JeanBookNerd Storytellers BOX

Let your adventure begin...

L.M. Elliott

LOUISA JUNE AND THE NAZIS IN THE WAVES Nerd Blast

Sean Penn

BOB HONEY WHO JUST DO STUFF

Leigh Lewis

PIRATE QUEENS Nerd Blast

Tom Bilyeu

Impact Theory

Veronica Henry

THE QUARTER STORM Official Blog Tour

William L. Myers Jr.

A KILLER'S ALIBI

Stacy Hackney

THE SISTERS OF LUNA ISLAND Nerd Blast

E.E. KNight

NOVICE DRAGONEER

Robert McCaw

DEATH OF A MESSENGER

Gregg Olsen

SNOW CREEK Podcast

Josh Duhamel

THE BUDDY GAMES

N.E. Davenport

THE BLOOD TRIALS Nerd Blast

Evie Green

WE HEAR VOICES

Jennifer Marie Brissett

DESTROYER OF LIGHT Blog Tour

Barbara Dee

VIOLETS ARE BLUE Nerd Blast

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Mark Rubinstein Interview - Assassin's Lullaby


Photo Content from Mark Rubinstein

Mark Rubinstein is the author of Assassin's Lullaby. Rubinstein, a novelist, physician, and psychiatrist, has written eight nonfiction books, including The Storytellers. He has also written eight novels and novellas, including the Mad Dog trilogy and The Lovers’ Tango. He lives in Wilton, Connecticut.

        
  

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I always loved reading and felt I had an ability to write and tell stories. The notion of being creative wasn’t a sudden realization; rather, it was something I felt even as a youngster. However, life being what it is, other pressures and obligations prevailed and I deferred writing fiction for a number of years.

As a psychiatric resident, some of those creative urges found expression when I had to present case histories in seminars and at Grand Rounds. I realized that subliminally, my chosen specialty, psychiatry, involved people telling me stories and revealing the most intimate aspects of their lives. I think the dream/need to create fiction evolved slowly over the course of many years, though a significant element of that need was always lurking just beneath the surface.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
My favorite mystery-suspense/thriller is Mystic River by Dennis Lehane. The characters in the novel are uniquely alive and compelling and in reading many of the passages, I’ve felt I was actually immersed in the setting, feeling, seeing, thinking and sensing what the characters do. It’s a character-driven novel of immense power.

My favorite book outside the suspense/thriller genre is American Pastoral by Philip Roth. Again, the characters are so vital and real and the conflicts depicted by Roth are rendered so authentically and with so much power. And the prose is absolutely beautiful.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I’ve had many rewarding experiences since having been published. There’s nothing like holding the finished novel in your hand and realizing that it came from within yourself.

I’ve been consistently rewarded when giving talks at libraries and being asked questions by interested readers. Perhaps, oddly, one of the most rewarding questions I’ve ever been asked has been, “Have you ever killed anyone?” I’ve been asked that question on a number of occasions; I find it rewarding because it speaks to the authenticity of my action scenes in the various thrillers I’ve written. For someone to actually contemplate that I have personally killed anyone is both horrifying and gratifying and is a reminder of the power of fiction to impact people profoundly.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling is important to us because it’s been a primary and persistent form of communication since the days people lived in caves. It’s a primal way of sharing experiences and of tapping into our human commonalities.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
When I began writing ASSASSIN’S LULLABY, I had a somewhat vague notion about each character’s qualities. As the novel progressed, it was surprising (even astounding) to me how the characters began evolving as though they themselves were constructing the story. I found that by the time I got to, let’s say, page 100, I had to alter what I’d written on page 35 because the character had morphed so that what was written on the earlier page was no longer applicable or relevant to that person. In a sense, the characters “took over” and dictated the arc of the novel.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from ASSASSIN'S LULLABY
A scene from ASSASSIN’S LULLABY I particularly like is when the protagonist, Eli Dagan, meets the leader of the Odessa mafia, Anton Gorlov, in Grand Central Terminal to discuss two jobs Gorlov wants Eli to take on. The ambience of the terminal, the threat of the unknown (because Eli has never met face-to-face with a client; rather, he’s been a “ghost”) and the incredibly dangerous job Gorlov has outlined for Eli make the scene a tense one.

Something Gorlov says, when he’s threatened with death: “No one gets out of this life alive” is one of many lines I enjoyed writing and seemed to come out of nowhere.

RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ASSASSIN'S LULLABY
  • A successful contract killer never meets directly with a client. Arrangements are made via secure websites on the Dark Web.
  • Bootlegged vodka is shipped in large containers and is dyed blue so it looks like car window washer fluid. I never knew this until I did some research on the Russian mafia's activities.
  • The Russian mafia (known as the Bratva or ROC, Russian Organized Crime) is now far more powerful than the Italian or Albanian mafias and engages in gasoline tax fraud, Medicaid fraud, human trafficking, prostitution, protection rackets, arms smuggling, and other activities that make it the most potent and dangerous (worldwide) crime organization in the world.
  • Cryptocurrency is the new medium for laundering money into offshore bank accounts in Belize and other locales.
  • Brighton Beach, Brooklyn (known as Little Odessa by the Sea) is the home of the Odessa mafia in New York. As such, the Brighton Beach neighborhood is absolutely free of street crime.
  • ASSASSIN’S LULLABY is a story told in the present tense which lends it an immediacy that’s immersive for the reader. You are actually experiencing the dialogue and action at the same time the characters are. Each development in the plotline is happening in the moment.
  • Eli Dagan, the protagonist of ASSASSIN’S LULLABY, is a former Mossad field agent who is now a freelance contract killer and is struggling with guilt and grief because of a tragic past.
Meet the Characters
Eli Dagan, a man who projects both lethality and soulfulness. He is 39 years old, athletic-looking, an expert in Krav Maga (an Israeli martial art) who changes his residence every 6 months. He feels untethered in the world and yearns for some connection to someone; has a photographic memory and is skilled not only in assassination by various methods, but has an IT background and uses certain “helpers” as described in the novel to accomplish his tasks. His backstory is tragic and over the course of the novel, the reader will learn how and why he became what he is today.

