Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Virtual Book Tour: Northern Echoes (Web of Echoes #2) by Melody Ash

Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for Northern Echoes by Melody Ash. This book tour was organized by Pump Up Your Book. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as a guest post from the author about the inspiration behind the book. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
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Title: Northern Echoes
Series: Web of Echoes #2
Author: Melody Ash
Publication Date: March 3rd 2020
Print Length: 301 pages
Genre: Time Travel Science Fiction
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Caitlin Benoit assumed the next destination would be her time, her world. Instead, the stone thrusts her further into the past and onto a different continent.

Now in 1831 England, she's discovered by William, the Duke of Lancaster. By sheer luck, he's willing to allow her into his manor. While she fights to gain a footing in this new time, Caitlin discovers the stone also ripped John from Charleston.

Everything she thought she knew about how the stone worked is false, and neither John nor her understand how to escape the grip of the past. As they work to uncover the mystery of the stone, an acquaintance of the Duke plots an intricate scheme certain to destroy them all. She and John must solve the puzzle in an unknown amount of time or risk getting stuck—or buried—in 1831.

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EXCERPT:
Air emanated through Caitlin Benoit like life itself as she inhaled with lungs still recovering from the constriction of time travel. A full rich zephyr. She heaved another breath, the fresh rush inflating her chest. Relief electrified every nerve, and Caitlin's pulse quickened. One more time, a bit slower now, the breath cleansed as she gazed through eyes still blurred from travel.

Sketchy lines of a horse and its rider slowly came into focus, and as the man stopped in front of her, his gentle brown eyes seemed laced with confusion. Dressed in a navy tailcoat over a white silk shirt and beige wool pants, he looked more Georgian than Victorian, and those clothes placed him—and now Caitlin—in the early eighteen-hundreds. And the location…

Her eyes strayed from the man to the grounds beyond the rider. Trees, sloping hills, a magnificent manor house. The far forests seemed to stretch for miles in a thick blanket of green. But they couldn't be relied upon to pinpoint a location, not when similar woodlands spanned the globe within the temperate woodland biomes of the world. It was the house itself that provided the clues, one she recognized from several period movies—a Hollywood favorite.

Chatling Hall, an aristocratic home to a Duke of England. Only that made little sense. After traveling in time to the plantation in South Carolina and living among slaves for a week, she'd been instructed how to utilize the stone she'd discovered at the archeological dig in 2018 and followed those instructions to the letter. Should have earned her a one-way ticket out of 1859 back home. But if this was England, then not only had she traveled further into the past but also managed to hop the large pond between two continents.

"Madam? Can I be of some assistance?" the man asked for what Caitlin thought might be the second time. Maybe the third. Her brain was only just beginning to focus, to wrap around the context of what her eyes saw.

"I think I'm lost," Caitlin muttered as she shook her head.

"I venture to guess so much. Pray tell, what is your name?" He slid from the horse, boots raising a cloud of dust. The man removed his hat, hung it casually from two fingertips. Manners that screamed early-century Europe.

"Caitlin Benoit." She held out one hand, though a handshake wouldn't fit the customs if she was standing in—what?—eighteenth- or nineteenth-century Britain. Still, surprise tickled her when the man took hold of her hand and gently kissed her fingers.

"It is my pleasure to meet you, Miss Caitlin." After a bow of his head, the man replaced the top hat and straightened. "William, Duke of Lancaster."

The duke himself. The stone couldn't give me a little break and place me at the feet of a peasant or a groomsman. "Is this your home?"

"It is," William said with a smile. "Madam, if you are indeed lost, I welcome you as a guest of Chatling Hall until your traveling companions return."

"Thank you. I appreciate that."

He tilted his head, studied her once more. Her modern English against his very proper British accent likely sounded as strange to him as his did to her. And her clothes were as far removed from anything a proper English woman would wear. They wouldn't even be invented for nearly a hundred and fifty years. Caitlin shifted her weight, glanced over his shoulder. If she was in danger, what escape could she have?

"Are you familiar with riding on the back of a horse?"

The question cut through the noise in her head. Caitlin raised a brow. Horseback riding was one of her favorite past times, but the way she rode would make nineteenth-century women blush in shades to match their pretty, fancy dresses while men would question their value as a proper lady. Notions that were both archaic and sexist—they made her skin crawl—but she needed time. Time to figure out how she left a South Carolinian Plantation in 1859 at the courtesy of a mysterious rock, endured the plastic wrap of time travel once more, but didn't return to twenty-first-century America. At this point, it seemed time meant nothing, and yet she needed to buy some now. "No, not well, I'm afraid."

"Then I shall walk with you."

She nodded, fought to ignore the twinge in an ankle badly sprained days earlier, if she tried to define it in the conventional, linear sense. Seemed those conventions were out the window now, but her mind would take a little time to catch up.

Caitlin focused on the hills of the Peak District. She followed all the rules the slave woman shared with her in South Carolina—inside the circle, in the direct sunlight—yet she landed in England. Only… what year was it exactly?

"Forgive me, but I do not recall having the pleasure of your acquaintance in the past. I like to think I'm familiar with everyone in the nearby villages," her companion said. "Are you here on holiday?"

Of course, he knew most everyone nearby. He owned the land, and the villagers were his tenants. Caitlin cleared her throat, prepared for the book of lies she would have to tell until she could leave the past where it belonged. "Yes, it's been a long trip."

"Then you must be tired."

Caitlin didn't bother to respond as he led her closer to the great manor. A path worn with the indentations left behind by carriage wheels curved around a bend where the trees gave way to a full, unobstructed view of Chatling Hall. In front of the manor house, a fountain as long as a football field shot water high into the clear afternoon sky. Set behind the fountain, Chatling Hall appeared to float on the surface of that water. The illusion was a good one, and almost took Caitlin's breath away.

