Welcome to the tour for YA Suspense novella, Shadowed Seats by Marguerite Ashton! Read on for more!
Genre: Young Adult/ Mystery/ Thriller/ Novella
Length: 63 Pages
Oliana knows that every family has a secret, but she never expected hers to come from the grave.
High school senior Oliana Mercer dreams of attending the prestigious Reyersen Drama Academy and pursuing her acting career. But when tragedy strikes, Oliana discovers secrets hidden from her by her adopted parents, dimming the lights on her perfect world. As the sins of the past surface, Oliana finds herself caught up in a tug-of-war between two families while the love for her boyfriend is tested. Determined to find some form of happiness in life, Oliana becomes student director in the high school’s senior play. When her best friend, Devin Worthy, dies during dress rehearsal, Oliana is re-cast as the lead. Everyone thinks the death was a suicide, except Oliana, whose search for clues may be enough motive for the killer to murder again.
When Marguerite Ashton was in her twenties, she took up acting but realized she preferred to work behind the camera, writing crime fiction. A few years later, she married an IT Geek and settled down with her role as wife, mom, and writer!
Her blog, Criminal Lines: Settled Writer Past 40 is her outlet while building dollhouses and plotting out her next book.
From NYT bestselling author comes a haunting, high-octane contemporary fantasy for fans of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Winnie Wednesday fights to take the deadly Luminary hunter trials in Hemlock Falls’ nightmare-filled forest.
Hemlock Falls isn’t like other towns. You won’t find it on a map, your phone won’t work here, and the forest outside town might just kill you…
Winnie Wednesday wants nothing more than to join the Luminaries, the ancient order that protects Winnie’s town—and the rest of humanity—from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest of Hemlock Falls every night. Ever since her father was exposed as a witch and a traitor, Winnie and her family have been shunned. But on her sixteenth birthday, she can take the deadly Luminary hunter trials and prove herself true and loyal—and restore her family’s good name. Or die trying.
But in order to survive, Winnie must enlist the help of the one person who can help her train: Jay Friday, resident bad boy and Winnie’s ex-best friend. While Jay might be the most promising new hunter in Hemlock Falls, he also seems to know more about the nightmares of the forest than he should. Together, he and Winnie will discover a danger lurking in the forest no one in Hemlock Falls is prepared for.
Not all monsters can be slain, and not all nightmares are confined to the dark.
For the tour I have been designated a member of the Monday clan – they are the keepers of the Luminaries knowledge. As a former librarian, this works for me!
My thoughts: as a massive Dennerd (as Susan’s fans are known) from the Witchlands series and a follower on Twitter, where she originally had a choose your own adventure via polls version of The Luminaries (it’s still there fyi), I was very excited about this book before it even existed.
As the first title from Daphne Press, created by the lovely founder of Illumicrate, this was a very beautiful creepy/pretty book in terms of the cover. I’m never entirely sure about skulls.
Anyway, I did really enjoy Winnie’s trials and tribulations as she fought to prove herself, redeem her family and win herself a place alongside the other Luminaries and fight monsters for a living. But something weird is going on in the woods and too many people are quick to dismiss it, it’s up to our girl Winnie and the very annoying (and handsome) Jay to prove it.
This is the first in a trilogy and so a chunk of the story is given over to explaining how everything works, the lore, magic etc, which is necessary but I wanted to move onto Winnie training montages and monster fighting, thankfully there’s a bit of that too! I loved the whole days of the week clan thing, it was a bit silly but also funny that they’re literally called the Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays etc, and that poor Winnie’s full name is Wednesday Winifred Wednesday (that’s just mean). But I’m rooting for Winnie to come out on top, especially as she is absolutely right that there’s something out there scarier than the monsters going bump (-ed off) in the night. Roll on book two!
*I got my fancy copy from my monthly Illumicrate subscription but you can now buy a copy with the same creepy/pretty cover from all good bookshops. All opinions remain my own.
The Blight. The end of Mankind. The Bridge that may be salvation or the final betrayal.
Magic is treacherous, it lied to them all…
In this grimdark fantasy, magic and its guardians have been banished to the Deadlands and the Blight threatens mankind’s survival. Terren, the last remaining city, stands alone against its relentless advance. Ever closer draws the choice they all must make: face the deadly Blight or cross the Bridge to Magic.
Elika, an orphan on Terren’s streets, hates and fears the dark bridge. Many who try to cross, perish. Some reach the other side, only to become motionless shadows in the vast, lifeless landscape of the Deadlands, their true fate unknown.Like everyone else, Elika clings to the hope that purging every lingering echo of magic from the world can stop the Blight.
Then she discovers that magic is hiding within her, and through her it seeks to enact the will of its own. Everything Elika knew about her past shatters, as long-buried secrets about her true birth emerge. Accused of being a mage, many doubt her loyalties. Her gang turns against her. The one man she thought she could trust and love, abandons her.
