Tag Archives: fantasy

Review: The Varangian (Book 3) by Bruce MacBain – An Exciting Viking Adventure

Today I have a review The Varangian, which is book three in a great historical fantasy series that I’ve been following (Odd Tangle-Hair Saga). However, it looks like it might end up only a trilogy. It’s so well-done though I can’t help but wish for more. You can also read them stand alone, but you’ll get so much more out of it if you read them all. Don’t forget to check out the giveaway for the book at the end of the post!

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Review –

I really can’t say enough good things about the Odd Tangle-Hair Saga penned by Bruce MacBain. The Varangian is the third, and it seems the final, in the series. You can view my review of the second book, The Ice Queen, HERE, and an interview I had with Bruce HERE. I was first drawn to this series because I love historical books that combine into fantasy, especially if they are dealing with ancient civilizations or Vikings.

Bruce’s story telling ability draws in the readers and often as soon as I start his books I’m completely absorbed into the worlds and legend he has created. Of course, with great anticipation, it was the same with The Varangian. Without being over flowerly or academic or hard to follow, Bruce somehow writes in a way that allows to feel as if we are also privy to the story as if we were in it ourselves. It’s like the long lost story your Viking grandpa would tell if you lived in a more far away time and you  had a Viking grandpa (haha)…but you get my drift.

I couldn’t wait to see what adventure Odd Tangle-Hair became drawn up into and as he venture into Byzantine empire in this book, I was as enthralled by Bruce’s authentic details and descriptions of this time and place as much as his protagonist was in the story. Of course, Odd must have some suspenseful mission up his sleeve as always that will take us through excitement, danger, sadness, and this time, even love. Constantinople is the perfect setting for such deep emotions and Bruce plays into that very well, allowing the reader to be swept away as well.

It’s also very obvious that Bruce is a true historian. He knows the people and places of the ancient worlds like he was living among them. This allows the reader, especially historical lovers, to be immersed even more into the story. A true feeling of place is captured in his dynamic prose.

Book three probably brings us the most compelling and climactic action as Odd finally comes head to head with antagonist Harald, as well as the friction between so many various cultures all coming to a point at this beautiful city of Constantinople. Both Odd and Harald are written with a high level of characterization and depth, but Bruce is also adept at bringing us a strong supporting cast of new characters in each book. They were exceptionally well-done in The Varangian, allowing the time and place to be even more engaing as you can’t have a good story without good characters.

As Odd tells his story, a perfect narrator, I could definitely smell, taste, hear, and see his adventure as if I lived it with him. I’ve completely enjoyed this series and will treasure it for years to come. Very highly recommended.

02_The Varangian.jpgThe Varangian by Bruce MacBain

Publication Date: November 29, 2016
Blank Slate Press
eBook & Print; 341 Pages

Series: Odd Tangle-Hair Saga, Book Three
Genre: Historical Fiction

The third volume of Odd Tangle-Hair’s Saga finds our hero in Golden Miklagard (Constantinople), posing as an ambassador from the Grand Prince of Rus. But his real mission is to assassinate his former master, Harald the Ruthless, who has now risen high in the Emperor’s Varangian Guard. Odd is dazzled by the brilliance of the Byzantine capital and its beating heart–the Great Palace, with the astonishing Throne of Solomon that levitates above the heads of kneeling courtiers.

Here, Odd will meet Constantine Psellus, an ambitious young bureaucrat who mentors him in the ways of the court. He will be drawn into an intrigue that involves the Empress Zoe, who spends her days brewing vats of perfume, and John the Guardian of Orphans, the powerful and sinister eunuch who schemes to advance his family. And Odd will fall in love with Selene, an alchemist’s daughter, who supports herself by gambling in the waterfront taverns.

Finally, after a hard-fought campaign against the Saracens in Sicily and the overthrow of an Emperor, Odd reaches the pinnacle of power and believes he has vanquished his enemy Harald once and for all.

