Slice of Life Friday: High Tea Anyone?

MP900387878Ever do high tea? Proper high tea? It’s truly a brilliant and civilized invention, and I’m fortunate that with my husband’s Indian background he “gets” it too. The British Raj and their 200 plus years in India ingrained the wisdom of high tea pretty solidly into the Indian culture. This means that 1: my husband makes THE perfect cup of tea, including heating the cups ahead of time, and 2: sometimes our tea is accompanied by cucumber sandwiches.

And I’ve been fortunate to have visited India many times. Sitting on the shady veranda of the Ram Bagh Palace in Jaipur sipping tea and overlooking the maharaja’s garden through marble pillars truly feels like a frozen moment in time… Then there’s tea at the Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur…a floating palace,  mind you. If you don’t feel like royalty there, what the heck’s wrong with you? (Dude, click on all the links in this article if you want to truly fall in love with tea places!)

Usually I have high tea fantasies on those cold rainy days, days that remind me of when I lived in England for half a year. Perfect time for a cuppa strong Earl Gray, and a plate of dense scones with clotted cream and jam. Yum! Two of the fancier more atmospheric teas I’ve enjoyed were in London.

The first was at the Orangery on the edge of Hyde Park. Gorgeous structure with sweeping high ceilings and vast windows looking out on formal knot gardens…plus it’s part of the Kensington Palace layout. Sipping tea and having scones and mini sandwiches amid the beautiful surroundings and with Greek sculptures staring down at you as if envious for a bite = heaven.

Tea Sandwiches and PastriesThe second really fine tea I had was in Fortnum and Mason’s department store (department store to the Queen, thank you very much). It’s the same place that the snotty brat in  The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson is taken for his coveted “Knickerbocker Glory”…which is still on the menu.  High tea here is delightfully stuffy. All fine china, the usual tea fixins displayed in a beautiful manner, and, honestly, the most shockingly good lox I’ve ever had in my life.

I’ve also had tea in countless bakeshops throughout the Cotswolds. Those upstairs rooms are a fragrant delight with their fussy flowered curtains and little trolley carts wheeled past the table. Every single tea = yum.

Why all this tea nostalgia? Today, I’m heading out to tea with my wonderful daughter. It’s an annual tradition, and yes, there is a wonderful place right here in PA: The Talking Teacup.  I’ve been basically not eating all week so that I’ll have room for this feast. It’s mysterious how those teeny tiny sandwiches and a delightful little cookie shaped like a teapot expand in your stomach.  Then again, it could be all those scones with clotted cream I wolf down first.

But I’m ready!  Bring on the tea.

Have any great high tea spots to recommend across the globe? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Writer Wednesday: On Writing Magic

*This post originally appeared on my DRAWN Blog Ghost Tour earlier this year at the wonderful blog site The Cozy Reader

MP900414028We writers have the best job in the world.  We get to perform magic, to make things mysteriously appear out of nowhere.  All writers do this when they write fiction, but when we are writing actual fantasy scenes, well, that’s more magical than ever.

The trick, as with all magic, is making the audience believe. In my paranormal novel Drawn, the main character Michelle De Freccio is an artist that draws and then meets Christopher, a hot medieval ghost with a sketchy past.  Okay, so you have to suspend some disbelief when you read books like this, but my job is to make everything as credible as possible.  I didn’t want to create something goofy, but a novel that is gripping and that feels very real. A story that truly draws you in. To do this, I grounded as much as I could in a gritty reality, and only put in a few spare touches of magic.

On the reality front, it helps to have a character like Michelle who is a born skeptic, and a cynical Jersey-girl to boot. She’s hoping to start over in England and have a more normal life (back in New Jersey everyone called the De Freccio’s the De Freakos…her family has an odd background and she was labeled a freak).

Even Christopher, who is technically a ghost to Michelle, is a realist living in his own world in the 1400s. Convincing both of them that they are linked in a time traveling relationship isn’t easy. People who are skeptics need some undeniable proof…and a touch of magic, like in this scene from the book, narrated by Michelle, when she realizes she’s truly in another time and invisible, among other things:

But Thomas Haston’s vision remains barely focused on Christopher. “Yes, master.” He bows his head. “I shall grab the reins.”

