Book review: The Telling Mirror by M.G. Nelson.

Book review: The Telling Mirror by M.G. Nelson.

A couple of months ago I ran a thread on Twitter asking Indie Authors to send links to their books. Happily, my TBR pile grew quite a bit! M.G. Nelson’s YA fantasy, The Telling Mirror, was one of many on my now long reading list and I’m so glad Nelson posted it!

How much trouble can a rebellious teen and her cat get into? Oh, so much.

Signe Erickson’s parents are gone. Her father left years ago. Her mother lost to drugs is undergoing rehab. Now Signe – Sig for short – lives ungratefully with her Aunt Char and Uncle Dan, on their farm. Acting out in various ways she’s stretching her families patience to the max, testing them at every turn. When Dan finally confronts her she runs to her quiet place only to end up stumbling into another world. Just her and the annoying barn cat, Reggie, who is no longer a cat.

Together, Sig and Reggie must cross this new land and search out Sig’s father. How he ended up here they really don’t know, but then again, they don’t know how they got here either! Setting out with nothing but the clothes on their backs, a flashlight, a backpack, and a plastic baggie carrying $200 cash they begin their treacherous trek into the unknown.

This grand adventure is filled with dangerous travels, creepy characters, brave warriors, evil royals, kind commoners, fairies, centaurs, giants, and more! Reminiscent of both The Wizard of Oz and The Narnia Chronicles, it is filled with good lessons about self-reliance, kindness to others, determination, sacrifice, and faith. This book, first in The Telling Mirror Series, is one I would feel good sharing with my kids.

If you enjoy YA books with good values and interesting twists, purchase this one today! https://www.amazon.com/Telling-Mirror-Melissa-G-Nelson/dp/0997819111

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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

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!”

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.

 

 

Zombie-mode! Uhnngghhh

zombiemode Hello friendly readers!  Well, this months interview went down with the ship. The ship being me.

To say that I’ve been in zombie-mode is an understatement. Between chronic illness, change of season, working on the final edit of my novel, and the demands of everyday life I’ve been pretty out of it. Sorry to drop the ball.

Please hang in there with me. I have a wonderful artist lined up for November. Her work is whimsical, humorous, and filled with child-like delight and wonder. Want to know who she is? Wait for my “Coming Soon” announcement next month.

Until then, have a safe and happy Halloween!!

Your friendly neighborhood blogger,  MJ

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