Blog Tour Feature: A Slave of the Shadows by Naomi Finley

Today I’m also part of the blog tour for A Slave of Shadows by Naomi Finley.

A Slave of the Shadows
by Naomi Finley

Publication Date: March 5
Huntson Press Inc.
eBook & Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

 

In 1850 Charleston, South Carolina, brutality and cruelty simmer just under the genteel surface of Southern society. In an era where ladies are considered mere property, beautiful and headstrong Willow Hendricks’ father has filled her life with turmoil, secrets, and lies.

Her father rules her life until she finds a kindred spirit in spunky, outspoken Whitney Barry, a northerner from Boston. Together these Charleston belles are driven to take control of their own lives—and they are plunged into fear and chaos in their quest to fight for the rights of slaves. Against all odds, these feisty women fight to secure freedom and equality for those made powerless and persecuted by a supposedly superior race.

Only when they’ve lost it all do they find a new beginning.

Book 1 presents Willow and Whitney—and the reader—with the hardships the slaves endure at the hands of their white masters.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Chapters Indigo | iBooks | Kobo

About the Author

Naomi lives in Northern Alberta. Her love for travel means her suitcase is always on standby while she awaits her next plane ticket and adventure. Her love for history and the Deep South is driven by the several years she spent as a child living in a Tennessee plantation house. She comes from a family of six sisters. She married her high school sweetheart and has two teenage children and two dogs named Ginger and Snaps.

Creativity and passion are the focus of her life. Apart from writing fiction, her interests include interior design, cooking new recipes, throwing lavish dinner parties, movies, health, and fitness.

A Slave of the Shadows is her first novel.

For more information, please visit Naomi Finley’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, April 23
Interview at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, April 24
Excerpt at Donna’s Book Blog

Wednesday, April 25
Feature at Creating Herstory

Friday, April 27
Interview at Maiden of the Pages

Monday, April 30
Review at Books and Glamour

Tuesday, May 1
Excerpt at Teaser Addicts Book Blog

Thursday, May 3
Feature at Button Eyed Reader

Friday, May 4
Feature at A Holland Reads

Monday, May 7
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, May 8
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, May 10
Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Friday, May 11
Feature at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Saturday, May 12
Review at Cup of Sensibility

Monday, May 14
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, May 16
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Review & Interview at Clarissa Reads it All

Friday, May 18
Feature at Nicole Evelina’s Blog

Tuesday, May 22
Review at Reviewing Nerds

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a Kindle Fire HD 8″ 32GB & signed copy of A Slave of the Shadows! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US/UK/Canada only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

A Slave of the Shadows
https://js.gleam.io/e.js

 

Interview with Author Mary Sharratt

Mary Sharratt

Today, author Mary Sharratt joins us to talk about her new book Ecstasy, which I reviewed yesterday. I’m very excited to find out the details behind this fascinating and unusual book!

1. What initially drew you to Alma Mahler as a book subject?

I am a lifelong Gustav Mahler fan and Alma has always fascinated me. Few twentieth century women have been surrounded by such as aura of scandal and notoriety. Her husbands and lovers included not only Mahler, but artist Gustav Klimt, architect and Bauhaus-founder Walter Gropius, artist Oskar Kokoschka, and poet and novelist Franz Werfel. Yet none of these men could truly claim to possess her because she was stubbornly her own woman to the last. Over fifty years after her death, she still elicits very strong reactions. Some people romanticize her as a muse to great men while others demonize her as a man-destroying monster. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s famous observation that well-behaved women seldom make history could have been written about Alma.

Although Alma was a composer in her own right, most commentators, including some of her biographers, completely gloss over this fact and instead focus quite narrowly on her sexuality and on how they believe she failed to be the perfect woman for the great men in her life. How dare she not be perfect!

But I wanted my fiction to explore who Alma really was as an individual—beyond her historical bad girl rep and beyond all the famous men she was involved with.

2. What kind of research did you do to help bring Alma to life?

For me, both primary sources and place are paramount. The key primary sources I relied on in writing Ecstasy were Alma Schindler’s diaries (her published diaries end shortly before her marriage to Gustav Mahler) and Mahler’s letters to Alma during their life together. Taken together and supplemented with their music, these primary sources form a narrative. First we have a very beautiful and passionate young woman who yearned to be a composer. Then she fell in love with composer and star conductor Gustav Mahler who demanded that she give up her own music as a condition of their marriage. Bowing to social convention, she reluctantly agreed. Then his letters to her reveal what a shadow Alma’s sense of anguish and loss cast on their marriage. Interestingly, Alma later destroyed most of her letters to Gustav, so we only get his side of their voluminous correspondence. Her self-imposed silence in this historical record forms its own narrative, as well.

I also read biographies of the Mahlers, but I like to begin with the primary sources and form my own conclusions, rather than just taking any one biographer’s word for it.

The other main stream of my research is place—literally inhabiting the same landscape as my characters. I went on three separate research trips to Vienna and immersed myself in the art and music of turn-of-the-twentieth century Vienna. I listened obsessively to the music of both Mahlers while writing the novel. I also visited their summer homes in Maiernigg and Toblach. It helped that I studied German and used to live in Austria and that I played violin up until my college years.

