Monday, October 24, 2016

Realm Explorers Part CXIII: Visit St. Louis in an Alternate Reality with Juliann Whicker

Welcome to Realm Explorers!  In this weekly series, we visit a variety of unique worlds created by talented science fiction and fantasy authors.  Enjoy your travels!  And don't forget to read to the bottom of the post to find out more about each author and see how to purchase the featured book. 

Author’s name: Juliann Whicker
Title of book and/or series: Butcher, Baker, Vampire Slayer
Brief summary of the story: Urban Fantasy retelling of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
Brief description of the world or location you created for this story: My story is Urban Fantasy set in an alternate reality St. Louis. The action takes place at the all boys school, Calder, training grounds for the next generation of Butchers.
If we were to visit Calder/Alternate reality St. Louis as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there? You should visit the sculpture park, eat some baked goods, and ride the metro.
What dangers should we avoid in Alternate St. Louis? In fiction as well as in reality, don’t run out of gas on the North side. In fantasy, werewolves, zombies and vampires roam, and where in reality, 149 murders are committed every year.
Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in Calder? The baked goods are magical, but might make you sick if you aren’t in need of extra strength, skill, or healing from a werewolf bite.
What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in Calder? Whips and Butcher’s knives are your average weapon for the Butcher, while a Baker wields a mean rolling pin.
What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to Calder? You can take the train downtown, or a car. There is a tank parked in the garage in case of emergencies.
What role, if any, does magic or the supernatural play in the lives of people in Calder?  If there is magic, please give some examples of what it involves or how it’s used. A Baker bakes a batch of muffins which feeds the Butchers making them super fast, super strong. The Butchers are super humans after they make the transformation, genetically disposed to the change from ordinary human to Butcher’s boy and then eventually full-fledged Butcher.
What holidays or special events are celebrated regularly there? All Hallow’s Eve celebrates the beginning of the days of darkness and is when there is a great battle followed by an enormous feast. Twelfth Night celebrates the end of the days of darkness with a ceremony at the werewolf seal, closing another year of hunting.
Is there a particular religion practiced in Calder?  Please describe what it involves. Calder is a Catholic boys school. They have mass and other conventional religious observances.
What is the political or government structure in Calder?  Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she? The C.M. is in charge over all the Butchers in the district, but over Calder, Orion Daughtry is head Butcher, strong, perfect, but struggles to relate to other Butchers who aren’t as naturally talented as he is.
Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book? I would not have written this book if I hadn’t done a homeschool unit on Twelfth Night, and gotten lost on the North side with my kids. It’s a desolate, horrible place. I’ve never seen such a sad thing. A teddy bear lying on the road, empty lots, every building barred and shuttered, people wandering, vacant eyed… It made an impression. Luckily, I did not run out of gas.
Author Autobiography: Juliann C. Whicker was raised with chickens, goats, and a cow named Mrs. Mooley who everyone (neighbors included) chased down the street in a small college town. She now lives in Saint Louis with her five children, husband, and all the free museums and zoos a soul could crave.
She works painting in oil and ink, writes clean fiction that's too dark for those with delicate stomachs, and has a marvelous time hanging out with her friends and family.
Some hobbies include: Sewing, Painting, Photography, Writing, Ballroom Dancing, Hiking, Biking, and Gardening.
Where, and in what formats, can we purchase your book(s)?  You can get my book from Amazon in either ebook or paperback!
Where can readers connect with you online? Facebook    Twitter

I hope you all enjoyed the trip to alternate reality St. Louis.  Questions about the world or the book?  Ask them in the comments and the author will get back to you!  

Click here to read other posts in the Realm Explorers series.

Please join us again next Monday for a trip to another world in Realm Explorers Part CXIV!
-Annie Douglass Lima

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Aboard Providence: Historical Fiction by Keely Brooke Keith

In November 1860, Jonah Ashton boarded the Providence with a plan to escort his family to their new settlement in South America and then return to medical school in Pennsylvania before rumors of Southern rebellion erupt into all-out war. What he didn’t count on was getting lost at sea… and Marian Foster. When they finally reach land, Jonah makes a startling discovery that changes everything, but will it change his heart?

