Cover Reveal – Sentinals Justice

Book Three of the Sentinal Series

Pre-order eBook now!

Release Day: September 7th, 2021

Blurb

Sentinals Justice is the third book in the saga of Remargaren, a vibrant, ancient world of high fantasy suffused with magic and adventure.

The third installment of the Sentinal series takes us to the frozen north, to the Grand Duchy of Elothia. Border tensions with Elothia force King Benedict to send a diplomatic envoy to sue for peace. Benedict has his hands full with Vespiri and Terolia, he can’t afford a war on his northern border as well. Commander Jerrol Haven is sent to broker peace. Having met Grand Duke Randolph the thirteenth before, Jerrol hopes their previously successful negotiations will assist in a speedy resolution and allow him time to discover how to rescue Birlerion from the Ascendants.

Meanwhile, the Chapterhouse has received a request for a scholar to assist in searching for signs of the Sentinals in Elothia. Taelia is assigned the task, because Scholar Torsion is also missing after the attack at the Watch Towers.

Amidst escalating tensions, and conflicting needs, Jerrol journeys to Elothia, hoping to meet with Randolf before the Ascendants can influence him. Escorting Taelia is an unexpected bonus. Can Jerrol stop Elothia and Vespiri from going to war? Will they find more Sentinals? And can they find out where the Ascendants took Birlerion and Torsion before it is too late.

Sentinals Justice concludes the opening trilogy…though the adventure will continue!

Get ready for Book Three – Purchase the first book Sentinals Awaken now:

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Book Two: Sentinals Rising

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Book Review Alert: Grandfather’s Will by Rebecca Lange

Reviewed: June 15th, 2021
Released: March 31st, 2021
Genre: Christian Fiction

After billionaire Henry Woodruff loses several family members in a horrible accident, his grandchildren Rebecca, Noah, and Amber McNeil are now the official heirs. Although they never desired to be put into his will, Henry has every reason to believe that the tragic plane crash was not just an unfortunate accident but a planned murder. Feeling that his children were somehow involved, he has to develop a plan before his grandchildren get murdered. Read More…

Author Interview – Nadine Roman

Author of Legion of Loch Ness

Joining me today to chat about her YA fantasy novel, Legion of Loch Ness is Nadine Roman. Welcome Nadine. Congratulations on the recent release of your novel.

Nadine: Legion of Loch Ness is a novel based in modern day Chicago. I have always been fascinated by the origin of fairy tales and the more I learned about it the more fascinated I become with introducing it into the modern world. We all enjoy fantasy novels that are usually set in fantasy times and countries. I thought it would be fun to explore the lives of our main characters dealing with fantasy in every day life in our experience.

Helen: I bet you had great fun with that idea. I can imagine the misunderstandings arising with a fae character experiencing the modern world. What made you want to write this particular book?

Nadine: I’ve been a voracious reader my whole life. After reading many books I evolved to a point where I thought it would be fun to write a book of my own. Then I found myself making different scenarios and ending to the books I was reading and it made me want to write my own. Too often I wanted an alternative ending and more depth to the books I was reading so I decided to give it a try.

Helen: Who inspired you to write a novel? It is not easy to take an idea and complete a whole book. Did your family support you?

Nadine: A lot of my family members thought I had a way with words and thought I should write. They planted the seed in my head, and it grew form there. My father was my main inspiration to write. My great grandfather owned newspapers that were sold in three different languages in Asia. The most popular section of the newspaper was the short story section and my father said I had inherited my great grandfather’s gift for storytelling.

Helen: That is wonderful story. It must be a great feeling to continue the family tradition! So you’ve completed your debut novel, have you caught the bug? Is their a new project in the works?

Nadine: It’s really interesting. After finishing my Legion, I felt like I wasn’t done with my characters and I started planning it before releasing the first one. It is a lot darker and edgier. I’ve based it in London which is one of my favourites cities. I’m absolutely loving reuniting with the characters from Legion.

Helen: Characters do have a way of growing on you. Who was your favourite character to write?

Nadine: I enjoyed writing Chris the most. He was supposed to be a minor character, but his personality became such fun to write that he became one of my favorite characters. Another one of my favorites was Melusine because I was so fascinated by her story as one of the first incredibly powerful women and bringing her into the modern world and having her fall in love with a modern an has been an absolute adventure.

Helen: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me about your book. Just to round us out, how do you fit writing into your daily life?

Nadine: It’s very hard to fit it in, however, the pure joy of escaping into my books and hanging out with the amazing characters makes it worthwhile. As hard as it is to carve time out to sit and write properly every time I enter the universe it is equally hard to pull myself out.

You can find Nadine on:

Author Website
Goodreads 
Instagram


Legion of Loch Ness

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Book Review Alert: The Antiheroes by Jacob Peppers

Reviewed: June 13th, 2021
Released: November 19th, 2020
Genre: Epic Fantasy

The world needed heroes…It got them instead.

A swordsman past his prime who has vowed to never wield a blade again.

A mage who’d rather throw fists than fireballs and thinks magic is for sissies.

