Readers’ Favorite awards Five Star Review to Sentinals Justice.

Five Star review from Reader’s Favorite

Readers’ Favorite recognizes “Sentinals Justice” by Helen Garraway with a Five Star Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite

Sentinals Justice is a work of fiction in the epic fantasy and adventure sub-genres and it serves as the third installment of the Sentinal Series. The work is best suited to the general adult reading audience for its mature themes and moderate sexual and violent content and was penned by author Helen Garraway. Continuing the epic action-packed adventures of the high fantasy world of Remargaren, we follow the events of this particular novel into the intricacies of the court of King Benedict. Diplomatic tensions result in a meeting between Commander Jerrol Haven and Grand Duke Randolf, with an unexpected guest along the way.

Author Helen Garraway holds a lot of information together in this massive fantasy world, and it makes for a truly thrilling setting filled with political and royal intrigue, interpersonal drama, and dangerous games of secrets, warmongering, and missing persons. I really enjoyed getting to know Jerrol and exploring the various pressures he was under in such a tense situation, but the character selection is so large that everyone will find someone they can relate to in the wider ensemble cast. The dialogue was also a big part of the engagement factor in this novel for me, as I felt like I got a lot of plot-relevant information from it which kept the novel pacey and interesting despite the epic nature of the overall story arcs. Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend Sentinals Justice to fans of epic fantasy and the series so far; you won’t be disappointed.

You can read the five star review for Sentinals Justice at https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/sentinals-justice where you can also read reviews and the author’s biography, as well as connect with the author directly or through their website and social media pages.

Book Three of the Sentinal Series

Books in the Sentinals Series:

Novella o.5: Sentinals Stirring (Free if you sign up to my newsletter.)

Book One: Sentinals Awaken

Novella 1.5: Sentinals Discovery – Available for FREE as part of the Creatures of Magic and Myth Anthology

Book Two: Sentinals Rising

Book Three: Sentinals Justice

Novella 3.5: Sentinals Recovery

Book Four: Sentinals Across Time

Book Five: Sentinals Banished (Spring 2023)

Sentinals Rising achieves Readers’ Favorite Honorable Mention award.

Honorable Mention award from Readers’ Favorite

For immediate release:

Readers’ Favorite recognizes “Sentinals Rising” by Helen Garraway in its annual international book award contest, currently available at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08TV359TD.

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 Rising” by Helen Garraway won the Honorable Mention Award in the Fiction – Fantasy – Epic category.

You can learn more about Helen Garraway and “Sentinals Rising” at https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/sentinals-rising where you can read reviews and the author’s biography, as well as connect with the author directly or through their website and social media pages.

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Book Two of the Sentinal Series

Books in the Sentinals Series:

Novella o.5: Sentinals Stirring (Free if you sign up to my newsletter.)

Book One: Sentinals Awaken

Novella 1.5: Sentinals Discovery – Available for FREE as part of the Creatures of Magic and Myth Anthology

Book Two: Sentinals Rising

Book Three: Sentinals Justice

Novella 3.5: Sentinals Recovery

Book Four: Sentinals Across Time

Book Five: Spring 2023

Author Interview – Robert Zangari

Author of A Prince’s Errand.

I am excited to be joined by one of the authors of the Tales of the Amulet series, Robert Zangari as we chat about his books and how he and his father, Dan, work together. You can check out my book review of the first book in the series, A Prince’s Errand here.

Helen: Welcome Dan! To start us off, tell us about the latest book in your epic fantasy Tales of the Amulet series.

Robert: Taking place immediately after the events of A Prince’s Errand, The Dark Necromancer continues the thrilling adventure set into motion by the discovery on Dalgilur, and the climatic conflict at the Mindolarnian Palace.  The story follows Iltar, Cornar, and Elsia as they ward off secret societies, thwart conspiring necromancers, and defy vengeful princes—all while struggling to unearth the truth about the Crimson Eye.  But no place, not their homeland nor an island long forgotten, is beyond their enemies’ reach—not even the Translucent Fields of Vabenack. 

If you want to hear Michael Kramer narrate those exact lines, you can do so over on the book’s Kickstarter campaign or on YouTube.

Helen: I can’t wait to read The Dark Necromancer. I must admit I fell in love with Iltar and I can’t wait to see how his story pans out, and if he survives the antics of his students! This cover is amazing. There is so much going on, it’s a story in itself!

Robert: Kerem Beyit did a fabulous job capturing our imagination with the cover art for The Dark Necromancer.  We wanted a scene with a struggle and he did just that by depicting our main characters climbing the stairs to meet the three powerful mages.  We actually had this cover done for awhile, as we commissioned it immediately after the cover for A Prince’s Errand was finished.

