A Frugal eReader Featured Author & Giveaway! ~ Tonya Plank, Swallow

Today’s featured author is Tonya Plank, author of the novel Swallow! Read below to discover more about Tonya and her writing.

And we have a wonderful giveaway ~ One lucky Frugal eReader will win a signed copy of Tonya Plank’s novel, Swallow 

{This giveaway has ended. Congrats to Laura L. & thanks to everyone who participated!}

1. Who would you like your readers to know you are?   
I’m a lawyer, blogger, and now author. I practiced law in Manhattan as an appellate-level criminal defense attorney for many years. I’m also an intermittent ballroom dancer and I write a dance-focused arts blog called Swan Lake Samba Girl. And I published my first novel, Swallow, about a lawyer with the psychosomatic disorder Globus Hystericus, last December. 

2. When did you know that you wanted to write? How did you get started?  
I think I’ve always written, even as a small child. When I was a little girl, my dream was to write a Laura Ingalls Wilder-esque series of books about my mother’s family. When I got to college I started out as a creative writing major (I later switched to English lit) and wrote several short stories. But I started writing seriously, with publication in mind, after I got settled in my legal career. I had a novel in mind and I started taking some writing workshops in New York. They were great because they really disciplined me. I had to come up with another chapter every couple of weeks. And they also gave me a social life – because it’s hard to work long hours at your job and then go home and write, with no social interaction! But my fellow writing workshop members became my friends, and we’d often go out after class for a drink or two. And many of those friendships have lasted, thankfully!

3. How would you describe the style of your writing? Would you compare yourself to another author – perhaps one of your favorite authors? 
I almost always write in either the first or second person point of view. I absolutely cannot write in third person, especially omniscient! It just doesn’t work for me; it comes across sounding too general to be real. I have to have a very close relationship with the narrator. I really try to get into that character’s head. And I usually tend to write in the character’s own voice, or as close to it as possible. So my writing often sounds like the character is talking to you.

I also usually tend to write in scenes, with lots of dialog. I think that comes from seeing too many movies! Seriously, it’s really hard for me to say this happened and then this happened and then this happened. I have to take the reader to the actual scene of whatever it is that’s happening. But that can make it impossible to tell a story that spans a long time!

Some writers I really admire and whose styles have influenced me include Martin Amis, Jennifer Belle, Richard Price, Junot Diaz, Richard Wright, Fay Weldon, Dostoevsky, and Nabokov. Not that I’m comparing myself to any of them! 
4. How did you come up with the premise for Swallow? 
Well, I suffered from the disorder for a while. Globus Hystericus, by the way, is when you feel there’s a ball-like object in your throat that won’t go away. But it’s purely psychological; there’s actually nothing there. Still, it can cause problems eating, drinking, speaking, and sometimes even breathing. When I had it, I did a lot of research on it and found out that it’s not actually that uncommon, even though most people haven’t heard of it. Some people consider it an anxiety disorder and many have suffered from a form of it at one time or another.  

So I wanted to write about that. And I was also interested in creating this character who’s come from a poor, small-town background, to New York City, and has had a lot of early success in terms of education and career, but still suffers very low self-esteem. I’ve actually met quite a few people like this in New York, but especially women, or minority men. I wanted to explore why someone might be like that – so successful on the outside, but really down on themselves and struggling inwardly. What is it about their background, or the way they’ve been raised, that makes them almost pathologically self-effacing? And how does that work for someone who’s a lawyer, and who has to stand up for her clients when she has such trouble standing up for herself? 

5. Your depiction of 9/11 was moving ~ why did you decide to include it in Swallow?

I’m so glad you were so moved by that scene! Some people told me including the whole 9/11 tragedy might be a turn-off to people, but I’m so glad I kept it in. I worked two blocks from the World Trade Center and my colleagues and I were very affected by the attacks – both that day and in the following weeks. I started the book in early 2002 and that was just one of the things I really felt I needed to write about. And it seemed no one had really documented what New York was like right after that. There are many accounts of what happened on that day and all the gore, and of course the politics, but it didn’t seem like anyone was writing about how it felt to live in New York in the following weeks and months, when everyone was trying to deal with this immense sadness but also trying to deal with the bomb threats and constant fears that it could happen again, and judging people on the subway and on the streets by the way they looked, which you knew was wrong but couldn’t help doing out of fear.

Also, I think when something like that happens – any kind of tragedy – it tends to make you reassess things. You become less tolerant of the crap someone regularly dishes out to you, you know. So it also helped me plot-wise, by really bringing certain issues in Sophie’s various relationships to the fore.

