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The Open Book

Filtering by Tag: novel

C.W Tickner, author of "Humanarium"

Stephen H. Provost

C.W Tickner is a UK author and Terry Pratchett fan who's here to talk about his Humanarium trilogy., which is available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

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Where and with whom do you live? Cambridge, UK. Fiance and the spirits of past pets. 

If you could co-write a book with any author, living or dead, whom would you choose? Terry Pratchett. The things he could inject into my story would have me in stitches.

Why do you write? Because no one had written the book I wanted to read. (I did look.)

Where do you write? Sitting on a bed. Comfy, and with the ability to switch positions as aches dictate.

What imaginary land would you choose as your home, and why? Any form of interplanetary vessel. Endless possibilities on where to go, where to eat and who or what to meet and discover. Space gypsy.

What animal, real or imaginary, would you choose as your constant companion? A pocket-sized dragon, preferably orange in colour. But i’m not fussy.

Your superhero alter-ego: T-Man: Able to produce excellent cups of tea that wow strangers and colleagues but burn the skin of any who oppose me.

Historical period you’d like to visit: Feudal Japan.

Favorite board, card or video game: Dungeons & Dragons, in any form.

This is one of the best books I’ve read in years. I highly recommend this to any Sci-fi fans! The characters are believable and the story is well written. The world is unique and amazing!
— Zarabeth Langer, Amazon review


Title, genre and length? The Humanarium, science fiction, 177,000 words.

When and where does it take place? In the future and on another planet, inhabited by giant aliens.

How did you come up with the title? It’s a play on words; Humans and Terrarium. A place to keep humans.

What inspired you to write it? I was cleaning out my fish tank one day and the thought occurred to me that I was in some way a god to the fish inside. (no god complex, honest). I realised that if I did not feed them or provide them with a landscape and companions, they would suffer as a consequence. I wondered how it would be if the roles were reversed and humans were on the inside. I figured I could swap “Fish” for “Aliens” and hey presto, a bizarre world was born in which humanity lives inside a fish tank.

Is there a sequel in the works? The trilogy is out already and a fourth on its way.         

Where, how can you get it? Amazon store and in Kindle Unlimited.

Describe your book in one word that most people don’t normally use. Fantastical. 

Who would want to ban it? Anyone with a phobia of giants or the premise that the “god” one might worship is in fact another creature with a greater intellect.

To whom did you dedicate it and why? To my editor. He puts up with a lot.

I very much enjoyed this book!! I’ve been reading Science Fiction since I was about 10 yrs old (56 now), have read all the Masters and hundreds of other authors. I have to say this book is completely different than anything I have ever read before. It was so nice to be able to read a story that makes you think on it for quite a while afterward.
— Tracy B. Smith, Amazon review
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Name, age and occupation: Harl Eriksson, early twenties, blacksmith.

Where and with whom does he live? Alone, on the outskirts of town, beside the “Wall” at the edge of the world.

Who would play your protagonist in a movie? Adam Driver (Kylo Ren).

What’s his celebrity crush? Anyone with blonde or red hair. He has never seen such a thing, having grown up in a tank with black-haired people only.

What’s his biggest fear/phobia? Fear of being “Lifted” by the titanic hand that enters the tank and steals people from the world.

Weapon of choice: The people around him.

At the beginning of the book ... our hero is a simple blacksmith, by the end he must free humanity and fight for “Human Rights”  

Worst habit? Demanding instant vengeance.

Best feature? A quick learner and being able to accept the world for more than what it “appears.”

Tickner’s ‘The Huminarium’ is a gripping tale. It not only makes us question what it would be like to be stuck in a Terrarium style world but whether we already are in such a place. The themes of disobedience, curiosity and escape from the gods’ wrath make for a compelling read from start to finish. ... For fans of Sci-fi, ‘The Huminarium’ is thought-provoking, exciting and a damn good read. I loved it!
— Aaron Leyshon, Amazon review
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Cindy Rankin, author of "Under the Ashes"

Stephen H. Provost

Cindy Rankin sat down to answer questions about her historical novel "Under the Ashes," which focuses on an 11-year-old girl caught in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. "Under the Ashes," released in November 2016 by Albert Whitman & Company, has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, both from review publications and on Amazon, where it has received a 95 percent 5-star rating as of this writing.

The Author

Name, age and occupation:  Cindy Rankin, 67 years old, author. Formerly worked as a freelance newspaper/magazine writer and a substitute teacher.

