Happy Sweetest Day & High Tea at The Drake

Happy Sweetest Day! I hope you’re enjoying it with people you love. Read on for a very *sweet* history of this lesser-known holiday–trust me, it’s not as commercial as most people think! Also, one of my favorite Sweetest Day memories is in this post.

Today, I’m celebrating the birthday of two dear friends. Love to all my readers! ❤️

Jelly-Side Up

Happy Sweetest Day! Although it’s not popular with everyone, Sweetest Day is a holiday I enjoy (but then, you know I enjoy most holidays…). Even the origin is *sweet*: 92 years ago, 12 confectioners in Cleveland decided to give out “over 20,000 boxes of candy to ‘newsboys, orphans, old folks, and the poor,'” according to WikipediaSince then, it’s caught on in the Midwest, especially the Great Lakes region. The most common tradition I’ve seen is exchanging candy or small gifts with loved ones, or, in the original spirit, to those who are less fortunate/lonely. Some people gripe that it’s a “Hallmark holiday,” but I say any holiday about charity and love is a good one. 🙂 

Today, I had the most wonderful celebration: my sister and I got to meet two of our friends for high tea!

The anticipation beforehand was intense.

View image on Twitter On the way. The traffic was…

View original post 510 more words


Celebrating My Sister: Why She is My Hero + Her Birthday

Happy Sister’s Day to my very best friend since the day when she was born. I’m just as excited to celebrate her today as I was her first day in this world, when I ran down the hallway in my ducky slippers, holding a balloon. I may not have those slippers anymore, but the bond I still have with my sister is stronger than I could ever have imagined. In honor of Sister’s Day, I’m reblogging this post about why she is my hero and what she means to me (the good mushy stuff is after all the birthday pictures, but feel free to drool over her cake, if you like).

Jelly-Side Up

Hello readers, I hope you’ve been having a good week. It’s cooled off quite a bit here, which has made for a nice reprieve with humidity.

Today (Thursday) is National Girlfriends Day, which has unknown origins, but it’s a day to celebrate our female friendships. I woke up today to this adorable collage Jennifer texted me. I just had to share:

BFF Collage, by Jennifer. On the left, we (I'm on the very left) are enjoying smoothies at our favorite organic food cafe, Freshii. BFF Collage, by Jennifer. On the left, we (I’m on the very left) are enjoying smoothies at our favorite organic food cafe, Freshii.

What a sweet way to start the day! ❤

It was the second holiday for us in a week. Last weekend, we had a low-key but fun celebration for Jennifer’s birthday. We went out to our favorite soup-and-salad buffet, Sweet Tomatoes.

Never too old to be a princess. A collage of various gifts she received for her birthday. Never too old to be a princess. A collage of some of the gifts Jennifer received for her birthday.

She was really touched at the…

View original post 998 more words

Happy Father’s Day

(My first Easter, adorned in custom-made gown and bonnet, with my dad <3)

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there–biological, adoptive, mentor, and otherwise. 🙂 Thank you for the huge difference you make in your children’s lives.

As I grow older, I realize I rely on my dad just as much now as I ever have. Maybe the reasons have changed–I’ve now learned how to tie my own shoes, for instance–but he is still the steadfast pillar in my life I turn to when I fall and cry. It’s not skinned knees anymore (well, sometimes it is)–it’s more like a bruised heart. He is the man who has always been there for me, even as my romantic relationships come and go. Through his loving relationship with my mom, he has shown my sister and me how a healthy relationship should be. Through his support and encouragement of our dreams, my sister and I have realized we don’t need a man to accomplish anything we want–though we are lucky to have our dad, blowing air into our sails.

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers, but especially mine. ❤

If you’d like to read my letter to my dad about his crucial role in my recovery from my TBI, please visit my previous Father’s Day post: Happy Father’s Day.

One Voice: Orlando Shooting

What can one voice say in the midst of such a tragedy?

The largest mass shooting ever in the history of our country:
49 dead, 53 wounded. Countless loved ones devastated. A ripple effect of fear throughout the world.(If you haven’t read the news story of the Orlando shooting at Pulse on Sunday, you can here: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/12/us/orlando-nightclub-shooting/ ).