Hunted and alone, Elika must soon decide: Either destroy the magic inside her or cross the bridge to her own uncertain end. But what awaits them in the Deadlands where the enemy of mankind roams wild?
The Bridge to Magic is a dark and intriguing story of a life between two deaths and an impossible choice to make. It is a tale of hope and survival in a world where neither seems possible.
Alex Thornbury is an award-winning fantasy author. She grew up in Cheshire UK, and developed deep love of history and fantasy thanks to the many castles she visited as a child. Though she grew up to be an Alchemist by trade, she never stopped fantasising about other worlds, dragons and epic battles.
She has abandoned her Alchemy and potion making career, and is now a full time author of high fantasy. After all, who does not love to build new worlds and meet its wondrous inhabitants?
My thoughts: this was a really interesting new YA fantasy series. Caught between the Blight slowly eating up everything and the terrifying chasm that the Bridge spans, Terren teems with rumours. Priestesses peddle a “cure” to being an Echo – infected with a hint of magic, paranoia runs rife as more refugees from the Blight flood the city. Gangs of thieves take in orphans like Elika, stealing to survive, dodging the city’s guards and trying to stay a step ahead.
But something is different about Eli, old Bill Fisher tries to tell her with his stories, but can she believe a man who says he’s 700 years old? Is she an Echo or something more, something dangerous? As the city runs out of time, can Eli turn the tide or is it finally time for her to cross the Bridge to the Deadlands?
As Eli tries to figure out who she is, and why she’s being pursued by so many, as the city tears itself apart and the poorest struggle to survive, everything Eli thought she knew might be wrong. A strong beginning to a new and exciting series.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.
We’re thrilled to share the first novel in the Heroes of the Empire series, The Cavalier by Israh Azizi! Read on for more details!
Heroes of the Empire: The Cavalier #1
Publication Date: November 22, 2022
Genre: YA Fantasy
She calls the Empire home. He pledges to bring its downfall.
Death is Velamir’s close acquaintance. As a student in the Chishman academy, he cannot escape the brutal war. When he’s sent on a mission with three fellow academy cadets, Velamir returns to the Empire, the land of his birth. Calamity befalls the group as they trek through enemy territory, and Velamir learns a part of his past that makes the mission far more personal. Burdened with the deaths of the unavenged and the chance of losing his own life, Velamir must decide if revenge is worth the cost.
Natassa knows her role well: The silent and obedient girl. The one who looks away from the torture her father, the emperor, inflicts on the Empire’s inhabitants. The princess. But she’s a shackled prisoner, and somewhere under the mask is a spark of rebellion. When she learns of her father’s intention to marry her to a man she loathes, Natassa crafts a risky plan of her own—one dangerous enough to get her killed.
Two searching hearts. Two perilous paths. Velamir must find the courage to face his past and Natassa must find the strength to face herself before the war consumes them both.
Israh Azizi resides in the land of ten thousand lakes with her family and five cats. Since she was a little girl she has been a lover of words and fanciful tales. It was her dream to one day share a story of her own with the world. With sheer determination, lots of love, and a decent amount of caffeine, she managed to make that dream come true. Besides reading and writing, she has a dizzying number of hobbies, some of which include bossing around her younger siblings, experimenting with new baking recipes, and playing board games with her family and close friends. When life’s plot twists don’t cross her path and her fingers aren’t dancing across the keyboard building a fantastical adventure, she can usually be found in a quiet corner with a good book and a steaming cup of coffee.
T-minus 7 days till The Ties that Bind by Susan L. Markloff goes live! Pre-order the next exciting book in The Human Born Era series to get it on publication day!
The Ties that Bind (The Human Born Era #2)
Expected Publication Date: February 7th, 2023
Genre: YA Fantasy
Seven continents. Seven teenagers. Seven protectors. One world hinges on their actions.
Three months ago, seven pillars of light lit up the continents. Seven teenagers rose to fight. The world survived.
Now Jen Monroe is tasked with finding the six other Human-Borns. Still reeling from her traumatic encounter with the monstrous Cregorous, she faces cultural barriers, personality clashes, and a worldwide trek to find those destined to help her. But threats sleep in the shadows, and the humans were not blind to what they witnessed seven teenagers accomplish.
Meanwhile, the very enemy the Human-Borns are fated to encounter lies in wait.
He is patient. He is cunning. He is ruthless.
Soon, these seven teenagers find themselves in a battle they never expected. But in their drive to save those they care about, what might be lost in the process?
Jennifer Monroe is an average eighteen-year-old girl, and she knows it.
Which is precisely why no one—least of all herself—would suspect anything extraordinary from the quiet, boring girl who only has a few good friends to call her own. But that all got flipped on its head about a year ago, when two imposing men, a complete goofball, a werewolf, and two large four-legged creatures barged into her life.
