During times of sorrow, I find solace in the written word, escaping into novels whose authors create characters and settings as vital and vibrant as the real world, yet with a dash of the unexpected, a sense of lyricism or a character so believable I wouldn’t be surprised if she walked through my front door.
This fall in particular has been a time for comfort literature, seeking wisdom from favorite authors like Rosamunde Pilcher and her gorgeous prose, as well as debut authors like Emily Deibel and her imaginative world of Cinderland.
In Cecilly in Cinderland, Emily retells the classic story of Cinderella, but with her own creative and original spin. The reader journeys from a city of towers and turrets to the magical world of Cinderland, inspired by Yellowstone National Park, deep within the earth. Here, the protagonists find all their wishes come true; but, as the cover implies, wishes won’t protect them in Cinderland. (Read a full plot description and excerpt here.)
As soon as I encountered Cecilly, the main character, I could see and hear her, as if she were a lifelong friend inviting me on an adventurous excursion, and that ability is one of Emily’s strengths. She offers the reader a few details—a bit of dialogue, a gesture, or even simply a collection of buttons—and weaves them into three-dimensional characters.
The same can be said for both worlds she creates, from the everyday to the fantastical land of the Cinders. I immediately saw the towers and turrets of Cecilly and her sisters’ dress shop, as well as the wall that separated their district from the rest of Havenshire. When she and her sisters descend to Cinderland, the creatures and landscape are described with equal precision, coming alive as Cecilly converses with a ghost or flies on a pygmy dragon.
And in each location geysers feature prominently, lifeless in Havenshire, bubbly and colorful in Cinderland. The mystery of the geysers connects both worlds, and before Cecilly can resume her life in Havenshire, she must make a sacrifice to the geysers, which Emily reveals in a clever and surprising climax.
But like Cecilly and her sisters, I eventually finished the adventure and had to return to reality. I closed the book with sadness, yet I realized I was able to step back into my life with more ease, a bit of Cecilly’s courage rubbing off on me, making me grateful for Emily’s imagination and an escape to Cinderland.
From Borneo to Baja, the adventurers in the following books face obstacles as frightening as any horror movie, except they can’t go home after the lights come on. Some readers will salivate over their stories, ready to sign up for the next trip, while the rest of us can simply enjoy a vicarious thrill, relieved to be reading from the comforts of home.
Snakes, scorpions, sharks, tarantulas, and whirlpools waited for Jonathon Waterman and his wife of one year when they launched their sea kayaks into the Vermilion Sea, better known as the Sea of Cortez. Their two month journey, recounted in Kayaking the Vermilion Sea: 800 Miles Down the Baja, is punctuated with lyrical observations.
Waterman tells of a rocky journey, including a competitive relationship with his wife that sometimes leaves him bobbing in the sea, alone and lost, while she races ahead. However, for every choppy day at sea there are moments of celebration: paddling with dolphins, a brilliant sunset, or the solitude of an uninhabited shoreline.
In her public life, Piper is a mousy high school student, hiding her astonishing beauty and trying to get through the day unnoticed. But in private, thanks to her dolphin DNA, she is a defender of ocean creatures, rescuing dolphins and other marine animals from danger. Eventually, Tyler, a hunky new boy at school, starts to see through Piper’s disguise and wants to get to her know better. And Piper has difficulty saying no. (Read the rest of my review here.)
Back in the realm of memoir, Ann Linnea describes the extreme solitude she discovers when she becomes the first woman to circumnavigate Lake Superior in a sea kayak. She tells her story in Deep Water Passage: A Spiritual Journey at Midlife, a humble account of an extraordinary adventure. Paddling in a rudderless sea kayak, Linnea battles not only unforgiving Lake Superior but a desire to make a major life change.
If you push past Linnea’s New Age babble, you are rewarded by an inspirational story full of Lake Superior’s imagery: towering freighters, tree-shrouded islands, and hearty Lake Superior natives. Linnea returns home with not only sore shoulders but the resolve to recreate herself.
