Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Interview with Jennifer Estep + Giveaway

Button made by the very talented Susi! Thank you!!

Today I am very happy to welcome back to the blog Jennifer Estep who is in full party mode, besides the blogoversary party she is also celebrating the release of By a Thread, Book #6 of her Elemental Assassin series, which hit the shelves yesterday, woohoo! So everyone take a seat, here's your gin & tonic and read on as she answers all my impertinent and nosy questions. Oh and she's also giving away a copy (international readers are included in the giveaway, woohoo)!

Stella: Hi Jennifer, welcome back to Ex Libris! By a Thread, Book #6 in your Elemental Assassin series was released yesterday, congratulations!! Can you tell readers what they can expect of this new instalment of Gin’s adventures?

JE: Thanks for the congrats and for hosting me on the blog again. I appreciate it!

Basically, in By a Thread, Gin decides to get out of Ashland for a few days to rest, relax, and recharge after what happened at the end of Spider’s Revenge (and also in the Thread of Death e-novella). So Gin ends up going to a beach town, but her vacation isn’t as relaxing as she hoped it would be, since one of Bria’s friends is being threatened by a deadly vampire. Gin decides to help Bria’s friend and finds herself facing down a powerful enemy yet again. There are also some scenes with Gin and Bria as they try to figure out where they go from here, and someone from Gin’s past reappears as well.


Stella: You referred to By a Thread as ‘Gin on vacation’ as a working title. I personally have to tell you how happy I am to finally get to read a vacation novel! I always wanted my favourite characters (be it fictional or TV characters) to have some vacation fun and for us the audience to witness how they would spend their time away from real life, so thank you I am very excited to accompany Gin on hers! :-)

How was writing a vacation novel different? (not having the same locations, even having to do without some of the supporting cast, etc.) Was it different?

JE: It was a little different. Like you said, I had to come up with some different locations and set pieces for the action to take place in, and not all of the secondary characters appear in the book. But I thought it would be good place in the series to have a vacation book and sort of reboot the series a little at the same time now that the first main story arc with Mab is finished. But it’s still a Gin book in the end, so there’s lots of action, magic, and fight scenes.


Stella: You originally planned the Elemental Assassin series to consist of five books, having the big showdown ending the story arc of the first 5 books in Spider’s Revenge. How difficult was it to continue the series after you brought the initial big mystery story line to resolution?

JE: It wasn’t too difficult. Gin might have had her big showdown with Mab, but that doesn’t mean that Gin still won’t have problems in the future. One of the things I wanted to explore with the next few books in the series is what happens after you finally defeat your nemesis. What are the consequences? What’s the emotional fallout? Where do you go from there? So those are some of the things Gin will be going through and thinking about as the series continues.


Stella: Speaking of the big showdown, you must have planned it (at least had some ideas for it) since the beginning. Did you feel that as it was the BIG face-down battle between Gin and Mab this fight would have to surpass all the previous fights in the series? Was it challenging to choreography it? Did you have several versions, did it change much?

JE: I thought about the big showdown quite a bit, and I really did want to go all-out with it and have it live up to reader expectations. I had done this big story arc with Gin and Mab, and I definitely wanted to deliver in the end (which I hope I did).

I enjoy writing fight scenes, so I was really looking forward to finally getting to the showdown. I had a lot of fun writing those scenes with Gin and Mab. They didn’t change all that much, but I did spend some time tweaking them and trying to make them the best that I could. I hope folks had as much fun reading the showdown as I did writing it.


Stella: Widow’s Web, Book #7 in the series will be released in August 2012, can you tell us about what will happen after? Will there be more books in the Elemental Assassin series or will you work on some new and still secret projects?

JE: I’m happy to say that there will be at least three more books in the Elemental Assassin series after Widow’s Web, and I’m looking forward to writing more of Gin’s adventures.

I’m also busy writing my Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series right now, but I do have an idea for a new adult urban fantasy series so I’m hoping to find time to work on that sometime soon. We’ll see how it goes.


Stella: How do you come up with the titles for your novels? All books in your Elemental Assassin series have a connection to spiders (which is incredibly cool!), is it instant inspiration, brainstorming with people who know the story, or research?

JE: Originally, I had the idea of having the word “gin” in all the titles, like “Gin on the Rocks,” “Bitter Gin,” and that sort of thing. But someone (I can’t remember if it was my editor or agent) suggested going with spider-themed titles instead, so that’s what we did.