An assassin who grows sick at the sight of blood.

And a man with a pet squirrel he believes to be an ancient god from long ago.

An evil has risen in the land, one that, if not dealt with, threatens to start a war which would include the gods themselves. To counter it, the realm must call on its greatest heroes, its most courageous adventurers. Unfortunately, those great heroes, those brave adventurers, are all busy—being dead mostly. Read More…

Author Interview – Elizabeth Lavender

Author of the Sunspear series

Joining me today to chat about her fantasy Sunspear series is Elizabeth Lavender. Welcome Elizabeth. Please tell us a little about your novels.

Elizabeth: My fantasy/sci-fi series is the Sunspear Series.  I’m currently in the final revision stages of the 3rd book in the series.  The first book in the series is The Spinning of Deception and the second book is Deception’s Hold.   Our journey begins with meeting 18-year-old sunspearbearer Dante and a mysterious female sunspearbearer the same age who has been secretly trained.  The reason why she’s secretly trained becomes apparent in the story.  A powerful force led by the Dark Lord and his Black Dragon Commander threatens the galaxy; the Black Dragon Commander also is Dante’s father. Dante and his companions lead in the fight to stop the colonies from being massacred by the Dark Lord’s forces.  In other scenes, our mysterious girl’s gift of visions from the Ancient One reveals a truth about a past event that could be key to breaking the Dark Lord’s hold.  

The second book, Deception’s Hold, continues right where the first ended.  Dante and his companions are told the truth of the past event, provided proof of it, and sets up a deadly task for Dante to undertake.  Success could mean ending the Dark Lord’s power finally and much more.  Failure would mean a much worse fate than even a blade for him.  Even as they try to defend the colonies, they’ve come to understand something horrible is at work at Black Dragon headquarters.  A race begins for the girl and her comrades to discover it and stop it in time.  The girl knows though how short their time really is.  She fears for Dante’s fate because she’s discovering her visions have created an unexpected connection to him and losing him isn’t an outcome she can accept.  Too, she may be the only one that really knows the darkness he’s about to face.  

Helen: This sounds like an amazing series, and I just love your covers, they are so complex, so many elements, tell us the story behind them.

Elizabeth: All of my covers have to do with that specific part of the storyline.  So, for the first cover, there is a cloaked figure, two sunspears (one on either side), a dagger, and a blue eye.  The cloaked figure represents the Dark Lord or darkness in general approaching.  The two sunspears are for Dante and the girl.  The dagger is directly related to the event from the past that has such a bearing on the present situation.  It also has to do with an event in the girl’s past that happens in the book that will continue to haunt her through the series.  The blue eye is referring to the girl’s eye as she sees visons, which play an important role throughout the series, but her visions of the one event set off a whole chain of actions.   

The second cover shows the Black Dragon Commander who is also Dante’s father.  On one side is the Black Dragon Helmet showing his allegiance now to the Black Dragon and on the other side is Ethan, the person that Dante once called Father.  Through the middle is a sunspear, separating the two sides.  The Black Dragon Commander/Ethan are on the cover because it ties into the task that lays ahead for Dante, which is at the heart of book 2.   

Helen: With so much detail behind the cover design, I imagine as much thought went into the titles?

Elizabeth: The titles for both books are central to the story (The Spinning of Deception and Deception’s Hold).  The power of deception is at the heart of both books and it’s how the Dark Lord has done what he has.  While many of the battles in the books are the traditional swords, blasters, tanks, sunspears, and other cool technology to which you’ll get introduced, those aren’t the hardest battles fought.  Many of the hardest battles fought in the book are these ones where being able to decipher truth from lie is the key. Otherwise, your fate is sealed.  The Dark Lord has deceived  before and he continues to do so.  His mastery of it is how we find the Black Commander is at his side now. That’s the main way the title comes about.  However, it’s not just the Dark Lord using it.  You will see deception also used in other forms, but sometimes not for bad.  Like I said, it’s a constant theme in the series.  

Helen: It is so nice to learn the reasoning behind the covers and titles. It makes the book richer. What made you write this series?

Elizabeth: It was finally time to put it down on paper instead of bouncing around in my head.  LOL.  Seriously I’ve had pieces of it coming together since high school (that was over 20 years ago).  There’s a point when you have a story, you have to tell it.  It’s the writer in you.  

Helen: Yes, as some point you just have to put pen to paper, you can no longer resist the urge! I don’t know why we resist, but sometimes we do. Why did you choose to write fantasy?

Elizabeth: This is my only series and it’s sci-fi/fantasy.  I guess it’s the one I primarily read in myself and love, so I don’t know how much I would enjoy writing in another genre.  Also, the story in my head ended up falling in this genre.

Helen: You have two books in the series published, I’m sure your die hard fans want to know when the third will be released. Tell us a little about your WIP.

