Thursday, July 27, 2017

Lauren H. Brandenburg | Author Chat

It's coffee and chat time here on the blog today! I'm so excited for today's chat with Lauren! She is the sweetest and I'm so glad to introduce her to you all!
Lauren H. Brandenburg is a speaker and advocate for home education, as well as author of the middle-grade series The Books of the Gardener and creative writing curriculum, The Engaged Writer. Her novels are recognized as a “Top Safe Read” and “Top Read Aloud” for young readers in the homeschool community. As a former English teacher and now homeschooling mom, Lauren combines her love of “the what if” with her spirit of adventure and faith to delight and encourage readers young and old. She currently teaches creative writing in her homeschool community and to young writers nationwide.

Although Lauren and her husband, Jamie, live in Nashville, Tennessee with their children Kensington and Jackson, she will always consider Kentucky her home.

Let's get real...

How many words do you write a day?
I can usually write about 2000 words a day. I try to write Monday to Friday (sometimes Saturday), and almost never on Sunday.

What is your favorite mode of transportation: plane, train, or car?
I love to travel by train—it feels so old fashioned.

What does a ‘normal’ day look like for you?

On a normal day I wake up around eight, make breakfast, homeschool with my kiddos while jumping back and forth to work on any book marketing and tossing in a load of laundry between subjects, fix lunch while doing dishes, more laundry, write for two to three hours, then off to mixed martial arts—I take classes with my oldest, I have to be there anyway, so why not get some exercise! On non-marital arts nights we play games or watch a few of the shows we follow on Netflix. After tucking in the kiddos, the hubby and I snuggle up for a night of reading or television. Go to bed, wake up, repeat J

What actor/actress would play you if your life were a movie?
This is a fun question! I always imagine what it would be like to have the dating college days of my husband and I turned into a musical—like Grease meets Legally Blonde (except I’m not blonde or a lawyer). Jack Black would be the obvious choice for my husband. It would have to be someone super short for me . . . like Isla Fisher with dark short hair! I’m open to suggestions on this one.

Name three places you’d like to travel to & why
England—because, sigh . . . I’m pretty sure my parents are British, moved me to the US to hide me from my true identity as somebody perfectly lovely and important, and left me with a burning desire to return to my homeland. Peru—to climb into the Andes mountains and spend a night in Machu Picchu, and because Paddington is from Darkest Peru, and I so adore Paddington. Lastly, France . . . not so much Paris, but the countryside to stop and breath in the fragrances of Provence.

What’s one of your favorite books?
Little Women – My dad brought me a beautifully bound hardback edition on a return trip from D.C. I have loved the book and the story ever since. Not too long ago me I realized that I am living my childhood dream, to be be a writer like Jo March.

Coffee or tea?
Tea for sure! Coffee is a deceiver . . . it doesn’t taste at all like it smells.

Purchase: Orlo The Created
Visit Lauren: http://laurenhbrandenburg.com/

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Weakness of Fantasy by Zachary D. Totah | Guest Post


Despite the many wonders it offers, fantasy suffers from a glaring problem.

And it’s about as obvious as Sauron’s Eye, perched loftily above the genre’s landscape and leaving no corner untouched with its gaze.

The problem? Clichés.

Wizards and Elves and The Chosen One, Oh My! (aka the Problem)

Tongue-in-cheek snark aside, this cliché addiction haunts the pages of fantasy novels hither and yon as dutifully as the Army of the Dead haunted the Paths of the Dead. (Thus the need for snark.)

Fantasy shouldn’t endure such a cruel fate as the abundance of clichés placed upon its noble shoulders. Of all the genres and subgenres in existence, fantasy should shine with the most compelling creativity and uniqueness. After all, isn’t that what makes it so incredible?


The diversity and variety possible means that authors are free to explore any matter, experiment with untold worldbuilding details, and virtually create as much of the world as they please.

Why then does fantasy continue to dwell in the land of the hackneyed, a land where Chosen One characters churn off the assembly line like Saruman’s Urak-hai and stereotypes rule with an iron fist?

That’s safe storytelling. Safe, perhaps, but missing the spark and energy that makes a fantasy tale truly leap to life in the reader’s mind and heart.

I’ve come from the perspective of a Tolkien (or insert any other famous fantasy author) wannabe. This desire to imitate the best makes sense. After all, if their stories featuring x, y, and z elements enjoyed such massive success, why not do the same with mine?

Except no. Sorry ignorant young writer (talking to myself here), that’s not how it works.


