Saturday, November 16, 2019

Top 3's: fun moments in publishing my 1st book (Katie)

Top 3's: fun moments in publishing (Katie)

This month marks the 5 year anniversary of my first published series, The Enslaved Series (which includes Vanquished, Deliverance, and Redeemer). Today I'm sharing about the fun moments this "first" in publishing brought with it--via vlog! 

Publishing is hard, but it can be so rewarding, which I definitely learned with this series. (The picture below has Vanquished on the left, but mostly I'm showing off my super cute mug someone gifted me!)

You can learn more about this dystopian trilogy here on Goodreads or here on Amazon.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

What We're Reading: Sand and Storm (Lauricia)

I am a huge fan of epic high fantasy. If I can't find anything in that venue when I begin a new a book, I opt for more traditional stuff. It's not that I'm intentionally snobbish - I don't intend to turn my nose up at contemporary fantasy sub-genres like mashups and retellings, I just don't experience the same rush from them that I do from hard-core fantasy. (Please don't throw that fruit at me; why not make it into a nice salad, instead?) That being said, I'm not so much of a genre-snob that I won't read anything else. Every once in a while I step out of my high-elf epic story preference and read something different. Quite often, in fact, and I'm usually glad I did.

One example of such a delightful foray is the novel Sand and Storm, by Stella Dorthwany. This gem of a novel is a unique approach to period romance/fantasy mash-up that is as delightful as the cover is beautiful, and I am happy to have come across it.

Cora Demesthelyn is bound in a political marriage. She wouldn’t mind so much if only her new husband would at least try to be genial, but when their honeymoon is cancelled so he can attend to a dire situation at his job site, Cora’s hopes for even a shred of civility between her and her husband blow away like sand in the wind.

Faryn Montphish is an intern at an archaeological dig where she finds more than she bargained for. Her tender heart has always burned with compassion for animals in need, which often leads to confrontations with potentially deadly results. When an animal rescue plan lands Faryn in a job as assistant to Professor Valerian, known as the “Heart Breaker of the Year”, Faryn falls in love with more than the native wildlife.

Allied in a secret plan to preserve the magic of their world, Shaun and Damorin have labored for years to find the pieces of an ancient artifact necessary for their success. The women in their lives are necessary distractions, means to an end until the men discover their scheme to save the world can’t succeed without them.

Sand and Storm is a clean fantasy romance reminiscent of the Indiana Jones movies. This plot-driven story packed with action that leaves readers consuming pages at break-neck speed without sacrificing a satisfying amount of character development. I especially enjoyed this story for its relatable characters and original take on an element-based magic system. This story will especially appeal to fans of fantasy in the romantic adventure sub-genre.

I cannot recommend this story enough. It is well-written, the characters are endearing, and the plot elements are organic as well as believable. If you haven't read this book yet, you want to. Go. Do it now. You'll thank me.

What about you? What is your fantasy sub-genre of preference, and what gems have you found when you've ventured beyond your own well-beaten path? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Top 3 Fantasy Romance Novellas of 2019 (Lizzie)

I've been looking through my Books Read list and discovered that several of my favorites from this year were actually shorter works. So in keeping with last month's post on Top Fantasy Romance Novels of 2019, I'm doing a Top 3 Romance Novellas of 2019. Enjoy :)

1) Nyssa Glass: House of Mirrors by H.L. Burke

Laurie briefly reviews this delightful steampunk tale here. Electrician and ex-thief Nyssa is on the run after her kind boss is murdered. Someone wants to use Nyssa's talents to get information out the abandoned and booby-trapped house of an eccentric inventor. With mystery, adventure, a lovable MC in Nyssa, and a very lovable house computer called Hart, this is certainly a keeper and a recommended story.

2) Mirrors and Pearls by Lea Doue

A charming and somewhat different Snow White retelling with dragons and hair of feathers, I thoroughly enjoyed this tale and look forward to more in this story world. And isn't the cover stunning? You can read my review of it here to learn more about it.

3) Curse and Consequence by Savannah Jezowski

A fun romp through a Regency-like world where a curse might just get you the love you want--or get you turned into a pig or a dragon. This was cute, humorous tale of curses gone wrong and two brothers vying for the attention of likable heroine, who, of all things, is a pig-keeper. You can read a guest post by Savannah here.

Do you have a favorite shorter fantasy romance? Have you read any of these?