I’ve never understood the hatred against the LGBT community. Live and let live, I say. Love and let love.
Love is always good. Love is peace.

As a writer, I am always seeking to make sense of things. I think that’s everyone’s draw to stories: to find the cadence of meaning that drums through a course of events. It resounds through our own lives, helping us understand our own biggest challenges through symbolism, allegory, dragons.
And, as a writer, it’s imperative to get into the heads of villains–to understand their motives. My own villains, when not abstract, are usually damaged beings that have been hurt by the one(s) they’re trying to retaliate against.
This massacre is so senseless it would make for bad fiction. The more I learn, the less sense it makes. These innocent people did nothing to the shooter. They were shot at random. They were there to have fun, to find love–not to be violent.
What I do understand is the light shining through the darkness. (“Look for the helpers,” Mr. Rogers tells us. “You will always find people helping [during tragedy].”) We can’t let one extremist’s hatred control us, reverse us, put us back into the dark ages. I’m humbled and touched to see the response of the world in the wake of this tragedy: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/13/health/orlando-shooting-acts-of-kindness-trnd/

(Photos of mourners from Pulse Nightclub’s Facebook page)

Here are the ones who were lost: http://fusion.net/story/313038/orlando-shooting-victims-names-pulse-massacre/

This story is all of ours. We own it. Gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, atheist–this grief, this fear–it’s ours. Orlando is one of my favorite cities. Several of my friends are gay, including one of my very best. It could have been me in that club. It could have been you. It could have been anywhere.
Let us shine a light and show that good people will unite and shine brighter than hate. We cannot devolve into fear and counter-hatred–remember that Muslims stand with us in love and sorrow, and that it was an extremist who committed this atrocity.
Be the light–be that kindness you want to see in others. Only love can overpower hate.

What can one voice say in the midst of tragedy? When one voice joins another, and another, and another…praying for love, praying for peace…we will be louder than the ugly shouts of hatred and violence.
We stand with Orlando. We stand with the LGBT community. We stand for love.

Happy National Best Friends Day

Happy National Best Friend Day! I’m glad to have an extra reason to celebrate these people who are so important in my life. ❤

Jelly-Side Up

I was so busy today, so just a quick post before bed–but today was National Best Friends Day, and I didn’t want the day to go by unacknowledged (you know how I am about holidays–and loved ones, at that!).

I’m blessed my very first best friend is still my best friend. 👯💕 That hasn’t changed since this picture was taken, even if our height difference has. 😉
I’m also blessed by this amazing group of people. I’ve counted most of them as best friends for 20 years; some more recent, but no less enduring. (Taken just a few weeks ago)

I’m beyond grateful for my besties; they’re a huge part of whom I’ve become. I love you all!

View original post

Novel Publicity Blog Tour: YA Fantasy “The Witches of Panay”

Good evening, readers! Life has been very busy, and I promise to update you soon! For now, I bring you a cool book spotlight of a fantasy novel I can’t wait to read. Continue on for the book trailer, background info about the author, and nine(!) giveaways!


Welcome to another exciting spotlight event with Novel Publicity–this time, with The Witches of Panay, by Fayr Willow! As usual, there is a great slate of bloggers on this tour sharing their thoughts on this book, as well as some unique and fun prizes in the rafflecopter contest!

The trailer:

As part of this special event, The Witches of Panay is on sale now for only 99c! Grab your copy on Amazon today!


About the Book

Magickal romance sizzled when teens Larissa and Jake, met again on Earth. Friends as children, they once lived on Panay, a planet of witches, good and bad. After the Dark Queen and her Empire Witches attacked Larissa’s village, she and her mother had no choice but to flee Panay and seek refuge on Earth. Then, at sixteen, Larissa found Jake in her region of Yorkshire, England. What began as a crush on this dashing boy led to something deeper. Their understanding of one another deepened and their thoughts, thought alike as they travelled through dangerous paths of Magickal Realms and through Earth’s Scandinavian section that is Norway. amazon.comLearn More about the Author, Fayr Willow 
Malika Gandhi is known as Fayr Willow, for The Witches of Panay series. She was born in India and brought up in the UK. She lives with her husband and her two boys in the East Midlands. Malika Gandhi is a part-time writer and has written three books that are based in India and the UK. The Witches of Panay is her first book for Young Adults and above. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/malika.gandhi Twitter: https://twitter.com/MalikaGandhi Website: www.malikagandhi.wordpress.com [/box] [box]

