Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Story Snippets: Guardian Prince (Lauricia)

 Greetings, Friends!

Welcome back to Lands Uncharted. Today I'm sharing another snippet from my newest release, Guardian Prince, which is the second book in the Ceryn Roh Saga. This series is  a high fantasy epic set in a world where Humans are subjugated by the an elvin race known as the Rüddan. Ripped from her home and forced to collude with an ancient enemy, Sabine Rhyonselle is pursued across the world of Ceryn Roh as she races to find the Human godstone before the Rüddan annihilate her entire race. Guardian Prince is available from Amazon in paperback and ebook.

Below is an excerpt from chapter 13. I hope you enjoy!

Rounding the corner at the end of the hall, Sabine was so caught up in her thoughts that she almost didn’t see the two figures standing in a shadowed corner near the stairwell. Startled, she backtracked instantly, then chided herself for being so skittish. Even though she was a Human, she had as much right to be here as anyone else. Pushing her shoulders back and raising her chin, she began to proceed forward when another thought stopped her.

The two figures stood in the shadows, in an unused part of the castle, and she had not heard their voices or anything else to let her know they were there. What if they were meeting secretly, with no desire to be discovered? Pressing herself against the wall, she peeked around the corner.

The two figures were deep in conversation and didn’t appear to have noticed her. At first the shadows made it hard to discern their features, but after a few moments Sabine thought she could identify Amala’s golden hair. The Aethel woman stood with her back to Sabine, mostly obscuring the man she spoke with. However, based on the rich brown of his hair and the sky-blue-and-misty-white color scheme of his rather elegant clothes, Sabine surmised it was Maeron, the courtesan Sabine occasionally saw in the Great Hall.

Quietly, so as not to disturb them, Sabine pulled her head back. Although it surprised her to see Amala here, hadn’t Diera said that Lord Maeron sought Amala’s affections? Both Sabine and Amala were left to their own devices for the evening meal, so it was entirely possible for Lord Maeron to invite Amala to an unused part of the castle where he thought they wouldn’t be disturbed. Judging by the looks Amala frequently shot at Aodhan, Maeron didn’t stand a chance, but who was Sabine to interrupt his attempts to woo the Aethel woman?

No one, Sabine thought. Grinning smugly at the idea of leaving Amala to her eager suitor, Sabine retreated the way she had come, backtracking to the library in search of another route to the kitchen.

She was not halfway back to the double doors when she smelled the smoke. It was not a heavy scent—not like new wood burning in a clean fireplace. Rather, it smelled faintly like a campfire, redolent of charred wood and ashes.

Like the scent that is said to precede the Hannori. Sabine shuddered at the thought. According to her father’s stories, the actual physical manifestation of a servant of Nymhon looked like a shadow and smelled of something burning. If the Ayrhim were real, couldn’t the Hannori be real, too?

According to the stories, Sabine thought again, then groaned. The stories she was studying with Tayte must be winding up her imagination. What would a Hannori be doing here, in a deserted corridor? Besides, all the doors were locked—she had checked most of them herself—and all of the glowing orbs had been dark, except for the ones Amala and Maeron must have triggered. There was no one here to summon a Hannori.

Convinced she had imagined the scent, Sabine continued down the hall…

… and almost slammed into Gaelan as he exited a nearby room, carrying an armful of thick candles.

Sabine nearly choked on a scream that stuck in her throat. Gaelan grunted and dropped a few candles, which Sabine helped him retrieve. They were still warm, as if they had been burned for a while and had just been extinguished. That explains the smoke smell.

“Human,” Gaelan grunted, accepting the candles from her. “What are you doing?”

“Exploring,” Sabine said before she could think of a better response. “I’m still learning my way around. What about you?”

Gaelan eyed Sabine, looking as if he weren’t going to answer, then grimaced and said, “Guard duty.”

Glancing at the candles, Sabine arched her eyebrows.

“It’s true.” Gaelan stood taller and positioned his feet in a battle stance. Speaking in a theatrical tone, he declared, “I, Gaelan, Lord of Eddonwe Keep and head of the Royal Guard, am embarked upon the most noble of all guard duties: rat patrol.”

“Rat patrol?” Sabine barely managed to contain her laughter. “With candles?”

“Ahh, you see, fair lady-in-waiting,” Gaelan retorted, his tone turning conspiratorial, “one must have light to see them by, and the rodents of this keep hate our glowing orbs. They hide from the harsh glare and will only venture out in complete dark or in the yellow glow of a candle.”

Sabine assessed the Aethel captain, certain he was mocking her. “Is that so?”

