Categories
Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews

Wyrd & Wonder Read-A-Long: The Summer Tree (week two)

I was going to keep adding all the questions to the same post but ack, my life is way too complicated as it is and a new post is easier! That said, these posts are exclusively for the readalong so turn back now to avoid spoilers!

The questions for week two, chapters roughly 6-8 , of the readalong are provided by Nils and some of the fine folks over at https://fantasy-hive.co.uk/posts/ !

Here was week 1


1) There was a little confusion last week on whether chapter six was supposed to be included, so let’s explore this one first. We discussed the Pervy Prince last week – would you like to weigh in on his antics across the border?

I firmly believe that it takes two to tango.  If the princess was down for a roll in the hay, and it seemed like she was, fine and so be it. It’s probably an advantageous political match if nothing else

I have more pressing questions like – how did they know about each other if the worlds are kept apart so much that no one has visited in 1000 years? How the hell are the physical letters even getting across, it’s not like carrier pigeons would know where to go… Someone explain this to me lol

2)We’re a sizable step into the story now, so how are we all finding the pacing?

The pacing is definitely getting quicker and the story more interesting. What threw me off is the chapter lengths and how they went from like 10 pages on average to 40 or 50 each. I found that jarring.

3) Loren continues his mysterious antics, have your opinions about him shifted at all? Or is there a certain other mage you’re now more concerned about?

I am worried about ALL the mages! It seems like each one has their own individual agenda and I’m wondering which one (or for who) Ysanne’s helper is working for.

Loren almost rode his horse to death, and for what? What is his game? Metran actually had me cracking up because both old men are pretending to be a lot more creaky and senile than they are. I wondered if Ailell and Metran are onto each other in the way that “it takes a faker to know one”

4) Between the children’s game and Kim’s dream, not to mention Ysanne’s mutterings to herself, prophecy is a key element weaving through this story. What are your reactions to the various foretellings thus far?

The children’s game freaked me out a bit, I am super curious to know what The Longest Road is! I also am curious as to why Jaelle could sense a prophecy or power being fulfilled but not discern it’s meaning.  If I were her I think I would have struck a peace with Ysanne to find out what had occurred.

I love all the prophecy though, it’ll be fun to see how much is fulfilled and where it all fits into “the tapestry”

5) Let’s address the massive sacrificial magical tree in the room – would you have offered yourself in Paul’s shoes?

Absolutely not, 100% absolutely not.  I’m not overtly Catholic but suicide is a huge no-no.  I don’t even see any good reason why Paul wants to die so badly, I get that his ex died but whatever else he is grieving for needs to be addressed because right now I just consider him depressed and mentally unbalanced

6) There were two pretty major battles this week. The lios alfar were slaughtered by Galadan, and Paul witnessed a truly moving fight between Galadan and his mysterious canine protector. What were your reactions?

The first fight mentioned was interesting because it brought out the Galadan / Matram storyline, and seems to be sucking the entire kingdom into war.

That said, the fight between the canines was a lot more moving. Paul has to hang on for 3 days and nights to fulfill the prophecy and The Companion bought him the time to do so.

Why doesn’t Galadan want the sacrifice fulfilled, what is coming? What happens to him when Mörnir comes?

7) There’s still no sign of Dave! First time readers – any theories? Revisitors, do you recall if you had any opinions on this before?

I think Dave is hiding in a linen closet and watching everything, waiting for the time to jump out and save everyone.  Either that or he is joined up with the king’s other son (who I think we briefly met at the end of chapter 7), because wouldn’t that be ironic

Any other thoughts this week?

I think it’s a good read still but these longer chapters are hard for my attention span.  I also wish that GGK would stop throwing random names and items and events out with explanations.  It’s a lot to keep track of and with more questions than answers I am so afraid I’m going to miss something important

Categories
Fantasy Fiction

The Present (ARC Review) by Geanna Culbertson

I’m trying to get back into the swing of writing! You guys may have seen me posting about this book already, as I participated in the cover reveal before and shared my first impressions!

It took me forever but I finally finished The Present. Leading up to the holidays, now seems like a perfect time to share about the book.

