Author Interview – CK Sorens

Author of Afflicted.

Today, I am chatting with YA Fantasy author, CK Sorens, about her latest novel Afflicted; the second installment of the Trimarked series which releases on March 1st, 2022 and is currently available on preorder- keep reading to check out the preorder thank you gift Carrie has lined up for you!

Helen: Welcome Carrie! To start us off, tell us about your latest book.

Carrie: Afflicted is the second book in the Trimarked Series and follows Ember, whose powers have grown in the five weeks since the end of the first book, Trimarked. Nicu, her Fae guardian, has kept her secret from the Fae to protect her from imprisonment, but his loyalties are torn. So far, her unintentional bursts of power have been minor, and ignored. But as a powerful Witch upsets the fragile allyship between human, Fae, and Witch, Ember considers consciously using her chaotic abilities. If she chooses to access her powers, will Nicu keep his promise, or will he side with his kind? When the choice is to protect her friends or save herself, Ember may discover the answer.

Helen: That sounds amazing! You have such a vibrant cover. What was the inspiration behind the cover design?

Carrie: My cover was designed by the talented Natalie, the driving force behind Original Book Cover Designs. It shows Ember on Witch lands. One of the taglines for this book is “Fighting is her best feature,” and we wanted to show she’s ready for the fight to come with the clenched fists and red sweater. The red is also to show that this girl is ready to be bold, to fight for what’s important to her, once she figures out what that is.

Helen: This is the second book in your Trimarked series, how did you come up with the name of the book?

Carrie: Afflicted’s title came, in part, from one of my antagonists. The Queen can spread her over-large soul across the bodies of other people, effectively turning them into mind-controlled drones. When they’re under her control, they’re afflicted.

Afflicted has a second meaning, though, from astrology. When planets are afflicted, they’re in opposition to each other, two bodies on opposite sides. In this novel, so many chess pieces move around. Everyone seems in opposition with the other until they’re not. They are constantly shifting.

Helen: Oh, I love the dual meaning behind the title. That is so interesting and makes your series even more intriguing. Do you typically write fantasy?

Carrie: I write YA fantasy because fantasy is what got me through middle and high school. I enjoy reading and writing stories where young people are coming into their own. All their lives they’ve been told what to do for their own good, and now it’s time for them to figure out which parts of that they want to take with them, which they want to experiment with, and what they want to throw away. In fiction, YA characters are thrown into incredible situations without any experience to back them up in their decision making process. It’s not so different from real life. Sometimes, that pile of college applications is just as scary as facing down dragons. YA fantasy is not only a great escape, but also validation that hard things can be done through perseverance, faith, and a little bit of help, whether it’s from authority figured or magic.

Helen: Tell us about your protagonist and why you wrote her/him?

Carrie: In Afflicted, the main character is Ember Lee. She wasn’t just born in the wrong neighborhood (Fae), she also has a Witch for a dad and a human for a mother. A human with magical capabilities is unheard of, as they don’t have the ability to sense or use magic. The mages see Ember as a ticking time bomb. The humans see her as a reminder that magic has invaded their space, which had been ‘normal’ before they were forced to coexist.

I wrote Ember because she’s struggling in many of the same ways I struggled. I had more friends and a greater support system growing up, but many of my choices were ones I made because of those very systems. When the consequences of those choices weren’t what I wanted, I got out. That burned a lot of bridges for me and caused a lot of tension within that support system. So, at the time I began writing this story a decade or so ago, I truly felt on my own. Her experiences came from a dark part of my life, and I’m finding through conversations and reviews that it’s one many people can relate to, bringing me community once again. It’s a full circle, and I have the experience of creating and sharing Ember to thank for that.

Helen: I think that makes Ember even more engaging as she faces circumstances which drive difficult choices. If I asked Ember why we should read your book. What would she say?

Carrie: Oh, I love this question. Honestly, Ember would say:

“Don’t. Like I need one more person in my life watching me.”

Because of her status, she has a regular, though not constant, Fae guard, Nicu. The Witches give her more space as long as she keeps her weekly meeting with Devi to be checked up on. The humans, at least, steer clear of her for the most part, but they’re also the ones more likely to bully her. There’s another group of mixed-race kids and runaways called the Halfers. She should fit in with them because of her mixed parentage, but they think she brings in too much attention, and they hate the fact that her mother didn’t abandon her like their parents abandoned them. They put up with her because their leader trades with her, but that’s the extent of their patience.

But we as readers don’t have to listen to her, do we? 😉

Helen: LOL! Love it. Like me, you are a Realm of Darkness participating author. What made you write a novel for an paranormal fantasy anthology?

Carrie: The next book I have coming out is going to be in the anthology, Realm of Darkness, a collection of 40 paranormal and fantasy romance novels at all different steam levels. Even though this would take me out of my current series, which is not a romance, I joined for the opportunity to learn and to get to know more indies. Being in the set has fulfilled both of my hopes, and I’m really excited to take these lessons forward, and to be able to grow my indie tribe with these talented authors.

Realm of Darkness Anthology

Helen: 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 in October. It has come around so quickly! You can preorder the anthology here for the insane price of 99c/99p! You can check out some of my other posts as I spotlight the authors as they reveal their covers!

Thank you so much for chatting with me today. It’s been such fun getting to know you more, Carrie. As we reach the end of our time together is there anything you would like to add?

