#amreading: Jane Austen-inspired #fantasy (Feb’s 2017 Reading Challenge)

I’m sharing my thoughts on my February 2017 Reading Challenge picks, but first…

Wondering how I pick my books, where I get them, and how I choose which ones to read?

My Reading Challenge choices are based on personal interest and the fact that they fit my monthly theme. Then I either check them out of my local library or buy them. (If you’re wondering, it does help authors to check their books out of a library – it keeps that book in circulation longer and helps the library’s collection department know that at least one of its patrons is interested in that author, which might make it more likely the library will buy their next book.)

I’m not able to read all of my monthly choices (I wish) so, just because I’m giving my thoughts on some and not others, doesn’t necessarily mean they were the best of the bunch. And my site’s not monetized, so I don’t make any money if you choose to buy these books. (That’s why I often link to Goodreads, although not always).

I encourage everyone to get their books from a wide variety of places. Amazon, sure. We all do. But try to make it a point to buy from other vendors from time to time — and remember to check books out of your local library! It supports both the author and your library. 🙂

IndieBound: Find books at local independent book stores.

WorldCat: Find books at local libraries.

Shades of Milk and Honey

Features Jane Ellsworth, master glamour manipulator, and her sister, Melody, an au naturale beauty.

Months ago – just after the New Year – this was the first book I grabbed after the insanity of the holidays. It had been on my TBR list forever and I thought it would be interesting, fun, and even somewhat soothing after December’s mania. I was right. (Unfortunately, I didn’t know I’d be doing a reading challenge at the time, so I didn’t take good notes.) I do, however, remember liking many things about the book:

The magic – I love glamour magic. Fara Vanderlin from my Noon Onyx series also works with glamours and I love to see what other authors do with this type of magic. I liked that Jane refused to enhance her own appearance but was fantastic at creating sensory tableaus that incorporated not just the visual, but also other senses like sound, smell, and touch. It was fascinating that, in this society, people used galmourists like interior decorators. The richer someone was, the better glamourist they could hire. And the way the magic worked — weaved, woven, layered — was pretty cool.

It wasn’t a retelling – the story was set in an alternate version of Regency England, but it wasn’t based on any specific Jane Austen novel. I love a good redux, but it’s more impressive when writers use their inspirations as jumping off points.

The cover to the next book! There are a total of five books in the Glamourist Histories series. The cover of the second, Glamour in Glass, features a Regency heroine (I assume Jane) in… well, shades of milk and honey – but with bubbles. Makes me curious to say the least.

Heartstone

This was a retelling… of Pride and Prejudice, but with dragons. Tell me you can resist that. 😀

In the beginning, there were a lot of creatures and names to keep straight. There were wyverns, dragons, gnomes, and gryphons… beoryns, lamias, nakla, khela… Tekari, Shani…

There were Brysneys instead of Bingleys, Bentaines instead of Bennets, Daireds instead of Darcys, but I became immersed in the story soon enough.

The Fourfold God was interesting: Janna—Provider, She Who Sustains; Mikla—Protector, Shield of the Faithful; Odei—Creator, He Who Begins; and Thell—the Unmaker (i.e. Death).

And I liked that none of the characters seemed to be an exact replica of their match in P&P.

After reading it, I wished two things:

  1. That I’d chosen Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, instead of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters as my third book choice for February; and
  2. That I’d had time to read another book in February.

It would have been neat to see how Elle Katherine White’s retelling differed from Seth Grahame-Smith’s. (Have you read P&P&Z? What did you think? Are you wondering why I picked Sea Monsters over Zombies? Because the cover reminded me of Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean. And because I felt like Zombies had gotten more than enough attention with the movie.) 

In lieu of my thoughts on Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, I offer you its You Tube book trailer link. Absolutely worth the two minutes or so it takes to watch.

My final thought on Heartstone: Giving the Drakaina (the dragon queen) some of the characteristics of Lady Catherine de Bourgh was a nice touch.

So, how about you? Did you read any of my Feb 2017 Reading Challenge picks? Are you reading anything else? Can you think of any other Jane Austen-inspired fantasy? If so, let me know in the comments! Tomorrow, I’ll share March’s reading picks.

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Winter: The Stuff of Nightmares by Laura Bickle, Author of NINE OF STARS

Laura Bickle’s NINE OF STARS releases next week. Library Journal says it “mixes alchemy, folklore, and Native American traditions with a wintry Western landscape” while Booklist says, “Readers who like no-nonsense characters, the occult, Native American myths, and the modern Wild West will enjoy.” Laura’s here today with a post about winter, an excerpt featuring the wraith Skinflint Jack, and a chance to win a signed copy of her new book. Details below. Welcome, Laura!


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Winter: The Stuff of Nightmares

by Laura Bickle

Winter has always inspired a bit of dread in me. Maybe it’s the lack of light, the cold, the ice on slippery roads. There’s something about the snow that blankets and obscures everything – it muffles sound. The landscape is reduced to black sky and white earth. Everything is dormant, and it seems as if life has withered out of the world.

In developing NINE OF STARS, I wanted to deal with a bit of this atavistic dread of winter.

It’s an age-old conflict ripe for a story: the protagonist versus nature. And winter has not been good to the wolves of Yellowstone. The Nine Stars pack is making a dangerous migration in the backcountry, seeking more fertile hunting grounds. Under normal circumstances, winter is a bountiful time for wolves. But the wolves of NINE OF STARS weren’t always wolves. Once upon a time, they were human, but they forgot the magic needed to turn back.

The wolves are hunted by a man-shaped creature in a black cloak with the skull of a stag, the ghost of Skinflint Jack. In the nineteenth century, he harbored a grudge against wolves. He’s kept that anger alive for many years, stalking and killing wolves in the park. To me, Jack is the very symbol of Winter. His hooves skim over the snow, and he brings death where he travels.

Winter is not only a hazard to wolves, but to the people who have decided to protect them. Petra Dee is a geologist. Though she’s surrounded by magic as the daughter of an alchemist, Petra is stubbornly ordinary. She has no magic – she can be easily hurt or killed by a creature like Skinflint Jack. She must depend on her wits and her coyote sidekick, Sig, to catch Skinflint Jack before he kills more wolves.

Sig might be more immune to winter than he lets on. Petra believes that he’s hanging about out of love of lunchmeat and blankets, that he’s submitted to domestication out of pure self-interest. But Sig may be more than he seems. He may have a bit of the Coyote with a capital “C” in him, a god walking around earth in a fur-suit for his own purposes.

Petra’s partner, Gabe, was once immune to the chilling effects of winter. Long ago, he was hanged by the Alchemical Tree of Life. He became one of the Hanged Men, undead cowboys who worked at the behest of a family of ranchers. Now, the Tree of Life and the rest of the Hanged Men are gone and buried in the frozen ground. Gabe is an ordinary man, for the first time in a hundred and fifteen years. Bullets, trauma, and cold can kill him just as surely as any other man.

Petra, Sig, and Gabe will enter the backcountry of Yellowstone to hunt the hunter, to try to dismantle his magic on the winter solstice. It is the longest night of the year, when winter holds sway over all things at the peak of Sepulcher Mountain, when all is snow and silence and death.

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Excerpt from

NINE OF STARS

The surface of the water churned. At first Gabe thought it was the wind, swirling around loose chunks of slush. But bubbles seethed from the interior, pushing through the gold algae.

He reached for his rifle and pressed it to his shoulder. He aimed it at the water, sighting down to see a black mass rushing upward, breaking the surface in a hail of spattered slush. Crowned in antlers, the creature glittered with ice, launching itself up into the daylight like a whale breaching the surface of the ocean.

Jack.

Instinctively, Gabe blew out his breath and pulled the trigger. He fired once, twice, intending to put the creature back down in the water. His rifle jolted his shoulder with each shot, and he knew he’d hit the creature dead in its center of mass.

But the shadow leapt up onto the bank, dripping, crouching. It was the shape of a man, with antlers crowning its head. It looked upon Gabe through the skull of a stag, pale and ferocious . . . and it stood up. In one hand, it gripped the golden coin Gabe had cast into the water. A fistful of bone-pale knives dripped from the other.

Gabe ratcheted back the slide on his rifle and fired again. The creature didn’t flinch. It was as if the soaking pelts of its cloak simply sucked them in.

Petra was shooting at it, too, with no better results. She was shouting at Sig to get behind her.

Gabe kept firing, backing away to the snowmobiles. He had known that Skinflint Jack was a fearsome creature, but he suspected that Jack could be hurt. He’d guessed wrong.

Jack lowered his head and made a run at Gabe. Gabe dove away, but not before the darkness of Jack’s cloak slapped him in the side of the face. It was like being slapped by the abyss—cold, stunning hell. An antler caught Gabe in the shoulder and he tumbled, ass over teakettle, into a snowdrift.

He rolled over in the snow, the shadow looming over him.

“Hey, you! Cthulhu wannabe! Look what I got.”

Jack turned. Petra was holding two glittering gold coins in her hand. She made sure that he’d seen her. He took two steps away from Gabe, toward her . . .

. . . and she pitched the coins as far as she could, into the snowy waste. The pair of them shone like falling stars on the way down.

Jack paused, seeming torn.

But he growled and scuttled after the coins.

Gabe climbed onto his snowmobile and cranked the engine. Petra and Sig had already climbed aboard theirs and gotten the engine going. He followed Petra to a hasty retreat up the valley. Behind him, he watched the dark figure in the snowfield sifting through the snow with his hands.

That had been a disaster.

But they sure as hell had managed to get Skinflint Jack’s attention, for good or ill.


alchemy, magic, wild west, Native American, Nine of Stars, Wildlands, Laura Bickle

More about Nine of Stars

Following on the heels of her critically acclaimed prequel novels Dark Alchemy and Mercury Retrograde comes the first installment in Laura Bickle’s dark contemporary fantasy series, Nine of Stars, a Wildlands Novel

Winter has always been a deadly season in Temperance, but this time, there’s more to fear than just the cold…

As the daughter of an alchemist, Petra Dee has faced all manner of occult horrors—especially since her arrival in the small town of Temperance, Wyoming. But she can’t explain the creature now stalking the backcountry of Yellowstone, butchering wolves and leaving only their skins behind in the snow. Rumors surface of the return of Skinflint Jack, a nineteenth-century wraith that kills in fulfillment of an ancient bargain.

The new sheriff in town, Owen Rutherford, isn’t helping matters. He’s a dangerously haunted man on the trail of both an unsolved case and a fresh kill—a bizarre murder leading him right to Petra’s partner Gabriel. And while Gabe once had little to fear from the mortal world, he’s all too human now. This time, when violence hits close to home, there are no magical solutions.

It’s up to Petra and her coyote sidekick Sig to get ahead of both Owen and the unnatural being hunting them all—before the trail turns deathly cold.

Amazon | HarperCollins | Kobo | GooglePlay | BN


More about Laura

Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology-Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs. Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016.

