Friday, July 10, 2020

Weekend Reads: Awakened (The Soul Chronicles) by Morgan Busse (Lizzie)

A few years ago I read the steampunk, loose Frankenstein-retelling Tainted by Morgan Busse. You can check out my review here. Me being me, I’ve just now finished the two-book series (I may be a little slow, but I do, usually, get around to things), the second and final book being Awakened. Isn't the cover amazing?


Awakened (The Soul Chronicles Book 2) by [Morgan L. Busse]

Awakened is a great conclusion to the story and was better even than the first book. In the first book, Kat Bloodmayne—born with strange powers she can’t use for fear of unleashing the monster inside her—is desperate to find a doctor who can cure her. Her soul is dying and her hold on her powers getting weaker. Stephen Grey is an angry, broken bounty hunter who agrees to help Kat but then, after discovering her powers and a murder charge against her, turns her over to the Tower, a corrupt scientific center partly run by Kat’s cold, cruel father, a place Stephen suspects is performing experiments on stolen corpses—and the nearly dead. Stephen returns to rescue her, however, and they have a dramatic escape.

Book two focuses on their search for a Dr. Latimer to cure Kat. With plenty of adventure, romance, and steampunkness—airships, canon arms, corsets, and so on—Awakened also has a wonderful picture of forgiveness and healing in Kat and Stephen’s relationship and in their dealing with the hurts of their past. I also appreciated the look at science and faith, the natural and the supernatural in the book, as Kat’s problem falls outside the realm of the natural world, forcing her to search for help from a disgraced doctor who believes in something beyond it. As a Christian and a biologist, and as someone who enjoyed Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I enjoyed that aspect of the novel and the additional depth it gave to a fun story of adventure and romance. If you’re looking for a great steampunk series, or just a good adventure-romance, check out Morgan Busse’s The Soul Chronicles.

And if you're a fan of audiobooks, both books just released on audio!



Thursday, July 9, 2020

Validation Vs. Transformation: A Journey of Growth (Lydia)


Validation Vs. Transformation: A Journey of Growth
 
Why do we read?   

There are probably a million different answers we could give, ranging from entertainment to escape to even growing our understanding of the world.  But for most, our desire to read can boil down to one core desire:  purpose.  Meaning.  Truth.  A reason for us to spend several hours with characters, traveling with them, learning with them, and growing with them. Which brings us to the very essence of how we measure purpose itself:  Growth.   

Character growth is an essential component of any story, as it serves as the channel through which we can connect and immerse ourselves into a book on a deeper level, granting us an in-depth look into our own dreams and into the nature of change itself.

While there are many different styles of character growth and character arcs, today I want to focus on two of the most common arcs utilized in a hero’s story (for this post, we’ll be defining a hero as a protagonist who succeeds by the end of the book):  Validation and Transformation. 

Whichever style you choose all depends on what you want your characters to learn by the end of your story.  For a Validation story-arc, the character should start off insecure or uncertain, usually about themselves or their choices, but by the end of the story they will discover confidence in their dreams and learn they were right all along.  For Transformation, the character starts off with a distorted or incorrect viewpoint, but by the end of the story they will discover that they were wrong and actively begin to change.

There are pros and cons to both styles, and whichever style you choose to incorporate will all depend on what you’re aiming for.

Validation:

Pros: Typically works great for a wish-fulfillment narrative.  Great for stories of self-discovery and learning that you are exactly who you hoped you would be.  Makes for a very pleasant and easy read, that often leaves the reader feeling validated and optimistic.

Cons: Will often be criticized for having no character growth (since for most, we measure growth in terms of change instead of confirmation).  Change is commonly seen as the most acceptable expression of growth, and when a character discovers that they need to go through a major change in their own life before anything in the story can be resolved, this results in a very satisfying narrative.  If you decide to go for a story arc of Validation, be prepared for criticism, however when a validated character arc is handled well, it can make for a very popular story.

Transformation:

Pros: Typically works great for a story with a moral or a strong central theme.  Will often receive critical acclaim and praise for handling complex topics and providing a satisfying example of character growth.

