Tuesday, February 19, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Mirrors and Pearls by Lea Doué (Lizzie)

Once upon a time in a land of magic and dragons …

There was a delightful, imaginative Snow White retelling complete with dragons and hair of feathers.

Mirrors and Pearls by (Fairy Tale Dragon Riders) by Lea Doué tells the story of Snow White but in a unique world of dragon riders, fairies, a talking squirrel, and other magical creatures. Here's the blurb from amazon.com:

Forced to flee for her life on the morning of her eighteenth birthday, Princess Snow hides from her cruel stepmother, wielder of the mysterious magic mirror, and dreams of the day she can free her people.

But dreams never come true that easily.

Among those by her side are a huntsman who is more than he seems, an enthusiastic talking squirrel, and a handful of dragons who are not as helpful as Snow would like. If she is to reclaim her throne, she must come up with a bold plan to stop the Queen before it's too late.

I loved Snow and the prince (and their sweet relationship) and all the creatures. Snow's fairy "blessing" (skin white as snow and all that) is reminiscent of the type of dubious fairy blessings found in Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted. I particularly enjoyed Lea Doué's application of the blessing, but, sadly, I can't talk about it without spoiling the surprises for you. Just know it's really cool. The only disappointment (and I knew this going in) is that Mirrors and Pearls is only a novella. So not nearly long enough for such a cute story.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

House Hunters, Fantasy Edition (Julie)

Have you ever wanted your own fairy tale home? Well, now is your chance to choose which home you would live in.



3) Underground. There are two options that come to mind for this category. The deep, underground dwarf idea or the carve your home out of a hill Hobbit idea. Let's start with the dwarf home. This type
of dwelling attracts those with fair skin or those who prefer darker places for whatever reasons (we don't ask questions). It is also popular with those who don't want to spend money on air conditioning as it's quite a bit cooler down there.

However, if you prefer a lighter and warmer atmosphere, then try out the cozy Hobbit hole. These lovely homes cater to those a bit on the shorter side. If you plan on having a lot of company over, remember to avoid installing a low hanging chandelier, or at least a retractable one.


2) Castle. If you are looking for a home with more space, then take a look at a castle. The most
popular type is the straight up, skinny variety. This can provide children countless hours of exploration through the many wings, turrets, and dungeon (just remember to child proof). The many high turrets make it a perfect place for stargazing, especially if you castle is located within a forest.
Many of our clients opt for the secluded castle in the deep forest as a place for quiet and relaxation, though there has been a few issues with wolves prowling around. 

Please remember though the castle requires lots of servants and can be a bit drafty. Castles do tend to attract the odd dragon or witch looking to cast a spell on the unsuspecting, which might include the whole castle. We also recommend staying away from any random spinning wheels that show up.



1) Cottage. This home conjures up images of snugness and a merry fire crackling in the hearth. These are great for people who prefer the simple life away from the hustle
and bustle of village life. Usually located deep within the forest, it's great for those with a green thumb as there is ample space for a garden, vegetable or flower. 

Some of our clients have complained of having random visitors showing up at their door looking for a place to stay or a meal. Use discretion when admitting strangers into your home.

Please be warned that if you come across a cottage made of edible materials, please head in the opposite direction. Fast. It is NOT one of our listings.


If interested, please contact one of our four specialized agents: Hansel, Sam, Ella, and Happy.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Interview with Erin R. Howard

We're excited to welcome author Erin R. Howard to Lands Uncharted today to answer some questions for us about herself, her writing, and her upcoming new release, The Soul Searcher! Enjoy!


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hello everyone! I’m excited to be here with you today. I’m married and have three kiddos, ages 14, 10, and 5. When I’m not writing, I love spending time with my family (we are a big movie and board game family) and crafting. I’m always learning new craft ideas. My youngest son has Leukemia, so we spend a lot of time traveling back and forth to St. Jude for his chemo treatments.


It so nice to "meet" you, Erin! We'll be praying that your son's chemo treatments are successful! 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?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I started writing in middle school. I remember my teacher wanted us to keep a daily journal and I asked if I could write a story instead. I wish I knew what happened to that journal!


What a fun idea! Which fictional character (book or movie) do you most relate to, and why?

