Friday, February 14, 2020

Weekend Reads: Two Fairytales for Valentine's (Kimberly)



Happy Valentine's Day everyone! I don't know about you but I adore a good romance and this weekend is the perfect time to break out a romance set in a fantasy world with fairytale elements. I read a lot of books fitting this particular criteria but I managed to narrow it down to a single author and two connected books within a larger series.



My Rating - 4.5 Stars

Beauty and the Beast is easily my absolute favorite of all fairytales, which means I'm picky about my retellings because I far prefer the ones that don't feel like a copy of the Disney versions (even though I love those too). Lucy Tempest already impressed me with her debut books in this series, the Aladdin retelling trilogy, so I knew her take on Beauty and the Beast would be worth the read. And I was so right!

Beast of Rosemead picks up after Ada is torn away from Bonnie and Bonnie's father in Thief of Cahraman, following Bonnie's journey. While there are similarities to the basic Beauty and the Beast version, it's presented in an intriguingly different manner from your typical retelling. This is especially true with the inclusion of cameo characters who are the world's version of Robin Hood characters and the servants who've been transformed into monsters of legend instead of being invisible. Clancy, another victim of the curse, is not a servant but he is most certainly a delight.

I think my favorite part is the way Bonnie is forced to grow out of the naive somewhat selfish dreamer into genuinely caring and loving others instead of trying to make them fit her book fueled daydreams. Then the twist regarding her heritage has such intriguing potential while the finale is equal parts frustrating and intriguing because it sets everything up for an adventure unlike any other Beauty and the Beast retelling.






My Rating - 4.5 Stars

This was the conclusion I didn't see coming! Beauty and the Beast end up in Faerie! They, along with several other comrades both expected and unexpected, must battle their way through the contests, tricks, and deadly beauty of Faerie to find the means of breaking the curse before it's too late.

Most of the book deviates from the typical retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which I absolutely loved. The twist with Bonnie's heritage first hinted at in Beast played out beautifully and still managed to surprise me. Other twists show up but I can't really talk about them because spoilers.

One of the things I adore about this entire series is how Tempest is able to weave in all the little hints and setup for future books without it feeling clunky or disjointed (because foreshadowing can be HARD). In Beauty of Rosemead especially, we're treated to a lot of setup for Ornella (Ella) and her upcoming story, which will be a Cinderella meets Snow Queen mashup also set in Faerie. I'm looking forward to finally getting her story, which is available now for preorder and will release February 26th.

If you enjoy the fairytale retellings by Lea Doué and A.G. Marshall, you are going to love this series! While the duology picks up where Ada and Bonnie part ways in Thief of Cahraman, you can read it without first reading the Aladdin trilogy (although there are some minor spoilers at the very end).

Have you read this series already? What did you think of it? Any other fairytale retelling suggestions for me to check out? 

Until next time,

Kimberly A. Rogers

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Not Write Now (Heather)


Howdy from Texas to all of my new Lands Uncharted friends! I’m so happy to be a part of this diverse and talented group. Thanks for letting me share a bit of my “writer’s life” with you today.

As I work on this post, I’m tempted to retitle the heading as “Non-Writer’s Life” because I’m literally typing this from my mother’s hospital room. She’s had a lot of health challenges lately, one of which was the need for a hip replacement this past week. Unfortunately, she suffered a small stroke the night after surgery, making recovery even more difficult. We are praying and looking towards rehab to get her moving. 
My mum and I at the Realm Maker Awards in St. Louis.
My third book, The Genesis Tree, was a finalist!
Soooo, as you might guess, I’m not doing much in the writing realm lately (we’ve been dealing with problems since October, so this isn’t a recent phenomenon). But! I just signed a contract for two additional books to add to my current YA fantasy trilogy, The Tethered World Chronicles. Plus, my second and third books, from said trilogy, are being made into audiobooks (to go along with the first one) as I write this! 