We went with a purple tone because my dad’s initial draft of The Dark Necromancer back in 2001 had a purple font colour for the title.  It’s just kinda stuck through all the iterations of this story.

Helen: WIth so much thought going into the covers, what about the titles?

Robert: There is a bit of a special meaning to it. Initially my dad had four stories planned; The Dark Necromancer, The Golden Dragons, The Red Ruby, and The Black Knight.  The Dark Necromancer consisted of the flashbacks for his original trilogy into one story that revolved around an evil necromancer, Iltar. 

Yeah, Iltar was the bad guy that set my dad’s story into motion, and in the original Chronicles of Lorn story he died in the first book, but we got glimpses into his life via flashbacks (it was very similar to what Sanderson has done in the Stormlight Archive).  But my dad had ultimately pulled those flashbacks because of feedback he had received from other authors and publishers, saying that method of storytelling doesn’t work (well it obviously does for Sanderson).

So, when I was sixteen, my dad re-worked his story and made a prequel of sorts to his Chronicles of Lorn and called it The Dark Necromancer.  Our initial debut novel as independent authors was titled The Dark Necromancer, which we released in 2013.  When we split the book up we later called it The Dragons’ Legacy, but this current 2022 title are those same events, just told very differently and with some different outcomes.

Book One of the Tales of the Amulet

Helen: I’m in shock! You were going to kill off Iltar? How could you? Setting my horror aside, what made you first begin writing?

Robert: Well, I actually started writing non-fiction in 2010 and published my first book as a tie-in to my martial arts business that I had at the time.  But I didn’t get my start in writing fiction until after my son passed away—he was stillborn at 28 weeks gestation.  In an effort to ease his passing my father approached me about working with him on finishing his series.  It had been nearly twenty years since he began and he was getting nowhere fast. 

I was still in school studying Bio-medical Engineering, so I was writing only part time for the first year.  Then I decided I loved crafting stories more than designing artificial organs or synthetic body parts, so I switched career paths.

Helen: I truly believe writing is carthartic. I am sorry you lost your son. I began writing after my mother passed, and I truly belive writing my books helped me deal with her passing. What made you write this particular book?

Robert: Well, it’s a sequel so I kinda had to write it.  But other than that, I wanted to continue the adventure we set into motion with A Prince’s Errand.

But to better expand on the question, I’ll explain why we wrote Tales of the Amulet.  My father has always been fascinated with the fantasy genre, and for as long as I can remember it’s been a part of my life.  In fact, this series and the world have been with me since I was five years old.

Throughout the years he worked on the stories but never really made huge progress due to other responsibilities.  But when we finally started working together we wanted to produce this fantasy series as if it were finished and published back in the early 1990’s—which was when my father began working on these stories.

We wanted to produce big, thick, epic fantasy tomes, and that’s sort of our motto now.

Helen: You definitely achieved that. The Tales of the Amulet is a wonderfully complex world with amazing world building, characters and magic systems. I don’t think you could not write a tome! Do you have ideas for other books?

Robert: I mostly sit and stew on a premise until I start getting ideas.  But fortunately for me, most of Tales of the Amulet is already mapped out for me.  So it’s more getting ideas to flesh out the major parts of the story my dad already created.

One of the things I often find myself doing is meditating in the shower to dig deep and find the nitty-gritty details of the story.  Sometimes I just go on a drive by myself in my 87’ Pontiac Fiero and let the ideas flow.  Other times I will crawl into bed and wrap myself in my covers and see what comes to mind. I’m an introvert, so if I can get isolated the ideas flow.

Helen: Who do you prefer to write villains or heroes?

Robert: Oh, I don’t know.  I enjoy writing a fresh POV that I’ve never written in before, as it gives me an opportunity to explore something new.  That’s one of the reasons the Greater Kalda chapters are in our main stories.  I do enjoy writing from Cornar’s perspective, and I feel I relate to him the most out of those I’ve written.  Although writing Iltar’s pain and trauma has been cathartic.

I enjoy both the heroes and the villains.  It allows me to explore two polar worldviews and see things from both sides.  Plus, there’s something liberating about writing an excellent bad guy/girl.  I hate Vaem from The Prisoner of Tardalim but oh was it fun writing her.

Helen: Before we move into talking about your writing process, tell us a random fact about yourself.

Robert: I am an only child, and the son of an only child (my father).  When I was a kid I often played out elaborate fantasy scenes with my medieval LEGO sets, and I think that’s marks the beginning of my imaginative madness.  And I still enjoy LEGOs.

Helen: We can blame it all on the LEGO!! Do you have a special working place where you find creativity flows the best?

