Friday, September 25, 2020

It's Party Time! (Katie)

It's Party Time! (Katie)

This week marks the release of The Rebel Princess, book 2 in my princess series. To celebrate, I'm throwing a book release party right here on Lands Uncharted! The best part? You're all invited!





First, we must have snacks! Have a few, and don't forget to grab a drink!





Now that we're all prepared with yummy goodies, let's talk books! Fairy tale retellings are some of my favorite types of books. I love all stories of princesses, adventures, and mysteries. Here are a few that inspired me to write my own, as well as a few I've read since!



(Where have I seen that author's name before?! *wink wink*)

The Dreamworld Duology, which I devoured!

All books by my dear and talented friend Melanie Dickerson!

Oldies but goodies, and oh so good at that!

I'm thinking The Selection was the first book I read that introduced me to this world of nontraditional princess stories!

Brimming with mystery and palaces!

The best part about these books is that none of them are exactly new, and most can be found in your local library. You'll have to let me know if you've read any of these or if you've added any to your TBR pile.

DRUM ROLE PLEASE!

Now let's talk about our guest of honor, The Rebel Princess! Here's where you can learn all about her online!

Instagram @KatieClarkBooks
Facebook @KatieClarkBooks
www.katieclarkwrites.com  


A traitor. A future king. A doomed love story.

Merry Stern has never been a spy, but when she's offered asylum in exchange for her help uncovering remaining rebel bands, she accepts in hopes of freeing her father.

Working with the royals is no easy feat, especially considering that Prince Gregory Hamilton considers her untrustworthy and duplicitous. As she and the prince navigate their uncomfortable relationship, Merry is introduced to questions she did not know she possessed; questions of light and darkness, good and evil.

Princess Roanna is finally engaged to Prince Benjamin of Lox, only the marriage seems stalled, and she cannot determine at whose hand. The Dawsons won't let her out of their sight, Chester's Wake is focusing all efforts on finding their lost princess, and Lox refuses to acknowledge her position entirely.

Truth and lies are brought to light as those who seek to control and destroy are finally uncovered in The Rebel Princess.



I'm so excited to introduce Merry and Gregory's story to the world! I hope you've enjoyed my little virtual celebration, and if you happen to read The Rebel Princess I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Themes in Ashen by Special Guest H.L. Burke (Ashen & Met By Midnight Blog Tour)


Remember last week when we got to hear from Janeen Ippolito about the inspiration behind her new Cinderella retelling, Met By Midnight? Today we're thrilled to welcome H.L. Burke to Lands Uncharted to share about the themes in her very different but equally awesome Cinderella retelling, Ashen! You can learn more about the author and the book below, but first, here's Heidi!


Beauty and the Ash Lizard 

I’m human. I’m definitely human. What else could I be but human?

Lizbete is an odd little thing. Abandoned as an infant by unknown parents, she grows up overshadowed by the strange occurrences of the night of her arrival, an outcast in the only home she’s ever known. She has amber eyes, a nearly skeletal frame, and unnaturally gray skin. Worse, though, is her carefully guarded secret: the fact that when she touches someone she pulls heat from them, sometimes to the point of injury.

Because of this, Lizbete sees herself as a bit of a monster, a danger to those closest to her, odd and undesirable. She has a small handful of people who actually care for her: Auntie, the tavern owner who adopted her as an infant; Elin, a younger girl whose chronic illness causes her to also feel like an outsider amongst the townsfolk; and Brynar, Elin’s brother and the mayor’s son, who has come to see Lizbete’s kind heart in watching her interact with his baby sister.

The other villagers tend to either ignore or openly scorn Lizbete. They’ve given her the nickname “ash lizard” due to her strange gray skin and the way she skulks in the ashes beside the fire (her attempt to stay warm). Throughout the book Lizbete struggles with the idea that anyone could want to be with her, that she could ever have a place among other humans, to the point where she starts to wonder if she’s really human at all.

When Brynar starts to exhibit romantic interest in her, her confusion and self-doubt explode. After all, if the village won’t accept her as a kitchen maid in their local tavern, what will they have to say about her as the bride of their favorite son? Doesn’t Brynar deserve someone who he can be proud to stand beside? Someone ... beautiful?