6. Did you know the ending to Swallow before you finished it?

I knew very generally how I wanted it all to come out, but I didn’t know exactly how I was going to get there. I had to kind of let the characters work it out.  

7. The Kindle and other eReaders have provided new opportunities for authors. What do you think is the best part about being self-published?
I think it’s a great time for writers – especially first-time novelists- to self-publish. It’s almost impossible to get a book deal nowadays if you’re a new author unless you happen to have a major platform in something else ala Snooky (which most of us don’t). So this is the time to kind of make your own platform, to make a name for yourself. I think if you write a very good novel, and you publicize it well and get lots of good reviews, with a low-priced ebook you can really start to develop your audience. Who knows what will happen in the future, but if the publishing industry ever does recover, you’ll now have a track record and hopefully will be in a better position to get a publisher.

8. Any advice to those out there who hold the dream of becoming an author?
Work really hard (don’t rush it) and make sure your book is the best it can possibly be before putting it out there! Take writing workshops or continuing education writing courses at your local college, get involved in writing groups so you can find support and honest critical assessment, and read everything you can get your hands on. I think more than anything reading both novels in your genre and critical reviews of them really teaches you how to be a writer. 

9. Are you working on anything new that you’d like to share? Perhaps a sequel?

Right now I’m working on an urban / legal drama set in New York. Sophie makes a brief appearance, but the book doesn’t center on her. After I finish this I may go back to Sophie and write a sequel!

10. Thank you so much for visiting with us! Before you go, would you like to share one of your favorite passages from Swallow for the Frugal eReaders out there?
Since most of the scenes are probably too long or would take some explaining, and since you liked it, I’ll share a passage from the morning of 9/11. I think the only explanation required is that “FB” is short for “fist ball” and refers to the name Sophie gives the imaginary ball in her throat.
Suddenly, I heard a strange sound. It sounded as if some mechanical unit in the building were on its last breath. Then, it gave, with a huge crash. I peered out into the hallway, and eyed Pete in the library looking up from a Hornbook. 
“Did you hear that?” I asked.   
“I sure did.”  
“What do you think it was?”  
“No idea.” We looked at each other, waiting for an announcement over the building’s intercom. But there was none. “Well, it must not have come from within the building. Must’ve been a bad car crash on Trinity,” he said, shrugged, and returned to his book. I stood there for a few seconds more, and was just about to return to my office when I saw a humongous mess of papers in a flying free-for-all outside the library window.        
“Geez, it’s like the Yankees parade,” Pete said looking up.
“What’s that?”
“It’s when they have a ticker tape parade when they win the World Series. But the World Series hasn’t … What the hell is all that…” he trailed off.
I decided I’d go out for my morning coffee a bit early and check it out. My coffee place happened to be right across the street from the World Trade Center. But before I entered the shop, I got caught up in the throng, in their gaze, which I followed, to see the smoke, the flames, the tiny black silhouettes. The second plane came in and there was blinding fiery light, screaming, gasping, shoving. I found myself pushed against the wood door of the Thai restaurant Jeannie and I used to go to pre-FB. Everyone around me was screaming and crying, but I couldn’t fathom what had happened. I really couldn’t believe what I’d just seen. I guess I willed it out of my mind, thinking only that I needed to leave this place, this block; I needed to go back to the office to prepare for my death penalty meeting up the street later today…     
I flashed my badge to the security guards in my building as usual, but there was sheer chaos inside, like I’d never seen before. Police yelling at the guards, people frantically asking questions, the guards looking dumbfounded. No one paid me any attention. I walked into the elevator, then into my office, and without thinking slammed the door shut. 
“Sophie, Sophie,” I soon heard Jeannie calling, from the now open door. “Were you out there just now?” She was wearing this really pretty houndstooth dress, and that was all I could manage to say in response — how pretty she looked and how lovely her dress was. Those were the only words that would form in my brain and come out of my mouth. She stared at me in disbelief. 
“Sophie, couldn’t you hear me knocking?” Jeannie was calling out again, again from my open door. I didn’t know how much later this was, but she must’ve left after I made it clear I couldn’t talk about what was outside. “They’re evacuating the building. Get your bag, honey, we gotta go.”
I remember being thoroughly confused. I felt like I could only move in slow motion. We held hands on our way down the 16 flights of stairs. The stairwell started to fill with smoke about halfway down. “Gotta pick up some speed, come on,” she said. I remember trying to stop to cough, but she wouldn’t let me; she pulled me on.   
We finally got out, crossed Trinity with the exodus, still tightly holding hands. Trinity Church’s graveyard was completely covered with paper. We crossed Broadway to Wall Street.  Just as we passed the building where George Washington was inaugurated, everything went black.  I stumbled over the heel of my pump, falling off the sidewalk curb, onto gravel. I slipped on something, likely paper.
Then I realized I’d lost Jeannie’s hand. I listened intently for her voice, but could only hear anonymous screams. I tried to call out for her, but every time I opened my mouth, I could only cough. Someone stepped on my hand. It didn’t even hurt; I couldn’t even feel it. I only knew it happened since I couldn’t pull myself up for a second. When I managed to get up, I flailed about, again trying to call for her. But my lungs filled with smoke and I began wheezing. It was no use trying to find her. Stephen’s building was the next one; I knew from memory not sight. People were hacking, gasping all around me — human sounds that verified that I wasn’t alone, or dead. 
My eyes were starting to sting, as well they should have been: I had them wide open, as if that would allow me somehow to see through the pitch black. Walking with outstretched arms, I whacked my wrist straight into a wall. It hurt, but only briefly, as I then realized I could use the wall for guidance. I couldn’t feel my heartbeat; I couldn’t think. I just stumbled alongside that wall, body against it, until I could barely make out the gold eagle indicating the entrance to Stephen’s building.
I pushed on the glass door, walked through the semi-circle to light. It was smoky but I could finally see, and breathe. People inside looked bewildered and vacant; some were covered in soot. I realized I must have looked just like them. 
To discover more about Tonya Plank & Swallow, visit her sites:

Click on the cover below to read customer reviews or to purchase Swallow from Amazon:


Serial, Jack Kilborn and Blake Crouch ~ Free!

SerialRemember the twin golden rules of hitchhiking?
# 1: Don’t go hitchhiking, because the driver who picks you up could be certifiably crazy.
# 2: Don’t pick up hitchhikers, because the traveler you pick up could be raving nutcase.
So what if, on some dark, isolated road, Crazy #1 offered a ride to Nutcase #2?

When two of the most twisted minds in the world of horror fiction face off, the result is SERIAL, a terrifying tale of hitchhiking gone terribly wrong. Like a deeply twisted version of an “After School Special,” SERIAL is the single most persuasive public service announcement on the hazards of free car rides. Beyond a thrilling piece of horrifying suspense, SERIAL is also a groundbreaking experiment in literary collaboration. Kilborn wrote the first part. Crouch wrote the second. And they wrote the third together over email in 100-word exchanges, not aware of each other’s opening section. All bets were off, and may the best psycho win. 

“The story was exciting throughout and very well-paced. Towards the end, I was on te edge of my seat wondering who would win/how it would end. Perfect ending in my opinion. I hope the authors collaborate again.” ~Amazon.com Review
The average customer review is currently 3 stars (256 reviews).

Price Update: Now $7.99 ~ The Paradise War, Stephen R. Lawhead ~ Free!

The Paradise War Picture a world intricately entwined with our own yet separate, pulsing with the raw energy and vivid color of Celtic myth come to life. Picture Albion. And enter Lewis Gillies, an Oxford student whose search for a missing friend leads him through a door to another reality- and unimagined discoveries about life, good and evil, and his own identity and destiny. In an ancient cairn in the wilds of Scotland, Oxford student Simon Rawson vanishes, seemingly into thin air. Where has he gone? Unsettling signs — a mysterious Green Man, a Celtic circle chalked on the sidewalk — point his roommate, Lewis Gillies, to an impossible answer . . . and an incredible destiny on the other side of a doorway between worlds. There, where Celtic champions, magic, and treachery weave the beautiful and brutal land called Albion, Lewis finds Simon. And there, schooled as a warrior, he is thrust to the front of a titanic struggle between light and darkness — a hideous, onrushing darkness that would devour not merely a kingdom, but two worlds. 
“In a style reminiscent of Tolkien, Lawhead presents a world of vivid imagery. This book is a delight.” ~Bookstore Journal
The average customer review is currently 4.5 stars (68 reviews). 

Monday’s Three: Under Nine, Under Five, Under One! ~ 11/29/10

It’s Monday ~ A brand new week is ahead of us. Let’s start it off with three Frugal Finds for our Kindles!

