Reviewed: September 26th 2021 Released: September 25th, 2021 Genre: Contemporary MM Fantasy
A broken mage. A penitent vampire. Can they put aside the horrors of the past to save each other?
Plagued with erratic, volatile magic, Nicodemus Green focuses his entire life to stop an evil sorcerer who brainwashes or kills anyone in his path to domination. Ten years into this crusade, Nick stumbles upon his former Academy instructor in the Austrian Alps. The strict and pious Byron Domitius has cloistered himself in an isolated manor. Alone and starving, he hates the twisted, damned creature he has become.
A prophecy calls for Nick and Byron to bond by blood to finally bring an end to the sorcerer’s hidden agenda. The two are forced to see beyond their shared past, and Nick finds himself desiring more from his old instructor than just his magic. But are these emotions real, or do they come from the heat of their bond? Read More…
Reviewed: September 23rd, 2021 Released: December 8th, 2021 Genre: Epic Fantasy
The Dryad’s Crown series is not just a book series, is it a work of art. From the delicate earthy covers to the beautiful illustrations you’ll find inside. A Slow Parade in Penderyn is the first novella.
In the port city of Penderyn, Silbrey once served as a soldier for the cruel, ambitious guildmaster. Silbrey escaped the city and her life of violence by rushing into marriage and motherhood. Now she returns to Penderyn to atone for her crimes and confront the guil
Silbrey discovers there is more to her past than even she realized, beyond the familiar cobbled streets of the city. What begins as a fairy tale transforms into an epic adventure about love and loss—and a woman with a strange connection to the natural world. Read More…
Today I am talking with author Jonathan Taylor about his new release. Welcome Jonathan, Congratulations on your new release! Please tell us about your new uban fantasy novel which released on September 15th, 2021.
Jonathan: My current book is called Heir To The Empire: The Next Generation. There are two potential lawsuits I am risking with this title, which I hope I can counter with countersuits and then an out-of-court settlement that allows me to still use that name. I introduce it as an urban fantasy coming-of-age action-adventure story. The protagonists are officer cadets enrolled in the best military university on the continent. They have to learn to work together and with others while dealing with their curriculum, as well as facing against a terrorist threat.
Helen: Lets’s hope artistic license is approved! Is there a specific meaning behind your cover design?
Jonathan: My cover is meant to seem dangerous and inviting at the same time. It depicts a mountain range in the background with dark building outlines in the foreground. It alludes to where two of the most consequential and meaningful scenes of the book take place, where main and supporting characters come up against and deal with the ultimate obstacle, the threat of death.
Helen: The colours are beautiful, so rich and vibrant. What made you begin writing, and then to write this specific story?
Jonathan: I wanted to be a writer for a long time, but it took me a long while to come up with a concept I could trust and believe in that would make for an interesting story. I had a few in mind ever since I finished high school, and I’ve been refining and expanding upon them for years until I found the one for my current book. I loved just how versatile it could be, all the stories that it allowed me to tell. I’ve been turning it in my mind for a while, and then, two years ago, I was satisfied enough with how it was shaping up that I wanted to have it written down.
Helen: Congratulations on completing your book, and then publishing it as well. Did you find you had to do a lot of research to write your book?
Jonathan: My approach to research is a bit more abstract than that of most authors. I actually do a lot of research or learning in private, not connected to any other activity, depending on whether or not I find out about anything that arouses my interest, and my interest can be aroused by a whole slew of sometimes bizarre curiosities and happenings. Consequently, I have a wide array of interests and a substantial database in my brain. When it comes to using information for my book, the question often isn’t “What do I need to find out?”, it’s “What can I already say about this?”, or “What part of what I already know can I use to flesh this particular aspect of the story out?” When I do in fact research specifically for my book, it’s usually very brief, and on something very specific, like the symbolism behind names.
Helen: A head full of ecletic information and trivia is a must for authors! Who knows where the next idea will come from. When you wrote your book did you have the story all planned out, or did you find the plot going places you never expected?
Jonathan: I’m definitely a planner, I need to find a framework for my ideas before I let them flourish. Within that framework, however, there is plenty of room for improvisation. My process starts from a short description of what I want the book to be about. That description could be a sentence or a paragraph long. From that point forward I go into cycles of expanding and dividing. From the initial paragraph, I get a phrase that describes each act, then expand upon each act, then divide it into story beats, then expand each beat before dividing them into chapters. I’ll usually have three main points or sentences per chapter, and that is where I allow myself to go free form, expanding those points until they reach a chapter in length.
