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The Fiercest Fight: Character Interview

I’m thrilled to announce the release of an awesome new book that you Christian fantasy lovers will not want to miss.  Adventure, danger, romance, dark creatures, life and death, and a strong and true message…you’ll find that and much more in The Fiercest Fight.  Also…that cover is simply amazing – I dare you to disagree with me!

Without further ado, here’s a fun and tantalizing character interview between the author, Brent King, and the protagonist of The Fiercest Fight, Tristan.

Character Interview with Tristan

Brent:
Hey! This is the first post in a blog tour to celebrate the release my debut fantasy novel, The Fiercest Fight. I can’t think of a better way to start than with an interview of my protagonist, Tristan.

Tristan:
*leans back in his chair and runs his fingers through his hair*
But I’m going to ask the first question: Why did you give me your red hair? You must have known how my schoolmates would tease me.

Brent:
Yeah, I did. But all you have to know is how to smile and say, “I know. Isn’t it cool?” It’s a small price to pay for such a distinguishing feature.

Tristan:
*shifts in his seat*
Easy for you to say! The guys were relentless.

Brent:
So is that what you hate worst about life?The Fiercest Fight Cover

Tristan:
Well, not exactly.
*removes sunglasses, shifts glowing eyes*
It used to be, but unfortunately, life got more complex. My issues now make my red hair trouble seem juvenile.

Brent:
*squints into Tristan’s eyes* It sounds like you’ve grown up a bit then.

Tristan:
I had to.

Brent:
Was it scary?

Tristan:
*slips sunglasses back on and nods*
Sometimes.
You would be scared too if you had to face…uh…do you believe in monsters?

Brent:
I-well…
*twirls a pencil in between fingers*
I’m not sure…

Tristan:
You would if you were me.

Brent:
I would?

Tristan:
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done to someone?

Brent:
I thought I was asking the questions.
*eyes twinkle*

Tristan:
*lifts up hand and stares at it, flexing his fingers*
Well, to answer my own question then, I’ve hurt people pretty bad. I wish the beast had never come to me. He’s a fearsome—

Brent:
Beast?

Tristan:
*nods*
You wouldn’t understand. It’s too…unbelievable. Even Pastor Mike had a hard time at first.

Brent:
Are you talking about a wildcat or a wolf?

Tristan:
*rises and shakes his head*
Much worse than that! This creature would make you believe in God…or at least search for Him.

Brent:
I do believe in God. Do you?

Tristan:
Yes.
He offered me life or death. It wasn’t easy, but I chose death.

Brent:
*rises and shakes Tristan’s hand*
That’s a bit cryptic, but I wanted it that way.
*grins*

Tristan:
Thanks a lot!

Brent:
*calls after Tristan as he exits*
You’re welcome, and thanks for the chance to ask a few questions.

Well, there you have it: a few words with my protagonist. If you have any further questions for him, don’t hesitate to leave them below. I’ll make sure he answers them.

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FOLLOW THIS LINK TO ENTER INTO THE GREAT GIVEAWAY BEING OFFERED BY THE AUTHOR!

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Brent KingBrent King is a freelance writer of Christian fantasy and historical fiction from Lake Oswego, Oregon. Brent is a musician, a waterman, and has two sons, 20 and 23, who live in British Columbia, Canada. Brent’s first book, The Grip of Grace: God’s Hand in The Lord of the Rings, was published in January, 2014.

Cinderella Schemes #1: An Interview with Shonna Slayton

As a way to celebrate the release of A Wish Made of Glass, I’m doing a series of interviews with other authors who have written retellings or renditions of the Cinderella story. I’ve got some pretty spectacular authors lined up, so I hope you’ll join me every Monday from today until August 3rd.

In the first of these interviews I am hosting the lovely Shonna Slayton. She is the author of Cinderella’s Dress (June 2014) and its sequel, Cinderella’s Shoes (October 2015).

Without further ado, here’s what Shonna has to say about writing her re-vamp of this age-old tale . . .

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How difficult was it for you to come up with a fresh plot for such a well-known story? Were there any tricks you used to imagine a new angle on the theme?

My two Cinderella novels are spin-offs of the original story, told from the point of view of the descendants of all the characters. The novels are set in New York City during the 1940’s starting from around D-Day in 1944 until the summer of 1947 where I move the cast to post-WWII Europe.

