Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Patricia A. Jackson!

Thanks for tuning in to the Sunday Brunch Series! For episode 16, I am beyond honored to feature Patricia A. Jackson of Angry Robot books!

Her debut novel Forging A Nightmare came out on November 23rd, and it is an amazing mix of urban fantasy, biblical mythology, and horse-crazy that only a true horse lover could write.

Forging- book tour

I am thrilled to join the book tour with this interview!  Read on to learn about the publishing journey, her tips for BiPoc authors, authentic voices, and so much more.  If you follow the link at the bottom and check out the author website – there is, if you can find it, a Star Wars costume on horse back 😂 also her book trailer had me cracking up so definitely check it out if you have time.

Let me get out of her way – here she is!


🖤Welcome to the SBS! Can you tell us an interesting thing about yourself that isn’t in the author bio?

🎤I’m an otaku! I love Japanese anime, but I’m very particular about the series i binge. Among my favorites are Psycho Pass, Kaze No Stigma, and Demon Slayer. I facilitate the Anime Club at the school where I teach.

🖤I’m so floored since you are one of the first traditionally published authors on the interview series, can you chat a bit about your publishing journey?

🎤I wrote my first little novel after seeing Star Wars in 1977. I was eight years old. I continued writing to appease an overactive imagination that was not satisfied with just reading about other worlds. In 1993, I met the editor of The Star Wars Adventure Journal. That opened the door for me to write stories in the universe that gave birth to my inspiration. Thanks to a dare from a student, I discovered Wattpad and entered the first ever Online Novella Contest. My 20,000 word entry – Feast or Famine – won second place. That novella would eventually become Forging a Nightmare.

My agent Sara Megibow (KT Literary) rejected the novel, but said her door was always open to me. I wasn’t ready to give up on the novel, so I kept working on finding it a home. It was rejected eighty-eight times. A year later, I went to a class on how to write effective query letters with Sara. Like the other folks, I emailed my query to her for a tune -up, but I didn’t bother attaching the manuscript. She contacted me about it and asked to see it. Sara made some suggestions in the first chapter. I complied, thinking her advice would surely help me land the next agent. I had no idea, she would be that agent. During a phone call, she made the offer to represent me. You know that Michelangelo painting The Creation of Adam—yeah, that’s how I felt and how I still feel. She’s amazing!

🖤 What advice do you have for other bipoc and under represented voices that may want to write a book or tell a story?

🎤Be true to your identity before embarking on this journey. Define yourself and do not let the taint of society define you because any fallacies will bleed into your story and readers will sense it. Do not be worried when people outside of your culture cannot fathom why your characters do not react the way people in other cultures do. You don’t have to spend your time or word count explaining that to someone who can never truly understand your struggle. Look at those things that have been illicitly claimed and appropriated and have no fear in taking it back and remaking it in your image.

🖤 Did you have prior interest in old testament stories and Christian mythology ((I questioned my word choice here)) and old languages, or did the research came with the novel? 

🎤I think the term mythology is perfectly fine because that’s what it is: myth. No different than the Greek, Roman, or Egyptian renditions. People often confuse faith and religion. Faith is one’s belief in something greater than themselves, which may not necessarily be a god. Religion is how you practice that faith. I have always been interested in religion and the connection to faith. I grew up with a father, who was a mason, and a mother, who was Baptist, while attending Catholic schools. I am keenly interested in the religions of other people from witchcraft to druids, including the ancient Aztecs, Greeks, and Romans because I am fascinated by the vast cultural and practical differences.

🖤Can you tell us about your own night-mares?   I have two red mares and you really nailed the mare behavior in the novel 😂

🎤I have had a love affair with Thoroughbreds since I was a kid, particularly the ones off the track. I enjoyed rescuing them from the racing life and give them a second careers as fox hunters, show hunters, and dressage horses. One of my Nightmares is named Indy. He’s actually a great-grandson of Secretariat. He is the winningest horse I have ever owned with many championship ribbons to his credit. And that’s saying a lot because he is rather opinionated.

As I have gotten older, my knees are deteriorating. I actually need replacements. So I decide to try a Warmblood. Maya is a Canadian Warmblood and she is what you call a stick and kick ride. Moving too fast consumes too many calories. Her favorite speeds are slow and stop—which is perfect. I bought her because she didn’t act at all like a mare! She is so rock solid! No mood swings. No opinions. (Unless the poor thing is suffering ulcers-whole different world then.) But I think looking forward, I’m going back to geldings.

🖤Other than Kristen Britain and Maggie Stiefvater, I guess Mindee Arnett too but she didn’t emphasize the horses in her books as much, and Tamora Pierce, I haven’t seen a lot  of horse-crazy authors in SFF! Do you have any that you love and recommend?

🎤When it comes to current fare in the SFF genre, I don’t think anyone handles it as well as Susan Dexter. She has done the best job in bringing a horse into character and bringing out the character in a horse in her Warhorse of Esdragon series. I have always wanted a horse character to feature as prominently as any other primary or secondary character, so when I could not find that, I wrote one. My favorite novel is True Knight.

🖤What would you tell one of your high school students who wanted to read your book??

🎤I’m actually quite lucky because the very first beta readers for FORGING A NIGHTMARE were high school kids. I developed the novel in a mind-mapping assignment for my first Creative Writing class. Kids have been a part of the journey every turn of the page. I told them to look for the things I’m always looking for In their work: pacing, character development, and holes, places where the muse went off the track.

🖤Since the holidays are coming, which do you think is your main character’s favorite holiday?

🎤It might seem anti-climatic, but when Michael Childs is not working his day job, he plays the role of a knight in shining armor and jousts. So his favorite holiday would be Halloween.

🖤Are you a fan of brunch? Any favorites?

🎤I am a fan of BREAKFAST at ANY time! My favorite is scrambled eggs with white toast, sausage patties and grits with a side order of home fries (no onion) and orange juice.

🖤Here is the easy rapid-fire round of bookish questions:  favorite author? A book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character? 

🎤Fave author: Kristin Britain

Recommended Book: True Knight by Susan Dexter

Favorite Literary Character: I’m gong to be a complete and utter fangirl when I say Tolkien’s Aragorn, which is why I love ranger characters in Dungeons and Dragons

🖤Thank you so much again for taking the time to interview! If you want to add anything else please do so here!!

🎤I  was recently involved in a dispute over banning books in the district where I work. Thanks to a few brave young women, the Panther Anti-Racist Union and their protests, the ban was temporarily lifted. These were beautiful books (many children’s books) by and about BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people. Literature, like history, is not always for the faint of heart. But what offends one, may uplift another, thus no one has the right to decide what belongs in a library and what should be burned. Banning books is never a good idea. I’d like to add that diversity and representation matter. We need more books, more stories, where people can see themselves in the struggle as the heroes, champions, vagabond anti-heroes, and not just in the ensemble cast or as sidekicks. 

🖤


You can find more info, author and purchase links on the link tree! 

https://linktr.ee/ByBirthright

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

This Vicious Grace (ARC Review) by Emily Thiede

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for the super early digital ARC of This Vicious Grace! My first selling point was that Tamora Pierce plugged it, and then I thought the synopsis was grabbing so I *ahem* definitely didn’t put down my TBR to read it.  A YA fantasy with a battle between the gods, a snarky bodyguard romance, and banter for days? Heck yes

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: This Vicious Grace
  • Series: The Last Finestra, #1
  • Author: Emily Thiede
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 6/28/22
  • Length: 448 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Yes with a caution to my religious readers,  for religious interpretation and premarital relations

Here is the synopsis:

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

Considering how disenchanted I have become with YA fantasy recently, I did enjoy this one.

