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 na├»ve 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.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Cover Reveal: Fractured

Introducing Newtimber: Fractured, an exciting YA urban fantasy novel by Karen E. Hoover, author of The Wolfchild Saga and others.


There was absolutely no way a black dragon hovered outside of Newtimber. Sianna rubbed her eyes, but the dragon was still there, clutching a round object that looked like a spotted egg. And then the egg fell, hitting the ground like an atomic bomb, sending out waves of a slow-moving fog that distorted everything it touched.


The citizens of Newtimber change. The old man down the street stretches into a screaming tree. Sianna’s skateboarding friend, Matt, transforms into a giant green dragon. Pegasus. Sirens. Griffins. Vampires. Zombies. Creatures from the myths of every culture come to life through the people.


Even Sianna changes, her skin becoming stone hard, and she gains the ability to travel from the human realm into the dimension of the fae, using it to free her father from prison and enlist his aid in battling the evil bent on taking over the world.


One person to heal a family, a town, and save the world. It seems an impossible task, but with the help of her new friends, it could happen.




Newtimber: Fractured will be released early summer 2014 by Trifecta Books. Visit for exciting updates about this great new series!