Wish-List 5: Alexander Pushkin to the Romanovs

Me IIRecently one of my friends and fellow book blogger shared The Lost Season of Love and Snow by Jennifer Laam on Facebook and it recaptured my interest in stories set in Russia during the 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th Century. My fascination in those periods lingered for a few years when I was in my late teens and early twenties and then I moved to other periods of history in other countries. Of late I am drawn-again- to Russian history and hope to spare what little free time I have to read these books below.  

Stephanie M. Hopkins

The Lost Season of Love and Snow by Jennifer LaamThe Lost Season of Love and Snow by Jennifer Laam

The unforgettable story of Alexander Pushkin’s beautiful wife, Natalya, a woman much admired at Court, and how she became reviled as the villain of St. Petersburg.

At the age of sixteen, Natalya Goncharova is stunningly beautiful and intellectually curious. But while she finds joy in French translations and a history of Russian poetry, her family is more concerned with her marriage prospects. It is only fitting that during the Christmas of 1828 at her first public ball in her hometown of Moscow she attracts the romantic attention of Russia’s most lauded rebel poet: Alexander Pushkin.

Enchanted at first sight, Natalya is already a devoted reader of Alexander’s serialized novel in verse, Evgeny Onegin. The most recently published chapter ends in a duel, and she is dying to learn what happens next. Finding herself deeply attracted to Alexander’s intensity and joie de vivre, Natalya hopes to see him again as soon as possible.

What follows is a courtship and later marriage full of equal parts passion and domestic bliss but also destructive jealousies. When vicious court gossip leads to Alexander dying from injuries earned defending his honor as well as Natalya’s in a duel, Natalya finds herself reviled for her alleged role in his death. With beautiful writing and understanding, Jennifer Laam, and her compelling new novel, The Lost Season of Love and Snow, help Natalya tell her side of the story―the story of her greatest love and her inner struggle to create a fulfilling life despite the dangerous intrigues of a glamorous imperial Court.

The Secret Daughter of the Tsar A Novel of The Romanovs by Jennifer LaamThe Secret Daughter of the Tsar: A Novel of The Romanovs by Jennifer Laam

A compelling alternate history of the Romanov family in which a secret fifth daughter―smuggled out of Russia before the revolution―continues the royal lineage to dramatic consequences

In her riveting debut novel, The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, Jennifer Laam seamlessly braids together the stories of three women: Veronica, Lena, and Charlotte. Veronica is an aspiring historian living in present-day Los Angeles when she meets a mysterious man who may be heir to the Russian throne. As she sets about investigating the legitimacy of his claim through a winding path of romance and deception, the ghosts of her own past begin to haunt her. Lena, a servant in the imperial Russian court of 1902, is approached by the desperate Empress Alexandra. After conceiving four daughters, the Empress is determined to sire a son and believes Lena can help her. Once elevated to the Romanov’s treacherous inner circle, Lena finds herself under the watchful eye of the meddling Dowager Empress Marie. Charlotte, a former ballerina living in World War II occupied Paris, receives a surprise visit from a German officer. Determined to protect her son from the Nazis, Charlotte escapes the city, but not before learning that the officer’s interest in her stems from his longstanding obsession with the fate of the Russian monarchy. Then as Veronica’s passion intensifies, and her search for the true heir to the throne takes a dangerous turn, the reader learns just how these three vastly different women are connected. The Secret Daughter of the Tsar is thrilling from its first intense moments until its final, unexpected conclusion.

The Tsarina's Legacy A Novel by Jennifer LaamThe Tsarina’s Legacy: A Novel by Jennifer Laam

Then…Grigory “Grisha” Potemkin has had a successful long association with the powerful Empress Catherine of Russia. But Catherine and Grisha are older now and face new threats, both from powers outside of Russia and from those close to them. Haunted by the horrors of his campaign against the Muslim Turks, Grisha hopes to construct a mosque in the heart of the empire. Unfortunately, Catherine’s much younger new lover, the ambitious Platon Zubov, stands in his way. Grisha determines that to preserve Catherine’s legacy he must save her from Zubov’s dangerous influence and win back her heart.

Now…When she learns she is the lost heiress to the Romanov throne, Veronica Herrera’s life turns upside down. Dmitry Potemkin, one of Grisha’s descendants, invites Veronica to Russia to accept a ceremonial position as Russia’s new tsarina. Seeking purpose, Veronica agrees to act as an advocate to free a Russian artist sentenced to prison for displaying paintings critical of the church and government. Veronica is both celebrated and chastised. As her political role comes under fire, Veronica is forced to decide between the glamorous perks of European royalty and staying true to herself.

