Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Calling All Dragon Lovers (Julie)

It doesn't get much better in life than sitting down with the next book of your favorite series. For me, it's the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull. Hands down my favorite. Fairies, magic, cool weapons, narrow escapes, epic battles, dragons, fun characters...the list goes on and on.  In fact, it's that series that got me started on writing my own.

The original series has five books. As with all your favorite stories, you hate to see them come to an end and you wish the author would continue them. Well, I got my wish. Brandon Mull has started a continuation series of Fablehaven called Dragonwatch.

I'm currently finishing up the second book in the Dragonwatch series: Wrath of the Dragon King. And it is full of dragons of all varieties.

Here's a little peak at what you'll find in Dragonwatch:
The dragons have been confined to the secret sanctuaries for magical creatures long enough. They want their freedom. They want revenge. 

Several things struck me as I read this book:
-Mull has an incredible talent of weaving in information (characters/objects/etc...) that comes into play later on. It seems so effortless. But it also shows how much planning and outlining he must do to incorporate all those little things to make the story flow smoothly.
-Along the same lines, the world building is very creative. There are several fun weapons that show up in this book: a bag of gale force winds, a sword that can also shoot a bolt of lightening, and a bow that can shoot up to three hundred arrows at one time!
 -Even though this is the 7th book in the whole Fablehaven series, the ideas and action are fresh. One thing I'm struggling with on writing the second book in my series is making sure that I am coming up with fresh ideas. There were definitely some surprise scenes in this one!

So, if your looking for a fun, imaginative fantasy adventure then check out the series (links above).

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Top Three TBR Middle Grade Books With Green Covers (KaLyn)

How about a little festive book fun, since tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day?

Green is not the most common color for a book cover, but some great reads that do feature it in an eye-catching fashion. Here are three middle-grade books with green covers from my to-be-read pile that may interest you.


by S.E.M. Ishida

You may recall seeing Nick Newton on Lands Uncharted before. I posted a review of the first book, Nick Newton is not a Genius, back in November. Nick Newton: The Highest Bidder is the second book in the series. The upbeat, fun, and compassionate heart of the first book enticed me to add the second book to my list.

About Nick Newton: The Highest Bidder

Nick, a merely average boy from the country of Thauma, has learned that one doesn't need to be a genius or wealthy to have amazing adventures. All one needs is to keep going. When Solomon decides to put Elizabeth the android back together, Nick promises to help in any way that he can. He learns many important lessons, like the value of a speck, and to dodge mechanical baby strollers, fencing sisters, and auction bids. If all goes well, he might even make a few new friends too.


by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Sent is the second book in The Missing series. You can find a review of the first book, Foundon my blog. Found began with the government cover-up of an event involving thirty-four babies who were put up for adoption, and then mysteriously drawn to investigate the incident thirteen years later. I enjoyed reading the first book enough to pick up the second, but it was the twist in the final reveal that had me splurge to pick up the whole series.

About Sent

Jonah, Katherine, Chip, and another boy, Alex, have no preparation before they are sent back to 1483 at the Tower of London, with the promise that they can return to the present if they can repair history. They quickly discover that Chip and Alex’s true identities are the 13-year-old King Edward V and his 10-year-old brother, Richard, Duke of York. But before Chip can enjoy being the king of England, they discover that they are virtually prisoners—and that their uncle wants them dead. How can the kids repair time and return home when according to history, Chip and Alex were murdered?


by Peggy Eddleman

I came across Sky Jumpers a few years ago, when I was putting my first book proposal together. A courageous, base-jumping heroine from a town of inventors was hard to resist. But, to be honest, I forgot about the book until I began writing this post. It got buried in my wildly, out of control to-be-read-pile. Maybe it's time to reprioritize the stack and move Sky Jumpers up towards the top?

About Sky Jumpers

Twelve-year-old Hope lives in White Rock, a town of inventors struggling to recover from World War III. But adventurous Hope is terrible at inventing. She would much rather sneak off to cliff dive into the Bomb’s Breath, the deadly band of air that surrounds the town.

When bandits invade White Rock to steal its greatest invention—priceless antibiotics—the town is left with a heartbreaking choice: hand over the medicine and die from disease, or die fighting the bandits. Help lies in a neighboring town, but the bandits count everyone fourteen and older each hour. Now Hope and her friends Aaren and Brock are only ones who can escape through the Bomb’s Breath.

For once, the daring and rebelliousness that usually get Hope into trouble might just save them all.

What green books would you recommend?

