Blog Tour: Stack a Deck by Sue Duff (spotlight, interview, giveaway)

 

Stack a Deck (Book 4: The Weir Chronicles)
written by Sue Duff
published by Crosswinds Publishing, 2017

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: Ian’s alliance with the rebels brings the wrath of the Pur army crashing down on them, but he is forced to abandon his new allies and travels to Earth’s alternate universe to rescue Rayne.  As Ian combs the strange, desolate planet in search for her, he discovers the true story of the Weir and his connection to Earth’s imminent destruction.

Interview

We’re now on book four in the Weir Chronicles. Can you tell us where readers will find Ian Black in Stack a Deck?

Ian has been forced to turn his back on the Pur Weir and align himself with the rebels to rescue Rayne.  When he travels to Earth’s alternate universe, he finds himself powerless and struggles to survive the dangerous planet while staying one step ahead of Aeros.

Since there may be some readers that haven’t yet read Fade to Black, Masks and Mirrors and Sleight of Hand, can you catch them up on what they’ve missed?

In Fade to Black, the main protagonist and “superhero” is Ian Black. Born the last of the Weir, all hope rests on him to save the planet, but he doesn’t inherit the powers as predicted. Tortured in a last ditch effort to bring his supposed powers to the surface, he escapes and hides among the humans as an illusionist – until a nosy college reporter uncovers his secret. Together, they discover a malevolent Weir who is sucking Earth’s energy and depleting its resources at an alarming rate.

The Weir are a race of magical beings who have served as caretakers of Earth for thousands of years and it is their connection to the planet that keeps what roams above in harmony with the energies that churn below. Unfortunately, they are becoming extinct and as a result, there is an intense rise of natural disasters across the globe. Desperate to save the earth and prevent the end of their race, the Weir turn to modern science to perpetuate themselves. But this philosophy separates their kind into two warring factions – the Pur and the Duach. To keep them from killing each other, and all but guaranteeing their extinction, a Curse is created by the Ancient counsel as a means of keeping them apart. Of course, as you could predict, the Weir soon discover it’s not wise to mess with Mother Nature!

A band of rebels, committed to stopping their mutual enemy, come on the scene in Masks and Mirrors, and give Ian reason to be suspicious as he struggles to uncover what ulterior motive they have for saving Earth.

In the third book, Sleight of Hand, Ian pursues answers in order to stop Earth’s natural disasters and eminent self-destruction, but the rebels have their own agenda and poison him.  Patrick and Rayne search for a cure and in so doing, Rayne ends up on Thrae, Earth’s alternate universe, while Patrick confronts the rebel leaders and learns the truth about the Weir.

What are your initial thoughts when thinking about your book(s)?

I write the way I like to read – short chapters that end with a cliffhanger so you can’t help but turn the page and read just ‘one more chapter.’ I’ve received feedback from individuals, who don’t typically read my genre, but end up loving my books. Others that aren’t big readers have finished my novels in one, two or three sittings!

What kind of research did you have to do for your book / series?

The fourth book was the most challenging of all, because I had to consider the worst future for Earth and ask the “what if” questions.  What if the ozone layer decayed? What if asteroids weren’t destroyed by the outer atmosphere and impacted the early regularly? What if the Earth’s core slowed its rotation and what affect that would have on the planet and to the gravitational pull on the moon? These facts are the basis for how Aeros affected Thrae, and since it ‘used to be’ the mirror image of Earth, I had to apply those results in this novel.

Do any pieces of the book come from personal experience?

When I was a teenager, we took a road trip up the California Coast and spent time in the redwood forests. I thought it was the most breathtaking place on Earth, which is why I have Ian living there in my stories.

What do you hope readers most get out of your book (or the series as a whole)?

Regardless of the naysayers,  believe in yourself and follow your own strengths and path in the world. Ian didn’t develop his powers as the prophecy predicted, and Rayne wasn’t the firstborn male Sar that her father desired. The fact that Ian turned to illusions in order to do what he couldn’t naturally (lack of powers in a magical world) is key to his character.  Tortured for what he had no control over, he discovered and nurtured something that he could control.

I also hope that my readers can accept that science can’t explain everything and embrace the wonders and mysteries in the universe. My favorite line from the first book is, “There will always be magic in the world, as long as we believe in what we don’t understand.”

You also released TICK TOCK, an anthology with six other Colorado authors this past year. How did that come together, and do you have anything planned for 2017?

Our first anthology, TICK TOCK: Seven Tales of Time, was nominated as Best Anthology of 2016 by UTOPIA Con in June, and we also won the silver medal for Best Anthology of 2016 and the gold medal for Best Book Cover through Colorado Independent Publishers Association EVVY Awards in August! Our next anthology is based on short stories inspired by our favorite song.  In addition, we opened the second book up to submissions and received more than 45 from all over the world! After the marathon readings and critiques, we chose two that stood out above the rest and we’re excited to include them in the second anthology, releasing this spring.

So after working both solo and in tandem with other authors on a project, do you have a favorite method of writing?

There are pros to doing both!  I love my Wicked Ink team and we do so much to support each other.  It can be daunting to self-publish a novel, but with having a team, the burden can be shared by all – which makes it easier.  But…I also love writing on my own, because the final decisions and content are solely mine and I don’t feel so stressed by deadlines – albeit the ones I put on myself.  But truly, I have the best of both worlds!

 

 

“A stunning debut with a thrilling mix of sci-fi and fantasy. Duff has a real hit on her hands.” ~ Roxanne Kade, blogger at Therian

“I recommend this to anyone who loves a good Sci-fi esque, fantasy, dystopian, secret-war-going-on-behind-the-human’s-backs-and-right-under-their-noses sort of book.” ~ Jaay V, blogger at Reckless Indulgence

“This is one series that I recommend to readers of fantasy and paranormal romances.  It just keeps getting better and better. Just when you think you might know what’s going on, there are new twists that get added in.” ~ Jessica Bronder, blogger at J Bronder Book Reviews

 

 

Catch up on the series by reading Fade to BlackMasks and Mirrors, and Sleight of Hand!

Love Audiobooks? You can also listen to Fade to Black through Audible.

 

 

Want more? Join The Weir Chronicles Fan List for exciting news and updates on special events, giveaways and upcoming books in the series!

 

 

About the author: Sue Duff has dreamed of dragons and spaceships before she could even read, so it’s only natural that she now combines both fantasy and science fiction as her favorite genre.  Having written since high school, Duff never took it seriously until a skiing accident laid her up for an entire summer and she turned on the word processor to combat the boredom.

A few years later, her first urban fantasy novel, Fade to Black, was one of five finalists in the RMFW Colorado Gold Writing Contest. Duff’s writing has also earned her a PEN Award, a nomination for 2015-2016 RMFW Independent Writer of the Year, three consecutive years as a featured panelist at Denver ComicCon and a coveted spot on the Denver Post Bestseller list.

She is the second oldest of six girls with an avid reader mom and her dad, the family’s single drop of testosterone in a sea of estrogen.

By day, Duff is a dedicated speech-language therapist at an inner city school district, a career she pursued much in part to her aunt who got her hooked on stories of the profession when Duff was younger. She is passionate about the work she does and regularly works to help those students that need it the most.

Sue is a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and The Pikes Peak Writers. She calls Colorado home and when not saving the world one page at a time, she can be found walking her great dane, getting her hands dirty in her garden, or creating something delicious in her kitchen.

Check out her blog, A Cook’s Guide to Writing and other musings on her website.

 

Find Ms. Duff here: Official WebsiteFacebookTwitterGoodreadsInstagramLinkedInNewsletterAmazon

 

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Spotlight: If You Left by Ashley Prentice Norton (interview)

If You LeftIf You Left
written by Ashley Prentice Norton
published by Mariner Books, 2016

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads:

A seductive novel about a privileged but damaged Manhattan wife whose main source of stability — her marriage — comes under threat, from forces both without and within.

For most of their marriage, Althea has fluctuated between extreme depressive and manic states — what she calls “the Tombs” and “the Visions” — and Oliver has been the steady hand that guided her to safety. This summer, Althea decides that she will be different from here on. She will be the loving, sexy wife Oliver wants, and the reliable, affectionate mother their nine year-old daughter Clem deserves. Her plan: to bring Clem to their Easthampton home once school is out — with no “summer girl” to care for her this time — and become “normal.”

But Oliver is distant and controlling, and his relationship with their interior decorator seems a bit too close; Clem has learned to be self-sufficient, and getting to know her now feels like very hard work for Althea. Into this scene enters the much younger, David Foster Wallace–reading house painter, who reaches something in Althea that has been long buried.

Fearless, darkly funny, and compulsively readable, If You Left explores the complex dance that is the bipolar marriage, and the possibility that to move forward, we might have to destroy the very things we’ve worked hardest to build.