Rafflecopter Giveaways

An Interview with Anne Zoelle, Author of YA Fantasy “Ren Crown” Series: Novel Publicity Blog Tour

Today, I am featuring an interview with the author of yesterday’s excerpt of the YA fantasy Ren Crown series. I love reading and attending author interviews; I think they offer a deeper understanding of the art itself. It’s probably the English major in me that seeks context, but I find learning the inspirations for the author offer insight into social commentary–it’s always there, in some form or another! I also find it inspirational as a fellow author, and sometimes I find new ideas for places or things to try.

Enjoy the interview, and be sure to enter the raffle at the bottom of this post!

Rising Up with Ren Crown

An Interview with Anne Zoelle

We love doing author interviews during our tours at Novel Publicity, because they offer readers a glimpse inside the author’s head, and well, they’re just plain fun!

First, let’s get to know you a little better. Can you tell us your favorite color, favorite food, favorite place to travel, and favorite writing space?

On her favorite color

AZ: I could make this list 12 names deep (red, violet, fuchsia, green, black, sunflower, charcoal…), but thinking about the turquoise-aqua of the Caribbean Sea makes me instantly happy, so I’ll make that my pick.

On her favorite food

AZ: warm chocolate-chip cookies—they are delicious, homey, and warm the spirit.

A favorite place to travel?

AZ: Spain. Everything about the country and the people is wonderful.

What about a writing space?

AZ: I love to meet other writers around town (cafes!), but in my home I tend to “cubby” myself in so that I can’t see any of the chores I need to get done. So, spots that are well lit, but hemmed in, are my favorites. And each spot must have hot, black tea available. 🙂

What are some of your favorite reads, and how have they informed the type of fiction you write?

AZ: I grew up reading stories like A Wrinkle in Time and The Phantom Tollbooth that were full of adventure and wit and fun. I swallowed the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit books whole, and the denizens of Narnia were old friends. Friends introduced me to Anne Rice, Robert R McCammon, then Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, and I read the first four Harry Potter books and loved them. I waited impatiently for every book thereafter and just totally fell into the rabbit hole of magic adventure.

I love adventure stories and speculative fiction, but I also love mystery and romance. And though the Ren Crown series has very little active romance, the possibility of it is always lurking in the background. 🙂

Robert Jordan’s way of burying tidbits everywhere—ones that can’t be understood for large swaths of story or that hint at things far in the future—and Agatha Christie’s way of setting up clues where everyone has a motive and means, were both very influential in the way I like to structure fantasy stories. I like to build the Ren Crown books in such a way that new things can be discovered or “ah-ha!” moments connected on re-reads. Even if only one reader picks up on something, it is such a fun thing to structure out a small puzzle and bury it in a deeper world.

Do you have any tips or tricks for aspiring authors that you’ve found useful?

AZ: Figure out your best time(s) of day to write and guard them. There are times that you are more likely to be “on” or that you burst with ideas—do not let other things get scheduled during those times except in emergency or “rare” situations. Block off the time on your calendar, set boundaries with friends and family, turn off all but your emergency notifications (there are ways to set those on your phone), go somewhere like a cafe or library where no one can find you… Whatever it takes, use your best, creative hours for writing. I’ve found that I can get more done during 1 of my best hours than in 3 of any other chunk of time.

Sometimes we can’t work during our peak hours for some reason or another, though. Maybe those are the hours where you can’t get childcare, or where you are forced to be in another situation, or at another job. If that is your situation, carve out a different block of time when you can write and write in that same block of time every day. Get your brain practiced in setting up for those hours. They might not be your peak hours, but continual daily practice in using them will focus your mindset toward them.

That’s a really great tip, Anne! Any ideas on how to stay focused?

