Book review – The Van Helsing Paradox, by Evelyn Chartres

Book review – The Van Helsing Paradox, by Evelyn Chartres

Clara Grey notices things. Things nobody else will allow themselves to see. It is this ability, this willingness to believe, that makes Miss Grey the perfect candidate for training to be a monster hunter.

In Chartres’ story we follow Clara from her early childhood traumas, through years of rigorous academic and religious training in the Tower, and eventually into adulthood with all its temptation, danger, and twists of fate. Inquisitive, intelligent, bold, and brave, Miss Grey ends up traveling the world via the mystical portals of the Tower’s Terminus, seeking out monsters to slay. She’s learned her lessons well and is a force to be reckoned with. Like the books tag line states, “A gal has to look out for herself after all.”

Well written and smart, The Van Helsing Paradox is a fresh take on monster hunting and monster hunters. In it Chartres has built a world simmering with intrigue and violence. A world at war both politically and spiritually. Set around the time of World War 1, the readers are plunged into layer after layer of horror and discovery.

If you are looking for a good summer read (or fall, or winter, or whatever!) pick up The Van Helsing Paradox today! **link below** https://g.co/kgs/fCdyPk

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Gerald Ringtail and his Battlepus!

Not sure how many of you use Twitter, but I’m on there everyday and I follow the Spokane Authors & Self-Publishers account. They don’t post every day but when they do, it’s usually pretty fun. Well this time they’ve started a May writers challenge, the Sunday Image Prompt. Click the link for original post. https://twitter.com/AndAuthors/status/1125154547083530242

The #SundayImagePrompt promises a new, strange image to write about every week. Here’s their first image prompt. Fun huh?

Well, after seeing this, I just HAD to take them up on the challenge. Enjoy my entry below, and if you like it, I may just continue the story! *********************************************************

Gerald picked up and hefted his great grandfather’s sword a few times. Not his usual weapon, it felt strange and unwieldy in his paw. Still, despite his lack of experience, he knew it was time to join the fight to save his beloved homeland. He shoved the blade into it’s sheath and tied it tightly to his pack before grabbing one more acorn for the road. As he chewed, he looked around at his home knowing he may never see it again.

His bed looked strangely naked, it’s coverlet stashed in his pack. His tool chest closed and locked for the first time in years also looked odd. Due to the commanders weight restrictions for backpacks he’d had to leave the tools of his trade at home. Though, he did make one concession and brought along his favorite wrench. (A squirrel never knew when he’d have to loosen the odd tough nut!) The desk, usually a disorganized mess, was now neatly arranged. His neighbor, Ruth, had promised to take care of his affairs while he was gone and he wanted to make it easy for her. Cleaning that up had been a major task, of course, nothing like what he was heading to. Stories from the front lines had been bleak, at best.

One last bite of acorn and Gerald knew it was time to leave. His precious books lined the walls around him. Many, worn by time, lent a distinguished warmth to his home. Others, still shiny and new, graced his to-be-read shelf. To those he silently promised to return. Gerald loved his books. Through them he’d learned much and lived many adventures, but now it was time to embark on a real one. With a last sorrowful glance, he closed the door to his comfy home and began the long walk to the training camp.

On the second day of his journey, a young jack rabbit stumbled into the road ahead of him. Upon seeing Gerald, the rabbit waved and hollered, “Hullo there! Is this the road to Commander Coyote’s basic training camp?”

“Why, yes it is. I’m headed there myself.”

The jack rabbit gave Gerald a buck toothed grin. “Great! Do you mind if I travel with you?”

“Not at all. I’d appreciate the company. My name is Gerald. What’s yours?”

“Nice to meet you, Gerald,” the rabbit extended a paw, “my name is Conrad.”

The two shook paws before resuming their trek and Conrad resumed speaking.

“I take it you don’t have a mount either?”

Gerald grimaced. “No, I used to have a tree frog, but she met an unfortunate end when a flock of cranes decided to take a break and landed all around her.”

Conrad shuddered. “Oh that’s horrid. I’m so sorry.”

