Guest Blog Post – Wait, was that a ghost? By Mystery Author Juliet Blackwell

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9781101989357Wait, was that a ghost?

Back when faux finishes were all the rage, I had my own business in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Decorative painters are usually among the last workers allowed in on construction and remodeling job sites, and since construction schedules are almost always tight, it’s not unusual for us to work through the night to meet a deadline.

So, one night at about three in the morning, I was working with an assistant in the front parlor of a Pacific Heights mansion. Supposedly we were the only ones in the massive home, but darned if we didn’t hear a faint creaking, followed by the unmistakable sound of footsteps overhead.

Spooked, we crept up the sweeping stairs together, calling “hello?” and checking out the scene. Nothing looked out of place, and we didn’t see anyone. The next day I mentioned it to the foreman on the job.

He replied: “Oh sure, there’s at least one ghost in this place. That’s why I bring my dog with me – he always feels things before I do.”

*Gulp*.  The truth is, the more I asked big, hearty, seemingly unfazed construction workers about their experiences in historic buildings, the more ghost stories I heard. The carpenter met at the door by a little girl in a robin’s egg blue dress, later to find that the only girl in that house had lived –and died– a century ago. The locksmith so spooked by the sensations in a basement that he refused to go back, then later learned about a murder that had occurred, decades earlier, in that very cellar. The landscape designer who could have sworn she saw an old lady in a shawl whenever she passed by a certain window, but who disappeared when she peeked inside.

Do you believe in ghosts?

I’ve always been drawn to historic structures. It’s more than the great craftsmanship and the intricate design work. I love the vibrations they seem to give off, the sense of lives lived within their walls, the almost palpable memories of the laughter of children, the dreams of newlyweds, the parties and family holidays…and even the moments of sadness and despair that inevitably come our way. I titled the first in my Haunted Home Renovation series IF WALLS COULD TALK because I do genuinely wonder what the walls would tell us, if only they could.

But ghosts per se? Physicists tell us that there are many more levels of energy humming around us than we can see or feel. Could souls leave traces in the buildings they live –and die– in? Might they return, or never leave at all? Or are “ghosts” merely shadows of our own imaginations, fed by our past experiences?

No matter the ultimate truth, San Francisco is chock-full of ghost stories, and I don’t mind cribbing one or two for my books. In the Haunted Home Renovation series, Mel Turner, General Contractor, starts to see and sense spirits behind the walls of the historic homes she’s renovating, and comes to learn their stories and help them to rest.

In A GHOSTLY LIGHT, Mel’s taking on a new challenge: she’s renovating a historic Victorian lighthouse located on an island in the San Francisco Bay. And who’s ever heard of a lighthouse without a lingering ghost –or two?  Add to that rumors of a buried treasure, the death of a friend’s abusive ex-husband, and a long-ago missing child…and a teensy problem with acrophobia.

Mel’s got her hands full, and yes, she most certainly does believe in ghosts.

 

 

 

 

Touching Base – A Reviewer’s Perspective

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IMG_1106By DENISE FLEISCHER- GWN Blogger

Every day is a new opportunity to reach for one, two, sometimes three new novels that Penguin, Kensington, or  an author sent me. I put aside my lifestyles writer POV and adjust my reviewer’s reader’s glasses. Have plenty of pairs of those.

One of my favorite authors, Hank Phillippi Ryan, who created the Jane Ryland mysteries, asked me to write some thoughts on a reviewer’s perspective for a blog she and her peers contribute to. (I love Hank’s mysteries and she’s wonderful to listen to. If she comes to your town for her latest book’s promotion, RSVP and take notes). Well, I haven’t had time until now, to think about it.

My thoughts….

I see it this way…reading a book is like an adventure. As a reviewer, the author is my tour guide, leading me to places unknown. The journey begins with the book cover. Holding your book in my hand, I know right away if that’s the book I’m going to reach for before the others on my TBR book shelf. The cover has to draw me in and then the very first line and paragraph have to grasp my attention. I want real life to drift away so I can follow your characters through their experiences.

