Interview with Nikki Logan, Author of Slow Dance with the Sheriff

 

Nikki Logan is a veteran Harlequin Romance author.  Her latest release, Slow Dance with the Sheriff, is the second book in The Larkville Legacy series.  Eight authors collaborated on this continuity, and I thought it would be fun to chat with as many as possible as I make my way through the series.  I was thrilled when Nikki dropped by to talk about her book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Nikki Logan] Writer seeks reader who loves long walks on beach, toasty log cabins deep in forest & plenty of wildlife. GSOH an advantage.#AuthorPersonals

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Slow Dance with the Sheriff?

[Nikki Logan] This story is part of an eight-book series (we call it a ‘continuity’ because each story continues the central thread, adding to it in some way) based in fictional Larkville just outside of Austin, Texas (though they’re not all set there). My book is second in the series and features a never-left-New York ex Ballerina, Ellie, who comes to Larkville to personally check out the truth behind a letter she received from a woman claiming to be her half-sister. Ellie wants to suss out the truth before throwing her whole family into disarray. But, thanks to some hurtful and angry words exchanged with her mother, she leaves New York in an uncharacteristically rash fashion and arrives in Larkville only to find all the Calhouns away from the ranch for a couple of weeks. She has no choice but to accept the reluctant assistance of the town sheriff who cops the brunt of her barely contained anxiety about the downward vortex that is her life. But of course he’s gorgeous and gracious about it and she finds herself falling fast…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Slow Dance with the Sheriff is part of the Larkville Legacy series. Can you share how you and the other authors worked together to write these books?

[Nikki Logan] Getting eight authors from all corners of the globe together to figure out the finer details of such a long and complicated family relationship wasn’t easy. The eight of us primarily used an email loop to communicate and we started with the continuity ‘bible’ which is a number of documents sent to us by our editors which gave us our essential character outlines, descriptions, info about fictional Larkville and some suggestions on what made each character tick.  Each of us got that information at roughly the same time and then a few of us launched madly into fleshing it/our characters/the setting out via the loop. But, of course, each of us had a different place in the schedule and different deadlines. Although I was book # 2, my deadline was the first of everyone and so I had to write like a demon once we had locked down the basics and then try and stay across changes and developments as I wrote.  But I was well into my next book by the time the authors of the seventh and eighth books were starting to plan theirs.  It was staggered.

So that Google group and its archives came in really handy for going back through everything and getting it right.

The most fun (for me) was creating the world of Larkville.  I’m responsible for Nan’s Bunk’n’Grill, the Larkville Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Hollis being a woman :) Then it was up to each of us to insert enough of the ‘world’ into our stories. But of course not everyone got to set their books in Larkville so other authors had to try and extrapolate the ‘world’ and feed enough of it into their stories to make it nest neatly within the series.

The biggest challenge was taking a few-line outline dashed off by the publisher and bending it to fit my voice, my style of story and my interest. I’m really happy with the way the whole story worked out, it’s true to the outline provided but also true to me and characters I would have loved to write anyway. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Eleanor/Ellie?

[Nikki Logan] 3 words: On the cusp.

So much about her life is about to change for the better and she has no idea. But she’s taken her first real risk and it’s going to pay off big time.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Jed would never have in his bedroom?

[Nikki Logan] His firearm (because although he’s security conscious, being a Sheriff, he moved to Larkville to have a different kind of pace in his life, and keeping his gun in his bedroom would dishonour that intent).

His muddy boots (because his Gran raised him right and because he has a loft bedroom so that mud would track all up the stairs)

A phone (Bedrooms are for sleeping or recreation and Jed would think that being contactable wouldn’t fit with either of those things)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Ellie had a theme song, what would it be?

[Nikki Logan] “I Will Survive”.  She’s been through a lot, but she’s finding herself in Larkville and every bad thing that has happened to her has only made her stronger.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Nikki Logan] My father was an original ‘MadMen’ advertising exec type and one of the top creative directors/copywriters in his field, so the bulk of my creative genes came from him. His father (my grandfather) told the most spectacularly intricate, engaging stories that he just made up out of his head (or seemed to) and so clearly my father got it from him and his Welsh genes.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Nikki Logan] Tea – refreshing the cup gives my eyes a break from the monitor and sipping a piping hot cup of tea helps me think

Silence – I write best to silence (including internet silence) and edit best to classical music.

