Annie's Book Stop of Worcester

The little bookstore that's bigger on the inside

 

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on Author Kristina McMorris. Kristina McMorris is the author of two novellas and five historical novels, including Sold on a Monday, which spent five months on the New York Times bestsellers list. Initially inspired by her grandparents’ WWII courtship letters, her works of fiction have garnered more than twenty national literary awards. Prior to her writing career, she owned a wedding- and event-planning company until she had far surpassed her limit of YMCA- and chicken dances. She also worked as a PR director of an international conglomerate, as well as a weekly TV-show host for Warner Bros. and an ABC affiliate, beginning at age nine with an Emmy Award-winning program. She lives in Oregon with her husband and their two sons, ages fourteen and sixteen going on forty.  

 

 

When I asked Kristina to tell us a little about herself and her writing, this was her great response:

 

 

Sure! I’m a native Oregonian (so have never minded the rain!) and married mom of two boys. I consider myself an “accidental author,” since I had no plans of becoming a creative writer until about fifteen years ago, when my grandmother shared a secret collection of her WWII courtship letters from my late grandfather; I loved their story so much that I decided to try my hand at a novel. And ever since then, I continue to come across nuggets of history that are so compelling I can’t help but share them with readers through storytelling!

 

 

Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)

 

 

They most definitely should! Aside from other fabulous indie stores, they can find them at the usual large chains (Target, Walmart, etc) and online retail sites.

 

 

How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?

 

 

Facebook and Instagram are where I typically share big book news and updates. And my e-newsletter (which I send out only a few times a year) is a great way to keep up with my latest. They can sign up easily at http://www.KristinaMcMorris.com

 

 

What was the inspiration for Sold on a Monday?

 

 

As you know, for the characters in this story, their journey all started with a picture—and that’s exactly what prompted me to write the book. When I first stumbled upon an old newspaper photo of four young siblings in Chicago being offered for sale, I was completely stunned. As a mom myself, I wondered what could have possibly pushed a parent to that point. Potential answers to that question ultimately became the foundation of Sold on a Monday.

 

 

 

 

What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?

 

 

I love writing historical fiction for the same reason I love reading it—because it’s what I like to call “literary Advil,” in that you get the sugar coating of a story on the outside without realizing how much good stuff (i.e. history) you’re getting on the inside until you’ve digested it, and think, “Wow, I actually learned a lot too!”

 

 

What else can we expect from you in the near future?

 

 

I’m on the homestretch of writing my latest WWII novel, largely inspired by a secretive branch of British Military Intelligence that is so unique I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before. I can’t share much more yet, but I am SO excited for the book to reach readers soon!

 

 

While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!

 

 

Oh, my goodness—definitely silence. I’m so envious of those cool writers who can sit in a corner at Starbucks or Panera, soaking in all the music and chatter while still somehow churning out coherent chapters. That is definitely not me!

 

 

 

 

Do you have any favorite foods or drinks that must be in the vicinity (or must be avoided) while you’re writing or editing a piece of work?

 

 

Vanilla-almond tea with honey and vanilla creamer in my huge Yeti tumbler, which my in-laws gave me as a Christmas gift. Verges on magical, really. It holds thirty whole ounces, so allows me to keep working for hours before needing a refill.

 

 

That sounds delicious! Thanks for answering these questions for us, Kristina. Stay safe, and good luck on your latest book!

 

 

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on YA author Rachel Hawthorne. She will tell you what other names she writes under, and what types of YA books she actually writes in the paragraph below. I had asked her to tell us briefly a little about herself and her writing, and how she would like us to introduce her, and this was her response:

 

 

Under the name Rachel Hawthorne, I write contemporary and paranormal romance for young adult readers. I’ve also written historical romance for teens under the name Lorraine Heath and Jade Parker. I’ve written a vampire series with my son under the name J. A. London. I enjoy writing books for teens, bringing them stories that are fun to read. 

 

Most of my work for teens, however, has been done under the name Rachel Hawthorne so that is how you may introduce me.

