Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fantasy February Giveaway #2: Of the Persecuted

Fantasy February

Well, ladies and gents, I’m afraid I went into radio blog silence for the past two weeks without any warning, so I must apologize. BOOK TWO of the Songkeeper Chronicles is currently in the homestretch and gearing up to cross the finish line to my editor’s desk on March 1st, so until then, I have a bit of a single track mind … double track, actually, since I’m also thinking through last minute stuff before Out of Darkness Rising releases in one month!

In any case, expect me back and blogging full steam ahead after March 1st.

For this giveaway, I’m quite excited to be able to introduce y’all to Angie Brashear and her fantasy romance Of the Persecuted. I met Angie at an ACFW conference about a year and a half ago and was thrilled to discover that she was not only a fellow fantasy writer, but warm, friendly, and a fellow Texan to boot!

I’m ashamed to admit that I have not yet had a chance to read Of the Persecuted. It’s on my list, but BOOK TWO … well … enough said

Angie was sweet enough to offer three ebook copies of Of the Persecuted for the lucky winners, so you have triple the chance of winning this one. Enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter below, but first a little bit about the book …


OtP - eBook Cover

About the Book

Laila Pennedy awaits death by hanging. For the Rendow Clan rules the Woodlands Region, aiming to slaughter the Faithful. And she deserves to die. But Lars Landre, the man destined to lead the Faithful out of persecution, has other plans hidden behind his rare and mysterious blue eyes. Rescue.

Following the daring escape, Laila seeks the path of a warrior and vows revenge against the Rendow Clan. She embarks on a dangerous journey with Lars, one in which they endeavor to reach the promised safety of a magical village, to train for battle, and to ultimately assure freedom for those with faith in the Maker.

Clashes of weapons and souls. Brutal loss of lives. Unrequited love. How in all the Woodlands will Laila survive?

Add Of the Persecuted on Goodreads


Author Photo (1)

Meet the Author

When Angie Brashear isn’t working or taking care of her family, she writes. Usually at night after her kids fall asleep. She’s a fan of speculative fiction and an avid runner, both of which perplex her nonfiction-reading, football-loving husband. Saved in her early twenties, Angie is grateful for the Lord’s presence in all aspects of her life. She is originally from Rockland, Maine and currently resides in Cameron, Texas with her husband and three children. Follow her on Facebook (where she connects regularly with her readers), on Twitter, and on her website.


Since I wasn’t able to write up my own review or give y’all a behind-the-scenes look into the story, I figured it would be a good idea to share a little of what other readers have been saying about Of the Persecuted. Enjoy!


I could not put this book down! I read it cover to cover in less than 48 hours. The descriptions used by the author create a vivid image in the reader's mind of the magical setting for this spiritual journey of the characters. Definitely a must read!!! I've already recommended to friends and my online book club put it next in line.


Angie uses words in such a way that you feel like you could be watching a movie instead of merely reading words on a page. The integrity and simple, yet bold faith of her characters challenged me to consider the depth of my faith and my willingness to "fight the good fight". I would highly recommend this book to young and old (I am 57). You will not be disappointed. I'M HUNGRY FOR BOOK 2!!!


Step into a world of magical cities, heroic wars, creatures bound in evil and good, and a community of which you will miss once you close the book. Angie Brashear's writing impressed me from the start and I already itch for what her future writings will bring! Of the Persecuted is a fantastic debut. It's not just a story, it's a journey...and you'll be glad you took it.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks, Angie, for offering three copies of your book! I know the winners are looking forward to reading them.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Fantasy February Giveaway #1: Storm Siren

Fantasy February

February’s giveaway theme is Fantasy with just a touch of Romance! Because who doesn’t enjoy at least the possibility of a happily ever after thrown into the midst of a world filled with battles and peril?

Our first book is Storm Siren by Mary Weber.

Ever since this book came out, I’ve run into it so many times online and stumbled across so many glowing reviews that I just knew I had to read it, but it wasn’t until last week that I actually had a chance to pick it up.

Read on for my thoughts, but first, a bit about the book.


Storm-Siren-Mary-Weber

STORM SIREN

“I raise my chin as the buyers stare. Yes. Look. You don’t want me. Because, eventually, accidentally, I will destroy you.”

In a world at war, a slave girl’s lethal curse could become one kingdom’s weapon of salvation. If the curse—and the girl—can be controlled.

As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn’t merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth—meaning, she shouldn’t even exist.

Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.

Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she’s being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.

But what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for?

Set in a beautifully eclectic world of suspicion, super abilities, and monsters, Storm Siren is a story of power. And whoever controls that power will win.


Mary Weber

MEET THE AUTHOR

Mary Weber is a ridiculously uncoordinated girl plotting to take over make-believe worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives. In her spare time, she feeds unicorns, sings 80’s hairband songs to her three muggle children, and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. They live in California, which is perfect for stalking L.A. bands, Joss Whedon, and the ocean.

