Book Review Alert: Hunter by Nicole Conway

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

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

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

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

Author Interview – 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

Instagram

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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Author Interview – J.L Kodanko

Author of Storyteller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helen: Why did you choose to write fantasy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helen: Which do you prefer, writing or editing?

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author:

Jennifer Kodanko

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

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

For all the latest:

Website

You can purchase Storyteller from Amazon:

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

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

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

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Author Interview – Morgan Gauthier

Author of Wolves of Adalore

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

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

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

Cover Art done by the amazing @artzzofkae

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.       On These Black Sands by Indie Author Vanessa Rasanen

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

3.       Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo

4.       These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

5.       Daughter of the Pirate Queen Duology by Tricia Levenseller

Helen: Who is your favourite author?

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author:

Morgan Gauthier

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

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

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

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

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

You can find out more about Morgan via:

Website | Facebook | Instagram

You can purchase Wolves of Adalore from Amazon:

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

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

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

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Author Interview – Katie Zaber

Author of the Ashes and Blood

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

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

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

Helen: What inspired your book/series?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a happy mess.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helen: What is your favorite meal?

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

Helen: Coffe or tea? Wine or beer?

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

Helen: Describe yourself in three words.

Katie: Curious, Spaz, Sensible

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

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

About the Author:

Katie Zaber

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

You can find more via:

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

Blood and Ashes synopsis:

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

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

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

You can purchase Ashes and Blood from Amazon:

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

Book 2: Below Dark Waters

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

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

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

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Book Review Alert: Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

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

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

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

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

Author Interview – Ally Aldridge

Author of Ocean Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author:


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

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

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

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

You can find more about Ally via:

Author website

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

You can purchase Ally’s books from Amazon:

Ocean Heart

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

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

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

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Book Review Alert: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Reviewed: October 2nd 2021
Released: December 1st, 2020
Genre: YA Fantasy

Kaz Brekker and his crew of deadly outcasts have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives.

Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties.

A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets – a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world. Read More…

Book Review Alert: Ashes on the Earth by Sarah Ashwood

Reviewed: September 30th 2021
Released: September 25th, 2020
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy

“This was a war between monsters. And I was caught in the middle.”

Shapeshifters exist. Monsters are real. And no good deed goes unpunished.

Nursing student Ellie St. James didn’t mean to get involved in a war between rival gangs of shifters, but saving the life of a local mob boss’s child has dragged her into one. When Ellie’s life is threatened because of her involvement, she’s forced to go on the run, protected by Carter Ballis, head of security for the mobster’s family, and a lethal shifter himself.

Blood, fire, and warfare weren’t part of Ellie’s plans, but even if she survives, her life will never be the same. The world is more than she knew, and she’s seen too much. People capable of morphing into deadly creatures from legends and folklore around the globe are coming for her.

The cost of staying alive means trusting Carter to defend her, and he’s every bit as frightening as the creatures that want her dead… Read More…

Author Interview – R.L McIntyre

Author of the Warrior of the Isles series

Today I have the pleasure of meeting R.L McIntyre, the author of the recently released Curse of the Gods; the first book in her new YA historical fantasy series. Welcome Rachel! Tell us about your new series.

Rachel: My latest book is a YA historical Fantasy that releases September 21st, 2021. This series spurred out of me researching my heritage. As you can guess from the last name McIntyre my family is American Irish. I wanted to learn more about Irish culture and the history of the land. This spurred many late nights reading various myths and eventually I fell in love with the myth of Cu Chulainn. He was like an Irish Hercules in a lot of ways. My research led me to seeing the history of the time which is where the legendary warrior Calagus was pulled from. He was another warrior that led this grand battle against Romans in Scotland. Reading all this spurred the premise for Curse of the Gods.

         Curse of the Gods is a genderbent retelling of Cu Chulainn mixed with real history of Scotland and Ireland at the time historians believe Cu Chulainn would’ve lived if he was real. My story follows Seanait, my Cu Chulainn, and her journey to return to Ulster before her prophecy to save the land starts during her seventeenth year. With her best friend Eion at her side, she fights Romans, Gods, and meets a mysterious fae Prince who changes her world.

Cillian, my fae prince, is modelled after Cu Chulainn’s fae lover. Cillian is the seventh Prince in the first Kingdom of the Faelands, Amanthia. As a member of the Royal family he is supposed to fight for the crown against his siblings, but he has other plans. He dissents and disappears into the human realm where he meets Seanait. But as the title suggests both characters have destinies ‘cursed’ on them by the Gods. This first book in the series explores the beginning of their tales leading into the next book Echoes of Destiny which should release November/December 2021. Echoes of Destiny follows even closer to the myth of Cu Chulainn so there is even more coming in this mythical world of ancient Scotland and Ireland.

Helen: Sounds like an exciting adventure with plenty going on. You never know what is going to happen when the gods have their fingers in the pie! Tell us about your cover, it is very striking.

