Joining me today is YA fantasy author C.A Bleu who released her debut fantasy novel The Trinity Ring on June 1st! Welcome Cindy, congratulations on publishing your first book. Such an achievement; I am so excited for you. Please tell us a little about your novel.
Cindy: Zara Trinity was ready to find her place in the world, but she never thought she would have the power to change it.
Her eighteenth birthday brings betrayal and family secrets to the surface that threaten to overwhelm her as she learns to wield her new powers.
Losing her mother at a young age Zara was raised by her guardian Aaron. As the leader of the Protectors of the Trinity, Aaron had sworn an oath to protect her. He regretted his role in the secrets he kept, but knew it was necessary for the prophecy.
Being hunted by Dimitri, an assassin she never expected to have feelings for leads Zara down an unexpected path. Holding the fate of Humanity in her hands will she be strong enough to withstand the tests ahead?
Helen: The Trinity Ring is your debut novel. What made you put pen to paper and write a book?
Cindy: I have worked in hospice over 15 years and about 6 or 7 years ago I decided to start journaling as an outlet. I kept feeling that I just needed to write, but I never thought I would actually write a book…I began writing about life, but gradually it changed to this story… over the years and after many edits it has evolved to The Trinity Ring.
Helen: Congratulations on completing your book. Writing can certainly be an escape from the daily pressures. You have a unique cover. How did you come up with the deisgn?
Cindy: For my cover I reached out to a local University of Tennessee art student. She read my book and then did an original painting of Zara Trinity. Bri Mckamey photographed her painting and created my book cover. She is still in art school at UT and this is her first book cover she has done.
Helen: How wonderful. Original art makes your book even more special. It is a lovely picture. Which character did you enjoy writing the most?
Cindy: Great question! I actually think I may have enjoyed writing about Dimitri the most. I think there is so much that he goes through that really connects all humanity. Grief, faith, self doubt these things know no boundaries. Both Dimitri and Zara go through a lot of change and self growth throughout this story and I think many people may be able to relate to some of it.
Helen: I saw from your bio that you work full time, and you are working on a second novel which is great news! How do you fit writing into your life?
Cindy: This is tough sometimes. I often write early in the mornings before the rest of the house begins to wake. Usually it is on the weekends and I love to sit on the back porch when writing.
I am a hospice social worker, I began with journaling…I never set out to write a book…let alone publish one… but it was my niece and daughter who one day looked at me asking why I wasn’t going to publish. As I looked at them I realized I had written about a strong female character battling self doubt and trying to be brave. How could I not show the women in my family the same courage. So for them, and myself, I decided to take the leap and publish. I wanted to show my daughter and niece that through our fears we can show our greatest strength.
Helen: How do you come up with the ideas for your books?
Cindy: This is the first book I have written and in this process the words just flowed. If felt like this story just came to life and needed to come out. The final printed book has many changes from my first draft, but getting that first draft out seemed to have a mind of its own as if poured out of me. Many parts of this book came from my own personal feelings and experiences having lost my mother at a young age as well.
Helen: I think what we experience in life must come though in our writing, you of course inherently write what you know, but it also colours other aspects as well. A long time ago I did a degree in Politics and International Relations, and I have a feeling that may influnce my world building! We just spice it up with a LOT more action and adventure! Thank you so much for chatting with me today. As a debut author just completing a book, what advice would you give to aspiring writers.
Cindy: I would tell new writers to just keep writing. Someone out there needs to read what you have written. Self-doubt creeps in, but just remember that your story will likely touch someone else out there in a time and place that they need to hear it. We are writing for a reason…whether it is to positively impact someone else’s life or to allow someone a way to escape the day-to-day routine.
About the Author:
Currently living in East Tennessee, I love being surrounded by the mountains and being in nature in general. After growing up in Ohio, I moved to Tennessee to play soccer in college. With my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work I have been working in hospice these past fifteen years. As an outlet for self care, many years ago I decided to start writing. Journaling a few minutes each day gradually turned in to so much more. I never planned on publishing a book and likely may not have taken that step if not for the encouragement from my family and friends! Keep shining your light everyone!
I am joined today by author Emily Michel who releases her fantasy novel Memory of Wings on August 3rd! Links to the pre-order are at the end of this post. Welcome Emily. Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your book. Please tell us a little about your novel.
Emily:A Memory of Wings(coming August 2021) is an enemies-to-lovers paranormal romance. Shax tries to escape his past as Lucifer’s best assassin after the Gates to Heaven and Hell explode, casting down to Earth all of the angels and demons caught in the blast. But then he runs into the one that got away, Guardian Angel Kheone. After rescuing her from the falling body of her friend, he finds himself searching for the killer. Shax questions his nature as a demon and faces a choice between love and saving his own skin.
Helen: What an exciting premise, it definitely sounds like a novel I would pick up. What made you begin writing?
Emily: I began writing stories in elementary school but had the joy of writing stripped from me by all the essays in high school and college. When my husband deployed in 2012, I used creative writing as a way of acknowledging and processing my feelings. It took seven more years, but I turned that story into three novels, which I self-published.
Helen: Congratulations on finding the joy of writing. I agree with you that writing is a cathartic experience. The fact that we also create amazing books is a bonus we get to share with other readers. Your preferred genre is paranormal fantasy isn’t it?
Emily: I’ve mostly written paranormal romance (five books out of seven drafted), probably because I was heavily inspired by Anne Rice, Laurell K Hamilton, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I find it fun to create these hidden worlds. I’ve also drafted a contemporary romance that I’m considering changing into a paranormal and a fantasy romance.
Helen: Seven books drafted and five of them published is an amazing feat. Did you plan the whole series or did it just sort of happen?
Emily: Oh, I’m definitely a pantser, though I have learned the wondrous utility of the Beat Sheet. I pantsed my way through my first five books then discovered Save the Cat! It helped me revise books 4 & 5 — a contemporary romance that I couldn’t fix at that time and what became A Memory of Wings. I approached my next two books (a fantasy romance and the sequel to AMOW) with beat sheets in hand, and the drafting was much easier. It’s like having a road map with the important stops marked on it, but how I choose to get to those stops is still very much freeform.
Helen: Save the cat! is an amazing book, for those writers out there, you can find the links on my recommended writing tools page. Tel us a little bit about how you write. Do you like music or silence?
Emily: I love listening to music as I write. I have multiple playlists depending on what I’m writing that day. There’s usually one overall playlist for each series, sometimes a secondary playlist for a specific book. I also have mood music: music for fight scenes, love scenes, sad scenes, sex scenes, etc. Then when it’s time to edit, I choose instrumental music. Sometimes classical, sometimes more “new age”. My playlist for A Memory of Wings features a lot of music from the TV show Lucifer and music by Klergy.
Helen: It’s been great finding out about your novel, thank you for joining me. Congratulations again on the forthcoming release of Memory of Wings. Just to close us out, can you tell us what advice you would give other authors?
Emily: Keep writing and keep learning. Writing is a skill, and as with all skills, you can learn to do it better. The more you practice, the better you will get. Set aside regular time to write, not necessarily everyday if that stresses you out, but frequently and guard that time. Read inside and outside your genre. The more you read, the more you see how other authors put together stories, both the good and the bad. I’ve used some favorite books to help me determine how to structure a story. The structure behind Devil’s Claw & Moonstone, my second book, was based on an amalgamation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Voyager (Outlander 3).
About the Author:
Emily Michel spent most of her life as a military family member. She has called many places home, including Germany, Belgium, and Kansas. After nearly twenty years traipsing around Europe and the US, she settled back in her home state of Arizona a few years ago with her husband and kids.
When not writing, Emily reads, walks, hikes, and pets her feline overlords. Emily is the current President of Saguaro Romance Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America. She also volunteers for the PTA, but do not accuse her of being a PTA Mom. She’s cooler than that. Maybe.
In 2019, she self-published her Magic & Monsters trilogy, a steamy witchy romance, and is currently working on a new angel/demon romance set in Kansas City. Please buy them. Her two teenage boys eat a lot of food.
Today I am talking to author Katherine D. Graham who releases her fantasy novel The Vow that Twisted Fate on July 9th. Links to the pre-order are at the end of this post. Welcome Katherine. Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your book. I am so excited to be talking about your book as I have been reading an ARC. A Book Review will follow soon! Please tell us a little about your novel.