Robert: I have an office in my basement, well as of writing this I don’t have it accessible at the moment.  So, I’m up in a makeshift office in a nook in mine and my wife’s bedroom.  You can see a quick tour of it over on TikTok.  I mostly prefer solitude when writing.  I have a hard time writing in groups or in a classroom setting.  It’s gotta be the introvert in me, but I feel the creativity flow when I’m just by myself.

Helen: Do you prefer writing or editing?

Robert: Oh, writing all the way.  Reviewing next, but editing is rough.  For me, editing is work and the writing and reviewing is the fun part.  I also enjoy outlining and planning a story, and then writing it and having my plans get messed up by my characters—I like the problem solving that comes from those hiccups.

Helen: When writing, do you prefer silence or do you have a playlist playing in the background?

Robert: Yes I do, and it varies for the mood of the scene.  I prefer to listen to movie soundtracks, and I often pick a track that was in a scene that matches what I’m writing.  That helps me get put the right emotional beats in the scene and helps me stay true to the outline I’ve written.

Helen: Do you plan out every scene or do you pants it and let the story take you where it will?

Robert: Planner all the way and I do stick to a few frameworks that I learned from my writing mentor, David Farland.  I try to incorporate a few different story structures, typically the 10-15-25-40-10 rule that you often see in the hero’s journey or the adventure story.  Once I get through the first 10% and finalize my inciting incident that gives me a good idea of how long the story is going to be.  I notice it more when I am writing a short story or novella, and it’s mostly accurate as the first try-fail cycle takes 15%, the second cycle 25% and the try success taking 40% with a wrap up at the end lasting about 5-10%.

I also try to incorporate a story in the round element that links to one of the main conflicts for the characters.  In A Prince’s Errand Iltar at his homestead in the beginning, and at the end of the story he ends up back there again.  I did a similar thing with Amendal Aramien in The Prisoner of Tardalim where the story’s initial inciting incident begins at a tavern, the Sea Vistonia, and the book ends at the same tavern.  Physical locations are often my go-to for a story in the round element, but I’ve also tried to incorporate an internal revolution for the characters like what we see with Gigaus in the short story Sorter of Mages.

Helen: Do you find you have to do much research for your books?

Robert: It depends on what elements I’m incorporating and how much knowledge I have on the subject matter before starting the story.  For instance, I did a good deal of research about Antarctica while writing The Prisoner of Tardalim.  I also did a few deep-dives into several different animals to study their anatomy so I could accurately create some variant creatures for the story, since it featured a conjurer as the main character.

Helen: Who was your favourite character to write?

Robert: Zanxsthy’ll, you haven’t truly met him yet if you’ve read A Prince’s Errand.  Well, you sort have met him, but you don’t know him by Zanxsthy’ll (that name shows up only once during Lirathy’lu’s point of view in Mindolarn).  Zanxsthy’ll embodies everything I hope I can be, the ideals I visual for my best self.  He’s more of a background character until later on, but as the series progresses he takes a more prominent role.  I’d love to write a series about him one day, in the vein of R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt books.

Helen: You have some very complex names! I hope you have a glossary and a pronounciation guide. Most writers struggle with distractions and procrastination. How do you fit writing into daily life?

Robert: I try to make it a priority and the best way for me to do that is to do it first thing after I wake up and get ready for the day.  I write in the mornings and revise/edit in the evenings.  One thing I learned from David Farland was that our brains tend to be more creative in the mornings and more analytical in the evenings.

Since I write full time and work from home it can be challenging.  There are some weeks where I only get a few thousand words down, and others where I can get a novella’s worth finished.  Part of that is just the ebb and flow of life with four kids.  But I feel like I’m still trying to figure it all out, schedule wise.  When I think I’ve got a handle life throws a wrench at my gears and cogs.

I notice that taking a shower tends to help me focus on the story.  I guess it’s the solitude and the calming of flowing water, but I will get a good deal of “pre-writing” done before hand and often see the scene play out in my mind.

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

Robert: I’d love to dabble in some science fiction.  I adore science fiction, but more of the hard sci-fi and unfortunately I’m just not smart enough for that.  I feel like I’d need a doctorate to accurately pull it off.  But I’m fascinated with near future Sol system settings.  DOOM and Destiny are two of my favourite videogame franchises and both share a similar setting I’d love to explore myself.  I guess Star Trek sort of fits into that, especial during the Enterprise show era.  But I think it’d be fun to explore the planetoids of our solar system.

Helen: You lead such a busy life, with four children to keep you occupied. When not writing, what do you do to relax?

Robert: Immersing myself in a good story, whether it be movies, a TV show, a story-driven videogame, or going to plays.  Before COVID-19 we used to have an annual membership to our local theatre and saw a play almost once a month.  I love that experience of watching a story acted out live, and even though I’m sitting in the audience I often feel I’m there participating in the story.  As mentioned before, I enjoy putting together LEGO sets, and I’ll often do that with my daughters.