Find her on Facebook, Twitter, or her Blog.

{photo courtesy of Sarah Kathleen Photography}

 


Back-page Pass - Storm Siren

MY TWO CENTS WORTH

Once I picked up Storm Siren, I had a hard time setting it back down. Set in a world of magical abilities, horrifying foes, friends and frenemies, (and with just a touch of a steampunkish feel slipping through now and again), Storm Siren is a fascinating, enjoyable, and altogether intriguing YA read.

Not to imply that the story is all fun and games. The story progresses at a rapid pace, pausing only to explain the histories of the nations involved as needed. No fantasy adventure would be complete without a fair share of battles and training and desperate escapes, and Storm Siren is no exception. By the end of the book, the death toll is fairly high, but rather than feeling gratuitous, it only serves to highlight the dangers of the war facing Nym’s people and all that is truly at stake.

Nym makes for a sympathetic main character. Although she has lived as a slave in some form or another for most of her life, she is anything but a victim. And Colin is just too much fun. He’s sweet, a little goofy, and slightly adorable, but that doesn’t stop him from being quite formidable in battle.

(Slight Spoiler Alert: Can I just say that, despite all the readers who’ve been swooning over Eogan, I personally liked Colin so much better! I never really got Nym and Eogan’s “connection,” or saw anything between them other than that she thought he was really, really, really handsome … and we’re supposed to believe that he thinks the same about her … so it’s got to be love, right? Not exactly a firm basis for a relationship, if you ask me.)

As for Adora, well, let’s just say it’s been a long time since I have so thoroughly disliked and despised a character. From the first time I met her, I couldn’t help hoping she would get her comeuppance and that it would be a doozy! Note: partly because of Adora, and partly because of Nym and Eogan, I’d suggest reserving this book for older readers, ages 14+ or so.

I was not overly fond of the hissing speech pattern given to one of the slightly more dubious characters in the story. It seemed like too much of a desperate attempt to make this character seem stereotypically evil, but that’s just my two cents.

Long story short, I did enjoy reading Storm Siren, and I’m sure I will pick up the next book, Siren’s Fury, when it releases!


Note: Due to the vast difficulties and expenses involved in finding a carrier pigeon large enough to make a transatlantic flight with a book bound to its leg, this particular giveaway is open only to the US.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 30, 2015

Out of Darkness Rising Announcement and Giveaway



It is with great excitement that I can finally announce the upcoming release of another book! Mark your calendars, my dears. 


Out of Darkness Rising comes March 15th!

(Houston, we have a date.)

This book has been a long time in the making. I cut my writing teeth on it way back in the day. It began as a short story. The short story became a novella. The novella found a publisher, and now, a good many years later, you will be able to read it in just a month and a half.

To say I’m over the moon would be a slight understatement!


In the meantime, scroll down to feast your eyes on this beautiful cover, watch the book trailer, enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy, and enjoy the rest of the goodies below …


OODR Front Cover



Darkness reigns unchallenged.

For the villagers on the accursed Island, life has only one meaning - death.  Bound to the Island by the curse, the villagers suffer beneath the iron claw of the Serpent, daily breathing the poison of his breath and dying to appease his insatiable appetite. 

When Marya’s parents are slain by the Serpent for their belief in a legendary king, she becomes an Outcast.  Struggling to survive and avoid the vengeance of the Tribunal, Marya is torn between legend and the harsh reality of the Island.  Yet when a forgotten promise springs to life, she cannot help wondering if the old stories might in fact be true.  And if they are, will the promise prove stronger than the curse?


COMING MARCH 15, 2015







THE FUN STUFF:

  • Add the novella on Goodreads to showcase your marvelously good taste.
  • Meet Marya, one of the main characters. (Did I mention I enjoy throwing on a costume now and then?)
  • Enter the giveaway! To celebrate this exciting occasion, I’m offering 3 Advance Reader Copies of Out of Darkness Rising so three lucky winners will have the opportunity to read the book before anyone else. The prizes will be shipped out to the winners as soon as they’re ready.

    Paperbacks are available only to US residents, but I hate leaving all you lovely folks across the pond out, so I'm happy to provide digital prize copies for y'all.


Thanks to these wonderful folks for highlighting Out of Darkness Rising on their blogs today and helping to spread the word! Y’all are positively the best.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Villainy 101: Master-Minding Murder and Mayhem—Weapons of Intelligence

TOP SECRET COMM. #10

FROM: THE SPY

TO: READERS OF THE BLOG

By the time, this reaches you, I’ll probably be dead. Not really … but more than likely. I’m smack dab in the middle of my next assigned. (No, can’t tell you what it is. Top secret, remember?) I’m deep undercover … really deep. And dark, too. Communication is only possible through homing bats—weird, I know.