“Thank you,” Gerald sighed. “She was a faithful frog, but she was old and had started to wander further and further from the paddock. It was bound to happen eventually.”

Conrad nodded knowingly. After a moment of silence he asked, “Did you hear about the mounts on the battlefield?”

When Gerald shook his head the rabbit continued. “I heard that all sorts of mounts are available but they only ever award mounts to the best of the best, and rather than the soldier choosing their mount, the mount chooses them!”

When Gerald looked askance at Conrad, he shrugged. “Hey, I’m just repeating what I’ve heard. It’s weird though, isn’t it? How would a mount choose it’s rider?”

“Maybe it’s magic.” Gerald offered. When Conrad remained silent, he looked up at his new companion only to find him a few feet behind with a stunned expression on his face. “What’s wrong, Conrad?”

“No. . . Nothing. It’s just, that would explain so much! My grandpa always spun yarns about his time in the militia and talked about the magical mounts used by the elite soldiers during the Greenleaf war. I always thought he was just, ya know, embellishing his stories. But after what I’ve heard from others, maybe he was telling the truth after all.”

“Maybe,” Gerald adjusted his pack, “but we’ll never find out if we don’t keep walking. Let’s get moving. We’ve only got a few more miles to go before we reach the river crossing. Another day’s travel after that and we’ll reach the training camp. Then we’ll know more about all of this.”

Conrad nodded. “You’re right.” He caught up with his new squirrel friend and they resumed walking. “So, if you were to become an elite soldier, what kind of mount do you think would pick you?”

Gerald chuckled. “I don’t know but with my luck, I’d probably end up with a platypus!”

#BlogBattle – Shift

So this month’s Blog Battle word prompt is “shift” and if you’ve been following me for any length of time you KNOW I had to respond to this. 😉 Here is my 1,000 word (+ or -) entry. Enjoy.

Artist unknown but appreciated.

June 10, 2018

This is my first entry in what Walt’s been calling the Luna Chronicles. It’s basically a glorified personal journal, except it’s supposed to help other Luna’s – eventually. To anyone reading this, please understand that I am no Shakespeare. I’m just doing my best. So here goes.

Becoming a Guardian has been tough but rewarding. I never realized just how much there is to learn OR that I’d have to journal about it! I mean really, who knew visual tracking, botany, and martial arts would be needed? I’m already a werewolf. Everything should come instinctively, right? Wrong.

Granted, I’ve enjoyed the martial arts. It’s something I never thought I’d be able to do considering how sick I was before my first shift. Lupus had put me down hard. It didn’t just limit my movement due to pain, it shrunk my world by interfering with my social and family life. I was always afraid to go too far from home in case I suddenly ran out of steam, or hurt myself in some new and stupid way. Queen of the klutzy, I am, but it was SO much worse with chronic illness issues. Thank God, Sherryl’s been really patient with me despite my klutziness. I can’t believe I nearly knocked her block off with that round house kick! I honestly didn’t think I could move that fast. Good thing we heal quickly.

Botany has been interesting and I’m really glad I’ll be able to identify and avoid poison ivy from now on. Yeah, tripping into that huge patch sucked. Of course that was during my tracking lesson with Stan, Alpha of the Eastern Washington Guardians. Despite his laughter, I’ll never be able to repay him for helping me up and out of that mess. His hands looked almost as horrible as my everything for two days, even with our accelerated healing ability. Ugh.

Shifting has come most easily to me. Ninety-nine percent of the time I stick the landing, so to speak, moving easily from human to wolf and back without issue. That pesky one percent though is a tad worrisome.

I only seem to have issues when I get too tired or emotional, like after that three day flu the kids went through. Of course my lucky husband, Hank, avoided it altogether since his boss just happened to schedule him to go to a conference on those days. I’m still not sure how I escaped getting it, but so glad I did! It was horrible. Poor Matt and Tammy. They must have each lost ten pounds the hard way. Thank God for Sherryl! I’m not sure I’d have been able to handle working, studying, and running between rooms for that long if she hadn’t been dropping off food for me and medicine for the kids.

