Comic-Con

Comic-Con

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Interview: Lyndsay Johnson



One of the best parts of becoming a published author is all of the awesome people I’ve meet along the way. Lyndsay’s one of these cool kids I’m talking about. She saw my poster at the library and sought me out. We hit it off right from the start. Why wouldn’t we? Both of us have a passion for Mythology, write similar genres and call the same valley our home. We’ve also released our debut novels this year. Fire of the Sea came out in April, published under 48Fourteen. The story was beautifully written, and every scene was infused with breathtaking imagery (see my review here: http://angelahartley.blogspot.com/2014/08/review-fire-of-sea.html ). I was so impressed with Lyndsay, both as a writer and a person that I wanted to sit down with her to discuss her journey so far.

A: Hi, Lyndsay! Thanks for stopping by.

L: Thanks for having me!

A: Anytime! Now you actually started out as a graphic designer, right? How did you wind up writing about mermaids instead?

L: I studied graphic arts and creative writing in college, and went on to work in magazine publishing for five years before starting a family. But once I was my own boss, I decided to combine the two! I now split my creative time between writing fantasy and designing book covers, digital illustration, and other graphic design pursuits. Mermaids, though, came as quite a surprise! I had been starting to ramp up my fiction writing when I had a dream that I was a mermaid, saving a drowning pilot who had fallen into the sea from his airplane. I woke up and started writing what is now Chapter 2 of Fire of the Sea.

A: Dreams can be such an inspiration. How many years did your journey take from start to finish?

L: More than thee years. I took my time with research (which was extensive and involved reading lots of fairy tales as well as ancient Norse texts), and developing the characters and story. I wrote for about six months, edited for another six, and then queried for probably a year before Fire of the Sea got picked up by my publisher, 48fourteen.

A: I’ll be asking about your publisher. They seem pretty awesome, but right now I’m still stuck on mermaids. I love mythology. Out of all the topics to write on, why were you drawn to it?

L: It really just found me! The mermaid dream was definitely part of it. I wanted to rewrite the classic mermaid stories that are rooted in fairy tales, but add something a bit different and modern. At first I was toying with the idea of a Greek mermaid. But that didn’t feel right. My husband has a great love of Iceland, and I bought him a copy of the Icelandic Sagas after one of his yearly trips. It struck me that no one had ever done an Icelandic mermaid. I felt like it complimented the original Danish The Little Mermaid by keeping it in Scandinavia. I took elements of Norse mythology and then added more of my own design—which is so much fun to do! I even bridged Norse and Greek mythology in an unexpected twist.

A: You did a beautiful seamless job of it. I also love the way you develop your characters. Do you have a system, or do you use people from your life?

L: I use a combination of answering questions about each character then seeing how they organically grow from there (what motivates them, what are their goals), and I also just listen to them. Like in my head. Am I crazy? Other authors do this, too, right… Right? One friend told me that Gunnar (the love interest) has characteristics of my husband. But that was totally subconscious.

A: Okay, now I’m back to your publisher. Tell us about your road to publication and how you chose 48Fourteen.

L: Well. It was quite a road! I desperately wanted to find an agent, because I thought that’s what every self-respecting author who takes their writing seriously should do. But I was new to this, and quite naïve, and had a lot to learn about all the ways an author can publish and be successful. I had varied feedback from agents. Some loved it, some hated it, one wanted me to rewrite the whole book in a different POV, another wanted me to split the book into a trilogy, and others had just signed mermaid stories and couldn’t sign me. At one point I had a literary manager trying to help me find an agent. That was when I realized that the manager, the agent, AND the publisher would all take a cut. No thank you. I didn’t feel like I knew enough about self-publishing, so I started researching smaller, independent publishers. I sent my manuscript to my top five choices I felt were publishing really solid stuff, and I heard back from two who wanted Fire of the Sea. Ultimately I went with 48fourteen because I just had a really great feeling about them, and they were very enthusiastic about my book.

A: It looks like you did well for yourself. Any regrets?

L: Never send your very first query letter out to your top five agent choices, and then realize it has a spelling error. (facepalm)

A: Ha! I think we’ve all done that. I once had a blaring error and it bugged me so bad that I emailed the agent back asking if I could correct it. She appreciated my OCD tendencies enough that she requested pages, but passed on the manuscript. I wasn’t ready yet, which brings me to the next question. If you could speak to your younger self, what would you say?

L: Keep up the good work!

