Blog Tour Kickoff

Welcome to the To Slay a Curse Blog Tour! We’ve got a lot planned for you this week, but before we get into that, I just want to say a great big THANK YOU to everyone who has supported me on this journey to publication. My first book baby has been officially out in the world only two days and I’ve already sold out of signed copies! Fear not, I have ordered more 😉

Ok, you ready to get this thing started? So am I! Kicking off with my signature tour post, a character interview 😊

Meet Giselle

Character art by Laura Hollingsworth. Rest from Pinterest.

Welcome, Giselle! Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with us today.

‘Tis so good of you to have me! I’m not sure why anyone should care to interview me. But I’ll do my best to satisfy.

Now don’t be like that! My readers have been dying to meet you. The girl who traveled her own mind! And while so young, too. Tell me, dear, how old are you?

I will reach my 19th autumn this year.

See? Your trip was quite the achievement.

*Blushes* I thank you. But, truly, credit must go to the others. I didn’t do all that much mysef.

If you say so. Now, down to business! What’s your favorite scent?

Roses to be sure. I always get this warm, cared for, feeling when I catch a whiff. As if wrapped in a mother’s arms. *smiles sadly.* I like to think my mother kept them about.

Roses are delightful! Even better when coming from a man, right? *sly wink*

*embarrassed laugh* I would not know. I have yet to receive any.

What a shame! And his own mother runs the florist shop. Don’t worry, love, I’ll see that he pulls his act together.

Ah, here’s another favorites question for you. If you had to choose one sweet to eat the rest of your life, what would it be?

Ami’s tarts. She is always so disappointed when they don’t come out just as her mother’s, yet I love them. I attempted baking some myself, once. It was quite the disaster!

Haha! I feel your pain. I enjoy baking, but am not much good.

Now, for one of my personal favorites. If you could go anywhere, where would you go and why?

I would give anything for a chance to see Ivlin. It’s Healer Aliza’s birthplace, you know. And Elden’s home. I want so badly to see their tales.

I don’t blame you. It sounds like a truly magical place. In the vein of tales from childhood, what’s your best childhood memory?

*Eyes gleam* The first time Ami came over! It was rather unexpected and I had just made a dreadful mess in the kitchen. *laughs* I’m sure I looked a fright, flour all over. I was mortified, yet she wasn’t put out. Not one bit. Just picked up a rag and started cleaning! She claimed me as a sister that day and we have been, ever since. I truly don’t know what I would do without her.

Sister friendships are priceless. And it sounds like you admire Ami a good deal. Who else would you say is a personal hero?

It’s no secret where Ami gets her courage. Healer Aliza gave up her home for love, came to a village on the edge of nowhere that feared her, and had kids of her own yet still found room for the lonely girl a cottage over. I aim to be her one day.

What a wonderful legacy to leave. Any other hopes for the future?

I do miss my friends in the mind world terribly. Especially Leal. That boy never failed to bring me a smile. I know there is no going back, so I’d like to find a way of honoring their memory here. Perhaps write their stories down. Tell the lives I know, imagine where they could be now. After all, I’ve got Stella to help.

I think that’s a lovely idea! Come to me if you need anything. I’m more than happy to help.

Many thanks, I certainly shall!

*Consults list* Looks like that’s a wrap! Thank you again for sharing so much with us. It’s been truly inspiring.

It was my pleasure entirely.

And thank you, dear readers, for joining us! I do hope you’ll return for our next stop on the tour!

*Exit together deep in writerly discussion.*

Lineup

Ready for more? You’ll have to wait till tomorrow I’m afraid 😉 Here’s what you’ve got to look forward to in the upcoming week:

January 19 Candice Yamnitz: Book Spotlight (https://candiceyamnitz.com/2021/01/19/book-spotlight-to-slay-a-curse/)

January 20 M.H. Elrich: Author Interview (https://mhelrich.com/author-interview-rae-graham/)

January 21 Cheyenne van Langevelde: Review & Author Interview (https://thedancingbardess.wordpress.com/2021/01/21/to-slay-a-curse-review-interview-with-author/)

January 22 Tamika Doyle: Book Spotlight (http://standingstronginthechristianwalk.blogspot.com/2021/01/book-spotlight-to-slay-curse-by-rae.html)

January 23 Emily Hayse: Review (https://emilyhayse.com/2021/01/23/to-slay-a-curse-tour-stop-review/)

Want to know more about To Slay a Curse? Check out my Books page!