Helen: What are some of the books you read recently that you would recommend to others?

Robert: I’ve been reading Robert Jordan’s Conan books because I’ve had a Sword and Sorcery itch that I needed to scratch, and they’re great!  I love how he writes Conan.  As far as indie goes, I highly recommend anything by M.H. Woodscourt.  I finished her Wintervale Duology and it was fabulous!  I’m also reading David A Trotter’s Birthrights currently, well listening to audio (narrated by Henry Kramer) and it’s one of my favourites I’ve read this year.

Helen: What is the most useful piece of writing advice you’ve been given?

Robert: David Farland (author of the Runelords) was probably the most influential author who’s given me valuable writing advice.  Dave was a treasure trove of knowledge.  While taking one of his classes I had approached him about a fantasy murder mystery series I wanted to do—the class was his Master Plotting class, so I had brought the series concept to use in the exercises.  But, the visuals and story ideas that were coming to me weren’t what I wanted to do.  When I told him about the conflict he told me, “You’re not ready to write that series.  Go write this adventure instead.”  And that is how The Prisoner of Tardalim was born.

Dave was like my author-dad, and he was always so happy to share his knowledge.  I miss him.

Helen: His passing was a great loss. I have found authors to be so generous with their knowledge and their time. As a published author what piece of advice would you like to share to new writers?

Robert: Stick with it, no matter what.  I know several writers who gave up too soon before they could truly become a published author.  The hardest part is getting that first book done, but once you do you know you can write a book.  So, writing another isn’t as hard.

Also, practice honing your voice.  It’s often said that it takes 10,000 hours to truly master a subject, and I’d agree.  I don’t think I settled into my voice until around the one million word mark.  That’s one million words of prose.

Short stories are a good way to practice, but they’re not very profitable so I know many authors don’t write them.

I know it can be tempting to publish the first thing you finish, but in my experience that isn’t the best idea for your career as an author.  We (my father and I) published our first project together and looking back at it, the story was solid but the writing not so much.

Helen: Thank you so much for spending the time with me today. It has been really interesting chatting with you. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Robert: You can get a FREE copy of my novella, Beneath the Frozen Wastes featuring two of our main characters, Iltar and Cornar, by joining our mailing list at https://legendsofkalda.com/pages/newsletter-1. And you can also get the first 10% (roughly 77 pages) of A Prince’s Errand when you join.

The Dark Necromancer is planned to release later this year and you can pre-order it on our website: https://legendsofkalda.com/collections/frontpage/products/the-dark-necromancer-book-two-of-tales-of-the-amulet  or on Amazon (mybook.to/TheDarkNecromancer), but only the eBook is available at the moment.

My next scheduled signing is at Salt Lake City’s FanX (comic convention), September 22-24th, 2022.

About the Author:

Robert Zangari

Robert Zangari is the co-author of the various books which belong to the Legends of Kalda universe. He studied Bio-Medical Engineering at the University of Utah; however, his love for stories and storytelling took him down a different career path. When he’s not writing he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughters, playing video games, practicing martial arts and immersing himself in a good story.

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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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Readers’ Favorite awards Five Star Review to Sentinals Rising.

FIve Star review from Reader’s Favorite

Readers’ Favorite recognizes “Sentinals Rising” by Helen Garraway with a Five Star Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers’ Favorite

Sentinals Rising by Helen Garraway is the high fantasy sequel in the Epic Fantasy Sentinal Series, preceded by book one, Sentinals Awaken. This installment continues to follow its protagonist, Jerrol Haven of Remargaren, as he identifies an engraving of a Sentinal Tree that happens to be a catalyst for a prophetic vision, one which puts him firmly in the role of Lady’s Captain. Three thousand years prior, the Ascendants fought to enslave Remargaren, and are determined to do so once more by employing the mind-control magic of Mentiserium, piercing the protective veil, and seizing control to topple those who have long fiercely secured it. Jerrol will risk life and limb to shatter the hold of the Mentiserium spell and to save Remargaren once and for all.

There is a moment near the midway point of Sentinals Rising that feels even more prophetic than a vision: “Captain Haven and his guards will ensure our safety.” Yeah. That is the understatement of three millennia. I’m not going to beat around the cauterized fingers too much here and will just come right out and say that Helen Garraway is a wildly gifted writer. There are multiple points of view that define each of the characters we meet and each stands comfortably independent of the other. The action is ripe and the tension is enough to keep a reader furiously turning pages without the usual pitfalls of taking it too far. Even fantasy and magic have their limits when it comes to suspension of disbelief and the mark of a seasoned, skilled author is knowing when to say ‘uncle.’ The visuals and dialogue are all spectacular and the frailty of good when being pushed by evil is executed well. Overall, this is a book and a series that is likely to be adored by all fortunate enough to read it. Very highly recommended.