Elizabeth: My current work is the 3rd book in the series.  I’m in the final revision stage and hoping to have it published by the end of summer at the latest.  This one shares the same things readers have come to love about the series.  The characters haven’t changed with the way they face whatever the threat may be, while finding the opportunity to bring humor into even the most challenging situations.  There are battles and close calls just like we like them to have too.  However, there are some differences because we are in a different place in the storyline.   The battlefields are a smaller scale to an extent.  We’re getting to see the internal battles of one character in particular in book three and how it manifests itself outside.  Also, the third book is a great deal about relationships being built between characters, ones that will take them through the entire series.  For many of these characters, it’s the first time they’ve had a chance to actually meet in person and work/fight side by side. So, there are a lot of places in book 3 that read like a romance between certain characters, but for those who have been reading the series they will say it’s long overdue.  It is where we find ourselves in the story. 

Helen: I think as you write a series, and you live and breath the story, certain characters begin to resonate. Do you have a favourite character in your series?

Elizabeth: I have two favourites.  There’s no way I can choose between them.  It has to be Dante and the girl (yes, she is called that until book 3 because her identity has to remain hidden).  Dante fights with all his heart to defeat the Black Dragon, and he’s already lost so much.  As the series opens, his mother and brother are counted in those losses and his father now fights on the other side, causing the destruction he now sees around him.  Yet somehow, he fights on even with that always there and as the series continues his incredible heart and spirit that make him a hero will shine through in the battlefields he’ll be put through.  Then there’s the girl who fights just as hard, but between her own internal “demons” and the visions rest doesn’t come easy for her.  There are moments she can’t move beyond, that still hold sway over her.  She can give grace to others, but not to herself.  We’ll see her be forced to take on many roles, play many parts to help win against Black Dragon.  Even as she does it, it all adds to the turmoil that’s already creates such a nightmare for her at times.  Yet despite all that, she has a spirit and heart that matches Dante’s, and she’ll need it to manage the battlefields that lay ahead for her.  

Helen: You are well into your series, and have heroes and villains who are well defined. Who do you prefer to write?

Elizabeth: Heroes probably.  I like seeing them going through whatever trial or battle I put them through and hopefully come out alive, even if barely.  I like to delve into their emotions and their mind as they struggle with whatever they get thrown.  I think too we can identify in real life with the hero and the challenges they face and how they struggle with them.  I’ve said many times the struggles in my Sunspear world are not so different than those in our world.  The battlefields may appear different on the surface, but they’re not.  One of my characters says it better though.  Here’s a quote from book 3 of the Sunspear Series (still under revision) “”I can’t tell you what happened, because it’s a part of my past. I found myself at a juncture which many do at a point in this life, many of us more than once, Dante. It’s a scary, lonely place to dwell. Everyone faces this Darkness. In reality daily. There are times though the battle is one not forgotten, leaving such a mark on one…”    “Those are the ones that stay with you because you come face to face with how powerful the Darkness is. How quickly it can take you and destroy you and all those around you before you realize what is done. Yet you also discover how strong the One is who stands beside you, and that must be your refuge.”    So, heroes are my favorite to write about as I think they inspire us to see that no matter how hard it gets or imperfect we are in our struggle, we can emerge victorious.  We may have our body battered, our heart broken, and our face streaming with tears, but we come through. We need our heroes.  

Helen: I agree. This sounds amazing. It is inspiring to see how people can survive what is thrown at them. We are often stronger than we realise are. Of course as authors we make it especially difficult for our characters. Author life can be just as challenging! Tell us a little about your writing process. How does writing fit into your daily routine?

Elizabeth: With great difficulty! I work fulltime during the week and there’s always stuff with the kids/school and just family stuff with the kids/husband.  So, most of my writing stuff comes in the evenings and on the weekends.  I don’t do mornings at all, unless I have to get up to go to work/take the kids to school.  However, I’m a night owl, so most weeknights I’m until close to midnight and the weekends I’m routinely up until at least 3:00 working on stuff.  Sometimes that’s good, but sometimes that can be bad especially if I’m writing a villain scene.  You can get strange inspiration at that time of night.  That could be the reason my characters have such close calls and end up in such bad shape at the end of those scenes when facing the villians.  LOL.  They have to be pretty tough!

Helen: I often go to sleep thinking about a scene or a sticky situation. Often as not, I wake up with the solution in the middle of the night and I have to dictate it in to my phone and hope I understand it in the morning! When you are writing do you know what the story will be and have a plan? or do you let it unfold as it will?

Elizabeth: I’m definitely the pantser.  I know how the last battle of the whole series will go and the dialogue has written itself in my head for a while.  I know there are certain events and conversations that have to be revealed to get me there.  I have a good idea of how those events need to unfold and probably how the dialogue will go, but that’s because I’ve been in my characters’ world for so long now. I just know what they would say and do now.  It’s not because I sat down and outlined how it’s going to go or plotted it out. I can’t even imagine writing like that.  I know my eventually endpoint and the dots in the middle to get me there. 

Helen: I know fantasy is all made up, but do you find you have to do much research?