Katherine:The Vow That Twisted Fate follows young Queen Arlena as she seeks to defend her world from an evil Sorceress’ pending invasion. After evil was banished 500 years before the story takes place, the world became innocent and pure. A portal opens in the sky in this story, revealing the banished evil sorceress Maedra in a parallel evil dimension. Arlena must call a legendary company of Dwarven warriors forward in time to help her face the enemy they previously faced to kill, but can Arlena defeat evil without becoming evil herself?
Helen: This sounds amazing, I am thoroughly enjoying what I have read so far. Arlena certainly has her hands full, not only with other royals belittling her ability to rule, but also also with that reluctant love interest! With so many ideas within the story, how did you decide on the cover design?
Katherine: I am very fortunate in that Jesh Art Studio, who designs most of my main covers, is gifted at listening to me talk about what I love about my book and comes up with the actual concepts for me. With The Vow That Twisted Fate I knew I wanted to reflect the parallel dimensions and heroine/villain on the front, and Jesh’s team brought it together beautifully.
Helen: How did you come up with the title for the book?
Katherine: I actually first had the idea for this book in a dream, and a line I remember vividly from the dream was a line that turned into the title “The Vow That Twisted Fate”. It is the vow that the ancient Dwarven company made with Arlena’s ancestor that allows them to travel through time to help Arlena change the fate of her world.
Helen: I believe Epic Fantasy is not the only genre you write in.
Katherine: I write a few different genres within fantasy. High/Epic Fantasy is my primary genre, but I also write some Paranormal Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, and Court Intrigue
Helen: How did you first start writing? What inspired you to write fantasy novels?
Katherine: I have been writing since I was a child (with crayons and construction paper). Words and stories just seem to spill out of me (telling or writing), whether I want them to or now. While I’ve written my entire life, my husband Jikyo is truly the person who inspired me to pursue my dream of becoming an author. When I received my developmental edit back for The Vow That Twisted Fate a few years ago I was so overwhelmed and devastated by the level of work it needed, that I put it down and didn’t write again for a few years. If Jikyo hadn’t convinced me that it was worth pursuing again, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Also my sister Fu, who is my ongoing muse. She keeps me on track and is my sounding board for new ideas.
Helen: Tell us a little about your writing process. I believe you have to squeeze your writing in around your busy life!
Katherine: As a working mom, I typically write in spurts. I will write a piece every free second (during naps, lunch breaks, midnight hours once everyone else is a sleep) until it’s finished, and then take a few weeks off to recover before launching into another piece. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November is my primary writing month, where everyone who knows me knows I’ll be doing some serious out-of-the-house writing, typically at a 24-hour breakfast restaurant.
Helen: It is so wonderful being able to return to cafes to write. Just the aroma of coffee starts the mental juices working. Being so busy do you have to plan your stories?
Katherine: I am 100% a pantser. I capture an idea, and then draft out the story (typically by hand the first time on paper). After that, I go backwards and ‘plot’ my story against “The Hero’s Journey” to make sure I didn’t skip any key pieces (and fill-out the story if I did).
Helen: It always amazes me how we Indie Authors fit writing into our lives. I think that is the beauty of writing, you just have to put pen to paper, or finger tips to keyboards because the story must be told! Which type of character do you prefer to write?
Katherine: This is a really tough question! It honestly depends on the story. While I love the complexity of challenge of writing a well-rounded villain who can make readers question which side they should be on, I also enjoy writing heroes.
Helen: Who is your favourite character to write?
Katherine: Honestly, I don’t know if I can pick a single one. Each one represents such a unique part of the world. The most fun to write, though, was a side-character from the company of Dwarven warriors named Geor. He is a lively, witty addition to a serious good vs evil book, and I never knew what to expect from him until it was happening.
Helen: Love it! What environment gets you in the mood for writing? Your chosen playlist or silence?
Katherine: I typically write to whatever is in the background (kid’s TV, for example), but I do listen to music when I’m alone. I usually make writing playlists with a variety of music types to fit the different characters and scenes and just play through that. I have everything from German Folk music and JRock (Japanese rock) to Dubstep and Gregorian chants on my playlist.
Helen: Quite a mixture! Is there a new project in the works? What are you currently writing?
Katherine: I am currently writing the first book in a duology called Starfire Express; a portal adventure fantasy about a young woman who boards the wrong train on holiday and finds herself on a train full of magical and mystical creatures taking a tour through other dimensions. She finds herself in the centre of a Fae rebellion against Dragon overlords.
Helen: Wow! You have a great imagination. How do you come up with the ideas for your novels?
Katherine: Many of my stories start as dreams. Lately, though, many of my stories have been rapidly-expanding from existing ones (side characters who deserve their own book, for example).
Helen: Which do you prefer, writing or editing?
Katherine: Definitely writing. Maybe it’s because I’ve been an editor for so long, but I know that the editing journey could go on forever (if we didn’t draw a line in the sand somewhere), and the pantser in me loathes the waiting and revising and waiting again. In the end, though, it’s nice to see all the pieces fall together, and my editors are AMAZING!
Helen: Where do you prefer to write? Do you have a writing space where you are most prolific?
Katherine: I love writing in nature, but real life is more practical. I often find myself writing in my recliner. Sometimes, when I have time away, I find myself writing with my sister Fu over a pancake dinner at a restaurant (pre-pandemic) or in the car at a taco drive-thru restaurant (currently).
Helen: Most writers are great readers. What have you recently read?
Katherine: There are so many good books out this year! I am reading Heavy is the Head by Katrina N. Lewis. Luna Reyes and the Emperor of Light (middle-grade fantasy) by Daniel Pagan Murphy, StarDust (science fantasy) by Nicole Wells, and Argent Blade (dark epic fantasy) by Luke Courtney are some of my recent reads that have been truly phenomenal.
Helen: I agree. There are some amazing books being released. My ‘to be read’ pile is growing. Who are your favourite authors?
Katherine: J.R.R. Tolkien and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes are my favourite traditionally-published authors. Nicole Wells, Luke Courtney, and Andrei Saygo are some of my favorite indie authors.
The Fellowship of the Rings from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series is my favourite traditionally-published book. I try to read it annually. The comradery, adventure, rich world-building, and intense plot never ceases to amaze me. I always find something new about it with each re-read.
Helen: Thank you for joining me today, it has been great talking about your new novel. Congratulations again on the forthcoming release of A Vow that Twisted Fate. Just to close us out, can you tell us what advice you would give other authors?
Katherine: Be open to improvement/change, and don’t take genuine constructive criticism personally. Writing is an art; the quality improves with each book you write.
Thank you so much for the interview, Helen! You are an amazing author yourself. It is the support of the amazing indie author community and our wonderful readers that has made my writing journey one well worth taking, and I cannot express my gratitude enough.
About the Author:
Katherine D. Graham is a fantasy author, developmental editor, and Top-10 Reedsy Reviewer from Tennessee in the USA.
Her debut Epic Fantasy novel, The Vow That Twisted Fate (July 2021), is a 5-star Indie Reader Approved novel and one of five fantasy finalists in the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
She is also the author of the Splitting Worlds series, with novellas Splitting Dusk (December 2019-email subscriber exclusive), Down Falls The Queen (June 2021) already published and the novella Down Falls the King (December 2021) available for pre-order now.
Katherine is happily married to her high-school sweetheart and Hero. They have two sons and three adorable fur-daughters.
Katherine love reading, writing, swimming, traveling, grilling out, and playing video games. Japan is her happy place.
Today, I am talking to fantasy author, Heather Pruitt, author of the Anelthalien series. I am excited to announce that her second book launches today! Congratulations Heather, and welcome! Please tell us a little about your series
Heather:Earth Quaking is the second book in my fantasy series Anelthalien. Earth Quaking continues the story of four teens who were brought to the land of Anelthalien by mysterious necklaces. The first book, Anelthalien, sets up the story, and Earth Quaking really dives into the action. The four main characters start encountering their enemies, struggling with this strange land, and begin to question if they can trust one another. The theme of Earth Quaking is trust: who can you trust, what can you trust, and how do you know who or what is trustworthy?
Helen: Congratulations on the release of your second novel; you must be so excited. Tell us why the book is called Earth Quaking.
