Author Interview – Maxx Victor

Author of Hearts and Diamonds.

Today I have the pleasure of talking to Indie Fantasy author and podcaster, Maxx Victor, who is the author of the paranormal romance The Anchor and the Moon series which also has a fairytale twist.

Helen: Welcome Maxx, I am so happy we get to chat about your books today. I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by Maxx on his Indie Author podcast, but today I get to turn the tables and find more about his books. Let’s start with your latest release. Tell us about Hearts and Diamonds.

Maxx: Hearts and diamonds, is part two of my Anchor and the Moon paranormal romance series. It is the continuing story of my two main protagonists Cinder and her love interest Angus (also known as Black because of his black hair and dark features). The series is mainly set in a small beach town called Heathcote which is reminiscent of the beach towns I spent my summers in as a kid with my family. Angus is a dairy farmer who lives on one side of Heathcote and Cinder lives in an old mansion the overlooks the town. While the Anchor and Moon series centres around Cinder and Angus’s relationship, there is also the mystery of the strange creatures that roam the forests around the small beach town. Book one, Cinder and black was inspired by the Cinderella fairy-tale. This book, Hearts and Diamonds, is based on Snow White.

Helen: It’s nice when you can blend locations you know into your story, and have fun with known fairytales which you can give a fantastical twist. Tell us about your cover, the heart shaped tree must have an importance in your story?

Maxx: My good friend Paul Mah designed the cover. The large moon at the centre will appear on all three books of the trilogy. Red is a theme of the book and I’ll explain that more in the next question. I picked the Gold-shadowed text because that seems to be a feature of other books in my genre at the moment. I wanted the forest around the border to look dark and mysterious but the heart silhouette is also a follow on from the cover of book one. (Book one has a surfboard in front of the moon to make an eye shape).

Helen: How did you come up with the title?

Maxx: This book is inspired by Snow white. Both the mother and the daughter in the story are referred to as Red-Queens because of their red hair. The mother is more concerned with power and riches (the Queen of Diamonds) whereas the daughter is driven by love, friendship and compassion (the Queen of Hearts).

Helen: What made you write this particular story?

Maxx: This is the second book in what will be a trilogy. Most of the reading time I have is over the summer. Many years ago while I was reading Twilight at the beach, I begun to imagine what it would be like for there to be a something like that set in one of the small Australian beach towns that I had been vacationing in since I was a child. At the same time, I watched a documentary about Star Wars (My all-time favourite movies). The documentary explained how George Lucas reinvented old tales to create a “Space Opera”. I decided to use fairy tales as the inspiration for my trilogy. Book one was based on Cinderella, as I said this book has Snow White as its inspiration, and book three will have themes from Rumpelstiltskin. From my early teens, I had also been interested in Nephilim, strange superhuman characters mentioned in the bible and wanted to include them in my books. I didn’t realise until after I had published book one that Nephilim are the Shadow Hunters from Cassandra Clare’s books. 

Helen: The ‘What if’ scenario is so useful for sparking new ideas. And seeing as most stories have already been written, it’s all about taking what is a known trope and putting your own orignal spin on it. When did you first realise you had a passion for writing?

Maxx: I loved writing stories even as a small child, I still have some of the funny things I wrote. As most writers, I have always enjoyed reading and read an eclectic variety of books. In my teens and early adult life, I wrote a lot of poetry and song lyrics but my passion for story telling returned when my two sons were little. To get them to sleep at night, I would make up funny stories with them as the main characters and they would go on all kinds of adventures. I wrote down some of these stories and others and begun entering local writing competitions. When I won some of these competitions, I decided to try my hand at writing a novel.

Helen: And we are so glad you did! Which element of the writing process do you find most challenging and why?

Maxx: The element I find most challenging is time. I have never been a fast writer and I just don’t have enough time to get all my ideas down.

Helen: There are never enough hours in the day. Which genre do you prefer to write?

Maxx: I guess you could call me a fantasy writer. My short stories are sci-fi/ time travel. I have always imagined what it would be like to go back and change the past or to be in the past with knowledge of the future.

My trilogy is paranormal romance. I didn’t know what paranormal romance was when I started writing them, that is just the genre that fits with my ideas. I also still have some of the children’s stories that I wrote for my kids that I would like to publish in the future.

Helen: I started by writing what I enjoyed reading, which was epic fantasy, but I didn’t write specific tropes, I was writing what I thought should be in the book. I retroactively fitted the tropes to my story, once I realised what I had written! Who first inspired you write?

Maxx: My mother and father. As a child I struggled with dyslexia and found reading and writing a challenge. To help, my father would read to my brother most nights. My mother encouraged me to write journals and ideas. My mother passed away just before I published my first book, but I dedicated it to her. My older sister should also get some of the credit, she gave me the first book in the Narnia chronicles when I was about 10 years old, sparking my love for reading.

