Tag Archives: YA fantasy

A Grave Inheritance, Second in Historical Fantasy Series, Leads Celtic Goddess Descendant to Victorian London

02_A Grave Inheritance_Cover

Review~

When I read Kari Edgren’s A Goddess Born, the first book in this series, earlier this year I fell in love with it. You can see my review of that here. Not only do I like historicals, but I love paranormals/supernaturals (especially those with mythological components) and though I don’t normally like all kinds of romance, I do like them when they are not sappy or southern, so to speak.

So, when A Grave Inheritance, book two in the series also called Goddess Born series, became available to me for review, I was anxious to read it. It pretty much picks up where A Goddess Born leaves off, yet takes us to new places and on an action-adventure that kept me turning the pages. If you haven’t read the first book, she does do the usual back telling in a way that you’ll still enjoy the story, but both books are so good, you might want to go back and read the first one. They’re in digital format, so they are relatively cheap enough to buy the whole series.

In this second book, she takes her protagonist Selah (who is human, but with some powers of the supernatural, as she is descended from a Celtic goddess). Kari escorts her, and readers, back to Victorian England and ingratiates us to all the atmospheric details that emanate from that time period. She writes with a vivid and lively pen in a way that swept me right into the tale. Her descriptions are lovely and sweet-tasting, her sentences lovely. She’s one of those writers that treats writing like a work of art.

She’s labeled New Adult, but she crosses many boundaries. Without the paranormal element, she’d be historical romance. And really, to me, it’s more supernatural historical fiction! They are clean, which is the way I like my romances too (I’m not a prude either!). They essentially are good for young adult readers, too, and I’d love to share these with my daughter at some point. If you are buying for YA, they are good for 18-25, but younger also based on their interest and reading level. They are a sophisticated break from some of the dystopian, vampire, zombie, and etc. novels. I’d say they are wonderful for those young readers who like mythology, and in my case, adults too.

They do have enough meat to be read and enjoyed by adults, unless you like strictly old school Harlequin or erotica romance. But see, it’s the kind of meat that, personally, that I love in a book.  A great plot, magical story, courageous and kind main female, and a dreamy, but decent man who treats the woman as equal all score high marks with me for this book. The characters have challenges and conflicts to face, giving the reader twists and turns to enjoy, and this creates an exciting tale–one that had me sliding past each page of my Kindle with fervor.

I love Kari’s original tale and her ancient supernatural elements. I think that A Grave Inheritance was even better than the first, bringing more suspense and drama and great sense of time and place as they head to 18th Century London. I liked the villains she portrayed and the introduction of more with goddess-like powers.

I am super happy Kari chose to write this series; it has taken me to my fun place of reading magic and mythology and Old Word tales mixed with love and adventure. I absolutely can’t wait to read the next one. Highly recommended for any weekend night you have free! It will enchant you in a way that will lead you to read it very quickly.

A Grave Inheritance, Synopsis~

02_A Grave Inheritance_CoverPublication Date: December 1, 2014
Carina Press
eBook; ASIN: B00OHV6MFA

Series: Goddess Born
Genre: Historical/Paranormal/New Adult/Romance

Selah Kilbrid may descend from the goddess Brigid, but her heart beats—and breaks—the same as any human. Yet enduring the scorn of London’s most noble lords and ladies is a small price to pay for a chance at true happiness. Selah would endure much more for love, and her betrothed, Lord Henry Fitzalan, is prepared to challenge anyone foolish enough to stand in their way—even another goddess born.

But when a captivating young gentleman draws Selah into a world shadowed by secrets, she is forced to confront her darkest fears. What if some differences are too great to overcome and a future with Henry is doomed from the start?

With these doubts threatening her impending marriage and the very last of Brigid’s fire draining from her soul, a violent attack on an innocent child pushes Selah to the very edge of her power. She must find a way to cross into the Otherworld and regain her strength—or forfeit the streets of London to death and disease.

Buy the eBook~

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble

Author Kari Edgren, Biography~

03_Kari EdgrenKari Edgren is the author of the Goddess Born series. In 2010 and 2011 she was a semifinalist for the Amazon Break Through Novel Award. In 2013, she was a RWA Golden Heart finalist.

