Category: Guest Post

Rachael Lippincott’s Connection to Five Feet Apart | Author Guest Post (+ Giveaway)

Posted November 12, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Giveaway, Guest Post / 6 Comments

I’m pleased to kick off the official Five Feet Apart blog tour with this lovely guest post by author, Rachael Lippincott! I didn’t know that this story was a screenplay before a book, and that a movie is currently in production. That makes things even more interesting. I have a bit of a personal connection to this story, as someone I care about has cystic fibrosis. It’s so nice to get a little background on it, and what inspired its creation before the movie, starring Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson, hits theaters on March 20, 2019.


Rachael Lippincott’s Connection to Five Feet Apart
by Rachael Lippincott

To put it simply, this book is the product of the hard work of many, many people. From the screenplay itself, written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, to Claire Wineland’s incredible contributions and spirit, to Justin Baldoni’s work as the director of the movie, to my physical writing of it, all of it had this innate desire to raise awareness about Cystic Fibrosis at the very core.

For me, everything started the day I got the screenplay for Five Feet Apart. I poured over the words, finishing it over the course of an afternoon, the story of Will and Stella leaving me filled with a myriad of emotions, from anger to joy to sadness to longing. When I finished, my computer screen was filled with tabs about Cystic Fibrosis and B. cepacia and medical statistics for the disease.

My inspiration started with the screenplay and grew to so much more than that over the course of that afternoon and the coming weeks and months. It became about the real life Wills and Stellas. People like Claire Wineland, who stare CF in the face and inspire so many others to live a life that they can be proud of. It became about a mom in Des Moines with this superhuman perseverance to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis foundation so that her daughter and so many other CFers can live to see a cure. It became about people that had never heard about Cystic Fibrosis reading Will and Stella’s story, or watching it on the big screen, and taking the time to open up google and learn about what the disease is.

I am acutely aware every day that this book could have had anyone’s name on the cover next to Mikki and Tobias’s. But I was lucky enough to be able to use my greatest passion, writing, to join a team of people committed to raising awareness about Cystic Fibrosis, and I take that very seriously. I can say earnestly that I will do everything I can to raise awareness for CF and I hope beyond all else that Five Feet Apart helps in some small way to bring about a cure.


Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott
Original screenplay written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis
Published by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers on November 20, 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction — Contemporary, Romance
Add to Goodreads • Amazon • B&N • Book Depository

Can you love someone you can never touch?

Stella Grant likes to be in control—even though her totally out of control lungs have sent her in and out of the hospital most of her life. At this point, what Stella needs to control most is keeping herself away from anyone or anything that might pass along an infection and jeopardize the possibility of a lung transplant. Six feet apart. No exceptions.

The only thing Will Newman wants to be in control of is getting out of this hospital. He couldn’t care less about his treatments, or a fancy new clinical drug trial. Soon, he’ll turn eighteen and then he’ll be able to unplug all these machines and actually go see the world, not just its hospitals.

Will’s exactly what Stella needs to stay away from. If he so much as breathes on Stella she could lose her spot on the transplant list. Either one of them could die. The only way to stay alive is to stay apart. But suddenly six feet doesn’t feel like safety. It feels like punishment.

What if they could steal back just a little bit of the space their broken lungs have stolen from them? Would five feet apart really be so dangerous if it stops their hearts from breaking too?


About Rachael Lippincott

Rachael Lippincott was born in Philadelphia and raised in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She holds a BA in English writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, splitting her time between writing and running a food truck with her partner.

 

The publisher has graciously offered up a copy of Five Feet Apart to a lucky reader of That Artsy Reader Girl!

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Blog Tour Schedule

November 12 – That Artsy Reader Girl

November 13 – Vivacious Bibliophile

November 14 – A Gingerly Review

November 15 – Life of a Simple Reader

November 16 – A Glass of Wine

November 17 – Book is Glee

November 19 – Bumbles and Fairytales

November 20 – Adventures of a Book Junkie

November 21 – Jen Ryland Reviews

November 22 – Joyous Reads

November 23 – Chasing Faerytales

November 24 – Folded Pages Distillery

November 26 – Oh, Hey! Books

November 27 – Book Briefs

November 28 – Novel Knight Book Reviews

November 29 – A Dream within a Dream

November 30 – My Guilty Obsession


Debbie Mason’s Five Fall Favorites | Author Guest Post

Posted November 1, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 0 Comments

Today I’m welcoming Debbie Mason to the blog to share with us her five favorite things about fall! Fall is one of my favorite seasons (second to winter, of course), and I can ditto every single things she’s mentioned here! Read more about her, and her latest book (a feel-good Christmas story in her contemporary romance series, Harmony Harbor) following her list!


Five Fall Favorites by Debbie Mason

“If a year was tucked inside of a clock, then autumn would be the magic hour.”
– Victoria Erickson

Fall is truly a magical time of year. It’s a time when nature puts on a show, and the countdown to the holidays begins. A time to be thankful and grateful. A time for family dinners, hearty soups, and fragrant stews. Here are just a few of my fall favorites I especially look forward to.

