Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Story Snippets: Unseelie Uncollared (Kimberly)

Hi everyone, I'm excited to share a first look at my newest release, Unseelie Uncollared, the first book in my new epic romantic fantasy trilogy!

Unseelie Uncollared is set in the same world as Love's Enchanted Tales, my fairytale retelling series. However, this trilogy ventures into a brand new corner of Sonera including a new continent featuring some heavy Greco-Roman inspiration. I've loved expanding into the areas beyond the Five Kingdoms since I get to feature more of the gargoyles who protect the city-states to the east of the Five Kingdoms and of course the new cultures of Hellada including the Unseelie.

Now I'm happy to share a snippet from the opening scene of Unseelie Uncollared. Enjoy!



Her past is a mystery.
Protecting the children is her duty.
Her future could destroy everything she loves.

Tatiana has no people and no past before she became a companion and nurse to a noble family for five generations. She knows only that her feathered wings make her different, neither human nor gargoyle. When her young charges are orphaned, Tati escorts them across the sea to their father's homeland. In a strange new city, she finds others like her and the chance to uncover her own past but pursuing it risks losing the children she loves.

Ramessu has spent his life serving the human rulers of the port city of Chaon. A servitude threatening to destroy his people. With their females collared, unable to fly or use magic, the Unseelie are slaves and they are dying. When an uncollared adult female arrives in the city, Ra knows she could change everything...or tear their people apart.


Chapter One

 

 

Tatiana blew out a breath even as she swept her wings down in an effort to put more distance between herself and her pursuers. Gargoyles were rather stubborn about these chases. The wind’s sharp bite stung her cheeks and whipped her pale blonde hair out of her face. Thank goodness she’d had the sense to change into the same flying leathers the gargoyle watchers favored. Even the sleek design of her best dresses would have slowed her down in comparison to them.

A shadow appeared beneath her and she swept her wings down twice in rapid succession, forcing herself into the thicker clouds. They cast the world into a cool greyish mist before she burst through the top of the cloud bank and into clear sky once again. Shifting her body to swing her legs down into a more upright position, Tatiana gave one last downward sweep of her wings to rise into the path of a sunbeam. The air was still cool, but the pale light of the rising sun promised to bring warmth to the day.

For a moment she hovered, eyes closed and chin raised, as she spread her wings and arms wide. She inhaled deeply. This was why she loved flying.

“Tati!”

She swept around, neatly dodging a near collision with Aser. The ten-year-old gargoyle was not quite as skilled at mid-flight halts and hovers as he would be when he was older. Tatiana raised an eyebrow at him. “Where are the others? I know more than just you were chasing me today.”

Aser’s grin was mischievously wicked even as he frantically beat his leather wings to keep himself in place. He puffed his chest out as he ran a hand through his tousled teak-brown hair, exposing his pointed ears. He looked very much like his father, the annoying creature. “We got you, Tati!”

Tatiana swept her wings down and launched herself into a forward spring, soaring over Aser’s head just as a far larger gargoyle burst through the cloud bank with arms outstretched for a grab. She tucked her wings in close, rolling to avoid a second gargoyle who shrieked with glee when she almost managed to grab Tatiana’s boot. Banking sharply to the left allowed her to avoid two more adults emerging from the clouds. However, one was still missing. She banked to the right and then darted up. Hands latched around her left ankle, and a jubilant cry pierced the air. “I got her! OseeOsee, I got her! Aser, Chloe, I got Tati!”

Tatiana laughed as she glanced down at the boy still clinging to her left ankle. Elias was not quite ten months younger than his cohorts but when he was the first to win the game of Fly Away, he certainly graced everyone within hearing with the knowledge. She smiled when he glanced up at her with pride beaming from his face. “Well done, Elias.”

Elias gave a whoop as he finally released Tatiana’s boot in favor of gliding toward his age mates who were busy circling Osee. All clamoring for another game. Osee cast her a pleading look, and she merely held up her hands in silent denial. He grimaced as though she had done him a great disservice. As though he were not Aser’s father and, therefore, the adult most responsible for minding the children on their morning flights. Chloe was his niece as well, which meant he had double the responsibility. And more importantly, with his tendency for pranks, she was not inclined to help him further. Not yet, at least.

