Ashen Blog Tour: Book Food!

Iceland and a food-worldbuilding post?! Count me in!

Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing author H.L. Burke and her brand new release, Ashen! Ashen is a fantasy Cinderella retelling inspired by Iceland, and, well… I’m sure you can see how I would be interested in that!

But if you’re new here, I write some fairy tale retellings of my own, and about two and a half years ago, my husband and I took our honeymoon in Iceland!

I fell in love with it then, and I honestly cannot get enough of it (we may or may not be slowly planning our next trip there… once it’s safe to travel again). At the time, I was dying for fiction set in Iceland, and now I finally have something!

(BTW, if you have other suggestions for fiction-preferably fantasy!-set in Iceland, please send them my way in the comments!)

And in other Selina catnip, today’s guest post by the author herself talks all about the role rood played in the worldbuilding! You may recall I even talked about food in worldbuilding a while back.

So without further ado and such, let’s get right on with this awesome glimpse into the world of Ashen!

Guest Post by H.L. Burke

Lizbete, the main character of Ashen, wouldn’t describe herself as artistic or creative. However, whenever I put her in a scene when she had to cook something, she was REALLY into it. Like, really, really, really into it. Food is Lizbete’s calling, and it plays a major part in the story and world of Ashen.

Lizbete’s home is an isolated fishing village in a cold northern country which I based on Iceland. The green interior is home to many shepherds, but the majority of commerce in town is from fishing. They eat berries they gather and vegetables they grow in their gardens and cliff pigeons … which are a bird I made up because traditionally people in Iceland sometimes eat puffins, but … I couldn’t stand to put one of those adorable things on a plate, even for authenticity.

Image of puffins on a rock by skeeze from Pixabay

Lizbete is a foundling with a strange secret curse. Unable to create her own body heat, she has to draw warmth from external sources. Unfortunately, this means whenever she touches another human being, she pulls heat from them, and if their contact is lengthy, her uncontrollable heat-draw can injure or even kill.

Because of this she needs to stay near heat sources, which usually means you can find her hiding in the kitchen of her adopted guardian’s tavern. Auntie Katryn taught Lizbete everything she knows about how to feed a crowd. Lizbete can make delightful soups out of scraps and bones. She roasts savory potatoes. Her sweet squash pie is fantastic, and her fish fry second only to Auntie’s.

In designing the food that I had Lizbete cook in the book I drew from three sources:

  1. What was native to the country and climate I had chosen as a template (Iceland).
  2. What would suit an isolated fishing village in a culture where most people have to work hard in the cold.
  3. Wish fulfilment.

First off, I spent a lot of time looking into Icelandic food … by which I mean I found out that they had licorice flavored spirits that sounded amazing and looked seriously into whether I could get them imported before I realized that this was  YA book and cocktails probably weren’t the research route I should go … and then I read up a bit on Icelandic cuisine. As I kind of expected, there was a decent amount of fish involved as well as lamb.

This also fit with my idea of an isolated village that had to be self-sufficient, fishing for most of their protein while shepherds treasured their flocks. I wanted the food to be hearty for people putting in a hard day’s work, and warm to chase away the cold wind coming off the frozen seas.

And finally, wish fulfilment.

From what I can tell apples are not historically a big part of Icelandic cuisine, but I had a great scene in mind where Lizbete and Brynar (her love interest and my prince stand in for this Cinderella tale) bond over peeling apples … so yeah, those are in there. Also something called “firewine” because it goes with my hot and cold theming.

So yeah, food is a big part of how Lizbete relates to the world around her, and I hope the descriptions of it help draw you into her world a little deeper.

~~~

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the purchase link on this page. However, I am sharing this book because I have enjoyed her work before, and I am truly excited for this release!)

You can purchase Ashen here or add it to Goodreads here.

~~~

Thank you so much, Heidi, for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at this world! I can’t wait to dive in (it’s already loaded on my ereader!).

Also, be sure to keep an eye on the blog for my upcoming review. It may be another month or so, but I plan to write a full review of the book as soon as I finish it!

And in one more bit of news, this month I released a prequel novella to my This Curse series! I’ve been trying to price match it everywhere free, but that’s taking a while. But you can get it for free just by signing up to my newsletter! (Don’t worry, you’re free to unsubscribe at any time.)

Sign up to get a free copy of This Cursed Light, This Curse #0.5!

Until next time, happy reading, my friends!

Tattered Slippers Blog Tour: Mini Interview with Author E.J. Kitchens

Happy August, friends!

Today I get the pleasure of introducing E.J. Kitchens, author of a number of books including a special Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling today, Wrought of Silver and Ravens. In just a little bit, I’ll be sharing my own review of the book right here on the blog, but for today we’ll focus on a mini interview with some fun questions for the author.

But first, about the book:

(Image: the cover for author E.J. Kitchens’ book, Wrought of Silver and Ravens, next to a text description. The cover is blue with gray filigree and three black feathers falling. The text reads: “Releasing August 25th. Wrought of Silver and Ravens. E.J. Kitchens. Ancient Fantasy. Wanderer-turned-guard, Athdar Owain has two secrets to keep and one to solve. Each could cost a life.”)

The rarest magic is the most dangerous.

Athdar Owain is a hunted wanderer, one determined to keep his secrets and the treasure he carries safe at all costs. When he rescues the Kingdom of Giliosthay’s prince from raiders, he’s rewarded by being forced into the king’s elite Silver Guard. While this gives Athdar a temporary home and some protection from those hunting him, it also makes him responsible for the young prince, who still bears curses from the raiders, and seven enchantress princesses with curses as mysterious and dangerous as their brother’s.

