Wednesday, September 9, 2020

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Twin Time by Olga and Christopher Werby - Book Tour + Giveaway


Twin Time
by Olga Werby & Christopher Werby


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GENRE: Time Travel Historical Fiction Urban Fantasy

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BLURB:

Alex and Sasha are twin sisters, physically identical down to their freckles.
But the resemblance is only skin deep—Sasha is profoundly autistic, while Alex is not.
Sasha can’t communicate and acts bizarrely, and the family revolves around her and her intense
needs. Yet the aged, wealthy, and mysterious Aunt Nana seems to have a particular interest in both
girls. Offering a helping hand, she encourages the family to move to San Francisco to be near her.
And when the young twins discover a tunnel in Nana’s tool shed, it leads them on a journey across
the world and back 100 years in time. The tunnel is a pathway to the Firebird Estate,
the home of their ancestors, located in rural Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Even more remarkable, through the effect that twisting time has on cognition,
Sasha is not autistic when she’s at the Firebird Estate.
Now, growing up in two strikingly different times and places,
the twins must face their separate destinies among the ravages of the incipient Russian Revolution.
Can they save their families on both sides of the tunnel?
Can they simultaneously stay true to their own hearts, to each other,
and to the people they left behind?
Each sister must face her own personal challenge—but only together can they discover their own
future within their family’s past.

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EXCERPT
Boris Blackburg was observing Alex carefully, judging her emotional state and her ability to
comprehend what he was telling her. She seemed very confused. He wasn’t surprised.
This was the strangest assignment he had ever accepted.
At first, he thought it was some silly notion of a well-to-do old woman. But as the years passed,
he got to know Nadezhda well, and he liked the old woman, eccentricities and all.
And as he got to know the Orlov family as well–vicariously, of course—
the assignment grew more and more strange and intriguing.

Boris was also well compensated for his work. He was going to ensure Nadezhda’s wishes were
followed. Alex Orlov would inherit her great-aunt’s estate and all the accompanying strangeness
that came with it. He would make certain of it.

“Where did you get these?” Alex asked.

“Nadezhda, your Aunt Nana, gave these to me about eighteen years ago,
shortly after you and Sasha were born.”

“I… I…” Alex seemed to want to say something, but couldn’t get it out.
Boris was prepared to give her time, as long as her parents didn’t interfere with his mission
by arriving too soon. At least the girl was now of age and the complications of guardianship
had gone away–but he needed to complete his assignment before her parents arrived and
complicated matters.

“Who’s the woman in this photo?” Alex pointed to a small black and white print of a man and
a woman walking on the street. The image was very small, and it was difficult to identify the people,
both of whom were wearing hats.

“Who do you think it is?” Boris asked. He knew, of course–Nadezhda had identified most of the
photos for him, and there was information written on the back of most.

“I don’t know. But… it looks like… me?” Alex’s voice was small, barely audible.

Boris nodded.

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Guest Post
The first few chapters of the book can be found here:  https://interfaces.com/blog/twin-time
“Twin Time” is a story of identical twins, where one is autistic and the other’s not. It is also a time loop story. I wanted to explore the psychology and family dynamic of a family with a sick child. I wanted to give autism a voice. Like many of my books, “Twin Time” is fully illustrated. You can see some of the visual research that went into this story on a special Pinterest page set up for this book: https://www.pinterest.com/OlgaWerby/scifi-book-twin-time/
For this story, I’ve also created a book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHCxRU64hyU
“Twin Time” got an honorable mention in San Francisco Book Festival.

The book received a 5-star review from Readers’ Favorite: https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/twin-time
5-star “Twin Time” review from Readers’ Favorite: https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/twin-time
There are doors to stride through with purpose, and doors to peek through with trepidation. But maybe once in a lifetime there is a door to another reality, a door that connects worlds within multiverses.” In Twin Time by Olga and Christopher Werby, nineteen-year-old Alex and Sasha Orlov are identical twins, but different at the same time. While Alex is a vibrant university student, Sasha is autistic. In 2019, a fire burnt down their great-aunt’s home. Nadezhda Orlova, affectionately known as Aunt Nana, is badly hurt and Sasha is missing. When Aunt Nana’s personal attorney, Boris Blackburg, insists on talking to Alex, she’s about to find out that the important clues on Sasha’s whereabouts are in the past.