Helen: What is the best thing that has happened to you since you began writing?

Maxx: The best thing is seeing that my books appeal to a wide range of people. One of my friends who is in his forties enjoys reading my books, but his 11 year old daughter loves them and is always asking when the next one is out.

Helen: That is so great, reaching across generations. It’s been great chatting with you today, just to close us out, is there a tool you have found useful when writing?

Maxx: I Love Pro-Writing-Aid. I have never been great at punctuation and because of my dyslexia, I am bound to misspell words or put the wrong word in place of another. As for a resource for anyone thinking of self-publishing I am a big fan of Joanna Penn and all the work she does for Indie Authors.

Helen: Oh yes, Joanna Penn and her Creative Pen podcast is a great resource for all Indie authors. Thank you Maxx for joining me today. Wishing you all the best with your books and don’t forget to check out Maxx’s Indie Author podcast for more writing advice and great indie author interviews.

About the Author:

Maxx Victor is an Australian author, musician, and secondary school science teacher, who has achieved award winning success with his short stories. A dedicated husband and proud father of two, he is also highly involved in his local arts community; performing in bands and producing and directing amateur films.

Maxx’s author journey began at a very young age. As a child with dyslexia, reading and writing were a constant struggle. To help, his father implemented the nightly routine of reading Titin and Asterix comics and Biggles books to Maxx and his brother; installing a lifelong passion for reading. Maxx’s mother also encouraged him to write stories (some which he has kept to this day).

During his secondary school years, Maxx unearthed a love for music. He regularly wrote poetry and song lyrics, as well as scripts for plays and short films. Something again sparked the curiosity for writing stories when Maxx’s children were toddlers. He frequently created impromptu, twisted fairy-tale bedtime stories, with his family members as the main characters. Maxx now writes teen fiction and hopes that his writing can inspire young people to be defined by their passions and talents, not by the things that the world will tell them are impairments.

Social Media: Find Maxx’s scocial media links here.

You can purchase Hearts and Dimaonds here:

Link to book on Amazon UK: eBook | Paperback

Link to book on Amazon US: eBook | Paperback

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

If you enjoy fantasy romance books then you will love my new release SoulBreather, book one of the SoulMist series, and my epic fantasy Sentinal series. As a new threat against Remargaren is discovered, only one man can wake the ancient guards who can protect them, only he doesn’t know how. Start the adventure and stay for the journey. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next books are published.

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Book Review Alert: The Borderland Princess by Ophelia Wells Langley

Reviewed: January14th, 2023
Released: November 28th, 2022
Genre: Fantasy Romance

Not Everything Is As It Seems In Fae….

What her people need, or what her heart wants?

Destined to unite the war-torn kingdoms of humans and Fae, Princess Sorcha must do her duty. But her heart has other ideas.

The road to Fae-lands is long, and her Fae escort, Lord Conall, is handsome, dashing, and brave-all things a loyal knight should be. Yet no fae wants a human queen, and more war is on the horizon. Her betrothed, High King of the Fae, has secrets of his own, and she’s not sure that he’s her destiny. But her handsome knight and her heart will have to stand aside, for the princess has a duty-her people need this alliance. Until terrible secrets are exposed and the princess must choose between upholding her duty or following her dreams.

One mistake, one wrong choice and it’s not just her heart that will suffer, it’s her entire kingdom…

Read my thoughts…

Realm of Darkness Author Spotlight – Pale Death by Emily Clark

I am delighted to focus the spotlight on Emily Clark’s Pale Death

Only available as part of the Realm of Darkness Anthology.

A boxset full of 35 full length fantasy novels.  I can’t wait to read these wonderful books. See all the covers revealed so far here

Pale Death by Emily Clark

This angel must pay the price for his transgressions. But he’t not going down without a fight.

Jax is cast to earth and trapped on an island surrounded by demons. He can’t leave until he learns from his sins. He wants his wings back. Only problem is, he doesn’t feel guilty for killing. And as soon as he meets Addie, the girl who doesn’t believe in gods or angels, his desire to leave wilts.

He’s too intrigued. An intrigue that consumes him when the lightest touch from her makes his wings burst back to life like a flame rekindled. She’s got faith all right, and it just might be his saving grace.

Order Realm of Darkness Boxset

Exclusively available as part of the Realm of Darkness Boxset order now on Amazon and other retailers for only $9.99


About the Author:

Emily Clark is a best-selling author who has been writing since she could lift a pencil and making up stories even longer than that.

For years she worked part-time jobs so she would always have time to write, read, and travel. Some of her favorite filler jobs included working as an editor, at a nursery (flowers not children,) as a driving instructor (not as harrowing as one might think,) and being a ghost tour guide.