1) Pumpkin Spice Latte
For me, nothing says autumn like the appearance of pumpkin spice latte on the Starbucks menu. I don’t know which I love more, the taste or the smell. But what I do know is that some of my favorite fall days have been spent curled up under a cozy blanket with a pumpkin spice latte in one hand and a book in the other.

2) Fall Fairs
There’s nothing my family likes more than a fall fair, but we don’t always agree on what we should do/see first. I like to check out the baked goods and crafts, hubby likes to attend the tractor pull and cattle judging, while our kids prefer the corn maze and local bands playing at the grandstand, and the grandbabies are all about candy apples, corn dogs, and the midway. But the one thing we can agree upon is that it’s a great way to spend a fall weekend together.

3) Fall Foliage
Our favorite way to enjoy the fall foliage is on a walk in the woods not far from where we live. I love the cold, crisp air, the rich, spicy scent, and the crunch of leaves under my feet. There’s nothing more peaceful or magical than standing in the middle of a forest as the brilliant red and yellow leaves dance their way to the ground.

4) Halloween
The weeks leading up to Halloween are my favorite. I love pulling out my old magazines and getting ideas for spooky treats and decorating. This year we were all about the metallic pumpkins for the adult kids in the family, and white pumpkins transformed into unicorns for the little ones. It’s also the time of year when I turn to books by my favorite paranormal authors. We do the same with our TV viewing. This year, we binge watched The Haunting of Hill House. As much as I loved it (and I really did), I still enjoy old Halloween favorites like Hocus Pocus, Halloweentown, and Practical Magic.

5) Countdown to Christmas
In late October, we can usually count on a flurry of snowflakes to get us into the holiday spirit. If that doesn’t happen, there are tons of other opportunities to put us in the mood. Decorating inside and outside with Christmas carols playing is one activity that’s sure to do the trick. As does baking, gingerbread-house making, and attending the local parade of lights. Another favorite in our house, a Hallmark movie marathon. This is a tradition that will have special significance this year, as the adaptation of the first book in my Christmas, Colorado series, The Trouble with Christmas, will be airing on the Hallmark Channel December 9 as Welcome to Christmas.


The Corner of Holly and Ivy by Debbie Mason
Series: Harmony Harbor #7
Published by Forever on October 30, 2018
Genres: Adult Fiction — Christmas, Contemporary, Romance
Add to Goodreads • Amazon • B&N

Sometimes love is just around the corner . . .

With her dreams of being a wedding dress designer suddenly over, Arianna Bell isn’t expecting a holly jolly Christmas. Instead, her heart feels about three sizes too small. That is until her high school sweetheart Connor Gallagher returns to town and she finds his mere presence still makes her pulse race. But just when she starts dreaming of kissing under the mistletoe, he announces that he will be her opponent in the upcoming mayoral race….

Hot-shot attorney Connor Gallagher has something to prove. He’s tired of playing runner-up to his high-achieving brothers. So when the opportunity to enter the campaign comes up, he takes it. Even if it means running against the only woman he’s ever loved. But with a little help from Harmony Harbor’s local matchmakers and a lot of holiday cheer, Connor and Arianna may just get the happy ever after they both deserve.


About Debbie Mason

Debbie Mason is the USA Today bestselling author of the Christmas, Colorado and the Harmony Harbor series. Her books have been praised for their “likable characters, clever dialogue and juicy plots” (RT Book Reviews). When she isn’t writing or reading, Debbie enjoys spending time with her very own real-life hero, their three wonderful children and son-in-law, and their two grandbabies in Ottawa, Canada. For more on Debbie and her books, visit authordebbiemason.com.


Inspiring Coffee Shops by Jenny Hale | Author Guest Post

Posted October 29, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 2 Comments

I’m so happy to have Jenny Hale on the blog today to give us a small glimpse into where she writes all of her amazing books! I’m super excited to read her upcoming releases, Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses (out tomorrow!), as well, which you can read more about below!


Inspiring Coffee Shops by Jenny Hale

When I’m working, I like to be out of my house, usually at a coffee shop—different ones all the time. While I’m there, I’m eyes-on-the-screen, fingers moving at a clip, downing a latte. To any onlooker, I might seem like a caffeine-laden vagabond who avoids housework to spend long hours on my computer in isolation. But that would be far from the truth.

New surroundings supercharge my senses; they affect me more than any amount of caffeine could. While I won’t deny my love of lattes, (I’m one of those who rattles off eye-rolling requests like “skinny almond milk sugar-free caramel latte with no whip”) the lattes are but an added bonus, a ticket to get me a seat in this new location.

The swirl of cold air as the old oak door opens and shuts, the smell of roasting coffee beans tickling my nose, the gurgle of the espresso machines, the embrace as two people meet up and settle happily at a table nearby—while my fingers move, my brain is taking all that in.