I had been going through a fairy-tale binge when the ideas for Cinderella’s Dress started to take shape, but I never intended to write my own retelling. So many people had already produced such wonderful retellings that I was too intimidated to try my hand at it. Instead, I wanted to “tell the rest of the story” using the objects Cinderella might have bequeathed to her children: her dress, her glass slippers!

When I was younger my parents dragged me around to antique stores, and at the time I hated it, but now I have a fascination with old objects and the stories they silently keep. What would Cinderella’s children…grandchildren…hand writinggreat grandchildren do with her dress? Her shoes? Would the children fight over them? Would these items remain full of fairy-tale magic? If so, what could they do? These are some of the concepts that had me daydreaming a new angle for the well-known story.

What original storylines, scenes, characters or props did you feel you just had to retain from the original Cinderella to use in your own version?

During the first draft I started to parallel the Cinderella story pretty closely. Almost like a retelling where my main character, Kate, had a wicked stepmom, and she had an older sister who took advantage of her, but not far into the writing I realized that wasn’t at all what I wanted to do. I really wanted to change it up even more.

Back in medieval times there was a job called “Keeper of the Wardrobe.” As the job title suggests, a keeper maintained the clothing of the royal family. I latched onto that role and made Kate’s family the descendants of the original Keeper. They became the ones responsible for the safety of the dress. And since the 1940’s was a pivotal time in fashion, I had a lot of fun placing the story in an upscale department store, and talking about the arrival of Dior’s New Look.

Now, for the sequel, Cinderella’s Shoes, which comes out in October, I had a bit of fun with adding more references to classic Cinderella tropes. Some are obvious, but others more subtle. The story moves from New York to Europe so it seemed appropriate to add more fantasy to the sequel the closer my characters got to the source, so to speak.

What type of research, if any, did you do for your retelling? How deeply into the history of Cinderella did you dig?

I didn’t research the original Cinderella tales very much at all, since I was only taking pieces from the story. For Cinderella’s Dress I spent most of my research time learning about New York in the 1940’s, department store window dressing, and 1940’s fashions. I was thrilled to discover actual historical events to tie my plot points to. (Seriously thrilling—often gave myself goosebumps over it!)

For Cinderella’s Shoes, I dove into research of post WWII Europe. This research was a bit trickier considering much of what we know from Eastern Europe has only recently come to light. As an English speaker studying Polish history, I felt frustrated at the lack of information available compared to the wealth of information that was available for New York during this same time period. Nonetheless, I did find some fascinating bits of info that I was able to include in the story. Much of what I learned about WWII and the aftermath was quite terrible, but given that I was not writing a realistic novel like Code Name Verity, I put a lot of what I learned into the backstory of a new character, and only hinted at what she went through during the war.

Do you have plans for more retellings? If so, could you give us a hint as to which fairy tale(s) they may be based on?

I do! This summer during Camp NaNoWriMo I am writing a new fairy-tale/historical mashup, and if you check out my Pinterest boards, you could come up with a pretty good guess as to both the fairy tale and the historical time period.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Ashlee! I’ve enjoyed following your publishing adventures this past year and look forward to more fun with you.

Thanks, Shonna! Sooo fun to visit with you, as always!

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CINDERELLA’S DRESS

cinderellas dress coverKate simply wants to create window displays at the department store where she’s working, trying to help out with the war effort. But when long-lost relatives from Poland arrive with a steamer trunk they claim holds the Cinderella’s dress, life gets complicated.

Now, with a father missing in action, her new sweetheart shipped off to boot camp, and her great aunt losing her wits, Kate has to unravel the mystery before it’s too late.

After all, the descendants of the wicked stepsisters will stop at nothing to get what they think they deserve.

CINDERELLA’S SHOES 

(Available Oct 6, 2015)

The war may be over, but Kate Allen’s life is still in upheaval. Not only has she discovered that Cinderella was real, but now Cinderellas Shoes by Shonna Slaytonshe’s been made Keeper of the Wardrobe, her sole responsibility to protect Cinderella’s magical dresses from the greed of the evil stepsisters’ modern descendants.

But Cinderella’s dresses are just the beginning. It turns out that the priceless glass slippers might actually exist, too, and they could hold the power to reunite lost loved ones like her father—missing in action since World War II ended. As Kate and her boyfriend, Johnny, embark on an adventure from New York to Italy and Poland in search of the mysterious slippers, they will be tested in ways they never imagined.

