Tag Archives: book tours

Book review: Lowcountry Boneyard, by Susan M. Boyer

lowcountry boneyard

Die-hard mystery fans often grumble about mysteries with a paranormal twist, because what’s the good of a mystery when you’ve got supernatural means to help you solve it? Susan M. Boyer’s latest instalment in her Liz Talbot mystery series smartly sidesteps this issue; Boyer’s private detective Liz Talbot may spend her days shadowed by former high school friend and now guardian spirit Colleen, but Colleen’s main role is to protect her earthly friend, not flaunt any investigative chops.

Sure, Colleen can read minds, but she can’t read everyone’s minds. And actually, during the course of Lowcountry Boneyard, Colleen proves quite unhelpful in the mind-reading department. She also shows little flair in the mystery-solving department. She’s a guardian spirit, and true to her nature, guard is what she does.

And Liz Talbot does need guarding. Hired by wealthy Colton Heyward to investigate the disappearance of his daughter Kent, who also happens to be the heiress of old wealth on her mother’s side of the family, Liz initially hopes the police’s assessment of the situation is right: Kent simply moved out without telling anyone where she was going.

But as Liz and her partner and lover Nick dig deeper into the investigation, it becomes obvious they are ruffling someone’s feathers. As several suspects surface, from Kent’s creepy and unsavoury twin uncles to her best friend Ansley to her boyfriend and aspiring master chef Matt, it soon becomes apparent that Liz and Nick are in real danger.

All the while the ghostly Colleen flits in and out of scenes, sometimes with information, sometimes with warnings. The only thing I found frustrating was the romantic subplot between Nick and Liz, which arises because of information Liz knows only because of Colleen. It seems very clear to me that Liz should tell Nick about Colleen. Maybe it’s just that I feel relationships don’t work well when lies are involved.

Boyer sets the tale of this investigation amidst the many charms of South Carolina. We’re taken through the beautiful streets of Charleston and introduced to the warm, friendly fictional town of Stella Maris. Along the way we also get a taste of Greenville, South Carolina. These are settings that work well with the characters and serve as a solid backdrop to the investigation at hand.

And that investigation is a mysterious tale that charms with its many twists and revelations. In the end, I wasn’t completely satisfied with the denouement, but only because Boyer has created a history filled with transgressions which cry out for justice. While current justice is served, justice for past crimes remain frustratingly illusive. Overall, Lowcountry Boneyard is a good read, a mystery well worth diving into.

Copy for review provided by TLC Book Tours.

Review: The Demi-Monde Series (The Demi-Monde & Shadow Wars) by Rod Rees

The Demi-MondeMy copy of The Demi-Monde, by Rod Rees, lay enticingly on the coffee table. Sean, my older son, plopped down on the sofa as was his habit, and immediately picked it up. He read the blurb on the back, and said, “Hey, this sounds pretty good. Can I read it?”

“Sure,” I said.

This was some time in the afternoon. Later that evening, he appeared quite distracted all through dinner, and then disappeared back into his room for the rest of the night.

From the bleary-eyed look on his face the next day, I assumed, correctly, that he’d stayed up late into the night, finishing the book.

“Good?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “I really liked it.”

Sean generally divides his time between university, friends, and video games; over the past few years I’ve managed to get him to read quite a lot simply by leaving enticing-looking books lying around. We share somewhat similar reading tastes (although he’s much more of a history buff than I am), which makes these random acts of reading enticement on my part easier.

I knew the premise behind The Demi-Monde would catch his eye:

The U.S. military crated the Demi-Monde to train its soldiers in urban warfare. A virtual world of 30 million inhabitants ruled by cyber-duplicatse of some of history’s most dangerous psychopaths – from Grand-Inquisitor Torquemada to fanatical Nazi butcher Rudolph Heydrich – it is a twisted nightmare and anything but a game. Because if you die inside the Demi-Monde, you die in the Real World.

Now, in the year 2018, something has gone horribly wrong …

The U.S. President’s daughter has been lured into this terrifying shadow world and her only hope of rescue is Ella Thomas, an eighteen-year-old student and jazz singer who’s never received a day of military training. Somehow she must infiltrate the Demi-Monde and bring the First Daughter out. But Ella is about to discover something the U.S. government does not yet know – the walls containing the evils of this simulated world are rapidly dissolving … and the Real World is in far more danger than anyone could ever imagine.