Interview

 

So, when people ask, how do you answer the “what’s your book about?” question? 

I usually make something much more interesting up because people never remember anyway.  No, seriously, IF YOU LEFT is about the effect manic-depression has on a marriage. Oliver is a fabulous caretaker when Althea has episodes of mania or depression, but during periods of  stability he’s patronizing and acts out by having affairs because he’s furious at how her disease has taken their life hostage. 

The book takes place over one summer in East Hampton when the situation comes to a head and they must decide whether or not they can save their marriage. There is also the issue of their adopted daughter, Clem. Althea knows that if there its any chance for things to work out between her and Oliver, she must finally try and break out of her self-absorption and mother the girl, who she has up until now, mostly ignored. 

Sounds pretty heavy.

Well, it’s definitely dark at times, but also funny. It’s told from Althea’s point of view and she is able to see how ridiculous and small her life is at times. She doesn’t even know where the mugs are kept in her own kitchen for example, but even she can see how laughable this is. She lacks so many skills, emotional and practical, because she has been ill for so long, but never feels sorry for herself. At least that’s the way I wrote it.

What interested you about manic-depression? 

People always ask me if I had to do a lot of research on the topic to write this. Usually when we are chatting at a cocktail party. Rather than generate an “awkward moment” and explain that, like Althea, I have manic-depression myself, I usually just say I know a lot of people with the illness, which I do. My experience is both similar and different than Althea’s though. I’ve also been hospitalized for clinical depression and undergone ECT, but I’m also lucky enough to be highly functional with a stable, loving marriage, three wonderful children, and a career. I guess I wanted to write this book and tell it from the point of view of the manic-depressive because usually the story comes from the partner’s POV. 

Are you trying to educate people about bipolar illness with this book?

Yes and no. IF YOU LEFT is like any kind of book. It’s about something, and if the subject is new to the reader, they will learn something. But IF YOU LEFT is a novel, not a manifesto or textbook. And Althea doesn’t represent an archetype. For the first time in forever, she is waking up to her true self, her goals and desires, after years of being stymied by Oliver. The challenge facing Althea, however, is to see if she can finally stand up for herself, if it is not too late. I won’t say any more for fear of spoiling the book.

Was this a hard book to write?

It’s never the subject of the book, it’s the discipline. But I have a friend who I send daily logs to tracking how many hours spent, how many pages written, etc. When there is enough we go over them. Keeps me honest.

Do you have a writing routine?

I write anywhere from three to four hours a day during the school year, either on my bed with my pug, or downtown in the Writers Room. In the summer, I can write up to five to six hours at the East Hampton library, much to the consternation of my family who thinks I should be at the beach or playing tennis. When I’m working, I can’t. I just can’t.

Are you working on anything right now?

Sure. It’s about intimacy and friendship. At least for now.

ashley prentice nortonAbout the Author: Ashley Prentice Norton is the author of If You Left and the critically acclaimed novel The Chocolate Money. She is a graduate of Exeter, Georgetown, and the creative writing program at New York University. She lives in New York with her husband and three children.

Find Ms. Norton here: web, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

 

 

 

 

 

Happy 2

 

Interview: Paula Carlson, winner of the 2015 EFC Short Story Contest

 

Congratulations to Paula Carlson, winner of the 2015 EFC Short Story Contest!

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How did you come up with “Bedside Manner?” Edward Burns is one of my writing inspirations. The other influence I grew up with is O. Henry. The opening of Edward Burns’s The Brothers McMullen has stuck with me for years. The scene is Finbar (Edward Burns) standing with his mother at the grave of his recently deceased father. His mother tells Finbar she is returning to Ireland to be with the man she truly loves. I wanted to give a slight nod to Edward Burns’s Brothers and wanted to give the classic O. Henry twist. This metamorphosed itself into “Bedside Manner.”

Why do you enjoy reading and writing? Reading gives me the opportunity to go to places and meet characters that were born in another writer’s mind. I like to see how, after so many centuries of writing, there are still characters no one has dreamed up before. As for writing, it gives me non-work writing to do and allows me to work on dialogue and still use my imagination. I also like to write stories for friend’s birthdays. People are always surprised when you name a character after them.

What is your favorite genre to read? I love historical fiction. I am still messing around with a story that was originally a screenplay. Books like Leon Uris’s Trinity, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, and Cindy Brandner’s Exit Unicorns series are like candy for me because I love history, and you know they poured their hearts and research into these grand stories. Throwing the reader into history is just fascinating for me.

Who is your favorite author? That’s like asking me my favorite musician. But if I had to choose, it would be Anne Rice. She constantly mixes up her genres and is in touch with her readers. Anne has given us vampires, witches, angels, and even Jesus.

In your opinion, what is one book that everyone should read? Definitely my own opinion because not many agree with me: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. It is a great example of using your craft to hide the politics of your time. The book is a satirical look at atheistic, Stalinist Russia through the clever use of characters such as a talking, chess-playing cat, the devil, a witch, and Pontius Pilate. Again, my favorite book comes back to history and fiction. The book is ultimately about good and evil, in both the fictitious sense and what the author was dealing with in his real life in Russia while writing the story.

 

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eb (1)About the author: Paula grew up in western Pennsylvania the daughter of a WWII Veteran coal miner and nurse/hotel bellhop. Paula was heavily influenced by music and her two Brooklyn neighbors. With the initial intentions of becoming a sports physician and working for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Paula discovered that instead of chemical formulas, she had a passion for dialogue and politics, and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with degrees in creative writing and political science. Paula did some travelling to Sydney and Belfast before hitting up NYU for a graduate degree in some more political science. She met and married a New York City Firefighter who grew up in NYC. Paula and her husband are both avid runners, music enthusiasts, and both volunteer at a camp for children who are burn survivors.

So what does one do with degrees in creative writing and political science? Work for the New York City Emergency Management, of course! Since 2004, Paula has been developing disaster drills and high level tabletop discussions as well as preparing for and responding to the City’s emergencies. Writing has become an important part of her career. The need to clearly communicate information is important when writing situation reports during events and evaluations and summaries following drills. It is precisely this job that made Paula re-discover writing. Long hours and stressful events call for some mental time off. Paula has two blogs to exercise her writing skills. She has both a short story blog, No Evasion to Reality, and a music blog, Paula’s Music Journey.

 

 

 

 

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Spotlight: Persuasion by Martina Boone (interview)

PersuasionPersuasion (Heirs of Watson Island #2)
written by Martina Boone
published by Simon & Schuster/Pulse, 2015

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: Beautiful Creatures meets The Raven Boys in the spellbinding second novel in the Heirs of Watson Island trilogy that “skillfully blends rich magic and folklore with adventure, sweeping romance, and hidden treasure” (Publishers Weekly, on Compulsion).

Grieving the death of her godfather and haunted by her cousin Cassie’s betrayal, Barrie returns from a trip to San Francisco to find the Watson plantation under siege. Ghost-hunters hope to glimpse the ancient spirit who sets the river on fire each night, and reporters chase rumors of a stolen shipment of Civil War gold that may be hidden at Colesworth Place. The chaos turns dangerous as Cassie hires a team of archeologists to excavate beneath the mansion ruins. Because more is buried there than treasure.

A stranger filled with magic arrives at Watson’s Landing claiming that the key to the Watson and Beaufort gifts—and the Colesworth curse—also lies beneath the mansion. With a mix of threats and promises, the man convinces Barrie and Cassie to cast a spell there at midnight. But what he conjures may have deadly consequences.

While Barrie struggles to make sense of the escalating peril and her growing and forbidden feelings for Eight Beaufort, it’s impossible to know whom to trust and what to fight for—Eight or herself. Millions of dollars and the fate of the founding families is at stake. Now Barrie must choose between what she feels deep in her heart and what will keep Watson’s Landing safe in this stunning addition to a series filled with “decadent settings, mysterious magic, and family histories rife with debauchery” (Kirkus Reviews, on Compulsion).efcinterview

Hi, thanks so much for having me on as a guest! I’m honored to be here and want to thank you for the great questions!

Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book. 

Three plantations, two wishes, one ancient curse, and a girl who needs to find herself, find love, and heal her family.

Why did you did you decide to write Persuasion?

Persuasion is the sequel to Compulsion, and it’s really about what happens in the dark spaces when you think you’ve found yourself but don’t know how or when or even *if* you should fight for yourself when what you want conflicts with what other people want or need from you. It’s a book about how much trust and faith you need and how that’s different from love. But it’s also about ghosts and magic and the curses we inherit from our families, so it was a TON of fun to write.

Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects? 

ILLUSION, the final book in the trilogy, will be out in October of 2016, and I’ve got one revision left on that before it’s put to bed. I’ve also started a brand new series which I’m super excited to work on!

Tell us about your Compulsion for Reading Campaign. 