Heather: The title Earth Quaking contains so much meaning that echoes through the layers of the story and characters. The four necklaces that take the four main characters to Anelthalien are each connected to an element and an elemental spirit. In Earth Quaking the earth necklace, element, elemental spirit, and the character wearing that necklace are all brought to the forefront of the story. Each of those also deal with some kind of problem that causes them to “quake” in some way. That “shaken” theme overflows into all the other characters as well. Their relationships are splintered; some are broken, but some are only temporarily shaken.
Helen: Sounds very deep! It sounds like each character will have a lot to overcome. You write fantasy, but your deep christian beliefs play a part as well so don’t they?
Heather: I love writing fantasy because it helps me step outside of myself, eagerly and easily learn lessons, and then step back into reality and recognize how much I need those lessons. With fantasy I can go battle an evil queen but then return and apply the courage I learned. I can sit and listen to the wise mentor but then return and recognize that his lessons helped me in my relationships. Christian fantasy takes it deeper–it teaches me to open my eyes to who God really is and reminds me God really can do anything.
Helen: I am sure your readers would like to know if you have more books in the pipeline. What are you currently working on?
Heather: My current WIP is the fifth book in the Anelthalien series. Like Earth Quaking, it focuses on one element and the characters tied to it. The book is packed with action and secrets that start unraveling. It dives so deep into hard questions and paralyzing emotions. I love writing it so much even though it has made me cry and worry about my characters more than any other book so far.
Helen: This is probably one of the most difficult questions an author faces, but who is your favourite character from your series?
Heather: I have two favorite characters in Anelthalien for two very different reasons. Kindle, the main character whose perspective the story is from, is very dear to me because she is so much like me and I learn about myself from her. Tad is my other favorite character because he shows how so many of us are defined by what others think and say about us and also that those conceptions are absolutely not who God made us to be. His character shows that God has placed deep in each of us a specific purpose. Tad starts out feeling so worthless, but his journey through Anelthalien gradually instills in him a sense of purpose. His growth is very encouraging.
Helen: Just to finish with, who do you prefer to write? Heroes or villains?
Heather: I enjoy writing heroes and villains because in Anelthalien the heroes and villains are like two sides of one person. Certain heroes and villains share personalities, and the more I write, the more I realize that being a hero or villain has less to do with the personality type and more to do with the choices each character makes. I like writing both because it shows me that we are all one choice away from being a hero or a villain.
Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today; I’ve enjoyed chatting with you. I wish you every success with your new novel Earth Quaking, and look forward to the next.
About the Author:
H.A. Pruitt is the Christian fantasy author of Anelthalien, and lives with a rowdy herd of guinea pigs and a sarcastic husband. H.A. Pruitt never intended to be an author and would have been happy to keep her vast imagination to herself, but God decided she would be perfect to write and illustrate the story of Anelthalien that he has given her. Now her mission in all she writes and does is to listen to, obey, and glorify God.
Join me as I chat to David Hopkins, author of the Dryad’s Crown series of novellas as he releases the third installment. You can find A Red Moon over Rhyll on pre-order on Amazon. Welcome David! Please tell us a little about the Dryad’s Crown series.
David:The Dryad’s Crown is a high fantasy series. It has dragons and fey and goblins and dark gloomy forests and all the things we love about fantasy. But ultimately, The Dryad’s Crown is about Silbrey, a person who deals with her traumatic past, the loss of her husband, her relationship with her children, and her strange connection to nature. It’s a big story. There’s a lot to explore. The series will consist of ten novellas. The third book, A Red Moon Over Rhyll will be available on Tuesday, June 29th through Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. It’s available for pre-order right now. (See links at end of interview).
Helen: Ten novellas is an enormous undertaking, congratulations on the release of the third installment. Your covers are very delicate and nature orientated, tell us how you chose the design.
David: I’m fortunate that my wife April is a graphic designer. She’s designed the covers with licensed art by Julia Dreams on Creative Market. Since we’re on a schedule to release these novellas every three months, we needed something that looks good, which can be put together on a deadline and works as a series. The covers don’t give away anything plot wise. Instead, they establish an earthy aesthetic—and could also look like a collection of fairy tales. Each cover features small touches that distinguish them and have meaning within the story. For A Red Moon Over Rhyll, the bees are significant. I wanted the covers to have an original appearance and be easily identified. April did that very well. Also, I didn’t want the exterior cover art to compete with the interior illustrations of Daniel Decena, which are absolutely stunning. Daniel has his own style, so the covers needed to not go off in a different direction.
Helen: The covers are beautiful. You have set yourself quite a goal to release a novella every three months. What made you write this story?
David: I’ve been writing fiction for the better part of two decades, but I’ve never told a story with such an epic scope, not like this. For me, that’s part of the appeal of The Dryad’s Crown. By the end of it, you’ve witnessed Silbrey’s life. This massive character arc, a story of wonder and hope and beauty, an amazing heroic adventure. As the author, I’ll be with you to the very end—and we’ll experience it together.
Helen: Have you always written high Fantasy?
David: I’ve been all over the place as a writer. Visit my website (https://thatdavidhopkins.com), and you’ll see for yourself! For many years, I wrote comic books and graphic novels in a variety of genres. Every book was something different. Emily Edison was an all-ages superhero story. Karma Incorporated was a story about con artists. Astronaut Dad was the coming-of-age family drama and historical fiction. I was determined to prove how versatile the comic medium was. Shifting genres felt like, at times, a sacred mission and at other times, an indulgence. Beyond comics, I also worked as a journalist, writing magazine features. I co-wrote a memoir about a burlesque dancer from the 60s. My short story collection is a smattering of different genres. And my last novel was an apocalyptic satire. To any fans, I have to apologize. You enjoyed something I’ve written, and then I’m off in a completely different direction. It’s made me a much better writer, but it’s not a good way to “build your brand.”
I was at least a little consoled to see Neil Gaiman make a similar confession in the introduction to The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction. He worked in comics, in journalism, and as a novelist. I’m no Neil Gaiman, but at least, we’ve both been guilty of similar crimes.
For the foreseeable future, I write high fantasy. That’s my favorite genre to read and watch. It’s the one that comes most naturally to me. Going forward, I hope to stay on task—and build my reputation as a fantasy writer. I have plenty of stories to tell.
Helen: You must be writing at every moment! Do you prefer silence or music playing in the background.
David: For The Dryad’s Crown, I’ve been listening to a lot of Sam Lee (https://samleesong.co.uk/), especially his new album, Old Wow, which is just amazing. In particular, the song “The Moon Shines Bright” is the unofficial theme for the series. If I could license it for a book trailer or audiobook, I absolutely would. It is such a sad, tender, and wise song. The world offers no plans or promises. Our time is not long. Cherish it. The lyrics connect the cycles of plant life, particularly trees and flowers, with that of a person’s life—and in that way, it feels a bit dryadic without being too direct.
Helen: I must admit I have a playlist when I write as well. Though I’m often so deep in the story that I don’t realise it’s finished, so silence works for me too! Authors tend to read a lot, do you have a favourite book?
David: For an author who has had a difficult time settling on a single genre, Moby-Dick is a good choice. Yes? It straddles several genres and defies easy definitions. I discovered the novel late in life. When I first read Moby-Dick, I liked it and then I hated it and then I loved it. This peculiar novel does that to the reader. From time to time, the story just occupies my thoughts. It’s had an effect on me. I spent a lot of time just in awe of what Melville created, the world he built for his audience. It’s not a fantasy novel, and yet, it absolutely feels like one to me.
Helen: Thank you so much for spending time with me today. I wish you luck with the launch of third book on July 13th. Just to finish, do you have any book recommendations for our readers?
David: Anything by Ursula K. Le Guin. She’s always at the top of my recommendations. She’s definitely a writer for writers. Her style has a grace and brilliance—like Joan Didion, but not as showy. As far as books I’ve read recently, The Unbroken by C.L. Clark is the best novel I’ve read this year. It’s stunning. Powerful. Entertaining. Hugo worthy! I can’t say enough good things about it. Other books I’d recommend would be: A Master of Djinn by P. Djeli Clark, The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman, Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner, and the Galaxy Run series by Sam Renner.