Are you looking for a cute and meaningful take on a classic Christmas story? This is an adult (but with clean content) retelling of A Christmas Carol

So there is an agency of ghosts that Scrooge people every winter. The goal is to help the people who have lost the spirit of Christmas and goodwill to redeem their souls before they squander the gift of life

You can also search the author, Geanna Culbertson, on my website as I have reviewed a few of her Crisanta Knight books, and also featured an interview!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Present
  • Author: Geanna Culbertson
  • Publisher & Release: BQB Publishing, 11/3/21
  • Length: 527 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ yes for fans of slow burning holiday stories and A Christmas Carol

Here is the synopsis:

A mystical agency exists that is responsible for creating Christmas Carol scenarios with preselected targets every December.

Employees of the agency work in either the Past, Present, or Future department and each year they are assigned a person on Earth in need of being “Scrooged,” as it were, so that person can reform and embrace the potential for goodness, love, and humanity they have in their hearts.

Frost Mason has worked in the Present department for almost a century and this Christmas is her 100th soul to save. The problem—Frost’s belief in the miracle of Christmas and what her agency does has started to fade because while many people commit to reforming after the “life-changing” experience of being Scrooged, human beings rarely change permanently and Frost has watched countless former Scrooges backtrack and return to their old ways once time has passed.

Frost must find a way to deal with her disenchantment over humanity’s potential to change while also working with her team to save the soul of this year’s Christmas Assignment: a young, up-and-coming political star running for governor.

I have to say that I was immediately sold on the synopsis! The author is known for morally rich, clean fiction, and I knew I wanted to read this one.

What I liked most about the theme was the idea that no matter what, it’s never too late to save yourself. It’s a great concept and so full of the Christmas spirit. Other themes include the importance of family, having loved ones and letting people in, friendship and more, including found family in a big way.

The book is funny at times, featuring baby reindeer and good cheer, and also sad at times as we watch Jay’s family life fall apart.

The best part is definitely the world building and magic. I love her envisioning of the ghostly realms and magic of christmas, which becomes a physical thing. The North Pole and even the headquarters of the CCD are well imagined and described. It’s a bit of a shock for the readers and the ghosts alike to learn about their afterlives and fate, and in all it’s again a great concept. Elves, penguin, reindeer, Santa and family, plus Spectre One and all the other ghosts – you will get lost in this magical world.

The characters are great too, Frost is redeeming herself as well as her Scrooge and it was a hard parallel. There are Claus’ and friends and a dog too. I liked the Child ghost that Frost was Paired with, their team was so mismatched! Jay tries to be likeable, I had mixed feelings but never truly disliked him.

So… Why only 3 stars? The hard part for me was that I think for adults, the level of breakdown and analysis into the moral points went way past what is required. It became repetitive and drawn out, bogging down the book, and I ended up in the 3 star range. The author does this in her middle grade/YA books as well and I think I was expecting less, not more in a book meant for adults where generally we can come to our own moral decisions with less prodding.

That said, I truly appreciate the jolt of christmas spirit that I received because I needed it.

Recap:

Holiday magic ✔ cheer ✔ baby reindeer ✔ Dickens Quotes ✔ more ✔

Definitely a slow burn but worth it in the end, and I recommend for anyone looking for a wholesome Christmas story!

Categories
Adventure Historical Fiction

The New Kingdom (ARC Review) by Wilbur Smith & Mark Chadbourn

Thank you so much to Zaffre and Bookish First for the opportunity to read yet another new Wilbur Smith novel!

I swear by Smith’s historical fiction, with it’s  unapologetic brutality and what I feel is probably a pretty honest portrayal of how things would have been.  By all accounts his novels are well researched, plus always an interesting adventure whether the book is read in order or as a standalone.

That said, I will admit to seeing a huge difference in the writing quality of this installment vs. the original Smith novels.  If I remember correctly this one fits in sometime around Warlock, or it crunches the events of a few books…. Heck maybe I need a reread

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The New Kingdom
  • Series: Ancient Egypt, #7
  • Author: Wilbur Smith & Mark Chadbourn
  • Publisher & Release: Zaffre, 9/7/21
  • Length: 432 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of HistFic and adventure

Here is the description:

In the heart of Egypt,
Under the watchful eye of the Gods,
A new power is rising . . .