When COMPULSION came out, I got a lot of requests from teachers and librarians who didn’t have a budget to buy it. I gave away twenty-five packs of books, including one of mine in each pack, plus an additional nine recently published books by other authors shortly after COMPULSION launched as a way to give back to librarians, teachers, and readers. I’ve continued giving away a pack a month ever since, and I’m thrilled that other authors and bloggers are now joining in. I get far more nominations for underfunded schools and libraries in any given month than I can possibly fill.

How can people get involved?

If you go to http://www.CompulsionForReading.com, there’s a nomination form where anyone can recommend an underfunded classroom, school, or library and tell me what they’re doing to reach out to readers and how getting them more books would help. There’s also a donation form for authors, bloggers, or anyone really, who is willing to donate five books — any kind of books — for middle grade or high school level readers. The books should be either very popular or recently published though. And yes, ARCs are welcome.

What is your favorite genre to read?

I’m super eclectic when it comes to reading. Obviously, I have a soft spot for Southern Gothic, but I love everything from magical realism to fantasy to contemporary to mystery and romance. Which, I suppose, explains why COMPULSION and the rest of the series are such a mix of different genres.

Who is your favorite author?

I always restrict this to my favorite YA authors, because I have a ton of adult authors I love as well. My faves really do change, but Maggie Stiefvater, Laini Taylor, Leigh Bardugo, Marie Rutkowski, Nancy Werlin, Garth Nix, Sarah Dessen, and Saba Tahir are always going to be on my list. In addition, I’ve been fortunate to get to read some great upcoming books, including HELLO? from Liza Wiemer and LAILAH in the Styclar series from Nikki Kelly.

In your opinion, what is one book that everyone should read?

Man, there are so many phenomenal books out there, and I could recommend dozens and dozens all for different reasons. But forgiveness and building bridges are some of the core themes that I want people to take away from the HEIRS OF WATSON ISLAND series, so I’m going to recommend HELLO? by Liza Wiemer. It’s a book about connection and taking the time to listen and make a difference. It’s beautiful.

What did you want to be when you grew up? 

Secretly, a writer. Also a horse trainer. Fortunately, I’ve gotten to do a little bit of both. Not so much the training as the riding, although in dressage it’s a little bit of both. I love that I got to bring my love of horses into PERSUASION and ILLUSION.

Tell us three things about yourself that cannot be found on the internet…at least not found easily.

Hmmh. I feel like the Internet already knows way more about me than anyone really wants to know, he he, but okay.

  1. In an attempt to cut down on fast food and takeout, I’ve started doing the Home Chef delivery service for dinners several times a week. I love cooking, but hate shopping and prepping, so this is a win/win!
  2. I am actually pretty shy, and I get terrible migraines, so when I’m out in public, I tend to get nervous which often triggers migraines. And that results in me being super dorky.
  3. My family and I play a travel game where we get points for continents, countries, states and provinces, National Parks and Unesco sites. That sometimes gets ridiculous and you end up driving for twelve hours across Montana and Canada to get to a park that no one ever needs to go to. Ever. But yay, an extra point. (And no, that wasn’t MY idea!)

 

Thanks again for having me! Hope you’ll all enjoy Persuasion!

 

AuthorPhoto_MartinaBooneAbout the author: Born in Prague, Martina spoke several languages before she learned English after moving to the U.S. She has never fallen out of love with words, fairy tale settings, or characters who have to find themselves. The founder of AdventuresInYAPublishing.com, a Writers Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers site, Martina also runs the First Five Pages Workshops for writers getting ready to submit their manuscripts to agents. She’s also the founding member of YASeriesInsiders.com, a blog dedicated to promoting literacy and love of reading by connecting fans from various fandoms with authors and great new series books. Over the years, Martina has blossomed into a phenomenal author who champions literacy and encourages teens to read by visiting classrooms across the nation and organizing monthly book giveaways for schools with a project she calls Compulsion for Reading. She is a a SIBA Award nominee who received a fall 2014 Okra Pick for her debut book, “Compulsion.” “Compulsion” also received recognition including the RT Book Reviews Top Pick and Editor’s Best of 2014, Kansas State Reading Circle Selection, Good Reads November 2014 Best Book and November 2014 YA Best Book.

Find Ms. Boone here: web, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon

 

 

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Blog Tour: Even in Darkness by Barbara Stark-Nemon (spotlight, interview, giveaway)

Even in DarknessEven in Darkness
written by Barbara Stark-Nemon
published by She Writes Press

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: Spanning one century and three continents, Even in Darkness tells the story of Kläre Kohler, whose early years as beloved daughter of a prosperous German-Jewish family hardly anticipate the often harrowing life she faces as an adult—a long saga of family, lovers, two world wars, concentration camps, and sacrifice. As the world changes around her, Kläre is forced to make a number of seemingly impossible choices in order to protect the people she loves—and to save herself.

Based on a true story, Even in Darkness highlights the intimate experience of Kläre’s reinvention as she faces the destruction of life as she knew it, and traces her path beyond survival to wisdom, meaning, and—most unexpectedly—love.

efcpraise

“Barbara Stark-Nemon’s Even In Darkness makes personal the German Jewish experience of the twentieth century. Stark-Nemon offers an important corrective to more standard Jewish narratives, painting a picture of complex German Jews who navigated their way through prejudice and privilege and struggled to find a place for themselves in the various Germanys of the last century. Crossing religious and geographic boundaries, this is a story about family, commitment, loss and love, sacrifice and survival. Ultimately, we learn how humanity triumphs Even In Darkness.” —David J Fine, Ph.D., author of Jewish Integration in the German Army in the First World War

“Even in darkness there can be renewal, trust, love. This is the message of Barbara Stark-Nemon’s unforgettable book Even in Darkness. She brings the past century alive through recreating the story of her German-Jewish family, with all of its hopes and fears, losses and survivals—and, above all, the continuity of connections and of values, transcending religion, language, and country. The story is a remarkable and honest portrayal of unexpected paths, told with moving depth and literary skill.” —Dan Isaac Slobin, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley

“You will be enriched and inspired by Barbara Stark-Nemon’s Even in Darkness, a beautifully crafted, compelling novel, based on events in the life of the author’s own family, in which love triumphs over unspeakable horror. The author paints a vivid picture of her upper-middle-class German-Jewish characters and weaves their inner thoughts and feelings into the shocking reality of the historical events of the day. I recommend this book to readers of history and to all those moved by the strength and courage of the human spirit.” —Margaret Fuchs Singer, author of Legacy of a False Promise: A Daughter’s Reckoning

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(Q&A provided by PR by the Book)

What inspired you to write Even in DarknessEven in Darkness is based on the life of my great aunt, who alone among her siblings did not escape Germany during the Holocaust. Her story of survival—the courage and strength she had to remake herself and her life in the face of unspeakable loss—has been an inspiration to me throughout my adult life. Hers is a beautiful story and having come to know it in depth I wanted to share it and create a legacy for her.

You researched the book thoroughly. Did you know from the beginning how extensive your research would become? Yes and no. I’ve known since one of the visits I made to my great aunt in Germany many years ago, that I wanted to write her story, so I started interviewing her (she was already over 90 years old) and the priest, who is the other main character in this story. I also interviewed my parents and grandparents. I already knew a lot about my grandfather and great aunt’s family from Sunday nights around the dinner table. Then my aunt died, and the priest sent me all her personal papers, including over 50 letters that her son had written to her during and after the war from Palestine, where he had been sent at the age of 12. Those letters deepened and changed what I understood about all their lives in a way I couldn’t have predicted.

Where did you begin your research and where did it lead you? I traveled to Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and to Israel to trace all the histories and see all the places I learned about in my grandfather’s stories and later, in the trove of personal papers my great aunt left to me. I was able to interview even more people related to this story, walk the streets, photograph the homes, take trains over the same routes to the concentration camp, look out over the hills surrounding the kibbutz where all my characters lived out their lives.  In archives and museums I learned details of births, deaths, marriages, businesses, deportations, displacements, escapes and emigrations. All this knowledge fed my imagination for the parts of the story I didn’t and couldn’t know.

What was the most surprising part about your research? Did you uncover any family secrets? There were some surprises. Through interviews with cousins in Europe I learned a different perspective about other members of my grandfather’s family, whom I knew only though his stories. I learned about my mother’s cousins who were hidden in a convent by nuns. I learned about the personal decisions about faith and influence in the Catholic Church at that time that had enormous impact on my family. I learned that another great aunt was a beautiful singer and evaded arrest by singing for a German officer. And I learned that what people had to do to maintain their safety and their sanity during the dangerous years of the 1930s in Germany resulted in boundary crossing behaviors that were both courageous and painful.