He hurries toward us. Straight toward me. He must be completely blind, because he’s going to walk right into me.

“Watch it,” I say.

He doesn’t walk into me. He walks through me. Like I’m a stream to be waded through. My skin feels itchy and a nasty saltiness fills my mouth. Christopher releases me and looks at me with horror. I look at my hands, expecting them to be see-through, but they’re solid. “What the hell?” I say.

“What in hell,” he says, his voice barely a whisper.

 

So who is the ghost here, and what, exactly is going on?  Here’s the end to that scene:

Christopher takes both my hands, gingerly, as if he’s afraid they’ll burst into flames. “What are you? A sprite? A spirit? A phantom?”

“I’m a freak,” I say. And burst into tears.

 

MP900444287While much of Drawn is based in realistic scenes, whether in the present or in the distant past, there are a few times when I really get to flex my magic muscles. One of my favorite moments happens when Michelle brings a book with her into the past, a book that reveals all the battle outcomes in the 1400s.  While Christopher would be able to use this information to his advantage, this will clearly mess with destiny.  Some things are just not meant to happen, so:

I run my finger over the text to where I left off. “The Duke, misreading his opponent, brought his forces for the Christmastime to the castle of…” Suddenly the page looks different. More white space. Less words.

“The castle of?” Christopher prompts.

I try to focus on the words. “…for the Christmastime to the castle of Sandall, but…” Something seems to move across the paper. My skin crawls, as I slide my eyes downward. I watch with horror as the letters at the bottom of the page disappear one by one.

I flip the page. Letters disappear from the bottom here, too. The white of the paper grows, eating away at the words. Frantic, I flip back to the page I was just reading. Completely blank. “Oh God.”

“What is wrong?” Christopher tries to sit up.

I flip ahead a few pages. Two paragraphs are left. I quickly read, “Henry’s forces had been gathering throughout the area for some time and the land was heavily for—” The rest of that word is gone, as is the rest of the writing on that page.

“Why did you stop?” Christopher says and peers at the book. He draws in his breath as the words I’d just read vanish like a fabric unwound by a pulled thread.

 

Every novel with a fantasy element must have its own set of rules.  In Drawn, messing with destiny can be killer, literally. The history book with its unraveling writing sends up a warning to Michelle, but she disturbs destiny anyway, and winds up putting Christopher’s fate in horrific danger…  Okay, I can’t say anything more about that without spilling too much about the story.

But I can say one other thing about writing magic: If you put a very real moment right up against a magical one, the contrasts can create a seriously strong scene. In this scene from Drawn, Michelle is in her own time being attacked by a bunch of thugs from “the wrong side of Castle Road”:

Drawn-ebook cover final borderAs rough hands drag me off the sidewalk, I shriek “Christopher!”

They laugh. “Calling your posh boyfriend?” Bobby says. “Guess he can have you when we’re through.”

I close my eyes and hear a scream. It’s not me.

My eyes fly open. Bobby cradles his arm. Blood seeps through his fingers. “Who did that?” He looks around wildly.

I back away and another guy tries to grab at me. He shrieks as his thumb is sliced off, seemingly by nothing. It lands bloody beside me. I catch a glimpse of a rusty truck in the street before I close my eyes and curl up in a ball. Tears streak my face.

There’s more terrified screaming, then I hear them run away.

“Michelle. Michelle?” someone says and touches me. I whimper. “It is okay. I came. They will not hurt you now.” I feel the hand rub my arm and he says, “Shh now. Shh.”

I dare to open my eyes and there is Christopher kneeling beside me, a blood-smeared sword in his right hand. He drops the sword and gathers me into his arms.

 

For some reason, this scene always gives me the shivers.  I guess I’ve always been a sucker for a brave hero in tall boots.  Now that’s magic!

DRAWN Voted Book of the Month!

Happy to announce that my novel DRAWN has just been voted as Book of the Month over at Long and Short Reviews!  Thanks so much to everyone who cast their vote and showed some love for this novel about Christopher the sketchy medieval ghost, and Michelle the artist who draws him in.  When DRAWN was reviewed by the Long and Short Reviews site earlier in the month, it was rated “Best Book,” which is above their usual 5-Star ranking.