Traveling is my way of reviving my mind, of filling it with little bits of new information that I store away and draw upon when the stories start to take shape. Each place is like a gift, and I unwrap it slowly, taking in every fold, every angle, every line of it. I might unwrap the gift and find someone’s laugh, or the way they inhale just before they speak. I might see a shadow on a table and note how it moves whenever someone passes by.

And then I write.

Sometimes the locations themselves find their way into my stories. The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia is one of them. I used to live in Richmond, and I have spent a few Christmases sipping drinks among the incredibly festive holiday decorations there. You can catch a glimpse of it in my novel Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses. I hope you get a chance to visit with my characters Abbey and Nick!


Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale
Published by Forever on October 30, 2018
Genres: Adult Fiction — Contemporary, Christmas, Romance
Add to Goodreads • Amazon

Single mother Abbey Fuller loves her family more than anything, and she doesn’t regret for a moment having had to put her dreams of being an interior designer on hold. But with her son, Max, growing up, she jumps at the chance when a friend recommends her for a small design job. How hard can it be?

Nick Sinclair needs his house decorated in time for his family’s festive visit-and money is no object. What he doesn’t need is to be distracted from his multimillion-dollar business-even if it is Christmas.

When Abbey pulls up to the huge Sinclair mansion, she has a feeling she might be out of her depth. And when she meets the gorgeous, brooding Nicholas Sinclair, she knows that she’s in real trouble . . .

With the snow falling all around them, can Abbey make her dreams of being a designer come true? And can she help Nick to finally enjoy the magic of Christmas?


About Jenny Hale

When I graduated college, one of my friends said, “Look out for this one; she’s going to be an author one day.” Despite being an avid reader and a natural storyteller, it wasn’t until that very moment that the idea of writing novels occurred to me.

Sometimes our friends can see the things that we can’t.

While I didn’t start straight away, that comment sowed a seed and several years, two children, and hundreds of thousands of words later, I completed a novel that I felt was worthy of publication. The result was Coming Home for Christmas, a heart-warming story about friends, family, and the magic of love at Christmas.

The rest is history.

When I’m not writing, I’m a mother of two boys and a wife to a very supportive husband.

Author Website | Twitter


Teri Bailey Black’s Experiences As a Debut Author | Girl At the Grave Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Posted October 25, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway, Guest Post / 7 Comments

Teri Bailey Black’s Experiences As a Debut Author | Girl At the Grave Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Welcome to The FFBC’s blog tour of Teri Bailey Black’s The Girl At the Grave! As one of the co-owners of The Fantastic Flying Book Club, I had the exciting privilege of organizing this blog tour and am delighted to be hosting Teri’s guest post on her experiences as a debut author here on my blog as well!


My Experiences As a Debut Author
by Teri Bailey Black

Two days after my book was released, I received a message from a stranger through social media: “It is 2 am, so I’m not even going to attempt writing my review until tomorrow, but your book is everything! Thank you for writing it and sharing it.”

Messages like that make my heart sing because getting published is a bumpy road with as many twists and turns as a murder mystery.

I’ve been writing stories since I learned to read, but stopped for about ten years after I got married and had four children. My first child was born with severe disabilities, which brought a few extra challenges. Plus, I started a home business that took off and kept me creatively happy. Life was busy! But as my kids hit the teen years, I yearned to write again and started carving out that time.

It took me a while to figure out WHAT I wanted to write. I started out with middle grade fantasy because that’s what I enjoyed reading with my kids. I went to a big SCBWI conference in Los Angeles and submitted my first chapter for a critique with an editor. I sat down with much fear and trembling, and her first words were, “This is amaaazing! How fast can you finish it?” Wow, that was quick and easy. I spent four months finishing the manuscript, sent it to her with confidence—and a month later received a 2-sentence form rejection letter, not personalized at all.

Okay, not so quick and easy.

By then, I’d realized that my writing voice isn’t middle grade action, it’s more atmospheric and young adult. I wrote a young adult fantasy with magic, but by the time it was done, I knew it wasn’t that special—just a practice novel. I sent queries to agents anyway and did receive some personal notes that encouraged me. They liked my writing, but not the story.

Hm. Start again—with what? By then, the market was flooded with some truly amazing YA fantasy and dystopian, so I wanted to try something different. I’ve always loved murder mysteries, so quickly landed on that idea. (At the time, I wasn’t aware of any YA mysteries, but they’ve since become a trend, which makes me happy because I love them!)

GIRL AT THE GRAVE started as an image in my mind of a little girl in the 1800’s with wild curls and dirty feet—an outcast because her mother was hanged for murder. The story started in her childhood, then wandered into her teen years. I added murder and romance. I wrote without much of a plan (typical seat-of-the-pants writing, before I’d figured out good plotting techniques.) That first draft took a year, writing occasionally.

I sent out queries and received several requests for the full, followed by rejections with praise for my writing voice but problems with the plot. One agent asked me to revise and resubmit, with a suggestion to make it either a full children’s story or a full YA story. Seemed so obvious, suddenly.