These things are writing wins and I’m so grateful for them—and grateful for my wonderful publisher, Mountain Brook Fire, and their willingness to work with me through this new set of challenges. Speaking of MBF, did you see the writing contest they’re hosting? I mentioned it in an earlier post but thought I’d bring it up in case you missed it! If you’re a writer, you need to check it out.

Though my current writing groove is in the two-steps-forward-one-step-back rhythm, it’s not always been this unpredictable. Though I am a definite pantser—writing by the seat of my pants—I somehow managed to write my first novel, The Tethered World, while homeschooling four kiddos. 

When my oldest graduated high school, and my youngest was headed to sixth grade, I decided to begin my writing career in earnest. Wasn’t my graduate also in the sixth grade, like two years earlier? Felt that way! I knew the next six years would fly by. And I didn’t want to wait until then to figure out what to do with myself—although I did have a job teaching ballet, which I kept even after my youngest graduated. 
One of my classes performing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
That's Tumnus and multiple "Lucys" :)
I had TONS of fun playing the White Witch for another Narnia number!
In my heart, I was a storyteller. Whether with dance or words, that was what I loved to do.
God brought along a wonderful mentor in children’s author Susan K. Marlow who helped me learn a lot of the writing ropes. She encouraged me to send her whatever I was working on and offered oodles of helpful feedback. She even used an actual red pen to bleed all over my rough draft, which I had printed out on actual paper. Susan also introduced me to my publisher, Miralee Ferrell, a successful author-turned-publisher. 

That early, providential relationship has taught me the value of making connections in the writing world. Thank the Lord for the internet! It holds so many opportunities, especially for us introverts. Though I’ve finally met both Susan and Miralee in person, those meetings happened after my first book was published.

This past July I reached the half century mark! I now have two delightful granddaughters and my husband and I are official empty-nesters. You may be in a season of diapers and homework and dirty dishes, but, trust me, one day you will have time to pursue those quiet passions, lurking inside your heart. Someone once said that, “the days are long but the years are short” and truer words haven’t been spoken in regards to parenting. Be patient with your self and with life. You can depend on seasons to change.
My granddaughters, W and K. They bring such joy!
It's heartwarming to think that one day they will read my books.
Though I may not be swimming through diapers and dishes myself, these past few months have brought similar time-challenges with my mom’s health crisis. Writing today’s post has been a good reminder from my younger self. Wow! I actually managed to write a novel in the midst of a full house—a little here, a little there—and I will, with God’s grace, manage it again. And, like those valuable, early internet relationships, I now have a new relationship here, with all of you Lands Uncharted peeps! I am truly blessed.

Do you have a mentor, a writer’s group, or someone encouraging you in whatever you love to do? How did you meet them? Are there dear friends in your life, thanks to the internet, that you’ve yet to meet in person? If time constraints weren’t a thing, what would your dream job be? 

I'd love to hear what's going on with you!




Friday, February 7, 2020

Weekend Reads: A Pile of Clean Fantasy (Lauricia)


Greetings all! I hope you are well and keeping warm! Where I live outside of Houston, Texas, the weather is going CRAZY. Last week I literally wore a summer-appropriate dress on Tuesday and a sweater and long-johns yesterday. These weather swings are crazy! Fortunately, no matter what’s going on outside, I can always trust the weather will be relatively stable inside – perfect for reading!
I have desperately been trying to get through the ARC of Emberhawk, Jamie Foley’s upcoming release, so I could have a review ready for you, but my day job is crazy-busy right now. I would rather revel in the book and be able to give you a full review of its awesomeness than skimp because I’m in a hurry, so for today I’m going to leave you with a few other books that I’ve read in the past and haven’t reviewed here yet. If you’re curious about Emberhawk, you should be – it has awesome magic and a crazy cool elemental fox and I’m totally LOVING it. It’s set to release on Valentine’s Day, but you can pre-order it now. Go check it out.
Until its release, though, here are some other books that I highly recommend:


                

The Book of Things to Come and The Blood Sword (Hand of Adonai Series Books 1 and 2)
Aaron D. Gansky

This is a great series about teens who get sucked into a gaming world. However, in these stories, the theme is spun a little differently: two of the teens who wind up in the game world are the game's creators, and they have no idea what's going on. The other teens who get sucked in are semi-innocent bystanders. All of them, though, are there for a reason. The question is, how did they get there and how do they find their way home?