Here’s some of what that reviewer said: I was drawn (pun intended) into this book from the first page and couldn’t put it down…This story is so deftly created that I was in each setting and could easily “see” Michelle’s art without illustrations…I recommend Drawn to tweens, teens and above. It has the perfect amount of romance, and enough action and suspense to keep the most distracted reader turning the pages.

To read the full review of DRAWN over at Long and Short Reviews, just click here.

Happy reads!

Marie

Haunts at the End of the Road

Sketch from Marie's England journal

The Drawn Blog Ghost Tour is on its final week, and what a week it is! Posts filled with passion (hey, Valentine’s Day is approaching, right?), giveaways, writing advice, excerpts from my paranormal Drawn and tons of book reviews, too!  And everywhere you will discover more tidbits about Christopher the ghost from the past who has been labeled by reviewers as extremely “swoon-worthy!”

The reviews the book’s garnered so far are so amazing, it’s spooky! Reviewers have praised the novel’s setting, characters, plotting, romance, its ending. It’s really been a thrill for this little writer to see the responses from seasoned book reviewers.  You can see reviews by clicking here (I update this page as the reviews come in).

Haven’t ordered your own copy of Drawn yet? Um, why not?  The ebook sale (just 99 cents) is going on for just a few more days, and the paperback is priced at $12.99.  That’s lovable, right? All the book and ebook purchasing links can be found by clicking here.

So, without further ado, here are the highlights from our final Drawn Blog Ghost Tour week!:

February 13th: Is it love? Is he a prince or a frog? Ever have a crappy boyfriend? Ever spent Valentine’s alone? Well, check out this post.  It just might restore your faith in love! Get in the spirit of Valentine’s Day over at I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read, with my guest post “Caught in a Bad Romance,” plus a Drawn eBOOK GIVEAWAY!

February 14th: Here’s one for those writers out there: Author Janice Bashman features my guest post “Just Because You Can…” which explores a bunch of no-no’s for writers.

February 15th: IB Book Blogging features my guest post “Not All Bad” about creating villains you’ll love to hate.

February 16th: Eve’s Fan Garden hosts an interview with me, plus their review of Drawn, PLUS an ebook giveaway to one lucky winner.  Act fast! It runs Feb. 16-18th.

February 17th: Author Jo Ramsey closes out our amazing tour by featuring an interview with me, plus a red-hot excerpt from Drawn

Missed any of the past tour dates? No problemo.  Just visit the Drawn Blog Ghost Tour page and follow the links.

Thanks, again, to all the awesome bloggers and reviewers who have made this tour so phenomenal, and to you, the readers, who are helping to spread the word about Drawn.

Marie

Feeling the Love!

This week, with Valentine’s Day less than a week away, I’m really feeling the love!

Over at my Valentine Blog Hop giveaway page, you can too.  All you have to do is click here and then leave a comment on that page about your favorite romantic movie and book. Then you’ll be entered to win a complete signed set of my novels What I Meant…, Over My Head, and my new paranormal novel Drawn, plus a yummy box of chocolates. PLUS you’ll be entered for a chance to win the Valentine Blog Hop grand prizes of a heart necklace or a $75 gift certificate. But you gotta hurry, cuz this giveaway contest ends on February 14th…

And speaking of love, and of Drawn, this week has been filled with some truly love-filled reviews of my new novel.  Share time!  Here goes:

“A fun, historical time travel full of creativity, beautiful scenes, and an engrossing mystery…I fell in love with the entire story…the setting was mostly amazing. The castle that Michelle meets Christopher in is spectacular.  And going back in time during that setting? Brilliant…I haven’t read too many time travel books and none that had such pure romance and a true mystery element to it…Their romance was very beautiful and endearing. I didn’t want to see it end. 5 STARS” — The Cozy Reader

“A clever and enjoyable paranormal romance with a love affair that fans of the genre are sure to swoon over.” — Tara Calaby, Agrippina Legit

Drawn has it all, 3 guys who are completely different, a castle, ghosts, an Earl who is in a spot of trouble, lest he know it, a girl who has a complicated family and a love that can endure centuries…an enjoyable read.” — Novels on the Run

“This is one of those books that has it all: romance, adventure, time travel, some creepy elements, a plot steeped in medeival history, and ghosts. What really makes the story work though is a lead protagonist that is impossible not to love. Her life is filled with adversity, from her psychic mother who left her to her grieving father to trying to fit in at school, and her troubles only increases when Christopher starts appearing to her. Yet she never backs down, and while uncovering the secrets of Christopher’s past, she also starts to make sense of her own life.” — Lucas Mangum’s Dark Dimensions

Plus some reviews have popped up on Goodreads.com saying, “A clever tale about family loyalty in both feudal England and the present day, the ending satisfying enough while hinting at the possibility of a sequel…Overall rating: Page-turner,” and “This book was so unexpectedly amazing…The plot was so fresh and new, unlike many other paranormal stories just being recycled and the characters were realistic…I really hope there will be a sequel, don’t get me wrong I love a stand alone novel but this one was so great I didn’t want it to end…”

To check out all the great Goodreads reviews (plus to find info about the giveaway I’m running there through the end of Feb.) you can visit Drawn‘s Goodreads page here.

So REALLY feeling the love!  Hope you get a chance to read Drawn and share your thoughts about it, and, of course, the LOVE.

Happy reads,

Marie

 

This Week’s Highlights!: DRAWN Blog Ghost Tour Continues

First, some quick updates:

*Drawn ebook is still on sale for just $0.99…but for a limited time…links are here.

**Also, through Valentines Day, you can enter to win all of my books signed, plus chocolates, plus have a chance at a grand prize…entering is as easy as leaving a comment: click The Valentine Blog Hop for the details.

AND NOW: News from the road…

The Drawn Blog Ghost Tour road, that is.

This week I’m criss-crossing the globe…I’ve packed my wrinkle free clothes, my passport and my writing journal… Well, okay, since this is a BLOG tour after all, maybe I haven’t packed anything. Maybe I haven’t left the country. MAYBE I’m sitting in my studio in my jammies all week long.

So? I’m STILL crossing the globe on this week’s tour, making not one but TWO stops in Australia, then racing back to the U.S. for the balance of this week.

But can’t we imagine that this author is wandering through cyberspace, a fashionable carry-on over one shoulder, and a well-read copy of Drawn under the other?  We envision this author as unstoppable. Her business-like heels click clack through the world’s airports.

Her passionate mission? To spread the word about Drawn, her new paranormal novel about a timeless love between teen artist Michelle, and Christopher, the medieval ghost with a sketchy past… Our world-traveling author won’t rest until everyone knows it’s gotten amazing reviews, like last week’s rave from The Author Chronicles, who said “If you’re looking for a book with an engaging protagonist, captivating plot, and paranormal twist, this is for you. Just make sure to clear your calendar first, because once you start, you won’t want to put it down!”

Our jet-setting author wants people to realize that if they like Twilight, Hush Hush and books by Beth Fantaskey, that they will fall in love with Drawn

Our trail blazing writer wants…well, she wants to get out of her jammies and into real clothes at some time this week, but never mind that.  On to this weeks highlights (the fourth week of the tour!), brought to you by the fabulous book bloggers on the Drawn Blog Ghost Tour!:

February 6th:  That’s today! Say a hearty g’day to our down-under blogger Novels on the Run as they host my guest post “Any Time but the Present.” I share why I think time travel is so seductive, plus some tasty excerpts from Drawn.

February 7th: Still in awesome Australia is blogger Agrippina Legit, who will feature a review of Drawn and an interview with me with that “Land Down Under” spin.

February 8th: We zoom back to the U.S. where The Cozy Reader posts her review of Drawn plus my  guest blog “Writing Magic,” where I share some of my own techniques for writing believable fantasy scenes…with examples from Drawn.

February 9th: Take a walk on the dark side at Lucas Mangum’s Dark Dimensions blog, where he’ll post his review of Drawn plus run an interview with me exploring the fascination with darkness and the paranormal…and the darkness that winds through Drawn.

February 10th: Twimom101 features a quirky Top 10 Q&A with me. I reveal some stuff… Er, hope I didn’t embarrass myself? If I do, please tell me!

