Paper Crowns Blogtour: Mirriam Neal Interview

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I’m SUPER excited to be part of the Paper Crowns blog-tour (going all month long!) with an interview with Mirriam Neal herself! *cue excited squealing*

I kid you not when I say that when I learned Paper Crowns was published, I spent the next day+ dancing ecstatically around the house making high keening happy noises and randomly shrieking “Paper Crowns is published!!” (You think I’m joking? Ha. Just ask my poor family who had to put up with my fangirling…)

I had the pleasure of beta-reading the story when it was first written, and I remember flailing with happiness whenever I found a new chapter in my inbox. THIS BOOK IS EXCELLENT, PEOPLE.

I recently got the published version (THAT was a happy day, aaahhh!!) and read it again and it was just as good — or, well, BETTER BECAUSE IT’S PUBLISHED! (Aside from some typos. Which I have it on good authority are being fixed, so.) I plan to read it again very soon. Maybe tomorrow… And again soon after that. (What, I’m totally normal, honest.)

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(My cat, Callette, was not thrilled about a photo-shoot… BUT CATS. Unfortunately she is not blue, but I love her anyway…)

I AM NOT EXAGGERATING WHEN I SAY THAT THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS EVER. It’s just… perfect. Mirriam Neal is a genius writer, and while I’ll read anything she writes, this just takes the cake as the best ever because of its unexpectedly light fantasy faerie-tale feeling. The CHARACTERS are the best of ever (Halcyon! Azrael! Astryn! Ginger! Salazar! Asterope! I love them alllll!) and the humor and bickering and plot and setting are all just perfection.

It has everything: a sarcastic fey blue cat, a fire elemental, a grouchy wysling, a gingery heroine, friends and traitors, villains and lovable heroes, lots and lots of snow, muffins, forests, and a good deal of folded paper. It makes you laugh and wrenches at your heart and makes you fall in love and long to go on an adventure. I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH.

I’m so very excited it’s published now so that I can insist everyone reads it.

And I do, you know. Insist you read it, that is. You will NOT regret it.

THIS BOOK THOUGH!!! ❤

Here’s a bit about the book and author and then on to the interview!

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Paper Crowns

Ginger has lived in seclusion, with only her aunt Malgarel and her blue cat, Halcyon, to keep her company. Her sheltered, idyllic life is turned upside-down when her home is attacked by messengers from the world of fae. Accompanied by Halcyon (who may or may not be more than just a cat), an irascible wysling named Azrael, and a loyal fire elemental named Salazar, Ginger ventures into the world of fae to bring a ruthless Queen to justice.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Publisher


Author Bio

tumblr_o4995pxJel1tkzty6o1_500Mirriam Neal is a twenty-two-year-old Northwestern hipster living in Atlanta. She writes hard-to-describe books in hard-to-describe genres, and illustrates things whenever she finds the time.  She aspires to live as faithfully and creatively as she can and she hopes you do, too.

You can connect with Mirriam online here:

Blog | Email


Interview with Mirriam Neal

Deborah: Could you tell us a little about your usual writing process (planning/pantsing), and how the process of writing Paper Crowns was similar or different?

Mirriam: Paper Crowns is different because it was spur-of-the-moment. I more or less woke up one day and thought, ‘I want to write this story,’ and so I did. Usually there’s a lot more work involved – I wait until I have at least half the cast created, until I have a vague idea of the ending, until I know some major plot points. Usually I have a framework, but with Paper Crowns I knew the ‘feeling’ of the book I wanted to write, and that was enough. I wish this happened more often, honestly.

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Which character from the Paper books would you say you are the most like?

I actually had to ask my friend Lauren about this. We settled on Rooney (the heroine of Paper Hearts) almost simultaneously. I’d say Rooney is more extraverted than I am, but we share many of the same characteristics.

Part of Paper Crowns takes place in our world . . . Is it any particular place—America, England… (double-decker bus?)—or did you deliberately leave the setting open to the imagination?

I deliberately left the setting open – when I began it, I wasn’t even sure it was set in our world! But I quickly realized it was, and decided it was more fun to leave it open for interpretation. Personally, I see it set in England, but that’s just me.

On that note: Accents. I hear Hal’s accent as British and Asterope’s as some sort of Irish. Is this more-or-less accurate (I hope)?

