12 Books—Month 7

Yes, I’m playing catch up. Since we’re actually in the 10th month of the year, I’m reviewing 2 books by Twitter friends in one month, but this one was an easy pick. Why? Because it’s The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor, and I had the pleasure of getting to meet Ramzipoor in person when she visited my lovely little library just a few weeks ago for an incredible presentation as part of Literatour Berks. (<— That’s an amazing program, by the way, and I’m honored to have been a part of the committee that’s helped pull it together.)

The Ventriloquists

The Ventriloquists isn’t the kind of novel I would have picked up on my own. While the cover is gorgeous (It is, isn’t it?), I have a difficult time with historical fiction. It’s not that I’m uninterested, but I get bogged down in the details. But this…this I couldn’t resist.

Inspired by true events, the novel follows a ragtag gang of journalists and resistance fighters in 1943 Belgium who risk their lives for an elaborate scheme to undermine the Reich in the practical joke of the century. When we think of World War II stories, we tend to think of the war stories told time and again—the soldiers’ tales, the bombings, the rescues, the planes and the ships, the big picture heroes. Often overlooked is the story of the everyday resistance fighter, and that’s what Ramzipoor brings to light in The Ventriloquists.

The Ventriloquists features a large cast that can be overwhelming in the beginning (not going to lie), but is well-worth the time spent getting to know them. Beloved characters with charm and wit, LGBT representation that’s more often than not erased from history in most works, and a precocious child (our narrator) at the center of it all.

In all, 60,000 copies of a fake newspaper (Le Soir) were distributed at the Nazis’ expense on November 9th, 1943. The newspaper was real enough, you see, but it wasn’t the paper that should have been distributed that day. Instead, it was a spoof paper written to poke fun at the Nazis, at the Reich, and at Hilter himself. It was a prank of epic proportions and a story I can’t believe hasn’t been told before.

Do yourself a favor. Pick up The Ventriloquists, read, and enjoy history coming to life before your very eyes. Ramzipoor has crafted a winner in this incredible debut.

12 Books—Month 6

Okay, okay, so we’re a little more than 6 months into the year. Perhaps I was being a tad ambitious about reading 12 Twitter friends’ books in a year, especially when my own book launched a few months ago and I’ve had several signings and events and I’m still trying to keep up on recommended reading from friends and coworkers (which will bring me to 12 Books—Month 7 in a few short weeks).

Without further ado, I bring to you Planetside by Michael Mammay. It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a science fiction novel. I veer more toward fantasy. What can I say? I’m a sucker for magic and dragons, and I tend to get a little lost when it comes to hard sci fi.

Planetside

That said, there was no way to get lost in Planetside. (I mean, there is, but that’s getting lost in the very best of ways.) I’m not even sure I would classify it as hard science fiction. Does it take place in space? Yes. Are there space stations, and aliens, and hostile planet takeovers? Yes, yes, and yes. Okay, I guess it really is hard sci-fi. But that’s difficult to remember that when the entire novel is wrapped up in what’s essentially a murder-mystery. (Missing person mystery? Can it be a murder mystery if there’s no body?)

I must say one of the most surprising aspects of this book…was finding out that the protagonist wasn’t a misogynistic jerk.

What’s that, you say? Why should that be surprising? Well, I’ve read a number of mystery-thriller novels with a smart-ass male protagonist who’s on the tail-end of his career, but somehow manages to solve an incredibly difficult case no one else possibly could have cracked while snagging a beautiful woman half his age, while also admiring eight other women’s asses in the entire length of the novel. It gets old. Really old. Is it a male fantasy thing? Probably. But I like a good mystery, too, and I love a smart-ass protagonist! (Still…he doesn’t need to be checking out every woman’s breasts or rear throughout the entirety of the book!)