All I can say is it’s a harrowing world out here.

Almost makes me wish for the relative safety of my time spent spying at the Academy of Ultimate Villainy. You know it’s bad when a fellow gets nostalgic about three months spent studying villainous deeds under villainous professors, rooming with villainous students, and getting flunked for not cheating on villainous exams.

Yeah. Go figure.

Anyway, figured I’d send y’all the next lecture from Professor Hornbuckle’s class. Hope you enjoy and learn lots of villainous little tricks so you can prepare your heroes to fight. That is why you’re reading this, right? Cause if I thought you authors were using these lectures to train your villainous characters, well, I might just up and quit.

The Spy, signing off.


Master-Minding Murder and Mayhem: A Villain’s Arsenal Part Two

Master-Minding Murder and Mayhem2

Spy’s Note: Nineteen minutes and thirty seconds after class was supposed to begin, Professor Hornbuckle crashes through the door. A couple of students were already gathering up their things and preparing to leave. Before they can sit down again, guards appear and drag them away.

Professor Hornbuckle doesn’t even wait for their pleas for mercy to die down before he begins.

The pop quiz will be at the end of class. We are continuing our discussion on the vast array of weapons in a sage villain’s arsenal and focusing on three main classes of weapon: force, intelligence, and subterfuge.

Last week, we focused on weapons of force. Today we shall discuss, weapons of intelligence.

Weapons of Intelligence

A villain should not rely on force or strength alone to achieve his or her dastardly schemes. The second class of weapons in our deadly arsenal are of a somewhat more refined and intellectual sort … but no less dirty than the others.

To quote a rather modest and troubled young villain, “… in this splendid world of ours, information is currency.” (Top marks to the student who can recall to which villain that quote is attributed!)

Though he, sadly, was not a graduate of our nefarious institution, that in no way lessens the truth of his words.

Indeed, he who holds the knowledge holds the power. There are many ways in which to gather, utilize, and disseminate information. We shall touch upon only a few.

Spies and Informants

Whether they be computer hackers, eavesdropping enchantments, or minions in disguise, spies and informants are a villain’s prime means of gathering information. Any spy ring should be multi-layered and vast, like a spider’s web. (Cliché, I know. Bear with me.)

But while spies and informants are invaluable, they can also prove your greatest weakness. Rest assured that any man who is willing to sell you information is undoubtedly also willing to sell it to your enemies for an equal price.

Spies and informants must thus be doubly expendable. Loose ends do not a strong spider web make.

Blackmail

Aside from using your knowledge of his affairs to foil your enemy again and again, blackmail is one of the most useful aspects of intellectual warfare. An army of minions and evil henchmen—excellent. A spy ring—top marks. A vast web of unconnected sleeper agents who appear to be ordinary people going about their ordinary lives, with no ties or connections to the criminal world, just waiting for the word to spring into action—brilliant!

And that can be achieved through blackmail.

Dig up the right bit of dirt on the right sort of people and the world will fall at your feet.

Frame Job

Most of the time we villains like to lay claim to our evil deeds—watching our rep and building cred and what not. But on occasion, there can be nothing more delightful than laying the blame for our reprehensible crimes on our enemies and watching their worlds crash and burn.

All it takes is a little tidbit whispered here, a wad of cash inserted there, with a dash of forged evidence on the top, and voila, a masterpiece.

Controlling information enables you to disseminate what you want to who you want in whatever form you want. Which brings us rather handily to our final point …

Control

In the end, information is all about control. Selectively spreading or withholding information or seeding misinformation will enable you to govern the actions of not only your minions but ordinary citizens and those desperate heroes as well.

For example, should your civilians comes under the notion that you are a tyrant, simply spread a little panic with rumor of upcoming threats, and they’ll buckle down beneath your tyrannical rule to keep the safety it provides.

And that is just one tiny glimpse of the innumerable options that control of information provides you.

Always remember, a good villain should always have another secret … and the victor writes history.

Ah, that would be the bell. It appears we are out of time. Turn over the quizzes on your desks. I hope you brought a lot of pencils—you have a lot of writing to do and only ten minutes to make your next classes—and I don’t need to remind you that you don’t want to be late.

In our next lecture, we shall move on to weapons of subterfuge. For your homework assignment, you must read pages 17-37 in Unearthing Skeletons—A Blackguard’s Guide to Blackmailing, pages 78-113 in Spy Rings for Dummies, and chapters 7, 11, and 21 in The 10 Step Plan for Achieving World Domination. I expect a twelve page, single-spaced essay detailing the various instances in which the different aspects of intellectual warfare might be most effective by tomorrow morning.

