Courtney S. Barr

Welcome to My Kingdom!
Join me, the Princess, on my Royal Adventures in the Land of Writing!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mermaids & Teddy Ruxpin...Gossping with "Dangerous Depths" author Karen Amanda Hooper

Hey Hey Hey Royal Court! We are blessed to have the AMAZING Karen Amanda Hooper joining me in The Royal Courtyard for a sip of sweet tea and some juicy gossiping…us Southerners LOVE a good story…in this case we are gossiping about some people quite close to her heart…the characters of her latest novel Dangerous Depths.  Before we jump into book two in her Sea Monsters trilogy, lets make sure everyone knows our darling guest!

So Karen, welcome, welcome, it is always a pleasure to have a friend stop by for a visit.
Karen Amanda Hooper (KAH): Thanks so much for having me! *sips tea* This is delicious.
The Southern Princess (TSP): I have been extremely blessed to have ‘known’ you around the blogosphere for quite some time now.  Your love of all things Disney has on many previous occasions linked quite well to my own love of the Happiest Place on Earth.  Of all the things we share in common, this one has always been my favorite: people watching at Disney. When I lived in Orlando it was the best location for character research and development. Do you often catch yourself building characters based off of those you encounter in and around the Disney parks?  If so, is there a favorite place in particular in the parks that you enjoy people watching the most?
KAH: Oh, yes. Epcot is my favorite park and there’s a pretty pathway along that water near the back entrance/exit of the World Showcase. It’s awesome for people watching, especially during Food & Wine Festival right after Illuminations when people are leaving the park. You’ll see some real sights after people have been drinking all day. So far I haven’t based any characters off anyone I’ve seen at a Disney park, but it’s bound to happen someday.
Also, my fav spot for relaxing is a hammock on the beach at the Polynesian resort. I can hear many of the sounds from Magic Kingdom as I drift to sleep while swaying in the breeze.
TSP: I mean, honey, if you tell me you saw Treygan wandering near the entrance to the Jungle Cruise, my hubs might not let me go back down there alone…ever.
KAH: *Karen giggles* I did see a guy who resembled Treygan one time on the monorail. I tried to snap a pic with my phone but I wasn’t quick enough. He was fast like Treygan too!
TSP: As for favorite ‘watching’ spots I am pleasantly surprised and thrilled to know that we share the same spot! There at the Gateway to the Worlds (the Boardwalk/Epcot entrance) I also have sat upon benches/low concrete walls that are shaded by the trees in the heat but allow an interesting viewpoint into those traveling between the worlds. You are so right about the drinkers…France and England being right around the bend means wine, champagne and beer…oh how fun it can be! I know those hammocks too, you are right they are lovely.
TSP: I recently was posed a question by my young niece; she asked me “What was your very first book you loved when you were little?” I extend that question to you…
KAH: The first books that I can really remember (and don’t laugh) were my Teddy Ruxpin books. They each came with a cassette tape so Teddy could read me the story, but I preferred the books. The Wooly Whatsit book was one of my favs because of the fobs and Rainbow Falls. *cough* What? Coincidence that I have a rainbow waterfall in my books too?  Yes, total coincidence. ;)  And yes, I still have Teddy stored away in my closet. And some of the books. And my Wooly stuffed animal. And Grubby. *blushes* Next question!
TSP: Lol! I love it…you and my hubs share a love of Teddy Ruxpin (don’t kill me my love)
TSP: Okay before we jump into Dangerous Depths, here is a Random Royal Question from a member of the Royal Court– What character from any movie (any franchise/production company) would best describe your personality & why?
KAH: This is a tough one. Maybe Hannah (Emma Stone) from Crazy, Stupid, Love. We look nothing alike, but her personality in that movie is similar to mine. That awkward but sexy scene between her and Ryan Gosling when she’s no longer bold and confident, but becomes a nervous, rambling mess, that’s so me. Or maybe I just really wish I could make out with Ryan Gosling. ;)
TSP: Ah…yes, that scene is awesome. I always thought he was cute, but that movie did me in – he is hot.
TSP: So, now we are settling in, the cool Southern fall is all around us and we are ready to talk hunky mermen, brooding selkies and the amazing land they all call home.
TSP: There are SO many characters to love in your stories. I really just connected with Yara and everyone she surrounds herself with. Pango is a lot like some of my Southern family. His vernacular, his mannerisms, his demeanor has a pleasant Southern hospitality feeling every time he is in a scene. Is he modeled after anyone in particular?
KAH: I love Pango. And yes, he was inspired by a friend of mine who has a larger-than-life personality. My friend is Cuban and I haven’t seen him in years because we live hundreds of miles apart, but he was such a sweet, warm, bubbly personality that I will never ever forget him.