Launch Festivities!

Happy New Year, everyone, and welcome to 2021! Rather than ending the year with a bang, I’m launching it with one 😉 Just two weeks till To Slay a Curse is out in the world! While I don’t have a full-blown party for you, I do have a couple fun activities coming up to celebrate.

Photo Challenge + Giveaway

For the week leading up to release, I’ll be hosting an Instagram photo challenge with a giveaway for both US and International participants! Just make a post following the day’s prompt with #ToSlayACurseChallenge and you’re entered to win. Pop over to Insta for all the rules!

Release Day Q&A

Mark your calendars for January 16 at 7! I will be going live on Facebook and Instagram to answer all your To Slay a Curse questions. Want to know my inspiration for the story? Have a question for one of my characters? Just curious about my writing process or publishing journey? Drop your queries in the comments and show up to find out!

Blog Tour

No graphic for this one as it’s not official yet😅 But, I’m planning a small blog tour for the week following release! It will include an array of posts featuring interviews, reader’s thoughts, and more. Check back here Jan 17 for all the info!

And, of course, my pre-order campaign is still running! If you want your swag, be sure to upload your receipt to the form on my Books page 😉

Phew! That’s quite enough to be getting on with, don’t you think? I’ll be busy as a bee in Jan, so perhaps I’ll get the luxury of being the lump on a log come Feb 😛 How are you kicking off the new year?

Meet the Cast: LOTR Edition

Just over a month till release! Which means it’s time for more consistent About The Book posts 😉 Starting with character intros, of course! Today features Lord of the Rings typecasting. Because seriously, what else do you expect of me? 😛

Main Characters

Giselle: The Unlikely Hero. She’s shy and in way over her head, but she’s not gonna quit!
Ami: The Bold Woman. She has opinions and is not afraid to share them, but she’s also got a pronounced soft side. Very much the mom of the group.
Eamon: The Loyal Friend & Protector. He’s always there, hovering in the background. Doesn’t say much, but when he does it means something.

The Villains

Devoron: Fearsome Monster. A parasitic horror created by arts of the Dark Power. Sadistic creature that will inflict pain for the slightest offense.
Ackley (Giselle’s Uncle): Bitter Old Man. A tragic past and painful infirmity have made him hard. Drowning in bitterness, he vents his rage on Giselle in any way he can, but most often with his fists.
Rajani: Evil Wizard. Creator of the curse and the Dark Power’s most prominent servant. Will do anything to maintain his status.

Side Characters

Lord Elden: Noble Leader. Champion of the downtrodden. Will drop a high-profile mission to escort a pair of peasant women through a deadly wood, just cause he was there. (And I guess you’ve now figured out my fave LOTR men 😉 Also Faramir, but unfortunately I didn’t write one of him 😦 )
Gil & Leal: Overeager sidekicks. Hyperactive cinnamon rolls who try so desperately to be helpful, but usually end up in trouble. Nothing much phases them, even when it should. (These two were seriously so much fun to write!)
Creative One: Christ Figure. I recon this one’s pretty obvious 😛 Mysterious character no one really knows or takes note of till they need him. Rae’s attempt at Aslan LOL (Again, what else do you expect of me 😛 )

And that’s a wrap! Who are you most looking forward to meeting? Also, who’s your fave LOTR dude? Oh, and don’t forget to preorder for swag! Character art of the MCs done by none other than Laura Hollingsworth! There’s a link to the swag form on my Books page.

To Slay a Curse Preorders

To Slay a Curse releases January 16! Preorders are now live and signed copies are available in my shiny new shop! (US ONLY) Check my Books page for buy links.

I also have my very own Laura Hollingsworth art, and so can you 😉 All preorders will receive a set of these gorgeous character cards. (ebooks: virtual set, paperback: 4×6 postcards) Just submit your receipt to this Form. Open through launch day!

To Slay a Curse Cover Reveal

At long last, today is Cover Reveal Day! It’s so surreal to be doing one of these for my own book baby, and I couldn’t have asked for a better cover to do it with 😊 A big thanks to Magpie Designs for the spectacular work 😍

Blurb:

A parasitic monster. A timid young woman. A deadly inner world.

