Monthly Archives: July 2014

Blogroll: Characters Count

blogroll pic

This blogroll is all about characters.
Writing them, editing them, defining them, and playing favorites with them.

If you’re participating in this blogroll, just answer the following questions, include the previously tagged authors and their blogs, and add some new authors/bloggers below. I’d appreciate you including the blogroll image above, but I won’t chase after you with any red pens of doom if you don’t. Yep, it’s really that simple.

What is your favorite part about writing characters?

My absolute favorite part about writing the characters is when they jump off the page. Once they do this, they are no longer flat archetypes. When they have their own personal flair and quirks making them three-dimensional and so much more fun to write. Maybe they might have some “typical” reaction but what’s going on inside their heads and driving the reaction is so layered and occasionally surprising.

What is the hardest thing you have to do when you create a character and what’s the easiest?

The hardest part of the creation project is figuring out their last names and naming places. I know, it’s weird but I find it so much easier to give them first names. On my latest project, Tiger’s Paw, the very last brainstorming session involved figuring out the family names for Baran and Raina. Place names are difficult for me because I have to decide between something fanciful or something more along the lines of “Blue River.” The absolute easiest part of creating the character is their personality. Once I know what a character is like in general (even if I haven’t quite worked out all his or her quirks), everything else tends to fall neatly into place.

Who is your favorite character that you’ve written?

Goodness, this is like asking a parent to choose their favorite kid! Well, it is a bit of a tossup between Baran and Raina from Tiger’s Paw. I love writing Baran because he is this very controlled and serious military man and he has no idea what to do with Raina who has figured out how to make the rules into origami and is a sarcastic witty lass with a penchant for pushing Baran’s buttons (and who may or may not be trustworthy). I love writing Raina because of what she does to Baran, hehehe. 😉 They have a dynamic based on two characters I write for an ongoing fanfiction series that is so much fun to write – He’s serious, she’s not.

All right, so Baran is my current favorite (and he is exchanged often with whoever I’m writing at the time). I enjoy writing him because he is more than just the controlled and serious military man. He has a very strong sense of honor, which makes his view of right and wrong far more black and white than most characters, and he wants to be faithful to his calling and to the creed of conduct known as The Therian Way. But, he also has the protective side that influences him even when he wishes it wouldn’t. And he’s a shapeshifter who can turn into a Tiger. 😀

Who is one character you wish you had written?

Eowyn from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The shield maiden and daughter of kings, the lily formed of steel. She has always been one of my favorite literary heroines. She smote the Witch-King…I wanted to be her! I think her mix of strength and vulnerability and the “silk-covered steel” motif that she embodies so well has had a huge influence on my writing of strong heroines.

Is there a character type that intimidates you?

The most difficult character I have had to write is the cynical pessimist who is a rather harsh judge of character because it’s so easy to miss the mark and just make him or her seem like an insensitive jerk. The brusqueness of the character is difficult at times to make sympathetic, especially since I’m often writing the story where he or she doesn’t reveal the true motive behind the brusqueness until after appearing as the somewhat unlikeable harsh cynic for a while. Oh and the girly girl can be difficult for me as well especially if she’s not supposed to be vain and shallow.

Is there a character type that you’re very good at?

The stoic and the sarcastic (and possibly damaged) types. I’ve always liked writing characters who have put up walls around their hearts by either being the stoic or by hiding behind sarcastic observations. It’s easy to relate to them because then I can slowly grow the characters through healthy relationships (a combination of spiritual, friendship, and occasionally romantic) that allow them to reach a point where they are no longer hiding behind the walls so much and are letting the people close to them in. It’s not usually a dramatic change but it’s slow and steady. I also enjoy writing the stoic types who, like Baran, have a rather dry wit even if the sarcastic type character declares they don’t have any sense of humor at all.

Best tip/trick you’ve learned while writing characters?

Listen to the character’s voice. I’ve found that when I’m planning a character, what I write doesn’t always match the master plan because the character took me and the story in a different direction but it usually better than my original framework. When you force a character’s reaction, the readers can tell and the story will suffer for it. Familiarity with the character’s voice also helps eliminate the times when a character is doing something that goes completely against his established beliefs and habits without a good reason (such as being brainwashed or blackmailed into acting out of character by the villainous plan or acting out of character in order to pull off a charade).

Did you enjoy this blogroll? Do you have more questions about how I handle my characters? Leave a comment and let me know!

Also, do be sure to check out where else the blogroll has been:

A. Wrighton – genre-bending novelist, screenwriter, and creative evil genius

Rachel Bolton – blogger, writer, designer, marketer…

Heidi Lillian – a lovely writer with many hats and stories

The Upstream Writer – A literary blog with a little bit of everything

Kimberly Rogers – Writer, reviewer, fantasy lore-master….

