Tuesday, December 26, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Water Into Wine / Joyce Chng

TITLE: Water Into Wine
AUTHOR: Joyce Chng
PUBLISHER: Annorlunda Books

Science Fiction

Water Into Wine tells the story of Xin, who cultivates an inherited vineyard in the shadow of an interplanetary war. Though the violence is never far, Xin tries to focus on cultivating a life and taking care of their family. It's a story of survival and self-discovery set against a sci-fi backdrop. Narrated in Xin's contemplative voice and written in spare, poetic prose, Water Into Wine is a haunting and atmospheric novella, so mesmerizing that I wound up reading the whole thing in a single day.

Xin is a complex character whose emotions and experiences feel as real on the page as picking up someone's diary. Though the story's set in the far future and on a distant planet, Xin's Southeast Asian roots and culture continue to play an important role in their life... from everyday things like food and names to matters of greater spiritual significance. Language, holidays, and beliefs from Xin's ancestors are all alive and well in their life. It's a wonderful and immersive take on sci-fi, and I was utterly drawn in from the beginning.

This is one of those books that's hard to review because there's so much to it, and I feel like my descriptive abilities aren't up to doing it justice. Every attempt to talk about what I liked and such feels like I'm reducing it to some simplified version. So I'll leave it here and settle for saying that this is a gorgeously written and hypnotic book, and that I highly recommend it.


Born in Singapore but a global citizen, Joyce Chng writes mainly science fiction and YA. She likes steampunk and tales of transformation/transfiguration. Her fiction has appeared in Crossed Genres, The Apex Book of World SF II, We See A Different Frontier, Cranky Ladies of History, and Accessing The Future. Her YA science fiction trilogy is published by Singapore publisher, Math Paper Press. She can be found at A Wolf’s Tale (awolfstale.wordpress.com).

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Archangel Errant (Earthbound Angels, #3) / Elizabeth Corrigan

Title: Archangel Errant (Earthbound Angels, #3)
Author: Elizabeth Corrigan
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Purchase link: Amazon

Urban Fantasy

Full disclosure: Elizabeth and I share a publisher (Red Adept Publishing, which published my Jane Colt trilogy). I bought this book on Kindle with my own dang money, and neither Elizabeth nor Red Adept asked me to leave this review, which reflects my opinion as a reader.

I've been a fan of the Earthbound Angels series since Book 1 (Oracle of Philadelphia), which introduced us to a world of angels and demons in the modern-day world. Now, in Book 3, we get a glimpse of this world's version of Heaven.

Before I go on, I just want to say that this series is very much A SERIES, as in it only really makes sense if you start from the beginning and read in order (no, you can't just pick up Book 3 and jump right in... you gotta read the set up!). So if you haven't read Oracle of Philadelphia (Book 1) or Raising Chaos (Book 2) yet, get outta here and go check 'em out! Because the rest of this review will probably spoil their plots.

In Archangel Errant, the archangel Gabriel has returned to Heaven after spending two thousand years on Earth, doing what good he can in the mortal world. So has the Bedlam who, after millennia spent as a chaos demon for rebelling against Heaven, has regained angel status (but is still quite chaotic). The rest of Heaven is not happy about this, so when a mysterious attack traps the angels in their own nightmares, he's the prime suspect. But Gabriel believes in Bedlam's innocence (in this matter, anyway) and sets out to wake the angels and find the real culprit.

Archangel Errant is an imaginative retelling of Biblical mythology (I'm atheist, so it's all mythology to me) that depicts the angels as being as flawed and fallible as the humans they're meant to preside over. Which makes them really interesting to read about. Retelling Biblical stories from an alternate angle has become an important element of all the Earthbound Angels books, and Archangel Errant delves into that once more. It also expands the Earthbound Angels world by going deeper into the world of the angels (so far, we've had a good look at Hell and at how the angels have interacted with Earth, but this is our first real foray into their realm).

My favorite part of the book, though, was getting to know the archangel Michael, who up until now has been portrayed as something of a sanctimonious jerk. Archangel Errant has several chapters from his POV as he seeks the Oracle (Carrie/Khet/Cassia/Cama... she's gone by many names by this point), who he's always seen as an abomination because her powers were granted by Lucifer. Because the last two books were told from the POV of the Oracle and her best friend (Bedlam), all we saw was how jerk-ish Michael could be. Now, we get to know what's going on in his head, offering a completely different perspective on his actions. It's a fascinating character development, and it opens the door for much more interesting character interactions to come (according to the author, there are several more sequels planned to this saga).