Carrie: Afflicted is up for pre-order now, and will be live on March 1st, 2022! If you pre-order, I have a couple gifts lined up for you. If you pre-order an ebook, I’ll send you a character art bookmark collection and a Trimarked temporary tattoo and sticker. If you pre-order a paperback, you’ll receive the same gift, PLUS a ebook copy of Afflicted so you can get started right away. The details are outlined on my here.

About the Author:

CK Sorens

C.K. Sorens started reading and writing young, carrying the love of the written word with her through college and beyond. Trying out a few professions, she always came back to her love of writing.

C.K. lives with her husband, their three sons, and their dog, Pippin. She enjoys warm days at the beach, day hikes, and sitting on the patio with a small fire.

For all the latest news:

Website
Linktree to social media sites
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You can preorder Afflicted from Amazon:

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

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

If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my books which are available in eBook, paperback or hardcover: Book One: Sentinals Awaken. Book Two: Sentinals Rising. Book Three: Sentinals Justice. Book 3.5: Sentinals Recovery. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next book releases.

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Author Interview – Nellie H. Steele

Author of Trouble, the fourth book in the Supernatural mystery Shadow Slayers saga.

Join me as I chat to Nellie H. Steele about her latest book Trouble which launches today! Congratulations Nellie! And find out what else she is working on.

Helen: Welcome Nellie! To start us off, tell us about your latest book.

Nellie: I’ve got a LOT going on with current offerings!  In the next few months, I’ll be releasing Book 4 in my Shadow Slayers saga along with the first books in two new series!

The first one to make its debut is Trouble and it is really appropriately named.  The Shadow Slayers are experiencing Trouble from all sides!  They’ve just come off of a life-changing experience when they travel to an alternate universe and just as things seem to be settling down, the dam breaks and a flood of other issues hit them. 

The Shadow Slayers are a great team to write and I’m really excited for people to continue exploring their universe.

Helen: You sound extremely busy! Once you start writing a series and your characters become like family, it’s wonderful to be able to return and write more in the world you know so well. What was the inspirarion behind the cover design?

Nellie: This cover couldn’t be more perfect for this book.  It has both literal and figurative meaning.  The broken mirror with Celine trapped inside symbolizes her life breaking apart with the amount of difficulty she experiences. 

It also has a quite literal meaning.  There is a scene in the book in which a mirror shatters to pieces after the Slayers glimpse an image of Celine dancing in a red dress.

Helen: It is a most unusal cover. How about the title, is there a story behind that?

Nellie: The story really hits the Slayers with trouble from every angle imaginable.  They’re drowning in problems in this book, so the title fits really well.  It also ties well to the ending of the book.  I won’t say any more but when the title was proposed, I latched on to it immediately because it felt so fitting.

Helen: I love the stories behind covers and titles. It gives the readers a little more colour and depth! Although Slayers is a fantasy series, you don’t just write fantasy do you?

Nellie: I’m literally a split personality.  I can’t seem to pick a lane.  I enjoy an eclectic range of genres to read, so it makes sense that I’d also enjoy writing a range.

Currently, I write cozy mystery, supernatural suspense/magical realism, adventure and historical mystery.  I’m about to debut another cozy mystery series and a second series which is close to adventure but with a twist. 

I didn’t really expect to expand into this particular genre (which is still a secret and will be revealed in the coming months), but I’m a “pantser,” and my characters take the lead.  I didn’t expect them to go in this direction!

Helen: Oooh how exiting … a secret … follow Nellie to make sure you hear first! What else are you working on in 2022?

Nellie: In true split personality style, I’ve got two WIPs right now.  I’m working on the third Maggie Edwards Adventure.  In this installment, Maggie is traveling to Scotland for a relaxing vacation.  She’s received an invitation to spend some time at Dunhaven Castle with Cate Kensie (of the Cate Kensie cozy mysteries).  What should be a fun, relaxing time will turn into anything but!  Look for Maggie’s next adventure later this year.

I’m also working on Book 5 in the Cate Kensie mystery series.  Cate’s just gotten an eye-opening in Book 4 with some of our Shadow Slayers characters hopping into her series and causing quite a bit of chaos.  She’ll continue to experience some issues from her new discoveries while she solves a decades old murder!

Helen: I’m glad I am not the only one with multiple projects on the go! Do you prefer writing or editing?

Nellie: Writing by a mile!  I don’t mind re-reading and tweaking my work, but sometimes trying to parse through a heavy edit to be sure word choice is spot on can be very tedious!

Helen: Pantser or planner?

Nellie: Pantser.  My characters take the lead and often, they take the story into a direction I did not expect.  This happened a few times.  One of my characters in my Duchess of Blackmoore historical mystery series I had intended to die early on in Book 1 (maybe by Chapter 5).  He’s still going strong in Book 2.  I guess he had other ideas.

I’ll also debut a new series later this year that I did not expect.  I wrote another cozy mystery series and, while writing, had an idea to write a prequel to explain the backstory of some of the supporting characters. 

One full novel later, these characters will now become the main characters for another new series.  I fully expected to write a short story, but my characters had other ideas!

Helen: Which characters do you enjoy writing the most and why?

Nellie: I enjoy writing most of my characters, each for different reasons. One of the most fun characters to write is my Shadow Slayers villain, Marcus.  He gets to say and do things no one else can.  Writing his snippy dialog and no-holds-barred actions can really be exciting.

Helen: He sounds like fun to write. What is the most useful piece of advice you’ve received about writing?

Nellie: Write daily, no matter what, no matter how hard it is. I’ve heard this from several other authors as well as writing coaches.  There’s a sense that writers have a creative spirit and only write when the mood strikes them.  There’s always a reason to put it off for another day.  I’ve worked hard to build a good writing routine that is incorporated in my day-to-day life.  It’s really helped me push past any sticky plot points.

Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today. Just one last question to close us out. Let’s finish with you telling us something random about yourself.

Nellie: I’m an avid animal lover and I have 14 rescue pets.  I can’t say no to a furry face (obviously, lol).  Right now, I’ve got 8 cats and 6 dogs.  I often incorporate them into my stories.  For example, Cate’s dogs are based on two of my teddy bears (Kylo and Finn).  And in the new cozy series, the cat Cassie and Lily adopt is based on my own one-eyed wonder, Percy.

About the Author:

An Indies Today finalist for Best Book of the Year 2020 with Cleopatra’s TombNellie H. Steele made the leap from science to art with her first book, The Secret of Dunhaven Castle.

An animal enthusiast, Nellie often features a version of one of her fourteen rescue animals in her stories, though the fictional pets are usually better behaved than her own fur-babies!  A literary split personality, Nellie’s work ranges from cozy mystery to supernatural suspense to riveting adventure.

She lives in the South Hills of Pittsburgh.  When she isn’t writing or engaging in animal care, she enjoys teaching Statistics and Data Science at a local university.

Check out all Nellie offers at www.anovelideapublishing.com/novels or at her blog, Nellie’s Book Nook, available at www.nelliesbooknook.com!

For all the latest:

Website
Blog 
Facebook
Instagram
Amazon
Goodreads

You can purchase Trouble from Amazon:

UK: eBook

USA: eBook

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

If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my books which are available in eBook, paperback or hardcover: Book One: Sentinals Awaken. Book Two: Sentinals Rising. Book Three: Sentinals Justice. Book 3.5: Sentinals Recovery. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next book releases.

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Book Review Alert: Dreams Lie Beneath by Rebecca Ross

Reviewed: January 26th, 2022
Released: November 2nd, 2021
Genre: YA Fantasy

The realm of Azenor has spent years plagued by a curse. Every new moon, magic flows from the nearby mountain and brings nightmares to life. Only magicians—who serve as territory wardens—stand between people and their worst dreams.

Clementine Madigan is ready to take over as the warden of her small town, but when two magicians arrive to challenge her, she is unknowingly drawn into a century-old conflict. She seeks revenge, but as she gets closer to Phelan, one of the handsome young magicians, secrets—as well as romance—begins to rise. 

To fight the realm’s curse, which seems to be haunting her every turn, Clementine must unite with her rival. But will their efforts be enough to save Azenor from the nightmares that lurk around every corner? Read My thoughts

Book Review Alert: Hunter by Nicole Conway

Reviewed: January 16th, 2022
Released: November 24th, 2020
Genre: YA Fantasy

One boy must earn the trust of a blind dragon and hunt down an elusive sorceress before she can rekindle the war that nearly destroyed their world.

As the Kingdom of Maldobar emerges victorious from the brutal invasion of the Tibran Empire, much of the land is left in utter ruin. With his home destroyed and family gone, 16-year-old Thatcher Renley has no one left to turn to. And when he’s mistaken for a Tibran soldier and banished to a wartime prison camp, Thatcher knows his only hope for freedom lies in appealing to Queen Jenna directly.
But getting out of the prison camp might be the least of his worries— especially after he stumbles across a feral dragon locked in an iron cell. 

As far as dragons go, Fornax is a lost cause. The battle that killed his rider also left him blind and too aggressive for any knight to control. But Thatcher can’t deny feeling drawn to the beast. Does he have what it takes to calm Fornax and join the proud ranks of Maldobar’s dragonriders? Only time will tell. And with a bloodthirsty Tibran witch threatening to rekindle the chaos of war, everyone’s time may be running out. Read My thoughts…

Author Interview – J.L Kodanko

Author of Storyteller

Today I am chatting to Jenifer Kodanko from the writing team of Jennifer and Luke Kodanko who are the authors of fantasy book series The Hurricane Chronicles of which the first two books Storyteller and Intruder are now available.

Helen: Welcome Jennifer. So excited to meet half of a writing team. Tell us how it works!

Jennifer: My pen name is J.L. Kodanko, and the initials stand for both mine and my husband’s first names. (Jennifer and Luke) Our writing is a joint effort and we truly make a phenomenal team. I usually have the seed of an idea, and my husband helps flesh it out into a full story. I dream up the characters, and he helps round them out into credible people. Together we work on the plot and scheme up all kinds of twists and turns and schemes to make it the most enjoyable reading experience possible. 

Helen: Sounds like a perfect writing team! So what books are you working on?

Jennifer: My current fantasy series is called The Hurricane Chronicles. It’s a Young Adult Fantasy series that follows Reka of the Agiles. Our tagline is “She knows all the legends, but she doesn’t know her own story.” The series has two books published, and there will be two more before it is complete. By the end of Storyteller (book 1), all the players have been assembled. By the end of Intruder (book 2), we understand that things are not as they seem in the drought ravaged land of Orosea. And in the final two books, we will see the culmination of this story, where our heroes will hopefully triumph over evil, as long as I do my job right!  

Helen: I have Storyteller on my physical TBR list. I am looking forward to starting your series! The cover is gorgeous, how did you come up with the design?

Jennifer: Reka sits around the fire with her traveling acrobatic troupe and tells them stories in the evenings. Through them we learn about the world of Orosea, and the problems that have been plaguing it. So choosing a cover with a dynamic fire was a shoe-in, and the sword is meant to evoke the warrior that she encounters in her travels. He will be a critical part of her story! This was our first attempt at designing a cover, and a year later I’m still thrilled with the results! 

