Thursday, July 19, 2018

Book Review: Heartstone by Elle Katharine White (Lizzie)

They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.
Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

I was surprised and curious when I heard about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but I wasn't curious enough to deal with the grotesque additions to Austen's beloved story. So when a friend recommended a fantasy retelling of Pride and Prejudice because the author's style was similar to mine (meaning we were both influenced by Austen) and it had dragons, I decided to read it. I'm glad I did. Elle Katharine White's Heartstone passes the test for this picky Jane Austen fan and is a good story in its own right.

The Island of Arle is home to many creatures. Some creatures are friendly to humans. Some are not, and between these monsters--gryphons, banshees, lamias, and more--and humans stand the Riders, an elite class of warriors, proud and deadly. They are aided by the tougher of the friendly creatures--dragons, wyvern,  and beoryns. Alistair Daired, dragon rider, belongs to this group of warriors. You've probably already guessed that this is the Darcy character and that Elizabeth Bennett's character, Aliza Betaine, is not from among the Riders. Aliza meets Daired, and Brynsey and Charis (Bingly and sister), when they are hired to rid her area of gryphons after a gryphon kills her sister (Kitty's character). Unfortunately, the battles to keep the Tekari (the unfriendly creatures) at bay ultimately becomes a war for the entire land of Arle when the Greater Lindworm is awakened.

 White's story world is intriguing with its blend of adorable garden hobgoblins, fearsome lamias, friendly dragons, and powerful forgewights (I really liked these), as well as an interesting culture that is in some ways similar to Austen's and in some ways utterly White's own. The title refers to the stone each Tekari  has in its heart. These stones, jewels, are used as engagement stones. Kinda creepy, but it fits the warrior culture. There is violence and death and sorrow, but it is not too much and is not graphic.

Not only did I like the world White set the story in, I also like how she blended Austen's story into that world. Austen's characters were easy to spot with cleverly similar names. For a fun addition, Mr. Collins's character's first name was Wynce. Wynce Curdred. She also softened some of the characters, redeeming even Mr. Collins's character in a way fitting to Austen (Aliza realizes she misjudged Collins, that despite his flaws, he's a kind, wise magistrate). However, Wickham's character is suitably corrupt, but there is never much of a connection between him and Aliza, as there is in Austen's story. Aliza is likable and brave. She's surprisingly prone to eavesdropping, not a typical trait of an Austen heroine. She's also a healer, a skill I always reading about. To my great satisfaction, Daired is more than the handsome, rich, madly-in-love hero some reduce him to. White purposely portrays him as a man of good character who changes when he recognizes his faults--a true Darcy.

In conclusion, if you like fantasy with a cool world (and dragons), if you like Pride and Prejudice, then you should add Elle Katharine White's Heartstone to your reading list--somewhere near the top of it.

Also, White has a sample chapter and several story extras on her website, including character profiles and a few pages of Mari's bestiary with illustrations of some of the story's monsters, if you'd like a sneak peak.

Have you read any Pride and Prejudice retellings that you'd recommend? Or do you have any favorite magical creatures?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Why I Write (Lauricia)

Pppssst… Hey, you!

Yes, you. Come here! I’m going to let you in on a little secret…

Being an author is hard.

Yes, I know you’re familiar with the difficulty of filling a blank page on a daily basis, trying to concoct something engaging and new, but are you aware of everything else that’s involved? You’ve got to choose whether to publish traditionally or independently, to decide how to build a platform, to engage in marketing and promotion…

Uh oh. I can see I’m losing you. Let’s just say, there’s a lot involved in being an author; much more than the actual writing. So much more that, at times, it can be a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry—there’s a way to combat that sense of being overrun. All you gotta do is remember what drew you to writing in the first place…

Huh? Sorry, I got caught up in my thoughts. Repeat your question, please.

Why did I start writing? That’s easy: I’m in love with stories.