Elizabeth: None really.  For the first book, I did some on names.  The character names were not chosen randomly and neither were the places.  I wanted them to mean something.  I do make sure when I’m writing I have a copy of the other books in the series next to me in case I need to look something up.  I have to be sure to keep my story straight throughout the series.  I have plotlines that are unanswered or left mysterious in the first two books that will be answered later, some not until the last book in the series.  That’s the other reason it’s essential I have the others nearby.  

Helen: Ah yes, keeping track of all the threads! That can be challenging at times. What is your working environment like? Do you need music to inspire you, or is silence king?

Elizabeth: Actually, I don’t listen to music.  Once I start writing, I’m in a zone, so I don’t know that I would even hear it anyway.  When I’m revising, it’s the opposite. I really hate the revising process, so the music would probably distract me.  I need quiet because I honestly welcome distractions then.  I think my revising actually takes longer than the writing for that reason.  

Helen: Which do you prefer, the creativity of writing or the polishing up of editing?

Elizabeth: LOL.  I answered this on the music one, I guess.  Love the writing part, detest the editing part.  I know the editing part of the process is necessary, but I still can’t stand it.  It’s like the 6-month check-up to the dentist or when we get a recall notice in for something on the car.  Necessary, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.  Writing on the other hand is awesome.  I love going into their world, and it doesn’t even feel like I’m doing the writing anymore.  I know what they would say and do because I know them now.  It really writes itself.  

Helen: If you didn’t write fantasy, what genre would you like to write?

Elizabeth: That’s tough.  Mine is sci-fi/fantasy, so it covers two genres.  The current book has felt more like a romance in places, but long-term I don’t think I could be comfortable going there.  Probably psychological/suspense thriller I could see.  I have a counselling background and that influence is seen in my current series as many of the battlefields aren’t the traditional ones as we said earlier.  I like delving into what they are thinking and feeling and making them struggle with their internal “demons.”  So, I could see trying my hand at a suspense/psychological thriller.  

Helen: I hope you do, that would be amazing! Most writers are great readers, after all, reading gives us insights into a well written book. What are some of your favourites?

Elizabeth: That’s too difficult. I have several favourites.  One of my favourites is Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.  I read it in 10thgrade and I’ve seen it on stage like three times now. It’s a beautiful story of redemption and grace.  The main character ends up spending 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s family. When he gets out, he’s as you would expect, but a priest shows him true kindness, the true love of God in a sense.  The rest of the book is the convict’s story of how he demonstrates the grace he was shown.  Another favourite is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas.  That one is kind of the other extreme in the beginning.  The young sailor is naïve and gets falsely accused and thrown in jail.  Circumstances allow him to find a treasure and when he gets out, he gets revenge on everyone that put him in prison.  However how he did it was what made the book, finding the secrets of each one and exploiting them to destroy them.   In the end, he realizes he went too far and has to deal with and we see the young sailor re-emerge in a sense. I think the reason I always liked that one was how carefully he crafted his revenge. It was amazing all the pieces Dumas had going at once, but he made it work.  The main character was only able to destroy them because he brought to light their dark deeds, things they thought they hid and no one could uncover. It’s just a well-done story.  Some other favourites are The Star Wars Trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi).  It has everything.  I love the battles, the dialogue between the characters…   The story though can’t be beat.  The epic story between good and evil, of redemption and sacrifice, and the triumph of light over the darkness.  Another couple series are Lord of the Rings by Tolkien and the Narnia Series by CS Lewis.  Okay, I’ll stop now because I could keep going. 

Helen: I can see how these have influenced your writing! What books have you read recently?

Elizabeth: There are quite a few.  Generally, I read at least two a month and post the reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub as well as my Facebook and Twitter account.  I also have a section in my newsletter that I post to.    However, recently I finished Rise of Tears by Brand J Alexander, Dreamstate by Toni Cox, (Her Elemental Trilogy is the other one I read and it’s excellent too), A Twist of Night and Day by Aubrey Winters, The Enchanted Dagger by Vonnie Winslow Crist, Sentinals Awaken by Helen Garraway, Flames over Frosthelm by Dave Dobson, The Threat of Shadows by JA Andrews, First Earth by Cami Murdock Jensen…  LOL.   You can look on Goodreads account and check out my reviews.  There are just too many awesome books out there! 

Helen: It’s so cool to see my book in your list. It’s nice to see it is out there being read. Just to close us out, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Elizabeth: Just write the story that’s in you.  The passion for your world and your characters will come through on its own.  Have readers fall in love with your world and your characters as much as you have.  Don’t let anyone discourage you.  Surround yourself with people that will keep encouraging you to keep the journey going.  You never know if your story is what someone needed to hear.  

About the Author:

Elizabeth Lavender is the author of the Sunspear series. The first book in the sci-fi series is called The Spinning of Deception and the second book is Deception’s Hold. Originally from the Alabama coast, she currently lives in the Dallas area with her husband, Jeff, and her two children. She has a Master’s degree in counseling from Dallas Baptist University and has studied psychology and English. She enjoys science fiction and fantasy and hopes to bring some of that same enjoyment to others. She also enjoys suspense novels as well. However, as long as the storyline is intriguing, she will give it a try. Her reading spans from Les Miserables to Shakespeare to the Percy Jackson series to anything written by Ted Dekker or Frank Perretti. She works full-time and has been at the same company for over twenty years happily. She is a huge football fan and has a decent throwing arm, despite what her oldest son says when he practices throwing the football with her. Although she enjoys Texas, she does love going home to Alabama to visit. Besides visiting family and friends, it is nice to be back near the water again, where the seafood is the best.