Website | Twitter | Facebook


More about the Giveaway

Laura is giving away one signed print copy (US only). Click here for the Rafflecopter form and here for my complete giveaway rules.


Winter is on everyone’s mind these days. For anyone who missed it, I was over at Book Crazy Scrapbook Mama’s place the other day with my list of 7 Icy Winter Movies and an excerpt & giveaway to celebrate my latest, Pocket Full of Tinder.

Best wishes and thank you to Laura for guest blogging today!

#SFF Genre Talk: The Queen of the Tearling and Low-Tech Futuristic Worlds

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is the first book in a fantasy trilogy featuring Kelsea Raleigh, a nineteen year-old newly crowned queen. One of my favorite parts of the story was its world, which is a low-tech futuristic one.

fantasy, futuristic, medieval, magic, Erika Johansen, The Queen of the Tearling

The story takes place in a fictional country called Tear, which exists at some point in the future (Wikipedia says it takes place in the 24th century, although I couldn’t find where that was mentioned in the book) in a New World (which, I assume is somewhere in the Old World, i.e. Europe??). This vague backstory might be frustrating to some, but I was interested as both writer and reader in how Johansen built her world.

In the distant past, the new queen’s ancestor sailed himself and a bunch of followers from America to wherever they are now. But utopianism didn’t work out as well as everyone wanted and, at the story’s open, the country has been subjugated by the neighboring country, Mortmesne, which is ruled by a queen as evil as her country’s name suggests.

The world of the Tear and Morts might seem odd or inconsistent to a reader unwilling to imagine a low-tech future without a causative apocalyptic event. There are geneticists, but no cars. There are ruling monarchs and magic, but no guns. There are cities, but very few books. There was a Crossing, not a Catastrophe. But I think low-tech futuristic worlds are ripe with potential. (Yes, I’m admittedly biased; my Noon Onyx series takes place in a low-tech futuristic world. As a writer, I love the possibilities of this as yet unlabeled sub-genre… which I’m not necessarily suggesting we label. Are we any closer to understanding what “dark fantasy” is or what type of stories are truly “new adult”? Worth noting, though, that others have already taken a stab at naming it. Best Fantasy Books uses the term “Futuristic Fantasy” and its list of books shows how long the sub-genre has been around.)

Regardless of what we call them, low-tech futuristics seem to offer the best of two other sf/f sub-genres: historical fantasy and post-apocalyptic fantasy. Readers get to immerse themselves in a medieval-ish, make-believe otherworld, but one with recognizable references (e.g. the Brothers Grimm and Leonardo da Vinci). Instead of centering on how the characters will survive the immediate aftermath of some sort of grand catastrophe, a low-tech futuristic story has more room to breathe in terms of plot. It can be epic instead of laser-focused. Its pacing can be slower and less breakneck. Most importantly, however, it provides flexibility for a writer to pick and choose which real world elements work for them and their story. This expansive, though eclectic, approach can lead to a world that feels familiar, but different – to a world that has broken its historical constraints while at the same time remaining accessible and identifiable to readers.

The bottom line is that low-tech futuristic stories allow writers to play with the past, instead of being limited by it.

So what about the rest of the story?

The Queen of the Tearling is part of a trilogy (the third book, The Fate of the Tearling, comes out tomorrow) and this first book feels a lot like Act I of a bigger story, which is fine. There are lots of unanswered questions for future books to address, such as:

Who is Kelsea’s father?

What’s up with Andalie, her lady-in-waiting?

And the Robin Hood-like Fetch? (whose name brings out my sophomoric sense of humor because I could NOT stop thinking of Gretchen from Mean Girls every time his name was mentioned in the book)

Here are a few other brief, disjointed thoughts about the book:

I loved all the fictional epigraphs at the beginning of the chapters. Yes, they seem to give much of the plot away, but somehow story tension remains (see unanswered questions above).

The book has been shelved multiple times on Goodreads under Young Adult, but it’s not YA.

Emma Watson is starring in, and producing, the movie adaptation.

What do you think of low-tech futuristics? What do you call them?

Have you read The Queen of the Tearling? What did you think? Have any other, similar books to recommend?

TOP TEN SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY TV SHOWS – RANKED! [#6]

From now until mid-June, I’m counting down my ten favorite SF/F TV shows – ranking them from least to most. Least favorite doesn’t mean it’s bad though. If it’s on my list, it means I liked it enough to watch beyond the pilot. My thoughts on each are included and, for once, these are SPOILER FREE posts.

6. The Magicians [magicians]: SyFy show based on Lev Grossman’s books. The first book is sitting on my shelf but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. (Ugh. I hate it when that happens, but the show looked great and I wanted to watch). Seems everyone is describing this as an “adult Harry Potter.” I guess. Comparing any story to Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Game of Thrones sometimes feels lazy to me, but I do it too. What else can I tell you? The magic is neat, the villain is creepy… Quentin and Alice bug the ever-living crap out of me sometimes…

How about you? Did you see or read The Magicians? What did you think? What would you compare it to?

TOP TEN SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY TV SHOWS – RANKED! [#9]

From now until mid-June, I’m counting down my ten favorite SF/F TV shows – ranking them from least to most. Least favorite doesn’t mean it’s bad though. If it’s on my list, it means I liked it enough to watch beyond the pilot. My thoughts on each are included and, for once, these are SPOILER FREE posts.

9. Shannara [demons/elves/druids]: A guilty pleasure type of show. Kinda reminded me of my brief but furious flirtation with Reign. Based on Terry Brooks’ books, which I haven’t read (it’s possible I read The Sword of Shannara a million years ago but, if so, I don’t remember it). In any case, this is an MTV show, which seemed like an odd pairing, but it worked well enough to be entertaining. I watched it with my kids. My youngest liked it, although I fast forwarded through some scenes. Lol. For tween girls, I gotta say that I’d recommend Supergirl over Shannara. Supergirl didn’t hold my attention as much as Shannara did (although Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant was great; I miss Ally McBeal!) but my youngest is a devoted Kara Zor-El fan.

How about you? Did you watch Season 1 of Shannara? What did you think? Have you read the books? Are you a Supergirl fan?

TOP TEN SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY TV SHOWS – RANKED! [#10]

From now until mid-June, I’m counting down my ten favorite SF/F TV shows – ranking them from least to most. Least favorite doesn’t mean it’s bad though. If it’s on my list, it means I liked it enough to watch beyond the pilot. My thoughts on each are included and, for once, these are SPOILER FREE posts.

10. Witches of East End [witches]: Based on the book by Melissa de la Cruz. Julia Ormond’s American accent is terrible, but I still like her and her character, Joanna Beauchamp. (Since that character is supposed to have lived for thousands of years, why couldn’t Ormond keep her English accent? Why not give the character a brief Brit background or something?? People who know more about this, chime in.) I’m only a few shows in, and I like it, but I have to admit I’m leery of getting too attached. The show was cancelled after two seasons. There’s an online petition underway to bring it back so, who knows, maybe East End fans will prevail the way the browncoats did.

Are you watching Witches of East End? Did you read the book? Don’t you HATE it when stories get cancelled before they are appropriately wrapped up by their creators? 😉

Cape Cod, beaches, selkies, fantasy, books, Marissa Doyle, Skin Deep

Marissa Doyle, Author of SKIN DEEP, on the Magic of Cape Cod (#selkie #fantasy #GoodreadsGiveaway)

My guest blogger today is Marissa Doyle, author of the YA paranormal historical series the Leland Sisters. She writes “stories with heroines finding out who they are, their strengths and purposes, and where they belong in the world.” Her latest release is SKIN DEEP, a fantasy for adults. She’s here to share more about the book and its setting, beautiful Cape Cod. Welcome, Marissa!

Thank you for letting me be a guest on your blog, Jill—it’s a pleasure to be here!

I grew up reading books where the setting was almost a character in its own right. Books like The Secret Garden and A Little Princess are probably what turned me into an Anglophile at age 9, because they painted such vivid pictures in my mind of what it was like to see a garden come alive in Yorkshire, or to live in London as both a privileged and then a poor child. So of course, now as I write my own stories, setting remains extremely important to me: I want readers to experience that same “you are there” feeling that I once had when I opened those books. Which is why I set my newest book, Skin Deep, in a place I know and love deeply: Cape Cod.

Cape Cod, beaches, selkies, fantasy, books, Marissa Doyle, Skin Deep
Cape Cod – Ostervile Wianno Regatta

Skin Deep is a paranormal romance featuring a selkie (seal shape-shifter) hero and a heroine who discovers that she somehow imbues the quilts she sews with magic…and an evil entity bent on destroying the selkies and claiming my heroine’s abilities—and her very identity. Obviously with a selkie hero my story needed a sea-side setting, but it also needed a setting where magic would somehow be more believable, more real.

So what’s so magical about Cape Cod?

For one thing, it’s very much a place between worlds–a long, slender, curving peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic, a land that is constantly shaped and changed by the sea. In geological terms it is a “terminal moraine”– more or less just a very large pile of sand and gravel marking the southernmost edge of the last glacier to scrape down from the north—which means that it is, geologically, ephemeral—it came to be just 16-20,000 years ago, and in a few thousand years, it will no longer exist.  In terms of written history, though, it’s old. Some enthusiasts like to claim it was first settled by Vikings and was Leif Ericsson’s Vinland (probably not); but it was visited by many explorers before the Pilgrims made their first landfall in America here before choosing to move on to Plymouth. It was a fishing and whaling center for centuries before it became what it is today—a summer resort area whose population swells dramatically in the summer months with visitors from all over the world.

But what I think creates Cape Cod’s magic are its contrasts.

Think of beautiful white sand beaches that can be lapped by gentle wavelets in the morning and pounded by furious storm waves that night. Or clear golden sunlight (there’s a very distinctive soft golden tinge to Cape sunlight—it was a popular place for late 19th century American Impressionist artists to visit) that can be drowned within minutes by the thickest, grayest, wettest fog you can possibly imagine. Think of acre upon acre of salt marsh that looks dead and brown until you walk across it and see the hundreds of birds, the strange plants like sea lavender and horsetails, and the fish and crustaceans lurking in the threaded channels cutting through the marsh that ebb and flow with the tide. Think of enormous dunes looming above endless tidal flats, towns that teem with people in July and are nearly deserted in January, quaint 17th century saltbox houses one street away from modern palaces of glass and steel. Contrasts all…

and what is contrast but a subtle form of conflict, the engine that drives all stories?

I tried to make use of these contrasts when creating my semi-fictional Cape Cod setting for Skin Deep and use them to highlight my characters’ struggles, both internal and external…and had a lot of fun in the process. Cape Cod can be a magical place indeed…but magic can be light and dark.

Cape Cod, beaches, selkies, fantasy, books, Marissa Doyle, Skin Deep

More about Skin Deep

After a painful divorce, Garland Durrell looks forward to settling into her home on Cape Cod to make the quilts that are her passion. On the first morning of her new life she finds a man and a small boy washed up on the beach, both badly wounded. Since the town chief of police is strangely reluctant to help, Garland takes on the care of the mysterious pair who don’t seem to remember what happened to them–and feels her own heart begin to heal.

