The Whimsical Mama

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Transcender Blog Tour Guest Post: Create Your Own Inspiration by Vicky Savage July 24, 2014

Filed under: Books,Giveaway,Interview — Maura @ 12:00 am
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I’m excited to have a guest on The Whimsical Mama today! Talking about where she finds inspiration for all the things is author, Vicky Savage! She has some really good advice so go read & be inspired! (: Information about her books and a giveaway will be at the end of the post so make sure to check those out too! (:

Hi everyone – I’m honored to be a guest here today. Whether you’re writing a book, a blog, or a school paper, every writer hits a rough patch at one time or another when the words just won’t flow. Most writers develop tricks for powering through a writing funk and finding ways to spark their own imaginations. Here are ten techniques I use to churn up a little inspiration when I’m certain all my great ideas are used up. Maybe they’ll work for you.

1. Allow yourself a guilt-free break. Okay, this sounds really simple, but if you’re on a deadline (even one that’s self-imposed), many writers will sit and stare at the blank screen for one unproductive hour after another, rather than getting up and proactively working to create a better frame of mind. A few minutes isn’t going to make much difference, especially if you’re not getting anything done. Get up and away from your desk (or document) for a while to refresh and reset. Do some stretches, refill your water glass, play with the dog, or try one of the suggestions below.
2. Read good writing. Nothing gets my creative juices flowing like reading an amazing piece of superb writing. Who is your favorite author? Pull a beloved old book from the shelf and dive in anywhere. Remind yourself of what made you fall in love with the book in the first place—it was likely great writing. Immerse yourself for a while, then pick out a paragraph, a sentence, or even one word you love and use it to kick-start your own work.
3. Listen to feel-good music. Consider creating a playlist of inspiring tunes for when you’re feeling blah. Pick the most upbeat, happy stuff, not the depressing, love-gone-wrong songs. Usually all I have to do is get my inspiration playlist going to immediately lighten my mood. Doesn’t hurt to dance around the room a little or sing at the top of your lungs, if you really want to break out of your gloomy mood.
4. Take a walk on the beach. There’s nothing like the vastness of the ocean to remind me how small my problems really are. A sense of peace instantly washes over me when I step on the beach. What place does that for you? A towering mountaintop, a cool, deep forest, a noisy urban sidewalk? Find that place where you lose yourself completely and let go for a while. Later, see if you can capture that feeling and transfer it to the written page.
5. Write something else. I like to have a few projects going at once, so if I’m stuck on one project, I can jump over to another—maybe a short story or blog post—something completely off topic. Or simply to skip to another scene in your book, the one you’ve been dying to write. Nothing says you have to write your scenes in order. Or write a journal entry about why you can’t write today. Sometimes a change of focus is all you need.
6. Watch a TED talk. These people are the creative geniuses of our time. Many talks focus on inspiration and creativity. I highly recommend anything by Elizabeth Gilbert. My two favorites are: and .
7. Daydream. I’m serious. Get comfortable, close your eyes and think about where you’d rather be right now and what you’d rather be doing. Use all five of your senses. What does it look like, smell like, feel like, taste like, sound like. Savor the whole scene in your head, then write about it. Even if you never use it, it’s a great writing exercise.
8. Play with your writing. Make one of your characters do something completely outrageous and see what happens. Write an alternate ending to your story—you might just hit on something good. If you’re writing a post or a paper, write as if you’re somebody else. Pick a vibrant character (whether charming or curmudgeonly) and write as that character would. Have fun with it.
9. Stop writing and do a good deed for someone. Call a friend and tell her how much she means to you, do something nice for your neighbor, compliment a complete stranger, pay for someone behind you in line, post something inspirational on Facebook, the list goes on and on. You’ll feel great afterward, and you might get some new material for your story.
10. Treat yourself to something nice. Buy or make something beautiful, have a facial, visit your favorite bakery for a delicious treat. Happiness is not overrated. A happy mind is a creative mind. You’ll be doing yourself a favor in more ways than one.
Good luck with your writing, and stay happy!

