not like what they read. But I soon discovered that no one sees themselves as others see them, so any similarity goes completely unnoticed even when it’s there.

Tell us your latest news?
I’ve always wanted my books to be available on audio. I’m excited to tell you that my entire New Orleans forensic mystery series is now in production with Audible books. I haven’t yet heard any of it, so I’m really looking forward to listening to what they’ve done. The narrator is Brian Troxell, who has narrated about 75 other books for Audible. I’ve listened to some of those and I think he’s going to do a great job. When he asked me for some hints about how to portray Broussard, the greatly overweight New Orleans medical examiner, I told him to think of the character actor, Wilfred Brimley. From the moment I wrote the first words about Broussard I pictured him being played in film by Brimley.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t write for wealth or fame because most writers in the world, even those who have sold books to major publishers, can’t claim either of those status symbols. There’s an old quote that says, “You can get rich in this country by being a writer, but you can’t make a living.” Write because you love it. If you don’t love doing it then you can be crushed by the difficulties inherent in the pursuit.

About the Book

When Kit goes to meet an anonymous stranger—who’s been sending her roses—the man drops dead at her feet before she could even get his name. Game on.

Andy Broussard soon learns that the man carried a lethal pathogen similar to the deadly “Ebola”—a highly contagious virus, feared worldwide for killing its victims (grotesquely) in a matter of days. When another body turns up with the same bug, widespread panic becomes imminent. The danger is even more acute, because the carrier is mobile. The man knows he’s a walking weapon and… he’s targeting Broussard.

And when Kit Franklyn investigates her mystery suitor further, she runs afoul of a cold- blooded killer, every bit as deadly as the man searching for her partner.

Louisiana Fever is written in Donaldson’s unique style: A hard-hitting, punchy, action-packed prose that’s dripping with a folksy, decidedly southern sense of irony. Mix in Donaldson’s brilliant first-hand knowledge of forensics, along with the sultry flavor of New Orleans, and readers will be fully satisfied with this irresistibly delectable mystery.

Buy the Book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

About the Author

DJ Donaldson's Author Photo
D.J. Donaldson is a retired professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology. His entire academic career was spent at the University of Tennessee, Health Science Center, where he published dozens of papers on wound-healing and where he taught microscopic anatomy to thousands of medical and dental students.

He is also the author of seven published forensic mysteries and five medical thrillers. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee with his wife and two West Highland terriers. In the spring of most years he simply cannot stop buying new flowers and other plants for the couple’s prized backyard garden.

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Shelique Lize is Visiting!


“Velicious” by Shelique Lize

Published on… 7 August 2014
Published as… Paranormal Romance

Shelique Lize’s Boom Baby Blast

1. One Random Fact: I used to like drawing. I haven’t used that talent in a few years and miss it at times.

2. Fictional Character You’d Really Like to Be: lol, Sailor moon. I love how even though she’s scared of half of the monsters that attack, she still manages to push through her fears to protect those she cares about.

3. Your Authorial Theme Song: Wide awake- Katy Perry

4. Favorite Part of Being a Writer: My favorite part of being a writer is that I can watch the fictional universe I created and characters come to life right before my eyes. Day by day they grow and evolve into their own, lol.

5. Name of Your First Pet (Can include family or significant others…): Anaiah

6. Music, Television or Silence While Writing: Music, I love Calm, instrumental music while writing.

7. Early Riser or Night Owl: Night owl.

8. Favorite Season: I’m allergic to winter, lol. Summer all the way.

9. Did You Always Want to be a Writer: I always had a wild imagination and I wrote from when I was young but I was a closet writer. Publishing my work for the world to read was not a thought, up until 5 years ago.

About the Book

Justice Morel always had her life perfectly planned. Her goals were to graduate from the University with exceptional grades and get into the best law school Canada has to offer.

Then one day, Justice tried to kill herself. Well, not her technically. It may have been Justice Morel’s body, but those actions weren’t intentional and the suicidal thoughts were not hers. Or, so she keeps telling her therapist and family.

Justice is afraid she’s losing her mind and just wants to forget everything. But when her best friend is murdered, another one is being mind-screwed by a Vampyre, and her ex is back in town, looking as scrumptious as ever and very suspicious, maybe she isn’t all that crazy!

Just when she thinks that life couldn’t throw her anymore curve balls, Justice figures out that she is Vampyre Doll and there’s a vampyre who seems very familiar to her, but she can’t figure out from where.

Justice is suffocating and drowning in a dark world she’s been tossed into, forced to survive. It’s a world she never wanted to know about and would love to ignore, like it doesn’t exist. But, with every passing day, she’s pulled deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole, wishing for everything to go back to the way it was.

Buy the Book at Amazon

About the Author

Shelique Lize's Author Photo
Stay at home mother who loves to write about Vampires and the paranormal. Proud Canadian. Inspirational quotes keeps me positive. Music helps me to get away when I need too. I’m an ametuer photographer. Movie holic. Lactose intolerant but loves cheese pizza. Vampires and things of a sort I adore. Shopping is my therapy and i’m an Aries.

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Holly Payne is Visiting!


