Saturday, August 23, 2014

Interview with Alesha Escobar Author of the Gray Tower Trilogy


Alesha Escobar is the author of The Gray Tower Trilogy. She is a native of Los Angeles and began writing short stories at a very young age. Alesha earned a B.A. in English and an M.S. in Education.  Her debut novel The Towers Alchemist, book one in the Gray Tower trilogy, was first published September 28th 2011 and the final book in the trilogy Circadian Circle was released November 1st 2013. Her writing is breath of fresh air with strong capable female characters. I first met Alesha at the 2013 Latino Comics Expo and was delighted when she agreed to let me interview her. It was a pleasure to ask her about her books and some fun bonus questions. I hope you enjoy the interview and please check out her website

LP: Your series The Gray Tower Trilogy is a historical fantasy set in World War II tell us about it and how you came up with the idea? Did you always intend for it to be a Trilogy? 

AE: The idea of a paranormal fantasy with a female spy was an intriguing one, and my husband suggested setting it in WWII. We had seen interesting documentaries that covered the Nazis' obsession with the occult. I began asking, what would it look like if they employed the use of dark powers to win the war--and how would the Allies fight back? From there I began developing the world of the Gray Tower Trilogy. I always knew I wanted it to be three books, because I didn't want to drag the story through twelve or twenty volumes. I will say though that I'm interested in writing a couple of short stories and maybe even a prequel.

LP: Your main character Isabella George is a female spy who uses alchemy, in your book how is alchemy used and why did you decide to have your main character use it?

AE: Alchemy is one of several magical disciplines you can study if you're admitted to the Gray Tower. If you have the ability to taste, smell, and manipulate metals and elements, then you have a strong chance of becoming an alchemist. Some people are stronger in some areas of magic, and may have secondary abilities, but they try to sort you into your designated group quickly. I think I decided to make Isabella an alchemist because it's a cool magical ability that you don't always see explored in fantasy books. It was also fun doing research on it because of the historical "alchemy" carried out by the precursors of chemical science. So this also gave it a real feeling, as if someone like Isabella could really study alchemy in the real world.

LP: I love your series! Isabella and several other supporting female characters hold their own against their male counterparts both intellectually and in combat. I must say it is refreshing to see those type of female characters being written and written well. Your characters are engaging even the villains, which do you enjoy writing more villain/villainess or hero/heroines?

AE: Thanks! This is a great question. I secretly like writing the villains more because I'm such a sweetie and good-doer in real life. All of my pent up "mean" energy needs to go somewhere, right? I also enjoy writing my villains as smart people. Bumbling, cartoony villains are boring--but a smart person, a calculating person, perhaps a person you could see yourself going out for a drink with--except she's cold-blooded killer--is the type of villain that's both scary and interesting.

LP: I found myself getting emotionally invested and really felt for Isabella as she went through her tumultuous journey. What is your favorite thing about her?

AE: I love Isabella's resolve and independence. She really believes in what she stands for, and she's not afraid to question or challenge things. She's also human--she falls in love, she makes mistakes, she laughs and cries.

LP: The last book in the Trilogy Circadian Circle came out not to long ago, how does it feel to have a trilogy under your belt?

AE: It feels amazing! I am so happy I committed to writing these books. Every time a reader tells me they've enjoyed the series and even wished it were a movie, I'm left in awe. I remember writing stories as young as seven, so this is something that I love doing and that I'm passionate about.

LP: Will you be revisiting this world again? I don't think I am ready to move on yet!

AE: I will! There's no harm in dallying in the Gray Tower universe a while longer.

LP: What other works do you have out there right now  and what projects are you currently working on? Can you tell us a little bit about some of them? Where can we buy them? 

AE: I've just published a short story with HDWP Books in their New Myths anthology. The theme of the collection is sharing mythology with our readers, whether completely created by ourselves or giving a twist to an older myth. My short story is called "The Black Dagger Gods," which is reminiscent in some ways of American Gods. The anthology is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

LP: How do you juggle being a writer with being a mother and wife?

AE: It's tough. I do a lot of writing at night after I put the kiddos to bed. I think it helps that my husband is very supportive and joins in on the creative process. Sometimes I'm great at balancing it all, and sometimes I'm lousy. When I'm lousy at it, I just remind myself to take a step back and get refocused.

Bonus questions: 

LP: When did you start writing stories? 

AE: At the age of seven--they were detective stories. When I think about it, I wonder what the heck did I know about detectives and solving crimes at that age?

LP: When did you know you wanted to write professionally?

AE: In high school, when I became editor of my school's newspaper. I went to college for journalism (with a short flirtation with biochemistry before running back into the English Writing program).

LP: What inspires you?

AE: People, events, songs, name it. I take different things in life, different experiences, and draw from those. 

LP: Favorite music, movies, TV shows, books and why?

AE: My music taste is all over the place--R&B, Rock, Classical, etc. I'm also a huge fan of that a capella group, Pentatonix. Their skills are amazing! I enjoy watching Dr. Who, Sleepy Hollow, Lost (I will watch it over and over), and I just started watching Grimm. As for books, some of my favorites include The Dresden Files, Game of Thrones, and Wheel of Time series. I am a huge sci-fi & fantasy junkie--gimme more! 