You wouldn’t believe how hard it was to force myself to take in the currently required 12,000 calories a day while emptying barf buckets every hour or so. Ewww. Sorry, but this journal is supposedly for posterity and Walt told me not to leave ANYTHING out. So yeah, Walt, you asked for it.

Back to the one percent problem. Sorry about the bunny trail. Anyway, after those three days I was wiped out. So with the kids on the mend and finally able to keep food down I needed to get out for a bit. I called Jennifer and invited her out for a run. We’ve been spending more time together recently and I’m enjoying getting to know her. She’s a lovely person, smart, beautiful, hard working, and a talented painter, though she refuses to show her work outside of her home. She’s also single and looking. I can’t imagine how hard dating would be as a woman werewolf. How many guys can handle not just her success as a realtor, but her ability to outrun, outsmart, outplay them AND smell a lie? It has to be like the worst mash-up of Survivor and The Bachelorette ever!

Wow, I bunny trailed again. Sorry. So as I was saying, Jennifer and I were going running. I was exhausted but needed to stretch my legs before hitting the hay for the night. We drove her car and headed to the Bowl and Pitcher in Riverside State Park. There’s great trails around there and I hoped we could make a quick three mile loop. Making the Change from human to wolf was no problem. Running the darkened trail was no problem. Getting back to her car was no problem. The problem came when I tried to Change back.

I felt good after the run, but apparently hadn’t accurately gauged how low on energy I was. By the time Jennifer had Changed and gotten dressed, I still hadn’t been able to find my human form. Jennifer tried to help “push” me through but I was stuck.

I was a little wigged out but Jennifer remained calm. She called Walt who told me to just sleep in my wolf form and try again in the morning. He said he’d call back at 8:00 am to check on me. Jennifer proved herself amazing yet again when she drove me home, roused the kids to inform them of the situation, then helped me up to my room. She brought up a bowl of water and a tray of cold chicken she found in the fridge. I hate to say it but I quite literally wolfed down her offerings. Ten hours later I woke up human only to find she’d set the timer on my coffee maker as well.

I haven’t had any issues shifting since but now I know, burning the candle at both ends for too long can result in a seriously hairy situation. Yup, I said it. You’re welcome, Walt.

WIP = Vol. 2 of The Luna Chronicles

WIP = Vol. 2 of The Luna Chronicles

Lilac City Lunacy is in the works!
So I’m about ten chapters in and it’s reminding me why a first draft is called rough. Good grief! I’m struggling a bit, but still enjoying the world of the Spokane Guardians.
I’m digging deeper into my original characters back stories (esp. Hank and his mysterious family tree), introducing new characters, and creating a monstrous new menace!

Miranda and the pack will have their relationships and creativity tested, and their pack history, territory, and shoe sizes expanded. 😉

Stay tuned for more news about “Lilac City Lunacy – Vol. 2 of the Luna Chronicles!

**Mini-spoiler** There may also be a bit of romance involved this time. Crikey!

Happy Howl-oween!

Hey everyone,

I hope you all have a Halloween fun enough to howl about! 

Tail wags & shoulder bumps to you all,

M.J. 

P.S. If you are looking for a good, clean Halloween read, check out my first novel in the Luna Chronicles, Waxing is Useless.  What happens when a middle age soccer mom faces adversity? She grows fur and a tail, of course! **Excerpt below. 

Miranda closed her eyes and tried to concentrate on breathing, but the minute she shut them her other senses seemed to explode. Her heart raced, a bass accompaniment to a symphony of dripping water, crackling ice, a light breeze, and somewhere a few blocks away, tires on icy streets. She could feel every blade of mushy grass beneath her hands and feet. She felt the mud and the slight temperature fluctuations in the wind. Even the moonlight felt like waves of mist against her burning skin.

Lifting her face to the sky, she inhaled deeply. Scents she’d never recognized before sifted into her brain. She identified crocus shoots, compost, and weirdly, earthworms. She turned her face north into the wind. Someone was smoking marijuana in a nearby home. The Kollyers had apparently grilled chicken earlier. George burned it a bit. The chemical floral scent of someone’s dryer stuck in her throat, making her gag. She sneezed to clear her nose and continued to explore the scents of the neighborhood. Wood smoke from someone’s stove and beer and cigarettes from the bar four blocks away. She couldn’t believe what all she was sensing!

