I’m delighted to be playing host today for the first book tour to visit Books Are Cool this year. What a great way to start 2017. I’ll be presenting my review of the book, and then there’s an extract for you to enjoy. Finally, don’t forget to enter the giveaway, which you’ll find at the end of this post.

Review

The Elusive Elixir is the third book in Gigi Pandian’s Accidental Alchemist Mystery series. The two previous books are The Accidental Alchemist and The Masquerading Magician. However, like I did, you can jump into the series here and still thoroughly enjoy the book. The author gives enough background details along the way, without ever info-dumping, for the reader to get up to speed with current events. I shall be reading the first two books now. I might be doing things backward, but with these books in which backward alchemy has such a part to play, then I feel justified!

The action takes place in Paris and Portland as Zoe Faust, our alchemist heroine who is somewhere around 300 years old having discovered the Elixir of Life, tries to find a cure to help her dear gargoyle friend Dorian from turning back into stone. She has to foray into the dark world of backwards alchemy, and places herself into considerable danger. Events and people from the past come back into her life to cause her rather a lot of trouble.

This is a fabulously original book, and series, combining those formidable looking gargoyles of Notre Dame cathedral with alchemy. The author lends her own twist to the magic with her idea of backward alchemy, and the mysterious books of alchemy that Zoe is so eager to get her hands on. Zoe is a lively, interesting character, full of courage and initiative. Dorian is a wonderful counterpoint to her, with his, dare I say it, stereotypically slightly grumpy Frenchness and love of food! He’s irrepressible, even when facing such an uncertain future. Luckily he’s as resourceful as Zoe, as things don’t quite go the way she planned.

There’s a fascinating cast of rounded characters all bringing their own action and interest to the story too, including Max, her calm, understanding boyfriend, and Brixton, her typical-teenager friend. There are secondary strands to the story making for a very rewarding, rich experience. It really is an absolutely delightful novel to read.

Here’s the first chapter so you can see for yourselves:

Chapter 1 of The Elusive Elixir by Gigi Pandian

The woman was still behind me.

She was so close to me on the winding, irregular stone steps inside Notre Dame Cathedral that I could smell her breath. Sourdough bread and honey.

I could have sworn I’d seen her at the boulangerie near my apartment earlier that morning. Now her unwavering gaze bore into me. She must have been at least eighty and wasn’t more than five feet tall. She didn’t fit the profile of someone worth being afraid of. Most people would have dismissed it as a coincidence.

Unless you’re someone like me, who always has to be careful.

We emerged from the cramped corridor onto the narrow Gallery of Gargoyles, high above Paris. I shielded my eyes from the sun. A warm wind swept my hair around my face as I looked out through the mesh fencing that covered the once-open balcony.

The gargoyle known as Le Penseur, “The Thinker,” sat regally with his stone head turned toward the City of Lights, as he had for over 150 years. Unlike my friend Dorian, this gargoyle of Notre Dame wouldn’t be stepping off his stone mount.

For a few brief seconds, the stunning details Eugène Viollet-le-Duc had added to his chimeras all those years ago made me forget about the woman. The grandeur even made me lose sight of the real reason I was at Notre Dame that day. My quest was never far from my thoughts, but for those fleeting moments, I allowed myself the space to appreciate the splendor of the craftsmanship of generations of artists and laborers.

A girl around eight years old squealed in delight as she noticed a set of smaller gargoyles perched overhead, grinning maniacally at us. Her younger brother began to cry. His father explained in a thick Welsh accent that gargoyles weren’t to be feared. They weren’t even real, for Heaven’s sake! His father was right—in this particular case.

If I didn’t get rid of my shadow and get what I needed here at Notre Dame, the Welshman’s words would be true for all gargoyles, including my best friend. I followed the tight walkway for a few steps until I saw it. An unfinished slab of limestone where a gargoyle might have perched.

This was the spot.