I keep a list of potential titles, and usually, my editor, my agent, and I look at those and do a lot of brainstorming about what the title of the next book will be. I think we’ve come up with some really cool titles so far, and I’m looking forward to working on the titles for the next books in the series.


Stella: I’m also curious about your covers: you are a favourite of the Cover Gods, your Elemental Assassin novels have some of the best and most beautiful UF covers, can you tell us how do your books get the cover they do? Do you have to put together a summary of the events of the book and the storyline and then later add details for the graphic team? Or how is it done behind the scenes?

JE: Thanks! I like the covers a lot too. My editor will usually ask me for some input and what I think would make a good cover. So I usually end up sending my editor some information and descriptions of important scenes from the book, like the big fight scene at the end. Then, I’ll get to see a preliminary version of the cover and make some suggestions on that.

So far, the covers have been designed by Tony Mauro, and I think he’s done an excellent job of capturing Gin and the overall feel of the series.


Stella: Do you have to get “into the mood” to write about Gin’s adventures and channel her? If yes how do you achieve that?

JE: Like I said before, I enjoy writing fight scenes, so it’s not too hard for me to get in the mood to write about Gin. I like dreaming up new villains for her to take on and figuring out how she’ll use her wits and magic to defeat them.

Of course, there are days when I’d rather be relaxing, hanging out with my family, or whatever, but writing is a job, and you just have to make yourself sit down and do it sometimes. Writing and doing all the other things that go along with being an author is a lot of work, but I enjoy what I do, so that definitely helps motivate me.


Jennifer Garner as Gin
Stella: If the Elemental Assassin series were made into a series of movies who would be part of your dream cast? (I’m especially curious to know who you could picture as Finn :-p)

JE: I think Jennifer Garner would make a good Gin, and I could see someone like Clive Owen or Daniel Craig (with dark hair) as Owen. For Finn, maybe someone like Hugh Jackman or Ryan Reynolds because they both have that dashing, devious, mischievous air that I think Finn does.


Hugh Jackman as Finn
Stella: If you had to characterize Donovan and Owen in a few words, which ones would you use for them? (I’m not asking for Finn because we all know we’d put sexy, flirty, charmer in the bunch :-p)

JE: For Donovan, I would say dedicated, moral, and a little reserved with a clear idea of right and wrong. For Owen, I would say loyal and protective, with a good sense of humor and the knowledge that things aren’t always black and white.


Stella: Speaking of Donovan, he is back on scene in By a Thread. Can you tell your readers and all those Owen fans what’s he doing back in the picture?

JE: Well, Donovan basically broke up with Gin and left Ashland at the end of Web of Lies, the second book. But Gin runs into Donovan while she’s on vacation, and he has a connection to Bria’s friend that Gin is trying to help. So there are a lot of scenes with Gin, Donovan, and Owen, as Gin tries to figure some things out for herself about her relationships with both men.


Stella: Which are harder to write: fight scenes or love scenes?

JE: I really like writing fight scenes, so I find love scenes harder to write. I always want the love scenes to be fun, sexy, and still have a big emotional punch and move the story forward, so it can be tough for me to balance all those things.


Stella: You also pen the Mythos Academy series which is a YA urban fantasy series. How is writing a YA series different from penning an adult one?

JE: Well, my Mythos Academy series isn’t quite as dark and gritty as my Elemental Assassin series. The heroine of the Mythos Academy books is seventeen, so she’s still trying to figure out her magic, what her place in the world is, and what kind of person she wants to be. I would say I tell a little more of a coming-of-age story with the Mythos Academy series.

But the books still have a lot of the same elements as my Elemental Assassin series does – a strong, sassy heroine, magic, and lots of action/fight scenes.


Stella: Jennifer, what shall we expect from you, what is next on your schedule?

JE: Widow’s Web, the seventh Elemental Assassin book, will be out on Aug. 21. There will be at least three more books in the series after that.

Dark Frost, the third Mythos Academy book, will be out on May 29. There will be at least three more books in the series after that.

Folks can visit my website at http://www.jenniferestep.com/ for more information and excerpts. Happy reading, everyone!



Jennifer Estep is a New York Times bestselling author, prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea.

