A Literary Scavenger Hunt: Win a Prize, Discover a Book

Hello, dear readers! I’m happy to kick off a rather fun book event going on this week: a scavenger hunt! In fact, it’s in celebration of the very first Novel Publicity blog tour I was a part of, for author David Litwack (read my review of his There Comes a Prophet here; you can see that whole week of events here).

This scavenger hunt is full of prizes, and you can find the very first clue right here in this blog post. Read below for the instructions on how to play. Good luck! Join me tomorrow for a book review on Jeremy Lee’s sci-fi adventure New Frontier.

Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to the first stop on the scavenger hunt! The answer to the first question is:

The moon landing

You can find the other answers in the following days on the “sponsoring blogs” list below.

Remember we have a lot of fun things planned all week so follow along and make sure you check in over on David’s Facebook page. The blogs listed at the end of this post all have a clue posted which will give you the answer to the rest of the entries in David’s giveaway. Check them all out, spread the word and pick up a copy of one of his tremendous titles: Along the Watchtower and There Comes A Prophet.

Play the scavenger hunt and win other prizes here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

About David Litwack:

David Front PageThe urge to write first struck at age sixteen when working on a newsletter at a youth encampment in the woods of northern Maine. It may have been the wild night when lightning flashed at sunset followed by the 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.

There Comes a Prophet is his first novel in this new stage of life. His second book, Along the Watchtower, was released in June 2013. And The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky, sequel to There Comes a Prophet, is nearing completion.

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 with every keystroke for the invention of the word processor.

About the Books:

Watchtower Front PageAlong the WatchtowerA 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 an 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 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 shuttered heart may be his only way out of Hell. Prophet Front PageThere Comes a ProphetBut what are we without dreams?A thousand years ago the Darkness came—a terrible time of violence, fear, and social collapse when technology ran rampant. But the vicars of the Temple of Light brought peace, ushering in an era of blessed simplicity. For ten centuries they have kept the madness at bay with “temple magic” and by eliminating forever the rush of progress that nearly caused the destruction of everything.A restless dreamer, Nathaniel has always lived in the tiny village of Little Pond, longing for something more but unwilling to challenge the unbending status quo. When his friend Thomas returns from the Temple after his “teaching”—the secret coming-of-age ritual that binds young men and women eternally to the Light—Nathaniel can barely recognize the broken and brooding young man the boy has become. And when the beautiful Orah is summoned as well, Nathaniel knows he must somehow save her. But in the prisons of Temple City he discovers a terrible secret that launches the three of them on a journey to find the forbidden keep, placing their lives in dire jeopardy. For a truth from the past awaits them there that threatens the foundation of the Temple. But if they reveal that truth the words of the book of light might come to pass:“If there comes among you a prophet saying ‘Let us return to the darkness,’ you shall stone him, because he has sought to thrust you away from the light.”

Sponsoring Blogs:

Jelly Side Up
The Indigo Quill
Library at the End of the Universe
Amy’s Booketlist
The Cheshire Cat’s Looking Glass
Beck Valley Books
Jacque’s Book Nook
Queen of All She Reads
Shelf Full of Books
My Devotional Thoughts
Vicky at Deal Sharing Aunt
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Celebrating My Sister: Why She is My Hero + Her Birthday

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 thoughtfulness of her gifts this year, both from family and friends. Can you tell she likes pink? And yes, you can see I am not the only one in the family to have a fancy for most things British.

Keeping with the princess and British theme, I couldn’t resist this royal candle set for Jennifer’s cake. I was initially worried, but ultimately impressed; the flames created a majestic glow, more royal celebration than horrific London Fire. One can never be sure when melting wax shapes, but Hobby Lobby came through, as usual.

A cake worthy of a princess

A cake worthy of a princess

Besides a duo of no-chip manicure vouchers (another of our girly obsessions), a gift not pictured here from me was an essay I wrote about Jennifer. Last week, I participated in David Litwack‘s whirlwind blog tour for Novel Publicity. (Check out the recent posts/archives if you missed the review, interview, etc.). Litwack’s culminating event was asking people to share their stories about everyday heroes. I immediately thought of my sister, who was crucial in my recovery from my traumatic brain injury. This is the story of a teenager who became a woman in a matter of days, sacrificing everything to save someone she loved more than life itself. Because of her efforts, I’m able to write this and everything else I want, hopefully helping other people someday, if I haven’t already. We’re able to pursue our dreams together, and we’re closer than ever. So in honor of Jennifer’s birthday, National Girlfriends Day, and my hero, I’d like to share this piece with you.

Why My Sister is My Hero
By: Amanda K. Fowler

When I was 19, I almost died in a car accident that left me with a traumatic brain injury. But this story isn’t about me: it’s about my sister, who saved me in more ways than she’ll ever know.

Even though the brain surgeon did a great job, he was honest when he told my family I had a less than 5 percent chance at survival. My family was devastated, but they pulled together and gave me all their love and strength.

My younger sister, Jennifer, and I have been best friends since the day she was born—practically identical twins, finishing each other’s sentences, dressing and looking the same without meaning to. We shared everything, but I was slipping away from this world. The only thing I responded to in my coma before surgery was her singing to me: I squeezed her hand.

To this day, I can’t imagine what it was like for her, at 17 years old, to almost lose the person who’d shared every moment of her life, one of the people she loved most in the world. It would have been easy to take a back seat, to leave responsibility for my needs to the doctors and nurses, to focus on school and other things normal seventeen-year-olds care about. But that’s not what heroes do, is it?