Then disaster overwhelms him.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Praise for The Varangian

“Thoroughly effective at explaining the intriguing and highly complex circumstances of the time period, Macbain’s (The Ice Queen, 2015, etc.) book shines in a way that only historical fiction can. Who needs King Jon Snow in Game of Thrones when one can get a glimpse of the historically real and undeniably sinister John the Guardian of Orphans? Even the most terrifying dragon pales in comparison to the sheer horror of a society so comfortable with castration. As the story ventures outside of Constantinople, the reader is treated to a plot that can only be described as epic … a highly entertaining Viking adventure.” – Kirkus Reviews

“This is the third and final of Macbain’s Odd Tangle-Hair novels. All three have been spellbinding in their storytelling, though this one may be the best. Odd’s journey takes us around the Mediterranean and eastern European world, and all the way north back to Iceland. The characters are wonderful, the story intriguing, the combat real but never superfluous, and Odd makes for the perfect protagonist. Highly recommended.” – Historical Novel Society

“Written by a historian with deep understanding of the cultures, peoples, and languages of this world, The Varangian speaks with an authoritative and compelling voice that can equally present naval battles decided by Greek Fire and court intrigue culminating in advancement to lucrative rank or in mutilation and blinding. This is a masterfully written and suspenseful tale that weaves fictional characters into the dramatic story of eleventh-century Byzantium and ambitious women and men, some home grown and some drawn from afar, who aimed to profit from an empire of legendary wealth and splendor.” – Emily Albu, Professor of Medieval and Byzantine Studies, UC, Davis

“The Varangian is the third and final volume of Bruce Macbain’s Odd Tangle-Hair’s Saga, and like the first two entries, it is as compelling and wild a ride as historical fiction offers. Macbain brilliantly weaves in his vast knowledge of 11th century Viking and Byzantine life with a great storyteller’s ability to drive the plot forward, a plot filled with intrigue, violence, betrayal, and lust.” – Barton Kunstler, author of The Hothouse Effect

“Detailed and vivid writing.” -Albert Noyer, author of the Getorius and Arcadia Mysteries

Author Bruce MacBain, Biography

03_Bruce MacbainBruce MacBain has degrees in Classics and Ancient History and was formerly an Assistant Professor of Classics at Boston University.

He decided to stop writing scholarly articles (which almost no one read) and turn his expertise to fiction—a much more congenial medium.

His previous novels include two mysteries set in ancient Rome (Roman Games, The Bull Slayer) and the first two novels in the Odd Tangle-Hair series (Odin’s Child, The Ice Queen).

For more information, please visit Bruce MacBain’s website. You can also find him on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Goodreads.

Giveaway

To win a copy of The Varangian by Bruce MacBain, please enter via the Gleam form below. Three copies are up for grabs!

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/MTA2D/the-varangian

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 27th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US & Canada only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Follow along with the tour!

Hashtags: #TheVarangianBlogTour #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #Historical #Vikings

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @BMacbain

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Review: Stunning Novel Avelynn: The Edge of Faith by Marissa Campbell

Today, I have a review of book two, Avelynn: The Edge of Faith, in the Avelynn series from one of my favorite writers, Marissa Campbell! I read this some time back and fell in love with it, kinda like I did the first one, Avelynn. You can read that review HERE. It’s a series, but they can be read stand alone as well. Secondly, check out this beautiful cover by Jenny Q, and then the blurb of the book, so you know a little about what it’s about….

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Avelynn: The Edge of Faith

by Marissa Campbell

Publication Date: September 26, 2016
eBook; 302 Pages
ASIN: B01KUC6N9Y

Genre: Historical Romance/Medieval
Series: Avelynn (Book Two)

Avelynn: The Edge of Faith, a stand-alone Viking Romance from author Marissa Campbell.

It’s the year 871. Charges of treason, murder, and witchcraft follow Avelynn into exile as she flees England with Alrik. Arriving in Wales, they find refuge among Alrik’s friends in the Welsh nobility. Cast out by his half-brothers, Alrik seeks to regain his honor and earn favor with the gods. When war threatens, Alrik embraces gold and the opportunity for his crew to become mercenaries, aiding the Southern Welsh kings in their fight against Rhodri the Great.

Desperate to return home, Avelynn seeks to find a way to prove her innocence, but she is pitted against Alrik as their desires for the future clash. With battle looming, Avelynn’s faith in their relationship is further tested through a bitter struggle with Marared, a jealous lover from Alrik’s past. Marared’s threats turn deadly, and Avelynn runs afoul of magic and sorcery, causing her to question her beliefs and role as priestess.