Now over a year later, Jen leads a double life. Mild mannered, quiet, high schooler by day; dragon slayer and raw-energy-wielding-warrior (in training) by night. Juggling SAT scores, papers, and mastering the art of flying, she’s managed to keep her friends and family oblivious of her hybrid abilities and continue on a track for college. Everything was going swimmingly.
Until one normal, foggy, November morning, when a dragon crashed through the clouds, heralding a small army to descend on her high school. All for little, forgettable her. Making her realize that maybe there’s a whole lot more going on than she originally thought.
Susan L Markloff is a rising YA Fantasy author. Upon devouring fantastical worlds as a child, she often spent her days playing make-believe and spinning stories with friends and family. At the age of 18, she wrote what would become the first draft of her debut novel, The Rise of the Raidin. While at Houghton College, she cultivated a love for the written word, and majored in Creative Writing. There she was encouraged by other aspiring authors and by her professors to hone her skills and write the best version of her stories. The Rise of the Raidin, book 1 of The Human-Born Era, is the first of over twenty planned novels revolving around the world of Tilion.
Today I’m excited to participate in the Creative Blog Tour for Over the Moon by S.E. Anderson hosted by MTMC Tours. An illegal clone of the recently murdered princess of the galaxy. A flying kitchen timer bot. A girl out of time with some defrost issues. A theme park droid with the mind of a prince. And a lost beast who’s not sure who he’s meant to kill. Over the Moon is an exciting F/F YA Science Fiction Fantasy published on January 10th, 2023 from Sea Breeze Books!
Title: Over the Moon
Author: S.E. Anderson Publisher: Sea Breeze Books
Publication Date: January 10th, 2023 Genres: F/F Young Adult, Sci-Fi Fantasy
As an illegal clone of the murdered galactic princess, Dora’s face would get her killed the minute she steps off her dull farming moon. She spends her days tinkering with gadgets and gears, with Tau, her kitchen-timer-bot, for company. But when forces close in and threaten her family, her escape attempt lands her deep in the Outer Zone — and on top of the Technowitch of Night, crushing her in the process.
Now a fugitive in two solar systems, Dora’s only chance of survival is to find her way to the mysterious Technomage on his Emerald moon. In a place where science has advanced to be indistinguishable from magic, she must accept the help of an unlikely trio: a cryogenically-preserved girl with no memory, an obsolete theme park droid, and a bioengineered beast with a penchant for the dramatic.
As Dora realizes there’s more to the princess’s death than what the universe has been told, she must choose — save her family, or risk everything to right a centuries-old wrong.
——– Character Art Reveal:
Meet the main characters of Over the Moon with these stunning character illustrations!
INTL Tour-wide Instagram Giveaway!
Enter the Rafflecopter below where One Grand prize winner will receive: a hardcover of Over the Moon with a woodmark, postcard + other spacey swag AND Two Runner-ups will get: an Ebook copy of Over the Moon + signed postcard! Ends on January 18th, 2023. Winner will be announced in the Rafflecopter & contacted via email. Enter Here
S.E. Anderson can’t ever tell you where she’s from. Not because she doesn’t want to, but because it inevitably leads to a confusing conversation where she goes over where she was born (England) where she grew up (France) and where her family is from (USA) and it tends to make things very complicated.
She’s lived pretty much her entire life in the South of France, except for a brief stint where she moved to Washington DC, or the eighty years she spent as a queen of Narnia before coming back home five minutes after she had left. Currently, she is working on her PhD in Astrophysics and Planetary sciences in Besançon, France.
When she’s not writing, or trying to science, she’s either reading, designing, crafting, or attempting to speak with various woodland creatures in an attempt to get them to do household chores for her. She could also be gaming, or pretending she’s not watching anything on Netflix.
My thoughts: this was a great, fun Wizard of Oz/Wicked inspired sci fi adventure. Dora is desperate to get off the farming moon she lives on with her aunt and uncle. Her life is boring and she wants more. But unfortunately she’s an illegal clone of the recently deceased princess and wanted by various factions – some to destroy her and some to undermine the ruling class.
So when she escapes (by accident) during a storm, drops the ship on top of a technowitch, liberates some tiny droids and gets sent on a mission to see the technowizard (as you do), makes some new friends and accidentally starts a war. It’s all going so well. But there’s more. And to find out what, you’ll have to read it!
Lots of fun, spot the Oz-ian references as you go and meet the gang – Crow, Nemo, Nekkan and Tau, who help Dora to get across the scary planet to the wizard’s moon in the hope he can help them too.
Over the Moon is inspired by Frank L. Baum’s classic The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy Gale is swept away from her aunt and uncle’s farm to the mysterious land of Oz. There are actually 14 books in the series. Only a couple have been adapted into films (and musicals) and imo Return to Oz (1985) should be a horror film, definitely not the Judy Garland technicolour extravaganza.
