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Happy New Year!

Here’s to a splendid 2018!  Happy New Year, everyone.

Mailbox Monday #460

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog. To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what we received:

Owl Diaries: Warm Hearts Day (book 5) by Rebecca Elliott, gift from Santa for my daughter.

It’s almost Warm Hearts Day! Everyone is busy making gifts for their loved ones. Eva LOVES crafting, so she creates all sorts of fun gifts and treats for her friends. She is excited to give out her homemade gifts at the big party at the Old Oak Tree. But then Eva realizes she forgot to make gifts for her family! Will she be able to make the gifts in time?

Owl Diaries: Baxter Is Missing (book 6) by Rebecca Elliott from Santa.

A famous author is coming to Treetopolis! Eva and her classmates each have to write a story to share with the author. Eva’s excited! But then something terrible happens: Her pet bat, Baxter, goes missing! Eva can’t think of anything to write about — except how much she misses Baxter! With help from her friends, Eva looks everywhere for Baxter. She even hangs up MISSING posters! Where could Baxter be? And will Eva finish her story in time for the author’s visit?

Owl Diaries: The Wildwood Bakery (book 7) by Rebecca Elliott

Eva’s friend Macy has a little sister who can’t fly on her own. So Eva’s class decides to raise money to buy her a super-cool flying chair! Half of the class opens a bakery to raise the money. The other half opens a candy store. Soon the owls are competing to see whose shop can make the most money. But they will all need to work together to raise enough money for the special chair. Can Eva get everyone to work as a team?

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #459

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog. To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what we received:

It’s a big mystery because Christmas is today.

What did you receive?

Happy Holidays

To everyone, I wish you a happy holiday season.  Spend it with those you hold dear and keep them close always.

Owl Diaries: Eva and the New Owl (Book 4) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Owl Diaries: Eva and the New Owl by Rebecca Elliott is the fourth book in this illustrated series of chapter books for younger readers. My daughter is so eager to read these, it is tough to say no even when it is a school night and it’s past her bedtime.

Eva’s class learns that a new owl will be joining the class, and the whole place is aflutter with anticipation. Eva is determined to make friends with the new owl, and to make sure that the new owl is not friends with Meany McMeanerson, aka Sue.  Lucy, Eva’s best friend, also wants to be friends with the new owl, but Eva is so enthusiastic that she loses her focus and starts to neglect her best friend.

Without preaching too much, Eva’s mother offers her daughter some sound advice about friendships.  Elliott certainly understands what keeps younger kids interested in stories — colorful pictures and stories they can relate to — and this fourth book is definitely engaging.

Owl Diaries: Eva and the New Owl by Rebecca Elliott will teach kids about what it means to be a true friend and how new owls shouldn’t take the place of the old. I love that this series has comprehension questions in the back that are fun for kids, allowing them to revisit the story after they’ve finished reading it.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the United Kingdom with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

Mailbox Monday #458

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog. To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what we received:

Bone Music by Christopher Rice for review.

Charlotte Rowe spent the first seven years of her life in the hands of the only parents she knew—a pair of serial killers who murdered her mother and tried to shape Charlotte in their own twisted image. If only the nightmare had ended when she was rescued. Instead, her real father exploited her tabloid-ready story for fame and profit—until Charlotte finally broke free from her ghoulish past and fled. Just when she thinks she has buried her personal hell forever, Charlotte is swept into a frightening new ordeal. Secretly dosed with an experimental drug, she’s endowed with a shocking new power—but pursued by a treacherous corporation desperate to control her.

Except from now on, if anybody is going to control Charlotte, it’s going to be Charlotte herself. She’s determined to use the extraordinary ability she now possesses to fight the kind of evil that shattered her life—by drawing a serial killer out from the shadows to face the righteous fury of a victim turned avenger.

Cousin Prudence by Sarah Waldock, a Kindle freebie.

When Emma Knightley discovers that her father’s sister made a misalliance with a weaver, and that this Mr Blenkinsop is asking his late wife’s family to bring his daughter Prudence into society, it is something of a shock.