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Using Movies to Help Your Writing (Julie)

This may sound crazy, but I just now watched Avatar. I'm not sure why it took me so long, maybe because I kept hearing differing opinions on things about it. Either way, my fiance suggested us watching it for creativity purposes. And so we did.

This isn't a review of the movie, but I can say that it definitely wows in the creativity department. It was amazing how unique the story world was. Of course, it was a movie and movies are all about the visual aspects to feed the imagination.

When writing your own story, you have to put more effort into world building because the reader can't actually "see" it like you can in a movie. It's all about the words you use to paint the image.

But anyway, back to the movie. I found some things not to my liking, like the amount of language, but I really enjoyed the world building. There was so much attention to little details that set the world apart. For some reason, the ears of the aliens (how they moved quite a bit) have stuck with me.

So now, the day after watching it, I'm wondering about my own story:

-have I incorporated those small details that give the characters individual, memorable traits?

-is my story world unique enough to capture the reader's attention and make them visualize it in their minds as if they were watching it on the big screen?

-not only if the imagery is good, but also making sure it isn't overly done? Just like in a movie, there can be too much visually going on and you miss a lot or it just becomes overwhelming. Sometimes in Avatar, it did get a bit too much to look at at one time.

Creating worlds and characters can be a fine line. You can either do too much or too little, so you have to find the right balance of creativity without loosing your audience to sensory or word overload.

Have you seen a movie that has inspired you to rethink about your own writing, or helped you improve your writing?

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Top 3 Books Involving Out-of-Body Experiences (Laurie)

Since Halloween was only a few days ago, I thought I'd feature something a bit spooky in today's post :) I originally planned to write about books with ghosts, but it turns out I've read very few books that include actual ghosts (just not my type of story, I guess!). But I realized that I have read some fabulous books where characters have out-of-body experiences, which is a bit like temporarily becoming a ghost, right? That was my line of thinking, anyway :) So here are my Top 3!

3. Romanov by Nadine Brandes

This was such a powerful story! Gorgeously written and filled with historical details and complex characters who face impossible decisions but never lose hope. I can't say too much about the out-of-body experience in this book due to potential spoilers, but let's just say it's part of the story's cool, mysterious magic system. I haven't read much historical fantasy thus far, but now I definitely want to read more!

2. Ghostlight by Rabia Gale

Here's a book that actually does feature a ghost, and I LOVED it!! But the ghost is actually a spirit separated from a still-living body kind of situation, so it still works for this post :) The setting of Ghostlight is basically a fantasy-esque Regency England, which had me hooked right away. The main characters had some fantastic banter, and the ghostly aspects were sufficiently creepy to be a perfect Halloween read, but still manageable for someone like me who doesn't typically read scary stories.

1. The Dreamworld Duology by Kristina Mahr

I've gushed before about how much I adored these books (such as in our interview with the author, Kristina Mahr). The main character basically lives in two different worlds - part of the royal family by day, invisibly wandering the streets of a sinister city at night. Until she suddenly isn't invisible anymore... Intriguing, right? Her dual life causes plenty of problems, romantically and otherwise, and I could hardly put down these beautifully written books.

There's one more series I debated including on my list, because the books are amazing and it does include an out-of-body experience - the problem is, the fact that the character is having an out-of-body experience would be a MAJOR spoiler, so I will leave the series unnamed. Just know that there are other great examples out there, too :)

Do you have any favorite books involving an out-of-body experience? Are there any specific types of books you enjoy reading around this time of year?

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Review of The Piper's Pursuit (Katie)

Review of Melanie Dickerson's The Piper's Pursuit

What We're Reading (Katie)

Aren't books the best? They can pick you up when you're down, welcome you home when you've been away, or take you away when you've been in one place too long. I've been reading a bunch of great books over the last six weeks, and today I'm telling you about The Piper's Pursuit by Melanie Dickerson.

A plague of rats. Children going missing. A giant beast attacking just outside the walls of Hamlin.  And one young woman determined to save her town.

Katerina’s stepfather, Hennek, is neither a good father nor a good husband, but he is the mayor of Hamlin. Could he somehow be causing the misfortunes that have befallen her beloved town? The evidence points to a beast of unusual size—a wolf, perhaps, or a large dog—killing people who venture too far from town. But does that explain the disappearance of so many children, many of whom seem to have gone missing from inside the town walls?

