Veznek + An Interview with Andrew Gates

The Color of Water and Sky #3
by Andrew Gates

Get ready, science fiction fans: The third book in the Color of Water and Sky series is out, and it’s more epic than ever! After the outstanding ending of Kholvaria, I didn’t think I could last this long not knowing what happens next. And yet, Veznek somehow manages to blast any expectation I had out of the water.  Now, fair warning: Veznek is a lot more violent (a LOT more violent) than the first two books. Quite a few scenes are unsettling, to say the least, so it’s not for everyone. But those who love hardcore sci-fi are are going to be blown away.

Summary51eccqhdeil

Kholvaria has been attacked. Its greatest city destroyed. A cloud of debris now covers the void once filled by Vigilant Behemoth. In the wake of this unexpected assault, the Chiefdom’s leadership is promptly evacuated to a fallback shelter beneath the surface. But the horrors of the Behemoth’s destruction cannot be forgotten. Here in the grimy confines beneath the Earth, Kho Veznek, second-in-command of the Chiefdom, will stop at nothing to claim vengeance on those responsible for his city’s destruction… even if that means going through his own people to do it. As tensions mount between the ranks of humans and Kholvari alike, the fate of the world comes to its ultimate tipping point. 

Musings

Definite spoilers from here on out if you haven’t read the first two books. Spoiler free for Veznek itself. 

It’s so exciting to finally be getting answers to the world Gates has created. Veznek answers everything you’ve been wondering since book one, introducing hints of new, formidable villains for the books to come. The revelations are incredible! From the very first page of the prologue, we discover new details on the zombie-like humans Iris and the team discovered in book 2, and it throws everything we thought we knew out the window.

About half the book is told from the perspective of Kholvari characters, one of them the titular Veznek himself. The current Under-Chieftain, second in the entire Kholvari empire, he won’t stop at anything to get what he wants – and thinks he deserves. The author once again proves his writing skill as he expertly weaves the perspectives, showing a fundamentally different mentality when it comes to these insect-like creatures’ way of life. It’s fascinating being so engrossed in such an alien culture, I almost wanted more of their perspective.

It feels so odd not following the original survivors as much as we used to! After losing Iris in the last book, every relationship has changed. Dan leads the team of teenagers through the wilderness, discovering the truth about the zombies as he struggles with the loss of his love and unborn child. Grey tries to survive in the ruins of the Pentagon with his family, living through the aftermath of the missile strike. The last humans – divided.

Meanwhile, below the surface, Sanja is suffering the consequences of her nuclear launch. Basically going mad, alone in her cell. Plotting, planning, remembering. We get to see the steps that made her into the ruthless psycho she is today, leading to ‘scenes of graphic sexual trauma and physical torture’ (to put it lightly). She’s a villain I love to hate, one of my favorites in literature.

And the ending – that ending! Gates has always left us with powerful finales, but this one takes the cake. It’s possibly the strongest and most terrifying one in the series so far. I just can’t wait to know what happens next!


Interview with Andrew Gates, Author of The Color of Water and Sky series

33992926_1765995060113642_4107841158665732096_nR: Veznek takes everything from the previous books and raises the stakes higher than ever before. Did you find it more difficult writing Veznek?

AG: Great question! The stakes are certainly higher in Veznek, but along with that comes the fact that all our characters are split up. Rather than a group of characters going on one adventure together, like we had in the last two books, each POV character is on their own and doing their separate thing. Because of these separate storylines, it heavily influenced the way I went about writing the story. Instead of writing all of the chapters in order, this time I wrote each character story in it’s entirety and then went back and put the chapters in their proper chronological positions. So instead of writing character A, B, C, B, A, D, A… I wrote it A, A, A, A, then B, B, B, B and reordered them later.

R: What would say has been your biggest challenge and achievement in writing Veznek? What have you learned about yourself as a writer through writing?

AG: There’s a chapter in this book – Chapter 14. It gets pretty dark. It’s definitely the darkest content I’ve ever written and I really wanted to make sure I handled that serious content appropriately. I consulted several people for help on it. In the end, I think that chapter turned out very well, but it took a lot of work to get right.

R: The ending left us on the edge of our seats. How long do we have to wait until book 4? And is there any hint you can give us about what we can expect?

AG: Hard to say when Book 4 will be out. I know some authors are great at setting hard dates, but I’m not one of those guys, at least not yet. There were a few months between the release of books 1 and 2 but nearly a year between 2 and 3, so who knows? Hopefully it won’t be too long. Over 1/4 is already written. As for what to expect, I’ll say the story is heavily influenced from sources like Star Trek Beyond and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series. You can form your own conclusions from there.

R: Any plans to write outside the Color of Water and Sky series? What’s new from author Andrew Gates?

AG: Yes! I’ve been playing with an idea in my head for a gladiator-style series that I’m tentatively calling Battle Planet. Think gladiators in space. Right now I’m just toying with the concept. I’m not sure if anything will ever come of it. But if you’re looking for non-Water and Sky content that’s already out, I have two stories in the Pew! Pew! Science fiction collections already released.

R: Now that you’ve gotten ‘settled’ into the author life, do you have a writing routine or process that you adhere to?

AG: The routine comes on and off. I hit a nice groove for awhile where I had a certain number of hours I devoted to writing, but lately I’ve fallen out of practice. For me, my other hobby is running so I usually have to choose which thing I want to do that day before work. Either I fully commit to running that morning, or fully commit to writing. There are some days when I half-commit to each, which I suppose is better than nothing, but I’m still figuring it out.

R: Do you have a favourite amongst all your characters, old or new?

AG: If we’re talking old characters, I still think one of my favourites is still Tracey Saljov. I’m also a big fan of Sanja Parnel and Kho Ikharus. Those are the most fun to write for me. 

R: Are there any authors or specific books you aspire to? Who inspires you?