Guess what? Mammay not only doesn’t have a misogynist as his main character, but he also HAS MANY WOMEN CHARACTERS ALL THROUGHOUT THE BOOK AND YES I AM SHOUTING BECAUSE I AM HAPPY. Do you know how annoying it is to see 90% of the cast as male in just about any random book (especially science fiction)? Not only is the main character in Planetside happily married and looking forward to retirement, but he also happens to interact with dozens of female officers, soldiers, and hospital personnel throughout the book, all of which is done without a bat of the eyelashes. Women. Treated as equals. It’s a novel concept. (See what I did there? Novel concept.)

All in all, this book was stellar. My only hitch is in the ending because now I have to pick up Spaceside… Well-played, Mammay. Well-played.

End of Summer Odds and Ends

Okay, so it’s been almost two months since my last blogpost. Please don’t yell at me! I’ve been busy. I promise. And yes, busy with so much book-stuff I can hardly keep track of it all. Not that I’m complaining…

First up, I got to visit one of my most amazing-est (Yes, that’s a word. I have deemed it so.) online friends IN REAL LIFE. My book-blogging buddy, Shanah McCready (also known as the Bionic Bookworm)! Life is SO good, and the internet really does have a positive side, I swear. We vacationed together this summer with our families and had a blast.

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I hate selfies. She hates selfies. But we took this one about 10 minutes after meeting…with both of us nearly sick with the anxiety of meeting an internet friend in real life!

Second, the kids were home all summer, so I didn’t do much in the way of writing. BUT. I did at least start writing Tarrowburn #2, so I’m moving in the right direction. I hope to wrap up the first draft by the end of this year. Ambitious of  me, but we’ll see what kind of things life throws at me in the mean time.

Third, I was invited to a signing event at Barnes & Noble in Lancaster, PA! Yes, really. No, I’m not joking. Who even am I? (If you know the answer, please tell me because I still haven’t figured it out.)

 

Even cooler? One of the authors I sat next to during the signing event was Greg Cox, a talented and established writer of many of the Star Trek novels. (Among many, many, MANY others.) I might be intimidated except that he was so darned nice and handed out good advice like it was candy. (If you’re reading this, “Hi, Greg! And thank you!”)

Lastly, I’ve been busy making arrangements for other appearances in Berks and surrounding counties and will have an updated list soon!

In the mean time, please remember the holidays are coming, books make great gifts, and Amazon reviews are gold.

 

ADDENDUM: Um, hello? This is why I should not write a blog post at 10 p.m. on a Monday. I completely forgot that I was contacted by a new imprint of major publishing house and had the chance to work on a children’s book this month!! (How does one forget this, exactly?) So, more book news! Yay! I’ll let you know when the book releases and when I can say more about it.

Book Launch Parties, The Meaning of Family, & Other Musings

This week has been one heck of a whirlwind. Wait. I mean last week. (See? It’s already gotten  away from me…)

TresLast week, I spent my Wednesday and Thursday driving to & from Massachusetts to bring this sweet girl to her new home. I am so very glad this cat is now living with one of my dearest friends because I’ll be honest. During the time she was with us, she put down roots in my heart. I will never forget how special she is. (And if I didn’t already have two cats and two dogs, she never would have left our house for sure!)

I came back from Massachusetts and immediately started cleaning house because another wonderful friend (and fellow creative) was headed to my house from Brooklyn on Friday afternoon. Why? Because she wanted to support me in my dream and be there for me during my book launch party and signing for A Thousand Years to Wait. 

I know what you’re thinking.

I have superheroes for friends. 

It’s true. I do. They rescue animals and drive hundreds of miles to cheer on their friends’ creative endeavors.

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Speaking of friends, Friday evening, my friends and coworkers at the Exeter Community Library threw a book launch party for A Thousand Years to Wait. As an indie author with my first book, I expected a handful of people and maybe half a dozen book sales. Instead, I spoke to over 50 people and sold 26 books. I hardly had a moment to breathe.