Cons: Depending on the topic or the nature of the message or theme, Transformation can be polarizing to a reader looking for a casual book to enjoy.  Because change itself is a difficult and very charged topic, you may run into critiques claiming that your message is offensive.  The story can also run into criticism if the moment of change or revelation for your character is too predictable.  However, a transformative narrative is always an excellent read, and it will give you the potential to create very believable, relatable characters that will resonate with your readers.

You can easily incorporate both Validation and Transformation character arcs into a single story if you wish, to get the best of both worlds too.  Again, it all depends on the journey and the lesson you want your characters to learn by the end.

Do you prefer to read Validation or Transformation stories?  And what are some examples you can think of that match these styles of character arcs?

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Cover Reveal: Azriel by Lee James (Laurie)

Hi friends! I hope everyone had a very happy Fourth of July weekend! I was originally going to share a Story Snippet with you today from my Peter Pan-inspired short story, "Threshold," which was published in the Mythical Doorways anthology put together by the Fellowship of Fantasy...

...BUT, then I saw the cover for Azriel by Lee James, which is being revealed TODAY, and I knew I had to share that instead! I know I'm a little biased since Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing is also my publisher, but their covers are just *so* gorgeous!!! First, here's a little bit about the author, Lee James:

Lee James writes stories of hope and redemption. Whether she creates fantasy, mystery, or historical fiction, her beautifully awkward characters traverse a dark labyrinth on their journey to a hopeful end. Her work is dedicated to sharing the beauty of Christ, one faith-infused project at a time. Keep up-to-date with all of her stories at www.leejameswrites.com.









Now, here's the back cover blurb for Azriel, which will release sometime this fall. I can't wait!!

Bree Faro learns early in life that she has only herself to depend on. Due to her feisty nature and unusual ability with a sword, she is educated in every fighting style imaginable and excels at them all. When she’s sent to infiltrate the city of Azriel, she does not expect to find her place among the Watchmen of the Keep, but they welcome her as one of their own. 
Little does Bree know that her new companions are in danger. 
An immortal creature lies in wait for any Keeper of the Flame, the city’s water source has dried up, and they are under constant attack from the Yirtzi—former Watchmen reduced to vengeful spirits, who sold their souls for power only to realize the enemy of Yahweh does not translate to the friend of mankind. Not only that, but the Watchmen are fraying. Hostilities come to a head when a Watchman is murdered. 
Only a Watchman can kill another Watchman, and all eyes shift to Bree. 
Bree finds herself faced with a choice. Does she engineer the betrayal of the powerful city, or does she embrace her destiny as a true Watchman of Yahweh and find the killer before it’s too late?


And finally, here's that amazing cover you've been waiting for! 


So many congratulations to Lee James and the L2L2 Publishing team for creating such a stunning book!!


See you next time!
Laurie


P.S. If you're interested in more than a snippet of "Threshold," you can get the entire story FREE! Find just "Threshold" here, or read the entire Mythical Doorways anthology here. Happy reading!


Friday, July 3, 2020

Weekend Reads: The King's Oracle (Vanessa)


Happy Friday! I am so excited to share an exciting book with you for Weekend Reads this week. I recently was given an advanced reader copy of The King’s Oracle by Sherry Torgent and loved it! Before I begin my gushing about it, here’s what it’s about:

The Great Destruction has left the Kingdom of Ferran devastated and divided.

The people of the eagle—the Alrenians—have sought safety in the trees, while the people of the wolf—the Uluns—struggle to survive on the toxic ground. But as resources grow scarcer, both factions must face their impending ruin.

When Wynter, a lowly Alrenian transporter, becomes entangled in a kidnapping scheme, she lands right in the hands of the enemy—the heir to the Ulun crown, Gideon. Driven by an obscure oracle of a past king, Gideon is desperate to save his people, and Wynter is just the pawn he needs in his quest to find Isidor, the land prophesied to be untouched by the Great Destruction.

As their worlds collide, Gideon and Wynter must decide whether they will continue on the destructive paths of their predecessors or embrace a destiny of unity. What follows is a quest more dangerous than either of them could imagine.




Let’s start with the setting. The world building in The King’s Oracle is fantastic. I was sucked right into the Kingdom of Ferran and the dueling nations of Alrenia and Ulun. I loved the conflict and the reason behind it.

