Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, Guest Post

Guest Blog Post: Why the Title of a Story Matters By Jennifer Zhang

“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare asked. 

“Potentially the difference between a blockbuster and a flop, kid!” Hollywood answered, chewing on a cigar and pouring two fingers of scotch.

In all seriousness, it is unfortunately true that more than a few cinematic gems have been buried by their lackluster titles. A good title, by contrast, can get someone to click on a trailer, read a two-sentence description that can clinch the deal, or fill a theater seat on the power of the curiosity it has inspired alone. 

At the very least, a good title gets a moviegoer to ask, “tell me more”… and a really good title gets a moviegoer to say, “Okay, show me.”

And this is why Blake Snyder emphasizes in Save the Cat! – his methodology that revolutionized the language of storytelling – that you are not tasked with simply coming up with a title for your movie. 

You’re tasked with giving your movie a killer title.

It’s a mission so important—so absolutely paramount—that we hammer it home in great detail in the “Cracking the Beat Sheet” online course. We also offer an arsenal of tips and pointers because, after all, imagine pouring your heart and soul into writing a story for the ages, pulling every string to get it into the hands of a decision-maker (or at least an intern) at a production company or major studio, only to have them look at the title, and with a “meh,” toss it onto the “maybe later” (maybe never) pile.

Tragedy! One that would ruffle even Shakespeare’s… ruffles! So let’s prevent it!

“Legally Blond”

“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

“Fight Club”

We all know a good title when we read one. But what makes a title good? 

Years ago, Blake offered us an important clue to cracking that case. He pointed out that “a good title must say what it is! and yet give us a fresh, intriguing invitation to your party that gives us a hint of the type and tone of the festivities we’re about to attend. And that’s some tight writing right there.“

So as you can see—and as many of us have had the displeasure of experiencing—it’s no easy task, nor is it a small one. And to prove that it’s a task on which even the biggest films may stumble and fall, allow me to share the example we use in the Save the Cat! “Cracking the Beat Sheet” course:

In 2014, Tom Cruise starred in a movie called Edge of Tomorrow, which was phenomenal by both audience and critics’ accounts with a 90% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The premise was basically Groundhog’s Day in the middle of an alien invasion. A man with no combat experience is forced to relive the same day over and over again until he can figure out how to thwart a devastating extraterrestrial attack. 

The problem was, none of the excitement of that premise was hinted at or captured with the title “Edge of Tomorrow,” slick as it sounded. And one of the most vocal lamenters of the title’s failure was Doug Liman, the film’s director. He openly blamed this title, which was forced on the film, for the movie’s disappointing box office returns. 

“I ended up having to call the person (the Warner Bros. executive) and apologize for pointing out that they were wrong,” he said. “And they started titling it the title I always thought it should have, which is Live Die Repeat. But they tiptoed around it, and when we make the sequel, it’ll be permanently titled Live Die Repeat. The sequel will be Live Die Repeat and Repeat.”

Guess what? That’s a title that says what the movie is. 

Hopefully, you’re now fully convinced that a title matters a great deal, and you’re mentally running the “Say What It Is” test on your current script titles.  

And if you still only find yourself on the edge of inspiration, we’ve packed our online course with wisdom and tricks to tip you over.  

Happy writing! Or shall we say… live, write, repeat! 

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BIO:

Jennifer Zhang is a screenwriter and filmmaker who wrote, produced and sold her award-winning debut feature “The Evil Inside” shortly after working with Blake Snyder and adopting Save the Cat! storytelling principles in her screenwriting. She is the instructor featured in the Cracking the Beat Sheet” online course, and has most recently garnered early festival buzz for her feature-length independent thriller “Charon” which has picked up multiple official selections and “Best Writer” nominations.

About Save the Cat!

Save the Cat!® is the bestselling story methodology introduced by screenwriter Blake Snyder in 2005 with his first book, Save the Cat!. Snyder’s acclaimed ideas, methods, and software have provided thousands of writers with the resources they need to develop their screenplays and novels.

Save the Cat!’s

WOW! WOMEN ON WRITING TOUR OF Cracking the Beat Sheet

&

Story Development Cards

Tour Begins February 22nd

First, what is Save the Cat!®? 

Save the Cat! provides writers the resources they need to develop their screenplays and novels based on a series of best-selling books, primarily written by Blake Snyder (1957- 2009). Blake’s method is based on 10 distinctive genres and his 15 story beats (the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet). Our books, workshops, story structure software, apps, and story coaching teach you everything you need to unlock the fundamentals and mechanics of plot and character transformation. 

Find out more about Save the Cat! by visiting their webpage at https://savethecat.com/

About the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course

This course is designed for writers to turn their idea into a movie or novel. This learn-at-your-own-pace online class helps you develop the 15 key “beats” or “plot points” of your story. Strung together, in the right order, these 15 beats make up the blueprint to a successful screenplay or novel. 

You’ll Turn an Idea into a Story by Learning to… 

• Create a solid beat sheet that will serve as the road map, and “backbone” of your story 

• Identify and know the key components of your story genre • Learn the clichés of your genre so that you can break them like an artist 

• Plot your hero’s journey and “transformation” • Troubleshoot your story idea for viability 

• Write a compelling logline or elevator pitch 

This Course Is for Those Who… 

• Want to troubleshoot an existing story 

• Have so many great ideas and struggle to choose “the one” 

• Are ready to write but not sure how to start 

• Are determined to finish a half-written story 

• Want to learn 

This Course Includes… 

• Over 3 hours and 17 minutes of original video production 

• 9 downloadable worksheets • 3 reading assignments (book not included) 

• 4 homework assignments 

Course Value: $59 

Find out more information about the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course by visiting https://www.savethecatcourses.com/courses/cracking-the-beat-sheet.

About Save the Cat! Story Cards

Introducing Save the Cat!®Story Cards, consisting of Save the Cat! Beat Cards and Save the Cat! Scene Cards, all designed to outline and develop your story. 

Save the Cat! Beat Cards 

Crack your story from the “Opening Image” to the “Final Image.” Save the Cat!® Beat Cards provide writers with the 15 key plot points to map out your script or novel. Every set contains 15 individual index cards with helpful explanations of each beat to form the foundation of your story. 

Save the Cat! Scene Cards 

Every scene of your story needs to communicate “place,” “basic action,” “emotional transformation,” and “outcome.” The Save the Cat!® Scene Cards help writers nail the purpose of every scene. Each set of cards contains 40 color-coded cards broken down by act, with 10 extra cards because we know you’ll need them. 

Cards Value: $10.95 

Find out more information about Story Cards at https://savethecat.com/story-cards

More information about Save the Cat!:

Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course

https://www.savethecatcourses.com/courses/cracking-the-beat-sheet

Save the Cat! Website

Save the Cat! Best-Selling Books

https://savethecat.com/books

Save the Cat! Story Cards

https://savethecat.com/books

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– Blog Tour Dates

February 22nd @ The Muffin

What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Grab your coffee and join us today over at our blog, where we launch another blog tour for Save the Cat! We talk about their online course and their story cards, interview the Save the Cat team, and host a special giveaway you don’t want to miss.

https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

February 23rd @ Cathy Stucker’s Selling Books

Join Cathy as she reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Course. Perfect if you want to finally outline your novel!

https://www.sellingbooks.com/

February 23rd @ And So She Thinks

Join Francesca and read her review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Course. You don’t want to miss this!

https://andsoshethinks.co.uk/blog/

February 24th @ Chapters Through Life

Visit Danielle’s blog as she reviews her experience with the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Course.

http://chaptersthroughlife.blogspot.co.uk

February 24th @ Margay Leah Justice

Join Margay as she reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Story Cards.

http://margayleahjustice.blogspot.com/

February 25th @ Author Anthony Avina

Join Anthony as he shares a Save the Cat! guest post about why the title of a story matters.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

February 26th @ Writer Unboxed

Join Therese as she reviews the Save the Cat! writing course Cracking the Beat Sheet. Don’t miss it! 

https://writerunboxed.com/

February 27th @ Jessica Samuels

Join Jessica as she shares her insights into the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

https://jessicasamuelsauthor.com/

February 28th @ The Faerie Review

Visit Lily’s blog as she reviews the Save the Cat! Story Cards and shares her insights into the Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

https://www.thefaeriereview.com

March 1st @ Michelle Cornish

Join Michelle as she reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

https://www.michellecornish.com/blog

March 1st @ Memoir Writer’s Journey

Kathy shares the Save the Cat guest post discussing stress testing dialogue and scene.