You can find more about Elizabeth via her:

Website: https://elizabethlavender.net
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Lavender/e/B07ZLS4G93
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/elizabeth-lavender
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19685019.Elizabeth_Lavender
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elizabethlavender.author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Elavenderauthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/elizabethlavender.author
Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/t2p5x4

Book One: The Spinning Deception

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USA: eBook | Paperback | Hardcover

Book Three: Deception’s Hold

UK: eBook | Paperback | Hardcover

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Book Review Alert: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Reviewed: June 10th, 2021
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA Fantasy

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams – but he can’t pull it off alone.

First off, Let me say I wasn’t a fan of Shadow and Bone, which I thought was targeted at a much younger audience, but my daughter insisted that I read Six of Crows because it was so good and she wanted to discuss it with me!

I am glad to be able to say that I enjoyed this book so much more than Shadow and Bone. The characters had more depth and the story was more complex. Read More…

Author Interview – Tanya Ross

Author of Rising Up

I am joined today by author Tanya Ross who releases the second book in her YA fantasy Tranquility series, on June 7th, 2021. Her series is YA fantasy set in a dystopian world. Book One is called Rising Up and the second is called Face Off. Welcome Tanya. Congratulations on the release of your second book in the series. Please tell us a little about your novels.

Tanya: The story which begins in Rising Up takes place in the future in a domed city called Tranquility. Every citizen signs a contract to agree to the laws, called Accords, which require them to wear a wrist device similar to a smart watch, called the Alt. The Alt measures emotions of the wearer. All the emotional responses are calibrated on a super computer and translated into points whereby the people are assigned a corresponding Status. Happiness and positivity are rewarded, and negativity subtracts from the wearer’s points. The Status determines their standard of living. Those who don’t manage their emotions well are counseled and can be banished from the city.

The female main character, Ember, goes into an emotional crisis when her mother dies from a mysterious illness. No one helps her determine why her young mother has gotten sick in a society where there is no serious illness.  When her Alt crashes and she needs emotional support, a young hero of the city flies to her aid. The two of them endeavor to uncover the mystery of the death, and find that uncovering that is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Helen: Sounds like a really interesting world. It would be interesting to see if rewarding happiness actually works. For some reason I don’t think human nature is that simple. Why did you call your first novel Rising Up?

Tanya: I called my first book Rising Up because this has multiple meanings:

 First, people in this city “rise up” in their Status levels by being happy.

 Second, Ember and her friends find they have to “rise up” against the government.

 Third, “rising up” includes the effort to go beyond one’s circumstances to prevail. 

Helen: Which gives us an idea that all is not tranquil in the world of tranquility. I thought it might be too good to be true. You have a second novel releasing today, tell us a little about Face Off.

Tanya: I have two works in progress. My brand new book is called Facing Off. It is coming out on June 7th, so I’ve been working on editing and formatting that book while also starting the third in the series. Facing Off is a wild ride! The characters begin their revolution, but they find themselves mainly trying to survive what happens to them, as they discover new secrets, escape from the city leader’s horrific traps and ultimatums, and learn whether they can even trust each other. It’s full of twists and turns and will take the reader to places they weren’t expecting. 

Helen: Writing a series can be tough, how do you get the ideas to torment your characters with?

Tanya: With a series, it’s picking up the threads, characters, and themes of the previous book and continue them. I know what each character is going to be dealing with emotionally and what their relationships with each other will be. However, my family brainstorms with me a TON to come up with plotlines and situations for the characters. I owe a lot to them. My husband and I together determined the plot for Rising Up. My daughter gave me a slew of direction and situations for Book 2, Facing Off. I love that it’s a family affair. 

Helen: That is so nice that you get to involve your family; writing can sometimes be a lonely affair. Tell us a little about your writing process, once you have all these ideas and suggestions do you map them out in a plan? or do you find yourself just writing?

Tanya: I have tried so hard to be a planner. But it doesn’t work well for me. I think I’m going to be a pantser for life. When I try to plot outside of the writing, it is boring and dead. Once I’m in the story, the characters take me places I didn’t expect to go. For my new WIP, which is book 3 of the series, I have done some plotting, but how much I will stick to it remains to be seen. 

Helen: I know authors hate being asked this question,but do you have a favourite character?

Tanya: My favorite character is Xander, the rebel in the story. He is somewhat stereotypical of a rebel, but I love how he embraces his rebellion and his desire to be himself in such a genuine way. He’s funny and arrogant and sarcastic, which makes him fun to write. He grows throughout both the first book and the second, and I love to see how he changes and what he learns to value. My readers love him, too. 