Where and with whom do you live?  Paso Robles, California (for the past 30 years) with my husband of 43 years, Curt Rankin.

If you could co-write a book with any author, living or dead, whom would you choose?  Ernest Hemingway and Harper Lee leap to mind because their work had a profound impact on me, but co-writing with either of them would be daunting, so I choose Dodie Smith. She became famous for The Hundred and One Dalmatians, but it was her first novel, I Capture the Castle, that continues to fascinate and delight me. I’ve reread it each decade since I was a teen. Working with a multi-talented, entertaining author would be enlightening and fun.

Why do you write? Because I’m curious and have a big imagination. Mostly I can’t stop wondering about things I’m interested in, and asking why and what if questions. I began writing stories in fourth grade. And I was a middle school newspaper reporter who loved to interview people. I worked as a freelance journalist for many years, but fiction has my heart now. I like to begin a story with a character facing a dilemma, then I can’t wait to write and figure out what happens next.

Where do you write? I used to hide in the spare bedroom/office when our children were young. Now they’re grown and I use a laptop so I can write anywhere I want. That’s empowering.

What imaginary land would you choose as your home, and why? The Hobbit’s Shire in Middle-earth. J.R.R. Tolkien created a beautiful, happy, fruitful place. Who wouldn’t want to live there? The neat thing, is we fortunate residents of the Central Coast live in a beautiful, fruitful place. I’m grateful every day to live here.

What do you collect? Postcards. I have a large tin full of postcards from faraway places sent by family and friends. Sometimes I even send them to myself to record a memory of a special place.

Your superhero alter-ego: Wonder Woman.

Historical period you’d like to visit: 1938 to 1948, USA, because I’d like to experience the decade my parents came of age.

Favorite board, card or video game: Clue.

Littlebeth’s resilience and strong, memorable voice make this a vivid account of grace under fire.
— Publishers Weekly, October 3, 2016

The Book

Title, genre and length? Under the Ashes is historical fiction, 232 pages. It’s classified as a middle-grade novel for ages nine to twelve. Yet, I’ve heard from adults as well as children  how this story of a youngster overcoming adversity connects with them so now I say it’s for readers from 9 to 90.

When and where does it take place? The book begins April 8, 1906, in Paso Robles. The feisty eleven-year-old-narrator is being punished for cowgirl antics and derring-do. Eight days later, her family puts her on a train to San Francisco to be refined into a "proper young lady" by her maiden aunt just two days before the Great Quake strikes the city.

How did you come up with the title? After San Francisco’s massive 1906 earthquake, fires immediately sparked and raged for three days. The elite and poor alike were covered with ashes from the inferno. Everyone, regardless of wealth, religion, or nationality, struggled to survive the catastrophe. The young heroine realizes societal differences aren’t important. It’s what’s inside people’s hearts that matter most. She also discovers even under the ashes hope exits for a new beginning.

What inspired you to write it? This book began as a short story over twenty years ago for an anthology from this area. My spirited young heroine, rooted in local history, struck a chord with writer-friends who encouraged me to expand the story into a novel. The narrator and her family remained the same, however the story changed completely. It evolved over years of research and revision. Our own tragic earthquake in Paso Robles on December 22, 2003, when lives were lost and property damaged, gave me a visceral understanding of the fearful impact San Francisco’s 1906 temblor must have had on people there. That deadliest earthquake in U.S. history left more than half the city’s population homeless. I couldn’t help but wonder what if a bold girl from my small hometown found herself in the middle of that calamity.

Is there a sequel in the works? No, because I’m currently working on a contemporary middle-grade novel about the unusual way a boy copes with his father’s deployment to war. Yet, I’m thinking there may be more to explore in the life of my heroine in Under the Ashes. A sequel isn’t out of the question.          

Where, how can you get it? Under the Ashes is available at bookstores, and online booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes and

Describe your book in one word that most people don’t normally use. Boldacious. (Merriam-Webster definition: dialectal, British: brazen, impudent.)

To whom did you dedicate it and why? I dedicated Under the Ashes to my daughter Kate because her self-confidence, intelligence, and strong will as a child amazed me. She definitely inspired the creation of my protagonist. Kate taught me it’s okay to be proud of yourself, a lesson I needed to learn.

An intriguing cast of secondary characters ― including her Presbyterian aunt’s Jewish beau, the opera star Enrico Caruso, and a newly immigrated young Chinese girl ― add diversity to the cast.
— Kirkus Reviews

The Hero

Name, age and occupation: Elizabeth “Littlebeth” Morgan, eleven-years-old, adventurous spirit.