While Linnea was forced to travel light due to limited storage space, Tracy Johnston had no choice. She arrived in Jakarta to raft Borneo’s Boh River while her luggage stayed in Los Angeles. Instead of taking this as a sign to head home, she bravely plunges into a series of misadventures, recounted with humor and passion in Shooting the Boh: A Woman’s Voyage Down the Wildest River in Borneo.
Hired by the trip’s sponsor to write about the first rafting attempt of the treacherous Boh, Johnston is joined by not only the guides but two fashion models, a rich Italian, two Australians, and a Chicago attorney. As the journey becomes more challenging, from foot rot to waterfalls, this personality jumble deteriorates into a group of solo travelers intent on survival.
Whether writing memoir or fiction, all of these authors are such vivid storytellers that you will become lost in their adventures: swatting at the black flies Linnea encounters; dripping with perspiration while Johnston describes Borneo’s moist jungle; shivering with cold when yet another wave drenches Waterman; or marveling at the underwater world Cox invents.
Snow fell in well-defined flakes, delicate as lace, while I read Food for Poe, a charming Christmas novella, whose title takes on a whole new—and mischievous—meaning once the book is consumed.
The story unfolds as a blizzard engulfs the characters, embracing them in a magical tale of miracles, love, renewal, and romance. With Mae Claire‘s unique ability to weave romantic suspense with an ample serving of the fantastical, this novella makes the perfect companion for a wintry afternoon, curled up next to the fireplace, sipping on hot chocolate.
Full of the wonder of the season, it transports the reader to a place where anything is possible, even a cat capable of an extraordinary miracle.
And, now, here’s Mae, talking about inspiration and her favorite season…
Cats, Christmas, and Romance by Mae Clair
It’s hard to believe that Christmas is looming just around the corner. I have no complaints though, because Christmas is my favorite holiday. Not only do I enjoy December 25th and Christmas Eve, but I love the entire month of December. It’s like one long holiday with all the merriment, festivities, and spirit of goodwill that leads up to that very special day. I’m a Christmas sap.
So it stands to reason I’d eventually get around to writing a Christmas story.
Those who know me also know there are two things (other than writing) I’m passionate about: folklore and cats. When it came time to dream up a Christmas story, I decided to weave both elements into the tale. The result is Food for Poe, a short Christmas novella that is also a tale of sweet romance, twined with the paranormal, and even a wee smidgen of horror (just a smidge, I promise!).
When a blizzard strands Quinn Easterly at a handsome stranger’s house on Christmas Eve, she doesn’t realize her newly adopted cat, Poe, is the catalyst responsible for bringing them together.
Breck Lansing gave up on relationships after his wife, unable to cope with their daughter’s illness, left him. But the pretty blonde he rescues from a snowstorm has him rethinking his stance—especially when Quinn’s arrival coincides with a dramatic change in Sophie’s health.
Unfortunately, that change also attracts something only whispered about in folklore. Together, Quinn and Breck must defeat a sinister creature intent on claiming the ultimate payment.
Warning:A clever black cat, Christmas magic and paranormal trouble
On sale now
In celebration of the holidays, you can grab a copy for $.99 at Amazon. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a FREE Kindle Reading App for your PC, MAC, iPad, iPhone, Android or tablet here. Cats and Christmas. What could be better?
Merry Pre-Christmas and Happy Holidays!
About the author
Mae Clair opened a Pandora’s Box of characters when she was a child and never looked back. Her father, an artist who tinkered with writing, encouraged her to create make-believe worlds by spinning tales of far-off places on summer nights beneath the stars.
Mae loves creating character-driven fiction in settings that vary from contemporary to mythical. Wherever her pen takes her, she flavors her stories with mystery and romance. Married to her high school sweetheart, she lives in Pennsylvania and is passionate about cryptozoology, old photographs, a good Maine lobster tail and cats.