My passion for them began when I was young. I found a copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis, in the school library when I was ten, and I was instantly addicted. The magic of being transported from my normal life to an extraordinary realm infected me, and the only cure was to consume regular doses of story for the rest of my life. Through the characters of books I have learned courage, generosity, nobility of spirit, and all of the other traits I aspire to embody. I have also experienced the negative qualities I hope to never possess. I have experienced sights unbelievable and journeys improbable and, through them, learned how to face my own monsters, to overcome my own fears, and to cling to hope when all seems lost. My lifetime exposure to story has filled me with wonder and awe, and I am forever in debt to the authors who built those worlds I played in and who created those characters I loved as well as any best friend.

To this day, I am in awe of any story that can take my breath away. However, one can only hear of the magic found in distant lands for so long without experiencing the need to travel to exotic locations and to experience great adventures for oneself. It is only natural for a child grown on stories to long to experience their magic thoroughly, in greater detail, by writing her own. When that longing becomes so strong it is like an ache in her chest, a dull pressure against her heart that makes it hard to capture a complete breath… well, there’s no denying that call. When it comes, all she can do is give in, grab paper and pen, and set out on a journey of her own. If all goes well, she’ll enchant a few readers along the way.

Oh. Heh. I must have gotten carried away. You were saying…?

Yes, that’s why I write. Even though it can be hard, I can’t deny the longing. And yes, it is very much worth the struggle.

What about you? Why do you love stories? Or, if you write, why? I’d love to hear your motivation in the comments below.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Top 3 Reasons to Read Gregory and the Grimbockle by Melanie Schubert

Last September, I read Gregory and the Grimbockle by Melanie Schubert as an advanced reviewer (you can read the original review here if you wish). I instantly fell in love with the story. To the degree and depth of which, nearly a year later, the characters are still rummaging around in my head and in my heart. So naturally, yesterday, I purchased three paperback copies: one for myself and two more for gifts.

I feel utterly compelled to share this rare story with all of you, along with three reasons to read Gregory and the Grimbockle.

#3 Gregory and the Grimbockle has a soundtrack.

The soundtrack's beautiful instrumental scores are an excellent complement to the story. Most of the songs are under two minutes in length, which makes them perfect for transitioning to story time in a classroom setting. Only the last song, Saying Goodbye & Finale, is more than three minutes long.

#2  It's heartwarming tale layered with fun, adventure, and originality.

The Grimbockle is a loveable character who takes Gregory along while he works to repair exoodles, the emotional ties connecting everyone. With an interesting start to their journey, traveling on the back of a cockroach, it's isn't long before we see the importance of the Grimbockle's work or his struggle to keep up with the increasing demand for repairs.

#1 Your exoodles will grow!

Gregory and the Grimbockle is a fun and engaging story that beautifully illustrates the importance of empathy. The tale offers a fresh perspective on connecting with others and the importance of forgiveness and understanding.

I read this story with my youngest son, who was ten at the time, and it added another dimension of depth and meaning to the experience, crafting a memory I will always treasure.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Interview with R.J. Metcalf (Renegade Skyfarer Blog Tour)

We're thrilled to welcome R.J. Metcalf to Lands Uncharted today as part of her blog tour celebrating the release of her debut novel, Renegade Skyfarer! I'll share more about the book below, but first the author took the time to answer some interview questions for us! Enjoy!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I married my high school sweetheart nearly ten years ago this autumn, and we now have two boys (6 and nearly 4). Prior to having children, I was an ASL interpreter at a local college, then I retired from that to be a stay-at-home mom. Throughout my entire life, I’ve enjoyed sewing, and had been a seamstress-for-hire until I switched hats to be a writer. Apparently writing and sewing take up the same creative space in my brain, and it’s one or the other!

We’re all quite active in our church, and I aspire to raise our sons to be Godly, nerdy gentlemen. But right now, I just want to survive the next family Nerf war.

We have a lot in common! What prompted you to start writing? Are you one of those authors who knew you were meant to write since childhood, or did it come as a discovery later in life?