TSP: In Tangled Tides I really enjoyed the various POVs. Did you find it difficult to add in yet another with Nixie’s POV replacing Treygan’s?
KAH: It wasn’t hard to add Nixie, but it was tough to NOT write Treygan’s POV. Many scenes were itching to be told from his POV, but I knew 4 POVs would be overdoing it.
TSP: This journey that the characters are on is so much more intense than the first (and it was crazy intense in Tangled Tides) for me. I was more on pins and needles with this one. I won’t give anything big away for those who are just now starting this series, but I have to say in Tangled Tides their purpose was a valiant and worthwhile goal – it was perfect, especially for Yara just discovering her lineage. In this story, with the characters more settled in their ‘skin’, they are facing even more tragic and terrifying unknowns, their faith in each other and the bond of love comes into question more than once. How difficult was it to transition into this darker territory where the losses have the possibility of being fewer but might have a greater impact?
KAH: I actually had nightmares! lol. I dream vividly, so while it was fun to write those Harte scenes, it was not fun to experience them in dreams. Especially because one particular nightmare, no one survived. And their deaths were horrific. I actually woke up in tears with my heart racing. It’s much easier for me (and easier on my state of mind) to write the happy, rainbows and butterflies scenes.
TSP: The best theme in the world is love. Here you have it in spades. The love between Treygan and Yara is beautiful.  The yearning Rownan has for Vienna transcends time, but it is the familial bond between Treygan and Rownan; Yara and Nixie; and Lloyd with his two boys and Yara that I loved the most in this one. They are all connected in very different ways and yet they love each other as though there is no difference between them – no selkie vs mer vs siren vs gorgon/human vs Yara’s mottled genetics. It is a pleasurable thing to witness this kind of love.  Is there a relationship from your own personal experience that helped to really tap into this type of connection? If so, would you mind elaborating?
KAH: I think everyone I come in contact with, or even just observe (professional people watcher that I am) has the potential to influence my stories and characters. I’ve had  some really great relationships and some really bad ones, and while I wasn’t consciously using any of my own relationships to write Tangled Tides or Dangerous Depths, I’m sure bits and pieces snuck their way in. To sum it up, I’ll use a quote by Chuck Palahniuk... “Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everybody I've ever known.”
TSP: I am a sucker for quotes! That one is a keeper…
TSP: Okay, here is the reader in me itching to know about what’s yet to come…Are you able to see an ending for this series?  Is it something you already know in your gut? If so, are you happy with what you see? (mind you these Q’s are cryptic in their own way – I in no way want any details, the writer in me knows the sacred vows when it comes to our work, the reader in me is hoping to enjoy this world for as long as possible)
KAH: I’m pretty sure that book 3, Sacred Seas, will be the end of Yara and Treygan’s story. I’ve had a few requests to write a sexy adult spin-off series about the kraken, but I’m not sure where I’d find the time. I have a half dozen other story ideas waiting in line for their turn to be written.
TSP: that is the perfect answer for both versions of me! Lol I love that this will tie up their story but also love that you not only have more offers, but that you have more stories. As a writer there is nothing better than to be flooded with the ideas in our minds and get to explore them. I happily wait for book 3 and the many other exciting things yet to come!
TSP: One last question, if you were Yara, what gift/ability would be your most treasured from her various genetic blessings?
KAH: I can’t choose just one! That’s why I gifted her with so many. lol. I mean, how awesome would it be to be able to breathe and communicate underwater and even see clearly? But then there’s also the awesome ability to fly. And then the whole experiencing other people’s memories as your own? That would be amazing too. I’d treasure all of them.
TSP: I cannot express how fabulous it has been to have you here in the Kingdom!  I am so happy to share in this exciting time for you and cannot wait to read book 3! I hope that you enjoyed this little gossip fest and that you are having a blast visiting everyone’s sites. We are all honored to share in this adventure. It was a pleasure chatting with you. You are welcome in my Southern Kingdom of Gift any time!
KAH: It has been absolutely fabulous being here. Thanks so much for inviting me to the Kingdom. I had a wonderful time. Let’s meet at Epcot soon for people watching! :)
TSP: Yes! We must! It is a small world and as you told me, we might have sat right near one another, watching people unknowing of each other. Hopefully we will get to do it side by side one day and really enjoy the view!

Okay guys, as you can probably tell I LOVE this series. There is not enough to say about the world Karen has created.
My official review:
Dangerous Depths by Karen Amanda Hooper will take you on an adventure that might change your entire view of the world around you. Set within the magical worlds of Rathe, Harte and yes our lovely Earth; Treygan and Yara are thrust into yet another life changing, mind boggling journey. This time they are surrounded by the magical sirens, mer people, gorgons and the scariest villains you may ever encounter between the sheets of paper – these villains hit you where it hurts, they attack without mercy and they take you down in really the worst way possible: from the inside out.
With souls on the line, a love that transcends time, new families, mythology and beautiful scenery Karen carries you beyond the simple sand beach of Eden’s Hammock and directly into Harte, a hell that no one should ever have to encounter. Rownan is determined to bring his wife Vienna back from Harte. It sounds simple, go there, find her and bring her back. But Harte is not your ordinary scary realm. Sure there are monstrous animals, black lakes, no stars, but it is the toll on your soul that makes this journey one that only one other has ever taken & returned. Treygan and Yara could just stay back, let Rownan go, hope for the best and relax enjoying their triumphs, but no. The love exposed in this adventure, the deep bonds of brotherhood, the idea that through faith in one another & hope we can change everything fills each page. Even in their darkest hours, trust me there are dark ones, you hope for them to make it through. This book is worth reading, it will make you laugh, you will chew your fingernails off, have nightmares of Harte, smile at love that is so powerful it can feed the soul and discover whether or not your favorite makes it home or if the whole group stumbles into a darkness where light seems impossible.

Get your hands on this one. Find out if they make it out. Find out if love prevails. Find out what kind of strength can help you conquer your worst fears. Find out if the tide will be your guide...

Okay Royal Court Here are all the important links to make your adventure begin...

Okay, Okay, I know now you are wondering where do you find this book?
Well here are the online links to purchase:

BUT Can I share a Royal secret...? Karen, amazing as always, is GIVING away some copies!!!! You read that right, like as in, you can WIN this fabulous prize package:

~ Signed paperback of Tangled Tides & Dangerous Depths 

~ Two Beautifully Disney nail polishes 
(Ocean Mist--sparkly green, and Diva of the Deep--sparkly purple.)

~ A box of assorted yummy "sprite" treats from Fairy Tale Brownies 
(in honor of the new sprite characters who star in Dangerous Depths.) 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Kingdom Reviews "Reality" by Dani Hart

Happy Weekend my Royal friends!

So today is going to be a little different. I have the honor and pleasure to present to you my review of Reality by Dani Hart! But before we get to this new cast of characters, let me share a little bit about Dani:

My passion for writing started at a very young age. It started with a multitude of diaries as soon as I could write well, then poetry, then short stories. I received my BA at USC in Theatre with an unofficial minor in writing. While at USC I wrote my first screenplay and post-graduation I was hired to write another screenplay, which I did successfully. I have since started several books, but have never had the courage or time to finish them. I missed it, but I was discouraged from my years in the industry and I was scared to go back, so I had convinced myself I was too busy and it would be a waste of time. Then I started reading again which reignited my passion for writing. I started writing a story that had been brewing inside of me over the years. The characters were slowly developing and itching to break out onto paper, so in the summer of 2011 I wrote the first two chapters. Life got busy again and my passion was pushed aside, but then I met an amazing person who loved my story and encouraged me to start writing again. With that said, I am in a happier place now. I am fulfilling my inner desire and passion to write while raising a family and living life. Thank you so much for your support! And I hope to keep the stories coming!!!

I am Arie Belle and up until my mother’s unexpected and mysterious death my life had been pretty simple, but then things became dark and, at times, hopeless. Even my uncanny ability to communicate with nature had turned its back on me. My only saving grace is my lifetime friendship with the boy next door, River, whom I had always thought of as my soul mate up until my eighteenth birthday when everything seemed to change. My body tingles with heightened sensations and my emotions veer out of control. They are further tested when Ashe, a beautiful stranger with a powerful draw, enters my life and challenges my heart and soul. Amidst the rush of feelings after years of numbness, my true destiny slowly unravels and my journey to find out what I am, to find my mother’s killer, and stop my own death becomes a frantic rush before the next full moon. 

This powerful story encaptures the true meaning of love and the dark corners of life that can either suck you in or save you.

My thoughts: This book is a cautionary tale of forgiveness, sacrifice, a mother’s love, friendship and heartbreak. Arie isn’t normal… She has always known that there was something different about her, about her mother and about the world that exists around her. Diving into her story is a tricky thing, she knows nothing about who she really is and yet the answers are everywhere around her.  She is captivated by her best friend and love, River. He is handsome, strong, supportive, understanding and most of all loyal to a fault. They are connected in the most intimate of ways while still maintaining their innocence. She loves him deeply but their love is not simple nor is it metaphorically bulletproof.

At first the book opens not slowly but because you are walking in her footsteps you, the reader, have the same aggravating ignorance as to what is going on. Her mother is a beautiful and ethereal presence; loving, happy and at her best when surrounded by nature. Arie is much the same yet tragedies that are beyond her control try desperately to twist her outlook and to bring her into a depressive state. We travel along Arie’s journey of self-discovery and encounter friendships, loyalties, betrayals and a triangle of lust & love that crosses more than just border towns…just wait until you encounter Ashe! For most of the story we are learning and discovering. There is still a large amount of questions to be answered. Her reality is complex and in the nature of its variables we find that Arie has a long road ahead before she will find what she is searching for.

I enjoyed this story, it was definitely unique in many ways. Dani does a great job of making sure the reader is impacted by Arie’s conflicting emotions. There is just enough danger to make it exciting but at its core this is a story of love – all aspects of the word. Every decision made by each character has some basis of love.
If you are looking for steamy hot guys, friendships that would do anything for one another and the journey of a ‘chosen one’ this book is for you! 

Check out these excerpts (these are the tip of the iceberg, by the way - this book is full of emotion):

“I felt like a butterfly with broken wings, and River was trying to mend me back together. But after a butterfly’s wings are broken it was destined to live a life without flight, and fate’s destiny for me was not to fly. I would never soar above the sorrow and be free from the guilt of those surrounding me whom I would drown in pain.” ~Reality

“He brushed his fingers through my damp hair and then unexpectedly pressed his lips on mine. It instantly felt like he was breathing new life into me. As I inhaled his kiss, my lungs burned for more.
I grabbed the back of his neck and forced him on top of me. He responded hungrily. His hands explored my hips and thighs as our intimacy deepened. I was breathing so hard now that I could barely catch a breath. He made my whole body feel alive with every touch. I found the bottom of his shirt and pulled it over his head. He willingly accepted where this moment was taking us. I outlined his perfectly chiseled abs with my fingers and reached down for the button on his jeans. He squeezed my hips in anticipation. He released his lips from mine and followed the contours of my cheekbones to my jawbone and playfully nibbled, which caused me to dig my nails into his sides, immersed in pleasure.” ~Reality

Where to find Dani and her lovely writing…

Purchase this enchanting story here…