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

Advertisements

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.

amazon.comBarnes-Noble-Logo

 

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.

amazon.comBarnes-Noble-Logo

 

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.

 

 

 

amazon.comBarnes-Noble-Logo

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.

Novel Publicity Blog Tour: Excerpt from YA Fantasy “Ren Crown” Series

Hello, dear readers! Today, I am featuring an excerpt from The Awakening of Ren Crown, the first book in a thrilling YA fantasy series. Tomorrow, I’ll be featuring an interview with the author. Enjoy–and make sure to enter the raffle at the bottom of the page!

.

Rising Up with Ren Crown

Read an Excerpt from

The Awakening of Ren Crown by Anne Zoelle

Ren Crown Promo

Here’s an excerpt from The Awakening of Ren Crown by Anne Zoelle we know you’ll enjoy!

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.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

 

Chapter Nine: Olivia Price

I awakened early and began the arduous climb up the mountain. Alone on the path, I had ample time to think. Equal amounts of apprehension, excitement, and terror flowed through me, and I began to second-guess my decision.

A soft, comforting whisper wrapped around me. “You can do this, Ren. You’re strong and capable.”

Hearing Christian spurred me on. The journey suddenly seemed less lonely.

And before I knew it, stretching across the flat grass of the fifth band near the top of the mountain—and encircling the entire mountainside—was the mammoth nine-story structure straight out of Ancient Rome that was referred to in the administration packet as the Magiaduct, or more informally, Dormitory Circle.

A stone-columned arcade lined the lower level, providing coverage for students walking from door to door. Symmetrically spaced between the entrance doors were gateways, allowing a tunneled path to the other side of the building. From the second floor skyward, the building was an unbroken wall of ancient multicolored stone and glass. In the morning light the façade glowed and shimmered, alive with color. If I survived the day, I would lovingly admire its classic architectural magnificence tomorrow.

With a cocktail of emotions stirring inside, I walked beneath the nearest arcade arch, passed a group of students laughing together, and approached a door. Apprehension. Excitement. Terror. The number thirty-two was carved into the stone above the wooden door, bright in the rising sun. I continued on to the right—hoping that walking counter-clockwise decreased the number count—past another stone gateway and to the next door. Thirty-one. It was a hike between doorways. The administration packet had mentioned thirty-six, nine-story “dorms” each housing four hundred students, solidly ringing this level of the mountain.

People were running on top of the Magiaduct. Some of the workout gear was rather strange looking, even from this distance. But the evidence of a track indicated you could at least move from one dorm section to the next at the topmost level.

I continued on until I reached the heavy wooden door beneath the stone-carved number Twenty-five.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I swallowed hard and opened the door.

I had expected the interior to be stark and medieval, but the lower-level meeting and study area was fresh and bright with white slate floors and cream walls. Rich walnut furniture and comfortable sofas and lounge chairs upholstered in rich burgundy and forest green were scattered about in conversational pods, giving the room a warm and inviting feel. The area was a bustle of activity, with students entering, loitering, and exiting.

I climbed the nearest staircase and found room fifty-two on the second floor. I took a deep breath, hoisting my papers more firmly in the crook of my arm, and knocked.

No answer.

I knocked again, then leaned casually against the wall and inserted one of Marsgrove’s straightened paperclips into the lock to see if a chomper engaged. No answer, no chomp.

Relief nearly unbalanced me. No one was inside and the lock was completely standard, thank God. I could have it scrubbed open in ten seconds. Two students engaged in a hot debate passed me.

“Social theory is important,” the girl said.

The boy shook his head. “Brute force will always win. Magic is might.”

I knocked on the door again, trying to look like I wasn’t loitering, and discreetly pulled out my favorite rake and torque wrench from my brother’s set, using my knee to press my papers against the wall so that I could use both hands.

The door yanked open and a chilly voice said, “Yes?”

My papers spilled to the floor as I jumped away in surprise. I quickly bent my fingers around the pick and wrench, shoving them back along my wrist and up into my shirt’s sleeve. I cleared my throat nervously.

Potential new roommate Olivia Price was dressed in a tailored black and gray dress that looked very severe on her tall, thin frame. I couldn’t help glancing at my own clothing, feeling more than a little out of place. But other students had been dressed in a wide variety of styles, especially the students whose clothing continuously changed form. More than a few people had been informally dressed in First Layer fashion.