Alasdair does remember. He and his son Conn are the last of the ruling family of selkies from the waters around the Cape, locked in a decades-long struggle with an evil that threatens all, selkie and human. He’s not sure if he can trust the lovely, blue-eyed woman who takes them in until he touches one of her quilts and feels the magic she’s sewn into it…and the emotions that he never thought he’d feel again.

But the evil entity that stole Alasdair’s sealskin and left him for dead quickly senses both his presence and Garland’s magic, and is determined to destroy one and possess the other. Only Garland and her quilts, made with a power she barely believes she has, can save them all from destruction—if she can avoid being destroyed first.

More about Marissa

Marissa Doyle graduated from Bryn Mawr College and went on to graduate school intending to be an archaeologist but somehow got distracted.  Eventually she figured out what it was she was really supposed to be doing and started writing.  She’s channeled her inner history geekiness into young adult fiction: her award-winning books Bewitching Season, Betraying Season, and Courtship and Curses (all from Henry Holt Books for Young Readers/Macmillan) blend history with magic and romance. She also writes contemporary and historical fantasy for grownups, including By Jove (Entangled Publishing) and now Skin Deep. She lives in her native Massachusetts with her family, including a pair of bossy but adorable litterbox-trained pet rabbits, and loves quilting, gardening, and collecting antique fashion prints. Oh, and coffee.

Goodreads Giveaway

Marissa is currently giving away ten copies of SKIN DEEP through Goodreads. For more details and to enter, click here. For my complete giveaway rules, click here.

Thank you for guest blogging today, Marissa!

Laura Bickle: You Don’t Get to Pick Your Spirit Guide

Today’s guest is Laura Bickle, whose newest novel, DARK ALCHEMY, is coming out March 24th. She’s here with a sneak peek at her new MC’s spirit guide. She’s also giving away one copy of her novel as part of her blog tour. Details below. Welcome, Laura!

Laura Bickle Coyote Teaser

“You may not believe in spirit guides,

but all that’s important is that the animal does.”

A spirit guide is a funny thing. The general idea is that a serene and wise entity guides a willing person to enlightenment and self-understanding. There are lotus blossoms and meditation and a lot of focusing on the state of one’s chakras. Can you hear the dulcet tones of angels murmuring?

Yeah. That’s not how it works out for the heroine of DARK ALCHEMY. Petra Dee arrives in the sleepy town of Temperance to search for her father, missing ten years. She’s also running away from her own past, away from the last screams of the ocean.

Temperance isn’t the sleepy gold rush town it seems to be. At the edge of Yellowstone Park, it’s the epicenter of a turf war among the local undead, a meth lord, a cattle baron, and the forgotten alchemical monsters left behind by the town’s founder. Temperance was a town built on alchemy, when gold was conjured from stones, and the heirs of that legacy are still searching for the secret of eternal life.

Petra’s a scientist. She doesn’t believe in anything she can’t touch and measure. But when she’s confronted with bulletproof ranch hands, the Alchemical Tree of Life, and a string of dead bodies twisted and calcinated like driftwood, she’s got to start believing in something beyond the lenses of her microscope.

That something is a coyote who turns up at the doorstep of her trailer, searching for lunch meat. Coyote has long been a trickster in myth, and he’s determined to show Petra that there’s more here than meets the eye. Terrifying things long buried are waking, and he digs up one of these artifacts for her: the Venificus Locus. It’s a golden compass that locates magic and runs on blood.

Well-fed on lunch meat and dozing at the foot of Petra’s bed, the coyote knows that he’s the only one who can protect Petra from the denizens of the dark. He knows where danger lies, and he can help Petra navigate the weird west.

But will she listen to him? She’s given him a bath, a flea collar, and a name.  He’s masquerading as a Good Dog. When push comes to shove, will Petra follow the coyote’s instincts, or will she follow her scientific curiosity to become the next victim in a string of murders?

Dark Alchemy, Laura Bickle, fantasy

More About Dark Alchemy

Stephen King’s The Gunslinger meets Breaking Bad in Laura Bickle’s novel Dark Alchemy.

Some secrets are better left buried…

Geologist Petra Dee arrives in Wyoming looking for clues to her father’s disappearance years before. What she finds instead is Temperance, a dying Western town with a gold rush past and a meth-infested present.

But under the town’s dust and quiet, an old power is shifting. When bodies start turning up – desiccated and twisted skeletons that Petra can’t scientifically explain – her investigations land her in the middle of a covert war between the town’s most powerful interests. Petra’s father wasn’t the only one searching for the alchemical secrets of Temperance, and those still looking are now ready to kill.

Armed with nothing but shaky alliances, a pair of antique guns, and a relic she doesn’t understand, the only thing Petra knows for sure is that she and her coyote sidekick are going to have to move fast, or die next.

Available at:

Amazon    BN   Google Books    HarperCollins

Laura Bickle, Dark Alchemy, fantasy
Laura Bickle

More About Laura

Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology – Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs, also writing contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams.

Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016. THE HALLOWED ONES and THE OUTSIDE are her latest young adult novels.

The Giveaway

Laura is giving away one e-copy of DARK ALCHEMY. To enter to win, click here for the Rafflecopter form. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. 18 and over. Click here for my complete giveaway rules.

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Hope everyone had a great weekend! Thank you, Laura, for guest blogging today!

 

Kylie Chan, Author of DEMON CHILD, on Magic, Martial Arts, Romance, #Writing a Long Series, Living in Hong Kong, and More (#Giveaway)

The author interview I was supposed to have posted Tuesday is here! It was worth the wait. Kylie Chan, bestselling author of Demon Child, discusses her characters, their relationship, and what it’s like to write a long, successful book series. She also talks about the Sidhe, or Shining Folk, who are featured in her latest novel, what it was like to live in Hong Kong, and her four favorite things about her current abode: Brisbane, Australia. She’s giving away ten print copies of Demon Child (Rafflecopter form below). Welcome, Kylie!

Kylie Chan, Demon Child, fantasy, romance, magic, martial arts, demons,

Author Interview: Kylie Chan

Your first book, WHITE TIGER, came out in 2006. Since then you’ve released seven other novels in the series, including your latest, DEMON CHILD. You’ve also written a prequel graphic novel and a couple of shorts.

That’s a lot of stories! How do you keep the series fresh and exciting?

Yes it is! It’s been a tremendous journey for me – WHITE TIGER was the first novel I’d ever written. I keep it fresh by raising the stakes. I’m enjoying myself by making things seem a little better and then take it up a notch and make everything terrible again. My characters are suffering. It’s great fun.

Did you know you when you first started writing WHITE TIGER that it would turn into a nine book series? How did the structure of the series develop? Any advice for writers who want to write a long series?

I planned for a three book series – Xuan Wu’s departure, his return, and the big final battle in three volumes. When I was halfway through enough words for a second novel and still not up to the departure bit, I realized that I had more than three books – way more than three books, and started changing the plan to three sets of three.

For writers planning to write a long series I’d suggest that they make each novel readable by itself, but still fit together into something greater. I’d do that in future if I could, so that people aren’t forced to start at the beginning with – admittedly – my weakest work.

Can DEMON CHILD be read on its own? If not, do readers need to start with WHITE TIGER?

As I said, if you want to read the series it would absolutely be best to start from WHITE TIGER. DEMON CHILD is the eighth book in a complex saga and if you try to read it alone you will probably enjoy it, but not as much as if you started at the beginning.

Your stories feature magic, martial arts, and romance.

It’s all good stuff. It’s pure escapism. Sometimes when I’m told by a man in the supermarket to ‘smile, you’ll look prettier’ or the staff at the post office call me ‘darling’ and ‘sweetheart’ in a terribly condescending way I just want to kick heads. This is my way of channeling that aggression!

[Jill: Lol. Yeah, it’s been awhile but I can remember times in my life when I thought, “Is that a compliment or a cut? Do I want to bloody their nose or just say ‘thank you?’” I always opted for being polite, but I’ve also had a lot of dental work done on my back molars. 😀 ]

How would John describe Emma? How would Emma describe John?

Both of them would describe each other as infuriating. As one of the biggest gods in Chinese Heaven, John is accustomed to being immediately and unquestioningly obeyed by everybody around him, and Emma’s constant second-guessing and outright disagreements sometimes drive him nuts. Emma finds John’s expectation that everybody will immediately obey him similarly annoying, and sometimes disagrees with him just to see his face when he’s exasperated with her. It never descends into full-on arguments because he’s such a big softie, though.

How has their relationship changed over the course of eight novels?

It was absolutely love at first sight, but the balance of power between them has always been uneven and that’s led some serious relationship issues. It started out very inequitable – he was the employer and she was an employee. She was more willful and disobedient than he was used to, however, and he loved that. Through the books, she’s grown until they consider themselves equal in will and intelligence by the end of the second series. In this final trilogy, he’s regained his full ancient god powers and once again is much more than she is – but he turns to her when he needs a second opinion or someone to back him up when the Jade Emperor is bullying him. When they’re alone all of the ‘who’s more powerful’ business is ignored and they see themselves as equals, even if the rest of Heaven doesn’t. In the book I’m working on now, she throws him out of meetings more than once because people are so awestruck and terrified by him that it’s interfering with their ability to get things done.

How did Emma react when she found out she has demon blood?

It was a huge ‘I told you so’ for her. All along she’s suspected that she’s a demon, and that John’s been in denial about it. When the truth came out about her demon nature, she was completely unsurprised. She has something of a yell at him about it in ‘Demon Child’.

Tell us more about the Sidhe or Shining Folk.

It’s easy to do some light research into Celtic mythology and come back with a theme that’s full of nature-loving Druids, gallant fae and sparkly unicorns. I delved deeper into the original nature of the Druids as recounted by Julius Caesar when he fought the Celts and found a completely different type of theology. The real Druids were a bloodthirsty bunch who basically got off on torture and human sacrifice and collected their enemy’s heads as trophies. I really enjoyed including this into my own venture into the West. The Sidhe in my stories are noble, caring, and gone – they deserted the world just when they were most needed, in a passive-aggressive act of penitence that really helped nobody. I have to admit that I still managed to throw in a unicorn just because.

[Love it. Everyone could use more unicorns in their lives. 😀 ]

Without giving anything away, tell us about a scene from DEMON CHILD involving magic, martial arts, or both.

Both magic and martial arts are threaded through the book and an intrinsic part of it. The first chapter has a great deal of both – without either Emma or John being involved. Katie, Number Three Daughter of the White Tiger, goes into Russia to investigate a villa owned by a demon posing as a Russian gangster. She has to use her unique abilities to defend both herself and her squad, and finds prisoners used as lab rats and a new, disturbing type of demon.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

That’s a very long list. I started reading science fiction and fantasy in the 1970’s. My go-to comfort books are Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga, Nalini Singh’s angel series (I’m really enjoying the power plays and politics) and Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series. Jim Butcher gets a shout out, as well as Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus series and Nora Jemisin’s remarkable fantasies. I adored Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan books.

