Monday, November 13, 2017

Guest Post by Ally K.

Guest Post by Ally K., author of Special Minds



I've worked on this novel for two years, I've tried to make the universe as plausible as possible, even though it's fantasy, working not only on the first book, but also planning the plot and universe extension of the whole trilogy. It was a struggle, but I guess so is everything for the first time.

I have bipolar disorder, headaches are normal for me, I always have them, so the whole idea for the story came to me, when I woke up with a horrible headache, worse than I ever had before. It was so painful, that I wanted to somehow split up my mind to feel at least only half of the pain. And that's when I thought of the "mind split" for the novel.

I was very inspired by Richelle Mead's VA series, which gave me the idea of the bond. I reworked the whole bond thing and made my own story out of it. I also was very affected by Orson Scott Card's book "Ender's Game". The thought of children that are smarter and more mature, than most adults was very appealing. There are no children in my novel, but it has a similar idea - age is only a number.

I have a few writing tips that helped me write and actually finish this book:

1. When I just started writing I thought of how I want the story to go and how I want it to end. Then I just wrote down chapter titles. This is a really great way to stick to your original idea and not be distracted, so the story moves it's original flow. So if you're like me and prefer to write, when you have a clear image of how the story will go, write those chapter titles like a rough plan that you of course can change later.

2. If you have writers block, stop forcing yourself to write. In my opinion it's bad for you AND the book, if you force yourself to write. Get a break, watch some movies or read your favourite books. My favourite childhood Disney movies were a great help for me, I always got so inspired after watching something I loved in my childhood.

3. It's always hard to keep the right balance of your descriptions. When I notice that I am describing too much I stop, go back to the start of the chapter and read it. If I get a clear image in my head then I'm good, if I get too many details and I feel bored by it, then I rewrite it.

4. So, recently I found a great site that helps me a lot to work on my sequel. In 3 days I wrote 3 chapters. I'm not going to promote things, but the site is called Inkitt and it has this great Writers Write Program, where the challenge is to write a 50 000 WC book in a month. This challenge really keeps me on my toes and helps me move faster with the sequel.


Book description:
Millicent Kale, an ordinary girl it might seem. An incident shows, that she's not that normal after all, but destined to keep life and death balanced in this world. Yet she's not the only one.

If I could split my mind, make another me, would I just see myself like in a mirror? Or would I see through two sets of eyes? And if one of us died, would it feel like me? Could I keep on living? Or wouldn’t I feel anything at all?
If you would live your whole life in pain, do you think it would affect you? When mental and psychological pain become physical, it's hard not to change, and Millicent Kale changed a lot.

Grief, hurt and pain follow Milly every day, but when the closest person she has dies, Milly uncovers that she's not quite human. And she's not alone.

Fate entangles her life with a man she would rather avoid, yet in the end making her listen to reason. Of course it's really hard not to listen to your inner self, when she can actually punch you.

"Special Minds" is a love story, with fantasy parts that make the story work. You'll find fun sidekicks, strong characters and topics that will make you think more on today's social and psychological problems.

Author Bio:

I was born in Uzbekistan. When I was three years old me and my family moved to Germany (we lived in Bonn, it’s a small town near Cologne) and lived there for eleven years. I went to a Russian school which was one of the two Russian schools in the whole country (the second one is in Berlin).
In the year 2011 we moved to Kazakhstan where I live now. I finished school here. Now I am a student at a Russian university and a technical translator for my father’s IT firm.
Right now I’m working on my second book and a few other projects I’m thinking about doing. In the past few months I’ve also become an avid reader, I do reviews on indie books on my blog, I also started a youtube channel recently.
I’m also a gamer, I play Dota 2, among other games, and I’m a hobby photographer.

Links:
My book on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36074149-special-minds
My book on Inkitt (free access to read) https://www.inkitt.com/stories/romance/174956?utm_source=shared_web
My Goodreads author page https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13458926.Ally_K_
My Inkitt author page https://www.inkitt.com/allykay
Facebook profile https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010528571200
Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/allybooksandreviews/?pnref=lhc
Twitter https://twitter.com/Ally0kay
Blog https://allybooksandreviews.blogspot.com/
Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdURa-xAa6T6v-C7h01qZeg
Allpoetry (I also write poems) https://allpoetry.com/Ally_K

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

TusCon 44 Schedule!