Instead, she spent every moment outside of school at the hospital, barely sleeping. She rushed to my side when she got the call I was out of the coma, translating my rapid half–made-up sign language from our childhood to everyone else. She was my only line of communication with the world until I could begin speaking again, weeks later. And because I couldn’t move or see, she did everything for me, including climbing into the hospital bed to tweeze my eyebrows when I was feeling unkempt.

She ate dinner out of a Ziploc bag on the floor in the kitchen by herself after visiting hours ended, on nights when my parents stayed overnight with me. When it came to my food, she asked the nurses to teach her how to use the feeding tube so she could reconnect it when I needed it, as well as how to feed me ice chips when I was allowed. She wore neon shirts to the hospital to try to help me remember things day-to-day. She flapped her hand like a butterfly around me to help my eyes focus again.

But she didn’t stop helping me after I got done with the hospital. It was miraculous how much I had recovered—I could walk a little, eat on my own, speak—but there was so much more that I needed, things a hospital couldn’t fix. Things only a sister could do.

She told me I was beautiful when half of my head was shaved, my eyes were crossed, and my body was emaciated. She proved it to me when she styled my hair, picked out my clothes, gave me her cool sunglasses, and took pictures of me the way she saw me. She put a napkin in her own glasses so I wouldn’t feel alone when people stared at my eye patch, right after she yelled at them for being insensitive. She taught me to laugh when I got food in her hair, when I said something the wrong way; she taught me not to be ashamed, only proud of how hard I was trying and how truly lovable I was.

Jennifer went with me to college; it was her first year and my restart of my second. She kept helping me and encouraging me to blossom. And blossom we both did.

Now, seven years later, I’m pretty much fully recovered, and I’m following my dreams as a writer. We both graduated, and I now have my M.A. in Writing & Publishing, too. But most importantly, I still have my sister, my best friend. We are back to finishing each other’s sentences and being equally helpful to each other (or so I like to think). I couldn’t have recovered without her. My sister wasn’t a normal seventeen-year-old when I had my traumatic brain injury; she was my hero, and she always will be.

I love you, Jennifer. ❤

Jennifer and me at a Japanese restaurant, at a belated celebration of my 20th birthday just after coming home from the hospital.

Jennifer and me at a Japanese restaurant, at a belated celebration of my 20th birthday just after coming home from the hospital.

David Litwack Novel Publicity Blog Tour Day 5–”There Comes a Prophet” Review

Hello readers! Today marks the end of the week, which also means it’s the end of the Novel Publicity whirlwind blog tour for David Litwack. But that means the beginning of other good things tomorrow–the weekend, of course, which is always good–but this Monday will be better than most, because the prizes for this tour will be awarded. Make sure to enter–it’s super easy; you can click on the widget on the bottom right-hand corner of my blog for directions. Even commenting here counts as an entry! Prizes include $50, $100, or a Kindle Fire! I am crossing all my fingers and toes for the latter prize, at least, while I’m not typing. 😉

Yesterday, I posted a few excerpts of There Comes a Prophet. Today, I will be sharing my review of the book.

This will be my most in-depth review to date, so let me explain my reviewing style. As a reader, I HATE spoilers. When my sister accidentally spoiled something in City of Bones to me, I stomped around the house, shouting “NO,” trying to erase the spoiled plot point from my mind. Alas, it was of no use. Part of the beauty of reading is in the discovery, I think, so I am very careful not to give away secrets of the text when I review.

As a writer and an editor, I put a lot of value on the language itself used to tell a tale. A 10/10 review for me will be one with an amazing plot, characters I love, and enchanting writing. I can’t get lost in a book without falling under the spell of its words–and the spell will be ineffectual without a great plot to fall into.

With that said, please enjoy my review.

There Comes a Prophet is David Litwack’s debut novel, a dark dystopia set in a harsh alternate world, starring three brave teenagers.

Review: David Litwack’s There Comes a Prophet

Let me begin by saying I was quite impressed with this book as a debut novel. The style is what I would call a young-adult high fantasy dystopia, a world similar to what ours might have been in the Renaissance with a little magic thrown in. I think, like most young-adult books, that this book would appeal to a wide range of people aged 13 and up.

The world: I thought the world was a clever set-up. It was easy to understand, but not cliche. The scenery was descriptive and realistic; I could picture myself there. The totalitarian society was more shades of Brave New World than Fahrenheit 451–it was that the ruling force (here, the Temple) wanted to control society and development, not that citizens themselves wanted vapid lives. That being said, I thought the world was creative and stood on its own, without requiring prior reading of dystopian books. As a reader, I felt real fear of the Temple, especially because I loved–

The characters: Hands-down, the best aspect of the book. Everyone was unique from each other. The three main characters were lovable and noble, but they still made mistakes, which made them realistic and gave them room to grow. I really cared about them, and they stayed with me after I finished the book. I also appreciated how the secondary characters had their own identities and were memorable in and of themselves.

The plot was also unique, and it felt neither gimmicky nor contrived. I was impressed with the pacing, too, something I think even veteran writers struggle with. Like I said, I don’t want to give away plot, but I was happy to discover early on that the book matched my preferred style of dystopia: passionate characters who set out to change the world. I think I love that so much because it’s like real life, in a way. Nothing is perfect, and we are all faced with choices, every day, if we want to maintain the status quo or make a difference. The latter is what I strive for, in my life and in my books.