As I read, I note the following in a journal so I know I’ve covered everything I wanted to about the storyline:

  • What’s happening from chapter to chapter?
  • Can I relate to the characters?
  • Is it written on a level that the average reader can understand?
  • Does it make me look up the meaning of words here and there or every page?
  • Does the font hurt my eyes?
  • Does the storyline progress at a slow pace or full-speed ahead?
  • Is there any meaning or a message here?
  • Is it edited well? Have good transitions or feel as if pieces are missing?
  • Are the characters achieving anything? Learning something?
  • Are the characters interacting and assisting the protagonist?
  • Does the story keep my attention? Do I look forward to reading it?
  • Do I like the writer’s style?
  • Did I like the ending?
  • Am I interested in reading the next book in the series?

After adding the book cover jpg. , title information, mini-summary, I give my opinion as an average reader. It’s honest and a fast read. Hopefully, it will be read by other readers. If not, I know that I gave an author the time and respect he or she deserved. That book isn’t just sitting on a shelf.

About the blogger:

Denise Fleischer resides in Illinois, but prefers to believe she can go anywhere in the universe. The majority of the time she can be found at home writing her next book or at the Journal & Topics Newspapers processing copy and writing articles. She is the author of “The Guardian,” “Altar of Freedom” and “Deadly Reservations,”  a paranormal thriller. Her work in progress is “The Sharp Edge of Truth,” a sequel to “Deadly,” with a time travel format. Denise’s interest in time travel and the paranormal began with “The Time Tunnel” and Dark Shadows television shows. When Denise isn’t writing the next Zoe Montgomery adventure, she’s reading women’s fiction and mysteries for review, watching TLC and HGTV, working on gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com, Breakers and Snug Harbor SL sim blogs and chilling in Second Life.

Blog Tour - Janis Thornton

 

 

 

New Title – A Manor House Mystery –Grace to the Finish by Julie Hyzy

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9780425281635

Grace to the Finish

By JULIE HYZY

Part of A Manor House Mystery

Cozy Mysteries

Mass Market Paperback

Jun 27, 2017 | 304 Pages

ABOUT GRACE TO THE FINISH

The New York Times bestselling author of the Manor House Mysteries and the White House Chef Mysteries returns with a mix of murder and mayhem for curator Grace Wheaton.

Now that Grace Wheaton has officially been named heir to Bennett Marshfield’s fortune, her usually busy schedule has become a juggling act. In addition to her duties at Marshfield Manor, she’s bankrolling her roommates’ refurbished wine shop, Amethyst Cellars. Grace is excited to check out the rustic space with Bruce and Scott. But that excitement turns to dismay when they stumble upon the body of the banker involved with the sale. 

Grace wants to get to the bottom of this mystery quickly so that her friends’ new venture isn’t overshadowed by an unsolved murder, but she’s got even more to balance when her troubled sister, Liza, is released from prison early. Liza’s first stop is Marshfield Manor and her first priority is grabbing a bite of Bennett’s fortune for herself. Grace has to keep her greedy sister at bay and catch a killer before her new life comes crashing down around her.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

New York Times bestselling author Julie Hyzy writes both the White House Chef Mysteries and the Manor House Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime and has won the Anthony Award and the Barry Award for her work. A native Chicagoan, she thoroughly enjoys researching her books, especially when traveling to exciting new places is involved.

Now In Paperback – Psychic Eye Mystery A Grave Prediction by Victoria Laurie

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9780451473899

In Victoria Laurie’s latest Psychic Eye Mystery, Abby Cooper learns that following the money often leads to murder….

 When Abby is sent to Los Angeles to help train FBI officers to use their intuition, she encounters a case that only she can solve: a series of bank robberies in which the thieves made off with loads of cash but left no clues. Abby’s sixth sense leads her team to a tract of land recently cleared for development, where she gets a vision of four buried bodies. However, a site search turns up only ancient bones and pottery from an American Indian tribe, which is enough to delay construction for years. 

 With a furious developer and dubious FBI agents on her back, Abby is losing credibility fast. But Abby’s talent rarely leads her astray, and if the bodies aren’t there yet, that means four deaths can still be stopped. She’ll just have to dig a little deeper….

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Victoria Laurie, a New York Times bestselling author and professional psychic, drew from her career as a gifted intuitive to create the characters of Abigail Cooper and M. J. Holliday, protagonists in her Psychic Eye and Ghost Hunter mystery series. She lives in suburban Michigan.

