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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Happy Holidays! News, Upcoming Events and a Giveaway!

Whether you welcome the holidays with a sense of mirth (hot cocoa, beautiful twinkling lights, Christmas songs playing on the radio) or a sense of impending doom (fighting holiday traffic, endlessly hunting for gifts you don't even know what to buy people, Christmas songs playing NONSTOP on the radio), there's plenty to be thankful for and hopefully you'll be spending this time with loved ones, friends, or at least treating yourself to some holiday goodies and merriment.

First of all, a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who helped organize
 Monsterama this past October, and CONjuration this November. Both conventions were great, and the time and work everyone puts into these events is enormous. And of course if you're reading this, you were most likely an attendee of one of these cons so THANK YOU for supporting authors, artists, performers and those who are passionate about fantasy!


Now an early holiday gift for you! 
Go to http://blogspot.us9.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=1c58cbbf8dba2526d105f29cd&id=06008cb43c to enter to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card when you sign up for "The Scholar and the Sphinx" newsletter! Enter by Dec. 16 to be eligible to win.















Also, keep an eye out for a brand-new fairy tale anthology from Tenebris Books hitting bookshelves next month, just in time for the holidays:


The sequel to the highly praised "Willow Weep No More," this book will include original tales about anti-heroes, both from classic stories you may be familiar with and all new fairy tales. Perfect for those who love dark fantasy (warning: not for young children).

Stay tuned for the book's official release!

If you live in the Southeast, I'd love to see you at my first 2017 author event, which is going to be an exciting one:

CHATTACON 42
January 20-22, 2017

Chattacon is an annual speculative fiction convention held in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at the historical Chattanooga Choo Choo. This year's guest of honor is Mike Resnick, award-winning author of 5 Hugos (from a record 37 nominations), a Nebula, and other major awards all over the world!

Panel schedule and more information to come!


Happy Holidays, and stay safe and happy throughout the year. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Is "Moana" Disney's Lord of the Rings?




















My husband and I saw “Moana” opening weekend, and overall I really enjoyed the movie. Gorgeous visuals, fun characters, great humor…on the downside, the songs weren’t particularly memorable, and something about the plot struck me as awfully familiar. I thought it was just because Disney liked to stick to certain cinematic formulas, despite its effort to “break the rules” this time by having no love interest for the heroic princess and instead focusing on her quest.

After thinking about it for a while, it suddenly dawned on me why this story seemed so familiar: “Moana” is Disney’s “Lord of the Rings.”

So you’re probably thinking, “Huh? How so?” One takes place in a fictional Polynesian paradise. One takes place in a fictional Celtic/Nordic fantasy world. One hero is a young chieftain’s daughter with a thirst for adventure; one is a Hobbit who is reluctant to be the bearer of the One Ring. But once you start looking at the two stories, there are some interesting parallels that occur (warning: spoilers ahead!):

1.       The One Ring vs. The Heart of Te Fiti - There is a small yet powerful magic item that the hero must wear around his/her neck while returning it to the origin of the item’s creation in order to restore balance to the world. Item also has special carving/engraving on it.

2.       Mount Doom vs. Te Ka - The hero must return item to the lava from whence it came.

3.       Goblins vs. Kakamora - Small impish creatures out to steal the magical item, but they’re not smart enough to accomplish the task.

4.       Smaug* vs. Tamatoa  - Gold-obsessed monster that can be tricked if you distract it with flattery. Tamatoa is even a little bit Gollum in his lust for the Heart of Te Fiti; you can see the craving in his eyes when Moana shows it to him.
*Note:  yes, I know Smaug is from “The Hobbit” but it’s part of the LOTR story arc.

5.       Sauron vs. Te Ka – The main villain is a huge, fiery-eyed creature that can’t outright speak or move from the area it's confined to, but it does its best to keep heroes from getting to their goal destination.

6.       Magical fish hook vs. Sting - One of the heroes has a magical weapon enscribed with markings that glow blue when its magic is activated.

7.       The Shire vs. Motunui  - The hero lives in lush, green paradise that no one ever leaves, until evil presence falls on the land that threatens to destroy them all, and the hero is the only one of his/her people ordained to set out and save the world. Okay, so technically Frodo had Sam, Merry and Pippin come with him, but Frodo was initially the only one given the task to return the ring.

8.       The Fellowship vs. Moana, Maui, Heihei and the Ocean– The hero has to gather “special teammates” to complete quest. These include a comedic companion who mostly gets into trouble and eats (Merry and Pippin vs. Heihei), a great, stocky warrior whose bravado exceeds his abilities at times (Gimli vs. Maui) and the one who endlessly supports the hero, encouraging them to go on even in their bleakest moment (Samwise vs. the Ocean).