What was the hardest part about writing fiction around events and people that really happened and really existed? As I’ve said elsewhere, Even in Darkness is not just my first novel. It is a story of my heart and the finest tribute I can craft to two remarkable people and to other Holocaust survivors everywhere. To separate my personal attachment to the real people and events behind the book enough to insure a tight, compelling novel was a really interesting challenge for me as a writer. I also felt very sensitive to and responsible for the privacy and the legacy of other family members.  Finally, this is not your typical Holocaust survival story, and the very things that make it unusual might be painful to people who would have a hard time with some of the decisions my characters made.

Why did you decide to write a novel rather than a biography or memoir? The simple answer is, there were too many missing pieces in the story. I didn’t know all the facts, but felt I understood from the point of view of the characters. It was a way to use all the compelling reality of the family story with the immediacy that fiction allows us to maintain. In the first year that I worked on the book, I participated in a wonderful workshop with the author Elizabeth Kostova. I had recently come back from a research/interview trip to Germany with much new information. We worked the story out both ways: as a memoir and as a novel. In the end, I realized I wanted to write a novel, this novel.

What advice would you give to authors conducting research for their book? Do as much as you can; use your network to help you, invest in it. The work you do to inform yourself will exponentially inform your story.

 

 

Barbara Stark-NemonAbout the author: Sue has been writing since high school but never became serious about it until a skiing accident laid her up for an entire summer and she turned on the word processor to combat the boredom. A couple years later, her first urban fantasy novel, Fade to Black, was a finalist in the RMFW Colorado Gold Writing Contest. By day, she’s a dedicated speech-language therapist in an inner city school district to pay the bills but her life as a writer is her true passion and the creative outlet keeps her sane.

Sue is a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and The Pikes Peak Writers. Her creativity extends into her garden and the culinary arts. She is the second oldest of six girls with an avid reader mom and her dad, the family’s single drop of testosterone in a sea of estrogen. Fate thought it hilarious to give her a son but maternal instincts swing both ways and she didn’t break the little bugger. She lives in Colorado with her miniature dachshund, Snickers and hears from her son, Jonathan whenever he needs something.

To get the latest news, updates on events or the scoop on future novels in The Weir Chronicles series, subscribe to her email list.

Find Ms. Duff here: web, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

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Spotlight: The Poser by Jacob Rubin (interview, giveaway)

the PoserThe Poser
written by Jacob Rubin
published by Viking, 2015

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

About the book: In the same vein as George Saunders and Sam Lipsyte, THE POSER chronicles the hijinks and crises of Giovanni Bernini, the World’s Greatest Impressionist—a man whose bizarre compulsion and ability to imitate anyone he meets catapults him from small-town obscurity to widespread fame. As he describes it, “No one disguise is perfect. There is in every person, no matter how graceful, a seam, a thread curling out of them . . .  When pulled by the right hands, it will unravel the person entire.” Honed by his theatrical mother at a young age, his talent eventually takes him from his hometown to the nightclubs of the City and eventually the sound stages of Fantasma Falls, the glamorous, west coast city similar to Hollywood. As Giovanni’s fame grows, he encounters a cast of provocative characters—including an exuberant manager, a mysterious chanteuse, an enigmatic psychoanalyst, and a deaf obsessive compulsive—and becomes increasingly trapped inside many personas. When his bizarre talent comes to define him, Giovanni is forced to assume the one identity he has never been able to master: his own.

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(Q&A provided by Viking)

Giovanni Bernini, The Poser’s protagonist, is known as the World’s Greatest Impressionist. He’s born with the uncanny ability to imitate anyone he meets instantaneously. Throughout the literary spectrum, plenty of stories have been written about performers or performing, but not impressionists specifically. How did you conjure up such an interesting character? The Poser began, oddly enough, in the trash. Years ago I was working on a not very good short story about a man who wakes up in a woman’s apartment after a one-night stand. Remembering little of the night before, he begins to root around in her garbage for clues. One of the items he finds was, to my surprise, a black-and-white photo of a famed impressionist, a man who could famously imitate anyone he met. As I soon discovered, I was much more interested in this unexpected performer than I was in the guy who discovered him. I scrapped the story right then and wrote another one, very quickly, about this character Giovanni Bernini. After many years, it became The Poser.

You have experience as a performer—both as a juggler for hire and as the lead rapper of the hip-hop group Witness Protection Program, opening for groups like Jurassic Five and Blackalicious, to name a few. How has your background as a performer influenced the creation of Giovanni Bernini? I can’t seem to get away from performance, in life or in writing. Personae, masks, fraudulence, disguise—all have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. I think a lot about that Picasso line: that art is a “lie that tells the truth.” It seems to me this paradox can obtain in life, too. Like, I once read an article in the Times about a survivor of 9/11, a woman who had been in the south tower when the planes hit. After the tragedy, she organized these legendary support groups. They were these deeply cathartic events, arranged with great thought and care. Survivors and relatives of victims depended on her entirely, so strong was her empathy. Only later did it come out that this woman hadn’t been in the towers at all—she made the whole thing up. I find such behavior deeply disturbing, of course, but fascinating, too. The lie, for this woman at least, clearly felt like an emotional truth.

I did stand-up comedy for a little while, and I think the status of the stand-up comedian reflects a similar paradox: instead of a lie that tells the truth, maybe a stand-up states a truth so serious it has to be packaged as a joke. The stage offers a kind of loophole, a free zone in which what would otherwise be punishably inappropriate can be aired with impunity, even to applause. It’s what performance offers in general, I think: this magical, cordoned-off space where people can lie, hurl abuse, decompensate, and the crowd hoorahs! In The Poser, I wanted to explore a character who finds that his previously outrageous behavior is celebrated simply because it’s put on the stage.

The Poser is told from Giovanni’s perspective, at a point in his life where he’s looking back at everything that’s befallen him. What compelled you to use first-person confession as the mode for telling the story? The enjoinder to “show don’t tell” is important for every young writer to hear, and yet so many of my favorite books wholly disregard it. Notes from the Underground, for instance, or Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, the novels of Robertson Davies and Stanley Elkin. Everyone knows novels can’t compete with movies or video games for sheer sensory onslaught, but books, for my money, capture better than any other media the interiority of experience, the “music of someone’s intelligence,” as Richard Ford once put it. My favorite books promise just this kind of intimate—and for that reason, often scandalous—experience. Like, Lolita or Denis Johnson’s Jesus’s Son. You open those books, and you’re encountering this presence, this personality talking about something it shouldn’t have done in a voice unlike any you’ve ever heard. My favorite books, probably for that reason, feel like a secret, and you feel slightly cheated when you find out someone else read it. You’re like, “Hands off. She told that to me and no one else.”

Thematically, I thought the first-person narrative was necessary for The Poser as it’s about a man struggling to find himself, which he does, in the end, by telling the story. I also liked the tension of having someone act a certain way, as a performer or fraud, while narrating his often discordant internal experience. He says one thing, but thinks another. This is something I think fiction can do particularly well.

Giovanni’s world is noir-ish, vaudevillian, even a bit surreal. The story is set in an imaginary country that somewhat resembles America of the 1950s and 60s. What was your thought process in setting the story in a parallel, fable-like world?  Did you do any research to flesh out its wonderful detail? I knew I was taking a risk in setting the book in an imaginary place, a parallel America of the 50s and 60s, and yet it felt necessary for the kind of book I was hoping to write. The Poser, as I see it, is about Giovanni’s attempt to become a real person; it felt right that the landscape, too, might strain to be real, flickering between the evoked and the shadowy. I did do research about the corresponding time in America. Stuff about clothes, some slang, etc. I used as models for the noir prose style novels by favorites like Jim Thompson and Raymond Chandler.

I can’t seem to escape the surreal. In visual art, it’s always been my favorite: Giacometti’s sculptures, for instance, or the paintings of Paul Klee. I think I’ve always aspired to whatever the prose equivalent of such a way of seeing would be. For me, it is rare that when meeting a person I note what color nail polish she’s wearing or which kind of ankle boot (this can be very embarrassing, mind you, for someone meant to be observant). Encountering a person can be a pretty damn surreal experience, much more like meeting a Giacometti or a Klee. I think the same is true of places. Just walking around and seeing people yammering on their cellphones or driving around in these motorized chrome bubbles—we live in a sci-fi movie! My agent, Jin Auh, once relayed a line the author George Garrett had about Fellini’s movies. He called them “science fiction set in the past.” I loved that. I think that’s what I’m trying to write.

The Poser is your debut novel. Is there a second in the works? If so, could you talk a bit about it? If not, would you mind divulging what other creative projects you’re currently working on? There is a lengthy word file in my laptop that I hesitate to call a second novel, but perhaps it will be one day! It is too early to talk about it, but I hope it will be funny.