In the city of Lahun, Hui lives an enchanted life. The favoured son of a doting father, and ruler-in-waiting of the great city, his fate is set. But behind the beautiful façades a sinister evil is plotting. Craving power and embittered by jealousy, Hui’s stepmother, the great sorceress Ipsetnofret, and Hui’s own brother Qen, orchestrate the downfall of Hui’s father, condemning Hui and seizing power in the city.

Cast out and alone, Hui finds himself a captive of a skilled and powerful army of outlaws, the Hyksos. Determined to seek vengeance for the death of his father and rescue his sister, Ipwet, Hui swears his allegiance to these enemies of Egypt. Through them he learns the art of war, learning how to fight and becoming an envied charioteer.

But soon Hui finds himself in an even greater battle – one for the very heart of Egypt itself. As the pieces fall into place and the Gods themselves join the fray, Hui finds himself fighting alongside the Egyptian General Tanus and renowned Mage, Taita. Now Hui must choose his path – will he be a hero in the old world, or a master in a new kingdom?

Smith saw potential in the Hui character and wrote him a history/spinoff story, possibly series.  I totally 100% endorse this decision and can’t wait to see what the next one holds.

While each and every one of Smith’s books can be read as a standalone, the cameos in The New Kingdom are there along with quite a few easter eggs for returning readers.  I thought Taita’s eyes would fall off his face from rolling them so much.

Despite solid pacing and excitement throughout, I thought the book didn’t quite deliver on the synopsis. The Ka stone and the Gods were hinted to be a big part of the novel and to avoid spoilers, I will just say that I wanted more from both of those topics.

I wanted more from Hui becoming a charioteer as well, but I believe we will see the fruits of that in the next novel.

I liked watching Hui come so close to losing his true self. He was so sweetly naive until his family’s betrayal. Then he became a thief, a guard, a Little Rat, then a killer, and finally, in an amazing scene, a hardened captain.  Throughout the book Fareed, a scout, was a static character but acted as a soul mirror for Hui.  A running theme throughout the book was to find out how much humanity Hui retained through all his trials, and in another amazing scene Smith showed that through it all Hui never did lose his true self.

Smith is not an author for inner monologue but Hui is a fairly deep and interesting character.

Tanus and Taita, well, all I can say is go read the other Ancient Egypt books.

Tim Holland wrote a great afterward to provide a broad historical context for the characters, and I almost wish it had been presented as a forward.  It makes sense that with thousands of years of peace and prosperity, Egypt felt pretty invincible.

The other thing that makes these books seem so realistic is how well Smith brings the climate, setting, and mood of the populace into play: whether in a baking desert, war-torn city, refugee camp, or Pharaoh’s palace, I feel like I can picture those sun burnt dripping slaves and sandstorm, midden heaps and incense, terrified citizens… For historical fiction and immersion these things always feel important to me

The only other thing I would have asked for was either section breaks or dates, because it was very hard to tell how much time was passing between major events and I feel like that information would have been helpful to the story.

Overall, not Smith’s best but another very solid book.  He is one of my auto buy authors.  Definitely and always recommend for HistFic readers and adventure lovers.

Categories
audiobooks Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Crime

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann

It’s nonfiction November, and I have had this e-book on my digital shelf forever! Between the time of year and a friend’s recommendation, I finally read it. 

Quick verdict: a bit hard to follow at times, but I feel like everyone should be aware of this part of  indigenous history and the crimes involved

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
  • Author: David Grann
  • Publisher & Release: Doubleday, April 2017
  • Length: 352 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨

Here is the description:

From New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
      Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.
      In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the “Phantom Terror,” roamed—many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection.  Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history. 
      In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating

So Killers is an extremely interesting story with an investigative journalism and true crime feel.  i feel like if I hadn’t switched to the audiobook, parts of it would have been drawn out and slower to read, especially the third section.