I was fine. Normal looking and totally as if I belonged, I tried to assure myself.

I bent to collect my papers, then pasted on a bright smile and held up my forged documents. “I’m your new roommate.”

Her hair was pulled tightly into a bun as severe as her clothing, and rectangular black glasses perched on the bridge of her very straight nose. She smiled down at me, but there was no humor in her eyes. “Are you?”

This now clearly qualified as a complete introduction failure. I tried desperately to keep my face calm and smiling. It had been a stupid plan. Thoughts tumbled through my head on how to nonchalantly extricate myself. I’d figure out something else. I had six thousand vertical feet of space to work with.

“Come in, then.” She stepped back, a clear invitation to enter, despite the cold amusement decorating her features. I hesitated over the threshold, then walked inside.

The feel of a net descended and I lashed out with my arms, thinking that I had once more let myself be captured. But the magic gently pushed my limbs back to my sides. It swirled inside me and pushed against the cuff encircling my wrist. The net stroked me, then gently dissipated.

I squirmed, feeling suddenly like I was in the right place, then realized the austere girl standing silently in front of me had to think I was certifiable. The skin around her eyes tightened, loosened, then tightened again, as if she were surprised, then displeased by something.

I cleared my throat. “Hi.” I tried to remember my cover story, as well as how I could admit to having gotten the room wrong. “Sorry. I just transferred from—”

“That is your side.” She pointed to the empty bed and desk on the window side of the room.

My thoughts and words all crashed together. “What? Really? I mean, yes, great!” The feeling that I was in the right place intensified, then slowly dissipated.

There was a curiously blank look to her expression, all tightness gone. As if she had no emotional reaction to me at all any longer. “You stay on your side, I’ll stay on mine.” And with that, she turned to her desk and an enormous tome that was placed there.

“Oh. Er, thanks.” She hadn’t even asked me my name.

I quietly walked to the empty desk on the far side of the room. The energy that had been capped by Marsgrove’s cuff was restless now, pushing and leaking, as if it had tasted freedom for a moment and now refused to be denied. The room’s magic hummed around me.

Read the first two chapters of The Awakening of Ren Crown on Anne’s website!

Don’t forget!

rEN cROWN 99C1 (3)

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.

amazon.comBarnes-Noble-Logo

 

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.

amazon.comBarnes-Noble-Logo

 

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.

 

 

 

amazon.comBarnes-Noble-Logo

 

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.

 

Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway from the author

Novel Publicity Blog Tour: “The Author Mindset”

Good evening, readers! I’m back with a book review today for Novel Publicity by Falcon Storm: The Author Mindset. The version I’m reviewing is the audiobook narrated by Craig Beck. Much as the cover suggests, the book is a guide to writing and marketing fiction.

Because the book is the first of its genre I’m reviewing, it won’t follow my usual review guidelines/format. If you’re up for the adventure that might entail–and I promise, it’s worth it–read on. 😉

[Disclaimer: As with all my book reviews for Novel Publicity Blog Tours, I was provided with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.]

Available NOW on AmazonBarnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, or Audible.

About the Book:

Do you feel as if your life’s purpose is to become an author and share the stories in your head with the rest of the great wide world? Do you long to write the next great American novel? You might already have a couple books under your belt, but want to take your productivity, talent, and marketing efforts to the next level. Maybe you’re just getting started as an author and feel lost in the multitude of tasks awaiting you. Or perhaps you’re stuck at square one, having no idea what to do, where to go, or even if you should be writing at all. In just a few short hours, you’ll learn the essentials required of the professional author. You’ll learn more than how to put words on the page; you’ll learn how to get into the mindset of an author and live there, carving out your niche in the literary world.

Review

The Author Mindset is an excellent introduction to the business of writing and lifestyle of being a writer. It’s short but sweet–the main section is only 66 minutes long, but it comes with extras, too. I was amazed at how much of the training I received in my grad school Writing & Publishing program was encompassed in this book.

The length makes the book necessarily to-the-point, which is wonderful to get writers actually writing, versus stuck in heady theoretical prose. The style is breezy, approachable, and never arrogant, which I appreciated, as it was written by a successful author. The length and voice of the book recommend it to multiple listenings and note-taking.

Speaking of voice, the narrator was an excellent choice. Who doesn’t love a good British accent? 😉 Seriously, I’ve learned the narrator is almost as important as the text in an audiobook. So, well-done, Mr. Storm (and, Mr. Beck–call me).

