Hi! I'm posting my two favorite illustration variations from Sophie Russell, and I'd like you to vote on which you like better. Picture one is a hand drawn sketch, and picture two is a computerized version.
It'll only take a minute of your time to vote, and I would really appreciate your participation. Thanks!
Whisper of the Woods, by D. G. Driver, is the second book in the Juniper Sawfeather series. I reviewed the first book a couple of months ago, and after working on a couple other projects, was able to read this.
I think I enjoyed this book as much as the first, which was very much, although I think I spent more time wanting to strangle June in this book. I don't want to spoil anything, but suffice it to say that she ends up stuck in a magical tree that may or may not intend to let her go! I'm not sure she was in her right mind when she ended up in this predicament, so maybe it isn't really her fault, but regardless she did make some poor choices in the book. Her struggles with her parents and others felt real, and highlighted the reason why people shouldn't make long term choices until they're over 25, lol. In some ways she's mature for her age, but in others, not so much. She doesn't apologize for the way she treats people (well, maybe eventually?) but it's not glamorized, either. And there's good reason why she's in a foul mood so much of the time. She does have it rough.
I felt genuinely creeped out in this book. It, like the first, has an environmental message, but in this case I wasn't sure who I should root for. You might think this is weird, but it's actually a strength of the writing and makes a great story.
Sexual Content: There are some conversations and situations that make this book more appropriate for older teens than younger, but there's no sex.
Violence: Not human on human as far as I remember.
Foul Language: I don't remember but a couple minor 'bad words'.
Overall Plot/Message: I'd say this book is mostly message driven, but it has a solid plot, with strong characters that have distinct motivations and personalities. It's not super complicated, but because I hadn't read the blurb in a long time I was surprised at the way it went. In fact, I would avoid reading the blurb if I were you. Just get the book and read it with no idea of what to expect. This book sets up for the last in the series, which I will read when I've plowed through more of my list.
Find it here.
Please take time to participate because I think this will be neat. I won a free sketch from an illustrator, and I want YOU to post which scene you want to see illustrated. It can come from any of my books. The sketch will go on the front page of my website for a while, and may also end up in an advertisement.
I'm posting a few samples so you have an idea of what to expect from the illustrator. Please share your thoughts!
You can find the illustrator, Sophie Russell, here.
Please share the news that Alonca's Quest is now live on amazon.com. If you would like this and share it on your social media, I would appreciate it so much! If you're not sure how to do that, let me know and I will explain. Clicking on the cover below will take you right to the amazon page.
Thank you! It's a great day :).
My last couple of promotions have brought me some reviews and letters from new readers, and my favorite review by far is the one I'm posting here with permission of the reviewer, Mark Boyd. It turns out that he is a fantasy author and all around nice man who was happy to let me post his thoughts on my blog.
Once in a while you stumble across a real gem. Kergulen is one such gem. A powerful and poignant story of a young slave girl, Rima from Banlund, who escapes the captivity of a merciless master that whips her constantly because he can, and because she's a half breed with strange eyes. The only place she knows to go, where she won't be tracked down, is the forbidden forest of Kergulen. No one ever escapes to tell of Kergulen. Little does she know, she's thrust herself into another world of pain, shaming, and struggle to survive. Yet, behind every cloud is a silver lining. Attacked by a vicious pack of Alepay (feral pigs), near death, she's rescued by a young border warrior, a Tonx by the name of Jail. Against his training and the law of Kergulen, he chooses to listen to his heart and takes her to his town of Nene to be healed by his sister, the only surgeon and primary healer of the town.
Foreigners are not allowed in Kergulen and are usually put to death immediately. The elders allow Jail and his family, because of their status and relationship to the King, to take care of her until such time as she can be taken to the capital city for interrogation and ultimately a decision on what to do with her. Her secret, she's an Alocan. Her eyes change color with her surroundings but she also has magical gifts, yet to be discovered and nurtured. This places her and her now adopted family in jeopardy creating a civil war in the town of Nene. Lured outside one evening by magic, she is captured, beaten, raped and left for dead by a group of haters. Only her will to survive keeps her alive until Jail and his family discover she's gone, find her, and save her life once again.
Through all of this, Rima not only struggles with her own self worth issues of being different and an outcast but now struggles with the pain of watching those who befriended her suffer loss as well. On the plus side, she learns to defend herself and is awed by the wonders nature offers; the natural beauty of the forest, birds chirping, snow, all of the things she's never known before, including love.
This story is powerful in many ways. It evoked and projected my own emotional outcry against racism, ignorance, and brutality, issues, unfortunately, that we still face within our own world day to day. It also touched my heart as to the compassion and love one family offered a scared young woman facing the fear of being killed by haters of those that are different. Going against and entire town and kingdom to defend Rima's rights as a human, the family places their own lives in jeopardy to defend hers.
R.A. White has written a tale definitely worth reading. I highly recommend this book to those who want to ride an emotional roller-coaster from start to finish. Kudos R.A. White. I look forward to following your series.