I glanced behind me. The woman stood a few paces away. In stylish sunglasses with a perfectly knotted silk scarf around her spindly neck, she was simultaneously frail and glamorous. Unlike the crowd of tourists excitedly scurrying past each other on the balcony that was never meant for this volume of visitors, the woman stood stock still. She held no camera. Her gaze didn’t linger on the dramatic cityscape or on the unique stone monsters that surrounded us.

She looked directly at me, not bothering to conceal her curiosity.

“May I help you?” I asked, speaking in French. Though the woman hadn’t spoken, the style and care of her clothing, hair, and makeup suggested she was Parisian.

She pulled her sunglasses off and clenched them in boney hands. “I knew it,” she replied in English. “I knew it was you.” Her voice was strong, with the hint of a rattle in her throat. The forcefulness of her words seemed to surprise her nearly as much as it surprised me.

My throat constricted, and I instinctively reached for my purse. Empty except for my phone, notebook, wallet, and homemade granola bars packed in parchment paper. I was thankful I’d had the sense to leave Dorian’s alchemy book safely hidden far from me. I willed myself to relax. Things were different now. This wasn’t a witch hunt. Being recognized wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I’d flown from Portland to Paris earlier that week. Because of the urgency of the situation, while I was recovering from an illness and too sick to climb the steps of Notre Dame, I’d stayed busy with people I thought might be able to help me, several of whom blurred together in my mind. Librarians, academics, amateur historians, Notre Dame docents, rare book dealers. Still, I found it surprising that I’d completely forgotten this woman. No, that wasn’t entirely true. Now that she’d removed her sunglasses, there was something vaguely familiar about her?…?And if she was one of the people who worked at the cathedral, that would explain how she was fit enough to keep pace with me on the hundreds of stairs.

“Please forgive me,” I said, switching to English, as she had done. “I seem to have forgotten where we met.”

She shook her head and laughed. “So polite! We have not met. You’re Zoe Faust’s granddaughter, aren’t you?”

I let out the breath I’d been holding and smiled. “You knew Grandmere?”

The woman gave me a curious look, her eyes narrowing momentarily, but the action was so quickly replaced with a smile that I might have imagined it.

“During the Occupation in 1942,” she said. “My name is Blanche Leblanc.”

“Zoe Faust,” I said automatically.

The quizzical look on her face returned.

“Named after my grandmother,” I added hastily, stumbling over the words. I’m a terrible liar. Personally, I think it’s one of my more endearing qualities—who wants to be friends with someone if you never know if they’re being honest?—but in my life it’s also a most inconvenient trait. “It’s lovely to meet you, Madame Leblanc.” That was a lie too. I’m sure she was a nice person, but I didn’t need this complication.

Three out-of-breath tourists, the stragglers of our group, burst through the top of the winding stairway. While they caught their breath, I led Madame Leblanc away from the crowded section of walkway next to the gargoyles. There wasn’t much space on the gallery, but by stepping back a few feet, at least we wouldn’t be jostled.

“You look so much like her,” Madame Leblanc said, speaking more softly now. “When I was a young girl, my mother once brought me to her shop. What was the name?”

“Elixir.”

“Yes. Elixir. Many foreigners left Paris, but your grandmother stayed and helped people during the war. Her healing remedies saved many lives. But then she left. After the fire?…?”

I returned her sad smile. These days, people think of me as an herbalist. In the past, people thought of me as an apothecary. Not many people have ever known the truth, that I’m an alchemist.

I’ve never gotten the hang of turning lead into gold, but ever since I was a small child I’ve been able to extract the healing properties of plants. My ability to heal people was one of the things that made me think my accidental discovery of the Elixir of Life wasn’t entirely a curse. But the dangers of living a secret life created a heavy burden. My “grandmother” Zoe Faust is me.

Since I’ve always been good with herbal remedies, I’ve been able to help both sick and injured people. And war often leads to far too many of both.

“Yes,” I said, “Grandmere finally left Paris to help a family that was fleeing with a child too sick to travel.”

Madame Leblanc’s painted lips quivered. “My first thought was the right one, n’est pas?” Her silk scarf swirled in the wind.

“Are you all right?” I asked.