“Beautiful on the inside just means not beautiful at all. If you are honest, Brynar, if you compare me to any other girl in this village with a healthy complexion and appealing figure, can you truly say I am beautiful?”

Beauty is a weird concept. Women are very quick to label themselves as “not beautiful” but generally speaking this means “not reminiscent of current societal norms.” At one point, plump women were the models every artist used. Victorians romanticized pale skin whereas we now have people who will literally paint themselves to avoid this. Beauty as a societal construct is a strange mix of fads that change over the years. Due to this, if we define beauty as what is preferred by the culture in any given year, the concept is useless as a set standard. Beauty has as much value as any other fashion trend. It’s a fleeting way to judge something in the now, and future generations will probably look back at our current standards and mock us the way we snicker over the excessive big hair and acid wash looks of the 80s.

So, if that is what we mean by beautiful, then beauty is neither something to strive for or to laud.

From an emotional standpoint, I do like the idea that everyone is beautiful. After all, we’re God’s creations. What nerve of us to hold up something he made--be it a rock, or a cuttlefish, or a stranger on the street, or even ourselves--and say “this is a mistake. It’s not something I like. It should be prettier!”

And while there is truth in that, if everything and everyone is beautiful, then again, it doesn’t really mean much. We humans crave to be special, to be individuals, not painted with the general brush of “you’re beautiful, just like everyone else” because if it’s everyone, it’s just a given, not a positive or a negative, just a thing that is.

Finally self-esteem prettiness, the kind where YOU are happy with how YOU look, no matter what anyone else thinks, that’s great. I hope everyone finds it, but humans are social creatures. While we can hold ourselves up as independent individuals who don’t need the approval of others, that denies a portion of ourselves that is fed by relationships, by kind words from others …

“Beauty means outside. It means that when a boy looks at me, he actually would want to touch me, and that … that isn’t what I am.”

Because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if someone loves you, they should think you’re beautiful. No matter what you look like, no matter what you feel about yourself, if someone loves you, you should be beautiful to them.

I think my favorite quote on beauty is from the character Amy Pond in Doctor Who: “You know when sometimes you meet someone so beautiful, and then you actually talk to them, and five minutes later they're dull as a brick. But then there's other people, and you meet them and you think 'not bad, they're okay', and then you get to know them, and their face sort of becomes them, like their personality's written all over it, and they just they turn into something so beautiful...”

Because that’s why beauty matters. Beauty is a signpost on the road from friendship to love. It’s a place where a person’s spirit has leaked out onto their skin and you realize they are the most beautiful person in the world to you.

And that’s when beauty matters.

His hand caressed her cheek, her blood drawing on his heat ever so slightly, just enough to taste the stability of his presence. “If that’s what it means, if it just means that I want to touch you, then yes. Liz, I can honestly say you are beautiful. In fact, you are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

Lizbete’s journey to self-value involves many other aspects than just her romance with Brynar. There’s the whole thing with the “freezing with a touch” and the mystery of where she even came from and what her purpose is amongst the villagers.

Still, the joy of a lonely character finding that to someone else they are precious was my favorite thing to write in this book, and I hope readers enjoy it too.

Artwork by Hannah Rogers

I love that message so much, and that scene between Lizbete and Brynar happened to be one of my favorites in the book! The romance was so sweet, but you should also read it for the mystery and intrigue. And for Elin and her hilarious snark :) Here's the back-cover blurb:

Stealer of warmth, bringer of death. What if Cinderella had a secret that kept her locked away?

Unable to make her own body heat, foundling Lizbete survives in the tavern kitchen, drawing warmth from the fires, the sun—and sometimes, other living beings. Her days are spent cooking alongside the tavern owner and avoiding the suspicious gazes of the villagers in her small northern town. While she quietly longs for the handsome Brynar, she knows she has no chance with the mayor’s son, even if he invites her to the First Frost festival.