Princess Thea of Giliosthay is a Realm Walker. Betrayed by a trusted guard, her rare gift of enchantment is used to curse her brother and trap herself and her six sisters into a nightly dance with dragons in a secret Realm. The Realm’s prince has the ability to take and twist her magic for his own purposes, and Thea fears what those might be. For when one dances with a prince, a kingdom might be at stake.

Athdar alone can save them, but to trust enchanters is to risk exposure. And Athdar isn’t sure where his loyalties lie.

Wrought of Silver and Ravens is a clean adventure-romance retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses set in The Magic Collectors story world.

You can purchase it here or add it to Goodreads here. Also, you can buy this book on other retailers. The author had some issues with the first link, but it should be available here as well.

Chatting with E.J. Kitchens

Welcome Elizabeth! I’m so happy to have you here today to celebrate the release of your newest book! It really sounds fascinating, and ancient fantasy? Awesome!

Let’s just get right into it. The idea of an ancient fantasy is so cool, and my readers know how much I love a good retelling. Can you tell us what exactly, besides the fairy tale itself, inspired the book?

Oh, lots of things! It’s a long book with lots of fun things.

The biggest two influences, however, are places (Ancient Greece and Crete and the deserts of the Middle East) and stories of lady Biblical manuscript hunters (the fictional Where We Belong by Lynn Austin and the true The Sisters of Sinai by Janet Soskice). Wrought of Silver and Ravens is set in my Magic Collectors story world but in the distant past, so I decided to set it in a land similar to ancient Greece, with a gorgeous walled city overlooking the sea.

I later discovered the heroine’s mother is from a desert kingdom, so I managed a trip to an oasis. I once listened to a textual criticism course, and I loved learning about the ancient manuscripts and the monasteries where some of the early copies of the Bible were found—including one monastery in the Sinai desert that, at one time, you could only get into by being pulled up and over the wall in a basket!—and wanted to include a bit of hunting for old manuscripts (magic-related ones, however) in desert monasteries (this will be in the next book though).

Several movies—Five Weeks in a Balloon, King Solomon’s Mines, and The Moon Spinners—helped inspire me and helped me envision some of the lands for this and future books in the series.

That’s really fascinating! It’s really something how so many things can inspire a single piece of work. And I love the desert angle!

Now that we have the inspiration out of the way, what was your favorite part of writing it? Did anything surprise you?

I was surprised by the characters and how the story turned out! I quickly fell in love with the hero and the group of special guards (the Silver Guards) he joins. The ‘bromance’ between the men, especially the father-son relationship that slowly develops between the loner Athdar and the Captain of the Silver Guard, Galen, is a big part of why I love the book.

Originally, I was focused on getting Athdar, a wanderer, to the castle to meet Princess Thea. The story starts when Athdar is found by Galen near the kingdom’s borders after Athdar rescues the prince from raiders. Originally, I had only a few paragraphs between that and Athdar reaching the city. But, fortunately, I decided to delve into that journey a bit, and I’m so glad I did! I got to meet some of the other Silver Guard in that journey in a way I couldn’t have if they were safe at the castle. Those few boring paragraphs I originally had turned into a couple of my favorite chapters, with characters I love showing and having adventure and doing brave, difficult things.

Also, I was surprised that the story ended up being grittier and the characters, as a critique partner described them, “more real” than in my other, more lighthearted books. It’s not dark, but it is grittier, yet with humor as well.

It’s definitely fun when we, as they authors, get to dive into things we hadn’t initially thought to explore. It opens up so many possibilities!

Okay, I have one more question.

If you could bring one thing from our book into the real world, what (or who) would it be and why?

Oooh. Tough one! I would love to meet some of the characters, Galen especially, but putting them in a modern world, and one without magic, that just wouldn’t seem right somehow. Maybe Athdar’s very special breed of lion? The cubs are pretty cute. Thea’s medallion that lets her travel wherever she’s been before would be pretty handy, however.

Ooo, who doesn’t love cute animals? And I have to say… having a medallion like that would certainly cut down on my commute time!

Thank you, Elizabeth, for joining me today, and best of luck on your release!

Readers, if any of this has piqued your interest, you can grab your copy here or add it to Goodreads here! Don’t forget, you can buy this book on other retailers, too. The author had some issues with the first link, but it should be available here as well.

About E.J. Kitchens

E.J. Kitchens loves tales of romance, adventure, and happily-ever-afters and strives to write such tales herself. When she’s not thinking about dashing heroes or how awesome bacteria are—she is a microbiologist after all—she’s taking photos, reading, or talking about classic books and black-and-white movies. She is the author of the historical fantasy series THE MAGIC COLLECTORS and of several fairytale retellings. She is a member of Realm Makers and lives in Alabama.

Find her online at: Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Newsletter || Amazon

Continue the tour!

Tattered Slippers is a joint release of Twelve Dancing Princess retellings. You can find out more about this release or the other books in the collection here.

You can also participate in the Tattered Slippers Challenge! Just use the Instagram post hashtag below and post your pictures.

For the Love of a Word Release!

It’s almost here!

For the Love of a Word comes out in just two short days! I know I’m a little early to celebrate the release, but I really wanted to focus on this with its own dedicated post at our regularly scheduled time.

Why?

Because this book is for us. All of us. The authors. The creatives. The book lovers.

It has the words and hearts of sixteen different authors! Including me. If you’ve been around a while, you know how I love to talk about all things books and my love of writing and storytelling. And this book is just that. Authors sharing their love of story.

Here’s the blurb:

A collection of love letters to creative souls. 

For your inspiration and encouragement. 

“There is a strange beauty in this lonely work; to create is to realize my connection with things greater than myself, and soon enough the work is not lonely at all, but blessed and beloved.” 

Featuring the words of sixteen writers, For the Love of a Word is designed to encourage, inspire, and uplift you in your journey.