She loves YA fantasy with subtle “moral of the story” lessons (Brandon Mull excels at that), swoony clean romances, and if there’s a mystery involved, she’s hooked! 

If she’s not at her computer, you can typically find her reading, listening to podcasts, in her garden, in her kitchen, or with her sister and her sister’s kids.

She also writes cozy mysteries, romantic suspense, and clean romance under the pen name Ellie Thornton. 

If you’d like to be kept appraised of her upcoming books, freebies, and giveaways, (she’s also been known to send amazing recipes,) you can sign up for her email list here.

Other books by Emily Clark

Red: The Wolves Must Die ( A Red Riding Hood YA retelling)

Amazon UK: eBook

Amazon US: eBook

If you enjoy fantasy romance books then you will love my new release SoulBreather, part of the Realm of Darkness Anthology, and my epic fantasy Sentinal series. As a new threat against Remargaren is discovered, only one man can wake the ancient guards who can protect them, only he doesn’t know how. Start the adventure and stay for the journey. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next books are published.

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Author Interview – Sky Sommers

Author of Charm and Mayhem.

I am excited to chat with Sky Sommers today about her contribution to the Realm of Darkness boxset, Charm and Mayhem, which released yesterday! October 4th, 2022 and is currently available to order.

Helen: Welcome Sky, I am so excited that we get to chat about your book today!! I love how all your books have a little twist, and I am sure Charm and Mayhem is no exception. Tell us a little about your book.

Sky: My book in the anthology is a quirky and slightly humorous romantic fantasy between a guardian angel bodyguarding a noob Goddess of Fate. It’s called Charm& Mayhem: The Goddess of Fate. It’s the first book in a new Goddesses Saga, but it builds on my multiverse that encompasses the modern Earth and Magic Kingdom. And then some. I use magic mirrors as portal-hopping elements and there is some hilarity around Medieval dating intricacies of being married from first kiss (and even before). Marina introduces Gabriel to Moscow’s glitzy life, he saves her from the havoc of her own making. It’s light, it’s fun, I hope it’s worth a read.

Helen: I have no doubt it will be as you always bring a new aspect to the most mundane of things. I love the way you think!! How about your cover, I assuming it’s Marina and Gabriel?

Sky: It’s a quirky romantic fantasy between a Russian-born goddess and a guardian angel who has got something to atone for. Hence, a couple on the cover; the girl looks Russian and the angel’s wings are a little less than white. Since most of the book takes place in Moscow, there’s a St.Basil’s Cathedral in the corner.

Helen: What made you write a novel for an anthology?

Sky: Jealousy. Pure and simple. An author friend of mine who I look up to was in a USAT aiming set and touted her badges last year and I asked her – how did you do it. She told me. I approached the set managers and here we are.

Helen: As good as reason as any! If I asked your characters why we should read your book, what would they say?

Sky: If it’s Marina you’re asking, she’d say, don’t be daft, it’s fun and the kissing scenes, ahhh.

If it’s Gabriel, he’d think for ten minutes and then say something about hope and new beginnings. In French. Without cusswords.

Helen: Love it!! Now the set is launched, what are you working on now?

Sky: Current WIP: book #2 in the Goddesses Saga called Life&Death: The Goddess of Light. It takes place 10 years after book #1 finishes and is about the Goddess of Death needing a replacement coz she wants to check out.

Helen: Oh I am already rolling my eyes at the fun you are going to have with that! Who do you prefer to write heroes or villains?

Sky: Villains have more layers and better whys, so gimme those. In fact, one of my most loathesome character of all time – Godmother from Cinders – is begging for her own book coz she wants to be the Red Queen in Wonderland. And I’m sooooo tempted.

Helen: That would be awesome. You have the most wonderful ideas. Cinders was a brilliant book. How you twisted the relationship between the step mother and Cinders was clever and so funny! Do you find you have to do much research for your books?

Sky: Initially – minimal. But on the go – I check stuff obsessively. And then I twist them beyond recognition, but based on facts. Absolutely.

Helen: If you didn’t write Fairytale retellings, is there a genre you would be tempted to try?

Sky: Well, I might just try historical fiction – Russian Civil War and WWI time in a retelling of The Nutcracker – with one of my favourite authors, Astrid V.J. no less. #happydance

Helen: Oh! What a tease, that would be great! I hope you guys do collaborate. Thank you, Sky, for spending time with me today. Just to close us out, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Sky: Based on my own recent experience of getting a first draft of a book together in 40 days – set an aim to write a specific word count every day – e.g. 1k words or 2k words or 500 words. You’ll inevitably end up overshooting and if you think about it – 1k words for 50 days and you have a decent-size novel. The perfecting and polishing and developmental edits and proofreads will all come after. Just write something, anything during a designated time and hit that target. Even when you think you don’t want to write. Even when you think your head is empty. Write something and it’ll grow. Trust me.