Helen: Heir to the Empire is an urban Fantasy coming of age novel, if you didn’t write fantasy, what genre would you like to write?
Jonathan: I’ve been single for (much) longer than I’m willing to admit, and in the mean time I’ve turned to erotic roleplay to spice up my private life. When you think about it, erotic roleplay is collaborative erotic fiction, a field where you get instant feedback on almost anything you try. Through experimentation, trial and error, I’ve become quite good at captivating my audience, and received my fair share of compliments, and I think writing erotica would suit me. If I find another author and we were to write collaboratively, say a chapter at a time or a page at a time, I think that would make for some fun books.
Helen: I’ve always thought collaboration on a book must be far more difficult than writing it on your own. You’ll have to let us know how you get on if you choose to collborate. What about when you are not writing. How do you fill your time?
Jonathan: Whenever I do have time for hobbies, it’s usually through external circumstances, i.e. something else is preventing me from spending as much time as I would need to take care of the writing process. Whenever that happens and I have anywhere between ten minutes and an hour and a half to burn, I’ll usually pull out my phone and indulge in a fighting game, or spend some time on YouTube. What I watch on YouTube varies quite dramatically, depending on what recommendations I get. It could be a review, could be a video essay, could be something educational (I grew up on documentaries and stuff that is even similar to that still hooks me), could be a gameplay video, could be humour, could be memes, could be some combination of the above, or something entirely different. I also try to schedule time to work out, whatever form that may take, but my success in that field is a bit more mixed.
Helen: There is access to so many different types of media nowadays, all at your fingertips. With so much choice, do you still find time to sit down and read?
Jonathan: I don’t think you define recently as “the last 12 months”, but that is how far back I want to go for my answer. The books that stood out for me in that time are A Sea Of Pearls and Leaves, by Rosalyn Briar, the as-of-yet-incomplete Outcrossed series, by River J Hopkins, and The Witcher saga, by Andrzej Sapkowski. I also did reviews of each of these books, and a few others, on my YouTube channel, and those contain my thoughts on these books in more detail. In short, Rosalyn has an amazingly fluid and immersive writing style, which, coupled with sympathetic and relatable characters, makes for a very engaging read, River is exquisitely adept at blending pop culture and mythology and various other interests she holds dear into creating a rich setting with layered plots and immersive storylines, and Sapkowski managed to create a varied and rich world that comes to life in almost every way such a world can come to life, while also reasoning how those who have to exist within that setting manage to do so. If you like your time and money, there are few ways to spend them better than reading these books.
Helen: Finding time to read can be challenging, but I think it is important for writers, and aspiring writers to read as much as they can. To understand and experience the craft and to see what works and what doesn’t work for them.
I appreciate you spending time with me today, congratulations again on your book launch. Just to end with, what piece of writing advice have you received that you would like to share with other aspiring writers?
Jonathan: Around the time I started writing, text-to-speech videos of various AskReddit questions and answers became very popular on YouTube, and they were a guilty pleasure of mine. One of those videos, about useful pieces of advice, gave new writers the advice that they should write 200 words a day, at least. You can and are welcome to write a lot more, but when you write, ideally every day, you should set your floor at 200 words. Doesn’t seem like much, but it’s enough to build a habit, and eventually 2000 words a week will just be a breeze to you. That is also the advice I give to new writers, set yourself a minimum, and then dare to raise it whenever you need to.
About the Author:
The boy who would become Jonathan Taylor was born in Bucharest, Romania, to white-collar parents from blue-collar backgrounds. Growing up, his up-bringing was mostly formal, he stuck to what his parents set out for him and generally at least tried to stay out of trouble. He did well enough in school to be able to attend a leading technical university in Germany, but his creative drive, stirred in his youth by the works of Jules Verne, HG Wells, and Isaac Asimov, remained as active and eager as ever, and after graduating, he has become quite a bit more capable of indulging it. He now writes in order to allow his constantly stirring mind to settle.
The Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest featured thousands of contestants from over a dozen countries, ranging from new independent authors to NYT best-sellers and celebrities.
Readers’ Favorite is one of the largest book review and award contest sites on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors. They are also fully accredited by the BBB (A+ rating), which is a rarity among Book Review and Book Award Contest companies.