Wonder and Imagination and Creativity, Oh My! (aka the Solution)

How do authors combat this problem of repeating the same themes, worlds, characters, plots?

By daring to be different.

What gave Tolkien’s work an enduring legacy? Why is Brandon Sanderson among the top fantasy writers today?

They weren’t traveling a trail well-trodden. Rather, like the Fellowship of the Ring, they blazed new paths where others had not yet gone.

Therein lies the beauty of fantasy. By nature, it’s filled with endless potential, any number of paths that each writer can make their own instead of following in the footsteps of the greats. Doing that, you’ll end up boring people because they’ve been there, done that.

A better choice is to follow their example, not retrace their exact path.

As fantasy authors, we have such storytelling freedom it’s a shame to let those unmined gems lay buried in the dirt of disuse, while we scrape about for the equivalent of stones and pebbles.

The only limit is our own hesitance to let our imaginations loose.

Want to create a world where every adult walks around on the ground while children are resigned to walking on the walls? Go for it!

How about a character that can only remember things that happen on one day of the week?

Or a magic system that makes use exclusively of green leaves?

The point is, nothing is out of bounds. If you can imagine it, you can write it. This is a lesson I learned while writing an epic fantasy series, and continues to be one I absorb more and more.

To clarify, this doesn’t mean you completely ignore the expected tropes of fantasy. There’s a reason they become clichés—people like them. Am I contradicting myself? Yes…and no.

The tricky part is striking a balance between the tried and true—aka what readers love—and the new and imaginative. If you can do that, you’ve hit the sweet spot.

*insert a semi-rave about how well Brandon Sanderson does this in all his fantasy books* Okay, I’ll stop now, otherwise I’d be praising his brilliance all day.

Let’s make fantasy as breathtaking and awe-inspiring as it deserves. A place where familiarity and originality meet in a stunning display of storytelling. To paraphrase Sam Gamgee, “Those will be the tales worth remembering.”

As a writer (and reader), what do you think is the balance between being original while including familiar elements fans enjoy?

_____
I wear many creative hats, one of which is to write speculative fiction stories. This allows me to roam through my imagination, where I have illegal amounts of fun creating worlds and characters to populate them. When I’m not busy with a thousand and one responsibilities,  I enjoy spending time with family and friends, digging into a good book, and watching movies.

I live in Colorado and don’t drink coffee. The two aren’t related.

I love connecting with other readers and writers, so don’t be shy. I keep my superpowers in check. Promise.

Website
Facebook
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Monday, July 24, 2017

Courtney Walsh, Bethany Kaczmarek, Sandra Merville Hart | New Novel News

Just Look Up 
by Courtney Walsh 

Published: July 4, 2017
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Purchase: Just Look Up

After tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back home—a quaint tourist town full of memories she’d just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on work—something her eclectic family doesn’t understand.

Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren’t ideal.

Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can’t find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he’s found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all along—if only she’d just look up.

Get to know Courtney...

If your book became a movie, who would you cast for your main characters?
Jaime Alexander (with long hair)

And whoever this guy is: (only a TINY bit less pretty). 😀

Who is your favorite secondary character?
Probably Ursula from Paper Hearts and Change of Heart. That old lady was so much fun to write. I really love people who say whatever pops into their head. Maybe because I am SO not that way!

What are the names of your pets? If you don't have any, what would you name your pets?
I want to get a dog so badly. I would name her Luna. My husband (rightfully) is concerned that bringing any more living things into our household might put me over the edge. Our three kids keep me running ragged!

Favorite place you’ve traveled to?
New York City! While I don’t think I’m cut out to live there, it is one of my very favorite places in the world, AND it’s where I got the idea for Just Look Up. I also loved Alaska for completely different reasons.

I answered four. I love these kinds of questions. LOL

Strains of Silence 
by Bethany Kaczmarek

Published: July 21, 2017
Publisher: Harbourlight, a Pelican Imprint
Purchase eBook: Strains of Silence 
Pre-Order paperback: Strains of Silence


He can’t save her from her past, but he can wait to be her future.

Music was her driving passion and the truest expression of her faith, but three months before her wedding, twenty-year-old Kasia Bernolak can’t even pick up her guitar. Feeling like a fraud who will ruin her dad’s pastoral reputation, she can barely meet his eyes. When Kasia finds the strength to break off her engagement, she still doesn’t realize the dangerous truth: Blake Hamilton isn’t ready to say goodbye. And he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her.