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

What to do with Your Story Idea: Developing a Structure (Lauricia, Writing Life)

A few months ago I began a series addressing the question that I receive the most: What do I do with my story idea. In the first installments of this multi-part answer, I talked about writing down everything you know about the idea and beginning a social media presence. Today, I’m going to discuss how to proceed with the writing.

To be clear, there is never a time when you should stop writing. The ideal is to work on your story and your marketing in tandem, so that they balance each other. This will help you fend off the marketing burnout that all of us experience at one point or another.

If you are new to this series, or would like a recap of the full answer, here are the steps in brief:

1. Write down everything you know about the story idea. Keep writing until you can’t think of anything to add. (Read entire post here.)

2. When you’re not writing, work on your social media platform.  Develop your on-line presence authentically, in a way that is genuine. (Read entire post here.)

3. Go back to your idea. Organize everything you wrote in step one into something with structure and shape. Turn that collection of ideas into a plan and begin your first draft.

4. Start a website. A blog is good because it gives readers a taste of your writing, but if you feel that you can’t commit to a blog, then you need to have a website at the very least.

5. Edit your first draft. Complete this step as often as necessary.

6. Start an e-mail list.

7. Enlist alpha readers who will give you story feedback.

8. Once your book is as polished as you can get it, enlist someone else to edit it.

9. Decide how you want to publish (indie or traditional) and study the process. Learning the necessary details will save you a lot of time and, potentially, a lot of money in the long run.

10. Start the next story!

Presuming you’ve done step one and are working on step two, it’s time to return to your original idea and begin to give it some structure. The most common structure, and a great place to start, is the Three Act Structure. The name comes from Aristotle’s Poetics, in which he discusses how every story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Fast forward a few thousand years and incorporate the advent and growth of the movie industry, and you have a story structure that is built around Act I: the introduction and development phase; Act II: the conflict and struggle phase; and Act II: the achievement and resolution phase.

If you are anything like me, at this point you’re thinking you don’t want your writing to be formulaic. You’re concerned that your writing won’t stand out, or that it will lack a spark of life if you follow a common method. I wrestled with this for years until I thought about it from the perspective of architecture. If you’ve ever seen a house being built, you know that nothing can be accomplished until the foundation is laid and the frame is in place. So, too, with writing. Rather than being a formula, the Three Act Structure is the framework. What you build around it is up to you, and can be as original and inventive as you like.

I had originally planned to go into a discussion about the Three Act Structure here, but I’m already coming to the end of my word count, and there are innumerable resources out there to help with this, so I’ll list some of my favorites for you to explore:


Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

The One Year Adventure Novel by Daniel Schwabauer. (Specifically for teens) I cannot recommend this resource highly enough. It is a one-year writing curriculum that ends with a chance of publication, so if you are a teen who desires to write speculative fiction, there is no better option to pursue.

Of course, there are many more good resources out there, and I’m always looking to improve my craft, so are there any that you recommend? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Top 3 Book Art Projects for Spring Break (Lizzie)

Spring break is coming up, and since I work at a university, I have a week off to read and write ... and do taxes and other chores. However, I really want to do something fun away from the computer and reading chair. So I thought it'd be fun to look into book-related craft projects. Here are some that I found. I'm not including directions, just suggestions of what you could do.

Book Art Crafts

1) Book jewelry Cut out a favorite snippet from a copy of a book that's too worn to read but that you don't want to throw away (or any antique-looking book you find at the thrift store). Turn it into a necklace pendant, ring, bracelet, or earring. Buy the necklace, etc. at your favorite craft store, then seal the paper cut out with glass to magnify it. Here's an example from Etsy.
From the SonnetandFable Etsy shop.

2) Pressed flower art Do you have any pressed flowers from last summer? If so, you can make a lovely piece of art by placing the pressed flower over a book page. Maybe it's because I love reading, but there's just something about black-and-white text that makes a lovely background.
From TicketyBooPrints Etsy shop

3) Hollow book safe This might be my favorite, because hiding things in books is a fun part of many adventure stories. Now you can have your own secret hiding place!
From RetroGradma Etsy shop

Book art actually brings out mixed emotions. I think it's lovely, but I don't really like the idea of tearing out book pages. But if the book's at the thrift store or in danger of being thrown away, or is water-stained or something like it, I guess it's okay. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

To Catch a Magic Thief by E.J. Kitchens (Laurie)

In case you missed it, our own E.J. Kitchens (affectionately known around Lands Uncharted as Lizzie) released a new book in February! Check out her fun release day post here :)  I had the great honor of reading an early copy of To Catch a Magic Thief and endorsing it, and now I'm excited to share my review with all of you!