AG: When it comes to writing, the popular thing to do is “Write to Market”. You hear about it all the time. Basically the philosophy is to take themes and genres and storytelling devices that are popular and that prove to sell well and write that. For example, if you follow Chris Fox’s writing blog at all, he’s big on writing to market. And I think for people who write to market, it’s easier for them to have authors or specific books to pull from. But for me, I have a different philosophy. Instead of looking at what sells in the genre and adhering to those themes and tropes, I try to write things that I want to read. That’s my only criteria. I say, “Do I want to read this?” and I go from there. So the result is, I pull a lot from tons of different genres and sub-genres and authors and concepts. My stuff doesn’t necessarily fit into clean boxes. There’s no established audience for Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian Zombie Survival Giant-Crab-People Sea Stories, so there’s really no specific author or person to pull from in my case.

R: And finally, do you have any advice for other aspiring authors?

AG: My advice for new authors would be to play around with stuff and try new things. There’s no right or wrong answer to anything. The first book you write will take the longest, but once you get one out of the way, you’ll hit your groove. Everyone finds success differently.

Andrew Gates’s last book, Veznek, was just released on Amazon. The first book in the Color of Water and Skies series is Iris, which you can read here. And don’t forget to check out his website for exclusive content!

Are you a fan of Gates’s work? Let us know in the comments below!

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Hero In a Halfling

By William Tyler Davis
Epik Fantasy #1

Gosh, I missed fantasy reading books like this one. A highly entertaining story which reads like a DnD campaign with your best friends. Like Lord of The Rings, but with hints of Terry Pratchett, with subtle humor and pop culture jokes thrown in so creatively that they don’t take the reader out of the story.

Summary35621955

Not all halflings dream of magic…

But Epik isn’t like the rest. Adventure. Excitement. He craves those things. He would rather learn magic, not follow a wizard on some fool’s adventure…. Or so he thinks.

The problem: magic is outlawed. After setting out for the city, what Epik finds in Dune All-En isn’t at all what he’d hoped. No magic. And few wizards.

Luck, or something more sinister, is on the halfling’s side. He meets Gabby, a wizard who is kind enough to rent him a room, or rather, a closet, at his now-defunct magical supply store. And as a group of mountain trolls threatens the city, Epik sees the opportunity to do something, well, epic.

If only the halfling inside him would stop peeking out.

Musings

While most of the story is told from Epik’s perspective, we get a healthy dose of flashbacks and a few other fun characters get to tell their side of the story. The villainous hand of the king plotting his ruler’s demise; the hilarious mountain trolls who just want to feast on human flesh; the soldier who’s never seen real action before… the reader gets to see the wide scope of the action and feel invested in the plot, which has a rather quick pace that accelerates towards the end.

The real strength of this book lies in the amazing characters, who could be doing absolutely anything and I would still read them. Gabby the Wizard had such personality; Epik was so likable; Todder too relatable. I would pick up the second book in an instant just to hang out with them again!

The No Ordinary Star book trailer is here, and it’s everything

For those of you who have followed this blog since the beginning, you have seen the evolution of my obsession with the No Ordinary Star series. From my first review to my eager anticipation of the last release, you’ve seen my excitement, my pain, my sadness, as I fell in love with Astra and Felix and grew terrified of the year 2525.

Today something extraordinary has happened. The author, M.C. Frank, has released the book trailer for the series, and it’s… out of this world. I am stunned!

See for yourself:

What did you think? Wasn’t it beautiful? Wasn’t it epic? Let’s take a closer look at some of the stills together (because I can’t handle it on my own)!

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First the snowy expanse of the north pole, where the heart of the story takes place. Up north, you wouldn’t be able to tell if we were in the 21st century or the 26th. Is that the clockmaker’s cabin in the distance?

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The matches being lit – for the Match Girl, Astra’s nickname in the series. The flame that starts a revolution.

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The match girl herself, Astra, hair blowing in the wind. She’s gorgeous, she’s brilliant. It’s amazing how much she looks like how I had always imagined her.

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The city on fire, wracked with explosions and struck by lightning. The terrifying end our world could meet. I was on the edge of my seat the entirety of No Vain Loss, it was so thrilling!

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The three books of the trilogy: don’t they look beautiful together? Look closely at the cover of NVL, and you can see my own cry of excitement about this series.

have you read the books? If so, what did you think? Does the trailer look like how you imagined the series? And if you haven’t read it yet, then you sorely need to.


A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do. A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive. A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack. The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty. The year is 2525.

Inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, this futuristic novel is set in a world where Christmas -among other things- is obsolete and a Clock is what keeps the fragile balance of peace. Written in three installments, this is the breathtaking and sensual story of how two unlikely people change the world, and each other, one book at a time.

Immerse yourself into the icy cold world of this scorching hot new novel. Read it now: http://amzn.to/2nLHfld

Find all of M.C. Frank’s books on her website: mcfrankauthor.com
Twitter: @mcfrank_author
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Goodreads: M.C. Frank

Ruined Aesthetic + Awesome Giveaway by M. C. Frank!

Last week I brought you my review of Ruined, another fantastic book by author M.C. Frank. And today I get to announce more awesome news: the author is having a giveaway, and you can be part of the fun!

February is here, and we have only 4 more nights until Valentine’s Day. Gasp! Do you have a special someone to celebrate the day with you? I’m a really lucky duck: my city of Marseille is the European Capital of Romance this Valentine’s (apparently it’s a thing) so my Valentine’s evening will be full of literal fireworks.

M.C. Frank’s books have beautiful couples. Romance is in the air! Such fantastic couples that I actually decided to give Aesthetic creation a whirl:

B E A T R I C E + D O M I N I C  from  R U I N E D

 

I loved this couple – and this is coming from a girl who doesn’t usually go for romance. Beatrice and Dominic bring out the best in each other, and grow to be better people because of their relationship. Absolutely fantastic romance – especially for lovers of Historical Retellings.