With its imaginative storytelling and expansive world-building, Archanel Errant is a fantastic addition to the Earthbound Angels saga, and I can't wait to read on when Book 4 comes out! (But don't worry, there's no cliffhanger!)

Elizabeth Corrigan has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. When she’s not hard at work on her next novel, Elizabeth enjoys singing, reading teen vampire novels, and making Sims of her characters.

She drinks more Diet Coke than is probably optimal for the human body and is pathologically afraid of bees. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a purple Smart Car.

Friday, December 15, 2017

All the Things that Bothered Me About Star Wars: The Last Jedi (SPOILERS ABOUND)

I've been a huge Star Wars nut since I was about 12, and I was well and truly obsessed with The Force Awakens when it came out. Obsessed to the point of writing theories all up and down the internet and even a tongue-in-cheek fan fic just for fun. I have a full Rey costume (the vest one from the island, which I'm hoping to visit in Ireland). Still, I tried not to get over-excited about The Last Jedi before it came out. I set my expectations modestly because I know how hard it is to be blown away. Critics built up good buzz with their rave reviews (it's got, like, 93% on Rotten Tomatoes), but I tried not to let it go to my head. 

"Just needs to be entertaining and satisfying," I told myself.

Entertaining, it was. Satisfying, it was not. And here's why.


Before I begin my list, I want to say that the thinkpieces out there saying that fans are divided in their reactions because "this is not the Star Wars I was expecting" or "this is different from the other Star Warses" are simplistic. And kind of condescending. I'm fine with change. In fact, I'm glad that The Last Jedi wasn't the rehash of Empire Strikes Back that it could have been.

What bothered me was that the new direction didn't feel well executed. Now, I've only seen it once, and it's possible that upon second viewing, I'll change my mind (I'm seeing it again tonight). Mostly, it felt like subpar writing and sloppy worldbuilding got in the way of what could have been a fantastic new chapter. Rian Johnson seemed to care more about being subversive and surprising than about creating a coherent story that fit in with the original saga. I think that's why the critics love it... they're so used to seeing the same franchise fare over and over that "different" automatically means "good."

Not for me. I like different, but different has to be done well too. And below are some of the craft issues I had with The Last Jedi.

The Force Awakens built up a lot of things that were left to fizzle in The Last Jedi.

Who are Rey's parents? How is she able to wield the Force so well when she didn't even realize it was a real thing until after the movie begins? Why did the Skywalker lightsaber call to her? Who is Snoke? How is he so powerful? What was Luke seeking at the first Jedi Temple? The Force Awakens left us with so many questions, and I was hoping they were all leading to something.


It didn't bother me that Rey's parents were revealed (by Kylo Ren) to be nobodies (I was hoping for a Skywalker legacy, but ah well), and that her backstory turned out to have no particular significance. What bothered me is that it makes her spectacular Force abilities a deus ex machina (more on that later). A lot of people were bothered by how she could so easily pick up high-level Jedi skills with literally zero training in The Force Awakens. I held out hope that The Last Jedi would explain it. Maybe she was trained as a child but had her memories blocked. When The Last Jedi failed to do so, it made her abilities feel unearned. 

Unlike Anakin, she didn't have to spend a decade training with a Jedi Master to grasp her skills. Unlike Luke, she didn't have to visibly and palpably struggle to understand her abilities and learn to use them. Even Kylo had to spend years and years training with Luke, and then with Snoke. Rey? As one tumblr joke put it, "LOL wtf is this glowstick." It's as if someone who's never seen a violin before can just pick one up and start playing like Joshua Bell. And with no explanation other than that she's Kylo's "counterpart". And to say "because the Force is strong with her" is to turn the Force into a deus ex machina that magically grants abilities even if you never learned a thing. It cheapens the Jedi and the whole Star Wars universe, in a way. 

Of course, they could always reveal more in the third movie, but I'm not holding out hope.