https://www.krpooler.com/blog/

March 2nd @ Cathy Stucker’s Selling Books

Visit Cathy’s blog again as she reviews the Save the Cat! Story Cards! Find out how this item will help you storyboard your novel.

https://www.sellingbooks.com/

March 3rd @ Knotty Needle

Visit Judy’s blog as she reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet and the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

https://knottyneedle.blogspot.com/

March 4th @ Author Anthony Avina

Visit Anthony’s blog where you can read his experience with the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

March 5th @ Quill and Books

Visit Kathryn’s blog and read her review of the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

March 7th @ Sioux’s Page

Join Sioux as she reviews the Save the Cat! Story Cards and her experience with the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

http://siouxspage.blogspot.com/

March 7th @ Help Me Naomi

Visit Naomi’s blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Story Cards and the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

https://helpmenaomi.com/

March 8th @ World of My Imagination

Guest writer, Stephanie Anne, reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and Save the Cat! Story Cards on Nicole’s blog World of My Imagination.

https://worldofmyimagination.com/

March 9th @ Cathy Stucker’s Selling Books

Visit Cathy’s blog again where you can read a guest post from the Save the Cat! team about why structure is a friend, not a formula.

https://www.sellingbooks.com/

March 9th @ Sandy Kirby Quandt

Sandy shares her review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

https://sandykirbyquandt.com/

March 10th @ Brooke’s Reviews and Sweeps

Join Brooke as she reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

http://www.brookereviewsnsweeps.com/

March 11th @ Jill Sheet’s Blog

Visit Jill’s blog today and check out her insights into the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

http://jillsheets.blogspot.com/

March 12th @ Finished Pages

Join Renee as she reviews her experience with the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet online course.

http://finishedpages.com/

March 13th @ Writer Unboxed

Visit Therese’s blog again as she reviews the Save the Cat! Story Cards. You’ll want to check these out if you want to storyboard your novel!

https://writerunboxed.com/

March 14th @ The Margate Bookie

You’ll definitely want to catch today’s guest post where Save the Cat! discusses the power of the writer’s board.

https://margatebookie.com/news/

March 15th @ My Heart is Booked

Join Danielle today where she reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Save the Cat! story cards.

March 15th @ LM Harley

Visit Laura’s blog and check out her review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

http://lmharleywriter.com/index.html

March 18th @ Cathy C. Hall Writes

Join Cathy as she shares her thoughts about the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

https://c-c-hall.com/

March 19th @ One Writer’s Journey

Visit Sue’s blog today as she shares her insights into the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet online course.

https://suebe.wordpress.com/

March 21st @ World of My Imagination

Join Nicole and read her review of the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

https://worldofmyimagination.com

March 22nd @ Mint Miller Writes

Mint Miller treats us to a review of the Save the Cat! Story Cards. Don’t miss it!

https://www.mintmillerwrites.com/

March 23rd @ Karen Brown Tyson

Join Karen as shares a Save the Cat guest post discussing the benefits of using a board.

March 25th @ WOW’s Editor Blog

You don’t want to miss WOW’s editor-in-chief, Angela Mackintosh’ review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet online course.

https://wow-womenonwriting.com/

March 26th @ World of My Imagination

Writer Kate Mahony is a guest reviewer at World of My Imagination and she shares her thoughts about the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

https://worldofmyimagination.com

March 27th @ Joyful Antidotes

Visit Joy’s blog today where you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet online course.

https://joyfulantidotes.com/

Posted in Blog Tours, Interviews

Interview questions from Anthony Avina

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I started my career as a volunteer teacher in Sabah, Malaysia (North Borneo) during 1968-70. There, I became an international filmmaker and later a multimedia producer, working for development agencies and living in or traveling to countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Russia until 2013. I had written three technical books and many journal articles during my career, for example on the role of communication in defeating the HIV/AIDS epidemic. But I never had time to write creatively until I retired. After my wife and I moved to Albuquerque in 2015, I began by attending Master’s-level workshops in creative nonfiction and poetry at the University of New Mexico. That’s when I started writing my Borneo memoir, Finding Myself in Borneo, https://www.neillmckeeauthor.com/finding-myself-in-borneo and Guns and Gods in My Genes https://www.neillmckeeauthor.com/guns-and-gods-in-my-genes. I drafted short pieces for review by my professor and fellow students in those workshops, and revised them after feedback. I also joined another evening workshop at the university on writing an outline for Guns and Gods in My Genes. This was helpful in focusing the manuscript on those very themes.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

After I retired from my main career, I visited my aging mother in Ontario, traveling from our home in Maryland a few times a year. My dad, who died in 2007, was always interested in family history but never had the time nor the skills to do much research or writing. I discovered the beginnings of interesting stories in his old files, and I reached out to cousins, one living uncle, and three remaining aunts. I found many leads on both sides of the family and interviewed family members, picking up more stories, photos, and records. One cousin, to whom the book is dedicated, had done a lot of the research leading to the Mayflower connection in the US. That’s when I knew I had another book to write, but I had to do or commission a lot more research to determine if the genetic connections were correct. Many more interesting ancestors emerged as I progressed, especially through the female lineage.

I wanted to write a book with wide appeal to anyone interested in genealogy and history, or searching their own family’s roots. I decided to do it on the theme of “guns and gods” and by “gods” I mean different interpretations of religion – largely Christianity – in North American history, and my discovery of some “godly” ancestors in my genes, as well as a real “rowdy man” and some who killed and enslaved Indians in New England in the 1600s. I believe focusing on some themes, such as these, is important. There are a lot of family stories that I left out. They are entertaining but not part of the themes I chose.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

One theme or message I would like readers to take away is that history and genealogy does not have to be boring if you reveal stories bit by bit and don’t overwhelm readers with long lists and many names of “who begat whom” in the first chapter. Besides online research, I dug up real stories of my ancestors and traveled to the places where they lived to meet historians and distant cousins who had more records and stories. I also read many historical works of interesting events that happened at the time my ancestors lived. For instance, I went to the actual location where my great-grandfather, Lafayette Haskins, was wounded in the Battle of the Wilderness in the Civil War. I walked beside the remains of Confederate trenches on a hill from which my ancestor was fired upon as he and his comrades were advancing up a hill. He was hit in the leg, thus ending his three years in the Union Army’s 7th Wisconsin Regiment. By going to the place where that happened, and walking down the hill into the woods, an eerie feeling came over me, allowing me to feel something of the pain and bewilderment he must have felt. This kind of experience happened many times during my travels.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

By genre, I believe you mean creative nonfiction memoir. I became involved because I have had such a rich and varied experience in life, both in my childhood and my 45-year career traveling and working all around the globe. In my mid-70s, I am lucky to have the health and good memory to write about experiences in a creative, nonlinear way. During my career, I wrote technical books and articles in my field and wanted to do something different during my final years. Creative nonfiction seemed to be a natural thing for me. I was never much interested in fiction, except for watching movies for relaxation.

5) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

1) Be prepared for very hard work. I put in about seven hours of research, writing, corresponding, and promotion per day and seldom take a day off (especially now with Covid-19 lockdown – a surprisingly good time for concentrated work since few distractions are possible).

2) Get reviews from readers and other writers before you publish, and make revisions accordingly, if you feel they are helpful. After all, readers should know. In my former communication work we call it “pretesting.”

3) If you have five or more years to wait, you can try to get a publisher. I had a couple of late offers for my Borneo memoir but the companies involved wanted to start over on the editing and didn’t want to put any money into promotion. With a good literary editor, copy editor, and designer, I set up my own publishing company, and print and distribute through IngramSpark https://www.ingramspark.com/. This company sends out your book and e-book files to many distributors: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. https://www.ingramspark.com/how-it-works/distribute. It is one way to begin no matter what age you are. You have to be prepared to put a lot of time into promotion, however. I think that is the case for any author, for about 1,000 new titles are released in all genres in North American each day.

6) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

Since 2015, I have been working on another title as well, a prequel to my Borneo memoir, the manuscript of which is presently out for review and I expect it to be released later this year. Here’s a description:

Kid on the Go! Memoir of my life before Borneo is Neill McKee’s third work in creative nonfiction. It is a prequel to his first work in the genre, the award-winning Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah. In this short book, McKee takes readers on a journey through his childhood, early adolescence, and teenage years, while growing up in the small industrially-polluted town of Elmira in Southern Ontario, Canada—now infamous as one of the centers for production of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Each chapter is set to a different theme on how he learned to keep “on the go” to escape the smells coming from the town’s chemical factory and other pollutants, including manure from surrounding farms. McKee’s vivid descriptions, dialog, and self-drawn illustrations, provide much humor and poignant moments in his stories of growing up in a loving family. In a way, the book is a travel memoir through both mental and physical space—a study of a young boy’s learning to observe and avoid dangers; to cope with death in the family; to fish, hunt, play cowboys; to learn the value of work and how to build and repair “escape” vehicles. The memoir explores his experiences with exploding hormones, his first attraction to girls, dealing with bullying, how he rebelled against religion and authority and survived the conformist teenager “rock & roll” culture of the early 1960s, coming out the other side with the help of influential teachers and mentors. After finally leaving his hometown, McKee describes his rather directionless but intensely searching years at university. Except for an emotional and revealing postscript, the story ends when he departs to become a volunteer teacher on the Island of Borneo—truly a “kid on the go!”

 WOW! WOMEN ON WRITING TOUR

OF

Guns and Gods in My Genes

Tour Begins February 15th

Book Summary

Neill McKee, author of the award-winning travel memoir Finding Myself in Borneo, takes the reader through 400 years and 15,000 miles of an on-the-road adventure, discovering stories of his Scots-Irish ancestors in Canada, while uncovering their attitudes towards religion and guns. 

His adventure turns south and west as he follows the trail of his maternal grandfather, a Canadian preacher who married an American woman in Wisconsin, and braved the American Wild West from 1904 to 1907, finding a two-story brothel across from one of his churches and a sheriff who owned a saloon and dance hall, while carrying a gun with 20 notches, one for each man he had killed. 

Much to his surprise, McKee finds his American ancestors were involved in every major conflict on North American soil: the Civil War, the American Revolution, and the French and Indian War. In the last chapters, McKee discovers and documents his Pilgrim ancestors who arrived on the Mayflower, landing at Plymouth in 1620, and their Puritan descendants who fought in the early Indian Wars of New England. 

With the help of professional genealogical research, he tracks down and tells the stories of the heroes, villains, rascals, as well as, the godly and ordinary folk in his genes, discovering many facts and exposing myths. He also lets readers in on a personal struggle: whether to apply for Canadian-United States dual citizenship or remain only a Canadian.

Print Length: 352 Pages

Genre: Historical Travel Memoir

ISBN-13: 9781732945739

Guns and Gods in My Genes is available to purchase now on Amazon.com.

About the Author, Neill McKee

Neill McKee is a creative nonfiction writer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His first travel memoir, Finding Myself in Borneo, won a bronze medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards, 2020, as well as other awards. McKee holds a Bachelor’s Degree, from the University of Calgary and a Master’s Degree in Communication from Florida State University. He worked internationally for 45 years, becoming an expert in the field of communication for social change. He directed and produced a number of award-winning documentary films/videos and multimedia initiatives, and has written numerous articles and books in the field of development communication. During his international career, McKee worked for Canadian University Service Overseas (CUSO); Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC); UNICEF; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland; Academy for Educational Development and FHI 360, Washington, DC. He worked and lived in Malaysia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda, and Russia for a total of 18 years and traveled to over 80 countries on short-term assignments. In 2015, he settled in New Mexico, using his varied experiences, memories, and imagination in creative writing.

Find him online at:

Author’s website: www.neillmckeeauthor.com/

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/neill-mckee-b9971b65/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/McKeeNeill/

Twitter: twitter.com/MckeeNeill

NBFS: www.northborneofrodotolkien.org

Blog Tour Dates

February 15th @ The Muffin

What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Grab your coffee and join us as we talk to author Neill McKee and celebrate the launch of his blog tour for his travel memoir, Guns and Gods in My Genes. You can also enter to win a copy of the book yourself!

https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

February 17th @ Choices

Join Madeline today as she spotlights Neill McKee’s travel memoir Guns and Gods in My Genes.

http://madelinesharples.com/

February 20th @ Bring on Lemons

Turn lemons into lemonade by visiting Crystal’s blog today, where you can read her honest review of Neill McKees insightful memoir, Guns and Gods in My Genes.

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

February 22nd @ CloudsGirls27 Reads Books

Join Melissa as she reads Neill McKee’s memoir Guns and Gods in My Genes.

https://bookreviewsbycloudsgirl27.home.blog/

February 24th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Come by Anthony’s blog today where he interviews author Neill McKee about his memoir Guns and Gods in My Genes. 

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

February 25th @ What is That Book About

Michelle spotlights Neill McKee’s book Guns and Gods in My Genes.

https://www.whatisthatbookabout.com/

February 26th @ Lisa Haselton’s Book Reviews & Interviews

Visit Lisa’s blog today where she interviews author Neill McKee about his book Guns and Gods in My Genes.

https://lisahaselton.com/blog/

February 27th @ Boots, Shoes, and Fashion

Join Linda as she treats us to an interview with author Neill McKee and chats with him about his memoir Guns and Gods in My Genes. She also shares some insights about the book! 

http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/

February 28th @ Lilly’s Book Wonderland

Join Lilly as she shares her insights into Neill McKee’s fascinating travel memoir Guns and Gods in My Genes.

https://www.lillysbookwonderland.com/

March 1st @ World of My Imagination

Light up your imagination when you visit Nicole’s blog today! She shares her insights into Neill McKee’s memoir Guns and Gods in My Genes.

https://worldofmyimagination.com

March 3rd @ Joy Neal Kidney’s Blog

Make sure you stop by Joy’s blog today and read her review of Neill McKee’s memoir Guns and Gods in My Genes.

https://joynealkidney.com/

March 3rd @ Memoir Memoir

Visit John’s blog today and you can read his review of Nell McKee’s memoir Guns and Gods in My Genes.

https://memoir-memoir.com/

March 5th @ A Storybook World

Deirdra spotlights Neill McKee’s profound memoir Guns and Gods in My Genes.

http://www.astorybookworld.com/

March 8th @ Memoir Writer’s Journey

Join Kathy as she reviews Neill McKee’s memoir Guns and Gods in My Genes.

https://www.krpooler.com/

March 11th @ The Frugalista Mom

Join Rozelyn as she reviews Neill McKee’s fascinating memoir Guns and Gods in My Genes. You can also win a copy of the book too!

https://thefrugalistamom.com/

March 12th @ Memoir Revolution

https://memorywritersnetwork.com/blog/

March 14th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Join Anthony again when he reviews Neill McKee’s memorable memoir Guns and Gods in My Genes.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

March 15th @ My Writer Blog

Join Carole as she reviews Neill McKee’s memoir Guns and Gods in My Genes.

http://carolemertz.com/

March 16th @ Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire

Set your reading list on fire with Mindy McGinnis as she spotlights Neil McKee’s memoir Guns and Gods in My Genes. You also have the chance to win a copy of this fascinating book!

https://www.mindymcginnis.com/

Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

The Breakthrough In Two Acts: Breaking the Spell of Painful Emotions and Finding The Calm in the Present Moment by Frederic C. Hartman Audiobook Tour And Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Author Frederic C. Hartman utilizes a unique format of storytelling to explore deeper themes of human consciousness and emotion in the audiobook, “The Breakthrough In Two Acts”. 

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The Synopsis 

In The Breakthrough in Two Acts, Dr. Fredric C. Hartman paints a compelling picture of emotional pain and its context within the human mind and brain. Set in the dramatic backdrop of a therapy session as a stage play, featuring Dr. Hartman as the psychologist and Human Consciousness itself as “the patient,” this is a practical guide for anyone locked within the grip of troubling memories and pain.

In his play, Dr. Hartman tells the story about our vulnerability to painful emotions, which flare up from the depths of our brains, casting spells over us. As the play unfolds, he develops two new experiences to help strengthen our consciousness: one, by actively breaking the spell of the two thoughts that lie at the heart—and generate the distress—in each of our negative emotions, and two, by embracing the strange, fleeting collection of conditions that come along with the present moments of our lives as they each flash by.