Gaelan nodded. When he spoke again, his tone was back to normal. “It’s usually a punishment detail, but I lost a bet. A commanding officer is nothing if he is not a man of his word, so here I am.”

“Hmmm,” Sabine put on her best expression of pity, but didn’t try to make it too convincing since she was still fairly sure Gaelan jested at her expense. Did the Aethel not have rat traps? “In that case, I should leave you to your campaign. Happy hunting.”

“My lady,” Gaelan said, saluting her by touching the edge of a candle to his forehead.

Flashing a bemused smile but still not expressing any belief in his tale, Sabine returned to the library at last and made her way quickly to the kitchen and her dinner.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Dawn Bringer and Celebrating My Birthday and a Release with a Free Steampunk Novelette! (Lizzie)

 So today is supposed to be a Weekend Reads post, and this kinda is, but it's also a shameless self-promo and a birthday bash! In addition to my 37th birthday, today marks the release of Dusk Crier, the fifth and final book in my fun adventure-romance novelette- and novella-length steampunk collection, The Star Clock Chronicles. It's the release of the collection too and a $0.99 sale on my most popular book, Midnight for a Curse, a humorous fairytale retelling of Beauty and the Beast where Beast wants to keep his curse. In lieu of a party with banana pudding and homemade pizza and a hike, which was my childhood birthday hope, I'll just talk books and give away Dawn Bringer, the first book in The Star Clock Chronicles series.

I don't remember when I first heard about steampunk, but I quickly fell in love with the aesthetic of it. Gowns, corsets, airships, goggles, fancy guns. The look is so fun, so promising of adventure, that I couldn't help but write a steampunk series, and include a bit of fae trouble-making too. In the Star Clock Chronicles, we have a world where the sun has been hidden behind a fairy star veil. Stars, dawn, moonlight, all are lovely myths. No moving shadows tell you the time. No stars guide your path. Navigator automatons are the only way to travel more than three miles without a curse befuddling you. Clocks are forbidden. Iron is contraband. 

Into this tightly controlled world comes new hope when a brave airship captain and a clever teacher/smuggler find ancient books on navigation in an old fairy cave. If they can escape the cave and the Time Keepers after them, they and the friends they'll go to for help can change the world. Maybe even defeat the Time King and bring back the dawn.

With adventure, banter, and romance, these standalone short stories are delightful, quick reads, even if I do say so myself. ;) If you like steampunk or have been wanting to give if a try, I hope you'll accept a free copy of Dawn Bringer, available here

Dawn Bringer

In a world where the sun is a myth, dawn is coming.

Bertram Orren expected trouble with both the Time Keepers and faeries if he got caught in the faerie woods. He didn’t expect to get trapped in an abandoned faerie court deep underground while trying to save airship captain Marianna Bowditch from a will-o’-the-wisp. Nor did he expect he and Marianna to discover an ancient treasure that could help free the world from the Time King’s control, one that could bring back the people’s ability to navigate for themselves in a world where sun and moon, east and west are myths hidden by the faerie queen’s Star Veil. Even if Bertram and Marianna escape the caves, they’ve no way to navigate themselves to an airship port and safety, and if the Time Keepers find them, the world will never see the dawn.

Do you read steampunk? How do you celebrate your birthday now?

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Tell, Don’t Show: Keeping Your Reader Grounded (Lydia)


Showing and telling: two literary terms that are difficult to define.  Sometimes it’s labeled as using passive voice vs. active voice (replacing any use of the verb “to be” with something more vibrant and active).  Others might call "telling" an interruption in the story where the prose reads like a distant narrator directly explaining to the reader what’s going on, jolting a reader out of the Point of View.  There are even more abstract definitions, like experiencing a scene in a more “organic” sense, instead of being told what’s happening.

It’s almost universally accepted that showing is superior to telling.  And to some degree, I agree.  The concept of showing, at its core, is immersion.  Drawing the reader into the body or perspective of whoever is telling the story, so they can become lost in the narrative.  To reach a point where the words fade away and you truly escape to a different world. 

Until you get lost.  Confused.  And this is the greatest weakness of only showing.  Without clear and concrete direction, a reader may often have to go back and reread passages.  So, this begs the question, when should you tell, and when should you show?

To help, here are some good questions to ask yourself as you edit your own manuscript:

Where are the characters in relation to each other?  You don’t need to tell this in every single paragraph, but establishing location and proximity are great ways to provide a better picture for the reader.

What are the characters doing? Make sure that actions are clearly assigned to each character, so the reader doesn’t end up confused as to who is doing what.