There were a couple of sections that I found to be a little unnecessary, personally, like how to organize your work space, but–for all I know, a full-time stay-at-home mom/part-time writer might find that info to be very helpful (there are specific mentions of navigating little ones). This book, much like many writing guides, is definitely subjective in how enlightening each person would find it to be. I would say absolutely everyone could get SOMETHING out of it, even if it was review. Although I had heard many of these topics before, given my educational background (but not the same professional experience!), it was quite helpful to hear them again, especially as condensed and digestible as this presentation was. If nothing else, it is a good tool to get anyone into “the author mindset” (keenly titled, Mr. Storm!).

I 100% recommend this book for anyone who hasn’t had some sort of training in writing. I do recommend it to everyone, though, especially those who could use a jump-start in knowing how to begin or how to resume writing . I could see how this would especially be useful as part of a series, which this looks to be. Great idea, Falcon, for making this book available in multiple formats; how great is it that you could listen to this on your commute so you’re all prepped to write when you get home?

My review, based on this as an instructional piece: 9/10.

BIAIL Fashion Show + Top 10: Favorite Things About Having My Blog After One Year

Hello, dear readers! I hope you had a fabulous weekend! I had the honor and pleasure of modeling for the Brain Injury Association of Illinois’s Annual Fashion Show for the second year in a row. As a TBI survivor, disability awareness has become really important to me, and I was so happy to help with such a great cause. The organization is a special one to me, and this event–run so well by heads Philicia Deckard and Ginny Doran Lazarra–always brings together compassionate people and organizations, making it fun to network and socialize (not to mention dress up in pretty outfits). This year, I got to model three gorgeous dresses from Pink Slip Boutique.

Models on the runway

I loved getting to see and chat with Alicia Roman again this year. (I am unashamedly name-and-photo-dropping.) She is a meteorologist for NBC5, and she was the emcee again for the event. She does a great job of being warm to the crowd and models (even asking me over the mic if I was OK when my shoe got stuck in the runway–yes, graceful me) as well as being impassioned about the cause.

Alicia and me after the show

***

This weekend was also important to me for another reason:

It marked the one-year anniversary of the creation of my blog! In some ways, I can’t believe it’s already been a year. However, when I look back at my entries over the past year, I realize I’ve put a lot of work and pride into my blog. I am so grateful to all of you, dear readers, for impelling me onward to continue posting. Every comment and view is a validation of my work–so thank you for making it worthwhile. ❤

As happy nostalgia washed over me, I realized this would make for a great Top 10 for this week (my last Top 10 till May!). Below, please enjoy my Top 10 favorite bloggy things. 🙂 Tomorrow marks the beginning of my double-challenge for April: NaPoWriMo + A-to-Z, which means a poem each day (except Sunday), focusing on consecutive alphabetic topics (or forms). I will do my best to complete all 26, but I’m also working on my novel plus my memoir plus, you know, life–but I look forward to the challenge. It was a productive blast for me last year. 🙂

Top 10: Favorite Things About Having My Blog After One Year

1. Making new friends

One of the most unexpected perks of having my blog has been meeting fellow bloggers (or commentators) who have become my friends. I’ve really enjoyed connecting with so many of you, whether it be through writing about similar topics, participating on blog tours together, comments, etc.

2. Keeps me writing

Having to keep up with my blog keeps my writing sharp, and it’s really helped me to develop my voice. My “blogging voice” has settled somewhere in the intersection of the tones of my critical essay, memoir, and conversational writing. My readers’ responses have helped me to nail that down–so again, thank you. ❤

3. Free writing workshops!

It is beyond awesome to receive feedback on my writing from readers who are actually interested in my work. Getting different viewpoints and constructive criticism helps me to tighten my work (often helping me to eliminate those flowery-sappy holes I can fall into and not notice on my own 😉 ). Similarly, I also enjoy offering feedback to other writers. It’s like an online version of a classroom workshop.

4. Opens up my perspective on memoir, etc.

I’ve discovered I often find news or literary items I have an emotional response to that I want to write about on my blog. In the past, I might have an emotional response and not explore the depths of it like I have here. That exploration has deepened my own understanding of how my life or societal events have shaped me, which is very helpful, indeed, for writing my memoir.