Miranda opened her eyes. She had spent so much time analyzing scents that the moon had slipped lower in the sky, and the temperature had dropped even further. She knew it was cold enough to become hypothermic but didn’t feel cold at all.

She focused on her surroundings. She could see everything so clearly! Details she’d never noticed during the day jumped out at her in the dark. Despite the strange new clarity of her eyesight, Miranda was finding it hard to think. Her brain felt foggy. She considered calling for help, but she couldn’t work up the energy to vocalize her need.

Fighting the urge to lay down in the now semi-frozen grass, she forced herself to stand, and swayed unsteadily for a moment before she turned toward the house. She’d taken two lurching steps when something metallic hit the cement floor inside the garage. Someone is in there!

Stealing an hour with author, Rachael Ritchey

Stealing an hour with author, Rachael Ritchey

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When I downloaded The Beauty Thief over a year ago, little did I know the author, Rachael Ritchey, is local (to me), or that she would be a featured speaker at my writer’s group meeting. When I realized who she was, and which book of hers was still gracing my e-reader I knew this interview had to happen.

We spent a quick hour sipping coffee in a noisy Starbucks. Being the busy mom that she is, it was the only time she had, and boy am I glad she agreed to meet me. Her books are a blend of fantasy fiction, good family values, and swashbuckling adventure. Ritchie, herself, is an intelligent, bubbly, down to earth woman just as captivating as her novels. Keep reading to learn more about author and blog host, Rachael Ritchie.

SnS: Hello, Rachael. Let’s start with a little background. Are you from the PNW, and if not how did you land here?

Rachael: I was born in Sandpoint, ID and spent a short seven years during my childhood in SE Alaska. My family moved back to Idaho when I was 13 and we stayed there until I finished high school.

After getting married and living a couple places, my husband and I settled on the Inland Northwest as a great place to raise our kids. You might say I convinced him that this is the best place to live, but it wasn’t hard. My husband of almost nineteen years not only loves the beauty of this area, but he also still wants to please me! Crazy.

SnS: Sounds like a man in love. How did you meet?

Rachael: We actually met on the internet in 1999. There were no such things as dating sites (that I know of) back then. We met on our GeoCities websites. He was in college in Minnesota at the time, and I was a senior in high school. I had just helped a friend build her GeoCities page and signed her guestbook. He followed that link to my page, which was all about hiking and outdoors stuff. He left a comment on the bottom of my page saying how much he liked all the links and information along with a quote from the Bible: Isaiah 40:81, and a rose.

I thought, “Oh cool, he’s a Christian too!” so I emailed him a thank you for stopping by my website and we ended up emailing back and forth. It started out as once a day, then it was twice, then it was three times a day. After a while I convinced him to stop in northern Idaho on his way back to Tacoma so we could meet. At first he was like, “No, no, no, no. I’m not going to do that.” But finally it worked out and my mom and I met him in Coeur d’Alene. We didn’t date right away though, we were friends first. And the rest, as they say, is history.

SnS: That’s great! So what got you into writing initially?

Rachael: That’s difficult to answer. I grew to adore writing in 6th grade, but I didn’t take the idea seriously until years and years and years later. I started writing about ten years ago, but for various reasons I’d rather not discuss I let fear stop me. I told myself I wasn’t good enough, that I’d never be able to write anything worth reading, that I would never finish. I gave up, but the desire didn’t die.

December of 2013 I couldn’t let it rest any more. I needed to write. I needed to understand the turmoil of my feelings regarding my foster daughter’s uncertain future. The weight of my fear and anxiety had weighed me down so far, I thought everything that made me me would be crushed. As I prayed on the way to church one wintry Sunday morning, a story … more a reminder … slipped through my conscious mind. It stuck with me for a week, and I had to write it down. That short story then had to be made into something longer. Try 90,000 words longer.

SnS: Wow! How many books have you written and what are their names?