Make sure to check out The Tower's Alchemist (The Gray Tower Trilogy, #1) it is free to download at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. This definitely for readers  who enjoy fun and smart writing with great characters a bit of magic and a world that will draw them in. This is definitely the  book to get! If you love it don't forget to check out the rest of the trilogy and Alesha's other works. You can also follow her on her blog where Alesha also does book reviews and author interviews. I for one cannot wait to see what Alesha Escobar has in store for us in the future!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book Review The Towers Alchemist

This fine evening I have books on my mind so I have decided to do a book review! So I have decided to review The Towers Alchemist, the first book in The Gray Tower trilogy by Alesha Escobar. 

Unfortunately I was not aware of before the 2013 Latino Comics Expo, which is where I was first introduced to the trilogy and its talented author.Such a shame because it is a wonderful read. This historical fantasy is set in World War II albeit not the one taught in history class.  Isabella George, the books protagonist, works as a spy for a clandestine agency known as the SOE based in England. Not only is Isabella a talented spy but also a skilled alchemist who once attended The Gray Tower, an institution for training those with various magical skills. In the world  Isabella inhabits, dealing with wizards, Nazi wizard vampires, spies, time travel, and of course alchemy is commonplace. The general public is not aware of the additional danger and atrocities that these magical and supernatural elements play in the war, but for Isabella a battle weary spy she is only too familiar and it has finally taken it's toll. 

If it sounds like there is a lot going on thats because there is but it is not overwhelming or confusing the story is expertly woven. I felt it was true to the era when it described the day to day injustices of being a woman during World War II, you can tell the author took great care to when doing her research. When it touched upon issues of sexism and race I feel it was done from the perspective of someone from that time. The characters are engaging, and amazingly relatable. The main character Isabella is a woman who has decided to take action as the world is tearing itself apart, using her alchemy and intelligence to try and hold the darkness at bay. We are introduced to Isabella while she is in the middle of a mission. Upon her return she agrees to take on one final assignment extract the dangerous Dr. Heilwig from Paris and bring him back to England. 

Right away you get the impression that she is not in any way a damsel in distress. She handles herself with confidence and  even when she is fatigued she just pushes through it. I admire her incredibly strong character, she is quick thinking and a force to be reckoned with wether it be physical or magical combat, against enemies both male and female, magical and non magical alike. What's so lovely about this female character is that she does not have to sacrifice her femininity to be strong. She is feminine and strong, she longs for a normal life to meet someone and fall in love but that is also not her main objective. Yes there is romance and a bit of a love triangle, thankfully it does not distract from the story or become the books driving force. I feel the romance actually worked to make Isabella more relatable. Not everyone can relate to being an alchemist/spy during a World War, but almost everyone can relate to being in love. Isabella is by far my favorite character but the book has no shortage of well fleshed out endearing supporting characters like the dashing Brande a Gray Tower wizard, or Renee the frenchwoman doing her part against the Nazi's. The book is full of great characters and it is no small feat that Alesha was able to give most of them a satisfying if small back story.  

The Towers Alchemist packs a punch there is quite a bit of action in the book as the main character of course is a spy on a dangerous mission fighting off the Nazi's and various villains with her alchemy. The action scenes are expertly paced is superbly done. Your adrenaline will definitely be pumping when Isabella first encounters a Cruenti (a warlock who feeds off the blood of other magic users to strengthen their power through blood magic).  Hero's and villains alike are complex, allies can be just as frightening as enemies in The Towers Alchemist. Alesha Escobar grabs the reader by the hand and says run, and you will enjoy every second. It is a fun action packed, supernatural, spy caper, romance, and it is done beautiful and perfectly balanced. This book is a definite must read. 
The Towers Alchemist is free to download at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. You can also keep up with Alesha and her work on her blog 

I was lucky enough to get to interview the talented Alesha Escobar, she is as gracious as she is talented. I will be posting the interview soon.Thanks for stopping by until next time!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

2014 SGV Comic Expo

I had been racking my brain about what my first blog post should be about and I had a dozen ideas zooming around in my head. After having an amazing time yesterday at the SGV Comic Expo I decided I would write about the event from my limited perspective behind the table. I just want to put it out there I am not the comic artist or writer of the comic zines you will see. The creative mastermind is my husband Oflodamonstro I was there for moral support, chatting up customers, and managing the table so he could have a bathroom break and check out other artists work. 

This wasn't the first table he has had this would be his third event and by far the least stressful since we had learned from our previous tabling experiences. This time we had plenty of change, zines, prints and homemade bags to put the purchasers goodies in. We were more outgoing saying hello and smiling at anyone who walked by his table, encouraging people to look through his zines making small talk. It was exhausting but so much fun and the organizers of the event the Nuvein Foundation did such an amazing job. There was plenty of parking the venue was the perfect size and there was plenty of table space and chairs. I am always so grateful that my husband is asked to do these events. The indie comic and zine community has been so welcoming and supportive. Every single artist, vendor and visitor that we have met has been so encouraging. Even the attendees who weren't interested in the wares on our table were polite. 