 

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Blog Tour: The Sparks by Kyle Prue (spotlight, interview, excerpt, giveaway)

The SparksThe Sparks (Feud #1)
written by Kyle Prue
published by Barringer Publishing

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: The Vapros, the Taurlum, and the Celerius: three dynasties bound by an ancient promise, and given superhuman abilities to protect the city of Altryon from the dangerous world beyond its walls. Centuries of fighting, however, have turned the families against each other. A powerful emperor now rules and each family has suffered heavy casualties in the feud.

Sixteen-year-old, Neil Vapros desperately wants to become an assassin in order to impress his overly critical father. Despite a failed mission, Neil learns that a new sinister threat has awakened. This mysterious new power will shatter the established order and threaten not only the very lives of these powerful families, but also the once great city of Altryon.

Everything can change with a single “Spark”…

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Slide the knife between the third and fourth rib.

Neil’s father’s words rang in his ears as he pulled his dark, ornate hood over his head and raised his cloth mask to cover his mouth and nose. He knew all Taurlum had several weak spots on their bodies, but only one was vulnerable enough to cause an instant kill. All he needed to do was thrust his knife directly between the ribs (the third and fourth ribs, he reminded himself) and straight through the heart. Neil’s father had taught him this trick on his tenth birthday. It had been one of the more pleasant ones.

He spent a moment adjusting his mask, making sure his face would remain concealed. Not that it really mattered; during the middle of the day, the mask would do little to camouflage him. Any Taurlum would spot a Vapros like him from a mile away. The disguise had been given to him mostly for the sake of preserving his identity. Nobody needed to know which Vapros boy had made the kill.

Neil ran his finger over the hilt of the knife. His father had presented it to him upon completion of his assassin’s training. Engraved in the handle was the Vapros family crest. The background of the crest was purple and black, with a raven embedded in the center. The Raven was the family nickname, as the black-haired, green-eyed descendants seemed to favor their swift, calculating animal mascot. The raven was known as the bringer of death: an appropriate symbol for the trained assassin. The family motto was inscribed along the bottom: Victory Lies Within the Ashes. Neil loved his knife; it made him feel like a real assassin.

Neil craved the assassin’s glory but knew in his gut that he desperately needed another assassin to assist in this mission. Two stealthy ravens against a Taurlum bull was still a risk, but they would have the element of surprise on their side. Alone it was a certain death mission, but his father’s orders were clear. Neil was desperately alone.

Making it into the giant Taurlum mansion had been easy. Navigating its giant corridors would be harder. Neil glanced carefully around the marble corner. A single guard stood watch. The man wore simple plated armor with red and gold war paint but had removed his helmet to reveal his entire head. Not aTaurlum, Neil thought. The guard lacked the golden blonde hair shared by every direct descendant of the Taurlum line; therefore, this man was not worth his time or effort. Neil squinted in concentration, and then threw all his energy into dematerializing. He reformed a split second later on the other side of the corridor. The guard continued watching the hallway and never noticed Neil materialize just behind him. As silently as he could, the Vapros boy made his way down the hallway toward the communal baths where his target would be waiting.

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Here are a few questions from the Q&A from PR by the Book.

 

Where did you get the idea for the Feud series? This is a coming of age story for young adults and I am a teen in that demographic. Everyone struggles to find their path in life and my characters are all struggling with not wanting to let people down and to find their way; forgiveness and hope is a part of that journey as well. One night, at the age of 15, I had terrible insomnia and I couldn’t sleep. I was thinking about the different personalities of my siblings and myself and how we will all follow different paths. That gave me the idea to create three different families loosely based around our differing personalities. I decided it would be fun to take these families and place them in a fantasy world where the obstacles we all face could be magnified to a whole new level. I wrote out the plot for the three books that night.

What drew you to write YA Fantasy? I wanted to write for me. Recently, I’ve hit an “in-between” zone where it’s harder for me to find books I want to read. I wanted to write something that I would want to read and that would appeal to other kids my age. I wanted to appeal to boys who have lost interest in reading and I also created strong female characters that girls will love.

When did you first start writing? Like a lot of kids, I was bullied in middle school. I doubt you will ever find a kid that says, “I rocked 7th grade! That was the best time in my life.” I was short and fat and had a bowl haircut with braces. This was not a great time in my life. But I discovered I could come home and pick up a pen and create a whole fantasy world that I could control, when the rest of my life felt out of control. I learned that I loved to create characters because their potential is limitless.

I was lucky because I learned to use writing as an escape at an early age. I was in a multi-age program from 1st-3rd grade where I had the same teacher for three years. She had an experimental writing program where she gave us an hour a day to write in our journals. She told us to just write freely and not worry about punctuation or grammar, just let the creativity flow. So by the end of that program, I had a stack of notebooks filled with an adventure series. I also did a series called Three Rings that I wrote from the age of 12 to 14 when middle school was really rough. It was a 200-page manuscript. It wasn’t good, but it was good practice.

What are your other interests besides writing? I love stand up comedy because like writing, it requires an ability to look at the world in a unique way and find the humor in that. I’m a varsity swimmer for my school. I’m involved with mock trial, I’m in a number of plays every year, I started an improv club at my school and I’m really involved with our film club—we spend our weekends writing scripts and filming. We are currently working on a web series called “Amockalypse” that I’m really excited about. I pretty much gave up on sleeping after middle school.

Were you a big reader as a kid? In 5th grade, I started at a new elementary school when I moved to Naples. They had a reading contest for whoever read the most books. I ended up reading like 200 books, which was a bit of overkill as the next highest kid read about 75 books, but apparently I’m more competitive than I realized. I just really wanted to beat this girl in my class who told me she was a better reader.

Were you drawn to a certain genre as a kid? When I was younger, I really disliked reading. My mom would read me the books that my brother liked and I just never got into them. One day she was at the bookstore picking out books for us, and she mentioned to the owner that I didn’t seem interested in reading and he asked her about my personality and interests. He recommended that she try some fantasy books for me. She brought home a few of those books and from then on, all I did was read and write. I love young adult fantasy.

Were there certain authors that you really liked? I’ve always loved Rick Riordan, and every kid in my generation loves JK Rowling. My mom started guarding the Harry Potter books and reading them aloud to us, because otherwise I would read one whole book in a night and then tell my siblings what happened. We would barely leave the house until we had finished each book. Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series has been phenomenal.

How have those writers influenced your writing? I think Rick Riordan introduces and writes characters very well, which is something I kept in mind, because I have a group dynamic with my book. But I really like the way JK Rowling set up the overall plot and carried it through, intertwining a lot of different elements. She knew how to set up a big, epic adventure and finished it beautifully. That is what I hope to do with this trilogy.

Do you have a favorite character in The SparksIt alternates a lot. In general, I’ve always been a fan of characters that are only around for one book and that are very big and eccentric. I really like Michael Taurlum because he’s kind of the epitome of what’s wrong with the Taurlum family and he’s just such a child. So it was really interesting to write about him and make him such an aggressive, haughty character.

Can you tell us a bit about the second book, The FlamesOne of the big themes of the second book is that no one should get to a point in their life when they should experience a complete absence of hope. Things will always get better. My best friend from childhood committed suicide this year and I really want other teens to understand that whatever seems so overwhelming in your life today, won’t be what’s important to you down the road. When my characters experience this loss of hope, that is when they gain their advanced powers. Something good can come out of something that in the moment seems so terrible.

The second book in the series focuses on the remaining family members (spoiler alert!) and their friends, as they begin to kindle the revolution. It’s a lot about personal growth for the characters, like Neil and Darius. Even Robert Tanner, who is a minor character in the first book, comes back and has a very big story arc. It is the book where we start to reach that giant conflict that the characters have been stepping toward in the storyline.

 

Kyle Prue

Find Mr. Prue here: web, Twitter, Goodreads

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Blog Tour: Faery Marked by Mary Waibel (Melissa’s review, guest post, interview)

Faery Marked (The Faery Series Book One)

Faery Marked (The Faery Series Book One)
written by Mary Waibel
published by Bookfish Books LLC

find it here: (affiliate links) Amazon, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
I loved it. I spent an entire Saturday morning (and a bit of the afternoon) neglecting my family for this book. I didn’t make breakfast (I assume my son helped himself to a block of cheese or a half dozen dinner rolls or something). I didn’t make anyone (including myself) get dressed, and I didn’t even do last night’s dinner dishes. (Um, no. I didn’t do them last night either. Don’t judge.)

Mary Waibel’s written a winner. Her characters are fun, her writing is compelling, and her creativity will keep you from putting this book down once you’ve started it.  I can’t wait to see what happens next!

GOLDEN LINE

“Ryan, what have you done?

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Would I recommend it: Absolutely.

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About the book – from Goodreads: 
When Callie Rycroft wakes to find purple flames flickering on the ceiling, she believes she’s still dreaming. But soon she’s forced to accept that she has magic―a special magic that grants her entrance into the Faery Realm.