Where is the blogroll headed next?

Mary C. Findley – A diverse author who wears many hats, including romance, historical, speculative (steampunk), etc…

Book Review Wednesday – Wren

Wren (The Romany Epistles) by Rachel Rossano

Amazon Description:

Wren Romany is as unconventional as they come. Born to a large, devout family and then forced out to fend on her own, she earns her living as a bounty hunter. As her second winter alone looms, she decides to stay in one place for the season. Seeking shelter, she offers her hunting skills in exchange.

Tourth Mynth, the master of the ruined fortress in the valley, needs help. His small household faces a hard winter. As son of a disenfranchised noble, he has plenty of space beneath his roof, but not much to eat. Wren’s offer seems a good fit.

Wren soon learns the residents of Iselyn need more than simply meat on their table. The valley’s residents squirm beneath a harsh master. Unsolved murder and betrayal lurk in the Mynths’ not so distant past. And Tourth’s battle with his emotional scars from the recent civil war will determine the fate of the whole valley.

This story caught my attention as soon as I read the summary. This another fantasy set in a medieval-esque world by Rachel Rossano who wrote Duty. After reading Duty, I had high expectations for Wren and I wasn’t disappointed.

Plot – Grade A

The plot took the bounty hunter becomes a hero motif and added enough twists to keep me hopping (in a good way). Wren is not the typical female bounty hunter, she’s not a girly girl but neither is she disdainful of women who stick with convention or like being the more delicate and genteel lady. I was thrilled to read this kind of story that allowed Wren to step outside the conventional and softer roles of medieval/fantasy women without her demeaning them or hating men. She steps into bounty hunting because she needs to survive. This plot brought in the threads of romance and mystery to skillfully combine with the spiritual journey Tourth is on as well as Wren’s finding her place without losing focus or becoming too difficult to follow.

Content – Grade A-

This is a clean Christian fantasy. There is a development of a romance between Wren and Tourth and also two secondary characters but it is all quite sweet (nothing more than a few kisses and some hugs). It was also cute how both Tourth and Wren tried to reason their way out of falling in love. I call it the knowing smile reaction because I (and plenty of characters) can’t help but smile knowingly when they try to explain away the attraction. 🙂

There is violence in this story but nothing feels extraneous or unnecessarily graphic. There are also references to women being in danger of unwanted attention or being forced into selling their bodies in order to survive, but each time it occurs it is handled very tastefully. Language is handled in general by a simple statement along the lines of “so and so blistered the air with every name he could think of and some I hadn’t heard before.” I was impressed with how it was handled without resorting to a ridiculous substitute like “you’re going to Riggy diggy ding dong pay for this” because if Rossano hadn’t opted for this approach, it would have been very difficult for me to read the book. There are exactly two exceptions to the language rule where the main villain is called a “bastard” not because of illegitimate birth but because that was the analysis of his character. I was surprised when this word was used in this context due to all the other language being handled so skillfully with the “readers can fill in the blank” strategy. Some Christians will be very offended and others will be okay with that choice. I am slightly disappointed but I am also grateful that it wasn’t some worse name and since it is only used twice, I can tolerate it more than if it and other profanity was peppered throughout.

Technical – B+

There were only three or four technical errors present in the book, mainly punctuation. An opening or ending quotation mark missing and a missing period. Told through the eyes of both Tourth and Wren, the POV changes are handled in a clear and well-devised manner. I particularly liked how we avoided rehashing exactly what one character just told us even when they are narrating their perspective on the same event.

The main detraction on the technical side was how the long prayers were not italicized or otherwise differentiated from the first person narration. I was confused a few times when this happened because I didn’t immediately realize the tone had switched from narration to prayer. It would have been easier due to the first person narration to have the prayers italicized like their thoughts were or to have some other means of clearly delineating that this is not part of the regular narration.

Final Grade – A- or 4.7 stars

Overall, I enjoyed the book and I look forward to reading more of this series (note: This is apparently a multi-author series). The plot moves forward at a steady pace and paints an interesting picture of the medieval-esque fantasy world that makes me want to explore more. I recommend this book for Christians looking for a relatively clean Christian fantasy and enjoy medieval-esque fantasies. Recommended for ages 16 and up.

Wren is available through Kindle, iTunes, and paperback.

*Please note I was provided a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not paid to provide a positive review. My opinions are my own.

Next – Resistance by Jaye L. Knight

 

Book Review Wednesday – Illuminated

Illuminated: Book One of The White Road Chronicles by Jackie Castle

Amazon Book Description:

Welcome to the kingdom of Alburnium
If the Wizard of Oz swept you away and Narnia enchanted you, then follow the White Road Chronicles for a new kind of adventure.