Where and with whom does he/she live? Paso Robles, California, circa 1906, with her Papa, Mama, and little brother Joey. Grandma, a tough old bird, lives around the corner.

Who would play your protagonist in a movie? I envision a combination of a young Jodie Foster and Drew Barrymore.

What real-life person would be your protagonist’s hero, mentor or role model? Martha Jane Canary (Calamity Jane).

What’s his or her celebrity crush? President Teddy Roosevelt .

What’s her biggest fear/phobia? Losing the people she cares about.

What’s his/her favorite quote or motto? “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” —Theodore Roosevelt.

Weapon of choice: intellect.

At the beginning of the book, our hero is …  frustrated that saving her little brother from a rattlesnake did not restore her to the good graces of her family.

Worst habit? Braggadocios.

Best feature? Ingenious.

Incorporates historical cultural references and vivid accounts of the devastating quake and its aftermath…fans of historical fiction will find plenty to like.
— Booklist, November 15, 2016

Mandy Dawson, author of "Elemental Awakening"

Stephen H. Provost

Mandy Dawson is the author of Elemental Awakening, the first in her series, Elementals, just released in December. Its intriguing premise: An ancient being, imprisoned in statue form for thousands of years, is reawakened in the present. Mandy graciously agreed to sit down and answer some questions for The Open Book. 

The Author

Name, age and occupation: Mandy Dawson, 41, executive assistant/author

Where and with whom do you live? I live in Atascadero with my two children – Joseph and Elizabeth, their two hamsters, a survivalist fish, three chickens, and a stray cat who likes to be fed, but not pet.

If you could co-write a book with any author, living or dead, whom would you choose? I’d want to write a book with Julia Quinn. While my list of favorite authors, both living and dead, is almost as long as my list of favorite books, co-writing would require someone with a sense of humor and a similar writing style. Our subgenres differ, but I think we’d both approach the project with tongues firmly in cheek and a healthy dose of fun.

Why do you write? I’m not quite certain I’d know what to do if I didn’t write. I’ve always told stories in an effort to give life to the people in my head.  Some of my earliest memories are of lying in the dark and whispering the tales of two foolish little girls and their accidental adventures to my sisters when my parents thought we were asleep. As I got older, I began to write them down and never stopped.            

Where do you write? Because I work full time, I try to fit in writing wherever and whenever I can. I write at my desk or kitchen table after I put the kids to bed. I take my laptop with me on my lunch break and lock myself into a conference room to tap away at my keyboard for an hour. I even take my laptop or notebook with me while camping and zip myself in my tent or plant myself at the picnic table for an hour or so. I’ve found getting away from the house prevents me from being distracted by the never-ending pile of laundry, so the bulk of my drafting is done at Bru (Coffeehouse) in Atascadero, sitting at a little table in front of the window with my headphones on and a pot of Earl Grey steaming nearby.

What animal, real or imaginary, would you choose as your constant companion? If I were to have a constant animal companion, it would be a dog. One that knew how to use and flush a toilet, didn’t chew on the corner of the wooden coffee table, and was able to refill my glass of wine. A dog may seem like an ordinary animal when the options are as varied as reality and imagination allows, but while a dragon would be amazing, a nice, slightly overweight, midsized dog prone to napping between long rambling walks would be a kindred spirit.

What do you collect? I collect sea glass. My kids and I spend hours roaming the beaches looking for shards of trash turned to treasure. We have piles of it all over our house filling jars and bowls and frames. Sometimes we craft something from it, but we mostly enjoy studying it, looking for the bubbles and imperfections, the clues as to what it originally was, where it might have come from. We make up stories about the people who owned it before it was shattered and pounded against the surf to wash up at our feet.

Favorite board, card or video game: I’m a game fanatic with almost as many favorite board games as I have moods. Right now, I’m addicted to Settlers of Catan, though last year it was Sequence and before that I couldn’t get enough of Five Crowns. My sister just bought me Pandemic, and I have a feeling it might boot Catan from the top ranking.

This is the first book in a series, and although it doesn’t leave you with a cliffhanger, it makes you want to find out what’s going to happen next. An overall win for Ms. Dawson’s debut novel.
— Jennie Goutet, Amazon review

The Book

Genre and length? Elemental Awakening is a romance novel with a strong thread of paranormal running through it. It’s a bit over 65,000 words long.