The language was really the only part were I felt the book fell short. Again, for a first book, I was still impressed. There were no glaring errors that felt sloppy or rushed. However, I did see room for improvement in the author’s subsequent work. I felt a little distant from the characters; although I loved them, I felt like I was being told what they thought by an intermediary, rather than having direct insight into their thoughts. It was a little too much “hand-holding,” as one of my favorite writing teachers, Hannah Pittard, told me in my early grad school career–and she was right. It’s important to leave a little interpretation for readers without characters doing all of it for them. The language was a little stilted, and I wanted to paint over the text with a glossy brush to make it a little more polished. The characters and plot had heart, but I wanted to be pulled in a bit more. As a veteran of writing workshops, my suggestion to Litwack would be to try writing a scene from first-person point-of-view for some of these characters, even as a practice exercise to convert into third-person later on. I think you might learn a little intimacy from them, and they might reveal things to you that would be hard to see from the outside-looking-in. Of all the aspects of writing, though, I feel this is the easiest to improve on, so Litwack is in a good position as an author.

Review: 7/10. Well-done! I look forward to reading other works by this author.

Continue reading

David Litwack Novel Publicity Blog Tour Day 4–”There Comes a Prophet” Excerpt

Good evening, readers! Today marks day four of David Litwack’s whirlwind blog tour for Novel Publicity. Much of my day was spent with this little cutie-pie, while we read Litwack’s first novel, There Comes a Prophet together. It’s easy to lose track of time with an adorable cuddle buddy like Oreo, especially when paired with a good book.

Oreo makes a fabulous reading companion and doubles as a hand-warmer. ❤

The book is really interesting, and I am finishing it up in order to write a review for it, which I will post tomorrow, the last day of the blog tour.

There Comes a Prophet is David Litwack’s debut novel, a dark dystopia set in a harsh alternate world, starring three brave teenagers.

Today, I will be posting a few excerpts from this book. They all represent different important aspects of this world. The second excerpt is my personal favorite; I found it really dark and creepy. I think the author did a good job of writing a torture scene in a somber, concrete way, without being gruesome. I sympathized so much for the character, and yet, with that guilty bystander effect inherent to readers, I kept rereading that part to absorb the scene–fascinated and horrified at the same time.

I hope you enjoy these excerpts. Visit my blog tomorrow for my review of the book. 🙂

Excerpt from There Comes a Prophet

Please enjoy this series of excerpts from the deep, dark dystopia, There Comes a Prophet, by David Litwack. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

1: The Longing

“Is this what you want me to do, Orah, run like a coward?”

“Not to run, but to be careful, especially with the vicar so near.”

“Only one in three are taken.”

“It’s not worth the risk, Nathaniel. Or have you forgotten the look of those who have been taught? The far off stare, the dreams seemingly ripped away.”

Dreams ripped away. What good were dreams if they stayed unfulfilled? Since coming of age the month before, Nathaniel had brooded on one thought — life was passing him by.

2: The Teaching

Thomas stared out, trying to see to the opposite wall. It had to be close, because he could feel his boots pressing against it. But try as he would, he couldn’t penetrate the darkness. There was no glimmer to help, only the darkest dark he’d ever known. No moon, no stars, no hint of light. A dark to haunt one’s dreams.

Sometimes, he’d startle to the grating of the ceiling cover being removed. Light would pour into the room, flooding him with exhilaration…He’d stand, stretch his stiff limbs and look into the plump faces of the vicars surrounding him, seniors all with their decorated hats. They, in turn, would look down on him sympathetically before beginning a litany of the horrors of the darkness…

3: The Secret 

Nathaniel had forgotten his dilemma. The idea of the keep had awakened something in him he thought he’d lost forever.

“But who’ll solve the puzzle?”

“The founders of the keep believed a new generation would arise that would seek the truth at all costs, even at the risk of their lives. Some few from that generation would take the lead. These would be called seekers, and their task would be to solve the puzzle and rediscover the keep.”

“But what’s in the keep?”

“The chain started so long ago, Nathaniel. Even the keepers don’t know any more. The keep may not even exist.”

“Ancient magic?”

“More. Something the Temple fears. Something that might change the world.”

Nathaniel’s hands were shaking. I’d be a seeker if I could.

Watchtower Tour BadgeAs part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, both Along the Watchtower and There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack are on sale this week. What’s more, by purchasing either or both of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes.

The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Pick up Along the Watchtower at its discounted price of $2.99 on Amazon
  2. Get There Comes a Prophet at its discounted price of 99 cents
  3. Enter the Rafflecopter contest below
  4. Visit the featured social media events
  5. Leave a comment on my blog for a chance at a $100 prize.

Along the Watchtower tells of a tragic warrior lost in two worlds; a woman who may be his only way back from Hell. Get it on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or iTunes.

There Comes a Prophet A thousand years ago the Darkness came—a time of violence and social collapse. Nathaniel has grown up in their world of limits, longing for something more. For what are we without dreams? Get it on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or iTunes.

David Litwack, the once and future writer, explores the blurry line between reality and the fantastic. Visit David on his websiteTwitterFacebook, or GoodReads.

