Guest Post + Review + Giveaway: On Thin Icing

Welcome to my tour stop for On Thin Icing by Ellie Alexander! This is the third book in the Bakeshop Mystery series and released December 29th, 2015.  The tour runs from January 4 – 15 with reviews, guest posts, interviews and excerpts.  This is an adult cozy mystery from St. Martin’s Press.

I have previously reviewed Meet Your Baker (#1) and A Batter of Life and Death (#2).


cover - On Thin Icing 8-11-15Title:
 On Thin Icing
Author: Ellie Alexander
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: December 2015
Length: 304 pages
Series?: A Bakeshop Mystery #3
Genre: Mystery

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N 

It’s the dead of winter in the sleepy town of Ashland, which means no tourists-and fewer customers-for Jules Capshaw and her bakery. But when she’s asked to cater an off-season retreat for the directors of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, business starts heating up…until Jules finds a dead body in the freezer.

Someone at the retreat has apparently iced the bartender, a well-known flirt with a legendary temper-that is, before a killer beat him to the punch. Then, from out of nowhere, Jules’s own ex-husband shows up at the shop-and soon becomes a suspect. With accusations piling up higher than the snow-and thicker than a chocolate mousse cake-Jules has to think outside the (recipe) box to find the real culprit…and make sure he gets his just desserts.

***** Excerpt*****

How do you keep ideas and plot lines fresh and new with writing a small-town cozy series?

Great question! Ask me again after a few more books and maybe I’ll change my answer. In all seriousness, one of the things that really appeals to me about writing a small-town cozy series is that I get to develop an entire cast of characters. The series has already become much more than just Jules’s (the heroine) story. Her team at Torte, the family bakeshop that she’s returned home to help run, are all an integral part of the plot. I’ve become attached to them—from her mom, Helen, to Andy the barista, to Lance, the overly dramatic artistic director, and her nemesis Richard Lord. It’s so much fun to chart out each character’s development. Over the course of the series we’re going to get to know them even more. Every time I sit down to work on a new book it feels like coming home. Sometimes I forget that the characters are figments of my imagination because they feel like old friends.

Ashland, Oregon is the perfect setting for the series because it is a small town with a vibrant community of artists, actors, playwrights, college students, retirees, and outdoor adventure lovers. It’s also a very eclectic town themed around the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with charming old world shops and restaurants. You might even think you’ve traveled back in time to Shakespeare’s England when walking around Ashland’s downtown plaza where storefronts are designed in Elizabethan architecture. The theater attracts visitors from all over the world, which is great because there are constantly new people arriving which means an ever-rotating supply murder suspects.

The other way I intend to keep the plot lines fresh is to send Jules out of town every once in a while. In On Thin Icing, the third book in the series, she’s been asked to cater a retreat at Lake of the Woods Resort, a high mountain lodge tucked into the Southern Cascade Mountains. Baking at altitude is going to test her culinary talents and give readers a taste of the gorgeous landscapes of the region and some delicious winter recipes for savory soups and hearty stews.

Since Jules spent ten years working as a pastry chef on a prestigious cruise line I think it will be natural for her to find her way back on the ship in a future book. I’m already dreaming about all the tropical desserts she can whip up while she sails under sunny skies!

Wishing you happy reading,

~Ellie

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Torte has shut down after the tourist season in Ashland, and when the Oregon Shakespeare Festival board of directors schedules a weekend retreat, Jules is asked to cater the getaway. This is just the kind of business Torte needs.

It would be the perfect weekend…except for the dead body in the marina freezer. Jules discovers the body and immediately calls Thomas and The Professor. She learns this is out of their jurisdiction, follows their directions, and spends the remote weekend with a killer.

With a kitchen to run, ovens that won’t heat properly, and the loss of power, Jules has her hands full. Add to it the responsibility of maintaining the integrity of the crime scene, one ex-husband showing up and landing himself as a suspect, her best friend at odds with her, and avoiding a killer and it makes for one long weekend.

The Players

*There are many more characters in the book, however, I have cut down to include those most prominent in the book. For a fuller list of characters, visit my review of A Batter of Life and Death.

Jules – Jules is a young woman who has seen the sights of the world thanks to her profession as a cruise-line chef. It is also how she met her husband, Carlos, whom she has separated from. She returned home to take refuge in Ashalnd and Torte, the family owned bakery. whom is still out traversing the seas as she has quietly come to settle and take refuge in Ashland and Torte. She receives an amazing opportunity to cater a weekend getaway for the board of OSF.

Sterling – Torte’s newest employee, charged with manning the cash register and pastry case. He was “adopted” by the Capshaws and Torte earlier that summer. Sterling is working hard to change his life and has been invited to be the sous chef on the trip with Jules.

Carlos – The mysterious husband turns up in Ashland and is sent after Jules and Sterling to the retreat. He is very respectable and compassionate. He also diligently mentors Sterling both as a chef and as man. He does push Jules to face their issues and the reason why she left him and the cruise ship.

Lance – Lance is Ashalnd’s theater director, and has arranged for an OSF board meeting weekend retreat in a remote area. He is the classic man on the run who throws lavish parties. Naturally, he has a flair for the dramatic.

Whitney – Whitney has been hired as Lance’s assistant. She was recommended by Dean Barnes, and she is also his niece. She is a very nervous sort, and constantly running around with her tablet. She fears being fired due to all the mishaps of the trip.

