Monday, February 18, 2013

Blog Tour: Ashes and Ice


Today I'm very excited to me participating in the Ashes and Ice (Ashes and Ice #1) blog tour hosted by Lady Amber Tours.

As part of this tour I get to interview the wonderful author Rochelle Maya Callen! What could be more exciting then getting to talk to her about her writing process and everything else! Plus, I got to read an ARC of this fabulous book and I will share with you my review.

First, a little about the book:

Title: Ashes and Ice (Ashes and Ice #1)                                                                                                                                    Author: Rochelle Maya Callen                                                                                                                           Publication Date: February 4, 2013
She is desperate to remember.
He is aching to forget.
Together, they are not broken.
But together, one may not survive.

​Jade wakes up with no memory of her past and blood on her hands. 

Plagued by wicked thoughts, she searches for answers. Instead, she finds a boy who doesn't offer her answers, but hope. But sometimes, when nightmares turn into reality and death follows you everywhere, hope is not enough. 
LUST. LOVE. LOSS. Sometimes, all that is left are Ashes and Ice
So, are you ready to hear what Rochelle has to say? Hold on to your pants and let's go! 

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or did you want to be something else?                                                                                                    I wanted to be a writer until I was 13. Then I decided I either wanted to be a news anchor or a politican. I ended up being a behavioral therapist for individuals with either severe cases of autism or mental illness. I discovered my old writing when I was 22 and that passion sparked to life. Writing now consumes my heart.

How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?                 LOL. No, seriously, LOL. It took me years to get a few chapters together. My sister finally said that if I didn't have a rough draft by her birthday (she was tired of hearing my excuses) she wouldn't talk to me. I finished the rough draft in a couple of months and then it took 4 months to re-organize and edit. It was a long process. Part of it was that I've had limited time to write, and part of it is procrastination or not "feeling the muse." I think it took so long because I was overwhelmed by the process, but now I am confident that it won't take me nearly as long. My editor gave me fabulous advice when I was dragging on my edits: Grab inspiration by the balls. Gotta love that woman! 

How do you come up with themes for your stories?                                       They are all so different. I think at the core of all my stories is the idea that we all face choices and it is the choices we make that define us. Genre/world building wise... all my ideas are so different. I always start with a specific scene or image and build up the world from there. 

Do you have a schedule of when you write?                                                     It is always different. For a period of time, I woke up at 3am, wrote until 4:30am, went to the gym, left for work at 6:15am, and then came home from work at 7:30pm. Other times, I would take any couple of minutes (a moment my client went into the bathroom, a minute while something was in the microwave, a few seconds when I was waiting in a line) to write. It just depends on my schedule. I do my best writing when I am doing it just a couple minutes at a time or when I can have a few hours alone. 

How are you able to balance other aspects of your life with your writing?              This is hard. My goal is to eventually be a full-time writer. Right now, I work and am a mommy and wifey. I am also very involved with my extended family. It is all about balance. Writing is my choice alone/fun activity. If you are serious about writing/publishing, you are going to have to make some tough choices. Staying home to write is hard when the family is going out on a Saturday. If you carve some time away everyday (even if it's just 30 minutes) and are diligent and productive in that time then you could turn out a book. But if you want to produce a couple books a year or need a faster turn-around then you'll have to schedule chunks of time. I try to not let any other element of my life drag or get neglected because of my writing. I think the only thing that sometimes will suffer is dinner :) My hubs likes my home cooking so sometimes a pre-done oven lasagna seems icky. He now realizes that sometimes those writing nights are more important than dinner. I try to compartmentalize my life to keep it all straight! 

What elements do you think make a great story line?                               Suspense, romance, strong characters, growth. 

What was the hardest thing about writing a book?                                                              JUST DOING IT! BICFOK: butt in chair, fingers on keys. Also, overlapping plot lines are a pain! God bless chapter outlines... 

How many books have you written so far? Do you have a favorite? 
1! Ashes and Ice! More to come :) 

Do you have a favorite character?                                                          Connor :) 

Where do you write?                                                                            Anywhere!   