Next, the characters. Right away the reader loves Wynter and her determination. She’s not willing to let people run over her or control her. She is strong and able to handle deep sorrow and heartbreak, even though she believes she can’t. Gideon is hard to love at first because you don’t know much about him. But, as the story progresses, you see his tender side and begin rooting for him.

Finally, the plot. I thoroughly enjoyed the engaging plot of The King’s Oracle. It was a quest within a quest! I love stories within stories that also have a deeper meaning beyond the surface.

The writing of this story was absolutely beautiful, and the action, adventure, and romance were perfectly balanced. 5 stars from me!

To purchase The King’s Oracle, click here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Six Tools for Writers (Sarah)


Historically, writers used only pen and paper, but I’m quite thankful to live in a time where we have word processors and all sorts of tools developed for writers. Choices abound, but I’d like to share a few of my favorites—and I hope you’ll share yours!
  1. Scrivener. Hands down, this is my favorite writing software. It’s perfect for writers of speculative fiction, because the folders allow for easy access to research, world-building, and character information right alongside your developing story, so it’s easy to reference the little details that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle. Notecards allow for quick restructuring of plot, snapshots give you easy options for drafting, and there are far more additional features than I could even begin to cover here. I’ve only used the Mac version, but a Windows option also exists, so you’re covered no matter what sort of computer you have.
    Alternative: Dabble.
  2. Dropbox. It’s hard to overstate the importance of backing up your work. I have Scrivener set to autosave to Dropbox, and I’d highly recommend that whatever writing software you use, you keep a backup in the cloud. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have additional backups elsewhere, like an external hard drive or even a copy you email to yourself.
    Alternative: Google Drive.
  3. Word. I don’t use Word for writing, but I do use it to send my manuscript to critique partners or beta readers—and I know many prefer to avoid more complicated software and do their drafting in Word as well.
    Alternative: Google Docs.
  4. YouTube Music. By no means is this essential, but I love to have inspiring instrumental music while writing. Streaming options like YouTube Music (formerly Google Music) allow access to a huge selection, which I really appreciate.
    Alternatives: Apple Music, Amazon Music, or Spotify.
  5. Aeon Timeline. Again, this isn’t essential (technically, none of this list is), but if you’re dealing with genres like epic fantasy, then timeline software can be helpful. But even stories that don’t refer to events over multiple decades or centuries can benefit from a nicely laid out timeline, if for nothing else than to help you keep it all organized.
    Alternative: Timeline.
  6. Scapple. This is something I’ve only used on occasion, as I don’t tend to brainstorm this way, but if you love mind-mapping, you should definitely check out Scapple.
    Alternative: Gitmind.

All of these are tools I’ve used at one point or another, and some of them are vital to my workflow. I’d love to hear from you. Do you use any of these tools? Or do you have any other favorites to share?

Friday, June 26, 2020

Weekend Reads: A Mosaic of Wings

Source: Amazon
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and I couldn't wait to read Kimberly Duffy's A Mosaic of Wings. I met Kimberly at Realm Makers and saw her again at the ACFW conference. I was so excited when her debut novel released. This book. I cannot believe it's a debut novel. The story is phenomenal. It's my favorite book of 2020 so far and won't be easily toppled.

Where to start with why I loved this novel so much? The Gilded Age is one of my favorite eras, and I love any book where the characters have unusual professions, especially women in STEM careers. Nora is an entomology student at Cornell. The insects in this book are so fascinating, with most of them being lepidoptera, moths and butterflies. Yes, I knew that word prior to reading this book. I learned it in high school zoology. My teacher used to sing difficult scientific terms to us. LEP-o-DOP-ter-a.

The settings in this book are so richly described. Whether it's the somewhat familiar Hudson Valley setting of upstate New York, which isn't too different from Indiana where I grew up or the hot and humid jungles and bustling cities of India, I felt like I was there. I'm not sure which I enjoyed more, the academic Ivy League setting or the exotic Eastern locale. Both read as very real places. I could picture the waterfall that was a place of pain for Nora and relaxation for Owen. At the same time, the sights, sounds, feel, and smell of India, a place I've never been vibrated to life.