The book is about the Osage and their exploitation, murders, and lack of justice during the 1910’s thru 1930s. After the tribe moved to a rocky, hard to farm area following the Louisiana Purchase and further movement west, prospectors struck liquid gold and the tribe became rich on oil. After that, they were prime targets of greedy men and women all over the country. Then the murders started.

Split into three sections, the first about the Osage and the victims, centered around one lady and her family in particular. The second section was about the investigation into the murders and the eventual FBI involvement, and the third from today’s perspective about the author’s research and viewing of the area.  He dropped in and saw how depressed the tribal lands looked in present time, with some descendants still looking for answers about the murders. 

I think it’s an important and brutal part of history to be aware of, but honestly wasn’t a fan of the telling. I read parts 1 and 3 and listened to Will Patton 🖤 narrate the second. The whole book felt loosely strung together and it was impossible to keep track of so many names; I felt lost through most of it.  There were sooo many names and descriptions in part one, and eventually I told myself that the names are less important than the history in general, but this ruined some of the true crime, whodunit part of the book for me

That said, there is also a lot of good, interesting, and exciting information and many exciting stories provided about the events and murders, of both the tribal members and of those investigating.  Anyone too close to the source usually ended up dead as well.  I couldn’t believe how much corruption and greed there was, for some reason I thought a lot of that outlaw justice and exploitation was over by the 1920s, but I was very very very wrong.

One of my favorite facts was about all the Sherlockian private eyes that were trying to investigate – this was funny only in that I never knew there were pipe smoking detectives trying to play Sherlock back in the early 1900s. I cringed when someone did a lobotomy and poked a murdered victim’s brain with a stick.

What I will carry forward is the knowledge that these injustices happened, and that justice for these people was hard fought, inconclusive, and fleeting at best.

Overall: read or listen to it for sure if you have interest in Native American, American history, true crime, history of law enforcement

** a quick note on the audio: published in 2017 by Random House Audio, 9 hours and 7 minutes long.  Narrators are Will Patton, Ann Marie Lee, Danny Campbell.  I will obviously listen to anything that Will Patton reads, I feel like he could make a cereal box interesting.  Each narrator read one section.  Ann Marie Lee was okay, but not amazing, and I think the author should have read Danny Campbell’s section.   If the text is a little dry I would say switch over and give audio a try

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Contemporary Paranormal Romance

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring M.A. Philips!

Another week, another awesome interview! Episode 13 of the Sunday Brunch Series features local author M.A. Philips, writer of the Rituals of Rock Bay trilogy!
I found M.A. totally by accident while looking at Shadow Spark publishing titles, and thought it was absolutely incredible to find someone writing books in and about NNY & the Thousand Islands area. What a thrill to have worked at the hospital mentioned in the book, picture the waters of the St Lawrence, and learn a bit about Irish Legends!
Come to find that M.A. is also an absolutely lovely person to chat with, and I was floored when she agreed to come onto the SBS!
Read on to learn about the author, book, writing process, some resources to explore druidry, and much more!

🍁Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your books!

🎤Thank you for having me! I’m a writer and teacher from Upstate NY (near the Thousand Island Region).  When I’m not writing, I enjoy gardening, reading, sewing, cooking, watching anime, and spending time with my husband and daughter. Much of my writing involves modern Pagans because I’m part of that spiritual community. I want to portray our beliefs realistically while also weaving in lots of magical realism and romance. Next year, one of my short stories will be published in an anthology called Brigid’s Light: Tending the Ancestral Flame of the Beloved Celtic Goddess edited by Cairelle Crow and Laura Louella. As for WIPs, I’m currently writing a new novel about a witch who primarily works with plants.
🍁 I was so excited to find a local author! Your love for the St Lawrence is clear in your writing, did you always know you wanted to base the setting locally too?
🎤 I didn’t! The earliest iterations of River Magic, before it was centered in a village on the St. Lawrence River, was originally going to take place in Utica, NY! I grew up in that area and was writing what I knew at the time. After moving up here, I fell in love with the Thousand Islands. Over the last decade, I came to know the land and waters more intimately, and once the mermaid entered the picture, switching to a North Country-based story was right.