New Title – A Just Clause by Lorna Barrett

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9780399585913A Just Clause

By LORNA BARRETT

Part of A Booktown Mystery

Category: Cozy Mysteries

Berkley Prime Crime Hardcover

Jun 13, 2017 | 320 Pages

Just when things are getting back to normal in Booktown, Tricia and Angelica have their lives turned upside down by a shocking visitor from their past in this latest entry in Lorna Barrett’s New York Times bestselling series. 

Tricia Miles, mystery bookstore owner and amateur sleuth, is in for a surprise when her ne’er-do-well father, John, comes to town—and promptly becomes a prime suspect in the murder of a woman with her own scandalous past. Even Tricia’s faith in the old man is shaken when the Stoneham police break the news that her father is a known con man who has done jail time.  

But what about bestselling thriller author Steven Richardson? Is it a coincidence that he arrived for a book signing just before the crime or that the victim was found with a signed copy of his latest bestseller?  

From merlot to murder, Tricia is determined to clear the family name before another body shows up and ruins Stoneham’s first—and highly anticipated—wine and jazz festival.

INCLUDES RECIPES

 

New Book – Title Wave by Lorna Barrett

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Guest Blog Post – A Fond Farewell To My Characters By Elizabeth Lynn Casey

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9780425282571Nine years ago, when I was first approached with the idea of writing the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries, I almost said no. After all, with the exception of an occasional button and/or a scout patch for one of my daughters, I wasn’t exactly what you’d call “a seamstress.” Fortunately for me, that part of me that had always wanted to be published with a New York house, told me to give it a try.

So I did. I focused my proposal on the socialization aspect of a sewing circle—the camaraderie that comes from engaging in a hobby or activity with likeminded people. Forty-eight hours after I wrote what would become the first six chapters of SEW DEADLY, I had the contract to write the series.

Sure enough, as Tori, Leona, Margaret Louise, Rose, and the rest of the gang came to life on my keyboard, I began to see these women as real people—people with quirks and fears and joys and dreams. And yes, I became attached to each and every one of them.

They surprised me often and that was part of the fun. When Leona first showed up on the page, she was bossy and had this thing for younger men. I didn’t know why, but I went with it. And sure enough, as she got to know me and me, her…she revealed the why behind her seemingly prickly side.

And Margaret Louise? Spending time with her was like spending time with that grandma who loves with every ounce of herself. I loved the way she talked, the way she drove, the way she looked out for everyone.

Rose…well, I had a soft spot for her from day one. I liked her spunk, her take-no-prisoners attitude, and her love for my main character, Tori Sinclair.

Every time I got a new contract extension or I sat down to write the next book, I was thrilled. Because I knew I was getting to spend time with this amazing cast of characters who have become my friends.

Needless to say, when I sat down to write Patterned After Death (the final book in the series), my heart was heavy. These characters have been such a big part of my life these past nine years. In addition to becoming my friends, they also helped me through some of my own tough patches by giving me a place to escape to…and friends to escape with.

So while murder had to touch their lives once again (it is, after all, a murder mystery), I hope they’re pleased with their send off.

***

You can read more about Tori Sinclair in Patterned After Death, the 12th book in the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries by Elizabeth Lynn Casey:

Everyone in Sweet Briar, South Carolina, knows former high school football stars Jake Davis and Noah Madden. The two were fierce rivals once and now, twenty years later, the dueling quarterbacks haven’t lost their luster. So townsfolk are surprised when Jake and Noah team up for a business venture. And there’s only one suspect when Noah turns up murdered. 

Margaret Louise, Jake’s mother and one of the founding members of the sewing circle, isn’t about to take the attack on her son’s reputation lying down. In fact, she’s in full mama-bear mode. And Tori and the rest of the Sweet Briar gang are more than willing to help her sharpen her claws to catch a killer.

***

About the Author:

Elizabeth Lynn Casey (of the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries) is a pen name for Laura Bradford, the national bestselling author of several mystery series, including the Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries, the Amish Mysteries, the Tobi Tobias Mysteries, and the Jenkins & Burns Mysteries. Laura is a former Agatha Award nominee, and the recipient of an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award in romance. When she’s not writing, Laura enjoys making memories with her family, baking, and being an advocate for those living with Multiple Sclerosis.