My dogs – there’s something about their steady breathing and reassuring presence…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Nikki Logan] Reading is such a rushed and rare thing for me now… and it’s been a while since I read someone new (because when I do read its usually the latest installment from someone who already knocked off my socks a few years ago)… But I was totally blown away by seeing WAR HORSE in New York last year.  I picked it randomly when I had a free evening and wanted to see a NY show, and knew virtually nothing about it. It picked me up and transported me, breathless, to another world and I completely bought into every part of that experience. It was so engaging, so immersive so emotional and so visceral. Exactly all the things I enjoy about a good read. Except it wasn’t a read!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Nikki Logan] I find this impossible to answer. I grew up in a house always filled with books, and with a mother always propped up at the kitchen bench with a cuppa and a good book. I don’t remember when I started to read I just know I always have. I used to read whatever the school library had (I loved romance even then and would devour ‘Sweet Dreams’ romantic YA novels and also ‘choose your own ending’ stories) and then as I got older of course Mills & Boon (of which my mother had hundreds) and all my mum’s sci-fi/fantasy books (of which she also had hundreds, tho I was selective in what I read).

But to try and answer this I looked to my bookshelf to see what I still have from when I was very young. Two books stand out – one a book of the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen (the dark versions) which I still go back to even now for story ideas and another called “Gnomes” (Nuygen & Poortvliet) which is an anthropological examination of Gnomes as a different species. This book was such a haven at difficult times and transported me to a wonderful and mysterious place.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Nikki Logan] I’m not very good at refilling the well, I have to say. I work seven-days-a-week between writing and my day job so there isn’t a lot of down time. But I try to spend it with my man and my dogs. We like to all pile into the cruiser and go somewhere that we can all romp free together. Well, they romp and I wander sedately and catch up.  Movies, the lazy- (or busy-) woman’s book. And of course reading but there’s just no time…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Nikki Logan] Through my website/blog (www.nikkilogan.com.au), or on my fanpage on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/NikkiLoganAuthor) predominantly. I try to reply to anyone who contacts me with questions or comments.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Slow Dance with the Sheriff in print or digital from the widget below.

 

Here is a list of the entire Larkville Legacy series, in order by release month. I have enjoyed the first two books in the series, so I plan to try and read all of them.    I love continuity series, so Harlequin once again hit my happy button.

The Cowboy Comes  Home by Patricia Thayer – JULY

Slow Dance with the Sheriff by Nikki Logan – AUGUST

Taming the Brooding Cattleman by Marion Lennox – SEPTEMBER

The Rancher’s Unexpected Family by Myrna Mackenzie – OCTOBER

His Larkville Cinderella by Melissa McClone – NOVEMBER

The Secret that Changed Everything by Lucy Gordon – DECEMBER

The Soldier’s Sweetheart by Soraya Lane – JANUARY

The Billionaire’s Baby SOS by Susan Meier – FEBRUARY

Here are all of the covers -

Lark Ville Legacy

Cheap eReads – Who Let the Dogs Out?

Here are some YA and MG Kindle books featuring dogs, all priced at below 5 bucks! Click on the title to order. 

 

Boys Are Dogs (Annabelle Unleashed)  by Leslie Margolis (.99)

Middle-school boys act like wild animals. 
That’s what Annabelle discovers on her first day in her brand-new life. Birchwood Middle School is totally different from her old all-girls elementary. In fact, lots of things in Annabelle’s life are totally different now that she’s back from summer camp. There’s mom’s new boyfriend, a new house, new friends—even a new puppy that likes to chew on Annabelle’s clothes. Well, at least the puppy comes with a leash and a training manual! If only she could say the same for the boys . . .
Featuring Annabelle’s hilarious take on friendship, boys, and her all-new life, this novel / survival guide perfectly captures the joy—and agony—of junior high school. And it might just teach you how to tame the wildest beast of all, the teenage boy.

 

What the Dog Said by Randi Reisfeld ($1.99)

Ever since her police officer father was killed a few months ago, Grace Abernathy hasn’t wanted to do much of anything. She’s pulled away from her friends, her grades are plummeting . . . it’s a problem. The last thing Grace wants is to be dragged into her older sister Regan’s plan to train a shelter dog as a service dog. But Grace has no idea how involved she’ll get-especially when a mangy mutt named Rex starts talking to her. Has Grace gone off the deep end? Or might this dog be something really special-an angel? A spirit? Either way, he is exactly the therapy that Grace needs.