Meanwhile, Snoke turns out to be a lame-ass cartoon villain if there ever was one. No explanation is given for his rise and power. He just is. Until he isn't. And his fall is really, really disappointing. Palpatine is cackling at him in Sith Hell... and taking his lunch money.

As for Luke, the explanation that he came to Ahch-To to wallow in self-pity rings false. If he just wanted to impose self-exile, why choose a place so significant to the Jedi Order? It was somewhat implied in The Force Awakens that he might have been seeking some kind of special knowledge or understanding at the first Jedi temple. Instead... mwap mwap. He just came here because it was hidden. Except that doesn't even really make sense because he's closed himself off from the Force and wants nothing more to do with it. Why would he go to a place that would remind him every day of what he failed to become? Self-punishment is a possible explanation, but without any kind of dialogue discussing that, it just seems like Johnson wanted to be contrary without giving the contrary-ness any meaning.

Also, going back to The Force Awakens... everyone was surprised when R2-D2 conveniently woke up in time to give the Resistance the location of the last Jedi. I was hoping there was some explanation for that too... maybe R2 had been told by Luke to wait for the right moment to reveal his location. Instead, it was just another convenient coincidence that he just happened to have exactly what the Plot needed. Lazy storytelling through and through.

The Force is turned into a deus ex machina

In addition to the issues I discussed above ("How can she do that without anyone teaching her anything?" "Because the Force." "But..." "THE FORCE WILLS IT"), the Force's actual meaning becomes muddled in this movie. George Lucas worried about the new filmmakers making gobbledygook out of the Force. He was, unfortunately, right.

In the original trilogy, the Force is an energy field that, when wielded, can grant the user some telekinetic and telepathic powers, plus enhanced abilities. The new trilogy pushed its limits by making it far more powerful than before. Kylo Ren stopping a laser blast, for example. The Last Jedi goes beyond that, even.

Suddenly, Snoke is able to bridge Rey and Kylo's minds against their wills, without them knowing what's going on. And they both just accept that "the Force wills it." Suddenly, a Force ghost is able to cast down a giant lightning bolt that sets fire to a huge honking tree. Suddenly, Leia's able to survive being sucked into the vacuum of space, despite there being no indication that she ever developed her Force abilities. I didn't mind Luke's astro-projecting as much, but it was one more thing that can be attributed to "because the Force."

In a way, it makes the Force somewhat Biblical. How's Rey able to all these things? Because the Force is the Almighty God. I guess Star Wars has always had religious connotations (and is indeed treated as a religion by many), but from a storytelling perspective, it feels lazy.

Next movie, I won't be surprised if Rey shows up in a room full of stormtroopers and just blinks to make them all vanish into thin air. Because that's the level of hokey-ness we've reached.

Again, it makes everyone's abilities feel unearned. And at the end, when Luke declares that Rey is the last Jedi, the title feels empty. She's done nothing to earn that title. She hasn't had to work for it at all. Everything is just given to her. While I like her as a character, it would have been more interesting to see her struggle to control her powers. Maybe she's super powerful, but that makes her more susceptible to wanton destruction with unfortunate collateral damage (for a brief moment, it seemed like they might do this, but it was ultimately played as a gag). That could've been an interesting angle--her learning to rein in her raw strength. But instead, she just is. Because THE FORCE WILLS IT.

Threads are left dangling, and I'm not holding out hope that they'll be tied up.

Early on, Luke introduces Rey to the Force and warns her that there's a place close with the Dark Side, kind of like the cave he himself encountered on Dagobah. Rey goes right for it, which frightens him. She later jumps into the cave itself in search of answers, but finds only a mirror. And... that's it. There's no moment when it seems like the Dark Side cave will corrupt her, even that's what we're meant to fear. The whole thing seems like it was created to create tension for the sake of tension... and as an excuse for a trippy mirror scene.

After Leia's magical flight through space, no one questions how she was able to do that. Not even Leia herself. It's just accepted that this seemingly human woman, who up till now has been portrayed as very earthly, suddenly has goddess-like powers. No one asks why. No one cares. 