Dean Barnes – The only board member who is singled out as a character. He is Whitney’s uncle and also the first board member to arrive at the retreat. He is the quintessential English chap, and very insistent upon things. He has a love of rifles and hunting, as was common in his English countryside.

Mercury – Mercury owns Lake of the Woods Lodge with her husband, who is not present during the book. She is completely spineless and lets people run all over her. In terms of managing the resort, she acts like she hasn’t got a clue. She’s also trying desperately to keep it afloat and have it making money. The resort has slowly started returning to what it used to be when Jules was a child.

Gavin – Gavin is the marina manager at Lake of the Woods Lodge. Interestingly, this has been his only job his entire life. He’s pretty much lived at Lake of the Woods Lodge since he was a young adult. He is highly trusted by Mercury and has some scuffles with Tony about work-related business. He also keeps to himself a lot.

Tony – Tony is the bartender at Lake of the Woods Lodge. Although he is the server of alcohol, he is also the number one consumer of it as well. He has a nasty temper and makes extremely inappropriate sexual innuendos and comments to any and all women (except Mercury).

The Professor – The Professor’s real name is Doug. He is the Ashland’s chief of police, and the “unofficial Shakespeare aficionado.” It is his norm to quote The Bard and other philosophical individuals. He is a charming, friendly man who has captured Mrs. Capshaw’s attention. He poses a very important question to Jules about his relationship with her mother.

Thomas – Thomas is The Professor’s right hand man, and also Jules’ high school sweetheart. They left things unresolved back then, and Thomas clearly has the highest regard for Jules. He comes running when Jules calls, and seeing Carlos face to face sets off some jealous overtones.

The Setting

Lake of the Woods sits almost five thousand feet above sea level. The lake was formed from a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. Getting to the high-altitude lodge was an adventure in itself. The most direct route from Ashland would take us on Dead Indian Road. The road cuts through the Siskiyou National Forest, twisting past sharp corners and down curves without a shoulder. Its name pays homage to the Native Americans who belongs to the land long before white settlers made their way west. I couldn’t help wonder as I navigated the dangerous road if there was more to its meaning.

Lake of the Woods Resort was originally built as a fishing retreat in the 1920s. At just under five thousand feet in elevation, the natural lake is a popular destination all year round. During the summer months vacationers swim off the lake’s shallow banks, fish for rainbow trout, and tool around on party boats. In the winter the lake freezes over, making it a prime location for ice-fishing.

Quotes

I was home again, but I was an entirely different person.

 

“That’s cooking. Feel it. I always say to my new student chefs that food is love. You must infuse the food with love. You cook angry – the food, it will know.”

 

Had I really changed this much since I’d been home? I knew I was different, but having Carlos here made me feel like an entirely different person and the same all at once.

 

“Whoa. Slow down, Jules. A murder? Why are you calling me? Hang up and call the police.”

“You are the police, Thomas.”

 

Carlos says that food is love. I say it’s memory.

 

The Highs and Lows

  • + Sterling. The young man who recently has come into the Torte family is fantastic on this catering trip! Before he’s been kind of hit-and-miss as a character, but this is where he shines. He is installed as the sous chef and he rises to the task beautifully. He keeps Jules on level and is her spiritual guide at the retreat.
  • – Lance. Readers didn’t get to see a lot of Lance in this installment, which disappointed me because he is one of my favorites. He also was not knocking Jules over to be “in the know” about the murder. He had bigger fish to fry with the OSF board.
  • – Whitney. I don’t think the girl has got a clue. At all. She seems like an idiot. I hope Lance does fire her.
  • – Thomas. He was a complete jerk to Jules in this installment. Sterling pointed out the hot situation Jules was in between the two men in her life. For the first time in over six months, Thomas acts like he’s more than her friend and putting her in a very awkward position. He was a jerk to Jules over honing in on Carlos as the number one suspect.
  • – Carlos. Carlos pushes Jules when she is clearly overrun and busy with this catering gig in the wilds of Oregon. This was the worst and yet perfect time for him to approach Jules. Yet, he pushes Jules for answers when he isn’t ready to give her his own. It felt like he was swooping in to dazzle and charm her, with no real relationship meat behind the heat.
  • + The Professor. He is such a wise, thoughtful and kind man. Why can’t Thomas take some lessons from him? The Professor puts Jules en garde over his relationship with her mother, and it gets her pondering some serious things she’s never even asked her mother.
  • + Carlos. He is such a help to Jules and Sterling on the catering end. With the less than desirable circumstances, and especially during the loss of power, he helps out where he is needed and services Mercury’s guests well. He also takes Sterling under his wing and mentors him as a master chef, but also as a man.
  • + Reflection. Jules has a lot of thinking to do with Carlos at the resort, and pushing her for acceptance. She reflects a lot more in this installment than in previous ones about their life at sea, and their married life. She reminisces about how Carlos proposed, her wedding day, and that fateful day she left the ship. Jules has a lot of adult decisions to make.
  • – Blasé. No one really seemed overly concerned that there was a dead body in the marina freezer, they were trapped on this snowed-in mountainside, and the killer was among them. They all continue to go about their business like absolutely nothing has happened (with the exception of Jules). It was very disconcerting.
  • + Vivid Details. The descriptions are beautiful. Alexander really sets the scene and keeps it moving throughout the book without being too much or too little. The writing style is superb.