Rather synchronistically, that very same day after he’d finished reading The Demi-Monde, I received the ARC of The Shadow Wars in the mail. “Look,” I said, waving the book at him. “It’s the sequel to The Demi-Monde.” He took it out of my hands and we didn’t see him again for the rest of the day.

Shadow WarsThe Shadow Wars continues the story of The Demi-Monde, starting from the point where The Demi-Monde ended:

Norma Williams knows she was a fool to be lured into the virtual nightmare that is the Demi-Monde. When the agent sent in the game to save her goes rogue and a long forgotten evil is awoken, it falls to Norma to lead the resistance.

Lost, without a plan, and with the army of the ForthRight marching ever closer, she must come to terms with terrible new responsibilities and with the knowledge that those she thought were her friends are now her enemies. To triumph in this surreal cyber-world she must be more than she ever believed she could be . . . or perish.

He was bleary-eyed again the next morning, having pulled another all-nighter to finish the second book (oh, how I wish for the days when I had the energy to do that!).

I asked him a few days later if he’d like to write the reviews for the books. He looked at me, wide-eyed and in partial shock, shaking his head frantically. My kid’s a reader, but not big on writing; while he’s doing well at university, he still has a tendency to check the word count as he approaches the end of an essay writing session, to make sure he’s made the minimum required.

So we settled on a compromise: an interview. Here it is, not quite verbatim because I didn’t pull out a pen and paper to take notes:

Me: So what did you think of The Demi-Monde?

S: I liked it a lot.

Me: What did you enjoy the most about it?

S: I liked the whole idea of this world created by the government as a training ground for its soldiers. It’s a pretty complex world, and the fact that sections of it were ruled by famous historical figures was really interesting.

Me: The Demi-Monde definitely is an interesting world. So you liked that part of it?

S: I liked how detailed the world was, the different factions and geographical regions, and how each one was a reflection of the historical character who ruled it. I think if you like history, you’d like this book.

Me: If you liked fantasy/science fiction, too, you mean.

S: Yeah.

Me: What did you think about The Shadow Wars?

S: That was interesting too, but it didn’t grab me the way The Demi-Monde did.

Me: How come?

S: (thinks about it a little bit more) It didn’t focus as much on the history-related aspects of the Demi-Monde, I guess. And one of the main characters becomes this god-like character with no emotions. I didn’t really like that. I also didn’t like that the Real World was really more of an alternate history type of world. In The Demi-Monde it doesn’t go much into the Real World, but you just assume it’s like our world, only a few years into the future. But then in The Shadow Wars you find out it’s more of an alternate history version.

Me: So you didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book?

S: No, not really. But I really liked the first book. I probably wouldn’t want to read the third in the series, though.

Then we moved on to a discussion of The Demi-Monde, which I was in the middle of reading. It was a very fun discussion, and I know I’d like to do more of these mother-son kinds of reviews/interviews!

With thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing review copies of The Demi-Monde and The Shadow Wars, by Rod Rees.

Alison Dare, “Live”: Alison Dare vs. The Halogen Light Monster

Yes, Alison Dare was at our house, where she handily defeated the evil, many fanged, incredibly ferocious halogen light monster!

When Tundra Books asked if I’d like to take part in The Double Dare Blog Tour, I was definitely intrigued – what they proposed was a “photo post”, with all participating bloggers snapping a picture of Alison Dare having a little adventure.

So of course, before saying “yes”, I asked my daughter Hayley if she’d be interested in helping out. How? By making a short video of Alison Dare having fun at our place, of course!

Luckily, Hayley was just as intrigued as I was. Unfortunately, the date for the blog tour fell right before her exams, so she didn’t have much time to work on the video. There’s no sound, for instance (in case any of you were turning up your volume and wondering if your speakers were malfunctioning). But it’s cute and you get to watch Alison Dare kick butt!

So just who is Alison Dare? She is the star of two graphic novels, Alison Dare, Little Miss Adventures and Alison Dare, The Heart of the Maiden, by J. Torres and J. Bones.

And just what makes Alison Dare so special? Well, for starters, her mother is the famous archaeologist, Dr. Alice Dare. And her father is that dashing masked superhero, The Blue Scarab.

But that’s not all! She’s also the niece of Johnny Dare, the international super spy who also happens to be a master of disguises.

And let’s just say this: Alison Dare most definitely lives up to her DNA! Alison is a plucky, adventurous 12-year-old who finds herself in some really unusual adventures.