The stone manor house itself was even more impressive than it had appeared in the twentieth- and twenty-first-century movies. Classical architecture climbed three stories towards the sky. Gilded urns lined the roof, while three rows of windows—their frames also gilded—stretched right and left. As she and William neared the home, a staircase came into view. It curved upwards to a proud, rectangular landing to provide an outlook for the fountain.

Chatling Hall dwarfed Shady Oak Plantation in every possible way, even Biltmore paled in comparison. The aristocratic wealth was what Americans could only mimic but never quite attain. North America was too young, the British aristocracy too carefully built and maintained. The house defined the difference in spades.

"Are you traveling with family?"

Caitlin pulled back her gaze to face the duke. "No, no, I'm not. I'm sorry, I know this is going to sound a little funny, but… what year is it?"

The duke's brows furrowed, and he stopped, stared at her. "1831. Did you hit your head? Are you quite all right?"

A hardness filled her stomach. She must tread carefully, or risk finding herself on the receiving end of questions she couldn't answer.

With a mind that reeled in every direction, Caitlin didn't pay attention to the ground beneath her feet. Too late for her to notice, she stepped on a large pebble and stumbled, causing an already weakened ankle to turn. Caitlin dropped to one knee, the fresh pain bursting through the joint. "No, I don't think so."
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I grew up loving the endless possibilities Fantasy and Sci-Fi held between their pages or played on the big screen. Star Wars, Stephen King, The Neverending Story, vampires, Disney, I loved it all (and still do!) At age ten, I picked up a pencil and began coming up with stories of my own that toyed with other worlds and the mysteries of this one.

My first attempt at writing came at ten years old while, during a sleepover, I tried writing a ghost story. In sixth grade, I entered my school's writing contest, and in college, my writing professor allowed me to work on a novel instead of following the curriculum.

But at the time, writing was only a hobby I enjoyed. I picked it up, put it down, sometimes for months or years at a time, but I didn't think of it as a career. Instead, I majored in communications with the goal of a career in journalism. After a couple of years, I changed course and entered the travel industry. Travel had always been another love, especially to Walt Disney World, and the choice seemed the perfect fit. I opened my own travel agency and grew it from the ground up until the Great Recession of 2008 rolled in, along with the blessing of my first child.

With her birth, I left behind the office career and finally admitted what I already knew - I wanted to spend my life creating on paper what played in my head. A series that had already been haunting my dreams for months that I knew would be my first attempt to break into the publishing world.

After releasing romantic suspense under the pen name, RM Alexander, Caitlin Benoit started whispering in my ear and her story started forming. My passion for adventure and travel bled onto the pages as Caitlin was launched into the adventure of a lifetime. But because the story wasn't focused on romance, I knew I needed a new pen name that would be focused more on UF / Sci-Fi, and Melody Ash was born.

As a complex PTSD and trauma survivor, I often write characters who often face the worse circumstances and must search for their inner strength. It is my hope readers not only connect with the characters and stories but also are encouraged, as they read the last word, that their real-world problems can be overcome.

Outside my writing world, I spend my time with my husband, two children, and Pomsky (who you'll likely find posted on my social media) in Indiana. I still love to travel and am addicted to orange juice, Ghirardelli chocolate, and adventure.

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GUEST POST:
The Inspiration Behind Northern Echoes
by Melody Ash


Ask any author and they will tell you inspiration for books come from just about everywhere: dreams, movies, a song, the kid next door. And I can tell you all these are true. But for Web of Echoes (because it was really the series I had the inspiration for and not the book) was a little less straightforward. So we’ve got to take a little tour of what I enjoy, and all the pieces will come together.

While I was writing this, I was trying to figure out the best place to start, and since I’m watching tv (Stranger Things) with my oldest kiddo, I figured we’d start there. I LOVE movies off all kinds: romance, some romcoms, thrillers, suspense, adventures. If the story is good, I’m all over it. But I do a thing for movies that can take me away for a little bit, that bend the rules of our world, that leave you thinking, “What if?” When I was growing up, it was Star Wars, Gremlins, The Neverending Story (all you 80s kids will get it). As I got older, not a lot changed. With TV favorites like Outlander and Vampire Diaries, fantasy still grabs my attention.

And that leads us to stop number two. Now you’ve got to understand, I don’t get time to enjoy many hobbies – not with two kiddos, homeschooling and you know, all the stuff that makes up adulting and being a mother. I wouldn’t really have it any other way. But every once in a blue moon, I take a couple hours (usually during the winter) and do a little gaming. Like some of my favorite movies, my favorite games allow me explore and have an adventure, figure out puzzles. Whether its fighting monsters in games like Resident Evil or Silent Hill, or exploring in games like Tomb Raider (which is my favorite, btw), I could lost in these games for hours.

Now stop three and the final one on our little tour, and the one that makes my hubby just a little bit crazy. By now, this probably won’t come as a surprise to you, but you put me in the middle of the forest on a strange path I’ve never been on before, and I can guarantee you one thing: I’m going to want to know what’s at the end of it. Add in some mysterious brick walls or an overgrown brick path, and you’ll have me circling it for hours, imagination in overdrive, looking for clues on what it might have been. Coming up with stories to it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve freaked out my husband when we first started dating, finding the most remote trails and heading down them for hours only to find another and following that.

One thing people will tell new writers is to write what they know about, and as you can see, the inspiration for Web of Echoes came from many different parts of what makes me who I am. In that way, there is probably more of me in the series than in any other project I’ve undertaken, and that’s a scary thing for an author. But in the end, I hope its those pieces that make you fall in love with Caitlin, John, and all the characters who make up the Web of Echoes story.
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