If you enjoy playing role playing games of any kind, you need to check out this series.




 

Mirrors and Pearls: A Retelling of Snow White
by Lea Doue

If you enjoy fairy tale retellings, you need to read this book. Although it’s short for a novel, the plot is fully drawn and fleshed out. Doue’s unique contributions include female dwarves, a hall of mirror prisons, and dragons. This is a version of Snow White that you don’t want to miss.





The City of Ember (Book of Ember #1) by Jeanne DuPrau


Set in a post-apocalyptic society deep under the ground, The City of Ember is a dystopian novel that tells the story of how Lina and her friend, Doon, save their city from a fate of eternal darkness. Originally published in 2004, this story has won several notable awards and has even been made into a movie. Written for about middle school readers, this story is an enjoyable read for all ages.


Whatever the weather in your part of the world, I hope that your weekend promises some time with at least one good book. Let me know what you think of any of the books mentioned here in the comments below, and keep your eye out for the upcoming review of Jamie Foley's Emberhawk.

Cheers and happy reading!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Story Snippet: A Beauty and the Beast Retelling (Lizzie)

Many, many years ago I started a quirky Beauty and the Beast retelling where Beast actually wanted his curse. It was a fun start, so I pulled it out of the drawer late last year thinking I would finish it up as a short story in a short amount of time (cue laughter). I am only now about finished with an almost 60,000 word novel. But I love it, so the extra time on it is okay. I also just bought a gorgeous cover for it!!! I'll share that as soon as I can. I hope to release the book later this spring, so stay tuned. (And thanks to everyone who responded to my many pleas for title help. My favorite was taken by too many published books, so I chose a more unique title.)