Ms. Edgren enjoys writing both historical and contemporary fiction, so long as there’s a spark of paranormal. She resides on a mountain top in the Pacific Northwest where she spends a great deal of time dreaming about the sun and torturing her husband and children with strange food and random historical facts.

For more information please visit Kari Edgren’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Sign Up for Kari Edgren’s Newsletter.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/agraveinheritanceblogtour/

Hashtags: #AGraveInheritanceBlogTour #GoddessBornSeries #Historical #Paranormal #Romance #NewAdult

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @KariEdgren @CarinaPress

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James Matlack Raney Offers Tips and Thoughts on Writing Fantasy Literature

Today I am very pleased to introduce a wonderful guy and author! James Matlack Raney writes fantasy adventure in his books Jim Morgan and the Prince of Thieves and Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull! Below is a guest article about why he likes and writes fantasy books, in which he offers some tips for writers who are writing or who want to write fantasy for themselves! I really enjoyed the article; I hope you do too.

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Guest Article:  Hints for Writing Fantasy Literature
by James Matlack Raney, author of the Jim Morgan series

Headshot1More than any other kind of book, I love reading and writing fantasy adventures the most, losing myself in their mysteries, discovering their hidden treasures, and exploring the self-reflective borders between their worlds and mine. I grew up on Lewis and Tolkien, Stevenson and Defoe, and later, King and Rowling, walking the paths of Hogwarts and Gilead, sailing the oceans of Narnia and Middle-Earth in my mind. If you’re reading this post, odds are you have a favorite fantasy world as well, maybe from the old classics, or perhaps among the new ones, such as Panem or the Glade. But how did those worlds get there? Where did they come from? Perhaps you’re wondering how you might go about creating your own. I don’t have the answers to all those questions, nor perhaps does anyone else, but I can at least give you three hints from my own writer’s journey.

The first hint is to open yourself to your muse. C.S. Lewis famously said the entire world of Narnia was born from a single image that popped into his mind, a picture of a faun, walking through the snow, carrying a pile of Christmas packages in his arms. While I am certainly not C.S. Lewis, a single flash in my imagination gave birth to Jim Morgan’s adventures in a world of pirates and magic. I saw a young man, a black crow on his shoulder, standing on the pirate ship’s prow, the sails caught on a morning breeze. I can’t explain how the amazing human imagination works, but being relaxed, taking long walks, listening to music, all those things help daydreams take hold and grow. Close your eyes. What do you see? When you find a picture that captures you, grab hold of it and don’t let go, for somewhere in that image is a story to be told!

The second hint is to learn the language of storytelling. Once an author has a picture in mind, one that has begun to take root and grow, how does she successfully transfer it to the page? Even though most well told stories feel unique and original, the majority of them follow a measured and well-worn road, one travelled by many storytellers before, a specific set of beats and notes, a series of guideposts that aid both writer and reader in finding their way from beginning to end. If you look closely at your favorite books, you may see the pattern take shape. But if you’d like to learn from an expert, try Joseph Campbell’s books or Christopher Voegler, who has helped make Campbell a bit more digestible. Don’t be afraid to learn form and formula! I promise it won’t rob you of your creativity. On the contrary, it will help you more easily shape and mold on paper the world you wish to build in your mind.

The final hint I’ll offer is to never forget our real world as you create your fantasy universe. To me, one of the most moving moments in all the Lord of the Rings is the death and confession of Boromir, very much the same way that one of the most challenging moments in the Hunger Games is the death of Rue. There is nothing fantastical, magic, or unrealistic about either of those scenes, scenes of loss, of friendship and loyalty broken, of pain. But they are the moments that connect us most deeply with the characters and plots of the stories. The heart of every perfect fantasy is found in earthbound emotions and human experience.

So there you have it! Three hints to the creation of fantasy adventures; I hope they help you on your own writer’s journey, or at the very least, aid in your enjoyment of the great fantasy literature so many amazing authors continue to produce. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, a few of you might add Jim Morgan to your list, and join him, the Ratts, Lacey, and Cornelius on an uncanny adventures full of pirates, sorcerers, and sea monsters.