I love YA novels: from the drama and angst of high school to self-conscious protagonists longing to fit in to gossipy cliques and the always-present yearning to be loved and admired.
And even though it’s been years (decades!) since I negotiated a high-school hallway—eyes downcast, avoiding the mean kids—to the relative safety of my locker, YA books always bring back an onslaught of memories, some happy, some frustrating, and many totally cringe-worthy.
If you, like me, have a soft spot for young adult stories then author Krysten Lindsay Hager should have a place on your bookshelf.
Ms. Hager brings the teen years to life with absolute perfection in Next Door to a Star. Handling multiple plotlines with an expert touch, she’s crafted a young adult dramedy that on the top layer is a story about Hadley Daniels, an average teen whose only ambition is to fit in, have a few friends, and find her place in the world.
And when she finds herself vacationing, and eventually living, next to a former television actress, she thinks this is her opportunity to finally become part of the popular crowd. But beneath that top, superficial, layer rests a meatier story about acceptance and being true to oneself, regardless of the consequences.
I’d been wanting to read one of Ms. Hager’s novels for some time now, and Next Door to a Star certainly didn’t disappoint with characters that felt familiar, as if they were people I’d met before, and plot twists that kept the story moving at a brisk pace.
And, as with most YA novels, the ending will make you smile, satisfied to have spent several hours with Ms. Hager’s charming characters.
After Hadley’s best friend moves away and she gets on the bad side of some girls at school, she goes to spend the summer with her grandparents in the Lake Michigan resort town of Grand Haven. Her next door neighbor is none other than teen TV star Simone Hendrickson, who is everything Hadley longs to be—pretty, popular, and famous—and she’s thrilled when Simone treats her like a friend.
Being popular is a lot harder than it looks.
It’s fun and flattering when Simone includes her in her circle, though Hadley is puzzled about why her new friend refuses to discuss her former Hollywood life. Caught up with Simone, Hadley finds herself ignoring her quiet, steadfast friend, Charlotte.
To make things even more complicated, along comes Nick Jenkins…
He’s sweet, good-looking, and Hadley can be herself around him without all the fake drama. However, the mean girls have other ideas and they fill Nick’s head with lies about Hadley, sending him running back to his ex-girlfriend and leaving Hadley heartbroken.
So when her parents decide to relocate to Grand Haven, Hadley hopes things will change when school starts…only to be disappointed once again.
The school year should end right after spring break, because all anyone can focus on is summer vacation. You can’t learn anything new, because all you can think about is all the fun stuff you’re going to do once you don’t have to get up at the butt crack of dawn. Summer always seems full of possibilities.
Nothing exciting ever happens during the school year, but maybe, during summer vacation, you could run into a hot celebrity and he’d decide to put you in his next music video. Okay, it wasn’t like I knew anybody that happened to, but my grandparents did live next door to a former TV star, Simone Hendrickson, and Simone was discovered in an ice cream parlor one summer. Of course, she lived in L.A. at the time and was already doing plays and commercials, so the guy who discovered her had already seen her perform. But hey, it was summer, she got discovered, and that was all that mattered.
Amazing stuff didn’t happen to me. You know what happened to me last summer? I stepped on a bee and had to go to the emergency room. They’re not going to make an E! True Hollywood Story out of my life. I didn’t go on exotic vacations—like today, I was being dragged along with my parents to my cousin’s graduation party. Most people waited until at least the end of May before having a grad party, but Charisma was having hers early because she was leaving on a trip to Spain. I was dreading this party because I didn’t want to listen to everybody talk about how smart and talented Charisma was—making me feel like a blob in comparison—but my mom RSVP’d even though I said I’d rather die than go. My death threats meant nothing. But still, for some strange reason, I had a feeling this summer was going to be different.
About the author
Krysten Lindsay Hager is an obsessive reader and has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and humor essayist, and writes for teens, tweens, and adults. She is the author of the Landry’s True Colors Series and her work has been featured in USA Today and named as Amazon’s #1 Hot New Releases in Teen & Young Adult Values and Virtues Fiction and Amazon’s #1 Hot New Releases in Children’s Books on Values. She’s originally from Michigan and has lived in South Dakota, Portugal, and southwestern Ohio. She received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint.
