Author Interview: Andrea Cremer (and a giveaway!)

It’s time for another Fall into Fantasy post!
Today, I’m interviewing Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade.
You can read my five-star review here.
What inspired you to write Nightshade?
Calla was the inspiration for this trilogy. My favorite characters were always strong heroines – and I was weary of reading stories where the female protagonist kept getting dragged into adventures with the boy who had all the powers. I wanted this story to explore what it means to be a strong, independent woman in a world that often limits tries to limit female power.  
I understand that there will be a second book. Will it be told from Calla’s perspective, too?
Yes, all three books in the Nightshade trilogy are told from Calla’s perspective.
There are many references to flowers and herbs in the Nightshade. I imagine that Calla is named for the flower on the cover. The titles of the first and second books in the series are also flowers. What’s the significance of those references, and why did you choose those particular flowers?
Calla is named for the flower, which represents the tension between what her mother and her masters, the Keepers, want her to be – lovely and submissive – versus what she wants to be – a warrior.  
Nightshade and Wolfsbane are powerful herbs. I wanted to evoke the elemental forces of the earth as they play an important role in the plot.
In the weeks leading to Nightshade‘s release, we’ve been able to meet one of the characters, Shay Doran, through his blog and Facebook page. Why introduce Shay and not Calla, who is the narrator of the story?
Calla’s life is bound by secrets. She could never expose herself to the real world, whereas Shay – a human – doesn’t have those sorts of restrictions on his life.
The book takes place in Vail, Colorado. Why did you choose that as the setting for the story?
A couple of reasons: first, I needed a mountain. Second, Calla’s masters, the Keepers, are very powerful and very wealthy but they also live on the edges of human society, manipulating it but not fully participating in it; thus, they wouldn’t be in Manhattan but they do still seek out luxurious, exclusive locations for their residences. Vail fit the bill.
Which character can you relate to the most? Why?
Probably Ansel, Calla’s younger brother. Ansel is the only character who is (loosely) based on a real person: my own little brother, Garth. He and I are very close and we’re a lot alike, so that means I’m a bit like Ansel too.
What do you want readers to take away from this story?
I hope that readers will be invested in the lives of Calla and her pack. I love the characters so much I want to share their adventures with as many people as possible.
And now, for the most pressing question of all: Do you dress up for Halloween? If so, what will you be this year? 
Yes! And, I haven’t decided yet. 
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Thank you so much for the interview and thanks to everyone for reading NIGHTSHADE!
Last weekend, I had the chance to meet Andrea at the Texas Book Festival.

While there, I got her to sign a copy of Nightshade to share with my lovely readers!


The Rules:

Only one entry per person.

The contest is open to U.S. and Canada residents only.

You *must* be a follower of my blog to enter.

If you are a new follower, you will receive 1 entry.
If you were a follower prior to the start of this contest, you will receive 2 entries.Fill out the form below to enter. Do not leave your entry in the comments.

Increase Your Chances:

Complete the following tasks to increase your chances to win!

  • +1 – Become a fan of The Nerd’s Wife on Facebook.
  • +1 – Follow The Nerd’s Wife on Twitter.
  • +2 – Tweet about this contest. Sample tweet: Enter to win a *signed* copy of Nighshade by @andreacremer from @thenerdswife:
  • +2 – Subscribe to my Youtube Channel.
Contest ends Wednesday, Nov. 3 at 11:59 p.m. CST.
Good luck!

Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies

I recently won a contest called the Great YA Bake Sale. 
One of the prizes was a recipe binder with hand-written recipes from 15 young adult authors! This was the perfect prize, as it combined two of my favorite things: reading and cooking!
When I started browsing through these recipes, one that immediately caught my eye was this recipe for Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies.
There’s just something about butterscotch that reminds me of autumn and I thought this would be a great addition to the traditional chocolate chip cookie.
And it was! These cookies are really chewy and moist. 
Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Megan Crewe, author of Give Up the Ghost

2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 c margarine or softened butter
3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 pkg instant butterscotch pudding mix
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix flour and baking soda. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Beat in the instant pudding mix. Then, mix in the eggs and vanilla.
Blend the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Drop cookies by the spoonfuls onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or a silpat.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until edges are golden brown. 
Let cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes until firm, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Makes two dozen cookies.
PS – I read a recent discussion on the cooking message board I read about blog pet peeves. 
Apparently, a common one is the step-by-step recipe photos.
So, I thought I’d try a post without them.
I must say, it was a lot easier to cook without having to grab my camera every five minutes.
But I wonder if the post is lacking now that there’s just a few photos.
What do you think? 
Step-by-step photos a no-no?
Or a must have?
Thanks for looking!
Chewy and moist Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies are the perfect treat!