When Avelynn and Alrik are betrayed, Avelynn is captured and Alrik is charged with regicide. The two become separated, a chasm of greed, deceit, and ambition driving them apart. In an act of harrowing faith, Avelynn will stop at nothing to find her way back to Alrik and break them both free from Wales’s bloodthirsty grasp.

AVELYNN: THE EDGE OF FAITH is a stand-alone novel and #2 in the Avelynn series.

Review –

Let me start off by saying that Marissa Campbell is a phenomenal writer. For me, being an editor and long time book reader and reviewer, it takes <this> level of writer to allow me to fully immerse myself in a book in a way that makes it entertainment for me. It’s hard for my mind to allow me to be swept me away to another time and place without habitually dissecting the work. And I’ve been craving that because I love reading!

I read her debut novel, Avelynn from St. Martin’s Press, last year and have been looking forward to more from Marissa since then. This is the type of writing that immediately captivates me and holds me hostage. My mind doesn’t wander innately to seeing content or dialogue flaws or ever get glitched by sentence structure or errors. Marissa doesn’t realize what an amazing writer she is and how much she stands out in an overwhelming sea of books. She’s a blockbuster in my opinion. Her second novel, Avelynn: The Edge of Faith, is a stand alone but also follows the story of the characters from the first novel. I believe that this second work is even better than the first and I didn’t think that was possible!

So what makes Marissa’s writing and Avelynn: The Edge of Faith so good? Besides being quite flawless editorial wise, her words flow poetic, like sugar on my tongue. The story dissolves smoothly and quickly and her vocabulary and phrasing makes even me in awe. I want all my writing to come out like hers. With a beauty not often found in novels these days, her writing is art and her characters and settings glow.

Speaking of characters, in this second book we really are able to see Avelynn blossoming in her own right, asserting her independence and knowing her need to be respected, yet also respectful of her betrothed – Alrik. She’s vibrant and strong, flowing with the power of the goddess and I could SWEAR I KNOW Avelynn personally. I connected to her and she flies off the page in fully dimensional development, but yet that’s an after reflection, not something I thought about during the reading of the novel. I was too wrapped up in her emotions, trials, fears, and triumphs. She has so much power inside her and that reverberates so clearly. Alrik’s character is also fully developed and the perfect complement to Avelynn – he’s also strong and knows how to gently reign in her in. He’s the protective type and a rock to her, giving her more strength and the ability to grow within herself. Marissa knew just the right type of man to place with Avelynn. Their ease together – their dialogue and actions – through arguments, tension, and gentle moments is both comical and endearing.

This relationship is the basis of why this is categorized as a romance, though to me, someone who rarely reads romances because I find them so fake, forced or contrived, I feel the romance encased itself as the glue to the suspenseful drama of the plot of this book. And…that was a GOOD thing. I see why this was lightly compared to Outlander by Diana Gibaldon, even thought it’s not time travel in nature. For me, I totally love the show Vikings, and this book is helping to cure my pining for the next season to return, so this is absolutely like mixing the show Vikings with Games of Thrones. It was about relationships, including romance, mixed with the strife and fighting of the times! I LOVED the romance in this book, and yes there is some steamy scenes, because Marissa knows how to write romance to make it feel real and natural (and HOT!). She makes me blush. It’s the type of passion that so many authors have trouble with…but not Marissa. I swear she is a sex whisperer. If you want a totally clean read, here’s your warning that this is not it, but maybe if you are feeling daring this is the book for you to try!

As for the plot in the book, Avelynn and Alrik have had to flee England as Avelynn is accused of witchcraft and murder, among other things. She is a preistess of the goddess and adheres to her pagan beliefs seriously. She feels the power and the hand of the gods with her and wants to stay grounded and follow their guidance. However, she is not a witch and doesn’t relate to magic. When she meets a past lover of Alrik in Wales, who threatens her with evil witchcraft she doesn’t know how to react at first. She seeks the counsel of her ancestors but is left with more questions rather than insight and has to figure out her proper path on her own with one constant – she wants to be by Alrik’s side. Things don’t always go as planned though, even if you have the gods on your side.

