Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Searching for Inspiration and Character... and Magic?

Today I'm delighted to welcome authors Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr to my blog with a joint guest posts, celebrating their Magician's Workshop series. Volumes 1 and 2 are already available (see details below), but what turns a novel into a series, and will there be more?

 What's New At The Magician's Workshop by Christopher Hansen and J. R. Fehr

The Magician's Workshop is going to be an epic tale that we expect will span several volumes. Volume One introduces the reader to the characters and the world and explores the pressures that exist for kids in a world where everyone can do magic. Volume Two deals with the kids entering the coming of age ceremony that everyone has to participate in.

Our inspiration for characters is everywhere. Every encounter—no matter how brief—is a story waiting to unfold. We’ve also spent a lot of time studying theories of personality. This knowledge has helped us craft the voices of our characters and imagine how they might react in a certain situations. 

Of course, this is a book about The Magician’s Workshop, so there has to be some magic in it. But the magic in our book is not like any kind of magic we know of. We spent many hundreds of hours creating all the details around this new magic for our book. We had to figure out what a world that was based on this magic would look like—what rules governed it. Then, as we figured out the wide variety of magical powers possible, we could start thinking about characters. We wanted to find the magical powers that were the right fit for each character. We tried to make these powers feel like they were a natural outgrowth of that character, like an expression of their very souls.

When we started writing, we anticipated a story with a handful of primary characters. But new characters kept showing up, and we liked them. We found ourselves writing additional scenes and chapters with these characters. This was dangerous because soon we had enough material to fill several volumes. We had to make a difficult choice: cut out half of the characters and their stories or allow the story to grow. At first we decided to cut. But when we went to actually delete the scenes, we didn’t want to say goodbye. We looked at each other, and a big smile grew on our faces. “We’re keeping them!” we said. “This is going to be mega!”

So, these novels are really different than a traditional fantasy story. There isn’t one specific main character. There are several point of view characters who our readers can relate to in different ways. Each one has their own gifts and weaknesses. The two who get the most attention in the stories, though, would have to be Kai and Layauna. Both of them have unique talents and have a grandparent with grand expectations. But while Kai wants to do his own thing and have fun with the magic he creates, Layauna is terrified of her creations and seeks the approval of her elders.

Kai is a silly goofball who loves to spend time with his friends. He’s supportive and encouraging to people yet at the same time isolated and cut off from others. He wrestles with a lot of big issues relating to his place in the world. Layauna, on the other hand, doesn’t have the time or freedom to be silly. She desperately wants to create beautiful things with her magical powers, but instead she makes horrible, savage monsters. 

Like all of us, the characters in The Magician’s Workshop struggle with who they are, who they want to be, and what they want to do.

While we were writing, we got to play with these characters, inside this fantastical world, and now we are so excited to share this world with you, for you to enjoy. 

I'm excited too. I love that the stories are character driven, and that you've made the world make sense - magic as nature rather than deus ex machina perhaps. Add those ever-relevant questions of coming of age, and this will surely be a series to watch. Thank you so much for visiting my blog, and I'm delighted to have hosted you.

About the books:

The Magician’s Workshop, Volume One

Authors: Christopher Hansen, J.R. Fehr
Published by: Wondertale, California
Publication Date: November 8, 2016
ISBN: 1-945353-11-2
Genre: Coming of Age, Fantasy, Magic
Ages: 12 and up.
Length: 85,000 words / 290 pages

Book Links:
Amazon * Goodreads

Everyone in the islands of O’Ceea has a magical ability: whatever they imagine can be brought into existence. Whoever becomes a master over these powers is granted the title of magician and is given fame, power, riches, and glory. This volume of books follows the journey of a group of kids as they strive to rise to the top and become members of the Magician’s Workshop.

Layauna desperately wants to create beautiful things with her magical powers, but all she can seem to do is make horrible, savage monsters. For years she has tried to hide her creations, but when her power is at last discovered by a great magician, she realizes that what she’s tried to hide might actually be of tremendous value.