More like who prompted me to start writing. I’ve always enjoyed creative writing–to the point that my homeschool teachers had to add extra creative writing classes, simply because I begged for them!

Mike had the rough ideas for this series for years, and we always talked about how we’d write it ‘someday’ and once we started our family, it became ‘in a few decades.’ And then I met Jamie Foley, author of the Sentinel Trilogy. She learned about our ideas for a someday story, and when I shared the premise and the world that we were dreaming of, she wouldn’t let the idea wait for a few decades. She insisted that if she could write a trilogy as a wife and mom, so could I.

And we believed her.

And she hasn’t led us astray.

Jamie’s been there every step of the way, offering guidance, harping on my prose when I’m slacking off, recommending writing conventions, and teaching me the in’s and out’s of indie publishing. We wouldn’t have made it this far without a faithful friend like her walking with us. And the best part? Through it all, she’s let us beta read her work and offer input and beg for specific happenings between characters. The best of both worlds. ^_^

Jamie is pretty amazing, as are her books :) Which fictional character (book or movie) do you most relate to, and why?

Oooh. This is a new question to me! I can easily say that my high school answer would’ve been Jaina Solo from the Star Wars: New Jedi Order book, Dark Journey. But now? Hmm.

I need to cogitate this.

Fair enough! What are your go-to foods or beverages while writing?

Am I aiming to be healthy, or am I past the point of caring? **laughs**

If I’m being ‘good’, then apple slices with roasted almonds (Not raw! Raw almonds will kill me. But roasted are totally fine. I live life on the edge.) and tofu dark chocolate. And a chai by day, or a non-caffeinated chai by night.

If I’m at the point of not caring…well. I love my carbs, and I love my chocolate. I’m a big fan of dark chocolate chip cookies. Or peanut butter dark chocolate chip cookies. Or brownies. Or Yum Yum Donuts super chocolate bar with chocolate chips and the chocolate filling of goodness. (notice a theme here?) I’ll either stick with my chai, or, if I’m working on a difficult scene, I may have an amaretto on the rocks. Or mix my ‘Dirty B’ concoction that I’ll nurse for the whole night.

Chocolate is a popular theme in my snacking habits, too... But before we all get hungry, please share one of your favorite writing tips with us.

I asked Kathy Tyers Gillian for advice when I was starting this career, and she told me something that has stuck with me, and I pray will never leave. Listen to your editor with humility. If they say chop something, yes, it’s going to hurt. Cry over it if you must. Then open a fresh document and try re-writing your manuscript all as the editor says. It may be something you look at and fall in love with, and you find yourself agreeing with everything they’d said, though it was hard to swallow at first. And if you decide you really want to keep that one scene in it after all, the good news is you still have your original draft that you can pull it from. At least you tried it like it was suggested.

I’m a horrible person who breaks rules. I’m sharing two tips.

This is something I have on my wall, just visible over my second monitor that I use while editing. “View drafts 2-5 not as work to fix draft 1, but as creative opportunities that increasingly focus more on the artwork of the prose.” –C.W. Briar

It really changes my view on editing. It’s not drudgery when I’m making my manuscript better.

Love it! We're all about exploring new worlds here at Lands Uncharted - if you could choose one place to visit, real or fictional, where would you go?

Tough question! I suppose my own world would be a cop-out choice, huh? I hope to someday visit Ireland or Europe or India or Japan. I’d love to study the architecture and more of the history and culture and how I can incorporate some of that into my worldbuilding.

Fictional: Alani. I want to be a Serran. (The Sentinel Trilogy. It’s absolutely one of my favorite book series right now.)

Ooh, I want to come! Now, let’s talk about your new release! What inspired you to write Renegade Skyfarer?

All Mike. He’s the one that dreamed up the world of Terrene and many of the characters, as well as the over-arcing plot. He would share bits of it with me while we’d walk from our condo to the movie theater or local grocery store, and I fell in love with the world and story. Once we decided we would actually follow Jamie’s encouragement and start writing, he gave me the rough outline and let me at it. So I wrote the heart, the soul, the characters and their motives. It’s been quite the journey!

