Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Shadow of Atlantis Blog Tour

The Shadow of Atlantis Blog Tour Button

About the Book

Title: The Shadow of Atlantis (Shadows From the Past, Book 1)
Author: Wendy Leighton-Porter
Year Published: 2012
Publisher: Mauve Square Publishing
Pages: 196
Recommended Age: 8+
Summary (Amazon):
Ten-year-old twins Joe and Jemima Lancelot have no idea why their parents have disappeared, but a mysterious old book which had belonged to their father holds the answer… and so begins an unusual quest to discover the truth. Together with Max, their remarkable Tonkinese cat, and Charlie from next door, the children embark on an epic adventure, travelling back in time to the lost city of Atlantis. Once there, however, they soon run into problems. Can they save the people of Atlantis from the disaster which is about to destroy their land forever? And will they find their way back to the safety of their own time before it’s too late?

The Buzz

"Shadows of Atlantis is a well-written story with a collection of likable main characters, a solid plot line, snippets of educational facts about a historically important location and event, and, is filled with mystery, magic, and suspense. This book grabbed me at the prologue and had me hooked until the end." ~ Mother Daughter Book Reviews, 5 Stars
"... Shadow of Atlantis is an imaginative tale that will draw children in right from the get go. The characters are deftly and warmly established, and Wendy shows a sure touch in enabling these characters to interact in a fun but believable fashion, each playing their own part in the plot's development...." ~ 5-Star review from John C., Amazon US
"The author makes the legend of Atlantis (and also the story of the Minotaur in the second book) so accessible to kids and in such an imaginative way. My daughter loved the children's characters and also the comical, lovable cat Max and his ability to help the characters out during times of strife! We will be looking out for future books from this author for sure. A really enjoyable adventure for kids and highly recommended..." ~ 5-Star review from A. Bradshaw, Amazon US
"This story will draw any young reader in will keep them entertained and engaged. It is sometimes hard to find books that will keep children interested, often their subject matter is trivial and insubstantial, this is not true of The Shadow of Atlantis. My daughter can't wait for the next adventure..." ~ 5-Star review from Annaliese M., Goodreads


Shadow of Atlantis by Wendy Leighton-Porter

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Great Deal!!

*** You can buy the all 6 books (electronic copies) in the series (The Shadow of Atlantis, The Shadow of the Minotaur, The Shadow of the Trojan Horse, The Shadow of the Pyramid, The Shadow of the Volcano, and The Shadow of Camelot) for only 99 cents each from Amazon between October 14 and 28, 2013. Get hooked on this great series NOW by clicking on the Amazon button below. *** Amazon Buy Button  

About The Author, Wendy Leighton-Porter

Wendy Leighton-Porter, AuthorDividing my time between homes in England and South-West France, I live with my husband Simon and our two beautiful Tonkinese cats. I spent 20 years as a teacher of French, Latin and Classical studies, but now write books for children instead of teaching them. The Shadow of Atlantis is the first book in a series of 15 planned time-travel stories, featuring 3 children and, unsurprisingly, a rather special Tonkinese cat. Having recently completed number #7, The Shadow of the Norman Arrow (coming soon!), I’m currently working on the eighth book in the series.
As I take my young readers on a magical mystery tour through the past, I’m also hoping that my love of history, myth and legend will rub off on them too. Personally, I’m enjoying the journey so much, I don’t ever want it to end! Why not come along with me for the ride?

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The Shadow of Atlantis Blog Tour Schedule (2013)

October 14
October 15
October 16
October 17
October 18
October 19
October 20
October 21
October 22
October 23
October 24
October 25
October 26
October 27
October 28

*** The Shadow of Atlantis Blog Tour Giveaway ***

Amazon $50 Gift Card Prize: One winner will receive a $50 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash Contest runs: October 14 to November 5, 11:59 pm, 2013 Open: WW How to enter: Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook.

This giveaway is sponsored by author Paul Hewlett and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions - feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com. a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’d like to welcome Wendy to my blog to give us the background to the series. Hopefully, any questions you may have had will be answered here!

1. Where did your three characters and Max come from? Did you wake up one day and they were in your head, or did you think about writing a book series and then create them?