How are they doing the action? Give us a sense for how the action happens, whether it is gentle, rushed, harsh, etc.  The more vivid the visual, the better the picture becomes for the reader.

How does the character perceive things?  Perception is huge, as it can bring a strong personality and voice to your book.  The key to writing perception, however, it to write it from the perspective of the Point of View itself.  Try to steer away from a distant narrator telling the reader how a character feels and instead have the character who is experiencing the scene tell the reader what they feel or perceive others feel.  Keep your “telling” as much in the perspective of the character as possible.

What action is happening next to propel the scene forward? This is especially important with action scenes.  It’s easy to get caught up in having the reader directly experience the pain of the fight from the perspective of the protagonist. However, when you show too much of a fight without telling what’s happening, it can come across as chaotic and confusing.

Clarity.  Function.  Direction.  You goal with utilizing “telling” as a literary tool should always be to keep the story grounded, so you can hook your reader and propel the plot forward.  The best advice I’ve ever received is to tell a little but show a lot.  And that balance is key to an effective book.

What are some of your thoughts on showing vs. telling?

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Called to Write & Welcome New Bloggers! (Laurie)

Happy New Year!! Opening a new calendar always seems to signal a time for change, and you may notice we have a few of those here at Lands Uncharted for 2021! Sadly, we said "Goodbye for now" to three of our bloggers - Katie, Vanessa, and Heather, we've so enjoyed our time with you and you'll be missed! (Follow the link on each of their names to find their last post and leave a comment to wish them well!)

The good news is that we also have some new friends to welcome to our little corner of the internet! We are absolutely thrilled to have Rachel Rossano and Desiree Williams joining as regular contributors!! Make sure to check out the bio pages of these talented ladies (on the left-hand side and linked to their names above), stop by Rachel's review of K.M. Shea's Court of Midnight and Deception series, and look for Desiree's first post coming up on Friday, January 22nd! Also, we're still finalizing our last open contributor spot, so be on the lookout for another announcement soon to find out the last member of our 2021 team!

As for me...I wish I could say things have really turned around in my writing life since my post in September, in which I shared I've been writing a lot more e-mails than stories lately. But between homeschooling and holiday preparations and general pandemic anxiety, my writing productivity has continued to be at an all-time low. At least it's good to know I'm not alone! I've definitely noticed a trend here recently that many of us have been talking about rest and the need for a break, and I'm so thankful for a writing community that understands!

I confess that at busy times like this, I sometimes wonder whether I should return to writing at all when there are so many other authors clamoring for readers' attention and so many other aspects of my life that could benefit from my time and effort (yes, messy house - I'm looking at you!). But last month, I had a rare few hours of inspiration where I wrote multiple scenes and kept coming up with more ideas about my current work-in-progress. I felt excited and fulfilled in a way I hadn't in a long time, and it was AMAZING.

Then my husband came home from work, and I explained I'd let myself have a writing day, suddenly feeling guilty as I looked around at all the other things I should've been doing instead. But I couldn't help smiling as I tried to describe how it felt to be creating again. As I trailed off into something like, "I'm sorry, I know I should've done the dishes instead or helped the boys clean their room. I know I invest more into this writing thing than I earn, and it probably doesn't make sense to keep going with it. But when I have days like this and I finally get to write, I just..."

He gave me this sweet, knowing smile and finished for me with a decisive nod, "You have to."

It still brings tears to my eyes, reliving that moment where I felt so seen and understood in this crazy calling to be a writer. I have to. It doesn't make sense from an outside perspective as a place to put my time, energy, and resources when my books will likely remain in relative obscurity and all my earnings will get eaten up by a few writing conferences, but I can't seem to shake my desire to write, even when life is chaotic and busy. So I guess I should just keep at it, trying to push aside the numbers and logistics. Instead, maybe I need to focus on that indescribable feeling of creating my little imaginary worlds alongside the ultimate Creator. That sense of inspiration and fulfillment that, for me, only comes from obeying the call to write.

How about you? Have you found it easier or harder to write lately? What keeps you going when it's hard to find the time or energy to write or do whatever you're passionate about?

Friday, January 8, 2021

Weekend Reads: Crown of Shadows and Crown of Moonlight by K. M. Shea (Rachel)

I am a bit late to the urban fantasy reading game. A long-term fan of Kimberly A. Rogers, I only recently dove into a new series Hall of Blood and Mercy by another favorite author, K. M. Shea, because I was impatiently waiting for the next City Between novel by W. R. Gingell. Of course, as most obsessions go, one series led to the next in quick succession. I devoured the Blood and Mercy and started on the next trilogy, Court of Midnight and Deception, the third book of which is due to come out on January 15, 2021.