I’m related to a real life Dorothy Gale – my great-great-aunt, known as Doll. No wizards or witches would mess with her. She was an incredible woman and a bit of a character, mother of 3, Win (who lives in America and is still going in her 90s), Mick and Jeff (aka The Baby!). During the war my Nan lived with them too in West London.
Auntie Doll had a job cleaning the buses at the depot. When the bus she needed to get to was blocked in, she hopped in and moved another one of the way. The manager said to her “I think we’d better teach you how to drive that Mrs Gale” and she spent the rest of the war as a bus driver! She also introduced my grandparents to each other, she worked in a laundry in the early 60s where my Grandad was working too, and decided he’d be perfect for her niece. I’m glad she did or I wouldn’t be here! She was a feisty, hard working woman and I’m really proud to be related to Dorothy Gale.
POWERS ARE RISING. AND SECRETS ARE JUST AS DEADLY.
Successfully obtaining the chalice in Noel has put Mellana at risk. Prince Lorian has ordered everyone to turn over those who possess gifts,
and a bounty looms over her head. Mellana may have the help of her friends, but when trouble strikes, the group finds themselves separated.
Stumbling upon a hidden fortress filled with people who have powers like herself, she learns Lorian isn’t the only one she needs to fear.
In search of the next article, Emery’s Emerald, Mellana makes it to the kingdom of Emery. But when the Queen and article come up missing all eyes are on her sister, Princess Opal, who has a deadly obsession with snakes and mirrors. Making Opal a deal, Mellana agrees to find the article in exchange for protection. When the deal creates a countdown Mellana must deliver her side of the bargain before her reality becomes twisted, and her plans of stopping Lorian are shattered.
During the month of Amira, the silver moon emerges, and the kingdom of Zyra comes alive with anticipation for its annual ball. Mellana Goodwick, finally at the rightful age of sixteen, receives her first invitation, but when unexpected events take place, immediate regret sets in. Mellana finds herself caught in a strange storm-casting down green lightning and filling the sky with ear-splitting thunder. To make matters worse, the kingdom comes under attack by Prince Lorian, a man removed from the line of succession for murdering his sister, the future queen, and her newborn child.
After escaping the attack with her best friends, Mellana stumbles upon a box left by a woman named Rose. With the power to see glimpses of the future, Rose warns Mellana of hidden powers the kingdom has covered up and Lorian’s desire to unleash them all. Rose instructs Mellana to gather the sacred article from each of the seven kingdoms before Lorian and his deadly group can gain access to them. Together, the items unlock a barrier that is meant to stay shut.
In Secrets of a Rose, Mellana will discover remarkable abilities that stir around her and some that even rise within. In order to keep what she loves, she must embark on a race against the person who dares to threaten it all.
I’m a big fan of the amazing charity The Reading Agency, who do so much to promote and encourage Reading. They now run World Book Night, an event I’ve been shouting about since it first started and now they’ve developed a new amazing concept – Reading Well.
So what is Reading Well?
Reading Well has been developed by national charity The Reading Agency in partnership with Libraries Connected and the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) Cymru, and is delivered with public libraries.
There are 5 Reading Well booklists which support people to understand and manage their health and wellbeing using helpful reading. Over 3 million Reading Well books have been borrowed from libraries since 2013. Find out about other Reading Well booklists at your local library or visit reading-well.org.uk
Reading Well for teens supports the mental health and wellbeing of teenagers, providing helpful information, advice and support to help them better understand their feelings, handle difficult experiences and boost confidence. The list has been developed as an update to the 2016 Reading Well for Young People (“Shelf Help”) list and is focused on supporting teens’ mental health and wellbeing in a post-pandemic context.
The booklist is targeted at teenagers (13-18) and includes a range of reading levels and formats to support less confident readers and encourage engagement. Some of the recommended books suggest useful self-help techniques; there are also personal stories, graphic formats, and fiction. Alongside the books are a selection of quality assured age-appropriate digital resources. The books have been chosen by young people, leading health professionals and library staff. Our book selection panel included colleagues from Royal College of GPs, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Nursing, British Psychological Society, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, NHS England, Mind, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and the School Library Association.
I was kindly sent two fantastic books from the Reading Well for Teens reading lists: The Year I Didn’t Eat by Samuel Pollen and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. I had read A Monster Calls before, ages ago and definitely needed a re-read and I hadn’t read The Year I Didn’t Eat so that was new to me. The reading lists themselves are very accessible and have a huge range of books on lots of different topics that might affect their readers. All of them can be found online, in book shops and most importantly, in your local library and hopefully in a school or college library too.