You’re correct on Asterope’s accent (points to you!) but during the rewrite, I realized Hal’s accent wasn’t so much London as a bit of Korean (Busan-dialect, specifically) with a splash of Scottish.

(I’ll probably still hear Hal as British, but oh well. XD) Will we get to learn which wysling was involved in the intriguing Hal/Astryn/kingfisher backstory and/or might we ever get this tale in book (or even short story) form? Because that would frankly be awesome. 😀

I’ve lowkey considered writing a novella dedicated to this particular slice of backstory, because it would be fantastic fun and I’m as curious about it as anyone!

(Yay!) Is Asterope still going to get his own book?

His book is waiting in the wings; very much alive, but not in the immediate future. Ras Algethi Chow gets his own novel first.

Do the verily muffins have an inspiration?

I was hungry and I wanted muffins. Hunger is good inspiration when writing food.

The main character of Paper Crowns does a lot of origami. Is that an art form you’ve dipped into yourself?

It’s inspired by two things. One: Yes, I’ve always loved origami, although I’ve never been ‘into it.’ I’ve never devoted the time – except for paper airplanes, and paper boxes. I’ve folded those my whole life, and the stories surrounding paper cranes have always fascinated me. Two: Owl City’s ‘Sky Sailing’ album featured a music video starring a paper airplane. That album heavily inspired the novel.

Your answers to a couple of questions from other interviews got me wondering about your outlook on wanting readers to take away a certain message (or not) from many of your books. I’m curious: Do you see there being a difference between tackling a “big question” in a book versus trying to preach a “message” to readers?

It’s a tricky line on which to balance, I’ll give it that, and I used to be ‘preachy’ (although even then, I was trying not to.) I think honesty and a genuine heart are very important when you really want to make your readers think and question. Readers are intelligent. They’ll know if you’re an arrogant know-it-all, forcing an opinion down their throat. Rather than forcing my opinion, I present it. I think that’s the difference.

Your books seem to have simultaneously a freshness of originality and a touch of richness of story that’s already out there. How do you view this in your own writing and what advice do you have for writers about coming up with “new” things but using echoes of other tales and, without “copying,” putting a new spin on them to deepen the story tapestry?

I’ve never been asked this question, honestly, and it’s fascinating. (Also, thank you for the compliment!) I think stories ‘echo’, as you so wonderfully put it, when there’s truth and honesty to them. People will tell you that every story has already been written. If you break a story down into a basic three-step formula, then sure, every story has been written; but I disagree with the statement. A story is so much more than a formula. Each story is different due to hundreds of tiny factors, circumstances, and personal influences from the author. I also find that you can create a world that’s been created a million times before, but if you fill that world with a cast of funky, original, diverse characters, nobody will care about the world. (At least, they won’t care about the world nearly as much as its inhabitants.) Also, I think it’s horrifyingly easy to be caught up in trying too hard. When you try too hard to be original, it shows more care about what people think than the story itself. Novels know what the author cares about, and novels know also know what the author should care about. It’s why readers, I think, can tell the difference between a real novel and a hollow one.

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Your vivid characters are a classic feature of your work, and always one of my favorite things. Any tips for writers about writing characters, especially involving interactions, snark, and humorous banter? (Of which you are the queen.) Share your secrets if you have any…

Have a sense of humor. I know that’s not very helpful, but it’s true – you can’t write humor without a sense of it in the first place. I don’t know how to teach a sense of humor, but you can definitely learn it. What makes you laugh? Dissect that. Also, there are many kinds of humor. Subtle, circumstantial, slapstick, sarcastic, trickster. As for the non-humorous part of the question, I think it’s a tendency authors have to think they must know their character perfectly before they start writing them. I used to fill out three or four bio sheets for every character before I wrote them, but in doing so, I essentially murdered their personality before it hit the page. You want them to be alive and breathing when they first open their eyes. You DON’T want them reduced to a set of answered questions. That’s a surefire way to kill them before they’re ever really alive.

Could you tell us a little about what’s next on your writing plate? (When the next Paper book might be out, what other book(s) we might see from you next…?)

Revising Paper Hearts (the sequel to Paper Crowns) is very high on my list, as is editing Dark is the Night (a redemptive vampire novel) and finishing The Dying of the Light (a futuristic samurai retelling of Robin Hood).