To be fair, about half the people in attendance were friends and family. Some of my friends flew in from California or drove from Pittsburgh or Brooklyn. And my family? My family came from Massachusetts and Connecticut; they drove from Stroudsburg and Bethlehem. I wish I could reward them all for the miles they traveled to support the release of A Thousand Years to Wait and listen to me speak. (Perhaps I need to invent a frequent traveler miles system for my groupies…)

And the party was spectacular. I was surprised with a gorgeous arrangement of flowers, a beautiful cake decorated to look like my book cover, and amazing cookies with my book’s cover in edible ink. Spectacular! I was floored.

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But what was even more spectacular than anything were the perfect strangers who showed up—the people who didn’t know me beyond the library’s advertisements for the launch party. People who wanted to hear about writing, about the process, about persistence, and about the journey I took to get where I am. That was surely the most wonderful surprise of all!

To every aspiring author out there, never think you can’t make it happen. You can. You will. And when you do? Well, I hope you have the same support from friends, family, & community. The journey will never NOT be difficult, but times like this make it oh-so-worth-it!

Birthday Presents

Welcome to June! It’s my birthday month and this year is a BIG ONE. But I don’t care about the numbers. I care about the gifts. No, not gifts to me…

I’m giving away a talisman necklace and signed copy of A Thousand Years to Wait to one lucky winner. All you have to do is:

  1. Follow my Facebook page or my Twitter profile.
  2. Repost or Retweet my announcement of this giveaway on FB or Twitter.
  3. Perform any ONE of the following actions:

– Donate blood at your local blood bank.
– Donate money ($5 or more) to the ACLU.
– Adopt an animal from your local shelter.
– Donate to YOUR favorite charity and tell me why.

(Send me photo evidence of #3 – screenshot, photo of you, etc. You can tag me, @ me, DM me, or email me at writingupstorms@gmail.com.)

I’ll draw a winner at noon on July 1st, 2019. Open U.S. and internationally.

So spread the love! We can make a difference by doing the little things!

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12 Books—Month 5

This month, in my Twitter-Friend Book Review, I chose Katrina Ariel’s Wild Horse Heart. I first glimpsed this book when Katrina and I became friends on Twitter and I was lucky enough to read some of her other work as a critique partner long ago. Since I already knew I enjoyed her writing, I bought a copy of Wild Horse Heart and jumped in.

Given my love of horses, this book was an obvious choice. A light contemporary romance, Wild Horse Heart is a story about taking big chances, starting over, and learning to love yourself. It was an easy read and I finished it in about two days. Plus, let’s take a moment to talk about this gorgeous cover art, shall we? Love.

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Ariel obviously enjoys the outdoors and her love of nature shines through in her work. The descriptions of landscape in particular had me itching to get in the car and start driving westward once more, longing for fresh air and wide open spaces.

If you like romance, enjoy a little Hollywood escapism, and love the idea of stepping out of your own life and into a new one, this is the perfect read.

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My horse is a Standardbred, a retired racehorse. My sister has a mustang, just like those in Katrina Ariel’s book!

Will Rise From Ashes

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook or if you follow this blog, you know I’m a huge fan of supporting other authors, and you’re probably aware that I’ve already supported my good friend and author Jean M. Grant twice this year with two of her releases.

Now join me in welcoming her back to my blog for her third (and final) release of 2019. This lady has been working her tail off for sure, but I have never been happier to see it pay off.

Jean’s latest novel, Will Rise From Ashes, is her first foray into women’s fiction and it’s a gem in every way. I’ve read the first version and I’ve read the finished version, and this story just tugs at a mother’s heartstrings.

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So, without further ado, let’s get into an interview with Jean.

LRS: Can you give us a quick synopsis of Will Rise From Ashes?

JMG: AJ Sinclair is a young widow, on a cross-country journey with her autistic/Asperger’s 9-year-old son in the wake of the Yellowstone supervolcano eruption. Her other younger son is missing after the eruption and she needs to find him. Along the way, her son and a stranger she meets show her a world that she’s almost forgotten…that living is more than mere survival.