Alexander “Zan” Maddox has seen what a domineering man can do to an unsuspecting woman, and Zan is sick of injustice. He gave up a college baseball scholarship so he could protect his sister from her abusive husband. When he rescues Kasia from her ex-fiancé, he instinctively appoints himself her personal bodyguard. Now, all he has to do is keep from falling for her himself. Kasia and Zan become fast friends, but true healing and justice might cost more than either of them is willing to pay.

Get to know Bethany...

If your book became a movie, who would you cast for your main characters?
I adore this question, I do. The problem is, I dreamed up my cast a few years ago, when these guys were younger. So, we’ll have to get in the TARDIS or travel to the past some other way (though it’ll be hard to talk me out of the TARDIS).

Kasia Bernolak = Lindsey Stirling (with her hair just a leetle curlier)

Zan Maddox = This particular picture of young Henry Cavill

Favorite season?
Oooh. Good question. Always before, it’s been the fall. I love the rich colors, and I am a Leaf Stomper Extraordinaire. But it’s because I longed for the cold, and the fall was its beginning. Now, this year, we live in Wisconsin, and I’m anticipating the coldest winter since we lived in Lithuania. Reindeer weather. I might wish for a thaw by the time we’re six months in, but I think it’ll be winter this year.

Coffee or tea?
Coffee if I’m feeling engaged in the present, tea whenever I get nostalgic. (Or when we’re out of coffee.) The best cup of tea I’ve ever had is my son’s signature blend—Prince of Wales tea, lemon, and a sprinkle of a 5-pepper blend. He calls it the Flame & Lizard.

A Rebel in My House
By Sandra Merville Hart

Published: July 15, 2017
Publisher: LPC Books
Purchase: A Rebel in My House

When the cannons roar beside Sarah Hubbard’s home outside of Gettysburg, she despairs of escaping the war that’s come to Pennsylvania. A wounded Confederate soldier on her doorstep leaves her with a heart-wrenching decision.

Separated from his unit and with a bullet in his back, Jesse Mitchell needs help. He seeks refuge at a house beside Willoughby Run. His future lies in the hands of a woman whose sympathies lay with the North.

Jesse has promised his sister-in-law he’d bring his brother home from the war. Sarah has promised her sister that she’d stay clear of the enemy. Can the two keep their promises amid a war bent on tearing their country apart?

Get to know Sandra...

-->
Would you rather go to the future or go to the past?
I would definitely visit the past. I’ve spent so much time researching the Civil War (the Battle of Gettysburg is the setting for my newest release, A Rebel in My House) that I’d choose Gettysburg. I’d go in June, 1863, before the battle and stay until the new Gettysburg National Cemetery was dedicated on November 19, 1863. I’d love to see and hear President Abraham Lincoln deliver his famous Gettysburg Address on such a solemn occasion.

Who is your favorite secondary character?
I love several secondary characters in A Rebel in My House. I’m going to single out three characters, but there are others who touched me. Gilly, a wounded Confederate soldier, is the kind of friend everyone wants. Lucinda acts with compassion and courage in fearful circumstances. Elsie is a proud, brave mother who does what she has to do to save her daughter.

What’s one thing you must have/do in the morning?
Most people might say they have to start their day with a cup of coffee. For me, it’s chocolate milk. Even when I’m traveling, I try to find a place that serves chocolate milk for breakfast. Most folks outgrow this phase—I never did.



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Sunday, July 23, 2017

No Ordinary Star by M.C. Frank | Re:View

An icy tale of romance and the discovery of new ideas.

*** 

I was intrigued first and foremost by this books cover--it's stunning! But then I discovered it was a sci-fi and knew I had to read it. I also took note that it was inspired by Ray Bradbury's short stories and was even more intrigued.

It's been a while since I've read Bradbury, but I did get the hint of his stories with this novel, as well as M.C.'s classic style.

The story itself has a very simple cast of characters. The soldier, the girl, and the polar bear. I really enjoy the way that M.C. creates tension between her main characters. There are a lot of things that come into play to do this (no spoilers here) but I enjoy the way they change as the story progresses.  I also loved the polar bear because, let's be honest, who doesn't love polar bears?

The plot itself felt a little slow in some parts, as if I was waiting for something big to happen and it never fully did. Then again, this is a series broken up into three shorter books and I think that things progress more slowly due to that fact. I liked the world that was created and described. Harsh, futuristic in some senses (mostly ideals and new cultural norms), and foreign and familiar all at the same time. The clock element still perplexes me, and yet I have a feeling we'll discover more about it on subsequent books.