[Note from Nicole: Oh, I am so jealous of your research trips! I haven’t been to Austria since I was 11, but I loved it then. My mom was born there.]

3. What is the most surprising thing you learned in your research?

Once I sat down and did the research, an entirely new picture of Alma emerged that completely undermined the femme fatale cliché. I read Alma’s early diaries compulsively, from cover to cover, and what I discovered in those secret pages was a soulful and talented young woman who had a rich inner life away from the male gaze. She devoured philosophy books and avant-garde literature. She was a most accomplished pianist—her teacher thought she was good enough to study at Vienna Conservatory, though her family didn’t support the idea. Besides, Alma didn’t want a career of public performance. Instead she yearned with her whole soul to be a composer, to write great symphonies and operas.

[Note from Nicole: I have a feeling we’re going to see more and more stories like this as authors like you and I take on famously maligned women in order to right their histories.]

4. Why did you choose that specific time in Alma’s life to highlight as opposed to covering her whole life?

Originally, I wanted the novel to tell the story of Alma’s entire life, but it took me 400 pages just to try to do justice to her young adulthood and first marriage. Narrating the full sweep of Alma’s long and turbulent life would require a trilogy, at the very least. Who knows—maybe if Ecstasy is super-successful, my publisher might ask me to write a sequel or two!

[Note from Nicole: Good luck! I’d like to see a few more!]

5. What’s your favorite scene/part of the book?

I loved writing about the young Alma Maria Schindler, this gifted young woman effervescent with creative potential. The scenes of her composing and losing herself in her piano playing were the most delightful to write. I also, of course, enjoyed writing about this very passionate young woman exploring her burgeoning sexuality. When I was workshopping one of those scenes with my writers group, such glee and hilarity ensued, including enthusiastic whoops, that someone knocked on the door of our meeting room and asked us if we could please shush. We rent our meeting room at the local Buddhist center and our spirited discourse had disturbed the meditation class!

6. What do you think Alma’s life says to women today?

Gustav Mahler famously asked Alma to stop composing as a condition of their marriage. Deeply in love and in awe of his genius, she reluctantly agreed, even though this broke her heart. In this regard, her story is a starkly cautionary tale and also, alas, one that is all too relevant today. What do women still give up in the name of love? How much female potential never reaches fruition because of the demands of motherhood and domesticity?

What Alma’s story reveals is how hard it was (and often still is) for women to stay true to their talent and creative ambition in a society that grooms women to be caretakers. Why are female composers so sorely underrepresented, even in the twenty-first century? I am a classical music fan and attend concerts every chance I get. I’ve never seen a female composer on the repertoire of any major orchestra or venue I have visited. Nor have I ever seen a female conductor.

Fortunately, though, Alma does eventually triumph and take back her power.

7. What message or feeling to do you hope readers come away with after finishing Ecstasy?

 I hope my readers will be as moved by Alma’s story as I am. I think the time has truly come for a more nuanced and feminist appraisal of Alma’s life and work, and I hope Ecstasy challenges some of the commonly held misperceptions about her.

Alma has been traditionally viewed through a very male-centered lens. Only within the last decade or so have more nuanced biographies about her emerged and only in German! Ecstasy is currently the only book available in English, to my knowledge, that takes her seriously as a composer and as a woman who had something to say and give to the world besides just inspiring genius men.

[Note from Nicole: Wow, that is an amazing accomplishment! Congratulations and thank you for bringing her proper story to the English-speaking world!]

 8. What’s next for you? Any books currently in the works?

My next book is a trip back to the late Middle Ages. Revelations, my new novel in progress, should be of special interest to fans of my 2012 novel, Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen. Here I return once more to the realm of the female medieval mystics. Revelations is the story of the intersecting lives of two spiritual women who changed history—earthy Margery Kempe, globetrotting pilgrim and mother of fourteen, and ethereal Julian of Norwich, sainted anchorite, theologian, and author of the first book in English by a woman. Imagine, if you will, a fifteenth century Eat, Pray, Love.

[Note from Nicole: Ahhhhh! I’m so excited! I loved Illuminations. In fact, it’s my favorite book of yours. I’m all over this new one.]

9. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’m on a mission to write women back into history. To a large extent, women have been written out of history. Their lives and deeds have become lost to us. To uncover the buried histories of women, we historical novelists must act as detectives, studying the sparse clues that have been handed down to us. To create engaging and nuanced portraits of women in history, we must learn to read between the lines and fill in the blanks.

It’s important that women today realize how quickly our lives and achievements can be forgotten and buried. Or heaped with misinterpretation and condemnation if we push too hard against the traditional feminine life script—Alma is remembered but she’s also been slated as a “bad” and even “hysterical” woman. We must do everything in our power to keep alive the memory of accomplished women and hope that future generations of women will remember what we have accomplished.

[Note from Nicole: We share the same mission. Men do love to call us hysterical, don’t they? Hopefully together, and with the other female authors who also focus on women, we can make a dent in history.]