A: I love that! Who inspires you?

L: I am always so inspired by other moms out there who are making their dreams come true while raising a family. It helps me remember that it can be done, even on the really hard days.

A: What is in your reading queue right now?

L: I just finished The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger, and I am taking a brief reading break to really dig in to my latest project (which brings me to your next question, I presume).

A: You’d be right. Can you tell us about your latest project?

L: Right now I am working on a parallel dystopian fantasy about Bryony, daughter of the Gatekeeper of the city Drosera, which is surrounded by a towering, protective wall. Bryony and her family are forced to live on the outside of the wall, at the edge of danger. The story challenges the ideas of power and beauty, as Bryony forms her own ideas about real danger.

A: I’ve read some of this piece, folks! Pretty powerful stuff. I know you have little ones at home. How do you balance writing time and a family life?

L: I don’t always do a good job at balancing everything. At this very moment, I have spilled watercolor paint drying on my kitchen table, just put a load of laundry in for the first time in three days, and haven’t done the dishes since yesterday because I am working on book promotion. I had my third baby two weeks before Fire of the Sea debuted. So this has been a whirlwind of a year! I am still working on trying to do a little bit of everything every day. But I would much rather throw myself fully into one project at a time. But that’s not realistic. So I am working on realistic. J


Thank you, Lyndsay! Fire of the Sea is available on a special $0.99 promotion this week. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Review: Heart of Annihalation



Aliens, reincarnation, and a bad-ass military chick who's still willing to follow a moral compass even when her world is turned upside-down? Yes, please!

Specialist Kris Rose lives twenty-one years completely unaware of a secret government agency called the DNS until her father disappears - a mysterious coin with the word RETHA stamped into it left in his place. As she searches for clues, she's sent to investigate a paper trail leading to a warehouse full of missing ammunition also connected to RETHA. The commander is willing to kill to protect her secret, but Rose discovers the truth in the Utah Badlands, and it changes her perception of reality forever.

There's so many underlined currents running through this story, and I'm not just talking about the electrical kind. Asay touches on some pretty charged topics, like racism and prejudice on an inter-dimensional scale when her main character, Kris Rose discovers her entire life has been a lie. She's not even human, but a mass-murdering Rethan sentenced to Earth through the R.A.G.E. program.
Basically, the Rethans in the twelfth dimension are too humane to harm even their most dangerous members of society. Instead they choose to regress their criminals back to infancy and place them in the third dimension (Earth). 

I found the premise fascinating, and Asay's take on aliens refreshing. I loved the way Rose judged not by the silver of hair, but by the character of both human and alien. The tenacity of this little spitfire was admirable. She never quit, even when the odds were completely stacked against her and there was no way possible for her to go on. The duplicity of her nature was also very compelling. It goes back to the argument of nature vs. nurture argument. Are we destined to be evil or molded into our fate?

I'd recommend this novel to anyone who loves Science Fiction or Military Thrillers, and I'm excited to read the second installment next year.

You can purchase Heart of Annihilation here:
http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Annihilation-C-R-Asay-ebook/dp/B00M7NPNF0/ref=pd_sim_sbs_kstore_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=0CS8FAQY6BPPH9FG0MWB

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Interview: C.R. Asay


 
Interview: C.R. Asay

Heart of Annihilation was released this month through WIDO Publishing. Christauna is someone I consider to be a friend, and an amazing human being. I’m excited to talk with her about bringing her first book baby into the world, or should I say alien? I should probably call it the latter because that’s what this book’s about—aliens and our military trying to keep a lid on their invasion.

A: You write military so well that I feel like I’m actually catching a glimpse behind the scenes. How many years did you serve our country?

C: Only about five years. But it was an amazing five years of getting to know the best people on earth, having amazing experiences, and serving my country. I love my country.

A: We thank you for your service, and this really awesome book inspired by your work. How did you first come up with the idea for the premise behind this book?  

C: I wrote the character Kris Rose in a scene where she’s facing down a red-headed lieutenant with an M-16 pointing at her. Then I had to figure out how she got in that situation. Add on some seriously cool, science-y super powers, an alternate dimension, a horrible crime, and I had the premise for Heart of Annihilation. The bulk of the story took years to develop, but the coolness factor always remained the same.

A: I love the electrical current concept, and your plausible explanation. Is Science Fiction the genre you generally write?