As with any of these posts, leave comments and I’ll be sure to comment back.  See how dedicated I am? Even with ALL of this travelling.  Even with spending all day in my fuzzy slippers…er, I mean, my business-like heels…

Ah the glamour of being an author on tour!  Truly, there’s nothing like it…

To catch up on any of the fun you missed in the past few weeks on the tour (from authentic ghost photos, to reviews and interviews and posts that are illuminating and/or bizarre) just click here or on the Drawn Blog Ghost Tour tab at the top of my website at any time, and follow the links.

Bon voyage!

Things are Heating Up!: Drawn Blog Ghost Tour Week 3

TONS of excitement here.  This past week my new paranormal novel Drawn cracked #11 in its category on Amazon!!! Seems readers are really warming to this novel about Christopher, the hot medieval ghost with a sketchy past.

And the Drawn Blog Ghost Tour is smoking hot so far.  There have been a slew of guest posts about writing, hauntings, knights, passion and art.  There have also been two probing interviews, one ghost photo, and a bunch of really sizzling reviews…including one from TwilightMOMS who said: “Mysterious and enchanting, DRAWN is a breath of fresh air. If you are looking for a page turner with a unique twist, then look no further.”

Also, the winter nights have been heating up with not one but two giveaways. **There is still a chance to enter these…simply click here for the Elliot Review (ends Jan. 30th) and here for TwilightMOMS (ends Jan. 31st) and follow the directions to win your own autographed copy of Drawn!

Now Week 3 of the tour steams ahead with three red-hot stops:

January 30th: At Word For Teens, my guest post “Do Over” talks about how I overcame my own battles with bullies and how this helped shaped the novel…plus there’s a brand new Drawn BOOK GIVEAWAY!

February 1st: At Author Chronicles the bloggers host a writerly interview with me.  Plus they put up an amazing review of Drawn here.

February 3rd: Author Danyelle Leafty posts her review of Drawn on her Myth-Takes blog.

To visit all the stops on the tour, click here or on the Drawn Blog Ghost Tour tab at the top of this website. And for info on how to purchase your own copy of Drawn just click here.  Then you can find out for yourself why paranormal author Cyn Balog called Drawn, “A lushly romantic ghost story…captivating and haunting. I didn’t want it to end.”

Stay warm…cuddle up with a good book!

Marie

DRAWN Updates and Giveaways!

Hi everyone!

It’s been a busy week here over at Casa Lamba, and it’s all because of my new paranormal novel Drawn. 🙂

First of all, Drawn, as of today, has hit #27 on the bestseller list in its category of medieval fiction on Amazon. Go Drawn Go!!!!  I’m so thrilled that readers are responding so well to my new novel.  Sure, I’d fallen in love with my story of a teen artist who draws a guy that might just be a ghost from the middle ages…and the love of her life.  But would anyone else feel the same? Was I completely nuts? And are these two mutually exclusive???

Well, reviews are coming in…including this one just yesterday from the huge Twilight fan site TwilightMOMs: “Mysterious and enchanting, DRAWN is a breath of fresh air. If you are looking for a page turner with a unique twist, then look no further.”

Happy HAPPY HAPPY dance!  And a big PHEW!  Truly, being a writer is such an uncertain thing.  We really thrive on this sort of encouragement…it makes me want to jump around the room…best of all, it makes me want to write more.

ALSO this week, there was a knock at my door, and three thuds outside as UPS delivered 100 paperback copies of the novel. There’s something about seeing so many of your books at once — a feeling like no other!  Kinda like love? What I could do with these! Stack them up in a neat pile…line them up like dominoes…cover the floor with them and roll on them like a puppy…Erm. TMI?  Now it’s time to set up my book launch signing (details will be coming soon) and to get these copies onto my local bookstore shelves! (I promise they have NOT been rolled on.)

ALSO ALSO this week, the Drawn Blog Ghost Tour is in full swing, so that means that every day there is something new about Drawn posted at a great book blogger site!  You can follow along with all the different interviews, insiders bits, reviews and giveaways by clicking here and going to the post links.

Two of the tour stops are currently running a giveaway of Drawn over at their sites!  Just click on either of these great blogs and either comment or fill in the entry form for a chance to win an autographed paperback copy of Drawn: The Elliot Review and TwilightMOMS.com. These giveaways are running through the end of this month, so don’t miss your chance to enter.