Helen: I love it when the cover supports the story. Tell us what made you write this particular story.

Jennifer: Three years ago, my husband challenged me to write a book-any book, start to finish. I chose to write a historical romance. It’s not going to win any awards, but it proved to me that I could, in fact, write an entire book. After that we started playing around with ideas for the premise to a fantasy series. We found our inspiration in Mayan mythology and I started writing. Six months later, I had a complete manuscript! I let a few friends read it and they loved it, and we started getting serious about publishing it. We chose to go the self publishing route because it allows us to retain all of the creative control over our work. Also, we can publish as quickly as we can write the books, which is immensely satisfying for both us and our readers!  

Helen: Why did you choose to write fantasy?

Jennifer: I write fantasy because I learned from Star Trek: The Next Generation that you can tackle really big issues if you place the story in a fantastical setting. Fantasy has a way of putting people at ease, because no one feels attacked and everyone likes escapism. Then, once you’ve drawn readers into your fictional world, you can talk about things like courage, equality, honesty and integrity. Fantasy breaks down the walls that society builds, and I truly love that about the genre. 

Helen: That is a great way of looking at it. When you think of your writing journey, what is the best piece of advice you’ve recieved?

Jennifer: This is specific to writing, but my mantra these days is “done is better than perfect.” I’d rather take a crack at something, give it my all, and then move on before I can spiral out into endless revisions and tweaks and adjustments. Looking back on the two books I’ve published, I’d change word choices and even some aspects of storytelling. But overall, I’m still really happy with the books I’ve written. I strive to improve with every book, and as a reader, I always enjoy watching an author grow in their craft. I’d rather have ten good books finished and published than one almost-perfect-but-it-needs-one-more-pass manuscript that no one else ever sees. For me, so much of the enjoyment of writing comes from hearing how people enjoyed my stories. If I don’t publish them, I’ll never get to share them with others. By and large, our readers have been immensely kind and supportive of the fact that writing is an endless learning curve. 

Helen: How do you fit writing into your daily life?

Jennifer: It depends on the season I’m in. Sometimes I can schedule out 3-4 hour uninterrupted blocks each day to write, and that is glorious. Other times (like right now), I write for an hour in the mornings, fit in a little more throughout my day, and then another hour after the kids are in bed. That last hour is usually also brainstorming plot points and character arcs with my husband. It’s a bit piecemeal, but I’ll take writing time however it comes! 

Helen: I’m the same. I think most writers have to fit writing into pockets of time, but sometimes, when I have a writing urge, I just have to take time off work because I can’t concentrate until I have got my thoughts on paper! How about music? Do you listen to music when writing or do you prefer silence?

Jennifer: I almost always listen to instrumental music when I’m writing. If I’m really stuck on a scene, music is one of my foolproof writer’s block busters. I’ve used Marvel Avengers soundtracks heavily in my writing of The Hurricane Chronicles-the scores are just so epically inspiring! 

Helen: Which do you prefer, writing or editing?

Jennifer: 1000% writing. I see the value in editing, and I do it because my books are so much better after that effort. But writing a first draft is…magical. Everything is possible. The story is yet undiscovered. My characters are still raw, vague ideas in my mind. And I get to watch it all unfold through my fingertips. It’s glorious. I wish all writing could be just writing, and no editing! 

Helen: So, if you didn’t write fantasy, would you try another genre?

Jennifer: I’m trying my hand at contemporary romance. It’s a whole different beast, and although I’ve written several different things, I feel like I’m just starting to get a handle on it. Emotional stories that aren’t plot driven are MUCH more difficult to write! But I’m a diehard romance fan, so it’s worth it to me to learn how to do it.

Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today, it has been great chatting with you. Last question, what are some of your favourite books that you’ve read recently?

Jennifer: I recently finished The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black, and I wholeheartedly recommend the entire series. That said, The Wicked King was my absolute favorite. The writing was top notch, I fell in love with the characters, and the entire plot was just so clever. Also, I’ve read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir and her worldbuilding was masterful. I need to get back to that series! If you’re looking for a lovely, simple fantasy romance, Radiance by Grace Draven was an absolute delight. And I’ve read A Court of Mist and Fury so many times I’ve memorized some parts, so I guess that deserves a mention as well. 

About the Author:

Jennifer Kodanko

My first memory of a writing assignment should have been a signal to me that I would end up writing epic fantasy stories. I was tasked with a two paragraph story in second grade, and I filled two pages, front and back! My next memory of writing is a fun little story in sixth grade called Molly and the Terrible Day. It was a cast full of anthropomorphized kitchen items; the star, Molly, was a chipped cup (perhaps a Beauty and the Beast reference?). The villain was a blender, and the kitchen item in distress was a birthday candle. I printed it out (by hand!), bound it, and even gave it a hand drawn cover. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I eventually ended up becoming serious about writing stories, since I was obviously a child prodigy.

High school and college gave me enough writing assignments about horribly boring things that I never had time for creative writing. Then I got married and started playing around with words again. I wrote a decorating blog for seven years, but then I started having kids, and time (along with sleep, and clean clothes) became a scarce and oh-so-precious commodity. Fast forward a few years, with a husband who never stopped encouraging me to write, and I finally just sat down and started writing. And the rest, as they say, is history.