C: I always thought I’d be a fantasy writer because I read a lot of it. But when it came right down to it, I enjoy fantasy that is based in reality. Apparently that’s science fiction. So I write sci-fi. And now I can’t stop. What else could something as common as electricity do if we really understood and could manipulate it? What about the powers of the mind? Or communication between different species? There are a thousand questions that never gets old. Worlds are built them. I will probably write sci-fi until the day I die.

A: It looks like you’ve found your niche, and I agree. A story is more believable when it mimics reality, and actual people. Kris carries a lot of your attributes. Was she modelled after you?

C: Originally, yes. I was a new writer when I wrote my first draft and I didn’t know any better. Anyway, years down the line with massive rewrites and revisions and she has become and entirely different person. I see small similarities between us, but I wouldn’t wish her existence on my worst enemy. This girl has some serious darkness inside her.

A: I think you’re pretty bad-ass, and so is Kris. If there is ever a zombie apocalypse, you’re definitely on my team. I’ll bring the tomahawks. What will be your weapon of choice, and why?

C: My AR-15. It’s such a glorious weapon. Now I understand that it’s a pretty loud weapon so I’ll be happy to sit up in a high building with a scope and pick off the zombies. If I had to do it hand to hand I would use and machete, but I’d rather just shoot the !@#$# from afar.

A: Which is why I’m putting my chips in with you. What’s your favorite aspect of the work?

C: Watching words on a page become real. Real people, real places, real situations. It’s like magic. Only science based. So science fiction then….

A: Great way to describe it! When did you first realize you would be a writer?

C: I started writing after watching my husband write a novel. I became infatuated with the process. However it took me months of watching him and “helping” him before Kris Rose visited me and demanded that I write her story. That was a good 7-8 years ago. And now she is fully realized on a page.

A: It’s awesome that you and your spouse share this. Do you have any advice for someone who is just starting out?

C: Learn the craft. Do the work. Don’t settle for anything other than your fully realized masterpiece. When you finally hold your book, your actual, glorious, perfectly perfect book in your hands for the first time, you will realize it was worth every drop of blood, sweat, and tears you put into it.

A: What are you reading right now?

C: Suspect, by Robert Crais. IED sniffing military dog paired up with a wounded police officer who are both suffering from PTSD. It’s fantastic. Can’t recommend it enough.

A: If you could travel back in time and talk to a younger you, what would you say?

C: My younger self didn’t know she had ADHD. My older self does. I’ve only had my diagnoses for about a year and it’s been quite the learning curve. I’d love to tell my younger self that we are not lazy or crazy. Our brains just work a little differently. And it’s because of our differently working brains that brilliant things (such as publishing a book) can come to pass.

 C. R. Asay joined the Utah National Guard at the age of seventeen. After spending time in the 625th Military Police Corp she transferred to the 19th Special Forces group as a counterintelligence agent. She retired from the military after marrying her best friend and graduating from college so that she could embark on the most exciting adventure of all; being a mom.

The short story version of her first novel, Heart of Annihilation, earned an honorable mention from the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. C. R. Asay currently resides in West Jordan, Utah, with her husband, four children, and a dog. There is always a dog

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: Fire of the Sea


 
Fire of the Sea- by Lyndsay Johnson

The first thing I noticed about this book was how beautiful the cover was. I've met Lyndsay, and I've grown to know her on a personal level. I've decided she’s a lovely human being. Of course I wanted to read her novel, but the artwork would’ve drawn me to the pages of a stranger. For one, the story’s about a mermaid! Not just any mermaid either, but a Meriad based on Norse legend. Think of Hans Christian Anderson’s tale, but placed in modern day and closer to actual Viking myths. You have the evil demigoddess, the Selurs, Silkies, and a princess of the sea who (of course) falls in love with a human.

Lyndsay’s writing was rich and as fluid as the ocean she was describing. Although I am familiar with the myths and could predict the ending, I was never certain of how I would arrive at the ultimate conclusion. The story is told from an intimate first-person perspective, placing you directly in the main character, Aeva’s head. You understand her fears and desires, and want what she wants.

All living sentient creatures desire a love so strong that they are willing to sacrifice half of themselves to be whole with someone else. They want to experience a draw towards another soul that is as tangible as the air we breathe. This is the power of myth, magic, and mysticism. The ancients had a brilliant way of explaining fate, destiny, and tragedy in a belief system that allowed gods to be just as flawed as the humans who worshiped them. Lindsay does an amazing job of capturing this element in her work. I give Fire of the Sea a five-star rating, and would recommend this read for anyone who has a love of myths and mermaids.
You can purchase Fire of the Sea at:
The kindle version is only $0.99 for a limited time!
 