This is what I enjoyed the most the book – all the fantasy elements. To me, this book primarily read as a fantasy-based historical and I suppose that is where some of my Games of Thrones attribution comes into play. When Marissa digs into her writing with fervor, she is unmatched in description and detail. She creates sense of place and atmosphere at different stages that made me not just feel like I was painted a picture, but that I was inside a virtual reality sequence – walking around in the place myself behind the character, or maybe even that I AM the characters – kind of like I was in the movie Avatar! Marissa’s ability to write visually is exceptional. I totally wish that this would become an historical fantasy show on streaming television, because I totally want to watch it!

When you read Avelynn: The Edge of Faith, you’ll read way more than a romance or fantasy though, you’ll see the struggles of intertwining faiths and practices at a volatile time for England during the Viking take-over. You’ll read a woman fighting for her beliefs while also trying to come to terms with some of her own practices and those of others. You’ll read a well-researched historical base, so superb in fact, you’ll forget that the author had to create this world from historical basis mixed with a large imagination. As a reader, you’ll feel what the people of that time may have felt – a deep desire to hold on to ancestry and yet grow with the times testing her own inner faith and desires.

I don’t like to give too much plot away in my reviews, but to tell you my experiences. This was a very smooth and quick read that dipped me on a vacation back to medieval Wales, with lush and decadent description, sizzling romance, strong fantastical elements and plot, and I wouldn’t care if I couldn’t use my hair dryer or inside plumbing, I WANT to be in this story as Avelynn myself. Thank you Marissa for captivating me and making me feel passionate about words – oh, and feeding my Viking obsession.

So, book three ready yet, eh??

Get your copy now – I promise you – you’ll love it!!

AMAZON (KINDLE) | BARNES & NOBLE (NOOK) | KOBO

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Author Marissa Campbell, Biography

Marissa Campbell is a published freelance author, and co-author of the award-winning, spiritual self-help book Life: Living in Fulfillment Every Day. Her debut historical fiction AVELYNN, was published through St. Martin’s Press, September 2015.

She is a proud member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America, Writer’s Community of Durham Region, and local critique group B7. When she is not writing, she is busy looking after her wonderful children, spending time with her fantastic husband, hanging out with her awesome friends, teaching yoga, dancing, laughing, and having fun!

For more information visit http://marissacampbell.com. You can also follow Marissa Campbell on FacebookTwitterGoodreadsGoogle+TumblrPinterest, and Instagram.

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A Grave Inheritance, Second in Historical Fantasy Series, Leads Celtic Goddess Descendant to Victorian London

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Review~

When I read Kari Edgren’s A Goddess Born, the first book in this series, earlier this year I fell in love with it. You can see my review of that here. Not only do I like historicals, but I love paranormals/supernaturals (especially those with mythological components) and though I don’t normally like all kinds of romance, I do like them when they are not sappy or southern, so to speak.

So, when A Grave Inheritance, book two in the series also called Goddess Born series, became available to me for review, I was anxious to read it. It pretty much picks up where A Goddess Born leaves off, yet takes us to new places and on an action-adventure that kept me turning the pages. If you haven’t read the first book, she does do the usual back telling in a way that you’ll still enjoy the story, but both books are so good, you might want to go back and read the first one. They’re in digital format, so they are relatively cheap enough to buy the whole series.

In this second book, she takes her protagonist Selah (who is human, but with some powers of the supernatural, as she is descended from a Celtic goddess). Kari escorts her, and readers, back to Victorian England and ingratiates us to all the atmospheric details that emanate from that time period. She writes with a vivid and lively pen in a way that swept me right into the tale. Her descriptions are lovely and sweet-tasting, her sentences lovely. She’s one of those writers that treats writing like a work of art.

She’s labeled New Adult, but she crosses many boundaries. Without the paranormal element, she’d be historical romance. And really, to me, it’s more supernatural historical fiction! They are clean, which is the way I like my romances too (I’m not a prude either!). They essentially are good for young adult readers, too, and I’d love to share these with my daughter at some point. If you are buying for YA, they are good for 18-25, but younger also based on their interest and reading level. They are a sophisticated break from some of the dystopian, vampire, zombie, and etc. novels. I’d say they are wonderful for those young readers who like mythology, and in my case, adults too.