You can read the five star review for Sentinals Rising at https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/sentinals-rising where you can also read reviews and the author’s biography, as well as connect with the author directly or through their website and social media pages.

Book Two of the Sentinal Series

Books in the Sentinals Series:

Novella o.5: Sentinals Stirring (Free if you sign up to my newsletter.)

Book One: Sentinals Awaken

Novella 1.5: Sentinals Discovery – Available for FREE as part of the Creatures of Magic and Myth Anthology

Book Two: Sentinals Rising

Book Three: Sentinals Justice

Novella 3.5: Sentinals Recovery

Book Four: Sentinals Across Time

Book Five: Spring 2023

Book Review Alert: The Binding Day Truce by Allegra Pescatore & JP Burnison

Reviewed: June 1st, 2022
Released: January 13th, 2021
Genre: Epic Fantasy Short Story

The end of centuries of war is looming. 

Ilyas of Vine, War Leader of the armies of the Mad Queen Maevian Oriset, is sent off once again to hunt the deadliest foe he has ever faced: Willow of Herb. Tired of the fighting, but with too much on the line, Ilyas knows that this will be their last fight. This time, failure is not an option. This time, he will kill that damn monster, or die trying. 

Willow of Herb has fought against Vine all of his life. Ever since the day the Mad Queen’s forces killed his parents, he has revelled in the bloodshed of war. As the only one with a hope of matching Maevian’s power, it is up to him to find a way to put an end to her reign of terror. Only one thing stands in his way: Ilyas.

In a war where neither side is truly good or evil, and shades of grey run rampant, who will be triumphant when these two forces meet again for the final time? Read my thoughts...

It’s Launch Day!! Sentinals Across Time

Sentinals Across Time: Book Four of the Sentinal series, is now live!!!!

I am excited to share the fourth installment of the Sentinal series. In my latest book Jerrol is flung three thousand years into the past, and not only has to adjust to living in a different time, the Lady has a few tasks she needs him to complete as well.

And don’t forget Readers’ Favorite recommend the whole series, check out the Five Star book review for book two Sentinals Rising “…this is a book and a series that is likely to be adored by all fortunate enough to read it. Very highly recommended.”

5 Star Goodreads reviews are already being posted!!

“Helen Garraway has written a Fantasy Saga of epic proportions, and the story of these gallant young men – Captain Jerrol Haven and the Sentinals – will remain with you, long after you have turned the last page. A Beautiful read!!!”

“I cannot tell you how awesome this book was. It weaved so well in to the books we already know and love whilst creating whole new places to visit and fall in love with.”

“Helen is a master of the art of storytelling. Each scene is played out so well you find yourself not just the reader, but a willing participant, pulled into an amazing fantasy, where you feel every emotion that her characters go through. You cry with them, laugh, and feel their pain and terror.”

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

Jerrol’s fragile balance between duty and family life took two years to refine and one brief moment to tear apart as the Lady Leyandrii and the Oath conspire in a desperate bid to protect the Birtolian Empire. As a result, Jerrol finds himself stranded in the middle of an ocean, lost across land and time and seas.

Unsure what is expected of him, Jerrol learns to appreciate the idyllic life of the Birtolians, the vibrant people and the beautiful coastline. To his growing horror he realises the devastation which lies in their future.

Can Jerrol prevent the destruction of the gentle people he has grown to love? Is he meant to? Desperate to find a way home, he begins to leave clues in anything he thinks will survive the test of time. Taelia and the Sentinals are his only chance of ever returning to his own life but can they find him before the Lady sunders the Bloodstone and changes the Birtolian Empire forever?

The fourth installment of the Sentinal Series takes us the beautiful Island Empire of Birtoli. Only once, it wasn’t an archipelago of islands, it was a land of majestic mountain ridges, mystical forests and exquisite sandy bays joined as one to the southern Vespiri borders.

Purchase Sentinals Across Time here.

Novella o.5: Sentinals Stirring (Free novella if you sign up to my newsletter.)

Book One: Sentinals Awaken

Book Two: Sentinals Rising

Book Three: Sentinals Justice

Book 3.5: Sentinals Recovery (Novella)

Book Four: Sentinals Across Time

Author Interview – Helen Rygh Pedersen

Author of Waking Ursa Minor.

Join me as I chat to Helen (This could get confusing with two Helen’s but we’ll do our best!) about her debut novel Waking Ursa Minor, the first book in her Riverda Rising epic fantasy series which releases on February 22nd! It is available on preorder now!