David Hopkins writes a little bit of everything. His work includes the novel WEAR CHAINMAIL TO THE APOCALYPSE, the short story collection WE MISS ALL THE GREAT PARTIES, and the burlesque memoir THE WILD AND WAYWARD TALES OF TAMMI TRUE. David has been a regular contributor to D Magazine, Smart Pop Books, and Fanboy Radio. He has written op-eds for the Dallas Morning News and Chicago Tribune, comic books and graphic novels in a variety of genres, and even a few D&D adventures.
IndieReader described WEAR CHAINMAIL TO THE APOCALYPSE as “a black humor-filled romp through the end times that starts with a bang and doesn’t relent, mixing in moments of suspense and pathos.” Also, from the review: “Overflowing with personality and told in a distinctive voice, the book details a creatively imagined post-apocalyptic world one would want to spend more time in.”
With the launch of her novel retelling the Wizard of Oz story, I am joined today by author Sky Sommers who released Ash Crooked Fate on June 20th! Welcome Sky. Congratulations on the release of your book. I thoroughly enjoyed your retelling of Cinderella from the viewpoint of the evil stepmother, it was brilliant, laugh out loud at times, and really made you think about how stories and history can be twisted by the person telling the story. You can find my review of Cindershere. But on with the intervew! Sky, please tell us a little about your new novel.
Sky: Hi, Helen and thank you for having me! Ash: Crooked Fates is a retelling of the Wizard of Oz based on 2 books – Baum’s and Volkov’s. It’s a young adult fantasy with a few adult chapters mixed in (nothing too untoward, no overt sex scenes or anything). A villain from the first book (well, more like an antiheroine), Melisandra aka Mellie, who keeps shoving her kids to live with strangers goes to Oz because, after all, she does want a happily ever after. With the wizard. And their youngest daughter Ellie who is supposed to be 3. Except due to peculiarities of time in different dimensions she turns out to be 17. While Ellie traipses along the yellow-brick road with the Cowardly Lion (who is really Beast’s son) and the Brainless Scarecrow (who is her guardian angel), she doesn’t know her companions are really there to find Tinman who is a long lost fae prince. All sorts of adventures befall on the travellers, including the poppy field and the flying monkeys and as Ellie keeps pining after Tinman, her dark angel is pining after her. So, a love triangle with a slow burn romance. I swear I didn’t intend to write Cinders as a quick hook-up, Embers as a rekindling romance and Ash as a slow burn one, it just happened.
Helen: I love the way you look at these stories from a different perspective, and inject humour and an insight into why people behave the way they do. The cover is gorgeous, such beautiful colours, tell us your thoughts behind it.
Sky This is a custom-made cover. My cover artist Rusham is amazing and his work ethics are just out of this world! He researched the successful genre covers and we decided the 17yo girl needed to be up front and personal on the cover because the story is mostly about her voyage, finding herself and finding her family. The Emerald City had to be in the background at the end of the yellow brick road. The red dots were a last-minute addition to refer to the poppy field incident. I didn’t want to crowd the cover with men, as there is a love triangle developing in the story, but if I would have had 2 men and 1 girl on the cover, then it could have been misinterpreted as a reverse harem story, which it isn’t. I didn’t want to put the girl’s parents (the protagonists in the adult part of the story) there either, the cover would have been too crowded.
Helen: And the title Ash Crooked Fates, how did you decide on that name?
Sky: Ash is the 3rd and last book in a trilogy (although quite possibly not the last book in the Magic Kingdom series) and I had fun for a while figuring out the Cinders-Embers-Ash titles. The subheading had to be about Fate – not going to air spoilers, but there’s a Goddess – and lives of quite a few characters are not going according to the plan they had in their heads, hence Crooked Fates in the multiple.
Helen: This is your third retelling, is this the only genre you write in?
Sky: Fairy-tales, YA and adult fantasy (grown up themes, but no erotica, mostly fade-to-black, actually), but also branching out into speculative fiction.
Helen: How do you come up with the ideas for your books, and the twists that all make such great sense once you put them all together?
Sky: I usually start hypothesising what could have happened next, after the happily ever after or after ‘the end’. Or I read a fairy-tale and spot the HUUUUGE gaps (like in Thumbelina) and I just have to go and fill them. Or just yesterday, an author friend posted a quiz about fairy-tale names, I conjured Yumiko Blackwood out of my pen name Sky Sommers and on a dare, I wrote a flash fiction piece called Yumiko and the Battlefrog. Inspiration is everywhere, you just have to look and wonder.
Helen: Tough question now – Out of all your books, who is your favourite character?
Sky: My fave character – that’s such an unfair question, Helen!!! They are all my babies. If I have to choose a favourite child, it would have to be Marina, the Goddess of Luck and soon also Fate, who ended up in the Magic Kingdom as the local witch and lived to be 66 only to be returned the day after she left Earth into her 25yo body. Because I can make her say the most outrageous things and everyone would just think she’s sassy. She’s probably my bossy, insane, kooky alter ego.
Helen: Sorry, I had to ask! Us readers want to know these things! Easier question then (hopefully!) What are you currently writing? Tell us about your WIP.
Sky: Which one of them? I have at least three: a short story I’m writing as a thank you for my Ash ARC readers called To Cure a Curse (a Belle&Beast retelling) and let me tell you, Belle did try to fix Beast’s curse because the kiss didn’t work and it all backfired rather spectacularly on the entire bloodline. The 2nd is This Time Around, a speculative (scifi-ish) fiction, where I have to fix a few plot holes about cloning and timeline-lines. And the 3rd is a romance between a Goddess and a light angel seeking forgiveness that will be book 1 in the Goddesses Saga (of 10 books), which will first appear in the Dark Realms Anthology (we have 35 authors and books!!!) in October 2022.
Helen: That all sounds so amazing, and keeping you very busy! I am beyond excited about the Dark Realms Anthology as this will be the first book I’ve written outside my Sentinal series. Though I currently have two ideas and can’t decide which one to use! With so many projects how do you fit writing into your daily life?
Sky: I have Tuesday evening to write. And Monday and Thursday and Saturday and Sunday evenings – when I’m on a roll, I can’t help it and my hubby & kids have learnt to live with it. Mommy needs a hobby to keep her sane.
Helen: What about your writing environment do you listen to music or prefer silence?
Sky: I used to all the time. Now I only listen to music when I get stuck and then the lyrics and sometimes the beat of the rhythm suggest avenues I haven’t noticed before.
Helen: If you didn’t write fantasy books, would you write in a different genre and if so what would you like to write?
Sky: I will and I am, in fact, writing in speculative fiction next – This Time Around, a book about cloning in post-Brexit London in year 2101 is out in October 2021 (up for pre-order).
Helen: I know most authors also read a lot. Do you have a favourite author, or book?
Sky: Jenny Crusie, hands down – she writes romcom with killer dialogue and unforgettable plots. I’ve been gifting her ‘Bet Me’ book and getting my friends hooked on her books for years. Years!
My favourite book is Jenny Crusie’s Bet Me – it’s got an unlikely romance between a gorgeous hunk and a homely actuary who have killer dialogues, super awkward family meets and exes who just don’t let up. It’s a fun romp that I keep re-reading every few years, makes me laugh every time, although I know what’s coming and it is also inspiration for writing dialogues in my own books.
Helen: What are you currently reading?
Sky: Currently, beta reading Unwish by Lynda Simmons, it’s a LOTR-reminiscent YA epic fantasy – us indie authors have to stick together and help each other out whenever we can. Also reading Jen Kropf’s A Soul As Cold as Frost – because I loved her short story in our Enchanted Water charity anthology and I want to know how the future Captain Hook fares. Also reading Wishes by Starlight because I want to know what happens to Jacque Stevens’ Elya from Letters by Cinderlight. And just a tad of regency romance by Bree Wolf called How to Live Happily Ever After – her books are entertaining period-true historic romance and that takes my mind off my plot holes.
Helen: Wow, not only writing multiple projects, also reading mutliple books, all at the same time! Out of the books you’ve recently read which would you recommend?
Sky: Oh, this is a great question, I always recommend the authors I love (see my Bookbub and Goodreads page, if you don’t believe me). Recent reads and loves: Alice Ivinya’s Enchanted Melody; Lyndsay Hall’s The Fair Queen; Esme Rome’s The Rose Kiss was one of the most original Belle&Beast stories I’ve read in ages (and I’ve read tons); Jacque Stevens’ Letters by Cinderlight was a lovely Russian royalty themed Cinderella crossed with Match Girl, and K.A.Last’s Dance of Wishes was a unique retelling of a rare fairy-tale of 12 dancing princesses. The closest book that reminded me of my favourite author was Anne Harper’s Fake It Till You Make It, it was absolutely hilarious. I can go on, do stop me.