Kai just wants to use his powers to have fun and play with his friends. Unfortunately, nearly everyone on his island sees him as a bad influence, so he’s forced to meet them in secret. When one of the creatures they create gets out of control and starts flinging fireballs at their town, Kai is tempted to believe that he is as nefarious as people say. However, his prospects change when two mysterious visitors arrive, praising his ability and making extraordinary promises about his future.

Follow the adventures of Kai, Layauna, and a boatload of other characters as they struggle to grow up well in this fantastical world.

The Magician’s Workshop, Volume Two

Authors: Christopher Hansen, J.R. Fehr
Print Length: 273 pages
Publisher: Wondertale
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
ASIN: B01N988TW7
Genre: Coming of Age, Fantasy, Magic
Ages: 12 and up.

Book Links:
Amazon * Goodreads

Return to the world of The Magician’s Workshop: Where Dreams Become Reality.

In Volume Two, the Festival of Stars has finally arrived, and the Color Ceremony is about to commence. As children from all over the islands gather to stand before a puller, one question remains: who will have a Color, and who will be found void?

Rejoin your favorite characters as they step forward and receive a label that will have the power to dramatically alter the course of their lives forever.

About the authors

Christopher Hansen

The first glimmering Chris Hansen had that there was far more to reality than he had ever imagined occurred six days after his ninth birthday. “Christopher!” cried a wise, old sage. “Life is full of deep magic. Miraculous things happen all the time and all around us, if you know where to look for them.” Full of expectation and childlike optimism, Chris began searching for this magic, prepared to be surprised and amazed by it. And he was: he found Wonder! Now he’s chosen to write stories about it.

J.R. Fehr

When J.R. Fehr popped out of the womb, he knew there was more to the world than the four boring hospital walls that he was seeing. “Zango!” his newborn mind exclaimed as he saw people appear and disappear through a mysterious portal in the wall. As a child he found life wowtazzling, but as he grew older the cold water of reality hit him, and the magic he once knew vanished. After spending some wet and shivering years lost in a joyless wasteland, he once again began to see magic in the world. He writes because the Wonder of true life is far grander than anything he ever thought possible.

Where to Find Them

Website * Facebook

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Have you ever called someone Messy?

Today I have a very cool young guest on my blog. Her name is Misry and she's here from Paromita Goswami's middle-schoo, teen and YA book, Grow Up Messy, published by Ficus India. So, find yourself a comfy chair and a cup of tea or coffee. Let's talk with Misry.

Misry, can you tell us something about your family and the place where you live?

I have a big family at my Dadu’s house. Let me talk about them. I visited there during Pallavi Mashi’s marriage. It’s a huge house with lots of people and many different kind of animals.  Dadu, Dida, Nilesh Mama his wife Soma Mami their identical twins Dia and Ria along with Pallavi Mashi live there. And also the white Pomeranian dogs Bura and Buri. You will just love the place. Back home, its only me, Ma and Daddy. And I don’t like it. I have nobody to play with at home.

That sounds sad. Do you have any friends there?

My best friends are Bheeru and Honey. But cross your heart that you won’t share this little secret with anyone else. Its Honey, who is my best friend ever. Bheeru sometimes fought with me and didn’t allow me to play with his goat kids. But I have long back forgiven him for that. But Honey never fought with me. We are the best buddies. 

So... just two friends?

Err.. No.. I have lots of friends. Phulwa, Robi, Boney, Honey’s younger brother are my friends.

That sounds fun. Do you have any enemies?

Enemies?? What enemies?? I don’t have any. Ma says I should make friends and play with everybody. But I am very angry when some of the boys take me for granted and always make fun of me. I don’t mind teaching them a lesson!

I don't blame you. I heard they even call you Messy sometimes. How does that make you feel?

I feel bad when someone calls me Messy. What if I can’t climb up the trees or swim across the river? I don’t ruin the plans deliberately. It just happens to fall apart at the last minute. Am I to be blamed for that? 

Do you think they'll still call you Messy once you make friends with them?

It was Raju who called me by that name first. And slowly everybody else started calling me by that name as if that is my good name. Evem Ma calls me that when she is angry with me. But I am not Messy.

No, I'm sure you're not. I guess I'll have to read your book to find out more about you though. Thank you so much for visiting my blog today.