I set the story aside for six months while I read some books on plotting—wishing I’d done that earlier. Who knew there was so much to writing? (Everyone except me, apparently.) I carefully restructured the whole story, then rewrote it. This time, I saw clearly what the story needed to be.

That third version was the ticket to publication. Quite a few agents requested the full. Barbara Poelle read it and called quickly (no surprise if you know Barbara), which led to a stressful weekend as I emailed the other agents and they all scrambled for a chance. But I knew I wanted Barbara. A month or so later, she sold it to Tor Teen in a 2-book deal. Exciting!

Until . . . three months later, I received my revision notes from my editor. Her sharp, professional eyes had spotted a problem at the core of the story that would require changing almost every thought, word, and action from the main character. I completely agreed with her; that wasn’t the sticking point. But UGH! I couldn’t imagine rewriting it yet AGAIN. I flailed around for a few days, then took a deep breath and said YES I CAN DO THIS. She wanted the revision in 3 weeks. I said impossible. She then gave me six weeks, and I ended up taking 8 weeks. As the deadline loomed, there were some all-night writing sessions. I pushed the send button and collapsed.

Now, when I read reviews praising the book’s plot, it makes me giggle a little. It wasn’t easy, but I did get there in the end.

Thank goodness those first few books didn’t sell. Yes, really. I needed that practice to learn the craft, because once you hit the book deal, strong writing skills are required to revise quickly and meet deadlines. (Well, I didn’t revise QUICKLY, but more quickly than I could have a year earlier.)

I’m happy to say that my next book is coming together in a much easier fashion. Another murder mystery with dead bodies, romance, and a setting that makes me clap my hands with excitement. Can’t wait to share it with the world!


Girl At the Grave by Teri Bailey Black
Published by Tor Teen on August 7, 2018
Genres: Young Adult — Historical, Mystery, Romance
Add to Goodreads • Amazon • B&N • Book Depository

Valentine has spent years trying to outrun her mother’s legacy. But small towns have long memories, and when a new string of murders occurs, all signs point to the daughter of a murderer.

Only one person believes Valentine is innocent—Rowan Blackshaw, the son of the man her mother killed all those years ago. Valentine vows to find the real killer, but when she finally uncovers the horrifying truth, she must choose to face her own dark secrets, even if it means losing Rowan in the end.


About Teri Bailey Black

Teri Bailey Black grew up near the beach in southern California in a large, quirky family with no television or junk food, but an abundance of books and art supplies. She’s happiest when she’s creating things, whether it’s with words, fabric, or digging in the garden. She makes an amazing chocolate cherry cake—frequently. She and her husband have four children and live in Orange County, California.

Author Website | Twitter | Instagram

 


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Dark, Tragic, & Spine-Tinglingly Terrific: Halloween Book Recommendations from the God of the Underworld | Author Guest Post

Posted September 29, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 0 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

Today I’m welcoming Laure Holt, author of Fathoms Above, to the blog to present spooky book recommendations from Hades himself!


“Dark, Tragic, and Spine-Tinglingly Terrific”
Halloween Book Recommendations from the God of the Underworld

Ever wonder what the god of the Underworld does in his spare time? Well, when he’s not stealing souls, entertaining himself with trivial mortal pursuits, or trekking through spooky forests, ghoulish ruins, hidden underwater halls, and haunted trains in an effort to break a curse, he relishes nothing more than sitting quietly with a wicked read like these. (Curled up on a throne that’s as black as his dark little heart in front of a hearth of blazing hellfire, of course.)

Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco

Hades has been around for a long time (like several million years). So, a historical retelling written in haunting prose that centers around creepy character Houdini, the famous escape artist, is right up his alley. Especially when the main character’s love interest has his own brand of dark, sardonic wit. In Hades’s opinion, if this book doesn’t get you in the mood for Halloween, he doesn’t know what will!

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

Any book that has the word “dark” in the title makes it onto Hades’s tbr, and this next book in the Three Dark Crowns series is no exception. He is especially intrigued with the fact that Kendare Blake got the idea for this story from observing how all the queens but one in a bee colony are killed. Talk about freaky fabulous! The god of death can’t wait to see which queen comes out on top, though, if truth be told, he’s rooting for Katharine. Using the powers of dead queens and poisoning are, in his opinion, the best way to run a kingdom.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein and Bright We Burn by Kiersten White

From the vampiric hills of Transylvania to the lightning-struck tower of Victor Frankenstein, one look at the spookerific covers of Kierstin White’s latest masterpieces, and Hades was hooked. He is a secret sucker for shiny things (though he likes to blame his collection of bobbles on his raven harbingers). Still, even Persephone had to admit that these books looked pretty good on the shelf next to all of his human skulls and glowing soul jars.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

It should come as no surprise that Hades’s favorite holiday is Halloween. Not only is he death personified (though please don’t expect him to show up on your doorstep in a black hooded cloak carrying a scythe. That look is so nineties.) But when you live in an underground castle in the land of the dead guarded by a small army of mythical nasties, you’ve already won the house decorating contest. At that point, all you can do is embrace the inherent darkness. And Shea Ernshaw’s debut book, with witches, spooky magic, small town legends, and curses, sounds chock full of chills and thrills. Needless to say, Hades is super excited to give this one a try!