Without further ado, here's the rough draft Chapter 1 of

Midnight for a Curse

A CURSE KEEPERS, CURSE BREAKERS Fairytale




Chapter 1
Once upon a time there was a beast who loved nothing better than to sit in a comfortable chair in a sunny spot in his library and read. He was a most unusual beast, not because he read and wore a velvet doublet as fine and well-tailored as any prince’s, but because he was a prince, and was cursed yet content. At one time, he had been a human prince, an indolent, self-absorbed man who lived merely to eat and to read, much to the distress of his father the king and those who would one day be his subjects.
How did this indolent prince become a beast? Well, it happened like this. One fine midsummer the prince journeyed to one of his family’s smaller castles in the west of the kingdom to escape his father’s hounding. He had a fine supply of books there, and the resources of cheeses and fruits from the local villages were excellent. It began as a peaceful summer retreat, but then, on an unassuming Thursday, there came a determined rap on the front door. This distracting noise continued for some time, causing the prince himself to abandon a most interesting book, leave the comfortable library, and limp to the door. Mysteriously, none of the servants were about.
The prince barely gave a thought to the unsightly hag occupying the stoop and paid no notice for her plea for bread and shelter for the night. His mind full of his book and his missing servants, he merely opened the door and said, “Stop that racket at once!” Seeing that she stepped away from the knocker, he slammed the door shut and retired once more to his snug library, convinced that had solved the difficulty.
However, no sooner had he delved once more into the story than he was driven out again, this time by a burst of light that quickly dissipated, leaving an enchantress spewing a string of angry words. Astute man that he was, the prince rapidly deduced the woman was upset and begged her pardon for whatever he had done, or whatever his errant servants had neglected to do. The woman, beautiful and mysterious as such creatures often are, enigmatically declared that his apology—for it was he who had somehow irritated her—was too late. She settled a curse on him and his, turning him into a beast, his figuratively invisible servants into truly invisible servants, and his beautiful castle into an architectural monstrosity that matched its beast-like master. The prince must experience a change of heart, she said, to be free of the curse. He had until an enchanted rose died to do so.
However gloomy such a fate may have first appeared, the prince bore the curse very well. As did his servants. After all, there were no more visitors to disrupt the prince’s reading or cause the servants extra work. And he couldn’t possibly be expected to return to his father and his princely duties any time soon.
Two years passed quietly before the enchantress returned to see what effect her efforts at improving the young man had had. She found him once again in his library reading, the only difference being he no longer had a blanket over his lap, his fur now keeping him sufficiently warm. Her dismay and distress were extreme, but she was unwilling to admit defeat—or perhaps she feared the king would not pay her the final amount he owed her. For he was less than satisfied with the results of her work.
After pondering the situation for a fortnight, the enchantress returned and added new terms to the curse: the prince must venture forth from his castle once every morning and present himself at the boundaries of his land, where the villagers could see him. He must ask any young woman he was in company with to marry him. Their rejections, she was sure, would humble him and make him kinder to poor old hags and speed up his change of heart. If she suspected no village woman, accustomed to hard work, would allow him to wile away his days reading, she didn’t say so.
She reminded him of his timetable, of the enchanted rose now in full bloom minus a few petals, and once again admonished him to have a change of heart. As the door slammed behind her, a petal fell from the rose. With it fell the prince’s hopes of a quiet, literary life.
#
Belinda Lambton dashed into the woods. The deep, dark woods, where, if she were lucky, she’d get lost.
“Belinda, sweetie pie! Where are you?” yelled a smooth voice that could only have come from one particular handsome face.
Belinda hiked up her skirts and pumped her legs harder. When would her father come back and tell that arrogant jap-o-naps that when Belinda said she wouldn’t marry him, it wasn’t feminine coyness, it was the honest-to-goodness truth?
The woods grew denser and gloomier as Belinda wove in and out of the trees with quiet steps. At the stirring of leaves she changed directions and ducked into the cover of a particularly large and thick cedar, where she collided with a warm, furry blanket. That promptly screamed.
Belinda screamed too and leapt out of the cedar, bumping into the creature again as it chased her out. She kicked it firmly in the shins and ran for dear life.
A bear! She’d nearly been eaten by a bear!