Childhood is considered to be the best time of one’s life. What if you get a chance to live it once more with a five-year-old?
Misry, a naughty five-year-old girl, lives with her parents in a B.S.F border outpost near Indo-Bangladesh border. But with no schools and friends she feels very lonely. She tries to befriend some local village kids. But they find her incompetent in their rural antics. They nickname her Messy as most of the time she messes up their plan. Can Misry really be a part of the gang?
Set in the early eighties, join Misry in the adventures of her life.


Amazon kindle



Paromita Goswami is a writer and storyteller by passion and a rebel by choice. She says the world is full of stories and as a writer she loves to pen them down. Her work is not genre specific. From literary fiction to children book to upcoming paranormal thriller and women fiction, Paromita Goswami‘s books offer the variety of life to her readers. Grow Up Messy! is her second book. She debuted in 2015 with Shamsuddin’s Grave, a literary fiction. Besides writing, she is also the founder of reading club that enhances book reading habit in children. She lives in central India with her family.




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Monday, February 13, 2017

What do Survivors do?

One of my sons views the future with dread, imagines the worst, and believes we might all soon be dead. It's a sad point of view, but I recognize it from my own youth, when I was always sure one of the "big three" (Russia, America or China) would foolishly "push the button" and condemn us all to die. Eventually movie-makers filmed their tales - Australians patiently awaiting the end; triumphant American pioneers rebuilding it all, or downtrodden English survivors slaving on. Meanwhile I grew up and we're still here.

Meanwhile I grew up and some of those parents we relied on might not be here long, and I find myself pondering different kinds of survival--reading about them too, from Atul Gawande's exploration of late-life care to Carl Alves' alien destruction--so here are some reviews.

Atul Gawande's Being Mortal offers an incisive glimpse into that later part of life, where we age, get sick, and maybe even die. The simple idea that in the good old days parents lived and died with their children becomes a rose-colored dream--it wasn't ever what parents wanted or what they might need. And so, as society changes, our dreams of freedom color adulthood as well as childhood; and aging becomes the slow replacement of freedom with increasing loss. Gawande makes it seem possible that not all change need be loss. He offers questions that clarify thought and make decisions make sense. And he offers visions of elder care that I can almost believe I would hope for. It's an excellent book. We should all read it before we grow old, preferable with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

The Orphan by S. R. Nair is a fictional story set in India, telling the tale of a young American orphaned when his parents, who love India, die while helping at an orphanage. Sid is now an orphan too, but with vastly different expectations. When American dream meets Indian reality, his outlook is set to change. The novel explores connected themes of corruption, attitudes to life and death, riches and poverty, and the assumptions we make about other people. It's told with a movie-like detachment, offering vivid descriptions of life and country, and oddly detached insights into characters who don't quite know themselves. Enjoy with some more complex, elegant four-star coffee.

Wish You Well by David Baldacci is set in 1940s Virginia where a city girl and her brother are sent to stay on the mountain with their grandmother when their father dies. Almost orphans, they see the world through innocent eyes while the reader finds today's hates and greeds in the history of yesterday. It's a compelling, convincing tale, and the ending, while maybe predictable, feels perfectly right. Enjoy with some more elegant four-star coffee.

Life After by Katie Ganshert is set in the present day, where the sole survivor of a terrorist attack suffers nightmares and struggles to pick up the pieces of her life while totally absorbed in the wreckage of others'. Smoothly nuanced questions of faith arise--good God, bad actions, why?--all naturally attuned to the characters' lives. There's no preachiness in this novel, but there's much to inspire the reader, and a fascinating storyline to entertain as well. Enjoy with a complex, elegant four-star coffee.

The survivors in Carl Alves' Reconquest: Mother Earth are survivors of a very different type, rebuilding after an alien invasion. The story's classic science fiction action adventure, with tongue in cheek scenes, scary scenes, TV-style scenes, space opera scope and, of course, an all-American hero at the center of it all. It's fast, furious fun, best enjoyed with some bright lively easy-drinking two-star coffee (plus the odd dark five-star cup for the blood and gore).

And so the survivors survive. Will you?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Do you have a favorite publisher?