The Take-Away

The two things I loved most about this book were the scenery descriptions and Sterling. The descriptions are so beautiful and woven perfectly throughout. They are not overdone, but instead short quick snippets to set the scene. Sterling was an absolute doll in this installment. He kept Jules afloat in the kitchen, and also acted as her conscious when it came to Carlos and Thomas. He kindly pointed out the things she wanted to ignore, and has been for months. As Jules said, he is wise beyond his years.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

I highly recommend buying this one!

 

***** About the Author *****

Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter to learn more.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

***** Giveaway *****

Triple chocolate cookie mix, Alpine spiced cider, Collection of Stash teas, Collection of gourmet hot chocolates, Oxford tea towel, Signed copy of On Thin Icing. US only. Ends Jan. 20, 2016.

Prizing provided by the author. Must be 13 or older and have parental permission if under 17. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary to win.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! 

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

 

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Author Interview: Darcie Chan

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Today I have author Darcie Chan on the blog for an interview! Since I already have an overflowing mountain of a TBR pile, one of you has to read The Mill River Redemption for me. 🙂

“A satisfying read with sympathetic and relatable characters that will be good for book group discussions and vacation reading.”  Library Journal

In THE MILL RIVER REDEMPTION, Josie DiSanti, recently widowed, flees her New York City home with her two young daughters to take refuge in Mill River, Vermont, and live with her only remaining relative, Ivy Collard, the local bookstore owner and a woman Josie barely knows. There, the young mother and her girls build a new life—until a shocking tragedy tears the sisters apart. Years later, the sisters are forced together for the reading of their mother’s will, and what they discover shakes up their worlds, forever shaping their futures.

***** Interview *****

Thank you for your interview. Can you tell readers a little about yourself?

Thank you for inviting me for an interview! I’m a lawyer-recently-turned-writer, although my path through that transition is rather unlikely. I like to write stories about regular people faced with extraordinary circumstances, with all the humor and heartache those situations bring. I grew up in small towns in several states, but I currently live in the New York City metro area — yet another unlikely development for someone whose hometown has only two stoplights!

In your own words, can you tell us a little bit about your book, The Mill River Redemption?

The Mill River Redemption is the story of a newly-widowed mother, Josie DiSanti, and her struggle to start a new life and provide for her two daughters, Rose and Emily. It’s told in two timelines. One takes place in the past and shows how Josie recovers from the loss of her husband to become a strong single parent. The other begins at Josie’s wake, when her now-adult daughters, who have been estranged for years, are thrust into a last-ditch scheme concocted by Josie to force their reconciliation. The two timelines merge and move forward as one at the climax of the novel.

How did growing up in small towns across the country set the scene for your novels?

It’s true that pretty much all of my childhood was spent living in small towns. The smallest of them — Cheraw, Colorado — still holds school only four days per week because it’s cheaper for the school district to go four long days than pay staff and bus expenses for a typical five-day week!  I feel comfortable writing about small towns…it’s what I know best, and when I began to work out the story for my first novel, there was never any question that it would have a small-town setting. I wanted Mill River to have the same strong sense of community, peaceful atmosphere, and friendly neighbors that I’d known while I was growing up.

How would you describe the characters in your book?

I wanted very much for the characters in my books to be the kinds of people that many would easily recognize — friendly folks, most with normal, regular jobs who experience common problems.  I wanted my readers to feel comfortable with the people in Mill River, much as they would feel about a friendly, long-term neighbor. However, I did want my characters to be memorable, too, so several of them have peculiar quirks, and others find themselves in extraordinary situations.

How were you motivated along the way to become a writer?

I have always loved books and reading, and I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl.  I think the first time that I articulated that was in middle school…I think I was eleven years old. After winning a school writing contest, I rushed home with my little trophy and announced to my parents that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.  The truth is that writing makes me happy, and I write for myself, first and foremost. I suppose my motivation was rooted in that truth, and also the dreamy idea of being able to do something I enjoyed so much as a job!

It took me a while to get to a place where I felt ready to seriously try on my “writing cap.” I wanted to finish my education and make sure that I could always take care of myself financially, which is tough to do as a writer. In college, I was an English major, and I became very interested in environmental law. Later on, after finishing college and law school and settling into a legal job I loved, I decided it was finally time to attempt a first novel.

Since starting out, what has been the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer?

I’ve learned a few things since I’ve started writing full-time. First, it’s very important to have some structure to my work day. That means getting enough sleep (which I’m always tempted NOT to do since I love to write late into the night) and setting manageable daily and weekly goals. I’ve also learned that starting a career as a writer is much easier than maintaining such a career. I have readers literally pestering me about when I’ll have another book out — and this is a very good thing and something for which I’m grateful, don’t get me wrong — but I feel the weight of people’s expectations now, including my own. Learning to manage those expectations and the inevitable uncertainty and self-doubt that creeps into my mind every once in a while has taken some work.

Do you have any other books in the works?

I’ve just sent the first draft of the third Mill River book to my editor! I’m not sure what I’ll write next, but once promotion for The Mill River Redemption slows down a bit, I’ll focus on deciding which idea will become the focus of my next book.

Now for some fun! This or That!

  • Hugs or Kisses?  Hugs!
  • Coffee or Tea? Both!  Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon!
  • Drama or Action? Drama.
  • Dogs or Cats? Cats! (Although I love animals of all kinds!)
  • Night or Day? Night, definitely. I love to write late at night, into the wee hours of the morning!
  • Sand or Snow? Snow! I was born in Wisconsin and lived there until age six. I’m pretty sure that’s why I still feel like there’s something wrong if snow isn’t on the ground by Halloween!