The Orlovs' secret time tunnel paves the way for an interesting plot. The story has different time settings and is also told from different characters’ points of view. That said, I find that these aspects are well-handled and that the narrative isn’t overwhelming. I gravitated towards Sasha right from the start and rooted for her when she decided that Russia would be her home. I love how her character changes and she is able to express herself freely compared to her restrictive nature and environment back in the present time. Personally, I find it hard to empathize with Alex and her mother, Emma—most of their attitude toward Sasha is unacceptable to me. Overall, Twin Time is a refreshing time travel-themed story with its vivid pre-revolution, 20th century Russia background and character-driven plot. This is a great read for YA and adult readers.


One of the distinguishing characteristics of this novel is that it is fully illustrated. These illustrations are partly based on the works of a painter Willian-Adolphe Bouguereau, who painted a lot of peasant children in the French countryside. Sasha and Alex are based on his portraits. I’ve also used old photographs from the era. I’ve set up a Pinterest page with my visual research for this story: https://www.pinterest.com/OlgaWerby/scifi-book-twin-time/
And here are a few illustrations from the book.

These are the mysterious photographs from the family archives:


This is Sasha teaching math at her grandmother’s orphanage:

This is the portrait that hangs in Aunt Nana’s house:

Here are a few of my sites:
Author’s Website: https://interfaces.com/blog/
Amazon: amazon.com/author/olgawerby
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OlgaWerby/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/OlgaWerby
Company/Publisher: https://Pipsqueak.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDE3BNceupMYgvoaoAps2mg
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/olgawerby/
Short Bio:
Olga got her B.A. from Columbia University in Mathematics and Astrophysics and worked at NASA on the Pioneer Venus Project as a programmer. She received her masters from U.C. Berkeley in Education of Math, Science, and Technology and went on to earn a doctorate in education. Together with her husband and business partner, Olga conceives, designs, and creates products, ideas, websites, and exhibits. Along the way, she writes science fiction (sometimes, with her husband…and yet they are still married!).
INTERVIEW
1. What is the first book that made you cry?
I cry easily and so I can only assume I cried reading my very first book. I had (still do to this very day) a German edition of “Sleeping Beauty”. And while I can’t read a word, I can look at the illustration and cry at the tragedy and the happy ending of Aurora’s life. This book does have wonderful illustrations. I remember crying when I read “Peter Pan”, too. A good book teaches empathy. It allows the reader to experience the world through the eyes of its characters. If you can fall into the life of another, how can you not cry when they do?
2. How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?