“Don’t touch me,” she hissed, twisting away from me. “My mother was right. You are a witch.”

The Gallery of Gargoyles was loud with the excited voices of tourists of all ages, but suddenly I couldn’t hear anything except the beating of my heart. The multilingual voices of the tourists around us dissipated as if sucked into a vortex. It felt like the only two people left on the Gallery of Gargoyles were me and Madame Leblanc. My stomach clenched. I wished I hadn’t eaten a hearty breakfast from that boulangerie. “You’re confused, madame.”

“You were in your late twenties then. You have not aged a day. There is no anti-aging cream that good. I know. I have tried them all. You stand before me through witchcraft or some other deal with the devil.”

I choked. “I’m told my grandmother and I look very much alike,” I said, trying to keep my breathing even. “These things happen—”

“I am eighty-two years old,” Madame Leblanc cut in. “My eyesight is not what it once was, but my hearing is perfect. Even with the cacophony around us, I would know your voice anywhere.”

“I’m told that I sound like her, too—”

“I remember the voice of the soldier who told me that my father was dead.” Her words were slow. Crisp. “I remember the voice of the nurse who handed me my healthy baby girl. And I remember the voice of the apothecary named Zoe who saved many lives in Paris—but not that of my mother.”

Momentarily stunned by the heartfelt speech, I was at a loss for words. I looked from the woman to the gargoyles surrounding us then out at the Eiffel Tower stretching into the blue sky, Sacre Cour’s man-made grandeur, the flowing river Seine, and wisps of smoke from chimneys. Air, earth, water, fire. Elements I worked with and craved.

“I don’t know what sort of bargain you made with evil forces to be here today,” Madame Leblanc said, her voice nearly a whisper, “but that woman was not your grandmother. She was you. I know it is you, Zoe Faust. And I will find out what you are. You cannot hide any longer.”

 

Gigi Pandian

on Tour

January 9-20

with

the-elusive-elixir-cover

The Elusive Elixir

(mystery / paranormal mystery)

Release date: January 8, 2017
at Midnight Ink

ISBN: 978-0738742366
336 pages

 

SYNOPSIS

Dorian Robert-Houdin, the three-and-a-half-foot gargoyle chef who fancies himself a modern-day Poirot, is slowly turning into stone, and it’s up to Zoe Faust to unravel the alchemical secrets that can save him. When they discover that a long-lost stone gargoyle with a connection to Dorian has reappeared in Europe, the stakes are even higher.

From Portland to Paris, Zoe searches for the hidden knowledge she needs, but a cold case that harkens back to 1942 throws her off course. With an ailing friend desperately trying to discover his own elixir of life and a new romantic interest offering the first chance at love she’s had in nearly a century, Zoe is torn between a dangerous form of alchemy and her desire for a safer life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gigi Pandian

USA Today bestselling author
Gigi Pandian
spent her childhood
being dragged around the world
by her cultural anthropologist parents,
and now lives outside San Francisco
with her husband
and a gargoyle who watches over the garden.
Gigi writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries,
Accidental Alchemist mysteries,
and locked-room mystery short stories.
Gigi’s fiction has been awarded the Malice Domestic Grant
and Lefty Awards,
and been nominated for Macavity and Agatha Awards.

Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter

Subscribe to her newsletter

Visit her Gargoyle photography blog: http://www.gargoylegirl.com

Pre-order the book: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Midnight Ink

***

You can enter the global giveaway here
or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
they are listed in the entry form below
.

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open to all:
1 winner of a Grand prize:
the first two books in the series
(The Accidental Alchemist and The Masquerading Magician)
plus a set of gorgeous 7 book-themed recipe cards

***

CLICK ON THE BANNER
TO READ REVIEWS AND EXCERPTS

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I’m very happy indeed to be today’s host for Margo Wilson’g virtual book tour with The Main Ingredient. This is a very enjoyable book to read. For those who like to genre-alise their books then I suppose ‘cosy mystery’ is where this fits best, but I rather cringe to use that term. It doesn’t do the books that fall into it justice because, like  The Main Ingredient, they are thoughtful, intelligent and subtle, with touches of humour and deep, fascinating characters. There may not be the murder or multi-million dollar fraud or threat to world peace on every page which mainstream thrillers seem to demand, but cosy mysteries reflect real life far more closely. Petty rivalries and relatively minor incidents can become all-consuming and dangerous when you’re caught up with them.