So it’s been crazy here, but crazy in a GOOD way.  Keep the goodness going, by spreading the word about Drawn with others…sharing this post…buying the book by clicking here (thank you to my readers! <3).  And I’ll keep up the happy dancing and the writing…and thinking about a possible sequel called Sketch.

Happy reads!

Marie

Week 2: DRAWN Blog Ghost Tour Haunts

First, a quick update!  I’m so excited to announce that Drawn, my new YA paranormal about a hot medieval ghost with a sketchy past, broke into ranking #24 on Amazon’s list for Juvenile Medieval fiction! Happy dance!!! (Medieval jig?)

Now onto the tour…I’m really loving this whole blog tour thing!  Week 1 of my Drawn Blog Ghost Tour was amazing, with stops at wonderful book blogger and author sites (to visit any of the stops, just go here for links).  Plus a giveaway of a signed copy of Drawn is going on over at The Elliot Review through the end of January!  So you still have a chance to win a copy.  Just head on over to The Elliot Review and fill in the form at the end of my guest post by clicking here.

And here’s what’s up for Week 2 of the Drawn Blog Ghost Tour!:

Monday, January 23rd: On her blog Mirth & Matter, Author Elizabeth Bunce hosts a guest post I wrote, titled “Picture This.” I talk about how my background as a fine artist shaped Drawn, and how the main character Michelle uses her own artist’s point of view to paint pictures in the reader’s mind.

Tuesday, January 24th: Author Jaye Robin Brown posts a fresh new interview with me over at her fun Hanging on to Wonder blog

Wednesday, January 25th: Twilight Moms posts their review!!!! Plus they run an original interview with me, along with a Drawn BOOK GIVEAWAY! Click on their site for a chance to win your own autographed copy of  my new book. 🙂

Thursday, January 26th: All Things Books posts a never-before-seen interview with me. Check it out, and leave some comments.  I’ll be commenting back!

Friday, January 27th: All-Consuming Books features my guest post “Going Forth with Resolution.” Are you keeping your New Year’s resolutions? Am I?  In this post I talk about all the resolutions that I absolutely, definitely do NOT make. Look forward to your comments there about your own “not made” resolutions…

As always, thanks to all the fabulous bloggers who have made the Drawn Blog Ghost Tour so much fun to haunt. To visit any or all of the stops on the tour, check it all out by clicking here! And we’re only half way through the fun.

Keep warm with a good book,
Marie

DRAWN Now out in Paperback Too!

And so the journey really begins… My new paranormal YA novel Drawn is now not only available in ebook but in paperback too!  That means that you can now go into your favorite bookstore and order your very own copy, or you can order it online through Amazon by clicking here!  In case you don’t already know, this novel is about a teen artist who draws and then meets and falls for a hot medieval ghost. Yowza.

You can do a lot to make this novel successful by purchasing it now, instead of later.  Sales that happen all at once push the book into a higher ranking, more people notice it then, and buy it, and so on!  (Same goes for the ebook sales…so whatever form you purchase, now is better than later…for ebook purchase info, click here.)

To celebrate this new publication, I’m currently hosting a Drawn paperback giveaway over at Goodreads.com. Up for grabs are 5 autographed copies of Drawn, and all you have to do is enter to win by going here.

And on Tuesday, I’m kicking off my very first blog tour.  This is new territory for me, folks, and it promises to be VERY exciting.  The month-long Drawn Blog Ghost Tour includes stops at some of the hottest blog sites, and includes a range of interviews, reviews, guest posts and book giveaways!  First stop will be on Tuesday at Jonathan Maberry’s Big Scary Blog…with a post that will include a never before seen ghost photo.  NOT kidding. It’s freaky.  Check back throughout the month for all the tour highlights. And to haunt all the tour stops, you can find each blog tour detail and link by clicking here.

So now Drawn is officially out in the world.  What a long, but wonderful journey it’s been.  Thanks so much to all my friends, readers and supporters for encouraging me along the way. This novel really means a lot to me, and I hope it will come to mean something to people who read it, too…

Thanks, all,

Marie