 

LYNDSAY JOHNSON grew up in the wide expanses of Texas, where the only thing stronger than the accents was the state pride. An over-active imagination, tale-telling father, and an encouraging librarian mother lead to her love of all things creative.

When it comes to books on her bedside table, young adult lit has always been a favorite (Blue Balliett, Libba Bray, and JK Rowling, to name a few). But it was actually an old, yellowing copy of Scandinavian Folk and Fairy Tales that planted a particularly relentless seed. Shapeshifters and sea nymphs began forming an idea that would eventually grow into Lyndsay’s debut novel, Fire of the Sea.

When she is not writing, you can find Lyndsay spending time with her family in the Rocky Mountains of Utah. She enjoys sitting in dark ­theaters, trying new gluten-free recipes, watching breaking storms over the peaks out her window, and secret naps.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: The Offspring


 
Review: The Offspring
By R.J. Craddock

            I read and reviewed The Forsaken a few months ago, and it was time for me to see what kind of trouble Gwenevere has gotten herself into now. Boy, if you though her interactions with humans were tragic, wait until you see what happens when vampires get ahold of this little witch.

            In The Offspring, Gwenevere is whisked away to an underground fortress named Bac LeNuff where the children of Cain love the night life and the vampire king has evil intentions for twelve-year-old Gwen. Friends become foes and foes become friends as a child witch discovers that an offer of love should never be taken at face-value.

            Like The Forsaken, I struggled with the pacing and POV shifts. The premise is good. The story is heart-wrenching, but the plot moves a little slow for my taste at times and too fast through others. Again, this is probably a style difference, but the fight scene at the end makes the middle worthwhile. I should also warn that there are also some disturbing scenes involving the rape of a child, which is a difficult concept for me.  If you have a sensitivity like I do, you’ll probably want to avoid those parts.
 

Ruth, the youngest of eight children, was raised in Orem, Utah. She graduated from Orem High in 2001. From 2002 - 2004, Ruth studied Animation and Media Arts at The Art Institute of Phoenix. When she returned home from school, she met her Mr. Perfect and married him in 2006. She now lives in Springville, Utah with her husband and their three sons: five year-old Ethan, three year-old Dylan, and 18 moth old Colin.

Her hobbies include: writing novels, screenplays, poetry, and songs. She also enjoys drawing, painting, sculpting, reading, eating, interior design/home improvement, swing dancing, compulsive shopping, watching movies, quoting movies,and just hanging out with her family.

To learn how you can support this Indie Author click here:
The Offspring can be purchased here:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review/Interview Eleanor: The Unseen


 
 
Eleanor is a teenage girl who is trying to fly under the radar. She gets B’s on her report cards, never speaks in class, and uses her hair as a barrier to all eye contact. Perhaps she is hiding because her mother is dying of cancer. From the beginning it’s obvious Eleanor’s afraid she’ll be taken away and put into foster care, but there’s something else.  A tension builds through every page as Eleanor’s world slowly comes into focus. The people in her small Wyoming town think she’s odd, but they can’t begin to understand just how different this girl really is…

When I finished reading the ARC of Eleanor, I had to contact the author immediately. It was one of the most lovely pieces of literary fiction I’d ever had the pleasure of reading. The words glided effortlessly into my mind and touched my heart. The story was so beautiful and unassuming. Hat’s off to you, Mr. Worthen, for a job well done. I was so impressed with this novel, I decided to sit down and pick his brain. Not in a literal sense. That would be gross, but figuratively.

 

J: Thanks :-D The book is very dear to me. I’m glad you liked it.


A: Your love was evident on every page. How long have you been writing?

J: I’ve been writing all my life. However, I made a conscious decision to devote my career to it in 2012. I’ve been fulltime since then. I wouldn’t recommend it, not if food is important to you, but it has allowed me to achieve goals I’ve had all my life.

A: It's a hard path for sure. As writers, we grow attached to our imaginary friends. I could tell that both Eleanor and Tabitha were very near and dear to your heart. Can you tell me about the connection?