The population of the country has settled onto islands where the Goddess uses a pair of warriors to keep swarms of demons at bay.  This happens maybe once every 20 or so years, which gives the islands plenty of time to identify the next Finestra and Fonte, train them, and have them battle ready.

I thought the Italian inspired lore and names were cool.  Each chapter holds a proverb in the old language, and I made a game out of guessing the English translation before reading it.

The plot is fairly straightforward and fast paced.   We get some lore and history of Dea vs Crollo, the two deities engaged in this battle, and I honestly thought the religious lore and customs that developed as a result were extremely well done.  The populace lives the way they do as a result of the world they live in, namely extremely devout, hierarchal, and ready to save the wealthy when the demons come.

The worldbuilding is there on a micro level as well! We know the mood of the fortress, the city, the figures in power.  The weather and the hidden beaches.  What they eat and drink, the local customs, and how social structure is accomplished.

The magic? Pretty standard, it works on an energy type of system but becomes magnified and more powerful when combined with other people’s.

The characters were awesome.  Alessa is the Finestra, sheltered into solitude and waiting to find a Fonts, a battle partner, that she won’t kill by accident.  Dante is the bodyguard that she hires and he is just … ha ha way too much.  A bad boy with a bookish side.  The other fontes were funny and also good characters.  The banter for days is real.

Now let’s get into the stronger stuff: I think it’s awesome and important to explore the theme of interpreting your religion and making it work for you, and I think it’s something that many Catholic teenagers struggle with.  I think the author brought this into the book and also stressed the importance of friendship, community, working together, and not going life alone, all of which are A+++ themes.  THAT SAID, this is a YA book and I would have stopped the theme before throwing celibacy out the window, especially since it was with someone other than her intended (even though it was an arranged marriage).  I know that self realization through sex is like the cool topic in YA right now but I just hate the trope, and if I’m analyzing this from a Catholic standpoint the author definitely took a FANTASTIC theme … too far.

Also I would have liked to see one or two major character deaths since the ending is a huge and hugely devastating battle.  I never find it realistic when everyone ends up living.  The author copped out of one huge plot twist with a good save, a very good save, but I think I wanted more death.

Lastly: this is small details but the cover does not scream “fantasy”. I would not cover buy it as is, although I hope that doesn’t deter people

All in all: great plot, great pace, great world building on both a micro and macro level, and good themes even if one went beyond propriety. I would totally recommend it and definitely plan on owning a copy of both This Vicious Grace and it’s sequels

Thanks again to Wednesday Books 🖤 all opinions are my own

Categories
Fantasy

Dark Oak (Book Tour) by Jacob Sannox

Thank you so much to Storytellers On Tour and the author for having me on the Book tour for Dark Oak! This is a dark ish fantasy that takes place after the end of a great war, where the evil has been vanquished and a time of peace is beginning.

Or… Well it should be, anyway.  Unfortunately once the prime evil is gone and unity is no longer necessary, humans tend to create new enemies and now war is brewing in the territories again as the lands and Lords revert back to their pre-war dispositions.  This right here was probably my favorite theme from the book.

Despite my 3 star rating and various struggles: I want to say up front that the ending of this book is EVERYTHING.  Once you learn what “Dark Oak” refers to and things start getting dark, it’s just… Really something else.

Screenshot_20211124-164300

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dark Oak
  • Series: The Dark Oak Chronicles, #1
  • Author: Jacob Sannox
  • Publisher & Release: self, April 2017
  • Length: 313
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐for dark fantasy fans, maybe military fantasy 

Here is the synopsis:

Humanity has finally defeated the Dark Lord, but Morrick fought on the wrong side.

Though he was a slave, he is branded a traitor and must earn the trust of new lords in order to return to his family – if they are still alive.

Now that their common enemy is dead, the nobles begin to forget old loyalties, and Queen Cathryn’s realm looks set to plunge into war once more. But there are older and more terrible powers dwelling within the forest, and when they are awakened, Morrick will decide who lives or dies.

The starting point of this book was an interesting choice, as it started at the end of a war.  It was hard for me to wrap my head around who and what was relevant at first, even though right at the start of the book it disclaims that it is NOT the story of the dark lord!

Dark Oak has a LOT going on, and a few different points of view to be aware of.  Morrick is the main character, and probably the most interesting one as we watch his moral struggles.  There is a lot of humanity in the book as various tragedies are met and death with, including post war trauma and death of family, seen mostly through the eyes of Morrick.  Cathryn, the queen, and the various lords also have points of view.

I thought his wife, Rowan, was important too but she was mostly entirely brushed over. For example, she went through all this trouble to consider starting a rebellion with some people who showed up, then we hear nothing except that it was over and went badly.  That was probably the hardest part of the book for me – to decide what was relevant. I also struggled with  what parts the author chose to brush over vs. expand on.

I thought jt was pretty real that most of the Lords, including the queen, really just wanted to kick up their feet and essentially retire after the war but there’s always that *one* problem child.

As far as the magic- the Dryads were definitely the best part of the whole book for me.  The supernatural things were dumped into the book kind of suddenly, but once I learned that a main focus going forward was angry Dryads having their home and trees destroyed, things made a lot more sense.  I really loved the descriptions of the tree and water folk, and how their magic worked.

The worldbuilding was high in setting, scenery, and geography, decent in history, but kind of mish mash on the micro level.  I had a good idea of the history and politics of the realm and the forest, but not so much the cities and moods, weather and foods, etc.  There were some interesting cultural pockets like the “whores” in the Whoreswood.  I originally felt like the world lacked any kind of cohesion, but that plays a role since although the humans united under the name “The Combined People”, they didn’t necessarily have anything in common except the enemy.

Here is a preview of the map, which helped SO much to visualize the book

Screenshot_20211125-201848

I think the magic is definitely the strongest aspect.  I liked the political maneuvering by the Lords and watching the kingdom dissolve into mayhem.  The book definitely had both strong and weak points, and it *lived* for the final quarter.  I do plan on ordering book 2 so i can see what happens, and how he grew as a writer going forward.

Definitely check out the tour page and see what others had to say about the book!!

Book Tour: Dark Oak by Jacob Sannox


Meet the author

Jacob Sannox is a 37 year old writer from the sunny climes of Bedfordshire, England. In his spare time he is generally writing, thinking about writing or berating himself for not writing.

He loves to play the acoustic guitar, but wishes he was better at it, and he has recently taken up Dungeons & Dragons. This is dangerous, as he has a propensity for disappearing into fantasy worlds. Nobody saw Jacob Sannox between 2000 and 2010, during which time he was LARPing.

Do not judge him.

Author & Book Links

Website:http://www.jacobsannox.com/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jacobsannox

Facebook: http://www.twitter.com/jacobsannox

Instagram:http://www.instagram.com/jacobsannoxwriter

Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55810045-dark-oak

Purchase Link: https://books2read.com/u/mVQZ65 

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Romance Young Adult

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Mary Beesley

Hi everyone, welcome back to the Sunday Brunch Series!  Episode 15 this week features one of my newer favorite authors and bookstagrammer, Mary Beesley!
 