If your books were made into movies, who would play Emma? John? Who would direct?

Goodness, I have no idea. I don’t generally look around for actors, that’s Hollywood’s business. It’s not really something I do – when Queenie Chan did the illustrations for Small Shen we designed the characters exactly as they were in my head, so any real-life actor or actress will never match the images I have already created.

What was your favorite thing about living in Hong Kong?

Having a full-time live-in domestic helper. Edwina was part of the family, and when she left us to get married in Australia she arranged for her sister Dahlia to come look after us, because she didn’t trust anyone else. Both lovely women are now married and have settled down to raise families of their own and I am so glad I had a chance to help them start out. Having a live-in helper meant that I could work full-time without having to worry about the kids being cared for at all. It was incredibly liberating and really helped my IT career.

Least favorite?

The crowds. If we went down to the mall on a Sunday it would be like the pre-Christmas sales anywhere else. There would be so many people at the mall that there’d be a queue to enter the car park and you’d have to wait at least two hours to find a seat at yum cha. Migraine-inducing.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Brisbane?

Two things: the wonderful mild subtropical weather, and the fantastic supportive literary community. I have made friends with a magnificent group of fellow writers who regularly go out of their way to help each other. Oh, three things: the great beaches close by as well. Four things: the city’s skyline next to the lovely river, and the South Bank parklands. Okay, I’ll stop there.

Least favorite?

The forty-degree-plus weeks in summer where it’s just way too hot to even go outside. A small price to pay for all the other benefits of living in this lovely city.

More About Demon Child

Australian bestseller Kylie Chan returns with a new, fast-paced adventure of magic, martial arts, and romance.

This trilogy follows the story of John Chen and Emma Donohoe. They have just found out that Emma has Demon blood. The Sidhe – or Shining folk, who defeated the Western Shen a thousand years ago – are prepared to do battle against the Western Shen to retain their dominance.

Emma’s allegiance is torn: to fight for her kind, the Western demons she is descended from, or to stand alongside her beloved Xuan Wu.

Available at HarperCollins

Add it to Your Goodreads Shelf

Kylie Chan
Kylie Chan

More About Kylie

Kylie Chan is the bestselling author of the Dark Heavens and Journey to Wudang trilogies. She married a Hong Kong national in a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony.

Kylie has studied Kung Fu and Tai Chi and is a senior belt in both forms. She has also made an intensive study of Buddhist and Taoist philosophy and has brought all of these interests together into her storytelling.

She lived in Hong Kong for many years and now lives in Brisbane, Australia.

The Giveaway

As part of her blog tour, Kylie is giving away ten print copies of Demon Child. (U.S. only). To enter, click here for the Rafflecopter form. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. 18 or older. For my complete giveaway rules, click here.

Thanks for the great Q&A, Kylie! I enjoyed reading your answers. Good luck with your tour and best wishes for Demon Child!

Kylie Chan, Demon Child, fantasy, romance, magic, martial arts, demons

Egg Timer Reviews: 20 Stories! (Books, Movies, TV & Broadway Shows)

I was supposed to post an author interview yesterday, but I never received it. If I do, I’ll reschedule because I think her Q&A would be interesting and fun to read. In the meantime, however, I was in a bind bc I had nothing of my own ready to post. What to do?

Egg timer reviews.

What the heck are those? Well, it’s where I take a look at my bookshelf, Kindle, movie queue, etc. and see what I’ve watched and read lately (or eons ago) that I can talk about in three minutes or less. So these aren’t really reviews. They’re more like stream of consciousness goo. (I filled in some of the names via internet search later – my memory’s not that good. 😉 )

Are there spoilers? Is it still miserably cold outside!? Yes, there are some spoilers!

BOOKS

Stolen Songbird

Trolls! Trolls! TROLLS!! I always wanted to do a romance featuring a leprechaun but could never figure out how to make a leprechaun sexy. Well, Danielle Jensen found a way to make trolls sexy. When I read the back cover copy, I knew I had to read it just to see how she did it. The first part of the book is the best: the dynamic tension between Cecile and Tristan, the descriptions of Trollus and its inhabitants… good stuff. There was a bit too much coming and going in the end (it felt a little “fillerish” to me) and I worry that the trolls might really be “e—” (maybe not…? since that would take away from the Big Accomplishment here). But, if you love YA fantasy, pick this one up. You’ll love it. (Worth noting: Jensen started out with Strange Chemistry, Angry Robot’s now defunct YA imprint. I think Angry Robot picked this series up, but it’s still nice to support authors who end up in this situation).

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

I loved this character’s transformation. You all know I love big character growth arcs and Elisa has one! At the start of the book she is clueless, overweight, and timid. By the end of the novel, she has sought forbidden knowledge, grown physically stronger, and become much more confident and assertive. The only thing that gave me pause was the almost over emphasis on the character’s weight. I’m a big “love your own body” kind of person. And yet, I can also get behind a person’s wanting to change themselves. (My own work reflects my ideological tug of war between “learn to love yourself” versus “pursue your dream to change,” especially my first novel). The bigger question is always, why does a person want to change? Is it society telling them (perhaps subtly and evilly) that they should or is their desire to change truly coming from within? – But rest assured, genre fans, Girl of Fire and Thorns is mostly an adventure story with some magic and romance.

Throne of Glass

I think I read this in a day or two. (I’m a big DNF’er so that, in and of itself, is a rec to read). Hmm… what else can I say? Cool cover. She looks really bad ass. I think there’s a love triangle, but I don’t mind them. (Ahem 😀 ) Who would like this? Fans of YA female assassin characters and YA fantasy with equal emphasis on both romance and action. It’s been a long time since I read it, but this reminded me of Maria Snyder’s Poison Study.

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover

It was the cover that drew me to this book. A historical romance heroine in pants! As with Jensen’s troll hero, I had to check it out. What was the story behind this heroine? I read quite a bit of historical romance. And many times the heroines run together. That doesn’t mean the books aren’t well written. They are. They’re doing exactly what they’ve promised their readers they will do: deliver a hot, sometimes witty, romance. So why egg time review this one? Well, the heroine backs up the cover and the title’s promise. There was a lot more going on with the plot than I expected. The heroine had not just one cover (aliases), but two. That’s three different personas for the author to keep track of. Sarah MacLean did a great job! (Worth noting: MacLean wrote Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. I haven’t read it, but may now. MacLean was on an RWA panel last summer and discussed how hard it was to come up with titles, especially when you lock yourself into a format. She was funny. (I buy some of the recorded sessions). I’m currently trying to title Noon Onyx B4. It’s tough. Blank Blank of Blank. Left Hand of Darkness? Oops. Taken. 😉 Little Shop of Horrors? Dagnabbit. Nabbed too. 😀 In any case, I thought the title to Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover was extra awesome bc it fits MacLean’s “Rules of Scoundrels” series title format, it references the heroine’s aliases, and it’s a nod to the book’s unusual genre cover.)

MOVIES

Belle

A period romance with a great hero and heroine, Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, an illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy officer who was raised by her rich great-uncle. The film divides its time between the romance and the hero’s quest for social justice (he’s an aspiring lawyer attempting to change the law on slavery, albeit through a fairly narrow ruling). Gugu Mbatha-Raw was excellent.

Begin Again

I actually thought this would be awful. Like some sort of weird Juno [aging music aficionado has unrequited feelings for someone who’s totally inappropriate for him… am I remembering that movie right?] meets Love Actually [clichéd romance]. But it was better than that. My worst case scenario plot prediction did not come true. Instead this was a cool, little story about a down-on-his-luck music exec with zippo money who helps a talented, young up-and-comer. The story’s take on how imagination can be used to see a person’s potential and creatively solve funding problems was fun. I liked that the exec fixed his unhealthy family dynamics (he has a teenage daughter and estranged wife) instead of having a romance with his music mentee.

Chef

The shame of this movie is that it’s rated R but the best part about it was the story of how the character reconnected with his son. Minus a few parts, I’d love to watch this with my kids. What’s it about? A chef (duh) who is fired from his job bc he wants to create exotic dishes versus tried-and-true. When he gets panned by a food critic for his boring menu, he lashes out at his boss and gets the pink slip. After some soul searching, he decides to take it on the road. He gets a food truck and goes cross country. With the help of his social media savvy son, he draws crowds wherever he goes. It ends well. For foodie movie fans, road trip movie fans, Jon Favreau fans, food truck fans, fans of movies where characters reinvent themselves, tell their boss to shove it, and/or tell a critic to shove it (and then make up w them later).

Annie

Saw this over the holidays with my daughters. They loved it. And I did too. It was cute. Quvenzhane Wallis was wonderful. I was less taken with Jamie Foxx. Cameron Diaz as a reimagined Ms. Hannigan was ok, as was Rose Byrne. Who should see this? Quvenzhane Wallis fans and anyone who liked any of the other eighteen million Annies.

Box Trolls

We actually bought this, which meant we were able to watch the extras. And they were pretty neat. There was a featurette on how the filmmakers created characters that live in boxes and the world they inhabit and some cast member interviews, but my favorite was the one where Dee Bradley Baker and Steve Blum talk about how they came up with the Box Troll language. Oh, and I loved Winnie and Eggs! 🙂

Magic in the Moonlight

My recollection is that this was not a huge success but I enjoyed it. I like Emma Stone and Colin Firth. I’m not familiar with Woody Allen’s work (although I liked Midnight in Paris). Magic in the Moonlight is for anyone who likes the idea of a stage magician and would-be clairvoyant falling in love against the backdrop of the 1920s French Riviera.

Maze Runner

I had heard so much about this, and it had been hyped so much, before I watched it, that I’m amazed I wasn’t disappointed. That said, it didn’t make me think very much (not like Into the Woods or Predestination did) and that’s the main reason why it’s getting an egg timer review. I thought it was good. Definitely worth two hours of your time. None of the actors really wowed me, but I’d happily watch them again. The sets were visually interesting but not stunning. In fairness, maybe part of my mehness is bc I didn’t read the book so watching this didn’t give me the pleasure of seeing a favorite novel successfully adapted.

Lucy

Finally!! I had been wanting to watch this since the summer when I’d mistakenly assumed it was based on Laurence Gonzales’ book. It isn’t, but (as I’d suspected; it’s not like the reference was subtle) it is based on Lucy, the Australopithecus, and a “what if” evolution scenario. Bottom line: Scarlett Johansson is a good action heroine. I’d watch her in a similar role again. As for Lucy? Read Gonzales’ book instead. I didn’t love everything about it, but it was better.

Showrunners (documentary)

Featuring J.J. Abrams, Steven DeKnight, Jane Espenson, Michelle King, Damon Lindelhof, Janet Tamaro, Joss Whedon, and a gazillion other people, this is a full length documentary on showrunners – the head writers/creators of a show. If you’ve ever wanted a peek inside a writer’s room, or if you’d enjoy hearing behind-the-scenes interviews of some of the most well-known and/or interesting TV show wranglers, this doc is for you.