Seven minutes until your next class. I suggest you get to work on that quiz…


Whew, glad I’m not in Professor Hornbuckle’s class! Do you have any tips for the aspiring villain on how to go about choosing or using intellectual warfare? If so, share in the comments!

Did you enjoy the post? Share with a friend, leave a comment, or pin it on Pinterest! Need more villainous humor to start off your day?

Enjoy other posts from the Academy of Ultimate Villainy

Friday, January 23, 2015

When Destiny Comes Calling—Installment Ten

It is with great pleasure, that I announce the first Installment of When Destiny Comes Calling of 2015 and the tenth since our little serial “short-ish” story began.

If you feel a little refresher course is in order, or you haven’t heard of a “serial short-ish story” or you have no clue who Destiny is and why she came calling, I suggest you travel here before proceeding to read the rest of the post.

It’s been a terribly long time since I’ve sat down to discuss military strategies from the days of Corporal Sackinajaw Pickering with Alexander or bandied snobbish looks with Destiny or traded witty words with Fate, so I was terribly excited when I realized it was high time the next installment appeared.

I hope you enjoy it, my dear friends, as much as I did.

And don’t forget to leave a comment with your vote for the beginning of the next installment!


When Destiny Comes Calling - 10

One corner of Destiny’s mouth tweaked up into that mysterious, knowing sort of smile that Alexander thought better befitted portraits and statues than living persons, and she spread her arms wide. “You summoned, Doomsday? I am here. What say you, wizard?”

The wizard stood stock-still for a moment, then flung back his arms and unleashed his stentorian voice. “Wizard Doomsday fears no man, woman, or child. Fear means nothing in the face of the terror that draws nigh. You would all do well to listen and be warned.”

A ribbon of smoke trailed from his wide sleeves and coiled about him on the ground in the shape of an enormous snake. Gasps of fear and awe rippled through the crowd, but Fate simply snorted—a most unlady-like sound—and clucked her tongue.

Con-wizard Doomsday he means. There is a difference.”

“The end is coming!” Doomsday’s voice filled the entire room. The smoke billowed and grew until the wizard could no longer be seen. Then came a blinding flash, a bang, something remarkably like the creak of a lever, and the room erupted in screams in terror.

With a sweep of his arm, Alexander shoved Fate behind him and grasped for the hilt of his sword. But the maddening woman seized his arm and kept him from drawing.

“Unhand me, ma’am! I am trying to protect you.” He tried in vain to shake her off, but her grip only tightened.

“Settle down. There’s no need to panic.” With her free hand, she patted the back of his head, as one would a child. Or a dog. “Gracious me, you are a bit of a rabbit, aren’t you?”

“I say!” He bit back his indignation at what seemed a very unfair assessment, given the fact that he had just tried to shield her with his own body. Gradually, his vision cleared, and through the dissipating smoke, he saw that the room was empty—the audience must have run off—and Destiny stood alone on the stage.

His mouth dropped open, and his hand fell from his sword hilt. “By General Harkenbreaker’s unbreakable lance, the man really is a wizard!”

Destiny fixed him with a disapproving stare. “Foolish tricks that fool only fools. Care to take a closer look?” She stamped her foot on a knot in the stage floor, and there was another flash of smoke, a bang, and a creak, and suddenly she was gone too.

Only this time, a square opening remained in the floor.

By then, Alexander had deciphered her comment enough to realize that she had insulted him. Again. And he was pained to admit that he deserved it.

Of course it was a trapdoor. Con-artists and charlatans, that’s all these wizards ever were, if his father, Baron Midsig, were to be believed. He felt remarkably foolish … and it wasn’t a feeling he much enjoyed.

“Go ahead.” Fate nodded toward the stage. “She’s waiting for you … and she doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”

Moving in a bit of a daze—honestly, had he been doing anything else since this whole senseless adventure began?—Alexander marched up on stage and lowered himself into through the opening. He landed hard, knees jammed up into his chest.

Gasping for breath, he picked himself up and found that he was in the oddest sort of underground wizard’s lair one could imagine. One corner possessed all of the usual things one might expect—bulbous cauldrons, dusty books, spider webs—honestly, why the spider webs?—and a collection of staffs of various sizes, shapes, and woods. It looked dark and deliciously dangerous.

Alexander started at the thought. Since when had he been the sort to court danger? Other than his oft imagined but far off hopes for a future in the military. But had he mentioned those were distant dreams?

Very distant?

The rest of the room, however, could only be described as remarkably comfortable … and homey. A cushiony couch, complete with a hoard of pillows and thick throw blankets sat invitingly before a fireplace. Destiny sat at a kitchen table clad in red checkered cloth with a vase overflowing with blue flowers in the middle. In fact, everywhere he looked, Alexander saw vases of flowers and potted plants and little gardening spades.

