TEASER: Ensaak (Warlords of the Sandsea, #1)

“Ensaadi?” The Dunedrifter, Ashek, held his sword loose at his side. The light caught the scuffs and gashes in his armor, worn from years of hard use. “Are you the ensaadi, woman?”

Talitha adjusted her grip on her own weapon. “I am Talitha of Ilios, eldest heir of the Ensaak of Ilios.”

“How…inconvenient.” The Dunedrifter let off a slow exhale, glancing to where the sand still writhed and roiled in the doomworm burrow.

“My lord?”

“She saved my life.” Ashek said the words almost like a curse. “Me and Eudoras.”

“You sound disappointed.”

Coming January 16, 2018

*Pre-edited excerpt. Subject to change.

Shouting at the Sky

I think most people feel unheard.

Writers certainly do, I think that’s one of the big things that drives us to write in the first place.

If you’re feeling unheard, I want you to know that you still matter.

Loneliness makes it worse. You can get to the point you think you could step off the edge of the earth and no one would bat an eye.

It’s easy to feel stuffed between the cracks, like no one is looking, no one cares.

Books were and are my escape. I still need people, though.

As much as I would love to substitute my paper friends for my flesh and blood ones, that’s neither practical nor possible.

Besides, it’s not always about me. Sometimes, it’s about letting the people who care about you know you care about them, too.

If you have the chance to help someone feel heard, do it, please. 

I realized how easy it is to give someone a fabulous time at parties just by listening. Hearing their stories, genuinely caring about them.

It’s so simple, yet so powerful.

Making someone just a little happier is only one question away: How was your day?

Since I started doing this, people have told me I was a good friend, that I helped them figure things out, all just by listening.

There’s no easy solution to feeling unheard. But for me, helping other people feel heard has been the best cure yet.

 

Fantasy Books Change the World, Too

It’s true most Fantasy readers read Fantasy for escapism.

I did and still do. That doesn’t mean Fantasy or other speculative fiction books don’t teach us lessons.

We can learn about human nature in any genre. 

Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet made me question and eventually come to realize all people have intrinsic worth.

The Chronicles of Narnia has helped me and thousands of others explore our faith on a deeper level by pondering the nature of God (with talking horses and badass archer-queens for seasoning).

Ursula K. Le Guin’s complex and highly moral writing has lately led me to question the nature of old age. Is it truly a bad thing? As a Christian, I believe death is just a transformation into another existence, but old age?

The best time to change people’s minds is when they aren’t expecting it.

Books that directly address issues are needed, no doubt. But there are other times when the people who really need to hear a message won’t hear it unless it’s piggybacking on something else.

As a kid, I would never have read a book about racism. But I did read a book about magic ninjas, and the characters who had to struggle with racism got me thinking. Nor would I have read about the effects of imperialism, but the Tyrants and Kings trilogy wrapped the whole topic in the shiny bow of a sorcerous adventure.

Fantasy books have led me to more realizations than “real world” books ever did.

Escapism doesn’t mean it’s mindless. That’s something even Fantasy writers don’t seem to understand.

Fantasy and other speculative fiction books have the power to change hearts and minds while being entertaining and exciting as (I believe) no other genre can.

That’s their true magic.

 

It was JUST make-believe

When I was little, there was a “friend” who pretended to shoot my puppy with a toy gun.

When I got upset, I was told it was “just make-believe.” But it turns out that “friend” and the other children like him grew up to be adults who thought killing puppies was alright in reality.

The things we excuse in “make-believe,” we will excuse in real-life.

Maybe not immediately, but given enough time, it will happen. A kettle on low heat still boils if nothing changes. It’s not just with children playing, either.

This rule applies to books, movies, songs, TV, and other forms of entertainment, too. What we can justify happening in a story, we can justify in the real world.

Life reflects art and art reflects life.

When we find ourselves sympathizing with or wanting to emulate a story’s villains, when the line between protagonist and antagonist is blurred…we know there’s a problem.

We can’t ever let ourselves forget the difference between right and wrong. Not even in make-believe.

Genre Mislabeling: A Tale of Woe

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I have a request for the people of academia, the book bloggersphere, and the author community:

LEARN THE BASICS OF GENRE LABELING pretty please?

It would mean ever so much.

Namely, could people kindly learn the differences between “containing elements” of a genre and being part of that genre?

A part of me dies every time I see Dracula called a Romance.

It is not a Romance. Pride and Prejudice is a Romance. Romance novels should center around a couple’s individual attraction/love story. (Neither of those is the driving factor in the original Victorian classic.)

Romance novels MUST have a “happily ever after” ending*. That is universally agreed upon by the Romance Writers of America and every single Romance writer’s association out there. GOOGLE IT.