About the author
Vicky Savage grew up gazing upon the beauty of the Wasatch Mountain Range right outside her family’s kitchen window. She thought the Rocky Mountains would always own her heart, until she moved to sunny Florida for law school and instantly fell in love with the ocean. Her passion for new adventures and exotic locales led her on a circuitous path to writing science fiction/fantasy about strange new worlds and parallel universes. Although she has lived in seven different states and London, England, the siren call of the ocean always brings her back to her beloved Florida, where she currently lives with her husband, son, and two dogs.
Contact Vicky through her website:, follow her on Twitter:, and visit her Facebook page:

About the books

Amazon Link:
Suddenly plucked from her quiet Connecticut life and dropped into a post-disaster parallel world where most of the earth’s population resides in enormous domes, eighteen year old Jaden Beckett lands in the middle of a kidnapping—her own!
Undercover Agent Ralston of the Inter-Universal Guidance Agency helps Jaden escape from her captors and promises to return her home as soon as he can arrange it. But he conceals from her the fact that she is really a Transcender, capable of traveling among alternate worlds at will. While waiting for passage home, Jaden assumes her parallel identity as a princess in the nation of Domerica. She discovers her mother is alive in this world—a miracle she never dreamed possible. But perhaps even more compelling is her blossoming, breathtaking romance with Ryder Blackthorn, her once and future soul mate.
When it comes time for Jaden to leave, she flatly refuses. IUGA claims the welfare of the entire galaxy depends upon her timely return. Jaden contends that, in this case, eternal love trumps destiny. Who will prevail?SS Amazon Final Cover

Amazon Link:
Jaden Beckett makes the journey once again from her home in Connecticut to the nation of Domerica on an alternate earth. The Inter-Universal Guidance Agency has granted her thirty days within which to choose her ultimate destiny. She may remain in Domerica, return to Connecticut, or join the other Transcenders in Arumel.
On her arrival, Jaden finds that all is not perfect in paradise. Her mother, Queen Eleanor, is ill and grows frailer with each passing day. Her scheming uncle has moved into the palace and assumed the role of Lord High Steward of the land. But even more troubling are events that took place in Jaden’s absence which have caused her to question the depth of her fiancé’s love.
All the while, Jaden’s friendship with a handsome, young Transcender from Arumel deepens. He teaches her how to use her astonishing gift to travel to exotic parallel worlds and introduces her to others in the Transcender community.
When the time draws near for Jaden’s final decision, her choice is anything but simple.

Illuminosity Amazon Cover
Amazon Link:
Jaden Beckett has a secret unknown to those in her adopted homeland of Domerica: she is a Transcender, capable of traveling among parallel worlds at will. When the powerful Inter-Universal Guidance Agency’s sophisticated computer models predict that Jaden will eventually cause the downfall of that agency, IUGA decides to destroy her first. In order to save herself, her family, and the man she loves, Jaden must fake her own death and leave Domerica for good. The plan seems sound, but on the day of IUGA’s attack, things go terribly wrong.
Heartsick and alone, Jaden ventures to Arumel, a progressive nation on an alternate earth, where Transcenders conduct valuable inter-universal research. Just when she thinks she’s found a safe, new life, IUGA makes its presence known. This time, Jaden is determined not to be driven away. She will fight to discover her place in the multiverse, the true meaning of destiny, and the keys to the mystery of eternal love.


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*Book Blitz* Unbreathable by Hafsah Laziaf November 2, 2013

Filed under: Book Blast,Books,Interview — Maura @ 12:30 pm
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About the book:


UnbreathableTitle: Unbreathable (Unbreathable, #1)

Author: Hafsah Laziaf

Publisher: Self

Release date: October 29, 2013

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy


Goodreads link:


Summary from Goodreads:

One hundred and fifty years ago, Earth was destroyed, and the remaining humans fled to the dusty red planet of Jutaire, where the only oxygen is manufactured, food is scarce, and death strikes often. 