It started with a review for Monster Ivy, and  became quickly apparent that Mary is a lovely person to chat with too.  With four books out now and at least two more in progress, she’s a busy lady!   That said, I’m so thrilled that she agreed to interview!
 
Here she is!

 
🥞Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your literary life!
 
🎤Hello! It is so fun for me to connect and get real about writing and share my love of books. I started writing eight years ago. When I found out I was going to have a fourth child, I got discouraged and overwhelmed. God inspired me to start writing stories. At first it was a place for me to be creative and decompress, then I fell in love with it. I took classes and worked hard to practice and improve. The first moment when I was reading my manuscript and I realized it was good, really good, it hit me that I’d finally found what I want to do with my talents and time. That sense of rightness and belonging has filled me up and fueled me through hard writing sessions and painful rejections. Seven years after starting to write, I had my first book published! Now I have four books out. DRAGON BLOOD and WOLF PACK are book 1 and 2 in the Draco Sang Trilogy, a YA fantasy series. TO UNITE A REALM is my adult fantasy. BETTING ON LOVE, is my romantic comedy.
 
🥞I think it’s amazing that you’ve published a young adult fantasy, an adult fantasy romance, and a contemporary romance – what keeps the ideas flowing through the different genres?
 
🎤I love reading in a wide variety of genres and I think that’s part of it, but I also am growing and changing as a writer and trying out different genres and voices. I’ve always been a daydreamer and have lots of different ideas and stories going on up there in my wild brain so it’s fun not to limit myself but to explore it all. No matter what genre, my goal is to tell a great story.
 
🥞I saw that you posted NaNoWriMo goals, can you share anything about the work in progress?
 
🎤Oh man. NaNoWriMo has been tricky! It’s been fun to connect with other writers, but I am struggling with feeling like I have to force big numbers. November is a busy month too. But, I’m still determined to get it done. I’m working on a new MS and hope to complete the first draft. It’s an adult contemporary fiction from a male first person POV. It’s been an interesting challenge to try and really get into a man’s head.
 
{{Sometimes I really wonder what men are thinking, their brains are a mystery to me. Can’t wait to read it!}}
 
🥞Can you compare and contrast writing for YA with writing for adults? Do you prefer writing for one age group or the othe
 
🎤I have had a great time with my YA Draco Sang series, but as I’ve written more and developed as a writer, I am feeling more excited about the adult stories. The adult voices feel more natural to me. The humor seems to come easier for me as well. And right now I’m more interested in writing about adult subjects. I feel like I have more freedom in an adult novel. In YA, I have to be more careful about content and language. It’s harder for me to navigate the teenage brain right now.
 
🥞With the sad news that Monster Ivy is closing down, is the third Draco Sang Trilogy book going to be affected?  (I’m not necessarily dying for the conclusion, but I’m dying for the conclusion!) 
 
🎤 I’m very excited about the final book in the Draco Sang trilogy. It’s got some great scenes, and I hope y’all with love the way it wraps up. I’ve worked hard on it, and it’s important for me to get it out to everyone! I’m in the process of figuring it out now, so I don’t have an answer yet on dates, but I’m going to do all I can to get book three out there as soon as I can! I’ll post updates as they come on my social media.
 
🥞 I really love the Dragon Blood and Wolf Pack characters – can you talk about what message you’d like young readers to take away from the books and characters?
 
🎤Thank you. I love them too. It was important for me to create characters that were dynamic and relatable. People are flawed. Humanity is beautiful. We all have our own “demons” we’re dealing with and I think having my characters be honest about their battles makes them compelling. I also wanted to give them inner strength and courage. They feel deep, love deep, and fight hard. And of course, I throw them into tough situations and then give them a chance to shine (or fail spectacularly). I want everyone who reads the Draco Sang books to take away HOPE. Everyone has power and influence. We can’t always control our situation, but we can choose our reaction and our attitude.
 
🖤There is a lot of moral ambiguity in your fantasy books so far, what do you think makes a good morally gray character?? 
 
🎤I touch on this a bit in the question above, but I’ll add that I think intent is important. We relate to people who are striving toward what they think is “good.” It’s hard to love a character that is purposefully, willfully being immoral or cruel. But if the reader can see from a flawed characters POV and feel sympathy for them, that is powerful. I love giving characters a chance at redemption and change. Honesty is also endearing and can make up for a lot of other moral missteps.
 
🥞How do you feel about brunch?  Any favorite brunch foods?
 
🎤I love brunch. I don’t get to brunch often so it feels like such a luxury. My mouth is watering just thinking about hot chocolate and tea, buttermilk biscuits and jam, waffles with real maple syrup, egg sandwiches, quiche, croissants, I love croissants! And hash browns!
 
🥞 If you could have drinks (or brunch) with any author in the world, who would you choose?
 
🎤Oliver Jeffers is the first one who comes to mind so I’m going with it. I know how weird that makes me sound, but I love him. I think he is so creative and humorous. He seems so approachable on social media and friendly. I love his accent. I love his books. I want to be friends!
 
🥞Here is the easy round of rapidfire bookish questions! Favorite book or series that you always recommend? Favorite book character? Any strange or wonderful bookish habits?
 
 🎤 It feels impossible to recommend a favorite book. I have so many loves (you can check out my five star ratings on goodreads), but these are a few autobuy authors for me: Naomi Novik, Leigh Bardugo, Liane Moriarty, Neil Gaiman, Brent Weeks, Madeline Miller, Brandon Sanderson, Sarah Maas, David Sedaris.
I always have a book with me. Always. Even if it’s a download on my phone. I like to know that anywhere, anytime, I can read while waiting.
 
🥞Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to say or talk about, the floor is open!
 
🎤Thank you so much! Thanks for reading my book. It means the world. xo, Mary Beesley

Meet the author:

Mary believes humans are born to create and promotes creativity in all its beautiful forms. She loves exploring our magnificent planet and finding all the best places to eat around the world. But nothing beats coming home and sharing a pot of slow-simmered soup and homemade sourdough with friends and family. She’s been a daydreamer since childhood, but after having profound difficulty learning to read, she couldn’t be more surprised to have fallen in love with books. If she’s not in her writing chair, you’ll probably find her painting or hiking in the Utah mountains with her husband and four children.

from marybeesley.com

Find Mary and her books online!

https://linktr.ee/MaryBeesley

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Wolf Pack (ARC Review) by Mary Beesley!

Thank you so much to Monster Ivy Publishing for the ARC of Wolf Pack by Mary Beesley! The merch is lovely too!

This author has written four books now, and each one has had me hooked whether she is writing YA fantasy, romance, or adult fantasy.  Something about the themes that Beesley explores and her writing style has made her a favorite of mine, and Wolf Pack definitely reinforces that

My review of Book 1, Dragon Blood, can be found here 

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wolf Pack
  • Series: Draco Sang #2
  • Author: Mary Beesley
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, 11/02/21 
  • Length: 312 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🐺🐺🐺🐺🐺 oh yes

Here is the synopsis:

Ferth has lost his only brother. Gone are his fur and claws. Hunted by his father, he seeks protection among his former enemies. Even with his familiar face, it’s a struggle to hide his wolves and his Draco sympathies from the humans.

Shale finds more than freedom in Elysium. She finds family. She has great hope for a bright future, but the Draco Sang army across the river is determined to take it all away. And the humans don’t have the power to stop them.