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer is one of the most highly-anticipated debut novels this fall.In fact, a group of bloggers is highlighting five debut fantasy novels this fall in the Fall into Fantasy event.

Today, I have the pleasure of reviewing Nightshade by Andrea Cremer as part of the event.

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she’ll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters’ laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything–including her own life. 
Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?” 

– Description from GoodReads

Paranormal romance stories are all the rage right now. And with a beautiful cover and werewolfish plot, Nightshade promised to quench my thirst for more paranormal stories.

But then I started reading and realized: This is so much more than a paranormal romance story.
From the beginning, there’s action. Calla risks her life and her position to save a mysterious boy in the woods when she’s on patrol.

You see, Calla is a Guardian, a group of shape-shifting wolves who serve as soldiers for the magic-wielding Keepers, a secret society charged with protecting the world from the Seekers. It’s the only life she’s ever known. 

She’s an alpha female, fated to marry and mate with Ren, an alpha male, and help him rule a newly-formed pack. But Calla is held to different standards than Ren, forced to quell her emotions and desires to retain her purity until their union.

When Shay, the boy she saved, shows up at her school, Calla starts questioning the truths she’s always known and the life she’s always trusted.

There are so many layers to Nightshade.

There’s romance — Who will she choose? Ren or Shay? The familiar or the unknown?

There’s action — From grizzly attacks to giant spiders, Calla kicks butt left and right.

There’s conflict — The Keepers and the Seekers are constantly at war. And Calla’s right in the middle of it as a Guardian. But who are the good guys?

There’s tension — Ren is the typical alpha male. Or is he? There’s more depth to Ren than you would think.

I really enjoyed the different facets of the story. It’s not just about the romance. Calla has to discover who she wants to be and if she should defy her destiny. There’s a philosophical debate going on in this story.

And Andrea Cremer says a lot about the double-standards society places upon men and women. Ren can go around and chase tail all he wants, but Calla is looked down upon for merely *kissing* a boy.

This is a fast-paced read that will have you wanting more.

Due to the sexual nature of some content, I would recommend it for mature teens only, though.

Nightshade is in stores today, so be sure to go pick it up!

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer is available from Amazon.

**Disclaimer** An Advanced Reading Copy of this book was provided to me for review by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group

Thanks to the publisher for the chance to read and review this book early!

Be sure to check back tomorrow for my interview with Andrea Cremer and a chance to win a *signed* copy of Nightshade!

Happy Reading!


My Greatest Adventure: A Trip to Prague

Prague 4
When I was a freshman in college, I had the amazing opportunity to spend Spring Break in Prague as part of the Cornerstone Program at Texas A&M University.
This trip would be a lot of firsts for me.
The first time I’d ever been out of the South.
The first time I’d ever flown on a plane (And yes, it was a 12-hour flight. When I go, I go big!)
The first time I’d ever seen drunken soccer players.
The first (and last) time I’d ever eaten a “ham”burger overseas (It was a Spam sandwich!).And the first time I almost got stranded in a remote village because some college kids couldn’t tell time.

Oh wait, just wait. You’ve got to hear this story.

Prague 12
The purpose of the trip was to visit historic places, like the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn.
Prague 6
And Wenceslas Square.
Prague 2
I really got to see the city in its full glory.
Prague 5
Of course, we had a little fun, too.
Silly boys.
Prague 9
One day, we headed to Kutná Hora, a small village outside of Prague.
We rode the train into the city and headed out to see the sights.
Prague 7
The Sedlec Ossuary was really creepy…the church was decorated with human bones.
This chandelier is made up of every single bone in the human body. 

It was a long day, and we were all pretty tired and ready to head to back to the city.
One of the girls in the group had the train schedule, and the last train was supposed to depart at 5:05 pm.
We dawdled in the little town, wasting time until we could head to the train station. We went to a cafe. We window shopped. We saw a little kid smoking a cigarette.Yes, you read that right.

The boy looked like he was 12 years old.

My poor, pure little Texas heart was shell-shocked.

But I digress.

We got to the train station at 4:45 pm — *plenty* of time to be there for the next train, right?
It seems my friend had misread the schedule…the last train was scheduled to depart at 15:05 pm — that’s 3:05 pm!Oh. My. Jeez.

Everyone panicked. I mean, where were we supposed to stay the night in this little bitty town?
Our professor would have a conniption fit if we weren’t back to check in. And we had no way to contact him.
What were we going to do!?!The most level-headed of our group decided to ask the station manager if another train would be departing that evening.