Helen: It’s been a pleasure chatting with, thank you so much for for joining me. Congratulations again on your new release Ash Crooked Fates. Just to close us out, can you tell us what advice you would give other authors?
Sky: Write every chance you get, if it is 5 minutes, 55 minutes or just 1. A creative writing course instructor who works for The Guardian said something along these lines to me and it stuck.
About the Author:
Sky was born to Estonian-Russian parents and for most of her life has lived and worked as a lawyer in Tallinn, Estonia, with brief escapes to Finland and the United Kingdom for work/study and to all but the top and bottom continents in search of her muse.
Her debut e-book in 2012 was about ancient goddesses running amock, trying to get their wilted powers back. She then proceeded to indie publishing her own ebooks and paperbacks and found her way from myths and legend via the Angelic Agency to fairytales retold for young adult and adult audiences. So far, Thumbelina has been updated for suspicious adults, a more sinister version of Cinderella was released on 21.12.20 and an adult Red Riding Hood retelling is about to be released on 21.03.21. A Wizard of Oz retelling and several short stories are in the works.
All her books are linked by some character or another and she loves making you choose at the end – by letting you pick an ending to read – one for the optimist and a slightly different one for pessimists (well, except in the Cinders-Embers-Ash trilogy because only Douglas Adams could pull off a trilogy in 5 parts). She lives in a house with a small garden with her husband and mostly one, but on occasion plus four kids.
Celebrating the launch of her YA Fantasy novel, Needlework, I am joined today by Indie author Bekah Berge. Welcome Bekah. Congratulations on the release of your book. I have it on preorder and can’t wait to read it. Please tell us a little about your novel.
Bekah:Needlework is a YA Fantasy that follows four musicians as they vie for a coveted spot on the main stage at the prestigious Olive Branch Music and Arts Festival. Needlework is the name of a band and the dynamic between the four musicians is often a complex and chaotic friendship. They love each other, but they’re also four very different people. It is a story about friendship and loyalty, pain and grief, love and healing. One of the main character’s suffers from chronic pain, which is something I suffer from. So writing about that issue was deeply personal and I feel like I opened up and wrote down a lot of my own thoughts and feelings in a way that I’ve never done before, and those things ended up in the final book. Also, there is a trigger warning.
Helen: How brave to share your own thoughts and experiences, but I think that would make the writing more honest and relatable. They do say every book has a litle piece of the author’s soul in it. I think your book my have more than most. What made you begin writing?
Bekah: Writing for me began as a way for me to deal with my thoughts and emotions. It was very therapeutic and to this day remains a way for me to process the world around me. So I suppose it’s not so much who inspired me, but what inspired me. I spin tales based on emotion and music. Both are critical in my ability to write a story.
Helen: It sounds like music is very important to you. Do you listen to music as you write?
Bekah: I do! I don’t listen to music when I edit though, interestingly enough. When I’m writing I often listen to instrumental music (Audiomachine is a big one) and I create playlists for every book. Every single book I’ve written has one specific song that conveys the “mood” of the book. I use that song almost as my anchor, while I plot the rest of the story, as well as create the rest of the playlist. Music and writing for me are very connected.
Helen: I listen to music as I write as well. Though silence works when the playlist ends and I don’t notice! Your book, Needlework has four main charcters, each I am sure was fun to write. Do you have a favourite character out of the four?
Bekah: My favorite character from my book is Nova. She’s the drummer in the band and she’s the true heart of Needlework. Nova is who I aspire to be. She’s intelligent, kind, loving, fiercely loyal, talented, and humble. She also has a ton of fire and spunk. It was an absolute joy to write about her and have her personality be such a shining beacon of hope within the story.
Helen: She sounds amazing! I am not surprised you chose her. Tell us a little about your writing process. Where do you write? Where are you most productive?
Bekah: I do all my writing in bed. I like to be snuggled up with tons of pillows, a heated blanket, and I can stay like that for hours and hours.
Helen: That would be very nice today! As I write this it is raining outside, very grey and miserable. At least we can escape the weather with so many wonderful books to choose from. Congratulations once again on the release of Needlework. I look forward to reading it! Just to close us out, when you have time to read, what is your favourite book?
Bekah: My favorite book of all time is Brightly Burning by the incredible Mercedes Lackey. Spoilers ahead! So the book follows this young kid who is a loner, a loser, he’s picked on, his family forgets that he exists…basically a lot of things I related to when I was a teenager. He then finds out that he can summon fire. His Companion finds him (a telepathic, magical spirit white horse) and takes him on this journey that gives him a sense of belonging. It’s not a happy story. I won’t spoil the ending, but it was a story that hit me hard as a teenager and then remained special to me throughout my 20s. Highly recommend giving it or any of Mercedes Lackey’s books a try. She’s a phenomenal writer!
About the Author:
Bekah Berge fell in love with all things mystical at a young age. Her love of stories led to her writing her first book in her early twenties, and she’s never looked back since. When not scribbling down fantastical tales, she enjoys traveling, gardening, vegan baking, and brewing the perfect cup of tea.
She also suffers from a rare chronic pain condition called CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) and to learn more visit: CRPSBookshelf.com.
Joining me today to chat about her fantasy Sunspear series is Elizabeth Lavender. Welcome Elizabeth. Please tell us a little about your novels.
Elizabeth: My fantasy/sci-fi series is the Sunspear Series. I’m currently in the final revision stages of the 3rd book in the series. The first book in the series is The Spinning of Deception and the second book is Deception’s Hold. Our journey begins with meeting 18-year-old sunspearbearer Dante and a mysterious female sunspearbearer the same age who has been secretly trained. The reason why she’s secretly trained becomes apparent in the story. A powerful force led by the Dark Lord and his Black Dragon Commander threatens the galaxy; the Black Dragon Commander also is Dante’s father. Dante and his companions lead in the fight to stop the colonies from being massacred by the Dark Lord’s forces. In other scenes, our mysterious girl’s gift of visions from the Ancient One reveals a truth about a past event that could be key to breaking the Dark Lord’s hold.
The second book, Deception’s Hold, continues right where the first ended. Dante and his companions are told the truth of the past event, provided proof of it, and sets up a deadly task for Dante to undertake. Success could mean ending the Dark Lord’s power finally and much more. Failure would mean a much worse fate than even a blade for him. Even as they try to defend the colonies, they’ve come to understand something horrible is at work at Black Dragon headquarters. A race begins for the girl and her comrades to discover it and stop it in time. The girl knows though how short their time really is. She fears for Dante’s fate because she’s discovering her visions have created an unexpected connection to him and losing him isn’t an outcome she can accept. Too, she may be the only one that really knows the darkness he’s about to face.
Helen: This sounds like an amazing series, and I just love your covers, they are so complex, so many elements, tell us the story behind them.
Elizabeth: All of my covers have to do with that specific part of the storyline. So, for the first cover, there is a cloaked figure, two sunspears (one on either side), a dagger, and a blue eye. The cloaked figure represents the Dark Lord or darkness in general approaching. The two sunspears are for Dante and the girl. The dagger is directly related to the event from the past that has such a bearing on the present situation. It also has to do with an event in the girl’s past that happens in the book that will continue to haunt her through the series. The blue eye is referring to the girl’s eye as she sees visons, which play an important role throughout the series, but her visions of the one event set off a whole chain of actions.
The second cover shows the Black Dragon Commander who is also Dante’s father. On one side is the Black Dragon Helmet showing his allegiance now to the Black Dragon and on the other side is Ethan, the person that Dante once called Father. Through the middle is a sunspear, separating the two sides. The Black Dragon Commander/Ethan are on the cover because it ties into the task that lays ahead for Dante, which is at the heart of book 2.
Helen: With so much detail behind the cover design, I imagine as much thought went into the titles?