For that matter, it's never addressed why Leia never developed her own Force abilities. A few lines of dialogue would have done the trick. "I'm Darth Vader's daughter, and I know myself well enough to fear following his path." Or "I want to focus on the here and now, so I'll leave the Jedi stuff to my monk of a brother." And yet she clearly is still Force sensitive... what does that mean to her? How does she feel about suddenly defying reality, presumably because of the very abilities she rejected. NO. ONE. CARES. Except me, apparently.

And Leia doesn't seem to care that she's lost her husband, brother, son, and most of her Resistance fighters (including all her leadership) within days. Though considering her lack of reaction to Alderaan's destruction in A New Hope, maybe that is consistent. (Or maybe, as George Lucas did, Rian Johnson is waiting for the Star Wars novelists to pick up the slack via pained flashbacks).

Meanwhile, where the heck are the Knights of Ren? They'd better show up in the next movie...

Rey and Kylo's intimate Force conversations are the stuff of Tumblr fan fics.

#Reylo fans, rejoice! Rian Johnson is one of you! And he might be stealing your ideas!

The whole Reylo thing always grossed me out because 1) Kylo is nothing but creepy and abusive toward Rey in the Force Awakens and 2) I suspected that they were intimately related.

So #2 was a red herring. That's fine. What's not fine is that #1 is still the case. Rey is thrust into the position of being the girl who's sympathetic toward a jerk because he's misunderstoooooood. Admittedly, as an audience member and fangirl, I get Kylo Ren/Ben Solo's angsty appeal. But in the context of the movie, it just feels... like the stuff of Tumblr fan fics. 

In fact, there have actually been (very popular) Reylo fan fics that started off with the premise of Rey and Kylo Ren having intimate conversations from afar via the Force. Which is exactly what happens in the Last Jedi. Including one scene where Kylo is gratuitously shirtless. That the whole thing was a honeypot operation by Snoke to draw out Rey doesn't make it any less... annoying.

The whole movie lacked emotional resonance.

What made Empire Strikes Back such a great movie is that, for all its flaws, it rang true emotionally. Luke's struggle to understand the Force as he trained with Yoda felt real. Rey never had to struggle. She explores a bit, but her abilities are taken for granted. Luke's hero-worship of his father is turned on its head with the Darth Vader reveal, and despite the overacting, the devastation feels real. There's no equivalent for Rey, except maybe in her disappointment when Kylo fails to see the light. 

Even so, their relationship feels shallow. The two have barely known of each others' existence for a few days. Why should Rey care so much about redeeming Ben Solo? Some of it can be chalked up to her inherent kindness, but without a stronger bond, it just doesn't... mean as much. Meanwhile, Luke's been worshiping the father he never knew for a lifetime, so his connection with Vader rings true to the core.

Then there's the romances. Han and Leia had such palpable chemistry, every fan in the world felt validated when Carrie Fisher revealed her real-life affair with Harrison Ford. I thought Finn and Rey had great chemistry in The Force Awakens, but they spent most of The Last Jedi apart. Which is fine. What wasn't fine was Rose Tico's love for Finn being shoehorned in. I liked Finn and Rose as a duo, but they had zero romantic chemistry. Zero. They were partners in crime, siblings in arms. So when Rose suddenly said that she loved Finn and gave him a peck on the lips, I was like, "REALLY???" There was more sexual tension between Vice Admiral Holdo and Poe Dameron (now there's a romance I could've gotten behind).

And, as I mentioned before, Leia's lack of reaction to the devastating losses she faced made her whole storyline feel kind of empty. Which is a shame, since this was Carrie Fisher's last bow. (I think she did a great job with the script she was given. The issue was that the script didn't give her the opportunity to do more).

The Force Awakens actually had a lot more emotional resonance. Finn and Rey's friendship was palpable, so when they're constantly getting into trouble and worrying about each other, you sincerely want them to rescue each other so they can just hang out. Rey and Han's quasi father-daughter relationship worked too in a way that Rey and Luke's never did. Not only because Luke was always brushing Rey off, but because it never developed beyond that. The only moment in The Last Jedi that actually got me in the feels was when Luke and Leia reunited at last. And even that was cheapened when it was revealed that he was never actually there.

Aaaaaanyway, I could go on, but this post is already far too long.

To be clear, I don't dislike The Last Jedi. I'm just disappointed. And not for the reasons those condescending thinkpieces state. Maybe it'll grow on me upon a second viewing. Maybe.