Available now!
Order online at CrossRiver Media or Amazon
or from your favorite local bookstore

What authors are saying about the book:

“A delightful adventure reminiscent of Swiss Family Robinson, Aboard Providence is one of those novels that will stick with me because I feel I've lived it. A captivating, well-researched, and deftly written tale I can confidently recommend to a wide range of readers.” –Heather Day Gilbert, author of Amazon Norse bestseller God's Daughter

“With vivid settings and multi-layered characters, Keely Brooke Keith whisks her readers off on a page-turning journey, not just across the ocean, but within the heart. You won’t be able to put Aboard Providence down until the final word is read and then you will long for more.” –Brenda S. Anderson, author of the Coming Home series

“A blend of history and romance with a compelling inspirational message, Keith expertly weaves an intriguing tale. Fans of the Uncharted Series won’t want to miss this journey.” –Heidi McCahan, author of Unraveled

“Keely Brooke Keith is a master storyteller, weaving adventure, love, and wonderful characters into a vivid story that will take readers on an unforgettable voyage to a new place. Full of inspirational messages and tales of God’s love, readers will find themselves longing for more. Keely’s story teaches all of us that the journey is just the beginning!” –Christina Yother, author of the Hollow Hearts series

Author Bio:
Keely Brooke Keith is the author of the The Land Uncharted (Edenbrooke Press) and Aboard Providence (CrossRiver Media). Her novels are known for blending genres in unconventional ways. When she isn’t writing stories, Keely enjoys playing bass guitar, preparing homeschool lessons, and collecting antique textbooks. Originally from St. Joseph, Missouri, Keely resides with her husband and their daughter on a hilltop south of Nashville where she dreams up stories, hoping to encourage, comfort, and inspire readers. She is a member of ACFW.
Social Media Links:
Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Goodreads

Find Keely’s books online:

Excerpt from Aboard Providence

Marian tried to control the click of her heels on the long hallway. As she approached the staircase, intending to go downstairs, Jonah gave her a slight smile, so she passed the stairs and walked to him. “May I ask you something?”
He stepped forward, closing the distance between them. “Yes, of course.”
“Since you will be our physician now—”
He lifted a hand and whispered, “It is only temporary.”
“Yes, of course,” she replied at an equally quiet volume. “But since Doctor Ashton is injured, my mother will need you if...” It was too difficult to say aloud. She waited for the lump in her throat to release.
Jonah’s brow furrowed. “Do you think there is something wrong with your mother or the baby?”
“No... not yet.” She didn’t mean to reveal her doubt, so she tried to cover with a mild grin and optimistic tone. “I’m sure everything is fine.”
He slipped his hands into his pockets, emitting casualness, and inclined his head toward her, engendering concern, but he continually glanced at the stairway behind her. “Marian, I know about your mother’s medical history. She has asked my mother to serve as midwife again. I won’t intervene in the delivery unless it becomes necessary.”
Marian nodded, comforted by his understanding of the situation. “If it does become necessary, which I pray every waking moment that it does not, but if you must intervene, are you comfortable with that?”
“I am fully trained in obstetrics if that is what you mean.”
“No, it isn’t. It’s good to know, but I’ve been there with her during her last three deliveries and—” Her voice cracked. She looked down at the empty water pitcher in her hands. “Those babies were my siblings—two girls and a boy—all born dead. Mother is thirty-eight years old now and pregnant for what she and my father swear is the last time. She depends on me and I’ll be with her for this delivery too, but if this baby is stillborn...”
Jonah’s brown eyes glanced at the stairway again then back at her. He put his hand on her shoulder, neither drawing her closer nor holding her off. “If she goes into labor before my father resumes his duties, I will do everything in my power to help her and the baby, I promise.”
“Thank you.” Marian began to look away, but Jonah held her gaze. She felt the heat from his hand through the fabric of her sleeve and hoped he intended more than comfort, but that hope felt wrong, considering the seriousness of their conversation. He was only reassuring her with a friendly touch.

Ashamed for being infatuated with the man who would be her mother’s doctor, she scolded herself for her immaturity. He wasn’t staying with the settlement, so falling in love would only lead to heartbreak. But no matter what she told herself, standing near him, alone and connected in the dark hallway on a gloomy afternoon, she was fully aware that if he even breathed a hint of attraction to her, every joint in her body would go limp. The empty pitcher she held would hit the floor with a crash, the room would go round as her dizzy head spun, and she would soften into a puddle of spineless flesh and melt down the crimson carpet of the staircase, one achingly grand stair at a time. When she reached the bottom step, all that remained of her would be a calico dress, shards of the broken pitcher, and her teeth clamped in a blissful smile.