 

 

Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)

 

 

https://www.harpercollins.com/products/trouble-from-the-start-rachel-hawthorne?variant=32205675003938

 

 

How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?

 

 

Check out my website: rachelhawthorne.net

 

 

For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write?  What can readers expect from Trouble From the Start?

 

 

I write stories with emotion, teens usually dealing with an issue and through love finding a way to overcome challenges. In Trouble from the Start, the hero is known as a troublemaker at school, always getting into fights, not making the grades needed to graduate. The heroine graduates in the top of her class is the perfect student. He and the heroine are at odds—then her cop father brings him home to live with them for the summer. And she sees a very different guy from the one she knew at school, a guy she finds herself falling for.

 

 

What was the inspiration for [newest release/series release is part of/spotlighted release]? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?

 

 

I like wounded or tormented heroes, and I wanted to write a story about a guy who never seemed to get a break. The hero isn’t the troublemaker everyone thinks he is but pretends to be in order to keep a secret. It’s a story that had been with me for a while. I like stories where opposites attract. Good girl/bad guy. The steps to bring it from inspiration to the finished book mostly involved just writing the story. I don’t outline so I usually have to do several revisions to get it polished and smooth enough for publication.

 

 

 

 

What is your favorite part of being a writer?  Of the whole writing and publishing process?  What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?

 

 

I love weaving stories, creating characters with whom I’d like to be friends, and ensuring everyone gets their happy ever after. The actual writing is my favorite part, falling into the story and seeing where it takes me. I do enjoy the other aspects—polishing it further with the copy editors, seeing it typeset into galleys, getting a peek at the cover. It’s all exciting, but it’s the writing that matters the most to me.

 

The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that I shouldn’t try to second guess what the reader wants in the story. I need to write it as I initially see it. Sometimes an editor will ask for some changes, but the first draft needs to be as I envisioned the story. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Publishing is a team effort. Everyone at the publishing house wants it to be the best story it can be, so I have to be willing to listen to their ideas or suggestions. I don’t have to always take them, but I can’t be offended by them.

 

 

What has been your favorite adventure during your writing career?

 

 

Last summer I went to London and Rome for two reader events. It was wonderful to meet so many readers from other countries. It was also fun to research the areas. Visiting different places tends to open up the well of creativity and start story ideas flowing.

 

 

While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!

 

 

When I’m writing I listen to a thunderstorm CD. I’ve been doing this ever since I started writing more than 25 years ago. It now serves as a trigger that it’s time to start writing.

 

 

What do you consider the most challenging part of the writing process? And how do you overcome that?

 

 

The most challenging part of the writing process is to actually sit down and write the story. As much as I love writing, it always seems a bit intimidating to look at the blank page and to know I have to fill it with words. With 80,000-100,000 words. I tend to think of my stories in terms of scenes. A scene is more manageable than 400 blank pages. So I just have to sit down and write a scene. And then the next scene and the next scene.

 

 

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Rachel!

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is very happy to shine our Friday spotlight science fiction and  fantasy author Catherine Asaro. Catherine has authored about thirty books, including science fiction, thrillers, and fantasy. Her novel The Quantum Rose and novella “The Spacetime Pool” both won the Nebula® Award. She is a multiple Hugo nominee and winner of the AnLab from Analog magazine. Her most recent books are The Vanished Seas and Lightning Strike Book II, both of which came out in July 2020. Her next book will be The Jigsaw Assassin, from Baen/Simon& Schuster.

           

Catherine has appeared as a speaker at many institutions and as a Guest of Honor at cons across the US and abroad. She served two terms as president for SFWA and is a member of SIGMA, a think tank that advises the government as to future trends affecting national security. She danced for many years, both ballet and jazz, and she also appears as a vocalist at clubs and conventions. Her most recent single, the Celtic-themed song Ancient Ages (written by Arlan Andrews) placed on the Blast-FM top 100 in 2020.

 

Catherine can be reached a www.catherineasaro.net, and she has a Patreon page at www.patreon.com/CatherineAsaro.