When sudden earthquakes strike Brumehome, blame falls upon Lizbete, and not even her friendship with Brynar can protect her. She finds shelter in the dangerous caverns of nearby Ash Mountain. There she discovers mysterious people with her same ability to draw heat—and a fiery doom in the mountain that slowly awakens with every quake.

Now the festival Lizbete thought to avoid is her only chance to warn the villagers. Yet even with Brynar at her side, can the strange girl dubbed the Ash Lizard hope to save the town that fears her?

A rugged YA Cinderella retelling set in a fantasy world with light steampunk elements.



Eeeep, it's so good! You can find Ashen on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. And here's a little more about H.L. Burke:

Born in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic. Her obsessions include dragons and tales about inner beauty and character overcoming extreme circumstances. Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.



You can connect with Heidi on her website, her newsletter, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Thank you so much for visiting today, Heidi, and congratulations on your new release!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Writer's Life: Creating a Multi-Series Universe (Kimberly)

Do you love it when multiple series feed into the same universe? It's one of my favorite things as a reader and also as an author. Creating a Marvel Universe level of separate stories/series that are actually connecting the big picture can be a challenge, however.

Multi-Series Universes can have a couple different forms:

(1) You have close connections where the individual series follow one main set of heroes. These tend to either follow a linear timeline or they may have the same timeline from each main character's POV. The main characters often show up as the primary sidekicks in each other's series.

(2) You have semi-close connections where the first series follows one set of characters and then the next series follows spinoff characters such as children or younger siblings and friends. These connections progress with a linear timeline and often feature true cameo appearances by at least some of the previous series' main characters.

(3) You have what I call world connections where the individual series take place in the same world but there's not necessarily a close connection between the different main characters. These tend to move around more on the timeline scale and there might be fleeting blink-and-you-miss-it cameos but nothing more solid than sharing the same world. They also often feature different areas of the world, which contributes to the greater degree of separation.

I've written two of the three universe styles: Semi-close and World connections. What I love about creating multi-series universes is I don't have to always build my world from scratch because I've already defined the majority of the rules for the world with the first series. This is a fantastic time saver IF you keep a series or, rather, a WORLD bible. World bibles are definitely a must have if you don't want to spend precious writing time rereading books or being nailed in reviews for not following your own established rules. So one of my top recommendations for building a multi-series universe is to make sure you're updating that world/universe bible too.

Sometimes it is very easy to tell when you're going to create a true universe that extends beyond one series. This is great because it allows for pre-planning how the universe works beyond the first series. I did this with my fairytale retelling series because I knew I wanted a second series for the stories of various side characters and in some cases children. Love's Enchanted Tales and its spinoff Love's Further Enchanted Tales falls firmly into the second category of semi-close connections. LFET's first book, Dragon's Fire, will feature three secondary characters from my Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling and the children of the main couple from The Storyteller's Dragon.

The universe established with my fairytales primarily consists of a linear timeline. However, it will also feature several world connection series. The first of which will be out this fall. The Unseelie of Sonera trilogy has a loose off-the-cuff connection to my first fairytale series via some references to another continent but it's primarily a world connection. I very much enjoyed the extended freedom in regards to aesthetics and culture inspirations this has provided. My fairytales are primarily medieval with a sprinkling of India and Africa while the Unseelie trilogy is set on a continent featuring far more Greek and Roman inspiration. 

Other times you might be surprised to realize your two separate series actually belong in the same universe. This usually requires some type of retconning to address any world building differences up to this point, which can be a big ordeal or resolved with a couple tweaks and some future crossovers. When I realized my two separate urban fantasy series worked best as a shared universe, I had already published several books in each series. So I had to make some retcon tweaks to the Therian Way's specific world building to allow Rogue Spotter to meld with it. Fortunately, this was an easy fix because they'd featured different sides of the country and my Therians were an established isolationist culture of shifters. Which actually worked out really well for creating some nice nuances to the world via the small differences in the two main paranormal cultures. I will publish the final Therian Way book next month and I really love how the universe has expanded since I first started. I'm also enjoying my timeline gap filling with a fun paranormal romance series featuring Fae and dragon billionaires showing the wider paranormal community's activities in the aftermath of Rogue Spotter's finale.