Tundra Books is also hosting an Alison Dare photo contest. It’s a great chance to get your hands on the Alison Dare graphic novels – three winners will receive an Alison Dare prize pack. Deadline is June 30, so there’s tons of time to get your creativity going!

An Interview with Author Trilby Kent on Her Writing Process

Trilby Kent

I’m so thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview author Trilby Kent! Trilby’s debut novel Medina Hill, was released on October 13th and I had a great time talking with her about her journey to publication and her writing process.

What is Medina Hill about? Set in 1935, Medina Hill is the story of 11-year-old Dominic Walker, who has stopped speaking. Life with an ailing mother, an unemployed father, and unanswered questions about the war that haunts his family have led him to retreat into a world of silence. But everything changes when his Uncle Roo invites Dominic and his little sister Marlo to spend the summer on the Cornish coast. Dominic soon finds himself taking a stand for justice and the victimized Travelers community, armed only with a treasured copy of Incredible Adventures for Boys: Colonel Lawrence and the Revolt in the Desert. In doing so, he learns what it truly means to have a voice.

I’m always so curious about authors’ writing processes, and I think the tale of how Medina Hill was created will definitely interest those of you out there doing NaNoWriMo. No, Trilby didn’t write Medina Hill for a previous NaNoWriMo, but she very well could have!

I also ask sone of my favorite questions: plotter or pantser? Revision process? Writing quirks and habits? Trilby answers all!

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Medina Hill MsBookish: Medina Hill is your first book. Could you tell us a bit about your publishing journey?

TK: I spent a couple of years working on my first children’s novel while I was at university. It was actually three books squashed into one, with storylines ranging from fifteen-century Venice and Egypt to nineteenth-century India and present day New York. Because I really didn’t know anything about the children’s market at that stage, I ended up with a beast of a book: it was about 400 pages too long and a structural nightmare. I had enough encouraging feedback from a couple of agents to know that the writing wasn’t bad, but it soon became clear that The Travels of Maris Fauré was destined for the bottom drawer. It was a really useful apprenticeship, though.

I spent a couple of weeks grieving before starting work on Medina Hill. Within a month, I had a first draft; a few months later, I started sending it out to publishers. I didn’t have an agent at that stage – it would be another three years before I signed up with Judith Murray at Greene & Heaton – and I knew that the chances of having a book picked up from the slush pile were incredibly slim, so I’d almost given up hope when I received an email from Kathy Lowinger at Tundra asking if we could talk. The rest, as they say, is history.

MsBookish: You chose an interesting time period in which to set Medina Hill: it’s 1935, on the Cornish coast. What drew you to this time period?

TK: I find the interwar years absolutely fascinating. There’s a delicious dichotomy at work: people were still coming to terms with the horrific losses of the Great War by the time the Depression hit, and yet there was also an incredible outburst of creative expression, a weird exuberance that accompanied groundbreaking social change. By 1935, you also have the dawning realization that another global conflict might be just around the corner, so there’s a real tension in the air. The long, hot summer before the storm has been a popular motif for many writers over the years, because it’s so ripe with creative potential. It’s a great time in which to set a coming of age story.

MsBookish: In addition to being set in 1935, Medina Hill also involves the story of Lawrence of Arabia, whose adventures serve to inspire your protagonist, Dominic. It’s an intriguing storyline. How did the idea for the novel come to you?

TK: I’d been interested in Lawrence ever since I saw David Lean’s epic 1962 film as a teenager, and I was already toying with the idea of writing a piece of fiction about the Arab Revolt when the idea for Medina Hill cropped up following a trip to Cornwall. By that stage, I knew that I wanted to write in the voice of a child with selective mutism. Somehow, these rather disparate ideas converged, and the book was born.

MsBookish: Whenever I think about writing historical fiction, the first thing that comes to mind is the research. Could you describe your research process? How long did you spend on research before you began writing your first draft? Was there a moment when you knew you had everything that you needed, or did you find that you continued to research even after you began writing?

TK: I love research. Typically, I spend a lot of time reading around a subject before putting pen to paper, but the research also continues throughout the writing process. Now and then, I’ll hit a point where I simply can’t continue until I’ve managed to clarify some historical detail, and it’s incredible how often I’ll start to look into something and discover some bit of information that throws a whole new light on things, or provides the inspiration for an unexpected plot twist.