Illuminated: Book One- begins with a girl in search of the truth.
Alyra, mockingly known as Princess, was captured at an early age by the evil ruler, Darnel, and brought up in the dark land of Racah. Now, at the age of seventeen, she considers herself nothing special. She has no recollection of who she is or where she came from. Her hope of ever finding freedom dims.
Until the messenger arrives. Until he brings to light the meaning behind the medallion she’s kept hidden. Until she accepts the blinding truth.

Now she flees for her life.

Alyra’s journey leads her down a narrow road with strange traveling companions. Together, they encounter a kingdom where nothing is what it first seems.

I stumbled on this trilogy when I found the third book, which immediately caught my attention for two reasons. First, it was a true Christian fantasy complete with fantastic creatures and even magical abilities. Second, it came with centaurs. I was impressed to find a Christian author who dared to go beyond the current Christian fantasy standard of dragons (who may or may not be evil) and use more mythological elements. And then the description for the first book intrigued me even further.

Plot – Grade A

The book is built on the premise of a girl with no name and no memory known for the first third of the book as ‘Princess’ but who also rebels subtly against the tyrant Darnel despite his claims of being her father. When Alyra finally escapes, she continues to struggle with and question the lies Darnel had spoon-fed to her and others for all her known life. The quest to follow the narrow white road to meet the true King is one that mirrors the Christian walk. However, the story line is not bogged down in an attempt to make sure everyone knows this is an allegory.

Content – Grade A

This is an allegory so the spiritual side is quite obvious with the narrow path, the words of wisdom from the “The King’s Book of Letters” being almost word for word quotes from various Scripture passages and various other elements such as Issah and especially the throne room scene with King Shaydon. However, it does not slow the story down nor seem out of place with the rest of the events. There is also a lack of feeling as though you are being bludgeoned with Scripture and “you must repent” monologues. This is a Christian fantasy that has struck just the right balance between The Chronicles of Narnia and Pilgrim’s Progress. This is a journey of faith and you met a number of characters at various points in their travel along the white road who are all at different places in their personal journeys. Some take longer than others and some must leave behind family, home, and trade in order to follow the White Road. Alyra and her companions are relatable in some way.

There are what most people would refer to as “magical” abilities present in this book. Darnel warps his prisoners and followers using dark rituals and there is a brief scene where he summons a demon in order to collect ingredients for his secret ingredient slipped into the food and water of his land. The people of the lands also have differing abilities that would be considered magical but it is clear that these are genetic, inherited abilities that were woven into them from the moment of their creation. There are also dragons, brownies, dwarves, trolls and other creatures to go along with the centaurs. This is part of a subplot point of tension between Humans and Creatures and whether the Creatures can really belong to King Shaydon.

There is no real romance in this story. Alyra does have a bit of a crush on a boy she left behind (although it takes her a while to see it) and one of her traveling companions has a crush on the warrior maiden Carah of whom I suspect we shall see more of in the rest of the trilogy. I did like the break from we’re barely adults and are traveling with our “true love” route. However, I believe based on the ending and how the summaries for the next two books read, there will be more of a romantic subplot in the next two novels.

There is violence present in this story, including references to prisoners being eaten by dragons and the terrible wounds achieved in battle. One secondary character almost dies. Another one does die. There is also one character who is beaten by an authority figure for choosing to ignore his orders and not only help Alyra but also follow the White Road. This is not shown but the character is bruised and hurting when he next comes on the scene. However, none of the violence is gratuitously graphic. There is no language in this book. Although, there are derogatory insults, e.g., “mule,” exchanged between a human character and a centaur as well as when that character refers to other Creatures.

Technical – Grade B-

While the story flows well, there are some technical and grammatical errors. For example, “Your” is constantly switched out with “You’re” at the beginning of sentences even though when “your” is used in the middle of the sentences it does not experience this problem. The same difficulty occurs with “Were” being switched out for “We’re” at the beginning of sentences. There are also a few misspelled words and once a proper name lost its possessive apostrophe so “Lotari’s” was written as “Lotaris.”

There was also a lot of modern language being used such as “Duh.” That was a surprise and I felt it could have flowed more smoothly if the dialogue didn’t feel quite so jarringly modern at times since the world has the high fantasy medieval-esque feel to it.

Final Grade – a B or 4 stars

Overall, I enjoyed this story. The plot is interesting and can stand on its own while also connecting with the sequel. The main detractions could be resolved with a tighter round of technical editing and some changes to certain dialogue choices. I recommend this book to people who enjoy the same sort of allegorical fantasy found in The Chronicles of Narnia. Recommended for ages 13 and up.

Illuminated is available through Kindle and paperback.

