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


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 You can also visit her online at, 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!

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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 …


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


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!)


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:



Read a Spine-Tingling Excerpt from the Book

Pre-Order This Gorgeous Display of Fantasy Epicness Today

Add it on Goodreads - So The World May Know You Have Great Reading Taste

 And enter the giveaway for a chance to win a free copy through the Rafflecopter below! Because free books are amazing.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

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




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?


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!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dystopian January Giveaway #1: A Time to Die


For the first giveaway of the year, I’m so excited to be able to share A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes with you. This is a great book to start off your 2015 reading. It’s one you won’t soon forget and might even help shape your thinking as you forge into the year ahead.

In A Time to Die, Nadine isn’t afraid to wander the difficult paths, drive her characters to the end of their strengths, or ask the sort of tough questions that will keep you awake, pondering through the long hours of the night.

I’m looking forward to sharing more of my thoughts provoked by A Time to Die with you on Thursday.

In the meantime, enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter below! Nadine was kind enough to provide a copy of her book for the giveaway and give us an interview with her main character, Parvin Blackwater.


About the Book

How would you live if you knew the day you'd die?

Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system.

But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall -- her people's death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her clock is running out. 

Add A Time to Die on Goodreads. 

Nadine Brandes Head ShotMeet the Author

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, released Fall 2014 from Enclave Publishing. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband.


Back-Page Pass - A Time to Die

(Note: This interview was originally published by the author on her blog and has been reproduced here with the author’s permission for your enjoyment.)

Hello Parvin, thank you for stopping by my blog. Tell us a little about yourself.

Oh about me? Well, there's not much to say. You don't really want to know about me, do you?

Of course I do! I wouldn't interview you otherwise. Tell me something -- anything -- about yourself, and don't be afraid to be honest.

I'm always least I try to be. I only lie if I need to protect Reid -- to keep him safe. I do that because I must.

Reid? Is he your only brother?

Well there were three of us, William, Reid, and me. We're triplets, but William died moments before Reid and I were born, so we never met him. But Reid is my best friend. He's the best older brother a girl could ask for. Do you have siblings?

Oh, we're not here to talk about me. Do you mind if I ask some deeper questions?

I guess not.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

I'd stop the Radicals from being sent across the Wall. Don't tell Reid but, I go to the town hearings every morning and try to vouch for the Radicals who are being sentenced. It never works, but someday...someday I'll save one.

Tell us about the Wall.

I'd rather not.

Have you ever been to it?

I've lived in its shadow my whole life, isn't that enough?

So you've never been to it.

No, and I don't plan to. Can we move on, please?

Sure! You have one year left, right? And you're trying to find purpose. If you don't mind my asking, why did it take you so long to desire more from your life?

I don't expect you to understand. You're from a High City, right? But I'll answer anyway. When I was little, Reid always told me not to worry about the Clock, that it didn't matter. I guess I took it too much to heart and didn't live. When you're a kid, death feels like forever away, even with your Clock showing you the seconds. Unless you can tell time, it doesn't mean anything. I just waited too long.

You recently met your hero, I heard. Tell me about him.

Skelley Chase -- he's the most famous biographer in the United States of the East. He's helping me write my story -- me, a nobody! But it's my Last Year wish and he's going to get it published for me. Hopefully, it will help save Radicals. he handsome?

Ick. Ew. No, he's old. Well, older. Thirty something. I'm only eighteen!

Sorry, I didn't mean to suggest...well anyway, is there a boy in your life?

*Sigh* No.

What would you look for in a guy?

A soulmate. I know that sounds old-fashioned, but if I had enough time for a relationship, I'd want someone who really understands me. Someone who doesn't see Radicals as livestock. Obviously I'd like him to be attractive and adventurous. Yes, adventurous is he could take me on escapades with him. That'd be nice.

What are some of your hobbies?

Sewing and reading. That's about it. I'm to the point where I'm realizing they weren't worth spending my whole life doing. Not that it's not fun losing yourself to a book or sewing project but...without a purpose for it or applying it, what's the point? I only have a year left anyway.

Well, I hope this last year is successful for you.

Yeah, whatever that means. Depends on your definition of success.

In any case, thanks for taking the time to let me interview you.