The Breakthrough in Two Acts is a complete, entertaining, practical plan for how to use one ‘part’ of our brain—consciousness—to quiet down another, chronically overheated ‘part’—the limbic system—which has ravaged our species with troubles ranging from emotional illness to war. Here is a blueprint for how to overcome emotional pain and embrace a calmer and more fulfilling way to experience life.

The Review

A powerful and thought-provoking read, the author does a fantastic job of finding a unique and creative way of delving into the study of emotions and their effect on consciousness by establishing a play of sorts, in which he takes on the role of a doctor while his “patient” is consciousness itself. Through this play, the author examines such questions as, “What is the mind and how does it work?”, as well as “Why do we have such powerful emotional breakthroughs?”. 

One of the most profound examinations came when Hartman himself examined what exactly got in the way of us making the changes to confront and rid ourselves of painful emotions. In the end, the author discovered that our society as a whole teaches us to ignore these negative emotions and refuses to make the work needed to keep a healthy and organized mind any sort of priority in our lives. The journey to get to this realization was powerfully written and narrated and did a brilliant job of bringing the discussion to life as the narrator and “consciousness” came to life in our minds. 

The Verdict

A memorable, engaging, and as entertaining as it is educational, author Frederic C. Hartman’s “The Breakthrough In Two Acts” is a must-listen and commanding audiobook. The narrators do a great job of delivering an almost cinematic experience that feels like a real play is being put on, putting the listener in a theater of the mind, while the information being provided does a great job of exploring the human psyche and the powerful impact emotions can have on us all. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of this remarkable read/listen today!

Rating: 10/10

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Author: Fredric C. Hartman PhD

Narrator: Stefan Rudnicki, Gabrielle de Cuir, & Justine Eyre

Length: 6 hours 34 minutes

Publisher: Skyboat Media

Released: Dec. 15, 2020

Genre: Self-Development

Continue reading “The Breakthrough In Two Acts: Breaking the Spell of Painful Emotions and Finding The Calm in the Present Moment by Frederic C. Hartman Audiobook Tour And Review”
Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

The Iron Raven (The Iron Fey: Evenfall #1) by Julie Kagawa Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

The true origins of the infamous Puck come to life as a dangerous threat to the worlds of humanity and Faeries alike rises in author Julie Kagawa’s “The Iron Rave”, the first in “The Iron Fey: Evenfall” series. 

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The Synopsis

You may have heard of me…

Robin Goodfellow. Puck. Prankster, joker, raven, fool… King Oberon’s right-hand jester from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The legends are many, but the truth will now be known as never before, as Puck finally tells his own story and faces a threat to the lands of Faery and the human world unlike any before.

With the Iron Queen Meghan Chase and her prince consort, Puck’s longtime rival Ash, and allies old and new by his side, Puck begins a fantastical and dangerous adventure not to be missed or forgotten.

The Review

An action-packed, entertaining deep dive into the world of fantasy, this novel is a fantastic start to a new series within the world of the Iron Fey. Fans of the original series by author Julie Kagawa and newcomers will be able to pick this book up with ease and quickly fall into the lore and magic of this narrative. 

The author’s focus on Puck was an inspired choice, as the infamous trickster and longtime ally of the original protagonists of the series got a much-needed look into his past and character arc overall. The emotional and physical journey he takes in this narrative are nail-biting, to say the least, and his new relationships with characters like the assassin Nyx are engaging to read. 

Fans of the fantasy genre as a whole will absolutely love the amount of mythos that went into this book. As a newcomer to the series myself, it was great to see not only the Fae represented, but so many other magical creatures, from the goblins and redcaps found in the Goblin Market early on in the book to the powerful threat introduced into this narrative with this shadowy creature, this book’s core rests within the fantasy realm the author has crafted, making the setting as much of a character as Puck himself.

The Verdict

A beautifully written, entertaining, and magical new chapter in the world of the Iron Fey, author Julie Kagawa’s “The Iron Raven” is a fantastic start to this spinoff series. With a heart-pounding and almost cinematically written final few chapters that see this massive battle unfold and a cast of characters that readers are going to be able to invest in easily, this is a must-read fantasy book of 2021. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

JULIE KAGAWA is the New York Times, USA TODAY and internationally bestselling author of The Iron Fey, Blood of Eden, The Talon Saga and the Shadow of the Fox series. Born in Sacramento, she has been a bookseller and an animal trainer and enjoys reading, painting, playing in her garden and training in martial arts. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and a plethora of pets. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Social Links:

Author website: http://juliekagawa.com/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jkagawa 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/juliekagawaauthor/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100045094913658 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/52735443-the-iron-raven 

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2995873.Julie_Kagawa

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Iron-Raven-Fey-Evenfall/dp/1335091769 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-iron-raven-julie-kagawa/1136599840?ean=9781335091765 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335091765?aff=novelknight 

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Iron-Raven/Julie-Kagawa/9781335091765 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-iron-raven/id1501522621?id=1501522621&ign-mpt=uo%3D4    

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/

details/Julie_Kagawa_The_Iron_Raven?id=km3UDwAAQBAJ

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An Exclusive Excerpt From “The Iron Raven”

The human world

A long, long time ago

It was almost time

I peeked out of the bushes and grinned.  The stage was nearly set.  In the tiny, sun-dappled clearing beyond the trees, the crystal-clear pool glimmered, attracting all manner of life to its sparkling waters.  A herd of spotted deer bent graceful necks to the surface under the watchful eye of a great stag, standing tall at the edge of the pond.  A few rabbits hopped through the bracken scattered through the clearing, and a family of squirrels scolded each other in the branches of a large gnarled oak.  Birds sang, wildlife meandered, and the wind gently rustled the leaves overhead.  It was a blissful, picturesque woodland scene, a perfectly peaceful day in the human realm.

Boring, boring, boring.

I smiled, reached into my shirt, and pulled the pan flute into the light.  It was my own design; I’d spent several days gathering hollow reeds, cutting them, binding them together and making sure the tone was perfect.  Now, I was going to see what it could do.  

Drawing glamour from the forest around me, I raised the flute to my lips and blew out a single note.

The clear, high sound cut through the stillness of the woods, arcing over the grove, and all the animals clustered around the pond jerked up, eyes wide and nostrils flaring.  The rabbits sat up, ears twitching back and forth.  The deer raised their heads, dark eyes huge as they gazed around, ready to flee.  The squirrels’ tails flicked back and forth as they clung to the branches, their chittering voices silenced.    

In the sudden stillness, I took a deep breath, gathering my magic, and began playing.

The melody rose into the air, cheerful and face paced.  It swirled around the pond, into the ears of every living creature.  For a moment, none of them moved,

Then, one of the rabbits began tapping its foot.  The others followed, thumping their hind legs in tune to the rhythm, and the deer began tossing their heads to the music.  In the branches, the squirrels bobbed, tails flicking back and forth, keeping time, and the birds added their voices to the song.  I bit down a smile and played louder, faster, drawing in more glamour and releasing it into the notes trilling through the forest.  

With a bugle, the ancient stag reared up, tossing his huge antlers, and gave a graceful bound to the center of the clearing.  His sharp hooves pawed the grass, raking gouges in the earth, as he began stepping and leaping with the music.  As one, his herd joined him, bouncing and cavorting to his side, and the rabbits began flinging themselves in wild arcs around the stomping deer.  My glee soared; this was working better than I had hoped. It was all I could do to keep playing and not let the song drop because of the enormous grin wanting to stretch my face.  

Rising from the bushes, I walked toward the grove, the pan flute moving rapidly under my lips, the song rising and the magic soaring in response.  My feet itched, and I started to move them, stepping and dancing to the center of the clearing.  Filling my lungs, I played as loudly as I could, my body moving almost on its own, leaping and twirling and spinning through the air.  And all around me, the forest creatures danced as well, hooves and horns and furry bodies barely missing me as they bounced and cavorted in a frantic circle, hurling themselves around the grove with wild abandon. I lost myself in the music, in the excitement and ecstasy, as I danced with the forest.

I didn’t know how long the melody went on; half the time my eyes were closed and I was moving on pure instinct.  But at last, as the song reached a crescendo, I sensed it was time to bring it to a close.  With one final, soaring note, the melody died away, the wild emotions faded, and the whirlwind of magic swirling through the grove fluttered out, returning to the earth.   