Me & Jack  by Danette Haworth ($1.99)

Joshua Reed is used to moving around since his dad became an Army recruiter and the Vietnam War broke out. But their newest home, in the mountains of Pennsylvania, feels special somehow. Josh has started to make a new friend, his dad has finally allowed him to get a dog, and Jack-with his strange glowing ears and the way he seems to understand Josh’s feelings-is like no other dog Josh has ever seen. But in Vietnam-era America, conflict is never far away-even on the homefront. When a local boy is killed overseas, the town turns on the new army recruiter. And when a few late-night disturbances all point to Jack, it will be up to Josh to fight for his dog, his family, and his new home.

Dogs of the Drowned City #1: The Storm   by Dayna Lorentz  ($4.61)

Warriors and Guardians of Ga’Hoole fans have a new animal adventure to sink their teeth into!A terrible storm — and the beginning of a thrilling new animal adventure trilogy!When a hurricane forces his family to evacuate without him, Shep the German sheperd is confused. Where is his boy? Will he ever return? And what will Shep do in the meantime, now that the extra bowls of food — not to mention all those tasty things he found in the big cold box — are gone? Then another dog shows up at Shep’s window and convinces him to escape. There’s food outside, and a whole empty city to explore. Shep just wants to go home … but the adventure of a lifetime is just beginning.

The Puppy Place #1: Goldie by Ellen Miles ($3.82)

Welcome to the Puppy Place! This new Little Apple series stars a lovable new puppy in every book! And it’s Charles and Lizzie Peterson’s job to find every puppy the perfect home.
Charles and Lizzie Peterson love puppies. They want a puppy of their own more than just about anything. They know dogs are a lot of work. But their mom still doesn’t think their family is ready for a puppy.

Then, Goldie arrives. She is a sweet golden retriever that needs a home. Goldie is very young. She doesn’t know how to be a good puppy yet. Will Charles and Lizzie be able to help her?

Micro Review–Dog in Charge by K L Going and Dan Santat

 

 

 

 

Title:  Dog in Charge

Author: K L Going

Illustrator: Dan Santat

Publisher:  Dial

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When the going gets tough, Dog . . . takes a nap

Dog can Sit.

He can Stay.

He can even Dance.

But when he’s in charge, can he keep the cats in line?

All one, two, three, four, five of them?

With slapstick silliness and utterly earnest charm, Dog will quickly wiggle his way into preschoolers’ hearts.

,

Review:

This is one of the best picture books that I have ever read! It is so cute!!  It even had an unsuspected twist that brought a huge smile to my face.  Poor Dog is left in charge when his people have to go out.  He is left in charge of five naughty cats.  The cats, while not devious, love to play, and Dog is having a hard time keeping tabs on all one, two, three, four, five of them.  When the tensions run the highest, and the house couldn’t get any messier, Dog succumbs to a nap to refresh himself, allowing the cats to save the day.  The cats all love Dog, which made me love them. 

If you have young readers at home, this is a fun book with big, bold illustrations that is sure to please. Even if you don’t have young readers, sneak Dog in Charge home from the library for a quick, delightful read.

Grade:  A

Review copy obtained from my local library

Subscribe in a reader

Interview with Elsa Watson, Author of Dog Days

Elsa Watson is the author of Dog Days, a Tor release that hits store shelves May 22.  Elsa dropped by the virtual offices to introduce herself and to chat about her book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Elsa Watson] I’m goofy, short, and a little shy. I try to be nice to people and animals, and I love escaping into a good story more than anything else. My desk is messy, but my intentions are good, so I figure that makes it okay. By day, I work at the West Sound Wildlife Shelter, which is a wildlife hospital and education center. (The writing happens by night.) All in all, I’m a pretty happy person, and I count myself as extremely lucky.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Dog Days?

