November 18, 2014

Twofer Tuesday: Reviews of Charming & Cindermaid by Laura Briggs (Interview & Giveaway)

Today, as a very special Twofer Tuesday here at the Authors' Cafe, I'm interviewing Laura Briggs, author of Charming: A Cinderella Prequel (The Dark Woods Series Book 1) and Cindermaid: A Tale of Cinderella (The Dark Woods Series Book 2). I'm also including reviews of both books. You've really hit the jackpot today, because Laura is offering a Giveaway of a print and/or e-Book copy of The Fairy Godmother's Apprentice and, in addition, I'm offering a $10 Amazon Gift Card - Enjoy!

Charming: A Cinderella Prequel
Homely, awkward farmboy Jode Lintwich has always longed for adventure and greatness: two things which can't be had in his humble village and which don't happen often to anyone like himself. But desperation can change anyone's destiny–and Jode is desperate enough to try.

A visit to a local witch, a few coins, and an inadvertent promise transforms Jode into something beyond his wildest imaginings; and also causes him to be cast out of his own village for good. A wanderer turned loose in the world, Jode must learn the truth about the magic upon him and embrace a destiny greater than any ever before conceived by his mind. If he wants to survive, he must find the one key to his ultimate happiness and escape the danger inflicted upon him by the two-sided coin of the witch's magic.

From a pirate ship to the sands of the desert, from a mercenary knight to a monarch's deceptive pawn, the adventures of Jode-turned-Handsome-Jack are as varied as his namesake's tales ... and as far from his true fate as he could possibly imagine.

Book One of Briggs and Steinbrenner's retelling of CINDERELLA spins a tale of multiple threads as varied as their characters' fates: an awkward boy spun into a hero by magic, an unhappy orphan girl languishing in a house filled with secrets, a homely witch of unexpected powers and a coldblooded noblewoman of mysterious past. A tale of magic makers and fortune tellers, of con artists and criminals, bandits and sultans, artists and peasants, servants and monarchs, all bound by the common thread of one boy's existence.

Genre: Fantasy/Dark Fairytale
Release Date: August 5, 2013
Length: 545 Pages


The Book Excerpt
The Cafe Review
Poor Jode Lintwich. Living in his small, remote village, he dreams of being a charming, handsome adventurer attaining glory, fame and riches. He listens fervently to every traveler's tale, committing them to memory and parroting them to anyone who will listen. But his heart's desire, his most desperate dream, is to be loved by a maid. He would take any maid, as long as she loved him in return.

But Jode has a problem, well several problems, not least of which is that fact that he's a scrawny, homely and unlikable youth with a face only a mother could love. A boy who's the joke of the entire village because of his awkward attempts at distinguishing himself through bragging and exaggerations. No maid looks at him without derision and scorn, of which Jode is well aware. In all his memories, there's only one girl who's smiled at him with open friendliness. A plain maid. Someone's servant girl. A girl whom Jode has only seen once . . . one quick glance as they passed in the street, but he well remembers her face and the expression of kindness directed toward him.

Jode would do anything to win the heart of a maid and can think of only one solution - A visit to Molly Greery, the witch living in the nearby swamp. He gathers his courage and fights his way through the treacherous path to Molly's cottage, which turns into a "be careful what you wish for" kind of situation. Molly weaves a powerful spell that knocks Jode off his feet and turns his world inside-out. He wakes to find that he's been transformed into Jack. He's now handsome, charming and courageous, but the spell comes with a curse - His life is tied to the plain maid and he can love no other. To do so means death. From this point on in the story, Jode/Jack follows his destiny through desert bandits, dragons, a fairy pond and other impossible challenges to rule a kingdom, find his one true love and break the curse to save his life.

Charming is one of those books you wish would never end. At 545 pages, it's a fabulously lengthy, imaginative and thrilling dark fairytale filled with adventure, danger, valor and most of all magic.

This is actually the second time I've read the book, and it just gets better. The first go-round, I was in such a dither to see where the ending would take me, I hurried through it. This time, I took my time to read every delicious word. I don't think I can sufficiently express to you how amazing Charming is. Laura Briggs is truly a master storyteller. It's actually one of the best books I've read in quite a while, so I'm giving Charming: A Cinderella Prequel a 5 Star Authors' Cafe Review!

Cindermaid: A Tale of Cinderella
CINDERMAID–the sequel to CHARMING and the final part in the author's Cinderella re-telling.

Picking up where its prequel left off, the story finds Elle's household sinking rapidly into madness, and Jack learning of a possible means of breaking Molly's curse and freeing himself of its consequences forever.

