Sunday, February 14, 2021

Grand Openings Can Be Murder: Interview and Giveaway

GRAND OPENINGS 
CAN BE MURDER
Bean to Bar Mysteries Book 1
by
AMBER ROYER
Categories: Cozy Mystery / Woman Sleuth / Romance
Publisher: Golden Tip Press
Date of Publication: February 2, 2021
Number of Pages: 266 pages

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Felicity Koerber has had a rough year. She's moving back to Galveston Island and opening a bean to bar chocolate factory, fulfilling a dream she and her late husband, Kevin, had shared. Craft chocolate means a chance to travel the world, meeting with farmers and bringing back beans she can turn into little blocks of happiness, right close to home and family. She thinks trouble has walked into her carefully re-built world when puddle-jump pilot Logan Hanlon shows up at her grand opening to order custom chocolates. Then one of her employees drops dead at the party, and Felicity's one-who-got-away ex-boyfriend - who's now a cop - thinks Felicity is a suspect. 

As the murder victim's life becomes more and more of a mystery, Felicity realizes that if she's going to clear her name in time to save her business, she might need Logan's help. Though she's not sure if she's ready to let anyone into her life - even if it is to protect her from being the killer's next victim. For Felicity, Galveston is all about history, and a love-hate relationship with the ocean, which keeps threatening to deliver another hurricane - right into the middle of her investigation. Can she figure it out before all the clues get washed away? FIRST IN A NEW SERIES!

PRAISE FOR GRAND OPENINGS CAN BE MURDER:

"With as many unpredictable twists and turns as the hurricane approaching Galveston, Grand Openings Can Be Murder is an intriguing cozy mystery set in a new chocolate shop along the island’s historic Strand. Readers will love learning about the bean-to-bar chocolate-making process while the store’s owner, Felicity, pursues truth, justice, and the perfect chocolate bar."
-- Diane Kelly, Award-winning author of the Death & Taxes, Paw Enforcement, House Flipper, and Busted mystery series.

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Interview with Amber Royer

 

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

I have a breezy, fun writing style that focuses in on character relationships and protagonists who protag from the heart.

People also tell me my books make them hungry.

Why did you choose to write a cozy mystery?

I’m primarily a science fiction writer, so this is a whole new genre for me to write in.  I guess that may seem like a weird jump to make, but I’ve been an avid reader of cozies for many years.  Dorothy Cannell’s The Thin Woman got me hooked, back when I was a teenager.  Cozies are light and fun but allow for a thoughtful exploration of theme and character change underneath, which isn’t so different from the other things I write.

I’ve always liked mysteries.  Even when I was a kid, some of my earlies influences were Hank the Cowdog, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and Encyclopedia Brown.  I think there’s an element of mystery to any story.  Readers read because of uncertainty – that need to know what happens next, what really happened in the story’s past, that all will be set right with the world.  Mysteries approach those questions head on.  Which make them appealing to tackle.

I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a mystery before, but never seriously – until after I spent time researching and publicizing the Chocoverse sci-fi books.  I met a number of craft chocolate makers and learned more about the businesses they run, and I found what was missing in my earlier ideas: an amateur sleuth with a unique passion.  I was at an event for writers, pairing myself and a chocolatier I know, and we were talking about food in writing, and I made an offhand comment that there were a number of people doing mysteries with chocolatiers – but someone should do one with a craft chocolate maker.  The idea stuck in my head, and I wound up writing it myself.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The hardest part for me was blending fictional places into a real city.  For instance, Galveston Island has a real-world indie bookstore.  But, despite the fact that the architecture is similar, the bookstore in Grand Openings Can Be Murder is NOT that bookstore.  It has a different name – and is definitely run by different people.  One of them even winds up on Felicity’s suspect list.  It’s a hard balance to strike.  You want to make things different enough that no one will be upset or offended – without losing the idea that the fictional business or location at least blends in with the reality of life on the Island. 

I also mention some real places, such as Pleasure Pier, because they are iconic to Galveston, and giving them a different name just felt really odd.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I really enjoyed writing the character relationships.  One thing the cozy subgenre lends itself to is creating a sense of community for your protagonist.  So once I figured out who Felicity was, it became a matter of reverse engineering the kind of friends and family that would have influenced her character.  I had so much fun writing Felicity’s aunt and uncle because they have an honest interest in Felicity’s wellbeing – even if their attempts to push her out of her comfort zone embarrass and fluster Felicity at times.  And her potential love interests are both pretty good guys at heart – though they have a professional rivalry going on that predates Felicity even meeting one of them.  Which makes for an interesting dynamic. 