Hey everyone! This weekend, I'm flying out to Arizona for TusCon 44! I'm sooo excited... I've never been to Arizona before!! Currently packing... what to bring, what to bring... Especially since I'm planning to do some hiking while I'm out there... Don't worry, there will be plenty of pics ;-)

Anyway, below is my con schedule!

10:00am - 11:00am
Artistic Vs. Commercial Projects - Is it selling out or indulging in something no one else wants to buy?
Ballroom (Sabino)

4:00pm - 5:00pm
William Herr, Mary Fan, Eric Schumacher, Geoff Notkin, Janni Lee Simner autograph sessions
Autographs (Canyon Theater Foyer)

7:00pm - 8:00pm
Why Do Adults Like Young Adult Fiction?
Ballroom (Sabino)

11:00pm - 12:00am
The Day Everything Changed: how to start a novel where you won't bore the reader.
Panel Room 2 (Pima B)













Sunday, November 5, 2017

SPOTLIGHT: I Was An Evil Teenager / Anthony Avina


Author Anthony Avina is the fusion of intense and visual-inducing horror, optimism and hopeful enthusiasm. As an indie author who has spent the last seven years creating unique and original horror stories that highlight the fact that both good and evil can reside in anyone or anything, the creative horror writer hopes to craft entertaining tales that take the reader into unimaginable worlds.

With three successful series and a string of popular stand-alone novels and novellas, author Anthony Avina is a must watch indie author that is always working on the next great story to share with the world. Anthony Avina’s latest novel, “I Was An Evil Teenager: Remastered,” is the collective work of the Evil Teenager novella series. Featuring the novellas “I Was A Teenage Killer”, “I Was a Teenage Zombie” and “I Was A Teenage Demon”, the story follows the exploits of Lisa Etron, an innocent looking teenage girl that everyone in her small hometown loves.

Yet a sinister presence resides behind the mask that is Lisa Etron, and the terror she brings will affect the lives of those closest to her in dark and terrible ways. This is the story of the evolution of evil and whether or not true evil can ever truly die. It’s also the story of hope and overcoming that evil with the love and support of family and friends, and how that hope can bring out the strength people never know they truly have. Good versus Evil come to life in this series in new and terrifying ways, and only by reading this completely remastered version of the stories can you find out what makes Lisa Etron a truly evil teenager…

     Excerpt from the Novel “I Was An Evil Teenager: Remastered”

Prelude: An Innocent Smile
1
Kristina Langley drove down the dark and deserted highway, wondering if she was ever going to make it out of this storm. The lightning was coming down every two minutes, and the rain was coming down as if God was pouring buckets of water out of heaven himself (or herself, she mused to herself). She wanted to get home quickly, before Bill decided to have a few more drinks and then rough up her daughter, Kara. “All I have to do is get through this one last night, then I can get Kara out of this hell-hole and we can move up to New York with my mother,” Kristina, known as Kris to her family and friends, said to herself. The rain began to fall harder, and in an attempt to drown out the rain, she turned on the local alternative rock station. Suddenly, a song she instantly recognized came blasting out of the stereo.
Kris began to pop her head up and down in step with the music, when suddenly she saw a figure up ahead in the distance. A hitchhiker? Wondered Kris.
At first, she did not slow down. Not only were her thoughts clouded with her daughters safety, but memories of the horror stories she’d been told about murderous strangers on highways. However, she thought about this horrendous weather and finally decided to pull over. She stopped right next to the person outside, pulling onto the shoulder of the highway. From where Kristina was sitting, she could see it was a woman out there, and that she was wearing a hooded parka. At first, the woman did not attempt to come inside the car. Kristina reached over across the seats and opened the door for the stranger.
“Hey there,” she said to the woman in the parka. “It’s pouring out there. Do you need a ride into town?” The woman nodded her head slowly and finally climbed into the trucks cab. Kris turned forward again and started to drive once the stranger closed the door.
After about five minutes of silence, Kris decided to break the unsettling noiselessness. “So, where are you heading at this time of night?” she asked. The stranger made no reply. “It’s a hell of a storm out there, isn’t it?” asked Kris. The stranger turned her head towards Kris and nodded her head. “Well I’m heading as far as Sunrise Ridge, so if you’re further ahead or before that just let me...” she began to say, when suddenly she saw out of the corner of her eye the knife the stranger had pulled out of her coat.
“Listen, all I have is ten bucks. I didn’t bring any credit cards on my trip, and I don’t have a cell phone, so there’s no point in robbing me. You can have the ten bucks if you want. It's yours. Just, please, don’t hurt me, I’m begging you,” she said. The woman in the parka turned towards her, and suddenly Kris could see the woman had dark, glowing red eyes.
Kris slowed the car and looked at the strange woman with fearful eyes, and saw that the woman smiled. The rest of her face was hidden in shadows, but Kris could clearly see that horrible grin and those piercing eyes.
Abruptly, the woman brought the knife down upon Kristina, driving the blade deep into her neck. Instinctively, Kris slammed her foot down on the pedal and shot the car forward. Blood spout out onto the dashboard of the truck, and Kris lost control of the wheel. All she could feel was a hot, flowing pain on her neck, and all she could see was the cabin of the truck, spinning out of control. Suddenly the truck struck a tree dead on, going on 45 miles per hour the police would later say. Kristina lay with her head on the dashboard, gasping for air, when suddenly the knife pierced her one final time in the back, severing her spinal cord. She died right there in the car, her final thoughts of her daughter Kara, and the horrors she would experience without her mother there to protect her. As the light faded from her eyes, the mystery woman leaned toward Kris and sniffed her, as if she were a predator getting a scent for it’s already dead prey.
The woman wiped the blood on the knife off on Kristina’s shirt, and said, “I hate when they beg.”