 

Catherine, the first question we usually ask our authors is, where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)

Well I’d certainly suggest they try Annie’s Book shop first!

My out of print work is available from Starflight Music and Books:  catherineasaro.net/starflight-books-and-music/

My in-print titles can be found at any of the following places:

Amazon.com

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester

Aunties Books

Barnes and Noble

Books a Million

Books & Co.

Books at Park Place

Books Inc

Book Review

Chester County Books

Diesel

Flights of Fantasy

Half Price Books

IndieBound

Joseph-Beth

Mysterious Galaxy

Pandemonium

Poisoned Pen

Powell’s Books

The Twig

Uncle Hugo’s

University of Washington University Bookstore

University of Wisconsin University Bookstore

 

How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?

 

Well, bless your heart, what a nice thing to say. I’m at the following sites:

Catherineasaro.net (newsletter signup at catherineasaro.net/contact/)

http://www.patreon.com/CatherineAsaro

I interact with readers the most on my patreon page. Also, since I now write full-time, the Patreon page helps me support myself and pay the bills.

Other places I can be found are

facebook.com/Catherine.Asaro

twitter.com/Catherine_Asaro/

goodreads.com/author/show/34854.Catherine_Asaro

linkedin.com/in/catherineasaro/

catherineasaro.wordpress.com

For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write?  What can readers expect from The Vanished Seas?

My most recent release is a science fiction mystery. It’s part of the Major Bhaajan Mysteries. These are all stand-alone novels involving the PI Major Baajan. They are mysteries, science fiction, and action adventure.

A lot happened the year I finished The Vanished Seas. My husband became ill and eventually passed away, leading to my being many months late in turning in the book. I can’t stress enough how kind everyone at Baen was to me during this time. I’m fortunate to have such an amazing publisher.

I’m probably best known for the Saga of the Ruby Dynasty, also called the Saga of the Skolian Empire. All my Ruby Dynasty books are available from either Baen or Starflight Music and Books. I also wrote some thrillers and a few fantasy novels, which can be found at Starflight as well. Readers can find more details and a complete list of my books at catherineasaro.net under the menu item “Books.”

What is your favorite part of being a writer?  Of the whole writing and publishing process?  What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?

I’ve always loved to make up stories, ever since I was a child. Even my earliest memories, those hazy images from when I was one or two years old, involved imagining stories in my mind. And they always tended to adventure and science fiction. As to why I was drawn to those areas, I couldn’t say. Perhaps it is encoded in my DNA!

What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?

Keep writing! This field involves a lot of rejection if you go the traditional route, and it can get frustrating. Don’t let it convince you to give up.

How important has the New England setting been to your writing?

I started writing seriously when I lived in Cambridge, MA. I was working on my Ph.D. in Chemical Physics at Harvard. My work involved applying the mathematical methods of physics to problems in quantum scattering theory. Theoretical physics is applied math, which is why at places like Cambridge University in England (the original Cambridge! J) put applied math and theoretical physics together in one department. The Chemical Physics program at Harvard is an interdisciplinary program based in chemistry but spanning the math, physics, and chemistry departments. To get my doctorate, I had to show proficiency in all three areas. My specialty was theoretical atomic and molecular physics. I was doing a lot of math, writing pages and pages of equations, and I needed some way to let my brain rest, a chance to recharge.

So I decided to write science fiction with an eye toward publication. It provided the release I needed. I wrote the first draft of The Last Hawk, a book about role reversal in many different environments. Reversing the roles was cathartic, I think, to help me deal with the environment I encountered on a daily basis. Back then, even less women entered theoretical physics, very few at all. I was one of the first in the chemical physics program. Sometimes I got weary from dealing with it all. Writing The Last Hawk offered a way to handle the stress. I was pleasantly surprised when The Last Hawk received a Nebula nomination in 1999 for best novel.

What else can we expect from you in the near future?

I just sold another novel to Baen, another Major Bhaajan mystery. It’s called The Jigsaw Assassin. Bhaaj gets thrown head first into the monster-infested seas of Imperialate politics! With five cantankerous parties all arguing with each other, all blaming each other for a series of murders, Bhaaj has her work cut out trying to figure out who did what and why.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Catherine!

It is surely an understatement to say that this has been a difficult year for the entire world, still in the throes of a global pandemic.  2021 will be upon us in a few days.  The wider world watches in hopes of a successful vaccine; our smaller worlds of families and friends carry on as best they can.

At our little bookstore that’s bigger on the inside, what comfort we can offer takes the form of words written by others.  Words that can inform, words that can help us escape.  As booksellers, we try our best to offer something for everyone at a time when it’s needed.  We thank you for all your support through 2020, and we look forward to being here to serve you throughout 2021.


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Some things to point out as the Old Year ends and the New Year begins:

1] Further restrictions in store capacity limits have been put in place as of Saturday, December 26th, per the Governor’s Office, and will remain in place until at least January 10th. The new in-store limit is ten [10] persons, which includes customers and staff.  If concerned, please call ahead for a “shop by appointment” timeslot; you can also arrange for curbside delivery or make use of our mail order service.

2] A reminder that due to the continued COVID-19 restrictions, we MUST limit quantities of donated or traded-in books to ONE BAG OR ONE BOX per person per day. The suggested maximum number of books in said box or bag should not exceed twenty [20] books.  This is for your safety so that we can sanitize items before reshelving them.

3] Our hours this week are as follows: MONDAY 12/28 – 9AM TO 8PM; TUESDAY 12/29 – 9AM TO 8PM; WEDNESDAY 12/30 – 9AM TO 8PM; THURSDAY 12/31/2020 [NEW YEAR’S EVE] – 10AM TO 6PM; FRIDAY 1/1/2021 [NEW YEAR’S DAY] – 10AM TO 6PM; SATURDAY 1/2/2021 – 10AM TO 9PM; SUNDAY 1/3/2021 – 10AM TO 5PM.  

4] Between now and Sunday, January 3rd, all *new* holiday books are marked down to 50% off.  Many non-holiday titles are marked down as well, as we get ready to do our annual inventory.  

5] While we still cannot host in-store events such as the Spinning Yarns textile social, the Rainbow Readers LGBTQIA book discussion group, or the DOCTOR WHO monthly meetup, we continue to bring you blog interviews and video meet-and-greets with authors, artists, and creators from all over the world.  Check out our Youtube channel for the latest playlists.

Thank you, as always, for making our shelves your destination.

Photo Credit: Emelia Blazer

 

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on Speculative Fiction author Vivian Shaw.  The first thing I always ask our authors is to tell us about themselves and their writing, and this was Vivian’s wonderful response:

 

 

I write about monsters, machines, disasters, and found family; my short sci-fi/horror fiction has appeared in Uncanny and Pseudopod, and I’m the author of the Dr. Greta Helsing trilogy (STRANGE PRACTICE, DREADFUL COMPANY, and GRAVE IMPORTANCE). I’m originally British, but have been here most of my life, first in Baltimore and now in Santa Fe.

 

I’ve been writing my whole life. I wrote my first novel at 11, because nobody had told me kids couldn’t do longform; it was a pretty terrible novel because I was 11, but also the kind of weird achievement that is immediately and completely addictive; I couldn’t stop. I finished what turned out to be my first urban fantasy trilogy at 13 and promptly went on to create several more fantasy worlds, each a little more sophisticated than the last. Until I went away to college and discovered the wonders of long-form fanfiction, there wasn’t really a year when I wasn’t either planning or in the middle of some kind of original fantasy work – encouraged by my mentor and dear friend, Laura Amy Schlitz, a librarian and author who would go on to win a Newbery Award in 2008.

 

 

Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Shop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)

 

 

https://www.vivianshaw.net/books collects links to several retailers in the UK and US.

 

 

How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?

 

 

I’m on Twitter and Instagram as @ceruleancynic; you can check out links to my short fiction, sample chapters from the trilogy, Varney the Vampyre recaps, book designs, and jewelry on my website at https://www.vivianshaw.net/

 

 

What kind of research went into writing Strange Practice?  What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?

 

 

What became STRANGE PRACTICE was originally a NaNoWriMo novel I wrote back in the dim dead days of 2004, called THE UNDERGLOW, the conceit of which was “how many characters from classic horror literature can I shove into one story while also getting to write about London’s subterranean infrastructure and the cool and scary things down there in the dark?” In its initial form the research was spotty; I spent a long time designing the weaponry and looking up medieval warrior monks, but not enough poring over a map of London to see if my scenarios were actually possible.

 

 

While rewriting it into its current form, however, I took full advantage of Google Street View to see exactly what my characters would have seen on their way from one place to another – including inside the British Museum. (I would go on to do the same with the Paris Opera for the next book. Try it! You get to see the lake!) But the most dedicated and difficult and time-consuming research was, eventually, not to make it into the final draft: the sewers.

 

 

London’s sewer system is largely Victorian and famous for its glazed-brick architecture and complex arching intersections among the kind of urban explorers who specialize in sneaking into sewers and drains, sometimes known as drainers. I haunted drainer websites, reading their photo essays and marking the paths they took on their explorations, and after a while I could recognize a specific intersection or overflow chamber from a single photo. Through this, and an enlargement of the sewer system map circa 1931, I worked out a way for a character to get from Crouch End nearly all the way to the St. Paul’s tube station moving solely through the sewer system. All of which, in its loving detail, ended up being cut.

 

 

I’m okay with that: I got to do the fun part, which was looking it all up and making it work (and in doing so, acquiring a pretty decent understanding of the network of sewer tunnels north of the Thames). Knowing things is always better than not knowing them.

 

 

 

What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?

 

 

I get asked this a lot, and the answer’s “it depends,” which isn’t helpful. It’s not Greta, although I do enjoy writing her a great deal; she’s human, can only do what humans do, and it’s much more fun to write characters who can do things like tie lamp-posts in knots and shapeshift. My favorites are (in no particular order) Fastitocalon, Ruthven, and Samael. I love Sam. He wears white silk suits with no shirts under them and smokes Sobranie Cocktail cigarettes and can turn into an enormous white snake with red-pupiled black eyes and no real concept of personal space, among several other forms. Writing Sam is all competence porn and charisma, both of which are entirely my jam, and also why Ruthven is so much fun to write. He’s got the effortless vampire style thing, he’s extraordinarily beautiful, classy, rich as hell, and sensible on top of it. He’s a philanthropist and a homemaker and now, spoilers for book three, he’s finally not alone.

 

 

Fastitocalon is different. In the first book he suffers from chronic ill-health and is consistently this close to going totally broke, and grimly bears it until others step in to offer help. We’re not quite sure what his deal is – he’s ever so slightly grey, and when he’s angry his eyes take on a faint orange luster, and he can apparently teleport himself and others when called upon to do so, but it’s a little while before the reason for all this weirdness becomes clear. Fastitocalon is stoic and wry and ironic and determined, despite the host of challenges ranged against him, and I do so love writing people who don’t give up.

 

 

What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?

 

 

What Laura told me, all those years ago: don’t stop. If you want to write, then write. That is the fundamental reason that this trilogy is in the world: Laura – a published author! Who read my dot-matrix–printed manuscripts and made careful pencil notes in the margins! – told 11-year-old me not to stop. So I didn’t.

 

 

What are some of your writing-related hobbies, crafts, addictions?

 

 

Like a lot of authors I have a mild to moderate fountain pen problem. (I blame Elizabeth Bear for this; she gave my wife and I our first pens and ink several years ago.) For a while I was not just collecting vintage Sheaffer Balances but actually using them daily, but these days I have my lovely old pens on display to preserve them and am running with modern equipment instead. Between us we have enough ink to float a very small battleship, and we still go nuts whenever one of our favorite ink manufacturers comes out with something new. (Do not even ask me how many notebooks we own.)