For all the latest:

Website

You can purchase Storyteller from Amazon:

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

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

If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my books which are available in eBook, paperback or hardcover: Book One: Sentinals Awaken. Book Two: Sentinals Rising. Book Three: Sentinals Justice. Book 3.5: Sentinals Recovery. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next book releases.

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Author Interview – Morgan Gauthier

Author of Wolves of Adalore

Welcome to 2022 and my first Indie Author interview of the year. Morgan and I met on a recent Author live session on facebook, the recording of which you can find here. Morgan is a fellow Epic Fantasy author. Wolves of Adalore is the first book of the Mark of the Hunter series and Morgan revealed her cover for her second book in the series, The Red Maiden, yesterday! Congratulations on such a gorgrious cover Morgan!

Helen: Welcome Morgan. Tell us about your latest book, The Red Maiden.

Morgan: The Red Maiden is my current project, and it will be published April, 10, 2022. This is the second book in the Mark of the Hunter Trilogy and E-Book Pre-Order is Now Available on Amazon.

Cover Art done by the amazing @artzzofkae

Synopsis:

Separated and on opposite sides of the continent, Salome and Crispin continue to amass an army to face their sister while avoiding other enemies set on killing them before they get close to Northwind.

In the Isles of Myr, Salome meets her mother’s kin while facing the ugly truth of her family’s past and her potential future as a magic wielder.

Trapped in the cutthroat Kingdom of Pulau, Crispin makes a deal with the pirates of the Shadow of Death to get him off the island and returned to his companions. But their service comes at a price.

Fully aware of her siblings’ survival and whereabouts, Niabi is left to face her past and embrace the darkness growing within her. With usurpers coming for her throne and traitors in her own court, Niabi readies herself for war.

Helen: Sibling rivalry, sounds intense! The cover is quite powerful. How did you come up with the design?

Morgan: The cover was specifically designed by @artzzofkae. She will be redesigning the first book’s cover as well as creating the cover for the third book in the Mark of the Hunter Trilogy. I commissioned character artwork from her as well and the pictures turned out better than I could have ever imagined. 

When talking with my artist, I told her I wanted Salome and Niabi on the cover because they’re our two main characters. One the heroine, the other the villain. I wanted strong women as my protagonist and antagonist, and I’m beyond thrilled with seeing them on the cover.

Helen: It is gorgeous. What inspired you to write the Mark of the Hunter series?

Morgan: I often get asked the question of what inspired me to write Wolves of Adalore and The Red Maiden. I was 14 years old when I started writing this story and it all stemmed from my love of fantasy fiction (especially The Lord of the Rings) and my interest in medieval history. But the one major problem I was finding in the books I got my hands on were the female characters were either the “damsel in distress” or the “token love interest” and I didn’t identify with either trope. I wanted to read about a girl who wasn’t perfect, wasn’t the heroine that made every right decision, but the girl who took control of her destiny and saved herself.

As I got older, I found myself fascinated with the villains in stories (Hello, Cersei Lannister!). What happened to mold them into the villain? And I realized that the villain doesn’t see themselves in that wicked light. They are normally the heroes of their own stories.
So with those concepts in mind, I wrote the Mark of the Hunter Trilogy. Both the protagonist and antagonist are women. And they are pretty badass women if I say so myself.
I wanted girls to read a book that showed they didn’t need to wait for a man to save them or slay the dragon that hunts them. They could slay the dragon and save themselves.

Helen: That is a wonderful story. How did you first begin writing?

Morgan: At eleven years old, I remember watching The Lord of the Rings and being enamoured with everything epic fantasy offered. I decided I wanted to write a story of my own that would stay with readers the rest of their lives. 

As an avid reader, I read a lot of fantasy books that featured strong males as the hero and had any female character as either the damsel in distress or a one-dimensional love interest. I decided I wanted to write a story that highlighted females as the protagonist and antagonist. I wanted to create characters I could relate to, and other little girls could look up to.   

Helen: Sounds amazing, Which characters do you prefer to write, heroes or villains?

Morgan: I really enjoy villains. But I also really enjoy morally grey heroes and villains because I believe we as people have both light and dark inside us. I find morally grey characters more relatable and villains who have the right motives but the wrong way of going about accomplishing their goals to be interesting to read about. A well-written villain will have you questioning if they are actually the bad guy of the story or not.

Helen: Who is your favourite character from your fantasy series?

Morgan: A lot of people have asked me this question and I never give them an actual answer. I feel like it’s almost like choosing my favourite child. BUT. I would say I really enjoy the villains in my books. Some of them have righteous motives but go about achieving those goals in the wrong way. Some of them are deliciously wicked and are hell-bent on wreaking havoc on their enemies. I find villains to be more interesting to read about (and at times, secretly root for).

Helen: What is your preferred genre? You don’t only write fantasy, do you?

Morgan: I write Young Adult Fantasy. I love the adventure, romance, and endless creative possibilities that fantasy offers. The gorgeous worldbuilding and the memorable characters are some of the aspects that stood out to me as a child and spurred me into reading and writing fantasy.

I have dabbled in, and published, a Contemporary Romantic Comedy entitled Aloha, Seattle, and I’ve thought about writing another book in that genre when I have the time. 

Helen: If you didn’t write fantasy, would you consider more contemporary romance books?

Morgan: I have dabbled in Contemporary Romance and published my first Rom-Com November 2, 2021. It is entitled Aloha, Seattle. I enjoyed the process of writing such a fun, light-hearted, and loving story and would definitely be interested in writing another one in the future.

Helen: Which books would you recommend from your recent reads?