Thirro, a Draco Sang eagle, is desperate to prove his worth to his army chief. He’ll do anything for recognition, including hunt Ferth, his old best friend turned abomination, or take down Jade, his competition.

Jade has succeeded in life by striking first and fast. Show no weakness. She rises quickly through the ranks of the Draco Sang, but when she’s sent to hunt humans with Thirro, including a mission to kill Ferth, it isn’t so easy to let her arrow fly. And she isn’t so sure she has the right target in sight.


This lovely sequel to Dragon Blood takes place right where it left off. Where many trilogies suffer a second book slump, I think Wolf Pack was actually more engaging, easier to relate to, and at least as good, if not better than Dragon Blood.

Cultures clash, instincts are fought, and loyalties blur in this exciting sequel! 

Watching Ferth learn how to be human and find his new family was a stark contrast to the bloody battle scenes and Thirro’s madness. The two characters carried on the series’ theme of how much one’s blood and upbringing is responsible for their true selves. It was interesting to see what dark roads and moral ambiguities most of the characters navigated as they had to weigh their loyalties and choices. One other thing I have to mention are the wolves – their banter is EVERYTHING!

I mean really, it was so heartbreaking to see Cal and Lyko separated, and watching him start to rebound and form a bond with Rom was a highlight of the book.  Their banter was pretty epic, as was the family reunion.

I was floored by all the action as well. Wolf Pack containes more politicking and maneuvering and planning, which makes sense leading up to the conclusion, but the action and danger was there too.

A few new characters were introduced as well and they are providing an interesting base for book three.  Imanna could go in many directions and I loved her tiny and deadly self.

Beesley is never afraid to make our hearts hurt either, both books have ended in deaths and cliffhangers that had me wishing the next book was ready.

I 100% recommend the Draco Sang trilogy for any fantasy fans, fans of found families, clean fiction, and anyone looking for an exciting read!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror Paranormal

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring A.J. Vrana!

Welcome to the special Halloween edition of the Sunday Brunch Series!! I was so excited to see Halloween falling on a Sunday this year.  After an absolutely incredible month of GrimDarkTober interviews, it is coming to an end with an amazing feature… Presenting my first traditionally published author – dark fantasy & horror writer A.J. Vrana!!

I “met” A.J. on bookstagram after participating in a tour for her first book, The Hollow Gods, and at this point am honored to say I consider her a booksta friend!

Happy Halloween everyone, here she is!


🎃Welcome and thank you so much for coming onto the Halloween edition of the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your literary life?

🎤Hello! I feel like my online bio is more eloquent than I am, but here it goes: My name is A. J. Vrana, and I’m the author of The Chaos Cycle Duology, which is comprised of The Hollow Gods and The Echoed Realm. They’re folklore-infused, contemporary dark fantasy with horror undertones and a romantic subplot. I also penned the short supernatural horror story, These Silent Walls, which is published in Three Crows Magazine. Outside of my literary life, I’m also a PhD candidate researching the supernatural in literature and its relationship to violence, and I have two magical rescue cats, Moonstone and Peanut Butter. 

🎃That’s a fascinating topic for research! Especially in book one, the interest in violence, legends, and sociological/group aspects was evident. How did that research translate into or influence The Chaos Cycle?

🎤I actually think that it might be the other way around: my fiction influences my academic writing more than my academic writing influences my fiction. That said, they are mutually reinforcing, and I think that ultimately, they might just be part of the same project.

To be a little more specific, my research focuses on Japan and former-Yugoslavia, with my personal background being with the latter. I was always interested in the supernatural, and through my research, I’ve found that it functions as an excellent metaphor for trauma, violence, and all the horrible things that we maybe can’t do justice to through plain, clinical expression. Further to that, the relationship between truth and fact is something that I have always been intrigued by. I research a lot of folklore, and folklore has always been a way of approaching and understanding the world. It’s a system of knowledge, and it can be very useful! There is truth to it even when it is just a story, because often, those stories are produced from generations of lived experience.  

I also think a LOT of my own experiences are in the novels, but they’re all written in through metaphor and allegory. I really struggle with explicit #ownvoices stories because it feels like there is no barrier between the reader and the writer. It’s too vulnerable. However, using the supernatural to talk about communal violence is a productive way to explore themes in my own life. I’ve never been kidnapped by spirits or anything, but I do think there is a relationship between Miya’s existential ruminations, Kai’s alienation from society, and my diasporic experience. Also, having grown up being adjacent to civil war, there is something about the way Black Hollow functions that echoes that experience of mine as well. Violence against the outsider is such a common theme, but I wanted to give it the kind of intimacy that can really unsettle. And what could be more intimate and unsettling than having a folkloric creature invade your dreams and become the reason your whole community turns against you?

🎃I was sometimes a little confused during book one, and then book two was just incredible and I loved how you brought the legend to life via the history.  What do you think was the biggest growth factor for you as an author between the two books?

🎤There was about a five-year gap between the writing of the first draft of each book, so I definitely grew as a person and as an author, though I don’t think that’s what impacted the clarity of the story so much as it impacted the way I delivered my themes. When I wrote the first book, I was in a phase in my life where I was grappling with a lot of intellectual ambiguity, and so ambiguity became a huge theme that permeated the story. I actually intended the first book to be rather hazy, because one of the central points is that there are no simple truths and that we can’t always get clear cut answers to our bigger questions. Was the town’s violence the result of groupthink and repressed generational guilt, or was it due to the influence of a malevolent entity? The story doesn’t give you an answer; both possibilities are true and inseparable from one another. Likewise, the way we weave social narratives is diffuse and confusing; you can’t always locate the logical progression that led to a belief system or social truth. The fabric of real-world narratives is often incoherent and full of contradictions, and I wanted to capture some of that incoherence in the structure and narrative style of the book. That said, I was also far less confident when I wrote The Hollow Gods; I shied away from being direct about my themes, and when you are a new writer trying to get traditionally published, it can be difficult to feel assured in your approach. I also had no idea how to outline! To a large extent, I was flying by the seat of my pants, and I had to do a lot of editing and rewriting as a result. 

However, The Echoed Realm was a very different process. It took me much longer to write the first draft, but it was such a strong first draft that the editorial process only took several months (THG’s editorial process took years, hence the five year gap!). I went into The Echoed Realm with a much firmer idea of what I wanted to do, and so I think the book is much more confident and direct about some of its themes. I feel like it also reflects my personality better; there is, I think, an intensity to The Echoed Realm that wasn’t present in The Hollow Gods, and that has a lot to do with me feeling like I have laid the groundwork to really be myself as a writer. This also reflects the characters’ growth between books; they are not the same people they were in The Hollow Gods. They’re not experiencing their world for the first time! I also did lean into commercial fiction a lot more for the second book, whereas the first book veers a bit towards the obscure. All that said, I think the success of The Echoed Realm largely hinges on the work The Hollow Gods did to establish a strong foundation. The first book does a lot of heavy lifting with world building, lore, and characterization so that the second book can really showcase what the duology had been building up to all along.  

🎃What do you think is the most important part of capturing a consistent atmosphere?

