Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Writer's Online Life (Julie)

As you know, we live in the age of technology now where we pretty much do everything online. As writers, this has opened up a whole new world for us to gain resources, make connections, and marketing. I've been a bit behind on the whole internet as my biggest writing resource, and am now trying to play catch up.

I first joined American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and enjoyed their critique groups. In fact, it was the crit group that showed me, in a good way, that I knew nothing about writing. And through a small crit group, I've grown so much!

But other than that, I haven't done anything because I've been so focused on writing my novel. Until recently. Now I'm starting to wade into the depths of the online writing world. My awesome and much more knowledgeable sister has introduced me to some Facebook groups like Realm Makers and Fellowship of Fantasy.

I've really enjoyed being a part of these groups because I've been introduced to many new books and authors of similar interests.  It's a great community where we all have a story to tell (or multiple) and know the struggles other are facing because we have faced them as well. But that's not all! Having a writing community provides encouragement and motivation and accountability for all of us writers and aspiring writers!

What kind of online blogs, sites, and groups are indispensable to you in your writing journey that you would like to share?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Top 3 Books by Melanie Dickerson (Laurie)

You may remember back a few months ago when I shared about my Top 3 Authors Who Write Books Faster than I Can Read Them. I'm happy to report that I'm making some progress catching up! Not only did I finally read my first book by Morgan L. Busse (which was excellent, by the way!), but I've also listened to audiobooks of FOUR of Melanie Dickerson's novels. Not totally caught up, but it's a good start! And because I've been in such a Melanie Dickerson phase lately, I thought I would share my Top 3 Books by Melanie Dickerson - at least of the ones I've read so far :)

3. The Captive Maiden

This was one of those books that made me all gooey inside. I felt bad for Valten when his betrothed was stolen by his younger brother in The Fairest Beauty, so I was very ready to root for him when he got his own story! And I seem to be attracted to the strong, silent type - his emotions just felt so much more raw and authentic at the few points where he did express them.  Gisela was an easy character to cheer for as well, and I was eager to see her get a happily-ever-after following the cruelty she experienced from her stepmother. Action, cool historical details about knightly tournaments, and such swoony romance! *happy sigh*

2. The Golden Braid

I loved that The Golden Braid didn't follow the usual pattern of Dickerson's novels in many ways, and yet it had the same satisfying romance, adventure, and fairy tale connections. I thought the tie-ins to Rapunzel were especially clever in this book, and I really liked the way Mother Gothel's character was handled - the perfect blend of over-the-top protectiveness mixed with increasing hints of something a bit more sinister. It was fun watching Rapunzel and Sir Gerek move from dislike and distrust to affection for each other. Add to that the mystery of Rapunzel's identity, and I was totally sucked in!

1. The Merchant's Daughter

This was one of my very first Melanie Dickerson books, and I think part of the appeal definitely came from the fact that her romantic historical fairy tale retellings were still pretty new to me. But between Beauty and the Beast being one of my favorite fairy tales and the increasing vulnerability of gruff Lord Ranulf as Annabel makes an impression on him, this story really earned a place in my heart. I also appreciated the sweetness of Annabel's character and the way the meaningful faith narrative worked into the story. I may have to see if I can find the audiobook for this one so I can revisit... :)

How about you? Have you read any of Melanie Dickerson's books, and if so, which are your favorites? Do you have any authors you love so much you could do an entire post about their books?

See you next time!

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Characters of Stones of Terrene (Void Born Blog Tour)

We're excited to be a part of the Void Born blog tour today, hearing from author R.J. Metcalf! R.J. stopped by for an interview as part of the blog tour celebrating the release of the first book in her Stones of Terrene Chronicles, Renegade Skyfarer. Now she's back with a character feature, sharing a bit about some of the key characters in her latest release, Void Born. Enjoy!

Ben Dubray has always been the main protagonist of the series as Mike and I planned it. We knew from the get-go that Ben would find himself in Terrene, that he’d have to find his way home somehow, and that he’d have a whole host of challenges to face on his quest. What we didn’t know was how Ben would turn into his
own man before our eyes.

There aspects of him that I understand well as his author: his protective nature, his desire for justice, his caring for those around him. Then there’s aspects that I didn’t expect: his endearing (to me) clumsiness around Raine and the fact that he has a sister. Sara just showed up one day, and Ben gave me a whole slew of little stories about his younger sister. Suddenly he became so much richer and deeper as a character. Some of those stories were light-hearted and fun and made me love her. Other stories were dark, and broken, and suddenly I understood why he’s the protective heart that he is.