In Jennifer Laam’s The Tsarina’s Legacy, unexpected connections between Grisha and Veronica are revealed as they struggle to make peace with the ghosts of their past and help secure a better future for themselves and the country they both love.

The Lost Crown by Sarah MillerThe Lost Crown by Sarah Miller

A heart-wrenching, suspenseful look at the downfall of the Russian empire as told through the eyes of the four Romanov sisters.

Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. Like the fingers on a hand—first headstrong Olga, then Tatiana the tallest, Maria most hopeful for a ring, and Anastasia the smallest. These are the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II, grand duchesses living a life steeped in tradition and privilege. They are young women each on the brink of starting her own life. The summer of 1914 is that precious last wink of time when they can still be sisters together—who link arms and laugh, sisters who share their dreams and worries, and who flirt with the officers of their imperial yacht.

But in a gunshot the future changes—for these sisters and for Russia.

As World War I ignites across Europe, political unrest sweeps Russia. First dissent, then disorder, mutiny—and revolution. For Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, the end of their girlhood collides with the end of more than they ever imagined.

At the same time hopeful and hopeless, naïve and wise, the voices of these sisters become a chorus singing the final song of this great empire. Impeccably researched and utterly fascinating, acclaimed author Sarah Miller recounts the final days of Imperial Russia.

The Romanovs 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag MontefioreThe Romanovs: 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore

The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world’s surface for three centuries. How did one family turn a war-ruined principality into the world’s greatest empire? And how did they lose it all?

This is the intimate story of twenty tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s gripping chronicle reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence and wild extravagance, with a global cast of adventurers, courtesans, revolutionaries and poets, from Ivan the Terrible to Tolstoy and Pushkin, to Bismarck, Lincoln, Queen Victoria and Lenin.

To rule Russia was both imperial-sacred mission and poisoned chalice: six of the last twelve tsars were murdered. Peter the Great tortured his own son to death while making Russia an empire, and dominated his court with a dining club notable for compulsory drunkenness, naked dwarfs and fancy dress. Catherine the Great overthrew her own husband (who was murdered soon afterward), enjoyed affairs with a series of young male favorites, conquered Ukraine and fascinated Europe. Paul I was strangled by courtiers backed by his own son, Alexander I, who in turn faced Napoleon’s invasion and the burning of Moscow, then went on to take Paris. Alexander II liberated the serfs, survived five assassination attempts and wrote perhaps the most explicit love letters ever composed by a ruler. The Romanovs climaxes with a fresh, unforgettable portrayal of Nicholas II and Alexandra, the rise and murder of Rasputin, war and revolution—and the harrowing massacre of the entire family.

Dazzlingly entertaining and beautifully written from start to finish, The Romanovs brings these monarchs—male and female, great and flawed, their families and courts—blazingly to life. Drawing on new archival research, Montefiore delivers an enthralling epic of triumph and tragedy, love and murder, encompassing the seminal years 1812, 1914 and 1917, that is both a universal study of power and a portrait of empire that helps define Russia today.

Be sure to check out my wish-list from last month HERE

Here are the wish lists from a few of my friends this month:

Erin @ Flashlight Commentary

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation-Coming Soon

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court-Coming Soon

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede-Coming Soon

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired-Coming soon

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Interview with Award Winning Author J.F. Rogers

JF Rogers BRAG

I’d like to welcome award winning author J.F. Rogers today. J.F. armors up in the Word of truth daily to battle as a church office administrator, a wife, and a mom with a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Science. She is a health nut, a recovered troubled teen, and is consistently inconsistent. But, most importantly, she is a believer in the one true God and can say with certainty—you are loved.

Thank you for chatting with me today, J.F.! Please tell me how you discovered indieBRAG.

Thanks, Stephanie! This is my first interview. So, exciting…

I discovered IndieBRAG through K.M. Weiland’s blog Helping Writers Become Authors. She wrote a post wrapping up 2016 and noted awards her novels had received. One was the BRAG Medallion.

Please tell me about your book, Astray.