When Lissa’s father discovers Earth still exists, she accidentally inhales the toxic air of Jutaire, and in one breath, discovers she isn’t quite human.

Her father hangs for his discovery, and Lissa knows the Chancellors will come for her, for she saw the Earth that night too. With nothing to lose, she sets out to expose the truth. It isn’t long before she meets Julian, a beautiful boy who can breathe the toxic air like she can – and shows her that the Jute, the original inhabitants of the planet, are more tangled in their lives than she knows.

But the Chancellors are only pawns in a greater game – one where the Jute control everything. Worse, the Jute plan to leave Jutaire for Earth, but to get there, they need her. And they’ll stop at nothing until Lissa is in their clutches, even if they kill every human in the process. 

The race for Earth has begun.

Unbreathable is a tale of love, redemption, and sacrifice, and one girl’s struggle to find her place in a world where she doesn’t belong.



Dena snorts after a moment. “So much for being able to protect yourself. Stop dreaming.”

I turn with a sigh and walk past her, clenching my teeth when the sound of her laugh grates on my nerves.

And because of that, neither of us is prepared when four figures jump from either side of the intersecting hall.

“Now we’re talking.” In a flash, Dena’s machete is in her hand, her back to me. I pull my daggers into either hand, an odd calm settling over me.

Dena and Gage were right—the Jute are  all unnervingly beautiful. Enough to distract you. These men have silky scraps of cloth tied around their mouths and noses. Louen, I realize, to lessen the absorption of oxygen.

Slate said Jute aren’t harmed with one breath as humans are, but oxygen is dangerous nonetheless. Don’t they realize the air in the Tower isn’t oxygen? Maybe it’s a precaution, maybe there’s a way for the Chancellors to allow oxygen to work in here.

The Jute to my right lunges. He’s fast, but I’m faster. I dart to the side as another Jute swipes a kick to my legs and I barely leap out of the way. I throw a kick at the burlier one, and when he bends over with a gasp, I whack the back of his head with the hilt of my dagger. He falls with a groan, temporarily unconscious.

A lean arm wraps around my neck. The Jute chuckles in my ear and drags me back. My heels drag helplessly along the smooth ground. I dig my nails into his flesh, but I’m nothing against his brute strength. He swiftly shoves me against the wall, pressing a blade against my back. He releases my neck and I gasp desperately for air.

“Only cowards… kill… from behind,” I wheeze. He chuckles.

I gather as much strength as I can muster and shove him off me. Duck and swerve. I drop one dagger and use both hands to drive the length of my other one deep into his chest. Surprise flickers across his face, widens his gold eyes. There’s a clatter as his knife drops to the ground. He sputters and drops to his knees, then onto his back. Blood trickles between his fingers clawing at his chest. I watch as the life slowly leaves his eyes.

His chest stops moving. His eyes stop seeing.

I sink to the ground. The dead Jute’s white shirt is soaked in dark blood, more pouring from around the dagger still in him. The dagger with my name written on its hilt, like some disgusting joke.

I killed him. Who am I to take the life of another person? Julian taught me so much. But not this. Someone shuffles behind me. Dena struggles in front of me.

But I hear nothing. See nothing. Feel nothing.

I killed someone.

Sharp pain explodes in my back and I cry out. I’m thrown flat on my stomach and my limbs scream when an immovable weight collapses on me.

My chest heaves. I struggle to breathe. I don’t have my daggers. One is by the wall feet away, the other in the body of a corpse. I try to wiggle free, but the pain only increases. The bones in my back crunch beneath what feels like a boot and my lips part in a silent scream. I hear the swoosh of an unsheathing blade.

“She may need you alive, but she didn’t say all in one piece,” the Jute hisses.

And he falls on me.


Author Interview: Hafsah Laziaf


Q. If you had to describe yourself using three words, they would be…

A. Ambitious, self-conscious, shy


Q. ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE. *it happens* Which literary characters would you want by your side?