Another tip is that if you are having trouble focusing or getting distracted, remove all outside stimulation. Get a few of those folding display poster boards and set them around your computer. Wall yourself off from the world so that it’s just you and your document.

Love to write or write what you love. Sure, like any job, there are days that…are…just…endless. But writing things that interest, invigorate, and, occasionally, surprise you, is a gift you give yourself.

That’s great advice, now onto what excites you about releasing a new work. Is it getting that first print copy in the mail, the cover design, or something else entirely?

AZ: Seeing a book available for sale—on the bookshelves and online—is always a rush. I’ve released 14 books and it hasn’t gotten old yet. There is sort of a “fear rush” tangled in there, too—now that the book is out there and out of my control…will readers like it?

Now for a deeper dive. . . Do you find that some of the themes or settings in your writing are directly related to your likes and dislikes in real life? If so, could you tell us a bit about one you loved writing about?

Anne Zoelle: I continually return to themes of trust and loyalty.

AZ: Those qualities are always very important to my characters, in all the genres I’ve written. In standalone works, they tend to be main characteristics that the plot revolves around—the characters learning to trust each other—but everything is more lightly touched upon; a more thematic thread running throughout. In the Ren Crown series, I’ve had a chance to go deeper and to explore both sides of the equation—the beautiful nature and blooming of trust and loyalty, and the dark side of ignorance and enabling that can be realized as well. The main character, Ren, is very trustworthy and loyal, and exploring the positive and negative aspects of this in her, and in the people around her, has been very interesting to write.

Having a first person POV character who the reader can see has good intentions, but who is sometimes blinded in those intentions, and simultaneously trying to show how other people—especially people in executive and judicial positions—might be terrified of her, has also been a great challenge. It’s very interesting to explore how different people see a character—and how to carefully show that—writing from within a single POV.

When you sit down to write, what’s the first thing you do?

AZ: I set up my space. Routines are important for getting into the right headspace for me. Athletics in college was a great teacher for that. I have a particular order in which I set up my space—my tea cup goes a certain way, my headphones get pushed to a particular setting, my phone goes somewhere just outside of view, I always take a deep breath after I open my document. It seems a little ridiculous, but it works—when I finally scoot my chair to the table and turn on my music, 85% of the time, I’m ready to rock. The other 15% of the time requires a little more, but I have procedures for that too. 🙂

You’ve been an author for a while and written three books in the Ren Crown series. What was your initial inspiration for Ren’s character?

AZ: The initial spark of story started off as a romance, strangely enough, with the first written scene being about a quiet girl who likes books, animals, and art having a very outrageous meeting with the BMOC at school. When I went back to the origin story—getting that quiet girl to that point—the tale blew up into this massive thing that I’m still trying to wrangle into a five story arc. I could easily write twelve…

For all of the wrangling, and the hundreds (maybe thousands at this point?) of world and character documents, I don’t regret going back to the origin story. I love writing the five layer world and I love writing Ren. In my previous writing endeavors, I tried to do something new in the craft of each successive book. With this series, I get to explore new techniques every week.

The world of magic in Ren Crown is really intricate. Could you explain how timekeeping works in the series? Without giving too much away of course!

AZ: The timekeeping is based on a 24 hour astrological clock. The 12 signs repeat, but with an added descriptor of Rising or Falling (for all but Sagittarius) as the hands travel around the clock. A reader asked for clock details a few months ago, and I mocked up a quick illustration for her that I posted on my website (link). We discussed how there are a lot of different types of clocks even in our world, and she made her own version, which I love!

Of all the characters in the Ren Crown series – could you highlight one that was easy and fun to write and why?

AZ: I could write scenes with Constantine all day. Raphael, too. They are both at turns antagonists and fierce allies to Ren, which is a combination that is very dynamic and fascinating to explore. There is always something new to discover with each of them and they never quite say what they mean. Makes for a fun writing experience. Bellacia is in that category as well, for very similar reasons.

What about a character that was more difficult or reared their ugly head at the worst time.