This is a tough question. I’ve read so much, and I’m a huge movie fan, so it’s hard to pinpoint to just one character, I relate to different characters for different reasons. Some of my favorite movies are The Princess Bride, Ever After, Pirates of the Caribbean and You've Got Mail. The Hunger Games is one of my favorite series that I can re-read over and over.


Ooh, all great choices. 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?

I love to travel, so there are many places on my bucket list. Italy, Scotland, and Ireland are my top three.


I hope you're able to check all three off your bucket list someday! What advice would you share with an aspiring author?

Don’t stop reading, writing, or learning. Connect with other authors and find your tribe. Get plugged into a writer's group. They will be the ones that understand you the most. Don’t give up!


I couldn't agree more. Do you have any go-to foods or beverages while writing?

I’ve never liked coffee, so I lean more towards Coke or hot chocolate. Anything chocolate is a must-have.


Mmmm, chocolate. :) Your newest book, The Soul Searcher, releases on February 19th! Congratulations!!! What inspired you to write this series?

The series started as an assignment for a writing workshop course. We had to write from an unlikely hero or villain's POV. I’ve always wanted to write a supernatural story, but it didn’t fall into place until I started asking “what if there was a demon who was tired of being a demon?” The story grew from a short story for a class to a series. I’m so incredibly excited about the series.


Very intriguing! What fantasy elements did you incorporate into The Kalila Chronicles?

There are demons, angels, humans with gifts/abilities, portals, giants, ancient societies, and a sanctuary city that exists in the spiritual realm. It’s also urban fantasy, so it takes place in our world.




Wow, this sounds so cool! Can you give us any insights into your next project?

Yes! I’m working on both book three, The Silencer, and a prequel that will cover how the ancient societies came into being. There’s also in the works a brand-new novella series that will take place in the same story world as The Kalila Chronicles, but have a whole new set of characters and societies.


A few projects in the works, I love it! And finally, no visit to Lands Uncharted is complete without Top 3s! Give us a top 3 list in the category of your choice!

I love this question! How about three favorite villains that are made to look like villains since Viktor is my favorite character from my series, The Kalila Chronicles?

1. Snape from Harry Potter.
2. Jacqueline from the movie Ever After. I love that she seems so indifferent until the end.
3. Ralph from Wreck-It Ralph. He spends the whole movie trying to prove that he’s not a bad guy. Such a great film. I love the villain meeting they have at the beginning.


Thank you so much for sharing with us today! You can connect with Erin on her website, newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and blog. And here's a little more about The Soul Searcher (Book Two in Erin's Kalila Chronicles):

Elnora’s parents gave her one rule:
Stay hidden away at all costs.

Elnora Scott is used to her survival depending on the decisions of others. Locked away in her
safe house, it is easy to follow her parents’ dying wishes until an angel, demon, and seer show up
on her doorstep. Now, waking up in a dirty cell, she wishes she would have gone with them
when she had the chance, because the very ones who unknowingly ushered the kidnapper to her
location may be the only ones who can save her.

When Thea learns that Elnora may be in danger, she doesn’t hesitate to go find her. Thea thought
stepping through the portal would be her greatest obstacle, but it only reveals a more sinister
threat.


The Soul Searcher can be pre-ordered here. Congratulations again on your upcoming release, Erin!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Making "Bad" Characters More Likeable (Laurie)

I'm excited to be part of Jenelle Schmidt's February is Fantasy Month today! Jenelle is a wonderful author I had a chance to get to know a bit at Realm Makers last summer, and she's in the midst of an entire month of blog posts and other events to celebrate fantasy! To find out more and see the full schedule, check out her post here. Also, be sure to check out this post to find out how to enter a giveaway for an amazing dragon letter opener!


Now, onto my own post! :) After a long writing hiatus, last week I finally had a chance to dive back into Traitor, what is planned to be the second book in my Tales of the Mystics series. This story has me thinking a lot about character development, as it centers around a character who gave off a pretty bad impression in my first book, Common. It's been an interesting exercise to take this unsavory princess and turn her into someone readers can come to enjoy and love without losing all connection to who she was when we first met her. So today, I thought I'd share about some ways to make "bad" characters more likeable.


