Friday, January 22, 2021

The week in The Loft: Author J. Arlene Culiner!

Joining me today in The Loft is author J. Arlene (Jill) Culiner. Jill's life of adventure and discovery is evident in her tales of contemporary romance, mystery, and historical events. Born in New York and raised in Toronto, Jill has traveled through much of Europe, North and South America, and the Sahara. She funded her travels with a variety of jobs, including fortune teller, belly dancer, translator, model, radio broadcaster, actress, and writer. Her experiences in out-of-the way communities with strange characters are woven throughout her stories. Jill currently resides in a 400-year-old inn in a French village.

Author J. Arlene Culiner

S:  Good morning, Jill! It's so nice to chat with you again!

You write in a variety of genres. What is your favorite thing about writing romance?

J:  Falling in love. Yes, that really happens. I fall in love with my heroes; I become my heroines with all their doubts, their sparkle, and their sense of humor. And I delight in their adventures.

S:  Do you believe in love at first sight? Has it ever happened to you?

J:  Of course, I believe in love at first sight. Yes, it has happened to me — many times. It doesn’t usually last long, but there’s hardly anything in life that’s more intoxicating.

S:  Tell me about the other genres you write. What are they?

J:  I love writing romance, but I do write in other genres, and that's what makes life fun I write biographies that take years of research. I write histories that keep me pouring through documents in libraries and archives, and send me to tricky countries I don't know. And I write mysteries that have me delving into the oddities of human behavior.

S:  What inspires your stories?

J:   Absurdity. I love it. Witnessing silliness or bad behavior is equally delightful because I need such things when creating pesky secondary characters, or for injecting a little comic relief into a story. What else inspires me? Catching secret moments, the ones that you aren’t supposed to see. Another thing that inspires me is the memory of a place. Perhaps it’s a mediocre sort of landscape, but in memory, it takes on a sheen of its own. And, in a story, it becomes a setting, mysterious, or threatening, or perfectly lovely.

S:  Have you ever "shelved" a book? Why?

J:  Yes, I have. Often. I used to think that I owed it to an author to continue reading a book I wasn’t enjoying. Then I decided that life just wasn’t long enough to waste time like that. I’ll happily close a book that has bad grammar, ugly sentences, or stereotyped characters that have nothing original to say. When I’m reading, I want to learn things, feel something, and be forced to think.

S:  What's the best advice you have ever given?

J:  Write and rewrite, cut and cut some more. Then rewrite, then cut, then rewrite, then cut.

S:  What do you consider your greatest achievements?

J:  Staying alive and healthy despite having been in many dangerous places, and always having the ability to laugh when I fail at something.

S:  What inspired "A Swan's Sweet Song?"

J:   Several things came together. I once had my own vintage country music radio show in France, and one day, a country group came to town. I was sent to interview them — charming middle-aged men — and after their last set they told me about being on the road and the sort of life they lived. I remember thinking that I had to write down their story one day. In "A Swan’s Sweet Song," Sherry Valentine’s life is much like theirs, but I also added quite a few of my own experiences as a (mediocre) actress.

S:  Is there anything special you would like people to know about your book?

J:  That there is nothing fictitious in "A Swan’s Sweet Song." My readers will laugh, they’ll travel to unusual places, and they’ll be able to peek into another sort of life.

Here's the blurb--

The instant Sherry and Carston meet, there's desire and fascination in the air...but they're complete opposites.

   Smart-talking Sherry Valentine has fought her way up from poverty to stardom as a country music singer. Now, ever in the limelight, surrounded by clamoring fans, male admirers, and paparazzi, her spangled cowboy boots carry her from one brightly lit stage to the next. But Sherry's been on the star circuit for far too long now, and she wants a change: is it too late for her to begin an acting career?

   A renowned, but reclusive playwright, Carston Hewlett cherishes his freedom, the silence of the deep woods surrounding his home, and his solitary country walks. Long-term commitments have been out of the question for many years, so why is he fascinated by a flashy country music singer? Perhaps a very short, but passionate, fling will resolve the problem.