Jennifer writes the Elemental Assassin adulr urban fantasy series, the Mythos Academy series (urban fantasy series for young adults) as well as the Bigtime series, a tongue in cheek funny superhero paranormal romance series.


To learn more about Jennifer and her books find her at her website / blog / Twitter / Goodreads



GIVEAWAY RULES:

Jennifer has generously offered a paperback copy of By a Thread to a lucky commentator!


To be entered all you have to do is:

1. fill out the main form so I have your contact info (just once, if you have already filled it out for a previous giveaway that's enough)

2. leave a comment and tell us: If you know and read the Elemental Assassin series, what do you like the most about it? (the breakneck action? the humour? the worlbuilding?) And if it's a series you haven't read yet, why would you want to read a series about an assassin?

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 15 March 2012.


Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Western Historical Romance by Ann Mayburn + Giveaway

Button made by the very talented Susi! Thank you!!

I just recently discovered today's guest's books (she blew me away with The Breaker's Concubine) even though Ann Mayburn has already published many exciting novels: her stories range from historicals, to paranormals and she even ventures out to outer space and time, but what all her stories have in common is that they are all without exception scorching hot! Please give her a warm welcome and read on to hear about why she chose to write a western historical romance!  


Western Historical Romance
by Ann Mayburn

When I first started to read romance, way back in the day, I always seemed to gravitate to western historical romance. In the bodice rippers that I grew up reading I would snatch the westerns from my Mom’s bookshelf over any others. Books with pictures of a man in a cowboy hat usually holding some leading lady with fantastic hair in a beautiful gown, sweeping her off her feet.

And the women in western romance’s always seemed to have more fun than their uptight Regency cousins. Women on the frontier had bigger things to worry about than if so and so would ask them to dance at the ball or if they would be caught holding hands while strolling through the park. Frontier women had just as active role in carving out a niche for themselves as the men, and though they remained ladies, they often owned their own property and stores. These women had sass, brass, and enough courage to leave everything they knew behind for a chance at a better life.

I’m also fascinated by how the people of the frontier tended to be less judgmental than their civilized cousins. When you lived out in the middle of nowhere, in a town of less than a hundred people, everyone played an essential part not only with their own livelihoods, but also with those around them. You would have former slaves, now free men and women, working and owning property on the frontier and holding positions of high social status within the town. While I’m sure they encountered prejudice, there are also many well documented and true stories of former slaves becoming very successful business owners, ranchers, etc.
The frontier also provided women with unique opportunities to start a new life for themselves. The ratio of men to women out West was frequently 20 to 1, so you can imagine that the women that did make the journey often had their pick of husbands. It was also not uncommon for women to change their names and start whole new lives for themselves. In my new historical western romance, Diamond Heart, Rowan (the leading lady) heads west to escape the brutal life of a late 18th century factory worker and a cheating ex-fiancé. She plans to travel to San Francisco to stay with her sister and start a new life, but fate has other plans in store for her...

If you would like to win a copy of Diamond Heart just tell me if you’ve ever read a western historical romance. :)


Diamond Heart by Ann Mayburn

After catching her no good cheat'n rat bastard ex-fiancé in bed with her best friend, Rowan Belmont leaves the mills and factories of the Midwest to move nearer her sister in San Francisco. After being robbed in Kansas City, she loses the money to complete her journey and she tries to pawn her engagement ring, only to find out that it‘s fake. Alone, broke, and on the edge of giving up, Rowan hopes for a miracle.

Marcel Champlain can't get the beautiful woman he met at the Kansas City hotel out of his mind. When she turns up at his family’s jewelry store he knows that God has brought them together. He makes Rowan a job offer: Go with him to Freewill, Wyoming to open a new jewelry store and pose as his wife.

With only three months to convince Rowan that she should become his wife in truth, Marcel intends to show Rowan that no other man on earth will ever love her as much as he does. Their time together may be cut short by when it seems like fate will take Marcel from Rowan all too soon and leave her once again alone in the world.


Ann is Queen of the Castle to her wonderful husband and three sons in the mountains of West Virginia. In her past lives she's been an Import Broker, a Communications Specialist, a US Navy Civilian Contractor, a Bartender/Waitress, and an actor at the Michigan Renaissance Festival. She also spent a summer touring with the Grateful Dead-though she will deny to her children that it ever happened.