Prudence is a surprise when she arrives, after having made an encounter on her journey with the irritated Lord Alverston and his wayward nephew; and appears from her propensity for scrapes to have been badly named!

However, Prudence is a merry girl with a lot of common sense and both Mr Knightley and Lord Alverston are impressed by her concerns for the poor in the ‘year without a summer’ and her sensible suggestions to help preserve some crops. And meanwhile, Prudence finds love.

Epiphany with Tea: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Renata McMann, Summer Hanford, a Kindle freebie.

Who would think tea at Rosings could be enlightening? Not Mr. Darcy. At least, not until the moment he realizes how to win Elizabeth Bennet’s heart.

Even after years of marriage, the memory of tea at Rosings is still fresh in Darcy’s mind, but can lessons learned then help him come to terms with the trials of today?

Epiphany with Tea is a story of love, happiness, understanding and cherishing the season.

What did you receive?

Guest Post & Giveaway: Writing with Blinders by Audrey Ryan

I want to welcome Audrey Ryan to the blog today. She will share with us a bit about her writing process.

Before we get to that and the international giveaway, please read about her modern Pride & Prejudice, All the Things I Know.

About the Book:

Lizzie Venetidis is confident in her decisions. Moving to Seattle with her sister Jane after she graduated from Stanford, for instance, was a no-brainer. Adult life, however, turns out to be more difficult to navigate than she expected.

What career should she pursue with a bachelor’s degree in art history and no marketable experience amongst a tech-heavy job market? How responsible is it to drink that fourth cocktail while out with friends? And what should she do about Darcy—the aloof yet captivating guy she
met her first night in town? All the Things I Know is a one-mistake- at-a- time retelling of Pride & Prejudice, set against the backdrop of modern-day techie Seattle. Full of wry observations, heartache, and life lessons, All the Things I Know shares the original’s lessons of correcting ill-conceived first impressions and learning who you really are.

Please welcome, Audrey.

Thank you for welcoming me for during the second week of my blog tour! I thought for this guest post, I would delve into some of writing techniques and inspirations. I hope they are not only interesting, but also inspire many “to be” writers! I have five topics I thought to share.

Writing with Blinders

The greatest fault I have as a writer is “looking back” and rewriting. Let me explain. Revising and improving are a wonderful practice as a writer, but if you’re like me, this has to come when the story is complete. Why? Otherwise it will never be completed! I remember the first novel I started in college. This novel was a YA Urban fantasy that I had fully plotted, but never reached past ten chapters. These ten chapters I continued to rewrite for about four years straight. I wanted them to be perfect and I constantly doubted them. I made the mistake of dwelling on them too much and did not let myself keep going. Part of the problem for me in those early days is that I wrote in one huge word doc, so I would feel compelled to read from the beginning when I started writing instead of picking up where I left off. When I started writing All the Things I Know, I made a conscious decision to employ “chunking” and to also not look at what I had written when I had finished it. I had to keep moving forward. Perhaps when I would “stitch” my chapters together, I would make edits here and there, but I wouldn’t question the words I put to page. That was to come in the editing process.

Chunking

Chunking is typically a method used to make reading more digestible and speedy. You often see it employed as top ten lists, for instance. I use it a bit differently when writing fiction. Instead of reading in digestible chunks, I write in them. I set a word count goal for a chapter and then a small outline that includes every point I want to address in that chapter. Then, with each theme/scene/goal in mind, I write in small chunks. This particularly helps me keep my momentum going when I’m not feeling particularly inspired. True, there are times when the inspiration fairy glitters all over me and I can write to my muse’s content, but that’s not the reality in most cases. More than half the time, I’m sitting at the computer wondering what I’m trying to say and how I want to say it. By boiling down the main points into small scenes with easy to attain word counts, I take the stress out of my progress. I don’t look back at what I’ve written until it’s time to stitch the scenes together. Sometimes I over-write and sometimes I under-write when I come to that phase, but I find it easier to edit and “massage” a chapter when I already have a jumping off point.

