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Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Birr Elixir Blog Tour: Guest Post and Giveaway with Jo Sparkes

Hi, everyone!

I am pleased to participate in Jo Sparkes' The Birr Elixir Blog Tour hosted by Pump Up Your Book.

About Jo:

A well-known Century City Producer once said Jo Sparkes “writes some of the best dialogue I’ve read.”

Jo graduated from Washington College, a small liberal arts college famous for its creative writing program, forgot about writing totally, until she had a chance to study with Robert Powell, a student of renowned teachers Lew Hunter and Richard Walter, head of UCLA’s Screenwriting Program.

She has written feature film scripts, scripts for Children’s live-action and animated television programs, a direct to video Children’s DVD, and commercial work for corporate clients. A featured writer on several websites, she was a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and (very unofficially) the first to interview Emmitt Smith when he came to the Arizona Cardinals.

Jo served as an adjunct teacher at the Film School at Scottsdale Community College, and even made a video of her most beloved lecture.

Her book for writers and artists, “Feedback How to Give It How to Get It” has received glowing reviews.

When not diligently perfecting her craft, Jo can be found exploring her new home of Portland, Oregon, with her husband Ian, and their dog Oscar.

Her latest book is the fantasy, The Birr Elixir.


Welcome to Darlene's Book Nook, Jo!

Jo has written a guest post, so I will now turn the floor over to her.

Defrosting the eBook
By Jo Sparkes

My husband, the tech fanatic, bought himself a kindle. I thought it looked very cold and unfeeling. How could you possibly get much emotion from that?

Truth is, I’m somewhat frugal. Okay, cheap. And those things cost a wad of cash.

Of course, I’d had that sort of reaction to technology before. When smart phones came along, I swore not to allow one near me. A phone was for calls, I scoffed. Why would anyone need all that other stuff when you have a computer on your desk? So much money! But my husband ignored me, as usual, and bought the phones. It wasn’t long until I found myself snapping cute photos of Oscar, our dog, and texting them to appreciative friends.

I couldn’t quite see, however, how an eBook display thingy could brighten the world.

So the husband bought me one in time for our vacation. You see, one of the pleasures of time off is the chance to catch up on my reading. This necessitates carrying an extra large suitcase to hold all the paperbacks – and that meant airline fees. So, reluctantly, I finally accepted the gizmo.

And was hard-pressed not to let the husband see how much I liked it. For at the mere touch of a button, all the books I wished to bring were there, awaiting my command. If my eyes were tired from a long day, or a little fuzzy from my contacts, I could change the font side with impunity.

Most appealing to my frugal soul was discovering a mass of inexpensive eBooks, some even free. The price of paperbacks seemed ever rising, and to suddenly find this cache of cheap entertainment was the cherry on the techie sundae.

“So you agree – these are good things?” my husband nudged me on the plane.

“Still too cold,” I mumbled back. So he bought me a warm leather cover.

“I still draw the line at google glasses,” I told him. After all, we wives must have the last word.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Jo! 

One lucky winner will win a digital copy of Jo's fantasy novel, The Birr Elixir.

Title: The Birr Elixir  
Author: Jo Sparkes  
Genre: Fantasy  
Publisher: Sparkes Productions  
Language: English  
ISBN-10: 0985331836  
ISBN-13: 978-0985331832

Marra had never heard of Birr Elixir.

But when Drail of the Hand of Victory saw the words in an old book, she found herself agreeing to make it. Even lacking the right ingredient.

And after drinking it, the Hand of Victory defeated a Skullan team, something no one had ever done before. Now Drail walked the path his grandsire had walked, and Marra was offered a place as Brista, his potions mistress. She doubted her ability, but took the chance to escape her slave-like existence.

When she found a way to wake the mysterious sleeper, Marra wondered if she deserved the title after all.

But with Tryst’s waking, ill luck and bad things suddenly dogged their tracks. Drail, being a man of action, saw only the good in people. Marra lacked his faith, but was frozen by her own timidity. When the time came to confront these enemies, would Tryst stand with them or against them?

Would it make any difference?
Buy Link:


Book Excerpt:

IT WAS A VERY dirty shop.