Dracula is a monster story, don’t let the highly derivative erotica fan fiction fool you.

Romance is the hottest genre on the market right now, so it makes sense people would try to leach off its success. But it’s false advertising, even if that happens with every popular genre.

Young Adult is more than having a >18 character. (Look at Game of Thrones.)

YA books are generally concerned with coming-of-age and self-discovery. There are also themes of growth and there should generally be a sense of hopefulness. Romeo and Juliet, for example, is not YA (or Romance).

YA books should also be less graphic than Adult.

As a general rule, if a scene/description is so graphic a kid would need permission from a legal guardian to see it on film, they probably shouldn’t be reading it.

That’s just common decency and logic.

Epic Fantasy is supposed to be EPIC.

It’s right there in the title. Epic Fantasy is, by definition and convention, supposed to take place in a separate world unconnected to ours.

It is also supposed to span years, at least. Some Epic series can span lifetimes or centuries. In the case of Tolkien, it spanned tens of thousands of years.

Fantasy/Paranormal get used interchangeably, but THEY ARE NOT THE SAME.

In Fantasy, the outlandish is the driving factor behind the story, setting, and characters. You are quite obviously not in our world. TWILIGHT IS NOT FANTASY!!!

Paranormal is less in-depth and often centers around ordinary humans interacting with the supernatural. However, there is still an obvious link to our contemporary reality.

Urban Fantasy takes elements of both. It focuses on the supernatural taking place within human cities and tends to have a large focus on romance without actually  being romance.

Fantasy: The Dresden Files, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Dragonriders of Pern
Paranormal: The Black Dagger Brotherhood, Vampire Diaries
Urban Fantasy: Most books by Patricia Briggs and Charlaine Harris.

Genre can be sticky, it’s true. There are other times when it’s glaringly obvious.

For the sake of bestseller charts and “what to read next” lists everywhere, I am begging you all to AT LEAST TRY.

Some books flex genres and may have overlap in several, but there will always be a dominant, most suitable genre.

*People who are not Romance writers: Bram Stoker, Nicholas Sparks, Gaston Leroux, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, John Green, etc.

COVER REVEAL: Fanged Rebel (Fanged, #4)

After barely escaping Arizona with their lives, Haddie, Damian, and Madelyn realize the time has come to fight the Vampire King, but they’ll need more friends—a lot more. The Faulkners call a meeting of Huntsmen to help recruit people who hate the Vampire King more than his wayward children. But Haddie and Damian’s mother shows up with her army-in-a-box, turning a negotiation into a hostage situation.

Now everyone is trapped in a hotel full of jumpy monster-killers and surrounded by hired  guns. When people start to go missing, it’s only a matter of time before the slaughter starts. Worse, they soon learn the Vampire King is getting impatient. He wants the unrest quelled and Damian—his heir—back in New England to put an end to this embarrassment. Either way, Haddie and her brother, their mother, and the Huntsmen will have to band together if they want to survive what’s coming.

Resistance wasn’t enough. It’s time for rebellion.

Coming December 12, 2017

What do you guys think? ARE YOU AS EXCITED AS ME?!?!?!

Top Ten Unrealistic Expectations from Fantasy Books

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It is well documented that the hopes laid out by Fantasy books are not always met. As a Fantasy author, I feel the duty to alert people to the dangers of unrealistic expectations and give a disclaimer as to what readers can expect in their non-literary lives.

1. Unrealistic Expectations of Pets

To date, I have owned three dogs, a mini horse, a donkey, a goat, and dozens of fish. Not a one of them has talked or turned out to be a lost royal in disguise. Sure, they still enriched my life and taught me a good deal of what I know about love, but who cares?

2. Unrealistic Expectations of Relationships

Fantasy books often dangerously teach us that love can last forever and people can stick it out through tough times. I mean, seriously?

3. Unrealistic Expectations of Politicians

There is obviously no way politicians are actual real people with feelings and emotions. Not like they’re human or anything.

4. Unrealistic Expectations of Inanimate Objects

My coffee pot has yet to walk across my table and pour my morning dose of caffeine. Then again, it might help if I owned a coffee pot.

5. Unrealistic Expectations of Parents

Everybody knows parents fail you. Most the time, fantasy books are pretty good about this, but every so often…they sneak in the idea that families can be FUNCTIONAL.

6. Unrealistic Expectations of Schools

Most schools don’t have werewolf professors, ancient curses, or vampire students. I know, it was disappointing for me, too.

7. Unrealistic Expectations of Mentors

None of my professors or mentors has yet to reveal themselves as a secret warlock sent to watch over me since birth. I’ve kept asking, but no.