1.) Give them a soft spot

Characters who come across as harsh and rough around the edges can be difficult for readers to warm up to...unless they have a soft spot. All it takes is a fondness for puppies, a protectiveness toward children, or a penchant for a gentler pastime like gardening or baking to show a softer side to an otherwise stony character. This method seems to be a favorite among romance authors - the stern, unfriendly tough-guy hero who over time shows signs that the heroine is the one weakness in his otherwise thick armor. *Cue swooning readers* I also think this strategy applies to Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy. While Katniss has some admirable qualities, such as her bravery and skill with a bow and arrow, she can often come across as abrasive in her quick temper and calculating approach to life. But her love for sweet little Prim - comforting her and tucking in her shirttails - shows a whole different side of Katniss that makes her a character to root for during the rest of the times when her guard isn't down.


2.) Give them a sense of humor

I'm always amazed by how much I'm able to soften toward a person if they can make me laugh. A smile or laugh erases so much tension and can make a character more palatable to spend time with, even if the reader doesn't appreciate many of their other traits. An example that immediately comes to mind is Captain Carswell Thorne from Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles. When we first meet Thorne, he's a convicted criminal who shows zero remorse for his wrongdoing. He reeks arrogance and expects every female he encounters to adore him. Let's just say...NOT my kind of guy. But here's the thing - for all his many shortcomings, Thorne is hilarious. Many times his antics managed to make me smile even while I was rolling my eyes at him. And those smiles created just enough of a soft spot to make me take his side when he eventually started to change his ways.


3.) Show their vulnerability

I believe there are very few people in the world (if any) who act out simply because they want to be evil. In most, if not all, cases, a person's bad behavior stems from a particular hurt or frustration from their past or present life. In our characters, revealing such unrequited love, lack of self-confidence, history of betrayal, challenging parent or sibling relationships, or whatever their particular trials might be can go a long way toward helping readers see them as a complex person with feelings and depth rather than just an uncaring bully or selfish cad. Kristina Mahr illustrates this well in her novel All That We See or Seem (you can read Jill's review on Lands Uncharted here). Arden, a seemingly thoughtless rogue with a reputation for gambling and seduction, becomes a much more sympathetic character when he reveals his flippant view of romance came about from having his heart broken by his first love. Suddenly I hoped he would have a chance for redemption rather than wishing for him to just leave the main character alone.



4.) Show moments of remorse

Sometimes characters find themselves in really difficult positions. Situations where they feel required to do something harmful in order to protect themselves or loved ones. The way their emotions are portrayed in such circumstances will likely have a huge impact on readers' perceptions of the character. Even if they end up making a bad or self-serving choice, showing signs of indecision and remorse can cause the character to be viewed as a good person making a poor decision versus an irredeemable villain. The Rose and the Wand by our own Lizzie (published as E.J. Kitchens) illustrates this concept well with a "bad guy" who really doesn't turn out to be that bad. He feels the need to steal something from the main character due to a mission he's being pressured to accomplish, but in the process apologizes and makes it very clear he wishes to cause no harm. There's even a hint on the author's website that this character may be getting his own redemptive story in the future. :)


I'm not far enough into Traitor yet to know specifically which of these concepts I'll be using, but I'm guessing a combination of all four! I want to add a quick caveat that becoming more sympathetic or likeable can never justify or erase a character's bad actions. Doing the wrong thing is still doing the wrong thing. But as no one is all good or all evil, adding positive traits to an otherwise disagreeable character makes them more complex and can give readers an opportunity to question their own perceptions and judgments. Plus, it can make way for powerful redemption stories when a character has a true change of heart.


What causes you to soften toward a hard-hearted or irritable character? Do you have examples of books that have employed these tactics well? What "bad" characters would you like to see redeemed?


Thanks for reading!
Laurie

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Top Three Writing Tools for Productivity



Let's talk writing tools to boost productivity!

Neo2

The Neo2 is a portal word processing device with a full-size keyboard, long battery life, small screen (similar to a graphing calculator), and limited controls. It easily connects to the computer and transfers all your work to the word processing software of your choice. The Neo2 is perfect for distracted free drafting and squelching that inner editor.  

Even though the Neo2 is no longer in production, the manufacturer still supports it. But that means you'll have to settle for a used or refurbished device. On the bright side, you can snag one for under $50 on Amazon.

My output has dramatically increased in the short time I've been using the Neo2. And it's continuing to increase the more I use the device, which is why the Neo2 is my favorite writing tool.