Different books require different approaches. When I wrote ‘becoming Animals”, I’ve spent several years doing research on animal cognition. When I wrote “Harvest”—a novel that postulates that humans are not alone in the universe and not even the first civilization to come online—I’ve spent many month researching genetics, evolution, anthropology, paleontology, etc. To write a believable story, one has to understand the historical and scientific context that gives rise to the plot. I hate when authors write about things they know nothing about. It is obvious. It is a huge turn off. So I do my homework.
When it comes time to actually writing my story, I have years’ worth of notes and snippets of dialog and ideas and even illustrations to help me. So when I do sit down to write, it takes only a few months to complete the first draft. Then my story goes through several iterations of edits before going out to a professional editor. When my editor returns my story, it usually is many months later. By that time, I have had time to put some emotional distance between my story and myself. I don’t feel in love with my turn of phrase or some plot point that I thought was kind of nice. I can let go of it all. And I then reedit the work again. After that, it goes back to my editor to check that I didn’t accidently add new mistakes. When I get my final draft back, I reedit the whole one last time and it is ready for publication. So it takes at least a year to publish a book after I’ve put the first word on the first page of my story.
3. How do you select the names of your characters?
Names have to work for the cultural milieu of a story. So I always look through databases of names. I want to choose ones that have some hidden meanings that some of my readers might discover—like an Easter egg. I also follow the rule made by Orson Scott Card, I believe. Basically, he recommends not having names that start with the same letter. Many people just skim books, especially if the names are exotic and hard to pronounce. Readers remember the basic length and shape of the name, but not the actual name itself! So if there are two or more names that start with the same letter, readers might get confused and pulled out of the story. I’ve noticed this phenomena myself when I read. So it seems like a good rule to follow.
4. Tell us 10 fun facts about yourself!
I guess I should start with the fact that I was born in Russia. I lived in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) until I was thirteen and a half. I came to America as a refugee. So I have some affinity for the place my story takes place in and its culture, its language…its smell, its light, its trees, its flowers, its architecture, its temperature… I have find memories of the White Nights and days when the sun never fully rose above the horizon. I left when I was already a pretty formed human and I had to make myself fit into a new place that was very foreign and scary, in many ways. I also didn’t really speak any English when my family arrived in New York City. I couldn’t even write my name down on a piece of paper in school. So the idea that I now use English as my primary language of telling fiction is crazy! I don’t think it would be possible if not for the Internet, my external brain and linguist. Add to that that I’m dyslexic and you can see how improbably the idea of writing and publishing books is for one like me. Yet, here we are.
But there’s more. My family, from both sides, had suffered incredible damage at the hands of the Russian government and during the WWII. But for this novel, “Twin Time”, I focused on my grandmother’s story, who lived an extraordinary life…mostly in secret. She was born into a wealthy (and titled) family just after the 1917 revolution. But she lived in a relatively small town and politics takes time to drift into the rural areas of the country. Years after the revolution, her life hadn’t changed much until one night, when a former student from her grandmother’s orphanage knocked on the door of their estate and told them to run. You see, the boy they raised and educated became a cop in the newly formed Soviet Union. He came to warn the family that was kind to him that the powers in charge were coming to burn down their house and kill everyone inside. So my grandmother, who was just a child at the time, and her family got on their horses and ran, leaving all of their possessions behind.
They ran for years, scattering into the four corners of the world. Eventually, my grandmother, her brother, and their mother met up in Moscow at a home of a former nanny. She gave them shelter. By then, the family was destitute. My grandmother remembers waiting for her mom to come home from work one evening. She waited for many hours and then went to the train station to find out what could have happened. Her mother was standing alone by the tracks. She went blind from hunger and couldn’t find her way home.
The nightmares didn’t end there. In May of 1927, British police made a bust of Soviet trade delegation in London. Under the cover of diplomatic immunity, the All Russian Co-operative Society was spying on the British, stealing some top-secret documents. For this, the men of ARCOS were expelled and diplomatic relations between the nations were dissolved for several years. The Soviets had to retaliate, of course. Shortly afterwards, they rounded up all British citizens living in Moscow and shot them. That was my family—my grandmother’s father was a British citizen. Fortunately, my grandmother, her brother, and her mother survived. Unfortunately, my grandmother had a very un-Russian last name (we have no idea if it was Lee or Leigh or Li or some variation there off—the spelling in Russian is all the same). To run from the authorities, my grandmother married an officer in a Soviet army and gained a very ordinary last name. She never talked about her family. Ever! What we learned about her past we learned when we did an interview in her late 80’s in a safety of my living room. And even then, she kept telling us that walls had ears and some things are just best forgotten.
For those who are interested in learning more about the ARCOS affair, please visit the Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Russian_Co-operative_Society
Some of the backstory of “Twin Time” is actually the story of my grandmother’s childhood. She lived in a similar pretty wooden house. Her family was the pillar of their community. Just like in “Twin Time”, there was an orphanage and a little church. I tried to incorporate as many details as I could into my story from my grandmother’s memories of her childhood. And of course the historical facts as presented in my story are all accurate.
My professional career took me from getting degrees in Math and Astrophysics (remember, I really didn’t know English back then and couldn’t go into fields of study that required solid control of language) to getting my doctorate in education. As a kid with learning disabilities, I am very interested in cognitive differences. I’ve diagnosed my first case of autism about twenty-five years ago. That child was non-verbal. Since then, I’ve come across many families that had children with “differences”. It is extraordinary difficult to raise a child who is different in this (or any other) country. “Twin Time” gave me a way of talking about autism and its costs to the family and friends. The time travel device opened up the possibility of giving a child with autism a voice. Again, everything you will read in “Twin Time” is carefully researched. When I discuss autism and family dynamics and therapies, I draw on actual research. For those who might think that I’ve meant to make anyone in Sasha’s family evil, that’s not true. There are no bad guys here really, there are just victims of circumstances and fate.
I did want my book, my story to have a happy ending. I wanted to show the possibility of love even in dire situations. And I wanted for my readers to love Sasha as much as I did. But to learn what happened, you’ll have to read my story.
One final thing, when my grandmother died, about a decade after my grandfather’s death, she insisted that her ashes were scattered in a different ocean from my grandfather.
Here is my grandmother’s portrait from the era of this story:
5. What is your favorite genre to read?  
I read voraciously and in many different genres. I read scientific articles. I read academic papers (I also write those). But I write in the genres of science fiction and magical realism. I believe a story needs characters that are believable and to whom people can relate. I find that the books I like least have one thing in common—characters that are not sympathetic. If a reader doesn’t like the main character(s), how are they going to enjoy the book?
When we read, we place ourselves into the fictional world of the book. We try on for size the problems and joys the characters experience in the story. If there is no one in a book worth caring about, then the story is ultimately a failure, in my opinion. That’s true for movies and TV shows, too. People like to read about people they admire or empathize with. Take that away, and what are left are some flat caricatures of people, explosions, and perhaps some interesting locations. That’s not enough to hold the reader’s interest.
So which authors do I like to read? Well, that very much depends on whom I reading now. In general, I like Orson Scott Card for his amazing ability to plot and construct a compelling story. I love Brandon Sanderson because he always gives a good story and he is very generous with his advice as an author. I love Brent Weeks because he is great at magic systems. Patrick Rothfuss for his “The Slow Regard of Silent Things.” Scott Lynch for the “Gentleman Bastards” series. Claire North for her imagination! Octavia Butler for fierceness and clarity of vision. There are so many amazing authors out there, not all of them write fiction or science fiction. Consider reading anything by Dr. Oliver Sacks.

