Saturday, March 25, 2017

Top 3 Faeries to Meet in Halayda (by special guest Sarah Delena White!)

We are thrilled to welcome Sarah Delena White to Lands Uncharted today as part of the blog tour for her debut release, Halayda! More information about Sarah and her book are included below, but first, here's Sarah sharing her Top 3 Faeries to Meet in Halayda!

Faeries: cute little people with wings who fly around granting wishes, typically while wearing flower hats and sprinkling pixie dust.


Not according to the legends of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. When creating Kyure (the world of the Star-Fae Trilogy), I delved into Celtic mythology and discovered some very different faeries - the sort you definitely don’t want to encounter on a dark night or a lonely moor! Here are three of my favorites, each of which inspired races and characters in Halayda.

3) Banshees

If you hear a piercing wail on the night wind, it means a banshee is nearby. It also means that someone’s days are numbered. These ghostly fairies come out to mourn the dead… before they die. Some legends say banshees only sing when members of the great Irish and Scottish houses pass away, while others say each family has their own banshee. Either way, the eerie mourners are always right!

My banshee character, Sidika, was a surprise—she silently crept into the story and became a major player before I even realized it. In Kyure, banshees’ powers go far beyond foretelling death. Sidika is also an empath and has wind-related powers… and is a legendary assassin in the fae Court. (How does an empath become an assassin? That question will be answered in book two of the Star-Fae trilogy!)

2) Faerie Hounds

These hounds will run their quarry into the ground, and if you hear one howl, you’re as good as dead. They’re often part of the Wild Hunt, an otherworldly band of fae folk associated with the underworld. But faerie hounds aren’t always what they seem! They will occasionally help people who are in trouble, and if you do one a favor they will return it in kind.

I’ve been intrigued by faerie hounds for years, so I really wanted them to make an appearance in Halayda, but I couldn’t have predicted the role they’d come to fill. It turned out that Sylvie, my protagonist, had a serious soft spot for them. No spoilers, though! ;-)

1) Pookas

These mischievous fairies are known for their pranks and tricks. They are shapeshifters who can take on a number of forms, but typically appear as a glowing-eyed horse, goat, or rabbit. They’re not necessarily evil, but they like their fun, sometimes to the point of being cruel. Pookas can range from blood-thirsty monsters to kindly creatures who perform random acts of help.

Mischief and benevolence make for an interesting combination, and I wanted a character who embodied both. Enter Zad, a clever, snarky, flamboyant pooka with a secret heart of gold. He’s also the “chief leader and most magnificent lord of all merchants on the black market,” but that’s another story.

So, why tell stories about faeries who are more likely to give you nightmares than grant you wishes? Perhaps because, in a sense, they are real. The myths of the Celtic world were born out of centuries of oppression and hard times—a dangerous world in which death was an ever-present reality. I wanted to honor those stories, while also putting a new spin on them by exploring what really makes something—or someone—a monster. Kyure is a world of danger, but it’s also a place of unexpected hope, and things are rarely what they seem at first glance.

Are you as fascinated by these characters as I am?? Halayda just released on March 23rd, and the Facebook Launch Party is TONIGHT at 8:00 PM EST! Hang out and chat with Sarah and other fans of her book here:

Here's the back-cover blurb for Halayda (which can be purchased on Amazon):

A mortal alchemist. A faerie king. A bond that transcends death.

Betrayed by a trusted mentor, Sylvie Imanthiya hides on the fringes of society, caring for half-fae orphans and trading her alchemical creations on the black market. She lives for the one night each season when she can see her dearest friend—a man whose destiny is far above hers.

King Taylan Ashkalabek knows better than to exchange halayda vows with a mortal. Even their friendship is a risk; love is an impossible dream. Then a brutal alchemical attack poisons his realm, unearthing a dark power within him—and leaving Sylvie with the ancient mark of Faerie’s savior.

Manifesting unpredictable abilities and aided by allies with their own secrets, Sylvie and Taylan journey into the wilds of Faerie to heal the damage and confront Casimir, an invincible star-fae determined to claim the realm as his own. But only their enemy knows Sylvie’s true capabilities—and Taylan’s weaknesses—and how to use them in his vicious schemes.