Panting, I lowered my arms.  Around me, my fellow dancers also came to shuddering stops, breathing hard.  The great stag stood a few feet away, antlered head bowed, legs and flanks trembling.  As I watched, he quivered and collapsed, white foam bubbling from his mouth and nostrils as his head struck the ground.  One by one, the rest of the herd crumpled as well, some gasping wide-eyed for breath, some lying motionless in the dirt.  Scattered around them, furry lumps of rabbits lay in the churned mud.  I looked at the trees and saw the squirrels and birds lying at the bases of the trunks, having fallen from their perches once the music ceased.  

I blinked.  Well, that was unexpected.  How long had I been playing anyway?  I looked at the sky through the branches and saw clouds streaked with orange, the sun hovering low on the horizon.  I’d come to this grove and played the very first note early this morning.  It seemed our wild revel had lasted the entire day.

Huh.  I scratched the back of my head.  Well, that’s disappointing.  I guess I can’t push these mortal beasts too aggressively, or they just collapse.  Hmm.  Tapping the fingers of one hand against my arm, I gazed at the pan flute in the other.  I wonder if humans would do any better? 

“Boy.” 

The deep, lyrical voice came from behind me, and a ripple of magic shivered through the air. I felt a stab of annoyance that someone had been watching my revel; that was why I’d chosen to do this in the human world, after all—so I could worry less about curious eavesdroppers.   I turned and saw a procession of horses at the edge of the clearing, watching me from the trees.  The mounts were fey creatures, lighter and much more graceful than their mortal counterparts, their hooves barely touching the ground.  The riders atop them were sidhe knights, clad in armor of leaves, vines and branches woven together.  Part of the Summer Court, I realized.  I’d seen them before, as well as the knights of the Winter Court.  I’d even played with a few of them in the wyldwood, though they never realized the cause of all their small, annoying mishaps was a forest boy too insignificant to notice. 

But the rider at the front of the procession had definitely noticed me, and he was impossible to miss, too.  His mount was bright gold, brighter than any mortal steed, but the noble atop it outshone even his mount.  He was dressed in armor of green and gold, with a cloak made of blooming vines that left flowers where he passed.  Long silver hair flowed from under the huge antlered crown that rested on his brow, and the piercing green eyes beneath it were fixed solely on me. 

Why was he here?  Had he heard my music and been drawn to the sound? That was unfortunate. I tried to avoid catching the eye of the Summer Court, particularly this faery.  I hadn’t been doing anything wrong; the fey cared little to what happened in the mortal world. The deaths of a few forest creatures meant nothing to them. But attracting the attention of one of the most powerful faeries in the Nevernever was a dangerous game. Depending on his mood, he might demand that I “gift” him the thing I’d worked so hard on, play the pipes for him and his knights by for as long as he was amused, or entertain them all by becoming the next hunt. The fey lords were notoriously unpredictable, and I treated them as I would a sleeping dragon: it was okay to tiptoe around and steal their gold, as long as they didn’t see you.

But now, the dragon had spotted me.

The sidhe gentry nudged his mount, and the horse stepped into the clearing, striding across the grass until beast and rider loomed before me.  I stood my ground and gazed up defiantly at the noble, who was watching me with appraising eyes.

“So young,” he mused.  “And such an impressive use of glamour.  What is your name, boy?”

“Robin.”

“And where are your parents, Robin?”

I shrugged.  “I live by myself.  In the wyldwood.”  I couldn’t remember my parents, if I’d even had them.  My earliest memory was the tangle of the wyldwood, foraging for food and shelter, learning the skills I needed to survive.  But, even though I was alone, I’d never felt like I didn’t belong.  The forest, the wyldwood, was my home.  That was how it always had been. 

“Hm.”  The tall noble didn’t press the question.  He observed me in silence for another moment, his face giving nothing away.  “Do you know who I am, boy?” he asked instead. 

This time, I nodded.  “You’re King Oberon.” It was obvious; everyone knew who the Summer King was, though I’d never seen him in person.  It didn’t matter.  I had never seen Queen Mab, ruler of the Winter Court, either, but I was certain I would know her if I did.

“Yes,” the Seelie King agreed.  “I am indeed.  And I could use someone of your talents in Seelie territory.” He raised a hand, indicating me with long, elegant fingers.  “You have power; raw, unfettered Summer magic rivaling some of my strongest allies in the court. Such a gift should not go to waste in the wyldwood.  You should not be living in the forest like a beast, singing to birds and squirrels.  You should be part of the greatest court in the Nevernever. What say you, Robin?”  The king regarded me with eyes like pale green frost.  “Would you like to become part of the Seelie Court?”

Part of the Seelie Court?  

Curiosity battled defiance.  I was intrigued, of course.  Living by myself in the wyldwood meant I could come and go as I pleased, but it was getting a bit lonely.  I wanted to talk to people, others of my kind, not just forest creatures and the occasional scatterbrained piskie.  And of the two courts, Summer territory sounded much more pleasant than the frozen, hostile land of Winter.

       Still, it was never a good idea to take the first offer.  Even I, with my limited knowledge of bargains and deals, knew that much.

“I like it in the forest.”  I crossed my arms and smiled at the king.  “Why should I go live at the Summer Court?”

The Seelie King smiled, as if he’d expected that answer.  “Because, Robin, I am king.”  He spoke the phrase like it was the most important fact in the world.  “And as king of the Seelie, I can give you whatever your heart desires. I can grant you power, wealth, the love of as many hearts as you wish.” He paused, as I wrinkled my nose. “But I can see you are not interested in these things. Perhaps, then, this would be of note.  I have many enemies, Robin.  Both within the court and without. From time to time, these enemies need to realize that they cannot underestimate the sovereignty of Summer.  If you join me…well, let us say you will have plenty of opportunities to practice your magic on things other than common forest beasts.”

Now that sounded interesting. I glanced back at the pond, at the motionless bodies surrounding it.  Poor dumb animals. I hadn’t meant to harm them, but it seemed normal creatures were very fragile.  I would love to try some of my ideas on sturdier creatures, maybe even a few fey, and Oberon was dangling that big, bright carrot in front of me.  He seemed to know exactly what I wanted.  The only question was, did I care?  

“So, Robin of the Wyldwood,” King Oberon went on, peering down at me from his horse.  “What is your decision?  Will you join my court?  I will name you court jester, and you can play your tricks and practice your magic without boundaries.  All I ask is that you do me a small service from time to time.  Do we have a deal?”

Something nagged at me, a feeling that this agreement wasn’t quite what I thought it was. I’d made deals before, but they were with piskies and sprites and a couple local dryads. Never with someone as important as the ruler of the Seelie Court. Was I missing something? This did seem a little too good to be true. 

I hesitated a moment more, then shrugged.  Then again, why not join the Summer Court?  What was the worst that could happen? I was aching for something new, and if I was under the protection of King Oberon himself, think of all the pranks and tricks I could play without fear of retribution.  

This was going to be fun.

“All right,” I agreed, grinning up at Oberon, who raised a thin silver brow in return.  “You have a deal, king.  I’ll join the Summer Court, as long as I get to practice my magic and play as many tricks as I want.”  

“Excellent.”  Oberon nodded and raised both hands.  “Then I name you Robin Goodfellow, jester of the Summer Court,” he announced in sudden, booming tones, and the branches of the trees shook, as if acknowledging his declaration.  Lowering his arms, the Summer lord gazed down at me with a sudden, almost proud smile.  “Welcome to the Seelie Court, Robin Goodfellow.  Wear your name proudly.  Perhaps someday the world will come to know it, as well.”

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Q&A With Author Julie Kagawa

Q: What was the hardest scene to write in The Iron Raven? What was the easiest?

A: I can’t say too much without giving away spoilers, but the hardest scene in The Iron Raven was near the very end of the book when they’re fighting the final Big Bad, and Puck does a completely Puck-ish thing to give them a fighting chance. It was random and irreverent and completely ridiculous, so I had to get it just right to avoid making it cheesy. The easiest scene was one where Puck and Ash were semi-seriously threatening each other, because I know those two so well and it was all rather familiar.

Q: Did you hide any secrets in your book? (names of friends, little jokes, references to things only some people will get)?

A: Lol, well I’m going to reveal my absolute geekiness and say that the name of the newest character, Nyx, is actually my D&D character, a dragon-hating elven assassin. There were a few tweaks, of course, but Nyx is…well, me in a D&D campaign. 😛

Q: What do you hope people remember about The Iron Raven?