Astray

Astray is a spiritual journey. Fallon is a troubled teen with little to no love in her life. She’s existing. The story unfolds on her 17th birthday when she receives a necklace that belonged to her deceased mother. That very day, she’s chased by a wolf through the woods, knocks herself unconscious running into a branch, and wakes in another realm. In Ariboslia she encounters strange creatures, learns more about herself and finds something she’s always longed for—family. But she also must face the vampire-like creatures, fasgadair, that are killing or enslaving the people, farming them for their blood. Fallon must face the prophecy that devastated her family and destroy the fasgadair’s leader, her uncle. But it’s something she can’t do alone, and there is much she must learn along the way.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Astray was originally entitled Ariboslia, for the world I’d created. But once I realized it was going to be a series, Ariboslia became the name of the series. I came up with Astray, Adrift, and Aloft for the titles within the series. Astray is fitting for the first novel because Fallon is lost. Off the path. Though she hasn’t a clue. Once trapped in Ariboslia she truly understands just how lost she is. But that’s the starting point for finding her way.

Who designed your book cover?

I came up with the concept and found the pictures and fonts. Unfortunately, I don’t know photoshop…yet. So my friend, Kara May LaPierre, lent her amazing graphic design skills to create the cover.

What age is this story geared towards?

Astray was intended for teen/young adult girls. Interestingly enough, it seems to appeal most to middle-aged women. I’ve received great feedback from men too.

Please tell me a little about Fallon Webb and how you came up with that name.

The majority of the names in Astray are Irish/Gaelic. I get the names from baby name websites. I try to find names with meanings that fit the character. In Fallon’s case, I liked the sound of it for multiple reasons. For one, it sounds like fallen…which she was. The other I don’t want to give away since it may be a spoiler to any potential readers out there. I chose her last name, Webb, because as I was envisioning her story and her backstory, delving into her family and their past, I found so many connections…like a web.

What is one of the skills she must learn for her quest?

Fallon must learn to trust. She comes from a broken family, raised by a grandmother who resents her. She has only one friend, Stacy. Despite their friendship, Fallon doesn’t fully trust Stacy either. She trusts no one.

How did you come to write this story?

That is a long story. The idea first came to me back in high school, sparked by Queensryche’s song Silent Lucidity.  “There’s a place I like to hide, a doorway that I run through in the night.” Those words, along with the haunting melody, stirred my imagination about other worlds. I tried to write the story many times over the years, but each attempt failed. Much later, a few years following my divorce, after I’d lost my job and all seemed hopeless, I returned to Christ. At that point, the book practically wrote itself.

What was your writing process and how long did it take to write your story?

Try as I might to be an outliner, I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m a pantser. I write by sitting down and writing by the seat of my pants. Of course, the final period on the final sentence in the final paragraph isn’t the end. Many readers provided feedback and I made many adjustments. My critique partners went through each chapter. And I made many more adjustments. Then my editor went over it which resulted in a whole slew of adjustments. Then I took the advice of a publisher, Steve Laube, and added 20, 000 more words and repeated the process… I’d say it took almost a year to write. A couple of years to edit. Another couple of years to add another 20K words and critique/edit again. Then a couple of years sitting on it, discouraged, before finally self-publishing it. In other words, a long time.

Where can readers buy your book?

Astray is available in paperback and e-book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It’s also available as e-book in iTunes, Kobo, Scribd, 24 Symbols, Inkterra, Smashwords, !ndigo, and Mondadori.

How did you get into writing in the Fantasy genre?

Fantasy is the best! I love reading books of many genres. But to me, reading is an escape from reality. When I escape, I want to be transported into another world that no amount of money could allow me to visit. I want to enter the world of someone’s imagination. That is what I hope to do for my readers.

How many books will be in this series?

I plan on having three in this series. I may go back and write prequels since there is so much backstory that will never make it into these books. And Fallon’s parents and grandparents have quite fascinating stories as well. Perhaps I should make them known…

How did you come to be a writer?

I’ve wanted to write all my life. It’s my escape. When I was little I would write stories about secret passageways to lands full of candy. As much as I love reading other peoples’ stories, I love being able to escape, at any time, into my own imagination. It’s a gift God has given me…as protection, for healing, and for pure enjoyment.

Thank you, J.F! Please visit with me again at Layered Pages!

Thanks so much for having me, Stephanie!

Author Website

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview J.F. Rogers who is the author of, Astray, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Astray, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Award Winning Book: Flank Street by A.J. Sendall

Me IIAs you all are aware of this summer I am selecting award winning books from the indieBRAG Library to add to my reading pile and to feature on Layered Pages. Today I have selected Flank Street. I love a good thriller and this one looks fantastic! If you would like to purchase this story, click on the title and it will take you directly to the indieBRAG, where you will see the buying links.