One teenage girl brings chaos and destruction to the world in Author Anthony Avina’s Novel, “I Was An Evil Teenager: Remastered”!

The novel focuses on Lisa Etron, the series antagonist who hides her evil behind the human façade of a normal teenage girl. Behind her eyes hides the repulsive evil that looks upon people with an indifference that any serial killer would recognize. It also tells the tale of Dave Trent, the innocent young man who makes the mistake of falling in love with Lisa, and spends the trilogy wrestling with the madness she has inflicted on him. There’s also Jack, a seasoned detective who starts the series on a mission of vengeance, but in the process finds the family he never knew he wanted and will stop at nothing to protect them from the evil that is Lisa Etron.

     Author Anthony Avina has released a brand new novel that challenges the perception of what evil “looks” like in our society, and how appearances can be deceiving. It also explores the emotion and human nature that most people don’t consider when watching a horror movie or reading a horror book, and how themes of hope and love often align within the horror genre. Available for preorder now and releasing October 20th, 2017, this novel is the perfect read for horror fans, readers who love terrifying and iconic killers and heartfelt human connections, and readers who are interested in exploring the struggle people often face in the wake of tragedy and the hope that comes with facing struggles and challenges with the ones we love, not alone.

     The idea came to Anthony Avina one day when he was reading up on the creation of iconic characters like Norman Bates in Psycho or Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Based on the grim killings of Ed Gein, these stories fascinated him, but also showed him that there is a typical character type for serial killers, and he wanted to challenge that stereotype and show that looks can be deceiving.
    
     I Was An Evil Teenager: Remastered is the culmination of some of Author Anthony Avina’s most creative ideas coming to life on the pages of his earliest works. Exploring the depths of human darkness and corruption and the people willing to use hope and goodness to battle that evil, this story is really the foundation for which author Anthony Avina’s later works were built. When the reader gets to the end of the novel, they will be on the edge of their seat, feeling a whirlwind of emotions as this story of evil, love and hope all comes together in the final battle of this action-packed and emotional series.  

     Author Anthony Avina has been an indie author for the past seven years, and is quickly approaching his eighth year. An avid fan of the horror, science fiction and romance genres and hungry to showcase the true nature of society, Mr. Avina has always written tales that not only entertain and scare, but also bring out true and heartfelt emotion. His characters are truly unique and showcase that no one is ever what they seem, whether they be good or bad, and you can never assume anything, because sometimes evil wears a beautiful and trustworthy face. Anthony Avina lives in Southern California at the age of 27, and works as an indie author, journalist, and internet personality. You can learn more about the author on both his YouTube channel and his Official Site! Pick up your copy of I Was An Evil Teenager: Remastered today!
                     

Reviews of Author Anthony Avina!