Belinda’s heart pounded as she darted left and then right in a zigzag pattern to confound the brute behind her. Was not marrying Gaspard really worth being eaten by a bear?
“Lindie pie? Are you all right?” Gaspard cried from somewhere to her left.
Yes. Yes, it was.
Belinda skidded to a stop and tucked herself into the hollow of an ancient tree partially hidden by a rhododendron, her own private cave she’d found a few weeks before. Scarcely daring to breathe, she pressed herself against the damp wooden shell until the sound of heavy footfalls passed her by.
Once, then twice. Gaspard coming and going, she hoped.
After some minutes of quiet, she peeked around the stiff rhododendron leaves, saw only peaceful nature, and ventured from her sanctuary. She finally dared a deep breath, reveling in the feel of lungs full of fresh air.
Judging from the sun, it was about time for Gaspard to return to the butcher shop. She stretched her arms, letting out a great sigh. “Congratulations, Belinda. You’ve survived another morning. Now only…” Was it six weeks remaining before she could expect her father’s return, if things were on schedule?
Groaning, she started for the village. She snagged an oak leaf off a low bough and tore it to shreds as she walked. It was a pity she hadn’t brought her bow. She could’ve caught fresh meat for herself, preventing the need to venture any further into the market than the herb dealer she would sell her plunder to. With a smug smile, she patted the satchel resting against her hip. These trips into the forest to avoid Gaspard had produced some reward.
Crunch.
Belinda froze in the shadow of a pine.
Crunch.
Gaspard hadn’t given up on her.
Restraining an unladylike word, she backed slowly around the tree, her gaze searching for her tormentor. And then she bumped into something firm, but not rough and hard like a branch. Soft fur tickled her neck, and a blood-curdling scream found its way out of her mouth.
The funny thing was, and she must be going hysterical even to think it, was that the meeting had a similar effect on her attacker, for it shrieked likewise. Even as she lunged forward with another cry of her own, she quailed at the noise it made in return. It could be nothing less than the yell of a creature raising its courage to slay her, but it sounded almost like a cry of terror equal to her own.
Gathering her pluck, she snatched a fallen branch and spun. But the sight of the creature was too much for her. Her arms stilled, branch raised.
A man-sized hairy beast stared at her through wide blue eyes, eyes the color of a mountain lake on a sunny day. They looked almost human. It blinked, drawing her attention back to the fur surrounding the eyes. It was trying to mesmerize her with its gaze and then eat her.
Arms quaking, she filled her lungs with more air for a scream to break the spell of its eyes.
It raised its gigantic paws to its cat-like ears, great tufts of auburn hair sticking straight up above them. “Please not again,” it said in a low, rumbly voice.
Belinda stiffened. Had fright damaged her senses, making her hear words in a dumb roar? She opened her mouth again.
It scrunched its face. “Please.”
Please? She slowly lowered the branch. “What did you say?”
Its blue eyes widened. “I mean, ‘Roar.’” Curving its massive paws in front of it, it lurched toward her, sharp claws glimmering in the sunlight.
Mouth agape, Belinda stepped back, her foot twisting on a fallen limb. Dropping her branch, she landed on the ground with an “oomph.”
“Oh my,” the creature said. It stepped forward as if to help her up, but then seemed to think better of it and returned to its aggressive position and roared.
There was something familiar about that pose. Belinda blinked, a sly smile forming on her face. It was monster’s storybook illustration pose.
She tucked her smile away for later. An old wise woman had once told her she should follow the story at her feet. And this was a very large story and would be easy enough to follow. “Well, don’t just stand there, Mr. Monster, help me up,” she said sharply. It took all her restraint to keep from smiling at the startled look on the creature’s face.
It put its hands on its hips. “I shall not. You should be running for your life.”
She extended her hand. “I am, for life and freedom. Now help me up.”
It arched a great patch of light fur, possibility the equivalent of an eyebrow. Then, it growled and grabbed her arm and helped her up. “All right. But it’s only to give you a head start. I like to keep my hunting sporting.”
“Oh, Beastie! Where are you?” A high-pitched, saccharine-coated feminine voice made Belinda cringe worse than the hairy paws that had pulled her gently up.
The creature shivered, sending loose fur wafting down to the ground and onto Belinda’s sturdy boots. It glanced between her and the forest through which the voice had traveled. Did it just send a look pleading for her to be quiet?
“Bella pie? Sweetie. Is that you? I have lunch all laid out at the shop. It’s getting cold,” Gaspard called.
“Beastie, I’m over here, dear,” continued the woman.
Belinda and the monster both gulped. Slowly, they both backed between the branches of the pine.