They do have enough meat to be read and enjoyed by adults, unless you like strictly old school Harlequin or erotica romance. But see, it’s the kind of meat that, personally, that I love in a book.  A great plot, magical story, courageous and kind main female, and a dreamy, but decent man who treats the woman as equal all score high marks with me for this book. The characters have challenges and conflicts to face, giving the reader twists and turns to enjoy, and this creates an exciting tale–one that had me sliding past each page of my Kindle with fervor.

I love Kari’s original tale and her ancient supernatural elements. I think that A Grave Inheritance was even better than the first, bringing more suspense and drama and great sense of time and place as they head to 18th Century London. I liked the villains she portrayed and the introduction of more with goddess-like powers.

I am super happy Kari chose to write this series; it has taken me to my fun place of reading magic and mythology and Old Word tales mixed with love and adventure. I absolutely can’t wait to read the next one. Highly recommended for any weekend night you have free! It will enchant you in a way that will lead you to read it very quickly.

A Grave Inheritance, Synopsis~

02_A Grave Inheritance_CoverPublication Date: December 1, 2014
Carina Press
eBook; ASIN: B00OHV6MFA

Series: Goddess Born
Genre: Historical/Paranormal/New Adult/Romance

Selah Kilbrid may descend from the goddess Brigid, but her heart beats—and breaks—the same as any human. Yet enduring the scorn of London’s most noble lords and ladies is a small price to pay for a chance at true happiness. Selah would endure much more for love, and her betrothed, Lord Henry Fitzalan, is prepared to challenge anyone foolish enough to stand in their way—even another goddess born.

But when a captivating young gentleman draws Selah into a world shadowed by secrets, she is forced to confront her darkest fears. What if some differences are too great to overcome and a future with Henry is doomed from the start?

With these doubts threatening her impending marriage and the very last of Brigid’s fire draining from her soul, a violent attack on an innocent child pushes Selah to the very edge of her power. She must find a way to cross into the Otherworld and regain her strength—or forfeit the streets of London to death and disease.

Buy the eBook~

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble

Author Kari Edgren, Biography~

03_Kari EdgrenKari Edgren is the author of the Goddess Born series. In 2010 and 2011 she was a semifinalist for the Amazon Break Through Novel Award. In 2013, she was a RWA Golden Heart finalist.

Ms. Edgren enjoys writing both historical and contemporary fiction, so long as there’s a spark of paranormal. She resides on a mountain top in the Pacific Northwest where she spends a great deal of time dreaming about the sun and torturing her husband and children with strange food and random historical facts.

For more information please visit Kari Edgren’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Sign Up for Kari Edgren’s Newsletter.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/agraveinheritanceblogtour/

Hashtags: #AGraveInheritanceBlogTour #GoddessBornSeries #Historical #Paranormal #Romance #NewAdult

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @KariEdgren @CarinaPress

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Viking Celebrates the August Finale of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians Series

This August, Viking will release THE MAGICIAN’S LAND, the spectacular conclusion to Lev Grossman’s New York Times bestselling Magicians trilogy (On-sale: August 5, 2014; 978-0-670-01567-2; $27.95).  Below the details about the series and final book, you’ll find a GIVEAWAY of a MAGICIAN’S KIT which includes a sneak chapter, cool clock buttons, and extra cool postcards from an amazing artist!

About The Magicians Series and The Magician’s Land~

book-magicianslandThe trilogy opened with The Magicians which Junot Díaz called, “Stirring, complex, adventurous…[a] superb coming of age fantasy.” NPR called the sequel The Magician King “a spellbinding stereograph, a literary adventure novel that is also about privilege, power and the limits of being human.”  Legions of fans now await THE MAGICIAN’S LAND, a novel full of the subversive brilliance that has put Grossman at the forefront of modern fantasy, which will bring the Magicians trilogy to a shattering, triumphant conclusion.