Leila, a half-human farm girl in Wyoming, is determined to launch her “Responsible Adult” plan. She denies her fae blood and does everything she can to live as a normal human. However, this plan is waylaid by the arrival of a fae horse. Black, scary, and clearly abused, it appeals to Leila’s animal-loving side. She can’t resist taking the apparent stray in and nursing it back to health. To her surprise, though, more of the strange horses arrive over the following days, and they do more than drain the resources of her family farm. They bring a significant change of plan. Through multiple fun and amusing confrontation, Leila discovers she has been made Queen of the fae Night Court without her knowing. Because of this, her life transforms into something she never expected.

The snarky and spunky heroine, Leila, makes these books an entertaining and fun ride. Plopped in an unexpected situation with the odds stacked against her, she is feisty enough to do her best to survive and thrive. Using her humor, her wits, and vivaciousness, she foils her multitudes of objectors' plans.
To support her, Shea introduces a varied and diverse cast of unique characters. From her friends Hazel and Killian from the previous trilogy, Hall of Blood and Mercy, to newcomers like her support staff. I love her companion, a brownie obsessed with human pop culture, and her host of new scary new pets. Oh, and Rigel is too good to miss, especially if you like the silent, mysterious types with a heavy dose of dangerousness.

Crown of Shadows and Crown of Moonlight by K. M. Shea are perfect weekend reads, especially since the third book, The Queen’s Crown, is releasing next week on January 15, 2021.

Court of Midnight and Deception page on Amazon

What urban fantasy series would you recommend to a newbie to the genre?

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Story Snippets: Beauty and the Beast illustrated by MinaLima (Sarah)

While I primarily read ebooks these days, I still love to collect beautiful books. Nothing compares to the sensation of textured pages in your hands or to the beautiful artwork, imagery, and covers that are so much richer off the screen. So with great pleasure I’ve been perusing one of my Christmas gifts from my husband—a beautiful edition of Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s Beauty and the Beast (which happens to be one of my favorite fairy tales) illustrated by MinaLima. If you’re not familiar with the history, Villeneuve penned the original tale in French in 1740, and there have been nearly-infinite variations since. This English translation contains lavish illustrations, beautiful artwork for the opening of each chapter, and intriguing interactive elements such as fold-out maps, spinning wheels, and doors that open and shut. 

For those of you who haven’t read the original tale, I’ll share a few snippets below. The story starts by giving us the background on Beauty’s family: 

In a country very far from this is to be seen a great city, wherein trade flourishes abundantly. It numbered amongst its citizens a merchant, who succeeded in all his speculations, and upon whom fortune, responding to his wishes, had always showered her fairest favors. But if he had immense wealth, he had also a great many children, his family consisting of six boys and six girls. None of them were settled in life: the boys were too young to think of it; the girls, too proud of their fortunes, upon which they had every reason to count on, could not easily determine the choice they should make…

Then, of course, the wealthy merchant loses everything and must take refuge in a small country home, wherein begins the sequence that causes Beauty to meet the Beast. At their first meeting, Beauty is filled with dread, but nevertheless chooses courage: 

Seeing the Beast approach, whom she could not behold without a shudder, she advanced with a firm step, and with a modest air, saluted him very respectfully. This behavior pleased the Monster.

After having contemplated her, he said to the old man, in a tone which, without being one of anger, might, however, fill with terror the boldest heart, “Good evening, my good friend;” and turning to Beauty, he said also to her, “Good evening, Beauty.”

The old man, fearing even instant that something awful would happen to his daughter, had not the strength to reply.

But Beauty, without agitation and in a sweet and firm voice, said, “Good evening, Beast.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed these snippets from the original Beauty and the Beast and that they encourages you to seek out and purchase this lovely, full-color edition of the tale (and perhaps some of the other classics illustrated by MinaLima…a great set for all book lovers). 

I’d love to know…do you collect physical books or do you stick with ebooks only?

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Interview with Sharon Rose

We're thrilled to welcome Sharon Rose to Lands Uncharted today to celebrate her new book! A Castle Awakened is the first novel in her Castle in the Wilde series and just released on December 23rd! I'll share more about A Castle Awakened below, but first the author took the time to answer some questions for us - enjoy!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a word-nerd who finds people to be endlessly fascinating. I’m intrigued by personality, culture, and all the ways we communicate—or fail to communicate. Much as I love people, I prefer to enjoy them in small groups, preferably in a coffee shop or a garden.