Royal Baby: Named! + David Litwack Novel Publicity Blog Tour Day 3–”Along the Watchtower” Excerpt

“What’s in a name?” Juliet famously asks Romeo. Well, if you’re a household in fair Verona, I can’t tell you. But if you’re the newest prince of England, the answer is a lot. According to The Globe and Mail, speculation over the new prince’s name was so hotly debated that bookies accepted tens of thousands of pounds in bets. Luckily, today’s announcement was anything but star-crossed–unless your bet was wrong, that is.

Prince George Alexander Louis. (Photo from USA Today; click image for full article and video.)

The name didn’t come as a total shock for most people (except the one who bet they would copy the newest Kardashian baby with “North”…really?). In fact, all of the names have great historical significance, although they did break the tradition of the previous two generations by streamlining the name from four to three.

Shocked or not, people around the world have not been quiet about their opinions. Traffic peaked on Monday, but it’s still going strong. MailOnline reported on Monday (the day of the royal birth) that it was one of the busiest days ever for social media, with #RoyalBaby as the top trend in the UK and one of the top in the world. With bandwidth well-spent, a massive 487 million Twitter users took part in the discussion internationally, with the UK only comprising 41% of that number.

Will the world’s fascination decrescendo, now that we have a name for the prince? Time will tell, but something tells me I don’t think so, at least not all the way. As I mentioned in my blog post about the royal birth and the media’s response, Kate & Will have millions of avid fans all over the world–and why not? They’re great role models and kind people. I would think an addition to their family will receive equal attention. Although this would disappoint some exasperated Tweeters, I think perhaps their requests to “Stop talking about the #RoyalBaby” are futile, in that they are actually perpetuating the trending hashtag. 😉 Regardless, I predict an exponential increase in “George” as a baby name. Perhaps the royal baby will now be the first “George” who comes to mind, as opposed to these pop culture paradigms:

So why were so many people not surprised about the names? Call it ESP or historical trends, but the three names have been popular throughout the family’s history. Although–or perhaps, because–Kate & Will are famously discreet about such things, many sites have postulated sources for the names. The most common hypothesis, which is indeed my favorite, is that “George” came both from being the patron saint of England and also the current Queen Elizabeth II’s father, George VI, whom you may recall from that brilliant movie, The King’s Speech. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It is an evocative, inspiring film that gives great insight into this monarch’s life and the British monarchy in general. It shows the painful struggle of a disability hindering a person’s very ability to communicate in public, hiding the wit and intelligence the country demands. More importantly, it shows how perseverance and loving support can overcome such a disability, and how the courage to do what is right is what makes history.

Speaking of disability and courage, let’s talk some more about David Litwack’s Along the Watchtower for day three of his whirlwind blog tour. For the first two days, I posted an interview with and a guest post by the author. Tonight, I will share an excerpt from this book as well as the book’s trailer.

As I mentioned last night, I haven’t gotten a chance to read this book yet, but the trailer, interview, and guest post got me interested. After reading the excerpt, I’m really intrigued. So far, I only see two links between the two narrations–the name, and a kind woman. I have a feeling those links will be very important throughout the novel. From reading the guest post, I know that the main character is actually the same person in both worlds, but it’s interesting to see how even the narration style is different. I guess if you’re going to escape into a fantasy world, you might as well escape all the way, even with vocabulary. I think it’s pretty unique. Is this something you’ve seen before, as a reader? Is it something you’ve tried before, as a writer? Let me know what you think in the comments, and as with the rest of this week, scroll to the bottom to see how to win prizes!

 Excerpt from Along the Watchtower

Please enjoy this gripping excerpt from Along the Watchtower by David Litwack. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

Becky 

On the ground floor, the center of the hospital opened into a small courtyard, an insecure space with too many places for insurgents to hide. I took a quick breath and tensed.

“Wait up, Ralph.”

“It’s okay, Freddie. You’re safe here.”

“Give me a minute. It’s my first time out.”

I surveyed the perimeter. A few benches. A flower garden dominated by hydrangeas, but not like the softball-sized blossoms my mom used to grow. These were small and paler than the Cape Cod variety, which were a blue that could compete with the sky.

At once, I could see my mom, hands buried in the hydrangeas, grooming her flowers—one of the few memories I could bear to recall. Me and my brothers in the driveway shooting hoops. Mom telling us to keep the ball out of her garden. She was happy then, surrounded by her family, her garden, and the ocean.

I looked past the hydrangeas to find purple asters and some lilies too. But no roses. For some reason, I’d been hoping for roses.

Despite the nice day, the courtyard was deserted, except for a woman about my age who sat on a wooden bench, finishing up a brown-bag lunch. Her eyes were closed and her head tipped back to take in the sun, making her appear to be dreaming. Sitting alone on the bench, her face seemed framed by flowers.

When she heard us coming, she sat up, straightened her scrubs, and smiled.

“Hey, Ralph. What do you have there? Another victim for me?”

“Becky,” Ralph said. “What’s up? This is Freddie, Lt. Williams, our newest patient. We’re trying to bring him back from the dead. Freddie, meet Becky Marshall, one of our physical therapists.”

I nodded a greeting to her, not much in the mood for small talk. She tilted her head to one side as if evaluating me. Then she gave me the kind of look that said we’d met before, if not in this world than in another, and that she intended to make a difference in my life.

“Is he ready for me?”

“Soon. If he’s assigned to you.”

My attention was drawn to a soda can on the bench next to her. I’d seen too many IEDs in soda cans.

She caught me fixating on it and grinned.

“Just my diet Pepsi, Freddie. See?”

