And if you live in the Bow Valley, please pick up a signed copy at Cafe Books
If you do not live in the Bow Valley but would like a signed bookplate to stick into your book, please jump over to my contact page and send me a message. I would love to send you a personalized autograph (and maybe a couple of other goodies).
I was fortunate enough to have an evening with Erin Evans, one of the most inspiring women you will ever meet, where we talked about writing Contest of Queens and the incredible journey this novel has taken me on. Check it out below, and listen to her other episodes- I promise she’ll shift your life view for the better.
Leave a Review, Get some Goodies
Reviews are so helpful in getting word of my book out there. If you have time, and if you’ve read the book, I would be eternally grateful if you could leave a star rating and/or a written review on Goodreads or Amazon.
Better yet, if you leave a star rating and review, let me know here, and be sure to include your mailing address in the message because I’d love to send you some goodies to show my appreciation! (limited supply)
I’ve teamed up with Brandie June, author of Gold Spun (check out my interview with her here) to give away TWO signed copies of Contest of Queens and depending on where you live, you’ll get some great book merch too! You have until February 1st to enter- so get cracking!
You still have time to enter (if you haven’t already), so click the giveaway picture or a link below!
I’ve created a playlist with some songs that relate to the characters, events, the themes, and the general feel of the novel (hopefully you agree!). There’s a method to my madness, so it sound best in order, but I’m not the boss of you so shuffle away if that’s your style. Sit back and enjoy some Contest of Queens related melodies:
This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Bryan Prosek, author of A Measure of Serenity. Read on for more insider info on the main character, Serenity, and how Prosek gets into her mind to make her a compelling and complex character.
What was your inspiration for this novel?
I have two parts to this answer. First, I’ve always been fascinated by parallel dimension and time travel stories, whether it’s in a book, a movie, or even a television show, so I wanted to write about one of those story lines. Time travel has been written about far more often than parallel universes, so I chose the latter. I also wanted to keep the setting on Earth rather than another planet, galaxy, or fantasy dimension. I wanted it to be more dystopian than hard core science fiction. The second part of my inspiration was that I wanted a female protagonist. I had not written a story or book with a female lead, and having a teenage daughter and coaching a teenage girls soccer team, I had a lot of young adult teenage girl experiences to draw from. So those two things combined to inspire me to put a teenage girl in a parallel universe in A Measure of Serenity.
Measure of Serenity is written in first person, what were some important considerations when getting into the mind of Serenity?
I wanted Serenity to have a special or unique ability but I didn’t want her to have a superpower. I wanted her to be more realistic, even if her mental abilities are exaggerated from what I person might possess in real life. So I decided on extraordinary intelligence. That’s where I had to really work to get into her mind since I’m lacking in that area. LOL! Finally, I wanted young adults to be able to relate to her, so I made her unique gift (her mind) also a burden for her, something that she constantly struggles with and which causes her to question her actions or inactions. The incessant counting and calculating puts a constant strain on her. And her mental genius makes her socially awkward, which is another personal flaw that she struggles with. Having said all of that, I chose to write the book in the first person so that I could really feel what Serenity might be feeling, and be better able to express those feelings in my writing. In other words, first person made it easier and more relatable in expressing what was going through Serenity’s mind.
What was most challenging about writing from Serenity’s point of view?
The most challenging part was probably writing from the viewpoint of a teenage girl when I am a middle aged man. I had to think how a teenage girl would react and adapt to the situations that Serenity finds herself in, not how I would react. However, as I mentioned, I had a lot of experience to draw from working with and talking to teenage girls, but it still took a few rewrites of a couple chapters in order to get it right.
What qualities do you think you share with Serenity? In what areas do you think you are most different?
First the similar qualities. While I didn’t really go there is the book, I believe Serenity is a bit OCD. A person with her mind set almost has to be, since she compartmentalizes every thought. While I don’t have Serenity’s intellect, I am somewhat OCD. I think that helped in writing her character, as I understood that part of her thinking. As for the differences, besides the obvious age and gender differences that I discussed above, the biggest difference would be her ability to retain everything she sees and hears. I am pretty good at remembering faces, but if you introduce me to someone, thirty seconds later I have to ask you again what his or her name is. LOL
Serenity has an incredible memory and calculates everything she sees. In the novel we see her wrestle with these skills. Would you consider it a blessing or a curse to have Serenity’s memory and calculating mind?