J: We’re all vulnerable and sensitive, afraid to be ourselves, hiding those things that make us different and trying to blend in. I understood that very much about Eleanor. I understood too the needs of Tabitha to try and safeguard her daughter from the worst the world can throw at her. Trying so hard, weak and impoverished, she does the best she can, which isn’t much. In the end, all they can offer each other is love. That’s all they have and it is enough. It unites and strengthens, enlightens and liberates. There is much of my own experience in these characters, my grandmother in Tabitha, my niece in Eleanor, my hopes in both.

A: I find it beautiful that you've made those connections. What was your favorite aspect of writing Eleanor?

J: I liked how the mystery unfolded. You sense that something’s wrong, but it’s a slow burn, an unhurried reveal. The paranormal aspect is thus muted and the human story rises. The mircale is then freed to be the metaphor I wanted it to be instead of the center of the story. Eleanor is the center. It’s not a three act piece, it’s a fable, a coming of age story of an extraordinary girl wishing she could be ordinary.

A: Speaking of fables, I too have studied the legends of the Skinwalkers and other shapeshifters. The most flooring facts I discovered was how similar the stories are regardless of their origins. What kind of stories did you unearth in your research?

J: After I saw that most cultures shared a shape shifter myth, I pretty much abandoned my research. I knew that Eleanor wouldn’t incorporate any one of them, but all of them. I postulated that each different story was a different perspective on the same miraculous event, colored by prejudice and point of view. All of them confirming something strange, but none of them understanding it or describing it accurately. For the story it was always a metaphor for the drastic and terrible changes a person has to go through.

A: Pretty fascinating stuff. Do you believe they walk among us? 

J: I’d like to think so if only because it makes one a little humble to think they’re not on the top of the food chain any more.

 
A: Agreed. Eleanor is the first book of a trilogy. When can we anticipate Celeste and David?

J: Eleanor’s past is explored as she faces an uncertain future. Nothing is ever as it appears. People and places, dangers and safety, all shift in a changing landscape of perception and fear. Eleanor’s struggles are not over, she’s far from safe. David’s family is threatened, along with Jamesford itself. I delve into religion, prejudice, forbidden love, power and murder. There are new enemies and old friends, silent allegiances and bitter betrayals, all while Eleanor struggles to understand her own needs, turning from timid to bold, scavenger to predator.

A: I can't wait to have the story unfold. What is in your current reading queue?

J: Copper Descent and a few other books I’m behind on. I’m going to re-read Huckleberry Finn to prepare for another YA book I’ll start in the Fall.

A: I like your first choice. I've heard it's a pretty good read. If you could travel back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?

J: Buy more Apple stock.

A: No kidding! Coke or Pepsi?

J: Coffee.

A: What inspires you?

J: Death. Knowledge of my own eventual demise lies at the bottom of everything I write. Everything.

 There you have it, folks! Isn't he amazing? If you would like know more about Johnny Worthen and Eleanor: The Unseen, you can find him in these places:












 
JOHNNY WORTHEN graduated with a B.A. in English and Master’s in American Studies from the University of Utah. After a series of businesses and adventures, including running his own bakery, Worthen found himself drawn to the only thing he ever wanted to do—write. And write he does. When he’s not pounding on his keyboard or attending writers conferences, Worthen spends his time with his wife and two boys in Sandy, Utah.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

View From The Crystal Ball: Copper Descent

Terra Luft interviewed me and wrote a review for Copper Descent. Check it out:



View From The Crystal Ball: Copper Descent: This is my first author interview as part of a cool thing called a blog tour. (Don't worry, I didn't know what they were either...) ...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Letter to My Monkey on Her Seventeenth Birthday


 

            My dearest, sweetest Kiernen,

            First and foremost, I want you to know what an honor it has been to be your mother. I so admire your strength, cherish your heart, and stand in awe of your loyalty and sense of compassion. To know you is to love you. You are remarkable in every way, and truly a gift in my life.

            It’s hard for me to comprehend that my monkey is on the cusp of adulthood. It seems like only yesterday, you were a gorgeous blue-eyed baby cradled in my arms. So many images are running through my mind as I write this. How can I summarize seventeen years of cherished memories in words? You’ve gone through more than most people will experience in a lifetime of living. It would take a book, and even if I could write that story, it wouldn’t ever capture the essence of your Kierneness. You’re just too amazing for words, soldiering through hardships even I’ve struggled to face at times.