Fathoms Between by Laura Holt
Series: Star Crossed #3
Self-published on October 2, 2018
GoodreadsAmazon

It worked.

Cather Stevens thwarted the curse of star-crossed love that has plagued the women in her family for centuries. All it took was a marriage to Peter Ganis, the last living descendant of Pyramus’s bloodline, whose sway over her grows stronger with each passing day. The pieces of Thisbe’s soul are still out there, though. To erase the curse, Cather must travel to Greece’s most mythological places and track each one down with the help of her husband and Hermes, the Book Keeper and Messenger of the gods, who still holds a piece of her heart that neither is willing to give up.

But when an unexpected tragedy befalls Peter, Cather is forced to put her trust in none other than Hades, god of the Underworld and Zeus’s biggest rival. With magical assassins on their tail and danger lurking around every corner, they must work together to reunite the soul pieces before Ares, god of War, who was sent to Earth to stop them, destroys them and dooms Cather, her family, and both the men she loves forever.


About Laura Holt

Laura Holt is from a small Georgia town, where she lives with her daughter. Growing up as the oldest of three sisters, Laura used her imagination to make up stories as a way to escape from the sometimes crazy-making monotony of everyday life. As she got older, her love of stories grew into a love of books, especially fantasy, and eventually, she wrote her own stories down as well. When Laura isn’t busy writing or thinking up a new way to promote the Star Crossed series, she can be found curled up on the couch reading, working out, or spending time with her daughter. A few of their favorite pastimes include watching shows like Merlin on Netflix, shopping, and going treasure hunting. Laura is also active in the children’s ministry at her local church, is addicted to Pinterest, loves anything chocolate (as long as it doesn’t have soy in it), and is always looking for a new way to get her daily adrenaline fix.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon


The Flight of Swans & Stinging Nettles (or how I came to love Benadryl) by Sarah McGuire | Author Guest Post (+ Giveaway)

Posted September 24, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 4 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

Today I’m welcoming Sarah McGuire, author of The Flight of Swans, to the blog to talk about her new book and a crazy run-in she had with some stinging nettles while she was doing some research for it!


The Flight of Swans & Stinging Nettles
(or how I came to love Benadryl)

by Sarah McGuire

For me, writing a novel-length fairy tale retelling involves exploring what I love about the tale and what I want to change. In Grimm’s “Six Swans,” I’d loved that a girl did the saving. The young princess single-handedly saves her older brothers by remaining silent for six years and making them shirts out of stinging nettles.

Stinging nettles are the centerpiece of the original tale and there’s just something about the name. They sound like such sinister plants! It was easy to imagine a girl with blistered, perhaps even bleeding, hands weeping as she made six shirts.

And yet…

… it felt like the narrator sat there, saying, “You’re not going to talk? Well, what if you have to live alone? Okay, still won’t talk? What about if I make you work with stinging nettles that destroy your hands? Still won’t talk? You should marry this guy and have two babies–all while you can’t speak.”

“Six Swans” was all about the heroine’s endurance. But in The Flight of Swans, I wanted Andaryn to have agency. I wanted to show all the ways she sought to communicate even when she couldn’t speak, and how hard she worked to save her brothers.

That’s when I realized just what I wanted to change about my retelling. (Well, that and the romantic interest. That man was a mess! But that’s another blog post…) Andaryn wouldn’t just survive the nettles–she’d outwit them. And the more I researched nettles, the more I realized that was possible.

Here’s what I discovered:

  • Nettles were a primary source of fabric in Europe before linen. That may be why the Grimms’ version of the tale (gathered as folklore) is fairly matter-of-fact about nettles, while Hans Christian Anderson’s “Wild Swans” involves so much suffering. I doubt Anderson had much experience with stinging nettles except for occasionally being stung by some.
  • There’s a way you can touch nettles so that you don’t get stung. Thank you, YouTube! There were even folks who tore leaves off the nettle plants and ATE them.
  • Stinging nettles are incredibly nutritious.

But research isn’t anything without trying it yourself, right? So I met with Krista, a local farmer whocultivated and harvested stinging nettles. She told me how people with arthritis would use the nettles to sting the affected areas– and that it helped. She told me that you got used to the stings. The first stings of the season hurt, but you’d hardly notice them by the end of the season.

Then she asked if I wanted to try it. And–this was probably me–it seemed like she wondered if I would actually do it.

Oh, I wanted to harvest them. (Because research. Also ego.) I rolled up my sleeves, grabbed a handful of nettles (the wrong way- because research!) and started hacking away. When I had an entire grocery bag of nettles, Krista looked at my welt-covered arms and told me that I had the strongest reaction to nettles she’d seen in a while.