“Damascena” by Holly Payne

Published on… 9 September 2014
Published as… Historical Fiction

Holly Payne’s Guest Post

To create three dimensional, almost holographic characters and story worlds, I believe you have to inhabit your story as if you are living it yourself. That’s the only way I know how to draw authentic characters. I have to travel deep into the story world on the page and in real life. I’m a trained journalist so research is a natural part of my work, and often what I love most about it.

I usually spend time in the location of my story world first, regardless of the time period. My books are set in fairly exotic destinations, which is just a great excuse for me to explore new cultures. I spent a winter and summer in Dubrovnik, Croatia for The Sound of Blue, my second novel set during the Balkan War in the early 90s. I needed to see the landscape, architecture, the light, the foliage, all the colors, smells and sounds. I absorbed so much more than I could have ever learned in a book or online. I made some friends and was able to ask questions about the war that I would have never been able to learn otherwise. That level of human interaction is the most valuable resource for any book I write. I need to immerse myself in the place and get to know the people first and foremost, even if I have to leap back in time while I write.

When I was writing my first novel, The Virgin’s Knot, I spent many months traveling through Turkey over the course of a few years. I needed to know about the rug producing regions and meet the weavers, because my protagonist was a famous weaver in the 1950s. This brought me to Konya, Turkey—home of the Whirling Dervishes. I ended up at Rumi’s tomb in Konya.

At the time, I had no idea who Rumi was, what he had written or what he stood for. Everything changed after that day. I literally felt a charge in the air at the tomb of the tekke, the dervish monastery that’s been converted into a museum, where millions of people visit each year to pay homage to the great poet and mystic. I couldn’t believe I had no idea who Rumi was and I was eager to learn as much as I could when I returned to the United States. Fifteen years later, I ended up writing Damascena: The tale of roses and Rumi.

It was during my travels in Turkey when also had learned about rose oil production. I had a friend and colleague who was traveling with a group of aromatherapists on a mission to buy rose oil—a powerful healing agent. I saw an article in the Turkish magazine, Cornucopia. The pictures blew me away. I had never seen so many rose petals. It was gorgeous. The writer said something about being able to smell roses as far as one mile from the distilleries. I couldn’t believe that it took nearly four tons of rose petals to distill one kilogram of rose oil. I also couldn’t believe that rose oil was the binding agent for all perfumes and could not be synthetically reproduced. No wonder it cost nearly $1000 for a kilogram of rose oil. I was immediately hooked and compelled to travel to the world’s most famous rose production region, Bulgaria’s Valley of The Roses to learn as much as I could for Damascena.

One of the most magical travel experiences of my life happened during that trip. I hired a translator, a young woman my age, who had never set foot in any of her country’s villages. She kept kidding me, calling me “Crazy American lady,” when after befriending some of the rose pickers in a field, I accepted their invitation to pick with them at4 a.m. the next day. They were actually joking with me but that’s why I had come. I wanted to know what it was like to pick the rosa damascena, the kind of roses that yield the most power rose ‘attar’ oil in the world.

Picking rose petals required my translator to accompany me, and we ended up in one of the rose picker’s houses, sleeping shoebox style in a single bed, head to feet and feet to head. In the middle of the night, we left with the other workers to pick roses on a full moon. We climbed into a truck bed, covered with canvas, sitting knees to chest with only the cherry embers of cigarettes flashing in the darkness. When we arrived at the field, the workers continued to smoke, which only slightly masked the intoxicating scent of roses all around us. I would have never had this experience if I hadn’t prioritized traveling for research, and I’m so grateful I did.

About the Book

Holly Payne’s spellbinding tale brings the unparalleled poet, Mevlana Rumi, to life, and transports readers to the enchanting world of 13th century Persia. Simply but elegantly told, the story unravels the mystery surrounding a legendary orphaned girl, who discovers her gift of turning roses into oil. Named after the flowering rosa damascena, the girl reluctantly assumes the role of a living saint for the miracles she performs—longing for the only one that matters: finding her mother. Deeply wounded by the separation since birth, Damascena undergoes a riveting transformation when she meets Rumi and finally discovers the secret of the rose.

Imbued with rich historical research and inspired by the devastating disappearance of Rumi’s most lauded spiritual companion, Shams of Tabriz, Holly Payne has courageously opened herself to receive Rumi’s teachings and offer a timeless love story. Inspiring and magical, the story of Damascena transmits the wisdom of the heart, inviting us to transform our pain into love.

Buy the Book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Holly Payne's Author Photo
Holly Lynn Payne is an award-winning, internationally published author, writing coach and founder of Skywriter Books, a digital press and publishing consultancy. She is the author of four books. Her third novel, Kingdom of Simplicity, based on true story of forgiveness after she was struck by a drunk driver, won the Benjamin Franklin Award and was nominated for a national book award in Belgium. It has been published in the Netherlands, China and Taiwan.

Payne has served on the faculty of the Academy of Art University, California College of the Arts and Stanford, and loves helping people reclaim their voice through storytelling. She can sometimes be found hiking with her young daughter on Mt. Tam. She received her MFA from USC and writes stories of inspiration at

Her recent novel, DAMASCENA: the tale of rose and Rumi (Skywriter Books, 2014), explores the secrets of love during the time of Rumi. Foreign rights have been sold to Hungary and Turkey, where it will be published in 2015.

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