About Mark Boyd:
I began reading fantasy at an early age. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, being one of my first and favorites. Fantasy was my escape when my own world wasn't going so well. I never thought I would be blessed to add to the world of fantasy but my dragon friends had other ideas.
I only hope you enjoy reading my books, as much as I enjoy writing them. I am forever grateful to the dragon intelligence that has infused my consciousness, awakening memories and giving me the ability to bring their stories to life.
Please check out Mr. Boyd's blog and books to see if you think they're your kind of reading. Click HERE to learn more about him and his fantasy novels.
Alonca's Quest is now live on Amazon, available for pre-order on Kindle. Hours of good entertainment for less than the cost of a chicken sandwich! Just follow the link, (click this right here) to have your copy delivered on the twenty-second of May. This way, you won't have to remember to go find it :).
Thanks for reading, everyone. I hope you enjoy this one even more than the others!
I am thrilled and proud and relieved to announce that the 'backward edit' is finished. And to celebrate, I am finally revealing the cover for Alonca's Quest! And while I'm at it, I'll reveal the release date of May 22, 2018. Thank you all for your encouragement during this process. It's been lovely to wake up and find happy emails from new readers! I'll be getting the preorder page ready soon, and of course I'll announce that, as well. Thanks again!
Hello, friends, this is just a quick note to let you know that I am nearly halfway through the final edit on Alonca's Quest, which is a backward edit to catch all the little things one doesn't usually see when reading a story from beginning to finish.
I take one chapter at a time and read it backward, sentence by sentence, so I don't get caught up in the story and miss something. It's a bit tedious, but worth the effort since it substantially improves the finished product.
After this will be formatting, and then it will go out to the Advance Review team and to my secret weapon, an editor fan who will tell me if I missed anything else...
So, as of now, it's looking like it will be released end of May or early June! It's exciting. I can't wait to get back to writing the fourth book and take a break from the technical aspects of publishing for a while. The fourth book is going to be the best ever, I think, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Thanks for reading, everyone! I appreciate your patience. I know AQ has been a long time coming.
Review of 'A Murder of Crones' by SW Fairbrother. After the review there's a wonderful little interview of SW where you can get some perspective on why she writes what she does and the process of it. She's insightful and pleasant to read.
This is book two in the London Bones series, an enjoyable read if you like slightly dark, gruesome tales. I usually don't like them, and I did like this, so maybe it’s not as dark and gruesome as I think. Dark or not, the world and main character were interesting enough to balance out the macabre for me.
Vivia is a hag, able to come back to life at will, and hers is a world filled with fairytale creatures, curses, murders, insane crones, and all things weird. Her quest to survive the full moon and make things right with her sister turns out to be more complicated than she ever could have expected, and I admit that I had a hard time following the twists a couple of times. I'm not sure that's a fault of the writing, however, because anyone who knows me knows that I am at nearly all times either tired or in the process of getting tired, lol. I can't remember any typos or awkward sentences, no editorial oopses. The whole book felt professional.
I chose to review this book because although I can't call it diverse in the traditional sense, I think Vivia is odd enough to qualify. I'm pretty sure I mentioned this in my review of book 1, as well. She's not a pretty hag. She has to remove warts regularly. She has a typical witch's face, long nose and chin to the point of looking inhuman. She stinks of death every time she comes back from the underworld and has to do a long, thorough scrub if she doesn't want to gross people out. She's ostracized by most, accepted by few. Even other inhuman creatures can feel uncomfortable around her.
Despite all this, Vivia endeavors to solve her riddle and help those she can. She loves those who have been horrible to her, with healthy boundaries. She works hard to pull herself from the lies and dysfunction of her childhood, to make a good life for herself and others.
Language: I think there were three bad words.
Sexual Content: None.
Violence: Yes, in the tradition of old fairytales. You know, cannibalism, witches putting curses on people, explosions…
Overall Plot/Message: There are some extraordinary twists in this story, turning what looked like a simple premise into a full on fantastical mystery. I'd say it's plot-driven, but at the same time the narration is first person and Vivia is a compelling character. So, we'll go with 'nice blend'. As for messages, there are some positive themes. We're encouraged not to judge by appearances, to do the hard thing when it's the right thing, to let go of the dysfunction we've been living in and strive for something better.Find 'A Murder of Crones' here.
Interview with SW Fairbrother, author of the London Bones series
RA: You've created a complex story in which we see a fantastical dark underside of the world we see in real life. It draws me in, but of all the strangeness in the London Bones books, the strangest thing to me is that you chose an ugly hag for your main character. Lots of heroines moan on about being unattractive and having poor self-image, but Vivia ACTUALLY IS difficult for most to look at. And never does she meet the boy who just-loves-her-the-way-she-is-and-thinks-she's-the-most-beautiful-creature-in-the-world. Why did you do that? Do you think it makes selling the books more difficult?