A: I hope The Iron Raven brings back the feel of the first Iron Fey novels, where everything was new and surreal and exciting. I hope readers will experience the same wonder and belief in magic, friendship, love and heroism that I tried to present in the first series.

Q: Did The Iron Raven have a certain soundtrack you listened to while writing?

A: My music tastes are eclectic, but I do listen to a lot of Two Steps From Hell while writing, because its mostly instrumental and they have some epic soundtracks.

Q: What is your dream cast for The Iron Raven?

A: I am so bad at this question I don’t even think I can answer it. Apologies, but I really am terrible at remembering actors and actresses. This is a great question for fans, though. Who would your dream cast be for an Iron Fey series?

Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

Wonder Tales by Various Authors (Narrated by Elizabeth Klett) Review and Audiobook Tour

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A fantastic narrator brings to life some of the worlds most iconic fairy tales in this enthralling audiobook, “Wonder Tales” by Various Authors and Narrated by Elizabeth Klett. 

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The Synopsis

This collection of 40 fairy tales contains well-known favorites from authors like the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Oscar Wilde, Charles Perrault, Madame de Beaumont, and Joseph Jacobs. It also collects rare gems from folk-tale traditions around the world, from Germany to China, from Scandinavia to Arabia, from Russia to Japan, and from Italy to Canada. These beautiful, frightening, funny, romantic, and whimsical stories will introduce you to princesses in peril, beastly brides and grooms, adults and children behaving badly, daring and adventurous girls, and clever and devious tricksters. These wondrous tales will be enjoyed by listeners both young and old.

The Review

A beautiful collection of both iconic and popular fairy tales blended with phenomenal stories from various regions from around the world, “Wonder Tales” is a masterpiece of storytelling. The narrator does an amazing job of bringing these memorable stories to life, leaning into the various characters and their personalities with ease. 

What really stands out about this collection is truly the far range of stories that the book holds. From legendary tales such as “Beauty and the Beast” and “Cinderella” to more obscure stories specific to regions around the world like the Japanese story of “Momotaro”, in which a young boy born of a peach and given to a childless couple by the gods must battle a horde of demons known as the Oni, this collection had a bit of everything. 

The only thing of note for modern readers would be that some of these classics from Hans Christen Andersen to the Brothers Grimm have definitely aged, and more modern tales would be preferable for many in regards to societal standards and ethical reasons. However, the heart of these stories and the narration make this a must-have collection overall.

The Verdict

An auditory and literary journey like no other, narrator Elizabeth Klett’s performance of “Wonder Tales” is as magical as the fairy tales themselves. While some of the stories could benefit from some modern day improvements, the heart and passion of these stories is still felt to this day, and the fans of fantasy-driven fairy tale stories and the classic, non-Hollywood style context of these classics will love the narrator’s perfect rendition of these iconic masterpieces. If you haven’t yet, grab your copy today!

Rating: 8/10

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Author: Various

Narrator: Elizabeth Klett

Length: 11 hours 16 minutes

Publisher: Spoken Realms

Released: Oct. 13, 2020

Genre: Classics

Continue reading “Wonder Tales by Various Authors (Narrated by Elizabeth Klett) Review and Audiobook Tour”
Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

Find Me In Havana: A Novel by Serena Burdick Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman must navigate the shocking and mysterious death of her mother, who spent her adult life as a famous actress and singer, in author Serena Burdick’s historical fiction drama, “Find Me In Havana”. 

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The Synopsis 

Cuba, 1936: When Estelita Rodriguez sings in a hazy Havana nightclub for the very first time, she is nine years old. From then on, that spotlight of adoration—from Havana to New York’s Copacabana and then Hollywood—becomes the one true accomplishment no one can take from her. Not the 1933 Cuban Revolution that drove her family into poverty. Not the revolving door of husbands and the fickle world of film. Not even the tragic devastation of Castro’s revolution that rained down on her loved ones.

A new historical novel from Serena Burdick, the author of THE GIRLS WITH NO NAMES, based on the true story of Estelita Rodriguez, a Cuban-born Hollywood actress and singer, as her daughter Nina traces her mother’s life from Cuba to Hollywood to understand her mysterious death, think NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA meets THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO.

Thirty years later, her young adult daughter, Nina Rodriguez, is blindsided by her mother’s mysterious, untimely death. Seeking answers no one else wants to hear, the grieving Nina navigates the troubling, opulent memories of their life together and discovers how much Estelita sacrificed to live the American dream on her own terms.

Based on true events and exclusive interviews with the real Nina Rodriguez, Find Me in Havana weaves two unforgettable voices into one extraordinary journey that explores the unbreakable bond between mother and child, and the ever-changing landscape of self-discovery.

The Review

A beautiful story of two women connected by family and fate, the novel expertly crafts a narrative of how the daughter of a renowned actress and singer must come to terms with the childhood she had and the life she’s led thus far after her mother’s passing. The shift in perspective between both Nina and her mother Estelita was an inspired choice, as readers are able to get a better sense of where each of them was coming from, and the tragic circumstances they each found themselves in. 

The backdrop of Cuba and the nation’s violent history of revolution and war did a great job of highlighting not only the nation’s history but the vast culture that the people of Cuba had as well. However the core of this story is undoubtedly the relationship between a mother and her daughter, and the daughters need to understand her mother’s life and how to let go of the past in order to move on with her own life. The novel is marred by tragic events to be sure, but the emotional journey is well worth the known outcome and makes this a truly intimate historical fiction read.

The Verdict

A mesmerizing, emotional, and heartfelt read of the relationship between a mother and her daughter, author Serena Burdick’s “Find Me In Havana” is a must-read historical fiction novel. The real-life people within this novel come to life in a memorable way, and the honest look into the lives of these two women will be something so many of us can connect with. If you haven’t yet, grab your copies today!

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About the Author

Serena Burdick graduated from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in California before moving to New York City to pursue a degree in English Literature at Brooklyn College. Author of the International Bestseller THE GIRLS WITH NO NAMES and GIRL IN THE AFTERNOON, she lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Author website: http://www.serenaburdick.com/

Instagram: @serenaburdick

Twitter: @serenaburdick

BUY LINKS: 

Barnes & Noble

Bookshop.org

Amazon

Target

Kobo

Google Play

Libro Audio

Audible

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Excerpt From “Find Me In Havana”

One

Big Sur, 1966

CLIFFS

Mother,

In August, Big Sur crackles with drought. Grass dries to a crisp and turns gold as ember. Rattlers lay in wait. Fat insects purr, and banana slugs languish. The air is ripe with eucalyptus, their slender, green leaves blanketing the canyon paths. Poison oak claws the hillside. This is not the season of lemons trees or emerald hills or crisp sunshine. Summer on the coast is a season of bone-chilling fog.

Overlooking the Pacific, I stand on Nepenthe’s stone patio, the restaurant’s windows spilling light around me as I watch the gray mass of fog crawl and heave up the cliff. You would have liked it here, Mom, but we never drove up the coast together. We never had the chance. I close my eyes as the fog settles over me, damp and soft as a whisper. Below, the surf thunders against the rocks, and I feel the sway of the sea in my legs and picture myself stepping over the low stone wall and lifting my arms into the air. The ocean will catch me, release me, hollow out my body and wash it up on the shore like an empty shell.

I need a shell. Hard skin. A barrier against the world of missing you. 

How is there no you left? No Mom. No Wife. No Movie Actress. No Singer. There are photographs, and moving pictures where you swing your hips and make funny faces, but I cannot touch or smell or feel or speak to this two-dimensional version.

I want an explanation.

Memories root and twist inside me, blossom, grow thorns, beautiful and gnarled, but the truth remains hidden, and I am left with the image of the bathroom floor and the weight of you in my arms.

I do not want this to be our last memory.

Opening my eyes, I take a deep breath, let the cool wetness lie over my tongue. Next to me, a fire crackles in the open hearth warming one side of my leg. I think how outdoor fires do this, warm only one side of you while the other side freezes. I wear a short skirt without pantyhose, white tennis shoes and a tight, knit sweater. The guests have all gone, the movie stars and bohemian artists, the former donning glitter and fur, the latter beads and loose-folding fabric, each hoping to authenticate themselves in originality. Each failing.

“Nina?” I jump at the sound of my manager’s voice. He stands in the open patio doorway of the restaurant polishing a wineglass. “Your ride is here.”