LRS: I know you and your love of research. Tell me how you went about it in order to write this book.

JMG: Simply put, heaps of reading, exploring, and travel. My background is in science (microbiology, immunology, biology, and marine science—I spent a lot of time fine-tuning my interests in college and graduate school), and I love traveling and hiking. The idea of Will Rise from Ashes came from a bit of my own life (as a parent with an autistic child) and my love of nature…I asked myself what would happen if the Yellowstone supervolcano erupted? Volcanoes are a constant topic in our household. Bam! My story came. 

Then, road trip time! I’d already visited the lovely national park in the corner of Wyoming as a child and took another trip this time with my family, 4 years ago. This highlight of our national park system did not let me down. I was walking on ground zero—research moments were everywhere! We also toured other geothermal wonders throughout the Pacific Northwest on that trip. The bright sapphire-blue Crater Lake was one of my favorites and meandering through the observation areas of Mount St. Helens gave me shivers. I returned home with piles of books and dug into the story. Along the way, I’d stop to dig deeper with research. And up front, I take careful character development into consideration. My stories tend to have journeys of the body and heart, and this one takes my characters from Maine to Colorado. Talk about a road trip. The experts say “write what you know” and for me that was science, journeys, and parenting. I hope my readers enjoy AJ and Will’s journey in Will Rise from Ashes as much as I do.

LRS: Any quick and easy facts you learned along the way?

JMG: This is where the scientist in me (I have degrees in Biology, Marine Science, and Microbiology) comes out! Yellowstone is a scientist’s Disney World. 

How about a few Fun Facts about Yellowstone National Park? 

  1. It became the first National Park in 1872. Over 5 million people visit it annual.
  2. Yellowstone is a hydrothermal wonderland with over 10,000 hydrothermal features: geysers, hot springs, mudpots, steam vents, and over 500 geysers.
  3. The park is the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, covering 2.2 million acres.
  4. Yellowstone is a supervolcano. Two massive magma bodies bubble beneath the park. 
  5. There are over 20 supervolcanoes across the globe, Yellowstone being one of them.
  6. The park is not all geology wonderland…there are hundreds of unique bird, fish, and mammal species in this gem in northwest Wyoming. Some signatures: bears (black and brown/Grizzly), bison, and wolves. Because of extensive programs, endangered species now flourish in the park.
  7. Old Faithful has been very faithful, erupting approximately every 90 minutes.
  8. Sadly, human trash and pollution has caused many of the vibrant hot pools to lose their color over the years. However, Yellowstone has created innovated programs to manage waste and human impact.
  9. Yellowstone has had 3 [2 of them being “supervolcanic”] caldera-forming eruptions over the past 3 million years (2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago, respectively). Will it erupt again? Yes. Soon, like tomorrow? Not likely. The last eruption: 174,000 years ago, with 60 smaller ones since.
  10. The VEI scale measures explosivity of volcanoes and runs from 0 to 8.
  11. Be safe and read danger signs! To date over 92 people have died in the park, mostly from falling into burning hot springs, off ledges, or tempting fate with a bison.

Where can you learn more? I have piles of geology, volcano, and Yellowstone books at home, but the USGS and Yellowstone National Park websites are great places to get accurate facts. Happy digging, my aspiring geologists!

LRS: Tell me about Will Rise From Ashes and your shift from historical romance into women’s fiction.

JMG: Will Rise from Ashes was by far my hardest book to write. For many reasons, some personal, some technical. I’d been writing romances with HEAs for so long, shifting to women’s fiction with grittier topics took some getting used to. The romantic in me though, did toss in a romance subplot, and I am a sucker for a happ(ier) ending.