Because when you harness Cinderella’s magic, danger and evil are sure to follow…

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FIND SHONNA HERE

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Falcon Heart: A Medieval Fantasy

Old grunge paper.A strange dagger…

Adventure beyond fear…

Slavers seize Kyrin Cieri from the coast of medieval Britain and sail for Araby. With a dagger from her murdered mother’s hand, an exiled warrior from the East, and a peasant girl, Kyrin finds mystery, martial skill, and friendship closer than blood.

The falcon dagger pursues her through tiger-haunted dreams, love, and war in the Araby sands. Kyrin is caught by the caliph’s court intrigue and faces the blade that took her mother. One thing can give her the will to overcome, justice against hate, dagger against sword.

Murder, sacrifice, vengeance…compassion and the art of war.

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“Every once in a while you come across an author with a voice so distinctive, you could recognize it anywhere. Azalea Dabill has her own unique, lyrical style that draws you into the story and lets you experience it through all the senses.” -K. McKee (taken from Amazon)

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Author - AzaleaAzalea Dabill grew up in the California hills, building forts in the oaks. She remembers the fuzzy-sweet smell of acorns and moss, fields of lupines and poppies, the clear song of crickets. Home-schooled, she read fantasy and adventure to her siblings. Now she enjoys growing things, old bookstores, and hiking the wild.

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A Love Letter – Out of Darkness Rising

OODR Blog Tour Header

This is a guest post by Gillian Bronte Adams.

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Brevity may not be my strength, but if you were to ask me to describe Out of Darkness Rising in only a few words, I would say that at its heart, it is a love letter.

To whom, you ask?

I suppose it could be written to everyone who believed in me when I scarce believed in myself. Publishing this book has taken me along such strange and twisting paths that I was tempted to throw up my hands and admit defeat more than once.

Just as “Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam,” I wouldn’t have “got far” without my stalwart companions encouraging me along each step of the way.

It could be written to writing itself, a wild compilation of all the things I love about fantasy and fairytales.

It could even be written to you.

If you are anything like me, you can easily lose yourself in a storyworld for hours at a time. Far too frequently when I was growing up, my younger siblings would get frustrated when they tried to talk to me because once my nose was buried in a book, I would smile and nod but not hear a word they were saying.

Reading my own books is a bit different. Once the final edit has been finished and the final proof completed, there is no element of surprise left in the story for its writer. I have planned the action down the second, dreamed up the dialogue in my own noggin, tweaked each word to sound “just so,” and have the plot fixed as firmly as a road map before my eyes.

Every now and then, there remains a battle scene that sets my blood pumping, a section of prose that makes me sigh in contentment, or a piece of witty banter that brings a chuckle to my lips. I can still shed a tear or two over the death of this character or the sorrow of that one over there.

But I am rarely deeply stirred by the things I write after the initial writing, simply because I wrote them.

Not so with Out of Darkness Rising.

Even now, six years after the imagining and four major rewrites later, something about this novella still manages to grip me by the throat and sink its teeth into my heart.

Perhaps because there is so much of me written into this novella. So much of my hopes and fears, my struggles, my doubts, my dreams.

This book grew from the wild imaginings of a girl who dreamed an impossible dream. It was tempered by a girl who faced theOODR Front Cover difficulties of impossibility, set her teeth against the challenges, and braved her fears to see success … only to watch that success shatter in her hands. It was made anew by a girl who had learned enough to know she had so much more to learn.

It was edited in pain and handed to you now with the air of a knight returning from battle with the enemy’s standard in hand.

And yet, this book was not written for you.

It was not even written for me.

It was written as a love letter to my Savior.

In Out of Darkness Rising, you catch a glimpse—only a glimpse, mind you—of my heart. For I am Hadriel, wild to be free. And I am Marya, too ashamed to stand. Like Hadriel, I have marched out boldly on a course of my own choosing … only to find myself bound by chains of my own making. Like Marya, I have cried out into the storm and the night that I am abandoned, not knowing and not caring that it is I who have wandered.

Like the villagers, I have stood upon the Stone and felt the heat of the Serpent’s breath, and when my craven knees could not bear me up, I have knelt in shame, only to have my head lifted by the One who bore my pain.

By my Redeemer.

Though Out of Darkness Rising was not written to you, it was written for you and me and all of the Maryas, Hadriels, Maddrells, and Bjorns in this world. It is my hope that it will serve as a reminder of who you are, where you have come from, and what the Lord has done for you. That it may rekindle your first love and awaken in you a hope everlasting.

And that the final words will set your heart to throbbing and pounding, overcome with a wild desire to stand upon the shores of the Kingdom, and to know that it is not the end, just the beginning.