To learn more, visit her website: www.laurabradford.com, or hang out with her on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/laurabradfordauthor/?fref=ts. She can also be found occasionally tweeting at: @Bradfordauthor.

 

 

Guest Blog Post – Plotting a Trilogy With A Common Thread by Author Kat Martin

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Beyond Reason wburst (high res)

When the idea came to me for a book set in Texas, I knew immediately I wanted to write more than one.  Texas is such a vast and interesting place with limitless possibilities.

In BEYOND REASON, the first book in what turned into my Texas Trilogy, multi-millionaire, Lincoln Cain, was a character who came to me full-blown.  Cain, six-foot-five inches of solid male muscle, a man who survived a tough childhood and even tougher years in prison, then redeemed himself and became a mega-successful entrepreneur, was a guy I desperately wanted to write.

I’ve always been a plot-oriented author, but starting with a great character made the job easier.  Once I had Carly Drake, a young woman who inherited a failing trucking company, I had the beginnings of a story.

It didn’t take long to figure out Carly and Linc were perfect for each other, two survivors who didn’t give up no matter the odds against them.

In BEYOND REASON, it’s only five weeks since Carly buried her grandfather and took over Drake Trucking.  Now Drake’s top driver is dead and the cops have no leads on the hijacking or murder.  Facing bankruptcy, phone threats, and fear of failure, Carly must turn to the last man on earth she wants to owe, wealthy, powerful, and controlling, Lincoln Cain.

Unfortunately, Cain’s money can’t protect her from the men who’ll do anything to shut her down.  The only way Linc can keep her safe is to keep her close–and fight like hell.

I knew I wanted to write three books, but at first I wasn’t sure about all the players.  Then I met Linc’s mega-rich partner, former race car driver, Beau Reese.  I loved Beau right away, and since he was in trouble with the law, he needed the help of lady private investigator, Cassidy Jones.

That left marine special ops sniper, Joshua Cain, a half brother Linc had only just found about five years ago.  Since Josh was an overly protective sort of guy, I gave him a woman and her little girl on the run and in desperate trouble.  Tory and Ivy appealed to all Josh’s protective instincts and he couldn’t turn them away.

The stories are all very different and yet there is a common thread that pulls them together.  It was a fun theme to work on–one I’ll let readers discover for themselves.

I hope you enjoy BEYOND REASON, BEYOND DANGER, and BEYOND CONTROL, my Texas Trilogy.  Until next time, all best wishes and happy reading, Kat

Guest Blog Post – Hitchcock Insists That He is A Harmless Pure Black Cat

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9780425275269

 

By Hitchcock

the Cat of the Bad Luck Cat Mysteries

I know there are people who claim black cats are bad luck, that we’re witches’ familiars, that you should never let us cross your path. I’m here to tell you, that’s a bunch of hooey. My name is Hitchcock, and I’m a perfectly friendly and harmless pure black cat. There are those in the Texas Hill Country who will refer to me as the Bad Luck Cat. Like there’s any such thing. Duh. There isn’t. And as far as being a familiar – the only thing I’m extremely familiar with is eating and sleeping.  Like most every cat. I never even knew a witch. If I saw one streaking across the sky on a broom, I’d probably run and hide – same as you.

Now that we have that craziness out of the way, let me tell you a little more about myself. I spent the better part of my life fending for myself and finding table scraps here and there. That was before I met Sabrina Tate.  Yes, the soon-to-be-famous (in my humble cat opinion) mystery author, Sabrina Tate. She’s the one who named me Hitchcock shortly after I started sitting on her window sill and watching her write. She said I helped her with the suspense in her writing and that’s why she named me Hitchcock. Seems there was some dude with the same name who made some suspenseful movies. She could’ve named me Adam and I’d’ve been fine with that, so long as it meant I’d get to live with Sabrina in the Monte Carlo cottage at her Aunt Rowe’s Around-the-World cottages.