A R I   +   W E S   from   LOSE   ME .

33859529a New Adult novel about an actor and a stunt girl, who film a modern P&P adaptation on a Greek island.

I reviewed this novel some time back, and here were my thoughts about this love story:

There’s just so much to love about the characters. Wes is the perfect book boyfriend (allow me to swoon a little?) once the asshole playboy facade fades away. The perfect gentleman, smart, a book lover (that’s where he gets me!) and handsome to a fault. It makes you feel for him, knowing Ari has no choice but to break his heart. And Ari herself is such a complex girl, her struggles so vivid and honestly quite traumatic.

And then there’s their relationship. I was put off a little at first, with how toxic it seemed at first glance. There’s quite a lot of saving, knights in shining armor, and then squabbling about life-saving (at first). I just couldn’t see a healthy way for Ari and Wes to be together, with all their baggage, secrets, and basically life-debts. But then I realized that was the entire point! And the character growth from that point on? Stunning.

I’m not a romance reader, but this New Adult contemporary really struck a cord. Basically – ALL THE FEELS.  I haven’t even gotten to talking about the amazing supporting characters and the subplots. And while the story isn’t a direct retelling of Pride and prejudice, it’s definitely something fans of Austen will adore.

Sublime. Read at your own risk, your heart will probably break.

A S T R A + F E L I X  from NO  ORDINARY  STAR

a scifi series of 3 books, set in an icy-cold world where books, Christmas, clocks and kisses are forbidden.

This is by far my favorite couple from M.C. Frank’s body of work. No Ordinary Star is Scifi, so readers of this blog will probably throw their hands up in the air and go ‘well, that explains it.’ I’m nothing if not predictable when it comes to Scifi.

From my review of NO VAIN LOSS, the last book of the series: The No Ordinary Star series has to be one of the most perfect series I have ever read, because it gave me everything I wanted out of my reading time. Character to adore, to root for, to ship, to watch grow. A plot that never felt contrived, always unpredictable and that makes you want more. And a lyrical style full of love for the human race.

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Alright, enough about me rambling. I promised a giveaway, now, didn’t I? CLICK HERE to visit M.C. Frank’s blog and see all the ways you can win! There’s $15 from book depository for the winner, and there may be more than just one.

Happy Valentine’s day to all the lovers out there – you book lovers especially! Go on a date night with your favorite book. Curl up in bed together. Now that’s a Valentine’s day that will make your heart flutter.


P.S. Did you know M.C. Frank has created a resource for authors and reviewers to find each other? It’s called the Book Robin Hoods and I love it! I’ve been involved as an author and have met fantastic bloggers through the site. Check it out if you want to be a part of the fun!

Ruined

A Regency Retelling of Jane Eyre
M.C. Frank

Once again, I have dove into a genre I rarely read because of a book written by an author I admire, and once again I’m thoroughly impressed and glad I gave it a chance.  Ruined is a perfect book for all the lovers of Regency era, or historical romance, or romance in general – not usually my cup of tea but thanks to M.C. Frank, I think they’re growing on me.

32181020Summary

The Duke of Ashton sits at the Opera at Vauxhall Gardens, bored out of his mind, and plans murder.

He curses the day that brought the little governess, destitute and sad, at his door eight months ago, to upset his careless if a bit meaningless existence. 
How could he have guessed the terrible, evil secrets she was hiding? And now that he knows all, the truth appears wilder, even more despicable than even he could have imagined. He hadn’t counted on losing his heart to her, of course, but he did.

What he doesn’t know is that a tendril of the shadows of madness and sin that followed Beatrice to his door is still out there, looking for something to devour.
The only one who can save him from the darkness is the girl herself, but he knows he’ll never see her again. He who once prided himself on his indifference to other human beings, feels his chest constrict with pain every time he even thinks of her.

Musings

After his cousin’s death, Dominic Halifax suddenly inherits the title of the Duke of Ashton, and by a shocking move in the former’s will, is now in charge of the man’s daughter, Adelina. Headstrong and stubborn, she is impossible to control, and is ruining Dominic’s bachelor lifestyle – he needs help. She has rejected every candidate he has found suitable to be her governess, until, that is, he finds Beatrice Devon. Only three years older than Adelina herself, Beatrice somehow manages to bring her under control.

But Beatrice caries a heavy secret: a history of mental and physical abuse. But as Dominic begins falling in love with her, more is revealed about her past – can she ever move forward?

I haven’t read Jane Eyre in quite a long time so I might not be a good judge of how good of a retelling Ruined is, but the plot itself is very different from what I remember – this book is definitely not a linear retelling! The relationship between Dom and Beatrice seems to be the main similar element, and it’s adorable how he uses the same imagery to describe her as what I remember from studying the book in high school – frequently calling her bewitching or accusing him of casting a spell on her, for example. Highly creative!

We alternate between the points of view of Dominic and Beatrice, telling the story with secrets kept hidden. The plot was neither slow nor fast, a nice gentle evolution of the relationship with a handful of mystery thrown in. The author also carefully mimics the writing style of the era, while not losing the style her readers love. It’s easy to see M.C. Frank in the pages, even while she’s using a regency era turn of phrase. This might put off some readers, but I found it easy to get into and very fitting for the novel.

Beatrice shows amazing growth through the novel: I love a strong female character who has her flaws. She’s smart, persistent, and somehow hasn’t lost a love for humanity through all she’s been through. Now I must war some readers that the flashback scenes are troubling at times, and very unsettling, but how Beatrice deals with them is masterfully done. I did get a little tired of her crying/fainting, but it was a really minor qualm I had with the book.