It will be out in TWO DAYS!!! But I also wanted to give you guys one last chance to get your hands on the pre-order bundle through Annie’s website.

Pre-orders ONLY through her site can get so many extras: bookmarks from some of the participating authors, photo cards, swag, and a printable 8.5″ x 11″ poster to download, in addition to your beautiful book. And wouldn’t that be a great gift for you or the bibliophile in your life?

Or, if you’re not quite ready, you can always add it to Goodreads! And if the swag pack isn’t for you, that’s fine too. You can still get this book on Amazon!

Whether this interests you or not, I hope you will continue to celebrate the love of storytelling with me here on the blog. 🙂

Happy reading, and happy writing!

Book Spotlight: Wish You Weren’t Here

This is a summer for great books!

Today I am very excited to share the newest release in the Steel City Genie series by Janeen Ippolito! I read the first book, If Wishes Were Curses, right around the time my own genie book came out, and it was so good with such a unique set of characters. There are shifters, vampires, genies, and creatures I’d never heard of before! Plus, it’s set in my home state, just out in Pittsburgh instead of the eastern half!

Enough of me, here’s more about the book!

I was done with my Jinn ex-boyfriend—but now I’m the only one who can save his life.

I’m already in enough trouble with my magic going crazy right when I’m opening a storefront for romantic crimes consulting. The last thing I need is interference from Kiran Singh, who failed spectacularly as a boyfriend, and now wants me back with some crappy excuse of helping him track down illegal, dangerous love potions.

Then one of his other exes tries to kill me in a fit of jealous, doped-up rage—and ends up dead herself, with all evidence pointing to Kiran.

My vegetarian vampire mate, Cendric, is convinced Kiran is up to something. But homicide isn’t Kiran’s style, even if he’s starting to show serious psycho-jealousy of his own. Someone else is pulling the strings, and they don’t care how many people die from fake love.

If we can’t track down the real mastermind, my ex is going to disappear.And not in the way I’d wish. 

This one was already on my pre-orders after I finished book one. You won’t want to miss this urban fantasy series…it’s a ride!

Where to get it

This book is available on Amazon, or you can add it to Goodreads.

About the author

Janeen Ippolito writes steampunk fantasy and urban fantasy, and creates writing resources, including the reference book World Building From the Inside Out and the creative writing guide Irresistible World Building For Unforgettable Stories. She’s an experienced teacher, editor, author coach, marketer, and is the leader of Uncommon Universes Press, a small traditional science fiction and fantasy publishing house. She’s also the cohost of the podcast Indie Book Magic. In her spare time, Janeen enjoys sword-fighting, reading, pyrography, and eating brownie batter. Two of her goals are eating fried tarantulas and traveling to Antarctica.

Where to find her: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Email Newsletter

Heart of the Curiosity Cover Reveal!

H.L. Burke’s new book comes out soon…check out her awesome cover!

Today I have another upcoming release for you, this one from the very talented H. L. Burke! I’ve seen her talking about this so much over the past few months, and I am so excited to read it when it releases.

Anyway, before the cover, here’s the blurb:

The secret lies with the Heart.

Born with a magical knack for manipulating emotions, Leodora’s only dream is to ensure her talented little sister dances on the biggest, brightest stage in the Republic: The Curiosity, a grand old theater of tradition and innovation. After escaping a cruel carnival, Leo secures her sister a place in the Curiosity’s chorus line, and herself a job as a professional audience member, swaying the crowd’s mood with her magic. The girls have a home for the first time in their lives.

Then a tragic accident darkens the theater. A greedy businessman begins blackmailing Leo, and financial woes threaten to close the show forever. The Curiosity’s sole hope lies in a mythical power source hidden beneath the maze-like passages and trapdoors of the theater—the Heart. And Leo’s only friend Paxton, nephew of the theater’s stagemistress, is the key to finding it.

While Leo and Paxton hunt for the Heart, the blackmailer’s threats loom larger. Mysterious figures, cryptic clues, and deadly traps hinder the search at every turn. If the friends cannot recover the Heart in time, Leo and her sister will be cast out of the only home they’ve ever known, and the final curtain will fall on The Curiosity.

Enter a world reminiscent of The Greatest Showman, with a puzzle worthy of Sherlock Holmes and National Treasure, in this new Steampunk Fantasy from H. L. Burke.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for.

You can find this book in all your favorite places…including an autographed copy from the author herself! It will be out on June 27th.

About the author

Born in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic. 

An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture. 

Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.

Where to find her

This Cursed Flame Blog Tour: Behind the Scenes

Today I had thought about showing you the development of the cover for This Cursed Flame, but instead, you can learn all about that on Saturday with Savannah Jezowski, the wonderful cover artist who actually did the work, over at the Facebook party (PS don’t forget to RSVP)!

So that left me to wonder: what behind-the-scenes looks would you guys want to see??? What about the research process for this book?

I started this particular story way back in 2011, so my research methods have changed a lot. Back then, I didn’t use Pinterest or have a reserved notebook, like I do now. Everything was amassed in multiple fragmented Word documents and files of inspiration pictures on my hard drive. And I knew so little about photo attribution that I don’t even want to share some of those photos now!

So how did I actually research this book?

Google.

Yup, that’s it. I researched the history and mythology of djinn from Middle Eastern culture, I found pages about Aladdin and the magic lamp, I saw pages of people selling djinn trapped in rings (yes, people do sell these items), I saw warnings about how djinn could affect your life… there was so much out there from basic mythology to djinn in current culture. It was so much I never knew and had never realized, beliefs of people I had never heard before. It was a mountain to sift through and find what could be used for inspiration of my djinn culture.