In this story, West Coast food editor Wendy Whitby returns to her home town of Weewampum to be with her dying mother. But her stubborn mother is determined to prolong this as much as possible. To keep her busy, Wendy helps old school friends Amber and Merribeth with their newly-opened restaurant, Amberosia’s. Amber and Merribeth are almost polar opposites in terms of personalities and Wendy fits in somewhere in-between, giving us an intriguing trio of heroines.

Local politics rears its ugly head as a proposal is made to move the hospital from its current downtown location so someone rather fancier. This will be the death of the downtown area so many residents oppose this idea and make Amberosia’s their headquarters. This brings the restaurant into the centre of attention, so when it burns down, then it seems clear it wasn’t an accident. The Fire Marshal believes that too, only he’s convince that the trio did it themselves to get the insurance money. It’s look rather grim for the girls so Wendy spearheads a campaign to find out the truth. However, this stirs up a hornet’s nest of old grudges and skeletons in cupboards and several people have to make hard decisions.

There is a lot of depth and humanity to this novel. It’s a joy to read, and there are tempting recipes to try too.

You can buy the book here.

margoAuthor Margo Wilson has always had a very active imagination and soon learned that words have power and beauty. This led her to polish her creative writing skills and as a result, she landed a job teaching writing at California University of Pennsylvania and snagged a book contract with Ramsfield Press. She’s currently working on a memoir about travel and taking a journey, and a series of novels about a dog who … well, let’s all she’ll tell us. Although she grew up in Wisconsin, Margo has lived in Indiana, Canada, and California. She makes her home in Southwestern Pennsylvania, with her menagerie of animals.

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This collection of tough, urban reality short stories, You Are Here, by Joe Boland, are set in Romville, a fictional town in Connecticut. They are told in a direct, no-frills style. Hardships and horror aren’t damped down, and the language is uncompromising too. But in the same unexaggerated way, there is dark humour and also trust, loyalty, and love. There may not be much of these last three, and sometimes the characters don’t even recognise it, but it is there and it gives just enough hope to keep humanity hanging on. The people we meet see what’s bad and good in others, and in themselves too, and don’t gloss over any failings and disappointments.

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The stories are This Story, Well She Killed Me, Where the World Goes When It Goes Away, Division Street, Dreamy, My Life Up To Now and Not a Word. Between them they demonstrate the creativity and versatility of the author. Whilst all fall into the genre of noir, they are all original and quirky and peopled by unique characters. There are no stereotypes but sharp insights into personalities and somewhat bleak situations.

You Are Here is a refreshing, rewarding, unconventional collection of stories for someone who enjoys a more challenging read.

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The book is available from http://www.ramsfieldpress.com/ and also from Amazon.

Joe Boland’s website is here.

His Facebook page is here.

As part of her virtual book tour for Go Publish Yourself, Katie Salidas is stopping by at Books Are Cool today, at least virtually! (And today is Katie’s daughter’s birthday too – happy birthday!)  I asked Katie some questions about her book, her writing and herself.

1.    What inspired you to write Go Publish Yourself?

It started as a collection of blog posts. I spent about 6 months writing on topics about self-editing, self-publishing, and marketing. The posts were very popular and the feedback I received was wonderful. It was then that my editor suggested I put everything together in a nice easy-to-read format. That’s when Go Publish Yourself took shape. It’s a handy dandy quick reference guide for all levels of self-publishers.

2.    Why did you feel there was a need for your take on the issue of self-publishing?

Through my own process of trial and error, I found that there was so much that I didn’t know. I wished that I had a book like this when I started. The books I had purchased were a little out dated and focused more on the print side of things. I thought that if I could touch on every subject in a quick and informative format it would be helpful. A nice quick reference guide that authors can turn to for answers rather than wading through big thick books or searching for hours on the internet.