***** About the Author *****

image004Darcie Chan is the New York Times bestselling author of the eBook sensation The Mill River Recluse and the novel The Mill River Redemption. She has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal. For fourteen years, Chan worked as an attorney drafting environmental and natural resource legislation for the U.S. Senate. She now writes fiction full-time and lives north of New York City with her husband and son.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Author Interview: Stan Swanson

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The Misadentures of Hobart Hucklebuck by Stan Swanson is a middle grade fantasy and the tour runs October 13-17 with reviews & author interviews. Check out the tour page for the full schedule.

This book is geared toward ages 8-12, but I read it this summer and I found it to be quite funny and entertaining even as an adult. You can read my review of The Misadventures of Hobart Hucklebuck here.

*****About the Book*****

22570883Things are not as they should be in Pennywhistle. Enchanted toasters are not toasting, enchanted sprinklers are not sprinkling and Hobart Hucklebuck’s origami messenger birds are suddenly attacking him. Someone seems to be draining the power from all of the enchanted items in the village. But who could it be and why have they implicated Hobart’s grandfather? The Misadventures of Hobart Hucklebuck: Magic & Mayhem follows Hobart and his friends, Specks Spacklethack and Rosie Rumpleskirt, as they try to solve this mystery and free Hobart’s grandfather from the Tower of Tribulation on Mumblemonk Mountain. The trio’s investigation into the mysterious happenings on Druid Lane gets them into hot water more than once and ultimately brings them dangerously close to disaster not only for themselves, but the entire village of Pennywhistle.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

 

*****Author Interview*****

Since I had previously read and reviewed The Misadventures of Hobart Hucklebuck: Magic & Mayhem, I had the pleasure of interviewing the author, Stan Swanson. Enjoy!

Thank you for your interview. Can you tell readers a little about yourself?

My name is Stan Swanson and I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. My first poem appeared in the local paper when I was about nine years old. I have written 8 or 9 books including fiction and nonfiction and covered every age group from picture books to novels and short stories aimed specifically at adults. I am also a singer/songwriter and split my time between the two “occupations.”

In your own words, can you tell us a little bit about your book?

While The Misadventures of Hobart Hucklebuck falls basically into the middle grade fantasy category, it is also an adventure book as well as a mystery. There is also a great chunk of humor thrown in. I think humor is very important not only in writing, but in everyday life as well.

 **There is definitely an adventure going on in Pennywhistle, and the characters are humorous!

Where did you get the idea to write about Hobart and the happenings in Pennywhistle?

I never have a problem coming up with ideas for books. I have pieces of paper, notebooks and computer files with hundreds of ideas for stories and books. The biggest problem is that I always want to start on the newest idea that pops into my head. Sometimes it’s hard to keep myself from dropping a novel that is half-finished and starting something new.

Can you tell us about the characters in your book? Who is your favorite character?

I love creating characters and it is important to me that they are believable. If I am writing a book for middle graders (like The Misadventures of Hobart Hucklebuck), I want each character to feel like a real person to the reader. Although I am partial to Hobart as he is my main character, I like all of my characters – even if they are “bad guys.” 🙂

What makes your book different from other books within the same genre?

Probably my use of humor. Humor is important no matter what age a reader might be. I’m not sure that makes it different from other books in the genre, but I feel my use of humor is genuine and that readers will find the humor in my writing believable as well as enjoyable.

Where do you like to write?

I have no favorite place to write and can write pretty much anywhere. I also don’t write at any particular time of day. I know many authors have their favorite writing desk and write in the early morning or late at night. It doesn’t matter to me. You just have to sit down and write. I don’t really believe in writer’s block. Writing is work just like any job. It’s just a matter of sitting down and doing it.

Middle grade books aren’t your typical genre to write. What brought about the change?

I don’t think there was ever a change from writing for one particular age group to another. I’ve written picture books, middle grade books, young adult books and books for adults including nonfiction. But I enjoy the middle grade and young adult genres the most.

What is your favorite part of being a writer?

The beginning and the end of the writing process are my favorite times. I love it when that fresh idea hits me and I get to roll it around there inside my brain as it takes form. It is a very enjoyable process. Of course, I also enjoy that moment when I get that first printed copy of a finished book in my hand from the publisher. It lets me know that all that time and effort was worth it.

What do you want readers to take away from your book?

Although The Misadventures of Hobart Hucklebuck has many small “messages” a reader can come away with (bullying is just one of those), I really just want a reader to turn that last page and say “I really enjoyed reading that. I wish I wasn’t finished.” Of course, that’s why there are more Hobart Hucklebuck books in the works. LOL.

Do you have any other books in the works? Will Hobart and his friends develop into a series of books? 

The second book in the series is already with the printer and I’m hoping for a 2015 release. The third book is also in the works with ideas for several more. I am also working on two young adult steampunk novels as well as an adult “end-of-the-world” novel I am writing with Bram Stoker award-winning author Joe McKinney.

*****About the Author*****

unnamedStan Swanson is a Bram Stoker award finalist and author of eight books including Horror High School: Return of the Loving Dead (the first book in a young adult horror series co-written with Araminta Star Matthews), Wind Up Hearts (a romance novella with a hint of steampunk), Forever Zombie (a collection of short stories), Write of the Living Dead (a highly-praised writing guide written with Araminta Star Matthews and Rachel Lee) and Return of the Scream Queen (co-authored with Michael McCarty and Linnea Quigley). He is also editor/publisher for Dark Moon Books and Dark Moon Digest. Upcoming titles include Dead Sparrows (a collection of apocalyptic poetry), The Methlands (a horror novel co-written with award-winning author Joe McKinney) and The Misadventures of Hobart Hucklebuck: Pandemonium in Pennywhistle.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Author Interview + Giveaway: Kelbian Noel

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I am delighted to have author Kelbian Noel, author of The Witchbound Series, on the blog today!