Dominic’s evolution is a fantastic one. I loved his broodiness at the beginning, his real stubbornness he can’t see in himself. But Beatrice brings the best out of him, and he out of her. I enjoyed watching their relationship grow and wishing that they end up together. Underneath that bachelor-life-loving exterior beats the heart of a true and caring gentleman.

I found the ending a little confusing, somehow – a few jumps in time that weren’t clear, moving forward and back but without any guidance. I’m not sure if this is just me, and it threw me off a little, but the action picked up and I was drawn right back in.

All in all, this isn’t your everyday retelling of Jane Eyre: it’s a beautiful homage to the book, with a story about abuse and growth, love and strength. The author creates a beautiful story with so much to love. If you like historical romance, then you’ll strike gold with Ruined!

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I have kindly received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

“It takes true courage, integrity and selflessness to turn yourself into a person that the world would be the wealthier for possessing.” 

Woman With A Thousand Hats

By Denise Kawaii
A memoir

One of my new year’s reading resolutions was to read more non-fiction: so when I won this book in a giveaway, I knew it was the perfect place to start. I had been following author Denise Kawaii for some time on Instagram, constantly impressed by the sheer amount and variety of her projects: her newly released memoir promised to dive into how she managed to juggle it all and let me tell you, it’s insanely captivating!

Summary51ef2w0cb3l

This is the story of a farm girl, an insurance agent, a chronic insomniac, a therapy patient, a serial dieter, an entrepreneur, an office manager, a housewife, a financial adviser, an overtaxed mom, and a published author. Spoiler: they’re all the same person.

You’ll want to laugh and cry as you read, but you won’t want to put this memoir down. Woman With a Thousand Hats is a candid glimpse behind the scenes of a do-it-all woman’s everyday life. Not only does Kawaii get honest about the emotional turmoil behind her personal drive to work, but she also tackles bigger social issues like body shaming, chronic illness, family dysfunction and social pressure to be “normal”. 

The perfect read for anyone who has ever felt like they weren’t good enough.

Musings

The memoir is set up in an interesting way, with each chapter following a thread of the author’s life as she explores a new path, or hat in this case. From 911 dispatcher to custom paintball business owner, it seems like her life is a jumble of mismatched lives somehow all jammed into one person. This is probably what makes the book such a compelling read: you simply cannot put it down, one hat flowing into another somehow naturally when it seems absurd in retrospect.

What struck me most was how relatable the author is: for the first time in a long time, maybe even ever, I’ve had insight into a mind like mine. I too juggle mismatched jobs, my life seeming like chaos from the outside but completely natural from my perspective. Reading about how the author describes her energy, her lack of sleep, all was like seeing a reflection of myself. yet another reason I couldn’t put this book down.

Not to mention that the author’s style makes it feel like you’re catching up with an old friend, who’s filling you in on decades of your life, and you just have to keep buying coffees so you can keep chatting. Her voice is honest, true, so even in the most absurd of moments you know she’s being completely transparent with you. Sometimes maybe too much (there are some details I was surprised to see shared with such candor!).

Overall, the memoir feels like a love letter to life itself. The author’s reflection on her life so far obviously therapeutic for her, and it’s almost intimate being on this journey with her. She is living proof that the universe offers possibilities every day, and you just need to be brave enough to take them. Even if sometimes the universe can be cruel: my heart broke for her and her family multiple times, and I was in awe that she would share these personal moments with us.

This memoir is an eye-opener to anyone who believes that life is lived along a straight line. The author offers such insight into exploring the opportunities life throws at you, and shares the wisdom she has gained so far, sometimes with hilarious results.

I finished the book feeling like I knew this author so much better, and with a new resolve to finish my projects. Highly recommended for anyone who is unsure of what path to take in life, and who need reassurance that wearing many hats doesn’t make you weird, it makes you a fashionista.

On a personal note… there was a fantastic section on learning how to say ‘no’ to projects; a discussion with a therapist on what constitutes ‘resting’, and a lot of discussion about energy and burnout. I found this particularly relevant and will be trying to take that advice… if I can handle it!

A New Book by M.C. Frank – The Robin Hood WIP a e s t h e t i c

It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of M.C. Frank (if you need proof, just look at the cover of the last book in her No Ordinary Star trilogy – my obsession is printed for all to see), so I’ve been following her Robin Hood WIP diaries for quite some time. The brilliant young author is working on a retelling of Robin Hood, and if it’s anything like her other retellings, it’s going to be amazing.

When she revealed the aesthetic she has in mind for the book, my jaw hit the floor. I can’t be more excited for this book to come out, so of course, I had to share it with you! With permission from the author, I’d love for you to see the aesthetic of her Robin Hood work in progress, along with a short extract from what she’s working on.

So now, without any further ado: M.C. Frank presents THE ROBIN HOOD WIP AESTHETIC.

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Robin looked at the glittering torches far ahead. The castle loomed before him, banners flying, lute music wafting in the evening air.

He crouched in the shadows, fingering the sharp edge of his arrow. For a second he allowed himself to think of what was happening inside the walls; after all, Tuck must be in by now, along with the “women”. Were they being served platters of pungent fruit and roasted meat? Were they watching the tricks of a garrishly-dressed jouster and listening to the music for the dancers? He knew everything that would be going on in the Sheriff’s Great Hall on this important day of celebration and revels.

He’d once been a nobleman, too, he’d once been served by kitchen maids and clothed in silks and colors.

A cold drop landed on his cheek; it had started to rain. He glanced behind him and motioned to Alis and John to follow him as they padded from tree to tree, until they were close enough to the walls of the castle.

“Robin,” John’s voice boomed in the gathering darkness. He always tried to whisper, but alas, never succeeded. For such a large man, even making his voice small seemed impossible. That, or he was like a five year-old, who is unable of grasping the concept of “be quiet.”

“Hush,” Robin mumbled. “What is it now?”