He looks at me kindly, unconcerned. He doesn’t know anything about me. I feel the warmth of the fire on my backside and think how cold it will be in the hollowed-out redwood tree where I sleep.

“I’ll just wipe down the tables,” I say, stalling. I don’t want to face my ride any more than I want to face the cold night on the forest floor with the insects.

My manager is a slender, vigorous man who looks as if he’s been breathing ocean air since birth. “It’s late,” he smiles. “You go on home now. I’ll take care of the tables.”

Walking away from the restaurant, the stone path slick with moisture, I dig my doll from the bottom of my bag and tuck her under one arm. She has a cloth body and a plastic head with blue eyes that open and close when you tilt her. Her plastic head is dotted with dark holes where her carefully arranged hair used to be. On her stomach is a scar—held together with a safety pin—from the time I cut her open and pulled out the stuffing.

Bret waits in his mint-green Volvo with the engine running. He is smoking a joint and doesn’t open the door for me. I slide into the passenger seat and he leans over and gives me a sloppy kiss, his hand pressed to the back of my head as if this is something romantic. His tongue tastes of stale smoke and alcohol. “Hey, baby,” he breathes into my face and passes me the joint. I take it, inhale and try to stifle a cough as Bret maneuvers the car onto the dark road.

We met five months ago when I first arrived in Big Sur. My friend Delia and I had eaten a handful of mushrooms and were dancing around a bonfire at a beach party when Bret slipped into the wavy, illuminated light of my vision. His embroidered shirt rippled over his chest and I thought he was something supernatural. The next morning when I woke up beside him on the beach, he’d turned solid. He was nothing more than a thin-chested man with a tangled beard and skinny legs sticking out from his cutoff jean shorts.

Bret hooks the car around a sharp bend, and the wheels kick up gravel that makes a sound like thunder under our feet.

“You’re going too fast,” I say, pressing my hand flat against the passenger window.

He grins and steps on the gas, a man who likes to challenge a woman. This is familiar to me. I watched men challenge you your whole life, each one of your four husbands, in their own way, pushing you to the edge. Despite your effort to understand them, to please them, it was, in the end, your unwillingness to be controlled or possessed that got you killed.

The car takes another corner, and the cliff drops to my right at a precarious angle where sumac and sagebrush cling to the edge. People love Highway 1 for its beauty. They think it cuts a benevolent path along the ocean cliff for our pleasure. What I see is a snake luring us with its curvaceous body, a thing of nature waiting for us to step on it so it can strike and fling us off.

I squish my doll’s head in, making her face look like something in a distorting mirror. “I don’t want to do this anymore,” I say, watching the doll’s features slowly inflate and pop back into place.

Bret’s profile remains neutral, his eyes on the road as he reaches over and strokes my thigh. “Don’t be like that, baby. This is good.”

I’ve tried to break up with him before. I don’t know why he won’t let me go, or how he can feel anything for me when I feel nothing inside. After your death, they sedated me because I was angry and didn’t behave properly. Now, I do what I can to sedate myself.

“I mean it. I’m done.” I shove his hand away, and this makes him angry.

He puts both hands on the wheel, grips it with white knuckles, his eyes forward, his jaw clenched. “What the fuck, Nina?” he says.

The headlights strike the road. Yellow lines blink past like winking eyes.

His anger scares me. “I’m sorry,” I say. I’m not good at this. Charming men. Giving them what they want. Doing what I watched you do, for the good ones and the bad. You appeased the good men, hoping they’d stay with you; placated the bad ones, hoping they wouldn’t hurt you. With each husband you tried a little harder, stayed a little longer, so certain you’d get it right.

If Bret is any indication, I won’t get it right, either. Looking at him, his hard profile reflected in the dashboard lights, his scruffy beard and long hair curling at the base of his neck, he reminds me of the rebel soldiers in Cuba.

This is not a memory I want. “Bret, I really can’t do this. Please, pull over. I need to get out.”

“You don’t know what you need.”

The arrogance in his voice disgusts me, the anger I’d been tamping down with drugs is now rising in my throat. For all his meditating and chanting and seeking enlightenment, Bret is a prick. I am twenty years old, you are dead, and there’s no one to tell me what to do anymore. You are not here to laugh it away, or tell me to chin-up, to silence me or put me in a mental institution or stick me in a boarding school. “Fuck you, Bret!” I shout. “Pull over. I want to get out.”

“Fuck me?” He speeds up, swerves the car near the shoulder of the road, gravel and dirt hitting my window and ricocheting off the glass like buckshot.

I suck in my breath and grip the door handle. “Don’t do that!”

“Do what? This?” He swerves again, and all I see, for a moment, is empty, black space.

What I should do is calm him down, convince him I’m sorry and that I won’t break up with him. Stop the car, and we’ll talk about it, I should say, but a part of me wants him to do something drastic. To pull the trigger for me.

We are crossing Bixby Bridge. The fog has receded, and I can see all the way down to the dark strip of beach where the waves crash and foam like a giant frothing at the mouth. I know, in that split second right before Bret takes us over the edge, that he’s going to do it. It’s not the plunge into water I’d imagined on the patio at Nepenthe. I am not sailing peacefully off the cliff with my arms out but trapped in a metal box that jerks to the right so abruptly my head smacks the window. I expect free fall, silence, stillness, but the air is sharp and compact and splintered with glass.

And then you are in my arms, your face flushed, your dark hair limp on your wet forehead, vomit ringing the corners of your mouth. “Help me,” I plead, even though you are the one dying. “Don’t go,” I cry. “I need you,” but I have already hit bottom, and the world has gone quiet.

Excerpted from Find Me in Havana by Serena Burdick, Copyright © 2021 by Serena Burdick. Published by Park Row Books. 

Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

The history of iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel is shown through a new lens as her sister Antoinette takes center stage in author Judithe Little’s “The Chanel Sisters”.

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The Synopsis

A novel of survival, love, loss, triumph—and the sisters who changed fashion forever

Antoinette and Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel know they’re destined for something better. Abandoned by their family years before, they’ve grown up under the guidance of pious nuns preparing them for simple lives as the wives of tradesmen or shopkeepers. At night, their secret stash of romantic novels and magazine cutouts beneath the floorboards are all they have to keep their dreams of the future alive.

The walls of the convent can’t shield them forever, and when they’re finally of age, the Chanel sisters set out together with a fierce determination to prove themselves worthy to a society that has never accepted them. Their journey propels them out of poverty and to the stylish cafés of Moulins, the dazzling performance halls of Vichy—and to a small hat shop on the rue Cambon in Paris, where a business takes hold and expands to the glamorous French resort towns. But when World War I breaks out, their lives are irrevocably changed, and the sisters must gather the courage to fashion their own places in the world, even if apart from each other.

The Review

A truly fascinating look into the life and challenges of Coco Chanel, the author brilliantly places the less well-known sister of Coco, Antoinette, into the shoes of the protagonist, giving readers a perspective of the iconic French fashion designer that few probably had. The blending of known facts from the icon’s life with fiction helps to fill in some of the mysterious gaps in Coco’s life. From an early life spent at a convent as a child, where she learned to sew and began her steps into the world of fashion, to the rise of her stardom and even the early beginnings of her infamous scent, the author shows the icon and her sisters as dreamers who sought “chic” to contrast the mundane, everyday life they were forced to lead as orphans at this convent. 

As a fan of history, it was fascinating to see Coco’s life through Antoinette’s eyes. It has been said that the designer herself was known to embellish or change the story of her past as her fame grew, so to see the history through her own sister’s eyes was an inspired choice creatively. Antoinette herself managed to become the emotional core of this story, despite her sister’s rising fame, and how events like WWI impacted both the business side of things and their lives personally was definitely an emotional driving force in the book’s closing chapters.

The Verdict

A mesmerizing historical fiction like no other, author Judithe Little’s “The Chanel Sisters” is a must-read. Impactful imagery used early on in the book to showcase the harsh reality of the girl’s lives after losing their mother and being abandoned by their father made for an early emotional start, and the shocking and heartfelt finale to this tale will leave readers breathless. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of this amazing read today!

Rating: 8/10

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About the Author

JUDITHE LITTLE is the award-winning author of Wickwythe Hall. She earned a BA in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia and a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. She grew up in Virginia and now lives with her husband, three teenagers, and three dogs in Houston, Texas. Find her on Instagram, @judithelittle, and on Facebook, facebook.com/judithelittle.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Author website: http://www.judithelittle.com/

Instagram: @judithelittle

FB: @judithe.little

BUY LINKS:

Murder By The Book

Barrington Books

IndieBound

Bookshop.org

Indigo

Amazon

Apple

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

Libro.FM

Audible

Google Play


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Author Q&A

Q: I didn’t know Coco had a sister. How did you come up with the idea for your novel?