Thank you for your interview. Can you tell readers a little about yourself?

Thanks for having me!

I’m a mom, technical writer and editor by trade. I’m a writer just for the pleasure of it. 🙂

In your own words, can you tell us a little bit about your books, the Witchbound series?

The series is about four witches with the extraordinary abilities to control the four elements. Their families’ kept them in the dark about their abilities with the intention of keeping them safe. But this plan has backfired and the story begins.

Which came first, the titles or the books?

Elemental came first. It was Baltimore’s story. After writing it I mapped out the rest of the series. A year after I released that book, I decided to revamp it, changing the name and hiring a cover designer (Rachel Rivera of Parajunkee.net who is AMAZING). I changed the name to Roots and then came up with the other three titles, Sprung, Smolder and Surface.

Can you tell us about the characters in your book? Who is your favorite character?

First we meet Baltimore who has been raised Wiccan but isn’t really interested in her parents’ religion. And she considers it just that, a religion and nothing more. Then comes Skye, who has just discovered magic, thanks to her grandmother’s slip of the tongue. Following her is Calida, who is completely oblivious to everything–including who her own family is. Later on, I’ll introduce know-it-all, Mohana, who is a breath of fresh air when it comes all things magic. She’s knowledgeable, straight forward, cocky and just tiny bit in over her head.

Right now, Mohana is my favorite. But I think that’s because I’m in the midst of writing her story. They’ve all been my favorite at one point.

Which character would you have dinner with?

That’s a tough one, but I think I’d choose the “bad girl”, Joslin. I’d love to really get to know her, to figure out why she’s gone through such lengths to get the one thing she’s not allowed to have. I explore it a little bit more in Smolder, but there’s a lot more to her story.

If you could invite any three fictional characters to a dinner party who would be extended invitations? Why did you select these three characters?

Aladdin, because he’s the star of my favorite movie.  Genie, because, well, he’s a genie and that has to be an interesting life to learn about. And Verbal Kint from The Usual Suspects because that guy is just brilliant.

Where do you like to write?

I write in the living room, usually, or my bedroom (but I try to avoid that). The room always has to be dark, curtains drawn and absolute quiet.

Why did you decide to become a writer?

I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid, so it’s always just been something I’ve done. Being able to publish them for anyone to read has been an incredible adventure.

What do you do when you aren’t writing?

When I’m not writing I’m being a mom or working. The small amount of time I have off from those two things I spend engaged in a good book.

What do you want readers to take away from your book?

The most important thing I’ve tried to relay is that despite differences people can have a heck of a lot in common. And sometimes it’s the difference among members that make the best teams.

The first three books in the Witchbound series have been published. Each book corresponds to one of the Elementals. What’s in the works after finishing the final book?

The final book is actually entitled Spirit. It’s four-part novel in the form of novellas told from Ramon’s point of view. But it is a retelling of all four books–closure so to speak.

Surface is in the works, but I haven’t released a date for publication yet. This story is fun to tell. It’s a little lighter than the other three. All four girls are together throughout the entire story. And like with real sisters there will be ups and downs.

*****About the Author*****

unnamed (6)Kelbian Noel was born on a warm June night in Moncton, New Brunswick. From a very young age, she loved to read. She found herself engulfed in novels by Janette Oke and L.M. Montgomery, but never seemed to find herself in the pages. At the age of 11 she declared she would simply have to rewrite them, and become the youngest author in history. But life was full of baseball, homework, BFFs and boys. Decades later, having studied writing in college and pursued it as a career, she rediscovered her hobby. She is excited to introduce The Witchbound Series to the world with hopes someone will love this story as much as she does. Kelbian lives in Toronto, Ontario with her two children (where, thanks to a thick layer of smog, Junes are much warmer than they used to be).

She is the founder of www.diverse-pages.com and blogs there often, in the company of some pretty cool people.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

*****Giveaway*****

There is a $25 Amazon gift card up for grabs!

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

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Guest Post: Madhvi Ramani

Ever wonder what it takes to write a children’s book? Today you’re going to find out! I am happy to have Madhvi Ramani guest star on the blog today, sharing her insight as a children’s writer.

How Do You Make A Book?

I get asked this question a lot, mostly by 7-year-olds. And like most questions asked by children, it’s a good one. I had never considered the many steps it takes to make a book until my first story Nina and the Travelling Spice Shed was accepted for publication. Yay! I thought. Soon it would be a book! My work was done! Turned out, I was wrong…

Step 1: The Edit

Before submitting my story, I had written and re-written it countless times. I had work-shopped it with my writers group, refined the plot and cut out every extra word until it was so tight it hummed. So imagine my surprise when my editor sent my manuscript back looking like this:

How Childrens Books Are Made_Image_1

An editor will have always have thoughts on how a story can be improved – after all, that’s their job. It’s worth taking these notes seriously, even if you don’t execute all of them. You know your story better than anyone, so only you can decide which suggestions to take and which to leave. I tend to take most of them, and have found this step really does benefit the story.

Step 2: The Copy Edit

More red lines! Here’s some copy-edited text from my second book Nina and the Kung Fu Adventure.