“Well, nothing,” John said, his blonde braids catching a ray of the torch fire. They were so close, the light of the flames was illuminating the darkness; they were right outside the castle walls. “Except thisQ when are you going to do it, already?” Robin realized with a pang of surprise that John was angry. “I don’t know if you noticed, but we’re practically in the castle, all right? At this pace you’ll have us at Sir Roderick’s table as if we were his damned invited guests.”

Robin didn’t reply, he just hung his head. It was true, they had moved closer than he needed. He could have done what he came to do from a hundred yards away, even farther.

“Now, stop moving and do what you have to do so we can leave!” John said, and then his voice dropped -so he could whisper, after all. “Look, I know what you’re thinking, Rob, so stop it. Stop it, you hear me?”

“You deserve to be in there, John,” Robin whispered back, unable to stop himself. He could hear his own voice hoarse and hated himself for sounding so broken. For being so broken. “Alis and Will and little Ru… Even you and Tuck, you all deserve to be in there and celebrate like princes, instead of hiding and trying to keep our heads attached to our necks. You deserve to be in there.”

“Well, we’re not,” John said roundly. “We’re outlaws, which to be honest, is far healthier in this political climate. I’d rather be wet, empty-bellied and sleepless than deign to eat the stolen food that graces the Sheriff’s table, while children die and starve under his watch. I’d rather be a beggar than a prince, if the Prince is plotting to take the rightful King’s throne. Do you understand?”

Robin nodded.

“I don’t think you do. I bet you keep thinking that it’s your fault that we’re not up there, celebrating. You always were a fool, you know,” John added tenderly.

And that was it. Robin snapped out of his trance. He turned around and punched John in the arm, and then drew back his bowstring, looking straight and true towards his aim.

Christmas is not for you, he told himself, just as a reminder. Celebrations and feasts, food and riches aren’t for you. For you is not to make merry and keep your belly filled. For you is to fight; for you is to live.

He took his eyes off his aim for a split second and glanced back towards John, who looked on at his readied arrow unimpressed, pretending to rub the spot where Robin had punched him, as if it hurt terribly. Robin turned back his attention to his target.

For you is to be loved by outlaws.

For you is to be an outlaw.

For now.

Robin let go. For you is to hope.

-from the Robin Hood WIP,  ©2017 M.C. Frank

Read more on the author’s blog, here.

It’s just… breathtaking.  Gosh I hope this book comes out SOON! I have a need!

Notna + Interview with J.D. Cunegan

One of my favorite crime series is Bounty, the adventures crime-solving detective Jill Andersen who moonlights as a vigilante with cybernetic enhancements. So when the author announced he was writing a fantasy novel, I was incredibly excited. Notna is everything I wanted, and more. Action packed and exciting – it’s like Indiana Jones and Supernatural had a baby, only that baby decided the world should end.

Summary36384932

History’s most peaceful race created one of its deadliest weapons. 

Forged in the Living Flame by a long-extinct alien race, The Gem of Notna is the stuff of legends, on par with Pandora’s Box or the Holy Grail. But once archaeologist Dr. Jack Corbett stumbled upon the crystal deep in the Amazon, he triggered a whirlwind of events and found himself neck-deep in a centuries-old holy war. The Divine and the Underworld have been locked in a virtual stalemate for the past three hundred years, and the Gem of Notna could be the key to breaking it. 

With the gem in his possession, Jack discovers a world of monsters and gods, as well as an entirely different plane of existence that watches over our own. Old grudges resurface, fallen warriors are reborn in the most violent of ways, but at the end of the day, the fate of the world may well rest in Jack’s hands. 

Musings

What always gets you hooked on Cunegan’s writing (something I love about the Jill Andersen series) is how the seemingly effortless style pulls you right in. Reading the book is almost like watching a movie, with just the perfect amount of description to have you imagine intense battles right before your eyes. Unlike the Bounty series, however, the scale of this adventure is massive: we’re in the middle of a holy war, between different planes of existence, connecting different countries and even dimensions.

It’s massive. It’s epic. What’s not to love?

On top of a huge scale end of the world apocalypse scenario, we also have lovable characters you can’t help to root for, and a prologue that breaks your heart just two pages in. Jack and his girlfriend Cassandra are professors of Archeology, hired to retrieve a legendary gem from deep inside the Amazon rainforest – only to get thrown into a battle between good and evil that has lasted for millennia, culminating in an epic final showdown on earth and in hell itself. But these two loveable lovebirds are determined to save their world from destruction and will stop at nothing to protect us. Even if it means giving into a prophecy and embracing the role of Chosen One…

What’s refreshing is also having the romance portion of this adventure be between two people who have been very much in love for quite a long time. There’s no will they/won’t they, no awkward flirting: only two committed people supporting each other (quite literally) to the ends of the earth. It’s so fantastic to have a healthy relationship in an adventure novel like this!

The supporting cast is also quite amazing. Whether they’re displaced out of time, or common people embracing their role in this mess, or even those who have lived at war all their lives, they’re complex and steadfast.

And the villain(s) – what’s not to love about hating them? Vampires, demons from hell, Gods out of time, giant purple… wait, I won’t spoil it for you. How Cunegan has managed to merge so many myths and genres, I will never know. It’s masterful!

All in all, if you’re looking for fun, Notna is the book for you. Cunegan has entered the realm of fantasy with swords drawn, and you’re not soon to forget him! Brilliant and energetic, impossible to put down, treat yourself to a high stakes adventure with Notna.


And now – an interview with the author, J.D. Cunegan himself!

R: You mentioned before that Notna was an idea you’ve wanted to work on for years… where did the idea come from?

14050436JDC: It mostly came to me when my comic book tastes started expanding. When I first started reading them, I wasn’t just a “Marvel guy,” I was an X-Men guy. If it wasn’t X-Men, I didn’t read it. But once I got to high school, I started reading different comics from all sorts of companies, and two in particular – Spawn and Witchblade – stuck out to me. In reading those two, I started getting ideas for stories of my own to tell. Notna was one of those stories, even though a lot of what I created back then hasn’t survived over the years. But the bare bones of the story – the prophecy, the gem, the war – came to me once I started branching out with my reading.