Ultimately, I decided to go with the four base types of djinn I found during my research, the four that kept reappearing over and over throughout the more scholarly sources: ghul, marid, ifrit, and sila. These types of djinn are almost all used to varying degrees throughout other media and fiction also, but it was so interesting to see how everyone had their own take and their own creation based on the same central mythology. (And if you want to know more about these classes of djinn in my world, make sure to go to the Facebook party!)

And for me, I wanted to create a world separate yet parallel to ours where these djinn still lived and had lives just like we do. This also aligned with some of my research, stating basically that djinn do have their own lives, just like we do. They’re born and live and die. And so I thought: why can’t my djinn be just like us, only magic? And so the basic magic structure of the Djinn Realm was formed!

But I still had my genie. That very first idea. And I didn’t know how to fit her into this structure. The answer wasn’t easy, but somehow it worked its way into a sort of half-being. In my books, genies are not quite the same as djinn, having less control over the elemental magic but a wider range to choose from. Unlike the djinn, who could control a single element, my genies could access all elements, only to a much smaller, less powerful, degree.

And so, from all the research I did on the mythology, the countless Google searches and hours, I developed my own magic system influenced by all my research. It started with the idea, blossomed through research, and became an actual story.

And that’s that! Do you have your own stories of book research, new or old, to share with us? Tell me in the comments, or talk to me about djinn! Let me hear from you! 😀

~~~

This Cursed Flame is available to pre-order on Amazon and any other major retailer! Also, if you prefer a paperback, those will be available through Amazon. And once again, be sure to head over to Facebook on Saturday for the Launch Party! (and your chance to win your own hand-painted genie bottle, just like in Janan’s collection!)

This Cursed Flame Character Interview: Janan

Today we get to talk directly to one of the main characters: our genie, Janan!

Today is day two of This Cursed Flame’s blog tour! So far we had a lovely book spotlight by H. L. Burke and a first look at the opening chapter. Today I want to dive in a little deeper and talk with one of our main characters, Janan. But don’t forget to head back to the masterpost to keep following all the posts as they come out each day. There’s plenty of material to keep you all content in this final week before release!

Now, without any more delay, here’s Janan!

Hello, Janan. Welcome to the blog tour! Why don’t we start by telling our readers just a little bit about you?

Thanks for having me! I don’t normally do these things, but Laurelin insisted it would be fun. Oh, she’s my new human friend. I’m a genie and have been for several years now. What that means is that I used to be human, but a djinn gave me magic and changed me into something kind of between djinn and human. But before that, I grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and lived with my family on their farm. One day I’d love to really be able to stay with them again, to be part of the family again. But I’ve met plenty of people who have kind of become my found family, and it helps.

Sounds like it’s been a rough road! Can you tell us a little bit about your found family?

Sure! I lived in the djinn Realm with two very kind djinn, Irina and Mahtab. They’ve kind of been like surrogate parents and have made sure I was safe and continued my education. I was only eleven when I was changed, so I had plenty of school left to finish. Another djinn, Ghadir, kind of came to my rescue when Ahriman changed me, and she placed me with Irina and Mahtab. And then there’s Safiyya, a ghul type of djinn who is stuck in the form of an ocelot (ghul are shapeshifters). She’s been my best friend in the Realm, and I really feel like of all of them, she understands me and my situation best.

That’s so great! Speaking of your family, they tell my you have a rather unique collection in your Fuego home. Care to tell us about it?

I guess I can. I collect all different kinds of bottles. Glass, crystal, metal. Anything. When I was human, I used to watch I Dream of Jeannie with my father. It became sort of a running joke, a way I could make light of everything that happened to me. Instead of being controlled by a bottle, like in the show or a lot of human mythology, I collect them.

How interesting! It seems like you were able to find some way to cope with everything you went through. I’m sure it really affected you.

Yes. I was young, and I had been kidnapped. Ahriman is a horrible djinn and person. I’ve had panic attacks and such ever since I was changed. I’m still working on it, with plenty of help. Those kinds of things are long journeys.

Definitely! Is there anything else you can share with the readers about your story?

Well, besides the whole kidnapping, becoming a genie thing, I did get to meet Laurelin. It’s so good to talk to other people and see how similar we really are, despite appearances (or magic). If you read the story, you’ll definitely get to see plenty of the djinn Realm and magic. There may even be a few secrets Laurelin discovers along the way!

Exciting! Thank you for sharing your time with us today, and good luck in facing Ahriman!

Um, what?

That’s all the time we have, but make sure you check out your favorite retailers for the pre-order link, and come back every day this week for a new post about This Cursed Flame!

This Cursed Flame is available on Amazon and any other major retailer! Also, if you prefer a paperback, those will be available through Amazon. And be sure to head over to Facebook on Saturday for the Launch Party! (and your chance to win your own hand-painted genie bottle, just like in Janan’s collection!)

This Cursed Flame: First Chapter!

Hey all! Welcome to the first stop on the This Cursed Flame Blog Tour! I can’t wait for you to see all the bonus content leading up to the release on Saturday, and what better way to start than to share the first chapter with everyone?

But first, here’s the blurb!

Look at this gorgeous cover!!!

Sometimes we put ourselves in the bottle…

Six years ago, Janan was transformed into a genie by an evil djinn, ripping her away from her home, her life, and her humanity. She has been on the run from him ever since. Worlds away, high school honors student Laurelin just wants to get into the chemistry program of her dreams.

When Laurelin discovers a crystal bottle that sucks her into the djinn realm, the girls find themselves working together to escape Janan’s creator and get Laurelin back home. But war is brewing in the djinn realm-a rebellion led by the same evil djinn they’ve been trying to escape. And he is determined to rule both the djinn and the human realms. As his creation, Janan is the one person standing in his way.

But to stop him, Janan must learn to overcome the fears he instilled in her and embrace her own dark magic while Laurelin must accept that some things are more important than an A+. Now, they will have to trust each other, and themselves, to stop the encroaching evil. Otherwise, both the human and djinn realms will fall to the tide of death and dark magic this war will unleash.

You can now pre-order this book on Amazon and any other major retailer! Also, if you prefer a paperback, those will be available through Amazon (insider hint: they’re gorgeous!) Also, be sure to head over to Facebook on Saturday for the Launch Party! (and your chance to win your own hand-painted genie bottle!)

And now, without further ado, the first chapter.

Chapter One: Janan

Fuego, Djinn Realm

Janan couldn’t breathe.

Tiny white dots floated in her vision as her heart pumped blood faster than her brain could use it. They obscured the beige and white masonry of the city, the multicolored throng pushing through the cobbled streets like strutting peacocks. All four types of djinn surrounded her: the ifrits with their fire magic, marids with their water magic, sila with their air magic, and ghul with their shapeshifting and electric magic.

And she stood here, alone in the crowd, unprotected, probably the only genie in the city. A half-breed of magic forever caught between worlds. Her human life still colored her memories, her behavior, but the djinn who had turned her into this had robbed her of her natural life.

And the djinn could tell, could sense her other-ness, as they gave her a wide berth or cast vicious looks in her direction. She thought eventually she would be used to it, but even an errand out to fetch groceries was enough to send her into a panic, even after six years.

She hurried to the side of the road, trying to hide herself from their prying eyes. Her breaths were shallow, and she wheezed as she tried to pull enough oxygen into her lungs. She could almost see his gaze everywhere she turned: the hate in that marid’s face, the same crimson tint in that ifrit’s skin. Like he was everywhere. Would she ever be free of this fear?