Thanks very much for stopping by my blog and putting up with my pestering! 🙂 It’s an honor to have you. ❤

Thank you so much for having me! I had a fantastic time. You have mad interview skills.

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So what do you think, blog readers of mine? Was this fun or what? (Answer: yes.) Are you going to read Paper Crowns? (The correct answer is OF COURSE. Ahem.) SERIOUSLY THOUGH IT’S AWESOME. ❤ Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour and enter the GIVEAWAY for a signed copy of Paper Crowns that Mirriam is holding on her blog! 🙂

(…And now I need to go reread Paper Crowns again.)

“mine is an evil laugh” a.k.a. favorite villains

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Today we have a post about villainy. MWAHAHA! *maniacal cackle*

Once upon a time, Victoria tagged me (thank you!) for “Sunshine and Villainy” two unrelated (at the time) tags… one of which was Top 10 Villains.

I don’t know if I have ten but here at least are half a dozen villains who I love to hate or hate to love or… ya know, something like that. Either the scariest, or the ones I go “IT’S COMPLICATED” (a.k.a. I kind of wish they weren’t villains…). Because abject terror or mangled confused feels are both high compliments for villains.

I don’t think a lot about villains, preferring to focus on the heroes, but these are a few who’ve made me think about them. Which means they must be pretty impressive in their villainy.

Warning: There may be spoilers for those who have not read Entwined, Orphan’s Song, and Plenilune.

(Source) Quote in title is from Firefly, of course.

In no particular order, villains from page and screen . . .

FROM THE PAGE

Keeper (from Entwined by Heather Dixon)

Woo, boy, this character. O_O I’m the first to admit that for the first half+ of the book, I wanted him to be good. I liked this guy, and that in itself is kind of scary… Keeper is just utterly suave and smooth and dark and shadowy and mysterious and elegant. He would have made an amazing anti-hero, which meant I was rather surprised/sad when he suddenly turned all-out-villain. Of course then he was completely terrifying. I still have complicated feelings about this and am kinda torn, because yes he’s creepy, but he was also kind of awesome and had great potential to be a different kind of character… It’s probably the reason that though I loved this book a ton I haven’t re-read it yet. I’m not sure I want to revisit that right now. But the fact remains that he’s definitely a villain I’ve thought a lot about and is so well written.


Carhartan (from Orphan’s Song by Gillian Bronte Adams)

Carhartan’s a bit of a mystery, but he’s a pretty scary fellow. The problem was, I started feeling like he had a shred of decency back there behind his darkness, and eventually the big reveal comes out that he used to be friends with certain good people and turned traitor. OW. The pain in my poor reader heart! Think Bucky-and-Captain-America levels of pain except worse because this Bucky is actually bad and not redeemed. Yeesh. So this was simultaneously a character that I loathed and yet felt for, a little. That takes some incredible writing skills, I tell ya. My emotions were a tangle for this book… I think I may be the only person who feels this way, but all you have to do to turn me into a wreck of emotions is say “Carhartan”. (Whoops, shouldn’t have told you that.)

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(so I obviously don’t have a picture for Rupert buuut Richard Armitage can fill in for him because he’s cool like that.)

Rupert de la Mare (from Plenilune by Jennifer Freitag)

So I wanted to like Rupert. I wanted him to be a Beauty-and-the-Beast type person, but the longer I read the book, the less possible that was. He’s the kind of cold villain that literally freezes your blood. But he’s just fascinating to read about! All the scenes he’s in, they’re just freezingly fascinating. I’ve hardly ever met as well-written a villain as this guy. His personality is incredibly overpowering and I just really liked reading about him even though he was terrifying. But I really didn’t WANT him to be a villain! I wanted to love him but eventually I couldn’t… So I think I’d have been quite disappointed in the book if it wasn’t for a certain character whose name starts with D and ends with ammerung because that way I could pour all my love of a character into him and not be too disappointed that Rupert was bad. Not to mention that Dammerung and Rupert as facing off characters are magnificent together. Eeek. Rupert’s just WOW in his villainy. I’m super impressed. Definitely a favorite on-page villain.