🎤This might sound weird, but I think the most important thing is to actually decide on what kind of atmosphere you want and to pay very close attention to word choice and language. Atmosphere (for me anyway) is a matter of focus. It’s kind of like maintaining a character’s voice throughout the book; you need be consistent not just with imagery and descriptions, but with the specific word choices that make up each image, because word choice can help evoke a particular tone or emotion. Atmosphere suffers when writers reach for the easiest or most obvious word. Readers don’t consciously pick up on word choice, but it does impact them because we all make subconscious associations without even realizing it. So, if I say, “Thunder rolled through the grey sky,” it sounds quite plain compared to, “The sky churned with a menacing rumble.” Both sentences are almost the same length, but the second one uses a stronger verb (one that evokes sickness or unease) and transforms something commonplace (thunder) into something with character (a menacing rumble). Ultimately, these are the things that make up atmosphere. 

🎃What makes a good morally gray character?

🎤I think this is a really interesting question, because in reality, we are all morally grey. No one has a rigid or unchanging moral compass; we are all reacting to our circumstances and trying to navigate the world in all its complexity. The world is morally grey at best (or completely bankrupt at worst), and so we are all inevitably morally grey. But, to answer your question, I think that good morally grey characters are the ones that invite us to reflect on the moral ambiguity in ourselves. Their reactions, attitudes, and choices have to make sense for their character regardless of our moral expectations, and even if we recognize that their actions are morally questionable, we an approach those reactions with a degree of compassion. 

So, for example, it’s not that Kai lacks a conscience or acts out of wanton malice. He is simply responding to his circumstances in the only ways to know how to, and that is all informed by his personal history and his position as a socially marginalized person. But I think most people who read the books don’t judge him to be a bad person, so that particular confluence of indictable behaviour and compassion help us produce a more nuanced understanding of ourselves and others. Morally grey characters may do something that is morally reprehensible, but in context, that behaviour might seem reasonable, and that forces us to reckon with the expectations we have for moral behaviour. I also think this is why Mason is the character I personally find the most frustrating. He’s someone who fancies himself to be morally upright, but he behaves in ways that are subtly quite selfish, and ultimately, it’s his confrontation with Kai and Miya that brings all that to the fore.

🎃Is it hard to write your characters into those tough, destructive, near deadly scenes that Grimdark requires?  Are you a true lady of chaos or does it take an emotional toll?

🎤Full disclosure: when I first wrote The Echoed Realm, Kai lost an arm. My editor made me change it, though, and in hindsight, I’m happy he got to keep it. I think when I’m writing it, I’m not really impacted by these tough scenes, but sometimes I’ll come away, like, “Wow, that was kind of intense.” I wouldn’t say it takes an emotional toll, though. On the contrary, I think it can be quite cathartic and invigorating to write out a very intense scene in which all the characters’ emotions are running at eleven and a half. In some instances, the whole book is culminating to that moment, so it’s exciting to finally let shit hit the fan, you know? I guess that makes me a true lady of chaos…

🎃Seeing as it’s halloween! If you’ve ever worn a Halloween costume, what was your favorite? Bonus points if you have a picture!

🎤Oh gosh, I don’t remember the last time I dressed up—I’m so lazy! As a kid, though, my two favourite costumes were a witch and a ninja. I don’t have any photos from that era, but I have this monstrosity

Screenshot_20211031-120717

🎃How do you feel about brunch? Do you have a favorite brunch food?

🎤I adore brunch, and it’s one thing Canada sucks at. When my partner took me to his hometown in the US, I nearly died eating biscuits and gravy every day. That said, I do love just a basic brunch of fried eggs, sausage, hash browns, and toast. If I can get a single banana pancake on the side, then we’re golden.

🎃Ama – I am just dying for any tidbit that hints at Ama’s story. I think I missed who she was in the original story.  Can you tell us anything extra about her??

🎤I actually have a whole book planned for Ama! Her backstory is still definitely a mystery. All you really know is that she’s been with Gavran for a long time and that he more or less raised her. She’s obviously very dedicated to anything Gavran cares about, and she is strongly attached to Miya both because of Gavran but also because she genuinely cares for her. Regarding the first book, **spoiler here** Ama is the wolf that Miya originally sees as a child, and this encounter becomes the thing Miya latches on to and hopes for throughout her youth and into had adulthood. Of course, the next time she encounters a wolf, it’s not Ama, but Kai. 

What I can tell you is that Ama’s becoming a wolf is not quite the same as Kai’s, though there are similarities too. Neither of them are werewolves in the contemporary sense; their condition follows the wonky rules of folklore rather than what we get in genres like urban fantasy. In Kai’s case, it’s “spiritually inherited” from Sendoa, though his parents were also like him. Kai’s history is also a bit of a shadowy thing, so there is a lot about his past left unexplored by the end of the duology. Ama, however, was not actually born a wolf as Kai was, and if you go to my website, click on Vignettes, and then on “The Weaver,” you’ll find some short stories exploring bits of Ama’s past ;). 

{{Done!! Can’t wait for that book!!}}

Now that The Chaos Cycle duology is completed, can you give us any hints as to what’s coming next? A WIP?

🎤I am currently working on a supernatural horror novel! I can’t say much about the project right now, but it does feature a small Appalachian town in rural Pennsylvania, an unreliable narrator, creepy, supernatural melodies, and murder. It’s been slow going, but I’m just about 40-50% through the first draft. I also have been fleshing out the world of The Chaos Cycle on my Patreon and plan on writing a standalone that takes place after the duology. It will focus on Miya, Kai, Ama, and Crowbar, and it will not be related to the major plot of the duology, though I do plan on exploring Kai’s history quite extensively in that book!

🎃Here is the round of easy rapid fire bookish questions – do you have a favorite book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character? Strange and wonderful bookish habits?

🎤Uhh, here goes:

  • The Winternight Trilogy by Catherine Arden!
  • I am blanking so hard on this. Let’s say Dorian Grey. 
  • I’m pretty boring, but I need to read in complete silence, or I get very crabby. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview!! A.J. wanted to tell you guys that the special hardcover editions of The Chaos Cycle duology just released, so definitely check those out!!

Here is an Instagram post with all the info, plus you can find her website at

https://thechaoscycle.com/

There are additional links here!

https://direct.me/ajvrana

Categories
Adventure Fantasy Young Adult

Crossbones (ARC Review) by Kimberly Vale

Thank you so much to Bookish First for the digital ARC of Crossbones! I claimed this one using my points, and all thoughts are my own.

I have not read a Wattpad book before. I own White Stag by Kara Barbieri but never got there – I’m curious to see if the quality of writing is similar, aka decent but falling a bit flat from what I’d expect. I’ll call this ‘the Wattpad stigma’ because it seems to be a real thing

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Crossbones
  • Series: Kingdom of Bones Trilogy, #1
  • Author: Kimberly Vale
  • Publisher & Release: 10/05/21, Wattpad Books
  • Length: 376 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🗡🗡🗡 Idk probably for Cinderella vs Pirate fans

Here is the synopsis:

Never trust a pirate.

The Blood Bell tolls, marking the death of the pirate king and the start of the Trials―a heart-stopping competition where the reward is the Bone Crown. Only one contender can claim the coveted island throne; each will gamble life and limb to win.

Captain. Sister. Maiden.
Csilla Abado yearns to prove her strength to the seasoned pirates who balk at her youth and to her elder sister who has always craved Csilla’s captainship. She will risk everything to become the first pirate queen, no matter the cost.