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

Helen RP: Waking Ursa Minor is the first book in my epic fantasy series, Riverda Rising, as well as being my debut novel. The paperback and ebook versions are available on 22nd February, (pre-order is available now on most major retail sites) and I am hoping to release a hardback version around May and who knows, maybe even an audiobook.

Blurb:

As Gesland swelters in extreme heat, Serakela watches the nomadic clans make their way across the plains on their annual pilgrimage and resigns herself to the monotonous life of servitude at the institution which raised her. But Serakela is not the orphan she always believed herself to be. On the night a crazed assassin tries to kill her, her heritage is revealed catapulting her into an island-hopping fight for survival, and the search for the fabled Stone of Riverda.

The sundered islands of Riverda are dying. The earth magics that protected and sustained them before the Rivening are unbalanced; dwindling in some areas whilst stifling others. As time runs out and tensions rise, countries teeter on the brink of war, starvation and extinction. A way to save them has just arisen from the realm of rumour but Brother Okrafkus of the Separamus cannot allow this to happen.

Not only will Serakela’s quest lead her to her long-lost family, rumour has it that she who wields the Stone will restore the islands of Riverda to their former glory. Rumour also has it that in doing so, she will unleash the evil that split them. 

Helen: This sounds amazing! Congratulations on releasing your first novel. It is a very special feeling! What was the inspirarion behind the cover design?

Helen RP: The wonderful Franziska Stern of Cover Dungeon Rabbit did my cover and all I can say is she did a wonderful job. A huge thank you goes out to her for all her hard work and for putting up with me throughout the process.

It was quite hard to come up with a cover as the book takes place over various different islands, each with their own distinct culture and aesthetic. I’m also not a huge fan of characters on the cover of books so that was very important to avoid, even if it goes against current trends.  

I can’t actually say too much about the cover’s meaning, I’m afraid, as it does contain certain images of items/characters/ places in the book that I don’t want to spoil for the readers, but I love the way Franzi managed to get the books darker undertones into the cover.

Helen: This being your first novel, is Fantasy your first love?

Helen RP: I write fantasy, or to be more specific, epic fantasy with a darker side. I’ve always loved fantasy since I really got into books at about 9 years old. I love that you can go absolutely anywhere, you aren’t bound by the laws of nature and physics of our world. I also like how a lot of fantasy harkens to a pre-industrialised, almost medieval setting, as I’ve always been fascinated with history and how people lived. The combination of magic, mythical beasts and historic settings…what more do you need?

Helen: I couldn’t agree more! An irresistable combination. What made you first start writing?

Helen RP: According to my mother, I have been telling stories since before I could even write. They gave me a notebook at nursery which I filled with strange symbols and squiggles: stories that I could recite perfectly to anyone that asked. This continued when I learnt the real alphabet and I actually have a lot of my early writing. If you are at all interested, please check out my “Quotes of Christmas Past” challenge on Instagram from December 2020.

Creative writing (in our English classes) was my favourite class at school and I am very sad that it disappears from the curriculum the older a child gets.

Waking Ursa Minor actually started with a “novel” I wrote when I was 11 years old involving a plane crash where the teen protagonists find themselves on an island called Utopia. I am very pleased to say however that only two things remain from the original book; a character name and one event which I won’t mention as it contains spoilers.

Helen: How wonderful that you were able to evolve your original novel into your debut. Such an achievement. If you didn’t write fantasy what would you like to write?

Helen RP: Easy, historical fiction. When I was younger, I was obsessed with ancient civilisations and wanted to be an archaeologist (a small part of me still does, but I think it might be a bit late now). I’ve always been inspired during or after museum visits, my fingers literally itching to write. The only problem is I wouldn’t know which era to start in!

I do also like books which blend the historical and fantastical, such as Barbara Erskeine’s and Kate Mosse’s novels. So maybe that’s a route I can go down too.

Helen: Who is your favourite character from your book?

Helen RP: This is such an interesting and difficult question. I suppose an author should say the protagonist but I loved writing Okrafkus. He was so much fun and he has so many layers, that I am still uncovering. I also really like Cheskia for her sheer determination to survive.

Helen: When not writing, do you have time for other hobbies?

Helen RP: When I’m not writing and looking after my two young children, I of course love reading, but also enjoy crafts. I knit, I sew, and more recently I have fallen down the rabbit hole of making yarn and cloth from stinging nettles.

I also enjoy going for walks in the countryside, which in rural Norway is literally on our doorstep.

I’m currently having a little break from drawing and painting as creating my own picture book, A Whiff in the Woods, as fun as it was, rather took it out of me. Although I have drawn my own maps for the Riverda Rising series.  