Thank you so much for being here, Mary! Readers, if you have questions or comments, please leave them below and I will make sure Mary sees them.

Book Review: Ecstacy by Mary Sharratt

I’m so excited to be part of my friend Mary Sharratt’s blog tour for her book Ecstasy, which has one of the best covers I’ve ever seen. Mary and I met through the Historical Novel Society when we were on a panel together on women in history at the 2017 conference.

Ecstasy tells the story the relatively unknown Alma Mahler, a composer who would become the wife of famed composer Gustav Mahler. Alma was a woman ahead of her time (1879-1964), one who insisted on educating herself and working as a composer, even as all the women around her, including her sister, were doing the societally-acceptable thing and getting married. But through them, Alma witnessed that she would be forced to give up her dreams and so resolved to devote herself to music. Unfortunately, as any reader of women’s history or female historical fiction can tell you, such independent thinking – especially prior to the last few decades – rarely resulted in happiness for the woman.

If there is one idea to sum up Alma’s life and Sharratt’s book, it is that if Alma didn’t have bad luck with men, she wouldn’t have any at all. Before Alma even marries, one can see that she is desperate to find love and so has a tendency to adore the men who catch her fancy, an all-encompassing adulation that can only lead to ruin. As a result, her story – through no fault of Sharratt’s – often feels like watching a moth flit from one candle flame to the next, if only to find out how badly it will get burned this time.

As I reader, I wanted to shake Alma. Even I could see that she would have been better off with impoverished Alexander von Zemlinsky, than the rake Gustav Klimt (her first kiss) or any of her husbands, especially Gustav Mahler, on whom the balance of the book focuses. Alexander was the only one who truly respected Alma’s talent and would have allowed her to continue composing. While their relationship had its share of troubles – not the least of which was her family’s opposition to him being poor and Jewish – it was Alma being dazzled by Mahler, an older, womanizing star composer that killed her chance at happiness. (How many of us have been there? Those bad boys might be pretty, but they are also trouble.) She didn’t like his music, wasn’t inspired by him and knew he was controlling, yet she married him anyway, like so many other women in times when marriage was a requirement. The irony is that he was also Jewish and was known to be in debt. But yet, her parents allowed the relationship, albeit reluctantly.

Sharratt does an excellent job of portraying the misogyny of the period, especially as shown through Mahler. The only historical fiction portrayal that irritated me more was Marie Benedict’s Albert Einstein in The Other Einstein. I consider any strong feelings that I experience – especially loathing a character – a compliment to the author and a sign of his/her talent. Sharrat does not pull her punches. Mahler has the audacity to lay out to Alma exactly what he expects of her as a wife, demanding that she give up her own composing and “regard my music as your music (127)” and saying she “must become the person I need if we are to be happy together. My wife and not my colleague” (127).

The very traits which Sharratt uses to make Alma a historically accurate character make her also maddening for a modern reader. In her relationship with Mahler, she vacillates between being adoringly googly-eyed at her husband and feeling unworthy of his greatness (she almost acts like a victim of emotional abuse) and railing at him quite rightly for the injustices of the way he mistreats her. I think this is not only a personality trait, but a reflection of the times in which Alma lived. It seems like every time she is nearly brave enough to act as an independent woman, she recoils into the shell of the obedient housefrau that society expects. For all of her modern thinking, Alma has very little self-esteem, which is reinforced by Mahler, her parents and society at every turn. At one point she thinks to herself, “My only hope of distinguishing myself, of doing something truly remarkable, is by marrying a great man and sharing in his destiny” (131) and at another, Sharrat’s narration tells us, “Since she couldn’t find her way back to her old self, she would allow Gustav to shape her into a better self” – both thoughts inconceivable to my modern, feminist mind.

As a tale of what one woman endured and was willing to sacrifice for love, this book is a great read. It will be of particular enjoyment to fans of opera and classical music of the period, especially that produced in Vienna. Not knowing much about either, many of the references went over my head and I wonder how much richness I missed by not having the proper education to fully appreciate the book.

Ecstasy tells only a portion of Alma’s life, but her luck didn’t seem to improve any after Mahler’s death. In her Author’s Note, Sharratt writes that at after Mahler, Alma “made good on her aspiration for an independent life,” but not necessarily a happy one. She married two more times, but had affairs during each marriage, which says to me her bad luck with men and her desperate search for love continued throughout her life. I have to wonder how different Alma’s life would have been had she lived now, in a society that allowed and encouraged her to make her own choices, to be exactly what she wanted, with or without a man.

Join me here tomorrow for an interview with Mary Sharratt. Don’t forget to scroll down to the end of the post for a chance to win a paperback copy of the book.

Ecstasy
by Mary Sharratt

Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover & eBook; 400 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary

 

 

READ AN EXCERPT.

In the glittering hotbed of turn-of-the-twentieth century Vienna, one woman’s life would define and defy an era.