A few more facts about this book:

  1. I began writing it in 2015, 4 years ago. The first draft took a year (while working part-time and around kids’ busy schedules). Editing took a few more years…
  2. It underwent at least 8 full-length revisions before I submitted to my editor at The Wild Rose Press. I’ve also written/edited the entire manuscript at least 20 times (that is 400 pages x 20 = 8,000 pages. It’s no wonder authors can be a little nutty!)
  3. It’s my first book written in both first person (AJ, the mother) and third person (Will, the son).
  4. My villain is a volcano!
  5. The book spans over a month of time and over 2,000 miles.
  6. My theme of heartache, healing, and hope dominates this book.
  7. It is the 7th book I’ve written, but 4th published. (Yeah, that’s some funny math. Hint: 3 books are now shoved in drawers as “practice” novels).
  8. The story tackles topics of widowhood, anxiety, autism, and redemption.
  9. I threw everything but the kitchen sink at AJ. I love an emotional journey, but I do enjoy lots of external conflict and roadblocks (teehee, in this case, literal roadblocks).
  10. Its title was changed from the original. And nope, I won’t tell you the first one, but it took quite some convincing from my editor to change it!
  11. This book underwent the most “killing my darlings” (aka scene slicing!) of all my books. All for the better, or course!

LRS: What are some of your favorite things from Will Rise From Ashes?

JMG: 

  1. Experimenting with point of view. I enjoyed writing from 9-year-old Will’s POV for some scenes. This was my first time writing in first person (AJ, the protagonist).
  2. The science. Researching (and traveling to) Yellowstone still makes me smile. I am a scientist, nature-lover, and traveler. Put all three together and I am a grinning fool!
  3. The physical journey. I have printed out maps from online stitched together with tape and folded in a drawer. My master map is marked up with plot points, dates/timelines, and places. I triple-checked it for accuracy each time I wrote another part of the story. The map still sits in my drawer with other plotting and writing pages/charts.
  4. Will’s resilience.
  5. AJ’s perseverance and growth/character arc. 
  6. Reid’s gentle, wise nature.
  7. Harrison’s guiding presence in AJ’s life, even from beyond the grave.
  8. Scene? That’s always hard to choose. The romantic in me likes the camp-fire scenes between Reid and AJ. The mom in me likes the pizza shop scene. The HEA-phile in me likes the last scene.
  9. Writing a strong heroine, who is also emotionally wounded and finding herself while on a road to healing.
  10. And finally, that my editor at The Wild Rose Press totally “got” what I was going for with this story and is my biggest champion.

 

And no interview would be complete without including an excerpt from the book, right? Here’s one of my favorite passages from Will Rise From Ashes, when widowed A.J. and her son Will meet a hitchhiker on the road when their car has blown a tire…a hitchhiker they formerly passed instead of offering a ride.


Excerpt

Even from far away, I recognized the man’s plaid long-sleeved shirt and the large backpack, but now he was walking alongside a bike on his approach. 

“Hey, look! It’s that guy you drove past this morning!”

 I shuddered inwardly. Well, karma just bit me in the butt. 

“How did he catch up with us?” Motherly instinct took over as I rose, my legs wobbly. “Will, stay there. Here, take this,” I said, handing him the tire iron.

 “We already tried that, Mom.” 

“Not for that, Will.” 

He scratched his brown hair, which was overdue for a cut, and looked at me, confusion wrinkling his brow. 

“Be my wizard, Will. It’s your sword.” 

“Wizards have wands.” 

“Will…” 

The circuit connected. “Oh…yes, Mom, I’ll protect you!” 

I smiled faintly. “Thank you, honey.” I didn’t want to explain further that it was me protecting him. I didn’t want to say that if something happened, to run and hide in the woods. Because he would run and hide. Then what? Who would come help? 

I shoved my hand into my front jeans pocket to nestle my fingertips around the pocket knife I had given Harrison for our wedding anniversary. The man slowed his bicycle as he drew nearer. He gave me an understated, yet significant, nod. The nod of understanding, of kindness. I didn’t buy it. 

“Hello, again,” he said. 