Gabriella is the second daughter in the beautiful, prestigious Floraison family. While she possesses the pride that comes along with her family's striking looks and lofty position, she also harbors a dark secret - she has a sinister scar on her finger and dreams that seem to link her to the evil sorcerers. When Marcel, a new student of her father's, keeps crossing her path, Gabriella wants nothing to do with the awkward baron. But their lives become more and more entwined as they uncover evidence that the notorious Magic Thief has plans to strike the Floraison family, not only for their magical treasures, but for Gabriella herself.

Are you intrigued yet?? Because I got chills again just writing that! Like Kitchens' debut novel, The Rose and the Wand, To Catch a Magic Thief has a wonderful blend of magic, humor, adventure, and Jane Austen-esque romance. Just my kind of story! Her writing style is sophisticated but fun to read, and her world-building gets even more fascinating in this book as we learn more about sorcerers and magic collectors. I loved the organic way in which Gabriella and Marcel's relationship developed from annoyance and misunderstandings to working together to friendship (and maybe even beyond...). Their interactions had so many moments of both entertainment and deeper meaning as each character learned more about themselves and the other. I also really enjoyed the mystery behind the Magic Thief and Gabriella's scarred finger, adding a level of suspense that made me eager to keep reading!

If, like me, you're a fan of both fantasy and period romances, you absolutely need to give Kitchens' Magic Collectors series a try. I'm looking forward to future installments!

Have you read any of Lizzie's books yet? Do you have any other historical fantasy romance recommendations for me?

Thanks for reading!

P.S. You'll get to hear about what Julie's been reading later this month - we switched to free up her time for some adventures this week :)

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Top 3 Differences Between Writing Spark and Flare (Flare Blog Tour)

We are so excited to welcome special guest (and Lands Uncharted alumna!) J.M. Hackman to the blog today as part of her Flare blog tour! Flare, the second book in Jill's Firebrand Chronicles, just released on February 26th. We'll share more about it below, but first Jill is going to tell us about the top three differences between writing Spark (The Firebrand Chronicles, Book One) and Flare. Enjoy!

Writing is a tough job, but there are certain instances where the job is more difficult than expected. The differences I encountered with Spark’s sequel were surprising, especially since I knew Flare’s plot. After all, that’s all a writer really needs to know, right? Um, maybe not.

1.) Time: I wrote Spark in six leisurely years—although I’m a turtle writer, I indulged in lots of world building, played with point of view, and changed the major story arc. If I didn’t feel like writing, I didn’t. But with Flare, I felt the urge to finish...yesterday.

2.) Continuity: Spark was finished and into the wild. Flare was in process, and book three (now titled Burn) was a twinkling gem of unexplored opportunity. I needed to link Spark’s storyline to that sparkling possibility with an amazing story. And I wanted it done seamlessly. Instead, it was kind of like herding cats, as I checked and rechecked details on characters’ backstories, timelines, and the culture of my world.

3.) Expectations: My publisher didn’t ask me to complete Flare in a certain time frame; I did that to myself, although I knew sooner was better. Plus, I feared disappointing my readers with a lackluster sophomore effort. So some of my writing time was tainted with self-doubt. I finally locked away the critic and focused on just telling the story. I hope you enjoy the final product!

I'm sure we will, thank you so much for sharing with us today, Jill! In case you missed Spark, here's the back cover blurb (and gorgeous cover!!):

Brenna James wants three things for her sixteenth birthday: to find her history notes before the test, to have her mother return from her business trip, and to stop creating fire with her bare hands.

Yeah, that’s so not happening. Unfortunately.

When Brenna learns her mother is missing in an alternate reality called Linneah, she travels through a portal to find her. Against her will. Who knew portals even existed? But Brenna’s arrival in Linneah begins the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, including a royal murder and the theft of Linneah’s most powerful relic: the Sacred Veil.

Hold up. Can everything just slow down for a sec?

Unwilling yet left with no other choice, Brenna and her new friend Baldwin (Um, hello, Hottie!) pursue the thief into the dangerous woods of Silvastamen and beyond. Exactly what Brenna wanted to do for her sixteenth birthday. Exactly. When they spy an army marching toward Linneah, Brenna is horrified. Can she find the veil, save her mother, and warn Linneah in time?

And more importantly, why on earth doesn’t this alternity have Belgian waffles?