Sure, thank you for having me on you call it a blog?

Yes. It's on the Internet.

Oh, that explains it. I'm from a Low City, we don't have Internet.

I see. Well...good-bye.

We don't say good-bye either, not unless it's the day you zero out.

How about you bid the farewell, then?

Alright. Talk to you later...maybe.

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Friday, January 2, 2015

With Fire in Our Hearts and Strength in Our Arms

The New Year has come roaring upon us like a mighty dragon with storm winds in its wake. It is a time for the setting of goals. For looking behind and looking ahead. A time for comparisons and calculations.

It can be discouraging, daunting even, but it can also be hopeful. The hope of a fresh start. Of a blank book spreading before us with no mistakes yet marring the pages.

So let us face this fierce new year of 2015 with fire in our hearts and strength in our arms. And get excited because I’ve been planning all sorts of fun things for the blog this year!

A Year of Giveaways

It may come as a slight surprise to you, but I love books. I love reading books, writing books, sniffing books, stuffing books into my too-full bookcase … and giving books to friends. It’s a long-standing joke in my family that at least one person is going to get a book from me at Christmas time. This year, I managed to keep that number down to two. (The previous year, I realized I had given every single family member a book … only after they unwrapped their presents!)

There is nothing quite like finding the perfect book—with just the right blend of setting, tone, characters, and plot—to match each reader.

Because I love gifting books, I’ll be hosting a book giveaway for you, dear readers, every 1st and 3rd Tuesday for the duration of the year. Just for fun, I matched each month of the year to one of 12 Speculative Fiction Subgenres, so the giveaways for that month will fall under a certain theme.

And January’s theme is … dystopian!

January can be a bit of a bleak, dismal, gray month—words that tend to describe most dystopian societies … if not necessarily the books I’ve chosen.

So be sure to stop by on January 6th for the first giveaway of the year!

WDCC - Returns SoonWhen Destiny Comes Calling ... 

This serial short-ish story is one of my favorite things that I’ve ever tried on the blog, so I was quite sad to have to leave it hanging this fall amidst the crazed rush of a book release.

But I think it’s high time we return to poor Alexander Mitus Scott Beauford III and his strange companions, Destiny, Fate, and the Wizard Doomsday, don’t you?

Expect the return shortly! Need a refresher? Enjoy sifting through the archives to get caught up on the story!

Master-Minding Murder and MayhemOn Villains and Heroes

My spy has once again managed infiltrate the ranks of the Academy of Ultimate Villainy, so you can expect to enjoy snippets of lecture notes on all things nefarious and dastardly, including a series on “Master-Minding Murder and Mayhem.”

I don’t know about you, but that sounds fascinating to me!

Also, in response to a series of messages sent to the Warriors-in-Hero-Training School of the Round Table, I finally received a missive from Sir Galgadin. Hand delivered by a talking wolf—definitely a strange experience.

Apparently, Sir Galgadin has been away for the past several months hunting ogres in the mountains where hunting eagles make pigeon-reception doubtful, to say the least.

In any case, he has a series of Questology Lectures that he intends to submit whenever possible, so you can expect to learn all sorts of heroic and fascinating things about questing, damsels in distress, identifying enchantresses, and returning home in one piece.

Clan Newsletter 2Stay in Touch

There’s quite a bit in the works for this year—not to mention several books that will be coming your way shortly—and you won’t want to miss out on any of it!

A great way you can stay informed is by joining the Clan Newsletter! By following my newsletter, you’ll be the first to receive giveaway announcements, see cover reveals, and hear about upcoming books. Not to mention receiving the occasional epic fantasy short story delivered straight to your computer …

Click here to sign up!

As always, I wish you all the best and look forward to spending this next year with you!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Write with Me ... One Last Time?

So maybe a bit dramatic … and it won’t exactly be the last time, but why quibble over semantics?

With the third Hobbit movie coming out in theaters in less than a week, it feels like the Battle of the Five Armies has already begun with the onslaught of posters, trailers, and #OneLastTime attempting to take the world by storm.

Needless to say, it’s stuck in my head. Score one for the marketing team!

Meanwhile, I’m buried beneath a pile of sticky notes, outlines, and character sheets as I furiously work on book two of the Songkeeper Chronicles. If you haven’t read Orphan’s Song yet, you certainly will want to read it before book two comes out.