A: When I read in a biography of Coco that she had a sister, I knew right away I wanted to write about her.  A lot of books have been written about Coco, but none have been written from the point of view of Antoinette. I thought that the sister of Coco Chanel might have an interesting story to tell, and it turns out that she did.

Q: Explain the staying power and interest in (anything) Chanel?

A: I think that Chanel is the symbol for reinvention and the idea that you can be whoever you want to be and that has a universal appeal.

Q: Do you plan your books in advance or let them develop as you write?

A: They are planned in the sense that they’re based on historical events so there’s already a timeline in place and I know generally what happens. The characters themselves develop as I write.

Q: Have you ever had a character take over a story, and if so, who was it and why?

A: I’ve had minor characters take over small parts of a story such as the baron at Royallieu (I attribute the kite dance idea to him). Arturo also seemed to take over the scenes he was in and tell me what he was going to do instead of vice-versa. 

Q: Which one of The Chanel Sisters’s characters was the hardest to write and why?

A: Julia-Berthe was the hardest to write because of the three sisters, she’s the one about whom the least is known. 

Q: What does a day in the life of Judithe Little look like?

A: Busy! I’m a lawyer so during the day I take care of my law firm work and in the evenings I typically write or do other book-related activities. Mixed in is typical stuff like grocery shopping, errands, and driving my youngest who is a high school sophomore here and there.

Q: What do you use to inspire you when you get Writer’s Block?

A: This may sound strange but I rearrange furniture or shelves or redecorate in some way. Maybe it’s the new perspective but changing my surroundings seems to get the juices flowing again.

Q: Do you have stories on the back burner that are just waiting to be written?

A: I usually have one or two waiting in the wings. 

Q: What advice would you give budding authors about publishing?

A: I think it’s important to have critique partners or a critique group. Mine has been invaluable to me. Persistence and thick skin help too. 

Q: What was the last thing you read?

A:  Bryn Turnball’s The Woman Before Wallis which I loved.

Q: Book you’ve bought just for the cover?

A: Susan Meissner’s Secrets of a Charmed Life because I loved the color of the green dress and the way the figure of the woman was interposed with the river and London. More recently, Jane Smiley’s Perestroika because it has a horse and the Eiffel Tower on the cover–two of my favorite things.

Q: Tell us about what you’re working on now.

A: I’m working on a new novel that takes place in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s and is told from the perspective once again of someone close to Coco Chanel but who was famous in her own right. 


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Excerpt From “The Chanel Sisters”

IN LATER YEARS, I WOULD THINK BACK TO THAT COLD MARCH day in 1897 at the convent orphanage in Aubazine.

We orphelines sat in a circle practicing our stitches, the hush of the workroom interrupted only by my occasional mindless chatter to the girls nearby. When I felt Sister Xavier’s gaze, I quieted, looking down at my work as if in deep concentration. I expected her to scold me as she usually did: Custody of the tongue, Mademoiselle Chanel. Instead, she drew closer to my place near the stove, moving, as all the nuns did, as if she were floating. The smell of incense and the ages fluttered out from the folds of her black wool skirt. Her starched headdress planed unnaturally toward heaven as if she might be lifted up at any moment. I prayed that she would be, a ray of light breaking through the pitched roof and raising her to the clouds in a shining beam of holy salvation.

But such miracles only happened in paintings of angels and saints. She stopped at my shoulder, dark and looming like a storm cloud over the sloping forests of the Massif Central outside the window. She cleared her throat and, as if she were the Holy Roman Emperor himself, made her grim pronouncement.

“You, Antoinette Chanel, talk too much. Your sewing is slovenly. You are always daydreaming. If you don’t take heed, I fear you will turn out to be just like your mother.”

My stomach twisted like a knot. I had to bite the inside of my mouth to keep from arguing back. I looked over at my sister Gabrielle sitting on the other side of the room with the older girls and rolled my eyes.

“Don’t listen to the nuns, Ninette,” Gabrielle said once we’d been dismissed to the courtyard for recreation.

We sat on a bench, surrounded by bare-limbed trees that appeared as frozen as we felt. Why did they lose their leaves in the season they needed them most? Beside us, our oldest sister, Julia-Berthe, tossed bread crumbs from her pockets to a flock of crows that squawked and fought for position.

I pulled my hands into my sleeves, trying to warm them. “I’m not going to be like our mother. I’m not going to be anything the nuns say I’m going to be. I’m not even going to be what they say I can’t be.”

We laughed at this, a bitter laugh. As the temporary keepers of our souls, the nuns thought constantly about the day we would be ready to go out and live in the world. What would become of us? What was to be our place?

We’d been at the convent for two years and by now were used to the nuns’ declarations in the middle of choir practice or as we worked on our handwriting or recited the kings of France.

You, Ondine, with your penmanship, will never be the wife of a tradesman.

You, Pierrette, with your clumsy hands, will never find work with a farm woman. 

You, Hélène, with your weak stomach, will never be the wife of a butcher.

You, Gabrielle, must hope to make an adequate living as a seamstress. 

You, Julia-Berthe, must pray for a calling. Girls with figures like yours should keep to a nunnery.

I was told that if I was lucky, I could convince a plowman to marry me.

I pushed my hands back out of my sleeves and blew on them. “I’m not going to marry a plowman,” I said.

“I’m not going to be a seamstress,” Gabrielle said. “I hate sewing.”

“Then what will you be?” Julia-Berthe gazed at us with wide, questioning eyes. She was considered slow, “touched,” people said. To her everything was simple, black and white like the tunics and veils of the nuns’ habits. If the nuns said it, we would be it.

“Something better,” I said.

“What’s something better?” Julia-Berthe said.

“It’s…” Gabrielle started but didn’t finish.

She didn’t know what Something Better was any more than I did, but I knew she felt it just the same, a tingling in her bones. Restlessness was in our blood.

The nuns said we should be content with our station in life, that it was God-pleasing. But we could never be content where we were, with what we had. We came from a long line of peddlers, of dreamers traveling down winding roads, sure that Something Better was just ahead.

Excerpted from The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little, Copyright © 2020 by Judithe Little. Published by Graydon House Books. 

Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

A Christmas Carol – in rhyme, an audiobook suitable for all ages by Dave McCluskey (Narrated by Liam Scott) Review + Blog Tour

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Author Dave McCluskey and narrator Liam Scott help bring back the classic tale of Charles Dickens’ acclaimed hit story in the audiobook hit, “A Christmas Carol – in rhyme, an audiobook suitable for all ages”. 

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The Synopsis 

A classic Christmas tale, lovingly recreated in this beautiful audio book.

The reviled Scrooge is visited by three spirits who teach him the real meaning of life.

The tale has been turned into rhyme, making this a delightful new twist to the story you know so well. Could it be a new addition to your Christmas traditions?

The Review

An incredibly beautiful retelling of the iconic story, both author and narrator worked well together to help the source material shine for a whole new generation of readers and Christmas lovers alike. The story is both haunting and heartwarming, just as Dickens intended it, bringing to life the chilling tale of Scrooge as he walks the path to find redemption during the holiday season.

The narrator does a great job of not only bringing to life the story and characters themselves but helped craft an atmosphere befitting the Victorian-era story that Dickens wrote in. This story rings even more true in our modern times, as the gap between the wealthy and the middle and lower classes has never been further apart, and a global pandemic and economic crisis have pushed everyone to their limits. A heartfelt tale of finding one’s humanity once more and working to the true meaning of Christmas has never been more important. 

The Verdict

A brilliant retelling of a truly iconic and memorable Christmas story, author Dave McCluskey and narrator Liam Scott’s “A Christmas Carol – in rhyme, an audiobook suitable for all ages” is a must-read and must-listen this holiday season. From memorable characters like Scrooge and Tiny Tim to a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere delivered through the narration, this is a fantastic audiobook you won’t want to miss. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Author: Dave McCluskey

Narrator: Liam Scott

Length: 1 hour 11 minutes

Publisher: Dammaged Productions

Released: Nov. 20, 2020

Genre: Classics

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