Luckily, a train was running late and we were able to make it onto that one when it arrived at 4:56 pm.
Just in the knick of time.
I was so glad we had gotten to the station when we did!
Prague 10
We had dinner at Al Capone’s Pizzeria that night.Doesn’t that just sound cool?

Prague 3
It was a really fun trip.
I learned a lot about other cultures, got my first flight under my belt, and almost got stranded in a Czech village!
You’re probably wondering why I’m sharing this adventure with you.
Well, I consider this trip my greatest adventure.
Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe, a Young Adult dystopian novel that will be released in January 2011, has asked her readers to share their greatest adventure.
You can head over to her blog to read everyone else’s adventures. If you share your own, you could win an advanced reading copy of her book!
Thanks so much for looking!PS – Pardon the poor quality of some of the photos in this post. This was back when I had a crappy camera with (gasp!) film.

I was almost stranded in a small Czech village during a week-long trip to Prague in college. It was an adventure!

A Family Affair…

A few weeks ago, one of my friends got married at a beautiful ranch in Central Texas.
I was so swamped last week, I didn’t have time to edit the dozens of photos I took during the wedding weekend.
But I’ve finally had time to sit down, sort them, and put some finished touches on them.
This wedding was truly a family (and friends!) affair. We worked all day Friday and Saturday getting the decorations and tables and everything else in place for a beautiful ceremony.
The weekend began for the guests with the rehearsal dinner on Saturday night.
First, there was skeet shooting out over the lake.
Here’s the mother-of-the-bride, the bride and the groom all lined up to shoot some clay pigeons.
When the sun set over the water, it was time to head back up to the ranch house for a delicious seafood boil!
The tables were set with newspaper and dinner was served family-style!
The cooks poured the meal onto the newspaper…
and guests piled their plates with an array of blue crab, shrimp, chicken, jalapeno venison sausage, potatoes, mushrooms and corn.
The crab was flown in fresh from the Gulf of Mexico that morning for the evening feast.
Of course, there can’t be dinner without dessert.
The homemade banana pudding was to die for!
Here’s the bride and groom. Aren’t they such a cute couple?
Me with the bride. She was so stunning in her green dress.
And, finally, me and The Nerd.
We don’t often get photos of us together, as I’m usually the one behind the lens.
He was such a trooper throughout the whole weekend, helping set up tables and tie bows and decorate trees.
Like I said, it was truly a family affair.
Photos of the bride getting ready, the ceremony and the reception to come!
Thanks for looking!
An evening of skeet shooting and fresh seafood was the perfect way to celebrate the night before a wedding!

Texas Book Festival!

This weekend, I headed to the Texas Book Festival in Austin with the hope of meeting some of my favorite YA Authors.
The Nerd and my sister-in-law agreed to drive down to Austin and back with me on Saturday. That’s a three-hour drive one-way, folks.
We got to the festival around lunchtime on Saturday, and our first stop was the Penguin booth.
There I met the lovely Andrea Cremer, whose debut novel Nightshade will be released on Tuesday!
Andrea signed two books for me — one for myself and another to give away on the blog later this week (**cough**cough**Wednesday**cough**cough**) — and agreed to take a photo with me.
Of course, my head looks like a massive balloon that completely takes over the photo. But Andrea is pretty! I love her beautiful red hair!
Kirsten Miller, author of The Eternal Ones, was also at the Penguin booth. She thought the photo of me and The Nerd was hilarious.
I guess we need to take more photos dressed in nerdy outfits!
Kirsten also signed two copies of her book for me. Again, one for myself and one to give away on the blog at a not-yet-determined date.
Next up, we headed to the signing tent to meet up with Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, authors of Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness.
These ladies are so awesome!
Not only did they sign *my* copies of Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness (and a copy of each book for another giveaway!), they gave me signed bookmarks and swag (a keychain, necklace and bracelets!) to give away on the blog.
I’m telling you guys — there’s going to be an epic contest coming soon!
Soon it was time for the “Pardon Me, I Didn’t Mean to Bite You” panel with Andrea Cremer, Kirsten Miller and Heather Brewer.
These ladies were so much fun! They gabbed about their books and their love of all things paranormal.
My favorite part was when Heather told the audience: “Vampires are like hot chocolate. They’re comforting. You go out into this big scary world, and can always come back to bloodsucking.”
It was a great panel!
Then, we headed over to the children’s book tent to meet Meg Cabot!
I got her to sign my copy of Zombies vs. Unicorns.
Isn’t she so cute?
And finally, we headed to the Zombies vs. Unicorns debate.
The debate was full of such awesomeness, I’m going to write *another* post with all of the details later this week. :)
At the end of the night, I got to meet Holly Black.
She was so adorable with her unicorn horn!
She signed my copy of Zombies vs. Unicorns and a copy of White Cat for me to give away on the blog!
I had such a great time meeting all of these amazing authors!
Now I just have to decide what to do with all of the extra books I had signed…
Check back tomorrow for my review of Nightshade by Andrea Cremer as part of the Fall into Fantasy event!
And Wednesday I’ll be interviewing Andrea and giving away a *signed* copy of Nightshade. Don’t miss it!
Happy Reading!

