Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Chat With Alana Lorens || BY ANY OTHER NAME || Book Review

Up-and-coming mommyblogger and single mom Marisol Herrera Slade returns to her old hometown in western Pennsylvania for her 20th high school reunion, reluctant and yet compelled to see her high school sweetheart, Russell Asher, who dumped her for the homecoming queen.

Russell’s marriage to the golden girl, however, ended in a nasty divorce, and he has been systematically excluded from his sons’ lives. In his Internet wanderings, he’s found feminist blogger Jerrika Jones, who glorifies single motherhood, essentially putting a stamp of approval on what’s happened to him. He’s vowed to take this woman down if they ever should meet.

What he doesn’t know, when he thinks to rekindle what he had with Marisol, is that Marisol and Jerrika are one and the same. When he discovers the truth, will his drive for revenge derail any chance they have to reunite? Or will they find they have more in common than they ever expected?
Alana, please tell us about yourself and your writing.

I’m a single mom of seven children, three of them on the autism spectrum, four of them grown, who works part time as a family law attorney and the rest of the time as a multi-published author. I write under the names of Alana Lorens for my romance and suspense titles, and Lyndi Alexander for my sci-fi, fantasy and young adult titles. I published my first article at 18, my first story at 25 and my first novel twenty years later. The detailed story of my writing career is available in a series at Novelspot, beginning with A Dead Rabbit and the Letter. I’m addicted to good coffee, beautiful scarves and Firefly, and I grow some pretty tasty tomatoes each summer.

What inspired BY ANY OTHER NAME?

This book really came from my early years as a blogger. I was blogging as a mother of children with autism, sharing the lessons I’d learned, gathering information and passing it on to others who came into the same position. Meeting other bloggers, I’d see them struggling to make a living from their passion for writing the words, and many did. But lessons about branding kind of pushed me in the direction of the Jerrika Jones persona—people would want to see a successful single mother as a strong, sassy woman.

Being in the real-life field of divorce and custody, however, as a family law attorney, I know there are active father’s rights groups who really dislike some of the “glory” attached to single mothers who flaunt their independence.

So when you take a single mother trying so hard to make it in the blogging world and a single dad heartbroken at the loss of his children, and put them together—fireworks are bound to ensue.

Please tell us about your current work in progress.

I’m currently working on WICKED INTENTS, a new romantic suspense novel set in the forests of Montana. Caryn Orlane, a cop-trained National Park Ranger, battles ecotage, which is destructive/ obstructive action designed to publicize or harass people believed to be harming the environment (a short version of ecological sabotage). The battle becomes personal when she finds her prime target, Levi Bradshaw, is really just a handsome guy who loves the land and is carrying out his principles--which turn out to be the same as hers, protecting the forests. Throw in some fanatic pagans and some disgruntled Native Americans unhappy with the damage caused by the ecotagers, and the story turns into a dangerous trek through the woods indeed. Caryn must choose her allies carefully, she could end up dead.

How do you come up with your book titles?

That’s a hard question! Often, I’ll scour old texts like Shakespeare, or look through quote libraries on the Internet for something that sounds close. Then I go through a process author Dean Koontz shared many years ago, playing with the words in the phrase, rearranging them until they sound perfect. Then I submit my work and the editor changes the title anyway.

If you could choose any actor/actress (living or dead) to play your protagonist, who would it be and why?

I definitely pictured Rosario Dawson as a possible match for Marisol. She’s got that vulnerability as well as the ability to stiffen a backbone when she must.

What is your favorite book genre? Who are your favorite authors?

While I grew up on the Victoria Holt/Mary Stewart gothic romantic suspense diet, I actually prefer science fiction. Anne McCaffrey, who wrote many series of fantasy books with compelling characters, is probably my favorite. The early Stephen King is also on my shelves, and Frank Herbert’s Dune series, too.

Tell us something strange or interesting about yourself. 

When I lived in south Florida, we actually had a shootout at our house. I nearly ended up shooting my (now ex) husband in the mess—I know someone got hit by a car but we never found out who. It was a fairly exciting time in our lives—I wrote an essay about it, entitled Shootout at the Mango Corral at my blog here.

Is there anything else you'd really like our readers to know?

I so enjoy creating these stories and characters, and I hope that the readers will enjoy them alongside me—I’d love to hear from them.

As my thanks for visitors to your blog, I’d like to give away an ebook of CONVICTION OF THE HEART, the first book in the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyers series to one lucky commenter!

Quick quiz:
·         Favorite food?  A perfectly seasoned veal marsala
·         Favorite color?  Deep, dark green
·         Favorite animal?    Jellyfish—I could watch those tanks at the aquarium for hours
·         Biggest pet peeve?  People talking on phones while driving
·         Dream car?  Anything with comfortable, heated seats and a great sound system
Excerpt:: set as Russell Asher comes back into town for his 20th high school reunion,and encounters the girl he dumped way back then, Marisol Slade. 

