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The Book of Life Board Game and Random Giveaway and Q&A!

Monday, May 25, 2015

A CONVERSATION WITH DEBORAH HARKNESS


Q: In your day job, you are a professor of history and science at the University of Southern California and have focused on alchemy in your research.  What aspects of this intersection between science and magic do you hope readers will pick up on while reading THE BOOK OF LIFE? There’s quite a bit more lab work in this book!

A. There is. Welcome back to the present! What I hope readers come to appreciate is that science—past or present—is nothing more than a method for asking and answering questions about the world and our place in it. Once, some of those questions were answered alchemically. Today, they might be answered biochemically and genetically. In the future? Who knows. But Matthew is right in suggesting that there are really remarkably few scientific questions and we have been posing them for a very long time. Two of them are: who am I? why am I here?


Q: Much of the conflict in the book seems to mirror issues of race and sexuality in our society, and there seems to be a definite moral conclusion to THE BOOK OF LIFE. Could you discuss this? Do you find that a strength of fantasy novels is their ability to not only to allow readers to escape, but to also challenge them to fact important moral issues?

A. Human beings like to sort and categorize. We have done this since the beginnings of recorded history, and probably well back beyond that point. One of the most common ways to do that is to group things that are “alike” and things that are “different.” Often, we fear what is not like us. Many of the world’s ills have stemmed from someone (or a group of someones) deciding what is different is also dangerous. Witches, women, people of color, people of different faiths, people of different sexual orientations—all have been targets of this process of singling others out and labeling them different and therefore undesirable. Like my interest in exploring what a family is, the issue of difference and respect for difference (rather than fear) informed every page of the All Souls Trilogy. And yes, I do think that dealing with fantastic creatures like daemons, vampires, and witches rather than confronting issues of race or sexuality directly can enable readers to think through these issues in a useful way and perhaps come to different conclusions about members of their own families and communities. As I often say when people ask me why supernatural creatures are so popular these days: witches and vampires are monsters to think with.


Q: From the moment Matthew and a pregnant Diana arrive back at Sept-Tours and reinstate themselves back into a sprawling family of witches and vampires, it becomes clear that the meaning of family will be an important idea for THE BOOK OF LIFE. How does this unify the whole series? Did you draw on your own life?

A. Since time immemorial the family has been an important way for people to organize themselves in the world. In the past, the “traditional” family was a sprawling and blended unit that embraced immediate relatives, in-laws and their immediate families, servants, orphaned children, the children your partner might bring into a family from a previous relationship, and other dependents. Marriage was an equally flexible and elastic concept in many places and times. Given how old my vampires are, and the fact that witches are the keepers of tradition, I wanted to explore from the very first page of the series the truly traditional basis of family:  unqualified love and mutual responsibility. That is certainly the meaning of family that my parents taught me.


Q: While there are entire genres devoted to stories of witches, vampires, and ghosts, the idea of a weaver – a witch who weaves original spells – feels very unique to THE BOOK OF LIFE. What resources helped you gain inspiration for Diana’s uniqueness?

A. Believe it or not, my inspiration for weaving came from a branch of mathematics called topology. I became intrigued by mathematical theories of mutability to go along with my alchemical theories of mutability and change. Topology is a mathematical study of shapes and spaces that theorizes how far something can be stretched or twisted without breaking. You could say it’s a mathematical theory of connectivity and continuity (two familiar themes to any reader of the All Souls Trilogy). I wondered if I could come up with a theory of magic that could be comfortably contained within mathematics, one in which magic could be seen to shape and twist reality without breaking it. I used fabric as a metaphor for this worldview with threads and colors shaping human perceptions. Weavers became the witches who were talented at seeing and manipulating the underlying fabric. In topology, mathematicians study knots—unbreakable knots with their ends fused together that can be twisted and shaped. Soon the mathematics and mechanics of Diana’s magic came into focus.


Q: A Discovery of Witches debuted at # 2 on the New York Times bestseller list and Shadow of Night debuted at #1. What has been your reaction to the outpouring of love for the All Souls Trilogy? Was it surprising how taken fans were with Diana and Matthew’s story?

A. It has been amazing—and a bit overwhelming. I was surprised by how quickly readers embraced two central characters who have a considerable number of quirks and challenge our typical notion of what a heroine or hero should be. And I continue to be amazed whenever a new reader pops up, whether one in the US or somewhere like Finland or Japan—to tell me how much they enjoyed being caught up in the world of the Bishops and de Clemonts. Sometimes when I meet readers they ask me how their friends are doing—meaning Diana, or Matthew, or Miriam. That’s an extraordinary experience for a writer.