As far as the three children are concerned, I have absolutely no idea where they came from! I knew that I wanted one of my central characters to be a girl – and I’d had her name planned long before I even knew what I was going to write, but more about that later on. Once I’d decided on the idea of a time-travel adventure series, I knew my young heroine would need company and so I invented a twin brother, knowing they’d already have a naturally close bond which would be reinforced by the shared experience of losing their parents. Charlie came along later as a useful addition to the group dynamic; a brilliantly clever lad, his knowledge proves immensely valuable to the youngsters during the course of their adventures.

And what about Max, you ask? Well, he’s been in my head for a long time, for Max is an incarnation of my own precious Tonkinese, Bertie. Tonkinese cats form deep bonds with their owners and they’re exceptionally talkative! I just knew that Jemima had to have one for her loving and loyal best friend. Max would do anything for Jemima and vice versa.

2. Have you always wanted to write and especially for kids?

I’d always wanted to write a book one day but, with a busy teaching career, I never seemed to find enough time. When I gave up teaching I found myself in the enviable position of being able to indulge my own interests at long last. Writing for children seemed the logical step after so many years spent in the classroom and, ever the teacher, I hope that my books are a little bit educational as well as being fun.

3. Your themes are historical and mythological—is this a childhood influence or a later passion?

History and mythology have always fascinated me from an early age—Greek myths and legends have timeless appeal and are wonderfully exciting stories. I devour any books about history, both fiction and non-fiction, and I’m never happier than when there’s a great documentary on TV to do with history or archaeology. Although my love of these subjects started when I was young, it has continued to grow over the years and, of course, teaching Classical Studies for such a long time merely served to fuel the flames!

4. Jemima and Joe are confronted right away in book one with the disappearance of their parents. This is quite a dramatic start to the series—why? (The folks could have gone to Tibet on sabbatical for a year)

The Shadow of the Yeti, huh? Now there’s a thought … Seriously though, if Mr and Mrs Lancelot had just gone away on a planned trip, then there would be no quest! As it is, the first book opens with their mysterious disappearance and I hope that my readers are inspired to read on and find out what has happened to them. Once the twins discover the truth, they are drawn time and time again into the hunt to find their mum and dad, desperately following the trail. Their missing parents are the thread which binds the stories together and keeps the children journeying into the past until the series reaches its conclusion. Will the youngsters ever find what they’re searching for? Well, you’ll just have to keep reading if you want to know the answer to that one.

5. The kids are plunged into some serious events—destruction of Atlantis, facing the Minotaur, then the Trojan War (where I am in the series). You also include elements that other writers might steer clear of such as death (Theseus’ father) and devastation/death/cruelty/violence (Troy). I find this interesting because the kids are only eleven. These are huge themes. Your take on this?

I agree that there are some tough subjects in my books, but I couldn’t see any way of avoiding them given my choice of stories. I’m sure many children will have come across some of the myths and legends before and I felt I couldn’t leave out some of the major events, such as the death of Theseus’ father or the mortal combat between Achilles and Hector in the Trojan War. I avoid gratuitous violence; I think it’s unnecessary—after all, I’m writing fun adventure stories and not tales of horror designed to frighten my young readers out of their wits. That said, I don’t think I should change or sugar-coat certain things when they’re vital to the story or if they concern facts which are already well known. 

6. I have just read Shadow of the Trojan Horse and I found a huge turning point (did I imagine it?). In the previous two books, the kids were able to actively ‘do’ something to help, although historical forces proved almost insurmountable. In Trojan Horse, I found they had to accept really sad things; they couldn’t save people that Fate had decreed must perish. Is this part of coming of age for them?

This follows on from the previous answer really. The children have to come to terms with some pretty dreadful things, such as the deaths of Paris and Hector, as well as the destruction of Troy itself. They soon realise that, although they must try to help people to the best of their ability, they have to accept the harsh truth that they will not always succeed and sometimes core historical events cannot be altered. The important thing for them is that they do their best, even in the most demanding situations. This is really brought home to them in The Shadow of the Trojan Horse and they start to question their reason for being there in the first place. However, let’s not forget that their plan almost worked – if only Max hadn’t made a fatal error …

7. Your books are a mixture of historical and mythological. The books that touch on real events—end of Pompeii and Herculaneum (Shadow of the Volcano); Tutankhamun (Shadow of the Pyramid); the figure of Arthur (Shadow of Camelot)—hint at fascinating themes. Are these also events/figures that sparked your interest?