Dina flew closer to hover next to Tatiana, her rich brown hair taking on an almost honey hue in the dawn’s light. She grinned when Osee turned his pleading gaze to her. Her soft soprano carried through the children’s chatter as she mused, “I think you should help the children play Formation Catch. It will be good practice, won’t it, Osee?”

Tatiana smothered her laughter as the children crowed with delight, and Aser flew into his father’s torso causing the older gargoyle to grunt as he nearly overcorrected. A flash of light drew her attention to the thick ring of burnished silver adorned with an open eye circling Osee’s left bicep and marking him as one of the Watchers, gargoyle protectors of the great city-states. Osee’s pretend scowl when he noticed her amusement didn’t ruffle her. They had known each other far too long for that to ever work.

When Osee scowled a little harder, she made a shooing motion with her fingers. “Go on now. We wouldn’t want to miss the grand display by Watcher Osee, would we, Dina?”

Dina laughed. “No, we would not.”

Osee flew a small distance with the children while digging in the bag at his waist to fetch the ribbon ring used to practice handoffs mid-flight. The bright green and yellow ribbons fluttered in the wind to add a visual aid to the practice. Making it easier for younger fliers to develop their reflexes. The ribbons would grow more subtle and eventually be removed by the time they were ready to compete in the Watchers’ recruitment trials. For now, however, it made for a delightful game as the children’s gleeful shouts attested.


Unseelie Uncollared is currently available for preorder and will go live Friday, November 27th!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Weekend Reads: The Tethered World (Heather)

Are you ready to snuggle beside the fire with your coffee/tea/cocoa and enjoy a virtual adventure? This weekend's Weekend Reads recommendation (say that 5x fast) is close to my heart because it is my very own book baby!



Before you assume I'm self-promoting to pad the ol' bank account, let me put your mind at ease. The Tethered World ebook, the first book in my fantasy trilogy, is FREE on your favorite bookish website. Of course, if you love a 'real' book, to have and to hold, The Tethered World is also available in paperback at a not-so-free price ;) 

Since it would be a little tacky to tell you to "you'll love this book" I'll leave you with the back cover copy and a few of my favorite reviews to whet your curiosity. Of course, I do hope you'll download this clean, family-friendly fantasy and save it for one of your weekend reads, soon! And if you happen to have Kindle Unlimited, the other two books in The Tethered World Chronicles can be read for free, as well. Oh, and if you like audiobooks, I just might have some codes to LISTEN for FREE, if you email me @: heather@heatherllfitzgerald.com 

So, FREE is the buzzword here!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Writer's Life: No Plot? No Pants? No Problem! (Lauricia)

 “Are you a plotter or a pantster?”

Utter this question in a group of writers and watch from a safe distance as the formerly unified whole splits into two parts like the ground on a fault line in an earthquake (and with about as much noise). Notice the shifty glances cast as writers discreetly shuffle to one side or the other of the gap now forming, ever-so-subtly aligning themselves with those who are likeminded. Look on and wonder, “What have I done?”

What you have done, my friend, is broached one of today’s literary hot topics.

While the divide is not nearly so dramatic as an earthquake, many authors are firmly established as one or the other, and knowing which side you stand on could be foundational in your career as a writer.



A plotter is someone who outlines an entire work before sitting down to actually write it. Writing this way gives authors a detailed map, allowing them to plan minute details before even writing a word.

 A pantster, on the other hand, is someone who writes without the outline, literally “flying by the seat of the pants”. Pantsters prefer this method because it allows the story to grow more organically, and allows the writer to be surprised during the writing process.

Well known plotters include Katherine Anne Porter, John Grisham, R.L. Stein, and J.K. Rowling. Nora Roberts, Margaret Atwood, Pierce Brown, and Stephen King are among the pantsters. Many authors fall into one of the two camps, and you can find a lot of resources online to help you identify which style suits you the most.