3.    Go Publish Yourself has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?

No, I cannot take credit for that, but what I can take credit for is finding an awesome cover artist. He’s also listed in the book! Willsin Rowe of Coverage is my go to man for all things covers. He’s done not only this book, but many of my other covers as well.
4.    You also write paranormal fiction. Why that genre?

Oh I love vampires, werewolves, witches, shapeshifters, and all other things that go bump in the night. Well, almost all things. I don’t do zombies. They really creep me out! I know it sounds silly but they do. I can’t even write about them without getting night mares.
5.    Which character from your paranormal books are you most like?

I like to think there is a little of me in all of the characters I write. They are embellishments, exaggerations of traits I know or have.  Nicholas has my snarky attitude, of course, he says the things I won’t say out loud. Alyssa has the naivety I had in youth.  Rozaline had (RIP) my motherly nature. I could go on.
6.    I bet Halloween is fun at your house! Am I right?

Oh I love Halloween. It’s my favorite night of the year.  Halloween is the one night of the year where you can be something different. You get to play dress up again! I love it. And of course my kids have fun too. LoL!!
7.    Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?

I hate to say it, but since my baby boy was born I have not had a chance to read. By the time I get a few free moments of peace, I’m passed out and snoring. LoL. Hopefully when my baby boy is a little bigger and sleeps better I’ll be able to get a few moments to pick up my reading. I have so much to catch up on.
8.    When did you first realize you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?

I’ve been writing since I was a little girl. At the age of 14 I had written my first full-length novel, a novel that was subsequently lost during my move from Texas to Nevada. But that didn’t stop me for long.

I primarily work in Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, but it was my experience in learning how to self-publish that really helped me to understand the behind the scenes business.
9.    What’s the one snippet of advice you would give anyone considering self-publishing?

If you’re going to self-publish, you need to take the time to do it right. One of the biggest reasons that self-publishing had a bad name to begin with is quality. Back before it became more mainstream, self-publishing was super expensive. Editing for example could cost thousands. Many authors couldn’t afford to do it right and self-publishing became synonymous with poor quality. It left a bad taste in many reader’s mouths. Today it is cheaper and much easier to do, but quality is still key. So if you’re interested in self-publishing, take your time, do your research, and put out the best quality product you can.

 

10.    What’s the one best thing and the one worst thing about self-publishing, in your experience?

The best thing is the freedom. I control every aspect of the process. I don’t have anyone else telling me what I can and cannot do. The down side is, I am accountable for the quality of my book. Not that I ever want to put out a bad quality book, but when a reader complains about it, I feel terrible because I could have done better.
11.    OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favourite foods?

Oooh, I love food! I make a mean Beef and Broccoli! But I also love some BBQ ribs. Oooh and Gyros! I love those too. I could do this all day. I love love love food. It’s a reason I haven’t quite dropped all of the baby weight yet. Ha!
12.    And finally, please describe your perfect day away from the computer and writing!

Oh that’s a fun one. I think a perfect day would be one in which I take a real vacation with my family. I’d love to do a Disney theme park! Spend the day in the sun, riding rides, eating good food, taking goofy pictures with my kids, etc.. Yep, that would be perfect!

Finally, my opinion of Katie’s book?

It’s a very thorough and realistic look at the self-publishing process. Katie makes certain you realise that it’s a tough thing to do, that you’re very unlikely to become rich as an indie author and that writing is only half the battle. Marketing is the most difficult and most crucial part. As a freelance editor, I was glad to see her stance in support of getting your indie book properly edited! Katie emphasises the importance of quality in your finished product in terms of its presentation, and she’s quite right.

Katie shares her experience and common sense throughout the whole book. I love her attitude, and her ‘Quick and dirty tips’ that crop up regularly in the text. This is a very well written and helpful book and will benefit everyone who reads it. There was a need for a non-sensational, warts-and-all yet still encouraging book on the subject of self-publishing, and this is definitely it.