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite writing-related quote is from Toni Morrison.  She said, “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”  Someone cited that quote in a Writer’s Digest article that I read back in 2015, and it has stuck with me ever since.  Both the quote and the explanation of what it means: you shouldn’t be writing generic-feeling books to try to appeal to everyone, and you shouldn’t be trying to be the next fill-in-the-blank-favorite-author-name-here.  You have to figure out what you’re passionate about, what you want to explore (Morrison also has a great quote about not writing what you know, but what you don’t know) and what will make you unique.  She also implies that if you have ideas, and the ability to create, that you practically have a moral imperative to do so – that the world will be a less rich place without your art.

What do your plans for future projects include?

I just finished drafting the second book in the Bean to Bar Mysteries series.  I’ve also outlined a couple more adventures for Felicity, which you can look forward to soon.

But I haven’t left science fiction behind.  I also have a piece I’m working on that involves time travel and Impressionist art.


Amber Royer writes the CHOCOVERSE comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the BEAN TO BAR MYSTERIES. She is also the author of STORY LIKE A JOURNALIST: A WORKBOOK FOR NOVELISTS, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate at www.amberroyer.com. She also teaches creative writing for both UT Arlington Continuing Education and Writing Workshops Dallas. If you are very nice to her, she might make you cupcakes.
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ONE WINNER
Autographed copy of GRAND OPENINGS CAN BE MURDER
and a $25 Gift Card to Dandelion Chocolate
(US only. Ends Midnight, CST, February 19, 2021)



FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY,
or visit the blogs directly:

2/9/21 Excerpt Texas Book Lover
2/9/21 BONUS Guest Post Hall Ways Blog
2/9/21 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
2/10/21 Top Ten That's What She's Reading
2/11/21 Review Missus Gonzo
2/12/21 Playlist All the Ups and Downs
2/13/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
2/14/21 Author Interview Rebecca R. Cahill, Author
2/15/21 Review Forgotten Winds
2/16/21 Scrapbook Page KayBee's Book Shelf
2/17/21 Review The Page Unbound
2/18/21 Review It's Not All Gravy

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Sunday, February 7, 2021

Pudge and Prejudice: Review and Giveaway

 
PUDGE AND PREJUDICE
by
A.K. PITTMAN
Categories: YA / Clean & Wholesome Romance / '80s
Publisher: Wander (a division of Tyndale House)
Date of Publication: January 12, 2021
Number of Pages: 352 pages


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A Mixtape of Big '80s Style, High School Angst, and a Classic Jane Austen Tale

It’s 1984 and after moving to Northenfield, Texas, with her family, Elyse Nebbit faces the challenge of finding her place in a new school, one dominated by social status and Friday night football. When Elyse’s effortlessly beautiful older sister Jayne starts dating golden boy Charlie Bingley, Elyse finds herself curious about Charlie’s popular and brooding best friend, Billy Fitz. Elyse’s body insecurities eventually complicate her relationship with Billy, leaving Jayne and Elyse’s exceedingly blunt friend, Lottie, to step in and help Elyse accept herself for who she is, pant size and all.

PRAISE FOR PUDGE AND PREJUDICE:
 
Written with wit and considerable insight into the highs and lows of first love, this coming-of-age twist on the Jane Austen classic had me laughing out loud, singing ‘80s lyrics in my head, and cheering on the brilliant, yet self-deprecating heroine. Pudge & Prejudice is a joy to read from beginning to end!
Lorie Langdon author of Olivia Twist and the Disney Villains series

Allison Pittman will have readers laughing (and singing) on every page of this delightfully tenderhearted novel for all ages…[She] crafts a particularly savvy character who learns that beauty really is soul-deep…. 
Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Perennials   

I can’t remember the last time I loved a book as much as I love this one. It’s an instant classic I will return to time after time. 
Bethany Turner, Award-Winning Author of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck
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Let me begin with saying that I'm a HUGE Pride and Prejudice retelling fan. Pride and Prejudice is sort of my thing. Some of my favorite memories as a teenager was watching Pride and Prejudice and just about every single retelling with my mom and my best friend. And the books, I devoured any retelling book. So when I saw the opportunity to read Pudge and Prejudice, I couldn't help myself, I had to read it!