I met several of my favorite authors during the Texas Book Festival!

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a weekly feature hosted by The Story Siren.
It’s a chance for book bloggers to display the books they purchased or received for review each week.
Here’s a look at what I got this week:
Lots of fun prizes and awesome books!

Happy Reading!

Edit This!

As I’m sure you are aware, The Pioneer Woman is my hero.
I try to enter her Photo Assignment contests as often as I can. Earlier this year, I was actually one of the featured photos!
This time around, she’s given us her SOOC (straight out of camera) shot of her brother-in-law riding his horse.
She asked us to edit the photo in our own style.
I can find my way around Photoshop, but some of the really cool effects are lost on me. So when I stumbled upon this page listing *free* Photoshop Actions to download, I knew I’d hit the motherload.
Here are my two edits:
Sunshine and Acid Cowboy
Sunshine and Acid Cowboy
For my edits, I used Photoshop CS4.
I first used the Urban Acid from Steven Almas to bring out the rich colors.
The result was a little too blue for me, so I ran PW’s Warmer action twice.
Then, I added a Quick Edge Burn, decreasing the opacity and changing it to a Color Burn.
Cowboy Sketch in Color
Cowboy Sketch In Color
To create this sketch, I used Kent Christiansen’s Sketch and Charcoal Smudge action.
I turned off the Charcoal Smudge layers and added color to the photo for the effect.
Then, I cropped it in a bit closer.
It’s amazing what kind of effects you can create just by clicking a button. :)
You can see all of the submissions in the Pioneer Woman Photography Group on Flickr.
Check out the Pioneer Woman’s photography blog to see her featured picks.
Thanks for looking!

Author Interview: Pamela Keyes

Yesterday, I posted my review of The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes, an exciting and vibrant retelling of The Phantom of the Opera.
Today, on the book’s release day, I have the great pleasure of interviewing the author, Pamela Keyes.
Photo from Author’s Website
What led you to write The Jumbee?
“A few years ago, I saw the Phantom of the Opera and immediately fell in love with the plot and all the main characters. Shortly after that, I was lucky enough to move to the Caribbean. The moment I heard my first legend of a jumbee (a West Indian phantom who wants to steal your soul), I knew what I had to do. What better combination than a jumbee teamed with the most famous phantom in the world?
What is it about The Phantom of the Opera that appealed to you?
“I think everyone is intrigued by larger-than-life bad guys who are complex and sympathetic — especially if they’re likeable or even charming. I mean, look at Edward in the Twilight Saga – the ultimate bad-guy-turned-good-guy. So many villains are two-dimensional and stereotyped, and The Phantom is the opposite of that. I think that’s why The Phantom of the Opera has appealed to so many people over the years. There’s no denying that he does bad things, but you have to sympathize with him. You come to understand that most of what he does is almost necessary to his survival. That concept has always stuck with me.”
The story is set in such a unique place. Why did you choose the West Indies for the setting?
“Ha ha — what makes you think I chose the setting? The setting chose me! The moment I moved to the Virgin Islands, the setting completely took over. Especially with all the jumbee legends there — I was merely the channel for the story that had to come out. LOL.”
What do you want readers to take away from this story?
“Compassion. In one of my reviews, the reviewer concludes by saying The Jumbee left her feeling ‘the importance of knowing right from wrong, feeling compassion and working together toward a common goal.’ Wow — that’s precisely what I want readers to take away.” 
How would you describe your book in five words or less?
“That’s definitely the most difficult question I’ve been asked. As inadequate as it is, I’d have to say a ‘Caribbean Phantom of the Opera.'” 
Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
“Despite my answer to the previous question, The Jumbee isn’t a simple re-telling of The Phantom. Again, quoting from a review: ‘It is a story which covers the coming of age of a young girl who is searching for her own identity; it features the problems teens face from other jealous teens, the stirring of romantic interests, the difficulties of growing up…. it enlightens the reader about the injustice of slavery, island superstitions and crosses racial lines.’ I’ve drawn heavily on Caribbean history and West Indian legends, as well as the history and theater of Shakespeare to create a story — most of all — about friendship and honor.”
The Jumbee is on-sale today! So be sure to go pick it up, or purchase it from Amazon.
Happy Reading! Protection Status