Gustav Klimt gave Alma her first kiss. Gustav Mahler fell in love with her at first sight and proposed only a few weeks later. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius abandoned all reason to pursue her. Poet and novelist Franz Werfel described her as “one of the very few magical women that exist.” But who was this woman who brought these most eminent of men to their knees? In Ecstasy, Mary Sharratt finally gives one of the most controversial and complex women of her time center stage.

Coming of age in the midst of a creative and cultural whirlwind, young, beautiful Alma Schindler yearns to make her mark as a composer. A brand new era of possibility for women is dawning and she is determined to make the most of it. But Alma loses her heart to the great composer Gustav Mahler, nearly twenty years her senior. He demands that she give up her music as a condition for their marriage. Torn by her love and in awe of his genius, how will she remain true to herself and her artistic passion?

Part cautionary tale, part triumph of the feminist spirit, Ecstasy reveals the true Alma Mahler: composer, daughter, sister, mother, wife, lover, and muse.

Available in Hardcover & eBook:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Indiebound

Also in AudioBook:

Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

Praise for Ecstasy

“In ECSTASY, Mary Sharratt plunges the reader into the tumultuous and glamorous fin de siècle era, bringing to life its brilliant and beguiling leading lady. Finally, Alma Mahler takes center stage, surging to life as so much more than simply the female companion to the brilliant and famous men who loved her. Sharratt’s portrait is poignant and nuanced, her novel brimming with rich historic detail and lush, evocative language.” – Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Empress

“A tender, intimate exploration of a complicated woman, Mary Sharratt’s ECSTASY renders in exquisitely researched detail and fiercely imagined scenes the life of Alma Mahler — daughter, wife, mother, lover, and composer — and the early 20th Century Vienna and New York in which she came of age. I loved this inspiring story of an early feminist standing up for her art.” – Meg Waite Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Race for Paris

“Evocative and passionate, ECSTASY illuminates through its tempestuous and talented heroine a conundrum that resonates across the centuries: how a woman can fulfill her destiny by being both a lover and an artist.” – Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers

“Mary Sharratt makes a triumphant return to the page with this masterful portrait of Alma Mahler, the wife of the famous composer Gustav Mahler. Set in a time and place when a woman could only hope to be the power behind the throne, Sharratt brings a meticulously researched and richly illuminated account of a young woman who was a brilliant composer in her own right. Alma may have had to suppress her own talents to support Mahler; however, ECSTASY reveals that she was a woman who “contained multitudes.” ECSTASY is an important work of historical fiction, as well as a timely and topical addition to the canon of knowledge that needs to better represent important women and their contributions.” – Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books

“Alma Mahler’s unexpected, often heartbreaking journey from muse to independence comes to vivid, dramatic life in Mary Sharratt’s ECSTASY. Sharratt skillfully evokes turn-of-the-century Vienna and the musical genius of the era, returning Alma to her rightful place in history as both the inspiration to the men in her life and a gifted artist in her own right.” – C.W. Gortner, bestselling author of Mademoiselle Chanel

“Mary Sharratt has more than done justice to one of the most interesting, shocking, and passionate women of the 20th century. Overflowing with life and lust, ECSTASY explores this flawed but fascinating woman who was not only muse but a genius in her own right.” – New York Times Bestseller, M.J. Rose

“A deeply affecting portrait of the woman rumored to be the most notorious femme fatale of turn-of-the-century Vienna. Mary Sharratt’s ECSTASY is as heartbreaking and seductive as Alma Mahler herself.” —Kris Waldherr, author of Doomed Queens and Bad Princess

About the Author

MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.

Her novels include Summit Avenue, The Real Minera, The Vanishing Point, The Daughters of Witching Hill, Illuminations, and The Dark Lady’s Mask.

For more information, please visit Mary Sharratt’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of Ecstasy! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Ecstasy

 

Camelot’s Queen Blog Tour

It seems like the book just came out yesterday, but it’s already time for the Camelot’s Queen blog tour. Check out where you can find reviews, giveaways and features over the next three weeks. It’s sure to be an exciting time. And thank you to everyone who agreed to be part of this tour!

04_Camelots-Queen_Blog-Tour-Banner_FINAL

Release Day for Rachel Rossano’s Book, Honor

SeriesHonorCoverToday I’m thrilled to be helping my fellow author Rachel Rossano welcome her next book baby into the world. Rachel’s books are sweet medieval romances, or as I like to call them, “Game of Thrones for those who don’t like graphic violence and graphic sex.” They are just as complex and emotionally satisfying, if not more so.

Today is release day for Honor, the second book in the Novels of Rhynan series. I discovered Duty (the first book in the series) through one of the review services that I write for and fell in love immediately. While Rachel was kind enough to send me a review copy, I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I have no doubt I will love it just as much as the first. And so will you.

About Honor
The Earl of Dentin excels in his position as Securer of the Realm. But the king’s order to pluck an orphaned child from a loving home unsettles Dentin. When a dark-eyed woman challenges his honor regarding the mission, Dentin finds himself unable to justify his actions or get her out of his mind. Something about her lack of fear intrigues him.

Lady Elsa Reeve attempts to avoid the marriage of convenience her brother and mother demand of her. She understands the need to pay off her brother’s massive debt. She only wants her family to consider her wishes in the process.