Giselle is cursed. A monster lives within her, preying upon her mind. She sees no hope for her future when thoughts disappear as they form, and every small pleasure is met with a fit of pain. Then her closest friend offers her a single, harrowing chance at freedom. Terrified that failure is inevitable, but desperate for the life stolen from her, she sets out to slay her curse armed with a magical talisman. Now, the girl who can’t do anything right must defeat the beast within before her dreamsnare fills, or risk dying trapped in her own mind.

Releases January 2021!

Add it on Goodreads

To Slay a Curse

I’ve just realized that not only have I dropped the ball updating this page, but I’ve been quite remis in posting about my upcoming novel. So today, I’m going to introduce you to my first book baby!

To Slay a Curse is a YA Fantasy about a young woman cursed with a parasitic monster preying on her mind.

A parasitic monster. A timid young woman. A deadly inner world.

Giselle is cursed. A monster lives within her, preying upon her mind. She sees no hope for her future when thoughts disappear as they form, and every small pleasure is met with a fit of pain. Then her closest friend offers her a single, harrowing chance at freedom. Terrified that failure is inevitable, but desperate for the life stolen from her, she sets out to slay her curse armed with a magical talisman. Now, the girl who can’t do anything right must defeat the beast within before her dreamsnare fills, or risk dying trapped in her own mind.

It’s slated to release early January and is now up on Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55513178-to-slay-a-curse

I’ve got a lot coming down the line for this and will do my best to update here. But if you don’t want to miss anything, please follow my Instagram https://www.instagram.com/writerraesbooknook/ or consider joining my street team Sisterhood https://www.facebook.com/groups/2528123980650089

Red Warnings

A dire warning. A cursed cloak. A wolf that steals one’s soul. What’s more fitting for Halloween? If you like Little Red and Werewolves, you’ll enjoy this! I’d give it a PG 13 rating for some darker themes and a little blood.

All my life I have been warned. Mother had a list. Don’t play in the river, you’ll catch a cold. Don’t pet stray dogs, they carry disease. Don’t scowl so much, your face will stick. The boys will break you. The woods will kill you. And the wolves will steal your soul. But there is one warning that stands out from the rest.

“Listen well, Little Rose,” Granny said on my birthday, handing me a package. Inside was a fur cloak dyed a deep red. I brushed my hand across the soft pelt and gasped at an odd tingling in my fingers. Granny pulled my hand back and held my gaze. “This cloak holds a great power, one that can protect but may just as often destroy. You will learn to use it properly in time. Till then you must never put it on if I am not there.” This is the only warning she has ever given, and the only promise she has ever asked of me.

*****

I trudge, grumbling, through the whirlwind of snow. Where has that girl gotten to? She was right beside me not five minutes ago. Honestly, how many times must I remind her to stay within shouting distance? I stop again to peer about me. With hair that dark, my wayward sister should be a beacon in this pale storm. But I can’t see far through the thick, soft white. I will have to rely on my ears.

“Lilly!” As soon as the cry leaves my throat, I know she will never hear it. The howling wind yanks fiercely at my braid and claws through my threadbare skirt. I hug the basket to me in an effort to keep both the fresh bread and myself warm. I have the cloak with me, of course. I carry it always, hoping Granny will give me another lesson. But no matter how the cold bites, I will not put it on alone. I made a promise.

I stumble on. Every moment the storm grows more frantic and I with it. How could I have lost her again? If mother were here … but no, don’t even think that far. Mother is gone and never coming back. This bundle of raven haired, bright eyed curiosity is all I’ve got left, and if I don’t find her soon…. But not to worry! Not to worry, we are well overdue at Granny’s by now. Surely, she will have sent someone to fetch us. Perhaps Lilly’s there now. That’s when I hear the scream.

Running blind, I head in the direction of the marrow-freezing sound. “Lilly! Lilly!” Another scream, much closer now. Then silence. A few more feet and I stumble over something in my path. Sprawled upon the snow, I take little notice of my scattered belongings. What draws my attention instead is the nightmarish form I fell over. My sister, bloodless pale, lies contorted under me. A dark shadow lurks behind.      