The only other comparable device on the market is Freewrite. Freewrite does have some added perks and features--like syncing to Google Docs, Dropbox, or Evernote--but it's also significantly more expensive at $549. 

Of course, if you want to upgrade to a Freewrite, for a limited time you can pre-order the new Freewrite Traveler for $349 (regular price will be $599). The Freewrite Traveler begins ships in August. https://getfreewrite.com/products/freewrite-traveler

Rocketbook

There's something about brainstorming and plotting with pen and paper that stirs creativity. However, most of my notes eventually get discarded, and all that paper adds up. Enter Rocketbook. This reusable notebook provides a writing experience similar to a standard notebook while reducing the amount of paper that ends up in the trash. A standard executive-sized Rocketbook is available on Amazon for around $30.

The Rocketbook comes with a Pilot Frixion pen and a microfiber cloth. The pen's eraser is great for minor corrections, but the microfiber cloth is best for erasing entire pages. To clear an entire page, just dampen a corner of the microfiber cloth, erase the page, and then use a dry portion of the cloth to wipe it clean. That's it.

The Rocketbook is similar to a product called the Elvin Notebook. I researched both products before ultimately choosing the Rocketbook, and it was this well-done review comparing the two that helped me decide: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R2CM15OADIJZPF.

Kindle

Having resource books close at hand might be the first thing that comes to mind when the Kindle is mentioned. But it's not the only use. The Kindle is also useful for reading projects with fresh eyes after multiple rounds of edits and rewrites have blurred your vision.

What tools or approaches have helped you boost your productivity?


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Mark of the Raven by Morgan Busse | What We're Reading (Lauricia)


Mark of the Raven (The Ravenwood Saga Book 1)
by Morgan L. Busse




Lady Selene, oldest daughter of House Ravenwood, lives in a world where the seven major houses are blessed with magical gifts bestowed by the gods. Originally intended to be used together for the overall benefit of the people, the houses have isolated their gifts, instead, and shrouded them in magically-bound mystery. When Selene’s family power of dreamwalkng awakens within her, she discovers dark truths about her parents that force her to reconsider who she thought she was and who she wants to be. Her decision may save her world, but it could also tear her away from the family she loves.

There is so much about this story that I enjoyed. The setting was vividly drawn, the magic system was uniquely developed, and the characters were relatable and complex. What I appreciated the most, however, was the dark feel Busse gave the story without depriving the characters of goodness or hope. I thoroughly enjoyed Selene, and I can’t wait to read the next installment in this series.

I want to tell you more about this story, but it's so tightly woven that I can't elaborate more without giving spoilers. So you'll have to trust me on this one: you NEED to read this book. The sooner the better,

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Top 3 Nonsense Poems (Lizzie)

After Laurie's post on C.J. Brightley's The Lord of Dreams, I made haste to buy and read the ebook. (I thoroughly enjoyed the book and recommend it, by the way.) In it, the mad fey king quotes from Lewis Carroll's famous nonsense poem "Jabberwocky," which gave us such words as galumphing and chortle. It made me want to read the poem again and to look a little deeper into nonsense poetry. Whimsy, nonsense words, contradictions--they're all part of what makes nonsense poems fun. They're a great reminder you don't always have to understand something to enjoy it. So I thought I'd share a few entertaining bits of nonsense poetry here.

The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

The Jabberwock, as illustrated by John Tenniel
He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.


Riddle 47, Anglo-Saxon riddle from the Exeter book, about bookworms 

A moth ate some words – it seemed to me
strangely weird – when I heard this wonder:
that it had devoured – the song of a man.
A thief in the thickness of night – gloriously mouthed
the source of knowledge – but the thief was not
the least bit wiser – for the words in his mouth.


Mother Goose's Hey Diddle Diddle

Hey diddle, diddle,
The cat and the fiddle.
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such fun,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

Many nursery rhymes are nonsense. Of course, if you're a fan of Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Tales of Goldstone Wood, you'll know that they really aren't nonsense at all, but prophecy and history and marvelous tales.


Do you have a favorite nonsense poem or word? My grandfather used to greet us with "Good gracious sakes a jiminy!" It always felt like a delightful bit of nonsense and was my favorite greeting; it's much more fun than a simple hello.