Because here in book two, our beloved characters deal with bigger stakes, tackle bigger opponents, encounter a bigger world, and brave even bigger dangers than before.

In short, it’s bigger.

Which means that I as the author am dealing with bigger stakes, tackling bigger opponents, encountering a bigger world, and braving even bigger dangers than before too.

But I have off from work at my day job over the weekend and through Monday, so being the glutton for punishment dedicated writer that I am, I have issued myself a challenge.

A full-on gauntlet in the face challenge.

Starting tonight promptly at 6:00 PM and concluding before 6:00 AM Tuesday:

I will write 20,000 words.

Whew, there I said it … now I have to follow through. Or die trying. (Maybe not that part.)

I’m an edit as you go type of writer. If I’m not happy with what I write it’s super hard for me to keep going. But I’ve managed to crank out 50,000 words in 13 days before, so obviously this is the next logical step in my writerly progression.

In any case, I’m looking forward to my writing weekend and wanted to invite all you writers out there to join me in my epic quest.

Set your own goal if you wish—after all you know your writing pace best. Choose to write for part of the time, most of the time, or all of the time. Come hang out on my Facebook page where I’ll be posting (hopefully excited) updates and writing inspiration throughout the weekend.

But join me, fellow warriors of the pen, and “write with me … one last time.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How to Build a World and How to Destroy It—Guest Post from J.B. Simmons

jbsJ.B. Simmons writes thrillers with an apocalyptic twist, and political philosophy clothed in fantasy. His latest novel, Unbound, tells the story of a rich kid from Manhattan with nightmares of a dragon and the world ending in 2066. In his Gloaming books, J.B. carries the torch of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis into an underground city with an exiled prince.

J.B. lives outside Washington, DC, with his wife, two toddlers, and an intriguing day job. He writes before dawn and runs all day. His secret fuel: coffee and leftover juice boxes. Learn more at

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What kind of worldbuilding is the hardest? All of it.

I’ve created two different worlds in the past few years. One is high fantasy, and medieval in style. The other is on good ole planet earth, but set in the year 2066. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the challenges of worldbuilding exist for every book that departs from our present reality.

The world must be crafted with care, because a few slips can destroy it for readers.

Building Worlds (for the writers)

Every novel is set in a fictional world. But the more time and space vary from today’s earth, the more important it becomes to make the book’s world believable. Readers have to believe before they’re going to care.

First, writers should build the world in their minds, laying the mental foundation. You might follow the Creator’s example: start with the heavens and the earth. Add a little light and dark, water and land. Then toss in some plants and animals. People and buildings make good additions, too.

Next, ask lots of questions about what you’ve created. Try these for starters:

  • Do normal laws of nature apply? Any exceptions?
  • Which virtues are overlooked? Which vices praised?
  • What’s the weather like?
  • What languages do the people speak? How about the animals, the robots? 
  • Swords, guns, or nukes?
  • Standard breakfast menu?

Think that last question is a joke? Maybe a little, but what someone eats can reveal a lot about a world. Here’s an example from Unbound:

I had seven minutes until my wake-up alarm, but I started my morning routine anyway. Thirty seconds in the shower chamber, one minute to slip on my black suit, and then my food arrived. Real eggs and coffee. My mouth watered. It had been too many mornings of pills and smoothies. This was a day for real food. I took my time with each bite while watching the video briefings.

As I wrote more about the year 2066, the words helped fill in the gaps. I typed lots of silly details that didn’t make the final book. They helped me flesh out a future reality, which you can read more about in my blog post on Writing the Future: Real Technology in Fiction.

The editing and pruning of extraneous fact got harder as topics grew in complexity. For example, how could I show how international security might be different in 2066, without writing an entire history of the next five decades? I used tidbits like this:

Unbound_COVERA spinning holograph of the White House appeared before the instructor. “You know,” he said, “the President used to live in this house a few blocks from here.”

Laughter rolled through our class. There were fifty of us in the room, and most looked like old bureaucrats.

“I know, I know, hard to imagine,” he joked. “The President, living out in the open like that, with everyone knowing where he was? Well, life changes when you have power and responsibility. The world is watching, and it’s our job to watch the world. Starting today, you used to stay in hotels, just like the President used to live in the White House.”