I can’t remember how long I spent on research before starting to write Medina Hill – I wrote the book four years ago, and I’ve done a lot of unrelated research and writing since then! – but it was probably a few weeks in total.

Shortly after returning from a few days in Cornwall, I saw a documentary on selective mutism, and things started to come together very quickly after that. I make notes all the time, so I already had quite a few ideas in store that were waiting for a home. The idea for Birdie’s character was already there, for instance, inspired by an artist called Madge Gill whose work I’d discovered months earlier.

MsBookish: How long did it take you to complete Medina Hill, from the very beginning of your research to finishing your final draft?

TK: I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it, but very little time at all. The book came out in a great whoosh over a couple of weeks – I was only able to write in the evenings in weekends, so that concentrated me even more. It’s pretty atypical for me, actually. I spent a year researching my first novel for adults, and two years writing it. I’m currently revising another novel for children which took a year to write, and several months to research. To be honest, I’d love to get back into the “whoosh” style of writing, because I think there’s a lot to be said for working with that kind of momentum.

MsBookish: Some writers are plotters, and swear by outlines. Others start with a spark or an idea, and write to see how the story ends. Where would you place yourself along this continuum?

TK: Oh, I’m a plotter. Definitely. Partly because I enjoy it, and partly because, if I’m going to dedicate loads of time to a project, I’d much rather know that I’ve got a watertight plan at the outset, rather than start to discover leaks when I’m already 50,000 words into the thing. That was the lesson I learnt from my first failed attempt at a children’s novel. When I’m writing short stories, I’m much happier to start with an idea and see where it leads.

MsBookish: I’m fascinated by the writing process. Could you talk a little about your writing process during the writing of Medina Hill? Did you have a writing routine? Particular writing quirks or habits? Favourite places to write? How would you describe your revision style?

TK: When I wrote Medina Hill, I was working full-time, which meant that writing was pretty much limited to evenings and weekends. I believe quite strongly that there’s a lot to be said for having limited time to write, because it focuses the mind. I’ve been writing full-time for almost four years now (first as a freelancer, now as a PhD student), and I find it absolutely crucial to have a structure – otherwise there’s a real risk of wasting an entire morning on YouTube (this always starts as “research” but can quickly devolve into watching the entire first series of The Lawrence Welk Show).

I’ve always written on the computer in my study, surrounded by loads of books – reference material, but also novels that inspire me to be a better writer – and various fond possessions, such as my 1910 tabletop letterpress, a pink seashell from Juno Beach, and a silver samovar from a friend who lives in Oman.

MsBookish: What are you working on now? Is your writing process any different now that you’re working on a second book, with your first one now published?

TK: Since finishing Medina Hill, I’ve completed a novel for adults, a few short stories, several articles, and another two novels for children (one is now with my editors at Tundra; the other is sitting in a drawer). I’ve recently started a PhD, which will require me to produce another novel as well as a critical commentary, so I’m starting to write in a much more systematic way; at the moment, I’m working with a target of 500 words a day. Otherwise, the process hasn’t changed very much – it’s just intensified! I’m having a lot of fun, and I feel very lucky indeed to be where I am today.

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Thanks, Trilby, for a great interview! Interested in hearing more about Medina Hill? Check out all the other stops on the Medina Hill blog tour, sponsored by Tundra Books!

Interview: Author Joy Preble Talks About Her Writing Process

Dreaming AnastasiaUpdate: This page wasn’t loading properly, but all is fixed now. Enjoy!

Anastasia Romanov, the daughter of the last Tsar of Russia, is believed to be dead by the world, but she is alive. And when she sleeps, she dreams …

Anne Michaelson doesn’t know much about Russian history; she is more worried about getting into a good college. But then the dreams start …

Dreaming Anastasia is a fun young adult fantasy that takes the reader back and forth from current-day Chicago to the time of the Romanovs, and throws in elements of a Russian folktale for added chills. I am so thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview Joy Preble, author of Dreaming Anastasia, about her writing process! Joy is so smart and funny (something that pops out at you right away if you read her blog); I hope you all enjoy reading her answers to my questions as much as I did.

I’m fascinated by writers’ processes, how each writer has such a personal way of approaching the writing of his or her book. Could you talk a bit about your own writing process?