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FROM THE SCREEN

Darth Maul (from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)

Definitely the scariest Star Wars villain, and one of the scariest on-screen villain in the history of ever, in my opinion. I’ve been terrified of Darth Maul about as long as I can remember. His double lightsaber, always scowling, scary black and red alien with horns, his black cloak… Everything about him is creepy. Plus, as Victoria said, the lightsaber duel in The Phantom Menace has to be the best sword fight ever, so you’ve gotta give him credit for that… I don’t know, he’s just a villain you love to hate, and I know a lot of people aren’t a fan of Episode I but it’s a favorite of mine simply for the lightsaber duel. Here’s a villain done right. *shivers*

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Colonel Tavington (from The Patriot)

(THAT HAT THOUGH. O_O) This guy takes the cake for terrifying. …He would also literally take your cake. This guy is BAD. He goes around killing people without remorse and being perfectly level-headed and cool about it. He just gives me the shivers. The things he does are downright awful. Plus that British accent takes him to a whole new level of villain. Even his VOICE is creepy. He’s utterly ruthless and that makes him terrifying. Also, he’s scary with his hair both pulled back and out. Eeek. This guy’s always been my standard for villains. Nothing redeeming about him, just coldhearted ruthless villainy.

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Loki (from The Avengers)

Ah, Loki… Note that I’m referring to his role in The Avengers and leaving whatever his roles in the Thor movies might be out of it. (Because he’s more of an anti-hero in Thor 2…) In The Avengers he’s definitely a villain, but one that might be what is termed a sympathetic villain… He’s got his own bad agendas but he’s also being used and has his own fear and pain and that makes me feel for him (while at the same time, not being a fan of his villainous actions). He’s also got great lines and is hilarious and fabulous AND he’s literally always smiling. Now tell me that’s not really cool and creepy. XD

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How about you? Have you read/seen any of these villains? Do any make your top ten villain list? And who are your favorite nefarious types?

The Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson (Review)

beautifulpretenderThe Beautiful Pretender

(Thornbeck/Medieval Fairy Tale Romance, #2)

by Melanie Dickerson

Adult Christian Romance / Fairy Tale Retelling / Beauty and the Beast & The Princess and the Pea

Published May 17, 2016 by Thomas Nelson


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My Review of The Beautiful Pretender

5starrating

5 stars

I loved this book so much! Definitely a favorite of Melanie Dickerson’s books, for me. Ever since meeting the Margrave of Thornbeck Forest in the first book in this series (THE HUNTRESS OF THORNBECK FOREST), I simply couldn’t wait to read THE BEAUTFUL PRETENDER to get his story. I liked this one even more than the first book!

Although THE BEAUTIFUL PRETENDER is a sequel, it can very easily be read alone (though readers of the first book will be delighted, as I was, to see Jorgen and Odette, the hero and heroine of the first book, throughout this one!). If you haven’t read the first book, no worries — just read this one right away because it’s even better! Adults and young adults alike would I think enjoy it. (I don’t recall anything about it that teens wouldn’t be okay reading. :))

I have a thing for fairy tales, so the retelling aspect was awesome. It was somewhat subtle at times, much like it was in the first book, but I could definitely see the hints of the Beauty and the Beast and Princess and the Pea plots. It was fabulous! I loved seeing them weave throughout the plot, so much a part of it but also so original. I was quite impressed with that.

It also got rather exciting, especially later in the book. So much excitement! Peril and plots and deception and wolves and fire and mystery and all of that thrilling stuff. I also absolutely LOVE how the book turned out at the end! Not to give anything away, but that ending was super satisfying! 😉

The setting was also splendid — a castle in medieval Germany, yay! I just want to live at Thornbeck Castle in Thornbeck Forest in the snow!

The characters in this book were splendid. Let me go through them:

Reinhart, the margrave, was incredibly awesome. He’s very much of the “Beast” type of character, gruff and stern and growly, but he’s also a fundamentally great guy, just embittered at the world about his injured ankle and having to choose a wife when he doesn’t want to. He was my favorite! I really felt for him, and his dark, grouchy, short-tempered, man-of-few-words personality was so fun to read about. Beneath it all he’s actually noble and awesome.

Avelina was a wonderful main character. Her struggles with having to impersonate a Lady when she’s only a servant, were really interesting to read about. I also love her name! She and Reinhart have the best romance story — I loved it so much! Melanie Dickerson pens another sweet love story which was so enormously enjoyable to read. Especially with how complicated their story is… 😉 I also really loved the alternating viewpoints between them!