Her fate is life. His fate is death. With Faerie in the balance, Sylvie and Taylan must stand together before reality as they know it is destroyed.

And here's a little bit about the author:

Sarah Delena White was raised by wolves in an alternate dimension. She writes eclectic speculative fiction that reworks mythology with a fine balance of poetry and snark. She’s an experienced world traveler who loves to weave world folklore and ancient concepts into vibrant, original story worlds. She is also the Benevolent Firebird (acquisitions editor) for Uncommon Universes Press. When she’s not writing or editing, she can be found making jewelry, singing Irish ballads, drinking tea, and working a variety of odd jobs. She can be bribed with dark chocolate.

You can connect with Sarah on her Website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Sarah! Halayda is next on my to-read list, and I can't wait!! Congratulations on your new release!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Christianity and High Fantasy (Hannah)

I’m sorry about the short post today, but this is a topic that has been on my mind ever since I began writing my current manuscript. See, I am a Christian, and it is my desire to glorify God in everything I do. That most certainly includes my writing.

Unfortunately for me, I write high fantasy. High fantasy is a particular sub-genre of fantasy that is set in a world that has no connection whatsoever to earth as we know it. The fantasy content is “high” as opposed to low fantasy, which includes worlds that are essentially earth with magical or fantasy elements added in.

Christianity in high fantasy is tricky. J.R.R. Tolkien, the renowned author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as many other works in Middle Earth, was a devoted Christian, but he never explicitly showed these elements in his work. His stories showed the Christian belief in good’s ultimate triumph over evil, but this does not in itself make Lord of the Rings or any of the others “Christian” books.

Pilgrim’s Progress comes closer, in that it is a clear allegory for the Christian life. Because it has no relation to earth and is filled with fantastic elements, it could be considered high fantasy. The Kingdom series by Chuck Black also follows the pattern of Pilgrim’s Progress in that it retells Bible stories in a new setting.

The “Dragon” Books, by Bryan Davis, are a combination of low and portal fantasy. Portal fantasy stories have settings such that earth is connected to another fantasy realm via a portal of some sort. Obviously, with a heavy emphasis on earth and a good deal of time spent there, it is easy to fit the Gospel into the narrative.

But what about high fantasy? I am not writing allegory, and neither am I writing low or portal fantasy. High fantasy is tricky in that we must treat the figure of Jesus especially carefully. In an alternate world, it isn’t much of a stretch to say that the same God is the Creator. However, it is really right to say that Jesus came to the alternate world as well as earth? If He did, did He live essentially the same life as the one He led on earth? What about the Bible? That book in particular is inextricably tied to history. What does the other world have for God’s Word? These are all difficult questions that face a Christian high fantasy writer. I asked the question many times: how can I get a Christian message into my book? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I have several Christian high fantasy books on my shelves to serve as inspiration.

Swords of the Six, by Scott Appleton, solves this problem by having God but not Jesus. In the book, there are a couple of prophets who are in communication with the Creator and whose job it is to do the Creator’s will and lead others to do the same. The God in this book is clearly recognizable as the Christian God, but there is no mention of salvation or Jesus. Instead, the characters serve the Creator wholeheartedly because they love Him. This is a viable option, given that it can share truths about God and the proper response to Him. The main drawback is that it does not present the Gospel explicitly. This may not be too much of a problem, depending on what story you are telling.

The Map Across Time, by C.S. Lakin, takes a different option. The author chose a few key Bible verses as her theme, and presented the verses in-story as wise sayings that the characters learn to accept and live by. In this way, she is able to infuse her story with Biblical themes even though she did not create a world with God or Jesus or the Bible explicitly mentioned. The downside of course is that if I had not found the book in a Christian bookstore, I may never have realized it was supposed to be an obviously Christian book.