Now my current WIP takes place in Utica, though it’s more urban than my previous series. It’s been fun to explore and reconnect with that part of my life again.

🍁River Magic sparked a huge interest in magical realism for me, a genre that I have hardly read. How did the book change the most from your original idea or draft?
🎤I’m so glad you became interested in magical realism! The genre really captured my attention after reading some of Alice Hoffman’s books like Practical Magic and Indigo (especially the latter due to the inclusion of mermaids). In my original drafts, Lacey and Cian were part of a more fantastical world. I suppose it would have started as urban fantasy but become increasingly more of an epic supernatural romance. The characters were so drastically different back then, and it never felt right. The conflict was too global, and I decided I wanted to tone it way down and think about what messages I really wanted to send.
🍁I had no idea that druidry was a modern practice, or that we had a local chapter! Can you recommend some reading material or a website for anyone else who might be interested in learning more.
🎤Sure! If anyone who reads my books is interested in what Lacey, Cian, and Fiona do, I would suggest reading books by Morgan Daimler or Lora O’Brien. Irish Pagan School is a great online resource with many reasonable classes and teachers from Ireland. There are some wonderful intro classes for example. I’m also a part of a grove of Druids in the Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) tradition, so that’s another option as well. Read or listen to the lore, take heed of what Irish (or Scottish, Welsh, Cornish) authors and scholars have to say, and listen to your own intuition.  Like my characters, I’m just a student who is trying to respect the living Irish culture.
🍁Did the rituals and practices described in Rituals of Rock Bay come from your own experiences? 

🎤They did, though not always verbatim, and I often simplified so as to not gum up the pace. When characters continually attend or perform rituals and magic in a similar manner, I ran the risk of those scenes becoming repetitive. I focused on the seasonal changes, how life events intertwined with these celebrations, and the characters’ development in regards to familiarity with the traditions, skill, and confidence. Some magical practices shown in the series are activities I’ve only witnessed or read about, though, but everything is based on authentic practice within the Pagan community.
🍁I loved the ongoing theme of holding to one’s convictions and doing what’s right! What would you like the new adult audience to take away from the Rituals of Rock Bay?
🎤I’m so glad you enjoyed that theme! I hope readers can relate to Lacey and Cian in their efforts to find their place in life and be true to themselves and their intuition. I also explore the importance of community throughout the series. You don’t have to be alone. Find your people!
🍁How do you feel about brunch? Any favorite items?
🎤I don’t get to enjoy brunch nearly enough! I’m always down for mid-day waffles and mimosas. 
🍁The Irish mythology elements in the series were cool too, do you have a favorite story from that lore?
🎤I’m very drawn to stories about the Tuath Dé Danann, the gods of Ireland. I also adore anything about selkies and other legendary creatures. I actually reference one of my favorite myths in River Magic: the story about the god Angus and his lover, Caer. As it involved dreams and romance, it was fitting for Lacey.
🍁One of the magical elements in River Magic included a river spirit in the shape of a Sturgeon! {{There are rumored to be some up the Oswegatchee and maybe Black River too but I’ve never seen one}}. I was wondering why you chose a sturgeon?
🎤The decision to move the setting to the St. Lawrence River and incorporate a mermaid happened around the same time, and I decided that she would be a sturgeon spirit shortly after that. In the book, there’s a scene where Lacey is standing in a hotel balcony looking down at the river, and she sees a creature who looks like a shark, but Cian explains it’s actually a sturgeon. That’s based on an experience I had in Alexandria Bay. I was blown away by the creature’s size. The more I read about them, the more I admired these beautiful swimming fossils. They quickly became my favorite fish, and incorporating sturgeon was central to the environmental elements of the story.
🍁Here is the easy round of rapid fire bookish questions! Do you have a favorite book or series that you always recommend? Favorite character? Any wonderful or strange bookish habits?
🎤Oh no, these are the hardest! Haha! The first favorite series I really obsessed over were the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. I devoured them and, for many years, emulated his style of writing. As a teen, I loved the concept of a medieval world of anthropomorphic animals. As I grew, I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I will always admire Samwise. I’m also a fan of the Outlander series, and love the enduring relationship between Claire and Jamie. For more magical realism, I highly recommend Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen.  As for strange bookish habits…um…this is really divisive, but I dogear pages (only if they belong to me). Don’t judge me!
{{This is a judgement free zone!!}}

🍁Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there is anything else you’d like to say about anything at all, please do so here!