I freely admit that I’ve chosen topics which interest me personally for my series. I love history and taught Classical Studies for many years, so many of my titles were obvious choices for me. You’re right that it’s a bit of a mix of real historical events and mythology, sometimes blurring the line between the two, because I firmly believe that most legends are probably based on a long-lost truth. However, I hope that my choices will interest my young readers too. After all, everyone has heard of Atlantis, the Trojan War, Tutankhamun, and Camelot, haven’t they?

8. Let’s talk about Max. He deserves an interview all of his own. Is/was there a real-life Max?

Oh yes, indeed, let’s talk about Max, one of my favourite subjects. The real-life inspiration for Max is my own cat, Bertie, as I have already said, and we love him dearly. He befriends everyone who comes to the house and, owing to his impressive size (8.5 kilos, but not fat, just huge!) and devastating good looks, people fall totally under his spell. He really is like a big, cuddly teddy bear, just as in the books; an endearing gentle giant. Rather like Max, Bertie isn’t at all brave. In fact he’s never tried to hunt or catch a single thing; that’s definitely something of a relief, because with his size and strength I dread to imagine what sort of wildlife he might bring home otherwise. When I’m
Please note the Athena charm on Bertie/Max's collar!
writing any scene which involves Max, it’s always Bertie’s face I visualise and, in fact, many of the things people say about Max in the books are comments people have actually made about Bertie, especially with regard to his size. Just as I adore Bertie, I am completely in love with Max and swear I can even hear his voice in my head as I’m writing the things he says. Although he may sound a little pompous at times, I try to make him funny and hope that he injects an element of humour into the stories.

9. Max is the kids’ mentor, guide, and voice in their heads. And yet, despite his wisdom and machinations to help, sometimes he makes a hash of it. (His role as Hermes in Shadow of the Trojan Horse) Is this Max’s human side, or is he also coming-of-age?

Max is the first to admit that he’s about as courageous as a big wobbly jelly, but he often finds himself thrust into critical situations where he just has to do something to help. The poor creature tries his best and sometimes what he manages to achieve is simply amazing, considering he’s just a cat. I’m not sure that his “human side” would be the right way of describing it, but he certainly shows that he has feet of clay (or should that be paws of clay?) and is not Supercat! I have plenty more exploits planned for him, some of which will be successful, whereas others might not. I like the idea of unpredictability and I don’t want him to turn into some sort of superhero who overcomes the odds every single time; he has his weaknesses, as do we all, and I see him as more of an unwilling, bumbling hero who occasionally gets it right, sometimes by accident, but who also makes mistakes. 

10. I liked the message of the reality of violence in the Trojan War. This was subtly conveyed and not through an adult voice. What is the overriding message of the series? What do you hope young readers will take away from each book?

This is a theme which will crop up more than once in the series. I thought it was important for the children to work out for themselves the reality of violence and to learn that war is not glorious. In particular, I wanted to Joe to come to that conclusion for himself, because he’s the one who tends to be rather gung-ho and excited at the prospect of seeing warriors and battles. I’m sure that TV and electronic games these days can desensitise youngsters to the horrible realities of violence, but when Joe witnesses combats and battles for real he is deeply shocked and recognises the true ghastliness of it all.

I didn’t really plan for my series to have a message as such. I set out to write what I hoped would be fun adventure stories with a little mystery and magic thrown in for good measure. I really hope that my readers will enjoy the books for the sake of the stories alone, in an “I can’t wait to find out what happens next” kind of way, but I’ll consider my job well done if they also come away with the knowledge that history can be fun and exciting.

11. What comes after the end of the series? Any ideas in the pipeline?

For the moment my head is full of this series and that’s what I’m focused on right now. I’m currently working on book number 8 and I’m planning for there to be 16 in total, so there’s plenty to keep me occupied. I do, however, have an idea for a ghost story that I’d like to write afterwards. There’s a house in the village where I live which is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a child and I’d like to create a story based on that, but it might be a while before I get round to it.