Visit Katie’s website at www.katiesalidas.com.

 

Today I’m delighted to be hosting the virtual book tour for Lola James’s Bound to Remember, a paranormal romance and mystery. It’s a modern, fast paced book with interesting  characters and plenty of twists and turns along the way.

Toni is a young doctor, with a deadly reason for forgetting her past. Ben, Nurse Hero, who has a tragic past, is forced from the secluded life he yearns into the public eye. When the two meet, Ben sees a strong resemblance in Toni to an old friend, while Toni can’t resist  Ben.

Kevin, Toni’s jealous ex, gets mixed up in events, and so do various friends and witches. Yes, I said witches! A quick magic spell looks like it might be the solution to a dangerous situation, but there’s a lot more action to come, especially when Hades makes an appearance …

The ending is totally unexpected – and brilliant.

I asked Lola some questions about her book and writing … and shoes!

1. What inspired you to write Bound to Remember?

I wanted a story that included the elements of vampire’s, witches, and the Greek Myths. I love all three and I thought a book like this should have a story.

2. Which character from the book are you most like – Toni, Dawn, Ben, Annie?

I would have to say Dawn. I am not from the south like she is, nor do I have blue eyes or blonde hair, but Dawn is a true friend and a matchmaker which I believe I am as well. =)

3. How has your love of Greek mythology influenced your writing?

I fell for the Greek gods in high school, I mean who wouldn’t, but I am just fascinated by how they can control everything from emotions to elements. I don’t read many paranormal romances with Greek gods in them so I took my chances and wrote the untold story!

4. Bound to Remember has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?

I wish I were that talented. I just picked it from an eBook cover site at random. I only asked that the color of the cover girls eyes be changed to compliment my character Toni.

5. Deep down, would you like to be a vampire? Or a witch?

Haha! I love witches BUT I would love to be a vampire, they are just so cool to me!

6. How many books will there be in the series? Please say ‘lots’!

Ok, lots… lol… I had originally thought of making this series a trilogy (because trilogies are awesome) but some other plans came up when I finished Unbound the book two in the series. So yes, lots!

7. Another book you’ve written is Fate’s Design. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Yes, Megan has very strange and realistic dreams and some come true. Well she and her twin sister embark on a trip to Italy but it’s not fun, wine and relaxation like the one they had hoped. It is a paranormal romance so it gets juicy!

8. Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?

I am late of the Fever series boat but I just fell in love with that series by Karen Moning and I am patiently waiting for the next book in the Sookie Stackhouse Series (you know True Blood).

9. I love how you’ve created blogs for the characters in your books! (http://spellboundseries.blogspot.com/ and http://thefateseries.blogspot.com) But how do you find the time to write all these blogs (including your own) as well as books and maintain a Facebook page on top of everything else in your life? Where do you get your energy from?

Thanks you! They are very fun because you learn a little about the characters personally.

I have a special relationship with coffee and he keeps me wired! Lol Seriously, I wake up between 4 a.m., 6 a.m. (just depends on the morning), and I try to post and schedule all of my blog post for the week on Monday morning. Facebook, I never really log off it (code word addict). I try to interact and connect with my fans or the fans of my book rather, so it’s worth it!

10. When did you first realize you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?

I was young when I decided to write a book but it didn’t become real until I bought my eReader and I discover the Indie route of publishing.

11. What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

This will sound cheesy but it’s true… Just do it! Never let anyone talk you out of your dream. Get a great writing group/partner and let the words flow.

12. What’s the best thing and the worst thing about self-publishing, in your experience?

Having to do it all would be the hardest I wouldn’t say worst, and I mean everything from marketing, publishing, to PR, but on the flip-side I love having my creative control with my books and characters.

13. OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favorite foods?

Thai food, I could eat it every day! I went through a period when gelato was my favorite but the extra pounds quickly helped me get over that.

14. And finally, please describe your dream pair of shoes!

A tall heel about four or five inches, strappy, and hot pink! Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if they were Christian Louboutin!

 

Do buy this great book from a really lovely author.