In spite of living in one place these days, I still make the rounds pretty well. People who live nearby have gotten to know me. They watch out for me – just in case I’m trying to slip into their car or truck when they least expect it. The beauty of living at the cottages is there are always new people arriving to rent a cottage – new people who don’t expect me to hitchhike with them.  Catching a ride’s the easiest way to make it into town, and who can expect a cat to sit around in the same spot all day long when there are mysteries to solve. Sabrina’s good, but without my help I’m not sure how quickly she could solve a crime. Not to mention she really needs someone to watch out for her and keep her safe. I’m her man – err, cat – and I don’t let her out of my sight for very long lest she head down a dangerous path.

You can read more about us in the new Bad Luck Cat Mystery – The Black Cat Sees His Shadow – by Kay Finch. Kay’s a cat person from way back – beginning on a farm in Pennsylvania where she wrote mystery stories as a little girl and once had 17 cats at the same time.  Later, she moved to Houston, Texas, where she joined a critique group with other “cat mystery” people you may know – Leann Sweeney and Miranda James. Kay wrote a lot of mysteries with her kitty, Alice, by her side. And the rest, as they say, is cat mystery history.

 

 

A Conversation with Courtney Maum about her novel TOUCH

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Courtney Maum © Colin Lane

You were a trend forecaster yourself for many years, and still work as a corporate “namer” for products from makeup to pharmaceuticals to hummus to toilet paper. How do you anticipate trends?

 Well, when it comes to naming products, you want a name with longevity. Something that’s either classic enough to stay timeless (“Cadillac”) or abstract enough to stay cool (“Hulu”). Names with too much personality (“Kiss My Face,” “Quikster”) can quickly feel dated. And then there are things you don’t see coming, like the Belgian chocolate maker who had been making pralines under the name “Isis” since 1923.

I don’t really work as a trend forecaster anymore, but it’s sort of like listening to a new piece of music for the first time and using your past experience to anticipate whether the notes will go up or down, whether the refrain will kick in early….you can train yourself to recognize patterns and expectations. Just like with a psychological thriller, if you keep yourself open to signs and cues (the soundtrack shifts, the shots tighten), you can guess what’s around the bend. There are a lot of aha moments in trend forecasting, too. Your intuition just starts to recognize objects, concepts, and colors that have breakout potential. I remember the first time I saw a stylish friend of mine with a Turkish towel maybe 7 years ago. Something about the object, it’s elegant simplicity, I thought—that’s gonna be huge.

 In your career, have you ever forecasted something as ubiquitous as Sloane’s “swipe”?

cover_TOUCH No, definitely not! I’m seriously small potatoes compared to my protagonist. However, this past year, when he started running for President, I thought that Trump would win. There just seemed to be such an incredible force field of anger and fear running through our country, alongside a movement against intelligence and logic. When you backed all that with our culture’s adoration of reality T.V., I thought he’d be unstoppable.

But in general, I rarely worked for the kind of company that wanted specific forecasts, like what the next kale would be, or the follow-up to the platform sneaker. I worked mostly with French companies who forecasted behavioral changes very far out. So it really wasn’t about calling what was going to come down the runway next year. It was more esoteric—what would perfume smell like in 2020? I did make a prediction that people would start using makeup on their ears by then. Let’s see if it happens.

 What trends do you foresee in 2017 and onward?

 I’m absolutely positive that we’ll see the rise—or rather, the return—of slow communication. I think people will get really into letter writing, calling their friends on the phone, downgrading to dumb phones instead of smart phones, or even toggling back and forth between the two. I think book publishing will flourish—books are the perfect escape because when you’re reading a printed book, you can’t be doing something else. A printed book isn’t sending you a push notification or a text. And I think social interaction is going to take priority over social media for a while. I bet there will be a lot of salons and cultural clubs organized, people will be meeting in person more, gathering for a cause, scheming, dreaming, and I bet cell phones will be barred from a lot of these get togethers. And also in restaurants—I can see cell phone banning becoming a trend, the way that restaurants that don’t take reservations have cachet right now. I mention this in the book but I think penmanship will gain traction—I can imagine handwriting classes becoming a cool gift you offer someone. If that happens, then stationary and pens and all the accouterments of letter writing will trend, too. And I don’t think people are going to dump social media cold turkey, as many people are threatening to, but I do think they’ll be online a lot less. People will stop posting dramatic “I’m taking a social media hiatus” messages. It will just become normal to not be online all the time—you won’t have to declare it. It will take longer for people to get back to you via email, Facebook, or whatever, and it will start—like it used to be—to be quicker to reach people by calling them on the phone. We’ll see more protests and protest art than we have in America for decades—this is already happening. People will be using their bodies more than their keyboards. On a more trivial note, I think neon sunblock is going to trend, don’t ask me why.