IndieBRAG’s mission is to discover talented self-published authors and help them give their work the attention and recognition it deserves. Their primary focus is fiction across a wide range of genres; however, they selectively consider non-fiction books.

Authors, if you feel your book can meet indieBRAG’s high standards, they encourage you to nominate it, but they cannot make any guarantees that it will pass either the initial screening or the subsequent review by their readers. On average, only 10-15% of the books they consider are awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion and are presented on their website and promoted on various social media sites.

Conversely, they do not make public the titles of any books or the names of their authors that have been reviewed but were not selected to receive a B.R.A.G. Medallion.

This award is an honor indeed!

Flank Street

Synopsis

I didn’t set out to write about Micky, or Carol, come to that… but this is how it happened.
The rain was falling steadily, running down the small, below ground-level window, which is the only source of natural light in the boiler-room where I write. For some obscure reason it reminded me of a rain-soaked street in Sydney, Australia; a street I’ve walked down many times, both wet and dry.

As I held that image in the back of my eyelids, a man appeared. Yellow streetlights reflected from the wet tarmac; he walked in the shadow of the plane trees, pulling his hood up against the unrelenting rain. He stopped, leaned against a tree, and waited. Right at that moment, I knew what I had to do.

I didn’t know Micky, but I’ve known guys like him, and so his character was soon defined; a grifter that could never amount to much without living in the shadows.

I hope you enjoy reading Flank Street, I certainly had fun writing it, and missed the daily interactions with Micky and Carol when it was finished. And I hope that one day I can sit and have a drink with them again… one day.

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When Micky DeWitt sails into Sydney, Australia, his only assets are a run-down yacht, his wits, and the skills he’s picked up as a dedicated career criminal.

Shiftless, cynical and dishonest, even with himself, Micky takes a job as a barman in Sydney’s seedy red light district of Kings Cross. He’s a chameleon, seeing himself as both master criminal and chilled-out world sailor. He wants a life on Easy Street, is driven by the desire to ‘get away with it,’ and addicted to the adrenaline rush that comes with that life.

Carol Todd is turned on by money and risk-taking. For Carol, there’s no such thing as “enough”. Being an escort to a few wealthy clients is just a means to an end. A couple of underworld connections help, too. But what she needs for her latest con is a fall guy—someone she can use and lose once she’s done with him. And Micky DeWitt looks like the perfect man to fall into her sultry, seductive honey trap.
Playing to Micky’s twisted sense of chivalry, Carol leads him into a hedonistic free-fall. As Micky’s life spins out of control it doesn’t take long to graduate from burglary to arson, then accessory to murder. And no matter which way he moves, someone’s going to get hurt… or die.

“Suspenseful, pithy, unpredictable, and laced with black humour, Flank Street perfectly captures the mood of Sydney’s criminal underworld.”

About A.J. Sendall

A.J. Sendall

I’ve always written, as far back as I can recall anyway. Until 2011, that writing was just for me, or as rambling letters to friends, and travelogues to family. I never thought about why, or if others did similarly, and the thought of publishing never entered my head. Since I left England in 1979, I’ve travelled widely, collecting experiences, people, and places as I did so. From the blood-soaked streets of Kampala, the polluted dust bowls of the Sahara, or the pristine ice floes of the Antarctic, I’ve gathered and filed them away. Some have recently squeezed through the bars of insecurity and are now at large in the pages of my first four novels. Others await their future fates.

Although I grew up in Norfolk, UK, I never felt truly at home until I lived in Australia, and that is no doubt the reason my first published novels are set there. All of my books have some element of fact in them. I guess it’s hard for any writer not to include events from their life. Our experiences shape our thoughts, and the words and actions of our characters.
I sometimes wish I’d become a novelist earlier in life, but then if I had, I wouldn’t have the range of characters and events that I do.

After spending much of my adult life travelling, I now live in a remote forest house in Germany with two Mexican dogs, an Icelandic horse, six French hens, and a mermaid who I found at a beach on the north coast of Bequia.

Author Website

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Do you love to read and would like to be part of a reading group who selects B.R.A.G. Medallion Honorees?

If you are an avid bookworm, we invite you to become part of the indieBRAG B.R.A.G. Medallion global reader team. In this program, you’ll tell us a bit about yourself and the genres you enjoy reading. We’ll then provide you with digital versions of self-published books (ebooks), using the gifting process at amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com, and ask for your honest evaluation.