Watching her dark blood pool against the blinding snow, something snaps within me. Warnings and promises alike dissolve in the heat of my fury and fear. Snatching up my death-red cloak, I throw it on, staggering at the power coursing through me. I’ve had very little training yet; instinct will have to do. The shadow leaps forward and a viselike grip encompasses my chest. My nails elongate just in time, sharpening as I shove back hard. A loud crack. Moans fill the air. I’m now snarling above a cowering huntsman.

“Please,” he begs, “I didn’t realize! It’s so hard to see.” But there is no feeling left in me. I lunge.

It’s over quickly and I stand panting in the cold; even this pelt is not enough to block the chill residing within me. I have never before felt this emptiness from the cloak. I want to take it off, shove it away, but find that I can’t. No matter how hard I try to stand, how viciously I tug at the red fur, it will not be moved. And that is when I finally understand. My howl cuts straight through the sharpest wind and echoes across the woods.

I should have heeded the warnings. I should have kept my promise. For the Wolf has stolen my soul.

Breathless Slippers

Like most girls, I was a bit obsessed with dance as a kid. I would have birthday parties at the theater and took ballet till I was twelve. I wasn’t very good. I still can’t do a split or even touch my toes. But I loved getting to perform with my friends! I very rarely get to see a ballet now, but when I do I always come away wishing I hadn’t given it up. It’s this wish that inspired today’s story.

It can happen faster than thought: this loss of breath. Not twenty-four hours before, the slippers had been breathing deep under the spotlight. The dancer leaped skillfully across the stage. Now, the battered apparel lay in a small box, staring breathlessly up into the young woman’s tearstained face. Slowly, the lid closes.

The darkness is immediate, pressing surprisingly heavy against the delicate satin. A musky smell, like old fur coats and mothballs, wafts through cracks in the box. They hear the creaking of the wheeled chair moving in the distance. Abandoned to this silent, stifling, dark, they wait for the time they might breath. Breath again in the spotlight. 

It’s not till a year later that the dark lifts. The suffocating slippers gasp in a desperate breath. The face above them is no longer tearstained. Instead, the dancer stares hollowly at the ragged mementos for several minutes, then sighs and closes the lid once more. Another year passes before the light shines in. The slippers find their breath hard to draw and the dark quick to return.

This ritual is repeated another year, and another, and again, until the slippers can no longer find the strength to breathe. They try to wait patiently. But after so long hiding in the dark, they begin to forget what life in the spotlight was like.

After nearly a decade, resignation settles so deep within the shriveled hearts of satin that they no longer try to breath. It takes a beat too long to notice the light’s return. Two beats too long, staring morosely up at watery brown eyes, to see the slight glimmer of hope within. But they notice immediately when long fingers gently lift them out of their dark prison. For the first time in a long time, their gasp is not born of desperation.

Resting comfortably on the soft cotton of their dancer’s dress, the astonished slippers look eagerly forward as she carefully wheels her way to a new room. There, a strange man lifts them up to hang high on a pink wall, just above a crib. Staring down at the sleeping baby, the slippers begin, very slowly, to find the strength to breathe.

The years pass. With each one, they breathe more freely as they watch the young girl grow. They watch and remember what the spotlight was like. Yet they are content to live out their days here, watching over this beautiful charge now grown into a strong young lady. They no longer wait in vain, longing for the bright lights and hard stage.

And so, they are startled by a sudden gust of wind as they are pulled down. The woman looks lovingly at them lying in her daughter’s hands and nods. The slippers hold their breath as smooth young feet slip into them once again. As the cool floor slips away under their quick movements, they finally breathe deeply. They breathe and live again in the spotlight.

It’s not “Happily Ever After,” but they live until new slippers can be bought to take their place. For them, it is enough. And the woman smiles.

Introducing Rae’s Writing

I’m going to start a new thing where I post some of my shorter works every now and then. I really wanted to set this up on it’s own page, but I suck with computers and couldn’t figure out how to have two separate blogs on the same site. So for now, they will go up here and you can find them all together under the category ‘Rae’s Writing’ on the sidebar. Hope you enjoy!

Here’s my first entry. It’s a travel piece I did in college about when I lived in Istanbul.