Rachael: I’ve written three full novels in a young adult fantasy series called They are called Chronicles of the Twelve Realms: The Beauty Thief, Captive Hope, and The Treasonous. I have another author/illustrator friend who worked with me to create a short 26 page illustrated children’s book version of The Beauty Thief too!

SnS: That’s an amazing accomplishment, especially considering you have four kids!

Rachael:  Thanks. Yes, I have 3 biological kids and we adopted our 4th.

 SnS: That’s wonderful 🙂 So you said you collaborated on the illustrated version of The Beauty Thief. Was that difficult?

Rachael: Yes and no. The illustrator is a friend of mine who is also an author. She actually came to me with the idea. She said, “I have something I want to show you and I’m really excited about it!” So she pulled out this beautiful drawing of Caityn, the main character from The Beauty Thief. I recognized it immediately because my friend is an amazing artist, and her style is perfect for fantasy and fairy tales, so I agreed to work with her.

I know that collaborating can be difficult and sometimes ruins friendships, but we were able to keep communication open and honest, and I trusted her style. We just worked out key points in the story and she came up with pictures for them. She was totally inspired. After the art was completed, I wrote out the completed story, made sure everything lined up and published it.

It was a really easy experience for me, but I don’t think it goes that way for everyone. Sometimes an illustrator and author have very particular ideas about how they want things, so it can be difficult. But I think, if you are honest and keep the lines of communication open – check in with each other before you finalize anything – it can work out.

SnS: Agreed. Now, I have to ask, between family stuff & general life issues how & where do you get your writing done? And do you write in notebooks or on a pc / laptop?

Rachael: I do both. It just depends. With six people in our house I write wherever I can. I write in my bedroom, the basement, in a coffee shop, or at the kitchen table. I do have a desk in the living room that collects things. That drives my husband nuts, but I know where everything is. *LOL* In recent years I’ve written more on the computer, but throughout the first two novels I spent 50% of the initial writing on notebooks. And they’re piled up all over my bedroom … I really need an office.

SnS: So you don’t have a set time to write?

Rachael: Not really. I have about an hour once a week where I get to sit in a coffee shop and write. Then at night, when the kids are in bed. Sometimes I get to write on the weekends or during the day. 

For a while, I did a lot of daytime writing, until the kids began to complain that I wasn’t spending enough time with them; I wasn’t being very helpful. So I pulled it back. I mean, they are only going to be kids for so long.

SnS: Well, in my opinion, that just makes you a good mom & your novel writing even more miraculous! How did you publish your books?

Rachael: I spent the better part of eight months researching the best course of action: traditional vs self-publishing. The more I researched and grew to understand my own desire – getting over my fear and accepting criticism not as dislike of me or my writing but as a path to better writing – I came to the decision that the kind of strange genre writing I’ve done would not be successful at finding a traditional venue. That lead me to self-publishing, along with the fact that I have ultimate creative control over the product and art, I release into the world. I still need help, mind you, but I like the control and responsibility that comes with self-publishing. It’s almost like there’s a little buzz associated with stepping out of one’s comfort zone.

SnS: Yes, and comfort zones are notoriously hard to leave. 

Rachael: They can be, but I think breaking things down into smaller pieces and just taking one step at a time helps. It’s so much better than getting overwhelmed and not doing anything.

SnS: So true. With that in mind, are you pursuing the idea of creating your own publishing company?

Rachael: Yes, as part of my DBA (Doing Business As) plan. Right now I’m only publishing my own books, or those I’ve collaborated on, but later I’d like to publish other people’s books. I’d like to get to the point where I’m able to offer them something for their work and not make them pay for everything. I think that’s going to take me a while. I want to learn more and prove my own abilities first. So it’s down the road, maybe ten or more years from now.

SnS: Where do you find inspiration for your writing? (Nature? Art? Caffeinated drinks? Tai Chi?)