Disaster struck and our basement flooded - the family room where we watch TV, where I work on my computer, where I live most of my life... all under several inches of water. Now the TV's in the living room, the computer's in the kitchen, the bookshelves (those that survived) are stacked on a tarpaulin, and the books (those that survived) are hidden in boxes in the garage.

My husband has great plans for remodeling at this point, since water has already begun the job. He's not sure, however, how books will fit into the scheme. Perhaps we have too many (still?). Perhaps I should get rid of some... get rid of some bookshelves too... perhaps. But packing the books into boxes was like revisiting old friends - so glad I didn't lose this one; so delighted to share memories of reading another. The thought of throwing out those that were spared has me quietly despairing, and pondering of course, which ones shall remain.

Which leads to my question: Do I have a favorite author (must keep all of yours Aaron Lazar)? Do I have a favorite publisher (Permanent Press books, luckily kept on a higher shelf, therefore dry)? A favorite genre - I'm not sure I can answer that one. A favorite book? They're all favorites - books are my friends.

Of course I have incredibly kind real friends too - you know who you are. And I thank you for helping recover bookshelves, books, TV, computers, other furnishings, and strip out carpets so walls could dry, and take Mum out to a dryer place, and walk the borrowed dog, and generally keep me sane while disaster struck.

Anyway, if I claim the Permanent Press as a favorite publisher, I should probably try to work out how to justify the claim. I'm not published by them - in fact they rejected my novels (I almost said they rejected me). They publish in multiple genres, not always even close to my favorites. They publish lots of different authors, several of whom might be favorites, but several not. And they publish hardbacks, which are definitely not my favorites (they take up too much space). But I'm lucky; my Permanent Press collection is all paperbacks (and all dry). And I'm lucky because they keep sending me books, and I keep realizing, while I might not have chosen this book for myself, it's always well worth the read and always something to look forward to. Those brown envelopes arrive; I read the label; and I think hurray - they've sent me another good read.

So here are reviews of three Permanent Press novels recently or soon to be released:

The Third Hell by Connie Dial is a novel by one of my favorite PP authors, but it's not part of the series I've so enjoyed. Instead it's a standalone novel of love and loss, blending police procedural, social commentary, romance, murder mystery, family drama and more. It's incisive, powerfully convincing, and totally enthralling and I love it. Enjoy with some elegant, complex, four-star coffee, and the story will haunt you in all the best ways.

Our Marriage Counselor by Carl Tiktin is a very different book, darkly humorous, fiercely provocative, starkly real and still, though not my favorite genre, powerfully absorbing. It's the story of characters I don't like, doing things I wouldn't approve, and inviting consequences that hurt. But the characters are so real you have to keep reading. Their motivations are so convincing you have to keep thinking. And the ending, unpredictable and real, makes the whole thing make satisfying sense. Enjoy with some darkly intense five-star coffee.

Then there's The Mask Of Sanity by Jacob M Appel, a novel of grim darkness told with just the right level of detachment to allow the reader to observe, question, dread and ponder without ever being overwhelmed. Violence and horror are there, but told sparingly, with no attempt to shock, so the fact of the character rather than his deeds dominates the tale. It's intriguing, dark, cruel and invites that dark question--how well do we really know anyone? You'll need another dark five-star coffee with this one.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Meet the Cats

My Mum loves cats.
They seem to quite like her too, and we had a lovely time visiting them at a cat cafe recently. But now Mum's back in England. My home is dogless, mumless and catless. And I'm reading books. I love books. Sadly, though, they're not so soft and cuddly as cats and they usually don't wrap themselves around my neck. They were great to share with Mum though, before she left.

Having watched all those cats, a book entitled A Cat Is Watching by Roger A. Caras seems like a good place to start. It's an well-balanced mix of psychology, anecdote and opinion, and I really enjoyed it. Share it with your favorite feline and a cup of well-balanced three-star coffee.

Some of the cats at the cafe were more playful than watching. I had great fun with one who loved to bounce after feathered toys. No bird will be safe when this cat finds a home. But surely the cat knows the toy isn't real. Is it playing or training? Do Cats Think by Paul Corey might help find the answer. It's a personal account of life with many different cats, each with their own quirks and natures... and thoughts, perhaps. And it's a lovely book to share with a cat and a warmly elegant four-star coffee.