 
 🎤 Thank you for chatting! I’m delighted you found my novels and enjoyed the first one enough to share your thoughts and interview me. Experiences like this keep me writing. 
 
Your readers can find my books through Shadow Spark Publishing in e-book and paperback format. https://shadowsparkpub.com/ma-phillip

Meet the author!

“M. A. Phillips lives in Northern NY with her husband, daughter, and three cats. She is a writer, English teacher, & practicing Druid. Some of her short stories have been published in Stone, Root, and Bone magazine. Her debut, River Magic, is an adult magical realism novel featuring a friends to lovers romance, contemporary Pagans, & a vengeful mermaid.

When she isn’t writing, you can find her in the garden, sewing, or enjoying a book with a side of tea. You can read more about her spiritual and creative journey on her blog ditzydruid.com, or on Twitter & Instagram @ditzydruid

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
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 


Categories
Fantasy

The Dragon Reborn (book thoughts) by Robert Jordan

 

The Wheel of Time – see review: 🗡🗡🗡🗡

The Great Hunt – see review – 🗡🗡🗡🗡🗡

 

I can’t believe it took nearly three months to struggle through this book, although there were multiple reasons for it.

First off, after the first two chapters or so I was bored to tears.  It took RJ 300+ pages just to get the characters down their respective rivers, and I was so bored by the Egwene & Nynaeve & Aes Sedai storyline.

Mat turning into a superhero was the only reason I didn’t just give up

Secondly, the buddy read itself.  I was doing well with it until my ex ghosted and of course obviously dropped the chat. I really liked our buddy reads so it soured the book for me a bit. I got so far behind the rest of the group and ended up letting it sit for a few weeks.

Towards the end, once the action picked back up – say the last 100 pages – I couldn’t put it down.  Overall I would say TDR was unevenly paced, mostly slow, and so repetitive

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Dragon Reborn
  • Series: The Wheel of Time, #3
  • Author: Robert Jordan
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books, Sept 1991
  • Length: 624pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🗡🗡🗡 three swords for being what it is

Here is the synopsis:

The Dragon Reborn—the leader long prophesied who will save the world, but in the saving destroy it; the savior who will run mad and kill all those dearest to him—is on the run from his destiny.

Able to touch the One Power, but unable to control it, and with no one to teach him how—for no man has done it in three thousand years—Rand al’Thor knows only that he must face the Dark One. But how?

Winter has stopped the war—almost—yet men are dying, calling out for the Dragon. But where is he?

Perrin Aybara is in pursuit with Moiraine Sedai, her Warder Lan, and Loial the Ogier. Bedeviled by dreams, Perrin is grappling with another deadly problem—how is he to escape the loss of his own humanity?

Egwene, Elayne and Nynaeve are approaching Tar Valon, where Mat will be healed—if he lives until they arrive. But who will tell the Amyrlin their news—that the Black Ajah, long thought only a hideous rumor, is all too real? They cannot know that in Tar Valon far worse awaits…

Ahead, for all of them, in the Heart of the Stone, lies the next great test of the Dragon reborn….

The worldbuilding and characters continue to be good in themselves but I really didn’t care for the three women at all in this installment. Their chapters were mostly the hard to read, boring ones, although Person got awfully repetitive too in the dream world.

Mat randomly turned into a superhero, and he was my favorite. The amount of Perrin has to be leading up to something, while it was just weird to see so little of Rand, minus his little coup de grâce at the end.  Like seriously I expected a lot more of Rand.

 

** this paragraph may contain a spoiler but it’s fairly obvious from book one:** My theory about Ba’alzamon vs Ishamael was finally confirmed, which was something.  It was so naïve of Rand to think he was dead!

The ending was exciting though, I just think Jordan could have shortened it up a lot by not repeating himself so much and maybe speeding up some of the travelling segments. Like did Rand just run the whole way on foot and still beat the others?  Why 300 pages to have them sailing down the rivers?