We receive thousands of entries from all over the world. Because of these large submission numbers, we are able to break down our contest into 140+ genres, and each genre is judged separately, ensuring that books only compete against books of their same genre for a fairer and more accurate competition. We receive submissions from independent authors, small publishers, and publishing giants such as Random House, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, with contestants that range from the first-time, self-published author to New York Times bestsellers like J.A. Jance, James Rollins, and #1 best-selling author Daniel Silva, as well as celebrity authors like Jim Carrey (Bruce Almighty), Henry Winkler (Happy Days), and Eriq La Salle (E.R., Coming to America).
“When the right books are picked as winners we pay attention. We will be spreading the word about Readers’ Favorite.” –Karen A., Editor for Penguin Random House
Readers’ Favorite is proud to announce that “Sentinals Awaken” by Helen Garraway won the Finalist Award in the Fiction – Fantasy – Epic category.
Reviewed: September 16th, 2021 Released: September 15th, 2021 Genre: Dark Fantasy
Check out this new release, the second book in the Banshees Curse series.
Fight or flight… why not do both?
Cara is magic-bound by her promise to Cadan, keeping her in the fae realm. On the run from the power hungry King, Cara and her friends search for a way to stop him and bring back balance to Gon’an’rit. Still hurt by a recent betrayal and confused by her heritage, Cara struggles to find her place within her evolving life.
Perfect for fans of fated mates, enemies to lovers,complicated & diverse characters, slow burn romance, and celtic folklore.Read More…
Reviewed: September 8th, 2021 Released: October 31st, 2020 Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Two worlds collide when Emily Swift turns thirty and her late father’s journal lands on her doorstep… Seventeen years after Emily Swift’s father died, a door is opened to a new world, an Empire led by peculiar men and women called Salesmen – transporters of magical items. These Salesmen have the unique ability to travel from place-to-place, and even world-to-world, simply by stepping throug
Now that Emily is thirty, it turns out that she can “door travel” too, stumbling unplanned into kitchens, bathrooms, and alleyways as her connection to the Salesman Empire is revealed. Fueled by the cryptic notes and sketches in her father’s journal, Emily discovers the real reason behind his death: he was targeted and assassinated by the Fringe, a terrorist group of rogue Salesmen. Read More…
“The book then turns in a direction I would never have in a million years guessed. But I loved it.”
“Even if Fantasy is not the genre of your choice, I would challenge anyone not to be swept up into this story and the charismatic lives of the characters of Remargaren in ‘Sentinal’s Justice’. It will change your view of this genre completely, and leave you, like myself, wanting more.”
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 Randolf 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!
Reviewed: September 5th, 2021 Released: September 1st, 2020 Genre: Fantasy
Artist Matthew Sugiyama can alter the physical world with his art. As the top student graduating from the prestigious Popham Abbey, Matthew Sugiyama’s future is secure… until he bucks convention and begins a journey to find answers about his birth family. The trouble is, he doesn’t know who or where they are.
Determined to find answers, but without a clear destination, Matthew sets out on horseback across a post-technology world, guided only by random flashes of a vision or long-buried memory. Using his skills as an artist to barter for hospitality and supplies, Matthew soon learns his sheltered upbringing has left him wholly unprepared to face the obstacles on the road or his unexpected yearning to join the communities he encounters. When he uncovers a mysterious adversary’s plan to harm the people he’s come to care for, Matthew must decide what’s more important; the adopted family he has created, or his need for answers about his past.
And once it’s revealed, it could tear this world apart…Read More…
Reviewed: August 31st, 2021 Released: August 11th, 2021 Genre: Urban Fantasy
My name is Thea, and I’m a monster hunter. Or a monster, depending on who you ask…
My dad trained me to be tough and ruthless, so I could replace him someday as head of our shifter clan. Then I discovered my father wasn’t the man I thought he was. So I went freelance instead. Now, I fight for the underdogs my dad used to exploit. Sure, I get paid. But I don’t do it for the money…
So when a rogue werewolf I’m hunting turns out to be innocent, I want to know who framed him, and why. His name is Marcus, and with his broad shoulders and piercing eyes, he can certainly take care of himself. But someone wants him dead. And I want to keep him alive… At least long enough for me to figure out what he’s hiding.
Because Marcus is more than just your average shifter. He’s something much stranger, and much more dangerous. An ancient secret lurks behind his fierce, smoldering gaze.
And once it’s revealed, it could tear this world apart… Read More…
Join me as chat to USA Today Bestselling author Astrid VJ about her fantasy novels The StoryTeller’s Apprentice and the associated Wordmage Tales set in the same world. The Companion’s Tale was released on July 9th, 2021. I am fortunate to have read both The Companion’s Tale and Astrid’s Apprentice Storyteller. I highly recommend both and you can find my book reviews here. Astrid welcome! Please tell us about your Wordmage’s tales series.