As Elsa becomes further entangled in a snare of her brother’s creating, only one man defends her. But can she trust Dentin, her unlikely champion, and his motives? With a murderer on the loose, Elsa’s fate in jeopardy, and a traitor plotting against the king, Dentin finds his priorities shifting in an unexpected direction.

Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/0yLAD5dcySg

Buy

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00S7IX63K

Barnes & Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/honor-rachel-rossano/1121133015

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/513502

Excerpt
The trunk made it onto the wagon, but not until breakfast was half over. I left him strapping it into place at the top of the load and rushed back inside to find something to eat.  When I entered the hall, most of the places at the tables were empty and the servants and pages were clearing away the remnants. I slung my cloak over one arm, and claimed hunks of bread and cheese from one of the trays moments before a servant walked off with it.

“Just ask for them to bring more.”

I turned around abruptly at the sound of Lord Dentin’s voice and lost my balance. He caught my elbow through the layers of my cloak and steadied me.

“Not so fast. Come and sit. You have a long day ahead and that is hardly enough to feed a bird.”

Before I could protest, he was leading me to the head table and my usual place. He signaled one of the servants as we walked.

“My mother is going to be angry if I am not waiting at the wagon when they reach it.”

“Let her be angry.” He pulled out my chair, guided me into it, and claimed my cloak from my arm in a smooth series of motions. “You can blame it on me.”

“That will just make it worse.” Despite my protests, it did feel wonderful to just sit.

He sat down next to me as a servant set a trencher and a platter on the table before me. The steaming stew, a remnant of supper from the night before, wafted a savory essence into my face.

“Now.” Dentin offered me a spoon. “That is much better than cold bread and cheese.”

“You don’t know my mother.”

He grunted, placed the spoon into my limp hand, and closed my fingers over it. Then leaning close enough that I could smell the basil-scented soap he had washed with that morning, he whispered, “Eat.”

My breath caught as our gazes locked. The whisper of his breath on my cheek and the warmth of his large hand enclosing mine made my heart beat unusually fast. Part of me wanted to look away, turn my face, and break the hold he had on me. But, I couldn’t gather the will to do so.

I enjoyed the sense of security he represented. Despite his reputation for coarseness and caustic responses, he treated me with respect and honor. Something many of my other relationships lacked in recent months. After years of being ignored, overlooked, and taken for granted, the sudden sense of being admired and desired was heady. The allure both scared and fascinated me.

Still, I could not linger here for long.

“I need my hand to eat.”

The moment was broken. With a muttered apology, he released my hand and leaned away.

Ignoring the sudden sensation of cold, I filled my spoon. The stew did little to dissipate the sense of loss.

Rachel RosannoAbout the Author
Rachel Rossano balances her time between the chaos of raising and homeschooling her three children and the world of drama and high adventure in her head. With her faithful husband and chief consulting editor by her side, she dreams of many more adventures to come.

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RachelRossanoRambles

Twitter – https://twitter.com/RachelRossano

Google+ – https://plus.google.com/106295854070941274328

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/rachelrossano/

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1430209.Rachel_Rossano

Blog – http://rachel-rossano.blogspot.com/

Amazon Author Page – http://www.amazon.com/Rachel-Rossano/e/B004MV17GE/

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/anavrea

Newsletter Sign Up – http://eepurl.com/4sbsv

Blog Tour – Isla’s Inheritance by Cassandra Page

IslasInheritanceBlitzBannerThis week I’m thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for my friend and fellow author, Cassandra Page. Her debut novel, a young adult urban fantasy called Isla’s Inheritance, was released on October 9. I met Cassandra on Twitter a few years ago when we were both participating in the same pitch contest and it’s been a joy to watch her grow in confidence and mature as a writer. So please, take a moment to check out her first novel and if it sounds like something you’d like, give it a read. Plus, if you read to the end, there’s a giveaway for a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble card!

About Isla’s Inheritance

IslaIsla was content to let her father keep his secrets, but now she can’t stand the touch of iron and her dreams are developing a life of their own. She must discover the truth — before it’s too late.

Seventeen-year-old Isla Blackman only agrees to participate in a Halloween party séance because Dominic, an old crush, wants to. She is sure nothing will happen when they try to contact the spirit of her mother. But the séance receives a chilling reply.

SHE IS NOT DEAD.

Isla doesn’t want to upset her father by prying into the family history he never discusses. When the mysterious and unearthly Jack offers to help her discover the truth, Isla must master her new abilities to protect her loved ones from enemies she never knew existed.

 Goodreads | Amazon | Smashwords

Interview with Cassandra Page, author of ‘Isla’s Inheritance’

Can you tell us a little about ISLA’S INHERITANCE?

It’s a young adult urban fantasy set in Australia, and is about a girl named Isla (surprise!). Isla’s seventeen and a bit of a sceptic, in that she always looks for the sensible, mundane explanation for things—something her single-parent father has always encouraged. At a Halloween party, she agrees to take part in a séance because a hot guy she used to have a crush on wants to go; it’s a shock to her when the “spirit” they contact claims her mother isn’t actually dead, as she’s always been told. Of course, she doesn’t believe it at first, and is quickly distracted by said hot guy, whose name is Dominic.