Helen: Great advice. Thank you so much Sky. We can go and continue celebrating now, as it’s launch day +1!! I hope all you readers come and join us for the party in the Dark Book Boyfriend Facebook Group. Play the games and comment on the giveaway posts for a chance to win prizes. Spread the word – Realm of Darkness is now live!

You can order the anthology here for the insane price of 99c!

Realm of Darkness Anthology

Make sure you can check out some of my other posts as I interview and spotlight the authors!

Want to know which is the best book for you in the boxset? Take the ‘Which book is for me quiz‘.

About the Author:

Sky Sommers

Sky was born to Estonian-Russian parents and for most of her life has lived and worked as a lawyer in Tallinn, Estonia, with brief escapes to Finland and the United Kingdom for work/study and to all but the top and bottom continents in search of her muse. Her debut e-book in 2012 was about ancient goddesses running amock, trying to get their wilted powers back. She then proceeded to indie publishing her own ebooks and paperbacks and found her way from myths and legend via the Angelic Agency to fairytales retold for young adult and adult audiences.

So far, Thumbelina has been updated for suspicious adults, a more sinister version of Cinderella was released on 21.12.20 and an adult Red Riding Hood retelling is about to be released on 21.03.21. A Wizard of Oz retelling and several short stories are in the works. All her books are linked by some character or another and she loves making you choose at the end – by letting you pick an ending to read – one for the optimist and a slightly different one for pessimists (well, except in the Cinders-Embers-Ash trilogy because only Douglas Adams could pull off a trilogy in 5 parts). She lives in a house with a small garden with her husband and mostly one, but on occasion plus four kids. No dog.

You can find her on:

Facebook

Instagram

Other books by Sky Sommers

You can purchase Book One: Cinders here:

Link to book on Amazon UK: eBook

Link to book on Amazon US: eBook

Link book on Amazon Canada: eBook

And Book Two: Embers here:

Link to book on Amazon UK: eBook

Link to book on Amazon US: eBook

Link book on Amazon Canada: eBook

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

If you enjoy fantasy romance books then you will love my new release SoulBreather, part of the Realm of Darkness Anthology, and my epic fantasy Sentinal series. As a new threat against Remargaren is discovered, only one man can wake the ancient guards who can protect them, only he doesn’t know how. Start the adventure and stay for the journey. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next books are published.

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Realm of Darkness Author Spotlight – Beneath the Waves of the Neversea by K.A. Last

Some gorgeous covers have been revealed over the last few weeks for the Realm of Darkness Anthology. I am delighted to share K.A Last’s Beneath the Waves of the Neversea

Only available as part of the Realm of Darkness Anthology.

Have you preordered your copy yet for the insane special preorder price of 99c?  I can’t wait to read these wonderful books. See some of the covers revealed so far here

Beneath the Waves of the Neversea By KA Last

One adventure. Two worlds. Three broken hearts.

Wendie feels trapped, and she wants nothing more than to escape her life in London. 

When the promise of adventure lures her from her bedroom window, she eagerly follows the boy with golden hair and stars in his eyes. Wendie falls under Peter’s spell, and he draws her to him in ways she can’t explain. 

He is intoxicating, and dangerous, and makes her crave an adventure of a different kind.

But Peter is determined never to grow up. For him, Wendie is a means to an end, a way to rekindle the belief that holds the very fabric of Neverland together. 

Until she crosses the boundary into adulthood, dragging Peter with her.

Ronan is lost. Banished from Wonderland for crimes he can’t remember. 

After being thrown into a world where he isn’t welcome, Ronan is imprisoned by Peter and the Lost Boys. They condemn him for his age and his magic, but with Wendie’s help, Ronan escapes Peter’s clutches.

Ronan clings to his magic and madness, battling his heart and his mind as he tries to stay alive. His one goal: to find his way back home.

But Peter won’t allow Ronan to leave. No one leaves Neverland unless he says so.

Forced together by a common foe, Wendie and Ronan must fight for their hearts and their lives. Will Wendie be Ronan’s saviour, or will they both suffer at the hands of Peter Pan?

Preorder Realm of Darkness Boxset

Only available as part of the Realm of Darkness Boxset available for preorder now on Amazon and other retailers for only 99c/99p!


About the Author:

K. A. Last has always been artistic and creative. She has a diploma in Graphic Design and has worked in the publishing industry for more than twenty years. Blessed with a vivid imagination, she began writing to let off creative steam and fell in love with it. She also has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Charles Sturt University with a major in English, and minors in Children’s Literature, Art History, and Visual Culture. She resides in the Australian countryside on the Mid-North Coast of NSW with her family and a menagerie of animals.