Next – Wren (The Romany Epistles) by Rachel Rossano

Tiger’s Paw Snippet – Weekend Writing Warriors

For the #8sunday Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop


A low growl broke free as I surveyed the prisoner, scenting his fear…and his madness. Bitter, astringent, and tinged with that undefinable scent of wrongness. I bared my teeth and snarled as I grabbed the prisoner’s shirt. Yanking him upright, I slammed him against the metal wall of the containment room. “Why, traitor?”

Burning gold eyes stared back at me, too insane to back down as was proper among Therians. I slammed him against the wall again then tossed him into the chair. My two lieutenants held him in place.


 

The above is an excerpt from my WIP novella, Tiger’s Paw, the prequel to The Therian Way, my urban fantasy series. I’m always curious to hear what people think of the first impression of my protagonist. Intense? Intrigued?

 

 

Tiger’s Paw excerpt (c) Kimberly A. Rogers and kimberlyrogerscfwriter.wordpress.com blog.

Writer Q&A Thursday

Connecting Authors and Readers: Writer Q&A

This month, our Writer Q&A is focused on how writers can or do connect with their readers. I personally believe this is very relevant to Christian Fantasy writers. And I thought it would be fun to ask both pre-published and published writers to share their thoughts on the matter. My guests today are Evan Atwood, Traci Bonney, Tony Breeden, and R.M. Strong.

What venues do you use to get your book/s out to the audience (e-book, print, other)? Do you have a preference?

Atwood: I am planning on using CreateSpace, an economic option for a first self-published book. Of the different options available for first time publishers, I have found CreateSpace to be comprehensive, helpful with FAQs and breakdowns of the way that different aspects of the publishing process works, and very affordable. It puts the process in the hands of the author/self-publisher, while guiding one in the areas that will matter when it comes to selling the book. They also offer an e-book version of the published book for an added but reasonable price.

Bonney: My books are available as e-books through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords, and as paperbacks through Amazon, CreateSpace, and directly from me. I prefer direct sales of the paperbacks because I can sign them and meet the readers.

Breeden: Right now, my books are available in ebook and paperback at Amazon.com. My preferred venues are sci-fi conventions. Cons are a great way to connect with readers of the genre. It also gives me the opportunity to get my geek on. ;]

Strong: I utilize both print and electronic methods to get my story out to the audience. By far, however, most of my sales are eBooks.

How do you connect with your readers? Author Q&As, personal website, Facebook, twitter, etc.?

Atwood: I am working to connect with potential readers through Twitter, offering interesting tidbits related to the main subject of my book. My story is about a superhero in the real world, where faith in God, physics, and psychological drama all have an effect on the very mortal super. With these different pieces of the story in mind, I tweet about real-life (or nearly believable) feats of strength or athletic ability, words of wisdom on how to strengthen one’s faith in the living God, etc. It’s very exciting to be able to relate to readers over topics of mutual interest, and to introduce my story in an authentic way.

This way, I can see that they are interested in the story, I can see why that is (via their topic of interest), and they can feel out my interests before jumping into the bigger adventure that I want to take them on. I am especially excited to start connecting with readers by blogging, which I hope to start doing on a website after completing my first manuscript/publishing my first book.

Bonney: I have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TraciLBonneyWriter), Twitter account (@TraciBonney), and blog (Tracings, http://tracibonney.com). My best connections with readers have come from in-person encounters at book signings and speaking engagements (only one so far, but I’m optimistic there will be more).

Breeden: Facebook, twitter and my blog[s] are my mainstays for connecting with my readers. Most of it is just me getting my geek on and talking about the writing craft, but my readers appear to be kindred spirits. I’ve tried email lists like MailChimp; they simply don’t reach and impact people the way they used to. I mean, do you read all of the stuff that dumps into your Inbox? I don’t think anyone does. I’ve also tried Pinterest; my Casting Wishlist seemed to generate a lot of interest. Yet by and large, it is things like Reviews, Author Interviews and Character Interest that help me to best connect with new readers.

Strong: I have a website, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, author interviews, and I try to participate in at least one or two blog hops a year.

What is the most exciting part of being able to interact with your readers?

Atwood: When a reader tells me that they “loved it,” or it was “awesome,” I don’t know exactly what they mean, exactly how it affected them, but just knowing that they were emotionally struck by the story is very satisfying as an author. Knowing that readers are impressed is nice, but knowing that they were inspired or impacted in some way is very reassuring and fulfilling.

Bonney: I enjoy being able to talk to the readers about the aspects of the stories they like and the things that captured their attention the most. That kind of feedback is wonderful for helping me refine my writing.

Breeden: The most exciting part of being able to interact with readers is hearing their thoughts and opinions on the books. I remember getting a PM out of the blue where a reader told me she loved my book and got her husband hooked on them too. Another let me know that she enjoyed Johnny Came Home so much that she was re-reading it. I set out to write the sort of books I’d like to read myself; it’s always great to find kindred spirits.