12. Is there anything I have not asked that you would like readers to know?

As I mentioned earlier, in my answer to the first question, I already had my young heroine’s name planned before I even conceived the idea of the Shadows from the Past series. One of my hobbies is genealogy and I’ve managed to trace my family back several hundred years. I find the thrill of following a trail, solving the clues and uncovering my ancestors’ lives absolutely fascinating. One day I came across my 5 x great-grandmother who was born in 1721 … and she was called Jemima Lancelot. I thought that was a wonderful name and decided, there and then, I would use it for my heroine if ever I wrote a book. I headed back to my family tree for the names of all my English characters, so Joe, Richard, James and Isabel Lancelot, Charles and Ellen Green, and even good old Mrs Garland are all related to me back in the dim and distant past! I guess it’s a good way of “keeping it in the family”!

Thanks for a wonderful interview, Wendy, and you have an avid fan already (me!) as I will eagerly devour each book in this wonderful series. Catch my review of the fascinating first book in the series, The Shadow of Atlantis here and The Shadow of the Minotaur here.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Princelings of the East Author Interview

I’d like to welcome Jemima Pett, author of the Princelings of the East trilogy back to my blog to answer all the questions readers have been dying to ask. Please remember there is a shared Rafflecopter giveaway with a prize consisting of a $25 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash + a copy of The Princelings of the East Trilogy.

The Princelings have been a long time coming, given your other career in writing ordinary, even technical stuff. Did the idea of writing about guinea pigs (as opposed to cats/dogs/hamsters) arrive with Fred and George’s entry into your life?

Yes it was entirely driven by them. I’m not sure that I would ever have tried writing fiction again if they hadn’t inspired me. The ‘again’ is because I started writing a sci-fi story when I was 19, and a friend told me not to bother. Your friend, even your best friend, is not always right, you know. She was right that the story I’d been working on was lacking plot, character, and interest, but not to bother??

This is no happy little story about 2 pets; it’s an adventure with two intrepid explorers and a complex plot. Where did it all come from, any particular moments of inspiration?

I called Fred “The Philosopher” and George “The Engineer” very early in our lives together. I hadn’t had a pet since I was about 11 (so for that, read I had a pet that my mum looked after mostly), so this whole thing of two wee lives relying totally on me was very scary—but fascinating. I used to just sit and watch them. Fred seemed to spend a lot of
George is Relaxing.
time gazing into space. George seemed more practical, rearranging their cage furniture, getting it all to his liking. The Philosopher and the Engineer just carried on from there. I got the time tunnel idea from a bit of fun the Rodents With Attitude guinea pig forum was working on—one of those post-by-post stories that forums sometimes do. I threw in the world running on strawberry juice at the end of a tunnel they’d gone down in the corner of a castle ...  it all stems from that!

I found the world of the Princelings an unusual mix of old and new, quaint with technological—any influences here?

Well, my work is in environmental technology, which means I work on policies and practice in pollution and energy efficiency and climate change, areas like that. So the science and technology basis stems from there, but I have a sociology background too, and the changes in the way our society works that are brought about by technology are very interesting to me. I think the Princelings emerge out of what you might call ‘popular’ settings (castles, pirates) but apply these new technology ideas. Then again, if you are talking about guinea pigs, they have a herd or clan system, and not much use for machinery, so starting out with the castle system just seemed to work.

I was struck by a Watership Down and Wind in the Willows feel to the whole story—any comments here? Any childhood books as inspiration or influence?

Definitely Wind in the Willows. I would generally cite Ann McCaffrey’s Pern stories as well; the clan and castle system works in that world too.

Our heroes continue their adventures with an encounter with pirates, and an unexpected love interest coupled with danger. Was it hard to continue these adventures?

Strangely, I originally conceived the idea of the stories as a Trilogy and decided the second would be Pirates and the third would be a Lost City long before I wrote them! I suppose that was the influence of a well-known Pirates film series and also of Indiana Jones. How they turned out though … well that’s all me. But I was aware that I was missing an essential ingredient in my books—girls—because I have all male guinea pigs. So I was pleased to get Kira and her sister into the Pirates book early on, and then Kira becomes a very important character—and Fred’s love interest. In many ways these books wrote themselves. When I got stuck I slept on it, and generally came back raring to go the next day! I found early on that my characters did things because it was right for them to do so, some things they did were most unexpected! I just wrote it down, and tried to make the most of the opportunities they gave me.

Your other books in the series bring both new characters (Humphrey) and old characters (Hugo) into the spotlight. Do you want to tell us more?