When and where does it take place? It’s a contemporary novel with locations moving from L.A. to the Central Coast to the Andes and the Bay Area.

How did you come up with the title? My editor wasn’t thrilled with my working title, Someday I’ll Figure Out a Witty Title for This Book, and I wasn’t thrilled with the only other option I’d come up with, Let Sleeping Gods Lie. She suggested Elemental Awakening after reviewing my three-story arc, and I loved the way it fit.

What inspired you to write it? Four years ago, I was part of an online writing group. One of the picture prompts was of a stone statue half buried in the ground. It sparked an idea of what would happen if that statue was a cursed man frozen for all time and then, what would happen if someone happened to wake him up. Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop.

Is there a sequel in the works? The sequel, Elemental Escape, is drafted, and I’m starting my first round of revisions.

Where, how can you get it? You can currently purchase Elemental Awakening in paperback or ebook versions on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

What would you select as your book’s theme song? Who would you choose to write the musical score? A Thousand Years by Christina Perri. Since I spent most of my writing time plugged into Ingrid Michaelson, I’d select her to write the musical score.

Who would want to ban it? People who don’t believe in magic. I’d forgive them, though, for wanting to ban it. Not believing in magic must make life rather sad.

To whom did you dedicate it and why? I dedicated my book to my parents who taught me a love of reading. Family legend has it that my dad used to travel the rodeo circuit with two hard-backed suitcases. One was filled with clothes, the other with books. My mom was never without a book nearby. Even with four children, she still found time to read. Usually while standing up because she rarely had time to sit. I also dedicated it to my three younger sisters who have always listened to my stories. And finally, to my children, because without them I wouldn’t have dared to embark on this adventure. When my son told me that he knew he could do anything he set his mind to because I had taught him that by finishing my book, it made all the late nights and long hours of editing worth it.

Most novels tend to be plot based or character based, but I felt that this one was a seamless merger of the two. Immediately engaged by the first page, the story continues to delight. It was one of those books that caused me to let the kids make their own dinner so I could finish.
— K.A.Z. Kahler, Amazon review

The Heroes

Name, age and occupation: Helen Browning, early 30s, midwife and secret key to unleashing an elemental battle for power. Lukos, early 3000s, Light.

Where and with whom does he/she live? She lives alone in a small cottage in a place roughly based on Cambria. He lived in an area known today as the Andes until he was turned to stone, during which time he lived deep in a cave until discovery and then on display in museums around the world.

Who would play your protagonist in a movie? Jaimie Alexander for Helen and Chris Hemsworth for Luke.

What real-life person would be your protagonist’s hero, mentor or role model? Helen would be fascinated by the work of Jennifer Worth and the idea of caring for a population in the East End of London post WWII. I have no doubt, she’d devour her memoir and likely binge watch the show on PBS while eating Cherry Garcia ice cream. Luke has a lot of catching up to do. (Being a statue for thousands of years puts a dent in one’s knowledge of world events.) As someone who is facing a battle of epic size, bringing about a civil war, he’d study the great generals in history, especially those who brought peace to their people.

What’s his or her celebrity crush? Helen has a soft spot for hunky nerds. She probably has a huge crush on David Tennant. Luke isn’t certain what celebrities are and is slightly taken aback by Helen’s over-the-top swooning when David is on screen.

What’s her biggest fear/phobia? Helen is afraid of losing the people she loves. Luke is afraid of becoming stone once again.

At the beginning of the book, our hero is … At the beginning of the book, Helen has spent her life trying to rediscover the stability she lost. She’s strong and capable, confident in her skills as a midwife and secure in her life path, but she also knows something is missing. There’s been a hole in her life nothing has been able to fill. Luke was literally turned to stone, his fate sealed. When he first awakes, the emotions and sensations threaten to overwhelm him so he clings to the one thing he knows and is certain of: his love for the woman who woke him.

Worst habit? Helen is stubborn. When presented with a situation in which she feels horribly out of her depth, she clings to what she knows with a tenacity that becomes not just dangerous, but deadly. Luke is impatient. He’s spent thousands of years frozen in stillness with nothing but time to plot and plan his revenge, yet when he’s finally able to put some of those plans in action, he discovers the world has changed drastically and the answers he seeks are not easily found.

Best feature? Helen is a quiet warrior who has always championed the most innocent. Luke has somehow retained his sense of humor, no matter how dark his life became.

This imaginative romance takes the reader out of her own element into a completely different world that exists layered on top of our own.
— Kim Tracy Prince, Amazon review