The last readerly thing to note would be the point of view. This is written in third person present tense and, while I enjoyed it, I also found it a little confusing at times. To me, it creates a bit of a distant feeling to the characters in my mind. I liked that we were able to see from both main characters perspectives and to gain a perspective of their differing personalities, but it may take a little getting used to for readers who are not accustomed to this type of writing.

If you enjoy a Ray Bradbury-type tale with hints of romantic tension and a mysterious element to the story, you will likely enjoy this book! It's got a mild sci-fi feel but isn't hugely technical. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

*A note for my clean readers: There are a few instances of language in the book.

My rating: 4*
Purchase: No Ordinary Star

Book Description
(from Amazon)
A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do. A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive. A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack. The world hasn't known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty. The year is 2524. Inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, this futuristic novel is set in a world where Christmas -among other things- is obsolete and a Clock is what keeps the fragile balance of peace. Written in three installments, this is the breathtaking and sensual story of how two unlikely people change the world, and each other, one book at a time. Immerse yourself into the icy cold world of this scorching hot new novel.
_______________
I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Looks Like Love by Brandy Bruce | Re:View

Looks Like Love will leave you grinning like your crush just asked you on a date! 

*** 

This book was sweet, funny, and real in the most beautiful combination. I jumped right in one Saturday morning and was hooked. Reading it was like talking to a really good friend who decided to let you into their life one day. It's written in first person so you really get to know Kasey well.

I appreciated Kasey's character because, though there are times you're frustrated with her and yelling at the book (um, maybe that was just me?) because you know she's making a mistake...you also see how real she is and what it truly takes for a person to grow.

I also really enjoyed Brandy's life-perspective. That may sound strange, but it is a Christian romance and yet you find realness in these pages. Kasey isn't perfect. She doesn't always turn to God when she should (just as we all don't do that every time we should) and we get to see what happens to her through it all. The good, the bad, the difficult, and the beautiful. And through it all there is the sweet fragrance of love.

And Lincoln... *sigh* He wasn't perfect either (another thing I appreciated) but he was real, sweet, honest, and a great "hero" for Kasey. I found myself appreciating the circumstances they both found themselves in because, again, it was real. He had flaws just as she did.

The only thing I would say is that there were a few sections that felt very much like we were just being told what happened in a list of "then this happened, then this" etc. Those parts were a little sluggish to me and momentarily took away from the sweetness of their story. 

In all, a definite recommend from me if you enjoy sweet romance or Christian romance. This book will leave you feeling happy and leave you thinking about love in the best way!

My rating: 4*
Purchase: Looks Like Love

Book Description
(from Amazon)
Following a break-up with her boyfriend, an unfulfilling career, and a general bad taste in clothes, Kasey Addison feels lost in her own life. With the help of her best friend, Amanda, Kasey embarks on an unexpected journey to rediscover life and love, starting with a whirlwind London jaunt. Surrounded by red telephone booths, double-decker buses, and men in fuzzy black hats, Kasey falls in love with mud baths, Jane Austen, and stone cathedrals. And in the middle of London she meets Lincoln Davis, a Texan with a really great tan, and her life gets even more unrecognizable. When her spur-of-the-moment vacation is over, Kasey, a junior marketing consultant, finds herself on the marketing team for LETA, a growing cosmetics company. Kasey's thrown into the fast-paced world of promotional galas, photo shoots, and magazine interviews. When the owners of LETA decide to release their very first fragrance, Kasey's new assignment is to find out what love looks like and then find a way to sell it. With the help of Amanda and a few new friends, and with a rekindled relationship with the Lover of her soul, Kasey discovers that sometimes love looks like what we least expect.

_______________
I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Love The Novel Worlds You Create by Edie Melson | Guest Post


I write weird stuff.

In addition to writing nonfiction, I’m a speculative fiction novelist. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, speculative fiction is the umbrella that fits over the genres of science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, etc.

I was destined for this world of weirdness. I grew up in the sixties, and one of my fondest memories is of sitting on my father’s lap, watching the original Star Trek series. For me, writing science fiction is like coming back home.

So what does this all have to do with world building? I’m giving you a little context before I take you on an extra-terrestrial ride.

Being a scifi writer means I create worlds . . . from scratch. I invent the science, determine the natural laws, populate them with strange creatures, and even stranger flora. Effective world building is foundational for the kind of books I write. It’s important in every novel, but it takes on added importance when the reader is dealing with a setting made up entirely from the author’s imagination.