Of course, that’s when things start to get interesting. 😉

Isla’s Inheritance is the first book in a trilogy. The other two books are coming out in the first third of 2015, which is both exciting and utterly terrifying! Getting everything ready is going to be a bit of a mad rush, but the flipside is that readers won’t have to wait years between instalments. GRRM, I’m looking at you!

I notice you write using Australian English spellings. Is the book written that way too?

Yes, it is. Even though Turquoise Morning Press is based out of the USA, the team decided that since the story is set in Australia, it would be more authentic to use Australian spelling and terms where possible. However, I did try and choose words that had common meanings, to minimise the chaos and confusion for readers. As an example, a thong in Australia is a type of shoe that I’m told is called a flip flop in the US. We’d never say flip flop here but, on the other hand, given what a thong is in other parts of the world, I didn’t really want people to get mixed up! There have been a few different decisions like that.

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

Writing the last few chapters of a book, definitely. I’ve drafted four now, and that’s always been the best part of the experience. It’s such a heady rush, seeing all the plot threads come together and the plot accelerate. Also, usually by that point I’m doing mean things to my characters, which is always fun!

The other thing is that it takes me a long time to write a first draft—somewhere between six and nine months—so it’s always satisfying to reach the end of that process. I’m a single mother and work full time, so I have to squeeze in my writing where I can: after my son’s in bed, on lunch breaks, that sort of thing. I also do a lot of plotting (and scheming) in the car.

Given the reference to iron in the blurb, it’s not a surprise to learn the “fantasy” part of your urban fantasy relates to the fae, which are part of European mythology. How did your fae come to be in Australia?

I decided very early on in the drafting process that I didn’t want cute Disney elves. Not that I have a problem with Disney—I’m a mum and therefore know the Frozen soundtrack verbatim—but I felt something darker than Tinker Bell suited young adult readers better. My ruling class of fae are renowned for their vanity, and their cruelty to those in their service. As a result, the fae in Australia are almost all refugees of one kind or another: “lesser” fae who want to live free of oppression.

Where in Australia are the books set?

They set in Canberra, Australia’s capital, which is, in some ways, an overgrown country town. What that means is we have a lot more green spaces than either Sydney or Melbourne do: reserves running through suburbs; low mountains covered in walking trails and with lookouts perched on top; parks for the kids to play.

It’s a great place to set a story when your supernatural population likes green spaces. Werewolves and fairies in particular would love it here—there are places with hardly any iron or steel, and green corridors a wolf could sneak through. I wondered at first whether setting a supernatural tale here would somehow lack credibility. But then I thought, if Sookie Stackhouse can run into vampires in a tiny town like Bon Temps, why can’t Canberra have its own supernatural stories, that element of magic?

When I see the sunlight sparkling off the surface of Lake Burley Griffin on a crisp autumn afternoon, or the glittering lights of the city from Mount Ainslie at dusk, I think that magic is already there. All I’m doing is telling people about it.

Author bio

CassandraCassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat — which is ironic, as she’s allergic to cats. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?

Author links

Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Pinterest | Goodreads

Giveaway

Enter HERE to win a $50 gift card at Amazon or Barnes & Noble – winner’s choice (open internationally, through October 27).

Do you have questions for Cassandra? What do you think about her book? Are you going to read it? Feel free to leave your thoughts below and she’ll pop in to say hi and answer questions.

Blog Tour: The Masked Songbird by Emmie Mears

The Masked Songbird_FC (2)Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend Emmie Mears, whose debut novel, The Masked Songbird (published by Harlequin) comes out this Tuesday, July 1. She’s in the middle of a whirlwind blog tour, but was kind enough to sit down with me to answer a few questions. She’s also provided an excerpt from her book (at the end of this post). You can preorder THE MASKED SONGBIRD at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JD7TWZK. Released in a box set, you get four great paranormal and urban fantasy books for less than $4!  
 1. Your book has been billed as “Bridget Jones meets Spider-Man.” How does that work? What can readers expect?

A lot of the superheroes we see are born with their powers and responsibilities. I wanted to write a character from the other side of that. Peter Parker is one of the latter; he goes from a picked-on kid to a superhero, which is one of the reasons I think he’s been so relatable for so many people. I wanted to write a messy woman who doesn’t have her life together learning how to build her own strength when those around her would rather she be weak.

2. You’ve referred to Gwenllian, your main character, as Scotland’s first superhero.  Tell us a little about her.

I got beaten to the punch a bit with Saltire, a big blue superhero who debuted not long ago. 🙂 Gwen Maule isn’t big OR blue, but she definitely packs a punch. Scotland is in a time of transition right now, and whether the Scots choose to forge their own nation apart from the UK or stay within the UK, and I wanted to write a character that reflected that transitional period. However Scotland votes, people across the country are in the process of making up their minds and learning about themselves and what they want for their country in the process.