   When their names are linked in the scandal press, and Sherry's plans to become an actress are revealed, Carston is furious. Their budding relationship seems doomed.


S:  Where can readers buy your book?

J:  It's available at--

Publisher:  https://www.thewildrosepress.com/books/a-swans-sweet-song

Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00RVPIS88

Barnes & Noble:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-swans-sweet-song-j-arlene-culiner/1121102464?ean=9781628307436

Kobo:  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/a-swan-s-sweet-song-1

S:  Jill, thanks so much for joining me today! If you would like to learn more about J. Arlene Culiner and her books, please visit-

Website:  http://www.j-arleneculiner.com

Blog:  http://j-arleneculiner.over-blog.com

Storytelling Podcast:  https://soundcloud.com/j-arlene-culiner

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/JArleneCuliner

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/jarlene.culiner

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/jarleneculiner/

Friday, January 15, 2021

Today in The Loft: Author Alana Lorens!

Joining me today in The Loft is the author who writes under the name Alana Lorens and Lyndi Alexander. Alana has led a full life as a prolific author, floral designer, journalist, and family law attorney. Her stores of romance, the paranormal, fantasy, suspense, and science fiction include the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyers series, which draws on her years as an attorney in the state of Pennsylvania, and "That Girl's the One I Love," a novella set in Asheville, North Carolina, her current residence. The mother of seven children, Alana currently resides deep in the woods with her youngest daughter, two crotchety old cats, and five kittens.


Author Alana Lorens

S:  Good morning, Alana! Thanks for joining me today. We have a lot in common. We're both authors, as well as former journalists and lawyers.

So, let's start with an obvious question. Why did you become a writer?

A:  It was really the only career that ever appealed to me. Sure, I made pizza and funeral arrangements, but my first real piece was written in fourth grade, where I described how my cat killed and ate a rabbit. Come to think of it, I might have been headed for a career of horror writing, but fortunately, I chose romance instead!

S:  Do you write in other genres? 

A:  I do. As Lyndi Alexander, I also write fantasy, sci-fi, and paranormal novels. But I’m not a hard tech person. Whether I’m writing romance, suspense, or space opera, my stories focus on the characters as humans or aliens or whatevers. I have readers who say, “You know, I don’t usually like a specific genre, but your stories aren’t like the rest of them.” I just try to choose characters I’d love to hang out with, quirky, most of them, and also appealing and deeply compassionate, even though most of them would rather not show their hearts, at least at first.



S:  I think many romance writers are influenced by milestones in their own lives. That first kiss is one of them.

Do you remember your first kiss? What was memorable about it?

A:  (Laughs.) I do! I was in the playground down the hill from my house in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. David Miller was my first grade classmate. He kissed me under the slide. Then he ran away, grossed out. It took a long while before I tried that again.

S:  (Laughs.) My first kiss was in the kindergarten coat room. Someone tattled and we got sent to the principal's office. I had no idea why everyone was so upset. In fact, it still puzzles me!

What is the best or worst thing that has ever happened to you as a writer?

A:  I really love telling people I’m a writer. I carry postcards of my books with me that give out all the information. I’ve given them to people at malls, when I was getting a haircut, even on airplanes. I probably had six or seven novels in print before I actually felt comfortable saying, “I’m an author.” It was easier to argue at the Pennsylvania Superior Court! At conferences when I can meet and speak to readers, I am nervous, but also thrilled.

S:  How do you get in the mood for writing?

A:  I usually work from the desk in my bedroom. I used to have a whole office, but downscaling at retirement, don’t you know? I have some usual music I like to work from-- movie and show soundtracks. I definitely have coffee or tea handy. When I write, I like to stop just before something big is going to happen. When I pick up and move on the next day, I can get the momentum rolling much more easily.

S:  If I stopped at that point, I would get no sleep. I would be up all night writing it in my mind.

What inspires your stories?