[Elsa Watson] It’s the story of Jessica Sheldon, a café owner who had a bad run-in with dogs and has gained a bad reputation. In her dog-loving town of Madrona, she’s been labeled the “dog hater.” But it’s a tag she’s trying to shake, so when she comes across a dog in need — Zoe, a white German shepherd — she steps in to help. Things take a turn when she and Zoe are struck by magical lightening — and wake up transformed. Jessica finds herself trapped in Zoe’s body, paws and all, while Zoe is walking around on two legs with a pair of opposable thumbs.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Elsa Watson] Zoe is a composite. Physically, she’s based on a gorgeous white dog I know named Annie. Her personality comes from our shepherd mix, Kota. Kota has Zoe’s same rambunctious spirit, sense of adventure, and love of hot dogs. Jessica is a quieter and more serious version of me. She’s had a difficult past, so in many ways she’s the person I think I might have been if my childhood had been like hers.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the story?

[Elsa Watson] Settling on Jessica’s story was hard. Many of the ideas I had originally — that she have a fiancé and a deadbeat sister — landed on the cutting room floor. I spent about six months writing different opening chapters for her until I found one that worked.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Jessica?

[Elsa Watson] Cautious, smitten, and trapped-in-a-dog’s-body (can that count as one word?)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Elsa Watson] I can’t say that I’ve absorbed any of their brilliance, but I’m definitely in awe of Jane Austen, E.M. Forster, Edith Wharton, Elizabeth Gaskell, Willa Cather, Jennifer Weiner, and Amy Tan.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Elsa Watson] A good keyboard, a clear mental picture of my protagonists, and something to drink (tea, ideally). I’m much happier if I also have some candy!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Elsa Watson] Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees by Johnny Gruelle. My grandfather took me to kindergarten every day and before it started we would sit in the car while he read Raggedy Ann and Andy stories to me. Later, when I was old enough to read on my own, I read this book over and over. It has talking camels, magical glasses, girls dressed as pirates — what more could you ask for?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Elsa Watson] I work full time and I have a seven-month old, so writing fills the bulk of my spare time. But I love brushing and walking our dogs, mowing the lawn with our old push-mower, and watching movies.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Elsa Watson] Please do! I’m on Facebook (www.facebook.com/elsawatsonauthor), Twitter (@elsa_watson), and Goodreads (Elsa Watson.) I’d love to talk about animals, books, the weather — whatever!

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Thank you!

 


Dog Days will be in stores May 22! You can pre-order a copy from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.

Review: Stargazing Dog by Takashi Murakami

 

Title: Stargazing Dog

Author: Takashi Murakami

Publisher: NBM Publishing

ISBN: 978-1561636129

 

May Contain Spoil

From Amazon:

Translated from the Japanese bestseller, this story centers on Oto-san, a man who finds himself abandoned by his family and friends with nothing in his life happening the way he had planned. He embarks on a road trip to escape it all, and he soon discovers the only one he can count on completely is his faithful, recently adopted dog, who helps him see the light at the end of the tunnel. Illustrating the valuable lessons of friendship and loyalty, this is a heartwarming tale of two endearing characters and their shared adventure into the unknown.

Review:

I don’t know what exactly I expected from Stargazing Dog, but a sad story of wasted opportunities wasn’t anywhere on the list.  From the cover, I expected a carefree tale about a man and his dog.  It’s not.  It’s a story about a man without goals or the ability to change, and the love he has for his dog, the one constant in his life.  Happie provides most of the narrative, and as someone who loves dogs and can’t imagine life without my Buu, the deceptively simple language packs a powerful punch.  It actually felt like someone stabbed me in the heart a few times as I become totally engrossed in Happie’s life with Daddy.

Told in two parts, the first half of the book follows Daddy and Happie from a comfortable life in the suburbs, to divorce, to homelessness.  Through it all, Happie stays faithfully by Daddy’s side.  His whole life revolves around Daddy, and he is over the moon as long as he gets his daily walk and is allowed to spend time with the center of his universe.  When Happie first enters Daddy’s life as a puppy, the man tolerates the dog and allows his daughter to keep her new pet.  As the years slowly pass, the only anchor in Happie’s life is Daddy, and Daddy slowly grows fond of the dog.  Unconditional love is hard to resist, and Daddy soon succumbs to Happie’s worship.  As his fortunes decline, Daddy’s world begins to revolve around Happie, and soon, the two only have each other.  Everything else is gone; sold, stolen, discarded.  Just their mutual affection remains, even as life-threatening illnesses and a life on the road take their toll on both of them.