The Ideal Environment

Due to the fact I have a full-time job and an hour commute on public transportation, my ideal writing environment is not always available. I am most prolific when sitting at a coffee shop, not connected to the Wi-Fi, and listing to my inspiration playlist. Why does this work for me? Well, to put it bluntly, I am a procrastinator. If I’m grabbing an hour to write at home, I’m spending thirty minutes of that distracted by Facebook. Add to that that once I’m home for the day, all I want to do is snuggle with my cat and talk to my husband. Once the “at home” outfit is on, I am reading a book with no thoughts to productivity. Take me out of that environment and it’s a different story. If I’m in a busy coffee shop, I feed off the energy of those around me. True, I am wearing headphone (I call them “my office”) to help with concentration (otherwise I would be eavesdropping like a creeper). My husband is also a writer and we will have writing dates at one of our favorite coffee shops. Those are the best for me. I set myself a writing goal and just go. Plus, it’s very rewarding to tell him how many words I completed in our few hours together.

The Soundtrack

I have a few soundtracks I depend on when writing. My go to general writing soundtrack is to go for word-less piano music. Philip Glass and Dustin O’Halloran are among my top artists. However, one of my favorite things to do is create a soundtrack to the story I’m writing. Generally, I tinker with this playlist a lot until it feels like just the right mix. When I’m knee deep in a story, I will listen to this soundtrack ad nauseam; whether I’m writing, commuting, cooking, or at my day job. For All the Things I Know, I created a playlist early on Spotify. It’s a mix of New Wave, New Wave covers, and Indie Pop songs that remind me of Lizzie, Darcy and points in the story. In fact, I often would sit and listen to this soundtrack and play a mindless game on my tablet in order to find inspiration. It’s like staring at the wall 2.0. And if you’re curious, yes I did make this playlist public. You can listen to it yourself here.

Physical Place as Inspiration

As you may have gathered by reading other posts along the blog tour, the sense of place was very important in the creation of All the Things I Know. In some sense, it was easy to write about because I know Seattle so well. In other cases, I used my real setting to inspire my fiction. Taking the tool of my soundtrack, finding alone time in many of the settings that inspired me helped me get ideas. For instance, there is a tea shop in Ballard called Miro Tea and a coffee shop a few blocks away called Caffe Fiore. In my mind’s eye, Cafe Longue was a mixture of the two. Taking myself to the physical places and writing observations helped me to create the atmosphere of these scenes. Sort of like sketching from a real-life model of still life. A flat picture as reference is nice, but the real place is better.

Thank you again for hosting me on the blog tour! Good luck to all the readers on the giveaway!

About the Author:

Audrey Ryan is the nom de plume of Andrea Pangilinan: daydreamer, wife and step-mother, and obsessive story consumer. She studied writing in college, dreamt about becoming a novelist and slowly forgot about it when real life took over. With a particular affection for contemporary retellings, adapting Pride & Prejudice to modern day has always been a dream.

When she’s not reading and writing, Andrea is a marketing slave to the internet industry. She enjoys talking crazy to her weirdo cat, consuming copious amount of wine and coffee with her girlfriends, and record shopping with her husband. Oh yeah, and there’s that small Jane Austen
obsession. That doesn’t take up any time at all.

Follow her online:

http://audreyryan.merytonpress.com
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAudreyR/
https://twitter.com/AuthorAudreyR

Enter the Giveaway for 8 e-books of All the Things I Know by Audrey Ryan

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented.

Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.

Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

Owl Diaries: A Woodland Wedding (Book 3) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Owl Diaries: A Woodland Wedding by Rebecca Elliott is the third book in this series, which does not necessarily need to be read in order. I’m so glad we took a chance on this series of books. My daughter is so excited to hear about Eva and her escapades with her classmates every night. I don’t have to make reading a long, chapter book a chore. It’s a breeze with Elliott’s colorful pictures and fun adventures.

Imagine yourself as a little girl and your teacher is getting married, then take that a step further with Eva who creates an entire wedding planning club for herself and her classmates. Of course, Sue appears to be mean again in this one, but there are reasons behind her behavior. It’s a good teaching moment for kids. It enables them to see that because someone is in a bag mood doesn’t necessarily mean they are not a nice person. They might have other concerns. Kids need to learn how to empathize, and this book can provide that.