A:  Gosh, just about anything. Some were inspired by my life as a lawyer. One was inspired by a big cultural festival here in Asheville. Several are drawn from my time in Missoula, Montana, and the forests of the Bitterroot Mountains—one a romantic suspense, and others, fantasies about elves. One story about the elves actually came to be because my now ex-husband had a killer headache one night and we spent it in the emergency room. "On the TV" was a story about the area of Montana that I had already written about, but with a fascinating paranormal story of a reality vortex. So. of course. I had to add to the series and include such a thing!



S:  What do you consider your greatest achievement?

A:  My children. I know I’m supposed to say something career-related, but I raised three families of kids, most while a single mom, and the last with all three kids on the autism spectrum. They are all--even the extra step kids--hard workers, concerned about others, and genuinely nice people. Who could ask for more than that?

S:  What do you want inscribed on your tombstone? How do you want to be remembered?

A:  Well, first, I don’t really want a tombstone—more likely, I’m a scatter the ashes person. But I have spent my adult life helping others, through journalism, lawyering and advocacy, and I’d just like to know that someone remembers that. I hope when someone mentions my name, that others will have kind remembrances to add and be acknowledged.

S:  What inspired your series, Pittsburgh Lady Lawyers?

A:  I practiced family law in Pennsylvania for 30 years. The stuff of divorce, custody, and domestic violence is as close to my heart as any of the fields of law. Because I love the city of Pittsburgh, which was just over an hour away, I decided to write the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyers, a series of books featuring women lawyers who practice in the Steel City. Each is a standalone and is fortified with lots of local color from time I spent there. "Conviction of the Heart" was the first, and focuses on a single mother lawyer who’s drawn into a dangerous case involving a violent political official. As I spent many years practicing as a single mom, there are many insights to that rather perilous lifestyle included. "Second Chances" also has a connection to my real life--an older lawyer loses her associate position and has to begin again with the help of a younger man, an Iraq veteran with service-related cancer. I can testify that a May-December woman-man relationship has its perks! "Voodoo Dreams" was spawned after a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. A young corporate lawyer looking to get away for a week finds herself in close quarters with opposing counsel, who’s also come for vacation. Then the mystery, magic, and danger of the city take over—all the way to rituals in the swamp!

S:  Is there anything special you would like people to know about that series?

A:  These stories are very close to my heart and life, and I’m proud of them. If you want a taste of the ‘Burgh, or NOLA, or a read with nail-biting suspense, I invite you to check them out.



S:  Alana, thanks for joining me today. If you would like to learn more about Alana and her books, please visit--

Website:  http://Alana-lorens.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/AlanaLorens/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4829967.Alana_Lorens

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Alana Lorens/e/B005GE0WBC/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Friday, January 8, 2021

Today in The Loft: Author Lyndell Williams!

Joining me today in The Loft is award-winning author Lyndell Williams. Lyndell brings an impressive academic and literary background to her role as an author of romance. By day, she is a cultural critic with a background in literary criticism, specializing in romance, and an editor, writing coach, and mentor. She has been published in peer-reviewed journals and writes for multiple online publications. By night, Lyndell is the best-selling author of steamy multicultural romance!


Author Lyndell Williams


S: Welcome, Lyndell! Thanks for joining me today.

Why did you become a writer?

L:  Writing is an integral part of who I am. Crafting words played an essential role in my personal and professional development. Besides my work, I have taught and edited writing for over 10 years. Writing is enmeshed in my life and self-awareness. I write because I appreciate the power of words and their impact on me as I draft them and those who read them. Language is intrinsic to the human experience. Those gifted with the ability to use it to convey ideas, persuade people, and tap into emotions through writing are truly blessed.

S:  You write in a wide variety of genres and styles. Can you give readers a sense of your scope?

L:  I am on my writing game every day, using my skills to write a range of things, including journal articles, opinion pieces, and blog posts for a range of platforms. I also author a spectrum of short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels. Shifting between writing styles can be a hassle, but all of it is important to me. Using them provides me with many opportunities to share my thoughts and stories. Romance is my genre of choice. I think the genre is an essential part of literature. Love stories exist across all genres. Romance centers them and conveys how members of societies and cultures navigate one of the most important human emotions—eros love.” When I write romance, I seek to give people the chance to connect with the layers of ways we meet, fall in love, and stay together. It can be complicated.