Dealer. Son. Legacy.
Kane Blackwater wants to leave behind the dirty gold and shady trades he’s made to keep his father’s ship, the Iron Jewel, alive. The Trials represent a new beginning―yet rumors of a secret heir are swirling, threatening his hopes of becoming the pirate king.

Stowaway. Daughter. Storm.
Lorelei Penny longs for nothing more than to avenge her mother’s death. Stowing away on the Iron Jewel was supposed to get her closer to the killer, but instead she finds herself caught up in the deadly battle where loyalty and desire collide.

Csilla. Kane. Lorelei. Each on a mission. The sea, however, has other plans. Dark tides are rising, and if they aren’t careful, they’ll surely drown.

You guys know that I will do anything for a good pirate story.   Now that I’m aware that this is supposed to be the first in a trilogy, I’m much more confident in my 🌟🌟🌟 rating

If it’s going to kick off a trilogy, I would expect much more in-depth world and character building, more lore, more everything.   The characters don’t need to rush from thing to thing and the author can take time to build relationships and such

The characters are a good lot but they don’t make great pirates.  They do say time and time again that they are meant to protect their homeland more than be ruthless brigands, but they seem more like YA cinnamon rolls than pirates.

Yes they have their ruthless streaks but they came together fairly easily in an alliance.  Are we just going to drop all of the terrible things that Kane has done?  What about Rove?  I want details!

There was a good foundation to the world building, but I want more on the entire Incendia vs Cerulia conflict.  More lore too, the gods and goddesses are an interesting basis but it all just wasn’t quite enough for me.

The trials seemed a bit anticlimactic too, plus for all of the times that it was said there were only 4 map pieces and each captain would get a piece – there were 5 captains.  

There were definitely positive aspects like the magic, I love when innate magic is attached to bloodlines or kingdoms.  I just felt like the whole book was skimming over the surface when, again for the start of a trilogy, there should be more depth.

The Scilla vs Rhoda thing was the most real relationship in the whole book for me, what a terrible betrayal by her sister.  The other relationships seemed fluffed together quickly.

I don’t know how to describe it either, but I just didn’t think the characters… Felt like pirates.  Rove and Kane did at least at the start, but Flynn definitely didn’t.  Neither did Scilla really, I needed more time at sea to show … pirating. 

I might give it one more book but I don’t know.  The ending felt more like Cinderella than pirates, and there are a ton of phenomenal pirate books out there right now

Once again thank you to Bookish First and Wattpad Books for the digital ARC!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Nicolas Samuel Lietzau

Welcome back to GrimDarkTober month on the Sunday Brunch Series! Episode 11 is a super special feature featuring German author Nicolas Samuel Lietzau! 

Most people recognize him as the writer of Enderal: The Forgotten stories – a Skyrim mod that has a huge following.  I fell off the gaming planet years ago and therefore am so glad and grateful that he reached out about his debut novel: Dreams of the Dying.  Obviously I am equally, if not more grateful that he agreed to join for an SBS interview!

While DotD is a book set in the Enderal world, I can promise that you don’t need the game to love the book, and certainly not to enjoy reading this amazing interview!  Read on to learn a bit about the book and the author, as well as a great discussion on world building, mental health, comically short relationships,  and much much more!

Enough from me – here he is!


🖤Welcome to the SBaiS! Tell us a random interesting fact about yourself!
 
🎤I’m a bit of a health nut. Also, I recently started a band, Neochrome. If I hadn’t become a writer, I would have tried my luck as a musician.
 
🖤 Can you tell me something off the beaten path that has intrigued you recently? That’s my favorite line from the author bio
 
🎤 There were several rather tragic things, but I’ll stick to something positive: I recently moved to a mountain village near Barcelona and went for a run in the nearby national park, where I got lost and suddenly found a broken-down car in the middle of the woods. No idea how it got there, but it certainly intrigued me.
 
{{In the spirit of GrimDarkTober, I wonder if something tragic happened to the vehicle’s owner! How curious}}
 
🖤 So your Enderal books are a prequel to the video game – is it challenging to write within a world with predefined boundaries?  Would it be easier or harder to create your own brand new world (and is that a plan in the future)?
 
🎤It’s definitely challenging, but I already took an important step by separating the novel canon from the game canon (while remaining faithful to the game best as I can). There are a lot of undefined areas in the Vyn universe – such as the dystopian dark age between the end of the Pyrayans and the advent of the Lightborn – which I plan to flesh out in the next two books. Even so, I’m looking forward to creating a brand-new story world in the future – in fact, I already have some ideas floating around in my mind.
 
🖤The world building in DotD was pretty intense, and equally so was the character build. Did you try to lean more towards a world or character driven story, or was the mix always there?
 
🎤I’d say characters – or rather, tragedies – always come first. A recent review criticized that the “world is the protagonist in Dreams of the Dying,” which frankly surprised me. I do enjoy world building, but to me, a well-realized and coherent world is simply due diligence. Just like I do my research when writing about experiences that weren’t my own by reading autobiographies and collaborating with people, I do my research on mythology, geography, linguistics, et cetera.
 
🖤Because you travel quite a bit – do you see a relationship between people who like to travel and are passionate about culture, and their level of world-building interest?  I would love to poll people who travel vs people who don’t, about their reading interests
 
🎤That’s an interesting question. Honestly, I haven’t noticed a trend here, but most of my author friends are German, so I’m not sure how representative they are. I do, however, feel that there tends to be a type of writer who is thirsty for experience and would certainly count myself as one of them. There are many approaches to writing great fiction, but for me, exploring life in all its facets is essential. I hope that doesn’t sound pretentious
 
{{I don’t think it does! As a travel nurse, it would sound even more pretentious if I disagreed 😂 and I love using work as an excuse to immerse myself somewhere new for a few weeks or months!}}
 
🖤Speaking of culture – you mentioned the gratuitous swearing, is that a German thing? Were there any other cultural easter eggs that you put into your story?
 
🎤I love this question. Yes, I’d say that Bavarians (Southern Germans), in particular, love to swear. It has even become an art form of sorts called Granteln. In essence, zu granteln means to humorously rant about something using imaginative insults. It’s important to note that this has nothing to do with popular rant videos on the internet, which are often mean-spirited. The hallmark of good a good grantler is that he or she is not really insulting a person offensive per se and rather lets off steam at “god and the world.” Besides grantling, Bavarian service providers have a reputation for being rude. That’s not the case, in my opinion – they’re simply allowed to talk back when a customer goes off at them. Which, in my opinion, is a wonderful thing.
 
I don’t think I put any more easter eggs into the story, at least not consciously, but you can certainly tell my cultural signature, so to speak. The focus on philosophy and politics, which some readers and others loathed or perceived as contrived, is simply a part of German fiction. As are the deeply personal conversations characters have. It’s something many Germans just do
 
{{Darn – I’ve been trying to decide where to travel to this spring if the world is open, maybe I should go to Germany and see if anyone wants to tour the area and debate life for a while! A friend said there are some lovely castles and stuff too}
 
🖤There are some correlations in your Enderal storyline and in DotD with harder and rough sounding events that have happened in your life, can we talk about using storytelling as a coping mechanism?
 
🎤Yes, my creative work definitely helped and continues to help me cope with and process some of the things that happened to me. Even these days, my first response to when something bad happens is to somehow translate it into my books or music. I think this is something any artist can relate to. For me, there’s also a phoenix element to this mechanism: yes, I lived through some traumatic events, but that also gave me access to a pool of experiences that I can now weave into my stories. Before this gets taken out of context, I’m not saying that trauma is a good thing, and I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody. But for me, using it this way is empowering. I hate to see myself as a victim.
 