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Gillian Bronte AdamsGILLIAN BRONTE ADAMS is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, coffee-loving speculative fiction author from the great state of Texas. During the day, she manages the equestrian program at a youth camp. But at night, she kicks off her boots and spurs, pulls out her trusty laptop, and transforms into a novelist. She is the author of Orphan’s Song, book one of the Songkeeper Chronicles, and Out of Darkness Rising. Visit Gillian online at her blog, Twitter, or Facebook page.

When Stories Are Truer Than Fact

This is a guest post by Suzannah Rowntree, the author of the freshly released (as in, yesterday!!) Pendragon’s Heir.

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As the author of a novel which is rooted in a deep and abiding love of medieval literature, I’ve spent much time over the last few years meditating on what great works of literature can teach us about the people who produced them.

Take The Song of Roland, a medieval French epic of Charlemagne’s retreat across the Pyrenees into France. Of this tale of betrayal, tragedy, and justice, which is almost entirely fictional from beginning to end, Dr George Grant says, “Its true lies tell us much about ourselves, our world, and the shaping of Western Civilization that we might not otherwise know.”

Stories tell us something far more important than the facts about the people in them. Stories tell us far deeper and more resonant truths about the people who tell them.

The Song of Roland, for instance, is obviously fiction. In this chanson de geste, a nobleman of Charlemagne’s court betrays his rearguard to the Saracens as Charlemagne’s army withdraws across the mountains. At Roncesvalles, the legendary Roland with various other paladins of France fight desperately until evening and then fall defending the PendragonsHeirpass. Horrified by his loss, inspired by the sacrifice of his greatest warrior, and obligated by an emergent chivalric code, Charlemagne recrosses the Pyrenees and wins a resounding victory against the Saracens. Finally Ganelon, the traitor who betrayed Roland to the Saracens, is tried and executed, not so much for his betrayal of the kingdom as for his betrayal of the chivalric virtues of Christendom: fidelity to a lord, the bonds of brotherhood between Christian warriors, and the defence of the faith against pagans.

Very little, if any, of this story is historical. But what it gives us is a snapshot of medieval civilisation at the very flowering-point of chivalry. In Dr Grant’s summary, “Roland…was the epitome of the great Christian knight. He was loyal, he was faithful, he was trustworthy to the end, and for Ganelon to betray that virtue with his cunning was to undercut the whole of Christian civilisation.” Like many other stories, The Song of Roland uses its fiction to tell us what lies, most burning, more insistent, most truly in the hearts of its tellers and hearers.

If this is true for a single literary work like The Song of Roland, how much more might it be true for the Matter of Britain—one of the most often-retold tales in Western history?

The body of legends known today as the Arthurian legendarium, or the Matter of Britain, has come down to us in a vast body of iterations and reiterations. Scholars today continue to debate the existence of Arthur, the man at their centre. Did he really exist? Was he Roman, Celtic, or Sarmatian? And what, exactly, did he do? Defeat pagan invaders—win the battle of Mount Badon—preserve civilisation for a time before the Saxon conquest?

knights at round tableAbout the only thing we do know for certain is that the vast majority of the stories about this man were invented by pseudo-historians, minstrels, and romancers. We see each new storyteller putting his own gloss on each of the tales and sending it on to the next storyteller to gain new details, new characters, new adventures. At the same time they pick up new anachronisms: a courtly love tradition that certainly could not have existed in the sixth century when the real Arthur may have lived; a code of chivalry; the latest knightly weapons and fighting tactics.

Apart from perhaps one small grain of truth, the Arthur legends are fiction. Yet, over the years I worked on Pendragon’s Heir, my own retelling of the Matter of Britain, I came to appreciate just how profoundly truthful these tales could be—a truth powerful enough to captivate storytellers and audiences from England and Wales to France and Germany, from the High Middle Ages right down to the present day.

For at the heart of the Arthurian legendarium in its most refined form there is a painful gash that lies like a wound between medieval ideals and medieval reality. In Thomas Malory’s classic English version of the myths, Le Morte D’Arthur, the knights of Arthur are a savage, sinful lot, far removed from the idealised knights-in-shining-armour of popular imagination. Some of the knights—Galahad, Perceval, Bors, and (nearly) Lancelot—truly are men of honour and integrity, but the majority are violent, unchaste men who not only break their oath of allegiance to the Round Table’s brotherhood but also fail to live the life of holiness and humility necessary for them to achieve the Quest of the Grail, the one thing that might establish their realm forever. CS Lewis calls them “the peak which failed to reach heaven”—the warriors who dreamed of something better, who reached out to grasp beautiful and high ideals, but who ultimately failed through their own sinfulness.