Rachael: Does in my mind count? I guess inspiration comes from whatever around me can bring parts of my stories to life. Like right now, I’m totally finding inspiration for my futuristic sci-fi novel as I listen to an audio book called Life 3.0 and reading another one called The Physics of the Future. For my medieval, low fantasy novels, I love searching Pinterest for castles, clothing, and weapons. I’ve read articles and watched videos about sword-fighting techniques, and I even went so far as to buy a sword to hang on my wall. The sword also serves as a tool for when I want to discover if a certain move I described will actually work. Haha 😉

SnS: What advice would you give to other writers working on their first manuscripts?

Rachael: Hmmmm …. It’s better to know the endgame than not. It’s okay to deviate from any story plans you make in the process as long as they get you to the end and don’t disrupt the suspension of disbelief! If you have to ex machina (god in the machine) your story to get the end you want, either that(those) scenes need to change or the end does…but probably the scenes that are just in there to make stuff happen should come out.

Of course, if that’s too technical, I’d definitely say don’t give up. Keep writing all the way to the end. Read books or visit websites on craft, but don’t read too many. I think that can have the opposite, rather crippling effect than intended.

SnS: I can see how that could happen. Any good ones you can recommend?

Rachael: ‘Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life’ by Anne Lamotte, and ‘Story’ by Robert McKee are good. For me, I find websites like KM Weiland, Kristen Lamb, and Dan Kobalt are helpful. Those are some of my go-to sites for writing advice because they don’t overwhelm you.

SnS: Do you have any works in progress?

Rachael: Yes! I’m planning two more books in the Chronicles of the Twelve Realms series. Along with that there is a prequel in the works that I’m sharing with readers beforehand on Wattpad. And I’ve got a YA sci-fi book in the planning stages, too, so it keeps coming!

SnS: Good news for us fans! You host an event called #BlogBattle – Tell us about that.

Rachael: Ahhh, Blog Battle! My baby. #BlogBattle is a one-word writing prompt. It works best with flash fiction writing because the word limit is up to 1000 (give or take a few) and you have only three or four weeks to write it. Once written, you post your #BlogBattle one-word prompt inspired story to your blog and link it to the battle post. We then add the link to the stories lineup so that everyone involved can find your story, go read it, comment, and share.

Some people are far into their publishing journey, while others are just starting so there’s this great amalgamation of minds that get together, learn from and encourage each other. It’s actually a lot of fun and I’ve made some life-long writing friends because of it. It’s especially great because #BlogBattle started on a lark. A friend challenged me on Twitter one night and after our little war, others wanted to join in. I started hosting it weekly, but over time it became too much for most people to participate in regularly, and I made the mistake of adding extra rules. Between that and my own burnout from running it on my own, I closed it down. BUT it’s back by popular demand and is truly tons of fun. The people are great. The rest is history.

SnS: Speaking of history – If you could go anywhere in time / space to meet an author, who would it be and why?

Rachael: I have so many authors I’d like to meet! So so so many. Lordy, do I really only get to pick one? Uhhh … I think I’d have to say Jane Austen … no, C.S. Lewis … no, Plato … John Bunyan … wait, Martin Luther. I can’t pick!!! Hmm, okay I’ll pick Max Tegmark, the author of the Life 3.0 book I’m listening to right now. I wonder if he could explain things to me in even more simplified terms and answer all my questions about whether or not certain technologies are feasible 250 years in the future!

SnS: That’d be cool. Let’s give a shout out – Hey Mr. Tegmark, if you ever read this please contact Rachael! 🙂  And to you, Rachael, thank you for spending time with all of us at TheSquidandSquirrel.

Rachael: Thank you so much for inviting me here today, M.J. I enjoyed our time immensely and I’m looking forward to another coffee chat sometime soon!

If you would like to learn more about Rachael, or purchase some of her books check the links in the body of this interview and below!

https://rachaelritchey.com/

Read ‘Ismene and Othniel

Find her books on Amazon as well as the following:

Auntie’s Book Store SmashwordsKobo BooksBarnes & Noble, and Apple iTunes.

Follow her on Social Media:

FacebookTwitterGoodreadsPinterestLinkedIn, and YouTube

Read Blog Battle entries at:

https://www.blogbattlers.wordpress.com and on the Blog Battle Facebook page.