How Childens Books Are Made_Image_2

As you can see, a copy-editor deals with formatting, typos, and spelling and grammar issues. Copy-editors are meticulous, clever people – I’ve learnt a lot from working with them.

How Childrens Books Are Made_Image_3Step 3: Design and Layout

When the text is finally ready, a designer sets the manuscript and provides artwork suggestions. For the Nina series – chapter books for children, with black and white illustrations – this is an important step. Again, suggestions and changes are made. For example, we decided to have little birds, instead of chopsticks with a bowl of rice, for the chapter headings.

 

 

Step 4: Illustrations and Cover

Now, it’s over to the talented Erica-Jane Waters to work her magic. Like all good things, her illustrations as well as the cover art go through multiple drafts until they become the best they can be. Compare the draft cover of my forthcoming book Nina and the Magical Carnival with the final version.

Nina and the Magical Carnival_first draft of cover_Image_4    Nina and the Magical Carnival_final cover_Image_5

Lovely, isn’t it?

Step 5: Proof

Once everything is in place, an electronic proof version of the book is created and sent to the editor, a proof-reader, various other people at the publishing house, and myself, so that we can all check it one last time. If everyone is happy, it’s time for…

The Final Steps

There is still a bunch of stuff to do! Over the next weeks, the editor writes a blurb and description of the book for sites such as Amazon, where the book is then listed. An e-book is created. Advanced copies are printed and sent to reviewers, the sales team take orders from buyers working for physical and online outlets and the author gets involved in marketing the book. Finally, the book is printed and hits the stores – phew!

Nina and the Travelling Spice Shed_Image 6        Nina and the kung fu adventure_image 7       Nina and the magical carnival_image 8

And then it’s time to get cracking on the next book and start the process all over again…

*****About the Books*****

Nina and the Travelling Spice Shed_Image 6Nina and the Travelling Spice Shed

Did you know that Nina’s aunt’s spice shed is a travel machine?

Well neither did Nina – and now she’s head first into a great adventure involving a lost envelope, a charming street thief, a glamorous Bollywood star and a fierce tiger . . .

 

 

 

Nina and the kung fu adventure_image 7Nina and the Kung-Fu Adventure

Nina’s schoolfriend Lee is in trouble, so she must borrow her aunt’s travelling spice shed and head to Beijing. Now they are both on a great adventure involving a kung fu master, a yellow snake and a mysterious riddle . . .

 

 

 

 

Nina and the magical carnival_image 8Nina and the Magical Carnival

Nina has discovered an amazing secret—her aunt’s spice shed is a travel machine! She can go on wonderful adventures all around the world. Where will she go next?

Nina has to take part in the school talent show in a few days, and she still doesn’t know what to do! When her teacher mentions a magical fantasia that could help, Nina sets off to Brazil in the traveling spice shed to find it. There, she has a great adventure involving a mysterious costume, a samba parade, and a top-secret mission!

 

*****About the Author*****

Madhvi_Ramani_image 9Madhvi grew up in London where she studied English Literature and Creative Writing. She likes dark chocolate, blueberries and second-hand bookshops. She lives in Berlin, where she spends her time drinking coffee, making stuff up and speaking terrible German. Her Nina series, for readers aged 7+ are about a feisty little girl who goes on adventures in different countries. Madhvi also writes short stories, screenplays and is currently working on her first novel for teenagers.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Author Interview: David Collins

GB Tour Button (1)I know lately interviews have been few and far between, but I am delighted today to welcome author David Collins and with his debut novel, Gaybash. Today is the first day of tour stops, so make sure you check out the rest of the tour stops.

*****Interview*****

Thank you for your interview. Can you tell readers a little about yourself?

I live in the building where my novel takes place so the story feels very close to me. (In fact, my own home served as a nagging reminder when I wasn’t writing!) I’m in my early 40s, a great time to think about the dreams I haven’t yet fulfilled, and why. In addition to writing I also make artwork (handmade structures of paper) and there is a gallery on the book’s website. Creativity is a big part of my life, and where I feel the most free and inspired. This is the year I stopped being afraid of what people would think of my work.

In your own words, can you tell us a little bit about your book?

I wrote this book to take readers on a journey of a shy and reserved man who realizes the potential of his own life. I see a lot of people just getting through their lives instead of living their lives, and I see a lot of myself in Matt and his fears. I wanted to tell a story that was alternately funny and sad, and that would encourage people to be proud of who they are, whoever they are. And also, Tell the people you love that you love them, often and without hesitation.

Which came first, the title or the book?

The title and synopsis came first, in dialogue from another novel I was writing. Two characters were discussing an indie film called Gaybash, about a gay man who fought back against his attackers. I found the idea so intriguing that I put that novel on hold and began writing Gaybash instead.

Can you tell us about the characters in your book?

The main character, Matt, is shy and reserved and holds back a lot. He hasn’t nearly tapped into his potential. His best friend, Greg, is the complete opposite—the Big Man on Campus of their gay neighborhood. Their unlikely friendship works because they support and understand each other in ways that nobody else does. There are also several strong female characters, including Mara, one of Matt’s co-workers, Pat Jensen, a police detective, and Mallory, Matt’s mom. Each supporting character loves and cares for Matt, but shows it in different ways. For example, Ed, Matt’s father, has difficulty accepting that his son is gay but obviously loves Matt and works through his struggle pretty openly and thoughtfully.

What makes your book different from other books within the same genre?