I managed to devour all the 85 pages in just one sitting and enjoyed every minute of it. Anthony Avina skillfully blends elements of horror, suspense and mystery while keeping the story running at a fast pace as the unfolding situation slowly materializes – it’s taunt, well-written race against the clock thriller that is impossible to put down.
                     Catherine Putsche on “Strange Perceptions”

Anthony Avina's take on this classic urban tale is both enjoyable and interesting to the reader. Once I started reading I was quickly drawn into the story and I ultimately couldn't stop reading until the end.
                          M.P. Thomson on “Strange Perceptions”

I really liked this book. I enjoyed the way it made a childhood terror be reality for adults, as well. I already own several of his books, and have put the rest on my wish list. I'm looking forward to those as well!
                          Brenda Seaberg on “Bedtime”

Lots of exciting scenarios, with several twists/turns & a great set of unique characters to keep track of. This could also make another great horror movie, animated cartoon, or mini TV series. It will keep you on the edge.
                          Tony Parsons on “Bedtime”



               Q&A With Author Anthony Avina

Q: How do you deal with writer’s block?
A: I take a step back, and immerse myself in another activity, and usually while I'm engaged in something a new thought or idea will pop in my head and will allow me to continue on with the story.

Q: What’s the best thing about being a writer?
A: Getting to create whole new worlds with intricate stories and complex characters that allow you to get all of your thoughts and imagery down onto paper, (or computer screens).

Q: What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
A: My advice for aspiring writers would be to find the one thing that motivates you, whether it be a place, a person, or a thing, and let it drive you as you find the right story to dive into. Think about not only who your characters are but what drives them, what motivates them to do what they do in your story. Most important of all though, don't write a story just to write it. Make sure it’s something your passionate about that really drives you creatively and spiritually. Your book will reflect whether or not you were passionate about the story, and the more in tune with the tale you are, the more likely you are to produce a high quality novel, short story, poem, etc.

Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I'm working on a suspense/thriller about a serial killer and the investigation into the murders. It will explore the viewpoints of the killer, the victim, and the investigator.

Q: How do you get inspired to write?
A: Once I have a story in mind, I have a system for which I write. I usually grab either coffee, tea or water with a healthy snack like a granola bar, maybe a bag of mixed nuts or if you want to treat yourself a candy bar, preferably chocolate. After I grab that, I set my computer up, and I grab my iPhone and pull up my Spotify app, where I've made a specific playlist of music. With the music playing and my snacks within reach, I close my mind off to everything else around me, and I begin writing, taking the occasional break here and there until I've written what I wanted to write in a day. The key is not to overdo it, and write only while you are inspired to. Never force yourself to write if you aren't feeling it.

               Contact Information:
Email: authoranthonyavina@gmail.com

               Social Media Links:
I Was An Evil Teenager: Remastered Preorder:
Blog/Website: https://authoranthonyavinablog.wordpress.com/
Instagram: https://instagram.com/authoranthonyavina/
Snapchat: BigAntone34
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorAAvina
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAnthonyAvina
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003ACFI2U
Podcast link: https://soundcloud.com/thewriterscorner
Tumblr: http://authoranthonyavina.tumblr.com/
Magazine Blogs: http://anthonyonrequest.tumblr.com/

                   

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

COVER REVEAL: Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil / written by ME

Hey everyone! Happy Halloween! And on this spooky day, I'm thrilled to, at long last, reveal the spook-tastic cover of my YA dark fantasy, FLYNN NIGHTSIDER AND THE EDGE OF EVIL! It's been a long time coming, folks. I wrote the first draft of this book way, way back in 2012 (it was the second thing I ever wrote once I started writing seriously... predates everything I've published except Artificial Absolutes).

I actually organized a photo shoot for the cover back in 2013, with my sister, Angel Fan (who was in high school at the time), as Aurelia "The Firedragon" Sun, a kickass teen monster fighter, and her friend from school, Joe Rorem, as the titular Flynn, a young rebel with a unique ability that could change the fate of the world. Now, those photos didn't turn out so well (since I was behind the camera, HAH!), so I organized a second shoot the following year, in 2014, with a real photographer (Tom Castles). And I've been sitting on 'em ever since...

Publishing delays happen, and those of who've known me for a while might have noticed that I've since switched presses. Also, those of you who saw my previous cover reveal, for STARSWEPT, might've noticed that Angel posed for that one too. Funny thing is, even though the covers are being revealed within a few months of each other, the shoots actually took place three years apart.