Q: Diana and Matthew, once again, move around to quite a number of locations in THE BOOK OF LIFE, including New Haven, New Orleans, and a few of our favorite old haunts like Oxford, Madison, and Sept-Tours. What inspired you to place your characters in these locations? Have you visited them yourself? 

A. As a writer, I really need to experience the places I write about in my books. I want to know what it smells like, how the air feels when it changes direction, the way the sunlight strikes the windowsill in the morning, the sound of birds and insects. Not every writer may require this, but I do. So I spent time not only in New Haven but undertaking research at the Beinecke Library so that I could understand the rhythms of Diana’s day there. I visited New Orleans several times to imagine my vampires into them. All of the locations I pick are steeped in history and stories about past inhabitants—perfect fuel for any writer’s creative fire.


Q: Did you know back when you wrote A Discovery of Witches how the story would conclude in THE BOOK OF LIFE? Did the direction change once you began the writing process?

A. I knew how the trilogy would end, but I didn’t know exactly how we would get there. The story was well thought out through the beginning of what became The Book of Life, but the chunk between that beginning and the ending (which is as I envisioned it) did change. In part that was because what I had sketched out was too ambitious and complicated—the perils of being not only a first-time trilogy writer but also a first time author. It was very important to me that I resolve and tie up all the threads already in the story so readers had a satisfying conclusion. Early in the writing of The Book of Life it became clear that this wasn’t going to give me much time to introduce new characters or plot twists. I now understand why so many trilogies have four, five, six—or more—books in them. Finishing the trilogy as a trilogy required a lot of determination and a very thick pair of blinders as I left behind characters and story lines that would take me too far from the central story of Diana, Matthew, and the Book of Life.


Q: A Discovery of Witches begins with Diana Bishop stumbling across a lost, enchanted manuscript called Ashmole 782 in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, and the secrets contained in the manuscript are at long last revealed in THE BOOK OF LIFE. You had a similar experience while you were completing your dissertation.  What was the story behind your discovery?  And how did it inspire the creation of these novels?

A. I did discover a manuscript—not an enchanted one, alas—in the Bodleian Library. It was a manuscript owned by Queen Elizabeth’s astrologer, the mathematician and alchemist John Dee. In the 1570s and 1580s he became interested in using a crystal ball to talk to angels. The angels gave him all kinds of instructions on how to manage his life at home, his work—they even told him to pack up his family and belongings and go to far-away Poland and Prague. In the conversations, Dee asked the angels about a mysterious book in his library called “the Book of Soyga” or “Aldaraia.” No one had ever been able to find it, even though many of Dee’s other books survive in libraries throughout the world. In the summer of 1994 I was spending time in Oxford between finishing my doctorate and starting my first job. It was a wonderfully creative time, since I had no deadlines to worry about and my dissertation on Dee’s angel conversations was complete. As with most discoveries, this discovery of a “lost” manuscript was entirely accidental. I was looking for something else in the Bodleian’s catalogue and in the upper corner of the page was a reference to a book called “Aldaraia.” I knew it couldn’t be Dee’s book, but I called it up anyway. And it turned out it WAS the book (or at least a copy of it). With the help of the Bodleian’s Keeper of Rare Books, I located another copy in the British Library.


Q: Are there other lost books like this in the world?

A. Absolutely! Entire books have been written about famous lost volumes—including works by Plato, Aristotle, and Shakespeare to name just a few. Libraries are full of such treasures, some of them unrecognized and others simply misfiled or mislabeled. And we find lost books outside of libraries, too. In January 2006, a completely unknown manuscript belonging to one of the 17th century’s most prominent scientists, Robert Hooke, was discovered when someone was having the contents of their house valued for auction. The manuscript included minutes of early Royal Society meetings that we presumed were lost forever.


Q: Shadow of Night and A Discovery of Witches have often been compared to young adult fantasy like Twilight, with the caveat that this series is for adults interested in history, science, and academics. Unlike Bella and Edward, Matthew and Diana are card-carrying members of academia who meet in the library of one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Are these characters based on something you found missing in the fantasy genre?

A. There are a lot of adults reading young adult books, and for good reason. Authors who specialize in the young adult market are writing original, compelling stories that can make even the most cynical grownups believe in magic. In writing A Discovery of Witches, I wanted to give adult readers a world no less magical, no less surprising and delightful, but one that included grown-up concerns and activities. These are not your children’s vampires and witches.