Owl Diaries: A Woodland Wedding by Rebecca Elliott is delightful, and my daughter is eager to start the next book. I’m wondering if the author plans to write a series based on Eva’s brother, Humphrey!

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the UK with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

Mailbox Monday #457

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog. To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what we received:

Angel of Waterloo: Jane Bennet, War Nurse: A Pride and Prejudice Variation Novel by Emma Osborne, free on Kindle.

When Charles Bingley takes up his brother’s regimental appointment and goes across the channel to face Napoleon, Jane Bennet is faced with a choice… stay in Hertfordshire while her sisters court the Meryton regiment, or follow her heart to Brussels.

When Jane’s letters stop coming, Elizabeth Bennet is determined to find her sister, no matter the cost. Mr. Darcy, concerned about his friend Charles Bingley’s sudden silence is also planning a trip across the channel and the two are thrust together in an uneasy alliance to discover the truth behind Jane and Bingley’s ominous silence.

Kitty’s Lucky Charm: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Bianca St James, a Kindle freebie.

Catherine Bennet is in possession of the worst kind of luck. With three of her four sisters happily married, she is stuck in a quiet house with a sister who does not care for balls and dancing with garrison officers, or what new ribbons are in the shops in town. Mrs. Bennet might be anxious to have her married off, but for Kitty Bennet, nothing seems to be going right.

Kitty’s luck takes a turn for the worse when a journey to visit her sister Elizabeth to help welcome their first child puts Kitty in a perilous situation. Her disappointment is unmatched, however, as she discovers that her only hope is not a dashing officer in regimental red, but a young man with ink-stained cuffs and an earnest smile.

Miss Darcy’s Companion by Joana Starnes, a Kindle freebie.

Miss Georgiana Darcy is need of a companion, and she would much rather not have Mrs Younge. The recently bereaved Miss Elizabeth Bennet is in need of a position. When she accepts the one Mr Darcy offers, she finds herself in his near-constant company and gets to know him at his best. Not as he would present himself to strangers in some remote corner of Hertfordshire, but as his nearest and dearest know him. An excellent brother, landlord, master. A wonderful man, noble, kind – and impossibly handsome.

So who falls in love first? What of Mr Wickham and his dastardly ploys? And how is a lady’s companion ever to have a future with one who could marry into the best houses in the land?

Holidays with Jane: Thankful Hearts by Ceclia Gray, Jessica Gray, Nancy Kelley, and more, a Kindle Freebie.

t’s time for crisp weather, colorful leaves, and a Thanksgiving feast. The authors of the Holidays with Jane series bring you Holidays with Jane: Thankful Hearts with six modern-day adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels. Join your favorite heroines around the fire with a cup of hot apple cider for heart-warming takes on these classic stories.

Amelia Elkins Elkins by A.M. Blair, a Kindle freebie.

In 1817, if childbirth didn’t kill a woman, there were good odds a “miasma” would. Now, thanks to modern medicine, a woman’s demise at the prime of her life is uncommon enough to deserve an investigation. That’s what two lawyers at the Harville Firm promise to do when Amelia Elkins Elkins, a member of a prominent family with more baggage than money, contacts them in the wake of her mother’s untimely death.

In this retelling of Jane Austen’s PERSUASION, Amelia and her sisters turn to the American court system to seek justice for their mother’s death. It’s too bad their conceited, silly father is doing everything he can — inadvertently, of course — to hinder their success.

Fitzwilliam Darcy An Honourable Man by Brenda J. Webb, a Kindle freebie

Fitzwilliam Darcy, An Honourable Man is a Pride and Prejudice variation. Not a simple retelling, it is an intriguing new story that does not follow canon. It is rated for mature audiences.

Leaving England after his disastrous proposal was refused at Hunsford, Darcy spent two lonely years in Scotland and Ireland before returning home to face Elizabeth Bennet, certain that he could regard her as an indifferent acquaintance.

Events that transpired in his absence have left Elizabeth a changed woman. The victim of a marriage by deception to Count Stefano, she has suffered greatly at his hands.