JP: You mean after the ritual goat sacrifice, right? Just kidding. You know, it’s probably less of a process than a ‘ooh, I’ve got a spare twenty minutes here so let’s use it wisely rather than checking Facebook.’ But in terms of inspiration – each book I’ve written has come from a different place. Dreaming Anastasia came from both my fascination with the Romanovs and my sense that like me, I had this character who was aching for something to change her life.

Another novel that I hope you see fairly soon, developed from two things – the suicide of someone I knew, and my endless fascination for Texas high school football, spurred of course, by the fact that my son was an offensive lineman and his buddies pretty much sprawled on my furniture for a number of years, gossiping like a bunch of girls and eating me out of house and home. (One time at eating group – which rotated houses each week the night before the big game and involved the parents feeding groups of seven players – Jake and his buddies consumed over eight pounds of brisket, three apple pies, untold amounts of potato salad, a couple loaves of bread and at least a gallon of ice cream.)

A third book is a love story set with the back drop of a family bakery – not too different from the one my aunt and uncle ran in Chicago for many years. (Okay the family breakups and the main character’s crazy and disastrous love life is all from my head.)

[MsBookish notes: That is an amazing amount of food!]

Some writers like to outline everything, some like to outline a bit, and some like to just start with the first word and where it takes them. Which type of writer are you? Have you always been this type of writer, or did you try a bit of everything before you found your groove?

JP: I’ve tried and tried to be an outliner. But I’m just not. Mostly I start with either an idea or a character and kind of noodle around from there, writing bits and pieces and seeing what I have. At some point later – maybe thirty pages in – I do stop to create at least a rudimentary bullet point outline. Especially with Dreaming Anastasia, which has a mystery element to it, eventually I needed to know where I was going or I was going to write myself into a corner. Even with the other books that I’ve written now, there is always a point where I do have to know where I’m going to end up – with the caveat that I don’t have to really go there if the muse decides that I need to make a detour.

Do you have an writer’s rituals or writing quirks, things that you absolutely must do or have around you before you start writing?

JP: Nope. I know a lot of people who do, but I think because I began writing seriously while I was still actively parenting a high school aged son and teaching high school at the same time, I was thankful to carve out time to write wherever I could get it. If I stopped to brew up my half-caff latte with soy milk in my special mug first, I’d have used up the spare ten seconds. So I pretty much find that I can write on demand most days.

The original title for Dreaming Anastasia was Spark. Could you talk a bit about the change in the title? What inspired your original title, and what led to the new title?

JP: Well, to be perfectly honest, once money changes hands between you and a publisher, they can pretty much title it ‘Jo Jo the Crazy Boy Goes to Camp’ and you’ll probably say, hmmm, sounds good to me. That being said, the original title did relate to Anne’s magic as well as to the nature of her role in the story – she’s the ‘spark’ to move everything from the stasis that it’s been in while Ethan’s been searching for the girl who can rescue Anastasia. However, my editor ultimately felt that Dreaming Anastasia more clearly branded the story with its historical fiction element. People would know what they were getting. And honestly, it would match the cover art Sourcebooks had been playing with. Once I thought about it for awhile, I realized he was right. Plus, it really is reflective of the dreams Anne and Anastasia both have. So I do think it was easy to embrace the change.

[MsBookish notes: Dreaming Anastasia definitely gives the reader a good idea about the historical aspects of the book. It also has such a beautiful ring to it.]

In Dreaming Anastasia, the narrative voice changes from that of Anne, to Ethan, and then back in time, to Anastasia. What led you to use this narrative structure? Were there any challenges to switching between the three different voices as you wrote?

JP: Interestingly, I wrote the first draft of this novel in third person. But I always alternated between the voices of Anne and Ethan and Anastasia. At one point, I’d even contemplated Viktor having a voice as well, but I discarded that idea early on. Every time I attempted to tell the story any other way, I ended up at a dead end. Each character brings such a specific point of view to the telling that I just wanted the reader to have that. Anne is such a snarky, funny, contemporary voice. Ethan has more of the gravitas of history behind him, and he’s just so serious and earnest much of the time. (okay, plus hot) And Anastasia gets to have this sad, mystical quality to her telling. I loved having all of that collide, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t challenging. Sometimes if I’d been away from the manuscript for awhile – such as the lengthy time between when I finished the final revisions and we finally headed into copy edits, which was a long number of months – I’d have to sort of warm up and just write dialogue between the characters for awhile until I knew I heard them. Anastasia was always the easiest to nail because she is so trapped in the past, more or less. And Anne is funny, although not nearly as funny as Tess. But she’s got that contemporary cadence that I hear every day. Ethan was always a little harder. I always wanted him to have something a little stiff and old-fashioned about him, even as he was trying to blend in. Sometimes that was tricky.