3. Why as it important to you to create a female superhero, and in this particular location at this time in history?

To go with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks theme, I think having female superheroes (and superheroes of color with different ability levels and other qualities outside of a variation in 5 o’clock shadow) is important to show that you don’t have to share a gender with a superhero to find her relatable. Growing up female, I desperately wanted to see people like me doing awesome things and saving the world, but I also deeply identified with Peter Parker, Wolverine, and other male superheroes who were trying to find their way in the world. The more diverse stories that are out there, the more we can break down the walls for those who are accustomed to seeing their own demographic’s dominance and show them that they can find themselves in other stories as well.

4.  If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?

Teleportation. Hands down. Think Davy in Jumper more than Nightcrawler, though.

5.  I know you have a degree in history. If you could live in any other time period, what would it be and why?

The future. One of the reasons I write is to be able to imagine better worlds than the one we’ve inherited. I couldn’t imagine myself going back in time to be someone’s property, but I like to pretend I have hope for a better future.

6.   What’s next for you?

Next in the pipeline is the sequel to THE MASKED SONGBIRD as well as a little non-fiction debut, A GEEK GIRL’S GUIDE TO FANDOM, also from Harlequin. I’m thrilled to get the chance to work more with my editor, and I can’t wait to continue Gwen’s story. After that, I’ve got a few other secret projects in development.

The Masked Songbird blurb:

Mildly hapless Edinburgh accountant Gwenllian Maule is surviving. She’s got a boyfriend, a rescued pet bird and a flatmate to share rent. Gwen’s biggest challenges: stretching her last twenty quid until payday and not antagonizing her terrifying boss.

Then Gwen mistakenly drinks a mysterious beverage that gives her heightened senses, accelerated healing powers and astonishing strength. All of which come in handy the night she rescues her activist neighbour from a beat-down by political thugs.

Now Gwen must figure out what else the serum has done to her body, who else is interested and how her boss is involved. Finally—and most mysteriously—she must uncover how this whole debacle is connected to the looming referendum on Scottish independence.

Gwen’s hunt for answers will test her superpowers and endanger her family, her friends—even her country.

Excerpt from The Masked Songbird:

CHAPTER 1

Days Until Referendum: 24

POOF.

That’s the sound I imagine my boss’s head making when it explodes.

Or maybe BLAM. A comic book noise, written in all-caps in a jagged bubble at the top of the panel while I dance a jig and pick bits of her out of my hair. As Annamaria de Fournay speaks into her mobile, not facing me, the back of her head displays no outward indication of an imminent explosion.

She toys with a white card, eyes fixed on a bouquet of purple-blue flowers in a fluted white vase. “I appreciate the flowers,” she says without a hint of irony. “Interesting choice.”

I wait for her to notice me, but her gaze remains locked on the angular petals. After a beat, she goes on.

“The research has been completed? You’re certain, then.” She pauses, a hint of a smile hovering at the corner of her mouth. “You’ll have to work out what to put it in. Something sweet would work.” She turns her head away from the bouquet and starts, seeing me. The almost-smile vanishes. “I’ll ring you back.” She drops her mobile on the table and looks at me as if I’ve walked into the loo to find her on the toilet with her knickers around her ankles.

She says nothing for forty-seven seconds. I cough. “Ms de Fournay, you wanted to see me?”

“Took you long enough to get here.”

I’m not going to remind her that she was on the phone when I arrived. What research was she talking about? A momentary picture of de Fournay at a chemistry set blowing up beakers of bright green liquid intrudes, and I shake it away before I crack a smile. She’s probably just researching the top ten habits of highly effective arseholes.

The Queen swivels in her chair and turns her green eyes on me. I instantly pity the bouquet for having to endure forty-seven seconds of that stare.

Her hair falls in exquisite curls to her breasts, and her nose rises toward the ceiling when I fail to apologise at once, and I look at my hands where they sit clasped in my lap, focusing my gaze on the small ruby ring Mum gave me when I turned eighteen.

De Fournay laces her fingers on the table. Not one of her nails is smudged or chipped. Even if I made her salary, I don’t reckon I’d get a manicure every day. I refuse to accept that she keeps them so perfect without daily upkeep.

“The financial you ran on Francis Duck’s merger lacked any glaring errors. He was very pleased, and he requested that I tell you personally of his…esteem.” Annamaria de Fournay’s lip quirks as if someone has tugged at a marionette string.

I stare at her, waiting for her to continue. I don’t trust myself not to squeak or belch or scream if I open my mouth, so I nod with as much grace as I can muster.

“Additionally, he asked that you be responsible for his summaries for the foreseeable future. I trust you understand the value of his continued loyalty to our company and conduct yourself accordingly.”

I nod again, not sure if de Fournay just praised me or if I fell through my mirror this morning into Wonderland. Or Bizarroworld.

For one shining moment, I think she’s going to let me go without a thrashing.

Instead her lips, top and bottom, as even and calculated as the rest of her, flatten into a line. She gestures to the chair across from her, dropping a folder on the table.