Anton Gorlov, a 60 year old, 270 pound man who was born and lived the first 17 years of his life in Odessa, Ukraine, came to the U.S. and rose through the ranks of the Bratva (Brotherhood) to become a pakhan (Big Boss) in the Odessa mafia. He has a tragic background and despite this criminal life, is a man with a sensitive soul with certain core traits that make him a sympathetic character.

Your Journey to Publication
I was first published by having written non-fiction, medical self-help books. In the last 10 years, I’ve written fiction. It was an interesting and exciting transition. The only difficulty I had was in getting an agent since essentially, publishing is a rejection business. Eventually, I was lucky enough to find an agent willing to represent me. I would say the greatest trial for me was getting that agent. The rest was easy. Friends and family have always been supportive. In fact, I’ve credited my wife with having rescued every novel I’ve ever written.

Writing Behind the Scenes
I could go on forever about my writing process and quirks. I’ll summarize them as follows:

Best time to write: early in the morning for about three or four hours. Perhaps another half-hour in the mid-afternoon.
Place: in the den with my dog at my side and at least three cups of coffee at the ready. The dog and the coffee are absolute must-haves.
Writing material and device: a desktop computer.
Process: write, rewrite, refurbish, rewrite, hone and tone, rewrite, and then do it all again until it’s in the shape I think it should be.

Listen to music when I write? No. It’s distracting. Even soft, easy non-vocal jazz can interrupt my thinking.
Best way to come up with ideas: long walks with my dog(s)
Best person to bounce ideas off: my wife.
Reaction to a bad review: that’s life.
Reaction to a good review: gratitude.
Chair: not too comfortable or I'll doze off.


In every life, there lurks catastrophe. So believes Eli Dagan, a thirty-nine-year-old man whose traumatic past led to his service as an assassin for the Mossad. He now lives in New York City, where under various assumed names he’s a contract killer. Anton Gorlov, the head of the Brooklyn-based Odessa mafia, has a new and challenging assignment for Eli. Gorlov wants to leave the country permanently, so all loose ends must be eliminated. He’s willing to pay $1 million for a task divided into two parts. The job involves extreme measures along with unprecedented danger for Eli, who has lived a ghostly existence over the last ten years. Is accepting Gorlov’s offer a subliminal death wish? Or is it a way to reclaim part of his damaged soul? For the first time since his pregnant wife and parents were killed by a suicide bomber years earlier, Eli Dagan faces challenges that will reconnect him with his blighted past and may yet offer hope for a new and better life.
You can purchase Assassin's Lullaby at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you MARK RUBINSTEIN for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Assassin's Lullaby by Mark Rubinstein.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
jbnlatestinterviews

Monday, June 20, 2022

Suzanne Mattaboni Interview - Once in a Lifetime


Photo Content from Suzanne Mattaboni

Suzanne Mattaboni is a Pushcart-nominated fiction writer, blogger, essayist, corporate PR consultant, and a member of the Newsweek Expert Forum. A former community service reporter for Newsday, her work has been published in Seventeen, The Huffington Post, Mysterious Ways, Guideposts.com, 50 Word Stories, Dark Dossier, Motherwell, Turtle, The Best of LA Parent, & SixWordMemoirs.com. Her short fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in anthologies including “Chicken Soup for the Soul – Miraculous Messages from Heaven,” “Pizza Parties and Poltergeist,” “Little Demon Digest,” “Running Wild Anthology of Stories,” “What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Relationship Like This?” and “2017 Stories Through the Ages.” She was the editor of the Writes of Passage GLVWG 2021 anthology. One of her short stories was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She was recently named a "Woman of Influence" by Lehigh Valley Business magazine. Suzanne has two talented children, one hysterically fun husband, and two ever-ravenous cats.
        
  

Greatest thing you learned at school.
I learned a lot of great academic stuff at college, but what I learned most was to depend on myself and pave my own way in the world, which is invaluable. College for me was one long moment of Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat in the air with joy, thinking, “You’re gonna make it after all!” I made some of the best friends I ever had at that time. We learned a ton from each other.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I was four or five. I used to practice being a talk show host in front of the radiator cover in my apartment, because it had this curved cut-out that looked like the proscenium of a stage. So I was always picturing myself interviewing someone or telling the world some kind of fascinating story, if not literally performing it for people. I was writing before I could write.

I used to cast all the kids in my neighborhood in little plays and musical numbers (they usually chickened out), or I’d act out long, involved storylines with Barbie dolls where Barbie and Skipper were a single mom and daughter with a tough road ahead. I’d act it out in installments, like it was an ongoing saga. I have notebooks going back to 2nd grade in my basement with song lyrics in them, and crude attempts at writing music.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
My all-time favorite book is Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. Read it—time will stop for you. An ancient, deposed Eurasian king and a doomed, sexy Indian widow decide they’re going to run away together. She creates a dreamy-smelling potion that stops them from aging, so they skip through thousands of years of history, all crazy in love, fooling townspeople, living adventures, and having amazing sex.