Lillian Dellacourt is beautiful, refined and absolutely lethal. She’s also the most feared and merciless demon hunter in The Company. She’s come a long way from the penniless seamstress’s daughter sold to the highest bidder, and it wasn’t by trusting a man, let alone an exiled Marquis with more on his mind than slaying the hellspawn . . .
For Dorian Lambert, Marquis de Montalembert, being sent to keep track of Lillian is no mean task. He’s wanted the fiery vixen since he first heard of her five years ago. But wooing the lady while fighting the demon uprising is no easy feat, especially when the lady’s tongue is as sharp as the Japanese sai blades she favors for eviscerating the spawn of hell.
These two will have to learn to trust each other fast, because the demon master is back, and he’s planning to turn Edinburgh into a living hell…
Gripping the chair arms to keep herself seated, Lillian fought an urge to leave and never set foot inside Castle Brendaligh again.
It had been a demoralizing battle and they had lost, but they had lived. They had done all they could, but still the demon master had ascended into man’s world.
“You failed and we are all likely to die because of it. I hold every person at this table responsible for the state of England. You have ruined us.” Lord Clayton’s voice grated on Lillian’s nerves.
Accounts of the battle were clear. Nearly everyone in the room had risked their lives trying to disrupt the ascension, not to mention keep the earl’s daughter, Belinda, from becoming a demon sacrifice. Making such a show of ferocious reprimands insulted their brave and selfless efforts. If not for the fact that he was her best friend’s father, she might have indulged her desire to pull a sai blade from her boot and slice his throat.
As if Lord Clayton, the Earl of Shafton, needed to attract more attention, he waved his hands. “You had one mission, to keep the master from entering our world. All you had to do was kill one demon, but you failed. You should all be shot for treason. Treason!”
His bright red face gave her hope his heart might fail and save her the trouble of killing him.
Other hunters at the table murmured, but no one spoke out.
“Everyone in this room is to blame. You had the perfect opportunity to end this mess. Now the master is free of his realm and living in ours. It’s only a matter of time before he is strong enough to destroy everything we hold dear. When your families are killed mercilessly, will you sit here so unrepentant about failing in your duty?”
“Father, really.” Belinda Thurston rolled her eyes.
Lillian missed Reece’s steadying presence. Reece might have even been able to stop his lordship’s tirade with a few quick-witted remarks. Her partner had nearly died, and now lay upstairs recovering from demon poisoning.
“Don’t you roll your eyes at me, Belinda. You are equally to blame. You were with the master for days and made no attempt to destroy him.”
Gabriel, Belinda’s husband, bristled. It was of course a ridiculous statement. The Earl of Tullering was not used to public abuse of his family. “Just a minute, my lord. You are out of order. Belinda was in no position to defeat the demon master. The information she gathered will be very helpful in our eventual victory.”
Shafton pointed a fat finger. “I do not want to hear about information that will take years to decipher. You, Tullering, are by far the most culpable. You and that woman”—he pointed at Lillian—“made a conscious choice not to destroy the master.”
Lillian reached toward her boot and let the hard steel of her sai blade handle bring her comfort. One second and Shafton’s head could be rolling down the long table and land in Drake Cullum’s lap.
Besides Shafton, Drake and his assistant, Dorian Lambert, were the only ones present who had not been at the battle. Their leader, Drake, had attended to assign new orders to the hunters.
Shafton said, “You could have destroyed the beast as it rose and was weakened. I know you had the opportunity, but you chose to save yourself. It was selfish and stupid.”
Lillian could kill him and no one would be able to stop her. Of course, there were always consequences when dealing with men in power. She’d lose her home within The Company. Yet another arrogant earl would not take her from her rightful place. She was in control. It was nothing like her youth and the titled man who’d ruined her life.