Aboard Providence (CrossRiver Media Group). Used with permission.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Christmas at the Grand Hotel

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

Christmas at the Grand Hotel: White Pine Island Novellas #1 and #2Christmas at the Grand Hotel
(White Pine Island Novellas #1 & #2)
by Amie Denman & May Williams
Adult Contemporary Romance, Christmas
ebook, 179 pages
October 1st 2016

Welcome to White Pine Island! Just a few miles off the coast of Georgia, this island is accessible only by boat, plane, and your imagination. Many residents call the island home year-round, but day visitors and tourists bring plenty of excitement with them. Like other resort islands, there are quaint shops, cool restaurants, and friendly bars. There are several resorts on the island, but the queen of them all is the elegant Grand Hotel on a bluff with an ocean view. Owned by the extensive, multi-generational Phillips family, the Grand Hotel offers elegant service, five course dinners, and plenty of romance.

Ned & Bethany by May Williams

Sometimes the heart hits a hole in one…

Bethany Hinkle arrives at White Pine Island’s Grand Hotel for her sister’s wedding and to do a little environmental snooping. She snaps pictures of the hotel’s pristine golf course to ensure its compliance with EPA standards. Soon, she realizes that the course’s manager is as attractive as the course he so carefully protects.

Ned Phillips feels the weight of family expectations squarely on his broad shoulders. The Phillips Family has owned and operated the Grand Hotel for three generations. For now, he manages the hotel’s golf course and makes plans for its future—plans that could be destroyed by Bethany’s spying. He gets close to the lovely environmentalist to watch for her next move until he gets too close to let her go.

Ellen & Pete by Amie Denman

What happens when you fall in love with your best friend just when it’s too late?

All her life, Ellen Phillips has loved working for her family’s Grand Hotel on White Pine Island. Flying the hotel’s airplane and piloting the island ferryboat while knowing someday she will inherit the luxurious resort is a fairy tale existence she has no desire to change. She’s always loved Pete McCormack, too. After all, he’s her best friend, confidante, and playmate. Until she suddenly sees him in a different light just before Christmas.

Pete McCormack has made sacrifices for his family’s golf cart rental business on the island, choosing to stay home and run it instead of pursuing his dream of his own career on the mainland. When his parents announce their plans to sell the business so Pete can leave the island, he has to choose between the future he thought he always wanted and his newfound love for the woman he would be leaving behind.

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKobo

Christmas Away from Home

Waking up on Christmas morning at home and padding downstairs to see what’s under the tree by the fireplace is priceless. However, I’ve had quite a few joyous holidays on the road. If you love over-the-top decorations, fine food, and none of the worries of having company coming over, you may love Christmas in an elegant hotel.

My first Christmas away from home was on my honeymoon. My husband and I married in December and took a trip over the holidays to Key West, Florida. I used many of the experiences from that trip in one of my first beach books Blue Bottle Beach. Is there any place more unique than Key West? We stayed in an elegant hotel, and I remember thinking how strange it was to hear Christmas music while wearing sandals and beachwear. I’m from the snowy Midwest where Christmas apparel is flannel. And more flannel.

One of the most beautiful places I’ve seen at Christmastime is the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. If you ever have the chance to see that amazing home built by a man for his new wife (how romantic!), you should go during the holidays. There is a candlelit tour, and the entire mansion sparkles with decorations.

Because I have family in Orlando, I’ve spent the Christmas and New Year’s holidays enjoying the Disney parks and hotels many times. No one can have any doubt that Disney knows how to celebrate. The ornate trees and garlands in the theme parks are larger than life, and the hotels are beautifully decorated. One of their hotels has a carousel made of gingerbread and chocolate, and another has a life-sized house made of gingerbread. It’s magical.

Perhaps my favorite memory of traveling at Christmastime was something you might not expect. My husband and I took our sons to Washington, DC, for a long weekend. We saw the National Christmas Tree on the Capitol grounds, the train display in front of the White House, and we even ice-skated on a temporary pond in front of the National Archives building.

In Christmas at the Grand Hotel, some of the characters are year-round residents of the island and some are there for a special holiday, but all of them have a Christmas they’ll never forget.

— Amie

Amie Denman lives in Ohio with her husband, sons, cats, and dog. When she's not reading or writing, she enjoys walking and playing outside. Born with an overdeveloped sense of curiosity, she's been known to chase fire trucks on her bicycle just to see what's going on. Amie believes that everything is fun: especially roller coasters, wedding cake, and falling in love.