JMKTSecondBookKindleCoverAbout Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull (#2 in series)~

Hot on the heels of Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves, which was praised by About.com’s Fatherhood Guide, YAReads.com, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews and influential book bloggers across the globe as “a rip-roaring good tale for children of all ages,” Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull sees old friends, new foes and magic forces tempt and test its protagonist, who is, one year following King of Thieves conclusion, at long last ready to return home to Morgan Manor.

Faced with terrors beyond his imagination – pirate battles, hidden islands, sorcerers and sea monsters – in Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull, the formerly spoiled-rotten Jim Morgan must learn to trust new allies, discover the power and magic of true friendship – and, just possibly uncover a hero hidden within him.

Ripe with fantastical challenges and miraculous victories that will resonate with any young reader who finds themselves in the thick of navigating young adulthood’s complexities, Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves is a good old-fashioned adventure story fit for a 21st century attention span.

“I wrote Jim Morgan to grab the attention of boy readers who have few options on bookshelves in today’s marketplace,” says Raney of the series. “Contrary to popular belief, I feel that boys actually enjoy reading, provided it’s rich with excitement, danger, and emotional themes they crave.”

James Matlack Raney, Biography~

JMRJames Matlack Raney grew up all over the world, including Europe, Latin America and Africa. These days, he calls Southern California home, and spends his time writing adventures…and occasionally living a few of his own.

Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull is available now via Amazon and in select brick-and-mortar retailers.

Find James Matlack Raney on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and his blog, Storygazing.

Website: http://jimmorganbooks.com/

STAY TUNED FOR A REVIEW AND AN INTERVIEW COMING UP OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS!

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THE VEIL by Cory P. Oakes: Perfect Combination of Magic, Suspense, and Imagination for Young Adult Readers

I recently read the book THE VEIL, by Cory Putman Oakes, which is her first fiction literature novel for young adults. It’s original and creatively crafted, as well as well-written with wonderful character development. It’s a must-read for young adults (and for any adults who love YA lit)!! The book is a great mixture of magic, the supernatural, and science fiction fantasy coupled with normal teen issues, real life scenarios, and teen romance. Cory captures it all with THE VEIL!

Continue reading my review of THE VEIL here, then grab a cup of coffee and check out my exclusive interview with Cory P. Oakes below the review and book description. You won’t want to miss learning about what inspired her book, her decision to write full-time, and her tasty writer’s block brownie recipe!! We love to hear comments, so leave them below the post!!

I loved how Cory conceived a fairly new way of looking at a type of parallel or one-dimensional existence in THE VEIL, without much of the proverbial time travel or space travel involved.  She seems to have accomplished this by having the existence of another race unseen, but yet in our own time and place.  More simply, the Annorasi world is invisible….to most.  Addison Russell, a seventeen year old quiet and average girl, can suddenly see bits and pieces of the invisible world of the Annorasi.  As you can guess, she becomes quite confused and when she learns to lift the “Veil” (and why she can when others can’t)…..well, you’ll just have to read the book to get in on that suprise.

The book is penned so gracefully, it’s almost as if it could happen to any one of us at any time.  THE VEIL was not far-fetched, but extremely believable and the characters totally endearing.  I believe young adult readers would connect with her characters.  My favorite character was her Gran, with her crazy cooking and disdain for decorating for holidays. 

Though I found myself wanting to know more about the lifestyle of the Annorasi and how they exist, the author did a wonderful job of telling the story through the eyes of the main characters, especially Addison and Luc.  Addison is a bright teenager whose world is suddenly turned upside down by the existence of this invisible world. Luc, the handsome boy she has a crush on, turns out to be more than just someone she thinks she’d never have a chance with. In fact, he’s pretty intertwined in her life too and swears to protect her.  She’s been accused of a crime she didn’t commit and has to answer for it while learning to discern if the people around her are truly who they say they are, or who she thought they were. Even her beloved pet cats aren’t so simple!!!