 

 

Thanks so much for taking the time out of your very busy day to answer our questions, Vivian!

 

 

If you are looking for something to make your gifts look very pretty and different, we have an item that is quite unique. It is Gift wrap tape by Laughing Elephant, the company that makes the Fridge Magnets and Greeting Cards,  https://laughingelephant.com. As with their other products, the tape has vintage designs on them, and comes in a variety of sizes.

 

 

 

 

The smaller rolls have Winter/Christmas scenes on them, including Christmas trees, sleighs, and Winter villages.

 

 

 

 

The larger rolls have vintage designs on them, with flowers and geometric figures.

 

 

 

 

You can wrap gifts with these, or give some of these as gifts, all for $3.50 a roll!

 

 

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December has both flown by and crawled by for many of us. Today marks the longest night of the year, and each day will grant us a little more daylight, both literally and [hopefully] metaphorically as well. There is hope on the horizon for coming out on the other side of this difficult pandemic year, with vaccines arriving in the distribution pipeline. You, our customers, have been so supportive of us here at our little bookstore that’s bigger on the inside, and we are very, very grateful for your support.  As such, we’d like to remind you of the discounts already in place for our Central Massachusetts community – for educators and for first responders.

Our hours this week and for the rest of the holiday season are as follows:

Monday 12/21 through Wednesday 12/23: 9am-8pm

Thursday 12/24 [Christmas Eve]: 9am-5pm

Friday 12/25 [Christmas Day]: CLOSED

Saturday 12/26: 9am-9pm * Sunday 12/27: 9am-7pm * Monday 12/28: 9am-8pm 

Tuesday 12/29: 9am-8pm * Wednesday 12/30: 9am-8pm

Thursday 12/31/2020 [New Year’s Eve]: 10am-6pm

Friday 1/1/2021 [New Year’s Day] 10am-6pm

Regular Hours Resume Saturday 1/2/2021

We’ve been honoring the current COVID-19 capacity limit protocols set out by the Massachusetts Governor’s Office, but that does not mean that we’ve been idle.  You will definitely want to check out our Youtube channel… we’ve been hosting author talks and interviews, as well as running virtual storytimes.  Visit our playlists, and subscribe to our channel, as we continue to bring you content from around the world!

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Have you been enjoying our Holiday Gift Guide blogs?  We’ve got still more ideas which will be posted over the next week.

A title that we’ve been looking forward to carrying this year… STARDUST & SNOW by Paul Magrs… has just arrived from Obverse Books in the UK.  We interviewed Paul some months ago on our blog, and are delighted to share with you his story of how David Bowie made one young man’s Christmas an utterly memorable and magical experience back in the 1980’s.

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Our publisher specials continue to be popular. We still have some stock on our December titles, and here’s a sneak peek at some of our January picks, with more to come.

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Despite postal delays and supply chain interruptions, we hope we’ve done a good job in bringing in the book selection and sidelines that you want to see from Worcester’s full-service independent bookstore. 

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Thank you, as always, for making our shelves your destination.

—Patty, Michael, Selina, Dot, and Cassandra at ABSW

 

 

 

 

For someone who loves to read, sometimes one book just isn’t enough. When you find a book that has characters and a plot that keeps you riveted to it so that you can’t put it down, generally you like to read more books by the same author. And if that author has written a series, that’s even better! So, what could be a better gift than a boxed set of a series written by your loved one’s favorite author?

We at Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester have several Boxed Sets of books.

Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time Premium Boxed Set 1 contains the first three books in his fourteen book Internationally Bestselling Fantasy series. This series is compared to The Lord of The Rings, and is now in development for television.

Brandon Sanderson is another Epic Fantasy author whose boxed sets we have on hand. These boxed sets by Branson Sanderson all take place in his Cosmere universe, a universe that he has crafted to a perfection.

V.E. Schwab’s The Shades of Magic series is another Fantasy story, this one about Magicians with the rare ability to travel between parallel Londons.