“Have a seat, won’t you?” Destiny flicked a graceful hand at the chair beside her.

Alexander stumbled over and plopped into the seat. Only then did he see Wizard Doomsday…

Select your favorite option below and vote in the comments, then stop by next time to see how the winning vote changed the course of the story!


Option 1:

The man was standing, peaked hat in hand, narrow face clean shaven, enormous beard and wad of tangled black hair clenched in one hand. He looked so completely different, that Alexander almost didn’t recognize him, but there was no mistaking the glum look on his voice or the doleful voice that filled the underground room.

“Have you come to end Wizard Doomsday?”

He looked so terribly sad that Alexander couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. But Destiny simply steepled her fingers and smiled sweetly over the top of her perfectly kept nails. It was the sort of smile a spider might give a fly.

“Yes, I have.”


Option 2:

The wizard stood with his hands clasped in front of him, brows knotted, and an expression of terrible woe upon his face. “I see, madam, that Wizard Doomsday has met his match at last. By what dark magic have you uncovered my secrets?”

Destiny smiled, and once again, Alexander was struck by the terrible coldness of that smile. “If I revealed my secrets with the same carelessness that you do yours, you might have reason to fear the ending of the world you so enjoy proclaiming.”

Alexander was still working out that little puzzle, when she swung lightly across the table and perched on the edge, swords appearing magically in her hands.

“Now”—another smile—“let us begin, who are you working for?”


Option 3:

The wizard bustled over to the table with a tray full of tea things. He set it down with a thump in front of Destiny and the mismatched cups all rattled in their saucers. “Do help yourselves. The cream’s gone sour and the ants have been in the sugar. But what can one expect when the world is ending?”

Destiny poured a cup and took a dainty sip. “It isn’t the world that’s in danger of ending, only our fine Empire, now that poor Emperor Caldwell V is dead and his son, as you well know, passed on earlier this year, leaving only the grandson to take the Imperial Seat.”

“A babe to take the Imperial Seat?” Doomsday looked as though he was about to launch into another fit of woe is me cries, but Destiny cut him off.

“Only, as Fate would have it, little Emperor Caldwell VI has been kidnapped.”

A cunning gleam appeared in the wizard’s eye. “I see, and you have come to petition my inestimable help in finding and recovering the poor babe.”

“Not quite.”


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dystopian January Giveaway #2: The Safe Lands

dystopian-january

For the second Dystopian giveaway this month, I’m very excited to be able to offer the winner’s choice of one book from the Safe Lands series by Jill Williamson. Excited because she is one incredible author, not to mention one of my first writing mentors and friends!

The Safe Lands series deals with some tough issues, so it’s not one for younger readers. But I love the story behind the story—imagined during a study on the book of Daniel as what it might look like for modern teenagers to be plucked from their homes and thrown into a Babylonian type society. Fascinating, right? Can you imagine the challenges and temptations they might face? Jill did.

Enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter below! Jill was kind enough to provide a copy of her book for the giveaway and write up a guest post providing a little behind-the-scenes look at the Safe Lands.


CaptivesCaptives (Book One)

In a dystopian future, eighteen-year-old Levi returns from Denver City with his latest scavenged treasures and finds his village of Glenrock decimated, loved ones killed, and many–including his fiancée, Jem–taken captive. Now alone, Levi is determined to rescue what remains of his people, even if it means entering the Safe Lands, a walled city that seems anything but safe.

Omar knows he betrayed his brother by sending him away, but helping the enforcers was necessary. Living off the land and clinging to an outdated religion holds his village back. The Safe Lands has protected people since the plague decimated the world generations ago … and its rulers have promised power and wealth beyond Omar’s dreams.

Meanwhile, their brother Mason has been granted a position inside the Safe Lands, and may be able to use his captivity to save not only the people of his village, but also possibly find a cure for the virus that threatens everyone within the Safe Lands’ walls. Will Mason uncover the truth hidden behind the Safe Lands’ façade before it’s too late?

Find out more about Outcasts (Book Two) and Rebels (Book Three)


Jill Williamson author photoMeet the Author

Jill Williamson is a chocolate-loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms and the award-winning author of several teen novels including By Darkness Hid (fantasy) and Captives (dystopian). She’s a Whovian, a Photoshop addict, and a recovering fashion design assistant, who grew up in Alaska without electricity. She currently lives with her husband and two children in Eastern Oregon, where there are more deer and cows than people. She blogs for teen writers at www.goteenwriters.com. You can also visit her online at www.jillwilliamson.com, where adventure comes to life


Back-Page Pass - The Safe Lands final

Note: This article was originally published elsewhere online and is reproduced here with the author’s permission for your enjoyment!

My Safe Lands series is dystopian, like The Hunger Games or Divergent, so it takes place in the future. Regardless, there are things I see now and then that instantly remind me of my storyworld.