She chugged what was left and tossed the can into a nearby trash basket. Then she crumpled the bag into a ball and to show off, stepped off exactly five paces and shot the bag into the basket in a perfect arc.

“Nice shot,” I said.

“I make that shot every time.”

“Yeah, right.”

She came close enough that our knees were almost touching and hovered over me, sizing me up.

“You’ll be mine,” she said finally. “I can tell. I get all the hard cases.”

As she walked away, light on her feet like a dancer, I fumbled for the wheel of the chair, trying to spin it around so I could watch her go. But Ralph had set the brake.

The Gardener

The white butterfly fluttered before her face. When she saw it, she reached out a hand and at once it landed on the curve of her wrist.

“Now there’s a fine omen for you,” she said. “Light knows we need one these days.” She whispered some words and the butterfly flew off across the courtyard and out over the castle wall.

A fine omen? Perhaps. But I’d learned to be wary. I stepped forward, scuffling my boots to make noise. She ignored my presence. Not until I was a pace away did she turn.

It was hard to say if she was beautiful or even pretty. Soil from the garden had splattered her cheeks and marked her forehead with a splotch that looked like a raven. A muddied apron hid her shape. But I took note of a glint in her gray-green eyes, as if the flowers had conspired to lend their color. And her mouth was a crescent moon upturned on its side.

The corners of the crescent twitched when she saw me but only for an instant. Then she went back to her work as if I were invisible. Her hands cradled each bloom as she sliced off the heads with a small knife.

“Are you spirit or demon?” I demanded.

She made no answer.

I drew my sword, relieved it slipped so easily from its scabbard, and stretched it in her direction. She watched the point from the corner of her eye but kept her head down and continued to work. Finally, I nudged her with the tip.

She let out a yelp. Only then did I realize I’d thrust too hard, and the blade had slit her garment. I backed off at once, ready to apologize, but then recalled my encounter with the assassin. I poked again, more gently this time.

“Why do you keep doing that?” she said.

“To see if you’re real.”

She stood and faced me, feet set wide and planted squarely on the ground.

“Why shouldn’t I be real?”

She was tall for a girl, her head rising above my chin, and had a bearing unlike a servant. When I continued to challenge her, she reached out and eased the point of my sword to one side.

“Would you put that silly thing away?”

I began to back off, then remembered the circumstance and held firm. “Why didn’t you say anything when I first approached you?”

“Because we servants aren’t supposed to talk to you royals.” She lowered her gaze and turned back to the flowers. “I’m sorry . . . Milord.”

“What’s your name?”

“Rebecca.”

“Rebecca. My name is Frederick.”

She paled and then bent in a deep curtsy, her brashness collapsing into two whispered words. “The dauphin.”  . . .

I wandered in a circle, hands folded behind my back, and inspected the flowers, unsure of what else to say. Then a thought occurred to me.

“Do you have roses in this garden?”

“No roses, Milord. I have asters and hydrangeas. Some fall crocus. And climbing the wall to the watchtower, sweet autumn clematis. A bit of monkshood underneath and tulips in the spring. But no roses.”

I must have looked disappointed. She came closer and reached out, but not enough to touch me.

“It must be lonely, Milord, a terrible burden. Every morning as I walk from my village to the gardens, I see the darkening clouds and wonder where my strength will come from. Then I remember. The dauphin will protect us. Save Him Oh Goddess, I pray. If only I could do something to help.”

I mumbled a thank you and turned to go, but stopped when I saw her examining her damaged apron.

“Are you here every day?”

“No, Milord, I have other gardens as well.”

“Come tomorrow, and I’ll bring you a new apron to replace the one I tore.”

She curtsied more deeply this time.

“I’d be so grateful, Milord, but I have nothing to give in return.”

“No need.”

“Ah, wait.” She took her small knife and clipped off a bulging blossom at the stem and handed it to me. “Now place it in water the first chance you get.”

I accepted the gift and admired her through its petals.

“Thank you,” I said. “Tomorrow at noon.”

As I walked away, I glanced over my shoulder to get one last look at the gardener. She was back at her work, resuming her song and snipping away, so light of hand and foot. As she blew away a curl that had drifted across her face, the summer dress rustled against her skin. I inhaled the scent of the flower and thought I caught the sun peeking through the clouds over Golgoreth.

And for the first time since my father died, goddesses seemed possible.

Watchtower Tour BadgeAs part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, both Along the Watchtower and There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack are on sale this week. What’s more, by purchasing either or both of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes.

The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Pick up Along the Watchtower at its discounted price of $2.99 on Amazon
  2. Get There Comes a Prophet at its discounted price of 99 cents
  3. Enter the Rafflecopter contest below
  4. Visit the featured social media events
  5. Leave a comment on my blog for a chance at a $100 prize.

Along the Watchtower tells of a tragic warrior lost in two worlds; a woman who may be his only way back from Hell. Get it on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or iTunes.

There Comes a Prophet A thousand years ago the Darkness came—a time of violence and social collapse. Nathaniel has grown up in their world of limits, longing for something more. For what are we without dreams? Get it on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or iTunes.

David Litwack, the once and future writer, explores the blurry line between reality and the fantastic. Visit David on his websiteTwitterFacebook, or GoodReads.