For example, it’s not possible for me to mention my heroine is climbing through an abandoned spaceship hatch embedding in the talarium-coated rock face to get outdoors where the Laisa trees are in bloom and expect my readers to visualize what I’m describing.

I spend a lot of time creating the worlds in my novels. For me, this is a labor of love.

As a matter of fact, I love it so much, that I now find myself doing it without thinking. Imagining worlds that don’t yet exist are an integral part of the daydreams that come upon me unaware.

I do have a system to take these worlds from daydream to digital, and today I’ll share it with you.

My World Building Checklist:

1. Believability:
It doesn’t matter if my story takes place in small town USA or on board a spaceship. I must infuse the place with believability.

2. Terminology:
The world I build must have the flavor of the environment I’m trying to convey. That means made-up words, different plant and animal life, and even a different way of measuring time and distance.

3. Flora, Fauna and Physical Locale:
My job is to make sure the topography makes sense. A big part of the imagery comes in description. I have to provide just enough of a snap-shot to anchor my reader, without overwhelming them with pointless details. I also want to leave room for them to have fun filling out the scene themselves. Speculative audiences are an imaginative lot. Once they have a good grasp of where they are, they can fill in some of the details—and they enjoy doing that.

4. Dialect and Language:
Obviously a novel that takes place on another planet or in another dimension doesn’t have English as the foundational language. So how do we convey a touch foreignness without leaving the reader grasping a possible meanings?
  • Sprinkle in some made-up words with plenty of context to make the meaning clear. For example: Even as the voice in the earpiece sounded, Josiah smiled at her. “Don’t worry, Bezek bellows like a bovine, but is gentle as a hesit.”
  • Utilize a different sentence structure. For example, in a normal conversation we’d say: She turned her head slowly, afraid of the pain, but only felt a slight echo of the injury. In a spec fiction book I’d change it to: She slowly turned her head, afraid of the pain, but only felt a slight echo of the injury. It’s a small change, but that kind of misplaced modifier will give the story a hint of foreignness.
  • Give them a different way to measure time and distance. As I mentioned before, using different terms for these things can add a great deal of depth—as long as we don’t overdo it. In Anne McCaffrey’s dragon novels she refers to a week as a sevenday. It’s different, but still recognizable to readers. But it’s important to strike a balance between new terms and readability.
5. Keep Your Setting Uncomfortable:
Settings can be a great way to bring in or escalate conflict. We want to build a world we love, but we don’t want it to be a world where everything is just right. A true utopian setting—without undercurrents of nastiness—is boring. A perfect setting can suck the life out of your story faster than almost anything.

Bottom Line:
World building may be something we love, but it still takes work. (tweet this) We have to be willing to go deep and wide to make our settings believable and vibrant. It’s up to us to plant the reader in a place that allows their imagination to roam free while keeping their attention firmly focused on story that’s unfolding.

_______
Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, no matter if she’s writing for fiction readers, parents, military families, or writers. Her passion to help those who are struggling find the strength they need to triumph is reflected in the characters she creates and the insight she shares. As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Connect with Edie further on her website, through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Alone

After her family is killed in the cleansing, Bethany’s purpose in life has changed. No longer will she be allowed to work to save her dying planet. As a slave, endurance is her goal as she marks each day as one moment closer to an eternity spent reunited with those she loved. But when her planet is invaded, everything changes. Now she must decide either to align herself with those from her planet who condemned her faith and killed her family, or with the warriors who have conquered her world. Ultimately her choice will mean life or death for more than just her planet’s ecosystem. She alone holds the key to a powerful secret, and the fate of the entire galaxy depends on her decision.

Purchase: Alone



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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Julie Hall {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Julie...

Before writing her first novel Julie worked as a film publicist and rubbed elbows with the rich and famous . . . as in she would gently nudge them to let them know their meal had arrived during press interviews.

She now spends most of her "office hours" with her two furry writing buddies, Bear and Coco. Her daughter thinks that mommy's superpower is “sleeping all day,” but that’s because she’s often awake until the wee hours of the morning weaving tales of adventure in worlds of her own creation. When asked in an interview what she wanted to be when she grew up, she’s quoted to have answered, “to never have to grow up.”

She currently lives in Portland, Oregon with her four favorite people--her husband, daughter, and two fur babies (because dogs are people too).

Connect with Julie....

Website: www.JulieHallAuthor.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14434144.Julie_Hall
Author FB Page: www.facebook.com/JulieHallAuthor/
Street Team FB Page: www.facebook.com/groups/282920128780213/
Twitter: @julieghall
Instagram: @julieghall
BookBub: http://www.bookbub.com/authors/julie-hall-7c80af95-5dda-449a-8130-3e219d5b00ee
Spotify Character Song List: https://open.spotify.com/user/julieghall01?fo=1&utm_medium=share&utm_source=desktop#_=_

Get to know Julie...