When naught but a squirrel had moved for a full five minutes, Belinda let out a great breath, hissing it through her teeth. The monster followed suit.
“Oh my. She gets closer every day.” The monster started forward, then jerked back. With an “Oh bother. Don’t let me keep you,” he started peeling off his fur, making Belinda cringe, and think of the necessary preparations for the rabbits she should set a trap for. Yet the beast’s peeled fur looked remarkably like a coat, its coloration and texture a perfect match to its head and hands.
The coat remained on the pine branch as the creature stepped forward. He brushed a few pine needles from his shirtsleeves, which were pushed up to his elbows, then rolled his shoulders—under a fine velvet doublet—before carefully unsticking his coat from the branch and placing it back on. He fixed her with a fierce gaze. “Now, I’ll give you a ten second head start, just to be sporting, and then you’re fair game. It is nearing lunchtime after all.”
Belinda eyed the monster, with its hidden suit of fine cloth and noted the scent of lavender mixing with the tang of the pine swap dripping from the branches around them.
“All right,” she said. After peeking around the edge of the branch’s covering, she stepped out into the forest and swiftly crossed to the next thick tree trunk and then to the next. Then, she sneaked back to the first. Pressing herself to the trunk, she watched the creature make a cautious exit and hurry past her. Before it could disappear among the foliage, she eased from her hiding place and followed it.
It soon slowed its pace and began to swing its giant arms in rhythm, as if it was finally walking with its accustomed gait. It removed its fur coat and tossed it over its arm. Around rocky outcroppings and over dry, leaf-strewn streambeds it strode. A clump of silver-leafed hoary mint, topped with wispy pink petals, reached out from a lightly sloping bank. He snagged a silver leaf, and rubbing it, raised it to his snout just as his feet discovered the hole of a rotted-out tree stump. With a strangled yell, he tumbled to the forest floor, his fine jacket catching amid the briars.
Belinda rushed forward and knelt beside him. “Do let me help you up. Just to return the favor, you know.”
He jerked to a sitting position but stopped short as the briars clinging to his jacket pulled taut against their tree. “What are you doing here?” he growled as he strained against his bindings.
“Following you.” Belinda grabbed a handful of jacket, making him hold still.
“Why?” he sputtered.
She didn’t answer but began releasing him thorn by thorn. After a minute, during which he puffed angrily and fidgeted, she removed the last briar. With a clipped thanks, he jumped to his feet and brushed the dirt from his clothes.
He started off again, and Belinda walked by his side, studying him. He kept his gaze fixed ahead.
“You’re the monster said to have eaten the prince, aren’t you?” she asked at length.
He jerked to a halt and spun around to face her. “Eaten the prince? Really! I must say I—” He paused, mouth agape. He closed it slowly. “Yes, you’re quite right. I did eat the prince. I love eating princes. Very nutritious. Full of minerals.”
“Like gold and silver?”
He quirked an eyebrow. “Quite right. Eating young women is my next favorite, however; so you should scram.” He shooed her and walked on.
“Now look, Mr. Monster, I’m in a jam—”
“My name is not Mr. Monster. I really prefer Mr. Beast, or just Beast.”
“So sorry. As I was saying, Beast, I’m in a pickle. This village lout called Gaspard keeps after me to marry him. He won’t take no for an answer, and my father is away and so can’t back me up.”
“That’s most unfortunate. I wish your father a speedy return. Good day.” He raised his paw as if to tip a hat and picked up his pace.
“Wait. You have a giant castle where no one goes. Why can’t I stay there until my father returns?”
“Out of the question.”
Belinda ran around in front of him and poked him in the chest. “Why don’t I give you a ten-second head start just to be sporting, Beastie?”
He jerked to a halt, eyes wide. “That’s not fair.”
“I’m no fool. You’re running away from someone same as I am. If you let me stay, I’ll help you.”
“No, no, no.” Beast clenched his fists and marched around her. “You’ll interrupt my daily routine and I’ll have to—No, certainly not.”
Belinda jogged behind him. “I’ll help the servants, brush up the hair you shed”—Beast glared over his shoulder at her—“keep unwanted visitors away. Anything you ask.”
“Why don’t you start by keeping yourself away?”
“You’ve got to help me. Please.” A hint of desperation edged into Belinda’s voice, ruining the bossy tone, but it, or something, put a stutter in Beast’s pace.
He turned to face her. “It is that bad?”
Belinda nodded.
With a growl that vibrated the ground under Belinda’s feet, Beast motioned her forward. “All right. But only until your father gets back; then you must leave and promise not to tell a soul what you’ve seen.” He muttered as he walked on, “I can’t believe I’m agreeing to this.”



Thanks for reading! Do you have a favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling?