Tuesday, June 28, 2011

OI News: Solstice Blog Tour

Hi there everybody! I have some exciting news. This week, I'll be participating in a blog tour for the book, Solstice by P.J. Hoover. On Saturday, I'll post a review of the novel, but until then, you can read a description of the book below, and learn a bit about the author! Enjoy!



Where Mythology and Dystopia meet…

Piper’s world is dying. Global warming kills every living thing on Earth, and each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles which threaten to destroy humanity. Amid this Global Heating Crisis, Piper lives with her mother who suffocates her more than the chaotic climate. When her mother is called away to meet the father Piper has been running from her entire life, Piper seizes an opportunity for freedom.

But when Piper discovers a world of mythology she never knew existed, she realizes her world is not the only one in crisis. While Gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper’s life spirals into turmoil, and she struggles to find answers to secrets kept from her since birth. And though she’s drawn to her classmate Shayne, he may be more than he claims. Piper has to choose whom she can trust and how she can save the people she loves even if it means the end of everything she’s ever known.


P. J. Hoover first fell in love with Greek mythology in sixth grade thanks to the book Mythology by Edith Hamilton. After a fifteen year bout as an electrical engineer designing computer chips for a living, P. J. decided to take her own stab at mythology and started writing books for kids and teens. P. J. is a member of THE TEXAS SWEETHEARTS & SCOUNDRELS. When not writing, P. J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing Kung Fu, solving Rubik’s cubes, and watching Star Trek.

Her first novel for teens, Solstice, takes place in a Global Warming future and explores the parallel world of mythology beside our own. Her middle grade fantasy novels, The Emerald Tablet, The Navel of the World, and The Necropolis, chronicle the adventures of a boy who discovers he’s part of two feuding worlds hidden beneath the sea.

You can visit her website at www.pjhoover.com

Thursday, June 23, 2011

GIVEAWAY WINNER: The Door to Canellin

WOW-ZAH! This was a fun giveaway to host! Over 200 people entered to win one of two copies of The Door to Canellin by E.H. Jones, and now it's time to report the winners. Drum roll please...

And the winners (according to Random.org) are:




Congrats! The winners have already been contacted and will receive their books shortly! Thanks to everyone who participated, and keep your eyes peeled for more giveaways in the future!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Interview with E.H. Jones + GIVEAWAY

Hidy-ho there, warriors! Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Eric Jones, author of the Gatehouse series. Today, Eric is stopping by Oktopus Ink to talk about The Door to Canellin, the first book in the series, and share some stories about his writing. Alrighty, let's get this interview started, shall we? (warning: here there be spoilers.)

Hi Eric! Welcome to Oktopus Ink. What was your inspiration for writing the Gatehouse series?

My son. I began the Gatehouse series as a simple short story for my son, who was 11 years old at the time. He was having problems in school, and some behavior issues, as well as difficulty with socialization. The Gatehouse began as a short story with him as the protagonist, and me as the father desperate to save his child. As I began to outline the story, it grew from there into a book, and then into a series of books, and the characters drifted from being us, to being a father and son with a lot in common with us. And as my son got older, so did Wes, maturing as time went on.

Was it difficult to write from the perspective of two main characters who belong to different age groups?

It was difficult in the beginning, at the outline stages. But that was actually one of the major reasons to write the book! I wanted to get into the head of a young hero, and I wanted to give my son a glimpse of what it might feel like to be a father who cares deeply for his child, and wants more than anything to relate to him. As I wrote, though, I found that it became easier and easier to slip into the mind of each character. I got to know them both so well, and the supporting cast too, that writing them became second nature. And in the end, the book accomplished its original goal of bringing us closer.

How did you come up with the idea to make Wes' language (English), the language of magic in Canellin?

That was actually one of the first things that came to me. I just had this humorous bit running through my head of an ancient, wise mage who was unable to read this incredibly powerful spellbook, only to find that the title was Magic 101, and it was written like a chemistry textbook. After coming up with the idea, it was much more difficult to find a reason for it! But as I wrote, the reason became clear to me, and is even worked into the story as an important plot point later. I won’t spoil it! But the book of magic that Wes found in Canellin comes up again later, and we do eventually learn where it came from and how it ended up there.

Wes is naturally gifted at playing music. Are a musician yourself?

I am indeed! I play saxophone, fiddle around on guitar, plunk on the piano occasionally, and I sing. I have a background (from college) in vocal music performance. My son also plays trumpet, and yes, he’s quite probably as good as Wes. He’s certainly better than me!

Gatehouse is sort of similar in concept to The Chronicles of Narnia. Were you a fan of the books when you were younger? If not, what are your favorite sci-fi/fantasy novels?

I had read the Narnia books when I was younger, and yes, I did enjoy them. But I actually think the concept of The Gatehouse is more of a traditional fantasy device. Charles deLint, Jack Chalker, Piers Anthony, Raymond Feist, and countless others have used the plot device of a portal to another world in which the rules are different than our own. I like to think the Gatehouse is a little different than most, since there are infinite possibilities as to what might be found behind a doorway. It gives me, as an author, a chance to explore many different genres with the same characters! Super-heroes, war stories, science fiction, horror… who knows, maybe even a western!

As far as some of my personal favorite sci-fi and fantasy novels, the list is staggering! The Incarnations of Immortality by Piers Anthony… the Soul Rider books by Jack Chalker… the Magician series by Raymond Feist… the Ender books by Orson Scott Card… the Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey… and of course, the old standards: Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini, and the Belgariad by David Eddings.

Did you do any research when writing Door to Canellin?

I’m actually glad you asked that. It’s not something I’ve really had a chance to talk about, but yes, I did quite a bit of research on one particular subject, and I’m still not 100% certain that I got it right! The channel crossing scene, when Trigg teaches Wes how to use a sextant. It actually turned out to be very difficult to find reference material on the use of a sextant in navigation! But it was something that was very important to the story, in regard to theme, and so I pieced together all the bits of information I could find until I was confident that my descriptions were close enough to the mark that they made sense.

The overall theme of the Gatehouse series is finding your way. Whether it’s finding your way home, or finding your way in life, or simply finding your way to the next town. Wes is trying to find his way to adulthood and independence, and Ryan is trying to find his way as a single father. Jiane, Luther, Elarie, and Gideon all have something they are seeking, something that motivates them, even if it’s not readily apparent. That scene was sort of my amateurish, ham-fisted way of showing that theme of a journey, of seeking, and how complicated and simple it can be at the same time.

Tell us a little bit about your writing process. Do you write everyday? In a specific spot? With a specific drink? Food?

I write or edit every day. My process is simple, but possibly a little too structured for some people. I write from outline. I do a detailed, chapter by chapter outline of my story, maybe even tossing in a line of dialog here and there if it occurs to me, or making notes on some important event that is supposed to happen. I then translate that into prose.

As far as writing in a specific spot, or with specific drinks or food… I’m far too busy! I have a day job, I’m a single father, and both my son and I are heavily involved in the instrumental music program at his high school (him playing, me as a member of the booster club that organizes their events and raises money). I catch my writing time when and where I can! My lunch breaks at work are handy moments, or late at night when I should be sleeping. But really, to answer the question, I don’t have any specific rituals, except for one. The outline and the majority of the first draft of anything I write are written in pen, longhand, in countless composition notebooks.

What was your favorite part to write? Least favorite part?

My favorite part would have to be a tie. I really love the scene where Gideon tells Wes about his sons, and the dragonwar. To this day, I look at that, and I feel it is probably the most well-written part of the book. But tied with that is the climactic battle scene. Come on, who doesn’t enjoy a battle??

My least favorite, you probably can’t pick out of the book. They’re what I call the “connecting” scenes. Some of them even have important events in them! But they’re the scenes that come in between all of the big, major events of the story. And they’re complicated to write! Keeping continuity, timelines, and characterization consistent between the scenes is a chore in and of itself, and I’d never be able to manage it without my outlines, and without my first readers… the people who keep me on track, reading the story as I’m going along.

What are you working on now?

  • The Door to Justice (sequel to The Door to Canellin… do you like super-heroes?)
  • Rocket Girl (a comic book project)
  • Two short story collections related to Rocket Girl
  • Mark Thyme: Immortal Investigator (working title, a noir/pulp novel following the exploits of a private investigator in the gumshoe era, who just happens to be thousands of years old and immortal)

Is there a specific message that you wanted readers to take away when finishing the first book of the Gatehouse series?

Honestly, there are any number of messages that were intended with the first book, but none of them are overly deep or profound. Just that life is a journey, and the journey never ends. There’s always something new to discover, just over the next rise. But when it comes right down to it, I’ll be happy if readers step away from The Door to Canellin feeling as if they’ve just enjoyed a fun, adventurous romp through a believable fantasy world, with real people, and real magic, and of course, real dragons!


Woah, great answers, Eric! Thanks again for joining us here on Oktopus Ink.

In addition to stopping by the blog, Eric is offering up not one, but TWO copies of his book. To enter, fill out the form below. Contest ends Saturday, June 18th. On Saturday, I'll pick the winners using Random.org and announce them here on my blog. Contest is open to US residents only. Sorry international readers! I promise to host an international giveaway soon.

For those of you who are interested in learning more about The Door to Canellin and the Gatehouse series, please check out Eric's website at https://sites.google.com/site/doortocanellin/. There you can get the latest information about the series, and find links to purchase it if you dying to read it asap. (Which you totally should be. The book is awesome!)


Friday, June 10, 2011

The Door to Canellin by E.H. Jones

Title: The Door to Canellin
Author: E.H. Jones
Series: Gatehouse #1
Published: April 29, 2011
Publisher: OnMyOwn Publishing
Pages: 300 (paperback)
I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Wes is a teenager, with teenage troubles, who feels as if his world is crashing down around him. But when he discovers the house in the woods that wasn't there before, he finds himself thrust into Canellin, a world of dragons, monsters, magic, and mayhem. What's more, he discovers that his own unique talents may be the key to Canellin's salvation, and his own. Unfortunately, his only way home is halfway around the known world, in the lands controlled by an evil dragon bent on the eradication of all human life! Wes' father, however, has his own plan: find his wayward son, and bring him home safely no matter the cost! --Goodreads


As a reviewer of indie books, I come across a lot of…well, let’s just call it not-so-stellar fiction. However, on occasion I’m lucky enough to be introduced to a book that makes me stop and say, “I could totally see this in Borders. Wait a sec...why ISN’T this in Borders?!” The Door to Canellin is one of these books. Well written and fast-paced, Jones has expertly crafted a world of magic, monsters, and modern heroes that even those who are not a fan of the fantasy genre will be able to appreciate and enjoy.

At face value, The Door to Canellin’s plot isn’t anything brand-spankin’ new—a boy and his father enter through a magical Gatehouse and are transported into a medieval-like fantasy world in order to save it—but everything about this novel is so well done that it stands out among the books that I’ve read. In spirit, the concept sort of reminded me of a combination of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit. But instead of a wardrobe and a ring you get a lovable thief, double crossing dragon warriors, and a father-son relationship that’s worthy of a Disney channel movie (I say that as a compliment, mind you).

Learning about the characters was probably my favorite part of the book. The cast is large, but Jones handled all of them with love and I finished the book without feeling like anyone got left behind. Split into two parties, the different perspectives give the reader the chance to get to know everyone and relate to each individual’s life story, especially Wes and his father, Ryan. Right from the beginning, the reader can see that Ryan loves his son despite his flaws, and is willing to chase after Wes in order to make sure he's safe. Wes, in turn, learns that his father will love him no matter what, and realizes that he should work harder to reach his full potential. For a “problem child,” Wes wasn’t that annoying—a little self important and lazy, sure, but find me a teenager that isn’t before standing up to a dragon. Really though, his heart was always in the right place, and more often than not Wes was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Wes and Ryan walk away with new found love and respect, which will obviously go a long way in the sequel.

The Door to Canellin is one of those books that I could totally see sitting on the shelf next to Percy Jackson and the Olympians or the Fablehaven series. Seriously. It’s a fast read, it’s a fun read, it was well written, and it was the perfect way to kick off a fantasy series. Though the ending provides the reader with a solid conclusion (no cliffhanger, YAY!), there lingers a promise for future excitement. I honestly can’t wait to see where the Gatehouse takes Wes and Ryan next!


Interview with Lory S. Kaufman

Greetings time travelers! Today, author Lory S. Kaufman has agreed to stop by Oktopus Ink to talk about the first book in the Verona History Camp series, The Lens and the Looker, as part of the The Lens and the Looker blog tour. Thanks for joining us today, Lory! Let's get to it.

What inspired The History Camp series?

Since I’ve been 14 and read Lord of the Flies I wanted to write futuristic novels that included young people. (I’m 60 now, so it took me awhile, but that’s another story) What further influenced what’s in my books was my deep involvement in the Green Party movement across North America. Then there’s all the science fiction I’ve read and watched over the years. Put them all together and you’ve got the underlying philosophy of my writing. Of course, the philosophy is the undercurrent. Above that is the most colorful and strong characters I could come up with, all mixed together in an exciting adventure.

The Lens and the Looker is just as much as a historical fiction novel as it is science fiction. Did you initially intent to make the book as educational as it was?

Yes, of course. As a young man I studied art and one of the first lessons I remember was the teacher talking about how an artist has to stretch his or herself, not repeating what they or others have done. While history has been the backdrop to many stories in the past, I wanted to make it more than that. I let the story go where it wanted to, so even more genres got mixed in. History, Science Fiction, dystopian worlds, fantasy and more. As an example of pushing the envelope, instead of just creating another dystopian world, where society has fallen apart, I set part of the series in a time after the bad times, to when the world was finally in harmony. I therefore called my new genre, “post-dystopian” fiction. As far as educational, I’ve been very pleased that reviewers have said that the historical accuracy and descriptions of ancient technologies was not overbearing and they got a history lesson without the lesson.

Lens crafting is the trade that Hansum and his friends learn. have you ever worked with glass or ever crafted glasses?

I can’t remember how lens making came into my mind as the ancient technology represented in the book. I do remember I chose it because it was a great example of a craft that turned into an early science, the science of optics. When I did choose it I then joined my local lapidary club and spent several months learning how to grind and polish lenses by hand. I used an electric lathe, of course, whereas, in the books, they characters use human-powered machines. To research the lathes and the techniques, I corresponded with many researchers, university libraries and museums all over the globe.

Would you ever want to travel back in time, and if so, when and where would you like to travel to?

Wow, wouldn’t it be fantastic to be able to time travel? Well, there’s so many places I’d love to go. Of course, Verona in the 14th century, where my first novel takes place, would be fantastic. Another place would be ancient Mesopotamia, during the reign of King Sargon the Great, the first know king to rule more than a city state or two. He ruled a whole region. That would be interesting because many of the myths and historical happenings of that time are the basis for our old testament that came over 1,500 years later. As well, this is a time that hasn’t been that well explored or written about. Not surprisingly, after I finish the third book of my present Verona trilogy, my next History Camp stories will happen in King Sargon’s time.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I was in grade three. I wrote plays. That continued throughout my teens, where I became a young professional writer and director of children’s plays . . . till I was about 21. Then I went into business, writing on and off throughout my adulthood, through marriage, kids, business failures, successes, marriage breakdowns, etc. I wrote my first book, unpublished, when I was in my 40s, and actually got the idea for History Camp away back in the late 1980s. It wasn’t until I was about 55 that I could afford to work almost full time, to get my skills up and fulfill my life-long dream.

What are some of your favorite books?

Well, this could be a very long list, but I’ll keep it short. As well, let me break this list down by category;


  • Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (If it was written now, it would include gene manipulation, but this was written away before that. It set the pattern for so much that came after it.)
  • Unwind, Scott Westerfield (Not for a young, young adult. Mr. Westerfield creeped me out several times in this book. Well done, sir.)
  • The Road, Cormac McCarthy (Again, not for a young, young adult. The movie was good, the book was friggin’ fantastic. A great example of story arc and keeping the tension tight.)
  • The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (the biggest, current phenom, and well deserved)
  • Lord of the Flies, William Golding (The book that made me know I wanted to be a writer.)
  • The Percy Jackson Series, Rick Riordan (Middle grade but I love it and you can tell.)
  • Ender’s Game (and the series) by Orson Scott Card (It’s got little kids as heroes, and it works.)
  • Ringworld, Larry Niven (Mr. Niven thinks big and out of the box. In a circle, really. I loved his kooky characters.)


  • 1000 Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini (I love this guy’s written voice.)
  • The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway (One of my top five.)
  • For Whom the Bell Toles, Ernest Hemingway (My favorite book of all time. He’s the only writer I’m putting in twice. This book informs all my high adventure sequences.)
  • City of Thieves, David Benioff (One of my top five in the last 3 years.)
  • The Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman (One of my top five in the last 3 years. I love the way he writes his characters in this book. You really know what they’re thinking. This is one of the most perfectly written books of a living writer that I’ve read.)
Great list! What were some of the challenges you faced when working on your book?

In the last five years the challenge really wasn’t to keep going, as I’m a person who, once they start a project, feels compelled to finish it. But finding the right editor and publisher was the really tough part. I sent out over 150 queries to agents, publishers and editors and got over 75 rejections. The others didn’t bother to answer. But it only takes one person to “get you”, and that man was Lou Aronica, one of the most experienced SF editors and publishers in the business.

What kind of research did you do to make the world of The History Camp series possible?

I spent over a year doing heavy research, while I was noodling with the story. Hours at the library, online, following up leads by emailing university libraries and researchers. Books and books and more books. And then . . . after the first draft was about done, I went and spent four days in Verona, Italy. What an amazing, small city. What I experienced there put me in the boots of my characters, as I walked through the streets, by the buildings and in the churches that they would have. It clarified so much of the research, and I think, in a large part, is why I’m getting good reviews on recreating ancient Verona.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on the third book in the Verona Series, entitled The Love and the Lost. It’s the last story in this part of the series, but I’ve already started working on the next series . . . and I think some of the young characters in this series are going to be mid-20s in the next. We’ll see.

Sounds exciting! Now, before we wrap up this interview, is there a specific message you wanted readers to take away from your books?

There’s an old North American Native saying that “Every decision made should be good for society for the next seven generations. That was a stone age philosophy. They knew that they had to live within nature, that they were part of nature. Well, the message I really want to be seen in these books is that, modern humans, with our invasive technologies, must make sure every decision we make is a decision whose repercussions must be neutral for the next 10,000 years. After all, if we don’t plan to last a long, long time, we won’t.


Great answers, Lory! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat about The Lens and the Looker and your writing experience. It's been lots of fun!

For those of you interested in learning more about The Lens and the Looker and the History Camp series, please visit Lory's website,
http://www.history-camp.com/ or visit http://www.pumpupyourbook.com, the site that arranged the tour.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Lens and the Looker by Lory S. Kaufman

Title: The Lens and the Looker
Author: Lory Kaufman
Series: The Verona Trilogy #1 (aka A History Camp novel)
Published: Mar. 16, 2011
Publisher: The Fiction Studio
Pages: 336 (paperback)
I received this book as part of the The Lens and the Looker blog tour, in exchange for an honest review.

It’s the 24th century and humans, with the help of artificial intelligences (A.I.s) have finally created the perfect post-dystopian society. To make equally perfect citizens for this world, the elders have created History Camps, full sized recreations of cities from Earth’s distant pasts. Here teens live the way their ancestors did, doing the same dirty jobs and experiencing the same degradations. History Camps teach youths not to repeat the mistakes that almost caused the planet to die. But not everything goes to plan.

In this first of a trilogy, we meet three spoiled teens in the year 2347. Hansum almost 17, is good looking and athletic. Shamira, 15, is sassy, independent and an artistic genius. Lincoln, 14, is the smart-aleck. But you don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface to find his insecurities.

These three “hard cases” refuse the valuable lessons History Camps teach. But when they are kidnapped and taken back in time to 1347 Verona, Italy, they only have two choices; adapt to the harsh medieval ways or die. The dangers are many, their enemies are powerful, and safety is a long way away. It’s hardly the ideal environment to fall in love – but that’s exactly what happens. In an attempt to survive, the trio risks introducing technology from the future. It could save them – or it could change history
. --Goodreads


The Lens and the Looker is unique in the sense that it’s difficult to label as belonging to a single genre. On one hand, it’s sci-fi. You begin in the 24th century, where you spend a brief time learning just enough to know that all the kids in a three hundred million populated world are sent back in time as part of their education. Learn from hardships of the past to change the future and all that. But on the other hand, once the main characters are transported and trapped back in time, the book is just as much historical fiction as it is science fiction. Hansum and his friends are exposed to a world without plumbing, hearthcare, and easy transportation in 14th century Italy. The detail put into creating the past was by far the greatest strength of the book, and watching the characters mature to deal with the difficulties of that time period in order to survive was the most rewarding aspect of the plot. The historical fact blended well with the fantasy of the entire novel, and I felt like I was being given a focused lesson in history without actually having to attend class. I especially loved the detail put into explaining the art of lens making. You never see that kind of focus in YA fiction, and the craftsman in me loved it.

As far as action goes, there’s really not much of it. Instead, the book draws you in through the character relationships and everyday drama of life in the 14th century. There are no real villains, just characters in a position to act out of the need to survive (well, with the exception of one, but to say anymore would mean I'd spoil some stuff for you). But, to be honest, though I liked the characters of the book, I didn’t feel like they stood out. We’re not given much back story about our three heroes, and the chapters sort of bounce around from character to character as needed . It was difficult to seperate Hansum as the main character from a minor character like Ugilino when the emotions of all of the characters were sort of light and didn't go far beyond the surface level, even when dealing with big emotions like love and heartache. It was clear by the end of part one that this was very much a plot driven story. Hopefully we’ll get to know the other main characters (specifically Shamira--who was sort of pushed to the side after she was introduced) in the sequel.

So, if you’re looking for something a very different compared to the other dystopia/post apocalyptic novels out there or in the mood to read the equivalent of watching a History Channel special, I highly recommend you pick up The Lens and the Looker. It was an interesting way to start what looks like will be an awesome series, and I can guarantee that you’ll learn a thing or two as you read through it’s pages. I know I did, and I can't wait to read the sequel!