Me, however… I’m more of an excavator. As I’m playing with my initial idea, I find scenes scattered throughout the plot like bones peeking through surface dirt. I craft those scenes carefully, executing the tools to hand as precisely as an architect excavates fragile skeletal fragments from the earth. Once out in the open, I hang them on a plot diagram in rough-guestimation about where they belong. As I write, more of the current work’s structure is exposed, and a better picture of the overall whole begins to form, allowing me to plan the positioning and execution of the elements of the work accordingly.

Much like exhuming a fossilized skeleton from the ground, my method is slow, painstaking work. It requires many drafts, but what work-in-progress (WiP) doesn’t? And, oh, the surprises I find along the way!

If, like me, you find you are neither a plotter nor a pantster, never fear. Writing is subjective, even down to its very creation, and no to authors work exactly the same way. My suggest is to experiment with both plotting and pantsing, borrow what works from each method, and meld them into a combination of your own. Then, when your WiP is completely excavated and ready to be viewed by the masses, look on and wonder at the amazing thing you have done.

What about you? Do you write best as a plotter, a pantster, or an excavator? Let us know in the comments below.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Weekend Reads: Ashen by H.L. Burke (Lizzie)

Skin the actual color of ash isn't part of your typical Cinderella retelling, nor is a tiny Scandanavian-like village or powers that could kill someone with a touch, but those are part of why I enjoyed H.L. Burke's YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella Ashen. It's unique plus all the normal stuff--great characters and romance.

Here's the blurb:

Stealer of warmth, bringer of death. What if Cinderella had a secret that kept her locked away?

Unable to make her own body heat, foundling Lizbete survives in the tavern kitchen, drawing warmth from the fires, the sun—and sometimes, other living beings. Her days are spent cooking alongside the tavern owner and avoiding the suspicious gazes of the villagers in her small northern town. While she quietly longs for the handsome Brynar, she knows she has no chance with the mayor’s son, even if he invites her to the First Frost festival.

When sudden earthquakes strike Brumehome, blame falls upon Lizbete, and not even her friendship with Brynar can protect her. She finds shelter in the dangerous caverns of nearby Ash Mountain. There she discovers mysterious people with her same ability to draw heat—and a fiery doom in the mountain that slowly awakens with every quake.

Now the festival Lizbete thought to avoid is her only chance to warn the villagers. Yet even with Brynar at her side, can the strange girl dubbed the Ash Lizard hope to save the town that fears her?





Not only did I love the premise for this Cinderella retelling, Lizbete is a likable, sympathetic character. Her powers and the why behind them are intriguing (I can't tell more about the why without spoilers, but that was interesting too). Brynar, her long-time friend and romantic interest, is likable as well. His struggle with what to do for his future (follow his talents or his father's footsteps to become mayor) and his relationship to Lizbete are understandable. I was a little annoyed with Lizbete for refusing to forgive Brynar for avoiding her for a while, but she gets over it eventually. I liked the secondary characters as well, and the story world, so it was a very good read.

Have you read Ashen? Do you have a favorite Cinderella retelling?











Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Hardest Part About Editing: Saying No (Lydia)


 
 
If you were to ask me about what I enjoy about editing for publishing companies, I could go on and on about the sheer delight of helping authors cultivate their stories to the fullest potential.  The joy of witnessing a book finally coming together.  The thrill of solving plot holes and character motivations.

But, if you were to ask me what I liked the least about editing, I’d have to say this:  nothing is harder than having to tell an author no.  That their manuscript just isn’t a good fit.  That the publisher is planning to pass on the story, period, because it just didn’t connect.

Rejection.  A word that I have wrestled with for years.  No matter how many times I end up having to make this tough call, there is nothing that tears me up more than having to pass on an author’s manuscript.  Because I know every single story submitted is filled with the heart, soul, tears, and dreams of their author.  And I never want to hurt anyone, especially not by passing on the story they’ve lovingly crafted, pouring countless hours of research and care into each sentence.  And, by extension, rejecting a manuscript can feel like I’m rejecting the author themselves. 