It was my aim in Pendragon’s Heir not so much to use the Arthurian legends to construct something new, or to provide a faithful picture of any particular historical time, as it was to probe this painful gash between ideals and reality, to explore in my generation the same issues which the medieval romancers explored in theirs. And as much as us, the medieval romancers had excellent reason to explore this topic: they lived in a world of fierce, nigh-unbeatable warriors who all too often broke their oaths, betrayed their marriage covenants, rebelled against their lords, and preyed on the very people they were sworn to protect.

But that is only half of the truth that lies at the heart of the Arthurian myth. The other half is an equally compelling image of virtue: against oath-breaking, oath-keeping. Against unlawful passions, a tender and Christlike love. Against rebellion, meekness and courtesy. Against oppression and exploitation, self-sacrifice and charity. And these qualities, too, rose to a high and fierce flame in the Middle Ages: not all men knocked, or sought, or asked, in vain, and if there were many defeats in the quest to incarnate the kingdom of heaven on the earth, there were also glorious and awe-inspiring victories.

My hope in Pendragon’s Heir is to introduce you to the world of Arthur, which is the world of medieval Christendom: not to tell you what the medievals did, but to show you what they thought, what they believed, and above anything else what they hoped to leave as a legacy to future generations. My hope is to sketch out for you a map of the medieval faith: their ideals, their hope, their fears.

It is a story of dreams and visions. But to the men who dreamed them, those dreams and visions were more immediate, more solid, more true than anything else in the world.

I hope that through Pendragon’s Heir, they will inspire you too.

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Suzannah RowntreeWhen Suzannah Rowntree isn’t travelling the world to help out friends in need, she lives in a big house in rural Australia with her awesome parents and siblings, trying to beat her previous number-of-books-read-in-a-year record. She blogs the results at www.vintagenovels.com and is the author of both fiction and non-fiction. Pendragon’s Heir is her debut novel.

 

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Blanche Pendragon enjoys her undemanding life as the ward of an eccentric nobleman in 1900 England. It’s been PendragonsHeiryears since she wondered what happened to her long lost parents, but then a gift on the night of her eighteenth birthday reveals a heritage more dangerous and awe-inspiring than she ever dreamed of—or wanted. Soon Blanche is flung into a world of wayfaring immortals, daring knights, and deadly combats, with a murderous witch-queen on her trail and the future of a kingdom at stake. As the legendary King Arthur Pendragon and his warriors face enemies without and treachery within, Blanche discovers a secret that could destroy the whole realm of Logres. Even if the kingdom could be saved, is she the one to do it? Or is someone else the Pendragon’s Heir?

 

Ramblings on Writing Spaces

Growing up, all my stories and poems and songs and plays – even my first couple of books – went into spiral notebooks. They were badly smudged, with that pesky left-hander pencil smear across most of the pages. I can still remember the smell of pencil shavings and the satisfying rustle of pages turning.

I toted my notebooks and a fistful of sharpened pencils with me just about everywhere. Everywhere is the key word here. Because I wrote. Absolutely. Everywhere.

At the little desk overlooking our front yard in my teenage bedroom, in the closet under our back staircase, in the field behind our house while leaning against a hay bale (with my dog’s head in my lap, as often as not, and my horse grazing nearby), in the dusky, dusty barn loft with kittens playing around me, at family reunions, in the car on the way to piano lessons, sitting in the waiting room at the dentist …

Yeah. You get the point. Everywhere.

Years later, I still don’t have a particular place I write. Many times it’s in the chair in my living room, sometimes at the desk (the same desk I used growing up!) in my bedroom or at the dining room window. Now and then I lug my laptop to the back patio or even out to the park so I can sit in the shade while my son plays. Several times I’ve taken it, along with a blanket, to sit on the bank of a pond while my son and husband fish. Once in a while I write while waiting in the parking lot to pick up my son from school.

But sometimes I find myself wondering: What would my true preference be, if I had the choice? Do I like still writing just about everywhere, like I did as a teen? Or do I want to grow up at last, and have an office or writing workspace like the “professional” writers do? Would it help me concentrate? Or would it merely restrain my creativity?