She drew her hood lower on her forehead and pulled her cloak tighter around her, trying to hide the raspberry color of her hair, a sure sign of her genie status, and her violet dress with the gold embroidery. She had loved it when her adopted father, Mahtab, brought it home for her birthday, but now it seemed like too much, too flashy, like it drew the attention of too many.

“Janan!” A voice rang out over the roar of a thousand voices.

Janan cringed, her head snapping toward the sound. Several nearby djinn craned their heads, also searching for the source of the voice. Her eyes landed on a small, beige feline with ebony spots. If she didn’t look directly at the animal, she could almost see the form of the woman beneath the spell.

“Safiyya!” Janan, still breathless with fear, pushed her way back through the people still separating them and knelt in front of her friend.

Safiyya of the House Grimalkin studied her face. “Everything okay?”

Janan almost laughed. No, everything was not okay. It hadn’t been for some time. Not since before, when she was still human, when she still belonged.

But he wasn’t here, at least not as far as she could tell. It was only her brain running away faster than reason, again, her terror resurfacing after months of dormancy.

Her terror had almost been gone when he returned only a few months ago, like an angry ghost from her past, wishing to exact some terrible vengeance on her for her very existence. Her Turning had been a mistake. And now it was a hurdle to him, to his plans, to the very future of the Realm.

At least that was what he had said. Right before attacking, driving her from her home to flee to Fuego with her adopted family. She had brought him down upon them, and now she saw him everywhere she turned.

“Yes, of course,” she found herself saying, rising to her feet and refusing to meet Safiyya’s bright emerald gaze.

She couldn’t tell her what was going on. Safiyya had her own problems. She was djinn, one of the shapeshifters, but she’d been stuck as an ocelot for as long as Janan had known her, much like the way Janan was stuck halfway between djinn and human. One day, maybe Safiyya would tell her what had happened, why she was stuck, but for now Janan didn’t see a reason to draw the cat into her imaginary nightmares. It was enough to share this unspoken bond.

Safiyya continued to study her, doubtful eyes traveling across the old scars marring Janan’s pale skin. There were no new injuries for her to see, but her friend’s gaze burned across her skin, and Janan tugged the cloak tighter still. If she kept pulling at it, soon she’d be a diamond from the pressure.

The cat dropped her gaze, returning her attention to the writhing mass of djinn in front of them. “Have you heard from the others yet?”

“No, nothing.” Janan touched the shining gem that hung around her neck, a simple piece of Torrebon technology carried by almost every djinn and genie in the Realm. It not only allowed them access to the human and djinn internets but also provided a simple means of communication with just a small spark of magic.

It was all the magic she could bear to use. She had almost convinced herself that if she didn’t use any genie magic at all, maybe she could be human again. Still seventeen, still awkward and scared, but human, with a family and a life and human problems. As it stood now, she didn’t really fit anywhere, and she felt the weight of it every time she set foot outside.

Safiyya nodded her head at the crowd, and they wove through the scores of temporary stalls lining the sidewalk for the weekly farmers’ market. Vendors on both sides hawked their wares: fabric bolts here, jewelry there, tiny carved statues from the ifrit city of Prinnyn, mechanical toys from the ghul city of Torrebos. The road had been blocked off from automobile traffic for the day, allowing the thousands of pedestrians to browse freely without fearing oncoming cars.

Janan tried to focus on the market and push her fear out of her mind. It was uncontrollable, arising unbidden and unwanted, but sometimes she could stuff it back down and ignore it for a while.

At least until the next memory took her.

Her bag bounced against her thigh as she walked. It held only a few coins and her single purchase of the day: a bright glass bottle to add to her collection. To her, it had become a joke, a way of coping with what she was. A genie collecting bottles. Some form of control over the prison of her existence. And this bottle had felt particularly special, but she couldn’t say why. Perhaps some subconscious ghost of memory. Heavens knew there were enough ghosts flitting around in her skull.

The sun was rising higher in the sky as the morning dragged on, but Janan still shivered with cold. He wasn’t here, she was sure of it—sure that her mind was just playing cruel tricks on her again—yet she couldn’t shake the way every djinn in a cloak, every turned back, every sideways glare made her feel like prey. What if he really was here, somewhere in this mass of bodies?

She glanced sideways at Safiyya. The ocelot was small, but she made a formidable foe. Surely Janan would be safe at her side.

Safiyya stopped walking and looked up at her expectantly.

“I’m sorry,” Janan said, blinking herself back to the present. “What did you say?”

“I just asked if you wanted a drink. I’m getting a bit thirsty.” They were stopped next to a vendor selling cold fruit drinks.

“Oh. Sure.”

Safiyya rubbed her head against a picture of a lemon below the counter. “This one, please.”

Janan pointed to the lemon drink and a grape drink in the displayed pitchers, trading a silver coin for the two glasses. They walked a few steps away before she placed the lemonade on the sidewalk for Safiyya, out of the way of trampling feet, and sat down on the curb. Her own straw halfway to her mouth, she suddenly froze, feeling the pressure of a person standing just behind her.

Her heart began pounding all over again. Sweat shone on her pale skin, and she wheezed for breath, unable to take a sip of the refreshing drink. No longer thirsty, she set the glass down next to Safiyya and turned to face the presence, ready to run or strike if needed.

A man in a cloak stood hunched behind her, eyes bright yellow against his pale blue skin, even shaded as they were under the hood. They seemed to glow with their own light, like a harvest moon on an otherwise black night.

As she saw the man, her heart began to slow its furious pace, and she forced a shaky smile. “Mahtab.”

Her adoptive father stood with his arms full of packages from around the market, grinning a sharp-toothed smile. She crossed her arms and pressed her hands against her body, willing the shaking in her fingers to subside. Her adoptive mother, Irina, reached a hand down to help Janan to her feet.

Irina, Mahtab’s wife of nearly a century, was the opposite of him in every way. Where he was blue-skinned and stood with a permanent bend in his spine, she looked like she was cut from the finest alabaster, her hair fine-spun gold and her posture tall and proud.

Janan allowed herself to be drawn up next to them. “Is it time to go home?”

“Did you find everything on your list?” Irina asked.

Janan blushed with guilt. In truth, she’d forgotten about the list after the vendor with the bottles. She had been so distracted with the bottle that she had missed half of the family’s produce, still on her list.

“I’ll take that as a no,” Mahtab said. He studied her, quiet for a moment. “But perhaps we can drop you at home and finish the errands ourselves.”

Janan closed her eyes. He had seen her fear, had made the decision that she had done enough for the day. She would remain a burden, unable to fulfill her duty to their small family.

She opened her mouth, intending to say no, to say that she could push through and finish their trip, but no words left her mouth, and she nodded in defeat.

“All right, then,” Mahtab said, nodding back. His face was kind, but Janan couldn’t bear to meet his eyes.

They turned in the direction of home, a small apartment on the west side of the city, and began pushing their way through the crowds. She was buoyed by the presence of Mahtab and Irina, feeling her confidence replace her fear with every step they took. Maybe she could make it after all.

She opened her mouth to say so when a small trio of smug-looking djinn leered at her.

“Filthy genie,” one of them spat.

“Don’t worry,” another snarled. “They’ll be gone soon.”

Then Safiyya was at Janan’s side, baring her sharp teeth. “Keep walking,” she growled low in her throat.

The third djinn rolled her eyes before following her friends. Her sighed words were soft, meant only for Janan’s and Safiyya’s ears. “Genie sympathizers. Just as bad as the genies.”

Janan dropped her eyes to the sidewalk and trailed after Mahtab, already several yards ahead of her. Perhaps going home was for the best.