I adore those irreverent, warped novels from guys like Douglas Adams (The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), Kurt Vonnegut (Cat’s Cradle); and Robbins, who could sustain a whole book about a girl who dreams she’s living in a pack of cigarettes. The ‘70s were an insane time for literature.

Outside my genre? I really don’t read historical fiction, but The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was beautiful. And I’m not a teenager, but I loved Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I also have an affinity for cyberpunk-y writers like Harlan Ellison and Philip K. Dick. I recall a story Ellison wrote from the sixties where a villain drops thousands of jellybeans onto a city to cause havoc. That’s just brilliant. And Dick wrote the novel that became “Blade Runner,” which is the world’s greatest movie.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
It’s hugely rewarding talking to people like you in interviews, especially hearing someone quote lines of the book back to me. It’s this surreal feeling of someone being in your head and knowing how you think, because you had that thought and committed it to paper, and then threw it out there into the world. Now it belongs to someone else.

Also, one really cool thing that happened lately: I got a DM on social media saying, “I’m looking for an author who wrote a poem called ‘Someone’ in Seventeen magazine. Is that you? I saved your poem in a memory box and just found it.” Yeah, that was me. Except that poem was published in the 1980s, when I was in high school. Somebody remembered it. I got an IM from a woman a few years ago who said she bought a Utopia album at a vintage record store, and a clip of that same poem fell out of the record jacket. At the time, girls—strangers—sent me letters saying stuff like “The poem meant so much to me, I put in on my mirror.” The effect that you can have on people as a writer is truly a phenomenal thing, if you’re willing to lay your heart on the line. I hope Once in a Lifetime has as much impact.

If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?
The Bible. What a bestseller! No, I’m only kidding.

Maybe A Clockwork Orange? What a masterpiece, although the violence is sickening (but necessary in this story). Or how about The Great Gatsby?

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
A successful career as a corporate PR person. But that’s financing my fiction marketing budget!

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
All of them change my life.

Can you tell us when you started ONCE IN A LIFETIME, how that came about?
Once in a Lifetime is loosely based on things I went through as a young person, although events and people are amalgamated and exaggerated and such for effect. I’ve had the basis for a few scenes that would become Once in a Lifetime sketched-out in spiral notebooks for years. But I think I officially sat down and started putting it together in 2018. I had a first draft in about seven months, but went through a lot of revisions and pitching and such. When you’re diving into the Beta read/pitch process, you get so much conflicting advice that your brain swirls. So, I changed a bunch of things—and then ended up reverting some of it back to the way it was in the earlier versions anyway. Yet other things found their way in that created those perfect “Why didn’t I think of that before?” moments of revelation.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
The fluidity of them, how they change when you don’t even realize it, as you write them. And how sometimes other people read things into them that you never intended, and it actually fits the story.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from ONCE IN A LIFETIME
Our main character Jessica finds herself very conflicted over men. After a steamy, late-night make-out session with hot new post-punk guitar player boyfriend, Jess gets a drunken, love-sick call from her brilliantly weird ex-boyfriend Drew, who asks her why the universe is here. Still coming down from the guilty high of having someone else’s hands all over her, she frustratedly blurts out, “Because it’s got no place else to go!”

Late night calls with Drew get further interrupted by Jessica’s vulnerable roommate Kimmer, who stumbles into their apartment sopping wet one night, in a pair of tennis sneakers that have mysteriously turned green. Turns out Kimmer’s Svengali-like date drove his Jeep into the nearby Delaware River on a dare—with Kimmer in tow. After considerable tears and damp hugs on the pull-out sofa that Jess and Kimmer both use as a bed, Jess jokingly tells Kimmer, “You get the wet spot.”

At the restaurant where Jess is desperately trying to earn enough tips to fund a semester in London, chaos is always the first item served. She becomes friends with a bartender colleague named Tye who doubles as a drag queen. At a private party that devolves into a drunken brawl, Tye emerges from a back room modeling a spiral-curled wig, a sparkly Goddess gown slit-up-to-there, and Lucite platforms—just in time for rowdy guests to start throwing stoneware coffee cups across the dining room. Tye (a former Marine) barrel-rolls Jessica behind the bar, shielding her from flying crockery. “My nose is stuffed into the fake bosom of a seven-foot-tall guy in a spiral perm and a sequined dress,” Jess says to herself. “Thank God.” Tye proceeds to bounce the intoxicated diners out of the restaurant in full Queen regalia.

As Jess’ relationship with Whit the bass guitarist begins to strain, he mistakenly wonders if she’s using him as a summer boy-toy. He also asks how she became so … skilled… at certain activities they enthusiastically indulge in. During a romp on his futon, she sets him straight:

“Finding the right guy,” she says, “is like finding the right pair of shoes. You don’t need to own a ton of shoes to know a great pair when you see one. But once you find them, you want to wear them. All the time. Because they make you feel fabulous.”

“Are you using me for sex, Jessica?” Whit asks.

“You don’t understand,” she says. “With shoes, it’s not so much that you love the walking.” She lets tendrils of her hair slide against the side of his jaw. “It’s that you love the shoes.”

What is the first job you have had?
I was a day camp junior counselor. It was the best job ever. I wish I could do it professionally. Although I spent a lot of time yucking it up with the other counselors, which was a requisite of the vocation. You lived for your breaks, after-hours parties, and staff softball games.