S:  Where do you write?

L:  I use the smallest room in our house for an office, something all six children eye regularly. Space is a premium in our large family. I could give it up and let one of them have the room, but I have made enough sacrifices. Besides, I need the space to work, store books, supplies, equipment, and get some quiet to write. I don’t always write in my office. Who wants to be stuck in four walls all day, every day? When I need to break out or travel, I have a tablet and Bluetooth keyboard to type in bed, on the den sofa, or front porch. I used to have laptops, but after burning through a few of them over the years, my youngest son built me a desktop, and I have never looked back. Writing demands require that I stay flexible about where and when I write. With a house of nine people, noise is often a standard part of everyday life, making writing difficult. I will get up at about 4 a.m. to write. Everyone is fast asleep, and my juices can flow. I am at my best during that time.

S:  Wow, I don't think I'm capable of rising that early! 

Your romance novels encompass a wide range of characters. What led you to create such a diverse group of people to populate your stories?

L:  My romance characters represent diverse social, economic, and cultural backgrounds. The only constant I maintain is that all the female protagonists in my romances are African American. It is crucial for me to write African American women characters--who are often subjected to disdain and violence--with male love interests that pursue and cherish them. There is not enough of that in romance. I try to integrate real-life elements in my stories. My characters contend with work schedules, family, and personal issues, all of them influencing who and how they love.

S:  Your books do convey a strong sense of realism. They portray life as it is, not as we want it to be, and that's commendable.

Tell me about the characters in your latest book, "Building on Broken Dreams." 

L:  In my book, the main characters Adam and Maryam must struggle with the past to stay together. Maryam escapes an abusive relationship with her boyfriend, Raad. She meets Adam after moving to a new city and rebuilding her life. Maryam is still healing, but she cannot ignore the way he makes her feel. Giving in to him means trusting another man, something she is not sure she can do. Adam wanted Maryam from the moment he saw her. He is prepared to do whatever it takes to get her in his arms and keep her safe. He does not care about Maryam’s past, and he concentrates on their future. But willfully ignoring their history will not keep it from reaching into their lives and threatening to tear down everything they have built.

S: What did you hope to achieve by writing this book?

L:  I wrote "Building on Broken Dreams" so readers could connect with the desire to keep the past from affecting the present, but being unable to stop it. I highlight Maryam’s survival and the need for Adam to learn how to understand the ways trauma impacts the woman he loves. We all have issues that impact us and must address the ones the people we love have, too. It takes more than affection. Hard work and gathering enough empathy to provide support is essential. I try to show that through Adam and Maryam’s love.

Here's the blurb:

If Maryam Avery stays in New York for one more day, she will die.

Trapped in an abusive relationship with the manipulative and cruel Raad, she can feel her life closing in around her. After he chases her from her home and family, Maryam flees to Philadelphia, searching desperately for a new beginning, something to help rebuild her spiritually and physically.

When she meets the mysterious Adam, things are thrown off-kilter. A successful businessperson with his own past that he is fleeing from, he is everything that Maryam wants. But can she trust another man?

Doubt gives way to desire. They find themselves in a whirlwind romance, and for once, it seems like everything will work out.

Until Raad turns up.

S:  What an impactful love story! Where can readers purchase "Building on Broken Dreams?"

L:  It's available on Amazon at https://www.amalzon.com/dp/B08JY5MLT8.

S:  Lyndell, thanks so much joining me today! If you would like to learn more about Lyndell and her books, please visit--

Blog:  https://laylawriteslove.com/ 

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/laylawriteslove/ 

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/laylawriteslove 

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/laylawriteslove/


YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWpN2YTkr9cGO9Z7-AB8xNw


Amazon Author Page:  http://amazon.com/author/laylawriteslove


Newsletter:  bit.ly/lwlnewsletter