[MsBookish notes: Joy did an excellent job managing the three narrative voices; I can imagine how it could be tricky at times.]

What writers have influenced you the most as a writer?

JP: You know I don’t think there’s any one person who comes to mind but rather everyone. I think we all sort of stand on the shoulders of the greats, so to speak. Plus honestly, every writer I read rubs off in some way. So I guess the better question would be who hasn’t influenced me! I do think having studied the classics helps me get a sense of the roots of story telling. Those horrendously sad Greek tragedies. Shakespeare’s sense of the human condition. But I’m influenced by so much more than that. John Irving and Anne Tyler and what I see as her contemporary YA counterpart, Sarah Dessen. All three of those writers have taught me about what it means to be human as well. About the crazy patchwork of people that sometimes collide and fall in love or suffer or just live life large. JK Rowling taught me how to spin a tale over many, many volumes and make it work! So amazing. Judy Blume taught me that I need to reflect what it’s like to be sixteen even if someone might complain that it’s too edgy. That it’s important to honestly tell the story that needs telling. (Oh! I have such issues at school sometimes when teachers will tell students writing a personal narrative, “Well, if you can’t think of something, just make it up.” And sit there thinking, no! You are telling that student that his experiences, whatever they are, are not of value. That bothers me so much) And just so you don’t get the wrong impression, let me end this answer by adding that I’ve also learned a lot from television writers. I mean seriously – I think I owe a serious debt of gratitude to the Palladinos and their Gilmore Girls. And if Joss Whedon hadn’t combined westerns and sci fi in the late, great Firefly, I might not have had to guts to do a little genre bending myself!

[MsBookish notes: I for one am very glad that Joss Whedon  inspired Joy to do a little genre bending! I agree totally with Joy; television writers really are amazing. I’ve learned a lot about how to tell a riveting story from television, as well as the big screen. I love that Joy has included television writers as one of her influences!]

Thank you so much, Joy, for this wonderful interview!

To find out more about Joy and Dreaming Anastasia, visit Joy Preble. And make sure you stop by her blog, Joy’s Novel Idea – it’s a very fun blog, and she’s been sharing her publication journey there with her readers. You can also follow Joy on Twitter.

Kaleb Nation, Author of Bran Hambric, Talks About His Writing Process

Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse"What if your mother was a criminal? What if her crime was magic? What if magic ran in the family?" This is the intriguing premise of Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse, a middle grade fantasy novel written by Kaleb Nation.

Kaleb initially got the idea for Bran Hambric when he was fourteen years old; he wrote almost five hundred pages of the book in six to nine months, and then over the next four years, he rewrote the book multiple times. The result? A fun and fast-paced read that middle graders who love magic and fantasy will be sure to enjoy.

I had the opportunity to interview Kaleb about his writing process. It was fun and exciting to learn about what went into the writing of the book, and I hope you all enjoy this interview as much as I did!

In an interview with Sourcebooks, you talked a little about how the idea for Bran Hambric came to you. When you began writing, were you writing toward an ending that had already come to you, or were you writing to find out where your idea was leading you? Can you describe how your original idea grew to become Bran Hambric?

KN: When I first wrote the story, I didn’t really plot it out much. All I had was a big idea, and I knew basically where it was going and who it would include, and what happened to some of the characters at the end. So as I wrote the book, many of the characters totally surprised me! I think I wrote about 5-600 pages in the six months following the first big idea. After I had all of that, I rewrote the book many times over the following years, until it was transformed into the book it is today.

You originally wrote 500 pages of the book in six to nine months. Could you describe your writing process during the writing of this first draft? Did you outline, or did you just start writing and let the story tell itself to you? Did you develop your characters first, or did they develop as you were writing? What were some of the things that drove you to write that first draft?

KN: I didn’t outline it much with the first draft: I really just wrote it out for a long time, and kept going with the characters leading the way. I did get stuck somewhere, and at that point I started plotting out bits and pieces of the book, just so I had a road map of where I was going. It was very much character driven for that draft though.

You spent six years working on Bran Hambric. I’d love to learn more about your editing process, the ways you refined your initial draft into the completed book. Did you have an "aha!" moment, when you knew the book was complete?

KN: I had a strange editing process. For the first few years, I just kept rewriting the entire book, and I’d get so far in it, then suddenly go back to the beginning and start over editing there again! I am a perfectionist when it comes to writing, so I wanted the beginning to be really clean. I didn’t really have an "aha!" moment when I realized the book was finished, because I wasn’t even really sure it was: but I was ready to start hunting for an agent, so I sent it off!

[MsBookish: Just wanted to stick my nose in and say that Kaleb definitely accomplished a very clean beginning – the prologue that starts Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse is incredibly exciting, and pulls you right into the story.]

There is a lot of humor woven throughout Bran Hambric. Can you talk a bit about the humor in the book?

KN: I think my humor is derived from a lot of the radio dramas I listened to when I was very young, especially shows like Adventures In Odyssey and Jungle Jam And Friends, and from my dad, who was always making us laugh as kids. I think that having humor in a book makes it a far more enjoyable read!

Other than Bran Hambric, which of your characters did you enjoy writing about the most?

KN: Sewey was my favorite character to write about other than Bran. Sometimes even I find myself laughing as I write about his antics. He’s one of those characters that takes over the scene, so that it’s not like I’m even writing it at all, I’m just trying to keep up with what he’s doing.

[MsBookish: Sticking my nose in again to say that Sewey is very definitely a fun character; Kaleb has caught him so vividly, and I’m not at all surprised that writing the scenes with Sewey in them was more a matter of trying to keep up with what Sewey was doing!]

What are you working on now? Do you find your writing process is different than it was when you initially wrote Bran Hambric?

KN: I’m working on the sequel to The Farfield Curse right now. My writing process is quite different than with the first: far more organized, with a good amount of plotting and notes. That way I don’t have so much trouble with writer’s block… and I don’t take six more years on this one!

[MsBookish: I’m very glad to hear this, because I think once readers have read Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse, they’re going to be looking forward to the sequel.]

What authors have influenced you the most as a writer?

KN: Lemony Snicket! I think his humor has affected mine greatly, because I loved his books growing up.

[MsBookish: I thought one of the most engaging things about Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse was the humor – it added such fun to the excitement.]

Thank you, Kaleb, for taking us for this behind the scenes look at the writing of Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse!

You can read more about the book at Bran Hambric and visit Kaleb Nation at his blog, Kaleb Nation. He is also the Twilight Guy, and if you enjoy videos, be sure to visit his YouTube channel. And that’s not all! Kaleb’s composed a soundtrack for Bran Hambric, and you can listen to some of the tracks here!

Book Tour: Recovering Me, Discovering Joy, by Vivian Eisenecher

Recovering Me, Discovering JoyRecovering Me, Discovering Joy, by Vivian Eisenecher, is an inspirational book detailing the author’s journey from the “triple whammy” of depression, social phobia and alcoholism, to a world of inner and outer joy.

Honesty and Clarity

The book is divided into two parts. In Part One – Recovering Me, Eisenecher writes honestly about the challenges of dealing with depression, social anxiety and alcoholism. She intersperses her own experiences with facts and advice about each of these three issues, and her writing is clear, frank, and easy to read.

As she discovered:

My triple whammy (depression, social phobia and alcoholism) complicated my recovery from any one of them, causing me to relapse over and over again. By treating my alcoholism, my doctors were putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. My drinking was an outward response to my profound internal struggles. I used alcohol to quell my social discomfort, and not until I could conquer that could I ever conceive of living a normal life.

This truly spoke to me; someone very close to me suffered from alcoholism, and it wasn’t until she had unsuccessfuly gone through years of rehabilitation programs and addiction therapy that it finally became clear. The route to recovery could come only by treating the problems causing the alcoholism.

Eisenecher’s honesty serves to dispel many of the myths and stigmas that are still attached to depression, social phobia and alcoholism. She writes clearly about the challenges she faced, and the difficult road to her recovery. But her writing is filled with hope – it’s her ability to see the gift underlying her challenges that is so inspirational:

This may seem counterintuitive, but “bottoms” provide many benefits. They give us a chance to stop our free fall, to change direction. At the lowest level of any predicament, there is only one direction out, and that is up. “Bottoms usually provide us with a time out, a space in time to look at possible solutions. They can be devasting enough that we are temporarily relieved from the daily pressures of life. At my “bottom,” the only hope I had was that things would ultimately get better, and I clung to that.

The Power of Faith

In Part Two of Recovering Me, Discovering Joy, Eisenecher writes eloquently of her road to joy. Faith and God played a large role in her journey to happiness; she also learned to make her own happiness a priority. Each chapter is divided into shorter sections, providing guidance that is clear, inspirational, and easy-to-read. There are many nuggets of advice throughout this section – for example, on getting things done, she describes her approach:

Today, I know that if something doesn’t get done immediately, chances are there’s a good reason for the postponement of the task, and it will probably get done later. I no longer let my “to do” lists mess with me. Lists are excellent tools to get us organized, but they don’t have to become a dictatorship. If we don’t complete our “to do” list today, we’ve got tomorrow’s list already made.

Part Two ends with several chapters in which Eisenecher talks about her Christianity, and the important role her faith has played in helping her get to this happier, more joyous life. These chapters did not speak as powerfully to me, but this was probably because my personal spiritual path is different from Eisenecher’s. I nevertheless found Eisenecher’s writing about her faith to be both inspirational and passionate; however, readers who do not share Eisenecher’s religion may not find these parts as compelling.

The book ends with the chapter “Living in the Sweet Spot”; it’s a wonderful chapter filled with short, practical and passionate pieces on how one can “live in the sweet spot” (that place where factors combine to create a particularly desirable situation).

It has been difficult for me to come forward with my profound inner struggles, but I knew from experience that there must be others with the same challenges. I couldn’t be the only person on Earth who suffered the way I did, and I needed to show how recovery was not only possible, but also quite rewarding. … I figured that  if I could find joy, anybody could, and I could quite possibly teach them how.

And Eisenecher has indeed done this with Recovering Me, Discovering Joy. This book does have a very Christian emphasis, but for readers who are comfortable with this, it is an inspirational read.

The Book Trailer

More About Recovering Me, Discovering Joy

Recovering Me, Discovering Joy is about recovering (from any ailment or condition) not to normal but to a better normal. After numerous attempts at sobriety, stints in more than three rehabs, followed by repeated relapses, Vivian shares the “secret” that finally brought her lasting recovery and profoundly changed her life. In an effort to improve the success rate of recovery and quite possibly save lives, one of the book’s main goals is to raise awareness about the profound correlation between depression, social phobia, and alcoholism. Vivian has struggled with these disorders and is in recovery from all three.

In addition, Recovering Me, Discovering Joy is a remarkably honest book of creative non-fiction about the positive nature of life’s problems. It is about the journey to know oneself. With a sense of humor and an uplifting spirit of gratitude, the author suggests ways to live a more meaningful life. She offers a fresh look at enduring truths which we all tend to forget in our day-to-day fast-paced lives. By using stories from people in recovery, personal reflections, and the Bible’s wisdom, she re-establishes the importance of faith in the healing process. Her experience, strength and hope provide the reader with keys to living a richer, easier and happier life.

About the Author

Vivian Eisenecher has been an inspirational speaker, mentor and writer since 1996. Using her experience, strength and hope, she is committed to helping educate and enlighten the general public about the puzzling aspects of the addiction/recovery process and the strong correlation between anxiety, depression and alcoholism. With her husband in recovery from a massive stroke since 1993 and her own recovery from three life-threatening diseases, she felt compelled to share with others important lessons she’s been able to learn only in recovery. Recovering Me, Discovering Joy addresses both her and her husband’s respective struggles as they climbed from the trenches of despair to discover new and ever-unfolding joy. Her progress in the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual areas of her life has led her to better understand the recovery process, its limitlessness and life in general.

She holds a marketing degree in Business Administration (magna cum laude), and a certificate in Gerontology. Her previously published works include articles for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Woman’s World, Viewpoint, JUST FINE: Unmasking Depression and Anxiety Disorders(due for release in 2009).She has been a regular speaker at The McDonald Center for over twelve years and has also given talks at Pamarro and The Aurora Behavioral Institute among others. She is involved with Junior Achievement, the San Diego Heart Walk, the 2005 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk and has been featured in Momentum magazine. Her memberships include NCHIC (a speaker’s organization for hospitals and institutions), Publishers & Writers of San Diego (PWSD), and PMA, the Independent Book Publishers Association.

This book tour was arranged by Pump Up Your Book Promotion; follow along with Vivian Eisenecher as Recovering Me, Discovering Joy makes further blog stops this month, by checking out Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tours, where you can see her past blog book tour stops, as well as upcoming ones.