Best date you've ever had?
I grew up on Long Island, so a couple of great dates involved the beach, including one mostly spent with my future husband’s tongue in my ear. That was a really good date. Although one guy cooked me a lobster (it started out live), cheesy bread, and Little Neck clams then took me for a ride on his motorcycle. Sometimes the best dates, you don’t really even make a “date,” you just come upon an opportunity to take off with that guy that you’ve been flirting with forever, and you do something spontaneous, like maybe partying under the giant iconic Iguana sculpture on the roof of the Lone Star CafĂ© in Manhattan, or eating French fries together at 3:00 in the morning at Primanti’s in the strip district in Pittsburgh.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
Have any of my PR clients emailed me yet?

What is your most memorable travel experience?
You should read my short stories for these kinds of rantings. I once jumped on a ferry from England to France to meet some friends when I was doing a semester abroad. On the boat, I met a team of Ultimate Frisbee players on their way to a tournament, who had a BIG thermos of rum and coke. They noticed me because I was wearing an American football jersey, and they were fans. When we got off the boat, they started tossing the Frisbee back and forth over commuters’ heads on the transit platform. Drunk. We started hanging out together after that, once we all got back to London. At my dorm, they were known as “Suzanne’s Frisbee team.”

What's your most missed memory?
Even with all the fun things I tried to do in my life, like traveling and clubbing, singing on stage, writing, the whole thing … you know what moments I would go back to and stay in if I could? The years of being a young mom with my kids. My most comforting memories are with my family when my kids were cute little munchkins, us all piled up on the couch, watching “Mulan” and “Toy Story” together for the bazillionth time. I didn’t have to train for that, or study or interview. You don’t have to have the right clothes or the most advanced equipment or the coolest car to have moments like that. You just have to love each other. As corny as that sounds, it’s the freaking best.

Have you ever stood up for someone you hardly knew?
I don’t know about hardly knew, but here’s a situation that unsettled me. My daughter once decided to be “campaign manager” for her friend down the street who was running for elementary school president. Let’s call the girl Dorothy. Unfortunately, Dorothy came from a family that was troubled, with a mom who didn’t pay much attention to her kids, to the point where it was common knowledge within the school administration.

One day my daughter came to me all upset, because the school said Dorothy couldn’t run for president. I went to the principal to ask why. He said the student body president needed to have a parent that would be involved in school activities, and it was well known that Dorothy’s mother was trouble.

I was shocked. I said, “Are you kidding? Here’s this girl with a rough home life who’s stepping up to be a leader, and you want to take that away from her?” What if that could change her life? I promised that if Dorothy won, I would do all the parental things they would need her mom to do, like a proxy.

So they let her run.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
I’ve already made this choice; see the “First Love” section.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
Every stupid thing I didn’t get done that day.

First Love?
I grew up in a not-so-great school district, in a neighborhood on the district border. The street right behind my house was in a different, more upscale district. We stayed away from those kids; they were the “others” from the Shoreham School District. But when I was 15, I got invited to a 17th birthday bash for a guy who lived on the other street.

I dipped my finger into the icing of the sheet cake that guy had set out on his pool table, because I was really just a kid, and I had a sweet tooth. That guy grabbed my hand before I could get it to my mouth, and he licked the icing off my finger. I’ll never forget: Blondie’s “One Way or Another” was playing in the background.

I fell so hard. And it was for a guy who had lived around the corner from me since I was seven, but I had never met before.

Wait, maybe there’s a story there…

In reality, it didn’t work out so well. Once the summer was over, he went back to the girl he had been dating in the nicer district. I could barely look at another guy for most of tenth grade.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
I can’t tell you that, because I hope to be writing it at some point! It’s enough that I gave away the meet-cute with the birthday cake on the pool table already. [© Suzanne Mattaboni 2022]

What is one unique thing you are afraid of?
Poverty. I always feel like I’m one mistake away from being homeless, even now with a stable, long-term career. I grew up in a tenuous financial environment. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over feeling like any minute that could come back to claim me. That’s why I’m a workaholic, I think.


Sweetbitter meets Bridget Jones in a John Hughes movie, Once in a Lifetime plays against a vibrant 1980s background of everything from slam dancers and rubber jelly shoes to social anarchy and AIDS.

“I’ve waited long enough for my life to happen. I want to be neck-deep in something that keeps me up all night. Something so cool I’ll be petrified and sick to my stomach at the mere thought of it. I want to absolutely fry in inspiration, then capture it in oils and charcoals and bits of broken glass, in a piece of art that oozes magic and fear and possibility. I want to find a city. An adventure. A song. Something. To hell with the American Dream. I want a reason to kick and scream.” ― Jessica Addentro, 1980s waitress, artist, and aspiring multimedia sensation

In 1984, punk is rampant. Andy Warhol rules. And 20-year-old art student Jessica is sick of all the excitement going on without her. Hungry for the life she’s convinced is just beyond her fingertips, she sets her sights on an avant-garde study abroad program in London she can’t afford. Meanwhile, hometown boyfriend Drew wants to see other people if he’s not exciting enough to keep her stateside.

Jess and her buddies rent a beat-up apartment, trolling new wave clubs and waitressing double shifts in New Hope, PA, a cool and artsy restaurant town on the river, to scrounge-up tuition money. Then Jess meets Whit, a steamy daredevil guitarist who crawls through her window and makes her head spin like a record. The girls deal with cheating waiters, mystics, a military drag queen buddy, a Svengali bouncer, and the specter of AIDs. Before long, Jess has to decide if the men in her life will leave her as damaged as her cracked-glass mosaic art projects―and whether they’ll stand in the way of her dream semester in post-punk London.