9.       Gandalf vs. Grandmother Tala – There is a wise elder mentor who is considered a bit of a loony outsider by the others in the village, is someone very close to hero, who “dies” during the story but comes back in a magical way to help the hero.

10.   The Ending - Hero doesn’t remain living in the homeland he/she saves but goes off in a boat at the end.


So while it’s still to be seen if “Moana” will stand the test of time as a Disney classic, maybe it’ll inspire a few kids to pick up some Tolkien books when they are older.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

"Death by Word" Produced at the Theatre of Western Springs' New Plays Workshop!

I just realized, I may have to change the name of this blog to include more than just "Scholar and Sphinx" news...

What an amazing past weekend! The Theatre of Western Springs in Illinois produced three world premiere plays for their New Plays Workshop Aug. 18-21, 2016. "Death by Word" was one of them and was very warmly received all four performances. Thanks to Ed Wavak, the director, the entire cast (see below for names) and crew, and Willy Steele for the original music!

If you live in the Western Springs, IL area, please go out and support this theater and all that they do. They put on fantastic shows all the time, and their next show "Steel Magnolias" is bound to be a hit!
http://theatreofwesternsprings.com/
Back row, left to right: Tom Gess, Jay Baldwin, A.R. Cook, Ed Wavak, Karla Hudson
Front row, left to right: Michael-Colin Reed, Mina Dillards-Gits, Noha ElGanzouri, Kathy Racine


Friday, August 12, 2016

For Writers of Young Adult Lit: New Contest through Writer's Digest!

Hello all!
Thought I would share this for any of you who write young adult fiction. Writer's Digest is hosting another "Dear Lucky Agent" contest, in which you can submit the first page of your unpublished YA novel (sadly, no high fantasy or high sci-fi) to be read by a literary agent.

The top 3 winners all get: 1) A critique of the first 10 double-spaced pages of your work, by the agent judge. 2) A free one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com, 3) Their choice between two new books coming out in September 2017, the Guide to Literary Agents 2017 or the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2017.

This time, Ms. Andrea Morrison from Writer's House will be judging the contest.

This is a great chance to get your work seen by an agent from one of the most reputable literary agencies in the country!

Go to http://tinyurl.com/z7e9rsc to learn how to enter!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Book Launch for "Threads of Fate" and New Play Workshop Coming this August!

Hi folks! Even though "The Scholar, the Sphinx and the Threads of Fate" has been out for a month now, it hasn't had an official book launch yet.

Thanks to bestselling author Marsha Cornelius, who just invited me to participate in her next monthly author gathering for their fantasy / science fiction themed evening, the Book Launch for "Threads of Fate" will take place at A Novel Idea in Canton, Georgia!

Here is a listing of my next two author events and if you're in the area, I invite you to come and have a great night out!

A Novel Idea: Book Launch for "Threads of Fate"
Wednesday, Aug. 17 at 7:00 p.m.
The Snug Gastro Pub
190 E Main St, Canton, GA 30114


Theatre of Western Springs New Plays Workshop
Aug. 18-20, 8:00 p.m., and Aug. 21, 7:30 p.m.
Theatre of Western Springs
4384 Hampton Ave., Western Springs, IL 60558
My new play, "Death by Word," will be performed as part of a night of three world-premiere plays for the Theatre of Western Springs New Plays Workshop. Come enjoy a night of brand new theater shows!
For more information, visit http://www.theatreofwesternsprings.com/tws-home/

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Happy Publication Day to "The Scholar, the Sphinx and the Threads of Fate"!

TODAY'S THE DAY! Book Three of "The Scholar and the Sphinx" series is out, in both paperback and e-book. So make sure you get yourself a copy and complete the series (or, if you haven't picked up Books 1 and 2 yet, now's the time to get the entire trilogy)!
Early Praise for "Threads of Fate":
“Adventure awaits! Combining history, mythology, danger, and mystery, The Scholar, the Sphinx, and the Threads of Fate is a thrilling tale that you’ll gladly give up sleep to stay awake and finish.” - Shaun Hutchinson, author of “The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley”, “FML” and “The Deathday Letter”
“Cook weaves a tapestry from magic, myth, madness, and mayhem that is the curtain between reality and everything else. Fascinating, engrossing, and a little bit frightening. What fun!” - Chris A. Jackson, award-winning author of Pathfinder Tales “Pirate’s Honor” and “Pirate’s Promise,” the Weapon of Flesh trilogy, and the Scimitar Seas series
If you want to try your luck, there are still a few days left to try and win a free signed copy of "Threads of Fate" on my Goodreads giveaway, so hop on over to the Threads of Fate page and see how lucky you are!

You have until June 30 to enter! Good luck!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Maybe the Universe is Telling Me Something...