Helen: If you didn’t write dystopian YA fantasy what genre would you like to try?

Tanya: If I didn’t write dystopian sci-fi for young adults, I would write romance. I would especially love to tie in some history in the romance, too, so there’s an interesting setting amid the steam. Currently, there’s a paranormal idea for romance churning in my brain, though, too! 

Helen: I’ve enjoyed chatting with you today, thank you for joining me. Congratulations again on the release of Face Off. Just to close us out, can you tell us what advice you would give other authors?

Tanya: I would tell new writers that persistence is key. There are going to be lots of times when you want to quit. When the writing gets hard, or you’re not in the mood. Or when you don’t think you’ll ever be successful. Or when you get negativity from people who read your work–or don’t want to. And with persistence, comes learning and practice, without which you cannot improve 

About the Author:

For thirty-two years she was an educator of English, history, AVID, and student leadership.  She loves teaching and kids, her students a daily inspiration. Her exit from the educational arena allowed her to indulge her hopes, dreams, and goals in what she taught for so many years–writing. This first novel begins her lifelong dream of writing meaningful novels for young adults. When she’s not creating new worlds, you can find her reading, spending time with her husband and two kids, or walking her golden retriever, Honey.

You can find more about Tanya via:

Author Website 

Instagram

Facebook

TikTok

You can order Tanya’s first novel from Amazon:

Book One: Rising Up

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

Canada: eBook | Paperback

As an Amazon Associate I may earn commission from purchases made using these links.

Book Review Alert: Servant of the Crown by Paul J Bennett

Reviewed: June 5th, 2021
Released: October 28th, 2017
Genre: Epic Fantasy

Summary

An old warrior, too stubborn to die. A royal heir, hidden since birth.

Can they save a realm on the brink of war?

Tragedy tears Gerald’s world apart and only his unwavering loyalty saves him. After serving as a soldier for years, a single act of self-sacrifice thrusts his future into the world of politics.

Cut off from all he knows, he becomes no more than a pawn to those in command. Banished with little more than the clothes on his back, he seeks a new purpose, for what is a warrior who has nothing left to fight for?

A fateful meeting with another lost soul unmasks a shocking secret, compelling him to take up the mantle of guardian. Bandits, the Black Hand, and even the king, he battles them all for the future of the realm. Read More…

Author Interview – Nicole Wells

Author of TwinFlames

Joining me today to chat about her new novel, Twin Flames, which releases today, May 31st, 2021 Is fantasy author Nicole Wells. TwinFlames is the third novel in Nicole’s Science Fantasy romance series, The Five Elements. Welcome Nicole. Congratulations on releasing your third novel, quite an accomplishment. You must be so excited! Please tell us a little about your novels.

Nicole: TwinFlames is a science fantasy romance that follows Maia, who is seeking revenge for her identical twin and discovers she can teleport. Gabe is a renowned MMA fighter who falls hard. He was my attempt at an alpha male (yes, he turns into a giant teddy bear, what can I say?). 

It’s book three in the Five Elements series. The series can be started with this book, although it’s best to read book one first since there are spoilers. These books are based on the Five Elements of Chinese philosophy and culture. I also work in indigenous culture and history (for this book, Nez Perce). There’s also an inspirational aspect to the series. In TwinFlames, Maia has to work on anger and forgiveness.

Helen: I read the book blurb and this sounds like a great series, so I am off to find book one, UpSpark! Tell us about the title, what made you call this book TwinFlames?

Nicole: It’s funny, because I set out to do five books in the series and this book ended up being Books three (WildWood) and four (BareEarth) combined: the Wood and the Earth powers. I like the idea of twins, showcasing both elements and also highlighting the destined mate aspect to the word “TwinFlames.” There’s a focus on those people in our lives that feel like they are a part of us, friendships that are bound to happen. It turned out perfect, because Earth’s story is best told this way. I still have each “book” as a Part One and Part Two (Part Three is TwinFlames), so the symmetry was beautiful, especially as the prior two books also had three parts. 

With this addition, each title has some theme of fire and light: UpSpark, StarDust, TwinFlames. Taking a step back, even before there are five elements, there is Yin-Yang. These books are the Yang–the light. The last book, World of Water, is the polar opposite. It is the Yin, the unknowing, the fear, the dark, and the possibility. That is the epitome of Water energy.

Helen: Incorporating the natural elements and their meanings sounds so interesting. It seems to be human nature to understand where we fit, and what we resonate with. For example, our star sign, our birth stone, our personality. What made you write this particular book?

Nicole: Did I mention how much I love putting real life knowledge into science fantasy fiction? I have a Masters in acupuncture, and the gifts of the elements, the relationships between the elements (the Shen and K’o cycles), the way they manifest in a person, etc — it’s all real. Feng Shui, Chinese medicine, and more are based on this paradigm that’s over two thousand years old. 

For example, a Water energetic is not likely to have their back to the door in a room, and they probably know a bunch of esoteric facts. They have innate skill, and can pick up things that it takes others years to master. They might have a love/hate relationship with salt. Wisdom and stillness resonate with them, but so does fear. There’s a tendency towards long earlobes and large noses. 