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself and writing...

I started writing a lot of years ago. Actually, more than I’m willing to admit considering how long it actually took to get my first book published. Young adult fiction was particularly interesting to me because first off, I enjoy reading it, and secondly, I have spent most of the past fifteen years of my life serving as a middle or high school youth leader and think that it’s such an amazing age.

I’ve always wanted to write a book, so it was natural for me to jump into the YA genre. Honestly, my maturity level is probably on-par with where my target audience is, so that’s a good thing. My motivation for writing my LIFE AFTER series came from wanting to write a fun, exciting, and entertaining book for young adults that also had God’s Word and Truth weaved in it, but without sounding preachy. My hope was to write a story that was engaging to anyone, but that also made the reader think about the God in heaven who loves them desperately.

Little did I know when I started writing that the YA genre in Christian Fiction was practically non-existent now. I finished my first book and it was like, “Surprise, Christian publishers aren’t really publishing Christian YA anymore.” Huge bummer, right? I once heard a Christian author who writes for the general market say the only way to reach young adults these days was to write clean fiction for the general market. At the time it made me really mad, but I now understand what she meant. Simply that it was hard to get your Christian work in front of a YA market. But I believe our God is bigger than that and can use lots of ways to reach people and not just one way. I hope I’m around to see him move in big and mighty ways in the Christian YA market.

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your books...



Do you have a favorite character? If so, why?
My favorite characters change all the time, but for a while now mine has been one of my secondary characters. Her name is Kaitlin. I think I like her because she’s just such a happy and upbeat person, and I’d like to be a little more like her these days. My writing and release schedule the last few months has been grueling. So Kaitlin’s levity is much appreciated!

What is one take-away from your books that you hope readers identify with?
My hope is that readers have a good time reading the books, but that their ultimate takeaway is that there is a God that loves them and has a plan and a purpose for their life, even when things look the darkest.

What was a challenge you faced while writing?
Health was a huge challenge I faced when writing these books. I got sick with a chronic illness in the middle and had to take a break. The illness not only effected my mobility, but also caused temporary brain fogs and just a whole bunch of nasty things. So, finding time to write where I was mentally and physically capable of doing so was a challenge.

What did you learn while writing them? 
A lot about grammar I never wanted to know! Ha!

Was there a passage of scripture you came across or used while writing it that you’d like to share?

Oh my books are chalked full of scripture. I just hid it in there so the reader didn’t know they were getting fed the Word. I’m a sneaky ninja like that!

Did you get to do any fun research for the book?
My husband and I took medieval sword fighting classes together so I could do research for my sword fighting scenes. The couple that plays together, stays together! LOL

What's the most random thing you had to Google for the story?
Well, while trying to remember the word “chum,” which is all the fish guts and blood people pour into the water to attract sharks I learned via google that CHUD is an acronym for “Cannibalistic Human Underground Dweller.” Huh, who knew? Not me!

What’s your favorite snack while writing?
Red Bull!!!!!

Writing

Let’s talk about your writing life....

How long did you write before you got published?
Too long! Haha! Actually I was traditionally published, and then decided to indie publish. Once the book was finished it took maybe a year total to get an agent and publisher. But at the end of the day, since Christian YA is a hard sell, I found that independent publishing was the way to go for me.

How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
Thankfully I don’t know because I had an agent who was fielding all that lovely rejection for me at the time. LOL

From @CreateExploreRead Instagram
What does your writing process look like?
When I wrote HUNTRESS I just started writing. I had no idea what I was doing. How to plot, how to make a story arc, how to develop my characters. So there was A LOT that ended up getting cut out of the first book. After HUNTRESS I had a feel for the craft better and now I plot out my books before writing them. I may deviate here and there to make the story better, but it’s certainly a faster way to write a novel.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
Editing and editing. I LOVE editing because it means I actually wrote enough words to make a full novel! Yay! Also, my editors have taught me SO much about writing. They are invaluable. However, towards the end of editing when I’ve gone over the book like a million times (not exaggerating here), I end up hating editing and feel like I’m limping toward the finish line. Slowly. With a broken leg. And missing one eye.

Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters?
I have no idea. Like for real, I seriously don’t know where they come from. They’re just there. It’s weird.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share?
Um, YES! I LOVE listening to music when I write. I’m one of the weirdos who actually likes listening to music with words when I write, which I know distracts a lot of authors. But no, not me. Just gets me pumped up! In fact I have a Spotify account with separate albums on it for each of my characters. When I find a new song that reminds me of a character or something that they are going through, I pop it in the album. I have to say I have a minor obsession with Imagine Dragons right now (and by minor, I mean major) and Christ Tomlin’s “Our God” has always felt like a theme song for the series for me. I usually like songs with a strong beat and a lot of emotion.

How do you grow in your writing craft?
I really relay on my beta readers and editors to help mold me into a better writer. In fact, I even hate doing stuff like this because I know it’s probably riddled with typos and wrong word choices and such. In a perfect world I would have an editor at my disposal to edit as I write anything! Including emails . . . and FB posts . . . and text messages . . . and, well, I think you get the point.

You

How did you like to celebrate the 4th of July?
We moved from Washington, DC to Portland, OR this past January. We flew back to the East Coast at the beginning of the month to visit with friends and family. I ended up writing most of the time, so that was sort of a huge bummer. Anyway, we actually decided last minute to drive up to New Jersey, near New York, to spend the 4th of July with my husband’s bother and sister-in-law who have five children. Three of which were born over Thanksgiving this year. Yep, that’s right, triplets! My sister has twins and my husband’s brother has triplets. So we have a couple sets of multiples in the family. We spent the day hanging with them and our five year old daughter got to play with her cousins. Then we watched their local fireworks. It was a great time!

What is your favorite activity during the summer?
Oh man, I grew up in Michigan and people always went ‘up-north’ to stay in cabins and hang out in one of the many lakes we have throughout the state. I really miss that from growing up. I love boating and just spending time on the water. I haven’t done much of that since moving out of the state after graduating college though, but I would have to say that’s my favorite summer activity.

Share a personal freedom you’ve experienced.
This is a really deep question. I would have to say a personal freedom I’ve experienced is the fear of death. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I’ve written a series on a fictional (meaning totally made up) version of the afterlife. Really it has more to do with my personal story. To give you the main points so I don’t write a novel here, I’ve been battling with Chronic Lyme Disease for about eight years now. A few of those years it was so bad I was bedridden. I was in my twenties and felt like I was slowly dying. I’d never had my body betray me the way it did, and through all that pain I guess it really hit me that this life is just temporary, and we do have a hope and something better waiting for us. I’ve always believed in heaven and life after death, but I think being so sick really made me understand that the suffering we go through here will end someday. And it freed me from the fear of death that I hadn’t even realized I was holding onto.

Now, I’m not saying I want to die tomorrow. I love my life. I love my family and friends and all the people (with and without fur) in it. I hope to live a nice long life. But now I no longer fear my own death because I really believe that what the Bible says about it to be true.

What are you currently reading?
Well, technically right now I’m not reading because I’m on a tight writing deadline . . . but who am I really kidding, I’m always reading. When I’m on a deadline my reading hours just become very nocturnal (aka off the kindle app on my phone late at night when the hubby is sleeping). There are so many great books out there these days, so I’m currently toggling back and forth between several young adult novels from some lovely authors I’ve met this last year. Right now it’s CURSED BY THE GODS, by Raye Wagner, THE RETURN, by Kelly St Clare, and SHADOW FALL by Audrey Gray. All great reads! I highly recommend them!

Emilie here: Thank you so much Julie! What a wonderful, transparent interview! I love your raw honesty and sense of humor. Looking forward to reading these stunning novels and I'm SO excited to share with my dear readers here. 

Friends, grab you copies of these books (my reviews coming soon!): 

Purchase: Huntress

Purchase: Warfare  

Enter below for the chance to win an awesome swag pack from Julie!!! 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Amy Williams | Author Chat


Welcome my guest Amy Williams to the blog. We're sitting down with a beverage of your choice and chatting about real life stuff--embarrassing stories, normal days, books, and even a nickname you will not believe! So, without further ado, may I present you with Amy Williams...


...a novelist, freelance writer, founding member of Crosshair Press LLC, and professional nerd. You can find most of her work under the name A.C. Williams, but she also writes young adult fantasy (The Legend of the Lightkeepers) under the pen name Kimberly McNeil. Amy is single and lives in her family’s 100-year-old farmhouse on five acres in the middle of the Kansas prairie. She loves cats and drinks far too much coffee.