Your evaluation will be combined with those from other readers who read the same book, to help us determine if that author will be awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion, which has become a recognized mark of excellence within the self-published book industry.

To apply you must be eighteen years of age or older, and have at least graduated from high school. You must also have an ebook reader, or be able to download ebooks onto your computer, tablet, or smartphone. If you meet these requirements and would like to apply, please fill out the form below. We will give your application prompt attention and respond to you within two weeks.

Become a reader HERE

Enjoy your weekend happy reading!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

 

 

Interview with Award Winning Author Gordon Long

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Gordon Long today. Brought up in a logging camp with no electricity, Gordon Long learned his storytelling in the traditional way: at his father’s knee. He now spends his time editing, publishing, travelling, blogging and writing fantasy and social commentary, although sometimes the boundaries blur.

Gordon lives in Tsawwassen, British Columbia, with his wife, Linda, and their Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Josh. When he is not writing and publishing, he works on projects with the Surrey Seniors’ Planning Table, and is a staff writer for <indiesunlimited.com>

Thank you for chatting with me today, Gordon! Please, tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

I’m a staff writer for Indies Unlimited, and the name has come up multiple times as the Minions gather around the gruel pot and chat about writing.

Tell me a little about your book, Zoysana’s Choice.

Zoysana_s Choice

They say creativity comes from putting two old elements together in a new way. I took my favourite tragic hero, put him in a fantasy world, and gave him a sympathetic, loving stepdaughter instead of a vicious, overly ambitious wife (Shakespeare fans will have fun finding the tributes). And then I told the story from the girl’s point of view. So Zoysana is a young woman of mixed heritage, trying to find a place for herself in a changing world at the same time as the man she has come to love as a father is doing his worst to mess things up.

How did you come to write this story and how many book swill be in the series?

That’s rather complicated. I have always been in awe at the way Anne McCaffrey turned her Fantasy series, Dragon Riders of Pern, into Science Fiction by writing a space-age prequel series. So, once I got going on the first three books of the Petrellan Saga, (Books 4-6) and the history of the society became more and more important, I began to think how interesting it would be to go back and find out where these people came from. So for the next three (Books 1-3), I jumped back 400 years. It was all sorts of fun writing them all at the same time, inserting hints in the later books that readers can find in the prequel series. The seventh book is meant to tie it all together, but I haven’t exactly figured out how, yet. These are mostly stand-alone novels, with the main character from one book taking a supporting role in other books. So Zoysana hires Jhanes, the main character of The Innkeeper’s Husband, to help her fight the Inari, who become the fighting force under Anine, the main character of Mercenary’s Dream. And so on.

Steven Spielberg did it in Star Wars, why can’t I? I’ll tell you why. Because I don’t have a multi-million-dollar marketing campaign to tell everyone. I really appreciate you giving me the opportunity to explain.

BTW, The Innkeeper’s Husband is launching this month. Watch for it on Smashwords and later on Kindle.

What age audience is this story geared towards?

This book is specifically aimed at the “New Adult” audience: People of age 20-30, interested in stories about characters finding their place in society. However, it is also designed for YA readers (some violence, but very little blood and gore) and for older readers as well.

Is there any real historical significance or themes in your story? What is the time period for your story?

Because it’s Fantasy, the era would correspond with European late medieval society. There is a rough parallel between the Kyabrans, the old empire, and the Romans, although in Books 2 and 3, I play fast and loose by giving them 18th century sailing technology. I find it fascinating to set a novel in a historical or fantastical era where social change is happening, because I can draw parallels to the changes happening in our society. Zoysana would be a member of a visible minority in our society, with all the problems and opportunities that implies.

Tell me a little about Zoe

Zoe is a demonstration of how a sympathetic, friendly person can be rather hard to get along with at times, no matter how hard she tries. She was raised in isolation by her Kyabran grandfather, who gave her the best martial arts and diplomatic training in the world, but not much social interaction. When he dies, she is taken in by Barent, First Prince Ascending of the Arlyn Dynasty of Petrella, and brought up in Arlyn Castle. This makes her sympathetic, cooperative, and well mannered. It gives her a copious mental capacity, incredible fighting skill, and powerful leadership qualities. It also makes her stubborn, self-righteous, and serious. And, deep inside, it leaves her with a feeling of not really belonging anywhere. When a trader lord from Kyabra appears, she jumps at the chance to go with him to the source of her other heritage, and incidentally escape from the difficult choice of whether to be loyal to the kingdom or to Barent, who is in the process of royally messing everything up, doing the wrong things for all the right reasons.

