Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Interview with Genevieve Graham & a Giveaway

Two great novels were recently born, and I wanted to make sure this didn't go unnoticed here at A Story Club. Never before had I experienced following an author around as she spread excitement for her first-ever written novel-- in fact, if you challenged me to trivia about Genevieve Graham, I would likely win since I blog-stalked her for months. I learned a lot about the process of debuting a book from this new author. She said it was a little like sending her baby out into the world, and this intrigued me. So what was this baby? Let's start with the books.
The year is 1746: Maggie Johnson has been gifted with “the Sight” ever since she was a child. Her dreams bring her visions of the future and of a presence she knows is not a figment of her imagination. She calls him Wolf, having watched him grow from a careless young boy into a fearsome warrior, and she trusts him with her life and her heart.
Andrew MacDonnell is fascinated by the woman who has visited him in his dreams for as long as he can remember, entranced by her beauty, knowing deep in his soul that she is as real as he. Although he doesn’t know who she is, Andrew believes that destiny will bring them together.
When tragedy and war strike their homelands, both Maggie and Andrew suffer indescribable losses. Separated across an ocean, the bond they share nevertheless grows as they sense each other’s pain, lend each other strength, and embark on a journey of the spirit to find and love one another at long last…

My thoughts: This book took time to write, and not a word was wasted. It beautifully pulled me into the Scottish Highlands and the Cherokee Culture until I felt I was there, looking on as the events unfolded. It was a book that had so much heart and research behind it, by an author who wanted to provide a really good story. She respected her readers enough to take the time to do it right. I would recommend not rushing through it, but taking the time instead to absorb the details.  

Sound of the Heart

Dougal MacDonnell, a fierce warrior from the Highlands of Scotland, is able to hear the thoughts of other men and dream how the future will unfold.

Devastated by the loss of his family during the Battle of Culloden in 1746, he fosters a deep hatred for the English. But when Glenna, the love of his life and a Scottish outlaw, is captured and shipped overseas, Dougal is forced to join an English army made of vanquished Scots. Now fighting on the side of his sworn enemies, he embarks on a journey that will take him across the seas to the colonies.
There he will risk everything for the chance to find his true love. 

My thoughts: Again, I was swept into another world with Graham's signature lush, historical detail. Her painstaking research adds to the depth of the story and characters. This book was a page-turner, and I felt so much everything the characters went through. The first book I absorbed, but this one I read late into the night. Everything about it was amazing.

Out of the Shadows...Coming Fall 2013! Adelaide's story finally told. We can't wait!

While reading some of Genevieve's articles posted on other blogs, I came across one that I felt summed up so perfectly why I like to read (and write) historical fiction. She let me post it here as a permanent page on my blog. Don't forget to take a few minutes to check it out!

Now, on to the interview! Welcome, Genevieve! 

You have had many reviews; why do you choose to read them? How important are they to authors? 
I think reviews are hugely important to both authors and readers. Sure, you'll always have readers who love your work and readers who … aren't quite that keen (and sometimes those can hurt depending on how they're written!), but every opinion matters. A lot of authors don't read reviews, but I think it's important to know what kind of impression my writing is making. Also, as a reader, I need to know why I should put my money into a book – especially by a new author.

At the same time, reviews don't influence how I write. They will, perhaps, change the direction I'm taking with marketing, but not my stories. Those are what they are, love 'em or leave 'em.

What words do you love to hear about your books?
I really love the word “epic”, and I love to read that my stories were so much “more” than the reader had expected. Of course it's great when they are compared to books by my favourite authors, but mostly I love when people say they are excited to have found a new voice who has captured their imagination and made them a “reader for life”. I am determined to satisfy those readers' appetites!

What is the strangest thing you have ever done while researching?
Well, I toyed with the idea of joining a Gaelic choir (though I don't speak a word of that language!). Does that count?

The Olympics are coming up-- as a Nova Scotian, who is your favorite Canadian athlete of all time?
Oh wow. Sorry. I can't do just one.

I'm a fan of figure skater, Kurt Browning, whose energy and sense of humour is only rivalled by his incredible athletic abilities. He's also a wonderful ambassador and supporter of children's charities.

In the late 70's I watched in awe as the “Crazy Canucks”, five amazing, crazy-brave downhill ski racers, changed the world of downhill skiing. One of them (Ken Read) was a member at a ski club where I grew up, as was the legendary Nancy Greene and another skiing superstar, Laurie Graham.

Can I include Northern Dancer? He was our most famous race horse. :)

Speaking of Canada, what is the best thing you have that we don't? 
The best thing? Ack! There are SO MANY best things! I suppose I could go all “free health care” and “low debt” on you, but I'm not the least bit political, so I'll stay off that track. It's hard to say this without sounding insulting, but I think the best thing about this country is the people. I've travelled a fair bit in my life, and everywhere I go it's the Canadians who seem the most humble, the least demanding, the most easy-going. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and our population both grows and changes daily with our fairly liberal immigration policies, but I kinda like the way Canadians keep to ourselves without making huge international splashes. Once in a while someone does something heroic, but even then it's kind of done quietly. Oh, and we're really good at laughing at ourselves – though we know the joke's not really on us!

How can you live so close to Prince Edward Island, and have never visited there? (This is my scolding question).
Oh, there are SO many places I need to go in the east coast! Prince Edward Island is only one of those – if you can believe it, I've lived in Nova Scotia for four years and STILL haven't gotten to Cape Breton! That's especially bad considering I have to get to Fort Louisburg – one of my heroes just about came ashore there, and I haven't even gone to see the spot! And Newfoundland – oh, I'm dying to get out there. Soooo beautiful. I guess it's because
a) I'm a hermit, forever writing and editing
b) my kids are in school so most of the year's too busy for them
c) even our summers seem packed with stuff, though I can't think of most of what we do
d) we're always saving money. Travelling's not cheap, you know!

In your editing life, have you ever edited a really exciting or important document? 
As for editing, well, every author's book is important. I have worked with a couple of special books, like “The Qualities of Wood” by Mary Vensel White (Harper Collins). I did get a somewhat ... um ... crazy email from a 75 year old man who is currently in prison serving a life sentence for murdering four fellow university professors ... Obviously I turned that job down, but it sure stands out as my #1 strangest request!

If you could go back and thank a teacher in your life, who would it be?
A lot of my teachers did the ultimate, which was to help me believe I could do it. My writing mentor, Rona Altrows, was the first to believe in my writing (after my hubby!), so I thank her for giving me the confidence to keep on going. But the rest of my life has been made infinitely better by some very special people, like my karate teacher, Shane Higashi, my first oboe teacher, Frank Morphy, and my high school band teacher, Bob Krueger.

What is one thing on your bucket list?
Spend a few weeks alone with my hubby in Scotland.

What do you do when you are not writing?
I read, I edit, I bake, I watch movies ... I hang with the family.

What is the best writing advice you have received?
Write for yourself, not anyone else.

Thank you so much for visiting A Story Club!
Since I happen to know that Genevieve burns candles while she writes, I will be giving away a prize pack of votive candles from 5b&Company Candlemakers out of Kansas City, MO. The scents of Manly Man, Woodland Fern, Rawhide, & Red Clover Tea will be perfect as you read Under the Same Sky and Sound of the Heart. . . Just leave a comment to enter, and the winner will be drawn randomly on 7/31. (US/Canada only)

Winner Update: Caroline! Congratulations!

From Genevieve … what's the #1 thing you look for in a book? Think of your favourite book—if you have one. What do you love about it the most?

You can find the author at her website, on Facebook, Goodreads, and on Twitter.

Monday, July 16, 2012

SecondStoryStitches for 18"dolls & Book Tote Giveaway

Made with a vintage hankie
Today we have a different kind of story: a story of stitches. For this post, I wanted to feature my mom, Barb Leatherman, and her Etsy shop, Second Story Stitches.The story begins when my daughter received her first American Girl doll, which is an 18" doll. We chose a doll that looks very much like Allie, down to the same colored glasses. Since she spends a lot of time with her Gram, we knew they both would need a doll. So Gram also received her first 18" doll at Christmas! Thus the vision for creating her own clothing and accessories was born.