Let's Get Real

Would you rather live in a story world you’ve created for a year OR live three days in a story world someone else has created? If second option, which story world?
I would absolutely choose to live in the world I’ve built for my YA Fantasy series, The Legend of the Lightkeepers. No contest. It’s full of adventure and beauty and talking fox-people, and the local cuisine is Indian. I’d eat chicken korma with basmati rice every day and never get tired of it. And I’d learn how to fight with a laser sword too. I’d probably chop off my foot accidentally, but I’d have fun until then.
Amy and her cat Amelia Pond
Share an embarrassing story. (Come on, we know you have one!)
Oh, do I have to? The most recent embarrassing story from my everyday life happened at a conference. While I was there, I made friends with a wonderful older woman. She was just incredible, and she was also blind. Since we hit it off so well, we decided to go for ice cream after dinner. I got her down stairs, out of the hotel, up stairs, across the street, and helped her purchase the ice cream she wanted. Then, we went back to the hotel, and everything was great until we were getting out of the elevator on her floor. And, well, long story short, I kind of let her walk into a wall. I could have curled up and died right there. But fortunately she was gracious, and she still wanted to be friends!

Share about a failed meal you’ve made.
I had a bright idea to make cheese soup some time ago because someone had given us a huge bag of cubed cheese. But I’d never done it before. So I got a recipe offline and gave it a try. Yeah, the cheese didn’t melt. It cooked. And turned into rubber. So the soup was more like chewy orange plastic with salt broth. Nasty.

What’s one thing you must have/do in the morning?
Coffee. Someday I’ll be spiritual enough to say Jesus. But for now, it’s coffee. ;-)

What does a ‘normal’ day look like for you?
I’ve just recently started a new schedule, so I can answer this one pretty easily. I get up around 6:30 a.m. every weekday, and while I’m drinking my coffee I have quiet time and write in my prayer journal. Then, I walk two miles and take a shower, because I smell terrible afterward. I eat breakfast and usually get started on my work around 9:30 a.m. Then, I work for 50 minutes at a time and take a 10 minute break until lunch, which is around 1 p.m. And I start up again at 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. The only weekday that’s different is Wednesday, which is a “town day.” The city is 45 miles away, and I go in to meet with clients and drain the local coffee shop of its caffeine stores.

I try to write for 7 to 8 hours every weekday, whether it’s on a novel, an online training course script, a client copywriting project, or blog posts.

Crosshair Press LLC Founders Katie Phillips, Amy Williams, and Amy Davis
Name three places you’d like to travel to & why...
  • Japan. I have always loved Japanese culture, so Japan has been at the top of my bucket list since early high school.
  • Alaska. I love the wild, rural areas of the world. Honestly, I’d love to drive to Alaska, up through Canada and back home again. What an amazing trip that would be!
  • San Francisco. My YA Fantasy series The Legend of the Lightkeepers is partly set in San Francisco, but I’ve never been there! So Frisco is on my must-visit list for 2018.
Do you have a nickname? Care to share?
I got my nickname, Whirlygig (or just Whirly), when I was a freshman in high school. Those summers, my brother and I would go over to my best friend’s house every Wednesday afternoon and play video games on their N64. The game we defaulted to was Goldeneye. The only character I liked to play was the Helicopter Pilot, but he needed a name. So I named him Whirlygig. My best friend at the time was also named Amy, so to avoid confusion, the nickname stuck. To this day, half the people I know still call me Whirly. 

From @CreateExploreRead Instagram
Which of your characters do you secretly have a crush on?

Jim Taylor. He’s one of the main characters in Meg Mitchell and The Secret of the Journal, and I love everything about him.

Connect with Amy: 
Facebook: @AmytheStoryteller
Twitter: @AmyStoryteller 
Instagram: @AmytheStoryteller
Website: www.amycwilliams.com

Meg Mitchell and The Secret of the Journal
Kimberly McNeil (aka A.C. Williams)

Raised in an alien world by adoptive parents, Meg Mitchell fights Centaurs, trains as an Andai warrior, and chills in her favorite willow tree. But when she discovers her birth father’s journal, Meg learns that she and her brother and sister have a lost cousin. Together, the Mitchell kids leave the world they know to return to San Francisco.

When her sister is kidnapped, Meg enlists the help of teenage detective Barb Taylor and her genius little brother Jim. Following clues dropped by a mysterious benefactor, they embark on a cross-country adventure to rescue her sister and find Meg’s cousin.

Family is everything to Meg, but not all is as it seems. In her quest to reunite her family, she may lose more than she ever imagined.

Purchase: Meg Mitchell & The Secret of the Journal