The holograph blinked off.

I hope that reveals something about this future world. Maybe it leaves you curious about why the President no longer lives in the White House. The editing process should seek the delicate balance of revealing the world while enticing readers deeper into it.

Destroying Worlds (for the readers)

Fictional worlds are fragile. They unravel every time a word, or a mental picture, makes a reader trip. The great challenge is that different things trip up different readers. Yet it boils down to four common issues.

1. Too much detail. You might guess this from a book’s thickness. Hefty fantasy epics often pile on the detail. This can be incredible, engaging, escaping. But it can also drag.

Here’s a classic example: The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. Talk about a world builder! Tolkien invented languages. He wrote history. But I think we’d all agree that The Lord of the Rings is a better read than The Silmarillion. This doesn’t at all mean The Silmarillion is poorly written or bad, it just has A LOT of details. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning:

“[I]t is told among the Eldar that the Valar endeavoured ever, in despite of Melkor, to rule the Earth and to prepare it for the coming of the Firstborn; and they built lands and Melkor destroyed them; valleys they delved and Melkor raised them up; mountains they carved and Melkor threw them down; seas they hollowed and Melkor spilled them; and naught might have peace or come to lasting growth, for as surely as the Valar began a labour so would Melkor undo it or corrupt it. And yet their labour was not all in vain; and though nowhere and in no work was their will and purpose wholly fulfilled, and all things were in hue and shape other than the Valar had at first intended, slowly nonetheless the Earth was fashioned and made firm. And thus was the habitation of the Children of Ilúvatar established at the last in the Deeps of Time and amidst the innumerable stars.”

Do we have to know that history of Middle Earth to enjoy The Lord of the Rings? No, but we benefit from the clarity of the world in Tolkien’s mind. This clarity helped him write a story in a believable world full of elves, hobbits, and dwarves. While The Silmarillion may never be a Hollywood blockbuster, it is the foundation that helps the world of Middle Earth long live on. 


2. Not enough detail. These are the thin books. Sometimes they pack heavier punches, like Hemingway. It helps when the story is contemporary, so that the world-building touch is lighter. But the touch is still there. You see proof when you pick up a bare book written fifty years ago. Are there unexplained details that don’t make sense in today’s world? They probably made sense when they were written. 

Some readers of my Gloaming novels craved more detail about the world. Perhaps the books are an oddity: compact epic fantasy. So readers who are accustomed to longer epics understandably could want more. But other readers praised the action and picked up on my hint that this was to be a “simple yet luxurious backdrop” for a deeper struggle:

Almost every building was built of bright white walls and steeply pitched, slate gray roofs. Against that simple yet luxurious backdrop, the thousands of merchants and craftsmen of the city had developed their own colorful pennants, which they proudly flew from their rooftops and windows. The building’s strong foundations and ornate decorations reflected the city’s culture—bound by generations of custom, but individually distinct and free. Every twisting road had known hundreds of stories and names.

This, again, is the balance writers must seek. It’s a little like Goldilocks’ porridge. Not too much detail, not too little – but somewhere just right.

3. Inconsistencies. These are the nuclear bombs of worldbuilding. No one likes inconsistencies, and readers are geniuses at detecting them. If a castle had a crumbling southwest wall in the first chapter, that crumbling wall should darn well matter when an army is gathered outside it ten chapters later.

The best way to iron out all these points is to give your near-final book to beta-readers. They won’t let inconsistencies slip. No one does.

4. Unbelievable events. Like the Creator, when you build a world, you have the power to change it, even destroy it. With this power comes great responsibility. An important rule of thumb is: once you’ve made your world’s rules, don’t break them unless you have a very good reason. (Hint: there’s a very good reason coming in the Unbound trilogy.)

In the end, the best worlds make us believe the unbelievable. That’s why we read after all, to visit worlds we love and carry back memories into the world where we live.

Let’s make our worlds count -- J.B.

Thanks, J.B. for visiting with us today!

Q: If you’re a writer, what are your favorite ways to approach worldbuilding in your novels? And as a reader, are there any particular books where the worldbuilding completely drew you in?