Creating a multi-series universe is possible for both pantsers and plotters. It can be both challenging and rewarding. As authors, we get to expand our own universes beyond what can be contained in a single series whether it's with close, semi-close, or world connections. The histories and background characters can be expanded without cluttering a single book or series, which also allows for changes in tone or POV style without being jarring. We give our readers multiple entry points into our universe timeline with the freedom to go backward or forward to enjoy more adventures. We also give them answers as to what happily ever after actually looks like for past favorite couples.

What are some of your favorite multi-series universes? Of the three types of connections, which ones do you love reading or writing the most?

Until next time,

Kimberly





 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Weekend Reads: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Heather)

 The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton, is a book I almost loved. 

As you may have noticed, I'm an audiobook worm, and this fun speculative sleuthing story (if that wasn't a thing, it is now) is a recent listen. 

At first, I was enthralled! This book combined my two favorite things: mystery (of the whodunnit variety) and mystery (of the fantasy/paranormal variety). It's Agatha Christy meets Orson Scott Card. And it is also quite clean (PG), which was refreshing!

Readers begin their journey from the POV of Aiden Bishop, who has amnesia, and is witnessing a murder in the woods. He cannot remember anything before that awful moment. Horrified and confused, he stumbles up to a huge manor house called Blackheath, where he learns that he is a guest. Not just a guest, but actually a competitor in a twisted mental game. Oh, and its on the 20th anniversary of the murder of a little boy who lived at Blackheath.

With guidance from a man disguised in a plague doctor's costume, Aiden learns that he will be witnessing the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, sister of the dead boy, every day for eight days--from a different guest's point of view. The goal is to figure out who murders her and, possibly, to prevent it. If Aiden can do this, he will be able to leave this repetitive nightmare. The catch is, two other people have the same goal and only one can be released! Also, the murdered woman in the woods is NOT Evelyn. Hmmm.


Intrigued yet?

So was I!

This story was a lot of fun to listen to in the beginning. The narrator, James Cameron Stuart, did a fabulous job with the characters, bringing each uniquely to life. But circling through the same day from different character's perspectives soon became discombobulating! The same day lasts for eight days, for one. And if one of the guests happens to doze off in the middle of the day, or is knocked out in a scuffle, that day starts over and it begins back in the body of the butler who was attacked by the man hired to paint a portrait of the family. 

Confused yet? 

So was I!

This is not a story for sleepy, armchair detectives! And, although entertaining, there were too many loops into the same day, and from so many POVs, that I could not keep track of who was doing what merely by listening. Not to mention that the same events told from slightly different vantage points gets a bit tedious.

Still, it was such a unique story, with a lot of fun characters and intrigue, I'd have to recommend it with this caveat: know what you're getting yourself into! Grab a notebook and pencil, get an actual copy of the book which would allow you to flip back and forth, and DON'T expect to have an easy read! Let me know what you think of this book if you've read it, or if you decide to give it a try. 


Thursday, September 17, 2020

Inspiration for Met By Midnight by Special Guest Janeen Ippolito (Ashen & Met By Midnight Blog Tour)


We are so excited to welcome Janeen Ippolito to Lands Uncharted today to talk about her upcoming new release, Met By Midnight! Uncommon Universes Press (one of my favorite small presses, if you recall ๐Ÿ˜Š) is publishing both Met By Midnight and Ashen by H.L. Burke  - two very different but equally fabulous Cinderella retellings - on September 22nd! I'll share more about the author, Met By Midnight, and the blog tour below, but first Janeen is going to share about the inspiration behind her book!


Met By Midnight was inspired by a dream…and a breakdown.

We’ll start with the breakdown first, because that might have caught your attention. ๐Ÿ˜‰ A little over a year ago, I reached an extreme level of burnout and depression and anxiety, the likes of which led to me taking a few weeks completely off work (which I hadn’t done in a very, very long time—one of the dangers of liking your jobs too much), along with getting some much-needed therapy, supplements, and making lifestyle changes.

As I slowly started mentally recovering, I tried to write again, and nothing was working. Nothing. I had two active book series, and I couldn’t figure out what to write for either of them. The only thing I could write was poetry.