But each time I have to remind myself that this isn’t the case.  When a publisher passes on a book, it isn’t intended as a slight against you, the author.  It just simply means that your book didn’t fit the market the publisher had in mind.  More often than not, what a publisher is looking for in a manuscript is a book they feel they can market, connect with, and sell.  To simplify things, there are usually two main criteria every publisher is looking for in choosing a book:  does it fit their vision and values, and will it sell.  Morals and Money.  Even the most secular companies have a vision for their novels and values they want to push forward, and no publisher will be able to stay in business for very long if the books they publish don’t sell.  Thus, crafting a manuscript that is a perfect fit for any one publisher can be a very difficult niche to fill. 

So, when you query, be prepared for rejection letters.  And when you receive them, don’t give up.  Just because your book didn’t fit with one publisher doesn’t mean it won’t be the dream novel of another.  Because, at its core, writing is subjective.  And there is always the potential that someone out there will connect with your story, as long as you’re willing to continue polishing and perfecting your writing craft.

Still, for me, even with this knowledge, it doesn’t make rejecting manuscripts any easier. In all honesty, I wish I could give every manuscript the ability to truly shine and connect with an audience, so that way every author could experience the delight of finding your people.  Finding your fans, your audience.  Because there are few joys as sweet as being praised and validated for your creative work.

However, I do want to reiterate this once more:  even if a publisher rejects your manuscript, don’t give up.  Keep writing.  Maybe try a different story or a different approach.  Maybe focus on writing a tighter narrative with a shorter word-count (75K is always a great word-count to aim for), or maybe focus on making each of your characters feel more organic and unique.  Go out and do workshops and seminars.  Stay connected with a solid group of writing friends.  But no matter what, don’t take a publisher’s “no” as the end of your writing career.  This is just the beginning for you.  And who knows?  Maybe that rejection will one day turn into something bigger and grander than you could have ever dreamed.


 


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Story Snippets: The Wolf Queen by Special Guest Tabitha Caplinger

We're thrilled to welcome Tabitha Caplinger back to Lands Uncharted! (Tabitha joined us for an interview back in 2018, and we featured her fun, intense, snarky series about demon hunters, The Chronicle of the Three, in this Book Spotlight.) Today, Tabitha is sharing a Story Snippet from her upcoming new release, The Wolf Queen, which comes out in January, 2021!


Eeeep, I can't wait! But instead of going on about it myself, here's Tabitha!


HI! I am so excited to share a snippet of The Wolf Queen with you all. Here’s the synopsis to give you a little context.


Ylva was raised by wolves. That is the story her clan tells of their Wolf Queen. The truth is far more miraculous. Her Gift, bestowed by the Light, enables her to see deep inside the hearts of men. 

Prince Rohan considers the Light mere superstition and only believes in what he can see with his own eyes. 

But a great evil is infecting the Four Realms. The battle between the Light and the Darkness is no longer bound to human hearts, and words Ylva and Rohan thought were just legend are being whispered again. The dragon is rising.



Here is Chapter Three.

*** 

“What do you mean?” Ylva asked Håkon. “Do you know what the man spoke of?”

“Aye, it is said there would come a time when the Darkness would rise and it would overcome all men. It will take the High Mountain and be the destruction of us all.” The old man spoke the words with such confidence, as though he had already seen it happen.

Ylva stood up and paced the dirt floor. “You talk of myths and legends. There is nothing on that mountain but ruins.”

“It is not what is on the mountain, but what lies beneath it,” Håkon sighed.

“You don’t really believe that to be true?” Ylva asked incredulously. She had heard him speak of the dragon who slept beneath the mountain a hundred times before. While Håkon based much of his storytelling upon their clan’s history, Ylva knew that this account was not one to be believed. Maybe the myth held the slightest thread of truth, but Ylva had assumed its main purpose came in teaching children what is right and good through means of fable. Yet now he continued rambling into the fire about the mountain and its dragon like it was more, like it was prophecy.

“Do not think me a lunatic, Ylva…” the old man began but was cut off by Erland bursting through the door.

“I am sorry, but there is someone here who says he must speak with you,” Erland said. “He claims it is urgent.”

“At this hour?” Ylva asked. She did not give time for Erland to respond but simply added, “It’s fine, I will meet him.” She turned to Håkon and asked, “Join us?” The old man nodded and they followed Erland outside.

They walked through the village toward the western gate. An Ibharüng guard stood watch at the entrance, a lit torch in hand. Erland held another—the flicker of the two lights now cast a glow upon three figures previously camouflaged by the darkness. Their steeds stood nearby, the horses’ breath visibly escaping as foggy tendrils into the frigid night air.

“I am Ylva, leader of this clan. To whom am I speaking?” she asked.

One of the figures stepped closer, coming into clearer view. His pallid skin and hair looked to be covered in ash and blood. “I am Dagr, of the Fell,” he said and then bowed his head. “We come seeking shelter.”

“You have come a very long way. Why? Shelter from what?” Ylva asked. There were at least three other clans residing in the territory between her clan and the Fell. While no current dispute existed between them, her uncle’s deceit had caused a long-lasting tension.

“Our clan came under attack two days ago,” Dagr answered. “They came at twilight with no warning and no reason except to destroy everything and kill everyone.”

“Who?” Ylva asked.

“We do not know—they bore no clan markings. We don't believe them to be from the Northlands,” Dagr replied. “We came here because we know you to be virtuous and just. We know that you can be trusted and would not simply cast us out.”

“If your village was attacked, why are you not helping the survivors? Have they sent you to find a place for them all? To ask me to bear the burden of your entire clan?” Ylva asked only a few of the questions running through her mind. It bothered her to consider that an injured people were left without help. She herself would not have left them out in the cold. At the same time, she would not extend the Ibharüng's help simply because the Fell may believe Ylva’s people owed service to them. No—her clan’s debt had been paid years ago.

“We are the survivors,” another of the Fell said as she stepped forward, a shield maiden with long hair stained with the same blood and ash as her comrade, “the only survivors.”

“This is Solveig, my sister,” Dagr said, “and this is Bjorn.” He gestured to the third Fell, a young man of ruddy appearance.

Bjorn looked terrified as blood actively dripped down his arm. “We are all that is left of the Fell. No other man, woman, or child remains alive. All that remains of our village is soot and smoke.”

“Why would someone do such a thing?” Erland wondered aloud. “This goes beyond the rules of war.” Erland had fought by Ylva’s side since she was a girl. He usually spoke very little. While typically calm and steadfast, worry now wrinkled his brow.

“There was no rule to it, no law guiding it. It was pure evil wearing men’s skin.” Solveig’s voice trembled as she spoke, tears streaking her face.

“What do you mean?” Håkon asked, now stepping into the conversation to which he had just been a silent bystander up to this point.

“They were unnatural, the men who attacked us. Their eyes were the color of storm clouds, their veins black. Each possessed the strength of ten men,” Bjorn replied. His voice cracked with each word.

Dagr placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “They were inhuman. It was like they were from another world.”

Ylva sighed. “We will give you shelter. Erland will see to it. But be careful not to make monsters out of mortals. It will only incite more fear,” she said. She looked to Erland who nodded his compliance and began to lead the three Fell survivors into the village.

“Sometimes mortals become monsters,” Håkon scolded her quietly once the others left earshot. “There is more at work here than the hands of men. Do you really have such a hard time believing that?”

“I believe in the Darkness, but this…this is…” Ylva was finding it difficult to wrap her mind around such a thing.

“This is the Darkness growing stronger,” the elder interrupted. “Just as Lys can bestow gifts of power on his beloved, Myrkr can also give a form of power that is really a curse. The former acts to bless and strengthen while the latter only seeks to take. You of all people should understand there is more at play here than just the natural. Think of your own gift… your Sight.”

Håkon was right. Ylva knew it. Lys had given her a gift—one that could not be explained. Some even doubted it, but she knew it to be as real as anything she could touch with her hands. What Dagr had seen, the darkness taking over a man's heart, was what she saw every time she used her Sight. But she had never known it to break the surface of a man’s flesh to become visible by all. She couldn’t fathom a darkness growing so strong in a man’s heart that it would breech his form and will completely.

This all meant more than Ylva was prepared to accept. The dying man, the elder’s stories, and now the catastrophe upon the Fell…the Darkness must be growing. This attack perhaps marked only the beginning. “What do we do?” she asked.

“We send a falcon to the North Keep,” Håkon instructed. “The dragon is rising.” It was the second time Ylva had heard those words. It was the second time they caused her body to shiver and draw bumps across her pale skin. For most of her life, Håkon told tales of Myrkr and Lys. He spoke of imprisoning the Darkness generations ago and of a time when it would once again come to reign. He recited prognostications of The Priestess turning the hearts of men and her dragon devouring those who would not yield. Did she not believe him? It is easy to believe what we can see and experience, but it is harder to bear faith in the things unseen—the things that defy rational thought. Believing solely in her gift, what she could see, was simply not enough anymore. She must decide: embrace the stories told by the elders or find another option. She could no longer avoid thinking about from where her gift came and the implications therein. If Håkon was right, if his stories were actually coming to pass, she must broaden her belief. Ylva wanted to believe fully in Lys; that Lys could be trusted both with what can be understood and what cannot. The war between the Light and the Darkness breeched the surface of their world and so her faith must go beyond the shallows. Her heart had to be ready.


Doesn't this sound fantastic?! Here's a little more about the author:



Tabitha Caplinger gets way too emotionally invested in the lives of fictional characters, whether it’s obsessing over a book or tv show, or getting lost creating her own worlds. Tabitha is the author of The Chronicle of the Three Trilogy, a Christian urban fantasy, and a lover of good stories and helping others live chosen. When she’s not writing book words, she’s reheating her coffee, binging a new show or teaching God’s Word to students. Tabitha, her husband and two beautifully sassy daughters desire to be Jesus with skin on for those around them. They live to love others...and for Marvel movies.

You can connect with Tabitha on her website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Tabitha!! Congratulations on your upcoming new book!

Friday, November 6, 2020

Weekend Reads: Meet the Mountain Baron (Vanessa)

One of the most recent books I've read is Oath of the Outcast by C.M. Banschbach. This book was different from other books I've read, but I absolutely loved it! Here's what it's about:

A lost brother. An unwilling outlaw. A rising enemy. An unusual alliance. Years ago, Rhys MacDuffy was brutally cut off from his clan, stripped of his name and inheritance, and banished to the remote Dragon Keep. Perched high above the Shang Pass in the land of Alsaya, he assumed the mantle of the Mountain Baron, serving out his sentence as the overseer of the worst outlaws and outcasts. But one day he receives a desperate message from the clan who disowned him: MacDuffy’s Seer—his beloved brother—has been taken by their enemies. With his band of Mountain Brigands and an unwelcome sidekick, Rhys leaves his mountain stronghold to find and rescue his brother. The tide of war is rising amongst the Clans of Alsaya, fueled by the magic-wielding sect of Druids who seek to unleash a dark force the world has long forgotten. Can the bond of blood run deeper than banishment?





Oath of the Outcast is about Rhys MacDuffy, a clansman who has been estranged from his friends and family due to a false accusation in the previous war. But while the plot of this story is gripping enough, the characters are what really make it exciting to read. Rhys, aka the broody baron, is hilarious to read and I always found myself chuckling when coming upon his dialogue. His group of "mountain men" remind me of a dark version of Robin Hood's "merry men". Although they are a rough and tough group, their loyalties run deep. 

Another positive note of this book is the thick strand of family woven in. I always try to include the importance of family in my writing so I love it when I see other authors do the same! If you haven't read any books by C.M. Banschbach yet, make sure you start now!

Happy Reading!