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AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Olga Werby, Ed.D., has a Doctorate from U.C. Berkeley with a focus on designing online learning
experiences. She has a Master's degree from U.C. Berkeley in Education of Math, Science,
and Technology. She has been creating computer-based projects since 1981 with organizations
such as NASA (where she worked on the Pioneer Venus project), Addison-Wesley,
and the Princeton Review. Olga has a B.A. degree in Mathematics and Astrophysics from
Columbia University. She became an accidental science fiction indie writer about a decade ago,
with her first book, "Suddenly Paris," which was based on then fairly novel idea of virtual universes.
Her next story, "The FATOFF Conspiracy," was a horror story about fat, government bureaucracy,
and body image. She writes about characters that rarely get represented in science fiction stories --
homeless kids, refugees, handicapped, autistic individuals -- the social underdogs of our world.
Her stories are based in real science, which is admittedly stretched to the very limit of possible.
She has published almost a dozen fiction books to date and has won many awards for her writings.
Her short fiction has been featured in several issues of "Alien Dimensions Magazine,"
"600 second saga," "Graveyard Girls," "Kyanite Press' Fables and Fairy Tales,"
"The Carmen Online Theater Group's Chronicles of Terror," with many more stories freely available
on her blog, Interfaces.com.

Links: 

http://www.interfaces.com/blog/ 
amazon.com/author/olgawerby
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4056895.Olga_Werby
https://www.facebook.com/OlgaWerby/
https://twitter.com/OlgaWerby
http://Pipsqueak.com
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDE3BNceupMYgvoaoAps2mg
https://www.linkedin.com/in/olgawerby/

Selected Book Links on Amazon:

“Harvest”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07R8HGKWN/
“Becoming Animals”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B078P6BB6K/
“Suddenly, Paris”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B014OM5158/
“The FATOFF Conspiracy”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B014S0W4WO/
“Twin Time”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LZM578L/
“Lizard Girl & Ghost: The Chronicles of DaDA Immortals”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07FBR7Q1T/
“Coding Peter”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LFP45WC/
“Pigeon”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B014TZ1TQA/
“Fresh Seed”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07FFDZNYB/
“Good Girl”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08CCGYGHV
“God of Small Affairs”: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07Y2FT9H2/

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GIVEAWAY INFORMATION
Olga Werby & Christopher Werby will be awarding two signed books to a randomly drawn
winner (US only) via rafflecopter during the tour.


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