This entire experience of living in Terrene will give Ben such regrets that he’s never fathomed possible. If he stays in Terrene, he leaves his sister back home, utterly family-less. If he leaves Terrene, he leaves behind new friendships–and the one woman who has ever turned his head.

Christopher is someone new for readers to meet in Void Born, so I won’t give too much away here. I love Christopher. He’s going to experience so much change, and he’s going to undergo so many big decisions in his life. I’m really looking forward to seeing how readers will deal with this brainwashed Void Born.

Raine. Sweet, snarky, spicy Raine. Another character that Mike and I have known from the very beginning of it all. Watching her come to life has been utterly amazing. We had simple ideas: she’s Finn’s granddaughter. She likes swords. She can’t do elemental manipulation. From those brief little bits of knowledge, she’s grown into her own character–and a reader favorite.

She keeps her secrets close to her heart. Some of the reasons will be revealed in Void Born. I’d love to say that she gets an easy break in the last two books, but just like everyone else in legend and in reality, people really shine after they’ve survived adversity.

I was already hooked by those covers, and now I'm so intrigued! (And concerned for poor Raine!) Here's the back cover blurb for Void Born:

The bloodstone has been stolen.

Although the barrier remains, its stability is at risk. And if it falls, all of southern Terrene will be forfeit.

After the tragedies in Doldra, the valiant crew of the Sapphire struggles to regain their footing. Jade returns to Lucrum with the escort of Prince Weston only to find herself cornered by Lord Everett's political maneuvering. With her freedom at stake, Jade is faced with a choice: give up her dreams for the future, or watch as those closest to her die.

Ben hunts down Victor and his mysterious Void Born with the help of Finn and his granddaughter Raine. The longer they are together, the harder Ben falls for the enigmatic swordswoman. But mad sages and ruthless assassins aren't all he needs to fear–if Ben's friends find out his secret, he could lose everything.

With Terrene at stake, they cannot lose sight of their goals.

Even with the past and the future pulling at them.

Void Born just released last week and can be purchased here. And here's a little more about the author:

During the day, Becky is a stay at home mom of two active little boys. When she has ‘free time’, she enjoys reading, writing, baking and sewing. After many years of creative writing classes, writing fanfiction drabbles and daydreaming, it was high time to start writing her husband Mike's story. She dove into the world of Terrene and hasn’t looked back—except for when she runs out of dark chocolate. Any free time not spent in Terrene is typically expended on hosting dinner and game nights, running amok with the two little monkeys or watching nerdy movies with Mike.

You can connect with her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and her website. Thanks for visiting today, R.J., and congratulations on your new release!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Nick Newton Is Not a Genius by S.E.M Ishida (KaLyn)

At Realm Makers in July, I picked up a middle-grade steampunk called Nick Newton is not a Genius. It was not a book I was familiar with, but it looked like a fun read and I couldn't pass up a middle-grade steampunk.

Nick Newton, named after his legendary grandfather General Nicolas Newton, is an average child in a family of genius. But he's more like the late grandfather he idolizes that even he realizes.

The story opens with Nick's prestigious school's pronouncement that he's an average child and therefore can no longer attend their school (a school only for genius). Undeterred, Nick stays optimistic about his changing situation and seeks to make his own discoveries - the first of which is the discovery of a mechanical bird, Plink, invented by his grandfather.

While he isn't a genius and may never be a great inventor, Nick is a child with above average compassion. It is his humility and concern for others that leads to his greatest discoveries. It is also how he is most like his namesake.

Nick Newton is not a Genius showcases compassion, friendship, curiosity, understanding, and a healthy family dynamic in a delightful, middle-grade steampunk tale.

The second book in the series, "Nick Newton: the Highest Bidder," released on November 7th. I actually pre-ordered the second book in paperback, hoping to get it before this post. However, the book went out of stock before release day. Amazon informed me I wouldn't get a copy until December.

But anticipation is part of the fun, right?

Looking forward to joining Nick and Plink on their next adventure!