For centuries humans have been banned from Faery, but dangerous times call for dangerous measures. Declared Champion by the Faery Queen, Callie is assigned a Guardian, and tasked with finding the Cordial―a magical elixir needed to keep the portal to the Faery realm a secret from humans.

The upside? Reece Michaels, the boy she’s been crushing on for years, is her Guardian. Callie hopes that, by spending time with Reece, he’ll start to see her as more than just his best friend’s sister.

The downside? She’s in a race not only against time, but against another Champion, and a rogue Guardian―a Guardian who stands to threaten her developing relationship with Reece.

Magic, mistaken identities, and hidden agendas are the least of Callie’s worries when she learns that the Cordial requires a sacrifice. Will Callie be willing to risk everything―even Reece―to complete her task as Champion? Or will she let the portal open, and doom both realms?

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Being Authentic

by Mary Waibel

Thank you Chrissy and Melissa for allowing me to stop by here on my Faery Marked blog tour.

While I was trying to figure out what I wanted to blog about for this post, I took a look through some of of the previous guest posts, and suddenly the answer just popped right into my head. How did I come up with my curse words for Callie?

I’m not a ‘never use swearing in your stories’ type. Just like with all words, if it fits, then it should be used. Still, I wanted to avoid cursing as much as possible, so, I invented some curses to use. Like ‘frick-a-frack-frell’. Yeah, not really teenager-ish, is it? While it would work in my other series, it just wasn’t going to cut it in this one. And you guessed it, my editor called me on it. She wanted me to make it authentic.

So, I went right to the source, my 13 year old son. Can’t get more authentic than that, right? I knew he’d have phrases for me, and he delivered a new favorite of mine. So, in addition to the ‘PITA’ (pain in the… for those unfamiliar with the term) and the ‘craptastic’ I had penned, he gave me the phrase: ‘pansy assed’. I loved it. And so did my editor.

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Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book. Because it has a sexy Guardian, a smart Champion, faeries and other mythic creatures, and a love story mixed in with a mystical quest. Whew. That was a lot to pack into a sentence!

Why did you did you decide to write Faery Marked? I love reading Jennifer Armentrout’s books, and wanted to give first person POV writing a try after reading her. I’d been playing around with a ‘coming into her powers’ sorceress idea, and somehow that morphed into into Faery Marked.

You said that Faery Marked is very different from your previous books, how so? My Princess of Valendria series is written in 3rd person point of view (POV), alternating between two main characters, and the stories are twists on fairy tales (or other stories).  Faery Marked is in first person POV from one character.

What made you decide to go in this different direction? Telling the story in 1st person just seemed to fit better than 3rd. And I had a lot of fun working in this new-to-me POV.

Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects? Yes. So, I have two more books planned for the Faery series and at least one more for the Princess of Valendria series. I also have a romantic comedy I am playing with, and an idea for something a little more spooky.

What is your favorite genre to read? I will read just about anything, but I always like to have at least a little romance in what I’m reading. I’m a sucker for a HEA (happy-ever-after).

Who is your favorite author? Oh, this is tough. I’ll pick a couple (in different genres). Nora Roberts. I love her characters and how I always feel like I could meet them in real life. Jennifer Armentrout. She is so good with the feels. I always feel like I’m right there with the character, living the story with them.

In your opinion, what is one book that everyone should read? Mine. Just kidding. Well, okay, maybe not totally kidding. Gosh, this is a tough one. There are so many great books out there to choose from.

What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a nurse, but when it came time for college, I decided I would be better in the teaching field. So, I got a degree in Elementary Ed, and used it for 5 years before changing course once again.

Tell us three things about yourself that cannot be found on the internet . . . at least not found easily.

Hmmm. I’m not really sure. I actually had to search myself to see just what is out there. So, having done that, I’m going to say:

  • My eye color. Okay, you could probably figure it out from pictures, but that would take some effort.
  • My real hair color. If you find it, let me know, because even I don’t know this anymore 🙂
  • The amount of books on mt y TBR pile. I just looked. If they were physical books, and not ebooks, I’d be buried by now.

 

mary waibelAbout the author: YA author Mary Waibel’s love for fairytales and happy-ever fill the pages of her works. Whether penning stories in a medieval setting or a modern day school, magic and romance weave their way inside every tale. Strong female characters use both brain and brawn to save the day and win the heart of their men. Mary enjoys connecting with her readers through her website: marywaibel.blogspot.com

Find Ms. Waibel here: web, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

 

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Blog Tour: The Tree of Water by Elizabeth Haydon (spotlight, excerpt, interview, giveaway)

Tree of WaterThe Tree of Water (The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme #4)
written by Elizabeth Haydon
published by Starscape

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: The epic voyages continue in The Tree of Water, the fourth adventure in bestselling author Elizabeth Haydon’s acclaimed fantasy series for young readers, The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme.

As Royal Reporter of the land of Serendair, it is the duty of young Charles Magnus “Ven” Polypheme to travel the world and seek out magic hiding in plain sight. But Ven needs to escape the clutches of the nefarious Thief Queen, ruler of the Gated City, whose minions are hunting for him. His friend, the merrow Amariel, has the perfect solution to his dilemma: Ven and Char will join her to explore the world beneath the sea.

As they journey through the sea, Ven finds himself surrounded by wonders greater than he could have ever imagined. But the beauty of the ocean is more than matched by the dangers lurking within its depths, and Ven and his friends soon realize that in order to save thousands of innocent lives, they may have to sacrifice their own. For everything in the ocean needs to eat. . .

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To Go, or Not to Go

The human boys had an expression back in the faraway city of Vaarn where I was born. It went like this:

Curiosity killed the cat

Satisfaction brought him back

I am a curious person. I was just as curious back in my early days in Vaarn as I am now, perhaps even more so, because my curiosity had not yet been given a chance to be satisfied.

The first time I heard this expression, I was very excited. I thought it meant that my curiosity could make me feel like I was dying, but it would let up if I discovered the answer to whatever was making me curious.

I told my mother about the rhyme. She was not impressed. In fact, she looked at me as if I had just set my own hair on fire on purpose. She patted my chin, which was woefully free of any sign of the beard that should have been growing there.

“That’s very nice,” she said, returning to her chores. “But just in case nobody told you, you are not a cat, Ven. Unlike you, cats have whiskers.”

My pride stung for days afterward.

But it didn’t stop my curiosity from growing as fast as my beard should have been.

My name is Charles Magnus Ven Polypheme, Ven for short. Unlike the human boys in Vaarn, I am of the race of the Nain. Nain are somewhat shorter than humans, and grumpier. They live almost four times as long as humans, and tend to be much less curious, and much less adventurous. They hate to travel, don’t swim, and generally do not like other people. Especially those who are not Nain.

I clearly am not a good example of my race.

First, I am very tall for a Nain, sixty-eight Knuckles high when I was last measured on the morning of my fiftieth birthday. I’ve already mentioned my uncontrollable curiosity, which brings along with it a desire for adventure. I have been blessed, or cursed, with quite a lot of that recently.

But as for the curiosity, while I’ve had a lot of satisfaction for the questions it has asked me, it doesn’t seem to matter. As soon as one burning question is answered, another one springs to mind immediately. As a result, I am frequently in trouble.

So now I am about to lay my head on a chopping block, on purpose, and a man with a very sharp knife is standing over me, ready to make slashes in my neck.

I’m wondering if in fact instead of being a live Nain, I am about to end up as a dead, formerly curious cat.

Because now I have three whiskers of my own.

Ven Polypheme had two sets of eyes staring at him.

One set was black as coal. The other was green as the sea.

Neither of them looked happy.

The green eyes were floating, along with a nose, forehead, and hair on which a red cap embroidered with pearls sat, just above the surface of the water beneath the old abandoned dock. The brows above the eyes were drawn together. They looked annoyed.

The black ones were in the middle of the face of his best friend, Char, who stood beside him on the dock. They looked anxious.

In the distance a bell began to toll. Ven looked to his left at the docks of the fishing village to the south of them, where work had begun hours ago. Then he looked behind him. The sleepy town of Kingston in the distance was just beginning to wake up.

Ven looked back down into the water.

“Come on, Amariel,” he said to the floating eyes. “I can’t really go off into the sea without him.”

A glorious tail of colorful scales emerged from below the surface, splashing both boys with cold salt water.

“Why not?” a girl’s voice demanded from the waves. “He’s a pest. And he isn’t nice to me.”

Char’s black eyes widened.

“I—I’m sorry ’bout that,” he stammered. “When I first met you, Ven didn’t tell me you were a mermaid—” He shivered as another splash drenched him again. “Er, I mean merrow. I’m sorry if I made you mad.”

“Hmmph.”