Here are the five things I see most often that transport me to the Safe Lands.

1. Beth Moore

I came up with this story while in my ladies Bible study. We were working through Beth Moore’s study on Daniel. She asked us to think about some teenage boys we knew and how they might cope if they were taken from their homes and forced to live as captives in a modern-day Babylon. I couldn’t stop thinking about that scenario, and that’s where my book Captives came from. It tells the story of three brothers who’ve been taken prisoner in a city that is anything but safe.

And every time I see Beth or one of her books, I think of those brothers!

2. Tattoos

In my dystopian city, there is a technology that allows virtual tattoos. This is done by getting chips injected under the skin that can display simulated artwork—or SimArt—on the outside of the skin. So every time I see tattoos, they remind me of the SimArt in my books.

3. Cigarettes

Everyone in the Safe Lands has a disease, and meds are given through personal vaporizers, also called PVs. These are similar to electronic cigarettes. In the Safe Lands, anything can be vaped: meds, candy, alcohol, drugs. So whenever I see someone smoking, I think of the PVs in the Safe Lands.

4. Doctor’s offices

Since everyone in the Safe Lands has a disease, several of the scenes in my books take place in an exam room. I can’t go to the doctor’s office myself or with my kids without getting an eerie feeling of being in the Safe Lands. Yikes!

5. Reporters

There are two reporters in the Safe Lands who communicate everything to the public. Finley Gray and Luella Flynn also host the Finley and Flynn Morning Show. These two are the people everyone looks to for fashion advice, celebrity gossip, and the truth. I get a little shudder when I see reporters on TV, wondering if what they’re telling me is true or false.

 


Thanks, Jill, for sharing a little bit about your story world and offering this giveaway copy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 16, 2015

Draven’s Light Cover Reveal

Two cover reveals in one week? What exciting days are these!

I just finished reading Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl—an absolutely gorgeous story, with amazing characters, and quite possibly my favorite Tales of Goldstone Woods novel next to Starflower—so when the opportunity came to catch a sneak peek at the cover for her next book, I couldn’t resist.

Behold this beauty …

Draven'sLightCover

In the Darkness of the Pit
The Light Shines Brightest

Drums summon the chieftain’s powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, “Coward.” When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother’s honor.

The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart.

But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness?

COMING MAY 25, 2015

MY THOUGHTS:

Not only does the book sound like it will be a truly fascinating read, but the cover embodies so much of what I love about the covers of epic fantasy novels. It’s gorgeous, eye-catching, and intriguing.

(And is it just me and my poor “Battle of the Five Armies” grief-crazed mind, or does the character pictured here look just a bit like Kili? Though somewhat taller in stature … Tell me I’m not wrong!)


Author PhotoMEET THE AUTHOR:

ANNE ELISABETH STENGL makes her home in North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed Tales of Goldstone Wood. Her novel Starflower was awarded the 2013 Clive Staples Award, and her novels Heartless, Veiled Rose, and Dragonwitch have each been honored with a Christy Award.

To learn more about Anne Elisabeth Stengl and her books visit: www.AnneElisabethStengl.blogspot.com

 


BlogButtonTHE FUN STUFF:

Read a Spine-Tingling Excerpt from the Book

Pre-Order This Gorgeous Display of Fantasy Epicness Today

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Villainy 101: Master-Minding Murder and Mayhem—A Villain’s Arsenal

TOP SECRET COMM. #9

FROM: THE SPY

TO: READERS OF THE BLOG

Those of you who’ve been hanging around this blog for some time may be wondering where in the whole wide world I’ve got to these past several months. Last time I sent word, I had recently been captured by the sinister Dr. Sinestra and locked in the Filthy Dungeons of Doom and Gloom (yes, that is their actual title—creative, isn’t it?) deep below the Academy of Ultimate Villainy.

I can only imagine how you lot must have been worried sick, picturing me chained to a wall in the damp and dark, gnawing on hard crusts of bread, making friends with the rodents while slowly wasting away …

To be honest, I was a prisoner for a grand total of one week before managing to pull off a brilliant escape (using techniques learned from the Warrior-in-Hero-Training School of the Round Table) and have been undercover ever since. Due to the unfortunate end of my last spying gig, we decided it was best to keep my presence hidden until after I’d collected all the information we needed.

A novel idea, right?

So having just completed a semester posing as a student at the AUV, recording lectures, reading textbooks, and taking notes—and acing all my classes, I might add—I am pleased to send the following to you … and do hope you enjoy learning about weapons, arsenals, and other villainous stuff.

The Spy

P.S. Seriously … enjoy. Please? I could have died gathering this intel for you, so please put it to good use writing epic villains the like of which I will hope never to meet.