You can purchase Once in a Lifetime at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you SUZANNE MATTABONI for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Once in a Lifetime by Suzanne Mattaboni.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
jbnlatestinterviews

Thursday, June 16, 2022

J. Lynn Else Interview - Lost Daughters of Avalon


Photo Content from J. Lynn Else

J. LYNN ELSE loves reading and writing about awesome women from antiquity. Besides history, she also gets nerdy with Star Wars, Star Trek, and MST3K. J. Lynn’s always had a flare for the dramatic, graduating college with a theater major and a dance minor. She’s self-published two historical fiction novels set in ancient Egypt, The Forgotten: Aten’s Last Queen and The Forgotten: Heir of the Heretic and one science fiction novella, Strangely Constructed Souls. Her novel, Descendants of Avalon, was released through Inklings Publishing May of 2018. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and two kids where her shelves are overrun with books, her kitchen is overrun with loose-leaf tea, and her workroom is overrun with Funko Pop figures. She enjoys sketching, reliving her 1990s by watching the latest X-Files episodes, honing her Fruit Ninja skills, and randomly busting out into song and dance. She believes in unicorns and practicing random acts of awesome.
        
  

Greatest thing you learned at school. 
In high school, I took a science fiction literature course. I think half the guys who took it thought we were just going to watch Star Wars (mind you, this was in the 1990s so we only had 3 movies). However, we read so many great stories that it really opened my eyes to worlds beyond Star Trek and Star Wars, which was the majority of what I was reading. Imagining what technology might be able to do in 5 years, 10 years, or 50 years (etc.) is exciting. Its drives us to learn more and find answers to questions. Sci-fi can also serve as a warning: what too much power or too much tech can do.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill? 
I’ve had my head in the clouds since elementary school. First it was acting and dancing. I did a little writing on the side. Nowadays as an older slower adult, it’s definitely writing and art. Being able to put my books on the same shelves as the Percy Jackson series or the Harry Potter series is quite a thrilling feeling.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published. 
I actually had someone recognize me at a vendor event. I couldn’t believe it. She was excited to meet me and get a picture. It was like “Have I arrived?” Its only happened once, but it’s quite a thrill to find people excited about this world and these characters.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book? 
Tiktok. Seriously, I love watching bookish videos and creating videos.

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes? 
In college, I read the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. It completely upended my outlook about the world. Suddenly, I had this new perspective on the people who were telling the stories that shaped our history. There really isn’t any plot or strong setting, it’s about the dialogue. While this type of storytelling shouldn’t work, it does for this one novel.

Can you tell us when you started LOST DAUGHTERS OF AVALON, how that came about? 
Growing up in the 80s and 90s, while a big fan of sci fi and fantasy, there weren’t a lot of female characters to identify with. The females typically lacked depth, didn’t have a lot of agency, or simply were there as a romantic interest. I wrote because I wanted greater depth of characters for young girls reading these genres so that they could picture themselves in these worlds.

I love fantasy stories and wanted to create my own. It started out with a magical land inside a wishing well. Eventually, the idea of blending some Arthurian aspects began to trickle into the plotline. What started with just the Lady of the Lake slowly began to encompass additional females from legend. Embracing my love of both history and fantasy truly brought the story to life. Lost Daughters of Avalon is book 2 of the Awakenings trilogy.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from LOST DAUGHTERS OF AVALON
I really enjoy the scenes where the four teens begin to use their powers. I wanted to create a tangible way that readers could feel the process along with the characters. It’s a process that’s both external and internal for the characters which helped them develop as the story progressed.

I also loved creating the wyrms in the story. They’re small dragons with long bodies and four short legs with scales the colors of sparkling jewels. Genie must convince them to give her an object which is sacred to them to help protect Avalon from a mysterious menace. I am proud of how the scene came out, and I hope to include the wyrms in future tales.

TEN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT LOST DAUGHTERS OF AVALON
  • 1. The first Arthurian creature you meet in Lost Daughters is the Questing Beast.
  • 2. You’ll also get to meet a dragon.
  • 3. The wild horses have some special abilities too that I think readers will enjoy.
  • 4. Genie, Beth, Mei, and Whit will learn they have a connection to not only Avalon but also some of the people there as well.
  • 5. Each teen has a different elemental magic they must learn to harness.
  • 6. The Library of Ancients that the characters visit has a few surprises in store including secret passages and stubborn books that won’t open.
  • 7. In my story, the Fountain of Youth isn’t about restoring youth and beauty. In this book, a few select characters get to see its true power firsthand.
  • 8. A character we meet briefly in the book is named after my childhood favorite Minnesota Twins player from the 1980s. Let me know if you can spot it after reading the book!
  • 9. In each book of the series, the map of Avalon has a slight change to it based on the previous adventures.
  • 10. Nimue says, “Long ago, beasts were easily recognized. They took on the form of their intentions. Now beasts are much harder to see. You shouldn’t always trust your sight. Trust your magic.” You have been warned.
Meet the Characters
The book is about friendship, so here are the four main heroines of my trilogy:

Genie is one of our main voices in book 1, Descendants of Avalon. She knows a lot about Arthurian history and provides background on the different people they meet from King Arthur’s time to her friends, though not all of the information is true. History is defined by the writers after all, and many writers are not women. Genie doesn’t like heights, which poses a minor problem as many of the towns in Avalon are built up in the trees. Her last name, Eques, has a special meaning which she finds out along the way.

Beth is another of our main voices for book 1. She’s been captured by an evil wizard and is stuck in his dungeon. She’s a take-charge type of person and doesn’t back down from a challenge, like finding a way to escape. However, Beth has a secret she’s kept from her friends. She fears that if she reveals it, they won’t want to be her friend any longer. She already lost her father because of it.