Fourteen-year-old Max Howarth is living with anorexia. With the help of his therapist and his supportive, but flawed, family, he’s trying his best to maintain his health. But things spiral out of control, and his eating disorder threatens to isolate him from everyone he loves. Beautifully crafted and honestly written, this debut YA novel tells the story of one boy’s year-long journey toward recovery.
In most ways, Max is like any other teenager. He’s dealing with family drama, crushes, and high school-all while trying to have fun, play video games, and explore his hobbies. But Max is also living with anorexia and finds it impossible to be honest with his loved ones-they just don’t understand what he’s going through.
Starting at Christmas, a series of triggering events disrupt Max’s progress toward recovery, sending him down a year-long spiral of self-doubt and dangerous setbacks. With no one to turn to, Max journals his innermost thoughts and feelings, writing to “Ana,” the name he’s given his anorexia. While that helps for a while, Ana’s negative voice grows, amplifying his fears.
When Max gets an unusual present from his older brother, a geocache, it becomes a welcome distraction from his problems. He hides it in the forest near their house and soon gets a message from the mysterious “E.” Although Max is unsure of the secret writer’s identity, they build a bond, and it’s comforting to finally have someone to confide in.As Max’s eating disorder pulls him further away from his family and friends, this connection keeps him going, leading him back to the people who love and support him.
Writing from his own experiences with anorexia, Samuel Pollen’s The Year I Didn’t Eat is a powerful and uplifting story about recovery and the connections that heal us.
My thoughts: while I didn’t have anorexia, I did struggle with a different eating disorder in my late teens and early twenties so Max’s story resonated with me. Based on the author’s own illness, this was powerful and moving and I can totally see why this made the Reading Well booklist.
Eating disorders are increasingly common in young men and teenage boys, as well as still being something many young women struggle with. They’re both a physical and mental illness, and require a holistic approach to treat. They can be really scary and as long as society continues to generate certain body types, they’ll persist.
But The Year I Didn’t Eat offers that most important thing – hope. You can recover, recovery is real and you will be able to be ok again. When you’re in the midst of an eating disorder, or any illness that also impacts you psychologically, it can seem impossible to believe you’ll be well again.
The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Costa Award winner Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final idea of much-loved Carnegie Medal winner Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel of coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.
My thoughts: I have been extremely lucky in that I never had to deal with the pain of losing a parent at a young age (both of mine are still here) but I cannot imagine how awful that would be. Having seen some close friends lose theirs even in my twenties, it feels horrific. This incredibly, tremendously moving, powerful and iconic book deserves its place on the Reading Well list for its ability to understand that terrible pain and fear and interpret it for the teen audience. I imagine it to be a wonderfully comforting read if you are dealing with the potential loss of a parent, knowing you’re not alone, that someone does understand, must provide at least a little comfort.
I have to admit I read both books with tissues at my side because they brought back, for me, some of the turmoil of being a teenager and young adult. They made me feel less alone, definitely, despite being published after my teens, and long after I left the expected audience. I really hope lots of people access the Reading Well Reading lists and find something that speaks to them there.
A massive thank you to The Reading Agency and their partner Four Communications for sending me the books and providing the images and some of the text above.
A girl undergoing a terrifying transformation goes on an epic quest to find a refuge from her ruthless father.
Nymphosis, a disease that turns Humans into Chimeras, is ravaging the land of Gashom. The More-Than-Pure, determined to protect themselves, have seized power and enacted segregationist laws.
The daughter of a high dignitary, young Neria learns she is afflicted by the very disease her father is determined to eradicate. Forced to surrender her privileges, she must flee her home in the capital and traverse the strange wilds to seek refuge with her fellow kind.
Will she have the courage to fight oppression to emancipate the Chimeras from the yoke of the More-Than-Pure?
The research took place mostly on the internet. A word I stumble upon while writing can instantly turn into several hours of reading.
Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?
None of the characters were easy to write about, but certainly the most difficult was the tyrannical father. I read three different books about serial killers before I began to understand the reasoning of a psychopath.
In your book, you describe the gargoyles’ people. What made you use elements of Gothic architecture for creating these characters?
During a visit to Notre Dame de Paris, I was able to admire the sculptures of gargoyles that adorn its facade. Their mere presence evoked a fabulous universe and served as great inspiration in my novel.
Where do you get inspiration for your stories?
The ideas seem to me to be floating around, in books, events, and encounters, and that it is enough to sit for long hours in front of a computer screen and concentrate on arranging them in a new way.
There are many books out there about chimeras. What makes yours different?
The story follows a family and a people through a tone that is both intimate and epic, which is rather unusual in this kind of literature. The plot captures the struggles of humanity through a fantasy lens, making it both digestible and thought-provoking.
What advice would you give budding writers?
Don’t give up! Remember that this journey takes time and you won’t find all the answers from the start. Find yourself a smart, professional, and gentle literary advisor who can guide you in the process.