Strong: The most exciting thing about being able to interact with readers is meeting new people. It’s one thing to interact with people you know who have read the books—friends, family, old acquaintances, etc. It’s an entirely different thing to get an email or Facebook post out of the blue from somewhere across the country saying they loved what you have written.

Do you keep the readers involved when you’re writing the next book? How?

Atwood: In my case, I will have a series of books to release one by one, and I plan to utilize the idea of the series in inspiring interest for readers. I plan to release a teaser chapter from the second book at the end of the first book, whether the hard copy or the e-book, so that readers will get a taste of what the second story in the series will be like. I also look forward to writing posts about the second and third books, as I am still writing them, because I will be able to share the ideas behind my books without going into details that will give away the plot. I can share my ideas about life that are represented in the book, while surrounding the context of the topic in mystery over how this subject (i.e. the ethical debate over euthanasia and why I believe that there is absolute truth concerning that topic) relates to the story that they will soon get to read. If I get to hire an illustrator for future books, I would have fun sharing an illustration or two ahead of time.

Bonney: I must admit I haven’t been as diligent with that as I could be, but I do take into account the feedback I’ve been given on the previous novels as I’m writing the current one. I’m still fairly new to all of this, so I’m learning as I go.

Breeden: I try to keep readers involved by giving the occasional update, giving them a sneak peek at the cover art…that sort of thing. I also throw in the occasional short story or character interview. Character interviews are a lot of fun. You can never quite be sure what will come out of your character’s mouth, but their personalities sort of flow if you’ve bothered to develop them at all. I’ve even had them influence the plot of my next book!

Strong: For my My Life as a Superhero series (the final book is being released on November 15), I am posting short “chapters” of the backstories for my heroes and villains (about 1000 words a piece) to round out the characters a little.

What is one thing you recommend to writers who are starting out and wondering if they should try to connect with readers beyond “Here’s my book, buy it, and review?”

Atwood: For first time authors, and I am one, I would highly recommend telling your story to as many people as you can. Don’t make it a sales pitch—make it something that’s important to you that you want to share with this person. It doesn’t have to be only for people that you know really well either (I know there are some shy personalities out there in the writing business, and I am one). I’ve started to share the premise of my story and the gist of the plot with anyone and everyone who I meet. It’s easy now, because when social media comes up, I bring up my social media efforts for my book. When people ask me about my hobbies outside of the norm (job, church, family), the book is the coolest thing to talk about. And when people ask me about myself, I like to talk about movies that I really like to describe my personality—talking about the book that I’m writing is an even more fun way to tell people what I’m like!

Bonney: Definitely make the effort to connect, even if it’s uncomfortable at first. Many writers (including me) are innately introverted, so it’s sometimes a challenge to interact with people about your work. But I have found that most people, especially readers, are encouraging, supportive, and interested in what you’re doing. By connecting with the readers, not only are you engaging them emotionally and intellectually, you’re receiving the validation that we writers need to help us battle the doubts that inevitably surface.

Breeden: You’re truly missing out if you see readers as simply someone to market to. Of course, I want folks to buy my books and we all know that reviews drive new sales, but no one wants to hear you chant, “Buy my book & Review” all the time. Let your readers get to know the man [or woman] behind the curtain. Tell them why you crafted a certain scene or a character the way you did. Tell them what inspires or worries you. You’ll be surprised at the connections you make if you just take the time to do a bit more than spam them.

Strong: On social media, post things on your fan page or tweet things that are not even marketing related. On Facebook, utilize the trending stories. If there is something that interests you, then post it. Your social media walls should not be one long series of posts that all end in “Buy my book!”

Finally, as a fantasy writer, do you think it is more or less important for fellow fantasy writers to connect with their readers than say the writers who stick to Christian Romance?

Atwood: I think there is a significant disconnect in the church between imagination and faith. It may be lessening with the younger generations, but that just goes to show how important it is for the future of communicating the Gospel in new ways, to those who believe Christianity to be a failed attempt from the past. With fantasy, there is a need for an author to have surety about what she or he is writing, looking to the examples of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as modern-day examples like Ted Dekker. Boldness, built on solid faith in God, through prayer over our writing, and with experience as well as with humility, can help us to reach out to the church in ways that can inspire faith and build others up in following Jesus. So I think it is very important for writers of fantasy to connect with their readers.