“Please let him come,” Ven said. “Captain Snodgrass gave him orders to keep an eye on me. So if I’m going to explore the sea with you, he kinda has to come along.”

Char nodded. “Cap’n’s orders.”

“He’s not my captain,” said the merrow. “I don’t take orders from humans. You know better, Ven. My mother will fillet me if she finds out I’m traveling with a human male. Especially if we are going to go exploring. There are very clear rules about not showing humans around the wonders of the Deep. And besides, it’s dangerous. You have no idea how many sea creatures think humans are tasty. I don’t want to get chomped on by mistake.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Ven watched Char’s face go white.

“We’ll be careful,” he promised. “Char will be on his best behavior.”

“I’ve seen his best behavior. I’m not impressed.”

“Look,” Char said. “If you get sick of me, you can always cover me with fish guts and toss me out as shark bait.”

The merrow stared coldly at him.

“Oh, all right,” she said finally. “But remember, there’s a reason they call bait for sharks chum. ‘Chum’ is another word for ‘friend.’” Her eyes stayed locked on Char. “And if you make a bunch of sharks angry, Chum—”

“I’ll be chum,” Char said. “Got it.”

“So if you’re coming, we have to find a fisherman named Asa with a red-bottomed boat.” Amariel pointed south to one of the far docks. “He’ll cut your gills, and we can get going.”

Both boys grabbed their necks.

The merrow rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on. Do you want to be able to breathe underwater or not? Gills are the only way I know of to do that. I’m tired of waiting. Decide whether you’re coming or whether I’m leaving.”

“We’re coming,” Ven said as he let go of his neck. “Sorry—it’s just instinct. Let’s go.”

Char nodded, but did not remove his hands.

The merrow disappeared below the surface of the water.

The two boys hurried south over the packed sand along the shore.

“Ya know, it’s not too late to change your mind, Ven,” Char muttered. “We could get a boat or somethin’, and follow her out to sea, like we did when we were chasing the Floatin’ Island, and then dive down to see whatever she wants to show us—”

“You can stay on shore if you want to, Char,” Ven said, trying to see the merrow in between the waves. “But I promised her a long time ago that I would explore her world with her. It’s now or never.”

“Have it your way,” Char said gloomily. “You always do anyway.”

They followed the pebbly path in the sand south until the fishing village came into sight. Several long piers led out into the harbor, with docks along each of them. Small boats lined the docks. At each boat fishermen were hauling nets filled with flapping fish and cages with crabs and lobsters onto the piers. Seagulls flew in great wide circles above, screeching and crying, then diving for food.

“So how did she happen to find this Asa, and how does she know he won’t just cut our throats?” Char asked as they picked their way among barrels and pieces of rope on the slats of the pier.

Ven shrugged. “No idea. But sailors and merrows have a pretty good connection.” He pointed about halfway down the pier, where a small green fishing boat with a red bottom bobbed lazily in the morning tide. A wrinkled man in a wrinkled hat sat on a barrel at the edge of the dock, cleaning his morning catch of fish. “Could that be him?”

Char squinted. “I guess so.”

“Come on. We may as well ask. If it’s not Asa, he probably knows where to find him. Fishermen all know each other.”

The two boys walked along the pier, stepping out of the way of men dragging lobster traps and heavy netting, until they got to the red-bottomed boat. They stopped behind the elderly fisherman, who did not seem to notice they were there.

Ven coughed politely.

“Excuse me, sir—are you Asa?”

The fisherman looked up from his work, his sky-blue eyes twinkling in the sun.

“Who’s askin’?”

“Er, my name is Ven, sir. I was told I might find a fisherman at this dock who could, uh, cut gills.”

The wrinkly man nodded. “Well, Ven, you’ve found ’im. But I can’t say as I’ve heard of any recent wrecks.”

Ven blinked. “Pardon?”

“Shipwrecks,” said the fisherman. “That’s the only reason I know of for a man to risk a slice in his neck—to salvage the treasure from the bones of a shipwreck.”

“Oh.” Ven and Char exchanged a glance, then looked off the edge of the dock.

In the water behind the boat, the beautiful tail of multicolored scales was waving at them from beneath the surface.

“Uh, we weren’t really planning to dive for treasure,” Ven continued, trying to block the sight of the merrow’s tail. “We just want to do some exploring.”

The fisherman’s eyebrows arched.

“The sea’s no place to explore without a good reason, lads,” he said seriously. “Lots of bad stuff down there—believe you me. The only reason a man takes his life into his hands on a daily basis by going out there is to make a living for his family. Otherwise, we’d farm the land.” The blue eyes twinkled. “If we knew how.”

“Well, we’d really like to have gills, nonetheless,” Ven said. “We’ve been told you know how to, er, cut them without too much pain—and safely. Is that true?”

Asa exhaled, then nodded.

“I suppose that depends on how much is too much where pain is concerned,” he said. “That’s really up to you. It’s not my business what you’re doing. We mind our own business on the sea. If you want gills, and you’re willing to take the risk, I can cut ’em for you right quick.” He held up a thin silver filleting knife. “Then I have to get back to cleaning my catch. So, what’ll it be? Make haste, now.”

Char and Ven looked at each other once more, then nodded at the same time.

“We’re in,” said Char.

“All right then,” said Asa. He reached into the boat and took hold of the top of a small sea chest that held his tackle. He slammed it closed and put it on the dock in front of them. “Kneel down and put your heads on this chest, your left ears down.”

The boys obeyed.

“Well, ’s been good to know you,” Char whispered as they positioned their heads on the chest.

“Shhh,” Ven whispered back. “We’re not being executed, for pity’s sake.”

“You hope we’re not. You never know.”

Asa wiped the filleting knife on his trousers, then came and stood over Ven.

“Hold very still, now.”

Char winced and put his hand over his eyes.

Ven started to close his eyes as well.

Suddenly, from the end of the dock near town, a bright flash of rainbow-colored light blinded him.

And the world seemed to stop around him.

Copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth Haydon

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Little is known for sure about reclusive documentarian and archanologist Elizabeth Haydon.

 

She is an expert in dead languages and holds advanced degrees in Nain Studies from Arcana College and Lirin History from the University of Rigamarole. Her fluency in those languages [Nain and Lirin] has led some to speculate that she may be descended of one of those races herself. It should be noted that no one knows this for sure.

 

Being an archanologist, she is also an expert in ancient magic because, well, that’s what an archanologist is.

 

Being a documentarian means she works with old maps, books and manuscripts, and so it is believed that her house is very dusty and smells like ink, but there is no actual proof of this suspicion. On the rare occasions of sightings of Ms. Haydon, it has been reported that she herself has smelled like lemonade, soap, vinegar, freshly-washed babies and pine cones.

 

She is currently translating and compiling the fifth of the recently-discovered Lost Journals when she is not napping, or attempting to break the world’s record for the longest braid of dental floss.

 

We had the chance to ask her some questions about the latest of Ven’s journals, The Tree of Water. Here is what she shared.

Dr. Haydon, can you give us a brief summary of The Tree of Water?

 

Certainly. Ven Polypheme, who wrote the, er, Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme, lived long ago in the Second Age of history, when magic was much more alive and visible in the world than it is now. His journals are very important finds, because they tell the story of ancient magic and where it still may be found in the world today.

 

In the first three journals we saw how Ven came to the mystical island of Serendair and was given the job of Royal Reporter by the king of the island, a young man named Vandemere. The Royal Reporter was supposed to find magic that was hiding in plain sight in the world and report back about it to the king. As you can imagine, this could be a fun but dangerous job, and at the beginning of The Tree of Water, we see that Ven and his friends are hiding from the evil Thief Queen, who is looking to find and kill him.

 

Amariel, a merrow [humans call these ‘mermaids,’ but we know that’s the wrong word] who saved Ven when the first ship he sailed on sank, has been asking Ven to come and explore the wonders of the Deep, her world in the sea. Deciding that this could be a great way to find hidden magic as well as hide from the evil Thief Queen, Ven and his best friend, Char, follow her into the Deep. The sea, as you know, is one of the most magical places in the world—but sometimes that magic, and that place, can be deadly.

 

The book tells of mysterious places, and interesting creatures, and wondrous things that have never been seen in the dry world, and tales from the very bottom of the sea.

The main character in The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme series is Charles Magnus “Ven” Polypheme. Tell us about him.

 

Ven was an interesting person, but he really didn’t think so. He and his family were of a different race than the humans who made up most of the population where he lived, the race of the Nain. Nain are an old race, a little shorter and stockier than most humans, with a tendency to be on the grumpy side. They live about four times as long as humans, are very proud of their beards, which they believe tell their life stories, don’t like to swim or travel, and prefer to live deep in the mountains.