Anyone can read Gaybash and identify with the challenges these characters face. Some themes in the book are truly universal: unrequited love, jealousy, accepting people for who they are, and standing up to aggression. In separate incidents, Matt and Greg both stand up for themselves and deal with the consequences, both good and bad. The easiest thing would have been for these characters to walk away from their confrontations, but Greg isn’t one to walk away and Matt can’t walk away any more. It’s also a commentary on the abusive way that aggressors attack people they consider “less than”. But in these cases, the aggressors—one verbal, one physical—don’t get away so easily.

What would you tell your 15 year old self?

The same thing I would tell my 43 year old self right now: Stop being so concerned about what other people think. You’re doing fine the way you are.

Who are a few of your favorite authors? What are a few of your favorite books?

My favorite book is The Moonstone by William Wilkie Collins. It’s widely regarded as the first mystery novel and I chose it for my senior comp paper in high school. Other favorites include The Magnificent Ambersons, The Man With The Golden Arm, and The Phantom Tollbooth—a childhood favorite. They all have bold, memorable characters and strong narratives.

What is the one book that everyone should read?

I think The Great Gatsby is a great example of what a novel can be. The motivations of people, both bad and good, are laid out very well. There is a certain timelessness to Fitzgerald’s writing that makes the story a great read at different stages of your life. Even if you read it in high school, read it again now.

Since starting out, what has been the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer?

I’ve learned most to trust my instinct, my voice. That’s something I’ve had to learn on my own, and it feels good to “go with your gut” and connect with readers in unexpected ways by taking chances. It’s surprised me what parts of the story speak to certain readers. Very reassuring.

What do you want readers to take away from your book?

I want readers to finish the book inspired, as Matt is, to be alive in his life. I want readers to think about the ways that they can be their own worst enemies and stop it! Sometimes we hold ourselves back more than anyone or anything else. Matt realizes that and I want the reader to realize that as well.

Do you have any other books in the works? Will any of your novels to date develop into a series?

Gaybash is my first novel and I intended it to be one-and-done, but I’ve had a number of readers ask about a sequel. That’s a wonderful thing—to know that readers want to hang out with these characters a little longer. In my mind there is a logical point to pick up the story as a sequel but as of right now, I think I leave Matt in a great place. The reader can imagine many exciting possibilities for his future. And in addition to my artwork, I am going back to that first novel I left behind.

*****About the Author*****

davidtestDavid Collins lives and works in Chicago. Gaybash is his first novel.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube

*****About the Book*****

Title: Gaybash
Author: David Collins
Release Date: May 2014
Length: 287 pages
Series?: no
Genre:  LGBT Fiction

Gaybash 3DMatt Tompkins, a reserved gay man, has always played by the rules and has created a comfortable but unfulfilling life for himself. When his bold best friend Greg reaps unexpected rewards for standing up for himself in a very public display, Matt’s jealousy leads him to risk everything when he’s confronted by two attackers. Determined to be more like Greg, a split-second reaction brings astonishing changes to Matt’s life–for better and for worse.

Set in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, Gaybash explores the boundaries of love and friendship and the unintended consequences of wanting to be somebody else.

Find the book: Website | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

*****Giveaway*****

There is a $15 Amazon/B&N Giftcard or a Book Depository shopping spree up for grabs in this giveaway. Open Internationally. Ends 8/1. Void where prohibited.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Author Interview + Giveaway: David Litwack

David Litwack is here at Land of 1000 Wonders today to chat about his latest novel, Along the Watchtower. For all the stops on this tour, visit the tour schedule.

*****Interview*****

Thank you for your interview. Can you tell readers a little about yourself? Why did you decide to become a writer?

The urge to write first struck me when I was working on a newsletter at a youth encampment in the woods of northern Maine. It may have been the night when lightning flashed at sunset followed by northern lights rippling after dark. Or maybe it was the newsletter’s editor, a girl with eyes the color of the ocean. But I was inspired to write about the blurry line between reality and the fantastic.

Using two fingers and lots of white-out, I religiously typed five pages a day throughout college and well into my twenties. Then life intervened. I took a long break to raise two sons and pursue a career, in the process becoming a well-known entrepreneur in the software industry, founding several successful companies. When I found time again to daydream, the urge to write returned.

My wife and I split our time between Cape Cod, Florida and anywhere else that catches our fancy. I no longer limit myself to five pages a day and am thankful every keystroke for the invention of the word processor.

Who are a few of your favorite authors? What are a few of your favorite books?

Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea, Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and the Stars, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Douglas Adams’ The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Where do you like to write?

In my office, sometimes with the door closed. I’d love to say I write with a view of the ocean or something like that, but I’m too easily distracted.

When we bought our house in Florida, the selling point for me was the office, since I spend so much time there. This office was pre-furnished in a kind of a Caribbean motif, complete with a three-foot-tall, plastic parrot. He’s painted bright green and orange with a yellow beak and sits above me on a brass swing, looking over my shoulder as I write.

When I first saw him, I wasn’t sure I liked him. But then, on a trip to Key West, I was fortunate to tour the home where Hemingway lived for ten years and wrote some of his greatest novels. The office he wrote in was also decorated in Caribbean style. Since that trip, I’ve named the parrot Ernest. Each morning, before I settle in to write, I look up at the parrot and say “Good morning Ernest” before getting to work.

Along the Watchtower is your second novel, centered around the traumatic effects of being a war veteran. Could you tell us a little about your main character, Freddie?

Lt. Freddie Williams wakes up in a VA hospital after being severely wounded in an IED attack in Iraq. There, he struggles to recover, not just physically, but emotionally, from both the trauma of war and a tragic family background. Freddie has always been positive, able to overcome the many obstacles in his life. But this is his greatest challenge yet.