Another two of Bryan Davis’ series, Dragons of Starlight and Tales of Starlight, are also high fantasy. Here he omits any mention of God and Jesus but his strong Christian themes shine through his characters, who live by a clearly Christian system of morality that is regulated by the Code. This book receives little explanation, but the characters treat it as if it were the Word of God for them. It is, of course, perfectly consistent with the Bible.  This focus on the morality of the Christian life without getting into the specifics of exactly how God, Jesus, and the Bible relate to an alternate world is the most simple method to use and use well, but can have difficulty because without God, there can be no morality.

There are pros and cons to each approach, and there is no clear way to go about writing high fantasy that is explicitly Christian but not blasphemous in any way. Ultimately, I believe that as long as the author seeks to honor God with her writing and trains her ear and heart to listen for His words, she will produce a book that is pleasing and glorifying to Him.

I wrestled with the question of how to infuse my work with Christian themes when I first started writing, and it took me about a year to settle into a decision. Since then, I have continued to question whether it was the right one. At this point, I will not rewrite my story to support a sweeping change, so I am stuck with my original decision. My story follows Tolkien’s example, with Christian virtues and values underlying the storytelling, but with no explicit references to anything resembling God, Jesus, the Bible, or other recognizable elements of Christianity on earth.

In the future, maybe I will find a better option. For now, I will do the best I can to honor God with my writing, no matter what it is.

Have you had trouble showing Christian themes or elements in your writing? Do you have any suggestions for high fantasy writers in the future? Which example do you like best of the ones I listed above?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Your Turn for #JoyRevisited (Erin)

Good Morning! This week, I could relate to Laurie's post "Joy Revisited." I am absolutely loving my new teaching job, my kiddos are wonderful ages, and my husband is also my best friend. . . but if I am not careful, I can get sad about the fact my oldest daughter only has 2 more years before college, my seniors at school are graduating, my teenage boy doesn't always want to be seen with me, and I only have 6 more months before my youngest is out of single-digits. For "Your Turn" today, I thought we could tweak Laurie's statement below to fit ourselves:

Being a wife, mom, and author is living out my dream, and I'm in danger of missing it. If I can't appreciate these blessings now, then I never will.

Then, I thought I would make a list of things I can be joyful about. Does anyone want to join me?

By posting your "living the dream" statements, or your "Joyful List" in the comments, it is my hope we will encourage each other! Thank you in advance, for posting!

Erin's Dream Statement: Being a wife, mom, teacher and writer is living my dream and I don't want to miss it! Here are some blessings I can appreciate now:

1. Having intellectually stimulating conversations about postmodernism with my 10th-grader
2. When my son kisses the top of my head and doesn't mention the silver hairs
3. When my almost-10-year-old still wants to cuddle and read before bed
4. Making plans to explore random cities here and abroad with my husband
5. Going to my school--every day. Interacting with amazing, fun, crazy, talented students in a Christian environment.
6. Editing my manuscript--which means it is done!
7. Writing scenes from Book 2
8.  The love of God

What blessings can you appreciate now? Let us know! You could even put one on Twitter!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Joy Revisited (Laurie)

Back in January, I posted that "joy" turned up as the word to inspire me for 2017. I vowed to remember to pause and experience joy in my day-to-day life, no matter how much chaos surrounds me.

So far, I'm failing miserably.

I fully recognize that it's pathetic. As I announced a month ago, I signed a publishing contract! The culmination of years of work and dreaming is in my grasp, and I still can't manage to be joyful?!

The problem is, I've never been one to rest on my laurels. It's a good thing, when it comes to getting stuff done. Not so good when it comes to appreciating the many blessings in my life. While I was thrilled about signing my contract, it also felt like reaching the next level of a video game, unlocking a whole new set of to-do lists. I'm trying to do more with author promotion, such as sending out a monthly e-newsletter and getting people to subscribe to it. I'm trying to do more to help promote other authors who have offered me their support and encouragement. I'm trying to push forward with writing my next manuscript so that readers who like my first book won't have to wait five years for the next one.

Basically, I'm trying to do too much, too soon. And it's stressing me out.

As shameful as it is to admit, here's what my anxiety-producing to-do list has looked like lately:

-Author promotion: how many social media posts should I be fitting into a day, and how concerned should I be if I'm not getting the response I want?