A. Can I choose a character from my own book? Julian. Or Rowan. Not both, though. Eesh.


Q. I am a slogan and it says…

A. Hafsah – Blogger, Designer, Author


Q. What about writing captivates you the most? 

A. More than an incredible plot (though it depends on the book), a beautiful writing style. Poetic prose – though not to the extent where I start yawning.


Q. Unbreathable is your upcoming release.  How would you describe it in one sentence?

A. Unbreathable is a tale of love, redemption, and sacrifice, and one girl’s struggle to find her place in a world where she doesn’t belong.


Q. What was the hardest part of writing Unbreathable?

A. Figuring out the conflict. I’m the girl who can’t plot, so when Unbreathable was sparked by the line mentioned above, I had no idea how to continue the story. When I was halfway through, there were so many possibilities and directions the story could take. I loved that, but it was terrifying as well.


Q. What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?

A. Hmm, I’m not sure! That everything about Unbreathable – the cover, the trailer, the marketing – was done by me.


Q. What book are you currently reading?

A. Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano


Q. Can you share anything about what you’re working on at this time or what’s next?

A. I’m just getting started on the sequel to Unbreathable, though I’ll probably alternate between that and a new YA fantasy that I am so excited to share with you all.




Q. If Lissa and Julian were superheroes, what would their names be?

A. Oh. Julian is a little like Captain America, I guess, serious, quiet, and always thinking. Lissa… I’m not sure! You can decide for me 😉

About the author:

Hafsah Laziaf was born on the east coast on a hot summer day in 1993, raised on the west coast and is now stuck in the middle – in Texas – with more books than she can read. She’s the designer behind IceyDesigns and the blogger behind IceyBooks.

UNBREATHABLE is her debut novel.

Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Giveaway details:

1st place: a signed paperback copy of UNBREATHABLE (US)

2nd place: an e-book of UNBREATHABLE (INT)

3rd place: an UNBREATHABLE swag pack (US)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Doesn’t this sound great?! Hafsah is a great person! Get to know her and buy her book! Do it! (:


In Defense of the Queen by Michelle Diener September 23, 2013

Filed under: Book Review,Books,Interview — Maura @ 12:00 am
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affiliate links used

I was granted a digital review copy of In Defense of the Queen by the publisher (Season Publishing) in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 stars
Pub date: 1 Aug 2013
Publisher: Season Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction, Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Format: e-ARC
In Defense of the Queen (Susanna Horenbout & John Parker) (Volume 3)

*Disclaimer* From the author of In a Treacherous Court and Keeper of the King’s Secrets comes In Defense of the Queen, the third book in the Susanna Horenbout & John Parker series of Tudor-set historical suspense. However, you don’t need to have read the first two novels to enjoy In Defense of the Queen. As of the reading this book and publishing of this post, I have not read the first two books.

An artist never betrays her patron . . . especially one of the world’s most powerful kings.

Susanna Horenbout has learned this lesson from the cradle. But when she receives a letter from her father telling her to do just that, she faces a dilemma. Betray Henry VIII, or carry out the request of her father’s employer, Margaret of Austria, and pass secret information to Henry’s queen, Katherine of Aragon.

Caught between the machinations of her husband and her nephew, the Emperor Charles, Queen Katherine needs all the allies she can get. But what can Susanna really do to help her, and even if she does, will it be enough?

Susanna and her betrothed, Parker——one of Henry’s most trusted courtiers——balance on the knife’s edge of treason as they try to make sense of both international and domestic conspiracies. Sometimes, it’s better the enemy you know . . .

About the author:
Michelle Diener writes historical fiction. Her Susanna Horenbout & John Parker series, set in the court of Henry VIII, includes In a Treacherous Court and Keeper of the King’s Secrets, with In Defense of the Queen set for an August 1st, 2013 release.

Michelle’s other historical novels include Daughter of the Sky, The Emperor’s Conspiracy and Banquet of Lies (loosely connected to The Emperor’s Conspiracy), which will release on October 22nd, 2013.