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 suppose I should have known early. After all, I wrote my first story when I was seven. The spelling was atrocious, but the story was a hit in my second-grade classroom.

Stories have always revolved within me, but that was viewed as daydreaming. I got a real job instead. In my mid-thirties I decided to make my vague dream a reality and write a novel. I did finish that saga, but I also learned that successful publishing would consume way more time than I had available. Writing remained a hobby.

In 2016, I was blessed to be able to leave my familiar career and focus on what I loved—writing fiction. Finally, I can sell my daydreams.

Sell your daydreams! I love that :) You write both fantasy and science fiction! What are the most fun and challenging aspects of each?

Creating people and worlds is loads of fun. (I suspect God agrees.) Delving into make-believe settings and people allows us to step back from problems and see them in a different light. I think that helps us find new solutions and inspires change. That is deeply satisfying to me.

The challenging part of writing in these genres is to make it believable. That is especially true in science fiction, where the setting needs to seem scientifically plausible while it is also bizarre or unfamiliar. Getting that across to a reader, without weighing down the story, is difficult.

What a great perspective on world-building! 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?

Eden. Yes, time travel back to the original garden. I would like my stories to point people (including me) to what we truly ought to be. Eden was a place where evil needed to be kept out, where daily work needed to be done, and where humankind walked with God in the cool of the day. I would love to see that and write about it.

That would be amazing!! What advice would you share with an aspiring author?

· Value your hobby writing and early attempts. They are crucial practice.

· Learn the skills of this craft, but do not let rules tie your writing in knots.

· Go to conferences, local writer groups, or any place where you can find some writer friends. You need friends who speak your language. 

Congratulations on your new release, A Castle Awakened! What inspired you to write it?

Thank you! There is just something about release day. My cheeks hurt from all the smiling.

The story grew out of the human tendency to focus so much on what is wrong that we don’t see or make use of all that is good. These characters need to overcome challenges within the constraints of their cultures, despite the flaws they cannot fix. Perfect culture is a myth. Succeed anyway. 

Ooh, now I'm even more excited to read it! Did any of the events in the book surprise you as you were writing?

This always happens. Thomas is a minor character in the first novel of the trilogy. I only intended him to reveal how awful things are in Tower Woods. The next thing I know, that impoverished, hunted seventeen-year-old stands up with as much strength of character as noble Tristan. Thomas has more to say in novel two, and novel three will be his story. 

I love it when characters take on a life of their own! Can you give us any insights into your next project?

I’m currently editing A Castle Contended, which is novel 2 of the Castle in the Wilde trilogy. This one is Beth’s story. She gets past her fine self, which allows her to play a much bigger role in her own life than she ever thought possible. Of course, some of her peers infinitely prefer her in the role of pawn. All the more reason to get that foreign usurper out of the way.

I also have a prequel novella, A Castle Sealed, releasing next month. It tells the story of how Tristan, Cotrell and James discovered the castle—and vixicats. Close call there.

Sounds exciting! Thank you so much for visiting us today, and congratulations again on your new release!! Here's the back cover blurb for A Castle Awakened:

A foreign usurper. A lady who longs for freedom. Vicious beasts who want to rip them all to shreds. Who wins?

Never one to shy from a challenge, Lord Tristan Petram took possession of a forsaken castle. His search uncovered no hint of who built it or why they abandoned such a gem. What treachery would strike the founding family from history? Still, it seems a small matter, since the generations have passed. If he and his followers can forge a life here—and hold out against ravenous vixicats—the castle and this land will be theirs. As for the nearest kingdom, they never venture beyond their border or the mysterious forest of tower trees. Except...

Beth dons a disguise and takes a forbidden ride in Tower Woods—a last fling before she bows to the dictates of her noble birth. Her fun adventure turns into a nightmare of kidnap and rescue—of sorts. Now she’s trapped in a nameless castle held by a foreign usurper who calls himself Lord Petram. Who could he be, and what will he do with her if he finds out who she really is?

Thus, Lord Petram finds himself the unwilling guardian of an injured lady who won’t give her full name. A crime he didn’t commit may bring retribution from an unknown kingdom. Do they have a claim to this castle that he now calls home? If he survives the vixicats, will an army slaughter him and his followers?

A Castle Awakened is the first novel in the Castle in the Wilde trilogy. If you like fantasy with mystery, intrigue, and romance, come and explore this secondary world with medieval undertones and the turmoil of clashing cultures.

You can find A Castle Awakened on Amazon. Learn more about Sharon Rose and her books on her website, BookBub, Amazon, Goodreads, and Facebook!