The answer? I don’t really know. I’ve always been a strange mixture (thanks in part to two very extreme parents) of rigid control and organization, and get-me-out-of-here-I-need-to-breathe free spiritedness. I get inspired by new locations and fresh points-of-view. But sometimes I do long for the solidarity of a permanent writing location, even if I can see myself abandoning it on a whim for other writing spaces on a fairly regular basis …

Either way, I’ve always been fascinated with the places in which other artists choose to do their work, writers in particular. I’ll share a few pictures of my favorite writers in their work spaces, just for fun.

Charlotte Bronte's writing space. Just think, Mr. Rochester may have been "born" right here! *sigh*

Charlotte Bronte’s writing space. Just think, Mr. Rochester may have been “born” right here! *sigh*

Well, you knew I wouldn't leave C.S. Lewis out. I've heard his house was rather a mess ... something he has in common with me, then! ;)

Well, you knew I wouldn’t leave C.S. Lewis out. I’ve heard his house was rather a mess … something he has in common with me, then! 😉

Jane Austen's humble yet famous writing table. I WILL see it someday ...

Jane Austen’s humble yet famous writing table. I WILL see it someday …

Joan Aiken with her typewriter. Her Wolves Chronicles will always have a special place in my heart. When you love something that much as a child, it just never goes away.

Joan Aiken with her typewriter. Her Wolves Chronicles will always have a special place in my heart. When you love something that much as a child, it just never goes away.

Elizabeth Peters, creator of one of my favorite sleuths of all time: Amelia Peabody!

Elizabeth Peters, creator of one of my favorite sleuths of all time: Amelia Peabody!

Charles Dickens, a total classic and a definite favorite.

Charles Dickens, a total classic and a definite favorite.

So interesting to see the wide variety of places these authors worked! Rather inspiring in and of itself, really …

Do you have a favorite place to create things, write, craft, or even just daydream? Or are you a bit of a free spirit like I am?

A Giveaway for Reviewers of THE WORD CHANGERS!

once upon a time

Once upon a time, there was an author who was very thankful for all the support she had received from her readers and reviewers. As grateful as she was, she knew that “thank you,” and lots of smiles (which no one saw anyway) could only go so far….

So she decided to give something away … no, make that two somethings. They weren’t much, but they at least said “thank you” in less of a virtual way, and in a bit more of a physical way.

Here’s the first something:

amazon-gift-card

Because who in the world can’t use an Amazon gift card??!!

And here’s the second something:

book game

Make no mistake, this game has more to it than an ordinary memory game. You can become an author, publisher or editor (um, yes!), you can create your own personal library, and you can challenge other players to a literary duel. Too much bookish fun to handle, really! If you want to travel to Missouri, I’ll even play it with you ….

Here’s the Giveaway Info

WHO QUALIFIES?  Those who have read The Word Changers and posted a review of it on Amazon.

WHEN DOES THE GIVEAWAY END?  It will run from today until Tuesday, November 25th (and yes, I changed the original dates I had decided on because I didn’t want it to run through Thanksgiving!).

HOW DO YOU ENTER?  Simply e-mail me with the link to your Amazon review of The Word Changers, (ashleew(at)zoho(dot)com), or comment with the review link below.

HOW WILL YOU KNOW IF YOU WON?  I will announce the two winners here on my blog first thing on November 26th (that’s a Wednesday, and yes, it’s the day before Thanksgiving!).

Perhaps you are in the middle of reading The Word Changers, or maybe you haven’t got a chance to start it at all yet … No fear! You have a week to finish it, write your Amazon review, and be eligible for this giveaway!

I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate it, readers and reviewers, for your taking the time from reading books whose authors you have at least heard of … and  agreeing to read and review mine instead! 😉

Hunger Games vs. A Time to Die

This is a guest post by Nadine Brandes, the author of the newly released dystopian novel, A Time to Die.

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“What’s your book about?”

My most common response: “It’s like Hunger Games, only Christian.”

This is rather ironic since half the inspiration behind A Time to Die came from wanting to write a book unlike Hunger Games. Don’t get me How-WOuld-You-Livewrong — I devoured the Hunger Games series. I’ve watched both movies multiple times, I obsess over every released picture, trailer, or tidbit from the upcoming Mockingjay films, and I even have a mockingjay pin.

But, I threw book three, Mockingjay, against the wall when I finished it. Hey, I know several others who did this same thing. Maybe even you.

Why?

Because the story lacked hope. Those books progressed into a darker and darker place, ultimate ending despair with a sprinkle of bittersweet-ever-after.