Other books by K.A Last

Fall For Me Book One of the Tate Chronicles

Amazon UK: eBook | Paperback

Amazon US: eBook | Paperback

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

If you enjoy fantasy romance books then you will love my new release SoulBreather, part of the Realm of Darkness Anthology, and my epic fantasy Sentinal series. As a new threat against Remargaren is discovered, only one man can wake the ancient guards who can protect them, only he doesn’t know how. Start the adventure and stay for the journey. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next books are published.

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Author Interview – Rosalyn Briar

Author of The Mermaid and the Pearl.

Joining me today is another of my co-conspirators from the Realm of Darkness boxset. I am chatting with Fantasy author, Rosalyn about her contribution to the boxset, The Mermaid & the Pearl, which releases on October 4th, 2022 and is currently available on preorder.

Helen: Welcome Rosalyn, I am so excited to chat with you about The Mermaid and the Pearl. I was fortunate enough to beta read your book, and I can’t wait for it to be released. Tell us a little about your book.

Rosalyn: The Mermaid & the Pearl is a sapphic retelling of “The Little Mermaid.” It has an underwater circus setting and a “Corpse Bride” twist. It is atmospheric and delightfully creepy.

Helen: Such a great idea to have an underwater circus, gives you lots of enteratining ideas to play with. Your cover is gorgeous, tell us who is on the front cover.

Rosalyn: The cover shows the main character Muriel swimming in front of a circus tent to show the unusual setting. It also shows Muriel holding her magic pearl necklace which is what she uses to make skeletons dance for the circus.

Helen: Sounds suitably creepy! I imagine your title is quite descriptive of your story and as a retelling you got straight to the point.

Rosalyn: I chose The Mermaid & the Pearl because I wanted readers to know right away that this was a book about mermaids. Pearls are important to the book because they contain the souls of the dead and my character uses a pearl necklace to make skeletons dance with the magic in her voice.

Realm of Darkness Anthology

Helen: What made you write a novel for an anthology?

Rosalyn: A writer friend told me about the set and that they were still accepting authors, and I just decided to go for it! It was a lot of work to come up with an idea and write an entire novel so quickly, but I am so thankful for this opportunity. I knew I could write another fairy tale retelling in the same world as my book A Sea of Pearls & Leaves, so a Little Mermaid retelling was an easy choice!

Vision of the Moon

Helen: I loved A Sea of Pearls and Leaves. Readers can find my book review here. What else have you written?

Rosalyn: My first book, The Crown of Bones, is a dark fantasy adventure with deadly obstacles based on the Grimm’s fairy tales. A Sea of Pearls & Leaves is a whimsical and atmospheric retelling of “The Three Snake-Leaves” and is set in the same world as The Mermaid & the Pearl. I also have a novel coming out in April with Quill & Crow Publishing House called Her Dark Enchantments, a witchy and magical villain origin story about the Wicked Fairy from Sleeping Beauty.

Helen: When writing, do you enjoy creating villains or heroes?

Rosalyn: I really love writing villains because I think they are so much fun. I suppose that is why my next book is a villain origin story!

Helen: Do you prefer silence or music when you write?

Rosalyn: I only listen to instrumental music because I cannot focus on writing if there are lyrics. I really enjoy witchy or fairy tale-esque playlists on YouTube.

Helen: I know you have a young famiy, so, how do you fit in writing around your daily life?

Rosalyn: I find it important to follow a writing routine, so I wake up at 5 AM every day to write. It really sets the tone for the day for me and puts me in a better mood.

Helen: I couldn’t do it. I am a night owl. You won’t get a sensible word out of me at 5am in the morning! If you didn’t write Fairytale retellings, what genre would you like to try?

Rosalyn: I absolutely love reading thrillers and would love to try writing in that genre someday. I actually have a storyline, setting, and notes for a thriller that I hope to work on within the next few years.

Helen: Most authors are great readers, who is your favorite author?

Rosalyn: I will read anything by Shea Earnshaw. I think she has the most beautiful and lyrical prose.

Helen: Thank you for joining me today Rosalyn, it’s been great chatting with you. Just to finish, what advice would you give aspiring writers?

Rosalyn: I would tell new writers to never give up and write what they love. Also, I would say to share your work with reliable critique partners and beta readers to make your writing even better.

Helen: Thank you, Roslayn. I am so excited to be part of this anthology, it has been a great experience, and I can’t believe the launch is only a month or so away. It has come around so quickly! You can preorder the anthology here for the insane price of 99c/79p!

Make sure you can check out some of my other posts as I spotlight the authors as they reveal their covers!

About the Author:

Rosalyn Briar

Rosalyn Briar a former teacher, a mother to two fearless daughters, and a wife to her soul mate. She loves reading, traveling, and playing board games. More importantly, she believes in fairy tales. When she is not reading or writing, you might find her playing dress-up or gleaning through the woods for wildflowers with her princesses.