 Is the theme of premonition – whether it be through trend forecasting, dreams, or uncanny visions – that’s so central to the novel something you’ve always wanted to explore in fiction?

You know, it actually hasn’t been. This book started out being centered around another arcane pursuit: dressage. The main character was a prop stylist. That particular story turned out to be too difficult to write, but I salvaged the character’s job. I ended up turning my “prop stylist” into a “trend forecaster”—these professions aren’t dissimilar. Crate and Barrel was one of the first catalogues to start using succulents everywhere. Cacti tipped, and trended. Some prop stylist was behind that. But futurism wasn’t a career I’d always wanted to write about by any means. It’s all so internal, the process of trend forecasting. It’s so personal and woo-woo, and it’s also very private. Most companies don’t admit to using trend forecasters. It was a real challenge to describe.

 As a trend forecaster yourself, do you share Sloane’s prediction about the future of physical contact, intimacy, compassion, and empathy? Are there any recent products, habits, or trends in which you see the return of “in-personism” (or anxiety about “in-personism”) manifested?

 Oh, absolutely. I absolutely think “in-personism” is already trending. I really had to gallop my way across the finish line with this book—I started it nearly three years ago, and so many of the things I wrote about are already coming true. Like cuddling parties, and the “empathy bots.” There’s a Japanese product out there that is very similar to those bots: a holographic wife. And I’m positive that by the time the book publishes there will be a lot of people who have gone back to using flip phones that don’t do much beyond calling and texting. Punkt has a super stylish model called the MP 01 and there are all these basic flip phones for the elderly that could possibly trend because they’re ugly in a cool way. Their buttons are huge.

 TOUCH provides some foreseeable examples of the way in which technology has allowed us to disassociate from reality. Do you think it’s possible to continue to innovate while diverting ourselves from what looks like a crash course toward apathy?

 Definitely, the key is to recognize that in terms of our interpersonal relationships, we’re nearing total apathy instead of compassion. Actually, the Trump election reveals that apathy has won. So we have to course correct. The answer is not to abandon electronics, that would be absurd. But electronics, especially smartphones and apps, can be designed in a way that doesn’t suck out our ability to be unique and compassionate humans. The former Google employee Tristan Harris has done a lot of fascinating writing on this—on how applications can be re-programmed so they’re not such a time suck. Algorithms have to be revisited, too. What does it mean that we’re only seeing crowdsourced posts and news items in our social media feeds? What does it mean when we don’t have to expose ourselves to anything we don’t want to see or hear or touch?

 What is it about Roman’s “neo-sensualism” and his provocative post-sexual treatise (and viral op-ed) that you think hits such a nerve with the general public in the novel?

I think his article hit a nerve with people who were looking for permission to opt-out from the slog of relationship maintenance. Because it is a lot of work, cultivating relationships with people, especially romantic ones. Online dating has essentially allowed us to shop for sexual partners, but even online dating is predicated on the idea that you will get off your couch and get dressed to go meet this person at one point, make conversation, try to be charming. For many people nowadays, that level of socializing is just asking too much. Roman’s stance on post-sexuality allows people to basically fall deeper in love with their own selves and bodies, and of course it’s true that you’re not limited to gender or race or body type if you’re going to live your life online. In that way, cyber sexuality can be freeing—you can be whatever you want.

 What do you think drew Sloane to Roman? What did he once represent or embody for her?

 I always imagined it as an intellectual attraction in the beginning, and the fact that sex wasn’t the motor of the relationship probably felt very liberating at one point. With both of them childless, they were allowed to put their careers first, and I do think that Roman has been very supportive of Sloane’s career, and covetous of it, too. I can imagine it being comforting to Sloane, knowing that Roman understands not just the way she thinks, but the way she rationalizes and processes information. The fact that a certain Middle Eastern spice was used on an omelet in a restaurant for example, that such a seemingly mundane detail would really linger in her mind as proof of some larger, oncoming trend, Roman would get that, whereas someone else might find such a way of thinking (and living) either indulgent, or neurotic.