Elizabeth: The titles for both books are central to the story (The Spinning of Deception and Deception’s Hold). The power of deception is at the heart of both books and it’s how the Dark Lord has done what he has. While many of the battles in the books are the traditional swords, blasters, tanks, sunspears, and other cool technology to which you’ll get introduced, those aren’t the hardest battles fought. Many of the hardest battles fought in the book are these ones where being able to decipher truth from lie is the key. Otherwise, your fate is sealed. The Dark Lord has deceived before and he continues to do so. His mastery of it is how we find the Black Commander is at his side now. That’s the main way the title comes about. However, it’s not just the Dark Lord using it. You will see deception also used in other forms, but sometimes not for bad. Like I said, it’s a constant theme in the series.
Helen: It is so nice to learn the reasoning behind the covers and titles. It makes the book richer. What made you write this series?
Elizabeth: It was finally time to put it down on paper instead of bouncing around in my head. LOL. Seriously I’ve had pieces of it coming together since high school (that was over 20 years ago). There’s a point when you have a story, you have to tell it. It’s the writer in you.
Helen: Yes, as some point you just have to put pen to paper, you can no longer resist the urge! I don’t know why we resist, but sometimes we do. Why did you choose to write fantasy?
Elizabeth: This is my only series and it’s sci-fi/fantasy. I guess it’s the one I primarily read in myself and love, so I don’t know how much I would enjoy writing in another genre. Also, the story in my head ended up falling in this genre.
Helen: You have two books in the series published, I’m sure your die hard fans want to know when the third will be released. Tell us a little about your WIP.
Elizabeth: My current work is the 3rd book in the series. I’m in the final revision stage and hoping to have it published by the end of summer at the latest. This one shares the same things readers have come to love about the series. The characters haven’t changed with the way they face whatever the threat may be, while finding the opportunity to bring humor into even the most challenging situations. There are battles and close calls just like we like them to have too. However, there are some differences because we are in a different place in the storyline. The battlefields are a smaller scale to an extent. We’re getting to see the internal battles of one character in particular in book three and how it manifests itself outside. Also, the third book is a great deal about relationships being built between characters, ones that will take them through the entire series. For many of these characters, it’s the first time they’ve had a chance to actually meet in person and work/fight side by side. So, there are a lot of places in book 3 that read like a romance between certain characters, but for those who have been reading the series they will say it’s long overdue. It is where we find ourselves in the story.
Helen: I think as you write a series, and you live and breath the story, certain characters begin to resonate. Do you have a favourite character in your series?
Elizabeth: I have two favourites. There’s no way I can choose between them. It has to be Dante and the girl (yes, she is called that until book 3 because her identity has to remain hidden). Dante fights with all his heart to defeat the Black Dragon, and he’s already lost so much. As the series opens, his mother and brother are counted in those losses and his father now fights on the other side, causing the destruction he now sees around him. Yet somehow, he fights on even with that always there and as the series continues his incredible heart and spirit that make him a hero will shine through in the battlefields he’ll be put through. Then there’s the girl who fights just as hard, but between her own internal “demons” and the visions rest doesn’t come easy for her. There are moments she can’t move beyond, that still hold sway over her. She can give grace to others, but not to herself. We’ll see her be forced to take on many roles, play many parts to help win against Black Dragon. Even as she does it, it all adds to the turmoil that’s already creates such a nightmare for her at times. Yet despite all that, she has a spirit and heart that matches Dante’s, and she’ll need it to manage the battlefields that lay ahead for her.
Helen: You are well into your series, and have heroes and villains who are well defined. Who do you prefer to write?
Elizabeth: Heroes probably. I like seeing them going through whatever trial or battle I put them through and hopefully come out alive, even if barely. I like to delve into their emotions and their mind as they struggle with whatever they get thrown. I think too we can identify in real life with the hero and the challenges they face and how they struggle with them. I’ve said many times the struggles in my Sunspear world are not so different than those in our world. The battlefields may appear different on the surface, but they’re not. One of my characters says it better though. Here’s a quote from book 3 of the Sunspear Series (still under revision) “”I can’t tell you what happened, because it’s a part of my past. I found myself at a juncture which many do at a point in this life, many of us more than once, Dante. It’s a scary, lonely place to dwell. Everyone faces this Darkness. In reality daily. There are times though the battle is one not forgotten, leaving such a mark on one…” “Those are the ones that stay with you because you come face to face with how powerful the Darkness is. How quickly it can take you and destroy you and all those around you before you realize what is done. Yet you also discover how strong the One is who stands beside you, and that must be your refuge.” So, heroes are my favorite to write about as I think they inspire us to see that no matter how hard it gets or imperfect we are in our struggle, we can emerge victorious. We may have our body battered, our heart broken, and our face streaming with tears, but we come through. We need our heroes.
Helen: I agree. This sounds amazing. It is inspiring to see how people can survive what is thrown at them. We are often stronger than we realise are. Of course as authors we make it especially difficult for our characters. Author life can be just as challenging! Tell us a little about your writing process. How does writing fit into your daily routine?
Elizabeth: With great difficulty! I work fulltime during the week and there’s always stuff with the kids/school and just family stuff with the kids/husband. So, most of my writing stuff comes in the evenings and on the weekends. I don’t do mornings at all, unless I have to get up to go to work/take the kids to school. However, I’m a night owl, so most weeknights I’m until close to midnight and the weekends I’m routinely up until at least 3:00 working on stuff. Sometimes that’s good, but sometimes that can be bad especially if I’m writing a villain scene. You can get strange inspiration at that time of night. That could be the reason my characters have such close calls and end up in such bad shape at the end of those scenes when facing the villians. LOL. They have to be pretty tough!
Helen: I often go to sleep thinking about a scene or a sticky situation. Often as not, I wake up with the solution in the middle of the night and I have to dictate it in to my phone and hope I understand it in the morning! When you are writing do you know what the story will be and have a plan? or do you let it unfold as it will?
Elizabeth: I’m definitely the pantser. I know how the last battle of the whole series will go and the dialogue has written itself in my head for a while. I know there are certain events and conversations that have to be revealed to get me there. I have a good idea of how those events need to unfold and probably how the dialogue will go, but that’s because I’ve been in my characters’ world for so long now. I just know what they would say and do now. It’s not because I sat down and outlined how it’s going to go or plotted it out. I can’t even imagine writing like that. I know my eventually endpoint and the dots in the middle to get me there.
Helen: I know fantasy is all made up, but do you find you have to do much research?
Elizabeth: None really. For the first book, I did some on names. The character names were not chosen randomly and neither were the places. I wanted them to mean something. I do make sure when I’m writing I have a copy of the other books in the series next to me in case I need to look something up. I have to be sure to keep my story straight throughout the series. I have plotlines that are unanswered or left mysterious in the first two books that will be answered later, some not until the last book in the series. That’s the other reason it’s essential I have the others nearby.
Helen: Ah yes, keeping track of all the threads! That can be challenging at times. What is your working environment like? Do you need music to inspire you, or is silence king?
Elizabeth: Actually, I don’t listen to music. Once I start writing, I’m in a zone, so I don’t know that I would even hear it anyway. When I’m revising, it’s the opposite. I really hate the revising process, so the music would probably distract me. I need quiet because I honestly welcome distractions then. I think my revising actually takes longer than the writing for that reason.
Helen: Which do you prefer, the creativity of writing or the polishing up of editing?
Elizabeth: LOL. I answered this on the music one, I guess. Love the writing part, detest the editing part. I know the editing part of the process is necessary, but I still can’t stand it. It’s like the 6-month check-up to the dentist or when we get a recall notice in for something on the car. Necessary, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. Writing on the other hand is awesome. I love going into their world, and it doesn’t even feel like I’m doing the writing anymore. I know what they would say and do because I know them now. It really writes itself.
Helen: If you didn’t write fantasy, what genre would you like to write?
Elizabeth: That’s tough. Mine is sci-fi/fantasy, so it covers two genres. The current book has felt more like a romance in places, but long-term I don’t think I could be comfortable going there. Probably psychological/suspense thriller I could see. I have a counselling background and that influence is seen in my current series as many of the battlefields aren’t the traditional ones as we said earlier. I like delving into what they are thinking and feeling and making them struggle with their internal “demons.” So, I could see trying my hand at a suspense/psychological thriller.
Helen: I hope you do, that would be amazing! Most writers are great readers, after all, reading gives us insights into a well written book. What are some of your favourites?