Ouch.


Are you hooked? Do you just love Will? (I do!) You can get order a copy for yourself at any of these sites below!

Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ iTunes ~ Kobo ~ GooglePlay

And don’t forget a list of things you can do to help budding authors like Jean Grant!

More on Author Jean M. Grant below. Follow her on social media!

Website ~ Twitter  ~ Facebook ~  Goodreads ~ Bookbub ~ Amazon Author Page ~  The Wild Rose Press

J Grant JPEG squareJean’s background is in science and she draws from her interests in history, nature, and her family for inspiration. She writes historical and contemporary romances and women’s fiction. She also writes articles for family-oriented travel magazines. When she’s not writing or chasing children, she enjoys tending to her flower gardens, hiking, and doing just about anything in the outdoors.

The Release Day Plan

So what does one do on the day their very first book launches into the universe? Here’s a list so you can see how incredibly *unusual* today really is.

In order, I…

  1. Got kids up and ready for school.
  2. Picked up extra kid to take to school.
  3. Did the social media thing.
  4. Picked up older kid and another extra kid from 1/2 day of school.
  5. Cleaned multiple litter pans (we’re fostering, so it’s more than just my own cats).
  6. Cleaned yard of dog poop. (Exciting, right?)
  7. Mowed the lawn.
  8. Did the social media thing.
  9. Picked up younger kid from school.
  10. Took kids to dance class.
  11. Wrote words.
  12. Did the social media thing.
  13. Dinner. (Cooking? Not today, Satan.)

And if we’re really in the mood to celebrate this evening, we just might go for cupcakes… I’ll keep you posted.

My point? My dear friends, launch days aren’t really any different than any other day. There’s still plenty of poop to clean up and lots of words to write.

But am I celebrating anyway? Yes. Yes, I am.

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9:28 p.m. update: Celebratory gourmet cupcakes were had. They were prettier before they were accidentally smashed by 13 y.o. in the car. Tasted yummy anyway.

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Supporting Authors

***This post brought to you by: Anything to Procrastinate Opening my WIP***

With a book set to release in just over a week, I’ve fielded a lot of questions from friends and family, mostly along the lines of “How can we help?” or “What can we do?”

These are fantastic questions to ask any first-time author who’s seeking to build a longterm career in writing. The answers, however, are not nearly so straightforward.

So here’s a quick down and dirty list of things you can do to help an author at any stage of the game.

  1. (The Obvious) BUY THEIR BOOK(S).
  2. Buy a second copy of their book(s) to gift to a friend.
  3. Buy a copy to donate to a school library.
  4. Review their book(s) on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, BookDepository – anywhere you can think of. Reviews get books seen. Books that are seen are books that are purchased. And you don’t even have to do more than give it a few stars and say “I liked this one.” (I mean, more is better, of course, but “I liked this one.” is 100% legitimate!)
  5. Ask your local indie bookstore to carry their book(s). Amazon sales are good, but indie bookstores need our support now more than ever!
  6. Request the book from your library. Libraries rely on their patrons to request books for purchase. Ask your local library if they’ll buy a copy of your favorite author’s book(s).
  7. Come to local signings or meet & greets.
  8. Share your excitement on social media. Does this mean you have to retweet or share every post by your author friends? No. But getting in on the excitement of a new book gets others excited, too!
  9. Add their book to your Goodreads list.
  10. I really wanted to make this list a nice even 10, but I can’t think of a 10th item, so how about text or email or call your author friends and tell them how excited you are in order to keep them from jumping out of their skin with nerves?

Every one of these actions can help launch an author’s career, and at the very least, you’ll put a smile on an author’s face. So on behalf of authors everywhere, thank you to everyone who tackles any of the items on this list!

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Every single item on the list above provides a hand or foothold for a budding author. We can’t possibly climb without the help of family, friends, and readers! ❤

You can purchase A Thousand Years to Wait now. For a list of retailers, click HERE.