The new dark creatures, and the banter of the new character (falcon) were some of my favorite parts.  I liked the addition of the Aiel in the storyline too.   Also, where was Min in this one?

I’m going to give this series one more book but I’m really not sure if I will end up continuing past the next book, all 1001 pages of it!

I mean I’m not delusional enough to think that all 14 books are going to be exciting but this one was by far the hardest to get through so far. 

Have you read them? What do you think?


Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Michael S. Jackson!

Thank you so much to Michael S. Jackson for inviting me onto his blog tour for Ringlander: The Path and the Way!  I turned that around and invited him onto the Sunday Brunch Series, and was super excited when he said yes!!
So, welcome to episode 8 of the Sunday Brunch Series!! Michael is a Scottish author who released his debut novel back in April.  Here he talks a bit about it, offers some publishing advice, gives a fascinating chat about maps, and more!! Do read on!

1) Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your debut novel!

Hello!!! I guess I can call myself an author now that I’ve written a book and I can hold the thing in my hand — that’s going to take some getting used to. Let’s go with writer. I’m Michael S. Jackson, writer AND author of Ringlander: The Path and the Way, the first book in a new original epic fantasy adventure

2) What led you to self publishing? Do you have any advice for hopeful authors trying to write or publish a book?

I wanted to give self publishing a go because through my working life I’ve done all the various pieces like design, typography, file formatting, copywriting, and indie publishing brings it all together. What better project to work on than your own book? The thing you’ve ached, cried and bled over for the past x number of years. It definitely was something I fancied trying so I just thought, let’s check it out.

It’s actually pretty straightforward, although there are some nuances that make for some interesting quirks. For example KDP’s user interface wants you to upload a cover, and it checks to see if it is ok before you print a proof, but if you refresh the page during the process it can cause issues. The KDP service is incredible but the UI has some ways to go before it’s up there. Reedsy has a phenomenal user interface and even some writing tools that build your ebook files for you. That’s the level Amazon needs to get to.

For advice though, the best I can offer is – don’t be afraid to talk to people. If you need an artist for your cover, go and speak to some artists. Twitter makes things so easy. Find some artists you like, tell them you love their work (and why) and send them some of your book. Suggest scenes, be passionate and soon enough you’ll find yourself with an artist eager to work with you. Apply that same mechanic for editors, formatters, and the wheels of your project will be thoroughly greased. It will cost you, but ultimately it will be worth it.

3) What’s your favorite brunch food??

Ohhhh, good question. Banana & blueberry no-egg pancakes with bacon and/or black pudding is pretty hot right now in our house. Sunday food.

{{Ah gosh guys if you are squeamish don’t look up black pudding 😂😂 this must be a Scottish thing! I do love hearing how other countries do brunch!}}

4) There are lots of themes, ideas, characters, major events, etc happening in The Path and the Way – do you remember which idea came first? Was there one that you built the book around?

Absolutely. I wrote the first chapter first, although it was actually the third chapter then, as weird as that sounds. Chapter one and two ended feeling like filler, which is never good for the beginning of a book, so I went back to basics and gave chapter three the spotlight. The start of Ringlander is pretty brutal, but it was such a visceral opening and introduction to the main character Kyira that I decided to keep it.

5) Do you have a particular favorite scene or chapter from the book?

Games. That chapter has got such rich visual descriptions as Fia walks through the city of Tyr, and I think it perfectly introduces her. I had to do some character merging early on with Janike and another female character, but the soul of that chapter has remained the same from very early on, and even after I’ve read it over a hundred times (literally) it still is as bright and clear in my mind as when I first wrote it.

6) I noticed an ongoing theme of maps and there was a pretty cool puzzle box too, do you have a real life interest in maps or is it more of a fantasy novel thing?

Maps are a very real part of Ringlander, so it was also a nice opportunity to try illustrating a map. I had the shape down after I accidentally spilled coffee on a bowl and it printed a ring on some paper, so I traced it with pencil and took a photo. It became the the shape of Rengas, the world of the Ringlanders.