Our day started off in a rush it was hectic, Oflodamonstro and I had procrastinated he finished putting together his latest comic Ninja Cat from Space (which is awesome by the way) at 4am on Saturday morning. He only got an hour sleep before he had to get up get ready and drop of our 19 month old son with his sister (thank you so much Jenny and Milton you guys are life savers!). While he was out I sewed some bags out of brown packaging paper to put his sold items in. I must give credit were credit is due  blogger, youtuber, and crafter Whitney Sews inspired the bags. I had seen her video a while back on how she makes her own envelopes for her packages and thought to myself this is perfect! Once he got back home he took a quick cat nap and then we were off. We got to the event about half an hour early, while setting up Javier Hernandez the talented creator of the El Muerto comics stopped by to say hello, and I have to mention my husband would not have tabled at any of the events if he Javier had not asked him to participate in the Latino Comic Expo last year so thank you Javier! We finished setting up the table quickly and we really liked how the set up worked out.

We were fortunate to have great table mates. We were seated next to the very supportive family of the creator of Aztec of the City comic book series. The creator unfortunately could not participate but the ladies tabling were lovely and passionate about representing his comic. Luckily they were down for a trade so we got the latest issue, and I must say the story is engaging I will have to catch up on the previous comics in the series.

So many people came out to see what the SGV Comic Expo was about some cosplayers even stopped by. My husband being a big Star Wars fan had to take a picture with this Tusken Raider who came by our table. 

The event was very family friendly and the organizers had a crafts and  comic book work shop for the kids, face painting, food trucks and a photobooth. My sister in law came by with the kiddos and they got to make some super hero masks and capes. 

My son was napping but woke up long enough to say hi and see how his folks were doing, big sis couldn't make it this year either. It felt a little wierd not having them there since they had gone to the previous two tabling events my husband did but I think it worked out well they would have gotten restless after a while. There is always next year and hopefully both the kiddos can go and enjoy all the fun activities the SGV Comic Expo has to offer.  

There was also some awesome panels and speakers that unfortunately neither one of us were able to attend. I personally would have loved to have gone to the Women Making Zines and Comics but there is always next time. I was however lucky enough to meet two of the panelists Aurora Pringle and Kim Burly Leanord They are so talented and sweet. As I didn't have any zines of my own to barter with, I did luckily for no reason whatsoever bring some monster pouches I had sewn (again thank you Whitney Sews for the awesome youtube tutorials) and they were gracious enough to trade with me. I was able to procure a beautiful original art print, a button, and a zine Miss California by the equally enchanting Aurora,  and from the lovely Kim Burly Leanord I got Mom Jeans and M. Theo Kearney Raisin Prince of my Heart zines and a button, that my remaining little robot monster devoured for safe keeping.  

It was a nice surprise to see Suemi Guerra the author of the wonderful Suicidal Goldfish zines, and her talented musical friend Lisa Vasquez come by and visit. I was happy to see these two as it had been almost a year since we had met. These lovelies were our table mates at the Eastside Zine Market in 2013, we have seriously been lucky when it comes to table mates. It seems that every event my husband has participated in we have struck gold or maybe it's just that every zinester and indie comic artist is just that awesome. I don't know but I am leaning towards the latter. I have kept in touch with Suemi via social media so it didn't feel like a year, and Lisa is so chill it seemed like it had only been a week since we last saw each other. Just a little info on Lisa not only is she a talented musician and super cool she also happens to host the radio show "West Coast is the Best Coast" at her school's radio station, SCAD Atlanta Radio, it's all about California bands you can check out her DJ stylings at Might I also add that these best friends have started a Summer Writers Group, check out Suemi's tumblr for more info on the group and her zines

Thank you to Suemi who took the photo below we look like normal people no one is making a funny face!

All in all I have to say the event was a smashing success! There was a lot of chatting on my part so much so that now my throat hurts. I really need to start charging Oflodamonstro for my tabling services. All kidding aside I love going with him and helping him pursue his creative endeavors. Whenever we go to these type of events wether it be as attendees or if it's tabling, the best part is always seeing people walk around and appreciate all the amazing artists and the hard work that they do. By far the most memorable example of this was a gentleman who came to our table and picked up Oflodamonstro's autobiographical comic, he then proceeded to read the comic laugh out loud and when he got to the last page started stomping on the ground while bursting with laughter. He ended up buying two comics teary eyed and telling my husband to never stop doing what he's doing. Best sale ever!  

People also really liked the bags I sewed that morning I am not gonna lie I was surprised and pleased at the response. I will definitely make more for any future events he participates in. They were simple bags and perfect for his merchandise, but he really turned them into special by drawing on them. Some customers even said they wanted to frame the bags. 

So that's pretty much it, we spent our day selling comics and prints, chatting and meeting awesome people and had the opportunity to read and see new work that we otherwise might not have seen. I can't wait to read and review all the goodies we got.  All of the comic zines that Oflodamonstro made will be available for purchase online soon, take a look at the covers below!