For all the latest news:

Author webpage

Other books by Rosalyn Briar

A Sea of Pearls & Leaves

Link to ebook on Amazon UK | Amazon US
Link to paperback on Amazon UK | Amazon US

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

If you enjoy fantasy romance books then you will love my new release SoulBreather, part of the Realm of Darkness Anthology, and my epic fantasy Sentinal series. As a new threat against Remargaren is discovered, only one man can wake the ancient guards who can protect them, only he doesn’t know how. Start the adventure and stay for the journey. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next books are published.

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Mailchimp to receive marketing, updates, and other emails from the site owner. Use the unsubscribe link in those emails to opt out at any time.

Author Interview – Elle Hartford

Author of Beauty & the Alchemist.

Today I am chatting with Elle Hartford who is celebrating the release of her cozy mystery/fairytale retelling Beauty and the Alchemist which releases today, August 12th, 2022.

Helen: Welcome Elle. Congratulations on the relase of your new book Beauty & the Alchemist. It seems like it’s a mixture of multiple genres, tell us a little about it.

Elle: Hi! I’m really excited for this book. It’s called Beauty and the Alchemist, and it’s a cozy mystery retelling of Beauty and the Beast. My main character is an alchemist named Red, who’s really just trying to live her life making potions in fairy tale Belville. But when a criminal is found murdered in a nearby haunted castle, and Red’s best friend takes the blame, she has to jump in and find the truth. There’s ancient curses, supportive friends, and–of course!–a huge library.

Helen: Oh, and you’re playing with fairytales as well. You are mixing up the bag! How did you come up with idea to mix genres?

Elle: My friends on social media have accused me of making up my own genre, and I guess they’re right! But that’s not what I set out to do. I’ve been a long time reader of cozy mysteries (mysteries where the focus is on the puzzle and the community, not so much on grim crimes or police procedure). A lot of cozies have a witchy or “paranormal” theme, so to me, it seemed natural to extend that just a little bit, to include fairy tales and magic creatures. So, often I’ll describe my subgenre as “fairy tale-inspired cozy” or even cozy fantasy. I just love it, because it takes the warm feelings and brain teasers of cozy mystery and adds magic–what could be better?

Helen: Sounds like an excellent new genre to me! I always think covers are the most difficult to create, how about you? How did you decide what the cover should be?

Elle: I really wanted my cover to have a classic cozy mystery look–a picturesque scene with a hint of danger, and the cozy companion front and center, naturally. So William, the black dog, is sitting on the path watching as Red’s cloak disappears into the woods below the ghostly castle. Normally, William would refuse to sit still while Red runs toward the unknown, but I liked how this scene combines both the lost castle of Beauty and the Beast with the dark forest of Little Red Riding Hood (Red’s namesake).

Helen: I think it’s so interesting that you’re mashing up fairytales as well. Tell us about your protagonist, Red.

Elle: My protagonist is the alchemist, Red, who recently gave up a life of being a traveling potion-maker to settle down in rural Belville. She’s smart, resourceful, and a little bit mysterious. She also cares a lot about her friends, even if she won’t always admit it outright–often, she feels like an outsider, even though many people in Belville welcome her immediately. I myself can relate to Red’s shyness when it comes to trusting relationships, so that’s probably part of why I wrote her. But also, more practically, who better to solve mysteries than a natural scientist with botanical knowledge, an alchemical lab, and an arsenal of special tools?

Helen: If Red could answer this question, why would she say we should read your book?

Elle: Red would say that we should read the book for Luca, her best friend in Belville, or for Gloria, her irascible neighbor. Both Gloria and Luca have their own personal struggles that they have to overcome in the course of the book. Red helps them both, in her way, but she would definitely give them most of the credit. 

Helen: Who is your favourite character in your book?

Elle: What a tough question! I love so many of my characters, each for a different reason. But one of the characters who made me smile the most while I was writing is Trent, a young witch who gets roped into the investigation. He reminds me very much of my little brother (though both Trent and my brother are too big now to really be thought of as “little”!).

Helen: When writing cozy fantasy novels, with a touch of fairytale magic, do you still find yourself doing research?

Elle: Tons. If you could see my office, you might think I was an alchemist fresh from the twelfth century–or a scholar of some kind! This series has been a very good excuse to collect books. 🙂 The alchemy that Red practices is based on historical science and mysticism–think things like the Elixir of Life and proto-chemistry. And then, of course, I also research a lot of folklore for each story too, since many of them are based on fairy tales or legends. I love breathing new life into old things!

Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today Elle, and congratulations on the release of your cozy fantasy novel. A final question for you. What advice would give aspiring writers?