An Earth will have a sweet tooth and full lips and is someone you definitely want as a friend because she’ll get you and be there for you. This is the quintessential “mother” energetic, full of sympathy and understanding. But she’ll certainly have problems with boundaries.

Metal tends to have good posture and dry skin, enviable complexion and great boundaries. There can be a spaciousness to their words and an almost otherworldly presence; you tend to listen when they talk. But they can be perceived as cold or distant. The sensations in their body ground them, so they might gravitate towards piercings or tattoos. Their connection to spirit is automatic, and they’ll know grief like no one else.

Fire is more prone to stuttering and flushing. When a Fire looks into your eyes, they can look straight into your soul. They connect with you, and can be the life of the party not because they are trying to but because there’s this magnetism and draw, like moths to a flame. Similarly, they can have issues with burning out.

Wood has strong nails, tendons and muscles and is probably having a really hard time with isolation because they need to interact with people. They are immensely creative and can also be competitive, although at heart it’s all about benevolence–they want everyone to win and just like to play. Their edge is with anger.

I could go on forever! I’ve practiced acupuncture for about fifteen years and I love incorporating it into these stories. I also have a strong science background and love weaving that in too.

Helen: This is amazing. I am trying to figure out which one I am already! Maybe Water? I’m not sure. What made you begin writing?

Nicole: I am a voracious reader, but started having a hunger for books that were a little more complex, deep and less predictable. I read in the magical genres I loved, but I wanted something that left me feeling more complete, like I was better for having read it. I was probably battling some mom guilt, too, and wanted my reading to be “productive” because I had “shoulds” hanging over my head, like I “should” meditate. So I set out to write a book that felt like that, one that was all about the present moment. That book was UpSpark.

Helen: I believe you’ve written a few books now, not just the Five Element series; which genre would you say you write in?

Nicole: Ha! I wish I knew! I think all my books will have some touch of romance and magic, but beyond that all bets are off. I’ve published books with spiritual, humorous, paranormal, magical realism, mystery overtones. My current WIPs include YA, dark fantasy, science fiction, epic fantasy, steamy adult reads and a children’s picture book.

Helen: Wow! How do you come up with all these ideas?

Nicole: I exercise. Seriously, I run on the treadmill in the dark with my music blasting. Other times stories strike as just idle thoughts. My biggest problem is having to cull all these ideas! There’s so many books I want to write.

Helen: So you’ve written quite a few books, but I know you’re also a mom of three. How do you fit writing into your everyday life? I’m sure there are a lot of writer’s who want to know the trick!

Nicole: Far too often I stay up until one or two am. Then my daughter wakes me up every two hours until I finally get up for good around six or seven. This I do not recommend.

I wrote Upspark in three weeks. Sometimes I would write a few sentences on my phone when I literally had five minutes of downtime, back when my baby was a newborn. I do not recommend that either.

Now I try to write primarily in the evening and weekends, but it takes a toll on family time. Brandon Sanderson recommends set boundaries. I’m working on that. 

Helen: Yes, I am not so good at boundaries, I grab the time I can. So in your hectic life, with your brain on overdrive, do you plan your books, or are you a complete pantser?

Nicole: Okay, full disclosure. I have a book. A trilogy actually. I have been harboring this baby for thirty long years. She has become so built up in my mind, I can no longer craft the words into existence. So I outline. I have outlined the hell out of that story. There is now a whole network of twists and turns, like alternate realities to the same story, and I can’t make heads or tails of it. I have a smattering of non-temporal chapters, ill-fitting jigsaw puzzle pieces. I know what I want to do, and I look at that beast of a mountain built of notes, and instead sit down and gorge on chocolate instead.

I will write her one day, but in the meantime, I am a hardcore pantser. 

(Total aside–is it just me or does that sound naughty?)

For someone who would plan every minute of the day (who am I kidding, for someone who does plan the day to the second), sitting down in front of my computer with nothing but the opening and end scenes and going on a merry ride to fill in the middle is exhilarating! I don’t know if it’s just me (probably is; I’m thinking a virtue of prosopagnosia?), but I often don’t recognize what I’ve written. So when I write and then edit (if enough time has passed) it’s like getting to enjoy someone else’s story! 

Helen: I agree. Sometimes I’ll go back to one of my drafts, and I’ll think, Did I really write that? And then I get lost in the story again and forget I am supposed to be editing!

It’s been such a pleasure finding out about you and your books. Thank you for joining me. Congratulations again on the release of TwinFlames. Just to close us out, can you tell us what advice you would give other writers?

Nicole: Don’t compare. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Don’t compare your works. Don’t compare how you were to how you are to how you want to be. Be in the present moment. Enjoy the journey and see if you can let go of attachment to outcome, at least most of the time. Stay open-minded, which will help you hear the things you need to and learn the skills to improve. Being free in this way lets you flow on your path, versus bucking and forcing and constantly “trying.”