Turning now to some seriously fictional cats, the felines of Journeyman Cat and other novels by Virginia Ripple do most definitely think. They watch. They plan. And they work with their human companions in magic and politics. Religious themes underpin these stories, giving them focus and strength, but they are never intrusive, and the adventures of cats and their humans are truly gripping. I'm sure Mum would have loved this had she had time to read it. Enjoy with a middle-grade reader or young adult, and drink some well-balanced three-star coffee as you read.

And, should you find a cat cafe near you, enjoy the playfulness of cats.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

An Intimate Plate?

Today I'm delighted to welcome Ukrainian author Olga Petrenko to my blog. Her book has the enticing title, Intimacy on the Plate, which inspires me to wonder

  • What is an intimate plate?
  • And what inspired her to write this book?
If you want to the know the answers to these questions and more, please read on. 

Olga Petrenko grew up in Ukraine, where she learned to appreciate traditional Eastern European hospitality and homemaking. As an adult, she studied the chemistry of foods for their unique effects on the human body and mind. She poured the next 10 years of her life into creating the recipes contained in the aphrodisiac cookbook, Intimacy On The Plate: 200+ Aphrodisiac Recipes to Spice Up Your Love Life at Home Tonight.

Can you resist? Thank you so much for visiting my blog today, Olga. And I guess my first question is... Aphrodisiac recipes? What does aphrodisiac really mean?

The word “aphrodisiac” comes from the name of the Greek goddess of beauty and love, Aphrodite. Aphrodisiacs are any substances that increase libido when consumed. A meal created using aphrodisiac ingredients is a delicious feast that awakens sexual desire and builds attraction between two people. Combine the right timing and romantic atmosphere, and anyone can experience the power of aphrodisiacs in their own home any time they want.

Potent and romantic aphrodisiac dinners are available to each of us. Thanks to our modern understanding of the chemical composition of traditional ingredients, such as amino acids, vitamins, and trace elements, we now know exactly how they increase sexual activity naturally for both men and women.

Thank you Olga. So... what can you tell us about your book.

Why I Wrote Intimacy On The Plate

I wrote Intimacy On The Plate to share fantastic recipes that can help you create and share intimate meals for and with your partner. It will help you understand which foods hold the power to help you create passionate meals and enhance lovemaking with someone you care for. I’ve gone out of my way to include scientific explanations about how and why these ingredients strongly affect human sexuality, as well as snippets which will enhance your appreciation of the recipes presented here.

My goal in writing the book was to help lovers create a sensual and intimate meal without having to spend countless hours tracking down hard-to-find ingredients. You will have a new and informed understanding of what special roles ingredients, preparation, and planning play in the way you enjoy cooking.

The recipes presented I’ve chosen come from many diverse sources. Some are very rich and filling, while others are very light. I’ve included full-course meals as well as appetizers, snacks, and smaller entrées, so you will never run out of options for something to spice things up at home. They are all designed to awaken the sexually creative person within you. Used correctly, they will spur your imagination and enhance your hidden erotic nature. Your partner will enjoy both the artistry that goes into the flavor of each recipe, as well as the unique libido-enhancing qualities.

Making the Most of Each Meal

As with all meals, the effort put into the visual presentation is just as important as the preparation of the ingredients themselves. The visual aesthetic of a romantic meal has a strong influence on building sexual desire. Skillfully prepared ingredients and a beautifully served meal will raise both you and your partner’s desires. It will prime you for an unforgettable sexual experience, highlighting the joy you are bound to experience together.

Remember: great recipes are not set in stone. They exist only as a guide, and the motivation to pique your imagination. Figure out what you like about them, try new and exotic ideas, but do not forget about the traditional dishes proven by centuries of use around the world. I am certain that if you take the time to give your body what it needs to optimize its sexual function and give you partner the attention they need to feel ultimate intimacy, you will experience a loving physical relationship like no other. Bon appétit! 

Thank you so much, and I think I feel hungry now.