This month has turned out to be interesting, in that several things have happened that have returned me to the original form of writing I studied in college: play-writing.


Now while I do have the 3rd and final book of "The Scholar and the Sphinx" coming out very soon (it is supposed to be next Tuesday, June 28, but a sudden round of edits due to wonky formatting may push that back a week to July 5), I've actually received several bits of news in the play-writing world.

One, I have a staged reading of my new children's play "The Smile of the Cheshire Cat" being performed tomorrow at Brenau University. This isn't a full-scale production, but the summer camp kids and whoever wants to attend (could be you, if you live in Gainesville, GA) can watch a cute little story that's a prequel to "Alice in Wonderland."

Second, I received a lovely nod today for a short play I submitted to the Cambridge "Channel the Bard" competition a while back. I didn't win the grand prize, but the Cambridge publicist Ms. Diana Rissetto noted several of her favorite entries (out of over 300) and mine was listed: http://www.cambridgeblog.org/2016/06/shakespeare-as-interpreted-by-the-next-generation-of-great-playwrights/

Finally, I got a call this week from the Theatre of Western Springs in Illinois (about 20 minutes from my hometown) that they have selected my one-act play "Death by Word" as part of their New Plays Workshop. It'll be one of three plays performed August 18-21. I refer to this play as "relatable absurdism," centering around a maintenance man who is a self-proclaimed poet, he is diagnosed as clinically insane for believing poetry is still relevant. Also he needs to reconnect with his catatonic son (who has been banned from using the Internet, so just stares at the wall all day) and his workaholic wife who doesn't know what to make of her husband's "unproductive creativity."

So if you live near Western Springs, IL, come out to the theater Aug.18-21! I'd love to see you there! Stay tuned for more updates about show times, or visit the TWS website: http://www.theatreofwesternsprings.com/

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

B-Fest Teen Book Festival at Mall of Georgia this Weekend!

I will be signing books at Barnes and Noble's B-Fest Teen Book Festival at the Mall of Georgia this weekend, June 11! Author book signings start at 2 p.m., so hop on over, grab some coffee from the cafe and pick up a great teen read or two!

Starting at 11 a.m., you can get sneak peeks of your favorites, including James Dashner's prequel to The Maze Runner, new stories from Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, and an exciting new series from Veronica Roth, plus other exciting giveaways.

This is an event happening at all Barnes and Noble bookstores across the country, so even if you don't live in the northeast Georgia area, you should still go to your closest B&N and support this awesome event!


Saturday, June 11
Barnes and Noble Mall of Georgia
3333 Buford Dr.  Buford, GA 30519

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

See You All at TimeGate this Weekend!


If you're in the Atlanta area and love Dr. Who, TimeGate is the event for you! The Marriott Century Center is hosting it again this year, and will featured lots of awesome guests, including Doctor #8: Paul McGann!

I'll be an author guest there this weekend, May 27-29, so I'd love for you to drop by and see me! And if you attend my panels, you can be entered into a raffle to win copies of Book 1 and Book 2 of "The Scholar and the Sphinx" series, so you'll be up to speed when Book Three comes out June 28!

A.R. Cook’s Panels:
Friday 9:00pm : Young Adult, Old Adult (Decatur 1)
Saturday 10:00am : The Wonderful & Ever Expanding World of Disney (Decatur 2)
Sunday 10:00am :     Somewhere That's Green: The Little Shop of Horrors Retrospective (Decatur 2)
Sunday 4:00pm : The Writer's Process (Decatur 1)

See you there!


http://timegatecon.org

Monday, May 2, 2016

Thank You to JordanCon and Another Book Giveaway!

Thank you to everyone who organized JordanCon 2016 in Atlanta! It was a really fun weekend and everyone had a great time. I got to meet famous artists Charles Urbach (Magic: the Gathering, among lots of others) and John Picacio (tons of sci-fi and fantasy book covers, including Star Trek and X-men) and reconnect with some author friends.

It was also the book launch of my newest release, "The Secrets of the Moonstone Heir," and a few folks picked up the book. I hope they enjoy it, and thank you!

But in case you haven't snagged a copy yet, there is a new giveaway on Goodreads running now until the end of May. You can win one of five paperbacks of "Moonstone Heir" so follow the link below and enter to win!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29898404-the-secrets-of-the-moonstone-heir


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Book Giveaway to Celebrate "The Secrets of the Moonstone Heir"!

So have you been wondering what I've been hinting at you these past few weeks? Not only do you get a chance to find out before JordanCon next week (April 22-24 at the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center), but you might even win a free e-book!
In celebration of "The Secrets of the Moonstone Heir" book launch at JordanCon, there is an e-book giveaway going on at Amazon now through April 27! You can be one of 10 lucky winners - or, if you don't want to wait, it's only $0.99 to buy! So get your e-book of this new fantasy series today!