And HERE are the amazing cover and back cover blurb for Jill's newest release, Flare

Brenna travels to Linneah via portal to visit her boyfriend Baldwin, only to find heartbreak. Betrayal. A serious case of never, ever wanting to see him again. Worst summer vacation ever. 

So when her best friend Tiny invites her on a road trip to meet Tiny’s fiancĂ©, Brenna jumps at the chance. Even if her mother disapproves. Even if it’s through a dangerous travel portal. Even if Tiny has never met this fiancĂ© handpicked by her dad. Anything’s better than staying in Linneah. 

But the trip disintegrates into disaster. The two friends are separated, Brenna is kidnapped, and not only are Brenna’s Firebrand skills tested to the limit, she must participate in the dangerous event, Starfall . . . or go home. Broke. Alone. With a shattered heart. So not fun. 

And then as if that’s not bad enough? Brenna discovers a plot that could spell disaster for everyone she holds dear. And no one believes her. 

Can she prevent a bloody government takeover? And what will become of Brenna’s broken heart?

You can find purchase links for Spark here and Flare here. Now a little more about the lovely author herself:

J. M. Hackman loves thunderstorms, bookstores, and happy endings. She’s never met a reading nook she didn’t like and prefers soul talk to small talk. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her two munchkins and her handsome husband who supports her in this crazy profession. Her days are filled with writing stories, consuming massive quantities of dark chocolate, and looking for portals to other worlds.

You can connect with Jill on her website, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Amazon. Thanks again for stopping by today, Jill, and congratulations on your new release!

Make sure to catch the other stops on the Flare Blog Tour! Here's a list of all the posts:

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Whispers From the Depths Story Experience by Special Guest C.W. Briar

Being a Whisperer used to be a title of honor. It meant keeping the dangerous water spirits at bay and receiving the praise of the people. That was before the rebellion … before the Whisperers were enslaved.

Those better times are now only stories passed down to the current generation. Betka works in the palace, harassed and abused without any way to fight back. The same magic she uses to fight off spirits also prevents her from fighting back against her captors.

Freedom is a distant dream.

Then news arrives that Ylvalas, the most feared spirit in the kingdom, has attacked her sister’s village. Warriors are being dispatched to rescue survivors. Betka volunteers, desperate to save what little family she has left. She knows it will be dangerous. She’ll have to work with the same warriors who enslaved her, including the man responsible for so much of suffering.

If she can rescue her sister, and maybe find a way to escape, the risks will have been worth it.

Unfortunately, they are all heading into a nightmare beyond anything they could have imagined.

What kind of experience is Whispers From The Depths?

I wanted the story to feel like getting hit by a tidal wave in the dark. Based on early reviews, I think I was at least somewhat successful. Several reviewers have struggled to describe the experience, not because they didn’t like it but because they were surprised.

The book is probably a different from the high adventure escape they were expecting. It’s dark fantasy. The elements of the fantasy genre are there — magic, action, and Viking influences — but there are also scenes that draw on the horror genre.

This a good time to mention that it’s a heavy, gritty story. When I mention horror, I don’t mean copious amounts of blood and guts. There is quite a bit of violence, but my kind of horror focuses on suspense and dread. Think Hitchcock’s The Birds or Jurassic Park rather than Freddy Krueger.

The grittiness of the story is as much in the character arcs as it is in the action. Whispers From The Depths is a book that asks some difficult questions about how we react to our enemies. I know the questions are difficult because they challenged me personally as I explored them.

So if you like your fantasy with a bit of bite, I think the book will be a good fit for you. Even if you’re on the fence, give it a try. Several reviewers admitted it was darker than what they usually read, but they really liked it because there’s always this light of hope at the end of the tunnel.

Who is author C.W. Briar?

A goofball for the most part. I like books that put me in suspense and challenge me with deep themes, but I also don’t take myself too seriously for too long. There’s a bit of me in one of the book’s characters, Kuros. Part of his response to the threats they face is to crack jokes, and it helps him and the others stay relaxed. I like to laugh, especially when it diffuses a tense situation.

Whispers From The Depths is my debut novel, but it’s my second book. I previously wrote a collection of creepy short stories called Wrath and Ruin. Looking ahead, I’ll be writing more fantasy books that blend action, chills, and humor. I also have some short stories that will be published in anthologies this year.

If you want to keep up on my latest book news, follow me. I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (though the last one is my least favorite). You can see pictures of my corgis. I also have a website at cwbriar.com where, by the way, I’m running a sweepstakes for free water park tickets for a couple more weeks.

And give Whispers From The Depths a try. I think it will take you on a surprising journey.