-Reading: I offered to beta-read or review so many author's books, how late can I afford to stay up every night to fit them all in?

-Writing: I'm too distracted to really feel like writing, but if I don't up my word count, what will I have to show for myself at the end of the week?

-Family: My kids keep bugging me to play with them, and I really should hang out with my husband at some point, but who has time for all that?

A few days ago, something finally snapped. I saw my to-do list in a new light, and realized just how far I'd let the crazy-train take me.

-Author promotion: I'm stressing out about promoting the book I've dreamed about publishing for so long? It doesn't even come out until 2018, I have plenty of time.

-Reading: I've always loved to read, and now I'm letting it bother me that I have too many amazing books in my to-read pile? Very few of them have deadlines attached, so I should just enjoy them as I have the time.

-Writing: I used to get so lost in my story that I wanted to write every spare moment. I need to quit worrying about when my second book will be published and get back to having fun with my writing.

-Family: Since when did my family become part of my to-do list?! My husband is my best friend, and I couldn't wait to be a mom. So many people out there are yearning for the kind of family life I have, and I'm completely taking it for granted.

In short, I need to chill out. To change my attitude and recognize that these are all things I get to do, not have to do (Elizabeth did an excellent post on this concept last October). Being a wife, mom, and author is living out my dream, and I'm in danger of missing it. If I can't appreciate these blessings now, then I never will. It's time to prioritize, remove self-imposed deadlines, and give myself some breathing space. It will all get done, it just doesn't have to be today.

Better late than never in finding joy, right? Let's just hope I can keep up this new perspective, at least most of the time :)

How about you? Hopefully you're not as far-gone as me, but do you sometimes let the blessings in your life become burdens? What strategies have you found to prevent everyday life from becoming stressful?

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Top 3 Beauty and the Beast Characters

In honor of Disney's Beauty and the Beast live action movie that came out yesterday, here are my favorite characters from the 1991 animated classic it's based on.

3. Lumiere
Lumiere has the warmth and personality to light up the Beast's gloomy castle. One of my favorite scenes with him is when he sings Be Our Guest, accompanied by the other servants. It showcases his welcoming and jovial nature and his tendency to tease Cogsworth. I'm excited to see Ewan McGregor play this part in the live action film.

2. Mrs. Potts
When things go wrong in the castle, which they often do, Mrs. Potts is there to cheer and comfort. She has wisdom about love in a way the other characters don't, and yet she doesn't back down when resistance is needed against attackers. A sincere and strong character, this role seems like a fitting one for Emma Thompson.

1. Gaston...Just kidding, it's Belle
She's brave and caring, she defies expectations, and she sees beyond appearances to the heart of people. There are many examples of these characteristics in Belle throughout the film, including
when she takes her father's place as the Beast's prisoner. I loved Emma Watson as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, and I can't wait to see her portrayal of Belle.

Of course, I also like the Beast because he learns to love.

Which are your favorite characters? Has anyone seen the new film yet?


Mrs. Potts:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Shock of Night by Patrick Carr (Lizzie)

As a fan of fantasy author Patrick Carr's The Sword and the Staff trilogy (starting with A Cast of Stones), I was eagerly waiting for his next series, The Darkwater Saga, which begins with The Shock of Night. It did not disappoint. :)

Set in a medieval world, The Shock of Night is an action-packed murder mystery with fantasy elements. The fantasy aspect is mild, mostly present in the form of gifts that, when combined with natural talent and the right temperament, give almost super-human abilities. There's also a mysterious forest housing some unknown evil.

The main character, Willet Dura, is reeve to the king of Bunard and is called upon to solve the murder of a priest and the priest's guard. The priest, who survives just long enough to be carried to the House of Passing, grabs Willet, screams at him in a strange language, and then dies. Willet soon discovers that he has much more than a simply murder on his hands--when he touches someone, he sees into their thoughts and memories. The dying priest passed a rare gift to him, a gift that's not supposed to exist.