GIVEAWAY:

We’ll be giving 10 board games total away via our Twitter @PenguinPbks over the course of the next two weeks (among other great All Souls prizes). These will be random giveaways taking place on Tuesday 5/26 andThursday 6/4. To enter, check the Penguin Twitter during the mornings (ET) on those days and be sure to retweet the giveaway post by Tuesday 5/26—we’ll be randomly selecting winners around Thursday 6/4 from among the people who retweet.


This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Guest Post by Marc Turner!

Friday, May 22, 2015


The Easiest and the Hardest Character to Write

I was asked for this article to write about which of my characters was the easiest or the hardest to create. A simple enough question, you might think, but it got me wondering. Is there any reason why one character can’t be both?
My debut, When the Heavens Fall, was published by Tor last week. It’s an epic fantasy along the lines of JRR Tolkien’sThe Lord of the Rings or George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones, and it has four viewpoint characters. If there is a “main” character, it is Luker Essendar – a warrior Guardian of an empire called Erin Elal. Luker is an outsider. Born beyond the borders of the land that becomes his home, and orphaned as a child, he is recruited into the ranks of a group of elite fighters whose very thoughts are weapons. But he is never made to feel welcome. At the beginning of When the Heavens Fall we learn that he has walked out on the Guardians, only to be drawn back by a cryptic message sent by the head of his order.
I think writers put a little bit of themselves into most (if not all) of their viewpoint characters. There is some of me in Luker. Luker is searching for a direction in his life. He doesn’t feel comfortable among the Guardians, but they are all he has known, so turning his back on them isn’t a thing he can do easily. I faced a similar scenario in my life when I was writing When the Heavens Fall. Like most authors, I had a day job. For years I slogged away at one of the top law firms in the City of London, before realising that working there did not mix well with simple pleasures such as having a life. I liked the people, but I didn’t enjoy the hours or the many other demands of the job. At that time, just about everyone my age seemed to be looking for a way out of the profession. But how? We had families, we had commitments. And you can’t just walk away from those unless you have something else to walk to. Luckily, writing came to my rescue.
Luker and I may have a few things in common, but we also have many more differences. Generally, I think it is a mistake to base a character on someone you know in real life – particularly yourself – for the simple reason that most people aren’t interesting enough to be characters in a book. Readers read books to escape from the ordinary. So whilst it may be understandable that writers draw inspiration from the people around them, if you’re going to take a trait from someone you know and give it to a character, you really have to dial it up to maximum. So I made Luker disrespectful of authority, yet faithful to those close to him; assured in his own abilities, yet uncertain of his allegiances and his place in the world. Then I added a sense of humour a little blacker than black and mixed them all together. Job done!
Or so I thought.
A while after the book was ‘finished’, though, I wrote a short story in which Luker features. It takes place before the events in When the Heavens Fall, and sets the stage for the novel. In it, I wrote Luker the way I’d remembered him from the book. But when I went back to look at WtHF afterwards, I found he was different in a number of respects. He took himself a little too seriously. He was overly confrontational, especially in the early chapters, and thus risked putting off readers before they had got a chance to know him. So I had to do another edit of the manuscript to make him how I wanted him to be.
An author called Joe Abercrombie describes writing as being a bit like pouring cement. When you compose your first draft, the words are liquid and pliable. Just as well too, because my first drafts are riddled with mistakes, and as the old adage goes, writing is rewriting. Every time you rework it, the writing gets tighter. Like cement, it begins to set. Each word has its place, each sentence follows on from the next, until you reach a stage when taking something out, or putting something in, can disrupt the whole flow of a passage. Now try changing a character. It’s a difficult thing to do, not least because you also have to change how other characters relate to them, and how the character reacts to certain events in the book. Change them too much, and you may find they reach a point in the story where they refuse to go the way the plot needs them to.
Fortunately, the changes I had to make to Luker weren’t quite as drastic as that. I had to tone down some of his thoughts, and tone up others. I had to tinker with a few sections of dialogue. Just a week’s worth of work all told, but in that period he did go from being my easiest character to write to the hardest.
One day I’ll get him back for that . . .

Marc Turner was born in Canada, but grew up in England. His first novel, When the Heavens Fall, is published by Tor in the US and Titan in the UK. You can see a video trailer for the book here and read a short story set in the world of the novel here. The short story has also been narrated by Emma Newman, and you can listen to it free here. Marc can be found on Twitter at @MarcJTurner and at his website.