Elizabeth: That’s too difficult. I have several favourites. One of my favourites is Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. I read it in 10thgrade and I’ve seen it on stage like three times now. It’s a beautiful story of redemption and grace. The main character ends up spending 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s family. When he gets out, he’s as you would expect, but a priest shows him true kindness, the true love of God in a sense. The rest of the book is the convict’s story of how he demonstrates the grace he was shown. Another favourite is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. That one is kind of the other extreme in the beginning. The young sailor is naïve and gets falsely accused and thrown in jail. Circumstances allow him to find a treasure and when he gets out, he gets revenge on everyone that put him in prison. However how he did it was what made the book, finding the secrets of each one and exploiting them to destroy them. In the end, he realizes he went too far and has to deal with and we see the young sailor re-emerge in a sense. I think the reason I always liked that one was how carefully he crafted his revenge. It was amazing all the pieces Dumas had going at once, but he made it work. The main character was only able to destroy them because he brought to light their dark deeds, things they thought they hid and no one could uncover. It’s just a well-done story. Some other favourites are The Star Wars Trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi). It has everything. I love the battles, the dialogue between the characters… The story though can’t be beat. The epic story between good and evil, of redemption and sacrifice, and the triumph of light over the darkness. Another couple series are Lord of the Rings by Tolkien and the Narnia Series by CS Lewis. Okay, I’ll stop now because I could keep going.
Helen: I can see how these have influenced your writing! What books have you read recently?
Elizabeth: There are quite a few. Generally, I read at least two a month and post the reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub as well as my Facebook and Twitter account. I also have a section in my newsletter that I post to. However, recently I finished Rise of Tears by Brand J Alexander, Dreamstate by Toni Cox, (Her Elemental Trilogy is the other one I read and it’s excellent too), A Twist of Night and Day by Aubrey Winters, The Enchanted Dagger by Vonnie Winslow Crist, Sentinals Awaken by Helen Garraway, Flames over Frosthelm by Dave Dobson, The Threat of Shadows by JA Andrews, First Earth by Cami Murdock Jensen… LOL. You can look on Goodreads account and check out my reviews. There are just too many awesome books out there!
Helen: It’s so cool to see my book in your list. It’s nice to see it is out there being read. Just to close us out, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Elizabeth: Just write the story that’s in you. The passion for your world and your characters will come through on its own. Have readers fall in love with your world and your characters as much as you have. Don’t let anyone discourage you. Surround yourself with people that will keep encouraging you to keep the journey going. You never know if your story is what someone needed to hear.
About the Author:
Elizabeth Lavender is the author of the Sunspear series. The first book in the sci-fi series is called The Spinning of Deception and the second book is Deception’s Hold. Originally from the Alabama coast, she currently lives in the Dallas area with her husband, Jeff, and her two children. She has a Master’s degree in counseling from Dallas Baptist University and has studied psychology and English. She enjoys science fiction and fantasy and hopes to bring some of that same enjoyment to others. She also enjoys suspense novels as well. However, as long as the storyline is intriguing, she will give it a try. Her reading spans from Les Miserables to Shakespeare to the Percy Jackson series to anything written by Ted Dekker or Frank Perretti. She works full-time and has been at the same company for over twenty years happily. She is a huge football fan and has a decent throwing arm, despite what her oldest son says when he practices throwing the football with her. Although she enjoys Texas, she does love going home to Alabama to visit. Besides visiting family and friends, it is nice to be back near the water again, where the seafood is the best.
I am joined today by author Tanya Ross who releases the second book in her YA fantasy Tranquility series, on June 7th, 2021. Her series is YA fantasy set in a dystopian world. Book One is called Rising Up and the second is called Face Off. Welcome Tanya. Congratulations on the release of your second book in the series. Please tell us a little about your novels.
Tanya: The story which begins in Rising Up takes place in the future in a domed city called Tranquility. Every citizen signs a contract to agree to the laws, called Accords, which require them to wear a wrist device similar to a smart watch, called the Alt. The Alt measures emotions of the wearer. All the emotional responses are calibrated on a super computer and translated into points whereby the people are assigned a corresponding Status. Happiness and positivity are rewarded, and negativity subtracts from the wearer’s points. The Status determines their standard of living. Those who don’t manage their emotions well are counseled and can be banished from the city.
The female main character, Ember, goes into an emotional crisis when her mother dies from a mysterious illness. No one helps her determine why her young mother has gotten sick in a society where there is no serious illness. When her Alt crashes and she needs emotional support, a young hero of the city flies to her aid. The two of them endeavor to uncover the mystery of the death, and find that uncovering that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Helen: Sounds like a really interesting world. It would be interesting to see if rewarding happiness actually works. For some reason I don’t think human nature is that simple. Why did you call your first novel Rising Up?
Tanya: I called my first book Rising Up because this has multiple meanings:
First, people in this city “rise up” in their Status levels by being happy.
Second, Ember and her friends find they have to “rise up” against the government.
Third, “rising up” includes the effort to go beyond one’s circumstances to prevail.
Helen: Which gives us an idea that all is not tranquil in the world of tranquility. I thought it might be too good to be true. You have a second novel releasing today, tell us a little about Face Off.
Tanya: I have two works in progress. My brand new book is called Facing Off. It is coming out on June 7th, so I’ve been working on editing and formatting that book while also starting the third in the series. Facing Off is a wild ride! The characters begin their revolution, but they find themselves mainly trying to survive what happens to them, as they discover new secrets, escape from the city leader’s horrific traps and ultimatums, and learn whether they can even trust each other. It’s full of twists and turns and will take the reader to places they weren’t expecting.
Helen: Writing a series can be tough, how do you get the ideas to torment your characters with?
Tanya: With a series, it’s picking up the threads, characters, and themes of the previous book and continue them. I know what each character is going to be dealing with emotionally and what their relationships with each other will be. However, my family brainstorms with me a TON to come up with plotlines and situations for the characters. I owe a lot to them. My husband and I together determined the plot for Rising Up. My daughter gave me a slew of direction and situations for Book 2, Facing Off. I love that it’s a family affair.
Helen: That is so nice that you get to involve your family; writing can sometimes be a lonely affair. Tell us a little about your writing process, once you have all these ideas and suggestions do you map them out in a plan? or do you find yourself just writing?
Tanya: I have tried so hard to be a planner. But it doesn’t work well for me. I think I’m going to be a pantser for life. When I try to plot outside of the writing, it is boring and dead. Once I’m in the story, the characters take me places I didn’t expect to go. For my new WIP, which is book 3 of the series, I have done some plotting, but how much I will stick to it remains to be seen.
Helen: I know authors hate being asked this question,but do you have a favourite character?
Tanya: My favorite character is Xander, the rebel in the story. He is somewhat stereotypical of a rebel, but I love how he embraces his rebellion and his desire to be himself in such a genuine way. He’s funny and arrogant and sarcastic, which makes him fun to write. He grows throughout both the first book and the second, and I love to see how he changes and what he learns to value. My readers love him, too.
Helen: If you didn’t write dystopian YA fantasy what genre would you like to try?
Tanya: If I didn’t write dystopian sci-fi for young adults, I would write romance. I would especially love to tie in some history in the romance, too, so there’s an interesting setting amid the steam. Currently, there’s a paranormal idea for romance churning in my brain, though, too!
Helen: I’ve enjoyed chatting with you today, thank you for joining me. Congratulations again on the release of Face Off. Just to close us out, can you tell us what advice you would give other authors?
Tanya: I would tell new writers that persistence is key. There are going to be lots of times when you want to quit. When the writing gets hard, or you’re not in the mood. Or when you don’t think you’ll ever be successful. Or when you get negativity from people who read your work–or don’t want to. And with persistence, comes learning and practice, without which you cannot improve
About the Author:
For thirty-two years she was an educator of English, history, AVID, and student leadership. She loves teaching and kids, her students a daily inspiration. Her exit from the educational arena allowed her to indulge her hopes, dreams, and goals in what she taught for so many years–writing. This first novel begins her lifelong dream of writing meaningful novels for young adults. When she’s not creating new worlds, you can find her reading, spending time with her husband and two kids, or walking her golden retriever, Honey.
Joining me today to chat about her new novel, Twin Flames, which releases today, May 31st, 2021 Is fantasy author Nicole Wells. TwinFlames is the third novel in Nicole’s Science Fantasy romance series, The Five Elements. Welcome Nicole. Congratulations on releasing your third novel, quite an accomplishment. You must be so excited! Please tell us a little about your novels.