Royal Baby Update + David Litwack Novel Publicity Blog Tour Day 2–Author Guest Post

Hello all! My blog has gotten a big increase in traffic lately, and I couldn’t be happier; thanks for reading! To all my new followers, welcome! To all my old, welcome back. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s two posts–one on the royal birth, and the other as the first of David Litwack’s blog tour posts. Here is a mini-update on the happy royal family:

Kate and Will leave the hospital today with the as-yet-unnamed newborn prince. Doesn’t Kate look gorgeous, especially considering she just gave birth yesterday? Love how happy the couple looks. ❤ People are saying the baby looks like he is already giving a royal wave in this picture. 😉 (Photo from ABC News; click image for full story and video.)

I’ve heard some people grousing about the over-saturation of this event being on the news, but I’m not one of them. 😉 I think it’s high time we focus on more positive stories in the news. I also love Kate, Will, and Kate + Will, so I’m very happy to hear lots about the third member of their little family. 🙂

It’s Day Two of David Litwack’s whirlwind blog tour, and there’s been a lot of good conversation about him and his work. In fact, he had an interview on Twitter (a “Twitterview”) today with Novel Publicity, and at the end, he answered questions by fans. Click here for the whole transcript, including lots of writing tips and insight on Litwack’s work.

Today, let’s get to know the author a little better. I’m going to share a guest post by David Litwack, himself. I’ve actually read this post a few times, and it moves me with each read. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know how important disability awareness is to me. For my new followers, in a nutshell, I sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury in 2005. I am lucky and blessed to have survived, recovered, and flourished so well. But, sadly, not everyone does, and Litwack explores the psychology of it in his book, Along the Watchtower.

Along the Watchtower, Litwack’s latest novel about a war veteran suffering from PTSD, escaping reality with World of Warcraft, and making sense of it all

I actually haven’t gotten a chance to read this book, myself, yet; I’ve been focused on his other, There Comes a Prophet, which I’ll be reviewing on Friday. After reading the interview, this guest post, and an excerpt (which I’ll be posting tomorrow!), I can’t wait to start.

I admire how important this topic is to Litwack, as well as the depth of research he did. He saw an international problem that is largely ignored, and he addressed it through fiction. I think it’s something all writers strive to do, and I’m in awe of this combination. In the story, Litwack’s main character is having a tough time facing reality and unwittingly starts to recognize the world of World of Warcraft, Azeroth, as his own. I think it’s a common and natural tendency for anyone who’s been through trauma to try to find an escape, albeit temporary. It’s actually pretty natural for anyone, isn’t it–isn’t that what we do every time we watch a television show, play a video game, or read a book?

Another reason this material hits home for me is because I realize, from personal experience, how blurry that line can be between reality and dreams/nightmares. When I first woke up from my coma, I kept thinking I was in a dream. It finally sunk in when my mom said something after a few weeks; it’s something none of us can remember because it was so trivial and small, but it was in its commonness that I recognized reality. It’s not always the big things that make us feel alive, it’s the small, too, which anchor us to this everyday world. It’s a strange feeling to explain, and I look forward to reading how Litwack has illustrated it.

As to the video game,  I haven’t played it, personally, beyond commandeering Jeremiah’s game he sometimes leaves unattended, and flying his character (via dragon, of course) as high as possible, into the most obscure location I can find. Sometimes, his character will take unfortunately long swims. For some reason, he hasn’t been leaving his computer unattended anymore, and I can’t imagine why. 😉 But I do think the world is complex and fascinating, and I’m interested to see how Litwack translates it into literature.

Without further ado, please enjoy what I think is a very honest and important guest post by David Litwack.

Guest Post by David Litwack

Please enjoy this guest post by David Litwack, author of the gripping contemporary novel, Along the Watchtower, and the deep, dark dystopia, There Comes a Prophet. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

Gaming and war would seem to be as far apart from each other as you can get. But while you’re in the midst of them, they share one thing in common—a sense of being in an alternate reality.

I’ve always been fascinated by how much of what we consider to be reality is subjective, how each of us bring our own experiences and biases into play. But when we’re ripped from our normal lives and placed in extreme circumstances, our reality becomes totally 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, how for a short period of time, I could totally buy in to the alternate reality.

The fantasy gaming experience has a dream-like quality to it, which led me 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.

I began to research the effects of war on returning veterans. I learned that 30% are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress. That means after six months they’re still dealing with flashbacks, disturbing dreams, depression and difficulty re-assimilating into their former lives. And that doesn’t account for the many others who are seemingly able to adjust but continue to deal with inner turmoil. The war experience changes all forever. Many have suicidal thoughts (the suicide rate among veterans is triple that of the general population. More soldiers have died by their own hand than in the war itself). Many struggle with dark thoughts and have difficulty forming relationships, unable to “turn off” the normal flight or fight syndrome, leaving them suspicious in crowds and always on alert.

And then, there are the physical injuries. One of the ironic successes of these recent wars is the advance in battlefield medicine. The result is that far fewer die of wounds than in prior wars. The ratio of wounded to dead in WWII was 1.1/1, in Vietnam 1.7/1. In Iraq, it’s 7/1. More are saved, but more come home with debilitating, lifelong injuries. And 68% of the wounded have some form or brain trauma, penetrating injuries from shrapnel or non-penetrating concussions from the blasts of IEDs.

To learn more about brain injuries, I read In an Instant, the story of Bob Woodruff. The brilliant Woodruff had just been named co-anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight. Then, while embedded with the military in Iraq, an improvised explosive device went off near the tank he was riding in. Bob suffered a traumatic brain injury that nearly killed him. The book describes his recovery and recounts how fragile the human brain can be. At one point, the erudite Woodruff could rattle off the names of all prior U.S. presidents but couldn’t remember the names of his own children.