This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Veils and Vengeance Cover Reveal & Giveaway

Thursday, May 21, 2015
Veils and Vengeance by Rachelle J. Christensen When wedding planner, Adrielle Pyper, goes to Hawaii to orchestrate a destination wedding, she isn't prepared for what she finds. After the trauma of her previous event, the beautiful isle of Kauai is the perfect place for Adri to unwind and do what she does best – plan. She even lets herself indulge in the attention of the groom’s handsome brother. But just when everything seems to be perfect, an afternoon snorkeling trip turns to murder when Adri discovers the body of a young woman. Shaken, but unable to let it go, Adri’s sleuthing leads her into more danger than she could imagine. When a number of “accidents” threaten her own life, it soon becomes apparent that someone will do anything to keep Adri from interfering with their vengeance.   add to goodreads     rachelleAuthor Rachelle J. Christensen Rachelle J. Christensen is a mother of five who writes mystery/suspense and solves the case of the missing shoe on a daily basis. She graduated cum laude from Utah State University with a degree in psychology and a minor in music. She enjoys singing and songwriting, playing the piano, running, motivational speaking, and, of course, reading. Rachelle is the award-winning author of six books, including Wrong Number, Diamond Rings Are Deadly Things, and What Every 6th Grader Needs to Know. Her novella, Silver Cascade Secrets, was included in the Rone Award-winning Timeless Romance Anthology, Fall Collection.

$25 Cover Reveal Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 6/15/15 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.   a Rafflecopter giveaway END HTML Jack Templar and the Lord of the Demons Cover Reveal and Giveaway You can post anytime from now until the end of the month. You can grab info off these links or edit the HTML below to create your post. http://www.bookblasttours.com/2015/05/14/jack-templar-and-the-lord-of-the-demons-book-5-blast-tour-cover-reveal/ http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MGEwMDk2ODM4YmEyM2MyMzNmNmEwNjhkYWFjNGMwOjE1NDQ=/? START HTML Jack Templar 5   Jack Templar and the Lord of the Demons (The Templar Chronicles #5). With two of the Jerusalem Stones in hand, Jack and his friends must race the clock to find the remaining Stones as Ren Lucre's Creach forces gather strength. With two of their group now with Creach blood flowing in their veins, the team will be tested as never before. They must unite together if they have any hope of surviving their journey to the Underworld and their battle with the vicious Lord of the Demons. The fate of the entire world hangs in the balance.
Pre-order Your Copy Now!
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jeffAuthor Jeff Gunhus Jeff Gunhus is the author of the Amazon bestselling supernatural thriller, Night Chill, and the Middle Grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first book of the series, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His book Reaching Your Reluctant Reader has helped hundreds of parents create avid readers. Killer Within is his second novel for adults. As a father of five, he and his wife Nicole spend most of their time chasing kids and taking advantage of living in the great state of Maryland. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel. If you see him there, sit down and have a cup of coffee with him. You just might end up in his next novel.
Jack Templar awards
  $25 Cover Reveal Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 6/15/15 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.    a Rafflecopter giveaway This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ

Until the Beginning by Amy Plum

Sunday, May 17, 2015


When Juneau's clan disappeared, she lost so much more than her friends and family. She soon discovered everything she thought she knew about her life was a lie. Her people's gifts were actually secret abilities that others wanted, desperately enough to kidnap an entire village.

Juneau and her new companion Miles's cross-country journey to find her clan has led them to a game preserve in New Mexico. Now Juneau's people are finally within reach, and she will stop at nothing to save them. But she has a target on her back too, because unbeknownst to her she is the key to unlocking everything. To rescue her people - and herself - Juneau must discover what she, and her abilities, are truly capable of.

Goodreads Summary

This book picks up right where the riveting ending of the last book left off...Miles is wounded.  The author turns this book into a fast-paced, action-packed ending that every reader of this series will enjoy.  Juneau grew as a character and became an even stronger, smarter female lead.  I liked how she took control and had the drive and determination to go after what she wanted.  Miles straightened out and became her steadfast supporter.  I loved how kind and attentive Miles was to Juneau.  Their relationship was very sweet and the reader is sure to end up rooting for the two.  I really enjoyed the lead-up to the various crescendos in the book.  I had a difficult time putting the book down because I always needed to find out what was going to happen in the next few pages.  Anyone who has been waiting on a cliff to find out what will happen in this book and to the wounded Miles should run to the library or book store to grab a copy.

4 Stars




This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