I also don’t have some weird map-type job or anything, I just really liked the idea of including something that stood for finding one’s way, which is what every character in Ringlander is doing.

We take maps for granted. The fact that Google has mapped the entire world to the street level is an incredible feat, like science-fiction level of accomplishment and yet no one really talks about it. It’s weird, as a concept, always knowing where you are. This is the only time in human history that a human can work out where they are to within inches and see images of their environment from where they stand, and it’s only happened in the past ten years or so. Remove that and the world descends into chaos.

Knowing where you stand geographically is tied very much to where you stand everywhere else. We’re all trying to find out who we are and where we’re going, and the idea that a culture like Kyira’s has the blood of the navigators in their veins, enabled the Ringlander story to work on many different levels. It became a wonderful tapestry and as I wrote I began to see those layers unravel and reweave into new ideas that helped keep me on track.

7. Do you have a favorite fantasy map??

Two of the most beautiful fantasy maps I’ve seen (and I researched a lot of them) are Illka Auer’s (https://twitter.com/IlkkaAuer/status/1189464988618051585 or https://twitter.com/ilkkaauer/status/1226872574623219714) but honourable mention to Stephen Aryan’s The Coward, which is also beautiful. I spent a fair amount of time checking out r/mapmakers too, which has some amazing fictional world maps.

7) if you could go have adult beverages with any author (or fantasy character) in the world, who would you pick and why?

Uhhh, Logen Ninefingers. Easy. Or maybe Gandalf. I’d ask him to explain some of those powers, and if he was really reborn to become Gandalf the White. If it had to be an author I’d love to pick Patrick Rothfuss’ brains, the way he devised Sympathy in The Kingkiller Chronicles is just… I’d love to ask him how he did it. Or actually maybe Brandon Sanderson and how he manages to write so much detail over and over again.

8)  Here is the easy round of rapid fire bookish questions – do you have a favorite book or series you always recommend? What about in fantasy? A favorite literary character? Any wonderful or strange bookish habits?

I’m gunna sound like a fanboy here, but the First Law is such an easy recommendation. It’s got everything: magic, intrigue, attitude. Sold. As for strange bookish habits… I can’t read unless all is quiet. I’m a total purist and I read to be able to immerse myself in the world, so if I’m being pestered, then I can’t read. Weirdly though, I can usually write, even if the house is quite busy. Not sure what that’s about to be honest.

9) Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to say about anything, please do so here!

The people in the indie business are the nicest I have come across in any industry. They’re passionate and clever and love their work (which is often unpaid or voluntary). Going self published was something I really liked the idea of, but I was not prepared for how many cool people there are in the business. Every single person I’ve liaised with since Ringlander hit the shelves has been so helpful. I also run Author Interviews and the authors I’ve worked there are the same. So I’ve come to the conclusion it’s a book thing. Books clearly bring out the best in people.

{{I totally agree, the indie community is absolutely amazing and I’m so glad to be a part of it as well}}


Here is the general info and book blurb if you want to read more! One link below does contain the first chapter excerpt too!

  • Title: The Path and the Way
  • Series: The Ringlander, #1
  • Publisher: Self, 04/27/21
  • Length: 526 pages
  • Genre: fantasy, epic fantasy, adult fantasy

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Here is the synopsis via Amazon:

The first book in the Ringlander Series: a fast-paced, epic fantasy adventure full of games, grit and magic.

Holes between worlds are tearing through Rengas. Firestorms are raging as multiple realities battle for control of the elements. Even the Way, the turbulent channel that separates Nord, Határ and Kemen, the lifeblood of the city of Tyr, has turned.

Kyira’s search for her missing brother draws her away from the familiar frozen lines of Nord and south into the chaotic streets of Tyr where games are played & battles fought. As reality tears Kyira must choose between her family or her path before the worlds catch up with her.her.


Book & Author Links!

To read an excerpt: https://ringlander.com/

On Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/mikestepjack

Author Website: mjackson.co.uk

On Instagram: https://instagram.com/mikestepjack?utm_medium=copy_link

On Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ringlander-Path-Epic-Fantasy-Adventure-ebook/dp/B093C93P46