This was one of my favorite parts in writing this book, Serenity’s struggles with something that others might long to possess. It’s kind of like the job interview question, “What is your greatest strength and what is your greatest weakness?” In most cases, the answer should be the same. To answer your question, for me, on the outside looking in at Serenity, I would call it a blessing. I would love to hear, see, and remember things like she does. However, from Serenity’s viewpoint, having this ability, I can see how it can be a curse. Constantly knowing what’s going to happen, your mind never resting, always calculating, and always feeling like things are your fault because you knew what would happen and were unable to stop it if it was something bad. This is somewhat similar to OCD. Always feeling like things are out of place. Always needing to fix or correct things.
How often did you need to research quantities of e.g., feathers, leaves, streetlamps down the average street?
Great question! The answer is all the time! Every time that I needed Serenity to count or calculate something, I first had to come up with what it was I wanted her to count or calculate. That depended on the difficulty of the situation that Serenity was in. After that, I had to research what the answer was for what she was counting or calculating. For example, I had no idea how many feathers a bird has or how many leaves are on a typical tree. I assumed no reader would know the answers to these either, but I wanted to be accurate in case a reader researched it. So I researched and had to come up with an average number in most cases. I also had to do a lot of mathematical research to come up with difficult formulas or calculations that most readers wouldn’t know. I wanted it to be shocking to the typical reader, that Serenity would know this off the top of her head, but I also wanted it to be accurate.
Identity is an important theme in A Measure of Serenity and Serenity’s identify is molded by those around her when she falls into her parallel life. To what extent would you say identity can be shaped by the people around us (as opposed to it being a constant internal concept)?
I have always felt that identity is shaped by the people around us. People that surround themselves with bad people, generally end up in trouble. On the contrary, people that hang out with generally good people, usually end up contributing more to society. There are exceptions, I know, but in general, I feel this is the case. This shows in A Measure of Serenity. As we have discussed, Serenity really struggles with her blessing/curse and her social awkwardness in her universe. However, the longer she is in the parallel universe, and surrounded by her Resistance friends and supporters, the less she finds herself randomly counting and calculating and questioning her actions. While the risks and stress of Serenity’s life multiplied tenfold when she passes through the sphere, she eventually becomes more relaxed and comfortable, mainly due to the people she had around her.
A Measure of Serenity
A million thoughts, but only one right thing to do.
Eighteen-year-old Serenity Ashdown has a brilliant mind: she counts, calculates, and analyzes everything, all the time. Awkward. When her father suddenly disappears, Serenity follows his trail to a parallel dimension. The feds on the other side claim to want to help her go home, if she helps them reconstruct the right codes for the portal between worlds. But it’s soon clear they want something more: a gateway for invasion, because this version of Earth is dying.
When Serenity learns that her alter-ego was killed in battle, she assumes “the other Serenity’s” identity and uses her unique abilities to lead the resistance in a mortal fight against the tyrannical super-government that is poised to invade her universe. Serenity has no idea how to be someone she’s not, but she has to try—or she may not have a home to return to.
Contest of Queens Countdown
Only one month left until my debut novel is released! I still can’t believe it, and I’m so so excited to finally have people reading it!
Make sure to request this beauty at your local bookstore so they can order it in for you! And if you don’t want to put on pants to leave the house, let your fingers do the walking and follow the link below to preorder here:
Welcome to my fourth Book Nook! Today I rolled a Nat 20 and had the honor of talking to Elijah Menchaca, author of They Met in a Tavern, an exciting whirlwind adventure about a party of “we used to be” heroes. We chat about writing different characters and how to create a functioning and believable party out of different personalities and architypes (even when they don’t like each other).
So boil the kettle, get out your d20s, and enjoy!
They Met in a Tavern
They used to be heroes . . . and it was all downhill from there.
The Starbreakers were your classic teenage heroes. Using their combined powers and skills, they were the most successful group of glintchasers in Corsar. But that all changed the day the city of Relgen died. The group went their separate ways, placing the blame on each other.
Seven years after their falling out, a hefty bounty is placed on their heads. Phoenix tries to reunite the Starbreakers before everything they have left is taken from them. But a lot can change in seven years. And if mending old wounds was easy, they would have done it a long time ago.
Contest of Queens News
Contest of Queens Teaser Trailer
I am so excited to finally share the Book Trailer for Contest of Queens! A huge huge thank you to Bryan Johnston, a fellow CamCat author, who was the mastermind behind this stunning trailer! (I’ve honestly lost count of how many times I’ve watched it). And a huge thank you to all my dear friends who joined me for an in-person release- it wouldn’t have been the same without your oooooos and aaaaahhhhs (scroll across for some pictures from the night).
I was recently featured in Dana Flanders’ blog “Rant and Rave” and she had some lovely things to say about Contest of Queens!
One of my favourite comments she made was:
My favorite part about this book was that Jacs had her priorities straight. As someone who reads quite a bit of young adult books, it is soooo refreshing to see a strong female lead who prioritizes her family, her friends, and her mission above the romantic interest.