The Jill Andersen books examine, at their core, what it means to be a hero – and Notna asks much the same question, but from an entirely different perspective. Whereas with Bounty, I use moral gray areas to examine heroism, Notna is more about the notion that even the most ordinary among us can achieve transcendent heroism.

R: Unlike your Bounty series, which is a crime thriller with sci-fi elements thrown in, Notna is a fantasy novel with magic and mythology. Did you find it easier or harder to write in this genre?

JDC: I thought it would be harder, but it actually wound up being easier. I wasn’t as beholden to reality as I sometimes am with the Jill Andersen novels, which gave me a lot more freedom and a lot more leeway in terms of what I could get away with. When I’m writing one of Jill’s books, I still have to keep the real world in mind occasionally; when I’m writing about monsters and gods and demons, the rules are a little more flexible.

R: Which character was your favorite in Notna? Were they also your favorite to write? Did you find any one of them particularly challenging to bring to life?

JDC: Cassandra wound up being my favorite, because there was a time when I didn’t know what to do with her. About midway through the first draft, she was little more than the romantic interest character – and I wanted her to be more than that, because I pride myself in not letting my books devolve into those common tropes. Nothing I came up with worked – one potential storyline had her dying at Demostricus’ hand, only to later return as a vampire, but I hated how that story smacked of “kill the love interest just to motivate the male lead.” I’m not sure exactly when the storyline I settled with first came to me, but once it did, I knew I had a winner and loved how it sort of turned the “Chosen One” trope on its head (and was, in an indirect way, a nice callback to Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

R: Did you feel any particular pressure when writing this novel? Either from your fans, or time, or anything else?

JDC: I did, actually. Part of it came from the fact that I was writing in a genre that was already stuffed to the gills with fantastic books – including some of my personal favorites. But I also felt pressure because as I started promoting the work, I saw it was generating the sort of excitement none of the Jill Andersen books had – so knowing there was already a fanbase for it, knowing I had to make sure I didn’t disappoint those people, added some pressure (and possibly some mild panic on launch day).

R: Coffee, or Tea?

JDC: Both. In the mornings, I have to have my cup of coffee. But at night, when the house is quiet and I’m hunched over my manuscript (especially this time of year), nothing soothes and helps me write quite like a warm mug of green tea. I bought myself a Keurig a couple years ago, and it’s probably one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.

R: Planner or Pantster?

JDC: I’m a total pantser; for whatever reason, whenever I try to plan or outline, it sucks all the fun out of writing and I get blocked. Even with my current book, Betrayed (book five of the Jill Andersen series), I tried to detail each chapter to keep myself on track. Well, 10 chapters in, the story completely detoured on me. I think, as a writer, I enjoy it when my own characters and my own world surprise me – because if they surprise me, chances are they’ll surprise my readers.

R: Morning Person, or Night Owl?

JDC: I’m definitely a night owl, and I have been since I was in college. I’ve never quite shaken that habit, which is occasionally problematic now that I have a 9-to-5 job. I think I’m physically incapable of falling asleep before midnight, and most of my best writing happens after the sun goes down.

R: I was so excited to see your ‘Easter Egg’ reference to R.R. Virdi! How did that come to be?

JDC: One of the Facebook writing groups I’m in (I think it was NanOhana) had a challenge for NaNoWriMo 2016 (Notna was my project that year) daring us to include Virdi in our work somehow. Mystical bookshop owner with two otters as pets just felt like a great fit, and it was fun to write those two chapters. In an indirect way, Virdi’s work (particularly Dangerous Ways) helped inspire Notna, so it was also a hat tip of sorts to him.

R: So many mythologies are represented here… how did you decide on them? What kind of research did you do?

JDC: Religion, regardless of which one you choose, can create a wonderful backdrop to tell stories like this. And my own research into pagan traditions, while completely unrelated to writing, inevitably wound up inspiring my writing. Between my pagan sourcebooks and some of my old White Wolf tabletop roleplaying books, I had plenty of inspiration to turn to when it came to building the world these characters inhabit. My research wasn’t necessarily done to make sure I was accurate; I’m pretty up-front about the liberties I took in this book, but having that foundation there made playing with the mythology and the history a lot of fun.

R: And finally… will this be a standalone novel, or will we be returning to this universe sometime soon?

JDC: Notna is a standalone (mostly because I can’t imagine trying to juggle more than one series), but that doesn’t mean I’m done with the world or the characters I created there. You probably noticed the Bounty Easter Egg I placed in Notna, which establishes that both books take place in the same universe. So chances are, some of the characters I introduced in Notna will appear in future works (maybe even the Jill Andersen books).

Also, I’m working on an anthology of sorts, called Legend of the Gem, which will be a collection of short stories detailing the history of the Gem of Notna over the past couple thousand years. It’s very similar to the comic book series Tales of the Witchblade that was popular back in the 1990s, and just researching stuff for that book has been a lot of fun.

Catch J.D. Cunegan’s fantasy novel NOTNA here – a fantastic and thrilling adventure! 

And don’t forget to check out the newest novel in the Bounty series – BEHIND THE MASK  here – just out this week! 

No Vain Loss + Interview with M.C. Frank

Author of the No Ordinary Star series

Those of you who follow this blog know that I’m obsessed with this gorgeous YA scifi series called No Ordinary Star. Set in the year 2524, in a future where people have forgotten what it is to celebrate Christmas, enjoy food, or even kiss, a soldier and a rebel meet at the North Pole and discover secrets that will change the world they live in – forever. There is so much to love about this series, so it’s with a massive amount of excitement that today we get to interview the author of No Ordinary Star, M.C. Frank herself!