As a reader, I liked traveling along the action with Addison and seeing her grow and achieve more than she might have thought she could before everything started to change. I loved how the character is a great role model for young girls, as she becomes so brave and fearless. 

Cory’s real-life time spent as an attorney was richly evident in her book during the height of the novel, as well as her knowledge of the real-life hang-outs her characters frequented. I also enjoyed how Cory put in classic tale allegories such as the tale of King Arthur in regards to love and loyalty in the book.  She loves literature and travel herself and seems to draw on that as she writes her books.  This lends a richness to her writing.

This would be a wonderful book for any young adult reader to enjoy.  They would certainly want to finish it within a few days, because they wouldn’t want to put it down!!  There is just enough drama, suspense, and romance for a middle to high school reader to want to keep flipping the pages. I can’t wait to read the sequel myself, which Cory is currently working on and is untitled as of press time of this blog.

Book Jacket Preview

Seventeen-year-old Addison Russell is in for a shock when she discovers that she can see the invisible world of the Annorasi. Suddenly, nothing is as it appears to be—the house she lives in, the woman who raised her, even the most beautiful boy in town all turn out to be more than what they seem. And when this strange new world forces Addy to answer for a crime that was committed long ago, by parents she has never known, she has no choice but to trust Luc, the mysterious Annorasi who has been sent to protect her.

Or so he says . . .

Interview with Cory Putman Oakes

Erin: Hi Cory, I am so happy to have met you via Twitter and Facebook! As fellow mommies and writers, we sure have lots to talk about. I can’t wait for readers to get to know you a little better. Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview!

Cory:  Thanks so much for having me, Erin!

Q: You’re first book, THE VEIL, is just coming out in November and is your first book. Many people compare the launch of their first book much like birthing a baby! Do you agree, and why or why not?

A:  Ha ha, yes, actually – the book launch feels like I am giving birth all over again and, at the same time, sending the baby straight off to college. I have a very parental feeling of pride and helplessness that the book is going to be “out there” on its own, facing the big-bad world. I just have to hope I brought it up right!

Q: What inspired you to write the story of THE VEIL?

A: THE VEIL was a writing exercise that got totally out of control. I started writing it as a break from another project I was working on. I had this idea about a “guardian-angel-but-not” rolling around in my head – I had no clue where I was going to go with it at all, but I gave myself exactly one week to get it out on paper. I started with the very beginning (the Prologue) and then I just kept going . . . and going . . . way past my one week deadline. I kept thinking that at some point I would write myself into a corner and have to stop – normally I am a big “outliner” and I know exactly where I am headed in a story. But THE VEIL was different. At the end of a very intense month, I had a first draft and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. Obviously there have been edits and changes since then, but the bones of the story have stayed pretty much as-is.

Q: You’ve used a lot of reference from your own life in THE VEIL. Can you explain how and why?

A: Because THE VEIL was just supposed to be an exercise – something nobody else was ever going to see – I put a lot of personal things into it. I set the book in my hometown of Novato, California (and the surrounding area of San Francisco) and a lot of places where the characters go are places that my friends and I used to hang out in high school; the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop, the Marin Headlands, Jest Jewels, even “Sully’s Café” on Grant Avenue is based on a real coffee shop which, unfortunately, is no longer there. But they really did make the best “morning buns” in the entire world – just like in the book. My mom and I still crave them!

Q: When did you start writing? How did you know you wanted to be a writer?

A: I was always a big reader and I liked to write stories when I was a kid, but I didn’t start thinking about it as a profession until sixth grade when I read Alanna: The First Adventure (by Tamora Pierce) and The Blue Sword (by Robin McKinley) in the same year – I was very inspired by these two books and that is when I started thinking about how cool it would be to make up things for a living.

Q:  Do you have a day job?