Finding a Place Among 15 Million

A wail pierced the night and soon became a chant. I was ripped from the thin veil of sleep I had just managed to pull over my eyes. Within seconds, the chant was taken up in all directions. With the wailing came the howling of the stray dog packs that took possession of the vacant lot next door. “Ughh! How will I ever sleep here?” Mosques weren’t exactly a new thing for me, but I had never been near ones fully equipped with very capable loudspeakers. At least three within hearing range, and none of them quite in sync.

            By the time I moved, nearly five years later, I had gotten used to it. There came a point when I would sit near the window through the whole call to prayer and not realize I had heard it until it was over. Nevertheless, those first few nights were rough. Battling jet lag at the same time wasn’t much of an advantage either. It was better during the day. Not that the call was any less earsplitting or disruptive, but it was tempered with the noise of the busy city. I had to listen for it over the rumble of buses and cars as I made my way to church on Sunday mornings with my family.

            Boarding the bus, I would scan my akbil to pay for the ride and try to find a seat. There often wasn’t one. I soon mastered the art of staying upright on a crowded bus that was constantly lurching forward and stopping abruptly. I distracted myself in these less than ideal situations by watching out the window. As I passed the crowds of people and cramped buildings, I realized how lucky we were to have found such a great place to live.

            In Istanbul, a city housing 15 million and spanning two continents, there is not much room for any one person. However, we were blessed with a standalone apartment building containing a small, nicely tended, garden. There was a scrap yard across the street, but at least no windows looking in on us. And though the empty lot next door provided the dogs with a congregating spot (and the stench from the animals housed there at Ramadan was certainly not pleasant) we were far better off than many others.

            As the bus crested one of the many hills it traversed every day, I was given a glimpse of the wonder of this city. The buildings, that up close looked dirty with dust and chipping paint, here became a vibrant mosaic: white, yellow, orange, and pink, and brown, all with red tile roofs running down to meet the glistening curve of the Bosphorus. Which I would then cross by boat.

            Another scan of the akbil, a helping hand to board, and a short swaying walk past the enclosed seating of the first level, where one could buy snacks and tea, and up to the top for a clear view and delicious breeze. That is one of the things I miss most about Turkey. The boat ride, but also the food. Toast (more like an English toastie or a grilled cheese than the American breakfast food); pide and lahmacun (the conquerors of all pizza); iskender, döner, and köfte (savory meat dishes); kebaps; and for special occasions, baklava and sütlaç! But I digress.

            Once docked, the ripe smell of the fish market met my nose. From there it was just a short walk to the metro and then onto Istiklal Caddesi (or Independence Avenue). “Now, I heard there was supposed to be another demonstration today,” my mother would say, “so we have to be careful.” Right, because Istiklal wouldn’t be Istiklal without some form of protest. But the protests were generally peaceful, not much more than a small group holding signs and some riot police standing by just in case. More importantly, they generally took place at the opposite end of the street from us. Although, Istiklal has won itself international fame for the demonstrations that became rather violent a couple years back.

            Despite this, I always liked Istiklal. A long, cobbled street, displaying some gorgeous architecture. With quaint red and white trams running through its middle, it is home to some superb restaurants and splendid shops. Most tourists like to visit the grand Hagia Sophia and the fragrant Spice Bazzar. I thoroughly enjoyed my bit of this typical experience; however, I found a shop I much preferred to visit. I only went in a few times and was never able to buy anything, but it was more astounding to me than any amount of refurbished paintings or tasteful cooking supplies. Somewhere in the press of buildings on Istiklal Caddesi is a small second-hand shop most wouldn’t see unless they knew it was there. Inside is a treasure house. A labyrinth of cultural artifacts, lightly coated with dust under dim lighting, and exuding a musty sent. Faded fezzes, rusting swords, tapestries woven in rugs, furs, pipes, and elaborate dresses fit for a sultana. Many of the objects came from the sets of old films, or so I was told.

            Emerging from the magical closet, my path led back to the teeming dock, over the rippling river, onto the bus stocked with a myriad of people, and into the apartment with a yard and empty lot. There to have dinner and listen to the symphony on the loudspeakers once again. And so I adapted to much more than a call from a mosque. I imbibed the sights, smells, tastes, and feelings of this vibrant culture and found my home, my place among 15 million.