There is a large cast of supporting characters. Nora's family is complicated. Her beloved father died tragically, her mother is fragile, and her stepfather is a difficult man. Additionally there are Nora and Owen's friends and mentors, the team in India with scientists, missionaries, and  locals who support the field team. Each person brings a different element to this rich story that is far more than a romance. It's women's fiction and covers so many topics from women's roles, scientific discovery, English influence in India, Indian culture and practices, as well as family dynamics and personal struggles.

And then there's Owen. It's rare that I find a character who resonates with me so deeply. While I'm hardly the child of a wealthy man or someone who earned top honors in college, I understood Owen. I'm all but certain he's an ENTP like I am. It was almost comical the way I could predict what he'd do and why. Some might be tempted to be angry with a "rich boy" who appeared not to care about his degree or winning the scholarship for any purpose other than gaining an honor. But I understood. He needed to prove that he could win. Also, he had his own reasons for needing the scholarship money.

As for Owen seeming not to care. That would be me. I'm competitive and work hard. I just don't let such pursuits consume me. I could picture myself casually taking my boat out for a row on the river or sprawling on a ratty blanket by a waterfall to read. Throughout the story, I found Owen to be predictable in a good way. His actions and emotions were logical and understandable.

Things to consider. It is a Christian book and the faith elements are organic and written for mature believers. It's not trite or preachy but thought-provoking. The book is a clean read in that there isn't anything racy, foul language, etc. However, it covers dark topics like prostitution/human trafficking, and some of those elements could be disturbing for younger readers.

If you enjoy rich settings, likable characters, and a complex plot with many themes woven into it, A Mosaic of Wings is the perfect weekend read.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

A Peek Into My Writing Process by Special Guest Jenelle Leanne Schmidt (An Echo of the Fae Blog Tour)



We're so excited to welcome Jenelle Leanne Schmidt to Lands Uncharted as part of her blog tour celebrating the release of her middle grade fantasy, An Echo of the Fae! Jenelle has visited once before in a spotlight for Minstrel's Call, the last book in her Minstrel's Song series, which you can find HERE. (Plus I got to meet this fun, talented lady at a writers conference, and our short stories were published in Mythical Doorways together!) Today, she's sharing a look at her writing process, and of course I've included more information about Jenelle and her new book below :)

Here's Jenelle!


A Peek Into My Writing Process 

Just as every book is different and every author is different, my writing process seems to vary from book to book. Some books require me to just write them. Sometimes I need a more in-depth outline. Sometimes I take time to create a character, but most of the time they step into my head fully formed and ready to go on an adventure (or ready to stay home and I have to be Gandalf and drag them out on an adventure even though they don’t want to, because it’s good for them)! About the only thing that stays consistent in my writing process is that I almost always write the story from start to finish. I don’t jump around, I don’t write the middle first, I don’t skip to the scenes I’m most excited to write... in every book so far except one, I just begin at the beginning and write to the end. In editing, some scenes may get rearranged a bit, but that’s for editing.

In the past couple of years, however, I have learned to implement one thing into my drafting process that has helped me stay on track and get rough drafts finished faster, and that is writing sprints. Writing sprints works better with at least a basic outline, and I’ve found that for me, they work best when I have a basic overall outline, as well as a more specific outline of whatever the next scene is in the story.

Then you set a timer for a set amount of time, block out all distractions, and write your fingers off until the timer beeps at you. I tend to start with a five-minute sprint and in a normal night of writing, I’ll work my way up by five-minute increments until I get to half an hour, usually taking 5-10 minute breaks in between sprints. I’ve realized that I tend to skip from 20 to 30 minutes though, I almost never do a 25 minute sprint. Not sure why that is! In this way, I can usually be guaranteed to have 1,500-3,000 new words written at the end of the 80 minutes of writing. Multiply that by 4 days a week, and I can easily write a 64,000 word novel in 8 weeks. Which is what I did with An Echo of the Fae.

And that’s great! But then I do end up with a fairly messy rough draft that needs some TLC. I’ll usually go through the draft with my editor’s hat on at least once, and then I send it to my awesome developmental editor, and he and I work through the story together, making sure that things make sense, that the tone of the story is consistent, that the characters act consistently, and that there aren’t any huge glaring plot holes.