A: I knew that getting published was a long shot, so I actually went to law school so I would have a “Plan B.” I worked at a law firm called Sullivan & Cromwell and it wasn’t long before I realized that Plan B was becoming The Plan – I started getting really emotionally invested in the legal world and it just wasn’t possible to be the kind of lawyer I wanted to be and also have time to write. I had to make a decision: was I a lawyer or was I a writer? I picked writer – I left the firm and started writing full-time. That was about six years ago, and it was a really key decision in my life. I don’t regret it for one minute. (Nothing against S&C – they were very good to me, I just couldn’t give them 100% when my heart really belonged to writing).

Q: How do you feel you might inspire someone else to live their dream and get “out of the rat race?”

A: I think it’s all about doing what you really want to do and feeling satisfied about it. For some people, that is the “rat race” – and that is not a bad thing. But I do think that people can sometimes feel “trapped” when they work hard to achieve something and then realize that maybe they made the wrong decision. It’s important to realize that things can be different. Life is short. Why not go for what you really want? Even if it’s something crazy, at least you can say you tried.

Erin’s Comment: Absolutely, life is too short and you have to go for your dreams! It’s hard to be rich as a writer, but you’ll be rich in your soul. That’s what I say!

Q: What is the thing you love the most about being a full-time writer?

A: I love those days when everything comes together, the words flow, and I’m excited about what I am writing. It doesn’t happen every day – just often enough to remind me of why I love to do this.

Q: Why did you choose to write YA novels?

A: The books that made me really fall in love with reading were YA novels, so I think that’s naturally the place I go to when I start thinking up my own stories.

Q: What are the authors you’ve adored over the years and who has influenced you?

A: I already mentioned Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley – those are the biggies for me. I also have a soft spot for Madeleine L’Engle, J.K. Rowling, Stefanie Meyer, and Eoin Colfer.

Erin’s Comment: Some of my very favorites as well. And I love YA literature.

Q: How would you inspire other authors to not give up their dream of writing and being published?

A: I think the key is to write for the love of writing and not because you expect to become the next J.K. Rowling. Let’s be honest – that’s only happened once. Although I did quit my day job in order to be a full-time writer, I did so with the full support of my husband (well, he was my fiancé at the time) and I honestly could not have done it without him. Like, seriously I couldn’t have – I would have been eating Ramen noodles and living in a cardboard box. It’s hard to make enough money to support yourself as a writer – so do it because you love it and if an opportunity does come along to get published, that’s just gravy.

Q: What is your favorite TV show right now?

A: I’m a big Survivor fan, even though I think I would be the absolute worst Survivor contestant ever. I’m too gullible and I’m not good at reading people – but when I watch the show I like to pretend that I’d rock it.

Q: Do you travel? If so, where? What travel destination are you dying to go to?

A: I love to travel! My husband and I recently went to London for our fifth anniversary (we got engaged there, so it’s always been a very special place for us). We missed our daughter so much (she was at home getting spoiled by her grandparents) that we bought her a teddy bear on the first day and took pictures of the bear everywhere we went (we now have a great collection of pictures of the bear beside Big Ben, at the British Museum, in Bath, at the Globe Theater, etc – I think I’m going to put them all in an iBook for my daughter).

Erin’s Comment: That is the sweetest thing to do for your little girl. You should make a book, that’s such a good idea. Print it out for her to look at!

Q: Your favorite dessert?

A: Anything chocolate! 🙂

Q: We’ve talked about baking together recently and shared our love for it. Does it help with stress relief? What is you fave recipe, can you share?

A: I do love to bake! It’s what I do to overcome writer’s block (because even when it doesn’t work, writer’s block is easier to endure when you have a tasty snack). My favorite recipe is the one for Writer’s Block Brownies on my website: http://www.corypoakes.com/writers-block-brownies/. It came into being a few years ago when I was completely obsessed with brownies and tried every recipe I could find. I eventually started experimenting on my own and this is what I came up with. It’s still evolving – I recently added a ½ cup of flour to it so if anybody tries it, be sure to let me know what you think!

Erin’s Comments: I have a good brownie recipe too, I’ll try yours and pass mine along to you~!

Q: What is the best part(s) about your life? What brings you JOY?

A: My family. My husband and my daughter are the two lights of my life. Knowing that they are happy makes me happy in a way that I never could have imagined before they came along.