~~~

Want to read more? Check out the masterpost of stops on the blog tour, or go ahead an pre-order your copy today! Again, you can pre-order this book on Amazon and any other major retailer. And don’t forget about the Facebook Launch Party on Saturday!

Author Interview: Kandi Wyatt

Not so long ago, we had author Kandi Wyatt over for the cover reveal of her new fantasy adventure, An Unexpected Escapade. Now, we have her back to celebrate that same book’s release with an author interview! (PS, it releases today!!!)

Without further ado, here is my conversation with Kandi! (responses have not been edited)

1. Welcome! We’re so glad to have you back again! Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey? When did you start? When did you decide you wanted to publish?

So glad to be here. I’m a wife, mom of five, teacher, author, artist, and photographer’s assistant. To say I’m busy is an understatement. I’m down to only one child at home, and he’s seventeen. The rest are out on their own.

I’ve enjoyed writing ever since I was in high school, but being a mom, I didn’t have a ton of time to sit down and write. I read when I could and had other hobbies, but in 2006, after reading a young adult book by Timothy Zahn, I followed through with the discussion questions at the back of the book, and created a world of squirrel-like creatures and a little girl who was washed ashore. I wrote it for my kids, with the main character being patterned after my daughter. Another three years went by before I picked up another story.

On a family vacation my daughter jokingly said she’d been misnamed. She’s not a morning person, and her name’s Dawnya. I asked if she should be called Duskya instead. Several miles further down the road, we passed Three Mile Canyon Rd. I envisioned a dragon spewing fire down a box canyon. From that humble beginning flowed Dragon’s Future and the Dragon Courage series. Between December and July, I wrote four and a half of the six books. Then the muse went silent. I had said I’d not force the stories, so turned to drawing characters and scenes.

Fast-forward to 2015, my kids were now much older—one out of the house and three in high school. The middle son won a scholarship to a writer’s conference. I attended with him and my youngest daughter. While there, one of the presenters stated that her publishing company was accepting submissions. I immediately thought of Dragon’s Future. Returning home, I debated and debated acting upon the information. Finally, I hit submit without telling a soul. Three weeks later, I had to let people know and make another decision—should I publish it?