Will Mr. Darcy rescue the woman he vowed to forget?

Jewels on the Water: A Pride and Prejudice Sequel by Rachel Elizabeth, a Kindle freebie.

Does love truly conquer all? Or is sadness inescapable? Is it worth the effort required to be free of its dark downward pull?

The Victorian Age has been kind indeed to Gardiner-Bingley Enterprises, third largest company in Great Britain. Gardiner’s Emporium warehouses in London and Scarborough, and most recently expanded to include Bristol and New York City, are well supplied by the partnership with Bingley Shipping and Bingley Woolen Mills now headed by patriarch Charles Bingley. His second son, Thomas, is blessed with everything the mortal heart can most desire—good looks, splendid property, noble kindred—and his own ship.

He enjoys his well-ordered life until the day he looks into the eyes of his heart’s partner and recognizes her for who she is. But mystery surrounds her. Why is a gentlewoman, a peeress, booked aboard a freight steamer enroute to America—without a maid or companion? Why does she deflect all questions about herself or her future plans?

Like his father before him, Thomas quickly comprehends that he has found his ‘angel’. But will she fly away before he can convince her to stay?

Although there is no explicit content in this story, it does deal with the sensitive topic of successfully recovering from sexual, physical, and emotional violence to find that life can still include ‘jewels on the water’.
This is a clean read appropriate for readers 17 and older

Mr Darcy’s Christmas Angel by Katy Green, a Kindle freebie.

In this story, Lady Catherine never visited Longbourn so Elizabeth and Mr Darcy were never reunited. Mr Darcy is dangerously ill the following Christmas and calling for Elizabeth. Colonel Fitzwilliam goes to fetch her and what happens next is the subject of this festive short story.

Darcy and Elizabeth: Duet in the Halls of Pemberley: Two Pride and Prejudice Variations by Cassandra Knightley, a Kindle freebie.

Two chances for Darcy and Elizabeth to find their happily ever after!

Escape to the polite society of Pride & Prejudice in these sweet, clean variations bubbling with spirit, humor, and romance.

Love Blooms at Pemberley
In the aftermath of Elizabeth’s rejection of Mr Darcy, the worst possible outcome has befallen the Bennet family. Mr Bennet has died unexpectedly, leaving his widow and unmarried daughters at the mercy of Mr Collins.

In this time of hardship and sorrow, Mr Darcy shows his true nature through his kindness, generosity, and friendship. But will Darcy and Elizabeth be able to put aside their hurt pride and stubborn natures to find the Happilly Ever After they both seek?

Mischief & Misunderstanding
A stolen kiss at the Netherfield Ball sparks a merry war between Darcy and Elizabeth.
After unexpectedly inheriting both a title and the fine estate of Messina Grove, Lord Bennet and his family leave Longbourn forever to start a new life of nobility. And why should they not? Mr. Bingley and his party had quit Netherfield no more than a week earlier, leaving Jane quite publicly heartbroken, and Elizabeth secretly so.

But two years later, Lord and Lady Bennet receive a request from Lady Catherine De Bourgh asking if her Nephews and a small party would be welcome to stay at Messina Grove for a short duration.

Jane is very excited to have a second chance with the still unmarried Mr. Bingley. Elizabeth does not care what Darcy does because she does not care at all about him! In this week of mischief and games, true love will be reunited and discovered, but hearts will also be broken when jealousy and old hurts rise.

In this silly, clean variation, Cassandra Knightley knits together two of her favorite tales: Pride & Prejudice and Much Ado About Nothing.

Pour yourself a cup of tea, take a seat on a comfy sofa, and be prepared to laugh and cry and swoon as Darcy and Elizabeth muddle their way towards true love in these two adorable P&P variations.

What found its way into your mailbox this week?

Goodbye 2017

Hi everyone,

More than likely the blog will be silent until 2018.

The job that pays my bills is stressful right now.Plus, I have freelance editing projects that need to get done.

I’m taking a blogging hiatus until the new year.

If I owe you reviews, I will post them in 2018.

Guest posts and interviews will post as scheduled, if you submit them as agreed.

Thanks for your understanding,

Serena