I nodded bravely (because, ego) but to be honest, my arms looked worse than they felt.

By the time I’d driven home, the welts had disappeared. My hands and arms looked normal, and the pain was definitely manageable. Perhaps the fairy tale had been overestimating how much stinging nettles hurt.

A few hours later, I’d changed my mind. Every bit of skin that had been stung burned, and even the slight pressure of typing on laptop hurt. The pain was prickly from the inside–the way it feels when you lose circulation in your foot and then stand up. Except it didn’t stop. A few hours later, it still hadn’t stopped.

I chickened out by bedtime and took an antihistamine. Even so, I still felt triumphant. Because while I’d definitely harvested the nettles the wrong way, I’d also realized that I could strip an entire nettle stalk of its leaves without getting stung. I won’t lie–I was proud of that.

Here’s what stinging nettles taught me. Yes, awful things happen, and we writers do awful things to our characters. But it’s also important to concentrate on the way that we (and they!) fight back.

I love that.

The Flight of Swans wasn’t an easy book to write. Andaryn is mute for most of it. I had to cover six years of her life without bogging down the story. And while I’d loved researching nettles, the story needed to be about so much more than the nettles.

But for me the research on nettles allowed me to create the sort of heroine that I love. Yes, Ryn endures a great deal, but she doesn’t just endure this curse. She fights it. And for me, that is always, always, the kind of story I want to read.


The Flight of Swans by Sarah McGuire
Published October 1, 2018 by Carolrhoda Books
Genres: Middle Grade — Fantasy, Retelling
Add to Goodreads • Amazon

Based on the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale Six Swans, The Flight of Swans follows Ryn’s journey to save her family and their kingdom.

Princess Andaryn’s six older brothers have always been her protectors–until her father takes a new Queen, a frightening, mysterious woman who enchants the men in the royal family. When Ryn’s attempt to break the enchantment fails, she makes a bitter bargain: the Queen will spare her brothers’ lives if Ryn remains silent for six years.

Ryn thinks she freed her brothers, but she never thought the Queen would turn her brothers into swans. She never thought she’d have to discover the secret to undoing the Queen’s spell while eluding the Otherworldly forces that hunt her. And she never thought she’d have to do it alone, without speaking a single word.

As months as years go by, Ryn learns there is more to courage than speech . . . and that she is stronger than the Queen could have ever imagined.


About Sarah McGuire

Sarah McGuire is a nomadic math teacher who sailed around the world aboard a floating college campus. She writes fairy tales and would be just fine if one day she opened a wardrobe and stumbled into another world. Coffee and chocolate are her rocket fuel. She wishes Florida had mountains, but she lives there anyways with her husband (who wrote this bio in less than three minutes!) and their family.

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An Entreaty for Under-Represented Mythological Creatures In Recent Fantasy | Blogger Guest Post

Posted September 17, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 3 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

I’m so excited to welcome Amber of The Literary Phoenix to the blog today to share with us her strong feelings on the subject of lesser-used mythological creatures in recent fantasy novels!


An Entreaty for Under-Represented Mythological
Creatures In Recent Fantasy

If you would humor me, I would like to open this post with a bit of a game. I will list a series of names, and Dear Reader, I challenge you to find what they have in common.

Edward Cullen
Barnabas Collins
Jean-Claude
Eric Northman
Dracula
Spike
Lestat de Lioncourt
Adrian Ivashkov
Kurt Barlow
Marceline

If you are thinking, “They’re all vampires!” then you would be correct! The ten names listed above are a mere handful of famous vampires, one of the most popular creatures to grace fantasy novels since their invention in 1887 with Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

There was a time when it was almost impossible to pick up a new YA fantasy and not find a vampire lurking inside. There is a list on Goodreads with 385 teen vampire books and 1594 adult vampire books. I could start reading right now and it would take me about 20 years to read all the books on these lists.

While vampires are fun, there are a lot of other mythological beasts out there begging for some attention in fiction. Today, I’m going to introduce you to three underused magical creatures with a lot of potential.

The Phoenix

The phoenix is grossly underused in fantasy. As a creature, it is a symbol of renewal and rebirth. In Egypt, it was called “Bennu” and sacred to Heliopolis (god of the sun). In Greek myth, the phoenix lived several centuries before burning up in a nest of myrrh and other finery, and being reborn from the ashes. Chinese legend recognizes it as “Feng Huang” – it was part of the union of yin and yang, representing the Empress.

Despite its majesty and the respect it held in ancient culture, the firebird is oft forgotten in fantasy novels. You can find the phoenix in a variety of supernatural romance novels, but I believe the most famous example is Fawkes, Dumbledore’s pet and companion in the Harry Potter series.

Goodreads has a list of 43 books tagged “phoenix”.