Upon careful consideration and discussion with family and other authors, I decided to publish. A year later, I had four books published and was working on the fifth, when the publishing company went out of business. That was another turning point in my career. I had the option of quitting or continuing as an indie or finding another publishing house. My choice seemed clear to me since I wanted control over my books. So, without any disruption in my publishing schedule, I went indie in June, 2016.

2. Is there anything in particular that often inspires you?

When I first started writing, it was my kids and students, but now more of my newer stories have been inspired by my husband. He’s asked “What if?” and posed ideas for a whole knew world. We also work together in creating photographs that tell a story. I’ve used several of those to write stories.

3. Do you have any favorite topics or themes to write about? What about to read?

I write about what interests me, but also what’s important. Many of my themes come from spiritual truths found in the Bible, even though they may be cloaked with fantasy themes or characters.

I love reading sci-fi and fantasy. Historical fiction, if well done, also is a favorite.

4. This new release sounds like a blast! What gave you the idea to write a unicorn-based story?

The bigger question is why did it take me this long to write a unicorn story. I loved unicorns from middle school and through high school, but then my husband introduced me to dragon stories. So, those are what came out first.

This trilogy is based on real-life. The town of Myrtle Beach, Oregon, isn’t based on Myrtle Beach, Virginia. It’s actually a blend of two town names in my area—Myrtle Point and Gold Beach. Several of my students inspired the main characters. While I was writing book 1, I had in mind book 2, but a student came up to me and said, “Señora, you should write a book about girls, horses, and the ocean.” She didn’t realize I already had in mind a story about girls, horses, and a unicorn with her as inspiration for one of the main characters.

Since book 1 had a dragon, I thought a unicorn would blend in well with horses. I wanted each book of the trilogy to have a different mythological creature. Little did I realize that the idea for book 3 would morph to include many beings from myth.

5. Did you have any favorite or least favorite parts to write?

Actually, yes. Book 2 took over a year to write as I tried to process my grief for the student who asked me to write the story. She lost both parents over the course of one year. In some ways she appeared to handle it better than I did! I didn’t know what I should do with the characters in the book—should I have them go through the same thing she did in real life, or should I change things? In the end, after a year of trying to write, I was able to sit down and keep some of the same things as the real-life person and adapting them to fit the story.

I loved how the character Will came about though. His character grew from book 1 to book 2 based on my own understanding of the student who inspired him. The quiet, steady personality of Will was what I saw in my student. I’m glad he became Ana’s friend and confidante.

6. Any hints about upcoming projects?

I don’t know about you, but this picture definitely makes me curious! Photo Credit: Eric Wyatt

Oh, wow! There are several, and if characters don’t be quiet the stories might not come out in the order they’re supposed to. I’m doing edits for book 3 which is to release in September.

Then the goal was to have an Ancient Egypt Biblical retelling trilogy ready for next January. I’m writing book 2 right now, but another story kind of took over this week. I thought it was a short story, but it’s all ready over 6,000 words.

I also plan to return to the world of Dragon Courage with a trilogy based in the Carr, one of the sections of that realm.

The short story very possibly will be a three story novella either published as three separates or joined into one long book. It looks like it’ll be the first in a new world inspired by my husband’s “what if” question.

7. Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with us? Or anything you’d like to share with aspiring authors out there?

The best thing I can say for aspiring authors is to stay true to you, keep writing, and gather a team who has the same vision you do. I love working with my team. They make the journey so much better.

Thank you for reading. Tosca Lee, author of The Line Between, said that there are three people who make a book—the author, God, and the reader. This is so true. The reader brings their own experiences into the reading and the story is all the richer for it. I hope you enjoy Myth Coast Adventures. I can’t wait for readers to see the conclusion.

Thanks so much!

An Unexpected Escapade is out now! You can grab your copy here. And be sure to check out Amazon and Goodreads for more books by Kandi!

About the Author

Even as a young girl, Kandi J Wyatt had a knack for words. She loved to read them, even if it was on a shampoo bottle! By high school Kandi had learned to put words together on paper to create stories for those she loved. Nowadays, she writes for her kids, whether that’s her own five or the hundreds of students she’s been lucky to teach. When Kandi’s not spinning words to create stories, she’s using them to teach students about Spanish, life, and leadership.

You can find her at her websiteFacebookGoogleTwitterPinterestGoodreads, and Amazon.

Update:

Kandi notified us of an issue with her pre-orders on 16 April 2019. If you pre-ordered, Amazon mistakenly sent out the ARC version of the manuscript, instead of the final. To fix this, please go to your Content and Devices under your Amazon account and click Update Content. She apologizes for the confusion and mixups, but this is a quick fix to make sure you have the correct, final version!

Witching Hour Blog Tour: Interview with Pursy

Today is an extra special treat. It’s a story by an author I have worked with (the same fantastic lady who designed the cover for This Cursed Flame), and it’s one I had the extra special honor of proofreading (Part 2, that is). And I can tell you right now, it’s soooo good. Also, cats play a starring role. Can it get any better?

Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom for the giveaway, and join in on the other blogs for books snippets, interviews, and more fun!

About the Book

Part One: As shadows encroach on the city of Lite, one cat stands between humanity and the hounds of darkness. Romeo takes it upon himself to find a suitor for his human Isabel in order to save the city and sets his sights on the unlikeliest of candidates. Can true love really save the day? Read Part One for FREE on Amazon and Most Digital Stores.

Part Two: When Isabel disappears in the middle of the night, matters take a turn for the worst. Romeo finds himself trekking through the dangerous wildlands to rescue the young queen with a clownish wizard, a sassy she-cat, a pretty healer, and a mysterious solider. However, their only hope may be the very thing Romeo fears most. Can Romeo and his friends save the day before the shadows consume them? Preorder for $.99/Releases March 25! Don’t forget to add the novella to your Goodreads Shelf.