Michelle also contributed a short paranormal story to the ENTANGLED Anthology entitled BREAKING OUT. All the proceeds of the sale of ENTANGLED go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Michelle was born in London, grew up in South Africa and currently lives in Australia with her husband and two children.

When she’s not writing, or driving her kids from activity to activity, you can find her blogging at Magical Musings, or online at Twitter and Facebook.


Ms. Diener was nice enough to grant me an interview (via email) to go along with my review! (:

Concerning In Defense of the Queen:
Why did you decide on Henry VIII’s court?
Henry’s court came with Susanna Horenbout, so I had no choice, there :). I was doing some historical research into interesting women the history books often don’t mention, and stumbled upon Susanna Horenbout. My imagination was immediately fired up with ideas at the thought of an accomplished woman painter at Henry VIII’s court, and I just had to write a book about her. My first novel with her as the protagonist was In a Treacherous Court, and I just found I wasn’t done, yet. She, and her betrothed, John Parker, had a lot more story to tell, hence Keeper of the King’s Secret and In Defense of the Queen. I’ve since been in correspondence with a number of Susanna’s descendants, which has been great fun, too. They love my portrayal of their great x 10 grandmother!

What was the most difficult scene to write?

I always find action scenes quite hard to write, and spend a great deal of time on them. Parker’s race to get to the Tower of London before Cardinal Wolsey was incredibly difficult, juggling a lot of action with a great deal of emotion.

How much further will we see the Tudor court go? Will we get to see Susanna and Parker wed?

There is definitely at least one more book to be written, and Susanna and Parker deserve to finally get married, I think. 🙂

In Defense of the Queen is part of a series, but set up to read alone. What made you decide to set up the series this way?

I just think it’s respectful of new readers to make each book stand on its own as much as possible. That way, they can still go back and enjoy the other books in the series, but it doesn’t diminish the enjoyment of reading the later one they picked up.

What’s next after In Defense of the Queen? Do you have anything in the works?

My next release will be Banquet of Lies, which is coming out on October 22nd through Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books, so quite soon! It is connected to my November 2012 release, The Emperor’s Conspiracy, with some of the characters in The Emperor’s Conspiracy making an appearance in Banquet of Lies – although again, the books stand on their own. They are set during the Napoleonic Wars in London.

*** Right after I received Ms. Diener’s interview answers, I received an email from NetGalley that I was approved for Banquet of Lies! Keep an eye out for THAT review, too!***

Would you like to see In Defense of the Queen be obtained to make it to the big screen?

Oh, definitely! I don’t think there is enough historical action-thrillers out there on the movie scene, and I would LOVE to see these characters on the big screen. 🙂

Concerning your writing process and career:

What is your writing process?

I write a short outline before I start a book, and often write short paragraphs before I tackle each scene, so I know where I’m going, but I still have a lot of leeway.

What is your favourite writing environment?

My own home. It’s quiet, which I like when I’m working, and I have a good coffee machine :).

How do you get your plot ideas?

I love history, and there is so much material for stories in history, I simply can never run out of inspiration.

Do you get any say in your cover designs?

I am really lucky, in that my publisher, Simon & Schuster, always ask for my input before they hold the cover conference for my books. I’ve loved all the covers they’ve come up with for me. For my two self-published novels, I obviously had the full say in the look of the cover, and I love those, too.

What do you do to combat writer’s block?

The best way for me is to shake things up. Write with pen and paper, change the place where I write. Or reread really good books I love, to get reinspired.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’m one of those annoying people who always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was very young.

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

There has never been a better time to be a writer than the present. Opportunities are opening up that where never there before, and as long as you are committed to working hard at your craft, and not cutting any corners, the world is your oyster!

Getting to know you outside of your books:

Do you prefer hardback, paperback, audiobook, or e-book?

I prefer paperback and e-book. I buy a mix of these. I would probably buy more e-books, but I live in Australia, and often the books I want aren’t available due to international rights restrictions. So I have to buy the print copies. I find my mind drifts too much with audiobooks, although when we are in the car on a long trip, my whole family loves listening to them. It makes the journey seem much shorter.