One of the characters deals with betrayal, and it let me work through some bits in my life that I’ve felt that pain. Another works through loss. Another has to put off her dreams for the good of others. All those are things that I, or others, have dealt with. The idea that maybe someone in the future will read Renegade Skyfarer and be dealing with their own issues, and find solace in characters that are walking through those same trials, that’s all the motive I need to keep writing.

Your cover is amazing! Tell us a bit about the design process.

LoriAnn Wheldon of Magpie Designs, Ltd is amazing! She took my really badly sketched ideas and brought them to life. And we wouldn’t have been able to do it without C.W. Briar and his team, who provided us the model and photographer for the cover, as well as some of my friends out here who had all the steampunk gear that we needed. That cover? That’s the beautiful results of an amazing team effort.

As I said, C.W. found us our model and played proxy for me for the photoshoots, then his photographer sent the photos to LoriAnn and I. I sent her several different favorite shots, as well as some of my half-baked ideas, and she performed magic, as far as I’m concerned.

Wow, I love all the collaboration! Can you share anything about future books in the Stones of Terrene Chronicles?

Well, Renegade Skyfarer is book one of four in the series. Book two, Void Born, will be releasing this autumn, and the prequel, Betrayal by Blood, will be coming out early 2019. There’s also going to be an anthology (Scars of Time), as well as a stand-alone book that I can’t name yet, for fear of spoilers. ^_^

The only other thing I really say is this: I like happy endings. So, don’t fear. Much. Things may seem bleak at times, but I’m not done with this series until I’m smiling from genuine happiness–which is different than my maniacal smile when I have a beta reader tell me that I made them cry.

Yay for happy endings! No visit to Lands Uncharted is complete without Top 3s! Give us a Top 3 list, in the category of your choice.

I want to do top 3 favorite couples, but I’m afraid that gives away spoilers for those who haven’t read those books!

Oh well. I’m doing it anyway. Because it makes my heart happy thinking of my favorite OTP’s.

1) Zekk Sorrowsong and Tera Aetherswift from the Sentinel Trilogy

2) Killian Jones and Emma Swan from Once Upon A Time

3) Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase from Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Thank you so much for sharing with us, R.J., and congratulations on your new release! Doesn't this series sound fabulous? You can purchase Renegade Skyfarer at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Here's the back cover blurb:

The airship crew saved Ben’s life from a dragon, of all things.

When Ben wakes up, he has no memory of his family, his home, or how he got to this strange world. All he knows is what his new crew members tell him: the magical Barrier that protects their land is weakening. Unless they find the artifact that can repair it, all of Terrene will be destroyed and enslaved by the enemies beyond.

But when Ben suspects that danger may lurk closer than dragons or sky pirates, he has to decide: stay and fight with the airship crew, or focus on regaining his lost memory? If he leaves, he risks losing his newfound friends–but if he stays, he might never return home.

Welcome to Terrene–where dragons exist, the past haunts, and magic is no myth.

Welcome aboard the Sapphire.

Want to know more? You can connect with the author on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You also can fill out the form below to enter a giveaway for a signed print copy of Renegade Skyfarer, a Stones of Terrene notepad and pen, Notebook of Writing, and bracelet! (US only.) And make sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour!

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, July 2nd
Tuesday, July 3rd
Wednesday, July 4th
Thursday, July 5th
Friday, July 6th
Saturday, July 7th
Monday, July 9th
Tuesday, July 10th
Wednesday, July 11th
Thursday, July 12th
Friday, July 13th
Saturday, July 14th
Monday, July 16th

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Handling Setbacks (Laurie)

I received a(nother) rejection last week for a novella I'm trying to find a publishing home for. Even though we were on vacation with limited internet access, my immediate reaction was to figure out where I should submit it next. The moment I had an opportunity, I went ahead and completed the submission.