Please help me in celebrating the release of her long-awaited finale to the trilogy – NO VAIN LOSS, out today!

Summary29215280

A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do.
A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive.
A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack.
The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty.
This is the One World.
The year is 2524.

In No Vain Loss, the world is on the brink of the greatest war humanity has ever known. Lives will be lost. New truths will be revealed.

See My Review Here.

From the very start of this series, you can tell it oozes with something magical. I once said that it reminds me a little of “The Northern Lights”, but combined with “The Giver”, along with a strong foundation of dystopia. But at the same time, it’s completely unique.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll keep saying it again and again – if you haven’t read this series, you’re seriously missing out. As a YA reader, or a scifi lover, or an admirer of beautiful prose, this series is meant for anyone who needs a reminder that human nature is the most wonderful gift of all.

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An interview with M.C. Frank, author of the No Ordinary Star series

91ksiatmcbl-_ux250_R: Thank you so much for joining us today, for the release of your new book, No Vain Loss. As the third and last book of your No Ordinary Star trilogy, fans are incredibly excited for the resolution. Did you feel pressure when writing this last installment?

MCF: Thank you for having me. I did not feel any pressure, as I had written all three books before beginning the publishing process for any of them.

R: What was the hardest part, for you, when writing No Vain Loss? The ending is so thrilling and beautiful – did you always see the trilogy ending that way? Did a lot change between your first draft and the book we see today?

MCF: Yes, a lot changed, especially concerning the ending. There were three possible endings and it was hard for me to choose. In the end, I picked one that combined all my favorite elements and I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

R: Is this the last we’ll see of Felix and Astra?

MCF: I don’t know, readers are already asking for a sequel series. Never say never.

R: Now, the No Ordinary Star trilogy has a massive following of dedicated and loyal fans. But for those who have never read the series before, what would you say is the main reason they should drop everything and read it right now?

MCF: Because it’s an amazing Christmas story about a world who has forgotten Christmas. And kissing.

R: You’ve said the books are inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, and you even reference The Rocket Man on your dedication page. Can you tell us more about how exactly his work inspired you?

MCF: If you have read Bradbury, you can see his influence in my world-building, as well as in the philosophy behind the entire plot of the novel. My dad loved his books, and he was the one who introduced me to his stories. I first read The Illustrated Man when I was thirteen, and I understood little, but I understood that that was what I wanted to do when I grew up: blow people’s minds away with my stories.

R: Along those same lines, which other authors inspire you? Do you have a favorite writer?

MCF: That’s such a hard question to ask a reader or writer. I have tons, too many to name!

R: It’s a massive event, the trilogy coming to an end. Is it too soon to ask you: What’s next for M.C. Frank? Are you working on any projects right now?

MCF: I am currently writing my next book, a Robin Hood romance.

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R: Along with being an extraordinary author, you’re also a great fan of the classics. Not only have you written a Regency retelling of Jane Eyre – Ruined – you’ve also edited beautiful editions of beloved books, and even created a Jane Austen coloring book. Can you tell us more about how this all started? And what are you working on now?

MCF: It’s just something I did as a designer, mostly for myself and my friends, but people ended up loving these editions so much, that I decided to put them up for sale. You can find them at my website, mcfrankauthor.com. Another Austen might be up, I haven’t decided yet.

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R: I’ve also had the immense pleasure of reading your New Adult novel, Lose Me. [review] a contemporary romance which moved me to tears. What are the challenges with writing in this genre, compared to YA Science Fiction? Do you prefer one over the other?

MCF: I loved writing both, although there was more freedom with the world-building with the No Ordinary Star series, as I was the one creating the sci-fi world. And there was much less research, compared to what I had to learn about stunts for Lose Me.

 

R: Now to get a little more personal: when you’re not writing, what do you do with your free time?

MCF: Free time? What’s that?

R: Finally, before we go, I just want to say thank you for creating such a magnificent world for us to fall into. No Ordinary Star has to be one of my favorite Science Fiction series. But I digress! Are there any other last minute things you would like our readers to know about?

MCF: Thank you for your kind words, I’m thrilled by the response the series is getting. I never imagined so many people would read it and love it.

R: Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed! We can’t wait to see what’s next from the amazing M.C. Frank.

You can buy No Vain Loss HERE – out today! Only $0.99 per book – less than $3 for the entire trilogy!

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A Dangerous Game + AUTHOR INTERVIEW!

By Madeline Dyer
Prequel/Spin-Off to the Untamed series

If you’re not reading the Untamed series, you’re sorely missing out. It’s perfect YA dystopia, with amazing complex characters and thrilling adventure. And if you are reading the Untamed surprise, great news! Madeline Dyer has released a new standalone novel in the universe: A Dangerous Game, and it’s unputdownable.

Summary

LOVE WAS NEVER SUPPOSED TO BE EASY. 34035695

All her life, Keelie Lin-Sykes has known what she wants: to protect her brother and sisters by killing as many of the soulless Enhanced Ones as she can. Oh, and to have fun while she’s doing it. After all, hiding in a secret Untamed community, while the group’s Seer warns them of danger, shouldn’t mean that life can only be serious, right?

But, when a face from her past suddenly—and secretly—shows up, Keelie’s catapulted back into the very world she’s been trying to escape from for the last ten years: a world full of guilt, lies, and…love. And the deeper Keelie gets into this world, the bigger the risks become.

Now, Keelie must deceive those she values most in order to protect them, even though her actions will destroy everything she knows and haunt her family forever. But she can’t ignore her feelings–not again. And Keelie will do anything to be with the man she loves.