Master-Minding Murder and Mayhem: A Villain’s Arsenal

Master-Minding Murder and Mayhem

Professor Hornbuckle enters—a rather rotund fellow, mustachioed, spectacled, wearing a rumpled suit coat and tie and carrying a bulging briefcase. He poses beside the podium and breaks into a speech with a voice better suited to Shakespearian theatre than the classroom:

Weapons … weapons … glorious instruments of death! These the tools without which no villain can spread murder and mayhem. Without which no villain can cause death and destruction. Without which no villain can survive. But what use are tools if the hand is not skilled to use them?

When it comes to learning how to master-mind murder and mayhem, one must start at the beginning: with the weapon.

There are countless weapons available in a villain’s arsenal, not to mention a host of things at his or her disposal which can be turned into a weapon at the snap of a finger.

The weapons we shall discuss fall into three rather messy categories: weapons of force, intelligence, and subterfuge. Today we shall focus on the first. I’m afraid you’ll have to attend class again—yes, boo hiss all you want—to catch the next lectures.

Villainy 101 - Master-minding Murder and Mayhem - Villain's Arsenal Part 1

1. Weapons of Force

These are the sorts of weapons that everyone thinks of as weapons. Easy one, right? (Don’t worry, it won’t seem so easy on the test …) Swords. Hammers. Axes. Siege towers. Guns. Bombs. You name it. If it can strike hard and kill fast, it’s a weapon of force according to our definition.

Now, I could spend hours talking about each type of weapon and breaking them down into further classifications—hand to hand, long range, weapons of mass destructions, etc.—but we really don’t have time for that in class. Don’t cheer yet though, that’s your homework assignment. Due before midnight. (Yes, I know, I’m evil.)

Today, we’re here to chat about the guiding principles when it comes to choosing and using a weapon of force, rather than the specifics:

Never Leave Home Without One

I don’t care if you’re the “keep your hands clean” type of villain. A savvy villain always keeps a forceful weapon near to hand – even if it’s nothing more than a pen knife. In our line of work, you never know when you’ll stumble across some crazy do-or-die hero. It’s always best to be prepared.

That said …

Anything Can Be a Weapon

Remotes, pillows, chewing gun wrappers, etc. The world is cluttered with potential weapons, and a skilled villain should know how to transform even the most seemingly innocuous items into a weapon if need should arrive.

While this is an invaluable skill to have, I do also recommend finding and settling upon a particular forceful weapon that fits your skills and needs as a villain.

Your Chosen Weapon of Force Should Be Distinctive

Your weapon is a part of your “brand” as a villain. Everyone remembers Captain Hook. And who could mistake the Grim Reaper for anything but? Or on the opposite side of the spectrum, where would Thor be without his hammer or Captain America without his shield?

When you terrorize citizens, they should be able to recognize your handiwork by your weapon alone. This is yet another way you can stand out as a villain in a villain crowded world.

Bigger is Not Always Better

In pursuit of the distinctive, villains sometimes stumble into the absurd. Having the biggest weapon on the block does not make it the best weapon. If your weapon is bigger than you are, you will look absurd. If you cannot swing your weapon without stumbling, you will look absurd.

And that, my dear little villains, is hardly the impression you want to leave.

It should go without saying that this is why a massive block of stone at the end of a long chain—memorable though it may be—is really a terrible weapon. Especially when fighting atop a frozen body of water. (Yes, Azog, I’m pointing at you.) The only instance in which such a weapon could be employed would be if your opponent was chained the ground with no earthly chance of escaping your blow.

If he is in any way mobile, for badness sake, ditch the boulder and choose a weapon that will allow you to move around too.

That concludes our lecture on weapons of force. We’ll move on to weapons of intelligence next class. For your assignment, study pages 7-83 in Weaponology for the Wicked. I expect all vocabulary memorized word for word and you’ll want to be prepared for a 70 question pop quiz (worth 10% of your grade) on weapon classifications next class.

Have a very dismal day!


Do you have any tips for the aspiring villain on how to go about choosing or using a “weapon of force?” If so, share in the comments!

Did you enjoy the post? Share with a friend, leave a comment, or pin it on Pinterest! Need more villainous humor to start off your day?

Check out other posts from the Academy of Ultimate Villainy!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Sound of Diamonds Cover Reveal

In the publishing world, there are few things as exciting as the unveiling of a book cover! (Other than actually getting to read said book …) I always enjoy participating in cover reveals, and even though this one doesn’t fall into my usual genre, it is certainly no exception.

So when I heard that Rachelle Rea’s historical fiction novel The Sound of Diamonds was being published, I knew I wanted to be a part of the cover reveal. I follow her lovely blog and even though I haven’t read her book yet, after enjoying her posts for so long, I can guarantee that she is quite the skilled and engaging writer!

So I’m very pleased to present the lovely cover of her book.