About Book One

Nick Newton is not a Genius. He’s just a merely average boy from the country of Thauma. He may not be brilliant like his mom and dad or a child prodigy like his sister, but he won’t let that stop him from uncovering the mysteries of a clockwork factory or revealing a war hero’s greatest secret. With help from two new friends and his butler named Jude, Nick embarks on an adventure that will change his life forever.

About Book Two

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. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Top Three Fairy Tale Retellings (Lauricia)

For many of us, fairy tales supply our first taste of the fun of fantasy. At a young age we are introduced to magical adventures in which the good guy always wins, and we explore wondrous worlds with just enough danger to add a sense of urgency while assuring us that, as long as we keep our wits about us, we can overcome any threat.

As we grow older, many of us think back on those stories with fondness. We love to revisit them, but the sense of wonder is gone, replaced with the comfort of something so familiar that we have it memorized. We long to return to the original stories, but we wish they weren’t so well worn. It is this desire that makes fairy tale retellings so popular.

I have yet to write a fairy tale retelling. I worry that I will not do the original story justice, or that my version will come off as hackneyed and flat. However, every once in a while I come across a retelling that I am drawn to read, and I am happy to share my top three most recent discoveries with you.

 Masque by W. R. Gingell

This is a delightful retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" that takes the story in a way readers would never expect it to go. Think Disney’s Beauty and the Beast meets Sam Spade, private detective, set in Regency England. In this version, Isabella Farrah, the daughter of an ambassador, is more interested in getting her man than she is in being rescued. The only problem is Lord Pecus, Commander of the city’s Watch, keeps getting in the way. Well, Isabella actually keeps getting in his way, but if Pecus would just let Isabella have her way, she’s certain she could nab the murderer of one of her oldest friends.  A feisty heroine whose nobody’s fool and witty dialogue highlight this story’s unique blend of the fairy tale and murder mystery genres, making Masque a retelling must-read.

The Firethorn Crown (Firethorn Chronicles, Book 1) by Lea Doue

Before I knew this story was a retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses", I fell into it in a way that I hadn’t done with any story for a long time. I was pleased with the cast of characters, with the author’s attention to detail, with the way she managed to include all twelve girls without causing confusion, and—most of all—with the love triangle. While love triangles seem to be obligatory recently, Doue handled this one in a gracefully realistic way. As I finished the book, I was already looking forward to the second book in the series.

Waking Beauty by Sarah E. Morin

This is an excellent retelling of "Sleeping Beauty". However, this version examines the story from a unique angle, asking: What happens if, every time Beauty thought she woke up, she found out that she was truly still asleep? Once Prince Charming rescued her, how could he convince her she was truly awake? This story is a cleverly thought out variation of the original with slightly allegoric overtones. The author cleverly challenges the assumptions readers naturally make when thinking of the story and does so with developed wit and poignancy.

Do you enjoy fairy tale retellings? Why or why not? If so, which ones are your favorites?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Three Benefits of Time Traveling as a Writer (Lizzie)

"Nobody calls me chicken!" Marty McFly is famous for saying--in the past and in the future. Maybe, the present as well. Not being chicken either (at least in some things), I recently took a trip back to the past in my writing: I re-read my short story "How to Hide a Prince" from Tales of Ever After. For a writer, it can be dangerous to read old work. You can fall into the black pit of ERRORS, the swamp of  I WISH I'D SAID THAT DIFFERENTLY, or the deceptive, inescapable mist of LOOK HOW GOOD I AM--NO FURTHER EFFORT IS NEEDED.

A wise traveler, however, recognizes those dangerous paths and avoids them, but doesn't avoid travelling altogether. Three very important things can be gleaned from returning to older works.

Three Benefits of Time Traveling as a Writer

1) It crystallize your brand.

What did you like about your story? What did others like? Or not like? For me, I enjoyed in my re-read, and others have commented on, banter between the hero and heroine, lyrical prose, and a happily-ever-after ending. Basically, I tell stories with adventure, humor, romance, and pretty writing. Those are things I want to be known for, but they don't always come naturally (especially when I'm focused on character development or working out a complicated plot), so I have to consciously include them.

2) It reveals your strengths and where you've improved or lost ground. 