5. Online portfolio

I love having a collection of my work all housed on my URL, where I can point people who want to see my work. The site is all mine, and the work I show is how I wish to represent myself as a writer. If, a few years later, I look back and wonder how I could ever have been so SAPPY, for instance, I can simply take it down–it’s a comfort granted when you choose to bare yourself to the world (lending us bloggers a bit of courage). 🙂

6. Experience as a book blogger

When I began my blog, I thought I’d write a little about my opinions on books, but I didn’t imagine I’d be an official Book Blogger. I’ve had the wonderful experience of being an official book reviewer for Novel Publicity & Co., which has been terrific. In addition to being able to use my blog as an official reviewing platform, I’ve also been exposed to books I never would have picked up on my own, broadening my perspective and taste. Receiving free books and publicity have been great perks, too. 😉

7. Challenges

Blog challenges (like NaPoWriMo) have pushed me outside of my comfort zone as both a writer and a reader, which invariably leads to my growth. Having a network of people doing the same thing gives us inspiration and encouragement to persevere, even when it’s tough!

8. Organization of my life’s events and writings–and how they intertwine

In reviewing my last year of entries, I realized another unexpected benefit of having my blog was seeing how my life’s events, writings, and cultural responses (like reviews I wrote) all intertwined and influenced each other. It’s kind of like a personal version of that introduction section in book anthologies that explain what was going on in society when an author wrote a work–“No man is an island,” and it’s neat to see where my inspirations have come from.

9. Able to share (give and get!) advice as TBI survivor & writer

I’ve always hoped to be a disability advocate, especially since my own Traumatic Brain Injury. Happily, I get to do that at my job at Marianjoy when I write patient stories and other articles. However, I’ve also enjoyed doing it right here on my blog. It’s nice to be able to write about issues that are important to me–even more so when I get a response that my writing has touched someone in some way. I’ve learned in addition to teaching, too–I really appreciate when people respond with their own life experiences, lending their perspective. The community broadens me as a person.

10. Pushes my creativity

This blog constantly pushes my creativity, impelling me to expand the way I think about writing. The nature of blogging has caused me to think in a much more “multimedia” fashion, once I realized how graphics can enhance a blog’s message. Also, I’m always having to think about writing new things in new ways to maintain–hopefully, increase–reader interest (I hope I’m doing a good job!) 🙂

———————————————————————

I hope you enjoyed my list as much as I enjoyed everything on it, dear readers–and you’ve made it all possible. Thank you.

Please join me tomorrow–and throughout April–for my A-to-Z and NaPoWriMo writings!

Novel Publicity Blog Tour: “New Frontier” Review

Hello, readers! I apologize this review is tardy; I’ve been so busy catching up with everything after being sick! I’ll take being busy over bronchitis any day, though, that’s for sure! 😉

Today, I am happy to share my review with you of Jeremy Lee’s sci-fi space novel, New Frontier, as part of Novel Publicity’s blog tour. Read on for more info about the book, my review, and prizes! 🙂

[Disclaimer: As with all my book reviews for Novel Publicity Blog Tours, I was provided with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.]

About the book: As a new era dons for humanity with all the attendant celebrations and riots, finally breaking the bonds which left us tied to the Solar System is reported as being the moment which unites all the disparate parts of the world and brings us into an era of peace and discovery, and yet this giant leap is almost instantly marred by greed erupting into violence. The Argos, the ship sent out on this historic mission, is left adrift and crippled far from home, survivors of this mysterious attack struggle to hold their ship together and come to the rescue of homesteaders and compatriots relying on them to not only survive but retaliate, and rescue a world where the Solar System has become a rugged frontier ripe for colonization and opportunity filled with the honest and ruthless carving out lives past the veil of civilization.

Several rival corporations, monopolies delving into every industry imaginable, have all but supplanted nation-states, keeping governments around only as a necessary fiction to pacify populations, and the realm of business now reaches into politics, military, religion, and all other aspects of human life. The frontier regions of space are a place filled with new homesteaders, miners, merchants, bandits, and scientific minds that is barely able to keep from slipping into total anarchy, a frontier region where people can disappear from their lives and head off into the unknown. New Frontier is an adventure which stretches from the furthest reaches of space, to slums in backwater cities, to the lunar capitol, and ultimately onto the wreckage of the great ship. The gallant and the selfish alike are forced to face the best and worst of human civilization far from home and decide what they truly believe in.
Get New Frontier through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

My review guidelines: As you know from my first Novel Publicity review, I HATE spoilers as a reader, so as a reviewer, I avoid them as best as possible. 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.