For the past nine years, I’ve mourned the loss of your childhood. I’ve been unable to take away your pain or answer the “Why me?” question. The truth is, I don’t know why. You’re old enough to realize that I don’t always have all the answers. I’m not in control of everything that happens in our lives, and I am human. No one knows better than I that I am far from perfect, but I do have faith that everything we experience is part of a plan greater than just ourselves. I believe in times of hardship we are shaped into something greater than we would have become otherwise. I know one thing is for certain. You have grown strong, and wise beyond your age, and I am proud of the woman you have become.

The hard stuff is already figured out. Now you’re just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with you.  You’ve learned the value of honor and carry a strong sense of right and wrong. Mostly, you’ve discovered what really matters. The rest is just white noise.

I want you to know that it’s okay to have fun, and get your hands a little dirty. Live your life instead of watching from the sidelines. Sure, you might fall and scrape your knuckles, but then again, you may not. You’ll never really know unless you decide to play. Know that I will always be here, cheering you on.

I love you!

Mom

 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: The Forsaken


            R.J. Craddock has released the second novel, The Offspring in The Children of Cain series. Originally, I planned to finish both books for her stop on my blog tour, but my body had other ideas and decided to pass kidney stones instead. Caught in a drug-induced haze, spiked with bouts of intense pain, I regretfully concluded it was best to wait on the later. Please look for my review on The Offspring over the next week or two.

            In the beginning of The Forsaken we find five-year-old Gwenevere wondering through the forest all alone in the midst of a snowstorm. She’s wearing only one shoe and speaks a strange language. If someone is smart and reads prologues, they’ll figure out pretty fast that Gwen is from another realm. The world is magical, but deadly for anyone who might have a claim to the throne, which I’ve concluded she has. I’ll have to read on through the rest of the series to see for sure.

            The Forsaken touches on the heavy topic of sexual abuse, and many other aspects that can go terribly wrong without another human being to love and care for a small child. Gwen’s tale is a sad one so far, reminiscent of The Book Thief mixed with Flowers in the Attic and sprinkled with magic. I give Craddock a solid four-star rating for this novel. She has a seamless way of pulling you into the plot by leaving a trail of nagging questions begging for answers.

            I held back a star for a couple of reasons. It might have been a style conflict, but I didn’t connect to the characters as much as I would’ve liked. I had a similar struggle with The Book Thief, and it seemed like everyone loved this novel but me. Some POV shifts took me by surprise, making it difficult to know whose head I was in. There were times I wished for more of a tease and less of a full disclosure, but I guess that’s one of the drawbacks of the main character being a mind-reader (I’m so glad I can’t read minds). For a first novel, I felt like Craddock gave a lovely performance, and I look forward to reading The Offspring.

            To purchase or discover more about The Children of Cain: The Forsaken, and The Offspring, please visit:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Review: Fire Light

Fire Light

by J. Abram Barneck
 

             I recently met J. Abram Barneck at LTUE. He’s a genuinely nice guy who was down to earth and very easy to talk to. After discussing his work, I decided to read his first novel, Fire Light.
 Druid Mormons, vampires, and a secret society operating underground in Salt Lake City? The premise alone was interesting enough to justify the $2.99 Kindle version.
            The main character, seventeen-year-old Jacob Stevens has always felt a little strange, not just because his mother flinches every time she sees him (Jacob’s a product of rape). He heals to fast, only requires four hours of sleep and never gets sore. Strange dreams and an overwhelming urge to protect the innocent are a constant irritation. Jake just wants to be normal, but when he discovers his druid lineage, he realizes he will never be a regular teenager.
            Fire Light is a New Adult, James Bond kind of fantasy mixed with magical elements. You have the love triangle between Jacob, the druid dhampir, Alexis, who is always scandalously clad in skin-tight leather, and sweet little girl-next-door, Kendra. Through the course of the plot, there was plenty of fighting, action, disappearing clothing, and even some real life issues plaguing some youth.
Please understand, I’m not a teenage boy, and it was a little disconcerting being placed into one’s thoughts so vividly. Since I’m raising a sixteen-year-old daughter, I’d rather not know how the opposite sex thinks at this age for fear of wanting to lock my little girl away until she turns thirty. Clearly, I was not the intended audience, so I’m not going to focus on the male hormones, and in fairness base my four-star rating off of the parts I liked.
            Barneck did an amazing job of describing magic in tangible terms. I was able to experience the feel, understand the science behind the art of casting, and predict the consequences of the characters using spells. Living in Utah myself, I had fun to following the chases and fights through neighborhoods that I’m familiar with. I loved the Nightwalker scene on Bangeter highway. The tension and mood was set with supreme skill, and knowing the terrain made the experience much more vivid.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Interview: R.J. Craddock

 
 
 

Recently, I got involved with a secret society who delves in the art of magic. I’ve only been involved for a few weeks, but I can already say that the other casters are phenomenal at their craft! They can create dragons with a single thought and are capable of transporting an unsuspecting victim to another world where Night Walkers stalk Bangerter Highway. The forces of good and evil can blur to grey, leaving one to question everything they think they know.