If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be?
I think I would like to be Matar, the Pedler. I envy his freedom and independence, despite the difficulties he faces in his life.
Do you have another profession besides writing?
I have had other professions in the past, but writing has become my main focus at the moment. I still practice and teach aikido, which actually turns out to be really useful when I write combat scenes.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve only been writing for five years, but I’ve been reading every day for as long as I can remember, which certainly helped me a lot.
Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?
Never. I think the writer’s block happens when you force yourself. I take the first topic that comes to my mind and I write only about what strikes me as exciting. I make no judgment during the first phase of writing. I let the ideas flow.
What is your next project?
I will soon publish a thriller about a woman who decides, after a divorce, to take over her parents’ farm: a return to nature that does not go as planned. I also just started writing a science fiction book.
What genre do you write and why?
I choose the story first. The genre follows. I don’t force myself to create series. I think that having fun while writing increases the chances that the reader will have fun too.
What is the last great book you’ve read?
Lately, I’ve read Philip Roth’s Human Stain. I found the beginning of this book stunning and the scenes taking place around the main protagonist and the university’s life incredibly well done.
What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?
My favorite compliment is that once started, it’s difficult to put the book down.
How are you similar to or different from your lead character?
It’s a difficult question. I’m too close to her to tell. The similarity would be that she doesn’t give up easily. That being said, I find her more stubborn than I am.
If your book were made into a movie, who would star in the leading roles?
Odeya Rush for Neria, the heroine.
Lior Raz, for the Pedler
Lior Ashkenazi, for Valterone, the ruthless father.
What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing your book?
It was incredible to see a world coming into life out of my mind. The greatest challenge was to make it right—to find the right balance between all the elements.
In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?
It’s a difficult, but worthwhile road.
Which authors inspired you to write?
Tolkien, Barbara Pym, Kazuo Ishiguro, Camus, Albert Cohen, Proust, Baudelaire and many others.
What is something you had to cut from your book that you wish you could have kept?
I regret nothing because I hope to use these discarded parts for a sequel.
Do you snack while writing? Favorite snack?
I don’t usually snack because it distracts me. But I drink green tea to stay alert.
Where do you write?
I write mostly in my studio, but I also like to write on the go, in coffee shops, hotel rooms or in my car.
Do you write every day?
Six days a week.
What is your writing schedule?
I’m a morning person, so I usually start writing as soon as my youngest daughter leaves for school. I write at least two hours a day, sometimes more, and Iusually keep the afternoons for other activities, like publishing and marketing.
Is there a specific ritualistic thing you do during your writing time?
I just sit down and look at my computer screen, my hands ready on the keyboard and my mind traveling.
In today’s tech-savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?
No. I’ve just drawn a diagram for the protagonists’ relationship and a map.
If you’re a mom writer, how do you balance your time?
I’m a mom, but my daughters are quite grown up now. So it’s less of an issue, although I have the best focus time in the mornings when everybody is still sleeping or busy.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
I would like to be able to move in time according to my research. For example, take a leap into antiquity to observe the hotels of that era. It would be amazing if we could see everything in person instead of relying on archaeological digs or writing found on the internet.
Favorite travel spot?
I try to cut off sugar, so no dessert for me please.
If you were stuck on a deserted island, which three books would you want with you?
I’d take Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Barbara Pym’s Some Tame Gazelle, and Proust’s In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower.
What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you? The scariest? The strangest?
I was kidnapped by aliens who looked like Buster Keaton. Just kidding… I live a quiet life, like many writers I suppose. Most of my adventures take place in my head.
What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?
I hesitate between leaving France, my birth country, or having three children.
Any hobbies? Or Name a quirky thing you like to do.
The main ones right now are Aikido and basketry. I like making sculptures or baskets with branches I find in the garden.
If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?
I’d prefer they’ll remember my books. That’s where I store the most important things I have to say.
What is something you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic?
I love silence and quiet, but the pandemic was too much, even for me.
What TV series are you currently binge-watching?
What is your favorite thing to do in summer?
Swimming and eating mango.
What song is currently playing on a loop in your head?
“Eem rak taskimi” by The Idan Raichel Project
What is your go-to breakfast item?
No breakfast. I started intermittent fasting a few years ago and I found it keeps my mind clear until the first meal of the day.
What is the oldest item of clothing you own?
A fox fur collar that belonged to my great-grandmother. My mother passed it down to me. Even though I oppose the use of animal fur for clothing, I can’t get rid of it.
Tell us about your longest friendship.
My friend Sylvie lives in France. I met her in high school and even though our paths parted, every time we speak on the phone or meet (rarely), it’s like we’re immediately back in the old days.
Who was your childhood celebrity crush?
When they were first released, Star Wars and Indiana Jones were some sort of revelation. And Harrison Ford was the handsome cool hero in both of them.