You might be thinking “hey, at least you’re writing poetry”, but for me, fiction is therapy as much as ‘work’ so I was a slightly cranky Janeen about this predicament.

However, one night I had an intriguing dream about a young woman in a blue dress racing toward a castle, even though another person was warning her away. She was there to steal something. Something incredibly important for her people. However, when she got there, a young man caught her—and oddly enough, he didn’t seem at all surprised to see her. But she was shocked to see him. End dream.

A few days later, when I was oh-so-calmly expressing (aka, whining about) my lack of writing mojo with a friend, she suggested I start drafting the dream. So I went for that, and ended up writing the middle of Met By Midnight. Which made for a very unique first draft that drove me crazy some days! Yeesh.

As soon as I started writing, I realized it was a Cinderella retelling, which made me super-happy, since that’s one of my favorite fairy tales—Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is still one of my favorite books of all time. And since some of my own breakdown had stemmed from excessive people-pleasing, I decided to dig into the idea of sacrifice.

Cinderella is often held up as this epic heroine of sweet submission, quiet strength, and sacrifice in the midst of persecution. But very rarely does anyone really get inside the psychological stresses and difficulties of enduring that level of constant mental, emotional, and physical abuse. How did she keep it together? Did she never want to smite those against her? How many tears did she bury inside?

For added fun, I made Renna, the main character of my story, a Mender. The fantasy government requires her to use her healing gift to benefit others (they control who), even though every time she Receives an illness or injury, she endures great pain to recover. And she has no choice, no say in the matter. After all, if she can, then she should, regardless of the cost. Right?

Oh yes, and lest you think the story is 100% angst and hard situations, there is a sweet romance, some quirky side characters, cute sibling moments, political intrigue, and a far-too-adorable dog. Plus, there’s most definitely a happily-ever-after. Everyone needs a breather! Even in the midst of hardship and sorrow, there is always humor, joy, and hope. And through writing this story, I wrote my own way into fresh hope as well.


What an inspiring story! And let me tell you, friends, it made for a wonderfully exciting, thought-provoking book! Not surprisingly, I was a huge fan of that happily-ever-after ๐Ÿ’™ Thank you so much for sharing with us, Janeen! Here's a little more about her:


Janeen Ippolito believes in Jesus, true love, and the power of your unique words. She's a bestselling author of speculative fiction, writing resources, and poetry. She's also an editor, author coach, marketing strategist, and the president of Uncommon Universes Press. When she's not immersed in the geektastic world of words, she's helping her husband with his youth swordfighting ministry, exploring a slew of random hobbies, and posting up cute animal videos on social media. This extroverted writer loves to connect, so find her on Facebook, Instagram, and her website janeenippolito.com.

And here's a little more about Met By Midnight, which can be pre-ordered on Amazon!

An outcast prince. A captive healer. A single night that changes their destinies.

She lives a nightmare.


As a Mender, Renna is held captive to an endless cycle of receiving and recovering from the physical ailments of others—a cycle that led her mother to an early grave. When her father becomes deathly ill, Renna is desperate to save her only remaining family. Even if it means allying with criminals and taking an illegal mission into the royal palace on the night of their greatest ball.

He’s haunted by dreams.

Unable to be Mended, Prince Jaric’s existence is a curse to his family’s faรงade of health and security. Marrying him off at the ball and sending him to a distant dukedom is the royal solution—but Jaric has his own plans. For years he’s dreamed of a young woman, a strong-hearted Mender he would give everything for. When she arrives the night of his betrothal, he’s determined to discover her true identity.

Met by midnight, their fates are entwined.

While escape seems the only answer, powerful forces conspire to keep Renna and Jaric within their cages. Forces that undermine the foundations of the kingdom itself—and threaten any hope of a future together.

This YA romance features Cinderella in an original fantasy world with a dystopian twist.