Don’t worry, I haven’t gone all Matrixy. I promise I’m not allied with the dark side. Although, they did want me to join their forces because of my mad baking skills. I’ve no plans to start running around in swirling cloaks and pointy hats, but I do hope my work with the Utah Fantasy Writers will simply be magical.

Today, I’m introducing you to R.J. Craddock who is one of my fellow Utah fantasy authors. R.J.’s second novel, The Offspring, in her series The Children of Cain is scheduled to be released on May 11th, 2014:

A murder behind her and the wilderness before her, friendless Witch Gwenevere flees to survive. Yet Mother Nature is not kind and even Gwen’s magical gifts cannot save her from a deadly winter storm. Narrowly escaping death, she is rescued by an unlikely hero and taken into the shelter of a mythical realm.  Has Gwen at long last found her own kind? Will she finally solve the mystery to her own identity, or her mother’s murder? Or is innocence blinding her to the true reality of this dark sanctuary?

A: So, R.J., I noticed you’ve been writing since you were eleven-years-old. Were your early works fantasy?

R.J: Yes, mostly my short stories and poems were about fairies, but my first attempt at novel writing was a historical fiction.

A: Wow, that’s a pretty tough genre to write a first novel in. Learning to craft literature alone is a daunting task without incorporating timelines and knowing when scissors were invented. I shudder at the thought! After taking on something so difficult, writing magic must have been a breeze. When did you first come up with the idea for The Children of Cain?

R.J: Almost five years ago. It came to me whilst working a very tedious nightshift job, imagining this world kept me both sane and awake at the time.

A: Working a nightshift is a brilliant way complete a novel, a tool many of the greats have used to finish their works. It’s easier to get lost in your thoughts without interruptions. What is your favorite aspect of your craft?

R.J: World building. As much as I love history and historical fiction, I found out early on that my true talent is in playing god. Creating whole new worlds to my own liking, redefining the rules of nature and societies is what I’m most known for.

A: Speaking of building worlds, you’re the youngest of eight children. How did you like growing up with so many older siblings?

R.J: It had its pro and cons. My family is very large, very artistic, very opinionated and dysfunctional. We competed a lot but growing up I was the only writer until recently. (Sigh) Mostly of the time I played by myself and felt like an orphan, much like my character Gwenevere. The upside to that is that I used my imagination a lot to make up for it, and read a lot of great books J

A: You and I, my dear, have a lot in common. Lucky for us, we can draw on those personal experiences in our work to help our characters become more real. The Offspring is the second book in this series. How much has your lead character, Gwenevere grown since the beginning?

R.J:  In book one The Forsaken we meet Gwen at the young age of five. In The Offspring we pick up where she left off at the end of book one, at age eleven. As a character she’s gone through a lot already, yet has no idea just how much more chaos she’s about to get mixed up in The Offspring. She’s more confident in her abilities as a witch, yet is still very naïve and has a lot to learn about witch craft and the world. For Gwen growing up is anything but easy.

A: Sounds like you understand her very well. How does she inspire you?

R.J: Gwen is stubborn, and undaunted no matter how bad things get. She fears failure above all else, failure to survive, failure to endure. She refuses to give in and finds the strength to go on, even when it seems she has nothing left to fight for. Also she’s wickedly sarcastic like myself.

A: I love strong female roles in literature. What is in your reading queue right now?

R.J: City of Lost Souls, By Casandra Clare.

A: Casandra Clare is one of my favorites! She can paint a scene like no other. I hope to be like her someday, when (if) I grow up. If you could go back in time and talk to yourself at the beginning of your writing career, what would you say?