When deciding on how to publish, what directed you to the route you took?                                                                                                               I was 100% sold on going the traditional route for a couple of years. I researched like crazy, read a ton of interviews, wrote a query letter. But then, I fell into the Indie community and the complete creative control and the unity and support of the authors/readers was so amazing that I completely shifted course. I never sent out a query letter. So far, I am loving being an Indie. 

Have you gotten feedback from family about your book(s)? What do they think?                                                                                                 Haha, well. My mother, sister, aunt enjoyed Ashes and Ice. My husband didn't know what I was writing and right before the release he asked, "So what's the book about?" I told him and he blinked at me. "That's some scary sh*t. So when I am watching TV and you are writing you are writing *that*? I think I may need to be worried." LOL.  

What kinds of things do you like to do outside of writing?                    Family time, reading, researching, music, movies, and dancing.  

What kinds of advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing?                                                                                                               If you love writing, don't stop. Ever. Even if you have just 10 minutes a day, write! Free write, outline, do whatever you need to do to get YOUR story out on the pages. Then, get beta readers and editors for your work. Make sure to have a badass cover and start networking with authors/readers/bloggers. 

What is your favorite book? favorite author? Do you have an author that inspired/inspires you to write?                                                                            I heart Cassandra Clare. She rocks my socks. New authors that I adore: AG Howard and Rachel Hartman. Hmmm, my family jokes that any author is lucky to have me as a fan because I totally go all fangirl and get multiple copies of a novel if I love it. I really enjoy dark, lyrical novels with badass people in them. Anything like that gets my creative juice going. Feel free to message me suggestions! I love finding new books. 

Do you have any go to people when writing a book that help you with your story lines as well as editing, beta reading and such?                               I am part of a writer's group and they give fabulous feedback. My mother and aunt are excellent beta readers. My editor Annetta Ribken is a wizard and really helps me focus on the rough spots as well as help me see the big picture. I hope to find more beta readers as time goes on. 

Are you working on anything now?                                                           Ashes and Ice book 2 ;)
 And here's an excerpt for your viewing pleasure!

Connor

            Tears burn. I never realized it before, but they do. Tears reach down my throat and settle in my gut until the pain cripples me. I clutch my stomach as I look into the casket. His face doesn’t even look the same. Bloated like a Mardi Gras float, discolored like a mannequin. This isn’t my father.
            But it is.
            If I have learned anything in my short life, it is this: funerals are bullshit. People dress in carefully pressed black suits. Parents give me “meaningful” nods as if that could ease the grief. It doesn’t.
            Then there are the kids from school, the ones dragged along by their parents. People drag their kids along as if filling the church was a necessary thing. As if the more pews filled somehow expedite the dead’s trip to heaven. I doubt it does. Maybe some of the girls went shopping to buy just the right outfit so their cleavage to respectability ratio was just right, or  their ass to waist ratio was cinched properly.
            People sit in the pews dressed in their finest let’s-go-pay-our-respects-to-the-dead-guy-we-never-knew wear, smacking the gum in their mouths, cupping cellphones so they can LOL any comment  buzzing in, and drumming their fingers because the pastor is going on too long.  All they want to do is go home, sneak in a make-out session with their girlfriends, eat their dinners, and maybe catch a 7 o’clock movie.
            I hate these kids. The ones who stare at me, roll their eyes, and yawn. The ones who trip me at school and slam me into lockers. The ones who sit in a pew, contributing to the headcount, while I sit up here in front, holding back the tears fighting to make their appearance. I swallow them down. I won’t cry. Not here. Not with these people.
            Dad’s funeral should be an empty church with mom, his three brothers, and me. It should be the five of us having a messy, sloppy, sobbing affair where we cling to each other because we are all we have left. The marble floors should be slick with our tears. It isn’t. We sit here, straight backed, completely composed as if death is just a passing expiration date and our small, insignificant world has not been split open and left gaping.
***
            I’m in my room, staring at the ceiling. The funeral service was hours ago.
            The house feels empty and cold. I hear a stifled whimper from down the hall.
            Mom.
            Probably crying into a pillow so the house can’t hear, but it can. It seems unfair she can’t wail aloud, so loud  the house’s hundred-year-old studs tremble.
            She doesn’t. I don’t either. We cry in our own rooms, remembering a man who will never be here again.
            The house creaks. Maybe it feels the weight of our grief, maybe the floorboards are buckling because the burden is too heavy.
            I ache, desperate to forget the long battle with cancer, the blood sputtering out of his mouth with his last words—what where they? I can’t remember because the fear in his eyes overshadowed anything he said. Now the loss. I don’t want to feel this loss. Some divine entity has taken dull scissors and cut out a piece of my life and now I have jagged scars to remind me I lost too much. Too much.
            I want to forget, because it hurts to remember.
            I bury my head in the pillow, hoping to suffocate the memories, to choke out the pain.
And here's my review! 
I want to thank the author, Rochelle Maya Callen, and Lady Amber Tours, for providing me an ARC ecopy of this book to read and give an honest review. This has in no way influenced my opinion or review.