Stop by next week to hear from H.L. Burke about the themes of Ashen, and don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

September 14: Cathrine Bonham, Met By Midnight book review
September 15: Madisyn Zeller, Ashen book review
September 16: Jorie, Ashen inspiration post
September 17: Lands Uncharted, Met By Midnight inspiration post
September 18: Jess Elliot, Ashen book spotlight
September 19: Lauricia Matuska, Met By Midnight book spotlight,
September 20: Christina Morley, Met By Midnight, custom post
September 21: Denica McCall, Janeen Ippolito author interview
September 22: Ashley Martinez, Ashen book spotlight
September 23: Peter Adler, Ashen world building feature
September 24: Lands Uncharted, Ashen themes post
September 25: Selina Eckert, Ashen world building feature
September 26: H.L. Burke, Met By Midnight feature,
Janeen Ippolito, Ashen feature
September 27: Abigail Falanga, Met By Midnight themes post
September 28: Cathrine Bonham, Met By Midnight book review
September 29: Teisha Priest, Ashen and Met By Midnight dual post
September 30: Liz Delton, Ashen book spotlight
October 1: Kandi Wyatt, Ashen book spotlight
October 2: Olivia Neale, Met By Midnight book spotlight

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Story Snippets: Guardian Prince (Lauricia)

Welcome back to Lands Uncharted and another installment of our Story Snippets posts. We hope you are enjoying this new addition to our blog as much as we are enjoying bringing them to you.

I am glad to present another excerpt from my upcoming release, Guardian Prince, and to announce exciting news:

 


Guardian Prince will be released on Amazon in only nine days, on September 24, 2020!


 If you’re an ebook reader, the digital version is already available for pre-order on Kindle, and the paperback will be available soon. Until then, I hope you enjoy this preview of the sequel to The Healer’s Rune.

 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Weekend Reads: Fierce Heart (Elven Alliance) by Tara Grayce (Lizzie)

Is it April yet? Because I have a bookish date in April with books 4 of the Elven Alliance series by Tara Grayce. It's only September, you say? In that case, I may have to solace myself by talking about, or maybe even re-reading, books 1-3. :)

In all seriousness, I do highly recommend this steampunk series by Tara Grayce, which begins with Fierce Heart. It's about a marriage alliance between a chatty human princess and a silent warrior elf prince. The goal of Essie and Farrendel's marriage is to help keep the peace between the humans of Escarland and the elves of Tarenheil, but traitors amongst their people and the trolls of the north are making that difficult. It will take all their diplomacy, fighting skills (which includes Farrendel's powerful magic), and a growing love to save their kingdoms. 

Refreshingly, there are no evil guardians or greedy parents, no selfish tantrums at all much less ones about an unwanted marriage, no attempts to run away with some charming cad. Just a dutiful princess with a caring family trying to bring peace between two kingdoms and a quiet elf prince scarred by war trying to do the same thing. They're honorable and kind and willing to sacrifice for their kingdoms in big ways and for each other in big ways and in small, everyday ways that make a huge difference in a relationship.

Essie and Farrendel (I love the way his name sounds) realize love is a choice and act kindly to one another, enduring the awkwardness of being suddenly married to a stranger and the difficulties of dealing with different cultures and unfriendly people. There's delightful humor, over-protective brothers, plenty of elf hair jokes (I want some of that elf shampoo), sadness in the scars left by war and the bad choices of others, some adventures, and of course, romance as Essie and Farrendel's relationship develops. There was a bit much of Essie admiring how handsome and fit Farrendel is for my taste, but considering he was a stranger when they married and he tends to be quiet, she didn't know much beyond what her eyes could tell her for a while. She works hard to know the whole Farrendel though, which makes up for it. The kingdom of the elves is pretty cool so, as is the magic. I absolutely loved Essie's family and over-protective brothers. I very much anticipate one brother ending up with a certain elf princess.

Fierce Heart (Elven Alliance Book 1) by [Tara Grayce]


I read Fierce Heart pretty quickly and moved on to War Bound, then Death Wind (which I only had to wait a week to read, since I started the series late). Those books didn't disappoint. Plus, they added new characters and relationships to explore. I can't say too much without spoilers, but I imagine if you start the series, you'll want to continue on.


Have you read this series? I haven't read many elf books, but I am glad I broke from my usual "I only care about Tolkien's elves" mindset to read these.