Why'd I do a custom shoot for Flynn and Aurelia? Well, first of all, as you probably know, I have a thing for faces on covers, and it's really hard to find the right stock photo. I probably would have able to find one for Flynn, but Aurelia? She's East Asian, and stock photos are notoriously, problematically, frustratingly white. Also, Angel actually helped me brainstorm the world of Flynn Nightsider, and as an in-joke I wrote Aurelia to look exactly like her. Naturally, that meant I had to put her on the cover ;-) 

Did I care that now, two of my characters are physically identical on their covers? Nope, because their personalities and abilities are so, so different, and the photos reflect that. Angel's basically two totally different people on the two different covers; one's a shy, romantic classical musician, and the other's a tough, no-filter action heroine. I have a feeling if they ever crossed paths, things would get pretty interesting :-P

Anyway so that's the background! And now, here's cover, done by the ever-talented Streetlight Graphics.


Isn't it cool?? I love how it turned out. Streetlight did an amazing job of capturing the creepy, dark fantasy atmosphere I was going for. And Tom Castles did a great job photographing the kids (they were both teens at the time... now, of course, they're in college... they grow up so fast...). This shoot was pretty straightforward, since it was shot in Tom's studio. I asked the kids to bring their own wardrobe - any dark colors would do, essentially. And since the background was going to be photoshopped anyway, we didn't have to worry about props except for Aurelia's swords. Naturally, I had swords lying around (though the one pictured had to get photoshopped anyway because the original blade's angle was off, but at least having one meant her grip was believable). 

Just for fun, here are some behind-the-scenes pics:

Photographer Tom Castles snaps a pic of cover models Joe Rorem (as Flynn Nightsider) and Angel Fan (as Aurelia "The Firedragon" Sun)
Joe and Angel goofin' off on set :-D
Break so the kids could tumble-snap-yak or whatever it is they were doing in 2014 ;-)

Book's info taped on the wall... Tom had a whole wall full of research/inspiration. That guy doesn't mess around.
Oh yeah, what's the book actually about? Well, here you go...

Title: Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil (Flynn Nightsider, #1)
Author: Mary Fan
Publisher: Crazy 8 Press
Publication Date: May 15, 2018

Break the enchantments. Find the truth. Ignite the revolution.

A century ago, the Enchanters defeated the evil Lord of the Underworld, but not before he’d unleashed his monsters and ravaged the earth. The Enchanters built the Triumvirate out of what remained of the United States, demanding absolute obedience in exchange for protection from the lingering supernatural beasts.

Sixteen-year-old Flynn Nightsider, doomed to second-class life for being born without magic, knows the history as well as anyone. Fed up with the Triumvirate’s lies and secrecy, he longs for change. And when he stumbles across a clue that hints at something more – secrets in the dark, the undead, and buried histories – he takes matters into his own hands.

Before long, Flynn finds himself hunted not only by the government, but also by nightmarish monsters and a mysterious man with supernatural powers … all seeking him for reasons he cannot understand. Rescued by underground rebels, he’s soon swept up in their vision of a better world, guided by a girl as ferocious as the monsters she fights. But as the nation teeters on the brink of revolution, Flynn realizes three things.

The rebellion is not what it seems.
Flynn himself might be more than he seems.
And the fate of the world now rests in his hands.



Check out the two prequel novellas set in the Flynn Nightsider universe, The Firedragon and Firedragon Rising.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

REVIEW: How to Stay (A Hollywood Lights Novella) / Katie Rose Guest Pryal

TITLE: How to Stay (A Hollywood Lights Novella)
AUTHOR: Katie Rose Guest Pryal
PUBLISHER: Blue Crow Books
AVAILABILITY: Amazon


GENRE

Romance - Contemporary

REVIEW

Miranda George is legal-industry royalty: the daughter of two high-flying lawyers with their own firm who’s now got a cushy paralegal job with them right out of college. She has zero patience for smarmy junior lawyers. You know the type—fresh out of law school, a little too good-looking, and definitely too confident. Arrogant, narcissistic little douchebags. So when she meets her parents’ new hire, Matthias Pino—a guy who seems to fit right into the mold—she dismisses him right away. Determined to prove that he’s more than a stereotype, Matthias takes Miranda on an unconventional date to a dog rescue—and wins her over. But though the two crackle with immediate chemistry, life’s complications get in the way. Miranda’s picture-perfect family is harboring a devastating secret, and she fears that letting Matthias into her life will reveal it and hurt the people she loves most. Matthias, meanwhile, has an unexpected background that shatters Miranda’s initial assumptions about him.