Q: What else do you have in the works? Please share!

A:  I am writing a sequel to THE VEIL, and I am also revising a middle grade fantasy series I have working on for some time. You can see previews of both on my website: “The Sequel” preview is at: http://www.corypoakes.com/the-veil/the-sequel/ and the “Avannia Prophecies” preview is at: http://www.corypoakes.com/the-avannia-books/.

Erin’s Comments: I honestly can’t wait to read the Avannia Prophecies…write, Cory, write!! 🙂

Q: How can readers and other writers connect with you?

A: My website is a good place to start: http://www.corypoakes.com. I am also on Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/CoryPutmanOakes) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/CPOAuthor).

Q: Where can readers purchase THE VEIL?

A: THE VEIL comes out on Nov 1! Until then, you can preorder the paperback on Amazon at http://amzn.to/TheVeil and at Barnes and Noble.com at http://bit.ly/nkEDRN. Starting Nov 1, THE VEIL will be available for purchase at the same locations, but it will also be available in Kindle, iBook and Nook formats.

Erin:  Thanks so much Cory for stopping by to shine the light on YOU, as an author and as a person. We look forward to reading many more novels by you!!

Cory also graciously did a guest post for me a week or so ago on writing AND being a mom! Lots of scheduling and drama comes with that combination.  You can see that post here and learn how she does it:  https://hookofabook.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/on-being-a-mom…p-oakes-author/. It’s part of a series and I’m looking for more mommy writers, so give me a shout if you are interested.

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On Being a Mom AND a Writer: Cory P. Oakes, Author

Readers, this is the first part of a series of guest posts I am hosting in regards to “Being a Mom AND a writer.” As moms and writers, we all struggle with time for dinners, homework, sports, diapers, and fitting writing in. How do you do it? Do you have thoughts?  I hope you find this series funny, insightful, and supportive. If you, or someone you know, would be great for a guest post pertaining to the subject of being a writer and a mother of young children, please contact me at hookofabook@hotmail.com. Thanks for reading, Erin

My first guest post is by Cory Oakes, author of newly published THE VEIL a young adult fantasy novel, and mother of a busy eighteen-month-old daughter.

Cory Oakes: On Being a Mom and Publishing a First Novel

I am a stay-at-home mom to an eighteen-month old tornado of energy with the power to tear apart a room in five seconds flat and then giggle uncontrollably about it until I start laughing too. I am also a writer with a book coming out this November 1 and a planned sequel looming large over my head.

This situation comes with its share of challenges. Like most Writer-Moms (and, I suspect, most Moms in general) there are many nights when I go to sleep wishing there was more of me to go around so that everything and everyone in my life who matters – my daughter, my husband, my writing, my friends, my pets (and heck, even my hair!) – could get all of the love, attention, and time that they deserve from me.

 But that’s the tough stuff. I’d rather talk about the surprising ways that being a mom has actually improved my writing.

Perspective – Publishing can be a tough world. In my twenties, rejections from agents or an unkind word about something I had written often knocked me flat for days at a time. Even today, bad news is always hard but ever since my daughter came along, the “Need To Be Successful In The Publishing World” has slipped down a few notches on my ladder of importance, well below “My Daughter is Happy and Healthy” and “My Husband Still Loves Me”. Not to mention that toddlers do not come with Pause buttons – when an email or a phone call sends me reeling, having a good, long mope about it doesn’t always fit into my busy schedule of diapers, meals, playtime, playgroup, and snacks. Kids force you to get a grip, and quickly, so you can be there for them.

Focus – Gone are the long, lazy days when I had time to nourish my inner writer with “mood music” or when I could put off writing a certain scene until I was “really feeling it.” These days, my writing time is either bought (with a baby-sitter), stolen (“sure, take all of the tissues out of the box one by one while I just finish this last part . . .”) or bargained-for (“I’ll watch your kid if you watch mine next week”) and I’m hyper-aware that I have to make every minute count. This means no frills. When I get forty-five minutes or an hour to write, I have to dive right in – whether I am “feeling it” or not! This was the hardest adjustment for me (and one I am still working on) but it has really done wonders for my writing.