Belinda said, “They saved my life, Father.”
“It was the wrong choice, Belinda. You might have cost us our one chance to stop this.” Shafton narrowed his eyes on Lillian.
Lillian said, “I can imagine your pleasure if we had allowed your only child to become the master’s sacrifice. Perhaps we should have stood by and watched until the master, with his full power rose, from the depths of hell and destroyed us all. As it is, Reece Foxjohn is still recovering from battle and the rest of us might have been sucked into the demon’s realm. But by all means, my lord, go on and tell us how you know we willfully failed on our mission. I do not recall your life being in danger that day at Fatum Manor. You were safely tucked away in your castle while the rest of us faced death or worse.”
“You are out of order, Dellacourt.” Shafton said her name as if it were a curse.
Lillian wasn’t sure when she had stood up, but clutching the leather wrapped steel, she rounded the table toward the earl. “If you have something you want to say about my abilities, my lord, I suggest you do so. I will be happy to display them for you, and we can evaluate them together.”
“Miss Dellacourt.” A warning came from the other end of the table.
“You were not there. You cannot know if we could have destroyed the master. As far as I’m concerned, we made the only choice possible under the circumstances. Maybe if your intelligence had supplied us with the location of the gateway before the master had grown so powerful, we might have been able to seal him in.”
“How dare you imply that I failed in some way? You who completely disregard orders at will.”
She had only ever hated one man the way she despised Shafton, and he too was an earl. At least that one was dead. Steeling her nerves, she slid the sai blade through the pocket cut in her skirt. “You speak of orders that were selfish and almost succeeded in getting your own family killed.”
“You have no right to question me or my motives.” To his credit, he faced her and stared her in the eye.
“I have every right when you point your fat finger at me.”
“Who do you think you are? I know where you come from Lillian Dellacourt. I know what you are.”
Drake Cullum pounded the table. “Shafton, that will do.” The demon hunters’ leader stood rigid, narrow-eyed. He was formidable when he was calm, but enraging him was never a good idea. He was furious now.
Had she gone too far? The idea she might have overstepped her bounds with Cullum was enough to make her relax the grip on her blade. Lillian turned and stormed from the dining room.
Shafton yelled something about not having dismissed her from the meeting.
Once in the hallway, she pulled her second blade and turned to go back in and finish what she’d started. It would be nothing to remove his pompous head from his shoulders.
Cullum stood in the doorway. He smiled at her and closed the door, baring her reentry.
Had she ever seen him smile before? No instance came to mind. She stomped toward the front entrance. She’d leave the damn castle, get her carriage, and ride like the devil back to London. Yet the one person in the world she could really talk to was a resident of Brendaligh. Holding her full skirts with both hands, she sprinted up the curved grand staircase.
About the Author
A.S. Fenichel gave up a successful career in New York City to follow her husband to Texas and pursue her lifelong dream of being a professional writer. She’s never looked back.
A.S. adores writing stories filled with love, passion, desire, magic and maybe a little mayhem tossed in for good measure. Books have always been her perfect escape and she still relishes diving into one and staying up all night to finish a good story.
Multi-published in historical, paranormal, erotic and contemporary romance, A.S. is the author of The Demon Hunters series, the Psychic Mates series, and more. With several books currently contracted to multiple publishers, A.S. will be brining you her brand of edgy romance for years to come.
Originally from New York, she grew up in New Jersey, and now lives in the East Texas with her real life hero, her wonderful husband. When not reading or writing she enjoys cooking, travel, history, and puttering in her garden. Her babies are both rescues and include a demanding dog and a temperamental cat both of which bring constant joy and laughter.
It’s an honor to have award-winning author Janet Ruth Heller with me once again to discuss her new children’s book, The Passover Surprise (read my review), as well as her writing process and other literary insights. It’s such a great interview, full of so many interesting tidbits, that I’ll jump right into it:
Tell me about your writing style? How would you describe it?