I sit, cupping the arms of my chair with both hands and trying to absorb the coolness of the plastic as a buffer against the verbal flamethrower she secrets away behind those lips. Her eyes are stony jade, her chin high, her skin smooth as a morning loch.

One immaculate French-manicured fingernail lands on the file folder that bridges the mahogany conference table between us. The white crescent of the nail’s tip reflects the fluorescent light from the ceiling, and as she leans forward, I smell the rosewater she dabs at her temples every day at two-thirty.

It might be a friendly gesture if I hadn’t seen it every day for three years. In spite of the compliment she just paid me, something in that file is my fault, and those even lips are about to part in a searing tirade against my character, my work ethic, my mum’s Welshness, my parochial highland crofter upbringing and the ethical conundrum of Mum allowing me to live past birth. Most days, Annamaria de Fournay believes my mother ought to have shrouded me in white linen and fed me to the selkies.

She opens the folder. A rush of rose scent crests over the table like a breaking wave. Pushing one sheet of paper toward me, her lips manage to stay in formation even as she speaks.

Miraculous.

“Do read this date for me.”

I blink, following the line of her finger down to its gleaming, polished end and read aloud. “Nineteenth of August.”

“Do you not find that curious?”

I find her accent obnoxious, but the date looks mundane enough to me.

Annamaria de Fournay came to Edinburgh from Cambridge, but if you ask her about it, you’d think she came straight from Buckingham Palace. While I don’t doubt that she’s English, the way she pushes every vowel out through the bridge of her nose makes it sound as though she’s thanking her subjects in St James’s Court rather than pointing out a discrepancy in an accounting report.

I shift my shoulders in response to her question.

 “This report was due the ninth of August, Ms Maule. Not the nineteenth, though I see how someone who squints as much as you do could imagine a one in front of the nine.”

Och, aye. That. Truth is, the report was turned in on the eighth of the month, but telling her would just make her set me aflame.

My eyesight is fine. I squint because her rosewater makes my eyes burn.

I used to try to argue my case with her. At least until it resulted in her dragging me into her office every day to flay me with words. Bringing up Francis Duck’s account will only make her angrier. Now I shut up, try to tune her out, and hope she’ll let me return to my blissfully unscented office.

I settle in, painting my face with an expression I hope radiates contrition and humility. I likely just look constipated, but she prattles on, and I wait for her mobile to beep for her next meeting. Two-thirty, rosewater scratch and sniff. Three o’clock, humiliate Gwenllian Maule. Three-thirty, fawn over clients and water them with expensive single malt.

I’m a part of her schedule now, as surely as the rosewater.

 “We are Edinburgh’s finest accountancy firm, and the go-to resource for businesses in the northern United Kingdom. Our clients expect more than a crofter’s level of professionalism, Ms Maule. Sheep and accountancy are not bedfellows. You will submit a revised report by Friday. And,” she continues with no change in tone, “I will not tolerate any more careless mistakes of this nature. Do it again and I won’t wait for your annual review to fire you—and no number of compliments from Francis Duck will keep you in this office.”

Fired. I can almost see bills popping up above my head in bubbles. Rent. Mobile. The university loans I make just enough to pay monthly. Credit cards. Car repayment for a car that doesn’t even run. My shoulders curl in, and the air I draw into my lungs feels thick, heavy. I’m glad I’m already sitting down, because I feel wobbly and lightheaded. My annual review is coming up in a couple short weeks. The review is just the excuse she needs to get rid of me, contract or no contract.

De Fournay waits for my response, her eyes trained on my face.

My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. I force the words out so she’ll stop looking at me. “It won’t happen again, Ms de Fournay.”

I almost sound sure of it.

Just my luck. One of our best clients picks me to do his reports, and she still finds a way to remind me that nothing I ever do here is good enough.

Her eyes drop back to the desk, and I uncurl my shoulders, waiting for the air in the room to thin without her unblinking gaze to thicken it. Her fingernail scans across the report like a heat-seeking missile, searching for more mistakes she can throw in my face. Finding none, she returns to the subject of my idiocy.

I stop listening and watch Annamaria de Fournay’s head, looking for signs of it going POOF. If only I could press a red button and make it so.

About Emmie Mears:

Emmie Mears was born in Austin, Texas, where the Lone Star state promptly spat her out at the tender age of three months. After a childhood spent mostly in Alaska, Oregon, and Montana, she became a proper vagabond and spent most of her time at university devising ways to leave the country.

Except for an ill-fated space opera she attempted at age nine, most of Emmie’s childhood was spent reading books instead of writing them. Growing up she yearned to see girls in books doing awesome things, and struggled to find stories in her beloved fantasy genre that showed female heroes saving people and hunting things. Mid-way through high school, she decided the best way to see those stories was to write them herself. She now scribbles her way through the fantasy genre, most loving to pen stories about flawed characters and gritty situations lightened with the occasional quirky humor.

Emmie now lives in her eighth US state, still yearning for a return to Scotland. She inhabits a cozy domicile outside DC with two felines who think they’re lions and tigers.

Follow Emmie on Twitter @EmmieMears and join her on Facebook!

Please leave your comments for Emmie below. She’ll be around to answer them.