Equal parts passionate romance and heart-wrenching family drama, Katie Rose Guest Pryal’s standalone novella, How to Stay (part of the Hollywood Lights world but completely self-contained), is a tightly written and emotionally layered story that touches on several complex topics, including mental health and the paradoxes of the American justice system. I was surprised by just how much richness could be packed into this little book, which is fast paced (I read most of it in a day) without being rushed. Both Miranda and Matthias are well-drawn, complex characters who really come to life on the page, and their interactions feel completely organic. I loved how Miranda could be both the take-charge type on the outside and yet still vulnerable in ways she’s loathe to admit. And as a romantic lead, Matthias is totally charming. It’s so easy to root for these two, even as life’s complications keep trying to get in the way. It all leads up to a wholly satisfying ending, and I’d recommend this book for anyone who’s looking for an intelligent romance that’s as much about the people involved as the passion.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katie is a novelist, freelance journalist, and erstwhile law professor in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is the author of the Hollywood Lights Series, which includes ENTANGLEMENT, LOVE AND ENTROPY, CHASING CHAOS, and HOW TO STAY all from BLUE CROW BOOKS. With Raven Books, she is the author of LIFE OF THE MIND INTERRUPTED: Essays on Mental Health and Disability in Higher Education (2017).

As a journalist, Katie contributes to QUARTZ, THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, THE (late, lamented) TOAST, DAME MAGAZINE and other national venues. She earned her master’s degree in creative writing from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, where she attended on a fellowship. Katie has published many books on writing, including HOW WRITING WORKS with Oxford University Press. A professor of writing for more than a decade, she now teaches creative writing through Duke University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and works as a writing coach and developmental editor when she’s not writing her next book.
 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

TRIPLE BOOK REVIEW: The Star City Shorts / Edwin Peng

To promote his upcoming YA sci-fi novel, STAR CITY, author Edwin Peng released three prequel short stories, the Star City Shorts. Each is only the length of a chapter or so, and so I ate 'em up pretty quickly and now, sadly, must wait impatiently for the release of the novel itself. Below are my reviews of the short stories.

TITLE: The Star City Shorts

AUTHOR: Edwin Peng
PUBLISHER: Evolved Publishing

GENRE

Young Adult - Sci-Fi

REVIEWS


THE ANNOUNCEMENT (Star City Short, #1)





Nebraska high schooler Emma just wants to get through the school day... never mind the fuss her friends are making about the upcoming dance. But then she's called into an assembly where the President announces something that will change the world...

This fun little story is like one of those samplers they hand out at grocery stores... it gives you just enough of a taste to leave you wanting more. It's the first of 4 planned prequel short stories to Edwin Peng's STAR CITY sci-fi series and teases the reader with glimpses at an intriguing world and story to come. I can't wait to read more :-)


Find it on Amazon

THE TEST (Star City Short, #2)




Asteroid mining apprentice Sepporinen, a member of the Ba'ren race of advanced, space-faring aliens, wants nothing more than to ace his tests and join the mining guild. His people's Exploratory Mission has recently arrived at Earth, but he's more interested in kicking off his career than learning about humans. But when he finds himself tasked with learning about Earth's mining operations, he realizes that not everything is as it seems... and there's a dangerous conspiracy afoot.

"The Test" is the second of three prequel short stories leading up to Edwin Peng's upcoming YA sci-fi novel, STAR CITY. Like the first prequel, "The Announcement," it offers a little taste of awesome things to come. While "The Announcement" introduced the reader to STAR CITY's Earthling protagonist, "The Test" offers a tantalizing glimpse at the alien culture she'll encounter in the novel.

There's a lot packed into "The Test," which is a quick little read that introduces the reader to the Ba'ren and their spacefaring ways. Peng does a lot of world-building in just a few pages, and it was a lot of fun to learn about this out-of-the-world civilization. Also, the aliens' observations of humans are absolutely delightful... a combo of fun quips and cutting social commentary. The story also teases the reader with dark conspiracies swirling behind what should be a peaceful first contact mission... Of course, this is a prequel, so it ends on an agonizing cliffhanger... Can't wait to read STAR CITY when it comes out and find out where it all goes!