I know this feeling will only get stronger as more people read and review my novel, but I just love to hear what each person gets from it. My hope is that it has a little nugget for everyone 🙂
Book Tour Feature
If you’re like me, you love a good sale
Black Friday Sale at CamCat!
My publisher, CamCat Books, have an incredible sale on from November 25th until December 1st. 20% off any order on their site. This means you can get any of the wonderful titles already released (including novels featured in past Book Nook interviews):
Or upcoming novels available for pre-order!
And look at that gorgeous title four from the left (not that I’m biased…). We only have 2 months until Contest of Queens is released and I am so so excited to share it with you all! To preorder your copy, follow the link below:
Oh nelly, October was a whirlwind of a month. I had a few very exciting things happen that I can’t wait to share with you all! In this month’s newsletter, check out:
The Queens take on France (and I turned 30, flirty and thriving)
The Genre LA Creative Writing Conference
September/October’s hype train draw
The Queens take on France (and I turned 30!)
In two weeks, Katie and I went coast to coast and everywhere in between in France. I could fill books (and I did) about our adventures, but that is for another time. So instead, enjoy the pre-published French book tour we took with Contest of Queens!
The Genre LA Creative Writing Conference
Let me tell you, it is a surreal feeling to see your name and photo next to all of these incredibly talented writers/authors/publishers!
I was lucky enough to speak on three different panels across the week, I’ve included their summaries below.
On the Speculative Fiction Panel (description below), I joined my fellow CamCat authors to talk about the “What If” factor as well as debate the value of escapism and story outlines, with Dungeons and Dragons popping up for an honorable mention. I was armed with a cup of tea, and if it weren’t for the screen, could have mistaken the panel for a chat with old friends.
Thanks to Josh Chamberlain for moderating, and to my fellow panelists: Elijah Menchaca- They Met in a Tavern Bryan Prosek- The Brighter the Stars, Measure of Serenity Christian Klaver- Shadows over London series Jason Offutt- The Girl in the Corn
To find out more about any of these authors, please visit their websites or even better, find their books at https://camcatbooks.com/
Last but not least, congratulations to Hayley (@these_damn_fools on Instagram) for winning this months’ hype train draw! She will be getting a Contest of Queens goodie bag sent to her 🙂
If anyone would like information on how to get on the hype train and how to enter to win cool swag, please jump over to my contact page and send me a message!
Welcome to my third Book Nook! Today I had the absolute pleasure of talking to Elizabeth Chatsworth, author of The Brass Queen, an incredible steam-punk fantasy with the best dialogue and metaphors I’ve read in a while. One of my favourite lines being: I do so love a story well told, and if you agree with that sentiment, you will love this book!
So boil the kettle and settle in for this interview where Chatsworth and I discuss narrative voice and all things steampunk.
Live most magically x
The Brass Queen
She knows a liar when she sees one. He knows a fraud when he meets one.
In a steam-powered world, Miss Constance Haltwhistle is the last in a line of blue-blooded rogues. Selling firearms under her alias, the “Brass Queen,” she has kept her baronial estate’s coffers full. But when US spy J. F. Trusdale saves her from assassins, she’s pulled into a search for a scientist with an invisibility serum. As royal foes create an invisible army to start a global war, Constance and Trusdale must learn to trust each other. If they don’t, the world as they know it will disappear before their eyes.
If you like the Parasol Protectorate or the Invisible Library series, you’ll love this gaslamp fantasy—a rambunctious romantic romp that will have you both laughing out loud and wishing you owned all of Miss Haltwhistle’s armaments.
Can’t wait for January? Neither can I! And luckily for us, neither could CamCat. They have now uploaded the first two chapters of Contest of Queens to their website for you to peruse to your heart’s content! That’s the first 50 pages! Click the black “LOOK INSIDE” button for a preview. Don’t forget to check out the map while you’re there! Can you find Jacs’ farm?
Don’t forget to preorder your copy and add it to Good Reads!
August Hype Train Draw Winner
Every month, the people who have contributed to hyping Contest of Queens up will go in the draw to win some goodies.
This month’s draw was for a Contest of Queens swag bag! *cue trumpets* including: a message in a bottle, a book bag, two postcards, a fridge magnet, a bookmark, and an autographed book sticker.
Congratulations Dylan (@dylankewball on Instagram) for being this month’s winner of the hype train draw! Thank you so much for all you did this month to share the Contest of Queens love!
For more information about the hype train, or if you would like to join, please jump over the the contact page and send me an email 🙂
Contest of Queens Giveaway Winner
This month I also had an Instagram contest to celebrate the cover reveal for Contest of Queens. Congratulations to Ally (@nuggets_allison) for winning all these goodies!