To lonely Elle, the only remaining servant of the house, existence itself seems a dreary burden until an encounter with magic offers her the impossible: a glimpse of an outside world beyond her wildest dreams. Such an encounter, however, has a price; the shadow of Madame Levier threatens Elle's happiness and even her very existence as secrets from her stepmother's past slowly begin to surface.

As for Jack, time is running out. Trapped between the consequences of Molly's curse and the possibility of losing everything he now possesses, he'll do anything to escape–even if it means manipulating a magical being whose powers are meant for another.

From fairy pools and forbidden flames, to circuses and sailors' lairs, the glorious magic of a human fairy and the opulence of three grand balls paint a complex world–one in which a beautiful gown may not be enough to conquer a throne and the persuasion of magic requires more than merely a desire to control it.

Genre: Fantasy/Dark Fairytale
Release Date: October 14, 2013
Length: 526 Pages


The Book Excerpt
The Cafe Review
Cindermaid continues the story of Jode/Jack {Prince Charming} inCharming, but is mostly Eloise Levier's {Cinderella} part of the tale.

As with Charming, this book is also beautifully written and pretty much follows the basic plot of the classic fairytale Cinderella, however Ms. Briggs manages to put several different {and creatively darker} twists to the story. This is also the second time I've read this book, because, like Charming, I was in a hurry to find out how the story ended the first reading.

Eloise's mother dies when Eloise is very young, and her father remarries a few years later. The woman he marries is, of course, the evil stepmother and boy is she a piece of work! Applause to Laura Briggs for creating such an insanely evil character and the very satisfying consequences she brings down upon herself in the end. The two stepsisters aren't so much evil as they are controlled by their mother and her determination to marry her daughters to wealthy men - No matter what she has to put her daughters through or what sacrifices she forces them to make.

And poor Elle, going from the beloved and cherished daughter of a country squire to a servant in her own home, half-starved, unkempt, unloved and unknowing that her love is the only thing that will break the curse on Prince Charming and save him from death, for she is the plain maid.

The story takes you on a ride of grim twists and suspenseful turns with a surprising take on the fairy godmother angle - You just don't see it coming. Elle is transformed into a beautiful princess and rides to the masked balls (there are three) in a pumpkin spelled into coach. She meets and charms the Prince at each ball then looses a glass slipper at the end of the last one, but Ms. Briggs writes the story in such an original way that you just can't wait to find out what Elle's dresses will look like and how she and the Prince will come together at each ball. I would absolutely LOVE to see these books made into movies, although we all know how that usually ends up. This book is a wonderful conclusion to Charming, and I'm going to give Cindermaid: A Tale of Cinderella a 5 Star Cafe Review!

The Cafe Interview
Thanks so much for stopping by the Authors' Cafe today, Laura. It’s a beautiful day for a chat outside on the Cafe Patio!

Okay, I see you've got your yummy cheese Danish and chocolate mocha latte, so let's get right to the interview.

At what point in your life did you realized that being an author was no longer going to be just a dream but a career you were going to turn into reality?

Even though it didn’t mean instant success, my first publishing contract was a definite turning point. Before that, I had mainly worked as a beta reader/editor for a fellow writer. When Pelican Book Group accepted my short story, Only in Novels, I began to see the possibility for writing to be part of my own career. Another major turning point was expanding into independent publishing, with the romantic novella The Wedding Caper finding success via Amazon and Smashwords.

Which of your characters is most like you?

That’s a tough one. When I pen a romance book, I typically picture the heroine in terms of what actress would best fit the role in a film version. With fantasy books, I’m always concerned with keeping characteristics from the original tales somewhat intact. As far as sharing hobbies or interests, there’s a connection with Lannie in Only in Novels, since we both love to read, and I would probably love to run my own hole-in-the-wall bookstore with all my favorite titles in stock.

If you were stranded on a desert island, which character from either of your books would you want with you?

Hmmm. Probably, I would choose the faerie, Faenwick, since her magic powers could be a ticket off that desert island -- as long as I could think of some way to talk her into using them, of course!

Where do you write?

At home, usually in the living room, so music and TV are readily available for distraction (I mean, inspiration). I work on a laptop, and often have a cat volunteer as a writing muse.

Do you have any “rituals” you go through before you write?

Sometimes I’ll try to picture the scene I’m about to write, jotting down any bits of dialogue or description that come to mind. My co-author for Charming and Cindermaid had mentioned creating special play lists or soundtracks for each project.

What was your favorite scene {from either Charming or Cindermaid} to write and why?

From Cindermaid, I liked the imagery for the scene where Jack goes to visit the fairy pond. We were partly inspired by the Dead Marshes in the book and movie versions of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers. And the scene where Jack summons Faenwick to the throne room was a close second for me.