The Witching Hour is a frolicking fantasy adventure with fairy tale themes and clean romance. Perfect for fans of Diana Wynne Jones and Lloyd Alexander.

Rated: PG for thematic elements and mild battle sequences

And now, the main event: Pursy Character Interview!

Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself. You seem like a well-traveled cat with tons of experiences!

Well, as you probably know, my name is Pursy. I’m a magical dark orange cat, and the royal healer Rose is my human. We don’t just take care of the royal family though. Rose would never agree to that. She has a big heart and wants to help everybody. A noble sentiment, but it can sometimes get her into trouble. And, yes, I am quite experienced, thank you for noticing; although, I haven’t traveled much beyond Rose’s flat, the royal college, and the palace. It isn’t safe to explore the world, you know. Too many hounds. The events of our story was the first time I’d really left the city. And I don’t care to repeat the experience any time soon.

Q. You spend a lot of time with your healer human. How did the two of you meet?

Rose found me when I was just a wee kitten hunting for scraps outside the dumpster near the college. She immediately noticed my talents and adopted me to help her with her training. She even took me to school with her.

Q. What was it like being a cat at a human school?

A little awkward, really. Nobody approved of Rose bringing her “pet” to school. I hate to use that word, but that’s what they called me. It’s quite the insult to a magical cat, you know. Anyway, although magical cats aren’t unheard of, the unmagical varieties are much more common. Her professor took a lot of convincing in regards to my superior qualities. Mostly, I just sat in Rose’s lap or sprawled next to the fire eavesdropping. They wouldn’t even allow me to take the tests, so I am not an official graduate of the college, although Rose insists I deserved certification. I don’t care about the papers, myself: I just like being useful, being able to help those who are suffering. Even cats have callings, you see, and healing is mine.

Q. Tell us a little more about your magic and how you help your human with her job.

I have a gift for emotions—specifically, I can share my emotions with others. So if someone is scared, I can calm them. If they’re in pain, I can lull them to sleep. I can even use my gifts on other magical cats. Like Romeo, the hero of our story. He doesn’t think he needs my help, but my Author insists he actually does. And I agree with her. I mean, look at him: he can’t even keep up with the palace mice these days. (That’s his job, you know, royal mouse catcher.)

Q. What are your other interests?

I love napping in the sunshine, when I can find an elusive patch of it. I also love snuggling with Rose. For a human, she has an uncanny ability to understand cats and relate to them. She treats me like an equal, something most humans don’t do. I also rather like helping people and creatures. I think I was always meant to be a healer’s cat. It’s just in my genes.

Q. After all the events outside of Lite, what are your plans now?

I plan to continue to help Rose with her duties as a healer and to spend as much time at the palace as I can. There are, ahem, creatures there I rather enjoy spending time with.

Q. Rumor has it that a certain kitty caught your fancy. Can you say anything about it?

Cough, cough. Well, since you asked, I am rather interested in a certain black kitty who lives in the palace. I won’t mention any names, but he’s rather charming in his egotistical, full-of-himself way. He doesn’t really think he needs anybody, but underneath all his fuss and bluster, he’s really just a kitten inside. He has a tragic past, and (sigh) I can’t resist a tragic kitty no matter how much he blusters. He needs me, even if he doesn’t know it.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Not really, Lady Selina. Your questions have been extremely on point. If you ever happen to be in Lite during your travels (not that I suggest traveling to Lite, though, because of the shadows and the hounds), do look me up. You’ll probably find me at the palace. I have a feeling I’ll be spending a lot of time there in the future. Who knows, I might even have a litter of little black and orange kittens for you to adore. Cats need to be adored, you know. That’s true for all felines, be that magical or no. Make sure you write that down…

Get a copy

In case you missed it above, you can read Part One for FREE on Amazon and Most Digital Stores. Part Two is available for a special preorder price of $0.99 and released on March 25.

You can also add it to your Goodreads Shelf.

About the author

Savannah Jezowski lives in Amish country with her Knight in Shining Armor and a wee warrior princess. She is the founder of Dragonpen Designs and Dragonpen Press, which offers author services such as cover design, developmental edits, and interior formatting. Her debut novella “Wither” is featured in Five Enchanted Roses, an anthology of Beauty and the Beast, and is a prequel to The Neverway Chronicles, a Christian fantasy series filled with tragic heroes and the living dead. She is also the author of When Ravens Fall, a Norse Beauty and the Beast retelling. She is featured in several Fellowship of Fantasy anthologies, including Mythical Doorways, Tales of Ever After, and Paws, Claws, and Magic Tales. When she isn’t writing, Savannah likes to read books, watch BBC miniseries, and play with cover design. She also enjoys having tea with her imaginary friends.

Learn more about Savannah Jezowski

Want to know about sales and new releases? Sign up for Savannah’s newsletter.

Giveaway!

You can enter to win a paperback of the entire story, both Parts One and Two! Simply click the link and follow the instructions. 🙂

Continue the Tour

Make sure to go back to all the previous posts for all the special release info and extras!

March 18 – Realm Explorers  http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.com

March 19 –Book Spotlight http://cobonham.com

March 20 – Book Review  https://thefoldedworld.wordpress.com 

March 21 – Guest Post https://tammylash.wordpress.com/

March 22 – Character Interview http://jenelleschmidt.com

           Character Interview www.angeleya.com

March 24 – Character Interview  http://corinnejet.wordpress.com

March 25 – RELEASE DAY  https://dragonpenpress.com/

March 26 – Book Spotlight http://annie-louise-twitchell.blogspot.com/

March 27 – Book Spotlight  www.hlburkeauthor.com/blog

March 28 – Book Review  http://megdendler.blogspot.com/

March 29 – Character Interview https://sjeckert.wordpress.com

Happy reading, bookworms! ❤