Feast your eyes on this! 

The Sound of Diamonds

About the Book:

In Reformation-era England, a converted rogue wants to restore his honor—at whatever cost. Running from a tortured past, Dirk Godfrey knows he has only one chance at redemption.

An independent Catholic maiden seeking refuge in the Low Countries finds herself at the center of the Iconoclastic Fury. Jaded by tragedy, Gwyneth’s only hope of getting home is to trust the man she hates, and she soon discovers her poor vision is not the only thing that has been blinding her.

But the home Gwyneth knew is not what she once thought. When a dark secret and a twisted plot for power collide in a castle masquerading as a haven, will the saint and the sinner hold to hope…or be overcome? When Dirk’s plan fails, could all be lost?


010

Meet the Author:

Bio: Rachelle Rea plots her novels while driving around the little town she’s lived in all her life in her dream car, a pick-up truck. As a freelance editor, she enjoys mentoring fellow authors in the craft. A homeschool graduate and retired gymnast, she wrote The Sound of Diamonds the summer after her sophomore year of college.

Visit Rachelle on her website, Twitter, or Facebook page!

 


The Sound of Diamonds is coming June of 2015!

So mark your calendars, don’t forget to add it on Goodreads, and pre-order on Amazon. You can also check out the Steadfast Love Series Pinterest board to get a feeling for the flavor of the story!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I Always Thought I Was Ready to Die …

I thought I was ready to die 2

As promised, musings inspired by reading A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes:

I always thought I was ready to die.

I cringe as I say it, because now it strikes me as a terribly arrogant thing to say. Growing up, I was convinced that something bad was going to happen to me at some point in my life. I was going to go blind, I was going to get diagnosed with an incurable disease, I was going to fight an epic battle against orcs and die trying to save my comrades …

Okay, so maybe not the last one.

I’ll admit it sounds kinda weird and just a little silly. Don’t ask me why I was convinced, I just was.

It’s not that I was fascinated with suffering or wanted to die or anything like that, but I knew even then that there were things I was willing to give my life for, and I thought that somehow God would give me joy in the midst of suffering.

And by George, I thought I was ready.

(Those of you who are a mite older and wiser are already shaking your heads at me.)

Some of y’all know that I was in a pretty rough car accident this past summer—you can read a little bit about it here, though I was on pretty strong pain meds when I wrote that post, so … be forewarned.

Once the adrenaline started to wear off, and I emerged from the first of several surgeries, I remember laying in a hospital bed, replaying the accident over and over, recalling every thought, every feeling, every moment of fear, and realizing that it was only by God’s grace I had survived.

I could have died.

Just like that.

And that thought just about knocked me down and stole the breath from my lungs. I was horrified to discover that I wasn’t quite as ready to die and trade this earthly life for a heavenly existence as I’d hoped and imagined.

It wasn’t that I was afraid of dying in and of itself. In Christ I know that I have an eternal hope that lasts beyond the grave, and nothing can take that hope from me.

It was the quickness of it.

It was the knowledge that my life could have been snuffed out in a split second.

And it was the fear that at the end of the day the full sum and total of my time on this earth amounted to very little.

It was the realization that I have squandered so much of the time I have been given. So many hours poured into entertainment, wasted on my own desires, spilt in selfishness. Too often we put off the things we know we should be doing so we can enjoy ourselves now, imagining that there will be time enough to deal with them later.

It was the knowledge that I hadn’t yet lived to the fullest the life I wanted to live for Christ on earth before being called home.

To me, it was a stunning revelation and a heartbreaking one.

I read A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes a few months after my car accident and found it extremely thought provoking in light of my recent awakening. If you’re not familiar with the story, Parvin Blackwater lives in a world where everyone has a clock that counts down the time until their death. With one year left to live, Parvin believes she has wasted her life and sets out to live her final days with meaning and purpose.

Unlike Parvin, I don’t know how many hours remain in my life, nor how many days or months or years … nor would I want to. But I do know that I don’t want to waste the time allotted to me. I don’t want to face my death with the same feelings of time wasted and hours misspent.

When all is said and done, I know it is not what I have done but what Christ has done for me. But I also know that the time I have been given is a gift and each breath I draw comes from His hand, and I sure don’t want to waste it.

It is far too easy to live only for the here and now. It is far too easy to revel in the momentary pleasures.

It is far more difficult to live a life of meaning and purpose. A life dedicated to something greater, to bringing glory to the One who created us.

But when the hour of my death comes, the words I desire above all else to hear are “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

“All my life I’ve wondered what my purpose is. Today, I realize with a twist in my gut, that all my wondering and waiting hindered me from seeking a purpose. I could have done so much more if I’d braved intentionality sooner.”

- A Time to Die, Nadine Brandes

How about you? How do you want to live your life?  


Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for A Time to Die!