Next, I send the book off to my line editor, who is also fantabulous and she works with me through all the rough patches and helps me smooth off the sharp corners of the story. She catches some of those smaller plot holes and inconsistencies and helps me with pacing and makes no bones about pointing out when I’ve used the word “water” 40 times in 3 paragraphs.

After this, I generally go to my beta readers to see how the story holds up under the scrutiny of those just reading for “fun” rather than as editors.

Now, with this particular story, after I got my info back from my beta readers, I ended up rewriting the end of the story about half a dozen times and sending it back and forth with my developmental editor again, because it just wasn’t working well. Finally, I had to scrap the original ending completely and rewrite a whole different set of chapters for it. But I really like the way it turned out and I’m super grateful that I have editors who are willing to stick with me (and stick to their guns when they can tell something isn’t quite... “it” with a story even if I’m being stubborn about liking what I originally wrote).

And finally, I have my incredible proof-readers, who help me make sure that the story is as error-free as possible, catching those pesky overused words that have stuck around through all the various rounds of editing and helping correct my punctuation... because apparently when I’m writing, all the rules for punctuation fly clean out of my head!

And that, in a nutshell, is my writing process! I hope you enjoyed hearing about it.

An Echo of the Fae was such an interesting writing experience, since the story fairly wrote itself. I sometimes feel like I can’t even really take credit for it, this story just wanted to be told, and I am grateful that I was the author used to tell it.


Thank you so much for sharing with us, Jenelle! I had the opportunity to read an advance copy of An Echo of the Fae, and it's a sweet, exciting story filled with adventure and magical worlds to explore! Here's the back cover blurb:

Echo enjoys the peace and solitude of the Faeorn forest, regardless of how strange spending time in the “haunted” wood seems to others.

But on the cusp of her thirteenth birthday, the discovery of a family secret reveals why Echo has never been drawn to the sea like her mother. This discovery shakes the foundations of her world and sends Echo on a quest, not merely into the forest, but into the heart of the fae-lands themselves, to rescue the sister she didn’t know existed.

Elves, dragons, and fairy courts will put Echo’s wit and resolve to the test. But with time running out for her sister, will Echo even be able to save herself?

A fairytale adventure perfect for fans of The Secret of Roan Innish and The Girl Who Drank the Moon.


An Echo of the Fae released on June 21st! You can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads. And here's a little more about the author:

Jenelle first fell in love with stories through her father’s voice reading books aloud each night. A relentless opener-of-doors in hopes of someday finding a passage to Narnia, it was only natural that she soon began making up fantastical realms of her own. Jenelle currently resides in the wintry tundra of Wisconsin—which she maintains is almost as good as Narnia—with her knight-in-shining armor and their four adorable hobbits. When she is not writing, she homeschools said hobbits and helps them along on their daily adventures... which she says makes her a wizard.


You can connect with Jenelle Leanne Schmidt on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Amazon. Congratulations on your new release, Jenelle!! 

Make sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour:

June 21
When the Story Chooses the Author @James Quinlan Meservy
Character Interview with Echo and Jana @Live.Love.Read

June 22
Author interview @Dreams and Dragons
Myths and Folklore that Inspired An Echo of the Fae @Author E.E. Rawls

June 23
How I’ve Been Influenced by Fairy Tales @DJ Edwardson
Review and Author Interview @Smudged Thoughts

June 24
Author Interview @An Independent Will
Book Spotlight @Kyle Robert Shultz
Book Review @Live.Love.Read
Building the Fae Realm @JL Mbewe

June 25
A Peek Into My Writing Process @Lands Uncharted
Book Review/Spotlight @Cathrine Bonham

June 26
Friday 5s @Light and Shadows
Book Spotlight @Caroline Puerto

June 27
Character Interview with Jana @AMReynwood
Book Spotlight @NJWalker
Author Interview @Adventure Awaits

June 28
The Building of Ennis Rosliath @Live.Love.Read
Does the Author Matter? @An Independent Will

June 29
Book Review @ThePageDreamer
Interview with Jana @Dreams and Dragons
Book Review @Christine Smith Author

June 30
Character Interview with the Winter King @Beka Gremikova
Author Interview @Live.Love.Read.