And I read about post traumatic stress. One of the best books is Achilles in Vietnam. Written by Jonathan Shay, a Vietnam War era PTSD counselor, it compares his clinical notes from patients to the text from Homer’s Odyssey, showing how we as human beings have dealt with war trauma across the millennia. He shows how war disrupts our moral compass, leaving re-entry into normal life as a brutal and agonizing experience.

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.

Watchtower Tour BadgeAs part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, both Along the Watchtower and There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack are on sale this week. What’s more, by purchasing either or both of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes.

The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes isRIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Pick up Along the Watchtower at its discounted price of $2.99 on Amazon
  2. Get There Comes a Prophet at its discounted price of 99 cents
  3. Enter the Rafflecopter contest below
  4. Visit the featured social media events
  5. Leave a comment on my blog for a chance at a $100 prize.

Along the Watchtower tells of a tragic warrior lost in two worlds; a woman who may be his only way back from Hell. Get it on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or iTunes.

There Comes a Prophet A thousand years ago the Darkness came—a time of violence and social collapse. Nathaniel has grown up in their world of limits, longing for something more. For what are we without dreams? Get it on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or iTunes.

David Litwack, the once and future writer, explores the blurry line between reality and the fantastic. Visit David on his websiteTwitterFacebook, or GoodReads.

David Litwack Novel Publicity Blog Tour Day 1–Interview with the Author

What an exciting day it’s been! Duchess Catherine of Cambridge kept us all holding our breaths today as we waited for her to give labor to the future monarch. Of course, since she did most of the work, she was easily forgiven. 😉 My post earlier tonight congratulates Catherine/Kate and discusses the world’s and my love for her.

Today is also exciting because it marks the first day of David Litwack’s whirlwind blog tour for Novel Publicity! I am so happy to be part of the tour, which will last from 7/22 through 7/26. I will be posting something different each day on my blog for this tour. My blog has even gotten a makeover–take a look! Jell-Jell, the victorious jelly-side up toast, has donned a festive purple for the celebration. 😉 There are also new badges on my right sidebar, and if you click the one on the very bottom, you can even win prizes, including Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and more!

I thought it would be best to start out the tour by getting to know the author. He’s just released his second book, Along the Watchtower, and he is already working on his next projects. He is a fantasy/sci-fi writer whom I think you’ll like. Tonight, I will be posting an interview by Novel Publicity with the author. I always find it fascinating to read about an author’s inspiration; I think it gives us great insight as readers and great tips as writers. Here, Litwack discusses writing, inspiration, and his newest book, Along the Watchtower. I think his discussion of using fantasy to help us work through trauma is incredibly important and poignant, and I think it’s something we could all relate to at one point or other in our lives. Maybe, here, Litwack has illuminated why fantasy is such an appealing genre. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.
(At the very bottom of this post, you can find instructions of how to buy his books and how to enter the prize drawings.)

Interview

Please enjoy this interview with David Litwack, author of the gripping contemporary novel, Along the Watchtower, and the deep, dark dystopia, There Comes a Prophet. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

1.  Along the Watchtower is a powerful blend of contemporary fiction and fantasy that demands the reader’s attention from start to finish. What was your inspiration for writing this work, and for combining World of Warcraft with a casualty of war and a dream world?

I’ve always been fascinated by how we perceive reality. Think of the film Rashomon, the classic exploration of multiple realities, where several witnesses to a crime describe events completely differently, each bringing their own life experience and biases into play. But it’s when we’re ripped from our normal life and placed in extreme circumstances that our reality becomes totally fragmented. Such is the case with hospitals and war.

At the same time, I’d become engrossed in playing the online fantasy game, World of Warcraft, with my son, an avid player. With me on the east coast and him on the west, he suggested we meet weekly in the fantasy world of Azeroth—an invitation I could hardly resist. For several months, we had a Wednesday evening appointment, where our avatars would meet in this virtual world and go on quests together. I was struck by how totally immersed I could get in the game, how quickly time passed, and the surreal mood of wandering around in castles and crypts, solving riddles and following quests.

The fantasy 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 war, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury.

These concepts—war, hospitals, and the fantasy world of online gaming—came together in Along the Watchtower.

2. Without giving away too much, can you introduce us to the main character Lieutenant Freddie, and tell us how he’s similar and different in both worlds he inhabits?

When Freddie comes out of his medically-induced coma in the VA hospital, he’s nearly given up hope. Everything he had to live for was gone, and he was racked with bad memories and guilt, in addition to his physical injuries.

Prince Frederick doesn’t have the luxury of giving up. If he yields to despair, the kingdom that depends on him will fall into darkness. Because of this, he’s more willing to struggle through his trials. It’s through the prince in the fantasy world that Freddie is finally able to confront and overcome his personal demons in the real world.

3. Your first novel, There Comes a Prophet, explores the roots of the dystopian fiction category while also reinventing it for a younger generation of readers. This genre boasts many great classics including Slaughterhouse V1984, and Brave New World to name a few. What are your favorite classic books?