L.M. Rapp has lived in different countries and practiced several professions: dentist, web developer, artist, aikido teacher, farmer. Eager to learn and discover, she uses her experiences to enrich her stories. She has also written a thriller, Of Flesh and Tears.
One moment, she had been enjoying the security and comfort of her family home. The next, she was left helpless in a deserted square. An oil lamp rested in Neria’s hand. A clay container, filled with a greenish-yellow liquid. A wick, coiled within its heart, snaked up to the groove that guided it into the open air. A flame danced on its tip, a paltry defense against the darkness of that night, one of those gentle nights that often follow the heat of the day. The moon watched her with a wry smile.
Neria suddenly felt she was going to collapse, crumpling like a sheet that had fallen to the ground. Without the warmth of the hand curled inside hers, she would have indeed done so. She remembered the last time she had seen Arhel’s hand, crimson and reaching out of the covers. Who knew what the disease would do to her? But before she succumbed to it, she would save Anaëlle.
She breathed in, then out, and took a step forward. Her aching limbs strained at first, but after a few minutes, she was walking briskly, her head bowed like a servant, the child in tow. First, she had to find the secret passage her mother had told her about and cross the wall of the High District without going through the ever-guarded gates.
She came to a dead-end and saw the dried-up well and a withered pistachio tree lined with shrubs of rosemary leaning against the perimeter wall. It concealed a narrow, low opening. She went in first, crawled into a tunnel bereft of cobwebs and emerged behind an olive tree, also surrounded by shrubbery. Crouching down, she peeked between the branches. No one was there. She called to Anaëlle in a hushed voice, the child joining her. They emerged from their cover and arrived on the street. Before long, they had made their way to an impoverished part of town they had never been to before. The hovels were huddled together, separated here and there by narrow, randomly arranged passageways. The first on the left… The second on the right…
“Hey there, little lady! Where are you off to in such a hurry?”
Three guards had concealed themselves in a nook to drink to their hearts’ content.
“Lady Yarine’s sent me on an urgent errand.”
She hoped they would be too drunk to do anything and turned away. She tried to maintain her composure, a technique that had worked for her that morning. Yet heavy footsteps came ever closer behind her before her arm was seized by a coarse grip.
“You’ve got more than enough time to come give us a little cuddle.”
One of the guards looked at her, a yellow smile spread across his brown beard. He reeked of alcohol and nauseating filth. She tried to pull away from him, but his grip tightened.
“Stay still or we’ll give you a good hiding. It’ll go better for you if you don’t put up a fight, believe me. Leave the kid here and come on.”
The two others approached.
The lamp fell and shattered. Neria took out her knife and stuck it in the arm restraining her. The guard howled in pain and let go of her.
“You’re going to regret that you whore.”
The guards now surrounded her. She threatened them with her bloodied weapon. She couldn’t believe she’d been so stupid not to have stabbed him in the stomach. Her assailant barely seemed bothered. She spun around, Anaëlle clinging to her clothes. The girl was sobbing.
One of the men drew his sword, “Drop the knife or I kill the kid.”
Neria’s hand trembled. The knife fell on the dusty ground with a dull thud.
“Run, Anaëlle, get out of here!”
The wounded guard threw himself on her, seized her elbow, slipped behind her, and choked her with his good arm.
The child, small and spirited, ran away. Just as Neria thought she was going to make it, the man with the sword grabbed her mid-flight.
Neria struggled, hitting the arm that choked her. His hold tightened. Her mouth gasped but the air would not come, and her movements weakened. Suddenly, the guard holding her let out a yowl of pain and released her. She collapsed, heavily panting gulps of air on all fours. Her assailant lay there with his throat slit. The coarse, black-nailed hand that moments before had clamped down on her arm now clawed at the earth. The corpse’s glassy eyes stared up into the starry sky. His red tongue in his gaping mouth, his fleshy lips, his fat cheeks swallowed by his beard… like a giant sea urchin washed up from the sea, his insides hanging open. A shrill cry rang out and she covered her ears.
A monster, half-man, half-beast, had ripped open another guard and had now set its sights on the third. The remaining guard was still holding Anaëlle hostage and keeping the beast at bay with his sword.
While the tiger and guard danced their macabre dance, Neria, still on all fours, fumbled for her knife. She grasped its hilt, ran towards the soldier, raising her weapon, a wild howling in her throat. The monster took advantage of the diversion to pounce on its adversary. Neria sheathed her knife, picked up the child who had fallen to the ground, and fled, pursued by screams of agony.
The construction of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris started in the 12th century. At the beginning, water flowed from the roofs onto the streets, splashing the walls of the building. Gargoyles in the shape of fantastic winged animals appeared in the early 13th century. They served as gutters and became decorative elements inspired by the medieval bestiary.