World without End (miniseries)

I’ve read the book (and read and watched Pillars of the Earth) so when I saw this was available for streaming, I had to see it. I loved the books (although Pillars was my favorite; I liked Aliena and Jack better than Caris and Merthin). Even though I utterly despised her (I was supposed to), the best part of World was Cynthia Nixon’s Petranilla. Conniving, deceitful, murderous, immoral… she was just Jaw Droppingly Awful. Which made the scene where Caris forgives her sins just before her death that much more powerful. If you’ve read the book, like TV miniseries set in the Middle Ages, or just want to see Nixon’s range, rent it.

TV

Finding a TV show that I love enough to watch every single episode is extremely rare. Ones I’ve enjoyed start to finish in the past: Alias, Lost, and Battlestar Gallactica. Shows I’m currently addicted to: Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge’s, and Outlander. So I wanted to find a new addiction. Below, my candidates.

Reign

I streamed 10 episodes of this before I couldn’t do it anymore. At first, it was amazingly addictive. Definitely a guilty pleasure type of show. Beautiful kids playing monarchs-to-be with friends who have names like Kenna. (Is that historically accurate? Do I care? Does anyone who watches a show like Reign? No! 😀 ) BUT the problem was exactly that. History. I know where this story is going. There wasn’t enough tension in the story questions. Will Mary wed Francis? Will Mary become Queen of France? Will Mary live happily ever after? I know the answers to those questions already.

Vikings

I watched 2 episodes before moving on, but may return. I like Lagertha. And kudos to the writer/director/showrunners/whoever for moving the story along at breakneck speed! I remember saying to my husband, “Wow! They’re already going to England.” I thought it would take Ragnar all season to gear up, find men, etc. And then – in that same episode – saying: “WOW! They’re going back home!” After they’d landed in England, I’d just assumed they’d spend all season there. And I liked that it’s based on real Norse mythological characters. But… it didn’t grab me as much as I’d hoped.

Arrow

I wanted to like it. The pilot opened well. It captured my attention… but couldn’t hold it. (My husband hated it, although we often differ on TV shows.) As with Vikings, I’m hard pressed to say exactly why. I might return to this. But would choose Vikings over Arrow.

House of Cards

Streamed 2 episodes so far and am very much looking forward to the next one. I had to talk my husband into this one (he watched Vikings and Arrow with me, not Reign; lol). He’s in DC a lot for work and I think he thought the show would be one big cerebral snooze fest. And the opening credits! Geesh, sorry, but horrible. They’d make anyone who works in DC feel like they’re commuting in instead of lounging on their couch getting ready to watch an entertaining show. (Although maybe that’s the feeling the credits hope to evoke…?) But the show itself – terrific! We’re hooked. Kevin Spacey! Robin Wright! My only worry is that the show may end up like The Newsroom, which I stopped watching midway through the first season.

SHOWS

Matilda at the Shubert

Saw this just this past weekend. Fantastic! If you are looking for an entertaining, funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but ultimately happy, family show – see Matilda. The whimsical, bright, colorful sets seemed custom-designed for book lovers. The letter tiles surrounding the proscenium and incorporated into the many sets were decidedly Scrabble-esque. Bookshelves, libraries, classrooms… not to mention swings, scooters, lasers, confetti, strobe lights, helium balloons, a story-in-story told partially through a vintage paper doll/shadow puppet-like presentation. But the best part (as it should be with live shows) was the singing and acting: Brooklyn Shuck as Matilda! So expressive, sweet, sympathetic, and adorable… So confident, bold, and fearless. Also loved Mrs. Wormwood and Rudolpho. And Christopher Sieber as Miss Trunchbull!! (10.0 for the vault number. 😀 )

The Illusionists at the Marquis

Saw this a few months ago. Seven magicians, each with completely different acts. There’s an escape artist, an archer, an inventor, a Vegas style comedian “trickster,” a truly phenomenal card manipulator, an Edward Scissorhands type “anti-conjuror,” and a dance performer “futurist.” It was fun trying to figure out the magicians’ tricks. (I’m no magician and lots of their acts stumped me). Watching audience members (who may have been pre-selected?) become part of the act was hilarious (glad it wasn’t me!). Who should see this? Anyone who likes top-notch stage magic and illusionists who can put on a diverse, spellbinding show.

So, please, go forth and purchase, rent, stream, read, or watch. Support creativity… and stories… and egg timer reviews!

What have you read or watched lately that’s worth mentioning? Come on, sharing only takes three minutes or less…

Gracie Madison, author of SING FOR ME, on Magic, Music, Song, and Emotion (#angel #fiction)

Today’s guest blogger is NA PNR author Gracie Madison, whose novel SING FOR ME, came out a few weeks ago. When I saw that she was doing a BBT tour to help get the word out about her release, I asked if she’d be willing to share her thoughts on adding music to her stories and/or the idea of mixing magic, emotion, and voice. As part of her tour, she’s giving away a $25 Amazon eGC and one signed copy of her book. The Rafflecopter link is below. Welcome, Gracie!

[Quick note before Gracie’s post… remember how much I loved the cover for WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE? Well, I entered it in the JABBIC (the Judge A Book By Its Cover contest). I’ve never entered before and didn’t realize it’s one of those contests where EVERYONE can vote. So, if you have a minute, it would be awesome if you could check out all the entries and cast your vote. Today is the last day to vote. There are some great covers! Click here for the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Paranormal category link. For new followers who like reading about covers, check out the “For Cover Lovers” links below.]

Sing for Me, Gracie Madison, paranormal romance, new adult, magic, angels, demons, magic, emotion

“Because music is so universal and so many people have their own special relationship with it, music became a natural way to introduce the plot and characters.”

I should preface this blog post…I love music and the theater, but I am a writer for good reason. The only thing worse than my trumpet playing in high school and college was my singing. I earned a scholarship out of pity, and they probably would’ve paid me more to stop. Music always fascinated me, but it doesn’t come easily to me.  It’s brimming with theory and compositions and its own language, and it blends an almost mathematical precision with creativity. It utterly fascinating to me, and Sing For Me utilizes that mysterious quality and blends it with the paranormal and divine to create the romance.

Sing For Me is a paranormal romance novel set within an opera house. The main character, Madeline, is the supporting soprano for the Eden theater company’s production of The Magic Flute. She also happens to be a specific breed of angel called a Choir, which, in the mythology of Sing For Me, means she is a creature created specifically for music and the entertainment of the angelic realm. Her magic exists within her songs and the power of her voice. In Sing For Me, music doesn’t soothe the savage beast, it is the only way to survive it.

So much of Sing For Me is influenced by music—from the Opera production, to the everyday life of the characters, to the very purpose of their creation. Music is not only emotional, it’s a sensual expression, a weapon, and a way to escape the horrors of the darkness chasing Madeline.

But it is hard to write about music, especially opera. Without hearing the songs or seeing the productions, the narrative relies on the feelings created by the music. The characters each have their own emotional connection to what they sing or to music itself. Madeline is actually forbidden to indulge in any emotions as they fuel the power in her voice, rendering it uncontrollable. Natalie, the director’s assistant, is not a singer or star, but she is a songwriter, and the theater offered her a sanctuary from an abusive upbringing. And the prima donna, Danielle, is a feisty diva who lives, breathes, and is her role in the production. Because music is so universal and so many people have their own special relationship with it, music became a natural way to introduce the plot and characters.

Angels are so often portrayed as strumming harps and singing hymns, so it was really fun to re-envision them in a modern way. But let’s face it, opera has a bad reputation. People envision the horned ladies in golden breastplates wailing at the top their lungs. However, there’s a tremendous amount of power and talent and skill involved within the productions, and there’s just as much hierarchy within the theaters as there is within the orders angels in religious mythology. Though Madeline’s attempts to hide within the crew, her natural talent and beautiful voice take center stage. Everything she seems, experiences, or knows is because of music and related through music.

Magic and music are intertwined within the novel, as are song and emotion. The only thing more powerful than a song is the love of the main characters and the promise that Madeline makes to Damascus throughout the story—she always sings for him.

Sing for Me, Gracie Madison, paranormal romance, new adult, magic, angels, demons, magic, emotion

More About Sing For Me

Madeline Noel fled war-torn Heaven to hide within the mortal world, but the blessing that could protect her from evil is the holy realm’s forbidden power.

As a talented soprano for the Eden Theatre Company, Madeline hides among prima donnas and tone-deaf flutists. Her perfect voice may entertain audiences, but a careless laugh may shatter glass, and her greatest scream can kill. To control her unrestrained voice, the angels forbid Madeline from embracing the emotions that strengthen her song. Anger. Fear.

Love.

The demon-hunter Damascus vows to defend Madeline from Hell’s relentless evil, but he cannot protect her from her own feelings. Though they deny their dangerous attraction, her guardian becomes her greatest temptation.

Surrendering to desire may awaken the gift suppressed within Madeline’s soul, and neither Heaven nor Hell will allow such absolute power to exist.

Sing for Me, Gracie Madison, paranormal romance, new adult, magic, angels, demons, magic, emotion

Gracie Madison
Gracie Madison

More About Gracie

Gracie Madison would spend every day, all day writing…if it were socially acceptable.  Ever since she was a little girl scribbling with a crayon, Gracie’s dedicated herself to her books and all the supernatural and paranormal, creepy and beautiful stories and characters born within the pages. Now Gracie is committed to finally sharing those books with the world.  When the laptop is pried from her hands, Gracie is probably working her day job, rooting on the Steelers, or out with her husband searching for Pittsburgh’s best sushi.

More About the Giveaway

Gracie is giving away a $25 Amazon eGift Certificate (international) and one signed paperback of SING FOR ME (U.S. only). To enter the giveaway, click here for the Rafflecopter form. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. 18 and over. For my complete giveaway rules, click here.

Sing for Me Banner

So how about you? Do you like stories with angels and demons? I hope so! 😉 How about music, magic, love, and emotion? Do you think Gracie’s cover is as pretty as I do?

Thank you, Gracie, for guest blogging today!

FOR COVER LOVERS

urban fantasy, dark fantasy, fantasy, White Heart of Justice, Noon Onyx, Jill Archer, cover reveal, cover artA fun discussion of the Noon Onyx Covers at The Reading Cafe

Goodreads List: Best Books with Jason Chan Cover Art (Fiery Edge of Steel is on there; White Heart of Justice isn’t?!)

The Qwillery: Dark Light of Day‘s Sept 2012 Debut Author Cover War Challenge win – woohoo! (I was a little better about getting the vote out for that contest than I have been for the JABBIC. If you vote over there today, THANK YOU!!)

Jeffe Kennedy: Magic in the Twelve Kingdoms… and Our Everyday World

Jeffe Kennedy‘s latest release, THE TEARS OF THE ROSE received a 4 1/2 stars Top Pick Gold review from RT Book Reviews. For those of you who are unfamiliar with RT Book Reviews (go subscribe!) that’s a really terrific review. (I happened to see it not long after she sent me this post so I figured mentioning it would be a great way to introduce her). 🙂 She’s here with a topic that should appeal to fantasy and paranormal romance writers, as well as readers who love to hear about how we create the magic in our stories. Welcome, Jeffe!