What book is currently on your nightstand?

The Outcast Prince by Shona Husk.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

I love baking and cooking. Which worked out well for me in Banquet of Lies, my upcoming release, as there is a lot of cooking in that book.

(If they’re old enough)Do your kids enjoy reading your books?

My daughter would love to read my books, but she is still too young. My son is even younger than my daughter and hasn’t even considered the possibility of reading my books yet.

Thank you for having me, Maura!

Thanks for letting me interview you! (: Can’t wait to read past and future books!

When I started this, it was skipping over Pretty Dark Nothing. I hit a wall while reading it and decided to go on to my next eARC. I’m glad I did. I was not very far into the story, and the action was already gripping. Susanna’s brother shows up and there’s an assassin on the loose. So fascinating!

The more I read of this the better it got. The pace kept going faster and faster and the intrigue kept getting deeper. I have a particular fondness for the Tudor era of England. This takes place right in the early years of Henry VIII’s reign. He is still married to Katherine of Aragon, his first wife. The main premise is the different spy ranks for various world powers are either trying to get a message to the Queen or keeping her from finding out. What is this mysterious message? Currently, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, is betrothed to the little Princess Mary, daughter of Katherine and Henry. As she is such a young child and years away from marriage, Charles is contemplating breaking the betrothal in order to marry a wealthier, older bride. Margaret of Austria is trying to inform Katherine of this so she has time to persuade Charles to keep from breaking the betrothal. If the betrothal is broken, the already strained marriage of the king and queen may falter even more.

Susanna’s brother carries a message he needs Susanna to get to the queen. She reads it and is then forced with the decision on what to do. Should she betray her employer, King Henry, and warn his queen, or does she do nothing? She shows it to Parker, but before they can fully weigh their options, an assassin attempts to kill them. Parker is convinced it is Jean, another spy, and jumps out the window to pursue him. Very quickly, things escalate, fall apart, and Susanna finds herself accused of treason and locked in the Tower.

While she is playing a game of survival in the Tower, Parker is playing a similar game trying to prove to the king that Wolsey has falsified evidence against Susanna because the information he received had been faked. As a court painter and despite being imprisoned in the Tower, Henry has commissioned her to paint his bastard son, Henry Fitzroy. Wolsey’s hand is forced by the king, and he decides he must get Susanna to the dungeons of the Tower. Parker is chasing Wolsey, and Susanna with Parker’s aids, try to escape the Tower. During this, the mysterious French spy/assassin Jean makes his play. He takes Susanna prisoner. His plan is to force her to to reveal the hiding place of a French jewel and to convince her to run away with him. He also reveals an assassination plot to take out Henry Fitzroy. She refuses to accompany him and manages to escape into Parker’s arms while Jean goes to look for the jewel. Susanna quickly tells Parker of the plot and they race off to save the young bastard prince.

They arrive just in time to save Fitzroy, and race off to safety. They split into groups to confuse the attackers. Once Susanna and Fitzroy reach the Tower, they are refused entry. Finally, they reach the safety of the king. Henry is overjoyed with the rescue of his only male child. He quickly forgives Susanna of their past difficulties. He also says he will never speak against her upcoming marriage to Parker again.

****My thoughts****

When I saw this title on NetGalley, I was immediately drawn to it. I love all things Tudor. I also liked that this was in a series, yet could be read as a standalone. There were a few things I was a bit foggy on understanding, a few minor things that would be crystal clear had I read the previous books. I enjoyed it and definitely plan on reading the other books in this series and I’m HOPING for a wedding and another book! (: I believe I have found another historical fiction author I will enjoy for years to come. I’m also very excited that I’ve been approved for another eARC of Ms. Diener’s. I fell in love with the fierce devotion and loyalty of Parker and Susanna. I’m very excited to go back to the first two books of this series and see where their relationship started!

Recommended for: History and Tudors lovers. Those who love a fast paced mystery.

Not recommended for: Those who dislike historical fiction.


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