In the meanwhile, I'm still planning to visit Skellig Michael dressed as Rey (with the vest and the boots and everything! And the staff if I can figure out how to get it on an airplane). Because despite everything, it's still Star Wars, and I'm willing to forgive a lot. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Star City / Edwin Peng

TITLE: Star City (Star City, #1)
AUTHOR: Edwin Peng
PUBLISHER: Evolved Publishing

Young Adult - Science Fiction

Edwin Peng’s debut novel, STAR CITY, is a YA sci-fi tale that tells the story of alien first contact from the point of view of two teenagers: Emma Smith, a college freshman who’s given the coveted position of student ambassador, and Sepporinen, a young alien who’s assigned to be her counterpart. The alien race, called the Ba’ren, are a technologically advanced and peace-loving society that hopes to be Earth’s benevolent allies. To prove their goodwill, they offer medical technology that can cure a form of childhood cancer and team up with human scientists to develop the cure. However, not all humans welcome the Ba’ren’s presence, and not all Ba’ren want to form an alliance with Earth. Between extremists on Earth who believe the Ba’ren to be an invading force to isolationist Ba’ren factions, diplomacy gets harder and harder every day. Emma and Sepporinen soon find themselves at the heart of the conflict, working desperately to salvage the fragile relations between Earth and the Ba’ren.

Emma and Sepporinen start the book in polar opposite positions. Emma is thrilled at having beat out thousands of applicants for her role as student ambassadors and sees this as a wonderful opportunity. Sepporinen, on the other hand, never wanted anything to do with this mission. He cares more about prospecting for riches, but was thrust into the junior ambassador position by his government for reasons that are unclear to him. Both are intriguing characters, especially Sepporinen, whose alien culture is thoroughly explored through fantastic world-building. It’s practically hate at first sight when the two finally meet. Over the course of the book, their relationship develops and shifts, until they find themselves unlikely partners.

But though the narrative centers on the two young protagonists, the story of STAR CITY is much, much broader. It’s essentially the story of two clashing worlds filtered through Emma and Sepporinen. Through secondary characters and news reports, we see the impact of the aliens’ arrival on Earth on not only the Emma’s country, the United States, but the world as a whole. In addition, Sepporinen’s dialogue with his people shows how various Ba’ren are reacting to the attempted diplomacy. It’s an expansive and richly wrought feat of both world-building and storytelling. And much of it rings true. The Ba’ren society is developed in detail (and is quite different from Earth’s), and Earth’s reactions—from religious fundamentalists claiming the Ba’ren are demons to internet-conspiracy-fueled extremists—seem all too believable.

It’s hard to believe Peng was able to pack such a big story into such a little book (maybe not little, but certainly not the 1000-page tome it could have been!). Personally, I enjoyed the efficiency of his writing and how fast-paced the story was. It was a quick, addictive read that kept me glued to the pages (well, screen since I had a Kindle version!). STAR CITY is the first book of a trilogy, though it has a conclusion of sorts while leaving the door open for its two sequels. I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on them!

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 is released by Evolved Publishing on December 4, 2017.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Just the Trouble I Needed / Lauren Faulkenberry

TITLE: Just the Trouble I Needed (Bayou Sabine, #2.5)
AUTHOR: Lauren Faulkenberry
PUBLISHER: Blue Crow Books

Contemporary Romance

Seeking a refuge from her chaotic life, Kate McDonnell agrees to dogsit for a friend in another town. There’s one problem: the last time she visited the Bayou, she had a fling with the town’s good-looking sheriff, Andre, and she’s not sure where they stand. When the two meet up again, sparks are reignited. But Kate isn’t ready for a new relationship so soon after her last one blew up…

Just the Trouble I Needed is a lovely contemporary romance novella by Lauren Faulkenberry, full of character and charm. The whole thing is really well-written, especially the descriptions of emotions. It’s easy to feel as Kate feels, to find yourself wrestling with the same complexities as she does. As for Andre, well, what’s a romance without a swoon-worthy love interest? ;-) I love that he’s not a stereotypical “alpha male,” but has emotional depth of his own (and more than Kate gives him credit for at first). The two have great chemistry, and it’s easy to root for them. I also appreciated the lush descriptions of the setting and the way it seems to be a character as well.