Rachel: I have two covers! One is for my paperback version on Amazon and the second is for my hardback version on Barnes & Nobles. My paperback cover came first. It was inspired by Seanait herself. She is by far one of my favorite characters and it’s not just me. My beta readers and editor also loved her. So, she had to be the focus of the cover. This cover is Seanait with her power, a riastrad, activated. Her hair is ablaze, and she has her Gae Bolg (spear like weapon) in hand ready to fight the world and the Gods. I love this cover because it brings to life Seanait in all her powerful glory. She is a warrior and I really wanted that to come across but even more than just being a fighter, she is also feminine. I love mixing the feminine and masculine in characters because we’re all a mix of both.

My second cover follows the same flow and idea as the first, but it has a more artistic flare to it which I love. I love black covers. It makes the images pop off the page and I wanted to emulate that idea. This cover still features Seanait and her Gae Bolg but it also shows a detached version of her. You only see her red hair.

Helen: Curse of the Gods in the first in your YA historical fantasy series, but you have written other books, are they all fantasy?

Rachel: I write mostly fantasy. It’s what I loved to read as a kid and I still read the genre today. Anything with magic, dragons, prophecies always pulls me in. I’m also partial to anything in medieval or ancient times so I often write a lot in this time period. Although, I’ve dabbled in some more modern-age fantasy. I was and am still a huge fan of Lord of the Rings and Tolkien. He probably inspired me the most and helped me fall in love with the genre. I’m also a big believer that reading should be a form of escapism. It always has been for me and fantasy worlds help me to escape so I enjoy being able to create my own worlds and share them with readers.

Helen: I agree, I love new worlds, and the sheer escapism of fantasy and how you can let your imagination run riot. Speaking of ideas, how do you come up with new ideas for your books?

Rachel: It depends. Some ideas have come from dreams while others have come from history or what if ideas. There are other ideas that come from music. There are tons of songs that I’ve listened to and wondered what the story of the characters would be. It often leads me to some free writing of ideas. Some of them get turned into full length books while others are just fun pieces I work on from time to time.

Helen: What are you currently working on?

Rachel: My current WIP is the second book to Curse of the Gods. I’m hoping to finish it soon so I can start the revision process and beta reading. However, I also tend to hop between WIPs when I write. The world of Curse of the Gods is going to widen in book two and the spin-off series that come after. So, I’m currently jumping between these books at the moment. But my main focus is still book two.

Book two takes Seanait on the journey to fulfil her destiny. This book follows more closely to the well-known parts of the Cu Chulainn myth so there is epic battles, more faeland politics, and of course Seanait and Cillian need to reconcile. There’s a lot that is going to happen so I’m super excited to share it with the world. The two spin-off series will follow Cillian in the aftermath of the second book and the second series will catch up with Evander, the Roman with powers similar to Seanait. I’m super excited for both but they both have a long way to go.

Helen: That sounds amazing, and I’m sure your readers will love the fact there are more spin-off series to come. You have some rich and powerful characters in your books. Do you prefer to write heroes or villains?

Rachel: I love morally grey characters! They could be villains or heroes, but these characters always speak to me. The world isn’t black or white, so I enjoy characters that imbue that sense of reality. Although, if I had to choose it might be villains. Understanding why people might do something terrible is fulfilling. I like having those answers. Also, I have a background in psychology so I enjoy being able to use that to really understand my villains.

Helen: With all the history and rearch you had to do for Curse of Gods, did you find yourself sticking to a plan, or did your characters try and take over?

Rachel: Oh I am a plantser. I generally have a rough idea of some scenes and the order I want them in but how characters get there and the events in-between come to me when I write. I’ve tried writing intricate outlines and always end up tossing out half of it. For me it stifles my creativity so I like having a rough idea of the plot but the rest comes as I go. It makes it a surprise for even me and allows my characters to write themselves.

Helen: When not writing about your amazing characters, what hobbies do you have? That is if you have time!

Rachel: I’m a huge fan of volleyball. I used to play and now I get the awesome job of coaching high schoolers. The fall season is definitely a highlight of my year.

Helen: Thank you so much Rachel, for joining me to chat about your books. It has been lovely meeting you. Just to finish, one more question: If you didn’t write fantasy, what genre would you like to write?

Rachel: I write mostly fantasy with romance subplots. I’ve never considered myself a romance writer, but I’ve been considering Paranormal Romance recently. Not sure when I’ll give it a try as I have a couple of other projects I want to get done first. But I’ve gotten great feedback from my editor that makes me think I can write romance better than I think. It’s something I’ll like to try at some point.

About the Author:

R. L. McIntyre is a fantasy writer of books for teens and adults. She was born outside of Philadelphia and lived there for most of her life. When not writing she spends most of her time coaching volleyball or playing with her adorable writing buddies four rambunctious cats. You can find out more about her and her cats on her website rlmcintyreauthor.com.

You can find more about Rachel via:

Author website

Instagram

Goodreads

Bookbub

You can purchase Rachel’s books from Amazon:

Curse of the Gods – Book One of the Magelands Eternal Siege

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

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