The prize was a Contest of Queens swag bag, and a signed copy of The Rose Petal Princess and other fairytales!
August has been a wild and wonderful month, namely because I was able to reveal the cover of my upcoming novel, Contest of Queens! It was such a magical and humbling experience, and it just kept on going!
The day was spent out at Two Jack Lake with a group of wonderful humans who all took time out of their Saturdays to come celebrate. We had champagne and nibbles, and laughed in the face of the orange smoke that turned all our photographs sepia tone. Billie Marlow captured the day perfectly (check out her photography on instagram: @marlowb).
On top of the in person magic, the cover was also released online through The Nerd Daily, and the story was covered by the Rocky Mountain Outlook (keep scrolling to see what they had to say). I know this journey is truly just beginning, but I honestly cannot believe how lucky I am to be on it! Thank you to everyone who came out and supported the release in person, thank you to everyone who is showing their support from afar, AND the pre-order link is up, so if you want to be the first to read Contest of Queens, please pre-order your copy now!
So get a cup of tea ready, and settle in to watch these talented authors and I discuss the roles mentors play in our respective novels as well as in young adult fantasy as a genre. It was such a privilege to speak with these incredible humans, and a huge thank you to Josh Chamberman who was our moderator for this event!
Most of us have been lucky to find positive role models and mentor figures either in our lives, or in books, shows, and movies. Some of my favourite mentor figures in media include Uncle Iroh from Avatar the Last Airbender and Bromm from Eragon. I’d love to hear about the mentors that have made a difference in your lives! Leave a comment, or pop me a message 🙂
Live magically x
Be sure to pop over to CamCat Books for more information about these authors and their upcoming (or released) novels. https://camcatbooks.com/
Welcome to my book nook! A place where I get to indulge my nerdy side and talk books with amazingly talented authors. Today’s guest is Aamna Qureshi, author of The Lady or the Lion which is coming out July 20th, 2021, and When a Brown Girl Flees which is coming out in 2023.
It was such an honor to speak with Aamna today, so I hope you all enjoy our discussion about fairytales, retellings and their place in YA fantasy (with a little romantic intrigue thrown in for good measure!)
Live magically x
Aamna Qureshi is a Pakistani, Muslim American who adores words. She grew up on Long Island, New York, in a very loud household, surrounded by English (for school), Urdu (for conversation), and Punjabi (for emotion). Through her writing, she wishes to inspire a love for the beautiful country and rich culture that informed much of her identity.
For more information, check out Aamna Qureshi’s website: https://www.aamnaqureshi.com/ Follow her on instagram: @aamna_qureshi or Twitter: @aamnaqureshi_
On May 27th, 2021 I was lucky enough to be one of the authors featured on CamCat Books’ panel Writing Debut YA at the PW US Book Show. It was such a surreal and wonderful experience chatting with these amazing women, learning more about their worlds, and how they wrote their inspiring female leads. If you have a cup of tea ready, watch the full thing below and enjoy the show!
Also, if you look really closely, you can see a sneak peak of my book cover for Contest of Queens!
For your second cup of tea, check out these two wonderful authors:
The Lady or the Lion
He sunk his teeth into her heart and she let him.
As crown princess of Marghazar, Durkhanai Miangul will do anything to protect her people and her land. When her grandfather, the Badshah, is blamed for a deadly assault on the summit of neighboring leaders, the tribes call for his head. To assuage cries for war, the Badshah opens Marghazar’s gates to foreigners for the first time in centuries, in a sign of good faith. His family has three months to prove their innocence, or they will all have war.
As Durkhanai races to solve who really orchestrated the attack, ambassadors from the neighboring tribal districts arrive at court, each with their own intentions for negotiations, each with their own plans for advantage. When a mysterious illness spreads through the villages and the imperialists push hard on her borders, Durkhanai must dig deep to become more than just a beloved princess—she must become a queen.
To distract Durkhanai from it all is Asfandyar Afridi, the wry ambassador who tells her outright he is a spy, yet acts as though he is her friend—or maybe even something more.
If Nor can’t spin gold, she can always spin lies.
When seventeen-year-old Nor rescues a captured faerie in the woods, he gifts her with a magical golden thread she can use to summon him for a favor. Instead, Nor uses it for a con—to convince villagers to buy straw that can be transformed into gold. Her trick works a little too well, attracting the suspicion of Prince Casper, who hates nobody more than a liar. Intent on punishing Nor, he demands that she spin a room of straw into gold and as her reward, he will marry her. Should she refuse or fail, the consequences will be dire. Desperate for help, Nor summons the faerie’s aid, launching a complicated dance as she must navigate between her growing feelings for both the prince and faerie boy and who she herself wishes to become.