While this novella is part of a series (the Bayou Sabine series), it stands on its own. I hadn’t read any of the other books before diving in, but I had no trouble getting into the story.

Sometimes, you just want a quick romantic read full of human drama and sympathetic characters, and Just the Trouble I Needed really hits the spot! It’s a fun, fast-paced read that gets you right in the feels.

Lauren Faulkenberry is author of the novel BAYOU MY LOVE (Velvet Morning Press, 2016), the novella BACK TO BAYOU SABINE, and the children's book WHAT DO ANIMALS DO ON THE WEEKEND? She is a contributor to the anthology HUNGRY FOR HOME: Stories of Food from Across the Carolinas With More Than 200 Favorite Recipes. 

Lauren divides her time between writing, teaching, and making artist books. Originally from South Carolina, she has worked as an archaeologist, an English teacher, and a ranger for the National Park Service. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Georgia College & State University, where she attended on fellowship, and earned her MFA in Book Arts from The University of Alabama. She was a finalist for the Novello Festival Press First Novel Award, won the Family Circle short fiction contest for her story "Beneath Our Skin," and was nominated for an AWP Intro Award. 

She currently lives in western NC, where she is at work on her next novel in the Bayou series.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

COVER REVEAL: Jane Colt Trilogy omnibus!

Exciting news! Red Adept Publishing is releasing my JANE COLT trilogy as an e-book exclusive omnibus on December 26! Firefly meets Blade Runner in this complete space opera series about a young woman searching for the truth in a dangerous galaxy full of interstellar conspiracies, artificial intelligence, and murderous agendas....

And this omnibus has a sparkly new cover... check it out below!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Quest of Thunder (Stormbourne Chronicles, #2) / Karissa Laurel

TITLE: Quest of Thunder (Stormbourne Chronicles, #2)
AUTHOR: Karissa Laurel
PUBLISHER: Evolved Publishing

Young Adult--Steampunk/Fantasy

A princess on the run. A steampunk circus. A group of dark magicians who will stop at nothing. If you’re looking for an amazing fantasy adventure, boy, does Quest of Thunder (Book 2 of Karissa Laurel’s Stormbourne Chronicles) deliver! It’s a sequel that totally holds up to the original… in fact, it may be even better.

Evelyn Stormbourne is the last in a long line of thunder-wielding royals, but her own powers are faltering. She’s still on the run after the events of Heir of Thunder (Book 1 in the Stormbourne Chronicles), in which her father was overthrown and she was forced to flee a conspiracy of dark magic. She’s adjusting pretty well to common life, all things considered, but the bad guys aren’t done with her yet. They’re determine to enslave her and exploit her innate powers. Meanwhile, her country is in chaos. In Quest of Thunder, Evelyn hides in anonymity while searching for the Fantazikes—a group of nomads she allied with in the first book but lost touch with—in hopes that they can help her master her powers over the sky. But her identity doesn’t remain a secret for long; the young ruler of the kingdom she’s hiding in discovers who she is and invites her into her palace. Now, I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that drama happens, and Evelyn is forced to run again… and this time she joins a traveling steampunk circus, working in exchange for passage to the last known location of the Fantazikes.

Quest of Thunder is an utter delight to read, full of magic, adventure, intrigue, and mayhem. Evelyn is a sympathetic protagonist who’s in way over her head… which makes her all the more fun to read about. And as with the last book, there’s a touch of romance. While Evelyn has great chemistry with her love interest, Gideon, she’s more concerned with surviving and figuring out how the heck she’s going to a) escape the bad guys and b) get her kingdom back. And have I mentioned the worldbuilding? A fantastical version of 19th century Europe full of airships, mechanical animals, and magic. While steampunk can walk the line between sci-fi and fantasy, the Stormbourne Chronicles fall squarely in the fantasy camp. I wish I could dive in and hang out with Evie and her friends. Everything about this book comes alive with immersive world-building and colorful characters.

I tore through the first book in this series and demanded an early copy of the second, which I promptly devoured as well. The third and final installment of the Stormbourne chronicles (Crown of Thunder) will be coming out in a year or so, and I can’t wait!


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.

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.

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
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/