SWF: I love urban fantasy but I always find a lot of the heroines frustrating. They’re sassy and outwardly confident, yet inwardly insecure (despite their awesome fighting skills and stunning looks).
A lot of the story is often about the various love interests fighting over her. There’s nothing wrong with those stories – there’s a reason they’re so popular! But I wanted to see something different.
I wanted to see a heroine succeed despite her looks, and the more I thought about it, the more an ugly heroine appealed.
Whether we like it or not, people react differently to beautiful people and someone like Vivia is going to get a very different reaction from characters than even an ordinary person would.
I don’t think she likes being ugly, but she has accepted it. I suspect that if you got into a conversation with her about it, she’d have a lot of sharp things to say about our society’s unrealistic standards of beauty for women and girls.
I’ve always preferred the mystery side of urban fantasy anyway, so I concentrated on that and left the romance out. That said, I do have a little romance planned for Vivia in the next book. I quite like her and I think she is lonely, even if she would never admit it to herself. She deserves someone who loves her for who she is – warts and all – and it’s about time Vivia had something good happen to her.
However, like Vivia, the romance will be unconventional too, or at least it will be for the genre. There won’t be anyone fighting over her. It’ll just be small and sweet, and on the side of the main mystery.
I don’t think it’s made selling the books more difficult. If anything, I’ve had a very positive reaction from readers about how Vivia is depicted. People seem to really like it, and I’ve enjoyed writing something a little different.
The next book is about werebees (murder in the hive!) and I’m enjoying figuring out how a bee-like but still very human society would function. I do have a tendency to make the stories a little too complicated so I’m trying to streamline it, before sending it out into the wild. The Hive will be out sometime this year.
RA: Well, thank you from me and all of us who are tired of being told we're not successful if we don't have at least two boys after us! I didn't read YA lit or urban fantasy when I was a teen (if it even existed), I skipped right to epic fantasy, so I wasn't really exposed to the love triangle nonsense you mentioned (and yes, I understand why it's popular even if I believe it's very unhealthy. It speaks to desires and insecurities that we don't like to acknowledge) like so many women today. My eyes get to rolling when I read stories like that, makes it hard to keep my balance. Anyway, I love the choices you made with her character, and I agree that Vivia deserves happiness.
I'm glad to hear you've had a positive reaction to her character, and I'm not the only one who appreciates it! I look forward to getting back to the story and seeing what happens with this little romance you mentioned. I'm not a romance person myself, but I appreciate when it's a thread of a much bigger story and serves to add depth rather than taking over the plot.
It's funny to me that you mentioned your stories are a little too complicated because in my review, I note that I had a hard time keeping up. Still, I don't think it's a bad thing. I have a hard time keeping up with movies sometimes, too (drives my husband crazy), but that doesn't make me enjoy them less. I think my problem is that I'm in a perpetual state of distraction. Even meditation time is hard. Yeesh. So, back to complicated plots. Do you plot things out before you start writing, or are you what some call a 'pantser', just writing from the beginning and seeing where it takes you? You did say you have a romance 'planned', but that could mean a lot of things.
SWF: The books are definitely too complicated, I think. It has suited some people. I've had feedback from readers saying they really enjoyed all the twists and turns, but others struggle to follow what's going on.
A lot of the complications in the first book simply came from me not being an experienced enough writer at the time to know how to streamline all my ideas.
I'm not a pantser in the least. I plot everything in detail ahead of time, but also revise the plot as I go because characters are annoyingly stubborn about not wanting to be forced into story arcs they don't like.
The romance part has written itself though. That one is purely character-driven. I can't go into it in too much detail as some of it would count as spoilers for the main mystery but it involves Charon the boatman who Vivia has always had a bit of a crush on. We get to find out a little more about his back-story (just a scene or two) and he makes some pivotal decisions that help Vivia get back to normality in the real world. And they become a little closer on the way.
It's nice to have that bit feel easy because the story usually goes out into about a dozen different directions in my head. I also write very slowly, mostly because I fight every sentence and am brutal about deleting the ones that don't work. It does mean that instead of getting the story out in one big rush, I have to keep reminding myself where I've been and where I'm going.
It does mean that by the time I type 'The End', my first draft doesn't need much more than a bit of tidying and checking for typos.
RW: I'm excited! Can't wait to read The Hive. I'm learning to be a better plotter because I think it helps keep the writing process from stalling, along with making it easier to preserve continuity (which is something you're fantastic at unless I missed something). Since continuity errors are my biggest pet peeve and strangely pervasive, even in mainstream media, I appreciate your diligence. And I empathize with writing so slowly that I have to keep back tracking to remember things. Doesn't help that I'm generally forgetful, lol.
Well, I think this takes us to the end of our space. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts! I've really enjoyed getting a little insight into you and your story.
SW Fairbrother's webpage.
Find 'Murder of Crones' here.
Hello! Thanks for visiting my blog! Around here you'll find posts about my books and my family, as well as the occasional relevant book review.