Elle: My opinion on this has changed a lot during my journey to publication. I think my advice would be twofold: first, find a critique partner or editor or writing group whose opinion you trust, and who you feel safe sharing your work with. Having someone with a completely different perspective from me point out the highs and lows of my manuscripts has been invaluable–it may feel hard to accept feedback in the moment, but it makes you so much more confident in the end, because you know you’ve covered your bases. So that’s part one: value an outside perspective. But part two is definitely to believe in yourself. If you can do that, truly–and it is very hard!–then you’re golden. A lot of my books boil down to just that.

And catching murderers, of course. 😉

Thank you so, so much for having me on, and giving me a chance to ramble about things I love!

About the Author:

Elle Hartford

Elle adores cozy mysteries, fairy tales, and above all, learning new things. As a historian and educator, she believes in the value of stories as a mirror for complicated realities. She currently lives in New Jersey with a grumpy tortoise and a three-legged cat.

Find more stories of Red and her friends at ellehartford.com. And while you’re there, sign up for Elle’s newsletter to get bonus material, behind-the-scenes sneak peeks, and terrible jokes!

For all the latest news:

You can order Beauty and the Alchemist from Amazon:

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

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If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my epic fantasy Sentinal series. As a new threat against Remargaren is discovered, only one man can wake the ancient guards who can protect them, only he doesn’t know how. Start the adventure and stay for the journey. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and keep up with progress on my next books are published.

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Book Review Alert: Silent Melody by Alice Ivinya

Reviewed: June 21st, 2022
Released: June 11th, 2021
Genre: Fairytale Retelling

When the Pied Piper came, only three children remained. One was deaf and one was blind.
Being deaf meant life was hard for Adelaide in thirteenth century Germany. However, it also saved her from the Pied Piper’s music. When the children were stolen, she was left behind. Now she and her blind friend risk everything to free the children trapped in an eternal dance. But to rescue them she must face the Heartless Queen, who will do anything to keep them, and survive her twisted games. Adelaide finds she has no choice but to trust the man she should hate and hope he is not playing games of his own.

If she fails, the children will be lost forever. Read my Thoughts…

Guest post: Enchanted Forests and the bid to support rainforest conservation by Astrid V.J.

Enchanted Forests is a collection of ten short fantasy stories about magical forests and the creatures living in them. All proceeds of this book are being donated to Rainforest Foundation to support their work in rainforest conservation.

Why does the book exist?

Ten fantasy authors who are concerned about the state of the planet saw an opportunity to do good with their writing. Each on our own, we don’t have the following or the financial wherewithal to make a significant contribution towards this important cause. But when we joined forces, we found we actually have a chance to make a difference.

Enchanted Forests is the second charity anthology these authors have worked on together, and it has been a fantastic opportunity to collaborate and turn the writing process, which is usually very lonely work, into a group activity. The authors read and critique each other’s stories and Elena Shelest has contributed with illustrations for each story in addition to providing her short story for the anthology. The previous book in the Enchanted Anthologies series of fantasy story collections for charitable causes is Enchanted Waters.

Why Rainforest conservation?

Since this anthology is about magical forests, the authors wanted to make a contribution towards forest conservation. Rainforests, specifically, are the type of forest in greatest danger from human activities. Deforestation overshadows conservation attempts to the extent that eight million hectares of rainforest are lost every year! Add to that: virtually all rainforest deforestation is driven by human activity! At the same time, rainforests are the source of foods and other products (many used in medicines) that we humans need.

Rainforest Foundation supports indigenous and traditional peoples of the world’s rainforests in their efforts to protect their environment and fulfill their rights by assisting them in securing and controlling the natural resources necessary for their long-term well-being and managing these resources in ways which do not harm their environment, violate their culture or compromise their future. Additionally, Rainforest Foundation works to develop the means to protect their individual and collective rights, and to obtain, shape and control basic services from the state.

About the authors

Jennifer Kropf is a Canadian author obsessed with Christmas legends and folklore. 

Xander Cross creates original stories with folkloric elements from all over the world.

Ben is a myth obsessive who writes stories with exotic settings and cool monsters.

Alice is a young adult fantasy and fairytale author who spends most of her time adventuring in mythical lands and the rest exploring non-mythical ones.

Lyndsey writes young adult fantasy filled with myths, magic and swoon-worthy romance.

N.D.T. Casale is an Italian-American fantasy author creating magical realms for others to escape into and enjoy.

Astrid V.J. is a South African fantasy author who writes transformation fiction: exploring our human capacity to transform our lives and achieve success in the face of adversity.

Sky Sommers is a fan of retold fairytales, valkyries and frozen cinnamon buns.

Donna White writes epic and paranormal fantasy stories with mysterious adventures, gracious characters, and a touch of humor.

Elena Shelest is a Ukranian-American artist and author of romantic fantasy inspired by Cossack culture.