That wasn’t enough for me. I needed to know that standing up for my beliefs, that striving for more, that fighting for justice was worth it. That humans could make a difference and that goodness could be found in the world.

I know Christ. I know it’s possible. So I wrote about it. Here are some similarities and differences between The Hunger Games and my own dystopian novel, A Time to Die.

 

Similarities

  • They are both dystopian (duh)
  • Both Katniss and Parvin are striving against an unjust society for the purpose of protecting the people they love.
  • Both books examine the struggles that minority people groups face against a controlling government.
  • The government in both books has a special power that can control the decisions and cooperation of the people. In Hunger Games it’s the Hunger Games, in A Time to Die it’s the Clocks.

 

ATimetoDieCoverDifferences

  • The Hunger Games is about Katniss’s external fight against her government (and her impending doom) to survive and make a change.
  • A Time to Die is about Parvin interally seeking the meaning of life, trying to understand the purpose of her existence.
  • The Hunger Games – Katniss draws her hope from her sister, Prim, and from her love interests, Gale and Peeta. Her hope is completely tied up in these people and of course, because they’re human, they can’t uphold that weight.
  • A Time to Die – Parvin learns to draw her hope from faith in God. And, despite tragedy and the failure of humans, His power withstands the weight of human sorrow.
  • In The Hunger Games, Katniss is a survivor. She’s been raised hunting, shooting and making bows and arrows. She never cries, she’s the leader of her family. This is a common trait in female dystopian protagonists, but a not-so-common trait in real teenage girls reading.
  • In A Time to Die, Parvin is as human as they get. She has doubts about life, about God, about her purpose. She’s afraid, she’s never even gone camping, and she’s been raised in the comfort of home with a solid family. While she tries to be strong emotionally, she’s human and she breaks when she’s alone.

 

Not only is this difference in the books, but it’s a difference in our lives – in our thinking – as believers in Christ. Because Christ is my hope, it forms the stories I write. This is the beauty behind Christian fiction. I’m honored to be part of it.

 

What books have left you hopeful? What books have left you hopeless?

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To find out more about Nadine or her book, visit her at one of these places:

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A Thing or Two About the Phoenix

phoenix hdwallpapersbackgrounds.com

1.  A phoenix can live between 500 and 1000 years, at the end of which it will build a nest and ignite, burn fiercely, and be reborn from its own ashes.

2.  The Roman poet Ovid maintained that the phoenix was not necessarily reborn from its own ashes, but that it would burst into flames while giving birth to a newborn phoenix.

3.  According to Greek mythology, the phoenix lived in Phoenicia near a well. In the morning it would bathe in the well and sing its melodious song, which was so beautiful that the sun god, Helios, would stop his chariot to listen.

4.  A phoenix’ cry is like a beautiful song.

5.  The phoenix, unsurprisingly, is mostly used to be symbolic of rebirth, resurrection, and immortality.

6.  Fitting so closely with Christian themes, it is no surprise that Christians have used the phoenix as a symbol for many centuries. Pope St. Clement (in 96 A.D.) used the phoenix to prove Jesus’ resurrection (hmm …).

7.  Jewish culture also has a story about the phoenix (Hol). It was the only animal allowed to remain in the Garden of Eden, all because it refused to eat the forbidden fruit. For its obedience, God granted it immortality.

8.  In ancient Greek and Egyptian mythology, the phoenix is associated with the sun god.

9,  What does it look like? Many accounts agree a phoenix is of about the size and general appearance of an eagle, although different cultures and accounts describe it also as looking like a heron, a peacock or a stork. The French author Voltaire describes it as having mild and tender eyes, plumage of a thousand shades of gold, and feet of purple and silver.

10.  What does it eat? Ovid said it ate only frankincense and gums. Others say it lives off only dew. Some say it eats nothing at all.

11.  Phoenixes in literature: The Phoenix Bird by Hans Christian Andersen, Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (Fawkes), The Phoenix and the Carpet by E. Nesbit, The Tempest by William Shakespeare.

12.  In zoology, there is an animal family called Phoenicopteridae (of which flamingos are a part), which means “phoenix-winged.”phoenix

13.  It is said by some that only those who possess magic abilities can call on a phoenix in times of need.

14.  During the Renaissance, the phoenix was a popular emblem of people like Queen Elizabeth I (who used the phoenix as a royal badge) and even Joan of Arc. The phoenix has also been used through the ages as a symbol on both family crests and shields.