As I reflected on that gut reaction to send the story out again right away, I realized that's pretty much how I always have handled setbacks. Depending on the circumstances and level of disappointment, I might take a little time to grieve, but my preference is to jump ahead and try to move on before I can even really process the sting of failure. I think it tends in part from my impatience, in part from my tendency to way over-think things if I give myself too much time.

Anyway, this is a Your Turn! post, so enough about me :) Now I want to hear from YOU! How do you handle failures or setbacks in your life, writing-related or otherwise? Do you take time to regroup? Do you change your plan? What are your strategies for recovering and moving on?

See you next time!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Ebb and Flow (Julie)

A few weeks ago my family and I took a vacation to Tennessee. We chose a nice quiet cabin in the rolling farmlands close to two state parks. Both parks are popular for their rivers/waterfalls. I was a little worried that being the summer in the south, they might be dry or wimpy. However, to our good fortune the area had gotten some rain and quiet a storm before we arrived.
We had a wonderful time hiking beside rivers and over suspension bridges, in awe of the mighty power of the water. 

The first park we went to had a trail located at the dam. We arrived to the horrendously annoying sound of the siren wailing its warning to us that water was being released from the dam and the water level would rise to a dangerously high level.  

It got me to thinking that my writing is like a river. Sometimes the dam opens or the rain comes, and I'm flooded with ideas and on a writing "high". Other times, I'm dried up with little to nothing creative. It then becomes a waiting game until the rain comes or the dam opens.  
Do you ever feel that way?  That sometimes your writing is like the mighty rushing river and other times it's like a dry stream-bed. Ya got nothing. 

Though I do find encouragement in that even when the river is dry or not but a small trickle, it will eventually evolve into a beautiful, life changing marvel. 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Top 3 Revolutionary War Stories (Lizzie)

I hope you all had a wonderful Independence Day. I enjoyed relaxing with family and doing some reading. I was thinking about Revolutionary War books and movies and realized, to my chagrin, that I couldn't name very many. I've seen and read many WWII stories but few Revolutionary War ones, but I am familiar with a few, and I wanted to share those that came to mind.

Three Revolutionary War Books

1. Ring of Secrets by Roseanna M. White

With spies, romance, and intrigue, this was a very enjoyable novel. Winter Reeves, a devoted Patriot, hides behind the mask of a dimwitted society belle as she feds secrets to General Washington. Bennet Lane comes to New York to find a spy, and, unfortunately for Winter, he finds her captivating. He also find her eyes altogether too intelligent for her dull remarks.

2. The Distant Beacon (Song of Acadia Book #4) by Janette Oke

I loved Janette Oke's books growing up, and the Song of Acadia books were some of my favorites. Starting well before the Revolution when the French in Acadia were deported to Louisiana and an English baby is unavoidably sent with a French family while the French baby is left behind with the English family, books 2-5 tell of the swapped daughters, now grown up. They learn their true identity, meet their birth families, face adventures and sorrows, and fall in love. This one involves the Revolutionary War and was a particularly exciting story.

3. The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

I must confess I haven't actually finished reading this one. I started it on July 4 and am only a little ways in. It's a bit description heavy so far, but I am intrigued and want to continue reading it. It also comes highly recommended, being endorsed by Melanie Dickerson and Tamara Leigh. In this story a British noblewoman living in the Colonies must decide which side she's on as war looms. Dare she provide her worthless fiancee's cousin with the information needed by the Patriots?

For  movies, I'd recommend Beyond the Mask. A mercenary for the East India Company goes on the run after trying to get out the racket. He hides as a parson and is, ultimately, forced to flee to the Colonies. Once there, in an attempt to earn the respect of the woman he loves, he dons a mask and helps protect Patriots from violence. With adventure, romance, humor, redemption, and well-known characters such as Ben Franklin, this was a great movie.

Other Revolutionary Wars that come to mind (I've probably seen more) are Mel Gibson's The Patriot, Henry Fonda's Drums Along the Mohawk, and Abbot and Costello's Time of Our Lives.

Have you read many Revolutionary War stories? Which are your favorites?