Nonetheless, it sounds like the perfect gift for a reeve--no criminal would go unpunished and no innocent falsely condemned--but Willet quickly realizes the gift is just as dangerous as the murderer on the loose. And they're connected. Only members of a secret and specially trained group known as the Vigil possess this mind-reading-by-touch gift, and they aren't happy when Willet receives the gift instead of the man they had trained to inherit it. When they try to take over the search for the killers, Willet finds himself in as much danger from them as from the murderers.

Yet both Willet and the Vigil soon realize there's a greater threat. The evil hidden in the deadly Darkwater Forest is creeping out. The Forest is a place no ones survives, or survives without becoming violently insane. No one, that is, except Willet Dura, and he doesn't remember what happened to him there, and not even the mind-reading Vigil can tell him. The murders, the gift, the Forest and Willet's experience there, are all tied up in a conflict that could destroy Willet's beloved city and spread from there like a disease. Willet will need all his intelligence, wit, and bravery--and unlikely friends--to have any chance of saving the city.

I was initially surprised by the differences between this book and Carr's others. The Sword and the Staff was written in third person and was a bit more Tolkien-esque with the main characters having to travel and save the kingdom. The Shock of Night focuses on one city and begins in first person POV with Willet Dura but then switches to third person for Pellin's chapters (Pellin is the head of the Vigil). I was surprised by this, but it soon became apparent why this was. It's essential that we are in Willet Dura's mind and seeing what he sees,  no more, no less, but that we also have the most distant perspective of Pellin.

As with The Sword and the Staff, the characters are likable and have depth. I particularly love witty, kind-hearted but tough, troubled Willet; his fatherly, Vigil-assigned guard Bolt; wise King Laeder; and the street urchins Willet's always giving his money too. Carr also does a phenomenal job of keeping up the tension, revealing one shock or plot twist after another. I want to tell you a few of them, but I can't! I don't want to spoil the surprise for you when you figure them out for yourself!

With action, mystery, well-done fantasy elements, a touch of romance, and excellently drawn characters, The Shock of Night is staying on my shelf of favorites. I am looking forward to reading its sequel, The Shattered Vigil.

The novella prequel, By Divine Right, is also a great read and is available as a free ebook on amazon.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

To Be A Better Writer...Keep Learning (Jill)

When I was in college, I loved the learning experience. Not so much the general education classes that everyone took, but the core classes I needed to obtain my degree. Those days are long gone. But if you don't learn, your ability grows stagnant, or worse, deteriorates. So what are the options available for adults who can't afford to go back to class? I'm glad you asked.

1) Webinars: Now before some of you howl in protest, let me explain. Yes, some of the free webinars offered don't amount to much more than a sales pitch. But some of them offer nuggets of helpful wisdom. As long as you expect there to be a sales pitch at the end, it's not such a blow when the host asks the instructor, "What great deal are you offering us today?"
The most informative (but not free) webinar I attended was WordPress at 10,000 Feet. It was invaluable and worth every penny, especially since I tried to set up a website on my own before and failed spectacularly.  Some free helpful webinars I've taken have been on topics like "Heart" Sell vs. Hard Sell, Marketing Strategies for Pinterest, Double Your Social Media Traffic, and Why You Suck at E-mail (& How to Fix It).

2) Books on the craft: If your time isn't flexible and your employer frowns on you using company time to attend webinars, books on the writing craft might be a better fit. There are many good ones out there covering a variety of topics (Sell Your Book Like Wildfire by Rob Eager, Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors by Kathy Ide, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King--which many authors swear by, although I didn't care for it). I try to read a couple a year, mixed in with all my fiction choices. Pick up a few or request them from your local library.

3) Conferences: This is the most expensive option out there, even if it's just a one-day workshop. If you can handle the finances for one or two a year, then definitely spend the money. Find a conference covering interesting topics with agents, editors, and publishers who are interested in your genre. Then start saving. I've attended one-day workshops and three-day conferences, and it's always been worth it. This year, I'm saving my pennies for Realm Makers in Reno, Nevada, the perfect choice for all speculative writers (plus the people there are truly kind, cool, and talented individuals).

So keep writing, reading, and listening. And never stop learning.