Marra had long since given up trying to keep it clean. The dust of San Cris was the stuff of legend – and not in a good way. It had to be cleared out of your nostrils at the end of the day, or sleep was impossible. It clung to your hair, which was a reason so many women wore it short. Men wore their hair long, seemingly not to care that the sand actually lightened the shade. Most females preferred being clean.

Marra's dark red hair was long, and she spent a lot of time brushing the sand out. Some thought she was vain, and perhaps she was about the one thing that proclaimed she wasn't born in San Cris. But long hair was strength, the strength of warriors. And for Marra, it made her feel safer.

She wanted to feel safer.

At least it was a beautiful day, with that intense blue sky the desert had in the early morning, before the sun bleached the air white. And it was a Comet day. If she hadn't already known there was a Comet match this afternoon, the bustling street outside would have told her so.

She listened to the crowd noises now as she scraped the tiny leaves off the crys bark. And managed to scrape her thumb. Quickly she yanked away from the bowl, before the blood could ruin the herb.

And as she stood there sucking her thumb, in walked Drail, Leader of the 'Hand of Victory'. They must be playing today.

She snatched the injured finger from her mouth, covering it with her other hand.

Drail strode to the counter, getting bigger with each step. “Do you have an energy potion?” His eyes scanned the shelves behind her. And she blushed at the lack of wares.

There were herb jars, of course, but few mixtures. Marra was supposed to be an apprentice, learning the power of herbs, the alchemy of powders and potions to heal and enhance. But Mistress Britta had died five weeks ago – just a year into her studies. And Snark, the Mistress's brother, had proved ignorant in the art.

“I'm sorry. Only a health tonic – to strengthen the digestion.”

Drail's eyes roamed the shelves slowly, as if expecting to find some great elixir hidden amongst the cactus needles and crys bark. Marra wished there was something there to satisfy him, but she knew there was not.

“How long to make one?”

She stared back, unable to think of a reply.

“Please.” He clasped both her hands with one of his, and she stared at the sheer size of his fist. There were rumors that Drail wasn't Trumen at all, but Skullan. Few really believed that, of course, for no Skullan would pretend to be other than Skullan. Besides, Drail had hair. Thick, brown hair tied in a long tail down his muscled back. Skullan had hairless bodies, and were much bigger than Truman.

Drail was certainly big. And persuasive. “Please,” he said, smiling at her. He leaned close enough she saw the brown flecks in his gold eyes. “Do you know what today is?”

“All of San Cris knows, sir. Comet Day.”

He shook his head. “All the Comet Days together would not equal this day. A Skullan team has entered the Game.”

Marra stared. “No Skullan would play a Trumen.”

He shook his head. “Actually, there were at least six known games where Trumen faced Skullan. All six losses.”

Marra had never heard such a thing. But she realized if anyone would know, it would be Drail. His whole family was legendary gamesmen.

“What's your name?” His eyes were sparkling – with excitement, she realized. No fear at all.


“Marra, seven is my lucky number.”

Her own gaze dropped away from the sheer power of his. And alighted on the tome behind the counter.

It was Britta's Book, the mistress's handwritten collection of potions, balms, and notes. Snark had shoved it at Marra initially, but her reading skills were weak, and the old woman's handwriting poor. Marra now lifted the heavy book onto the counter.

The Book opened as it always did at Britta's leaf-mark. On the BIRR ELIXIR.

“Yes!” Drail said, pointing at it.


“Exactly! With that we will win!”

Marra had always assumed Birr was some sort of herb. Drail must know otherwise. Scanning the recipe, she saw only herbs she had. Except for something called Myrrcleft.

“Thank you, little Marra.”

Her protest melted under his warm smile.

When she read it again, she realized that this Myrrcleft was probably the active ingredient. She could use basil. Basil had great mixing powers and could often be substituted, but if this was some sort of energy potion that may not be enough.

Then she remembered the Trevor seed. Mistress Britta had a two-fist sack filled with a tiny grain-like thing she called Trevor seed. Britta had said it 'boosted' things, made a potion more so of whatever it was to be.

Marra ran back to fetch one tiny seed. She crushed it with the mallet, releasing a sweet oily puff, and hastily dropped it into the elixir. Then she heated it as indicated, but not quite to boiling. Trevor seed lost potency in boiling, she remembered.

She poured the steaming liquid into a glass flask. Glass was expensive, but Britta had marked it must be so.