Find it on Amazon


THE MEETING (Star City Short, #3)




Ba'ren biologist Ngizzida, after recently making first contact with Earth, is eager to put her expertise toward a good cause and help humans cure cancer. But she soon starts to worry about her government's decisions regarding Earth, which could complicate relations between her world and that of the humans...

"The Meeting" is the third of three prequel short stories leading up to Edwin Peng's upcoming YA sci-fi novel, STAR CITY. Each of these shorts offers a brief glimpse at a different aspect of the story, and "The Meeting" teases at what might happen with future relations between the Ba'ren and the humans. It seems like things won't be going smoothly, and I can't wait to find out how it all turns out! "The Meeting" is a super quick read that introduces new aspects to the world of Star City... and hints at trouble to come.

I read all three Star City shorts within 24 hours or so, and together, they introduce an exciting story full of new worlds and conspiracies. Now, to wait impatiently for the novel itself...

Find it on Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Edwin Peng lives in beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska with his beloved Pokémon buddy, Eevee. During the day, he indulges in super-villainy by performing high-power laser research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. At night, his secret identity is that of a literary superhero fighting to make the Young Adult Science Fiction genre less clichéd and more inclusive.


Edwin is the author of the Star City series, which features badass heroines and space aliens who love blueberry pies. The first novel and companion short stories will be released by Evolved Publishing in autumn 2017.

Friday, October 20, 2017

TRIPLE BOOK REVIEW: The Norse Chronicles / Karissa Laurel

Hey everyone! I recently finished reading Karissa Laurel's Norse Chronicles series, and it was a blast! I read and reviewed the first book, Midnight Burning, a bit over a year ago, then finally got around to the sequel this summer, and finished up just now. It's been a fun adventure through Norse mythology and twisty-turny plots... so, without further ado, here are my reviews of all three books in the trilogy!

Actually, there is some further ado. I must disclose that Karissa and I share a publisher (Red Adept Publishing, which published my sci-fi books Artificial Absolutes and Synthetic Illusions), but neither asked me to review these books. I bought 'em with my own cash monies, and they are mine to review as I please.

Oh, and one more ado: There's a prequel novella to the series, Moonlight Falling, that I haven't read yet, but totally want to! 

And yet another ado: there are no spoilers in the reviews below, so read without fear!

ANYWAY.

Series Title: The Norse Chronicles
Author: Karissa Laurel
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

GENRE
Urban Fantasy

REVIEWS

MIDNIGHT BURNING (#1)


Four months after her twin brother's murder, Solina Mundy leaves her quiet North Carolina home to clean out his apartment in Alaska. Though the police have designated the case as unsolved, she soon begins to suspect that his friends know more than they're letting on. What's more, she's been getting strange nightmares--visions of a wolf devouring her brother that seem to have come true. She soon discovers that there's more to Mani's world than he told her--legacies of gods and monsters from Norse legends come to life--and that she herself has a greater part in it than she could have imagined.

Okay, who doesn't love a good story of ancient mythology come to life in the modern world? I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, and Karissa Laurel's MIDNIGHT BURNING really hit the spot. The story follows the classic fantasy hero's journey... ordinary character gets jerked out of her banal life by unthinkable circumstances, discovers that she has supernatural abilities, and finds herself at the center of huge, world-ending conflict... But does so with unique flair.

Pause for disclosures. *clears throat* Karissa and I share a publisher, Red Adept Publishing. We're also buddies. However, neither Karissa nor Red Adept asked me to write this review, and all this gushing represents my honest opinion of the book.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, flair. MIDNIGHT BURNING is full of it. Solina herself is a mild-mannered character, a shy girl thrust into circumstances she's completely unprepared for, but the supporting cast is as full of color and energy as a laser show. There's Skyla, a tough-as-nails ex-Marine with the spirit of a modern day Valkyrie who was Mani's close friend and who refuses to rest until she and Solina uncover the truth behind his death. There's Val Wotan, Mani's coworker and buddy whose easy charm and swoon-worthy looks spell irresistible trouble. And then there's Aleksander Thorin, Mani's boss, who's more the strong-and-silent type, but who exudes a mysterious, magnetic kind of allure. As their surnames suggest, Val and Thorin turn out to be closely connected to their legendary Norse namesakes. Very closely connected.