Bonney: My fantasy novels haven’t been released to the public yet, so my readers don’t really know me as a fantasy writer at this point.  However, I do have two books in a four-novel contemporary series in print. The books that are out have strong romantic subplots and are very clearly Christian in their worldview, so I suppose that qualifies me to speak as a Christian romance writer. In my opinion, it’s vital for the author to connect with the readers regardless of genre, although I think I understand the reasoning behind the question. Christian romance has been accepted as a genre for far longer than Christian-based fantasy has, so perhaps fantasy writers do feel the need to connect to, and perhaps even educate, potential readers more than writers in other genres might. Still, in today’s highly competitive marketplace, connecting with the readers is a must-do for any writer hoping to sell to folks other than family, friends, and church members.

Breeden: There is a built-in community of sci-fi and fantasy readers out there, but the moment someone hears the term Christian sci-fi or Christian fantasy, they start getting skeptical. We have to really earn our place in that overall speculative fiction marketplace, so connecting with readers isn’t just important – it’s essential to your survival!

Strong: Personally, I believe it’s much more important. Christian Romance is well-known and somewhat predictable. Girl and Boy meet, they have some kind of adventure, they have a fight, they seek forgiveness from each other, they live happily ever after with Jesus at the center of their “cord of three strands.” Christian fantasy, however, is hardly predictable. It’s also, sometimes, depending on the author, hard to find the “Jesus” in the story. Being proactive about interacting with fans can also help bring the religious aspects of your book into greater focus. If your work is an allegory, for example, you can state it clearly on your site to help the readers understand the meaning behind the story.

I’d like to once again thank the writers for taking time out of their busy weeks to answer these questions. I think it’s clear that writers must step up and interact with readers in some way, shape, or form (although I don’t personally recommend responding to Amazon or Goodreads reviews given the bad rap several high-profile and very public writer meltdowns have given that venue of interaction). I also agree with the writers that Christian Fantasy in general requires more effort on part of the writer due to having a smaller audience than the more well-known offerings of Christian Romance, Christian Historical, etc. Our audience can’t grow if we don’t help plant the seeds and spread the word.

Note: Writer Q&A Thursday is currently experimental and will occur once a month. If you have specific questions you’d like to see answered, please submit them in the comments below or via my contact page. Fantasy authors, if you would like to have your name added to the list for future contributors to Writer Q&A, please let me know via my contact page or in the comments below.

 

Evan Atwood is a storyteller, who likes to use cameras and computers to tell interesting and compelling, true-to-life stories. He loves to focus the lens of the camera on someone to illuminate their great worth. Evan is the author of The Chosen Series, a story about a young veteran who returns from war in Afghanistan to find that he has been given a super power, one that he has been called to use for good, and not for evil, to save his city from an incurable disease that has crippled its infrastructure and its people’s souls. www.TheChosenStory.com

Traci Bonney is a writer, blogger, hoop dancer, jewelry maker, amateur photographer, yard sale stalker, fledgling entrepreneur and single Christian gal living in the hot and humid South. Her comedic fantasy series, The Portals Trilogy, explores what happens when a hula hoop and a wish shake up one Mississippi girl’s quiet college world. The first book, Step-Through, is tentatively scheduled for release in the spring of 2015.

Tony Breeden – I’m from West Virginia, home of the Mothman, the Flatwoods Monster and Gray Barker, who likely invented the Men in Black. I’ve been an avid sci-fi/fantasy/steampunk/monster/comic book fan all my life and I have a wonderful wife and four adventurous boys who share my geek fandom. My latest book is called Luckbane. Basically, it’s about what happens when a corporation offers players a chance to play their favorite sword, steam and sorcery game live and in-person on a terraformed alien world. I basically write the movies that play out in my head, so it’s an action-packed, genre-bending ride.

R.M. Strong has been writing for fun and profit (but mostly just for fun) since fifth grade. She has four books currently out, and a baby book due on November 15. Currently, she is working on an historical fiction of the biblical story of Exodus. She lives in Oregon with her husband, son, cat, dog, and 4-H guinea pigs. You can find out more on her website, http://rmstrongbooks.weebly.com

Book Review Wednesday – Duty

Duty: a novel of Rhynan by Rachel Rossano

Amazon Book Description:

Duty to King

Tomas Dyrease, the newly made Earl of Irvaine and the village of Wisenvale, owes his good fortune to his king and the recent civil war. When his benefactor demands Tomas marry the cousin of a noble, he obeys. However, no one warned him that she wasn’t a typical noblewoman.

Duty to Others

Brielle Solarius struggles to keep her village from starvation under the new Lord Wisten, her cousin. The men rode off to war and never returned. The remaining women and children face a dire winter if they do not find a solution soon. When she learns her cousin sold her into marriage to save his life, she isn’t surprised. However, she is taken aback by Lord Irvaine’s unpolished ways. Was this man a noble or a foot soldier?

Duty to Each Other

Bound by the words of their vows, they face a rough future. They must forge a marriage while battling betrayal, accusations of treason, and villains from the past. Survival depends on their precarious trust in each other. Failure could mean death.