And of course, there is always everyone’s favorite sleuth, Sherlock Holmes.

Don’t worry, though – If you don’t see the set you want here, we are always getting more sets in. You can also order any boxed set you want, and we will even mail it to you!

One of the things that the Pandemic has done this year is to force more of us outdoors to enjoy what nature has to offer. While many people had already made it a normal way to pass the time, more and more people have begun to start walking in the woods, watching the ocean waves, and looking up at the stars.

One way to really understand what you are seeing when you take these walks is to have a field guide with you. Field Guides make fantastic gifts for nature lovers, and there are many different guides for the many different sides of nature.

For example, Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester has many books about birds, and birding. It’s a lot of fun to look up in a tree and be able to identify what bird is hanging out singing to their mates.

If you know someone that is a budding astronomer, or someone who just likes to look up at the stars and planets, we have guides for that, too.

There are field guides for all sorts of things: mammals, fossils, wildflowers, trees, reptiles and amphibians, even mushrooms! If we don’t have it in the store, we can order it for you.

Make someone happy with a field guide filled with beautiful pictures of something that they would love to see in the great outdoors. Spring will be coming soon!

 

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight Children’s Middle Grade Book author Henry Lien. As we usually do in our Author Spotlights, we ask our authors to tell us a little bit about themselves and their writing. I actually had a full video interview with Henry, which everyone can see on Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester’s YouTube channel, but we wanted to give readers a little idea of what they might find out about Henry before viewing the video. To get to our channel, which has all of our author interviews, as well as other things, go to: YouTube Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester. Henry’s interview will be there!

 

 

In the meantime, here are some of Henry’s answers to our questions:

 

 

For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write?  What can readers expect from the Peasprout Chen series?

 

 

The Peasprout Chen books are a fantasy series about a 14 year old girl and her little brother who leave their homeland to travel to a new country to study at a boarding school that teaches a very unusual sport combining figure skating with kung fu.

 

 

 

The New York Times described Peasprout Chen as “Hermione Granger meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets the Ice Capades meets Mean Girls.” But the books are also about girl power, kid power, immigration, sibling relationships, and learning that it’s more important to be good than it is to be special.

 

Even though there are no magical elements, no wizards, no spells, no brooms, no dragons, etc., and the setting is a fantastical East Asian city, everyone says that the books have a Harry Potter feel. I get that. The reason for that is a) the dry humor; b) the intricate puzzle mystery plot structures; and c) the cozy boarding school setting with all the high drama that comes with such a claustrophobic and prestigious environment.

 

 

What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?

 

 

 

 

I love writing the main character of Peasprout because she’s honest in a way that many characters are not. On the one hand, she’s brave, wildly talented, occasionally big-hearted and even noble, a true original, and impossible to forget. On the other hand, she’s self-aggrandizing, self-absorbed, extreme, a bit of a weirdo, and rather lonely.

She’s a real person. She’s not your typical, stoic, self-sacrificing, self-doubting children’s book heroine at all. This is NOT a story about a character finding her power. Peasprout starts out with all of her power, all the powers that anyone could want. Her story is about what happens to your power in a new country and a new school and when it’s sometimes good to let go of a little of your power. She’s a complex, flawed, inspiring, infuriating, real person. She’s not anybody’s wish fulfillment version of a “strong female character”. She’s not candy. 

 

How important has the New England setting been to your writing?

 

 

I went to boarding school at St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH. As an openly gay, minority, immigrant, scholarship, transfer student into the 11th grade from Los Angeles with orange hair and an earring, coming to New England was like being dropped onto a different planet. Boarding school was the most traumatic, magical, traumagical experience of my life. All of Peasprout’s excruciating social faux pas were inspired by my own stumbles at boarding school. All of the heartfelt connections she eventually makes were based on my own friendships at boarding school. So the books are just thickly veiled autobiography. 

 

 

 

Thanks, Henry, for taking the time to answer these questions, as well as for having the interview with me. I hope Peasprout has many more adventures to come!

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