Morgan: What a tough question! I have read a lot of great books this year in the Fantasy, Romance, and Mystery genres, but these are some of my favourite Fantasy reads in no particular order:

1.       On These Black Sands by Indie Author Vanessa Rasanen

2.       The Prison Healer and The Gilded Cage by Lynette Noni

3.       Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo

4.       These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

5.       Daughter of the Pirate Queen Duology by Tricia Levenseller

Helen: Who is your favourite author?

Morgan: My favorite author hands down is Agatha Christie. I LOVE her Hercule Poirot mysteries. Death on the Nile, Murder in Mesopotamia, Appointment with Deathand The Mystery of the Blue Train are some of my all-time favourites! If you’re looking for great whodunnits, then look to the Queen of Mystery!

Helen: We’re approaching the end of our time together. I really appreciate you joining us today. Tell us something random about yourself.

Morgan: I LOVE Gordon Ramsey. I watch all of his shows. I look up his recipes and don’t even come close to duplicating them. My husband is an amazing chef and I get really excited when he tries new recipes!

I also really hate heights. I won’t even get up on a six-foot ladder. 

Helen: I must admit I am not a fan of heights either! Thank you so much for spending some time with me today. Just to finsh do you have any advice you would give aspiring writers?

Morgan: I would give a new writer the same advice my husband gave me when I thought about quitting before I had finished writing my first book. I was a new mom of a one-year-old and pregnant with my second child. I was frustrated that I never seemed to be able to get any writing done so I told him I was just going to give up on being a published author. The words he spoke that night in our cramped condo have stayed with me and fuelled me over the years. He said, “Even if it’s just five minutes a day, write for those five minutes. Soon, five minutes will turn into ten minutes, one sentence will turn into a paragraph, and sooner or later, you will have a finished book. Don’t give up on your dream.” That was four years ago, and I’ve written/published three books and will begin my fourth in a couple of months. If you want it, you can achieve it.

About the Author:

Morgan Gauthier

Storytelling is in Morgan Gauthier’s blood; She can’t seem to turn her brain off at night and some of her best ideas have come to her in the shower.

Born to two book-loving parents, Morgan was raised on a healthy diet of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Nancy Drew, and any fantasy book she could get her hands on. She started writing her own stories at eleven years old and hasn’t looked back.

Wolves of Adalore was her first self-published YA Fantasy title and since then, she has published a Contemporary Romance (Aloha, Seattle) with the second YA Fantasy installment in the Mark of the Hunter Trilogy (The Red Maiden) coming in April of 2022.

Morgan Gauthier lives in East Tennessee with her husband and best friend, Brad, with their three children, Remi, Archer, and Roux (who are 4 years old and younger!). If five people wreaking havoc in the same house wasn’t enough, Morgan also has three dogs, Potter, Skye, and Bubba, and one grumpy bird named Titus.

If Morgan isn’t writing or reading, she can be found binge watching Netflix shows, attempting to cook like Gordon Ramsay (not even close to his level), and practicing archery.

You can find out more about Morgan via:

Website | Facebook | Instagram

You can purchase Wolves of Adalore from Amazon:

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

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

If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my books which are available in eBook, paperback or hardcover: Book One: Sentinals Awaken. Book Two: Sentinals Rising. Book Three: Sentinals Justice. Book 3.5: Sentinals Recovery. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next book releases.

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Author Interview – Katie Zaber

Author of the Ashes and Blood

As we approach Christmas, I am so happy to meet fantasy author, Katie Zaber, author of the Dalya series. You can find Book one Ashes and Blood for free this christmas week, and the second book for 99c so grab your copy now!

Helen: Welcome Katie.Tell us about yourself. What inspired you to write?

Katie: I’ve always been creative, but never took up writing until I was recovering from surgery, was on a lot of meds, and let my imagination loose. Once off the meds and healed, I edited the story, building and rearranging, working through drafts until I was happy.

Helen: What inspired your book/series?

Katie: The song, Lord of the Dance. Somehow, it was stuck in my head and my imagination took over. I pictured a king singing the song—a much more sinister version—while destroying a village of people who disobeyed him. At first, the story was going to be about him and how his reign ends, but I didn’t want to tell it from his perspective. That’s where Megan comes in.

Helen: How do you come up with your book titles?

Katie: When I write a book, I usually have a broad idea of what I want to call it, but I usually decide when I’ve finished the first draft. Almost like a parent meeting their new born. They might have an idea of what they want to name the child while pregnant, but that can change when they see the baby face to face and realize he isn’t a Jim, he’s a Stephen. Kind of like that.

Helen: Tell us about your writing space. The place where you capture your amazing ideas.

Katie: I sit in front of a walnut stained secretary desk with a hutch holding an array of keepsakes. Albums, picture frames, my Snoopy collection, souvenirs, and nostalgic knickknacks line the shelves of the hutch.

My work space is a wonderland of post-it notes in three different colors: pink, neon-yellow, and green. On the right corner of my desk, shoved between the monitor and notary stamp, is a yellow, mini-spiral notebook that contains book outlines, plots, and ideas. Little sticker tabs separate the notebook into different sections. The tabs not in use are floating on the surface of pamphlets and lists of login information to accounts I hardly visit.

A leather bounded diary with nautical embellishments, complete with anchor bookmark, holds random thoughts and sketches. A mechanical pencil can be spotted, hiding between the yellow notebook and leather diary. Its extra parts—erasers & extra graphite are strewn about the entire desk.

Between the post-it notes there are three hacky sacks. There’s also a rectangular leather box with a brass kaleidoscope made to look like it was used on a whimsical pirate ship.