Helen: You are keeping extremely busy!! You said you read. What is your favourite book?

Helen RP: My favourite book and the one that really got me into fantasy is The Hobbit. I have a beautifully illustrated edition and it doesn’t matter how many times I read it, I am always transported back to sitting on the floor at 10 years old, hanging on every word the teacher (who I didn’t like very much) read. I was absolutely transfixed!

Helen: Thank you so much for chatting with me today. I wish you all the best with book launch. Just to close, what advice would you give new writers?

Helen RP: Get that first draft finished, just write it. Don’t stop to think how awful it is and try to edit it, just write the damn story. You can fix it later.

Don’t tell yourself that other writers are better than you, that no one wants to read your book. All writers had to start somewhere and I can promise you that there is someone out there, possibly even a whole fandom who want to read what you have written.

Lastly, don’t be lonely. The best thing I did to give my writing the kick up the bum it needed was to find like minded people through the writing community. It doesn’t matter that I live in a remote village in Norway, I have writing friends, mentors, and cheerleaders across the globe, and trust me on this journey you are going to need them!

About the Author:

Helen Rygh Pedersen

Reading and writing are two things Helen Rygh-Pedersen has been heavily involved with from a young age. She could always be found with her nose in a book or with a notebook in hand, especially on long car journeys as her family moved from place to place.

She graduated from the University of Exeter with a BA in French and Italian and after a brief career teaching languages in the UK, she moved to Norway with her family. It was here that she really reignited her passion for creating worlds. She dipped her toe into the publishing process by first releasing her dystopian short story, Heifer, and a picture book which she illustrated herself, A Whiff in the Woods, before taking the leap with her debut novel. Waking Ursa Minor is the first book in her Riverda Rising epic fantasy series.

When she isn’t writing she can be found spending time with her family, sewing and knitting or catching up on the latest fantasy series.

For all the latest:

Website
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Amazon
Goodreads
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You can preorder Waking Ursa Minor 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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Author Interview – Mark Piggott

Author of The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart

Join me as I chat to Mark Pigott about his latest release and all things writing. Welcome Mark! I am so pleased we’ve finally had the chance to catch up. I read your book The Last Magus back in 2021, (you can see my review here) and thoroughly enjoyed it. Marcus is a worthly MC!

Helen: To begin with, Mark, tell us about The Last Magus.

Mark: The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is my latest novel. Marcus Gideon, left for dead at a crossroads, is saved by a modern magical miracle—a clockwork heart. This second chance gives him the opportunity to discover his forgotten past while forging a new future as the apprentice to a Magus. The Magus were legendary warrior-wizards, the sacred guardians of magic on Attlain, until a failed rebellion forced them into hiding. As the apprentice to The Last Magus, Marcus Gideon takes his destiny into his own hands, combining the strength of a warrior with the power of a mage. The story takes you from his rebirth and apprenticeship to assuming the mantle of a Magus and training at the Basilon Magical Academy. He makes friend, allies and enemies along the way in this first step into a fantasy steampunk world of machines and magic.

Helen: I just love the cover, it is so fantastical and atmospheric. How did you come up with the design?

Mark: Since this novel focused on one main character, Marcus Gideon, I wanted to represent him and his powers on the cover. I also wanted to touch on the steampunk aspect of the story with the gears and mechanical frame. Through my contact with other independently published fantasy authors on social media, I discovered a great cover artist, Anna-Lena Spies (@eerilyfair_design on IG) and she worked great with me, even though we communicated only through email (She’s in the Netherlands). She deftly showed the power of a Magus, summoning a magical weapon from thin air. I plan to have her do all my covers to ensure consistency across the series I intend to write.

Helen: I’m so glad there are more stories to come in the series and I can’t wait to see what you come up with for the covers! What made you write this particular story.

Mark: I grew up as a child of the nuclear age, living through the Cold War, wondering how the world would end. You had so many post-apocalyptic movies and books in the 60’s through the 80’s, so much so that it overwhelms the mind. I wondered what would happen if the world ended by magic? That’s where this story came from. I imagined magic returning to the world, in such a force, that cities and countries would fall, people and animals would change form, and the world would start anew. But I also didn’t want a pure fantasy world, so I thought about my new favorite genre . . . steampunk. What if I combined magic and machines and built a world around that idea. It may look and act like a “Tolkien-esque” world, but it is one of magic and machine where the two mingle and merge into one.

Helen: Steampunk fantasy is so cool, with all the inventions and ‘new’ technology at your fingertips, your imagination is your limit really in what you could come with. What made you choose to write fantasy?