First off, I love that this is an 80's retelling. The hair, the clothes, the attitude. It fits perfectly with the primary themes of Pride and Prejudice. Especially Billy Fitz aka our our Mr. Darcy! I could just picture him, his hair, his swagger, his prideful personality. I could easily picture him resembling a member of Duran Duran for me. Easily. 

From the beginning, we are swept into the world of Elyse's life. In fact, I loved how Pittman described her sisters right from the beginning: "Jayne and I love them, of course. The way you love a pet- not like a puppy or anything, but more like a couple of hamsters that can capture your fancy for an entire afternoon before becoming nothing but rustling, squeaking noise you have to remember to feed." 

Lots of comments like this made me giggle out loud! I love Elyse's personality and her spirit! A pure joy of a character!

One of my favorite things I love to do in reading retelling's is to find the key moments from the originally and see how the author does it differently. For one, I enjoyed how the dances for the high school were where the evens for the dancing took place. They explained it in the story that homecoming was for the masses. The gossip was another key piece from the original! I loved how everyone gossiped about everything! Billy was so snarky, which was awesome! Lydia of course lived up to her promiscuous ways. Though I think she deserved a harsher punishment at the end than what she ended up getting, but it happens like that in the original though too. 

And the proposal scene! When Billy very rudely explains his feelings for Elyse. That definitely was comparable to the original!

To be honest, I only had a few minor moments where I thought "I wish Pittman had done...." I was kind of hoping for that rudely open rejection of how our beloved Elizabeth character Elyse was handsome (beautiful since it's the 80's) but not enough to tempt our Mr. Darcy character Billy. I always loved that scene in the original, partially because it really sets the tone for the two. 

The other thing I had wished for was more interactions between Elyse and Billy. I know it's a retelling, and even in the original there's a lot of them just looking at each other. But I wanted more interactions between them, more build up to the moment when Billy makes his some what rude declaration of his feelings. 

And lastly,  I was really surprised how quickly Elyse felt like she was in love with Billy after his rude declaration of his feelings for her. Her feelings seemed to change rather quickly, another reason why I felt like there needed to be more interactions between them to help build that connection between the two. I was still angry with him when she had decided she was in love with him! 

I think the best piece about this entire book was Elyse and how she grows through this story. She's always a bit outspoken, but here you have a girl where it seems like her weight is something talked about frequently with her mom and how certain foods aren't on her diet. But as the story goes she starts to step out of her shell, dress in clothes that are flattering on her, and finds a way to step into that spotlight no matter what music is playing. 

Overall though, I feel like this story has alot of spunk! And despite those minor wishes, I really enjoyed the flow of the story. Pudge and Prejudice is charming and witty! I love how Pittman took our beloved classic and made it completely different from any Pride and Prejudice retelling I have read before. It's creative and funny, and was definitely a hard read to put down! 

Rating:4/5
 
Allison Pittman is an award-winning author of thirteen novels, including the Christy-nominated Sister Wife series and the critically acclaimed The Seamstress. An enthusiast for all of the writing world, Allison holds active leadership in her local American Christian Fiction Writers chapter, and she heads up a thriving critique group in the San Antonio area. When not writing, Allison teaches middle school English, working as a conduit to introduce her students to new, fresh literature. You can follow her around on Instagram or Twitter and keep up with her writing news on her Allison Pittman Author Facebook page. Here you'll learn what's going on with new books, next books, and day-to-day life with Allison and her husband, Mikey. You'll also get a peek at Snax, the world's worst dog.

 
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Giveaway ends Midnight, CST, 2/13/2021
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FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY,
or visit the blogs directly:
2/3/21 Review The Page Unbound
2/3/21 Review Missus Gonzo
2/4/21 Review All the Ups and Downs
2/5/21 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
2/5/21 Review That's What She's Reading
2/6/21 Review The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
2/7/21 Review Rebecca R. Cahill, Author
2/8/21 Review Nerd Narration
2/8/21 Review Rainy Days with Amanda
2/9/21 Review Story Schmoozing Book Reviews
2/10/21 Review StoreyBook Reviews
2/10/21 Review Momma on the Rocks
2/11/21 Review Book Fidelity
2/11/21 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
2/12/21 Review Librariel Book Adventures
2/12/21 Review Jennifer Silverwood

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Saturday, September 5, 2020

The Edge of Belonging: Interview and Giveaway

THE EDGE OF BELONGING
by AMANDA COX

Genre: Christian Contemporary Fiction 
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: September 8, 2020
Number of Pages: 400