Astrid: I’ve just released The Companion’s Tale, which is the first book in The Wordmage’s Tales series. It happens to be the third one I’ve published in this series because things got a little too tight with my pre-order dates on the other books, while this one being a permafree offering didn’t have a pre-order and could wait. Thankfully, each of the tales in this series is a stand-alone, so I didn’t have to worry too much about publishing the books out of order.
The Companion’s Tale combines my love of fairytales, and my desire to have tales that reflect our modern sensibilities, with my passion for transformation. This tale grew out of a dream and I realised during my certification training that this, and the other tales in the series, was connected to a specific principle of transformation. The principle in question happens to be the potential we all have for finding our purpose and achieving what might appear to be impossible, if only we give possibility and opportunity a chance.
This tale is connected to my novel The Apprentice Storyteller, as The Companion’s Tale is one of the stories the apprentice learns from master storyteller, Viola Alerion. What I loved about writing this story is how it can simply be read and enjoyed on it’s own, while at the same time it also expands on the worldbuilding in The Apprentice Storyteller, and forms as part of the history of that novel. It’s been fun to expand on the greater universe I’ve created, while still keeping everything bite-sized for my readers.
Helen: I love the way you are gradually building up your world by telling a tale within a tale. You also have a theme behind your covers, don’t you?
Astrid: The Wordmage’s Tales emblem, a “W” with an Asian dragon and a lyre is the symbol I’ve created for my character Jo from The Apprentice Storyteller. In essence, he IS the wordmage, for there is only one. The dragon symbolises his ability to tap into the greater cosmic forces and wield powers far beyond what is common for magicians in this universe. The lyre represents the wordmage’s talents as a bard, for he is not simply a storyteller, but weaves magic and tale together, creating something entirely new and utterly powerful.
The first four stories of The Wordmage’s Tales have a green cover because they symbolize growth. They are the tales connected to the first four principles of transformation that have also been labelled “the blueprinting stage”. Essentially, these are the tales that represent the seed for success and simply engage with our potential for achieving anything we set our minds to.
The subsequent three stories of The Wordmage’s Tales have a blue cover because they symbolize the power and potential all of us have to bridge the gap between where we find ourselves and where we long to be, most simply represented in the transition from earth to sky (hence the blue). When placed beside one another, the green of the first four stories (representing earth) become the blue of the second set of stories (representing the sky).
Which brings us to the final set of stories, as yet unwritten, but certainly envisioned. These three tales will have red covers. The red symbolizing the inner fire of every individual who tempers their nature and transforms themselves into the best possible version they can become. Red is also representative of the heart, lifesblood; but at the same time is the colour of the grounding chakra at the base of the spine. The stories with the red cover are the tales dealing with the principles that allow transformation to flourish.
Helen: Thank you for sharing the story behind your covers. It adds to the reading experience to understand how the cover enhances or compliments the story. I am sure you have put as much thought behind your titles.
Astrid: My titles come to me in different ways. The Companion’s Tale came to me quite easily, since this is a story about the companion to a princess. Each of The Wordmage’s Tales originated in a dream and the titles are closely linked to the experience of waking up and remembering every detail of the dream as if I’d personally lived it.
However, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the titles in the accompanying series, the Wishmaster series. The first book in this trilogy is The Apprentice Storyteller, and this one took me quite some time to come up with. The original spark for a story about a wandering fabler and her apprentice came to me through one of my favourite songs by the Finnish band, Nightwish. One of the lines in the song is as follows: The apprentice becoming… master!
I wanted to honour that seed of my original idea by referring back to the song through the titles of the books in this series, which are as follows:
Book 1: The Apprentice Storyteller
Book 2: Becoming Spellwright
Book 3: Master Wordmage
I’ve even gotten my cover designer to use different fonts in the first and second parts of the titles so that this continuity and the reference to the song remain clear, even if I’m the only one who notices.
Helen: What made you write these books as a series of tales?
Astrid: The Wordmage’s Tales were originally envisioned as forming a part of The Apprentice Storyteller as nested short stories, much like 1001 Arabian Nights. However, when I realised that each of the shorter tales was actually connected to a principle of human transformation, I understood that I would have to take a different approach to the one originally envisioned. The Apprentice Storyteller would have become a Lord of the Rings-style megalith and that wasn’t what I was going for. This is why I decided to separate the two series, having the novels dedicated to the journey of the apprentice as the Wishmaster series, while expanding each of the tales into a novella that could be a stand-alone within The Wordmage’s Tales series.