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Dahlonega Literary Festival This Weekend!!

Who all is going to the Dahlonega Literary Festival this weekend, March 12-13, at St. Luke's in downtown Dahlonega, Georgia? 


I'd love to see you there! I'll be selling copies of "The Scholar and the Sphinx" series, and I'll be on the discussion panel "Regional Writers: Using Fantasy Elements" along with local authors Carolyn O’Neal, Shelley Pickens, Debra Webb Rogers and Tom Winton. Come to room 106 in St. Luke's at 10:15 a.m. to ask any and all your fantasy book related questions!

This is a fun event for book lovers in northeast Georgia, and will feature famous authors like Joshilyn Jackson, Cherie Priest, Delilah S. Dawson and Karen Abbott. For the full schedule and list of author guests, go to https://literaryfestival.org/.

See you there!!


Monday, January 25, 2016

L.R.W. Lee Talks about Newly Released "Vision of the Griffin’s Heart, Andy Smithson, Book 5"

A while back, author L.R.W. Lee was kind enough to feature me in one of her episodes of Book Nerd Paradise on YouTube. With the new release of her fifth book in her Andy Smithson fantasy series, “Vision of the Griffin’s Heart,” it’s time we get to learn more about her and her writing!

The story continues the quest of young Andy Smithson, who is collecting elements for a potion to break a 500 year-old curse on the land of Oomaladee. This time he must gather the talon of a griffin – if he can do so without falling prey to hostile griffins, herewolves and therewolves, and other enemies in this magical tale of wonder, friendship and courage.

The book has garnered great reviews on Amazon and from fellow authors (check out Lee’s website at http://www.lrwlee.com to find out more), but let’s hear from the author herself!


1. How did you come up with your main character, Andy Smithson? Did he just pop into your imagination or did you specifically develop him?

LEE: Andy is patterned after my son. After our first child who was what I would call compliant and seemed to need little to no correction, our son arrived on the scene. As with most 2nd children, he was polar opposite and provided much fodder for an engaging main character.

2. How did your experience with building a business help with your writing?

LEE: It has been invaluable for I understand that writing is only 50% of the writer’s success equation. Unlike Field of Dreams, with so many good books available today, just launching it, even on a well trafficked platform like Amazon, does not get recognition. Because of my corporate background, from day one I began working to build a platform – Twitter and Facebook primarily and now also Book Nerd Paradise. As well, I understand the importance of the author community, for no author can succeed these days without the support of fellow authors. My background has also helped in understanding the need to optimize my books to rank well on the variety of sites they are listed on. There’s much more, but those are the biggest helps I would say.

3. Was there any particular book or author whom you feel had the most influence on your work?

LEE: I have to say JK Rowling. The imagination she revealed, the strength of her characters, the world building, the depth of plot over multiple books…she definitely shaped how I think about writing.

4. What do you love the most about writing for young people?

LEE: Young people are moldable. My passion for writing is to share with readers principles that from my experience can help them live more peaceful lives. A few of these principles include overcoming fear, frustration and impatience as well as understanding that true success in life is not from riches, fame or power, but rather responsibility, diligence and dignity. If they can finish any of my books closer to understanding these principles, I feel very fulfilled.

5. Which part of the creative process is your favorite? Least favorite?

LEE: Designing the story arc is my favorite part of the creative process for you can take a story anywhere your imagination can go. My least favorite part is editing and revising. Even though I know the narrative gets much stronger as a result, it’s still my least favorite part.

6. How long does it usually take you to write one of your stories from when you get the idea to when it’s finished?

LEE: Usually about 6 months.

7. I know that most authors love all their characters but which of your many “children” is your favorite (besides Andy) and why?

LEE: I have to say Mermin, the kindly old wizard who speaks with a lisp. I love him most after Andy because he’s so warm, humble and approachable. He’s fallible and he knows it, which is why he doesn’t apologize for his mistakes, rather he is comfortable in his own skin.

8. Do you ever plan to branch out into other genres besides middle grade/young adult fantasy?

LEE: Funny you should ask. Yes, I’m actually noodling with a story arc of a YA Sci Fi story.

9. How do you feel your writing has evolved since your first novel?

LEE: I can see how much I’ve changed and improved in showing rather than telling my readers what’s happening. I want them to engage and to show – providing sight, sounds, touch, smell, and taste cues is a big part of that. I was particularly thrilled when my editor came back a full week sooner than expected with this current book because I had improved so much between book three and four. My pocketbook also appreciated that.


Visit http://www.lrwlee.com/ to learn more about the Andy Smithson series, or visit L.R.W. Lee at her Facebook or Twitter pages.