“Hello, ladies,” he said to the reunion committee gals in his most suave manner, feeling a need to flirt, redeem himself after the disastrous meeting with Tiffy.
Janelle grinned at him. “I was hoping you’d come. We’re just planning some events for the dance at the gym tomorrow night, the eighties splash, you know, and I remembered you and Tiffany doing the Pee Wee Big Shoe Dance.”
A flash of embarrassment ran through him as he suddenly remembered it, too. What a geek he’d been. “Oh, geeze, Janelle. Can’t you remember some of what I did on the basketball court instead?”
“We haven’t forgotten that,” Angela purred, her eyes hungry as she watched him. “Those thin jerseys didn’t cover much.”
Russell swallowed hard. “Well. I…ah. What about that Pee-Wee thing? What was that song?”
Tequila,” came a quiet voice from behind him. He turned slowly to see who had spoken.
Marisol Herrera.
Marisol Slade now, he’d seen in one of the emails that had gone out from the reunion committee. So she must have gotten married after she left school. She was sitting alone, though.
Marisol hadn’t changed much at all, a little older through the eyes, a little tired-looking, her smile faint, as if it would fade away if the light didn’t stay focused on it. But she still carried herself well, her figure slim, and her sharp white tank and skirt showed it off. Older, and better, apparently.
“Hey,” he said. He noticed she was checking him out, too. He sucked in his stomach. Just a little. Just in case.
He took his cup over to Marisol’s table. She seemed friendly at least. Maybe it was a case of bygones.        “Can I join you?” he asked.
Her face flushed, and she nodded. “I’d like that.”
He eased into the bench seat across from her. “I don’t remember seeing you in town for a long time.”
“I haven’t been. This is the first time since…well, since graduation, I guess.” She fidgeted with the spoon next to her cup, long, thin fingers rolling the utensil over and over.  “I’ve been living in Central Florida since the late nineties.”
He glanced at her left hand. No ring, no tan line indicating one was missing. So Mr. Slade must be history. “By yourself?”
“No, with my son Mark.” Her face lit up when she mentioned her son.         “Do you want to see a picture?” she asked, hesitant, as if she thought he’d refuse.
“Sure!” He drank from his cup while she dug in a small brown leather purse in her lap. His gaze floated around the room, scoping out new arrivals, but he didn’t find anyone he’d rather talk to.
Marisol held out a photo still crisp, fairly new. “This is his senior picture,” she said. “He just graduated from high school.”
Russell studied the picture of the dark-skinned boy with the close-cut kinky hair and the dazzling white smile, wearing a coral-colored polo shirt. He couldn’t help a quick glance at Marisol, confirming that he had her eyes, deep pools of emotional chocolate brown. “His father…?”
She shrugged. “Gone. He ran out on us a long time ago. But Mark’s come on really well. He’s going to Florida State in September, on a full scholarship.eHe
He studied Marisol as she spoke. He’d never thought she wasn’t worthwhile as a potential partner. They’d had some real good times. She was smart, kinda pretty and always pleasant.
She just wasn’t Tiffy.
A twinge of guilt stabbed him. He’d really been superfocused on his goal then, mental blinders shutting out every other possibility except that one. What was that Chinese proverb? Be careful what you wish for, because you may get it?
Boy, did it ever ring true now.

Review by Melissa Snark:

BY ANY OTHER NAME wasn't what I expected, especially given the heroine's pink satin dress on the cover. I went in expecting popcorn and got steak.  The book actually strikes me as being more chick lit with a romantic subplot as opposed to straight romance. The prose is clean and crisp, and the language is conducive to a smooth plot. I really loved Alana Lorens style, which flowed from description to dialogue without interruption. I found myself thoroughly engrossed in the story from start to finish.

The author takes her time introducing both her hero and heroine in separate chapters. Both characters are well developed and logically constructed. As the story begins, they are coming from completely different perspectives based on life experiences with treacherous spouses. Yet both share the common goal of wanting to be a good parent to their children, so they really aren't so different after all. Marisol and Russel share great chemistry but I'd have liked to see a little more in the way of the meeting of lips in addition to minds.

I blog but it's about books, not parenting, unless you want to count my occasional forays into humor.  Since I'm not in the habit of engaging in conflict online, I did have some trouble relating to how upset and engaged Marisol and Russell become in the disputes of their alter egos. (Seriously, turn off the computer and walk away!) However, the conflict creates great tension and their reconciliation serves as an excellent device to further character growth. I admired Marisol in particular for her maturity and articulation. She's a strong heroine who is easy to admire.

Available for purchase:

Author Bio:
Alana Lorens dreamed for many years of being a spaceship captain, but settled instead for inspired excursions into fictional places with fascinating companions from her imagination that she likes to share with others. She has been a published writer for over thirty years, including seven years as a reporter and editor at a newspaper in Homestead, Florida, with a list of eclectic publications from horror to tech reporting to television reviews. She writes urban fantasy and science fiction under the name of Lyndi Alexander. The Elf Queen, her first novel, was released by Dragonfly Publishing in July 2010; the series continued with The Elf Child, The Elf Mage and The Elf Guardian. She’s now working on a YA trilogy, The Color of Fear—the first book, WINDMILLS, was published by Zumaya Publications this summer.  Writing as Alana Lorens, she produces romance and romantic suspense, including the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyer series, CONVICTION OF THE HEART, SECOND CHANCES, and the latest, VOODOO DREAMS, released by The Wild Rose Press in October 2013.
She is a single mother of seven, with two special needs children at home with her in Pennsylvania, and she volunteers at her local shelter for domestic violence victims, believing in every person’s right to be safe.

Here’s her Amazon author page
She’s on Goodreads, too!


  1. Thanks for hosting me and for the review, Melissa!!

    1. Hi Alana,
      Welcome to the Snarkology. Thank you so much for joining me today.

      You've far and away the strangest first animal of anyone who's ever answered my questions. I love jellyfish too--to watch in a tank. Out here, the Monterrey Bay Aquarium has a beautiful display.

  2. I've seen those at the MB Aquarium--that first time I just sat and stared and watched....they're amazingly beautiful. At least when they're not wrapped around your leg. That's is much less fun.