R.J: Just tell your story. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of it, just write and let it be read. When I was a kid I was too afraid to share my work with anyone because of my dyslexia. No matter how much my teachers encouraged me to submit my work to the school literary magazine I just couldn’t do it. I was so afraid of failure that I wouldn’t even try. Now my motto is “If you never give up you can’t fail”

That’s a great motto, and again, I am struck by our similarities! Thank you for stopping by, and visiting with me. I wish your project the greatest success. To learn more about R.J. Craddock and The Children of Cain, please visit her website at:



 
 
And look for The Offspring in May:
 


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bring on the Romance (School Visits Part 3)

When I was in high school, Drama was a big part of my life. Now, I'm not talking about the teenage drama, though there was plenty of angst to go around. What I meant was I loved acting. I performed in state competition every year and acted in a couple of plays. Mr. Scott even allowed me the opportunity to direct Steel Magnolias my senior year. So, Christine suggesting we turn pieces of out work into scenes for Mrs. Killian's theater kids to act out was an exciting prospect for me. When I used to act, the romantic scenes were the hardest to pull off. Naturally, I subjected these poor unsuspecting kids to exactly that in Confessions:

Being on stage is exhilarating, an experience Mackenzie from Mr. Scow's Creative Writing class might be familiar with:

The autumn air quickly settled in the forest at the end of the lane. The sun beckoning me to move forward. The sound of the wet pavement splashed under my feet. The sun shining on my face, giving me warmth down to my feet. I begin to see the end. A big crowd waiting for me. The excitement is so great, I can almost taste it. I begin to run, the soft air blowing on my face.

She definitely caught the element of anticipation the spotlight can bring.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Creepy Crawly (School Visits Part 2)

We spent a lot of time discussing what it means to live a life of an author. Lehua put a great presentation together explaining the joys and frustrations that come with living this kind of lifestyle. There were a lot of cute puppy pictures and her special brand of humor made the entire experience very entertaining. Most of the students were shocked when I was introduced as the horror writer. The number one response was, "But you look so normal..." Through the years, I've ran into this a lot. Christine actually really likes this phenomenon and waits for people's reaction when I say I write horror, but the kids in Mrs. Killian's theater class soon realized it wasn't a joke when I handed them one of my poems. One girl was so freaked out by the content that she claimed the door opened by itself. To watch their performance follow this link:


Mr. Scow's students were also good at setting a tone. Devin shared:

"Adrian, Adrian, ADRIAN!! Wake Up!"

It was too late. Adrian was too far gone.

There his body laid, next to the broken road. Just thrown into a muddy ditch. The trees with their long branches touching the sky made the scene feel much more ominous.

The sun began to outstretch from the sky. The sun was laughing, envoking Adrian's dead body.

And Joe knew that nothing would ever be the same again...

I don't know about you, but my the hair on the back of my neck stood up when the sun evoked Adrian.

Monday, March 3, 2014

School Visits






I had a very busy, but super cool week. I got to hang out with two of my favorite ladies, Christine Haggerty, and Lehua Parker, and we had the privilege of meeting a bunch of great kids. Our first group was Mrs. Killian's theater class at Union High School. These kids were enthusiastic and open to performing scenes we wrote from our compiled works. Keep in mind, they were only given minutes with a script they had never seen before. I was so impressed by their level of talent. If you would like to see "The Break-up Scene", please follow the link below:


Stay tuned throughout the week for more amazing scenes.

After visiting with Union, I sat on my first question and answer panel for a college extension class for Utah State University taught by Vini Exton. Having never graduated with a college degree, I felt a little out of my league, but my companions were very knowledgeable, and they made me feel like one of the smart kids whenever I had something to share.

Our final destination was Mr. Scow's Creative writing classes at Uintah High School. I got completely out of my comfort zone and presented a creative writing exercise concentrating on senses. The first piece I'm going to share comes from Michaela Melo:

I was walking. My pace set fast. My heart beat, thumping hard in my chest. The last remaining sunlight barely made my skin glow. I sought warmth, heat on my flesh. NO, my skin was ice, cold seeped into my body and turned to sorrow. I was sad, so sad. I was jogging now, I had to get to the sun, to the warmth, to happiness and safety. I could feel his eyes on my back. His deep gaze settled into me, causing terror, causing me to run. I had to run to the warmth, away from him. I set out to the edge of the looming forest, trying desperately to get into the safety of the light before he caught up.

Michaela sets a wonderful sense of urgency with the pacing of her words. My favorite line: The last remaining sunlight barely made my skin glow. Beautiful imagery. Stay tuned for more excerpts through the upcoming weeks. I'm telling you, these kids are AWESOME.