From a young age she's been fascinated by myths and fairytales, and the romance that often was the center of the story. As Ann grew older and her hormones kicked in, she discovered trashy romance novels. Great at first, but she soon grew tired of the endless stories with a big wonderful emotional buildup to really short and crappy sex. Never a big fan of purple prose, throbbing spears of fleshy pleasure and wet honey pots make her giggle, she sought out books that gave the sex scenes in the story just as much detail and plot as everything else-without using cringe worthy euphemisms. This led her to the wonderful world of Erotic Romance, and she's never looked back.

Now Ann spends her days trying to tune out cartoons playing in the background to get into her 'sexy space' and has learned to type one handed while soothing a cranky baby.

You can learn more about Ann and her books at her website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads





GIVEAWAY RULES:

Ann has generously offered an ebook copy of Diamond Heart to a lucky commentator!


To be entered all you have to do is:

1. fill out the main form so I have your contact info (just once, if you have already filled it out for a previous giveaway that's enough)

2. leave a comment and answer Ann's question: Have you ever read a western historical romance?

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 15 March 2012.


Monday, 27 February 2012

Minor reader and writer mysteries that have been on my mind lately by Carolyn Crane + Giveaway

Button made by the very talented Susi! Thank you!!

I have been singing the praises of Carolyn Crane's Disillusonists series ever since I had the good fortune on stumbling on Mind Games, but if you haven't yet read this series I only have to say this: if I could only take a couple of books on a desert island with me to read for eternity, this trilogy would definitely be in my suitcase! Carolyn Crane's series is unique, witty, original and so full of delicious tension mmm... So listen to me: Read. It. Now! And now I'll cede the blog to Carolyn who is here to talk to you about the mysteries of the universe and also giving away prizes ;-) Please give her the warmest welcome!


Minor reader and writer mysteries that have been on my mind lately
by Carolyn Crane

Hello, everybody! First, a big congrats to Stella for inviting me here to help celebrate her big two years! Congrats, Stella, for building such a fun blog and an awesome community.

So onto the post: mysteries!


THE MYSTERY OF WRITING THE STORY

I think one of the hardest parts of being a writer is writing a story and trusting that it will ultimately work.

A story, when I’m starting it, is always a mystery, even though I may have it plotted out. Because I never know if it is really viable, if it will truly work. Will I discover good things in it? Does it have the strength and flexibility to contain all the excitement and fun and magic I want it to contain? Or is it doomed in a way I don’t see?

I think you have to forge ahead with a lot of blind faith. Even as a plotter, I’m still working on faith, and going forward into a mystery.

Oh, my this post is starting out so obliquely! But, it’s a post on mystery. What the hell!


THE MYSTERY OF THE GUEST BLOG POST

Guest posts are a total mystery! I’ve actually never spoken to other writers or readers about this, but what are the best kind of guest posts? What kinds of posts do people enjoy most? Is it possible for you to do too many guest posts? Are interviews better?

Sometimes I do silly posts and I wonder, well, will people think I’m this silly person? But then I’ll do serious ones and I’ll wonder, is this entertaining?

However, I enjoy doing them and interacting with people, so I just do them. Look at me! Wheeee! Into the unknown! But I think posts and interviews are fun, and ways of organizing new thoughts. One of these days I’m going to do a poll on them, I think, and try to solve this particular mystery.


THE MYSTERY OF THE BOOK REVIEW

Have you ever noticed how, when reading a review, that the strangest little things will get you interested in a book or turned off to it? Well, it happens for me that way, anyway. Or, a positive review sometimes makes me not want a book, or a negative one piques my interest.

This is a way in which reviewers are dealing in mystery, too. You never know what effect you have, you just have to write what’s true for you, I guess. Or, sometimes when I’m reviewing, like on Goodreads, when I am SO excited about a book and just want everyone to try it, my review rarely comes out as compelling as when I just write up a book I liked pretty well.


THE MYSTERY OF FORMATS

This might just be me, but do you guys do that thing where, if you start a series on an ereader, you don’t want to continue it in print? You must continue it digitally? And, if you start in print you don’t want to go to ereader? You must continue in print? Or audio must continue as audio? Why is that?


THE MYSTERY OF THE MESSED-UP HERO

What is so wonderful about the messed up hero? I can’t quit you, messed-up heroes!!

I just released DEVIL’S LUCK, this novella about a character from my series, Simon (3.5 in order, but you can totally read it first or second or whenever.)

Back when I was starting the series, I created Simon as a villain, a really troubling enemy for my heroine. Somebody threatening dark, reckless. I never meant him to be a hero…EVER! But here we are, two years later, and he’s a big favorite of mine.

He is reckless, he throws away the things he loves, he is dangerous, nobody can get close to him. And oh how I love him. Siiiiimon!! Why do the really questionable guys make such delicious heroes? Zsadist, Roarke, Adrian…the list is endless.


THE MYSTERY OF THE BLOW-OFF BLOG POST

Why is it that an easy, quick blow-off blog post suddenly gets a million hits and comments, and a post you have slaved over insanely gets hardly any?


THE MYSTERY OF THE ENDLESS ATTRACTIVENESS OF DRESSES ON BOOK COVERS

Why do I never, never get sick of looking at lovely dresses on the covers of books? Other readers must have the same feeling, or they wouldn’t keep making these dresses covers.

The other day I got some books in the mail - two were hot guy covers: DRAGON BOUND by Thea Harris and SOMETHING ABOUT WITCHES by Joey Hill. Did I spend a long time looking at the covers? No.

The others were A LADY AWAKENED by Cecilia Grant, A LOT LIKE LOVE by Julie James, and NOT WICKED ENOUGH by Carolyn Jewel, all with women wearing dishy dresses on them. I have those books out where I can see them all the time. The dress ones. I wear sweats and jeans in my life, but I love these pretty dress covers. Why do I eat up these dresses? I CAN’T STOP LOOKING AT THE DRESSES!


THE MYSTERY OF BLOGOVERSARY

Have you noticed there is no agreement on the spelling of Blogoversary, which is sometimes spelled Blogiversary? And other times Blogaversary? I kind of like that. Because, it is a word our set sort of made up. Yet another mystery!!

But, however it’s spelled, Stella, I hope you have the most wonderful Blogoversary month ever! I’m honored to be in the company to help you celebrate. Many more happy blog years to you. Woo-hoo! *** throws confetti ***


I'm an urban fantasy author with Bantam/Spectra. I would describe my trilogy (Mind GamesDouble Cross, and Head Rush) as being on the plotty psychological intrigue end of the UF spectrum. With a tiny touch of hot luv action.

I live in Minneapolis with my husband and two daring cats, and I enjoy running and animals and taking baths and eating Mexican food, and in my day job, I'm a marketing writer.


To learn more about Carolyn and her books, visit her website / blog / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads



GIVEAWAY RULES:

Carolyn has generously offered winner's choice of any of her backlist books (Mind GamesDouble Cross, Head Rush, Wild & Steamy or Devil's Luck - to be released tomorrow, woohoo!) to a lucky commentator!


To be entered all you have to do is:

1. fill out the main form so I have your contact info (just once, if you have already filled it out for a previous giveaway that's enough)

2. leave a comment and tell us about one of the universe's mysteries that boggles you! 

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 15 March 2012.



Sunday, 26 February 2012

Inside the Author’s Brain by Lavinia Kent + Giveaway

Button made by the very talented Susi! Thank you!!

Today I am very happy to welcome back to Ex Libris Lavinia Kent who not only pens some of the most romantic historical romance novels but also the tongue in cheek witty The Real Duchesses of London Regency novellas which is a unique mix of historical romance and The Real Housewives! Please give her a warm welcome, and if you haven't tried these novellas of hers yet, trust me, pick one up, you won't be able to stop until you finish, and good thing there are more, because you'll be wanting to read on! 


Inside the Author’s Brain
by Lavinia Kent

I should be clear that I can only speak for my own brain, fuzzy as it is, but I have spoken to a number of other authors and while some have a very different experience than I do, I have found many who are in complete agreement with me.

Do our characters actually talk to us?

Sometimes. Mostly I am in complete control and they only come to visit me when I am trying to put them on a page or lying in bed falling asleep and trying to figure out my next plot problem. But I do have to admit they have occasionally visited as I am waiting at a red light. If you’re ever behind me in traffic and I don’t start when the light turns green, I can almost guarantee somebody is arguing with me about why what I’ve just written is all wrong. Luckily, I can also guarantee that a good honk is like magic, and will banish my visitor for at least an hour or two.

I have two great examples of characters taking over. In one of my first manuscripts (unpublished), I had the book all plotted out. It was a great long, romantic story, all based on a misunderstanding. But my heroine didn’t like the plot. I swear it felt like she marched up to me in the grocery store and started to yell, “Do you think I am a wimpy fool? I am going to stomp right up to him in Chapter Two and tell him just what I think of what he’s done. There is no way I am avoiding him for eleven more chapters. That is just stupid.”

I was forced to agree.

The second example happened when I was writing last October’s release, What a Duke Wants. I’ve always had a thing for arrogant Alpha heroes, and I was all set to have Mark, my hero, turn away from my heroine, Isabella, in her moment of need. I was actually at the computer typing away – and suddenly my fingers were writing something else. It’s as close to an out-of-body experience as I’ve ever had. I was thinking one thing and my hands were doing another. There was a deep, rich, masculine chuckle echoing in the background.

Of course, in the end, I am in control. Even when my characters think that they’ve gotten away with something, I do know how to hit the Delete key (or more likely cut and save someplace else – I am always worried that I’ll decide later that a deleted scene was actually perfect).

So how many voices are in your head? Are you sure you’re not crazy?

In answer to the first, too many. And in regards to the second, I plead the Fifth.

The loudest voices are always from the book I plan to write next. Yes, that’s right, the next book, not the one I am working on. I suppose my current hero and heroine are getting enough time on the page, and don’t feel the need to speak up – unless I get something wrong. The characters in the next book, however, are speaking up loud and louder in an effort to get their turn.

I also have a number of past heroes and heroines pushing for time and attention. It’s one of the things I like the most about being published. Once the book is off to the printers and nothing can be changed, my characters tend to fade into the background for good – except when the want a cameo in somebody else’s book.

The one exception is the duchesses from my novella series, The Real Duchesses of London. Those women are persistent. They have strong opinions and are not afraid to share. It doesn’t help that I keep getting reader emails mentioning that there clearly should be fifth “Duchesses” story. Every time I get one, I hear, “See, we are right!” pounding through my brain. I try to explain to them, as I do to my readers, that YES there is a fifth story – Annie does get her chance for true love (hopefully this summer) – but that I do have other things to do. They don’t believe me, and think that I could do as well on four hours of sleep as eight. I’ve tried to explain that nobody likes me when I am tired, but they are not listening.

I’ve tried to reason with them. I’ve told them I know the story. I’ve even given them the first line.

Hargrove is dead.

Immediately, Annie asked, “Does that mean I am a duchess now? A real duchess?” And Elizabeth said, “That’s good. I never did like him. But, who killed him? You can’t start like that and not tell us.” And, of course, Katherine worried about being sure everything would be done right, “You do know that Annie can’t go the funeral, women just aren’t allowed. It wouldn’t be proper.”

I was finally forced to set the hero from my latest proposal on them. He’s a duke, and as arrogant as they come. He’s been very clear that he’s having too much fun bickering with his heroine to allow anybody else (even another duchess) to get a word in.

And I’ve been sticking up for him (told you I loved a good hero), because he does deserve his turn, and I don’t want him to end up in that most dreaded of places, the saved file of old Works-In-Progress. A character that ends up there, you see, almost never moves out of my mind. They are always there, fighting to move to the front again, wanting their story told.

It can give me quite a headache.


So what do you think about as you fall asleep at night? I’ve always wondered what people who aren’t authors do in those fading minutes. I can’t imagine falling asleep without a story working itself out. Even if I am not working on a book, I have to make something up. What do you do?

Tell me and I’ll draw one lucky reader to send a complete set of my ”Duchesses” novellas (either e-book or paperback) to get you warmed up for Annie. (Who is at the minute screaming that she has no intention of being quiet just because some pompous man told her to. Ahhh, business as usual.)

Thank you so much for having me. It’s been fun. I can’t wait to chat.


Lavinia Kent never knew that most people don’t make up stories in their heads to pass the time. She still has a hard time understanding how those who don’t survive the doctor’s waiting room or a grocery store line without another world to escape into.

She lives under the gracious (and usually benign) rule of Erzsebet, the cat, along with her husband, three children, one cockatiel, two rats, and Erzsebet’s younger, subordinate tomcat, otherwise known as The Golden Snitch.

As the mother of three, Lavinia finds “leisure time” to be ever-elusive, but when she is not reading romance novels, she watches far too much HBO and reality television. It must also be noted that she has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Buffy and Doctor Who.

She has four published Regency Historical romances including, A Talent for SinBound by Temptation, Taken by Desire and What a Duke Wants. She also has a set of sensual and fun novellas about The Real Duchesses of London.


You can visit Lavinia and learn more about her books at her website / Twitter / Facebook.



GIVEAWAY RULES:

Lavinia has generously offered a complete set of her Real Duchesses of London historical romance novellas to a lucky commentator!


To be entered all you have to do is:

1. fill out the main form so I have your contact info (just once, if you have already filled it out for a previous giveaway that's enough)

2. leave a comment and answer Lavinia's question: What do you think about as you fall asleep at night?

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 15 March 2012.



Saturday, 25 February 2012

Book Review: Mask of the Gladiator by Georgie Lee

Title: Mask of the Gladiator
Author: Georgie Lee
Release Date: 20 January 2012
Number of pages: 54 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Source: review copy provided by publisher through NetGalley
Purchasing info: Goodreads, Author's siteAmazon

Grade: 4.5 stars

Novellus superbus!
Goodreads apetizer: Livia Duronius is driven to seek out a gladiator after watching him triumph in the Colosseum. His touch arouses a sense of hope she hasn't felt since Rome fell under the tyrannical rule of Caligula—and her late husband betrayed her. Though in danger of losing more than her heart, she vows to see him again, even after she learns her uncle has arranged her marriage to a senator.

Senator Titus Marius cannot resist indulging in a passionate encounter with the veiled woman who waits for him after the games, though he faces execution if his true identity is discovered. Bound by honor to wed another, and embroiled in a plot to free Rome from madness, he never expects to see the mystery woman again.

When the fates reunite them in the marriage bed, Titus vows to protect Livia at all costs—even from the lecherous eyes of the emperor...

My thoughts: I love Latin (studied it for 3 years) and everything to do with the Latin/Roman culture, so when I saw that one of Carina Press' new releases was Mask of the Gladiator I knew I had to read it. And I was blown away! Not only was it a captivating story taking me on a time travel through millennia but Georgie Lee managed the near-impossible: tell a fantastic story in 50 pages!

The description of the amphitheatre, the gladiator fight, the clothes and societal customs were all very atmospheric. I could hear the cheers and felt the buzz as if I were in that arena witnessing the fight.

Not only did Georgie Lee transport the reader back in time to Ancient Rome she should also be praised for painting such a true and realistic picture of the hierarchy of society.

Usually my main problem with novellas is that I can't buy into love developing between the characters in such a short time, so I was amazed how Georgie Lee made me believe and accept that after a very brief meeting the hero and heroine indeed connected. The attraction between Livia and Titus was sizzling, but what gave their relationship more substance was that they connected on several levels: besides the physical attraction they shared the same values, sense of duty and vocation for Rome.

“Only the weak give up their wives to Caligula’s lust. A true Roman stands up to another man whether he is emperor or enemy.”
She clapped her hands sarcastically. “Such pretty words. When the soldiers come, you will flee, just like my husband did.”
“Never.” His powerful voice struck the snide smile from her lips. “I’m a soldier, not just a senator. I know the meaning of honor and duty. I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with my legion against barbarians determined to massacre us and destroy Rome. I will not run simply because Caligula’s men come for me. I will fight.”

And of course Titus' strong and charismatic presence didn't hurt either ;-)

As a Latin aficionado I appreciated all the small Latin details making the story authentic and atmospheric.

Verdict: I can't remember the last time I've read such a teeny short story (50 pages) and was so satisfied with the outcome! Mask of the Gladiator is superbly written, and despite its shortness it gives a well developed and wholesome story. I loved it!!

Plot: 9/10
Characters: 9/10 of course due to length restrictions no deep character development but they felt real and vivid and their relationship was built gradually
Writing: 10/10
Ending: 8/10
Cover: 10/10 - cover perfection, it couldn't be any better!

Buy it:




All Reading Leads to Rome by Georgie Lee + Giveaway

Button made by the very talented Susi! Thank you!!

It is no secret that I love Latin and everything to do with the Latin culture (hey my blog is called Ex Libris and  I rate the books by Latin grades) so when I saw that one of Carina Press' new releases was Mask of the Gladiator I knew I had to read it. And I was blown away! Not only was it a captivating story taking me on a time travel through millennia but Georgie Lee managed the near-impossible: tell a fantastic story in 50 pages! Mask of the Gladiator quickly became a favourite of mine, so I am very happy to introduce you today to Georgie Lee and the research behind the story! 


All Reading Leads to Rome
by Georgie Lee

I am a voracious reader of non-fiction history and it is usually while I’m reading that some sentence or fact will make me sit up and say “What a great idea for a story.” The idea for Mask of the Gladiator first came to me while I was reading a book on the lives of the Roman emperors. Something about Caligula’s demise, the real PG version, not the XXX version that has also survived the ages, caught my attention. The story wouldn’t let go until I’d crafted it into a tale in which regular people get caught up in the life and death events of their era with a great romance and sex thrown in because hey, after all, this is Rome.

Having read many books on ancient Rome, I knew a great deal about the era but needed more details on the nitty-gritty of daily life under Caligula. Thankfully, researching ancient Rome was, in many ways, easy. I’m currently doing research for an ancient Egyptian romance, and though historians know a great deal about their mortuary practices, details of their daily lives are elusive. I’d pay good money right now, and I might just have to, in order to find some ancient source or modern researcher who has written a detailed description of a Pharaoh’s typical day (if anyone knows of one, please leave a comment below). But I digress.
The Romans, thanks to the length of their empire, left a lot of material, both written and physical about their lives, and these artifacts are scattered everywhere from Britain to Germany. I remember during my first trip to England marveling as I stood on a medieval wall looking down on the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre. You don’t find that kind of history where I live in California. Here, most people think Mid-Century Modern is an era of antiquity.

The wealth of information on the ancient Romans made research both interesting and easier. Thanks to surviving statues of Caligula, I was able to base my descriptions of the emperor on his busts instead of having to extract details from ancient sources, most of which were not flattering. For details on Caligula’s assassination, I turned to Justinian and Suetonius. Their accounts, though not exactly first hand, are well fleshed out, if not blatantly exaggerated in a few spots. I incorporated details from their stories into my story while adding a few of my own in order to better weave the main characters, Livia and Titus, into the historical events. In regards to the daily life of the nobility, there were endless resources available from the excavation at Pompeii to modern research books detailing the archeological evidence.

While this wealth of historical information is great, it can also be overwhelming and at times distracting. Sometimes, especially if you’ve ever read any books in the History of Private Life series, more details exist than you actually want to know about. It is a challenge deciding what to include or leave out and how true to the time period to stay without forcing the readers to keep Googling archaic terms. In the end, I think I struck a good balance between fact and fiction and created a compelling story that is both true to history and romance. I hope you think so too.

Thank you for joining me today and thanks to Ex Libris for inviting me.

Mask of the Gladiator by Georgie Lee

Rome, 41 AD

Livia Duronius is driven to seek out a gladiator after watching him triumph in the Colosseum. His touch arouses a sense of hope she hasn't felt since Rome fell under the tyrannical rule of Caligula—and her late husband betrayed her. Though in danger of losing more than her heart, she vows to see him again, even after she learns her uncle has arranged her marriage to a senator.

Senator Titus Marius cannot resist indulging in a passionate encounter with the veiled woman who waits for him after the games, though he faces execution if his true identity is discovered. Bound by honor to wed another, and embroiled in a plot to free Rome from madness, he never expects to see the mystery woman again.

When the fates reunite them in the marriage bed, Titus vows to protect Livia at all costs—even from the lecherous eyes of the emperor...




A dedicated history and film buff, Georgie Lee loves combining her passion for Hollywood, history and storytelling through romantic fiction. She began writing professionally at a small TV station in San Diego before moving to Los Angeles to work in the interesting but strange world of the entertainment industry. When not writing, she enjoys reading non-fiction history and watching any movie with a costume and an accent.

Please visit http://www.georgie-lee.com/ to learn more about Georgie and her books, you can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.



GIVEAWAY RULES:

Georgie has generously offered an ebook copy of Mask of the Gladiator to a lucky commentator!


To be entered all you have to do is:

1. fill out the main form so I have your contact info (just once, if you have already filled it out for a previous giveaway that's enough)

2. leave a comment and answer Georgie's question, tell us what is your favourite historical period and why? 

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 15 March 2012.



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