The Gorgon

Gorgons are a bit less common than phoenixes, as they are exclusively found in Greek Mythology. The most famous gorgon is Medusa, who was slain by Hercules, but she also had two sisters just as vain as herself who were transformed into hideous monsters by the gods. As far as the mythos goes, there’s no in-depth mention of them… what are their stories?

Goodreads has a list of 23 books tagged “medusa”.

The Selkie

Finally, the selkie is a form of shapeshifter. I first learned about selkies a couple years ago when I was listening to S.J. Tucker’s “For the Girl in the Garden“, a companion album to In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente. The selkie comes from Scottish legend, and is a creature capable of shedding its seal skin and becoming human. Unlike your traditional shapeshifter, selkies require their seal skin in order to return to their original form.

This is asking for an epic quest of a selkie girl trying to retrieve her stolen skin from a hunter! It would fit really well into YA fantasy, so someone please get on top of this.

Goodreads has a list of 153 books tagged “selkie”.

These three are but the tip of the iceberg as to the opportunities available to in the world of underused fantasy creatures. Many of the creatures J.K. Rowling features in her Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them have a mythological background, and that book is a good starting point if you’re interested in learning a little more about magical creatures.

I would like to beseech you, dear readers and writers: before picking up a pen or your next great read and seeking out a vampire, witch, or werewolf… try something a little different! Take a chance on a minotaur. Try your luck with a banshee. You never know what stories these other creatures have to tell.

About Amber

Author of half a dozen unpublished fantasy tales, book blogger, Ravenclaw, cat lover, and dreamer. Historian. Seeking first class tickets to Oz or Neverland.
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Fairytale Retellings In the Real World: Melanie Dickerson’s Medieval Fairy Tale Series | Blogger Guest Post

Posted September 14, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 5 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

I’m so excited to welcome Rachel of Bookworm Mama to the blog today to share her love of Melanie Dickerson’s fairytale retellings, set in medieval times!


Fairytale Retellings In the Real World:
Melanie Dickerson’s Medieval Fairy Tale Series

by Rachel of Bookworm Mama

Fairy tales have always held a special place in my heart. The romance, the charming prince, rescues, fights, daring adventures…And let’s not forget the gorgeous dresses. Please tell me, I am not the only one who still can’t decide if the blue or the pink “Sleeping Beauty” dress is the prettiest…

There is just something magical about getting lost in a fairy tale. Singing mermaids and flying carpets however, aren’t real. What if…these fairy tales were told in a REAL world setting? Sure, they may not be any glowing hair that heals people, but THIS Rapunzel, could have actually been a real person…in fact, I’m convinced she is real.

Enter Melanie Dickerson’s books. The first book I read by Melanie Dickerson was The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest, part of her three book A Medieval Fairy Tale series, which my husband surprised me with for my birthday a few years ago. In each of the Medieval Fairy Tale books, we see a combination of fairy tales. Swan Lake and Robin Hood for example is what you will find in The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest. I was instantly hooked and desperately needed to get my hands on more of her stories. From Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and Aladdin….Melanie’s stories take you to the era of knights and dukes through Medieval Fiction. The Hagenheim series currently has 8 books with the 9th (a Mulan retelling) releasing soon. I still have a few of these stories to catch up on myself, for they are worth savoring.

Written as Young Adult books, I believe fairytale fans of all ages will enjoy Melanie’s books.

Be prepared to fall in love when you pick up one of these stories. Whether you start from the beginning of the series or dive into your favorite fairy tale story first, you are sure to want more. You can find all of Melanie’s books listed on her website.

What is your favorite fairytale?


About Rachel

Rachel enjoys reading, reviewing books, and sharing her passion for literature at www.bookwormmama.org. She’s a virtual assistant and shares the small-town life with her husband and children.

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A.J. Pine’s Summer Reading Recs | Forever Summer Reading Blog Event (+ Giveaway)

Posted August 15, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Spotlight, Giveaway, Guest Post / 0 Comments

A.J. Pine’s Summer Reading Recs | Forever Summer Reading Blog Event (+ Giveaway)

A.J. Pine’s Summer Reading Recs

During the months of the school year, I’m a high school librarian. I’m also a mom of two fabulous kiddos. Add writing into that, and you probably wonder where I find time to read. The answer? Audio books! I get to “read” while doing other things like driving…or less enjoyable activities such as laundry, emptying the dishwasher, or blow drying my hair (yay earbuds!). Also, I just plain love audio books, so here are a few of my recent listens that you should definitely add to your audio list!