Nicole:TwinFlames is a science fantasy romance that follows Maia, who is seeking revenge for her identical twin and discovers she can teleport. Gabe is a renowned MMA fighter who falls hard. He was my attempt at an alpha male (yes, he turns into a giant teddy bear, what can I say?).
It’s book three in the Five Elements series. The series can be started with this book, although it’s best to read book one first since there are spoilers. These books are based on the Five Elements of Chinese philosophy and culture. I also work in indigenous culture and history (for this book, Nez Perce). There’s also an inspirational aspect to the series. In TwinFlames, Maia has to work on anger and forgiveness.
Helen: I read the book blurb and this sounds like a great series, so I am off to find book one, UpSpark! Tell us about the title, what made you call this book TwinFlames?
Nicole: It’s funny, because I set out to do five books in the series and this book ended up being Books three (WildWood) and four (BareEarth) combined: the Wood and the Earth powers. I like the idea of twins, showcasing both elements and also highlighting the destined mate aspect to the word “TwinFlames.” There’s a focus on those people in our lives that feel like they are a part of us, friendships that are bound to happen. It turned out perfect, because Earth’s story is best told this way. I still have each “book” as a Part One and Part Two (Part Three is TwinFlames), so the symmetry was beautiful, especially as the prior two books also had three parts.
With this addition, each title has some theme of fire and light: UpSpark, StarDust, TwinFlames. Taking a step back, even before there are five elements, there is Yin-Yang. These books are the Yang–the light. The last book, World of Water, is the polar opposite. It is the Yin, the unknowing, the fear, the dark, and the possibility. That is the epitome of Water energy.
Helen: Incorporating the natural elements and their meanings sounds so interesting. It seems to be human nature to understand where we fit, and what we resonate with. For example, our star sign, our birth stone, our personality. What made you write this particular book?
Nicole: Did I mention how much I love putting real life knowledge into science fantasy fiction? I have a Masters in acupuncture, and the gifts of the elements, the relationships between the elements (the Shen and K’o cycles), the way they manifest in a person, etc — it’s all real. Feng Shui, Chinese medicine, and more are based on this paradigm that’s over two thousand years old.
For example, a Water energetic is not likely to have their back to the door in a room, and they probably know a bunch of esoteric facts. They have innate skill, and can pick up things that it takes others years to master. They might have a love/hate relationship with salt. Wisdom and stillness resonate with them, but so does fear. There’s a tendency towards long earlobes and large noses.
An Earth will have a sweet tooth and full lips and is someone you definitely want as a friend because she’ll get you and be there for you. This is the quintessential “mother” energetic, full of sympathy and understanding. But she’ll certainly have problems with boundaries.
Metal tends to have good posture and dry skin, enviable complexion and great boundaries. There can be a spaciousness to their words and an almost otherworldly presence; you tend to listen when they talk. But they can be perceived as cold or distant. The sensations in their body ground them, so they might gravitate towards piercings or tattoos. Their connection to spirit is automatic, and they’ll know grief like no one else.
Fire is more prone to stuttering and flushing. When a Fire looks into your eyes, they can look straight into your soul. They connect with you, and can be the life of the party not because they are trying to but because there’s this magnetism and draw, like moths to a flame. Similarly, they can have issues with burning out.
Wood has strong nails, tendons and muscles and is probably having a really hard time with isolation because they need to interact with people. They are immensely creative and can also be competitive, although at heart it’s all about benevolence–they want everyone to win and just like to play. Their edge is with anger.
I could go on forever! I’ve practiced acupuncture for about fifteen years and I love incorporating it into these stories. I also have a strong science background and love weaving that in too.
Helen: This is amazing. I am trying to figure out which one I am already! Maybe Water? I’m not sure. What made you begin writing?
Nicole: I am a voracious reader, but started having a hunger for books that were a little more complex, deep and less predictable. I read in the magical genres I loved, but I wanted something that left me feeling more complete, like I was better for having read it. I was probably battling some mom guilt, too, and wanted my reading to be “productive” because I had “shoulds” hanging over my head, like I “should” meditate. So I set out to write a book that felt like that, one that was all about the present moment. That book was UpSpark.
Helen: I believe you’ve written a few books now, not just the Five Element series; which genre would you say you write in?
Nicole: Ha! I wish I knew! I think all my books will have some touch of romance and magic, but beyond that all bets are off. I’ve published books with spiritual, humorous, paranormal, magical realism, mystery overtones. My current WIPs include YA, dark fantasy, science fiction, epic fantasy, steamy adult reads and a children’s picture book.
Helen: Wow! How do you come up with all these ideas?
Nicole: I exercise. Seriously, I run on the treadmill in the dark with my music blasting. Other times stories strike as just idle thoughts. My biggest problem is having to cull all these ideas! There’s so many books I want to write.
Helen: So you’ve written quite a few books, but I know you’re also a mom of three. How do you fit writing into your everyday life? I’m sure there are a lot of writer’s who want to know the trick!
Nicole: Far too often I stay up until one or two am. Then my daughter wakes me up every two hours until I finally get up for good around six or seven. This I do not recommend.
I wrote Upspark in three weeks. Sometimes I would write a few sentences on my phone when I literally had five minutes of downtime, back when my baby was a newborn. I do not recommend that either.
Now I try to write primarily in the evening and weekends, but it takes a toll on family time. Brandon Sanderson recommends set boundaries. I’m working on that.
Helen: Yes, I am not so good at boundaries, I grab the time I can. So in your hectic life, with your brain on overdrive, do you plan your books, or are you a complete pantser?
Nicole: Okay, full disclosure. I have a book. A trilogy actually. I have been harboring this baby for thirty long years. She has become so built up in my mind, I can no longer craft the words into existence. So I outline. I have outlined the hell out of that story. There is now a whole network of twists and turns, like alternate realities to the same story, and I can’t make heads or tails of it. I have a smattering of non-temporal chapters, ill-fitting jigsaw puzzle pieces. I know what I want to do, and I look at that beast of a mountain built of notes, and instead sit down and gorge on chocolate instead.
I will write her one day, but in the meantime, I am a hardcore pantser.
(Total aside–is it just me or does that sound naughty?)
For someone who would plan every minute of the day (who am I kidding, for someone who does plan the day to the second), sitting down in front of my computer with nothing but the opening and end scenes and going on a merry ride to fill in the middle is exhilarating! I don’t know if it’s just me (probably is; I’m thinking a virtue of prosopagnosia?), but I often don’t recognize what I’ve written. So when I write and then edit (if enough time has passed) it’s like getting to enjoy someone else’s story!
Helen: I agree. Sometimes I’ll go back to one of my drafts, and I’ll think, Did I really write that? And then I get lost in the story again and forget I am supposed to be editing!
It’s been such a pleasure finding out about you and your books. Thank you for joining me. Congratulations again on the release of TwinFlames. Just to close us out, can you tell us what advice you would give other writers?
Nicole: Don’t compare. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Don’t compare your works. Don’t compare how you were to how you are to how you want to be. Be in the present moment. Enjoy the journey and see if you can let go of attachment to outcome, at least most of the time. Stay open-minded, which will help you hear the things you need to and learn the skills to improve. Being free in this way lets you flow on your path, versus bucking and forcing and constantly “trying.”
I did not do these things. I suffered. I know better now, and that’s what I’d pass on so you can skip straight to the awesome parts of writing!
About the Author:
In the ethos where herds of story ideas run wild and free, I am known as the Devourer of Books. A voracious predator, I–
Okay. I’m a mom of three young children. And I spend way too much time in the fantasy world in my head. But, hey, in this world I’m still supernatural. I channel the powers of my insomnia for good. I’m impervious to kid whining and insults (well, mostly). I have a second sense for cereal disasters and broken toy catastrophes. They call me Mom, which is code for You’re-Awesome-We-Love-You or Stop-Writing-On-Your-Computer-and-Play-With-Me. I’m not sure which. My kryptonite is my pet peeves: water running down my elbows, food stains on papers, and losing the little plastic tethers when you remove the tags off new clothes.
So, yeah, that’s me. Your average superhero mom. Oh, and I’ve got three eyes (one in the back of my head).