I try to write in a very clear and concise style. I avoid extra words, especially adjectives and adverbs. I want to communicate well with my readers, so I avoid ambiguity in prose. I experiment with more ambiguity in my poetry, however.
Your writing style comes through in your most recent work, The Passover Surprise. How did you come up with the title?
I have always loved the Passover holiday because we used to spend it with my mother’s twin brother’s family. My main character, Lisa, has conflict with her father, and I thought that Passover was a perfect time to resolve this conflict. Passover also celebrates the Jews’ independence from Egyptian masters. Lisa has learned how to cope with a difficult problem and is becoming a more independent young woman. Therefore, Passover seems the right holiday to celebrate Lisa’s new maturity.
Almost all writers are also voracious readers. What books have most influenced your life?
My mother read Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885) to me when I was a child. I loved the poems’ rhythm and imaginative details. I was sick a lot as a child (so was Stevenson), so I especially identified with the poem “The Land of Counterpane.” I read Teenagers Who Made History (1961) when I was a teenager in the 1960s. Author Russell Freedman portrays young people who began to succeed in their chosen careers when they were teenagers. He chooses both men and women from very different fields. Because I was a young writer, I especially connected with the story of Edna St. Vincent Millay, the poet, who won a college scholarship after placing second in a national poetry contest. This book helped to inspire me to become a professional poet, dramatist, fiction writer, essayist, and literary critic.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I learned from John Ciardi’s How Does a Poem Mean? (1959) to write concisely using specific details and images. He helped me to make my writing less wordy.
And what are you working on now?
I’m revising a scholarly essay that I wrote about Jaimy Gordon’s novel Lord of Misrule (2010). I share her love of horses, and I admire her ability to portray the diverse characters surrounding an obscure racetrack.
Looking back, do you remember when your interest in writing first began?
My first-grade teacher Mrs. Mesias did a poetry writing workshop with us. She liked one of the poems that I made up so much that she dittoed 25 copies of it for the class. The poem was about flying a kite with my father in a park. I guess that was my first publication. I was lucky to have fourth-grade teacher Marjorie Schroeder and high school teachers like Zelma May Oole, Barbara Gensler, and Margaret Sturr, who also admired my writing and encouraged me to develop my skills.
And now for a little fun with a few not-so-serious questions…
If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?
I love antelopes because they are graceful and can run fast even over rugged and rocky terrain. In contrast, I’m rather slow-moving and I have wobbly feet.
You are given one superpower… What would you select?
I would like to be able to know what people are secretly thinking. Sometimes, I misinterpret people, so I would prefer to understand them better.
And I couldn’t agree more–reading minds would be an excellent superpower and particularly useful for an author. As always, it’s been a pleasure to host Janet today, and I look forward to seeing what pleasant surprises her work brings to readers in the future.
Joel Eisler is a mutant with special talents. He can detect an oil leak in the ocean simply by tasting the water. Because of this unique ability, he’s been purchased by a large oil company, along with his dolph-sister, Amy. The upside of spending his days and nights in the ocean is that it gives him the opportunity to save the lives of his brother dolphins. The downsides are life as a closely monitored slave—and that he can’t be with Piper, the dolph-girl he loves…
To make matters worse, Joel discovers the lab he grew up in has extracted his sperm and Piper’s egg and created a baby, and his handler, Craven, is plotting to kidnap Amy for more experiments. Now Joel must rescue the infant, bring her to Piper, and find a way to save Amy. And if that’s not enough of a challenge, he needs to convince Piper she belongs with him instead of her all-too-human boyfriend—if Craven doesn’t get to them first…
Multi-published author Sandra Cox writes YA Fantasy, Paranormal and Historical Romance, and Metaphysical Nonfiction. She lives in sunny North Carolina with her husband, a brood of critters and an occasional foster cat. Although shopping is high on the list, her greatest pleasure is sitting on her screened in porch, listening to the birds, sipping coffee and enjoying a good book. She’s a vegetarian and a Muay Thai enthusiast.