Whit has a sweet, bubbly personality. She’s a dreamer but is also a bit sensitive. Her family recently found out her older brother went MIA while on duty overseas and is presumed dead. She struggles to cope with this. Whit finds healing in books 2 and 3 (Lost Daughters of Avalon and Destiny of Avalon) and makes a very unique, fire-breathing friend in those books.

Mei is loud and proud. She is never afraid to speak up in defense of her friends. Mei and her quick wit were so fun to write. She’s a Chinese American and is heavily influenced by a friend of mine. Mei’s story shines the most in book 3, Destiny of Avalon, as she goes toe to toe with an evil djinni intent on using her to change the past.

Your Journey to Publication
It started as a lonely journey as I began writing my novel set in ancient Egypt until I connected with a local writing community. Suddenly, I felt supported by fellow writers. They gave me advice and feedback on my projects. Its one thing to be excited about your own project. but when other people are excited about it? It gave me the confidence to self-publish.

A few years later, I was blessed to be invited into a fantastic group of women writers. Writing isn’t easy, but it is more enjoyable when shared with friends. Despite the fact we all write different genres, their insights are invaluable. Big thanks to friend and fellow writer, Meg Hafdahl, who introduced me to my current publisher, Inklings Publishing. They were just what I needed to develop and publish my Arthurian-inspired fantasy trilogy. Inklings connected me with a developmental editor who was fantastic and really pushed me. Currently with Inklings, I’m re-writing and illustrating a children book I originally wrote approximately 18 years ago when my kids were little.

Writing Behind the Scenes
When I pick names, typically they’re something from my life or something I think sounds cool. One character’s last name is my mother’s maiden name. Another last name in book 1 is my aunt and uncle’s last name. One of our main characters, Gene Kelly aka Genie, is named after the legendary tap dancer who inspired my own dancing style in my college years. Tabitha aka Beth was the name I wanted to give my daughter. My husband vetoed it, so I named a character in a book instead.

What is the first job you have had? 
Babysitting. I especially loved that there was a popular book series, The Baby-Sitter’s Club, about it and thought about creating my own club.

Best date you've ever had? 
My husband and I went to see Richard Marx in concert. We don’t agree on a lot of music, so this was fun to go watch together.

What's your most missed memory? 
Growing up, I remember weekends spent at my grandparent’s house. There was a lake nearby for swimming. Sometimes we’d pick vegetables from their garden. For birthdays, my grandma would bake a cake with coins inside covered in chocolate frosting. My grandpa, dad, sometimes my brother, and me would always play a round of gin rummy. This aspect of my life features in “Descendants of Avalon” and “Lost Daughters of Avalon.” I have one of my grandpa’s deck of cards out by his picture now.

If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why? 
Katherine Hepburn. She was such a trailblazer for women and a glamorous Hollywood starlet. #girlpower

What is one unique thing are you afraid of? 
Robots. While R2 is one of my favorite Star Wars characters, actual robots can be reprogrammed. One minute, friend. The next, enemy? Look how many times they messed with Buzz Lightyear’s memory in the Toy Story movies! Maybe I’ve watched too much Battlestar Galactica or something. I can watch movies with them, but if one knocks on my door?


After not hearing anything from their knights in Avalon for weeks, the horrible Questing Beast breaks through into the world and attacks Genie, Beth, Mei, and Whit. Their magic stirs to stop the monster, but Beth’s attempts fail. Help from Avalon arrives just in time to remove the curse and reveal a woman inside the beast who claims to be Genie’s biological mother.

The four friends learn their knights had gone missing, along with one of Avalon’s queens, Viviane. An ancient evil runs amok in Avalon and the people blame the four friends, claiming they released Merlin to destroy their world. To clear their name and rescue their knights, the four friends must once again risk the dangers of Avalon.

Genie, Beth, Mei, and Whit must pull together and learn to combine their powers of air, water, earth, and fire to rebalance the world they might have thrown into chaos. If they fail, the worlds of Avalon and Earth could destabilize and end life as they know it.

You can purchase Lost Daughters of Avalon at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CHELSEA SEDOTI for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

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Monday, June 13, 2022

{Nerd Blast} The Name She Gave Me by Betty Culley



ASIN: B09GRV712X
Publisher: HarperTeen (June 21, 2022)
Publication date: ‎June 21, 2022
Language: ‎English

Praise for THE NAME SHE GAVE ME

“Told in spare, evocative verse, The Name She Gave Me is a love letter to anyone finding their way home. Betty Culley’s characters have worked their way into my heart and will stay with me long after finishing their beautiful story.” —Joy McCullough, New York Times bestselling and National Book Award-longlisted author of Blood Water Paint


From the acclaimed author of Three Things I Know Are True comes a new novel in verse, a deeply emotional story about an adopted teenager exploring the meaning of family, friendship, and love in all its many forms.

Perfect for fans of Robin Benway, Cynthia Hand, and Jandy Nelson, Rynn’s journey shows how complicated and infuriating, yet healing, family can be.

When Rynn was born, her birth mother named her Scheherazade. It’s one of the only things Rynn has from her. Now sixteen, Rynn and her adoptive parents live on a small garlic farm in central Maine. Rynn’s father is kind and gentle but oblivious to Rynn’s mother’s temper and coldness toward their daughter.