🖤DotD had a significant running theme of mental health and digging oneself out of their own personal hell. For anyone that hasn’t read the last few chapters and afterword, are you willing to share any advice for people who might be struggling?
 
🎤Oh boy, that’s a big question. The first step should naturally always be to get help. It’s common to avoid therapy out of pride or dread of a diagnosis (god knows I’ve done it), but it won’t get you anywhere. Besides that, I found a lot of solace in Agaam’s words: You won’t find out if you give up. This is actually from what a close friend of mine told me during a difficult time. If you’re currently in a bad place, for all you know, tomorrow might be the day things finally turn around. It’s important to make yourself aware of this, as the mind often tends to catastrophize and imagine the dreariest outcome possible. Again, I’m speaking from experience.
 
{{I love big questions! Seriously though this is great advice. Mental healthcare in America is a disaster and getting help can be extremely intimidating. I tell people that there’s no shame in seeking help and no one is here to judge.  I wish the stigma wasn’t there.  There are many things to try before medication as well and I 100% wholeheartedly endorse getting help from a trained professional before things get to the catastrophe point. Recognizing and diverting that worst case scenario cycle of thinking alone can go a long way}}
 
🖤Alright, enough heavy questions! Is brunch a thing in Germany? If so, do you have a favorite brunch food?
 
🎤Oh, yes, we love brunch. I do intermittent fasting, so I actually get to brunch every day. Personally, I love German dark bread and obatzda, a Bavarian cheese made from three different sorts of soft cheese, herbs, and spices. That said, I was recently diagnosed with lactose intolerance, so no obatzda for me in the near future.
 
🖤Do you have any terribly unpopular opinions?
 
🎤In light of the upcoming new movie: I actually loved Matrix: Reloaded and MatrixRevolutions. It wasn’t as accessible as the amazing first part, but once you wrap your head around it, it’s fascinating.
 
🖤Jespar and Lysia literally had the shortest exclusive relationship ever, has that ever actually happened to you?
 
🎤Oh, for sure – my teenage relationships were very much of the straw fire variety. Especially in the LGBT community, relationships can be absurdly short-lived. At least that’s my experience.
 
{{I promise the hetero community is doing this too, dating in your 30s is a disaster by itself }}
 
🖤I don’t see a ton of German authors in fantasy; can you recommend any that have been translated?  
 
I’d say that the English-speaking publishing houses hardly translate anything, which strikes me as odd considering the industry’s current focus on spotlighting diverse voices. It’s a shame because I think people are missing out. There are countless fantastic international writers – not only German – who never find the success they deserve. As far as German fantasy authors go, I loved Ralf Isau’s books as a kid, but it’s been so long. There is a Quebecois horror author whom I adore, Patrick Senecal. No one ever translated his works (only a couple) for some strange reason, even though he is absurdly popular in Quebec.
 
🖤Who’s your favorite book character of all time?
 
🎤Tyrion Lannister. The run-of-the-mill answer, I  know, but his moral ambiguity is incredibly intriguing

I made this a separate section, which I am naming “Nicolas’ Amusing and Insightful Rant About Modern Language in Fantasy”.  I think he should expand and turn it into an essay of his own!

My only real criticism of DotD was how jarring the modern day slang came across in an otherwise immersive story … … so, what led you down that path vs creating slang in the language native to the characters?
 
This has come up a few times, so I’m glad you asked. I’ll do my best to explain my choice, but forgive me for going on a bit of a tangent first. I’ve often read fantasy readers describe colloquialism, slang, and vulgarity as unrealistic. While I get the sentiment, I believe that this is a misconception.
 
First, unless you’re writing historical fiction set in an English-speaking country, the narrator’s English is always only a translation of what people really speak in those fictional worlds; in the Enderal novels, for example, this lingua franca is Inâl, which is also what Jespar or The Man in the novel speak. However, since nobody in the real world speaks Inâl, the narration translates it into English. The bottom line: barring the usage of modern words that simply couldn’t exist given the technology level of a culture (such as “rocket science” or internet jargon), there is no such thing as “realistic” English in high fantasy. It’s always a stylistic decision of the author.
 
Second, most people know this, but the English we read in fantasy, and even historical fiction isn’t at all faithful to the English people actually spoke in the Middle Ages, Middle English. You could probably understand what’s being said, but it would be a chore. What’s more, all we know about language during these times is based on documents that were exclusively written by the small, educated minority that wasn’t dyslexic. Imagine aliens using formal business emails to deduce what 21st-century humans spoke like; even books or plays these days used a stylized English that didn’t necessarily reflect how people spoke on a day-to-day basis. In conclusion, it is very likely, if not certain, that the English spoken by the real people was full of colloquialisms and vulgarity. Why wouldn’t it? If anything, etymology suggests that they swore like sailors, including the dreaded c-word. “Fuck” arrived a little later, but it’s safe to assume something with a similar meaning was around to describe the same thing.
 
 
All this is a long way of me saying that the English we are used to in fantasy fiction is ultimately a convention established to create a certain feeling. It’s an entirely subjective and stylistic choice and doesn’t indicate bad worldbuilding or poor command of the English language.
 
Now, why did I decide to use modern language in dialogue? It’s not because I dislike the convention – I grew up reading German fantasy books, which use very formal and “olden-days” language much like what you see in English fantasy staples, and I still love them. For me, it’s mostly about relatability. I want my characters to feel as real and relatable as possible. I also have a background in video game writing, where I work with voice actors on a regular basis and came to realize that a lot of dialogue that reads well in a book translates poorly into a voiced script; consequently, I made a habit of rewriting any “bookish” dialogue I wrote for a script to make it as “organic” as possible.
 
All that said, looking back, I believe that I sometimes overshot and accidentally crossed the line between relatability and anachronism. It’s something I will improve in the next novel.


Once again, thank you endlessly to Nicolas Samuel Lietzau for taking the time out of his busy schedule to give such an amazing interview! Here are the links to find him online and social media: 

I’m not good at link lists but you can find Nicolas online at:

WEBSITE: WWW.NICOLASLIETZAU.COM

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/niseam_stories/

https://mobile.twitter.com/Niseamtao

And many others, go find the links through his site!

Categories
Fantasy

Song of Echoes (book review) by R.E. Palmer

I am reading a ton of self published fantasy this fall, thanks to some amazing indie authors that have reached out about their books. One such author was R.E. Palmer!

Song of Echoes reads like a classic fantasy. I’ve been in a huge slump recently toward all the character driven drivel and romance in new fantasy books. This book presented it’s world and told a story, one with inherent magic and two very different character points of view that don’t interact. It’s kind of what I love about self published work

Overall it was not perfect, but interesting and refreshing

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Song of Echoes
  • Series: Song of Echoes, #1
  • Author: R.E. Palmer
  • Publisher & Release: FrontRunner Publications, 07/05/21
  • Length: 434 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for classic, adult fantasy fans

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

All that has gone before is woven into the Song; joy, sorrow; kind acts and cruel acts; creation and destruction. Past, present, and what has yet to come, make themselves known — if you know how to listen.