When she returns to Arlyn Castle, she discovers that the conflict was only set aside, not avoided, and she has to make a choice that will affect her for the rest of her life.

Where can readers buy your book?

Amazon

Smashwords

Search by title at Barnes & Noble and iTunes.

What was your writing process for this story?

When I first started writing Zoysana’s Choice, I was doing it very part-time while working and raising a family. I would get an idea for a chapter, sit down and write it, and maybe leave the MS for a month before I got another idea. Very “seat of the pants” writing. I started with a prologue showing the meeting of Barent and Zoe when she was 9 years old and her grandfather had just died. That became too long for a prologue, so I set it up as an independent short story, “Requiem for A Hero,” which is available free at Smashwords

Then I wrote Zoysana’s Choice. Then I wrote most of Innkeeper’s Husband, Book 5. Then part of Mercenary’s Dream, Book 6. By then I was seriously thinking about becoming a writer, and I planned Book 1 of the prequel series out more carefully, setting up the structure and the conflict more to normal novel standards. I now have half of Book 2 and most of Book 3 finished, and seven or eight random chapters of Book 7.

Once I started self-publishing, I had to go back and seriously rewrite Zoysana’s Choice, applying everything I had learned in the 5 other novels I have published in between. Likewise Innkeeper’s Husband and Mercenary’s Dream.

As my writing career progresses, I do more and more planning before I write, but once I get writing, I go where the muse takes me. Characters often take over a scene and tell me what they’re going to say and what they’re going to do.

What do you like most about writing in the Fantasy genre?

My first delight is in creating characters, no matter what genre. But in Fantasy I love creating the worlds. I spend a lot of time thinking about the societies I am creating, and making them realistic. I also freely admit that I create societies to be in some way a reflection of our own, and use the similarities and differences to emphasize the themes of my novels. I’m a traveller and a big fan of geography, so I create maps, including climate and prevailing wind patterns. I always know how many days it would take a rider to go from one town to the next, or how long it would take someone to walk to the next village. I take most of my names, both people and places, from real geographical names. It gives them a sense of ethnicity.

Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?

My messages are all there in the themes of my books. Look for them as you read; I try not to make them obvious. In the words of Mark Twain (or was it Thumper the Rabbit in Bambi ?) “If you ain’t got nothin’ to say, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

Thank you, Gordon! Please visit with me again at Layered Pages!

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A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Gordon Long who is the author of, Zoysana’s Choice, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Zoysana’s Choice, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

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Cover Crush: Pillars of Light by Jane Johnson

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I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.

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Pillars of LightIn the Syrian city of Akka, Nathanael, a young Jewish doctor, and a Muslim girl called Zohra are about to fall in love, unaware that Jerusalem has just been taken by Saladin’s army and that their city will soon be engulfed by war.

Meanwhile in England, John Savage, a foundling boy, runs away from his cruel life in a priory with The Moor, a mysterious man driven by a dream of perfection.
John and The Moor become members of a band of conmen travelling through the English countryside faking religious miracles for cash, until they are recruited in Richard the Lionheart’s drive to regain the Latin Kingdom from the infidel. Akka awaits. It will be the site of the greatest–and cruellest–siege of its time. But even in the midst of war, lovers find ways to make transactions of beauty.
Pillars of Light is a powerful and moving novel about the triumph of the human spirit against all the odds. It will delight fans of Philippa Gregory, Ken Follett and Diana Gabaldon.

My thoughts:

I love everything about this cover! The colors, design and the dramatic way the mysterious beautiful woman is turned looking off into the distance. The flourishes to the left of the cover are exquisite. The title and the premise sounds intriguing!

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Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. Her latest HERE

Other great book bloggers who cover crush:

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

Meghan @ Of Quills & Vellum

More cover crushes over at indieBRAG!

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Interview with Award Winning Author Marlo Berliner

Marlo B BRAGI’d like to welcome Award Winning Author Marlo Berliner today. Marlo is the award-winning author of THE GHOST CHRONICLES, her debut book which was released in November 2015 to critical acclaim. The book won the 2016 NJRW Golden Leaf Award for Best First Book, was named FINALIST in the National Indie Excellence Awards for Young Adult Fiction, received the Literary Classics Seal of Approval, was awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion, and was named one of the “best indie YA books we have seen in the past year, from both self-publishers and small presses” by IPPY Magazine. Marlo is represented by Eric Ruben of the Ruben Agency and she writes young adult, women’s fiction, and short stories. Her second book, THE GHOST CHRONICLES BOOK 2, will be released in August 2017. Visit her at marloberliner.com or on Twitter and Instagram @marloberliner.