I did not do these things. I suffered. I know better now, and that’s what I’d pass on so you can skip straight to the awesome parts of writing!

About the Author:

In the ethos where herds of story ideas run wild and free, I am known as the Devourer of Books. A voracious predator, I–

Okay. I’m a mom of three young children. And I spend way too much time in the fantasy world in my head. But, hey, in this world I’m still supernatural. I channel the powers of my insomnia for good. I’m impervious to kid whining and insults (well, mostly). I have a second sense for cereal disasters and broken toy catastrophes. They call me Mom, which is code for You’re-Awesome-We-Love-You or Stop-Writing-On-Your-Computer-and-Play-With-Me. I’m not sure which. My kryptonite is my pet peeves: water running down my elbows, food stains on papers, and losing the little plastic tethers when you remove the tags off new clothes.

So, yeah, that’s me. Your average superhero mom. Oh, and I’ve got three eyes (one in the back of my head).

You can find more about Nicole via her:

Author website

Twitter

Instagram

You can order Nicole’s novel from Amazon:

Book Three: TwinFlames

UK: eBook

USA: eBook

Canada: eBook

If you haven’t read book one UpSpark then you can get it here:

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

Canada: eBook | Paperback

As an Amazon Associate I may earn commission from purchases made using these links.

The Joys of World Building

If you’ve read my novels, you’ll know I created the world of Remargaren. A diverse environment comprised of four kingdoms: Vespiri, Terolia, Elothia and Birtoli. Each has its own political structure, landscape, setting and culture, which drives the behaviour of its inhabitants.

The fun part of world building is that you get to create everything! A lot of the time you are creating backstory, so the story you are writing has depth and makes sense, but it doesn’t mean it is all included in the book. Even though some characters are only mentioned as a legend or ancient history, once upon a time they lived the events that made that history. I have so much backstory that one day there will be a prequel so I can use it all!

My starting point was the deities who created the world of Remargaren in the first place. The sisters Leyandrii and Marguerite. Goddesses who did everything they could to protect the people of Remargaren and its people, and I had my religious structure, and the source of the ancient magic. 

As I started to write the first book, the environment began develop and the idea of basing it on the diverse countries found on the European continent was born.

Vespiri is predominantly forested; a land of trees and rich timber, lush green growth, plentiful water and arable fields. The sentinal trees are scattered across a system of Watches which divide the kingdom into manageable areas. Vespers, Greenswatch, Deepwater, Stoneford, East Watch and Marchwood.

Each Watch has a lord responsible for defending the land, who looks to the king, and each Watch has a council to help with day-to-day management.

Terolia is a hot and arid desert territory ruled by the nomadic Families. Water is scarce as are towns and cities, and sentinals. The Familes are led by a Medera and Sodera, the mother and father, and the family structure is core to their way of life.

There are six Families comprised of three main Familes: the Atolea, the Solari and the Kirshan, and three affiliated lesser Families: Kiker, Gusar and Miner. 

Elothia is an icy territory to the north. Flat plains of icy tundra stretch all the way to ridges of snow-capped mountains. Most of the year, snow covers the land; only the southern reaches are ice free and arable. Food can be scarce when the winters are harsh, and the land remains frozen shortening the growing season and causing strife in the villages.

The Grand Duke rules Elothia, supported by his ministers and the generals that command his army.

Birtoli is an archipelago of islands extending to the south. White sands and turquoise seas, although beautiful, mean that without a boat, the islanders are constrained to the island they born on, and tend to coalesce in tight knit clans. The Birtolian Empire is ruled by an Emperor.

Diverse settings provide the opportunity to create different cultures, political structures and of course the vivid landscapes my characters live in, which also contribute to setting the mood an ambiance of a scene.

You can create a world as complex and diverse as you choose, or as simple as needed.  It becomes the canvas on which your characters live their lives. They react to and manoeuvre through the different territories, and the setting provides the opportunity to create more obstacles and conflict and we enjoy their adventures as the characters deal with them. The reading experience becomes immersive because you can imagine the world, and you can picture yourself in that environment, and you can compare your reactions to those of the characters.

World building is a core component of high fantasy as we need to explain the world our characters live in. High fantasy means that the book is not set in the real world. It is not set on Earth; it is not real. An integral part of this is a map. A map helps a reader visualise where the characters are, and as they traverse the world, you can follow their journey as well. The majority of the time, a high fantasy novel will have a map.

The author uses a map to keep track of distance and locations. One of the hardest parts is consistency when writing a novel. It is so easy to be inconsistent, and a map helps you to see that actually Old Vespers is in the west of Vespiri, not the east for example, or that Stoneford Watch is in the east and borders Elothia to the north and Terolia to the east, and that is where it will always be!

I hope you enjoy the world building in the Sentinal Series and fall in love with the wonderful world of Remargaren and its diverse peoples and cultures.

Book One: Sentinals Awaken is set in Vespiri.

Book Two: Sentinals Rising starts in Vespiri and ends up in Terolia.

Book Three: Sentinals Justice, due to release in the fall travels to Elothia.