For three hundred years, the people of the Five Realms have lived in relative peace, protected by their great leader, the Archon. Yet, far to the north, in the frozen lands beyond the Draegalen Trench, the Ruuk stir, driven by a rising evil, long believed banished from the world. But rumors questioning the Archon’s ability to defend the realms once more, persist.

Elodi, the Lady Harlyn, uneasy in her new role following the death of her father, and Toryn, a farmworker and outsider in his village, must discover a way to fight an enemy that all but defeated their ancestors.

The story starts with a legend, and then throws a lot of places and names and lore at the reader.  It didn’t take long to figure out what areas were important to remember though, and once the story got started with Toryn and Elodi it was hard to put down.  Who would know that maybe those old legends are true?

The world has inherent magic, but it isn’t really elaborated on or discussed at all until towards the end.  There is also workable magic, presented as a handful of feared sorcerers with inherent abilities.  The source is hinted at but will be further explored in later books.

The world seems like a geographically diverse continent, with forests and mountains and everything in between.  I did like how the setting of each area shaped the characters and their personalities, as they should. 

Elodi is the newish leader of her realm, gathered at the Archon’s keep with the other Lords to inspect the realms defenses.  Toryn is a farmer, dying to see beyond the gates of his home region but unable to due to restrictions placed by the Archon on travel.

As we learn more about the politics, dangers, and impending war of the realm, everything starts to make sense and fall into place.  There are multiple dangers to each border but the Archon is obsessed with only one enemy, totally ready to leave the rest of the realm to fend for itself on extremely limited men and resources.

I really ended up liking Elodi, she was brave as hell at the end and a credit to her title, leading her knights.  Toryn had less of an impressive story arc but set himself up to be a bigger player in the next book.  I actually liked that the storylines didn’t intersect, it’s a nice change from every author just shoving romance down my throat for the sake of it.

There are a lot of really good side characters too and Palmer doesn’t hold back from inserting some tragedy into the pages. There are some tough siege and battle scenes.

I think the physical descriptions and setting were my favorite aspect.  The mountains and bridges form some amazing natural defenses, and everything sounds so majestic.  Without being repetitive, Palmer brings each area and vista to life.

Theme wise … Honor, veteran pride, loyalty, found family, and the value in stories, are some of my favorites.

I think the down side was that the book got off to a slow start.  It does take a bit to figure out who is who, who is important, and what regions we need to remember, but I think it’s worth it.  I would have liked more from the inherent magic.  I will definitely be keeping an eye out for book 2!


Shout out to the cover artist as well –  Kentaro Kanamoto does some amazing fantasy artwork! http://www.kentarokanamoto.com/

Find the book online!

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58145883-song-of-echoes

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B095XQ9VQ
Website: www.frontrunnerbooks.com

 

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Earth On Fire, Ocean of Blood (book thoughts) by A4

I was so excited when the fourth Far Forest Scrolls book released! I read it this October and figured that since I’ve been diligently reading from the start, I would post my spoiler free book thoughts.

There may be series spoilers – I think and hope not but it’s hard after four books to remember 😂

Series recap and reviews:

Na Cearcaill – 🗡🗡🗡🗡

Hourglass of Destruction – 🗡🗡🗡🗡

Rise Above the Storm – 🗡🗡🗡🗡🗡

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Earth on Fire, Ocean of Blood
  • Series: Far Forest Scrolls, #4
  • Author: A4 – Alpha Four
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 09/07/21
  • Length: 481 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ I’m in for the series at this point, I do think it’s good for advanced young readers 

Here is the book blurb:

Pushed into civil war, the nations of Verngaurd descend into a series of devastating and fatal battles that leave the ground bloodied and in flames. Will Friar Pallium’s years of planning be enough to overcome the considerably larger army of nations arrayed against them? With an elaborate series of feints and ambushes planned, the only assured outcome is substantial death on both sides. With the Allies and the Confederacy focused on fighting each other, the Dark Warriors are all too happy to move in and conquer territory.

When the trials of their odyssey are finally revealed the League quickly discovers it will be longer, more strenuous, and infinitely more dangerous than they could have imaged. Bellae will have to face eccentric guardians of uncertain motives while struggling with the devastating loss of one of her companions—and her part to play in his tragic death.  

I like the concept, storyline, presentation, and artwork of these books so much.  What I’m struggling with is who to recommend them to, and also the pacing of the series as a whole.

The best line of this fourth installment was Bellae and the League of Truth – they finally started their quest and got so far as to find two sets of crystals.  The issue: it took four books to get here.  I get that it’s a slow burning series and epic quest, but I’m struggling with how long it took to get them here.

The guardians and the quest itself is awesome though.  Bellae is starting to crack a bit under the tragedy and pressure.  It’s truly unfortunate that she had to do this at her age since the quest was never intended for a child.  The other squires are such a good team and I like the other league members too.

Oh Crann, why though 😭

The other storyline was the beginning of the civil war – it was brilliantly thought out, including maps, but I honestly just tuned out at the length of the battle scenes.  The traps and prestidigitation were amazing and incredibly well thought out – but again, half of the entire book only covered the start of the war, and only a few encounters.  The cliffhanger though 😭

J think Luchar stole the whole book at the end with his diatribe prior to the final battle.  I think he secretly became my favorite knight and I’m just blown away by the depth he has hidden the whole time.  Half crushed or not, he’s joining that final battle.

Speaking of depth: I think this fourth book had the broadest emotional spectrum yet.  Oh I have both cracked up laughing and been absolutely bawling at points throughout the other books, but this one went straight to the dark pit of the Eaglian’s souls with black humor about Tallcon, death, and religious fanaticism, to the point that I found some of the exchanges truly terrifying.

So what do I think overall? These books are more about the journey than the speed. About the pearls of wisdom and range of emotions, and the author taking his time to get the story where he wants it to be.  It’s truly an indie project and I bet a labor of love, including the continuation of all the wonderful artwork in the book. 

This one still stays clear of language and romance, but continues with gore gore and gore in the war scenes.  It’s almost cartoonist at times but I still would strictly say 14+ with these and probably try them for boys trying to find fantasy books.

Lastly: I am just going to throw some of my favorite quotes here at the end!

Dreams, which can seem so hardy, even sturdy, within the fortified confines of our skull, acutely become fragile and vulnerable when exposed to the outside world. Each time we fight to achieve a dream, we uncover part of our heart. It takes courage to reveal a dream and diligent fortitude to achieve it

– Veneficus

 

At the end of the day, even those of us who have never fought in a war have battle scars, visible and invisible, repressed and haunting, external and internal, public and confidential. Regrets can cling to our souls like invasive dew

– a scroll

 

“When you’re fighting the wrong war, there can be no victory, no matter the outcome.”

-Friar

 

“In life, and on this quest, do not lose sight of the importance of the journey itself. Concentrate on your heart and dedicated effort. Those are the things you can control. Isn’t your best all that you, and the world, can ask?”

– Patuljak

 

“Just because I don’t worship your god does not mean that I have a lesser conviction, or right, to victory”

– Friar

And … Lastly:

“Even as the clouds of confusion rumble and turn black, I stand. I stand in front of uncertainty and scream, ‘I will know you.’ I will fight to know you. As long as I have breath, I will never let doubt or fear win. As long as I can move even one part of my body, I will fight, tear, and claw for Knight victory. When I heave my last breath, I leave no regrets.”

– someone I really hope survives