Barb in her sewing room, doing what she loves!
In the doll world, 18" dolls have been made by other companies, so if the American Girl is not appealing, there are other options! The brunette doll shown here is Barb's doll, which is a Madame Alexander. Also, the AG and other lines often feature BOOKS that come with the dolls, so you can sit and READ with your girl and her doll!
Made with antique buttons
Blue satiny party dress
Kimono-style booties
We love the American Girl doll line, but there are alternatives for those like us who don't always have the budget for their clothes. Barb has lovingly sewn the most detailed and high-quality clothing for these dolls, and posts them at affordable prices ($5-$20). You know it's not coming from China! In addition to doll clothes, she has crocheted hats and booties for babies, crocheted hats for older girls/women, quilted bags (great for books or a Kindle), basket "cozies," and doll quilts-- for any size doll.

Quilt w/vintage nursery rhyme
Doll quilt and pillow
Cute cargo pants
Barb states that she makes these items in her "second story" sewing room, and uses recycled fabrics, giving them a "second" life. She has utilized beautiful handkerchiefs, vintage buttons and materials like lace and eyelets. Experimenting with new, soft yarns is also her specialty.
I am not just being biased when I say that these pieces are even cuter in person than in the pictures!

Sweet seersucker pj's

Doll-size chef apron and mitt
SPECIAL OFFER! Why not try ordering for a special girl in your life? For the next month, Barb is offering FREE SHIPPING to US/Canada.  If you mention that A Story Club sent you, I'll throw in a goody from me! 
Lavender dress w/hair bow
Win this!
GIVEAWAY! Go ahead and leave a comment for Barb~ let her know which item you like best from her shop. A random winner will be drawn to receive a hand-crafted, gently lined, quilted tote bag, perfect for books, a Kindle, your lunch, or as a purse! (US/Canada only). Drawing on 7/22. Update: Congrats to our winner, Sarah! 

You can keep up with Barb on her Facebook page, Second Story Stitches. Go "like" her page to see when she posts new product! Or just because you like her :0)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Short, Sweet, and So Anne Tyler-ish

I would guess that most readers have read at least one Anne Tyler book in their lives-- even if in school. My introduction to her books was in college, when I had to read Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant for an English paper. From there, my Anne Tyler-athon took off. I don't know what is addicting about her books. I can't really explain it. You just know if you read it. The Accidental Tourist, of course, was made into a movie. Breathing Lessons, Saint Maybe, and Ladder of Years are a few other favorites.

It has been years since I've read any of her books, and I thought I had moved on. Then I saw she had a new book out called The Beginner's Goodbye and it was only 198 pages! I only mention this because I have a huge pile of books to be read, and a book under 200 pages, well, yes I could handle it. I was also curious to see how a book of such length would be good-- because I knew it would be.
I should have known it would be amazing.
Once again, Tyler creates the most intriguing characters, in the most interesting situations. Aaron is a middle-aged man who loses his wife unexpectedly and tragically. He works in a publishing business that produces "how-to" books, and this is his own story of coping with a loss. His deceased wife keeps reappearing to him, which complicates things. He can't seem to figure out why others don't want to react to her presence. When she speaks to him, he begins to put the pieces back together and can eventually move on with his life. He has a host of friends, a few family members and co-workers who surround him with support and try to help him the best way they can. However, Aaron responds as many would who have suffered a loss-- he doesn't want them to help, he wants to be left alone, and he is sick of all the meals piling up, which he can never eat. There are some real emotions to be felt, and yet it is not a depressing book on death, despite what it may seem at first glance.

The humor and little details Tyler packs in keep the book flowing along so well, it is hard to find a place to stop. If you have never read an Anne Tyler book, I would highly recommend this one. At 198 pages, you can't go wrong. At the most, you will be in awe at this writing and slightly envious (if you're a writer) that she could get away with such a short novel. But if you're a reader, you will appreciate it from beginning to end, and probably thank her for putting out another treasure.