May Williams is convinced that she read every book in the public library of her hometown as a kid. Today, her house sags under the weight of books. If she’s not reading or writing, May can be found pursuing her other two passions – sewing and running. May lives happily in a little town on the shores of Lake Erie with her husband, two children, three cats, and one oversized dog.

Tour Schedule

October 16th: Launch
October 21st: Brooke Blogs & Teatime and Books
October 23rd: Grand Finale

Tour Giveaway

1 winner will receive Under the Boardwalk and Carousel Nights by Amie Denman (US only)
1 winner will receive a $25 Amazon eGift Card (open internationally)
Ends October 28th
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Monday, October 17, 2016

Realm Explorers Part CXII: Visit Rizkaland with Kendra E. Ardnek

Welcome to Realm Explorers!  In this weekly series, we visit a variety of unique worlds created by talented science fiction and fantasy authors.  Enjoy your travels!  And don't forget to read to the bottom of the post to find out more about each author and see how to purchase the featured book. 

Author’s name: Kendra E. Ardnek

Title of book and/or series: The Rizkaland Legends – in particular, the second book of the series, Lady Dragon, Tela Du

Brief summary of the story:

A thousand years have passed since Amber’s most recent imprisonment on the Isle of Banishment, and it’s time for her to claim her promised fifty years ruling Rizkaland. Only one person stands in the way of her making the rule permanent – the Tela Du, a girl prophesied to share her face and to be the only one capable of ending Amber’s life.

Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:

Rizkaland is a cylindrical world divided into a mainland and six islands, with thick bodies of water known as Rivs flowing between them. Water flows in every color of the rainbow, each color with its own distinct flavor and use. Also, they have something against the letter c for some reason.

If we were to visit Rizkaland as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?

I’d recommend that you start your tour in Loray, the castle at the heart of the mainland, where you’ll find not only the Bookholder’s library containing the complete history of the world, but also Alphego’s Hill, where Alphego stood to create the world. You can use the Hill to travel to the replicas built on the islands and do more exploring.

What dangers should we avoid in Rizkaland?

It is generally considered a Bad Idea to be caught by Amber – for not only can she turn people to ice, but she can turn herself into a dragon. She’s only a problem when she’d not on the Isle of Banishment, though. There are also a number of vicious animals, such as kirats – a large, bear-like creature you don’t want to tangle with – in Rizkaland’s forests.

Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in Rizkaland?

Mistletoe muffins!

And Spiced Pomella Cider is a general favorite among visitors to the world.

What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in Rizkaland?

Predominately swords, bows, and a form of martial arts.

What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to Rizkaland?

Predominately the horse, but on the mainland they have Haric Doors that are doormats that you can use to travel quickly to Loray and back. And Alphego’s Hill and its replicas on the islands can be used for travel.

What types of plants, animals, or sentient races might we encounter in Rizkaland that we don’t see on Earth?

Plantlife in Rizkaland is every color but green (except in autumn, when it ALL turns green).
Animals? Well, as well as kirats, there are shwazles, a reptilian beast that has a head resembling that of a camel; etrinas, a catlike creature the size of a bobcat; kloradies, a yellow bird that resembles a canary, but with a longer beak; korrens, a yak-like beast of burden; and quaggleshumps, which are birds that resemble pelicans, but are much larger, with purple feathers and donkey-like ears.
The predominate sentient race – or Eliue in the Rizkan language – apart from the humans are the elves. And on the Isle of Talking Beasts you’ll find four races of horse-like creatures called the harandas, the hinequas, the rowandas, and the kiandas.

What role, if any, does magic or the supernatural play in the lives of people in Rizkaland?  If there is magic, please give some examples of what it involves or how it’s used.

Each elf has a semi-unique gift such as invisibility, flight, healing, a heightened sense, or some other such. The kings and queens on the mainland are given similar gifts.
The hinequas have the ability to lessen the effects of gravity, which they use for flight. Kiandas can turn themselves invisible. It is suspected that Rowandas have the ability to slow time – in any rate, they move so fast, it’s hard to tell. Harandas have the power of telepathy and teleportation, and it is with hairs from their tales that the Haric Doors are made.
The Hills function on a supernatural level.
During Tying Ceremonies, a magical cord is used to bind the couple together.
The Bookholder – the highest rank a elf can hold – owns a special Book that contains prophecies and orders from Alphego, the words of which will change depending on the need. Daughters of the Bookholder, known as Bookdaughters, have the ability to Speak prophecies.
Alphego will occasionally gift certain people with gifts beyond that to perform certain tasks.