“I’m fascinated by the idea that magic and other supernatural phenomena are simply products of universal laws we don’t yet understand.”

Thanks to Jill for inviting me to her blog today!

She asked me to talk some about the magic systems in my books, which isn’t something I get asked about all that frequently. In both of my fantasy romance trilogies thus far – A Covenant of Thorns and The Twelve Kingdoms – magic plays a fundamental role in the worlds.

A Covenant of Thorns takes place in Faerie, a world entirely infused with magic. The denizens of Faerie, with the exceptions of the human minority, are magical beings – some to the extent that they subsist entirely on magical energy. In The Twelve Kingdoms books, the world is populated mostly by humans and magic is scarce, mainly confined to the realm of Annfwn, where the Tala live. However, like the fae in my other series, the Tala are a magical people and the presence of magic in their world infuses everything about their lives and culture.

More than one reviewer has noted that Annfwn is a metaphor or form of Faerie, which I didn’t consciously intend, but I think the comparison is fair. In both series, the magical systems are outgrowth of Celtic culture, mythology and fairy tales. They both hearken to the earliest tales, such as the Táin Bó Cuailnge, which is an eighth-century cycle of Irish heroic tales. Much as in Greek mythology – another of my influences – they embody almost a form of magical realism, where magic infuses the world and shapes the creatures, landscape and events in the same way that the laws of physics, biology and ecology do.

This is my sweet spot.

As a scientist by training, I’m fascinated by the idea that magic and other supernatural phenomena are simply products of universal laws we don’t yet understand. In the Faerie of A Covenant of Thorns, I play with the idea that evolution follows a path similar to the one we know, but is accelerated and supercharged, if you will, by the mutating power of magic – which functions almost like a form of radiation in some cases. In The Twelve Kingdoms, the magic arises from the divine and from the land, which are profoundly intertwined. The Tala are shapeshifters and wizards because they have retained a stronger divine bloodline than the rest of the world.

In both of these series, the power of mental control, of self-discipline, self-knowledge and self-mastery all play a huge role. Thought is what controls the magic. This, then, loops back to the magical realism of the old stories, whether Celtic, Greek or from many other cultures I could list, that these tales teach lessons about how to govern our lives. Everything we struggle with – overcoming bad events, hoping for good outcomes, striving for more – all of that is essentially about manifesting what we want in our lives. Rather than waving magic wands or reciting spells, we govern our thoughts, eliminating negative thinking and focusing on the positive. In that way, we transform our lives and make them what we want them to be. That concept is at the core of all of my work, in truth.

A kind of magic we can all wield.

Thank you, Jeffe, for guest blogging today! Have a wonderful week, everyone!

#Writing #Workshops for September

Below are the online workshops being offered in September by RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter. If you are a writing instructor and are interested in teaching a workshop in 2015, please contact me for available dates, rates, and proposal submission guidelines.

Novel Perspectives

09/01/2014 to 10/01/2014

Examine your storytelling process from start to finish.  Whether you are a total “newbie” or an author of 30 novels, you can find tricks and processes that will challenge and freshen your productivity.  No one wants to be a forgettable copycat.  A change of approach to every aspect of your fiction writing may just be the spark you need at this moment in time.  Take the journey will multi-published Sally Walker in ten steps to creating a novel.

About the Presenter, Sally J. Walker

Born to poor farm folk in the little rural community of Exira, Iowa, Sally attended many schools in western Iowa and the Omaha, Nebraska, area.  She eventually graduated from Papillion (NE) High School then nursing school at the University of Albuquerque and, eventually received a BFA in Creative Writing back at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  That degree was accomplished while working full-time as a Critical Care/ER nurse and raising a very active family of three daughters with her engineer husband.  Adeptly juggling family, nursing, civic and Episcopal church responsibilities, Sally founded in 1985 and has conducted the weekly meetings of the eclectic Nebraska Writers Workshop www.nebraskawritersworkshop.info  to feed her own hunger for in-depth knowledge and skills. The Workshop has grown from a few tentative to over 50 confidently publishing and produced writers. Her own goal-oriented writing ethic has resulted in a vitae packed with novels, short stories, poetry, magazine articles, stage plays, screenplays and a variety of writing seminars.  In 2000 she was hired as part-time Editorial Director at The Fiction Works www.fictionworks.com and Script Superviser for the affiliated Misty Mountain Productions www.mistymtnproductions.com . After retiring from her nursing career of over 30 years, she was elected President of the prestigious Nebraska Writers Guild www.nebraskawriters.org, serving 2007-2011.

Cost: FFP Members:$30.00/Non-Members: $35.00

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

So you want to self-publish…

09/07/2014 to 09/21/2014

Book publishing is an ever-changing proposition. As a professional formatter and author, I’m always looking to make my books and the books I format look their best, while taking as little time as possible to do so (otherwise there just wouldn’t be enough hours in the day to get everything done). To that end, I use a combination of techniques to format—a mix of old and new, if you will (the old being all of six months old!).

In this class you’re going to learn how to format a book and publish it.

What many new authors (or authors new to self-publishing) don’t realize is the number of steps and details involved in this process. Each day of the course we’re going to explore one piece of the puzzle. Beginning with exactly what goes into a book and how to prep it for publication, moving through cleaning your document and coding it into HTML (for maximum control and the creation of a well-designed book), to converting it into an epub and mobi file for e-publishing, how to create a Word document for Smashwords publication, and a PDF for print on demand through CreateSpace. From there we’ll talk about actually publishing your book to the various retailers, ISBNS, copyrighting your work and I’ll even touch briefly on marketing. By the end of the course you will have worksheets and checklists to guide you through the process today and every time you have a book ready.

Are you ready to publish? Then you need to take this class to find out exactly how to tackle this project with ease.

About the Presenter, Meredith Bond

Meredith Bond is an award-winning author of a series of traditionally published Regency romances and indie-published paranormal romances. Known for her characters “who slip readily into one’s heart”, Meredith’s paranormal romances include Magic In The Storm, Storm on the Horizon, and the short story “In A Beginning”. Her traditional Regencies include The Merry Men Quartet of which An Exotic Heir and A Dandy In Disguise have recently been republished. Meredith also teaches writing at her local community college. If you want a taste of her class in book form, Chapter One is available at your favorite e-retailer.

Want to know more? Come visit Meredith at her website, http://www.meredithbond.com or chat with her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/meredithbondauthor) or Twitter (@merrybond). If you’d like to be one of the first to know of Meredith’s new releases, join her no-spamming email list here http://meredithbond.com/blog/newsletter-sign-up/.​

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Enchanted England during the Dark Ages

09/08/2014 to 09/21/2014

Fantasy writers, this workshop is for you. MM Pollard will bring enchanted England to you through her lively lectures on four topics: Forest Magic, Plant Magic, Wells of Wisdom, and Spirit Nights.

MM uses information on Celtics and Anglo-Saxons as the basis for this workshop because these people believed magic could be found everywhere. They looked no farther than the forest, plants, and wells and found magic in all three. Nights were especially filled with magical beings and magical occurrences.

At the end of the workshop, MM hopes students will feel the same sense of the magical world around them that the Celts and Anglo-Saxons experienced more than a millennium ago. With the knowledge her students will gain in this workshop, they will be able to add touches of the magical to their fantasy characters and worlds.

About the Presenter, MM Pollard

MM Pollard puts her teaching skills as English teacher extraordinaire and her experience as editor with Black Velvet Seductions to good use in presenting workshops for writers. She has helped many writers improve their language and writing skills through her fun workshops sponsored by Savvy Authors, Writers Online Classes, many RWA chapters, and in her own virtual classroom. MM is sure she can help you, too, master the fundamentals of English.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

The Devil and His Fiddle (and the original titles of my Noon Onyx books)

My guest post at SF Signal is up! And it’s a fun one: I discuss what’s up with the association between the devil and the violin; I admit I used to be a horrible fiddle player; and I share the original titles to each novel in the Noon Onyx series. Long-time followers, you may remember the original title to Dark Light of Day but I’m not sure I ever shared the original title to Fiery Edge of Steel (knowledge was a big theme in that book, remember? 😉 ) and I’m even more sure that I’ve never shared the original title to White Heart of Justice with anyone but my agent and my editor. It’s a hoot!

* John Anealio reminded me on Twitter this morning about Niccolo Paganini, the 19th century Italian virtuoso whose playing was so diabolical his audience believed he was in league with the devil. Paganini’s story is intriguing. Check it out here. But, if you do, be sure to also stop by SF Signal because Paganini’s not in my post. I discuss three other interesting connections. Paganini

Have you ever played the violin? Do you play an instrument now? Where do you think the association between the devil and the violin got started? Lemme know in the comments over at SF Signal!

One to Grow On: Noon’s Mom + Cover Lovers Chat

My blog tour resumes today with some fun posts: I’m discussing vintage gardening tools, Clash of the Titans, and Noon’s mom’s growing gifts over at Night Owl Reviews and I’m at The Reading Café discussing my covers. I know I’ve discussed them before, but I share more about the process, covers in general, and give each of my covers a “stat report.” If fantasy covers were baseball cards, click here for what would be on the back of mine. Finally, I’m wrapping up my Release Day Party at Bitten by Books. If you haven’t had a chance to stop by, there’s still time! Readers have asked TONS of terrific questions — and I’ve answered them, in great detail. Skim through for more background on just about everything or leave a question of your own!

Local Lending Libraries

And because I like to include pics w my posts… here are two for all of the book, coffee, and pizza lovers out there => Starbuck’s and Bertucci’s versions of the local lending library. I like it!

Bookshelf at my local Starbuck's -- what's missing? ;-)
Bookshelf at my local Starbuck’s — what’s missing? 😉
Bookshelf at my local Bertucci's. Mostly children's books... so they get a pass. :-D
Bookshelf at my local Bertucci’s. Mostly children’s books… so they get a pass. 😀

Hope to see you over at Night Owl Reviews, The Reading Café, and/or Bitten by Books!

RELEASE DAY PARTY: WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE! (author chat, excerpt, contest)

Ok, you knew this post was coming, right? This is the post I’ve been working toward for… well, a year now! 😀

Release Day Party at Bitten by Books going on RIGHT NOW! => Click HERE.

The Bitten by Books contest ends at midnight CDT on 5/31/14. I’ll be over there all night and then will be checking in periodically until it closes to answer any questions and/or respond to comments. (There have been some good ones! Come add yours!)

And, probably the last time I’ll be posting/emailing these links to you for a LONG time (although they’ll be up everywhere else, of course)… Here are White Heart of Justice‘s BUY LINKS (Yay! Exciting! Buy links instead of pre-order links. Depending on where you live, you could start reading WHOJ tonight!)