Dystopia literally means dysfunctional utopia, not necessarily an evil, power-hungry regime oppressing its people, but a well-intentioned system that has lost its way, resulting in a world gone awry. My favorite such dystopian is Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and the Stars. In this near perfect world, there’s no disease, hunger or poverty, and people are effectively immortal. But all are afraid to venture outside the walls of their city or even look beyond them. The thought of the open expanse of stars in the night sky terrifies them. All of this had been put in place to protect them from some past too horrible to mention. Yet the unfulfilled aspirations of a single individual drive him to discover the lost truth and let humanity move forward again.

Lois Lowry’s The Giver is another great example. In a simple but beautiful writing style, she tells the story of a seemingly perfect world where bad memories have been abolished, except for one person, the keeper of memories. But the people are left unable to feel anything much—good or bad.

4. People read books for many different reasons. Of all the different reasons you’ve seen in reviews, can you relate one story that really stood out for you about a reader’s experience?

One reviewer read Along the Watchtower and it brought back memories of being a young college student, witnessing the twin towers fall on 9/11. The book touched him deeply, because it reminded him that, as a result of that tragic event, we’ve been at war his entire adult life. The shock he felt on 9/11 all came back to him in reading the struggles of the recovering Lt. Freddie Williams.

Interestingly enough, that same reviewer had a powerful reaction to the dystopian world of There Comes a Prophet. In that book, a ruling power limits learning and growth. This reviewer associated my story with the courageous young Malala Yousafzai, the Pakastani girl who the Taliban tried to kill for advocating education for women.

5. Along the Watchtower features a veteran’s healing process on the physical, emotional, and intellectual levels. What role do you think fantasy role-playing games and dreaming can play in a healing process?

When we’re confronted with trauma too terrible to comprehend, our mind sometimes shuts the experience out to let us heal. But the memory still lingers in our subconscious. Sometimes it’s easier to confront those feelings through fantasy, like dreams or video games, rather than facing them head on in the cruel light of reality. Then once confronted, we’re better able to move on.

6. Symbolism and description play a huge role in the opening chapters of Along the Watchtower. As the lines between reality and fantasy become more and more blurry, did you find it difficult to remember which ‘character’ you were talking as?

Freddie and Prince Frederick were undergoing the same trials at an emotional level, even though their circumstances differed. The hardest part in writing the two was to maintain a distinct voice for each—for Freddie the gritty language of the VA hospital and for Prince Frederick, more of a high fantasy tone. This difference was important to make each world believable. But since the book was written in a first person point of view, it was also critical to quickly alert the reader whenever there was a switch in worlds.

7. Ocean imagery features prominently in your book Along the Watchtower. What’s your favorite place to visit, and what scenery do you find most inspiring as an author?

I almost hate to mention this because it’s such a well-kept secret. But my favorite spot is a place called The Knob in my home town of Falmouth. It’s a raised spit of land rising up dramatically into the harbor onto a domed rock, reachable only after a half-mile walk through the woods. I’ve actually used it as a setting in my upcoming novel, The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky.

8. You run a very active blog and website, though the demands of marketing yourself can be overwhelming for many authors. How do you find balance in your life, and time to enjoy your surroundings in a highly technical world? Coming from a software background, I’m sure you might have unique insights on balancing the ‘real’ world with the technical one.

I’ve spent most of my adult life in front of a computer, first as a software engineer and now as an author. The key is to take advantage of non-computer time to get out and enjoy yourself. But all writers want to be read, so you have to spend time reaching out to readers. The software equivalent was that I used to enjoy taking a break from developing software to visit customers and see how they were using what I’d developed.

9. You’ve published two books, Along the Watchtower and There Comes a Prophet. Is there anything you’d like to share with readers and your future writing plans?

I’m in late stage edits with an alternate world story called The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky. It’s about a world divided between the Blessed Lands, a place of the spirit, and the Republic, whose people worship at the altar of reason. A mysterious nine-year-old girl from the Blessed Lands sails into the lives of a troubled couple in the Republic and seems to heal everyone she meets. She reveals nothing about herself, other than to say she’s the daughter of the sea and the sky. But she harbors a secret wound she herself cannot heal.

I’m also currently planning what will be a sequel to There Comes a Prophet. I’ve always wondered what happened to Orah and Nathaniel after their world changing heroics and what became of the contemporaries of the keepmasters who had crossed the ocean. Stay tuned.

10. What do you like to do to unwind? You know, in those rare moments when you’re not writing!

Since writing and social networking are indoor activities, I try to get outside as often as possible. I go for long walks on the seashore, play some golf, bicycle, and generally try to stay active. I’m fortunate to be able to split my time between Cape Cod and Florida, both beautiful places in their respective nice seasons.

Watchtower Tour BadgeAs part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, both Along the Watchtower and There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack are on sale this week. What’s more, by purchasing either or both of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes.

The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Pick up Along the Watchtower at its discounted price of $2.99 on Amazon
  2. Get There Comes a Prophet at its discounted price of 99 cents
  3. Enter the Rafflecopter contest below
  4. Visit the featured social media events
  5. Leave a comment on my blog for a chance at a $100 prize.

Along the Watchtower tells of a tragic warrior lost in two worlds; a woman who may be his only way back from Hell. Get it on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or iTunes.

There Comes a Prophet A thousand years ago the Darkness came—a time of violence and social collapse. Nathaniel has grown up in their world of limits, longing for something more. For what are we without dreams? Get it on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or iTunes.

David Litwack, the once and future writer, explores the blurry line between reality and the fantastic. Visit David on his websiteTwitterFacebook, or GoodReads.