The second half of the book follows Okutsu, a social worker who is trying to uncover the mystery left by Daddy and Happie.  Okutsu is a lot like Daddy, except that he lacks one thing that the homeless man still possessed; the blind love and trust of a dog.  As Okutsu follows leads to close his case, he is forced to reflect back on his treatment of his dog when he was a child.  He wasn’t always nice to the dog, and even when he was at his meanest, the dog still accepted him with unwavering devotion.  Unconditional love isn’t always as easy to return as one would think, and when Okutsu was a boy, he resented his dog for always loving him, no matter how cruel he could be. 

This book resonated with me because of the relationship between Daddy and Okutsu and their dogs.  Neither one of them is particularly successful in their dealings with other people, but they have learned to form a deep connection with their pets.  Even as Okutsu chides his dog for stargazing and staring into the night sky, you can’t help but wonder how the lives of both men would have changed if they had been the dreamers and the stargazers.  Neither of them seems motivated to become more than they are, and if they didn’t have their dogs, they would both be alone, emotionally detached from everyone and everything.  Maybe that is what struck me the hardest about this book – the dogs had a fundamental ability to live and love that both men were sadly lacking.

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Shelter Puppies by Michael Kloth

 

Title: Shelter Puppies

Author: Michael Kloth

Publisher:  Merrell

ISBN: 978-1858945606

 

 

From Amazon:

What could tug at the heartstrings more than a puppy looking for a home? Whether he’s exploring eagerly with his littermates or winning you over with his doleful stare, a puppy is quite irresistible. Dog ownership is a responsibility not to be taken lightly, however, and every year growing numbers of newborn or abandoned puppies enter shelters. In this delightful new book, photographer Michael Kloth captures the canine spirit at its floppy-eared, tail-wagging best with over 60 endearing portraits of shelter puppies. From chihuahuas and poodles to pit bulls and Labradors, and all kinds of mixes in-between, the puppies enchant with their curiosity, playfulness and all-round lust for life. By documenting the unique characters and stories of some of the puppies he has encountered in his volunteer work, Kloth raises awareness of animal rescue causes, and especially the need for more adoptive homes.

Thoughts:

Since I am totally biased towards puppies, this isn’t a review so much as a discussion about a cause that I feel very strongly about.  If flipping through very, very cute pictures of puppies helps prompt you to go out and adopt a dog, then please grab a copy of Shelter Puppies right now.  Open the book, and you can’t help but smile as one adorable photograph after another holds you captive.  In addition to the glossy photos, there are success stories about adopted puppies and how much their presence in their forever homes have enriched the lives of their new families. 

I don’t need to look through a book to know how true this is – my dog, Buu, was rescued from a breed specific private shelter, after he was saved from a city shelter.  Because he was an older dog, and because he is a large breed, his chances of adoption through the city shelter were slim.  When we decided it was time to add another member to our family, Buu was not a likely candidate for our home.  I wanted to adopt a female, but there wasn’t one available.  Instead, we took home a very underweight 18 month old male who was still recovering from pneumonia, which he caught at the city shelter.  He almost didn’t make the trip home with us – after agreeing to adopt him, he had to be rushed to the animal hospital, and they didn’t think he would make it.  That was a devastating phone call.  Why did I cry for a dog I hadn’t even met yet?

We decided to adopt a dog instead of purchasing a puppy from a breeder after we failed to save our Doberman.  KC died of congestive heart failure, an affliction that is common for Dobermans.  It was hard for me to decide to bring a new life into our home, because there is always that fear of loss.  Could I go through that again?  It is an inevitable end when you love a pet and agree to care for it for its entire life.  That is what pet ownership is really about, though, isn’t it?  Making a promise to your pet to take care of it and to love it forever.  It is a sacred trust that you agree to accept when you bring an animal into your house.  The joy and love that you receive in return is priceless, though.  How can you resist that happy greeting every time you walk through the front door?

Shelter Puppies is a beautiful book full of beautiful photographs of adorable puppies.  The glossy, full-color pages will delight even the most hard-hearted of readers.  Michael Kloth’s introduction should be required reading for all potential dog owners.  There is more to having a dog than feeding it and letting it outside.  The statistics included in the book are sobering – millions of dogs and cats are euthanatized every year in the United States alone.  In our throw away society, when did these vulnerable lives come to mean so little?

Grade: A – How can a book full of puppy pictures NOT get an A?

(25 cents from every copy sold in the US will benefit the ASPCA)

Review copy provided by publisher