It’s a happy mess.

Helen: Sounds amazing, and the ideal place to wrangle your ideas into words. Do you have a writing routine or do you write when inspired?

Katie: I try to stick to a schedule, but that normally doesn’t happen and I end up writing when inspired.

Helen: What was the hardest scene for you to write? Which scene was your favorite to write?

Katie: Intimate scenes. They are my weak spot. I feel like I can never get them exactly right.

My favorite ones are when I’m describing something for the first time. When I introduce the reader to a new environment, object, or food, my goal is for the reader to feel the mist and sun on their skin. I want them to see in minute details what the character is looking at and taste the juice running down their cheeks as character bites into fruit.

Helen: What’s next for you? Do you have a book in the works?

Katie: Right now I’m finishing up DNA—Demons N Angels, a book about a woman named Evie who mysteriously gets pregnant. After a DNA test proves that her husband is not the father, her life becomes complicated.

People become possessed around Evie, telling her to kill the baby or protect it at all costs as she tries to rebuild her life after a heartbreaking divorce. Throughout the book, she realizes that her child might be a celestial being, but isn’t sure if it’s angelic or demonic.

It’s almost done, and I hope to have it on sale midsummer. You can read the first five chapters here for free.

I’m also working on the third book in the Dalya series, title is undecided. It’s roughly 20,000 words, and I hope to have it out this fall.

Helen: If you could live anywhere, in this world or fantasy, where would you live?

Katie: I’d love to live on a winery in southern Italy. The architecture is breath-taking and I love the small villages with cobblestone streets, knowing your local artisans by name and buying locally from them. There’s something really romantic and peaceful about that small village lifestyle that I hope to one day experience.

Helen: What is your favorite meal?

Katie: I’m a steak and potatoes kind of lady, but the steak needs a decadent brandy cream sauce and buttery garlic whipped potatoes.

Helen: Coffe or tea? Wine or beer?

Katie: A good cup of black tea with a little bit of sugar and milk is my go to in the morning. If I drink coffee, its half milk, and I don’t count the how much sugar. I love moscoto and fruit wines.

Helen: Describe yourself in three words.

Katie: Curious, Spaz, Sensible

Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today, just to close us out can you share some of your authors who ahve influenced your writing?

Katie: There’s a few. I’d say Margaret Atwood, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Conroe, Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, Karen Marie Morning, Jennifer Estep, Laini Taylor, and Chuck Palahniuk are some of the biggest influencers. However, I’d like to think I’ve absorbed a little bit from every book I’ve read.

About the Author:

Katie Zaber

Katie Zaber knows the best way to decide who is cooking dinner is with a Nerf gun fight in the living room. Her boyfriend is an exceptional cook. When she isn’t baking, reading, or going to wine tastings, she’s busy planning her next trip to Six Flags Great Adventure or Long Beach Island, New Jersey. As a child, her parents would read stories about Atlantis and other fictional places that she dreamed of exploring, fueling her love of history, adventure, and fantasy. These days, she finds herself captivated by her many projects and enjoys quiet nights at home.

You can find more via:

Amazon Author Page | Website | Goodreads | BookBub | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Blood and Ashes synopsis:

A mystical tree captures the attention of Megan and her friends, morphing the surrounding environment, transferring them to an exotic planet with bloodthirsty creatures. Saved from the deadly beasts by hunters, Megan finds herself stuck in a rural town still maimed by the plague. A chance encounter with a familiar face gives Megan and her friends some security during their adjustment to this new world. While settling into promising lives, they are attacked and stalked by planet Dalya’s humanoid inhabitants, who focus solely on Megan.

One dark night, after a magical attack, the Fae King’s knight is sent to fetch Megan for a reason she can’t possibly guess. When she wakes up a prisoner, she learns that there is much more to this strange place, and it is oddly more like home than she ever would have expected.

The more Megan learns about the strange world of Dalya, the more she realizes that finding a way home is insignificant compared to everything else at stake.

You can purchase Ashes and Blood from Amazon:

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

Book 2: Below Dark Waters

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

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

If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my books which are available in eBook, paperback or hardcover: Book One: Sentinals Awaken. Book Two: Sentinals Rising. Book Three: Sentinals Justice. Book 3.5: Sentinals Recovery. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next book releases.

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Book Review Alert: Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

Reviewed: December 11th 2021
Released: November 6th, 2018
Genre: YA Science Fantasy

Spensa’s world has been under attack for hundreds of years. An alien race called the Krell leads onslaught after onslaught from the sky in a never-ending campaign to destroy humankind. Humanity’s only defense is to take to their ships and fight the enemy in the skies. Pilots have become the heroes of what’s left of the human race. Science Fantasy

Spensa has always dreamed of being one of them; of soaring above Earth and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with her father’s – a pilot who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, placing Spensa’s chances of attending flight school somewhere between slim and none.

No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, but she is still determined to fly. And the Krell just made that a possibility. They’ve doubled their fleet, making Spensa’s world twice as dangerous . . . but their desperation to survive might just take her skyward . . . Read My thoughts…

Author Interview – Ally Aldridge

Author of Ocean Heart

Today we meet British fantasy author Ally Aldridge, who released her debut novel Ocean Heart in December 2020.

Helen: Welcome Ally. Congratulations on the release of your first novel Ocean Heart. Why don’t you start by telling us a little about it.

Ally: Ocean Heart is my debut novel.  It’s a YA Fantasy novel about a teen discovering she’s a mermaid with uncontrollable powers, set in my hometown.  