AZ: I’ve had people say they wish there were more scenes with Will after the first book. My problem is that he is always on Ren’s wavelength and is a pretty darn good guy, so there has been little conflict to explore so far in Ren’s POV. Outside of Ren’s POV and the major plotlines, sure. But these books would be 2,000 pages long if I did that (tempting!). Writing interesting scenes can be hard when you have two characters who always agree. I love Will, but he’s just too darn supportive. I use him a lot for when I want to add worldbuilding. Ren and Will can talk forever—it’s just that the stuff on the page is supposed to support the plot not just be there for the author to have a good time playing “what if” (*whistles innocently*).

Another character that can be trouble is Alexander Dare, one of the main characters, who is always a step ahead of everyone else, and also very self-controlled. He has a lot of power, and it’s hard to keep him from being over-powered at times. Trying not to give away too much concerning his motives, but still have him be a driving force, can be agonizing to plot.

Of course, just writing that makes me want to open my laptop and start typing, so maybe not…

Final question! The first three books in the series are out –do you have more plans for Ren Crown, or will you be moving onto other projects?

AZ: I am finishing up the fourth book in the series, then I’ll have one more book to write to finish the main arc started in The Awakening of Ren Crown. After that, I have a slew of other novellas and novels that I’d like to do inside of the world, some with Ren and her friends, and some outside of them. I have three ideas sketched out and woven into the main plot of the books already (which will probably be pretty obvious to some readers, especially in retrospect), I just need to carve some time to write them. Quick, someone give me a portal to a dimension where time stops for everything but writing. 🙂

Thanks so much for being with us today Anne, if our readers have questions, please comment below!

Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway from author Anne Zoelle

About the Books

The-Awakening-of-Ren-Crown-185-x-295A world that exists right on top of ours–in every nook and cranny…a world that modifies the memories of anyone not yet awakened to magic…a world at war…

Devastated by the loss of her twin–and consumed by the realization that magic actually exists–art student Ren Crown illegally enrolls in a fantastical university determined to bring her brother back to life. But caught in a time of war, and as a mage with abilities that both sides want to harness and use, Ren finds herself an unwitting pawn in a larger game.

Needing to hide from those who wish to enslave her, Ren gambles everything on her determination to succeed, putting herself in plain sight of those who could capture her. Constantly needing to figure out who to trust–a cold, powerful roommate, a genius magical engineer, the most powerful combat mage of their age, a mysterious muse, a cunning and brilliant tactician, a charming terrorist, an influential politician, or the voice of her brother…the hardest thing may be trusting her own heart.



Barely surviving her first term at college, all Ren wants to do over break is relax and bond with her roommate—not get eaten by a sentient building or attacked on the street. But with increasingly open warfare brewing between the magical factions and Layers of the world, this time, Ren will not fail in making sure everyone she loves stays safe and protected.

That includes doing things like filling her parents’ house with personal art heavily embedded with wards, bubble-wrapping her increasingly imperiled roommate, and even making sure that a certain sexy thorn-in-her-side continues to breathe free air.

Finding herself on duty protecting the entire university alongside campus god Alexander Dare…was not what she’d had in mind.

But this time it’s not only her life on the line. And Ren will do anything to protect those she loves.



Reeling from what the students at Excelsine University are calling “Bloody Tuesday,” Ren is determined to regather her magical family. But the events of the attack were not without multiple costs. Magically broken and exposed, Ren is ripe pickings for multiple factions that want to use and chain her, and the Department is the scariest of the pack.

With only a limited amount of time to save her friend, and confined with the rest of the student body awaiting their fate, Ren stands a mere hairsbreadth from losing her freedom completely with each and every decision she makes.





Learn More about the Author, Anne Zoelle 

Anne Zoelle has loved books about fantasy, magic, math, wit, and imagination since devouring A Wrinkle in Time, Phantom Tollbooth, Alice in Wonderland, and the Chronicles of Narnia as a child. Split between the midwest and west coast, she writes books for all ages, as well as for furry monsters, sentient libraries, and adventuring aliens.

Anne Zoelle is the pseudonym of a USA Today Bestselling Author. She is currently working on the fourth book in the Ren Crown series.

Connect with Anne on her website, Facebook, or Twitter.