Why did you set Freddie up in such a parallel universe in his dreams?

In Iraq, Freddie played the multi-player, role-playing game, World of Warcraft, with the men in his squad (something very common for soldiers, a way of dealing with their off time, bonding with each other, and escaping the harsh reality of war) . Through his difficult recovery, he lapses in and out of reality, in his dreams seeing himself as a Prince in the gaming world, challenged with fighting off despair and saving his people. His quest in the real world mirrors that of the fantasy world—to find a reason to live.

What inspired you to focus this novel on the subject of PTSD?

I’ve always been fascinated by how our view of reality is subjective, how each of us brings our own experiences and biases into play. But when we’re ripped from our normal lives and placed in extreme circumstances, our reality becomes fragmented. Such is the case with hospitals and war.

A couple of years ago, I became engrossed in the online game, World of Warcraft, thanks to my son. I’m on the east coast and he’s on the west, so we’d meet every Wednesday evening in the virtual world of Azeroth, where our avatars would go on quests together. I was struck by how immersed I became in the mood of the game as we wandered through castles and crypts, solving riddles and vanquishing demons. For a short period of time, I could totally buy into the alternate reality.

The gaming experience has a dream-like quality to it. And I began to wonder: how would this experience affect the dreams of someone whose reality has been fragmented by the trauma of war? These concepts—war, hospitals, and the fantasy world of online gaming—came together in Along the Watchtower.

Your first novel, There Comes a Prophet, is structured in the years following the destruction and downfall of a society, and the rebirth. Your third novel, The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky, has just been released, also about the aftermath of war. There seems to be a common characteristic to your novels: a period of downfall, and a bond between a male and female character. Why have you chosen to write your novels in such a way?

Any good story is based on the struggle of a character to overcome a challenge and achieve some worthwhile goal. While war is in the backstory of all three novels, none of them take place during a war. The backstory in each of these books has created the situation the characters need to overcome: for Orah and Nathaniel, overcoming the powers that stifled growth following a war; for Freddie, fighting the despair brought on by his experiences in Iraq; for Jason and Helena, saving Kailani despite her being an “enemy” from a war fought long ago.

For all my characters, what helps them in that battle is the bond with another person, who gives them the strength to prevail.

What do you want readers to take away from Along the Watchtower?

Playing a make believe fantasy game and going to war both have a surreal quality that takes us out of our normal reality. But for war veterans, the sense of normality doesn’t return without a struggle.

The Wounded Warrior Project is a wonderful organization, dedicated to helping veterans adjust. Their stated mission is: “To foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.” How successful we’ll be at achieving that goal will tell a lot about who we are. It’s one of the most important stories of our time.

Do you have any other books in the works? Will any of your novels to date develop into a series?

I’m working on a sequel to There Comes a Prophet. I hadn’t planned on writing a sequel, but the main characters, Orah and Nathaniel, told me their quest wasn’t complete and kept nagging me to finish their story. Now, I plan on making it a trilogy.

****About the Novel*****

Title: Along the Watchtower
Author: David Litwack
Publisher: Dragon Publishing
Release Date: June 2013
Length: 214 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy
Format: e-book
Source: Masquerade Book Tours

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

*****Synopsis*****

A Tragic Warrior Lost in Two Worlds…

The war in Iraq ended for Lieutenant Freddie Williams when an IED explosion left his mind and body shattered. Once he was a skilled gamer and expert in virtual warfare. Now he’s a broken warrior, emerging from a medically induced coma to discover he’s inhabiting two separate realities. The first is his waking world of pain, family trials, and remorse—and slow rehabilitation through the tender care of Becky, his physical therapist. The second is a dark fantasy realm of quests, demons, and magic that Freddie enters when he sleeps.

In his dreams he is Frederick, Prince of Stormwind, who must make sense of his horrific visions in order to save his embattled kingdom from the monstrous Horde. His only solace awaits him in the royal gardens, where the gentle words of the beautiful gardener, Rebecca, calm the storms in his soul. While in the conscious world, the severely wounded vet faces a strangely similar and equally perilous mission—a journey along a dark road haunted by demons of guilt and memory—and letting patient, loving Becky into his damaged and shuttered heart may be his only way back from Hell.

*****About the Author*****

The urge to write first struck when working on a newsletter at a youth encampment in the woods of northern Maine. It may have been the night when lightning flashed at sunset followed by northern lights rippling after dark. Or maybe it was the newsletter’s editor, a girl with eyes the color of the ocean. But he was inspired to write about the blurry line between reality and the fantastic.

Using two fingers and lots of white-out, he religiously typed five pages a day throughout college and well into his twenties. Then life intervened. He paused to raise two sons and pursue a career, in the process becoming a well-known entrepreneur in the software industry, founding several successful companies. When he found time again to daydream, the urge to write returned. His novels include: There Comes a ProphetAlong the Watchtower, and the newly released The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky.

David and his wife split their time between Cape Cod, Florida and anywhere else that catches their fancy. He no longer limits himself to five pages a day and is thankful every keystroke for the invention of the word processor.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Newsletter

*****Giveaway*****

Go enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Displaying masq tour button.pngThere is a giveaway for this tour. A $100 Amazon/B&N Giftcard or a Book Depository shopping spree of the same value, plus two print copies of Along the Watchtower will be given away. Open Internationally. Ends 7/7.