15.  During the Classic time period, the name of the phoenix was associated with the color purple.

16.  Many cultures believes that only one phoenix can be in existence at a time.

What a rich canvas of possible meanings and story ideas! The phoenix is definitely a mythical creature I’d love to write about one day. How about you?!

Dystopian Book Review and Giveaway

It’s release day for Nadine Brande’s dystopian debut novel, A Time to Die!!  The eBook is available here, and the paperback version is available now, here, for pre-order (releases officially October 1st). Nadine is hosting a Facebook launch party tonight from 4-6 (Pacific Time). She’ll be posting some fun things every 10 minutes, and answering questions and comments throughout. You should definitely join us!!

Also in honor of this exciting new book, I’m giving away a clock notebook, which is pictured at the bottom of this post … so be sure to enter your name if you’d like a chance to win it! Click here to enter, or scroll to the bottom of the post to see the picture of the notebook; there’s a link for the giveaway, too 🙂

Here’s my review!

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“Eighteen dead years. Why didn’t I see them dying? Why didn’t I feel my time wilting? I spent so much of my time lounging in regrets and sipping bitterness that I abandoned any thought of creating happy memories; instead, I wasted. Just wasted.” (Nadine Brandes, A Time to Die)

Many times while reading A Time to Die I felt as if someone had taken me by the shoulders and shaken me until my teeth rattled, until my eyes focused in a different way and I was seeing not only the story I was reading, but the entire world around me, in a completely new way.

This Christian dystopian book is honestly, blatantly yet gently infiltrated with Bible verses, Parvin’s (the main character) growing relationship to God, and even God’s Voice as He speaks to her through the Holy Spirit. Parvin’s search for God’s will in her life as she lives out what she knows to be her last year is both desperately painful and wonderfully rewarding. Gutting, in other words.

The concept of the story itself is just utterly amazing. Everyone knows the exact moment they will die because they each have a clock from the moment they are born which tells them how long they’ve got to live. Science has delved into an area of knowledge meant only for God and – as when anything strays from God’s plan – things go horribly wrong. It was this concept that drew me to the book in the first place … as a writer myself I saw the tremendous potential of such a theme – knowing the exact moment you would die?! – and I wondered where Nadine would take it. I definitely wasn’t disappointed!

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The worldbuilding in this book is exceptionally well-developed and impressive. The landscapes are richly-detailed and varied, from forests to rivers to cities to primitive settlements. There are some truly creative fictional inventions in the book as well … my favorite of which is the emotigraph. The emotigraph is a device that takes a “picture” of the emotion you are having at a particular moment, and then you are free to go back and revisit – actually feel again – that emotion at a later time at the push of a button. Didn’t I say creative?!

There is a huge amount of adventure and action in this story, sometimes thrilling, sometimes terrifying. Without including spoilers, I will just say that Parvin must endure some terrible hardships before she gets to her journey’s end. And the book is written so starkly and so well that it’s hard not to feel as if her hardships are not your own … which leads me to another great thing about this book: the writing.

ATimetoDieCoverNadine’s style of writing is refreshing, descriptive, clean and polished. She has a way of making her words carry you in waves of emotion, drama and pain. More than once I found myself gasping aloud, or holding my breath with anticipation, ord wiping tears away. I normally read like a writer … critical, questioning, attentive to details and wording and structure. But Nadine’s storytelling caused me to throw most of that out the window. These days there’s not many books that grab me hard enough to do that – just FORCE me to read like a reader, and push aside that pesky writer-self. A Time to Die did.

Best about this book is Parvin’s journey toward God. She begins the book both physically and spiritually weak, unprepared for the hardships ahead. But she grows in a wonderfully realistic way, ever closer to God. And though the book ends with sadness and confusion and turmoil, hope is still shining, and it’s obvious that God’s will still reigns supreme. And as there are two more books in this series, I’m already anticipating where the rest of the story will go …

I dare you to read this book and not feel an invisible tug – a tug on your eyes to open wider, a tug on your sense of adventure, a tug on your heart to push past the world’s limits and live the life God meant for you alone.

“It’s time to take a step. God destined me for greatness.” (Nadine Brandes, A Time to Die)

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FIND THE BOOK HERE:

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CLICK HERE to help us spread the word about Nadine’s book, and for a chance to win this CLOCK JOURNAL (Open to US residents only … sorry!)

clock journal

Little notebook – just the right size to carry in your pocket for those moments of random inspiration!