The first time I saw the cover of this book, I immediately added it to my TBR, without even reading the blurb. Look how totally gorgeous it is! How could you resist a cover such as this? Then I read the blurb and it totally piqued my interest. I will say that I am not one to usually read blurbs because I don't want them to influence how the book comes across. But I can honestly say that this blurb is so mysterious, it only made me want to get my hands on the book much more quickly. And have no doubts, this book sucks you in pretty quickly and gets you raring to go and find out what is going on!

The characters are well developed. I felt a connection with them almost immediately. I love how the story is told from dual POV of the male and female characters. It gives such an interesting perspective.
Jade is an interesting character. She's sort of empty at first, which is totally understandable. And throughout the story she gets filled up, as Callen reveals more and more about who and what she is. There is a vulnerability about her that mixes well with the independence she exudes. I felt sorry for her and wanted her to figure herself out. She's a very strong character. She rarely has those teen angst moments, which often turn me off. At the same time, she's quite shy and does have insecurities that surprised me.
Conner, well, he's this kind of geeky, out of place guy who keeps to himself. He's not popular, but he's not unpopular. He's kind of just there. I love his relationship with his mom. He also has a sadness to him, related to the death of his father, which had me drawn in immediately. He's got an open wound and he's needed someone to heal it. Jade fits the bill. But she pushes him away, aware that there is more to her than what he sees. This only causes him to be more curious and long for her even more.
Dominic is a total control freak. At first, he's just this annoying guy who thinks he's all that. But it soon becomes painfully obvious that there is more to him than just his cocky exterior. He is evil to the core and he's a total distraction to Jade. I have to say that their relationship was quite confusing to me, why she would be drawn to him in the first place. But then as her character is revealed you understand the connection.

The story had a nice flow to it, although I have to say that I was a bit disappointed with not knowing the whole mystery until about 75% in. I feel ike there could have been more hints or reveals a bit earlier without actually giving the entire plot away. But all in all I was captivated by the story and I really didn't want to put it down. It was refreshingly different, not something I could figure out at all as I was reading. I liked that the mystery was not easy to figure out. I hate knowing what is going to happen before the end of the book.

This story will keep you on the edge of your seat. Keep you wanting to turn the pages, keep you wanting to come back for more. I enjoyed the read and I am really looking forward to the next installment in this series.
"I received a copy of this book for free to review, this in no way influenced my review, all opinions are 100% honest and my own."
Rochelle grew up dreaming up stories. When she entered high school, she tucked away her creative side and jumped head-first into academics, work, and service projects. She graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Political Science and Communication when she was twenty years old. After years away from her writing, Rochelle picked up a pen and started fleshing out a character sketch that she outlined when she was twelve. That sketch was the start of the Ashes and Ice story. Rochelle lives in the DC metro area with her husband and daughter. By day she works as a behavioral therapist. By night, she is a dreamer and is busy tapping out new stories on her keyboard.

Links:
http://www.rochellemayacallen.com/
twitter: rockyiswriting
goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15864513-ashes-and-ice
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Rochelle-Maya-Callen-Author/478176392210312



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