Writers change and grow, so a strength you had in one novel doesn't necessarily transfer to the future ones. My first full-length novel was really fairly easy to write. Because it was about the enchantress from the Beauty and the Beast story, the plot was already pretty much structured for me. The main character came out strong and was easy to write. I had time to focus on lyrical prose. But with my next two stories, I used two POVs instead of one, the plots weren't obvious and were much more complicated, the characters didn't come so easily. My lyrical prose suffered because I was focused on those other issues. So ask where you may have slipped in your work to improve other areas.

3) It affirms your calling.

You should enjoy re-reading your old works. That's not to say you think them all perfect, but they should still give you some pleasure. You should recognize some strengths or areas where you've improved or a character you particularly liked. If you don't get any enjoyment from reading old works, if you think them all trash, then maybe writing is not your calling after all, but merely something you can do and not something you should do. Or maybe you've been writing the wrong stories, writing contemporary romance, for instance, because you think it will sell better and you're afraid of the research needed to write the historical fiction you love. All that said, I really hope you enjoy re-reading your old work.

In conclusion, visiting old works gives you a map to a better future: a clearer idea of who you are as a writer (your brand) and how you can improve.

Do you re-reading old works? Has it helped you?

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Would You Rather Top 3

It's amazing what you hear when you are around young kids. I'm a bus monitor a few days a week
and have amassed a following of lower elementary children who delight themselves in playing games with me. For example, we all got new names today. Hello, my name is Relish. You will also find Ketchup, Mayonnaise, Mustard, and Hot Dog nearby. I'm not sure what happened to Bun. We play "Guess what word I'm saying backwards", "I Spy", "Miss Mary Mack", "Knock Knock", and today we started "Would You Rather".

Playing "Would You Rather" with children from Pre-K to 5th grade gets quite interesting. Would you rather eat bug flavored ice cream or bugs? Would you rather eat a bus or a truck? (Can you guess who
asked that one?) Would you rather eat a taco with live bugs or eat a plain, live bug. There's definitely a theme of bugs here. But then I got this one: would you rather control the four elements or control the world?

Okay, I have to admit I went for the four elements. Because that would be way cool. I leave controlling the world to Pinky and the Brain.

Since I've had so much fun playing this game, I thought we could all play it! So here it is...

"Would You Rather" Fantasy Edition:

1) Would you rather fight your enemy with a sword or bow and arrow? Think Legolas or Katniss.
In a pinch, a sword can be whipped out faster than having to notch your arrow and aim, unless of course your sword gets stuck in your scabbard. However, sword fighting is only useful in close proximity battles, whereas a bow and arrow is great for long-range fighting. You see the bad guy coming and bam, he's been shot by your well-placed arrow. If you are not so much of a weight lifter, the arrow might be the better option as swords are notoriously heavy.

My choice: I'd rather have a bow and arrow because it looks so cool when Katniss does it. Plus I'd prefer fighting my battles before I see the whites of their eyes. 

2) Would you rather wear a cape, a cloak, or nothing( I mean accessory here)? Superman vs. Doctor Strange vs. Mr. Incredible! According to Edna in The Incredibles, absolutely no capes, darling!! Though Superman and Thor get away with it, what purpose does it really serve except look cool? Dr. Strange's cloak is stylish and useful by giving its wearer the ability to levitate and fly. It's also known
to help you fight so that's double the fighting power! The problem with cloaks and capes is that they are flowy and can get in the way. Your enemy could potentially snag your cape/cloak and hinder you, or pull it over your head as well. If those example are giving you the willies, then no cloak or cape is right for you.

My choice: I'd rather have a cloak. I love the look of it flowing out behind you are you saunter up to your enemy. And it's great for chilly days!

3) Would you rather be telepathic or have telekinesis? You're thinking telekinesis because you wouldn't want someone reading your mind? Am I right? Did I just read your mind? I'm a bit biased on telepathy because my main character in my novel has the ability to communicate that way. Though
she can't necessarily read the other person's mind but more of sense what's going on. That can come in very handy in a battle or dangerous situation when stealth is required. It can however make for some very awkward moments. Serious control is required. Telekinenis also doesn't require much effort, except from your brain. I tend to think of Luke on this one. "Use the force, Luke". Out of reach items are no longer a problem! The downside is a rather hefty risk. You must regularly exercise and eat healthy.

My choice: For myself, I'd rather have telekinesis. Think of the endless possibilities of a teacher with telekinesis! "I said time was up. Hand in your papers!" "Is that a cell phone I see?" "What kind of food are hiding behind your back?"

What would you rather?