When she’s not writing or editing, Marlo loves reading, relaxing at the beach, watching movies, and rooting for the Penn State Nittany Lions. After having spent some wonderful time in Pittsburgh and Houston, she’s now back in her home state of New Jersey where she resides with her husband, two sons, and a rambunctious puppy named Max.

Thank you for talking with me today, Marlo! Tell me about how you discovered indieBRAG?

I noticed an indieBRAG medallion on another young adult book and thought, “I’d like one of those, too!”

Please tell me about your book, The Ghost Chronicles.

The Ghost Chronicles BRAG

The book is about a young man who dies tragically and is trapped in the afterlife, where he falls in love with the ghost of a beautiful woman who died just as tragically as he did. The only trouble is falling in love and binding oneself to another soul is forbidden, for it may keep one or both of the souls bound to earth for longer than they should be.

To make matters worse, there’s also a danger in going too far with Sarah, because the “joining” of two souls in the afterlife is also strictly forbidden and they don’t know what will happen if they do go that far. Each time they touch they can feel the boundaries of their energies slipping perilously into one another.

Things get even more complicated as Michael learns he’s being pursued. Demons are after him because he’s a marked soul, a soul the devil wants very badly for some unknown reason.

So, maybe falling in love in the afterlife isn’t such a good idea.

What audience are you targeting with this story?

I designed the story with upper young adults in mind, but also tried to give the book that crossover appeal for the adult audience.

Tell me about Michael’s strengths and weaknesses.

Michael’s main strengths are his bravery and his inherent goodness. His major weaknesses are his impatience and his impulsiveness.

Give me an example of the relationship between Sarah and Michael.

Their attraction is magnetic from the very beginning. They have a lot in common – they both lost a parent young and they both lost their own lives way too soon. They’re also both free-spirited, fun-loving and have big hearts. Once Michael meets Sarah and gets to know her, he realizes they were meant to be together.

How long did you work on this story and what was your inspiration for it?

I worked on and off on the story for more than five years, but most seriously in the last two of those years. Inspiration for the best stories lie at the intersection of truth and imagination. The Ghost Chronicles began this way, as well. I had my ‘eureka’ moment one day while reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with my son. Chapter Eight, The Deathday Party, deals with the ghosts in the Hogwarts Castle and what it might be like to ‘live’ in the afterlife, so that provided the spark that ignited the fire to write The Ghost Chronicles.

At the same time, I was also thinking about a truth from my past. When I was seventeen I was in a car accident that wasn’t my fault. An accident that almost took my life. The thought of ‘what if I had died’ has been one that has haunted me ever since. So immediately I knew I wanted The Ghost Chronicles to be not only a story of what it’s like to be stuck in the afterlife, but I also wanted it to be about a boy who dies tragically through no fault of his own. The kind of story ripped from the headlines about a promising young person who has their life taken away far too soon. It won’t be completely apparent until later in the series, but I wanted it to be a story of great hope for anyone who has lost someone tragically, particularly someone young. I’m also hoping readers will take away the theme embodied in this quote from the book – “Cherish life, it’s absolutely precious.”

The final piece of the love story in The Ghost Chronicles fell into place after I stayed at The Angel of the Sea, an award-winning bed and breakfast in Cape May, NJ. This spectacular inn has been featured on several television programs and in magazines throughout the world. Most notably, it was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as one of the “Best Vacations in the World” and included in her television talk show. The two buildings of The Angel of the Sea are so iconic, that it is one of the most recognized Victorian structures in the United States. Legend has it that in the late 1960’s, a girl did fall to her death at the Angel of the Sea and did at one time, haunt the inn. The story of the girl has been included in several non-fiction books about ghosts in Cape May. Sarah’s character in The Ghost Chronicles was inspired by this legend and after staying at this romantic inn, I also decided to make The Angel of the Sea the setting for the book.

How many books will be in this series and will you introduce new characters in each one?

I’m planning to have three books in the series and will introduce many new characters along the way. I love bringing historical characters, both well-known and lesser-known, into the books.

Who designed your book cover?

My cover was designed by the very talented S.P.McConnell.

Where can readers buy your book?

The book is available at all major retailers – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound and Walmart.

Tell me about how you got into writing.