Musings

Strap yourselves in, because this is going to be a bumpy ride. Unlike the main Untamed series – which in itself is rather action packed – A Dangerous Game is more adrenaline-filled than ever. Unlike Untamed, here we follow a new character, Keelie, who’s very different to Seven. She’s dangerously addicted to action and adventure, constantly putting her own life in danger for the thrill of it. She acts without thinking, potentially putting others in harm’s way. She’s selfish and rude, and I love her. There’s just something about well written flawed characters that just hooks you in.

And, unlike Seven, Keelie has got an active love life. There’s more focus on romance in this standalone, and love (or maybe lust) is one of the key drivers of Keelie’s instincts. Once again, unlike Seven who is thoughtful and thinks ahead, Keelie makes decisions based on gut feelings and almost animal instinct. Which isn’t always the best for her – or anyone.

We also get a different view of the villagers at Nbutai before the events of Untamed, when they weren’t yet on the run. Though under constant threat from the Enhanced, they lead lives, they work together, they survive, maybe even thrive. This makes the beginning of Untamed suddenly so much more poignant because you begin to love characters you know won’t make it out alive.

A Dangerous Game also deals with mental health, as Keelie’s mental wellbeing isn’t exactly stable, and other characters fall on the autism spectrum, which is a breath of fresh air in the stacks of YA dystopian books.

If you loved Untamed, then you need this companion novel. If you haven’t yet read the Untamed series, then you need to. If you’re looking for an adrenaline-filled thrill ride from start to finish, where the only time you put down the book is to catch your breath, then you’ve come to the right place. Addicting, Thrilling, Amazing.

OUT TODAY! 


Interview with MADELINE DYER, author of the UNTAMED series

R: While set in the same world as Untamed, your new book has a different protagonist, and it’s set before the start of Untamed. What prompted you to want to write a book set before your series begins?

b1ai0zybk3s-_ux250_MD: So, back in 2013 when I was writing Untamed, book one of my series, I knew pretty much straight away that I really wanted to write Keelie’s story too—I just completely fell in love with her, and the more I worked on other books in the series, the more I found other characters referring to things she’d done. She was certainly an influential force on these characters! This really fueled my desire to explore Keelie more and see how she relates to the other characters in the Untamed world, and so I knew I’d have to write a book from her point of view. And, thus, A Dangerous Game was born!

Due to events that happen at the start of Untamed (and how the focus of the series is on Seven and her struggle to win the war), I knew that Keelie’s story would have to be set before the start of Untamed in order to give her the lime-light that she deserves—and where nothing huge would be going on at the same time that would detract from her story, because it’s very much about Keelie’s struggle with mental health, identity, and her relationships with others. I really wanted the emphasis to be on Keelie, so that Seven (the narrator of the series) can just be a minor character in the background as the juicy part of her story hasn’t begun yet. And so, A Dangerous Game, became a sort of prequel to the series. But it’s also very much a standalone book in its own right. You don’t need to read the series first.

It wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that I actually had time to really delve into Keelie’s story, and I was surprised at just how organically her story flowed—and how much it worked as a companion to the series. Writing a story set before my series has also been a lot of fun, as we get to see more of the daily life of the Nbutai villagers before they all go on the run from the Enhanced Ones.

R: In reading the book, we notice it’s very different to Untamed. What was the hardest challenge in writing this book, compared to the other novels in the Untamed series?51jqdwz0dul

MD: The hardest challenge in writing A Dangerous Game was making sure that there were no continuity errors in it or anything that jars with the first book of the series (particularly as there is a slight overlap in the timelines of the two books, though Seven and Keelie are in different places, dealing with different things, completely oblivious of each other). This also meant that I had to make sure that the end of A Dangerous Game didn’t repeat any information that the start of Untamed gives, as I don’t want to bore readers who’ve read both, and so I had to think of a way where the ending of Keelie’s story actually changes how the readers view and understand the start of Seven’s.

R: It’s so intriguing following the thoughts of a different character, who’s very different to Seven in many ways. Did you find that writing Keelie’s point of view was harder or easier than writing Seven’s? In what ways were they different?

MD: Keelie was actually a lot easier to write than Seven! Keelie’s impulsive, an adrenaline junkie, and confident (often dangerously over-confident), whereas Seven is quieter, very observant, and a lot more thoughtful. Seven is a planner, Keelie isn’t.

So, writing Keelie was definitely a breath of fresh air, as she does a lot of things that Seven would never have dreamed of doing in Untamed. But it was also really interesting seeing how these two characters view the world they live in so differently. Keelie often sees the war between the Untamed and Enhanced as almost game-like and something she can use to prove how strong she is, whereas Seven sees the horrors of it all for what it actually is and is determined to make sure her actions bring about an end for the war. Seeing Keelie and Seven interact with each other in A Dangerous Game was fun too—particularly as Seven hasn’t developed her Seer powers at this stage and is unaware of just how important she’ll be in the war, and so Keelie almost takes on the role of defender to the young woman who’ll later be the savior of their people.

R: The process of writing a book is never straightforward, is it! Did you have to make massive changes to your book, or did you know what the story was going to be since the very beginning?

MD: I knew the rough shape the story would take right from when I started writing it, but, wow, did it change a lot! The massive changes included ‘unkilling’ a character, introducing another sibling for Keelie (which completely changed the direction of the plot at several points), and increasing the level of romance A LOT.

R: One a more personal level, what would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

MD: Before I start a writing session, I generally make a cup of tea. Then, I invariably lose my cup of tea and make another one. At the end of my writing session, I either find the lost cup of tea or realize I’ve completely forgotten to drink the replacement one.

R: What’s your writing ritual, and what do you like to do when you’re not writing?

MD: I love writing outside, so I do that as often as I can. In general, I write first thing in the morning and keep going until lunchtime. Afternoons are for catching up on admin or editing—unless I’m at the beach, because then I’ll write at the beach.

When I’m not writing, I can be found out on our farm, with my herd of Shetland ponies, reading, or trying out new coffee shops.

Follow Madeline Dyer on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, or her website!