 

Ven was nothing like the majority of Nain. He was very curious, loved to travel, could swim, and longed to see the world. He was actually a pretty nice kid most of the time. He had the equivalent of a baby face because only three whiskers of his beard had grown in by the time The Tree of Water took place, when he was fifty years old [around twelve in Nain years]. He had a great group of friends, including the merrow and Char, who were mentioned earlier. It is believed that his journals were the original research documents for two of the most important books of all time, The Book of All Human Knowledge and All the World’s Magic. The only copies of these two volumes were lost at sea centuries ago, so finding the Lost Journals is the only way to recover this important information.

 

  1. What kind of research do you do for the series?

 

I go to places where Ven went and try to find relics he left behind. Usually this is with an expedition of archaeologists and historians. I am an expert in ancient magic [an archanologist] so I don’t usually lead the expeditions, I’m just a consultant. It gives me the chance to learn a lot about magic and lets me work on my suntan at the same time, so it’s good.

What is/are the most difficult part or parts of writing/restoring the Lost Journals?

 

Here’s the list, mostly from the archaeological digs where the journals have been found:

 

1] Cannibals

2] Crocodiles

3] Sunburn

4] Sand flies

5] Dry, easily cracking parchment pages

6] The horrible smell of long-dead seaweed

7] Grumpy members of the archaeological expedition [I could name names, but I won’t]

8] Expedition food [when finding and retrieving the journal for The Tree of Water, we ate nothing but peanut butter and raisin sandwiches, olives and yellow tea for six months straight]

9] When salt water gets into your favorite fountain pen and clogs it up. This is very sad.

10] Unintentionally misspelling a word in the Nain language that turns out to be embarrassing [the word for “jelly” is one letter different from the word for “diarrhea,” which caused a number of my Nain friends to ask me what on earth I thought Ven was spreading on his toast.]

What do you enjoy about this series that cannot be found in any of your other books?

 

Getting to write about a lot of cool magic stuff that used to exist in our world, but doesn’t anymore. And getting to travel to interesting places in the world to see if maybe some of it still does exist. Also getting to show the difference between merrows, which are real, interesting creatures, and mermaids, which are just silly.

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

 

I hope, in general, that it will open their eyes to the wonder of the sea, which takes up the majority of our planet, but we really don’t know that much about it down deep. There is a great deal of magic in the sea, and I hope that if and when people become aware of it, they will help take care of it and not throw garbage and other bad stuff into it. I have a serious dislike for garbage-throwing.

 

Probably the most useful secret I learned that I hope will be of use to readers is about thrum. Thrum is the way the creatures and plants that live in the ocean communicate with each other through vibration and thought. As Ven and his friends learn, this can be a problem if you think about something you don’t want anyone to know about when you are standing in a sunshadow, because everyone gets to see a picture of what’s on your mind. Imagine how embarrassing that could be.

Are there more books coming in this series?

 

Well, at least one. In the archaeological dig site where The Tree of Water was found was another journal, a notebook that Ven called The Star of the Sea. We are still working on restoring it, but it looks like there are many new adventures and different kinds of magic in it. The problem is that it might have been buried in the sand with an ancient bottle of magical sun tan lotion, which seems to have leaked onto some of the journal’s pages. This is a very sad event in archaeology, but we are working hard to restore it.

 

As for other books, it’s not like we just write them out of nowhere. If we haven’t found one of Ven’s journals, there can’t be another book, now, can there? We are always looking, however. We’ve learned so much about ancient magic from the journals we have found so far.

You are a best-selling author with other books and series for adults. What made you want to write books for young readers?

 

I like young readers better than adults. Everyone who is reading a book like mine has at one time or another been a young reader, but not everyone has been an adult yet. Young readers have more imagination and their brains are more flexible—they can understand magical concepts a lot better than a lot of adults, who have to deal with car payments and work and budget balancing and all sorts of non-magical things in the course of their days.

Besides, many adults scare me. But that’s not their fault. I’m just weird like that.

I think if more adults read like young readers, the world would be a happier place.

Tell us where we can find your book and more information about where you are these days.

You can find The Tree of Water anywhere books are sold, online and in bookstores. There are several copies in my steamer trunk and I believe the palace in Serendair also has one. I also sent one to Bruno Mars because I like his name.

At the moment, I am on the beautiful island of J’ha-ha, searching for a very unique and magical flower. Thank you for asking these interview questions—it has improved my mood, since I have only found weeds so far today. I am hoping for better luck after lunch, which, sadly, is peanut butter and raisin sandwiches, olives, and yellow tea again.

 

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Blog Tour: Fierce by L.G. Kelso (spotlight, interview, giveaway)

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FIERCE CoverFierce
written by L.G. Kelso
published by L.G. Kelso

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble (On Sale for $0.99!), Amazon (On Sale for $0.99!), iBooks, Smashwords, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: Tori’s MMA career was taking off, until she beat the wrong man. Her training partner, nursing a bruised ego, snapped—shattering her trust and confidence.

Three years later, Tori’s keeping her fists to herself as she struggles to put herself through college. But when a group of gangbangers hassle her at work, old habits kick in and her fists fly. Max Estrada, a frequent diner customer, steps in and gets them out of hot water, but Tori is still fired… days before tuition is due.

With no other option, she’s forced to take a desk job at her old pounding grounds, where her demons still haunt the cage and the temptation to go glove-to-glove with familiar pro-fighter, Max Estrada, is too much. The sexy Colombian draws her back into the world of MMA and revives her dreams of becoming a professional face-puncher—until Will, her old partner and current Middleweight Champion, struts back into the gym. The secret they share is an unexpected liability to his career, and he’s determined to keep her silent.

With her life on the ropes, Tori will have to face the past for a shot at winning back her future, or carry the weight of a loss even greater than before.

efcinterview

Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book. Fierce is a compelling and unique story with a kickass heroine that offers an authentic look at fighters and the world of MMA.

 

Why did you did you decide to write Fierce? I don’t think there was ever much of a choice, to be honest. I fell in love with boxing, and Fierce came about shortly after. It was just something I had to write. It evolved as I got more involved in combat sports, and at that point, the characters weren’t going to let me work on anything else.

Which genre do you enjoy writing more, contemporary or speculative? Speculative. I enjoy writing the Whatever It Takes (which includes Fierce) novels, but I definitely am a fantasy girl at heart.

What kind of combat sports do you participate in? I do boxing, kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, no gi grappling, and MMA.

Because you play combat sports, do you find it easier or harder to write about these sports in your books? Easier! In fact, writing the sport parts (such as the fighting and the sparring scenes) of the books are therapy for me. I tend to obsess over the martial arts, and I’ll go home after a session at the dojo, and keep myself awake because I obsess over what I learned, and how to do certain techniques, and how to fit them into a combination and my mind just goes crazy, so writing it gives me an outlet to get that obsession out, and (hopefully) get some sleep.

Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects? I’m working on the next Whatever It Takes novel. It’s a companion to Fierce, so there are character crossovers, but this one focuses on Shane and a new leading lady. It’s steamier and faster-paced than Fierce, and goes into some more themes only touched on in Fierce, as well as introducing some new subcultures in the MMA world.  It’s a bit more romantic, and the new leading lady embraces being a girl in the gym differently than Tori.

I’m also working on a paranormal I finished a few years ago that I am revising significantly. I’m pretty excited about it as my mythology geek gets to come out and play.

What is your favorite genre to read? Fantasy. I love dark fantasy and urban fantasy.

Who is your favorite author? I would have to say Anne Bishop, especially for the adult department, and Richelle Mead for her young adult novels. I also really enjoy Nova Ren Suma when I want something contemporary with a literary bent.

In your opinion, what is one book that everyone should read? …this is a really hard question. I don’t know that I have an answer. I have books of various genres, from classics to epic fantasy, that I strongly recommend depending what the person is looking for. We all have such different taste, though, that I find it hard to really give one suggestion.

I guess one would be 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma. Beautifully crafted and intriguing novel.

For the dark fantasy crowed, the Black Jewels Trilogy. The point-of-view work is AMAZING (seriously, some of the best third pov I’ve read), and the story is awesome to. For me, it really upped the game in fantasy.

What did you want to be when you grew up? An author. And a ninja. I’m working on both 😉

Tell us three things about yourself that cannot be found on the internet … at least not found easily.

-I love France but dislike cheese and wine. Baguettes it is!

-Sharks are seriously terrifying but I love the ocean.

-Cooking is not my friend.

 

About the author: L.G. Kelso is a fantasy and contemporary novelist. Having grown up watching Xena and Hercules with her grandmother, she inherited her passion for all things magic, paranormal and mythological. She also has a probably unhealthy obsession with martial arts, and as a boxer she strives to give readers an authentic view of MMA in her contemporary sports novel.

Find Ms.Kelso here: LGKelso.com | Twitter | Facebook | Blog | NA Alley| GoodReads | Pinterest

 

 

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