To be honest, I am not always able to kick it into gear with no notice, limited time, and with a baby monitor blinking beside my computer screen. But when it works, I am able to crank out stuff that would have taken me hours before. And it’s not because I am “super writer” all of a sudden – it’s simply because I no longer have the option of agonizing over every single detail. And I suppose time will tell if that turns out to be a good thing or not, but so far it seems to be helping me “cut to the chase” with my writing a lot faster.

A large part of writing, at least for me, is making decisions. Will this character be tall or short? Good-hearted or selfish? Will she fall in love with this character or this other one? What direction do I want the story to go? Each decision shapes the novel by opening up new paths while simultaneously closing off other ones. Sometimes it’s about making the right decision – after all, if J.K. Rowling had decided that Harry Potter was going to take a pass on attending Hogwarts, we probably wouldn’t still be talking about her today. Some decisions deserve to be agonized over. But sometimes, moving forward in a story means just coming to a decision – any decision – and making it work. I am much better at doing that these days, if only because I constantly have one eye on the clock.

Life Experience – There is nothing like creating and giving birth to a human being to give you a mini “insta-dose” of wisdom! Ok fine, so I’m not wise. But all of the emotion and experience that comes with the day-to-day of being a mom is wonderful fodder for writing. There are a lot of things about being a parent that you just can’t know until you are one and as a consequence, I have found that my parental-type characters are much more well-rounded and truthful these days.

Motivation – This is the big one for me. I had always pretty much assumed that having a child would be the death of my writing career, and I was shocked to discover that it was the exact opposite.

I took about a year off after I had my daughter, but around the time she turned one, some invisible timer went off inside of me and told me, forcefully, that it was time to finally do something about this “getting published” thing. That led to a decision to self publish which, ironically, led to me signing with a publisher, which set this whole, crazy thing in motion. I give my daughter credit for this (well, most of it – Octane Press, my publisher, should get some credit too!). As cheesy as it sounds, I did it because I wanted her to be proud of me. I wanted to be able to tell her that I had a lifelong dream to do something and that I went after it with everything I had (and that she should do the same). Obviously it would be great if the book really takes off, but even if this is the last book I ever publish, a large part of me will be okay with that, because I now have something concrete that I can hand to my daughter one day as evidence that dreams do come true.

 And that is something that I never would have been able to say before I became a mom.

Cory’s debut young adult novel, THE VEIL, is out this November 1, 2011 and is now available for preorder on Amazon (http://amzn.to/TheVeil) and Barnes&Noble.com (http://bit.ly/nkEDRN). Watch  for a review on THE VEIL and an exclusive interview with Cory coming soon to this blog.

Cory now lives in Austin, Texas with Mark and their beautiful daughter, Sophia. In addition to writing, Cory enjoys reading, cooking, running, and hanging out with her family and pets.

 For more on Cory or THE VEIL, please visit her website at http://www.corypoakes.com.

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The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone, a Children’s Book Review and Information on Chicago’s Minature Rooms

Marianne Malone, author of the children’s book The Sixty-Eight Rooms (new Random House from 2010), describes herself as not growing up being a reader or wanting to be a writer. In fact, from what I gather from her website (www.mariannemalone.com) she spent a good portion of her life as a middle school art teacher and she is an artist who loves to paint. However, growing up and living in Illinois, she enjoyed going to the Art Institute of Chicago and this is where she fell in love with the Thorne Rooms.  These rooms started her mind percolating over the course of many years an adventure surrounding them.