Now is also a good time to thank everyone who has: been following the blog tour (resuming tomorrow); already stopped by the release party; shared, posted, tweeted or RT’d a link or sneak peek tweet; or pre-ordered the book! I appreciate the support and well wishes. Terrific participation and feedback so far. You guys are all awesome! THANK YOU!!!

urban fantasy, dark fantasy, fantasy, White Heart of Justice, Noon Onyx, Jill Archer, cover reveal, cover art

Since Lucifer claimed victory at Armageddon, demons, angels, and humans have coexisted in uneasy harmony. Those with waning magic are trained to maintain peace and order. But hostilities are never far from erupting…

After years of denying her abilities, Noon Onyx, the first woman in history to wield waning magic, has embraced her power. She’s won the right to compete in the prestigious Laurel Crown Race—an event that will not only earn her the respect of her peers but also, if she wins, the right to control her future.

However, Noon’s task is nearly impossible: retrieve the White Heart of Justice, a mythical sword that disappeared hundreds of years ago. The sword is rumored to be hidden in a dangerous region of Halja that she is unlikely to return from. But Noon’s life isn’t the only thing hanging in the balance. The sword holds an awesome power that, in the wrong hands, could reboot the apocalypse—and Noon is the only one who can prevent Armageddon from starting again…

Have a great night, everyone! Hope to see you at Bitten by Books!

WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE – BLOG TOUR KICK OFF

Today is the kick off for my WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE blog tour! What does this mean?! Well, mostly it means lots of posts and prizes. Below is a tentative blog tour schedule. (The nature of blogging being what it is, I can’t guarantee that a blogger or review site will be able to post on the date listed below. Things happen. Schedules change. Glitches occur. But this is the plan.) I will do my best to add dedicated links on my WHOJ blog tour page as soon as the posts are live. Each stop on the Bewitching Book Tour will have additional chances for you to win my awesome prizes — also detailed below. There are only SEVEN DAYS left before White Heart of Justice‘s release. If you haven’t pre-ordered already, what are you waiting for?! If you have enjoyed even one blog post here, do me a huge favor and pre-order. 🙂 And, if you already have pre-ordered, THANK YOU!!! Early reviews and feedback have been great!! Noon Onyx fans, fantasy fans, fans of dark worlds inhabited by strong characters, monsters and magic — this one’s for you! 😀

urban fantasy, dark fantasy, fantasy, White Heart of Justice, Noon Onyx, Jill Archer, cover reveal, cover art

PRE-ORDER LINKS

Since Lucifer claimed victory at Armageddon, demons, angels, and humans have coexisted in uneasy harmony. Those with waning magic are trained to maintain peace and order. But hostilities are never far from erupting…

After years of denying her abilities, Noon Onyx, the first woman in history to wield waning magic, has embraced her power. She’s won the right to compete in the prestigious Laurel Crown Race—an event that will not only earn her the respect of her peers but also, if she wins, the right to control her future.

However, Noon’s task is nearly impossible: retrieve the White Heart of Justice, a mythical sword that disappeared hundreds of years ago. The sword is rumored to be hidden in a dangerous region of Halja that she is unlikely to return from. But Noon’s life isn’t the only thing hanging in the balance. The sword holds an awesome power that, in the wrong hands, could reboot the apocalypse—and Noon is the only one who can prevent Armageddon from starting again…

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE

Topics and Links to Live Posts Will Be Added Later

For giveaway details see below

Posts marked with an * are outside of the BBT tour

May 20 Spotlight/Excerpt

Butterfly-o-Meter Books

 

May 20 Review

Happy Tails and Tales

 

May 21 Interview

Books Direct

 

May 21 Spotlight

Bookin’ It Reviews

 

May 21 Spotlight

Deb Sanders

 

May 22 Guest Blog

Magic and Mayhem

 

May 22 Spotlight

Coffee Break

 

May 22 Spotlight

Cherry Mischievous

 

May 23 Guest Blog

Christina McKnight

 

May 23 Spotlight

Shut Up & Read

 
* May 27 RELEASE DAY PARTY!
Bitten By Books
Separate Giveaway: $50 Amazon eGift Certificate
 

May 28 Guest Blog

Night Owl Reviews

 
* May 28 Guest Blog
SFSignal
 

* May 28 Guest Blog

The Reading Café

 

May 29 Spotlight and Review

What the Cat Read

 

May 30 Interview

CBY Book Club

 

May 30 Spotlight

Melissa Stevens

 

June 2 review 

Tynga’s Reviews

 

June 3 Guest Blog

Preternatura

 

June 4 Guest blog

Addicted 2 Heroines

 

June 5 Interview

JeanzBookReadNReview

 

June 6 Interview

Fantasy Book Addict

 

June 6 review

Leeanna.me

 

June 9 Spotlight

3 Partners in shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too!

 

June 9 review 

Babel at Tower of Babel

 

June 10 Spotlight

On the Broomstick

 

June 10 Spotlight

Fang-tastic Books

BBT TOUR-WIDE GIVEAWAYS

You may recall I mentioned earlier that, because this is the third book, I really wanted to HAVE FUN with my blog tour prizes. Each of the prize packs were inspired by a scene from one of the books.

The Dark Light of Day prize pack was inspired by the scene where Noon and Ivy get ready for the Barrister’s Ball. The Fiery Edge of Steel prize pack was inspired by the scene where Noon and her investigative team have dinner on the deck of their dahabiya just before reaching… well, I know many of you have read it, but if not, I don’t want to spoil it! 🙂

  • $50 Amazon eGift Certificate (or bookseller of winner’s choice) (international)
  • 5 copies of White Heart of Justice (or an earlier book in the series, winner’s choice) (international so long as Book Depository ships to your address)
  • Dark Light of Day themed prize pack (includes signed copy of book and other awesome goodies; see below) (US only)
  • Fiery Edge of Steel themed prize pack (includes signed copy of book and other awesome goodies; see below) (US only)
  • White Heart of Justice themed prize pack (includes signed copy of book and other awesome goodies; see below) (US only)

No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. 18 and over. For official rules, please see my Giveaways page.

DARK LIGHT OF DAY

PRIZE PACKDark Light of Day Prize Pack

  • Signed print copy of Dark Light of Day
  • Handmade bookmark with charm
  • Natural Face Paint Kit
  • Orange Silk Flower Hair Clip
  • Atomic Fireball Candies
  • Signed copy of galley pages of scene that inspired prize pack
  • Approximate value: $40

FIERY EDGE OF STEEL

PRIZE PACKFiery Edge of Steel Prize Pack

  • Signed print copy of Fiery Edge of Steel
  • Handmade bookmark with charm
  • “The Queen of Flowers” T-shirt Tank Top
  • Set of three Silver Glass Mercury Votive Holders
  • Petite Pear Candies
  • Signed copy of galley pages of scene that inspired prize pack
  • Approximate value: $40

WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE

PRIZE PACKWhite Heart of Justice Prize Pack

  • Signed print copy of White Heart of Justice
  • Handmade bookmark with charm
  • White Crystal Headband
  • Vintage Star Pin
  • White Chocolate Meltaways
  • Signed copy of galley pages of scene that inspired prize pack
  • Approximate value: $40

White Heart of Justice Banner

Now go forth and share, pre-order, comment, enter to win, etc.! Good luck and thank you to everyone who has followed me on this journey so far!!

Oh, and stay tuned… I have one more post today… (I usually don’t do two posts a day, but you’ll see: it’s worth getting two posts/emails from me!)

Hope everyone’s week is off to a great start!

Disney World: Magic for Everyone!

Last week, we went to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was fantastic! My husband and I have been before, once after I graduated from law school and a second time when our girls were still young enough to want to do Bibbity Bobbity Boutique and the character breakfasts. Each trip we’ve done both new and favorite things. Below are my thoughts on Hollywood Studios’ and Magic Kingdom’s rides and shows. Next week, I’ll do another post on the other two parks and, after that, a third and final post with some Disney odds and ends. If you’ve been to Disney, tell me your thoughts in the comments, or if you plan on going in the future, lemme know what you’re most looking forward to!

Main Street

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

Hollywood Studios Sorcerer's Hat
The Sorcerer’s Hat

In the past, the Magic Kingdom has been my favorite park but for this trip, Hollywood Studios was. Why? Well, it’s a park devoted to MOVIES for one thing AND my kids were finally tall enough to ride all the fun rides. Also, in fairness, it was probably also my favorite park this time because we stayed there the longest and saw a lot. We stayed for dinner and ended the night with the amazing Fantasmic show, a twilight show starring Mickey and all of the other Disney characters with music, fireworks, lasers, stunts, and boat floats.

RIDES

DorothyThe Great Movie Ride

  • Ride Story: Tour Hollywood’s movie sets. Includes sets inspired by Aliens, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Wizard of Oz.
  • Ride Thrills: It’s a tram tour through faux movie sets. But if you love movies like I do, it will be entertaining.
  • My Take: Ride this first, as an introduction to the park. The line queues through a full-scale reproduction of Grauman’s Chinese Theater where you can view props, set pieces, and movie memorabilia. These change so the lobby is kind of like a temporary movie museum exhibit. At the end, there’s a fun “celebration of movies” montage.

Rock n Roller Coaster

  • Ride story: You are a passenger in a stretch limo on LA highways heading to an Aerosmith concert.
  • Ride thrills: 0-60 mph start, loops and a corkscrew. One of the fastest and loudest rides in all of the parks.
  • My take: FUN! We rode it twice.

Hollywood Tower HotelTower of Terror

  • Ride Story: Tour the “infamous” Hollywood Tower Hotel, a fictional hotel supposedly favored by LA’s rich and famous until lightning struck it in 1939. You are introduced to the hotel, its last inhabitants, and the creepy backstory by Rod Sterling of Twilight Zone fame as he welcomes you to the 5th Dimension.
  • Ride Thrills: You and your party get in an elevator (albeit one where you sit down and buckle yourself in with a seatbelt) and take a haunted house type ride up to the 13th floor where 5 unlucky souls disappeared from the very elevator you’re sitting in. And then the fun begins — it turns into one of those “big drop” rides.Thunderstorm outside of Tower of Terror
  • My take: AWESOME!! I rode it twice and my kids rode it three times. It continues to be their favorite ride in all of Disney World, which is interesting since they think the Double Shot in Ocean City, NJ is boring (see how much story matters?! 😀 ) The fact that the ride was inspired by the Twilight Zone TV show is brilliant. And how lucky were we that our Fast Pass time happened to occur during a giant thunderstorm? When the elevator doors opened to the outside, the view was almost surreal. Instead of an azure Florida sky, there was a deluge of rain and thunder. We plummeted toward the ground amidst a lightning storm. Walt Disney himself couldn’t have designed a more authentic backdrop.

AT-ATStar Tours

  • Ride Story: Explore a galaxy far, far away! 🙂 This ride is based on the Star Wars movies.
  • Ride Thrills: It’s a simulator ride, but it’s manageable if you suffer from occasional motion sickness.
  • My Take: Loved it. Simulator rides can be tough for me but this was fine and fun. There are over 50 different story combinations with new destinations and characters each time so I would have loved to have ridden it again if we had gone back to the park on a different day. (Riding a simulator ride twice in a row would have been hard for me).