NEWFRONTIER

Review

This novel fit pretty easily into my usual genre preference, and I could have seen myself picking it up on my own, although I’m glad Novel Publicity introduced me to it, making sure I did see it, after all. 🙂

I would classify this as an adult sci-fi space adventure. I think this book would appeal to anyone who likes futuristic novels about space travel.

The universe: I had to change the usual title of this category from “world” to “universe,” for this book. 🙂 The universe was massive, and I was impressed with how well fleshed-out and detailed it was. It was slightly hard to keep track of everything, at times, but not too bad. The author created a good sense of fear and awe at the scale of the universe right away with an almost cinematic camera shift from a cocoon of a ship to the deadly emptiness of the sky–symbolic to the shift humanity has made in this book from expanding from Earth into the universe. I appreciated how every scene was grounded in an environment that was well-described but not distracting. The environment was always relevant to the story itself.

The characters: I liked these characters. I enjoyed learning their back stories early on, which revealed motivations earlier than some books may–I always find it frustrating when I can’t figure out what is driving a character. I would actually have liked to be a little “closer” to the characters’ thoughts; sometimes, the zoom-out of large, sweeping observations about the universe in general could be a little jarring, without characters to attach the thoughts to. It took me out of the story, when I just wanted to hang out in the minds of these cool characters. I liked the diverse cast of widely ranging personalities and strong characters from both genders. The villains were vicious and scary, and I felt like they weren’t quite as developed as the protagonists, but that worked OK for the book’s purposes.

The plot: The plot was very interesting, both in terms of structure and events. It was told in a layering of time jumps, which kept the reader’s attention because of the constant shifting. It was also illustrative in a relevant way that I really appreciated, because you didn’t have to lose focus by waiting to find out important background details–you often found out what you wanted to know in the very next chapter, even though it wasn’t chronological. At times, this was slightly disorienting, but I think it was the right choice, structurally. The stakes were clearly high from the beginning, which made the reader invested. Also, the action got my blood pumping, and I lost track of real time while I was reading, since I was so engaged with the story.

The language: The language was my least favorite aspect of this novel. It felt a bit clunky at times with unnecessary adverbs (something I, as a writer, also have to remind myself of–it’s tempting to do!), and the punctuation was a bit off, not giving room to pause in the dense prose. Also, sometimes the pronouns could be confusing in scenes with multiple characters. In a book this packed with detail, imprecise language can really trip me up from being able to get into a story. The universal observations came across as a bit stilted, but the character dialogue was accessible and easily distinguishable from other characters. For future books, I would suggest to Lee that he add even more of this great dialogue and cut back on the unattributed broad observations.

Review: 6/10. An action-packed adventure–an interesting ride with a little turbulence. 

About the prizes: Who doesn’t love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of New Frontier! Here’s what you need to do…

  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest here
  2. Leave a comment on my blog

That’s it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win–the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official New Frontier tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the author: Born in Odessa, Texas Jeremy grew up mostly in southern New Mexico. Strongly influenced by his grandmother’s adoration of history and his mother’s love of reading, both of which he adopted early in life. Inheriting a work ethic from his father, which served him well in the manic world of theater, Jeremy Lee started out writing for the stage, first in Denver and then in small New York venues while attending the New York School for Film and Television.
With 2011’s Where I’m Bound I Can’t Tell he began working in novels with a deeply personal look at growing up without growing old, which simultaneously expanded into a worldwide adventure through the 20th century.
Kings of New York began a long and rewarding relationship with Neverland Publishing, which continues even today. This gangster tale played in the wonderland of 20’s New York, and painted a picture of cons just trying to survive and make a dishonest living the ruthless world they inhabit.
With New Frontier his career took an abrupt turn, looking not into the past but into the possibilities of the future. Exploring themes of strife, political corruption, greed, adventure, and religion, the book touched off a storm from reviewers.
Jeremy Lee currently lives in Denver with his family, writing ferociously when he can’t find and excuse to be in the middle of nowhere fishing, getting blissfully lost in a museum, or occasionally just watching old Bogart movies and eating pizza on the couch.

Connect with Jeremy on his website, Facebook, or GoodReads.

—————————————-

I hope you enjoyed the review, readers! Join me later this week for a new Top 10 installment. 🙂

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