Mark: As a young teen, I loved comic books. I started creating my own comic book characters and stories. I even drew a little. I wanted to be the next Stan Lee or Jack Kirby but my artistic skills didn’t pan out. I went the writing route instead. I joined the US Navy as a Navy Journalist, but I wrote mostly news releases, feature articles, and press releases. It was during that time that I started developing my writing skills and developed my story into the Forever Avalon series. I can also say my time playing Dungeons and Dragons helped me with world building, character creation, and developing a story. All of that was part of the game so it helped me in my writing. I am a full-time writer, both personally and professionally. I work as a writer-editor with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. My job is to try to make the complex writings of government rules and regulations more readable and clearer for everyday people. At night, I work on everything for my novels, from social media posts, marketing, and writing whatever work in progress I have.

Helen: You are very lucky that you are able to write for your work, keeps your writing juices flowing! Aside from translating indecipheral regulations, what else can you tell us about yourself?

Mark: I am a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Navy. I deployed on four aircraft carriers, including aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65) when 9/11 happened. We were on our way home, at the end of a six-month deployment, as we watched it happen via satellite TV. You could feel the ship turning around as we moved on station, waiting for the chance for a little payback, as it were. The Enterprise was first to launch strikes against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. It was during this deployment that I wrote my first novel, Forever Avalon, as a way of dealing with the separation from family and war.

Helen: First, thank you for your service. Second, those experiences at sea must have given you so much material for your books! No wonder you like to combine the wonder of technology onto your novels. You must have had time to read as well. What is your favourite book?

Mark: The Elric of Melnibone series by Michael Moorcock. It was the fantasy book series that inspired my own writing style, going beyond the norms of fantasy to find something new. I loved the dark gritty character in Elric and villains he faced, simple but intimidating, and the conflicts he faced in each and every story. Plus, the new mythologies created in this world were sheer brilliance, a first-rate study in fantasy world building for any writer.  

Helen: I haven’t read that series, I must go and check it out. Thank you so much for chatting with me today. To close us out can you share a little about your plans for 2022?

Mark: I have two books being released in 2022 (no dates yet): Corsair and the Sky Pirates, a steampunk historical fiction bringing the war between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison to a new level of adventure from Revolutionary Press; and The River of Souls, a fantasy novella showing love can cross time and space from Curious Corvid Publishing.

You can also find Mark at the Katsucon 2022 anime convention, February 18-20 at the Gaylord Convention Center, National Harbor, MD. Where he will be signing and selling his books during the three-day event.

About the Author:

Mark Piggott at the Willamsburg Festival

Mark Piggott, a native of Phillipsburg, N.J., enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1983, beginning a 23-year career.

He served on three aircraft carriers and various duty stations as a Navy Journalist before he attained the rank of Chief Petty Officer. He retired from active duty in 2006.

His first novel, Forever Avalon, was published in 2009, followed by his second novel, The Dark Tides, in 2014. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series from Austin Macauley Publishing, was released in 2020. He is currently working on the fourth book in the Forever Avalon series, The Prometheus Engine, and a new fantasy/adventure series, The Last Magus.

He and his wife, Georgiene, live in Alexandria, Virginia. They have three children.

For all the latest:

Website

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You can purchase The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart 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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Preorder available on Amazon – Sentinals Across Time

Fourth book in the Sentinals Series. Release Date: March 22, 2022.

Sentinals Across Time

Have you started the adventure yet? Here is the next chapter in the journey.

Jerrol’s fragile balance between duty and family life took two years to refine and one brief moment to tear apart as the Lady Leyandrii and the Oath conspire in a desperate bid to protect the Birtolian Empire. As a result, Jerrol finds himself stranded in the middle of an ocean, lost across land and time and seas.

Unsure what is expected of him, Jerrol learns to appreciate the idyllic life of the Birtolians, the vibrant people and the beautiful coastline. To his growing horror he realises the devastation which lies in their future.

Can Jerrol prevent the destruction of the gentle people he has grown to love? Is he meant to? Desperate to find a way home, he begins to leave clues in anything he thinks will survive the test of time. Taelia and the Sentinals are his only chance of ever returning to his own life but can they find him before the Lady sunders the Bloodstone and changes the Birtolian Empire forever?

The fourth installment of the Sentinal Series takes us the beautiful Island Empire of Birtoli. Only once, it wasn’t an archipelago of islands, it was a land of majestic mountain ridges, mystical forests and exquisite sandy bays joined as one to the southern Vespiri borders.

If you like Epic Fantasy then check out my Sentinal Series

Get ready for Book Four of the Sentinal Series coming Spring 2022- Purchase the first book Sentinals Awaken now:

Book One: Sentinals Awaken

Book Two: Sentinals Rising

Book Three: Sentinals Justice

Book 3.5: Sentinals Recovery

Book Four : Sentinals Across Time (Add to your Goodreads shelf.)

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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