Is there any advanced or unusual technology in Rizkaland?  If you haven’t described it already, please give some examples.

Nothing unusual compared to our world, but there is electricity in Loray and the five castles on the Isle of Klarand.

Tell us about any sports, games, or activities that are available for entertainment in Rizkaland.

Variations of the medieval tournaments are popular, and they do have a few ball sports, though nothing organized on the level that earth sports are these days. Royalty enjoys balls, while barn dances, of a sort, are frequent among the common people. There is a nightly recitation of the Legends – what histories are called in Rizkaland – at Loray and the Kastle by the Bookholder or a Bookdaughter, and there are a few acting companies that travel through Rizkaland and Klarand presenting plays of their own invention and ones based on the Legends.

Are the days of the week and months of the year the same in Rizkaland as on Earth? What holidays or special events are celebrated regularly there?

Rizkaland has a day and year equal to ours, but their year is divided into ten months named for the original rulers of the island of Klarand, and the weeks are eight days named for the original rulers of the mainland.
The New Year is celebrated much like we celebrate Christmas, and there are a few other special days, mostly commemorating past defeats of Amber.

Is there a particular religion practiced in Rizkaland?  Please describe what it involves.

Almost everyone acknowledges the existence of Alphego, even if they don’t personally believe in him. The Hill and its replicas are regarded as places of worship, and most people will at least try to seek the advice of the Bookholder or a Bookdaughter before making major decisions. Tying Ceremonies – which are technically engagement ceremonies, but with wedding vows – are held on the Hill or one of its replicas, and are officiated by the Bookholder or a Bookdaughter if at all possible.

What is the political or government structure in Rizkaland?  Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?

Rizkaland has a monarchy, with four kings and four queens, as it is believed that it isn’t good for any one person to have absolute power. Their chief advisor is the Bookholder, and they have a number of officials and such below them to help carry out laws.
The island of Klarand and the Isle of Talking Beasts are both subject to the Rizkan monarchy, though they are recognized as separate governments. Klarand has a monarchy with only one king and queen, but the island is divided into four quarters and their power is diffused through the Lord and Lady reigning over each section.
The Isle of Talking Beasts is ruled by the Sentaur who as his name suggests, is half-human and half-horse, and is immortal as far as anyone can tell. He rules with the help of a council of seven elected from among his people.

Are there any other unique cultural practices that we should be aware of if we visit Rizkaland?

Rizkans don’t shake hands. They press a fist to their heart and, depending on their rank, will hold eye contact, bow, or glance towards Alphego’s country or the nearest Hill.
They refer to north, south, east, and west as up, down, ea, and wea.
As mentioned earlier, they don’t like the letter “c” and will only use it to make the “ch” sound, in which case, it is used alone. In every other situation, it is replaced with “k” or “s” as applicable.

Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book?

Probably, but I’m having trouble remembering anything off the top of my head. There are the boxes that the elves possess, inspired by a typo by a friend of mine, though. And the Rowandas and Hinequas come from a story game my sister and I did in the backyard once.

What, if any, “hot-button” or controversial topics do you touch on in your book?

I never outright address the issue, but I do deal with gender norms and women in power a lot in my writing. Also predestination vrs. free will came up in LDTD, which can be a pretty controversial subject. And there was a moment when old earth vrs. new earth was mentioned.

Author Autobiography:

Kendra E. Ardnek is a homeschool graduate who picked up a pen at an early age and never put it down. The eldest of four, she makes her home in the Piney Woods of East Texas with her parents, younger siblings, giant herd of giraffes, and honor guard of nutcrackers. 

Where, and in what formats, can we purchase your book(s)?  

The first book of the series, Water Princess, Fire Prince is available on kindle and in paperback.
Lady Dragon, Tela Du is currently available for preorder on kindle.

Where can readers connect with you online? 

They can find me on my blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

I hope you all enjoyed the trip to Rizkaland.  Questions about the world or the book?  Ask them in the comments and the author will get back to you!  

Click here to read other posts in the Realm Explorers series.

Please join us again next Monday for a trip to another world, in Realm Explorers Part CXIII!
-Annie Douglass Lima