Helen: You typically write fantasy novels. Is Fantasy the only genre you write?
Astrid: I’ve always written fantasy because that simply has been the most natural for me. My fascination with magic has a long history and I started writing in this genre and never really stopped. That said, I do write in a wide variety of subgenres. I have fairytale retellings that have a whimsical feel to them and are heavily influenced by the styles of Austen and Guy Gavriel Kay. I have young adult fantasy, particularly portal and academy fantasy stories that are more heavily influenced by Nordic lore of the “little folk”. And then there’s the Wishmaster series, which is a combination of fantasy and space opera, blending my love of magic and technology into something wholly different. Finally, The Wordmage’s Tales have a strongly historical feel to them and are not strictly speaking fantasy. Many of these tales don’t actually feature any magic, but as they are set in my universe for The Apprentice Storyteller, where magic does exist, and since all my other works are classified as fantasy, it seemed easiest to consider these tales “historical fantasy”.
Helen: What made you first start writing?
Astrid: I had an idea and it wouldn’t let me go. From there, a ripple effect happened and hundreds of ideas have found expression in my head and want to break free into the realm of my writings.
Helen: How do you come up with ideas for your books?
Astrid: They tend to come to me spontaneously or through dreams. Sometimes I’ll read a book and it will get me thinking on a “what if” questions, which will evolve into a book idea.
Helen: What are you curently working on?
Astrid: I’m currently working on two books. I’m writing Warring Lions, the next tale in The Wordmage’s Tales series. This story is all dedicated to the transformational principle of overcoming fear and reaching for a better future even if that is terrifying. It’s also my first LGBTQ+ romance.
I’m also working through self-editing Naiya’s Wish, my next novel. I’m due to submit it to my editor in a few weeks, which is really exciting. This is my third retelling of a lesser-known fairytale. This story has been so much fun to work with. The fairytale, The Nixie of the Mill-pond is so very beautiful and empowering, but as I’ve been writing, we’ve met some characters who will have their own fairytales too. I’m so inspired to keep writing! Absolutely loving where the fairytales are taking me.
Additionally, Naiya’s Wish has turned into my exploration of the condition of women over time. I’ve drawn on anecdotes from women in my and my husband’s families and woven them into this story. In recent times I’ve noticed how ahistorical our perspectives often are. We seem to struggle to put into perspective what life was like in times past. I’ve explored some of the questions I often ask myself about the lives of women in the past, particularly over time. For this reason, my three main characters for this story are at different points in their lives. Amina is an adolescent and has a beautiful and powerful story. Balancing her are Naiya and Hilda who are older characters and together illustrate other aspects of the female experience, aspects which are so often ignored in stories for younger readers. This is something I, for one, want to rectify.
Helen: Thank you so much for spending time with me today. It has been great finding out more about your books, and the meaning behind your covers and titles. Just to close us out, tell us something random about yourself.
Astrid: I love to cross-stitch. My particular specialisation is creating patterns of my favourite anime characters. A few years ago, I made one of my husband’s favourite anime character from when he was a child, and his friends all thought it was so cool they commissioned me to make them each one with their own favourite character. It was a fun project. Recently I haven’t gotten to do as much cross stitching, firstly because it’s a little hazardous trying to do that with young children who can’t sit still and constantly need to poke at what mom is doing. Another reason is I’ve been putting a lot more time into my writing, which has affected the time I have for cross-stitching.
About the Author:
I am a USA Today Bestselling and Literary Classics award-winning author, social anthropologist, and transformational life coach. I grew up in South Africa and currently live in Gothenburg, Sweden (after having lived in many exciting and interesting places). I live with my husband and our two children.
My South African-German heritage and the experiences of living and integrating into other societies have given me a great deal to think about and process. The training in anthropology has given me the tools to think beyond simple stereotypes and ideological explanations of social interaction while the understanding I have of human potential underlying my certification as a transformational life coach allows me to see what is possible and to appreciate the human capacity to achieve success in the face of adversity.
My parents instilled in me a love for books, and the natural world that we inhabit. This love has led to a deep appreciation of the written word and the desire to contribute as much as I can towards improving the state of the world. I would like to use my expertise and passion for cultures to help us move forward.