Lady Magdalen, who befriends Avelina, was another character I really liked. She was fabulous and such a good friend to Avelina. Magdalen was so NICE. With all the people being nasty to poor Avelina, it was so refreshing to read about a really sweet character like her. 🙂 I haven’t read an adorable friendship like that in a long time. It was touching and wonderful. Magdalen was so lovely and I hope we’ll see more of her in the third book…

Jorgen and Odette are pretty much Reinhart’s right-hand people in this one, so they’re in the story a lot, which was great. They’re so helpful, nice, and awesome. Loved seeing them more in this book! They really added to it in a good way.

I don’t really have any complaints. I do wish there had been more with Reinhart, maybe him talking more; but he’s not a talkative sort of person, so that was in character, I suppose… But really, no major complaints. It was just so good! I’m very much looking forward to another Thornbeck tale from Mrs. Dickerson… Her novels are always so enjoyable and this was one of the best yet! Now what are you waiting for? Go read THE BEAUTIFUL PRETENDER! Go on! 🙂

Many thanks to the author for the Advance Reader’s Copy of this book which I received in exchange for my honest review. These opinions are my own.

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About the Book

What happens when a margrave realizes he’s fallen in love with a servant?

The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble-born ladies from around the country to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.

Avelina is only responsible for two things: making sure her deception goes undetected and avoiding being selected as the margrave’s bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.

Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences. Will Avelina be able to stop the evil plot? And at what cost?

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Publisher


About the Author

Melanie Dickerson is an award-winning author who earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama.

She has taught in Georgia, Tennessee, Germany and the Eastern European country of Ukraine.

A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA), she now spends her time writing and taking care of her husband and two daughters near Huntsville, Alabama.

You can find her online at www.MelanieDickerson.com.

i love umbrellas (also AWOL)

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I love umbrellas.

If I lived in London I would have an umbrella of my own who would be my best friend. We would go everywhere together.

The advantages of umbrellas are many and valuable, and often overlooked. Let me tell you the ways.

They are whimsical and useful, which can not be said of everything. Even the somber black ones have a whimsical elegance.

They obligingly fold very small when you want them to, or expand nicely.

They can have curved or straight handles.

They can house a sword if they wish (if you’re that kind of person and it’s that kind of umbrella) which can be very handy when you need to dash off on a sudden quest. Because you might not remember to bring your sword (depending on the suddenness of said quest) but your umbrella should always be along with you if they’re your best friend, you know.

They can be any color under the rainbow — and they frequently are (under a rainbow, I mean) due to their main occupation, so they would know all about that.

Most of all, they are kind enough to keep us dry, to lovingly shelter and protect us from rain.

Are not umbrellas the best and most loyal of friends? With an umbrella at our side, I believe we can face anything. (Or at least a rainstorm.)

Adventures With Inanimate Objects, #2. (See On Pillows and Their Sleeping Habits for the first. )

[This has indeed been a random post on the subject of umbrellas from yours truly, a writer who, living in Texas, does not often have cause to laud umbrellas but has recently found a use for them due to all that rain you may have heard about in relation to all that dead internet that’s been going around for a month or so…]

[Speaking of which, this is also to inform you loyal readers to count said writer as dead to the world of Internet for the time being because it is gone and will not return till we-know-not hence I will be absent. But that would be a sad subject of a post so you get umbrellas too. ^_^ ❤ you all and I will see you when I see you!]

Giveaway Winners of E. Kaiser’s Book Launch

Hey everyone, just a quick post…

Elizabeth asked me to let you know the winner post is up, so head on over there to see if you’re one of ’em so you can email her since she didn’t know how to get hold of you. 🙂 (Hint: familiar names! Yay!)

Link: http://ekaiserwritesablog.blogspot.com/2016/05/winner-announcement-at-last.html

(Sorry I can’t get it to link since I have internet issues AGAIN — joy — and can’t for the life of me figure out how to make this phone make a clickable link. -_- But we should all practice our copy-paste skills amiright?) (Except it seemed to link itself… I love you wordpress.)

Cheers, and congrats to winners, and I hope you all have a lovely day! 🙂

(EDIT: Aaaaand the second I posted that on a phone, the regular internet returned. This is typical of my life. But I shall try not to be too elated because, also typical of my life, it will probably go out again as soon as I’m used to it. 😉 Also, this post is mostly in parentheses, which is impressive, even for me…)

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