  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: I read this book for my summer book club, and it blew me away. I could talk about this book for days—and have. There’s so much to discuss, and I can’t do it justice without spoiling it, but what a fascinating exploration of self vs. projected image we let others see; of how parents see their children and vice versa; of how prejudice can so easily blind someone to the truth; and of what it truly means to be a mother.
  • Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton: Dual timelines, dual narrators, forbidden love, exile from Cuba, family secrets—this book has so muchAnd that cover??? STUNNING. A must read!
  • It Happened on Love Street by Lia Riley: I’m a sucker for small town romance. And men who are good with animals. So a southern veterinarian hero and a heroine who is—shall we say—dog averse? Puh-lease. You had me at Rhett Valentine and Pepper Knight.
  • Burning Up by Jennifer Blackwood: Sometimes I just need a good romcom, and Jennifer Blackwood’s humor always has me legit laughing out loud. As an educator myself, I love a strong school teacher heroine. And I mentioned before my penchant for men and their dogs. Even sexier—a man who’s a good dad. Did I also mention he’s a firefighter?
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi: I just started listening to this one but know it’s going to be spectacular. Bahni Turpin is one of my favorite audio book narrators, plus the story has fantasy, magic, and romance yet also a storyline that deals very much with the reality of the world we live in. I’m sure I’ll be flailing about this one on social media when I’m done!

 

A librarian for teens by day and a romance writer by night, A.J. Pine can’t seem to escape the world of fiction, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. For more on A.J. and her books, please visit AJPine.com.

 

 


Tough Luck Cowboy by A.J. Pine
Book #2 in the Crossroads Ranch series
Published by Forever on August 28, 2018
Genres: Adult – Contemporary, Romance

The only girl he ever wanted was the one he could never have.

What’s the saying, bad luck comes in threes? If so, Lily Green is due for something good. First, her divorce is finalized—on her birthday, no less. Then the first job she lands for her catering company turns out to be for her ex-husband’s wedding. To top it off, she’s stuck working the event with Luke Everett, the sexy-as-hell best man who’s never been able to stand her. When can a girl catch a break?

For years, Luke has kept his feelings for Lily safely hidden. Hitting on his best friend’s ex-wife would definitely break the cowboy code of honor. But ever since an injury sidelined his rodeo riding, the two of them keep getting thrown together. It’s only a matter of time until his true feelings come to light. When that happens, it will either be the biggest mistake of his life, or a sign that his luck is about to change.

 


Kristen Brand’s Mood Board and Inspirations for The Ghost Machine | Author Guest Post

Posted May 25, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post, Mood Board / 4 Comments

Do you like creepy old manors full of dark secrets (and possibly ghosts)? Do you find yourself attracted to mysterious gentlemen in Victorian attire who may or may not be villainous? Do you think the best outfit for investigating mysteries is a lacy white nightgown?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you probably like gothic romances.
The gothic genre has been around for hundreds of years and got big in the Victorian Era with novels like Dracula and Jane Eyre. It had a revival in the 1960s (Do a Google Image search for “gothic romance covers.” You won’t be disappointed.), and if you’re looking for a more recent example, think Crimson Peak.

 

When I wrote The Ghost Machine, I wanted to mix steampunk with gothic romance. It influenced everything from the setting (featuring a haunted asylum and shadowy castle), to the plot (the main character, Ella, can see ghosts), to the characters (her love interest is a Byronic hero, and she suspects him of being a murderer for part of the book).

I always associate gothic romances with the 1800s, though they can be set in any time. Maybe it’s because those Victorians were surprisingly morbid, with their creepy photographs of dead family members and the elaborate mourning attire they were required to wear. Or maybe it’s the popularity of spiritualism and their fascination with ghosts.

That’s why I think gothic romance meshes so well with steampunk, which also has a heavy Victorian influence. It lets me play around with steampunk technology that can detect and manipulate ghosts, and I can throw a mad scientist’s laboratory into one of those gothic castles and get a Frankenstein vibe going.

But what I like best about gothic romance is the aesthetic: the dark and sinister mixed with the beautiful. While I’m not a fan of the jump scares and gore of the horror genre, give me the subtle feeling of lurking dread that permeates a good gothic novel any day.

That’s the aesthetic I wanted The Ghost Machine’s mood board to reflect, and that’s what you’ll find in the novel itself.


The Ghost Machine by Kristen Brand
Self published on December 30, 2016
Genres: Gothic, Romance, Steampunk
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Ella Rosenfeld is a lunatic. Locked away in the remote Auttenberg Asylum, she undergoes torturous treatment to cure her hallucinations. Yet the longer she remains within Auttenberg’s austere halls, the more gruesome her visions become, until Ella is sure she’s seeing ghosts, and Auttenberg’s doctor knows it. He doesn’t plan to cure her; he wants to study her ability by dissecting her.

Ella refuses to accept her fate. She assaults her captors, scales the asylum fence, and finds sanctuary in the castle of Baron Viktor Szarka. Young and arrogant, the baron offers her protection, but he’s rumored to have locked a woman in the asylum to hide his dark past, and he has suspicious dealings with Auttenberg’s doctor. Unable to trust him, Ella must uncover the conspiracy surrounding the asylum, her visions, and the baron’s secret…or join the rest of Auttenberg’s ghosts.


About Kristen Brand

Kristen Brand is a total nerd. She writes speculative fiction with lots of danger, snark, and a bit of romance. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found reading novels or comic books, and she’s probably drinking tea right now. You can find out more about her work and read free fiction at her website, kristenbrand.com.

 

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