Rynn has longed to know her birth family for years. She can’t legally open her adoption records until she turns eighteen, but that won’t stop her from searching on her own. She finds out that though her birth mother has died, she has a younger sister—who’s in foster care two towns away. But if Rynn reconnects with her biological sister, it may drive her adoptive family apart for good.

You can purchase The Name She Gave Me  at the following Retailers:
 

Photo Content from Betty Culley

Betty Culley’s debut novel in verse Three Things I Know Are True, was a Kids’ Indie Next List Top Ten Pick, an ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominee, and the 2021 Maine Literary Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature. Her first middle-grade novel Down to Earth is inspired by her fascination with meteorites, voyagers from another place and time. She’s an RN who worked as an obstetrics nurse and as a pediatric home hospice nurse. She lives in central Maine, where the rivers run through the small towns.

        

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Diane Magras Interview - Secret of the Shadow Beasts


Photo Credit: Michael Magras

Diane Magras, award-winning author of the New York Times Editors’ Choice The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, its companion novel, The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter, and the upcoming Secret of the Shadow Beasts, grew up on Mount Desert Island in Maine, surrounded by woods, cliffs, and the sea. An unabashed fan of libraries (where she wrote her first novel as a teenager), history (especially from cultures or people who’ve rarely had their story told), and the perfect cup of tea, Diane lives in Maine with her husband and son and uses the pronouns she/her.

        
  

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling is a crucial form of connection. It can entertain, inspire, teach, and engage. It can provide a means of better understanding the world, but also a way of escaping from it. Even when escaping from reality, stories have the power to introduce new perspective, shift mindsets, and create growth. They also show readers that none of us are alone.

Greatest thing you learned in school.
I learned that people cared about what I was thinking and believed in my creative abilities. When you’re a child, having that kind of positive reinforcement is potent.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
There is no greater reward for an author of children’s fiction than to know that children are reading and enjoying your work. When I’m at a signing table and meet my readers, I get that rewarding moment again and again.

Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always told stories. I’ve been a reader since I was very young, and I began writing stories before I realized that anyone could do that as a profession. I wrote my first novel when my 7th grade ELA teacher encouraged me to try for a longer work. That’s when I first thought that I might be a professional writer one day.

What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Read to see what others in your market are writing and know that market best, but also read what authors outside of your market are writing too. Become familiar with voices different from your own. Takes notes on what you admire in others’ work. And then practice writing. Evaluate your own work. Is this something you’d want to read? Does it delight you? Do all of this over and over, and you’ll find your own voice.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m working on a middle grade novel that upends a lot of stereotypes and assumptions that people make about people, cultures, and mythology; and has a very positive depiction of some natural creatures that a lot of people don’t like. I can’t say more, but it’s been so much fun to work on. I hope young readers will get to see this one day soon!

In your newest book; SECRET OF THE SHADOW BEASTS, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
Secret of the Shadow Beasts takes place in Brannland, a nation where terrifying monsters called Umbrae roam freely once the sun sets. They’re so venomous that a single bite will kill a full-grown adult. The only people who can destroy them are immune children like Nora, who are recruited at the age of seven to leave their families behind and train at a castle called Noye’s Hill. But despite her immunity, Nora’s father refused to let her go. Years after his death by Umbra attack, Nora is twelve, and sees her mother almost killed by the monsters too. And decides it’s time for her to join the fight.

At Noye’s Hill, Nora’s new companions draw her into a sweeping world of round-the-clock battle training, fierce loyalty to one another, and sworn allegiance to defeat the Umbrae above all else. But despite slaying so many beasts night after night, the Umbrae’s population is quickly growing. And the government is keeping secrets about the source of the Umbrae, secrets that may tie back to Nora herself . . . and lead Brannland’s downfall.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope the readers of Secret of the Shadow Beasts are drawn into the characters and the world. I hope they feel close to the characters, and appreciate how kids are the most important people in this story. I hope they ask themselves questions about what their own world’s history really means, and whose stories aren’t being told.

TEN REASOMS TO READ SECRET OF THE SHADOW BEASTS
  • 1. A fast-paced, emotionally rich story
  • 2. Girls and women in positions of authority and power
  • 3. Kids treated with respect by the adults around them
  • 4. Extremely cool weaponry
  • 5. Creepy monsters and a world they dominate
  • 6. An incredible RPG that weaves into the story
  • 7. Shout-outs to libraries, bookstores, and reading
  • 8. A very important fiddle piece
  • 9. A super-close found family
  • 10. History and environmentalism
What part of your characters did you enjoy writing the most?
I loved writing scenes of my young characters working together and supporting each other. Even in the fast-paced battle scenes, the young cast looks out for one another. I also loved writing scenes where they challenged each other, when they chose to be vulnerable and trust one another, and when they grew.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing SECRET OF THE SHADOW BEASTS?
I don’t think there was any one unforgettable moment! I wrote the first draft prior to the pandemic, and then subsequent drafts and revisions after it began. So much of this book was my own escape from the terrifying world outside my window—but also a place where I could address some of my feelings and beliefs about what we as a society needed to do.