How do you think the death of Sloane’s father has informed her decisions in life – and played out in her predictions?

 In one way, it probably helped her because in cutting herself off emotionally from people, as she did after her beloved father’s death, she’s better able to interpret trends without an emotional bias. What I mean is that she’s more likely to be able to interpret a situation or a sign without her own emotions clouding her analysis. I think she’s cultivated a surgical approach to trend forecasting. Of course, this changes by the end of the story, where her emotions actually start to inform her forecasts.

 Who is Anastasia? And why does she become so important to Sloane?

Anastasia is the driverless M-Car Mammoth—Sloane’s employer—supplies her with during her 6-month contract in New York. Anastasia is a modern compromise to the tech vs touch argument that comes up in the book: she is endowed with real human characteristics, and is, in effect, Sloane’s closest friend throughout most of the story, but she’s also engineered, she’s an electronic marvel. In a book that champions a return to “in-personism,” I also wanted to salute the ways in which technology has improved and enlarged our lives, hence, Anastasia.

 Parenthood is another central theme in TOUCH. What does parenthood look like in a modern world increasingly at odds with compassion, empathy, and “in-personism”?

 It would seem that we’re at odds with all these things, but the fact that we’re at odds with them, suggests to me that they will return. I do in fact think that there might be an increase in the American birthrate, soon. In theory, with the increasing disregard for the state of our environment and civil liberties in our country, you would think that people would be inclined not to reproduce. But I think we might see the opposite. Sex can be comforting, and (spoiler alert!) sex can lead to babies. Babies require compassion and empathy and physical contact to be kept alive. Raising a child can, in fact, force you to either hone or develop the skills to be more humanistic. Or it can break you into the fraction of the person you were before.

 Although she’s been hired as an expert at the top of her field, Sloane encounters many instances of misogyny in her workplace. Do you think Sloane’s experience is unique to her? Do you think her prediction of a movement against electronics and a return to compassion and empathy is taken less seriously because she’s a woman?

 I absolutely don’t think her experience is unique to her, and in fact I meant for Sloane’s experience at Mammoth to remind people of the prevalence of misogyny in our culture. I was thinking of Hillary Clinton a lot as I wrote this book. I was thinking how it often feels like powerful women are set up to fail, that there is an almost visceral need to see them fail, that people—women included—might not be as receptive to the idea of women succeeding as they pretend to be. Ultimately, I do think that even though he truly does admire her, and even needs her, Dax hires Sloane to inflate his own self worth. Her hire is a trap. And definitely, I think people are quick to discount Sloane’s ideas about a return to compassion and empathy because she’s a woman. She’s a woman who’s just being “emotional.” I don’t think people give female intuition enough credit. You’d never make fun of an animal’s instincts—in fact, the ancient Celts used white stallions as augurs. If the horses acted a certain way, they would call off a battle. But people don’t accord the same respect to female intuition. We’re just treated as “hormonal,” when in fact, the singularity of the female experience does indeed endow us with a higher sense.

The setting is an equally important element in TOUCH, which sees Sloane return from Paris to New York. How do you think both locations inform Sloane’s sensibilities and professional predictions?

 Sloane does make several allusions to the fact that the atmosphere at Mammoth isn’t as “sensual” as what she’s used to in Europe, in that more resources are dedicated to production, marketing and sales than to research and creative brainstorming—the generation of ideas. At one point, she finds out that they don’t even run focus groups—they just mine data, which is very alarming to her. I think she’s shocked and made uncomfortable by how sales-focused Mammoth is, how their insights are quantitative rather than qualitative. On the one hand, that’s what makes Mammoth so impressive—they know the numbers, they only produce what sells. On the other hand, they never take risks, and they’re not looking at real humans for data—they’re looking at buying patterns and sales numbers, which aren’t the same thing. I think Sloane was probably quicker to call a trend in “in-personism” living in New York City than she would have been if she’d been working in Europe, which is why the setting is key to her predictions.

For more information on TOUCH and Courtney Maum, please visit:

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