Steffan knows he must reconcile with his father, the Duke of Hagenheim, but he’s not sure he’s ready. In the meantime, he roams from town to town seeking adventure and reward. When he hears of a giant beast terrorizing the town of Hamlin and an equally giant reward that includes gold, money, and the mayor’s daughter in marriage, he heads to Hamlin. Steffan plans to kill the beast, rid the town of its rat infestation, and take the reward—everything except the girl in marriage. However, when he meets Katerina, he’s not so sure. Perhaps his plans need changing.

Katerina is hunting the Beast of Hamlin for herself, determined to win liberation from her conniving and controlling stepfather. When she finds one of the children who has been missing for many months, dirty and wandering around the woods, the mystery only seems to deepen. Katerina will have to team up with Steffan, the handsome but brash duke’s son who infuriates her—he’s the only one in town who isn’t controlled by the mayor. Danger dogs them from both man and beast. Can Katerina and Steffan stop the “Pied Piper” from stealing every last child from Hamlin? Or will their interference create an even worse fate?

I've been reading and enjoying Melanie's books for several years now, and while there are some books I've liked more than others I was thrilled with The Piper's Pursuit. I thought I'd give you a few of my favorite parts.

* Katerina's raw emotion throughout the story
* The "realness" of the antagonist (aka the bad guy)
* Steffan's gentle yet strong presence
* The orphans (love kids involved in the story like this!)
* And, as always in Melanie Dickerson's stories, the great adventure and action throughout the story

If you want to learn more about The Piper's Pursuit you can check it out here on Goodreads. It will be available for the general public in December. However, I was given an advanced copy by the publisher. All thoughts are entirely my own.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Top Three Recently Discovered Myths (Lauricia)

I take special delight in fairy tales, fables, and myths. I enjoy studying cultural myths and learning about the culture that produced them through the stories so much that I call myself a collector of fairy tales. I have a complete anthology of the stories collected by the Brothers Grimm; a separate, annotated anthology of the same works; all of the color fairy books; and a couple of anthologies of myths specific to a few certain cultures. I’m also amassing a large collection of myths from all over the world on Pinterest. (Technically, I call it research, since elements of these myths may end up in a story some day.)

I find fairy tales, fables, and legends to be such an interesting pass-time that I was overjoyed when my husband and children “kidnapped” me for my birthday a few weeks ago and took me to the Mythic Creatures exhibit at the Witte Museum in San Antonio. If you’re even somewhat near the area, it is worth the detour to visit this tour (Sept. 28, 2019 – Jan. 12, 2020).

While there, I toured cultural myths and artifacts that either told their stories or displayed them in an artistic way. There were also plenty of statues, and I took selfies with unicorns, dragons, griffons, and mermaids. It was an absolute blast! In addition to my familiar favorites, though, I also learned of some new stories from other cultures. My top three favorites of these are:

Mishepishu – This is a creature known to the Native peoples in and around the Great Lakes on both the U.S. and Canadian shores. A water-dragon type creature, it possesses the body and scales of a sea serpent, spikes on the back, copper horns, and a face that resembles a lynx. Mishepishu stir up storms and sink boats, but also gives aid to hunters.

Ahuizotl – A legend of the Aztec, this creature is described as a dog with pointed ears; hands and feet like a monkey; and a long, flexible tail with a hand on the end. It is said to cry like a baby in order to lure people near, then grab them with the hand on its tail and drag them under water. This creature looks a lot like a feral, deadly version of the Pokemon Aipom.

 Bunyip – The bunyip is a man-eating monster that dwelt in Australian lakes, swamps, and rivers. It howled at night, causing people to fear entering the water as it prowled the land in search of women and children to devour. It looks a lot like a monkey with the face of an ape, typically depicted with shaggy fur although some are described as having scales or feathers. Roughly the size of a small cow, the bunyip possesses sharp tusks and flippers for swimming that change to legs capable of walking on land at night.

At first glance, I thought the museum exhibit was much too small to satisfy my curiosity. I know that I will never be able to explore all of the myths of every culture in our world, no matter how much research I do, but I had hoped to be immersed for a long while, at least. Two hours later, I was almost finished exploring every facet of the exhibit, and I was much surprised and greatly pleased by the depth and detail the seemingly-short exhibit actually had to offer. I am so thrilled at the thoughtfulness of my family, and (like the indulgent glutton that I am) I am already looking forward to the next fairy tale/myth based experience.

Do you have any favorite myths or fairy tales that are not common in modern Western culture? Or do you know of any exhibits, websites, podcasts that feature mythology and fables? Please share about either or both of these things in the comments below!