Toy Story Midway ManiaMr Potato Head

  • Ride Story: Tour Andy’s room, listen to an Audio-Animatronics Mr. Potato Head introduction, and then get ready to shoot!
  • Ride Thrills: You sit in a car and are powered around to shoot at all sorts of different Toy Story themed screens. Great for people who like games where you shoot at targets.
  • My Take: It was fun. I was slightly suspicious of how the scoring worked since my husband and I (who were in separate cars) had the EXACT SAME SCORE. Coincidence? I think not… but maybe we’re just that good. 😀

Toy Story

The Writer's Stop at Hollywood Studios
The Writer’s Stop at Hollywood Studios Books, Pastries, and Coffee!

SHOWS

Voyage of the Little Mermaid: Cute. My youngest’s current favorite character is Ariel. (Surprising, right? Since more recent characters like Merida, Anna and Elsa are so popular right now. I think it’s because Santa brought her a mermaid fin this year. 😉 )

Miss Piggy FountainMuppet Vision 3D: Worth seeing if you like the Muppets and just because it’s neat to see how Disney takes its shows off-screen so that the theater itself becomes part of the show. Tip: Don’t throw your sunglasses in the 3D glasses recycling bin! 😀 (My MIL did and we spent a few moments post-show digging for them).

Fantasmic! => Fantastic! If you go to Hollywood Studios and can stay until this show, see it! My MIL bought light-up, battery-powered mouse ears for my girls right before the show from a kiosk outside of the amphitheater. When the ears went dark just before the show, it kinda creeped me out because it made me realize (yet again) just how “soup to nuts” Disney really is. I thought it was almost too big brother-ish that the park could control my girls’ mouse ears so as to not interfere with the light and laser show. Little did I know! The “Glow with the Show” ears were dark only for a dramatically timed few moments. They then lit back up throughout the show, timed with the music and color-coordinated with the lights. You be the judge… creepy or not? I decided to embrace it and go with the crazy insanity of it all. After all, it WAS pretty cool to see ALL of the other kids’ mouse ears synchronized with the show.

Glowing Mickey Ears
“Glow with the Show”

MAGIC KINGDOM

My second favorite park this time was the Magic Kingdom. It’s a massive park and super crowded. Even when there’s not a parade going on (which happens pretty frequently), the streets and sidewalks feel like a packed bar.

The only thing that makes it okay is that there are no cars to worry about and everyone is in a good mood. Sure, people look exhausted and weary at times, but not as much as you’d think considering the heat and long lines. The vibe is very friendly. Everyone who works there is unbelievably helpful and everyone you bump into is unbelievably apologetic. If you’ve ever elbowed your way through a crowd at a concert or sporting event or walked along the streets of New York… well, it doesn’t feel like that, which is nice.

Disney is an expert in transportation and the logistics of moving insanely large groups of people from one place to another without chaos. During our trip, we rode in planes, trains, and automobiles… as well as busses, ferries, ATVs, trams, golf carts, and the monorail. But the lack of chaos and everyone’s I’m-on-vacation speed means getting anyway takes FOREVER. Think of going to Disney like you do home improvement — everything will cost 3x as much as you think it should and everything will take 3x as long as you plan.

boats planes and trains

RIDES

Haunted Mansion

  • Ride Story: Take a “Doom Buggy” ride through a haunted estate.
  • Ride Thrills: Good, plain haunted house fun for everyone. There are ghosts, ghouls, and a graveyard but there are more smiles than scares.
  • My Take: An older ride with sentimental appeal that my family loves because we love haunted house rides.

Space Mountain

  • Ride Story: A journey to the edge of the galaxy and back.
  • Ride Thrills: Not quite as crazy as the rock n roller coaster at Hollywood Studios but a very decent coaster ride. No loops but lots of fast turns in the dark make-believe world of space!
  • My Take: I’d never ridden Space Mountain before. Don’t know why I didn’t the first time I visited and the second, it was closed for repairs. So I was glad I had the chance! It was fun. We rode it twice.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

  • Ride Story: You’re on a runaway train traveling through a haunted mine.
  • Ride Thrills: As coasters go, this one’s pretty tame. A few dips where your stomach drops and a few turns where your smashed into the person sitting next to you.
  • My Take: It’s okay. Once is enough but we rode it twice. 🙂

Splash Mountain (Are you sensing the mountain theme?)

  • Ride Story: Based on the 1946 Disney movie Song of the South. You glide in a hollow log on a bayou past Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear.
  • Ride Thrills: One 5 story drop with a watery splash at the end.
  • My Take: I’ve never been a fan of Br’er Rabbit. Log flume rides can be fun though. Sit in the back and wear a rain jacket if you don’t want to get wet! (If your phone isn’t in a LifeProof case, put it in a Ziplock before you go to the park).

PARADES AND FIREWORKS

Festival of Fantasy

This was a terrific parade! (We also saw some of the Animal Kingdom parade, which made us appreciate the spectacular grandeur of Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy parade). There were tons of floats featuring many of Disney’s biggest characters. Even the newer ones like Merida and Anna and Elsa had their own floats. Everything was timed with the music, which seemed to play from everywhere when the parade went by. Each float had a handful of performers — singing, dancing, and doing stunts. But the pièce de résistance was the brand-new-this-spring magnificent Maleficent float. It’s a HUGE steampunk inspired dragon, complete with a spinning wheel and real fire in its belly.

Disney also puts on a “Wishes Nighttime Spectacular” fireworks show every night at 10:00 p.m. Worth watching at least once per visit. It’s like a Disney vitamin. 🙂

So those are my 2014 thoughts on Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Magic Kingdom. What about you? Have you been to either of those parks? What did you think? What are your favorite rides and shows? Are you planning on going to Disney World this year? Lemme know in the comments! Next week, I’ll load up some pictures from Epcot and Animal Kingdom. After that, I’ll post my thoughts about where we stayed, the water parks, and a few other bits and pieces. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Mickey Lawn

Noon Onyx Series: Chance to Win a $25 eGift Certificate to a Bookstore of Your Choice

Roxanne Rhoads of Bewitching Book Tours helped me to organize a promo blitz featuring the first two books in my Noon Onyx series, DARK LIGHT OF DAY and FIERY EDGE OF STEEL. What the heck is a promo blitz? Well, I thought it would be a fast, fun way to remind people of the first two books in the series before the third one arrives in stores next month.

Promoting books is a tricky business. No one wants a novel shoved beneath their nose. And yet if authors don’t present their work to readers as an option, how will readers know about it? Sure, there are bookstores and bestseller lists. There are conferences and conventions, signings and readings. We have publishers and publicists. There are myriad ways in which our work can be offered as a viable choice to would-be readers. But for today, it’s all about blitzing the backlist!

Fiery Edge of Steel -Dark Light of Day Banner

So how does it work?

If you’re a regular follower of my blog, my guess is that you love books. The owners of the blog sites below do too. Visit their sites. Check them out. If you’re not already following them, consider following them. Each site should have a link to the Rafflecopter form where you can enter to win the $25 eGift Certificate I’m giving away. The randomly selected winner gets to choose the bookstore. For the complete rules, see my Giveaways page, but in a nutshell, here’s the deal:

  1. Void where prohibited
  2. No purchase required
  3. Open to international participants 18 and over with an email address where an electronic gift certificate can be sent
  4. Odds of winning based on number of entries
  5. Sweepstakes ends at midnight EDT on 4/27/14
  6. I’ll announce a winner (first name and last initial) here in the comments by 5/5/14

What else can you do?

  1. Share this post or a link to any of the other posts at the stops below.
  2. If you haven’t already read DARK LIGHT OF DAY or FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, consider buying and reading them (there’s still time to read the first two books before the third is released! 🙂 )
  3. If you have read them, but haven’t yet reviewed them, post a review.
  4. If you haven’t already, consider pre-ordering WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE.

PARTICIPANTS

Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Leeanna.me

Tower of Babel

 

Crazy Four Books

 

Urban Fantasy Investigations

 

Shut Up & Read 

 

Books & Tales

 

3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too!

 

Melissa Stevens

 

Sapphyria’s Book Reviews

 

Pembroke Sinclair

 

Share My Destiny

 

Library Mistress

 

Mila Ramos 

 

Corazones Literarios

 

The Snarkology

 

Aly’s Miscellany

 

Paranormal Romance Fans for Life

 

Laurie’s Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews

 

Fang-tastic Books

 

Roxanne’s Realm

 

CBY Book Club

 

Clutter Your Kindle

 

Eclipse Reviews

Thank you!

Thank you to all of the blog hosts above who reviewed and/or spotlighted the books! Thanks to each and every one of you for doing all that you do to support me, other authors, bookstores, and books in general!

If you’ve already ordered and pre-ordered the books, THANK YOU!!! I really do try to make the promotional side of this business as fun as possible. For my upcoming White Heart of Justice blog tour, I’ve picked some fun blog topics to discuss. I’ve also put together some unique SWAG packs to give away and I’ve scheduled some more interviews, which will hopefully give me a chance to answer some interesting questions. But I also don’t want to neglect the personal side of this blog during the next two months. On Friday, I’ll post pictures from my two favorite Disney parks. So stay tuned!!! 😀

Goodreads #Giveaway for DARK LIGHT OF DAY #UF #SFF #Fantasy

Jill Archer's Dark Light of Day

To kick off the upcoming release of the third Noon Onyx novel, WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, my publisher is doing a Goodreads giveaway for the first book in the series, DARK LIGHT OF DAY. If you haven’t yet read a Noon Onyx novel, this is the place to start! Check it out here and feel free to help me spread the word about the giveaway (US only; 15 copies; ends 4/23/14).

 

Also, just saw the RT Book Reviews review for WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, which is terrific:

urban fantasy, dark fantasy, fantasy, White Heart of Justice, Noon Onyx, Jill Archer, cover reveal, cover artArcher’s Noon Onyx series continues to be an original and compelling tale of what happens after Lucifer’s army triumphs at Armageddon and a new demon-based society is formed. Already an oddity because she has waning magic rather than the usual feminine waxing magic, Noon Onyx is determined to control her own future – but the cost could be higher than she suspects. Kudos to Archer for creating such a compelling heroine and mythos! (4 Stars)

RT Book Reviews, June 2014

Archer w Mouse EarsYou may have noticed how quiet I was last week. We went away for the first part of Spring Break. These pictures give you a hint about where we went. 😀 We had an amazing time. I hope to load up more pictures and do a post about our trip later this week. Fiery Dragon

I’ve also got some other neat things planned for the upcoming week: a guest blogger on Tuesday; a one day promo blitz for my first two novels (including a giveaway) on Wednesday; and some information about a fun Twitter contest I’m doing to help get the word out about the Noon Onyx series on Thursday. So stay tuned…

I hope everyone is having a wonderful spring. If you celebrate Easter, have a happy one!