TEN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT SECRET OF THE SHADOW BEASTS
  • 1. Nora Kemp lives on a sheep farm modeled after a sheep farm I stayed at in the Scottish Borders (I got rid of a couple of houses for Nora’s farm, though).
  • 2. Amar Bukhari-Masood’s favorite foods are my own family’s favorite foods. The big feast he describes at the end of the book is pretty much a meal I cook for holidays.
  • 3. The fiddle music in the story is based on works I’ve heard by the duo Stout & McKay. I owe the very fact that Nora plays fiddle to them: I was talking a walk during my lunch break one day when I was in the midst of the first draft, and had their music playing into my headphones—and as I walked down the street, I could just see Nora playing fiddle like Chris Stout. When I went back to my writing that night, I added that to her character—and it became a very important part of the story.
  • 4. During the first draft, I needed a quick description of a video game: nothing big, just a few details to make it seem real. I asked my son, an avid gamer, if he wouldn’t mind inventing an RPG, just the bones of it. He came back to me with an entire fully fleshed concept with enough details to make the game a much bigger part of the book than I’d first envisioned (and a game one I’d really like to play!). He also created Nora’s OP build.
  • 5. Nora’s obsession with “a cuppa” is pretty much a reflection of my obsession with tea.
  • 6. The environmental themes came from a pretty straightforward question: What if the earth decided to get back at human beings for all that we’ve done to it?
  • 7. I finished the first draft of this book right before the pandemic. I’d created this world with a dangerous threat to humankind, and people who just wouldn’t listen to official advice on keeping safe, and thus endangered themselves and many others. I had no idea that this would end up a parallel to our pandemic world.
  • 8. I have a lot of information about Noye’s Hill, its history, and its knights that didn’t make it into the book. For example, I have a list of every knight in every Order, and a quote from them too!
  • 9. My husband read an early draft and suggested that I flesh out Wilfred, Nora’s gaming friend, and find a way to connect him with the book beyond the first few chapters. In the book as it now stands, Nora’s and Wilfred’s relationship is a constant throughout the story, and adds an emotional layer that also connects Nora to her home. I’m grateful to my husband for seeing that opportunity and encouraging me to take it.
  • 10. The first chapter is, except for one change and a few minor edits, exactly as I wrote it in the very first draft! That has never happened with one of my books before!
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would introduce Nora Kemp, the sensitive protagonist from Secret of the Shadow Beasts, to Drest, the protagonist of my Mad Wolf’s Daughter books. Though Drest is a confident, brash, sword-wielding lass from medieval Scotland and Nora a shy gaming kid who knits and plays fiddle, they both respect other people and have pure hearts and strong minds. I could see Drest and Nora being close friends and looking out for one another.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
Raising a child has taught me so much: about children, life, how to be a role model, how to be honest and humble, how to respect, how to provide room and space: truly, everything.

Who has had the most influence in your life?
My husband and son. They are my best friends, my readers, and my partners in pretty much everything that matters!

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a kid?
I’m not sure I could pick any one decade easily (each one has major problems and brutal social injustices), but the clarity we’re seeing in this decade about the racism and colonialism embedded in most Western cultures is crucial to creating a better world. I envy the kids in my son’s generation (he’s a teenager now) for the information of this kind that they’ve grown up with. They’re familiar with social justice concepts. They know that climate change poses a dire threat to our world. They can envision an antiracist world. Kids in this decade—and the last one—are in a powerful place to create change.

What is your happiest childhood memory?
My mom and I used to take scenic drives together around Mount Desert Island in Maine, where I grew up. I remember our packing a picnic dinner and driving to the top of Cadillac Mountain. It was often far too cold to eat outside, so we’d eat in the warm car and watch the Porcupine Islands slowly fade as the lights of Bar Harbor became bright far below.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
One of my happiest memories was when I was writing The Mad Wolf’s Daughter and asked my son, then in third grade, if he’d listen to me read aloud and share what he thought. He listened to draft after draft, and was a fantastic critic and editor. I remember reading later drafts aloud to him and pausing after the cliffhanger endings that he’d encouraged me to write. “Keep reading! Keep reading!” he’d chant. And sometimes, at the end of a chapter, he’d applaud. Having that instantaneous positive feedback from a member of my readership whose opinion I valued so much was a thrill and a pleasure.

What is your greatest adventure?
As a major introvert who isn’t into risks, I’m not really big on adventures beyond my writing! That said, my husband, son, and I saved up for a trip to Scotland in 2016, and I planned quite the adventure (for me). We rented a car, and I drove through Edinburgh and all over the Scottish Borders in search of castles and other heritage sites. We didn’t get lost, I learned that I’m very comfortable driving on the left, and it was incredible to go so far off the beaten track. Each time we came up to a castle, tower, or ancient abbey and saw the structure looming in the distance, I’d feel a flush of enthusiasm. I loved wandering inside them too, touching those walls, imagining the people who had lived there. Like my character Amar in Secret of the Shadow Beasts, I am seriously obsessed with historic stone. So…adventure? Kind of. But more like home!


For fans of Dragon Pearl and the Lockwood & Co. series comes a swift-moving contemporary fantasy about a young girl tasked with destroying deadly shadow creatures.

In Brannland, terrifying beasts called Umbrae roam freely once the sun sets, so venomous that a single bite will kill a full-grown adult--and lately, with each day that passes, their population seems to double. The only people who can destroy them are immune children like Nora, who are recruited at the age of seven to leave their families behind and begin training at a retrofitted castle called Noye's Hill. But despite her immunity, Nora's father refused to let her go. Now, years after his death by Umbra attack, Nora is twelve, and sees her mother almost killed by the monsters too. That's when Nora decides it's time for her to join the battle. Once she arrives at Noye's Hill, though, she and her new friends are left with more questions than answers: Where are the Umbrae coming from? Could the government be covering up the true reason their population has whirled out of control? And was Nora's father, the peaceful, big-hearted man who refused to let Nora fight, in on the treacherous secret?

You can purchase Secret of the Shadow Beasts at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you DIANE MAGRAS for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Secret of the Shadow Beasts by Diane Magras.

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