If you don’t know what the Thorne Rooms are, they are a collection of 68 minature rooms (like dollhouse rooms) given to the Institute by a Mrs. James (Narcissa) Ward Thorne in the early part of probably the 1940s.  Mrs. Thorne traveled the world and was a collector of minatures. She collected so many of the minatures that she had craftsman assist her in turning them into the various rooms from different time periods in England, America, France…and she used her minatures to create interior design themes, from the 13 th century to about the 1930s, that could be used to educate others about interior design of various eras. Of course, many children visitors over the years become entranced by the rooms and their imaginations run wild with ideas. The author Marianne Malone, of course, was one of those children. To view some photography of The Thorne Rooms, go here to the Art Institute of Chicago’s website page of the Thorne Rooms: http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/thorne.  Last Spring, the Huffington Post had an article about the minature rooms and Malone’s book. If interested, go here to view the article:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/07/the-art-institute-of-chic_n_528739.html

Malone’s book, The Sixty-Eight Rooms, is a children’s novel  full of imagination and magic surrounding themes of life based on two main characters, Ruthie and Jack. These best friends go on a class field trip and fall in love with the possibilities of the Thorne Rooms.  Getting a back corridor glance, and finding a gorgeous vintage key, leads them to an adventure into history as well the power that sometimes lies behind the simple act of just believing.  These sixth graders fall in love with the Rooms and Ruthie wishes so badly to have a look inside that when she holds the key, it warms in her hand and she is instantly made minature herself!  Eventually Jack is also, if he holds on to Ruthie, and they go exploring the Rooms. As they are in the rooms, they walk out the front doors and are catapulted directly into different time periods such as France right before the French Revolution and Massachusetts during the Salem Witch Trials. Actually getting to talk to other kids in that time period, and possibly change the outcome of their lives, is touched on. I really wish I could have read even more on the rooms and the time periods they enter. Eventually a piece of each of these children they meet is acutally found in the rooms and they uncover that other children, even possibly Mrs. Thorne who createdthe Rooms, have visited in the same way and they feel a bond to these others. The mystery is uncovered through the book about how the Rooms came to be magical in the first place, through an important historical figure. I won’t give the mystery away here, but I do believe I would have developed that more and let it grow to the end. The suspense would have been intriguing, though Ruthie throughout the book certainly does not have any patience. This may be a mirror of the author’s personality as a child. I’d love to ask her!

The character development of all side characters, several of the parents as well as the little old lady antique dealer who plays a very important part in the end of the book, are very well done. However, some of the other details such as fighting the mega-cockroach and some of the parts about getting from room to room and up and down into the Rooms could have been left out. As an adult, they bored me. Being a child at heart, a history buff, and sucker for imaginative and magical stories involving doors and keys, I wanted to hear more about the magic and I wanted them to explore various parts of history longer and more in depth.

I did LOVE the art element in it, beyond the Institute, as Jack’s mom is a struggling artist and the museum caretaker of the Rooms, a faded photographer. I probably love this because I love art and also am a photographer. My love for art museums and history both caught my attention to this book. I could imagine all the little art pieces decorating the minature rooms. I would love to see The Thorne Rooms one day and experience the magic myself.

I sense that this is not the end of adventures for Malone. The end of the book certainly did entertain the fact that a vintage purse she is given from the antique shop owner might be another magical object with another story. I certainly hope so. (In fact, in a recent e-mail from Malone, she does tell me that they will be another book).  I do love Malone’s passion for “old” things and what magic they might possess.  Though I do wish that the character’s adventures in The Thorne Rooms not be quite done yet. It for around age 10, fourth grade level, depending where your child’s reading level is. I know I would have loved this book when I was 10. As adults we may look too much into plot structure and want more detail, when for a child it could be more than can be handled. Therefore for me, it is hard to give an accurate review for a child. I’ll have my children read it next and see what they say.

This book had intrigued me back in 2010, as did walking through the Wardrobe in Narnia, Alice shrinking in Wonderland, and the minatures coming alive in Indian in the Cupboard when I was a child, but I didn’t realize until I read it how all these books lend to the idea I have for my own children’s book which I’ve detailed before in this blog.  The idea of a vintage key, and historical doors, leading to somewhere else is certainly a story told before and certainly a global plot. But I think it never gets old. We all wish sometimes to walk into another place and time totally different from ours. Even as an adult, I still share these childhood fantasies and imaginative thoughts. I can’t wait to see where my key and door take me in my book also.

Thanks Marianne Malone for bring The Thorne Rooms to life and for opening up my eyes to this amazing feature of the museum. I certainly will want to visit if I do ever get to Chicago!

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