What would YOU like your readers to know about your books or you in general?

That I like to dabble in different genres. Right now, I’m working in both fantasy and romance, but if I like a story that doesn’t fit either of those, I’d probably take a stab at it anyway. I enjoy different styles and stories as a reader, so that will end up showing in my work as well.

What's one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?

The story you see in your head will never transfer perfectly to the page. Most times, I’m hoping to get at least sixty to seventy percent of what I first pictured into a finished project. Reality takes the shine off the best of ideas, so you have to be prepared to let some of your expectations go.

Do you have a favorite author?

Lots. Jane Austen’s books are some that I return to again and again, especially Sense and Sensibility.

Me too! Austen is my favorite author, hands down.J What is your favorite quote?

I don’t have a favorite, but this one is always fun: “Some day, you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again”-- C.S. Lewis

I like that! What genre of books do you read for pleasure? 

Mysteries. Agatha Christie’s Sleeping Murder is one of my favorites. Recently, I’ve enjoyed reading works by Alex Grecian, Lynn Shepherd, and Henning Mankell. 

What’s the most amusing thing that’s ever happened to you?

A couple years ago, I was helping someone buy a fake, seven foot tall Christmas tree. The box was too large to go in the trunk, so three of us were trying to cram this huge, heavy box into the backseat of their car. It was going pretty awful, when this stranger in the car next to us started filming it with her cell phone…so, yeah, probably that will someday seem amusing to me. Maybe.

**Chuckle** Yeah, I can see how that would "someday" be funny!J What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Grow pumpkins and ornamental gourds, read books, bake cupcakes, go out for Chinese food.

Sounds idyllic. Who is the Fiction Hero you’d run off with?

My answer as a seven year old would have been Robin Hood. Being a fan of mysteries (both novels and TV), I can think of some fairly swoon worthy crime solvers. Unfortunately, most of them would be too obsessed with their work to run off with anyone.

If all TV shows were real, what show (all time) would you most like to live in?

Gilmore Girls, because Stars Hollow is a constant hub for festivals and fun. Plus the scenery is gorgeous and no one ever suffers anything more tragic than the occasional broken heart.

Some Cafe Random-Ness

Party dress or blue jeans? Party dresses, whenever I can.

Plotter or Panster? Plotter--pansting would kill me (and the book!)

Print or e-Book? Print, mostly.

Coastal walks or extreme sports? Coastal walks, hands down.

Cookies or cupcakes? Cupcakes, unless the cookies have M&Ms.

Super hero or super villain? Super hero.

If I had a free afternoon I’d . . .go to a movie or play.

The smell of what takes you back to your childhood?Honeysuckle

You suddenly realize you live in a haunted house. Do you:

  1. Run screaming for the door.
  2. Bravely go to a church, load up on holy water and try to get rid of the ghost.
  3. Set up ghost hunting equipment to capture phenomenon.
  4. Call in the Ghost Adventures crew so that you can ogle the lead guy Zac’s amazingly stiff hair when you’re not ogling his uh, physical attributes.
  5. Deny you have a ghost and just let it scare the bejesus out of your visitors.

Sadly, my answer would be #1 (although, I would probably try to incorporate it into a future book if it didn’t leave a scar).

Could you tell us five random facts about yourself?

Here we go:

  1. I published e-Books for at least three years before I had an e-Reader.
  2. My only time to travel by airplane has been on a college trip to England.
  3. Secretly, I wish to own a dress as gorgeously impractical as those featured on the CW show Reign.
  4. Old episodes of Mystery Science Theater are my favorite remedy for a bad mood.
  5. Disney’s Aladdin was the first movie I ever saw at the theater.

Thanks again for stopping by today, Laura. It's truly been a pleasure visiting with you!

About Laura Briggs
Laura Briggs graduated from a Missouri liberal arts college in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Her passion for reading has inspired her to become a freelance writer and novelist. Ms. Briggs enjoys dabbling in several fiction genres, including romance, mystery, and literary.

The Giveaway

$10 Amazon Gift Card and a copy of The Fairy Godmother's Apprentice
by Laura Briggs

They are born of a drop of milk on the water; of a burning live coal in a barrel of wet ash, a rose petal sunk in a heap of sand… 

There are three kinds of fairies–or so the stories claim–the last of which are the faerie godfolk. The wish-granters and half-human of the fairy world, they are meant to atone the mischief of fairies among men…

But do they? When young Baillie Albus learns the truth of her own strange gifts and becomes an apprentice destined to grant a human’s wish, she discovers a complex existence… and darker truths…beneath the surface of a world that is both faerie and mankind.

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