I couldn't blame Solina for stumbling into that love triangle--who wouldn't have trouble picking between the unreliable but oh-so-charming playboy and the standoffish but oh-so-magnetic billionaire?--and for once, I seriously didn't know who Mr. Right was supposed to be.

But the romance part was only a small part of a much more complex story, full of rich worldbuilding that takes Norse myths of old and expands them into the modern world. And detective-story-like mystery-solving as Solina and Skyla seek the truth behind Mani's death. And fantasy adventure as Solina explores her newfound superpowers... and finds herself the target of villains who literally want to end the world. Talk about stakes!

As the story progresses, Solina grows and develops as a character, and I loved watching her emerge from her brother's shadow to become a kickass heroine in her own right. Between the plot and the world and the characters, I was completely hooked and found myself reading every chance I got (I was seriously pulling out my Kindle to sneak an extra page or two every time I had even five minutes to myself).

By the time I reached the end, I was bummed it was over. Fair warning: this book ends on a cliffhanger. The good news: The sequel, ARCTIC DAWN, is out!


Find it on Amazon.

ARTIC DAWN (#2)

Arctic Dawn, the second book in Karissa Laurel’s Norse Chronicles urban fantasy series, picks up where
Book 1, Midnight Burning, left off. After discovering that she’s the reincarnation of the ancient Norse sun goddess, Solina Mundy found herself entangled in a potentially world-ending battle between immortals. Now, after a harrowing fight that forced her to unleash her powerful-but-still-unfamiliar supernatural abilities, Solina just wants to lie low. But a stranger with an legendary weapon forces her out of hiding, and sending her back into the fray.

I loved the first book in this series, and the sequel did not disappoint. Ancient legends in a modern setting, intriguing characters and shocking plot twists – it’s like book candy, and I loved every page! Solina’s quick wit and relatable quirks make her such a fun narrator to follow, grounding the out-of-this-world plot in a way that makes it feel real, even though we’re talking about gods and goddesses and monsters and prophecies and such. She’s grown a bit as a character since she was introduced as a naïve newcomer in Book 1; now that she understands her place in the Norse world, she’s not afraid to take charge of her own fate.

Also returning are the swoon-y god of thunder, Thorin (not Thor, who perished in Ragnorak, but Thor’s son), who’s both a love interest and a source of conflict for Solina, and modern-day Valkyrie Skyla Ramirez, Solina’s best friend. The story has a lot of supporting characters, most of whom are drawn from Norse mythology, creating a colorful pantheon. Oh, and I should also mention, there are some pretty cool action scenes.

Anyway, if you like magical stories in the contemporary world, you should totally check this series out!

Find it on Amazon.

MOLTEN DUSK (#3)

Molten Dusk is the final installment in Karissa Laurel’s Norse Chronicles urban fantasy
trilogy, and man, does this series end with a bang! Solina Mundy, a contemporary girl with a modest life who discovered that she was the reincarnation of the ancient Norse sun goddess, has had her world turned upside down in more than one way. Though she’s started to gain control over her supernatural abilities, a recent betrayal has left her shaken (I won’t say more, since it would ruin Book 2, Arctic Dawn, but suffice it to say that I messaged Karissa to say “Noooo how could you!!!” when I reached that part of the book!). She finds comfort in her growing relationship with Thorin, the god of war, and her friendship with Skyla, a modern-day Valkyrie.

Meanwhile, world-ending plots are still in motion—someone is trying to bring about a second Ragnorak. And Solina has the sneaking suspicion that it’s not just the obvious villain—someone on the inside has been feeding the enemy information. Done with hiding and letting others protect her, Solina takes matters into her own hands, searching for the enemy and trying to untangle their secrets. This book further expands upon the rich world-building developed in the first two books of the series, introducing new elements of the mythology and expanding on previous ones. The same can be said about the romance with the swoon-worthy Thorin…

Also included: battles with stone soldiers and trippy explorations of Norse realms.

Full of thrilling action scenes and unexpected twists, all building up to a climactic final battle, Molten Dusk is a truly satisfying conclusion to an awesome series.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karissa lives in North Carolina with her kid, her husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky. Some of her favorite things are coffee, chocolate, and super heroes. She can quote Princess Bride verbatim. She loves to read and has a sweet tooth for fantasy, sci-fi, and anything in between. Sometimes her husband convinces her to put down the books and take the motorcycles out for a spin. When it snows, you'll find her on the slopes.