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Stalina Folskaya’s homeland is little more than a bankrupt country of broken dreams. She flees St. Petersburg in search of a better life in America, leaving behind her elderly mother and the grief of the past. However, Stalina quickly realizes that her pursuit of happiness will be a hard road. A trained chemist in Russia, but disillusioned by her prospects in the US, she becomes a maid at The Liberty, a “short-stay” motel on the outskirts of Hartford. Able to envision beauty and profit even here, Stalina convinces her boss to let her transform the motel into a fantasy destination. Business skyrockets and puts the American dream within Stalina’s sights. A smart, fearless woman like Stalina can go far…if only she can reconcile the ghosts of her past. Obsessed with avenging her family while also longing for a new life, Stalina is a remarkable immigrant’s tale about a woman whose imagination—and force of personality—will let her stop at nothing.
The average customer review is currently 4 stars (2 reviews).

Speculative science fiction at its finest, MetaGame by Sam Landstrom is a ‘future gamers’ field guide and a philosophical cyberpunk adventure. In this original and disturbingly irreverent prospective world, gaming is more than a diversion—and gamers are, literally, in it for life. The OverSoul, an enigmatic, unifying force, offers winners points that add up to currency. Reigning champs are given the gift of immortality—while losers are condemned to aging and death. D_Light is one of the best players in his Family and will do anything to win, even if it means committing murder. When he’s invited to a MetaGame—an exclusive, high-stakes competition—he jumps at the chance. But after the first quest, D_Light’s overly ambitious ways brand him a renegade. With a warped sense of freewill that is needed to prevail, D_Light must either kill someone he’s grown to love—or lose everything.

The average customer review is currently 4.5 stars (118 reviews).

When Granny Hammy finds Bloated Goat face down in her front yard’s drainage ditch, her grandson Cocky Doodle thinks nothing of it. In fact, he says that’s just another normal day for his best friend. But when they discover that Bloated Goat has little black Xs for eyes and is even more bloated than normal, they realize it is much more serious.

Come join the humorous adventure filled with jewel thieves, a despondent wolf, an alligator gangster, a kingdom of hungry mushrooms, a shocking skunk wedding, and a mysteriously powerful chameleon known as Crazy Ned.

But don’t take my word for it. Read the following fake quotes for more convincing words:

“This is one the funniest books about bloated goats and talking animals I’ve ever read.” – A random, imaginary kid

“If I was stuck on a deserted island with nothing but this book, I’d probably read it at least once.” – An important kid, possibly your best friend or son or daughter

The average customer review is currently 4 stars (1 review). 

Click on the links or images above to read reviews or purchase this Monday’s three Frugal Finds Under Nine, Under Five, and Under One from Amazon!

Crashed (The Junior Bender Series), Timothy Hallinan ~ $2.99

Crashed (The Junior Bender Series)Crashed is the first book in a new series of thrillers with a laugh track, featuring a burglar named Junior Bender who moonlights as a private eye for crooks.  In his debut, Junior tries to salvage the life of a former child star who has fallen on bad and druggy times while also surviving the ill will of his employers, who don’t share his concern for her.  Along the way there are one or two stolen paintings by Paul Klee, a herd of ravenous rottweilers, various crooks, and a blow-up doll named Dora who winds up playing an important role.

“Tim Hallinan has done it again. He’s created a must-read series that you will find hard to put down! Junior Bender is all you could ever want in a hero/thief: smart and funny, with a penchant of finding himself in situations he’d much rather avoid. Do not miss any of these books. A must read in my house.” ~Brett Battles, author of the award winning Jonathan Quinn Series

Crashed is funny, thrilling, and even sad — a great beginning for a great new series. Timothy Hallinan is one of my favorite writers, and this is Hallinan at the top of his game. It’s laugh-out-loud funny without ever losing any of its mystery. It’s a whole new style and I love it. Junior Bender — a crook with a heart of gold — is one of Hallinan’s most appealing heroes, rich with invention, and brimming with classic wit. I can’t recommend it highly enough.” ~Shadoe Stevens, Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson

“Hallinan is one of the master storytellers of our generation. Crashed is pure rapture.” ~CJ West author of The End of Marking Time

The average customer review is currently 5 stars (5 reviews).

Remix, Lexi Revellian ~ $0.99

RemixCaz Tallis restores rocking horses in her London workshop. When shabby but charismatic Joe and his dog turn up on her roof terrace, she is reluctantly drawn into investigating a rock star’s murder from three years before – an unsolved case the police have closed. Somebody is prepared to kill to prevent it being reopened – and is Caz’s judgment clouding as she falls in love?

Remix is a feel-good page turner, that you won’t want to put down until you reach the satisfying ending.

“It was a great story. You know when you are reading a really good story and you never want it to end… Well this is one of those. I shall be watching out for the next book.” ~Amazon.com Review

The average customer review is currently 5 stars (8 reviews).

Click here to read customer reviews or to purchase Remix for $0.99 from Amazon

Stuck in the Middle (Sister to Sister, Book 1), Virginia Smith ~ Free!

Stuck in the Middle (Sister-to-Sister, Book 1)Joan Sanderson’s life is stuck. Her older sister, Allie, is starting a family and her younger sister, Tori, has a budding career. Meanwhile, Joan is living at home with Mom and looking after her aging grandmother. Not exactly a recipe for excitement. That is, until a hunky young doctor moves in next door. Suddenly Joan has a goal–to get a date. But it won’t be easy. Pretty Tori flirts relentlessly with him and Joan is sure that she can’t compete. But with a little help from God, Allie, and an enormous mutt with bad manners, maybe Joan can find her way out of this rut. Book 1 of the Sister-to-Sister series, Stuck in the Middle combines budding romance, spiritual searching, and a healthy dose of sibling rivalry.

“A gentle story of one young woman’s season of growth, deftly blending the tangle of family relationships with gifts of whimsy and revelation. A joy to read.” ~Sharon Hinck, author of Renovating Becky Miller and Symphony of Secrets

“Virginia Smith has created a charming and humorous novel that celebrates small-town life, generations of women caring for each other, and the value of finding a deeper, more active faith.” ~Sharon Dunn, author of the Bargain Hunters mysteries

The average customer review is currently 4 stars (59 reviews).

Click here to read customer reviews or to purchase Stuck in the Middle (Sister to Sister, Book 1) for Free from Amazon

Executive Retention, Maria E. Schneider ~ $2.99

Executive Retention (A Sedona O'Hala Mystery)After solving one case of corporate crime, Sedona expected to get her peaceful life back. Problem: She is still a manager at Strandfrost, and there is still rampant jealousy over her promotion. Is the danger of being railroaded by her not-so-illustrious colleagues worse than taking a new undercover job from Steve Huntington?

Crooks are coming out of the woodwork and family troubles are stewing. Sedona needs to keep her sanity intact, piece together mismatched clues and dodge more than one stray bullet. If she can manage all of that, maybe she’ll have time to figure out whether her love life stands a chance.

“The bottom line: Another very enjoyable Sedona O’Hala cozy mystery. In my opinion, Ms. Schneider is one of the finest and most creative independent authors around, and Sedona O’Hala is a great character who I’m looking forward to seeing again.” ~Amazon.com Review

The average customer review is currently 4.5 stars (10 reviews).

Click here to read customer reviews or to purchase Executive Retention for $2.99 from Amazon.

Haven’t read the first in the series? Click here to discover Executive Lunch.

Hangman (A Word Game for Kindle), Sonic Boom ~ $2.99


Play the classic game of Hangman on Kindle.
Hangman is a word puzzle game everyone played as a child, but with 600 puzzles of varying difficulty this game is no child’s play. The objective is to complete the word or phrase in the least number of guesses. You are presented with a category that the word belongs to, as well as with a row of dashes representing the number of letters the word contains. As you suggest letters they are added in their correct positions, or if you guessed wrong, another body part is added to the figure hanging from a gallows. Guess the word or phrase before the figure is completed or you lose the game.
Along with the standard stick-figure hanging from a gallows Hangman also features a Shakespeare figure and a gingerbread cookie-man who will get a bite taken out of him for each wrong guess. You can get up to 2 hints per round and follow your progress with a running tally of your results.
Enjoy this classic word game, as you sharpen your mind and vocabulary skills!
The average customer review is currently 3 stars (4 reviews).
There is also a kids version, Hangman 4 Kids, available here for $1.99.

Deadline, Randy Alcorn ~ $0.89

DeadlineInvolved in a tragic accident under suspicious circumstances, award-winning journalist Jake Woods must draw upon all his resources in order to uncover the truth in this rerelease of the Randy Alcorn bestseller. Jake soon finds himself swept up in a murder investigation that is both complex and dangerous. Unaware of the threat to his own life, he struggles for answers to the mystery at hand and in doing so is plunged into a deeper search for the meaning to his own existence.

The average customer review is currently 4.5 stars (106 reviews).

Click here to read customer reviews or to purchase Deadline for $0.89 from Amazon

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