I always enjoy a good fantasy and one set in a medieval-esque setting is one of the best ways to pique my interest. Of course, the premise is one that can handled very badly or very skillfully. I was pleased to find it was definitely the latter.

Plot – Grade A

The premise of the book rests on the arranged marriage of Brielle and Tomas. But, there’s more at work than “Will they or won’t they fall in love?” Loyalty and duty, most especially the struggle to balance duty to home and to King, are also key factors. The main characters have their marriage forged by fire, which makes the plot stand out to me as one of the best in-depth explorations of how to take the archetype arranged marriage plot and fashion it into something far more interesting and intriguing as layers are added to both plot and characters. The main characters, Tomas and Brielle, are imperfect and struggle with the various challenges their marriage brings, but I connected with them and wanted them to make it work.

Content – Grade A

This is a clean fantasy on the romance front. While there are kisses and you can read between the lines at a certain point to guess that the marriage was consummated, it is very chaste overall. No true bedroom scenes except for Tomas and Brielle sharing a bedroll while they’re camping (part of the show to make it seem they are a very loving couple already) and there are references to married life, including bedding a new wife but it is tasteful. There is also a case where Brielle overhears herself being promised as a reward, but that is also handled well without venturing too far into grittiness to be disconcerting.

There are references to the less scrupulous raiders pillaging the villages and leaving fatherless children in their wake. Tomas himself is illegitimate and his mother is slandered several times by the villains for having a child out of wedlock. However, even this is handled with dignity as the worst names written out are “harlot” and “witch” with the more descriptive slander being left unsaid as the focus shifts to Brielle’s reaction. The worst language used is also in connection to the illegitimacy of Tomas with a villain describing him as “baseborn” and then Tomas himself struggles with the bitterness and declares himself to be “bastardborn.” That’s as crass as it gets and I do give more leeway since the description doesn’t carry the same unfortunate connotations as it would if the “-born” had been left off.

There is violence in this book. Battles are fought and people are wounded or die. Blood is present, especially when the wounded are being tended to, but the descriptions never come across as gratuitous.

Technical – Grade B+

There are only a few typos and wrong or missing words used in this book. I found one spot where a word was missing and another place where the wrong homonym was used, “shear will” instead of “sheer will.” There are two places where I was confused due to a description: First, the time of day changing two or three times – the sun was described as setting, then it was before noon, and then it was some time after noon…all in the same short span of time. I could not figure that scene out, but it seemed likely that this was a blending of the drafts that didn’t quite manage to be as uniform as it should have been. The second time was in the final battle where one sentence looks as though the word choice was changed but the previous words weren’t deleted.

I try to be lenient with medieval-esque fantasies (as opposed to my unyielding expectations for historicals) when it comes to phrases that don’t always fit the time period. However, there were a few times when the choice of phrase or word pulled me out of the moment because it sounds too modern. For example, when Tomas tells a friend to “Tell (Friend’s Wife) I said hi.” That really pulled me out of the world because it comes across as too modern. But, this only happens a few times and we are so accustomed to using these phrases or words such as “okay” and “alright” (technically it really is a word, “all right” is just more common and therefore seems more right to the grammar fanatics, but I digress) in every day conversation that authors and readers may not always catch it.

Final Grade – A or 5 Stars

Overall, this is a very good and intriguing fantasy set in a medieval-esque world. The plot moves forward at a steady pace and I was fascinated by the relationship between Tomas and Brielle as they went through the various twists and turns. This book is a standalone, but there’s obvious room for expansion into the world Rossano has created with this novel and I look forward to reading the sequel. I would recommend this book to people looking for a clean Christian fantasy and enjoy fantasy novels set in a medieval-esque world. Recommended for ages 15 and up.

Duty is available through Kindle, iTunes, and paperback.

*Please note I was provided a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not paid to provide a positive review. My opinions are my own.

Next Week – Illuminated: Book One of The White Road Chronicles by Jackie Castle

Book Review Wednesday – Secrets of Gwenla

Secrets of Gwenla by Laurie L. Penner

Amazon Book Description:

Breaking through fear and tradition…. Dealing with corrupt officials…. Struggling to understand the truth…. They must reveal the truth in time, or all will be lost! Imagine living in two worlds at the same time—the physical one around you and another one inside you that no one else can see. Once these valley dwellers go through their process of “Understanding,” they begin an unseen life in their hearts, where anything can happen. Some hearts dwell in cozy, peaceful places, while others are assaulted by fearsome powers. Like their ancestors before them, these people remain locked away in their secret valley for 400 years, with none going in or out. The abundant rocks inside provide natural light and heat, as well as workable metals and building materials, while a spring waters their crops and herds. But the people know their hearts are susceptible to a dark power that seeks to destroy them. To keep their hearts safe, they rely on their leaders, who prohibit leaving the fortification or hearing unaccepted music, assuring the people they will remain safe if they follow the way their ancestors have taken. When Gwenla led the original group to safety, she also foresaw the future. Unable to safely pass on what she knew before she died, Gwenla wrote down her knowledge in riddles, so that only those who sought the truth would understand. Julyiah’s adventurous heart wants to find Gwenla’s secrets and understand them; but when pressing to know the truth, Julyiah sees wonderful places outside the walls and hears forbidden music, disrupting her world and relationships. In spite of several obstructions and evil forces trying to stop her, Julyiah discovers the truth and realizes she alone has the answer that will free the valley from deception. Yet her friends need urgent rescue as well. Can she accomplish both missions at the same time? In a whirlwind of twists and turns that involve a severe time crunch, Julyiah must make connections from one end of the valley to the other, or she and those she loves will die, and the Secrets of Gwenla will remain hidden for all time.

This is the kind of description that always nabs my attention when I’m browsing through books. However, the book doesn’t always live up to the intriguing description. That is not the case this time. When the author approached me about reviewing Secrets of Gwenla, it was the combination of the description and the preview sample available through Amazon that ultimately led me to say yes and to buy the book.

Plot – Grade A

The focus of the book is on Julyiah and her determination to uncover the Secrets of Gwenla and then to share them with her loved ones and the valley as whole. The plot was well-written and kept me invested in the quest. Julyiah is a well-rounded heroine who, while flawed, never comes across as too dumb to live or too annoying to stay alive. She has her moments of weakness but I never wanted to shake some sense into her; instead, I waited and rooted for her to get back on her feet. The initial plot is nicely tied up by the end of the book, allowing it to stand on its own. But, there’s just enough intriguing questions introduced by that ending to leave you eager for the next book.

Content – Grade A

This is a clean fantasy. While there is a definite romance between Julyiah and her fiancé (later husband), it’s quite chaste. Just kissing and hugging. No bedroom scenes. Their relationship is important and provides motivation at key points, but it doesn’t detract or overwhelm the story. There is also an instance of one-sided love, which also plays a key role in a very important part of the story.

There is some referred violence. Primarily, one of the characters is beaten by the villain and while the actual beating itself is not shown, you are able to tell from the other characters’ reactions that it is brutal. There is also a reference to murder and plots to murder people who are in Jonar’s way. There is one instance where a character acts as though he is going to commit suicide but it turns out that he’s rescuing a child AND following the answer to a riddle.

On the spiritual side, you can definitely tell this is an allegorical fantasy with references to many different scenes of the Bible. There are also scenes where the spiritual forces, the Voice and the Wind, interact with each other or with their respective servants. It surprised me when this first happened, but it wasn’t jolting and it fit well with the more mundane scenes. It reminded me of both the scenes in the beginning of Job where Satan presented himself before God in order to test Job and of Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness. The end of the book also reminds me of some of the more potent pieces of the aftermath of Christ’s death on the cross. It’s spiritual and the allegories are obvious to anyone who has studied the Bible, but Penner doesn’t make the mistake of writing things so vaguely you worry about a mixed message nor does it feel as though she’s attempting to hit you over the head with the Bible. The characters all go through their individual spiritual journeys at their own pace and they are imperfect with doubt and bitterness threatening to topple them from their beliefs but this is not treated as being unusual or unexpected. They are not perfect followers and that makes them all the more relatable.

Technical – Grade A-

This book was an editor’s dream. There were no obvious typos or grammatical errors that jumped out at me. There were a couple places where my inner writer was musing about how I would have picked a different word but I understood what she meant. There was also one flashback scene toward the end that confused me at first because there wasn’t a good transition or indicator that this is a flashback. The person having the flashback was thinking about his past and then we’re suddenly having the person from the past speaking and I did not realize it at first. I kind of wished she had placed that short flashback in italics to better delineate that this was, indeed, a flashback, but because it was so short, it was easy to catch my misunderstanding and re-read the paragraph or two from the proper perspective.

Final Grade – A or 5 stars

This book was excellent and I was actually disappointed when it ended (a very rare occurrence for me). So I was very happy to see in the back that there is a sequel planned. This is the kind of book where you want to get two copies so you can pester your friends into borrowing one copy and keep the other copy for yourself. The plot hooks you from the first page and doesn’t let go until the very end. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasies, both allegorical and epic, and also enjoys a very sweet, G-rated romance in the background. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Secrets of Gwenla is available through Kindle and paperback.

*Please note I was asked to review this book by the author. I was not paid to provide a positive review. My opinions are my own.

Next Week – Duty: a novel of Rhynan by Rachel Rossano