On a trip, about ten years ago, I admired these motionless and threatening gargoyles without the faintest idea of the journey they would later take me. Premier and medieval art seem to possess an evocative power that the more modern arts, bogged down in their technicality and theories, have lost. I’m not sure that, as the painter Dubuffet wrote, “Art has much to do with madness,” but clearly art, like fairy tales, often finds its inspiration in our fears and anxieties.
According to art historian Michael Camille, “To protect himself from the demons he is charged with sculpting, the medieval artist mocks them.” No doubt that the attentive observer will be able to perceive, barely masked by ferocity, a sense of saving humor. For isn’t it through humor that we tame our fears?
I myself have developed an obsession for these magical creatures. They have crossed time and borders. From superstition and religious beliefs, they have invaded popular culture and can be found on the Internet, in archaeological or modern art museums, fantasy books, Marvel movies, Disney cartoons, Japanese manga, video games, and elsewhere.
In ancient Greece, the word Chimaera referred to a hybrid creature capable of breathing fire, a lion with a goat’s head and a serpent’s tail. Such a mosaic of animals leaves one dreaming. Dracula seems so conformist in comparison.
The manticore, a legendary monster of Persian origin and imported in Europe by a Greek doctor, has the body of a red-furred lion, a man’s face, and a tail with poisonous spines that it projects on its prey – preferably human. It devours them, bones included, thanks to its three rows of teeth, going from one ear to the other. It symbolizes evil. Over the years, it seems to have evolved into the Sphinx. Of all these characteristics, the mouth is the most frightening to me. Human-like at first sight, until it opens wider and wider to reveal too many sharp teeth…
The Japanese have their Nue with the head of a monkey, the limbs of a tiger, the body of a tanuki and the tail of a snake. Now it stars in a Baruto anime.
I decided to paint these hybrid creatures, to invent some of my own, and to tell their stories. In the 19th century, Violet-le-Duc added chimeras to the roofs of the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral. They received a lot of praise at the time and inspired me to create a gargoyle people, fierce, mischievous, and tender.
I’ve only brushed this vast and complex subject, and I’m sure that you too have your favorite chimera. Which one do you prefer? Which one scares you the most?
My thoughts: this was an interesting book featuring gargoyles and chimera, hybrid beasts often found in ancient mythology. Neria is a bit of a spoilt brat to begin with but she has to find her inner strength when her mother sneaks her and her niece out of the house to protect them from her father’s cruelty as Neria starts to become the very thing she has been taught to fear – a chimera. Her niece can see the future – mainly the actions of her own parents, but that too puts her in danger.
Change can be literal but also metaphorical – Neria might be shifting into a different form but she also has to change her world view and become strong enough to fight back against her father and his cruel, murderous policies that would see her killed.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.
When you’re dead, you’re dead. When you’re gone, you’re gone. Unless, of course, you’re not. And that’s where I come in.
The year is 1897, and Peggy Devona can speak with ghosts.
She hides her gift from those afraid of a girl with such powers, terrified of the secrets the dead could reveal through her. But when her best friend is accused of murdering her rich mistress, Peggy knows only she – a hisperling – can save her.
Peggy escapes to her uncle’s psychic emporium in the city, seeking out new ghosts to help her solve Sally’s case.
Yet time is running out, and each step towards uncovering the truth also brings Sally one step closer to the gallows. . .
Long listed for the Bath Children’s Novel award, Hayley Hoskins writes in the space between family and work, with much support from her writing group.
Mum to a teenage boy, she spends a disproportionate amount of time hoping that her son’s life is far less complicated than those of the characters in her books, and trying to ensure he becomes a ‘good egg’.
Originally from the Forest of Dean, Hayley lives with her family and hairy breezeblock of a dog in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Twitter
My thoughts: inspired by the real life executions of teenage girls in the past and the Victorian fascination for séances and the afterlife, this is a clever, fun story of a young woman with an extraordinary gift and how she uses it to get justice for the living and the dead.
Peggy Devona has inherited the family gift for talking to the dead – she’s a Whisperling – and while it isn’t as bad as being a 17th century witch, there are still those who see it as evil. Like the local vicar, Tate, who has a real issue with Peggy. And a few other people.
Sent to live with her uncle at his psychic emporium (he has two clairvoyants living and working there – Oti and Cecily, who are a joy fyi) for her own safety, she is determined to save her best friend Sally from the noose after she is accused of murdering her employer.
But in order to solve the crime, she must give in to the power of the Devonas and allow the dead to speak. Assisted by her friends and family, can she stop Sally’s terrible fate and right a wrong?
Really enjoyable, lots of fun and Peggy is a great protagonist. Her gift frightens her, not unsurprisingly, and in embracing it she realises she can do good and help people. She also discovers she is surrounded by people who love her – living and dead.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.