Ocean Heart is book one in the Soul Heart series.  I’ve drafted Sky Heart, book two, and working on a prequel to the The Soul Heart series. 

The Soul Heart Series will feature a different shifter type in each book enabling readers to discover them all.  

Helen: I love that you’ve based your books in Suffolk where you live. It adds a local element which readers love. How did you come up with the cover design?

Ally: As Ocean Heart is set in the modern world I wanted the cover to have a magic feel but not be mistaken for high fantasy.  Mariah doesn’t fully shift until way into the story so I didn’t want her to be depicted as a mermaid.

I wanted it to be clear the MC’s a young girl.  The red dress underwater is from a very important kissing scene in the book.  

I gave all my ideas to my designers, and she asked me a ton of questions to make sure she knew what my book is about and things I like.  I have a thing for silhouettes so she incorporated into the design. 

The end design blew me away. I was in love with it, and it was everything I dreamed of and more. 

Helen: Covers are so special, and the process of clarifing what you want the cover to depict is so important. Like you, every time I’m blown away with what my designer comes up with. There are so many elements to writing a book, what made you first start writing?

Ally: I started writing at a young age. I fell in love with the characters in the book and didn’t want their stories to end.  So, I wrote them more adventures. And, more adventures.  Then, I made my own characters, worlds, and never stopped. 

Helen: That is so wonderful. Books are so inspiring and when you find characters you love, you never want the stories to end. What is your favourite book?

Ally: I really love the werecat shifter series by Rachel Vincent.  It was the first low fantasy series I read and it sucked me in.  I loved having fantasy in the real world.  It inspired my Soul Heart series. 

Helen: I have a feeling I know the answer to this question! But which do you prefer? Writing or editing?

Ally: I prefer writing, and wish I had more time to invest in it.  I usually write in the evening once my kids are asleep.  This isn’t ideal, as sometimes I need this time to do other things, or I’m too tired at all. 

I loathe editing.  I go over & over my writing, picking holes, second guessing myself.  My editor is worth her weight in gold. She gets what I want to achieve, calls me out on mistakes in a way that makes me laugh, and helps me pull my words together.  

Helen: It is difficult to write after a full and busy day. I try and slip in 30 minutes at lunch or before work, doesn’t always work though! When you write are you a pantser or a planner? Do you know what you intend to write?

Ally: I try hard to be planner because I hate the mess at the end, but I never manage much more than a brief outline.  I then discover the characters and details as a write.  

I sometimes have to stop writing to research.  For example, when my character visited a city hospital I needed to use Google Maps to explore the location.  I also needed to look up oil lamps, and other random things.  Even researched things that have probably put me on a watch list.  

Helen: Ah, yes. What we writers have to research can be quite an interesting list. Talking about lists, I have ideas bubbling for new stories all the time. What about you? How do you come up with ideas for your books?

Ally: I get inspired all the time. Sometimes I’ll be inspired by a phrase, or another story.  Songs and art inspires me too.  I’m always thinking “What if?” And noting down ideas for future stories in my plot bunny vault.

Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today, but before you leave, Ally, I’m sure your readers want to know. What’s next? Is there a new book on the horizon from Ally Adridge?

Ally: Yes, book two is called Sky Heart. It follows Kiely getting over a breakup. She makes some bad choices, gets attacked by a werewolf, joins the reapers, and learns to forgive and move on. It’s darker than Ocean Heart but still YA. Sky Heart is fully written, and just finished the first round on Betas. It needs a few professional edits before it is released into the world but it will be releasing in 2022.

I am also currently working on New Moon, which is a prequel to The Soul Heart Series.  This book follows one of the mums in the series, but throws back to her teens in the late 90s to early 00s.  It will have some magic and romance, which is a common theme in my stories.  

About the Author:


Ally was born in London, but grew up in Suffolk which is where most of her YA Fantasy novels are based.

She is happily married to her high school sweetheart, and together they are raising two  cats, their son and daughter.

When Ally is not writing (or at her day job), she loves spending time with her family at the local beach, in the forest or watching way too much Netflix.

Ally loves a cup of tea and has been known to order one on a night out.

You can find more about Ally via:

Author website

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

You can purchase Ally’s books from Amazon:

Ocean Heart

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

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

If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my books which are available in eBook, paperback or hardcover: Book One: Sentinals Awaken. Book Two: Sentinals Rising. Book Three: Sentinals Justice. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next book releases.

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Book Review Alert: Dreams of Darkness and Desire by B.L Cagle.

Reviewed: October 26th, 2021
Released: October 26th, 2021
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy

On the surface, everything about Kira Lockwood is a picture of perfection — an amazing best friend, a loving boyfriend, and a promising future in ballet. But beneath it all, she’s plagued with unusual dreams and nightmares. And to make things more complicated, the man who haunts those very dreams has just moved in down the street. Their attraction is undeniable, but she struggles to understand why he torments her at night while she sleeps.

Blake Michaelson is a handsome and powerful centuries-old warlock. He and his three brothers have been searching for one thing – Kira Lockwood. Though she doesn’t know it, she is a descendent of the first Supra Virtutem, a witch with the ability to harness the ultimate power. He and his brothers have spent a lifetime, hunting others like them, and claiming their magic as their own. To ensure their immortality, Blake must complete the Order of Three: claim her body, take her blood, and end her life.

Kira can’t ascend and harness her power until her 21st birthday but her magic lives within her and her light recognizes the darkness. Will Blake complete his mission or will the power within her be enough to save her? Read More…