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When Ivy Rose returns to her hometown to oversee her late grandmother's estate sale, she soon discovers that the woman left behind more than trinkets and photo framesshe provided a path to the truth behind Ivy's adoption. Shocked, Ivy seeks clues to her past, but a key piece to the mystery is missing. Twenty-four years earlier, Harvey James finds an abandoned newborn who gives him a sense of human connection for the first time in his life. His desire to care for the baby runs up against the stark fact that he is homeless. When he becomes entwined with two people seeking to help him find his way, Harvey knows he must keep the baby a secret or risk losing the only person he's ever loved. In this dual-timeline story from debut novelist Amanda Cox, the truthboth the search for it and the desire to keep it from otherstakes center stage as Ivy and Harvey grapple with love, loss, and letting go.







Interview with Amanda Cox,

author of The Edge of Belonging


Where did your love of books come from?

I can’t remember a time in which books were not a part of my life. My parents read to me before bed and took me to story time at the library. They weren’t the type to let me buy a new toy just because I wanted it, but they always said yes to books.


How long have you been writing?

I wrote my very first story for publication when I was seven. It didn’t end up getting published, but it wasn’t from a lack of effort on my part! My parents recently unearthed a copy of it from their archives of kid crafts, and I got to read it to my own kids. It was really fun, seeing similar ways my storyteller’s brain worked back then that still endures in my writing today. That writing dream went dormant for about twenty years. I picked that childhood dream back up about ten years ago.

 

How do you write? Any backstory to your choice?

My very first novel-length work I wrote entirely in longhand, in a series of journals. I don’t write that way anymore, but if there is a particularly emotional scene, I always write it longhand first. There is something about pen and paper that is more connected to my heart.

 

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The very first few drafts of this story were as a single-timeline novel. As time went on it became clear that something was missing, that the story was not quite complete in its original form. So, I went through the process of making some very tough decisions on the cutting-room floor, cutting out half of a story I loved in order to write and weave together a new timeline. It took several tries to create a new timeline that I was happy with. That was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done writing-wise. But in the end that hard work paid off, and this story became my first published work.

 

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

The characters. This cast of characters felt so real to me from the very beginning. And though they are each broken in their own ways, it was really fun writing a redemptive, restorative path for them. I hope that comes through as people read this story.

 

How has your formal education influenced or impacted your writing?

My degree in counseling has made a huge impact on the way I develop characters and take them through an authentic change process. I really tap into that education to think about what events would change my characters, with their particular personality type, and how it would change them.

 

Do you have a favorite character in The Edge of Belonging and why?

Each of the characters has a special place in my heart, each for different reasons. But Harvey stood out to me from the first lines I wrote of his story. He’s a complex character with very simple desires in his life. Or so he thinks. His life has taught him that extreme independence is the same thing as safety and that love is something he can witness but never experience for himself. But the story quickly develops to show that, though he struggles to express himself and despite all he’s been through, Harvey has a huge capacity to love. There’s a tender nature beneath his rough exterior that I find so endearing, and I think readers will not be able to help loving him too.

 

What literary character is most like you?

I often tell people that I act a lot like Jane Bennet outwardly, but to those who are a part of my very close inner circle, they’d probably think I was a little more Elizabeth Bennet. Only in their presence does my playful, snarky wit emerge.



Amanda Cox is a blogger and a curriculum developer for a national nonprofit youth leadership organization, but her first love is communicating through story. 
She holds a bachelor's degree in Bible and theology and a master's degree in professional counseling. Her studies and her interactions with hurting families over a decade have allowed her to create multidimensional characters that connect emotionally with readers. 
Amanda lives in Tennessee with her husband and their three children.
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THREE WINNERS  1st: Copy of The Edge of Belonging + Fern Tote Bag  + $25 Barnes and Noble Gift Card  2nd and 3rd: Copy of The Edge of Belonging + $10 Barnes and Noble Gift Card 
September 1-11, 2020
(U.S. Only)


FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY. 
Or, visit the blogs directly:

9/1/20
Author Interview
9/1/20
BONUS Promo
9/2/20
Excerpt
9/3/20
Review
9/4/20
Review
9/5/20
Playlist
9/6/20
Author Interview
9/7/20
Review
9/8/20
Top Five List
9/9/20
Review
9/9/20
BONUS Promo
9/10/20
Review

   
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