I began seriously writing in high school and thoroughly enjoyed it. I even had teachers and professors who told me I had true talent and begged me not to stop writing. I continued writing in college, but largely gave it up once I graduated because I was simply too busy with life. I picked it up again many years later when my kids were young and I was struck by the idea for THE GHOST CHRONICLES. This book just wouldn’t let me not write it!

Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?

I always intended THE GHOST CHRONICLES to be a thought-provoking story, and I hope the story touches your heart the way it touched mine.

Thank you, Marlo! It was a pleasure chatting with you! Please visit with me again soon at Layered Pages!

AUTOHR LINKS:

Amazon –
US

UK

Barnes & Noble

 Indiebound

Walmart

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Marlo Berliner who is the author of, Ghost Chronicles, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Ghost Chronicles, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag-team-member

 

Bookish Happenings: What is your Reading Pleasure?

Me IIThis week is going to be a great week at Layered Pages. I have two award winning author interviews, a B.R.A.G. Book Spotlight and a cover crush. Hopefully I will get my latest review up that I promised. I meant to do it last week, then I said over the weekend and here we are at a knew week and no posted review. My excuse is that I have been extremely busy. Busier than I thought I would be. Alas, I am still reading the book in question. Still, it bothers me I failed to produce a review for my audience when I said I would. On the bright side, things are looking up in my reading world as you can see below and I assure you, that review will come soon.

I started Dragon Teeth Friday night to mix things up a bit in my ready world. Okay, the real reason was I bought the book Saturday and I just HAD to read the first three chapters to see…

I am almost done reading I, Eliza Hamilton and that review is coming. I have most of it written up.

Dragon TeethDragon Teeth

Michael Crichton’s recently discovered novel—an adventure set in the Wild West during the golden age of fossil hunting.

The year is 1876. Warring Indian tribes still populate America’s western territories even as lawless gold-rush towns begin to mark the landscape. In much of the country it is still illegal to espouse evolution. Against this backdrop two monomaniacal paleontologists pillage the Wild West, hunting for dinosaur fossils, while surveilling, deceiving and sabotaging each other in a rivalry that will come to be known as the Bone Wars.

Into this treacherous territory plunges the arrogant and entitled William Johnson, a Yale student with more privilege than sense. Determined to survive a summer in the west to win a bet against his arch-rival, William has joined world-renowned paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh on his latest expedition.  But when the paranoid and secretive Marsh becomes convinced that William is spying for his nemesis, Edwin Drinker Cope, he abandons him in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a locus of crime and vice. William is forced to join forces with Cope and soon stumbles upon a discovery of historic proportions.  With this extraordinary treasure, however, comes exceptional danger, and William’s newfound resilience will be tested in his struggle to protect his cache, which pits him against some of the West’s most notorious characters.

I, Eliza Hamilton III, Eliza Hamilton

by Susan Holloway Scott

In this beautifully written novel of historical fiction, bestselling author Susan Holloway Scott tells the story of Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza—a fascinating, strong-willed heroine in her own right and a key figure in one of the most gripping periods in American history.

“Love is not easy with a man chosen by Fate for greatness . . .”

As the daughter of a respected general, Elizabeth Schuyler is accustomed to socializing with dignitaries and soldiers. But no visitor to her parents’ home has affected her so strongly as Alexander Hamilton, a charismatic, ambitious aide to George Washington. They marry quickly, and despite the tumult of the American Revolution, Eliza is confident in her brilliant husband and in her role as his helpmate. But it is in the aftermath of war, as Hamilton becomes one of the country’s most important figures, that she truly comes into her own.

In the new capital, Eliza becomes an adored member of society, respected for her fierce devotion to Hamilton as well as her grace. Behind closed doors, she astutely manages their expanding household, and assists her husband with his political writings. Yet some challenges are impossible to prepare for. Through public scandal, betrayal, personal heartbreak, and tragedy, she is tested again and again. In the end, it will be Eliza’s indomitable strength that makes her not only Hamilton’s most crucial ally in life, but his most loyal advocate after his death, determined to preserve his legacy while pursuing her own extraordinary path through the nation they helped shape together.

What are you currently reading? Do share!

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indiebrag so easy to vote

 

indieBRAG is conducting their 2017 Cover Contest and is currently in the voting stage. If you haven’t voted yet for your favorite cover, please do! This contest helps support indie authors and gives notice to great covers! -Thank you!

Click HERE to vote.

Thank you for visiting Layered Pages today and please come back tomorrow for the first award winning author interview of the week.