8. Unrealistic Expectations of Food

Where is my bread that fills me up after one bite? I need that stuff. I’m a college student, damn it.

9. Unrealistic Expectations of Cutlery

Real knives and swords are breakable, just FYI. I learned this the hard way.

10. Unrealistic Expectations of Nature

To date, I have yet to find a water sprite, tree god, or fortuitously placed stream that leads to Faerie. I’m not quite ready to give up on that last one, though…

There you have it. Sorry, but we live on Earth. At least, we do to my knowledge. Are there any other unrealistic expectations people should be aware of?

Review: Dorian’s Game (The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, #0.5) by T.L. Shreffler

Dorian’s life has always been a bit quiet and uneventful — that is, until he meets Adelaide Warde.

Determined to find a sacred relic in the nearby mines, Adelaide enlists Dorian as a guide. However, there is another in search of the relic — a mysterious traveler named Crash, who hopes to use the relic to escape his past.

Suddenly caught up in a conflict he wants no part of, who will Dorian help? The woman who has stolen his heart, or a stranger in need?”

*Fans of The Cat’s Eye Chronicles can now read the story of how Burn, Dorian and Crash met, and how Volcrian’s hunt truly began!

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

My rating: 5/5

I fell in love with this series years ago when I lived in the middle of nowhere and had to use my library’s WiFi to download books on my Kindle. This series has been an addiction, an obsession, an escape, and an inspiration.

The plot:

This is one of those stories where I thought I knew where it would go and that’s not where it went at all. Readers of the series know generally how it ends, but there were still many questions and surprises. It was incredibly how the author pulled it off.

The pacing:

Shreffler has developed a remarkable pacing ability. These stories feel much longer than they are (in a good way) because there is so much we discover. She writes in a way that keeps the reader engaged and guessing.

I read this in a single day, getting up at 5 a.m. to read if before school, cramming 5 minute reading sessions between classes, and late into the night.

IT WAS THAT GOOD.

The characters:

Dorian didn’t really connect with me in the first book. I didn’t really develop an emotional connection. In this one, that all changes. We get to see more of his personable history and thoughts and it was truly moving.

The rest of the cast was no exception. The familiar characters became more lovable and the new ones quickly became sympathetic. I came to care deeply even for the ones I knew would die and even some of the villains. The complexity, individualism, and development of the cast was incredible.

Overall:

I am still so, so, so in love with this series. It’s amazing to see how far this author has come and I can’t wait to see what she does next! I wholly recommend anything by her and she’s one of perhaps only three of my “auto buy” authors.

Top Five Favorite Author Bromances

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Authors are (often accurately) stereotyped as introverted observers of the world around them. However, no man (or woman) is an island and no art is ever made in a vacuum. Authors need support groups, too, and literary friendships are to thank for most of our language’s great classics.

J.R.R. Tolkien & C.S. Lewis

It’s no secrets these two legends were friends. Their weekly meetings with a group of fellow creatives at Oxford are near legendary in their own right. These gentlemen would all gather at a local pub and shoot ideas off one another for hours.

If I had a time machine…

Sarah J. Maas & Susan Dennard

Better known as the YA authors of Throne of Glass and Truthwitch, these two ladies have been friends since before they both broke into the spotlight. I’m sure it’s no coincidence sororal friendship plays such a huge part in both their books!

Robert E. Howard & H.P. Lovecraft

You may not know their names, but you know their characters: Conan and Cthulhu. Howard wrote repeatedly to Lovecraft, often speaking of his difficulties with publishers and characters alike.

It’s because of this friendship we know much of Howard’s feelings towards his work and what he was thinking during certain projects. For example, he often complained about the sexualization of the Conan stories.

(I’m almost glad he never saw where the franchise has ended up.)

Charlotte Brontë & Emily Brontë

The Brontë siblings were all writers, including Emily and Charlotte’s brother and third sister. Growing up the sheltered children of a remote village pastor, the Brontë children were often left to their own devices with only one another as playmates.

Raised in the ethereal landscape of England’s moors, the young Brontës all developed splendid imaginations. These imaginations are to thank for Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Though all four of the Brontë siblings died young and without children of their own, their literary legacies have been enshrined in print, TV, and film and are studied in classrooms around the world.

Lord Byron & Mary Shelley

Yes, the mind who brought us the first Sci-Fi novel and the enigmatic, womanizing poet were friends (perhaps more?). Legend has it that the pair began writing Frankenstein and Manfred one rainy evening in Switzerland as part of a bet.

Interestingly, Byron’s friend and physician, William Polidori, was also there. Polidori, though virtually unknown, is credited with writing the first vampire story, simply titled “The Vampyre.”

The muse was strong that night!

What are some of your favorite author friendships? Artist friendships? Let’s hear ’em!