Hands grabbed her shoulders – she whirled to see Snark behind her. Something in his eyes made her stomach plummet.

“Special order,” she nodded at the flask. “I have to take this to the field.”

“Later,” Snark stared at her blouse. He had been doing that lately, and it made her skin crawl.

“Drail said before the game – or no payment. It's for the Hand of Victory.”

Snark's fingers slid over her shoulders. “I'll take it. You wait here.”

“He said I must bring it myself.” That was her second lie, and she winced inwardly. She'd never lied in her life until Snark became her boss.

But the lie worked.

“I bet he did,” Snark grinned evilly. “Go, then. But don't be long. He's got game in an hour.”

Marra raced out into the sunshine.

Travelers often referred to San Cris as outlying, which to Marra's mind meant small. It was one of the Sandy towns, out on the Flats of Beard. San Cris's population was less than two hundred Trumen total. And today it seemed twice as many were crowding the street, laughing and eating baked cactus treats. It was a Comet day, and San Cris was the host.

For an instant Marra paused, weighing going back for her shoes against the possibility Snark would change his mind. To be barefoot marked one as poor indeed, but then that was pretty much what she was. So she defiantly tossed her long braid back over her shoulder, and hurried on.

She weaved her way through the crowd, then was suddenly snatched up off her feet as if she were a Comet ball herself.

“Cute little Truman,” a booming voice said. Marra found herself face to face with a giant of a man, his head bald and the hollows surrounding his eyes painted dark green. His skin was pale – with patches of burning pink sunburn on his nose. And he had a spider tattooed on his cheek.

He had to be Skullan.

She'd never been so close to one before. By the Desert Crane, she'd only seen three of them in her whole life. Skullan were said to despise the desert almost as much as they despised Trumen.

“What a nice little prize,” the Skullan leered. “You may warm my mouth now, and warm my lap later.”

He pulled her closer. Marra instinctively braced both her feet against his chest. “You defy me, girl?” he asked softly. And she saw Bender, the old shopkeeper from down the street, lower his head and scurry past.

No one, she realized, was going to do anything to help her against a Skullan.

Her feet thrust out again before her brain could stop them. One foot skidded down his massive chest, scraping his nether region. He doubled over; Marra dropped to the dust.

Startled at his reaction, she hesitated but a second before seizing her good fortune. She scrambled to her feet and took off as his companion laughed.

She didn't slow down until a rock in her heel demanded attention.

To enter the giveaway, please complete the Rafflecopter entry form below.

This giveaway is open worldwide until 12:00 AM CST on July 4, 2013.
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Tour Participants

Monday, June 3 – Interview at The Writer’s Life
Monday, June 3 – First Chapter Reveal at Pump Up Your Book
Tuesday, June 4 – Interview at Examiner
Wednesday, June 5 – Guest Blogging & Book Giveaway at Bibliophilia, Please
Thursday, June 6 – Interview at Review From Here
Friday, June 7 – Interview at Brayton’s Book Buzz
Monday, June 10 – Book Feature & Giveaway at My Cozie Corner
Tuesday, June 11 – Guest Blogging & First Chapter Reveal at Lori’s Reading Corner
Wednesday, June 12 – Interview at Fantasy Pages
Thursday, June 13 – Interview at Straight From the Author’s Mouth
Friday, June 14 – Book Review & Interview at Momma Says Read
Monday, June 17 – Book Feature & Giveaway at Gina’s Library
Tuesday, June 18 – Guest Blogging at From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, June 19 – Interview at You Gotta Read Reviews
Thursday, June 20 – Interview at Blogcritics
Thursday, June 20 – Guest Blogging at The Paperback Pursuer
Friday, June 21 – Guest Blogging at The Story Behind the Book
Friday, June 21 – Book Feature at Moonlight Lace and Mayhem
Monday, June 24 – Book Review & Giveaway at Mary’s Cup of Tea
Tuesday, June 25 – First Chapter Reveal at Read  My First Chapter
Wednesday, June 26 – Interview at Between the Covers
Thursday, June 27 – Book Feature at Authors & Readers Book Corner
Thursday, June 27 – Guest Blogging & Giveaway at Darlene’s Book Nook
Friday, June 28 – Interview at Books Books the Magical Fruit


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