After the first book I realised that I couldn’t use Hugo again, which was a great shame. He is such a marvellous guinea pig, and his alter ego Mariusz as well. Mariusz belongs to a friend who lives in New York, the two of them are virtually identical and in personality too. Mariusz is maybe a little less sociable than Hugo. So I decided that he had to have his own book, and the best way of doing that would be for him to tell his own story. That was
Hugo being Busy!
a more difficult book to write in some ways—he had a number of individual adventures, but I remember getting to a point where I thought, OK, but where is this all going? I left it for about a week before I realised how to bring it all together, and that involved a secret that I didn’t know until then. There was just one line I had to change further back in the book to make the secret work. I can’t leave Hugo out of things. He’s like that … into everything. He’s back in book 6, Victor’s story, which I started writing years ago and got thoroughly stuck. I’ll tell you why nearer the time that book is released.

Humphrey came into my life just about a year before I published Princelings of the East. He and his friend Hector were abandoned in a house when the tenants moved out and not found for a month. So cruel! But he’s such a kind, gentle soul, I thought he deserved to be the star of the next book. And as I’d slid him into the Prologue of Lost City, I decided to follow his adventures after that. It’s a much darker tale though, YA rather than MG.

In the book I noticed a lack of ear-rubbing, whisker-twitching, paw-scratching actions one would associate with Guinea Pigs. Fred and George behave like humans. While reading, sometimes I actually forgot they are not human. Is this intentional?

It’s not intentional, but it is how I think of Fred and George and the others. In fact there isn’t much of those characteristics that my boys do. Fred mainly gazes into space. Guinea pigs have this wonderful special pose for gazing at the moon, sort of almost like a sea lion.
Fred is Thinking...
I’ve been thinking about this question a lot, since it was such a surprise to me. It hadn’t been something I’d thought of. Now when we get down to Dylan and Dougall, who are my youngest and newest guinea pigs, they do rub their ears, and Dylan in particular is a terrible fidget. But then Dylan is a big personality.

I do occasionally mention them brushing or cleaning themselves. Hugo pauses mid-brush on one occasion, which I see the guinea pigs do.  But then again, there has to be reason for discussing one’s grooming habits in a story, don’t you think?

The anecdote about your mum’s story is so charming. Will you ever make that into something readers can enjoy?

Well, it’s a very short story, and in truth it’s almost identical to the story of “The Moldau” or “Vltava” the piece of classical music by Smetana. I know it was one of my favourite pieces when I was young (I still like it) but I can’t imagine I knew it that well when I was 8. Maybe I did.

How do Fred and George feel about all this publicity?

They have always been perfectly unfazed about attention. They are very modest chaps, George in particular, and they accept things and take them in their stride. I think they treat all these things as an interesting new experience to be enjoyed. Hugo, on the other hand, expects a lot of attention and sees it as his right. Humphrey would be very shy about it. Dylan will be insufferable.

I love the cover artwork and it’s interesting that your own drawings grace the inside pages. Have you always had a talent for drawing?

Like most people, I drew and painted at school, not particularly well. I then didn’t really do any painting for a while; then took my pastels on holidays. Later, I joined the Epping Art Society, where I lived at that time, and had a very enjoyable time with other people in the same boat, picking up painting again, often after being rubbish at school. It’s amazing how much talent emerged from that group, and how we developed our skills.

I didn’t do much painting when I moved to Norfolk (there are a lot of professional artists in Norfolk, but then it’s also a hub of literary talent, and that hasn’t stopped me!). When I first started illustrating the books they were a bit of a mess, in fact I’ve just redrawn Castle Marsh and Castle Buckmore. But like most things, when you keep at something, you tend to improve. I was very self-conscious about my illustrations for the first few books. I’m starting to gain confidence in them now.

I found that my niece’s daughter, Danielle, was at college doing Illustration, so I contacted her to see if she’d be interested in doing the covers. I did the original idea for the swirl with a castle in the middle for the cover of the first book, and she took it on from there. I’m pleased to say she’s just done another cover for someone else, as she’s been out of college for a year now.

Are you tempted to try other genres?

I have some ideas for more books; the horse book will probably be much the same level: older MG. There’s a character that seems to be gathering a few stories to himself in my weekly flash fiction challenge; he might end up having a full length book and I suspect he might be proper MG. Then again, I might just go for clean fantasy and have trouble classifying it. That’s my main trouble—finding what genre it fits into, rather than writing in a particular genre.

Many thanks for joining me today and I can’t wait to read more of our intrepid heroes’ adventures!