About the stories:

Gems of Fae and Foolery by Alice Ivinya

These two female dwarves aren’t to be crossed, especially not by an arrogant fae lord.

One Fair Eve by Lyndsey Hall

One dream. One wish. One bargain Pip will come to regret.

To Snare a Prince by Sky Sommers

What do you do when a six-headed dragon complains of indigestion after it’s just gobbled up a dark elf? Easy, you tell it to wait in line like everyone else.

Willow Daughter by Astrid V.J.

When a woodcutter follows a song into the forbidden depths of the forest, he finds himself tangled in a deadly conflict between the Willow Daughter and the Forest Father.

Pingguo and the Dead Forest by Xander Cross

In a desolate post-apocalyptic world riven by famine, three children make a journey through the Dead Forest in search for seeds defended by a dragon.

The Fern Flower by Elena Shelest

On the night when the legendary fern flower appears in the forest, can Miray and Savko find their true path?

Blood of the Unicorn by N.D.T. Casale

A wicked queen’s desire for blood from the hearts of unicorns, sends a princess through a divided forest into the shadows of death.

Dimension of the Sasquatch by Donna White

A lot has happened to the curator of a supernatural treasure trove since she discovered that she can walk through different dimensions, now she’s traveling with Bigfoot.

Feather Green by Jennifer Kropf

When Estheryn overhears the royal family’s secrets, it’s her father who pays the price, resulting in a careless murder that propels her to do the unthinkable: disobey the direct order of the Prince of Persianna and enter the forest.

The Lucky Tortoise by Ben Lang

A prince’s duty is to bring his people luck and the slightest misstep means bringing ruin to the kingdom…or worse…


Join us in making the world a better place! We are currently looking for readers to join our review team to help out with a review on Amazon, Goodreads and/or Bookbub during the book’s release week. You’ll get a free e-book copy of Enchanted Forests as well as your name included in the book’s acknowledgements if you sign up before May 15, 2022. Sign up here.

Enchanted Forests is available to pre-order here.


Sources:

https://rainforests.mongabay.com/facts/rainforest-facts.html#6

About

Realm of Darkness Author Spotlight – Charm and Mayhem by Sky Sommers

Some gorgeous covers have been revealed over the last few weeks for the Realm of Darkness Anthology. I am delighted to share Sky Sommers’ Cham and Mayhem

Only available as part of the Realm of Darkness Anthology.

Have you preordered your copy yet for the insane price of 99c/99p?  I can’t wait to read these wonderful books. See all the covers revealed so far here

Charm and Mayhem by Sky Sommers

After a stint in the Magic Kingdom, Marina returns to her glitzy Moscow life as the new goddess of Fate, with an angel in tow.

Gabriel a former guardian is atoning for his decisions as Fate’s bodyguard. First order of business: Keep Marina’s jealous ex away from her. Second: restore magic on earth. As Marina tries to explain botox and face control to Gabriel, the olden Goddess of Fate has schemes of her own.

Will Gabriel be able to let go of the past? Can Marina navigate the mayhem of her new job with charm alone or will she remain a goddess without magic? And how exactly do you tell your FSB-anointed father you’re now immortal?

Preorder Realm of Darkness Boxset

Only available as part of the Realm of Darkness Boxset available for preorder now on Amazon and other retailers for only 99c/99p!

You can read my Book Review of Sky’s fairytale retelling: To Thaw a Heart which proivdes more background to Marina.


About the Author:

Sky was born to Estonian-Russian parents and for most of her life has lived and worked as a lawyer in Tallinn, Estonia, with brief escapes to Finland and the United Kingdom for work/study and to all but the top and bottom continents in search of her muse. Her debut e-book in 2012 was about ancient goddesses running amock, trying to get their wilted powers back.

She then proceeded to indie publishing her own ebooks and paperbacks and found her way from myths and legend via the Angelic Agency to fairytales retold for young adult and adult audiences. So far, Thumbelina has been updated for suspicious adults, a more sinister version of Cinderella was released on 21.12.20 and an adult Red Riding Hood retelling is about to be released on 21.03.21. A Wizard of Oz retelling and several short stories are in the works.

All her books are linked by some character or another and she loves making you choose at the end – by letting you pick an ending to read – one for the optimist and a slightly different one for pessimists (well, except in the Cinders-Embers-Ash trilogy because only Douglas Adams could pull off a trilogy in 5 parts). She lives in a house with a small garden with her husband and mostly one, but on occasion plus four kids. No dog.

Also by Sky Sommers

  • To Thaw a Heart
  • Cinders, Necessary Evil
  • Ash, Crooked Fates
  • Embers, Beastly Curses
  • To Cure a Curse
  • Godesses, Hubble Bubble Toil and Trouble
  • Thumbelina
  • This TIme Around
  • King of Time