Familiar faces return alongside new characters in THE MAGICIAN’S LAND. After being booted unceremoniously from Fillory, Quentin Coldwater returns to his alma mater, Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic, to stake out a new life as a teacher. But the past catches up to him, and before long, he and the brilliant student Plum must set out on a black market adventure, taking him to old haunts, like Antarctica, and to buried secrets and old friends he thought were lost forever. Quentin discovers a spell that could create a magical utopia, a new Fillory—but casting it would set in motion a chain of events that will bring Earth and Fillory crashing together. To save them, he must risk sacrificing everything.

THE MAGICIAN’S LAND is a tale of love and redemption—the story of a boy becoming a man, an apprentice becoming a master, and a broken land finally becoming whole.  Old readers will devour the rich and riveting final book and newcomers can binge-read the series in full.

GIVEAWAY~

The Magician’s Kit goes to one U.S. Winner and will be mailed by Viking/Penguin.

It contains:

  • An excerpt booklet containing Chapter 1 of THE MAGICIAN’S LAND
  • Clock-face buttons in 3 different designs: click to view here
  • A set of 4 postcards featuring Magicians fan art by Christopher Shy

<<<<<Click HERE to link to the Rafflecopter Form and try your luck!>>>>>

Praise for The Magician’s Land~

“Sink your mobile devices into the nearest wishing well and duct-tape your front door against gnomes, pollsters, and other distractions. THE MAGICIAN’S LAND is beckoning, and demands your full attention.”

— Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Egg & Spoon

“Lev Grossman has conjured a rare creature: a trilogy that simply gets better and better as it goes along. THE MAGICIAN’S LAND is sumptuous and surprising yet deliciously familiar…Literary perfection for those of us who grew up testing the structural integrity of the backs of wardrobes.”

Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus

Lev Grossman, Biography (his words)~

bio-levI was born in 1969 and grew up in Lexington, MA. My parents were both English professors, so naturally I read a lot. I read a lot in college too, and read even more in graduate school, then I moved to New York City and started writing full time.

My first novel, Warp, was published in 1997. My second, Codex, came out in 2004 and became an international bestseller. The Magicians was published in 2009 and was a New York Times bestseller and one of the New Yorker‘s best books of the year. The sequel, The Magician King, came out in 2011 and was a Times bestseller as well. The third and (almost certainly) last Magicians book, The Magician’s Land, will be out in August 2014. The Magicians books have now been published in twenty-three countries and have garnered praise from George R.R. Martin, John Green, Audrey Niffenegger, Erin Morgenstern, Joe Hill, William Gibson, Gregory Maguire, Junot Diaz and many others.

Since 2002 I’ve been the book critic at Time magazine, and the New York Times described me as “among this country’s smartest and most reliable critics.” I’ve  written a dozen or so cover stories for Time, and my work has also appeared in the Believer, the Village Voice, the Wall Street Journal,the New York TimesSalon, Wired, Entertainment Weekly,  Lingua Franca and many other places. I’ve won several awards for journalism, including a Deadline award in 2006. I make regular appearances on campuses, including Harvard, Yale and Oxford, and as a commentator on NPR.

I live in Brooklyn with my wife, two daughters and one son, in a creaky old house.

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You can learn more about Lev Grossman on his website http://www.levgrossman.com and follow him on Twitter @leverus.

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James Matlack Raney Offers Tips and Thoughts on Writing Fantasy Literature

Today I am very pleased to introduce a wonderful guy and author! James Matlack Raney writes fantasy adventure in his books Jim Morgan and the Prince of Thieves and Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull! Below is a guest article about why he likes and writes fantasy books, in which he offers some tips for writers who are writing or who want to write fantasy for themselves! I really enjoyed the article; I hope you do too.

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Guest Article:  Hints for Writing Fantasy Literature
by James Matlack Raney, author of the Jim Morgan series

Headshot1More than any other kind of book, I love reading and writing fantasy adventures the most, losing myself in their mysteries, discovering their hidden treasures, and exploring the self-reflective borders between their worlds and mine. I grew up on Lewis and Tolkien, Stevenson and Defoe, and later, King and Rowling, walking the paths of Hogwarts and Gilead, sailing the oceans of Narnia and Middle-Earth in my mind. If you’re reading this post, odds are you have a favorite fantasy world as well, maybe from the old classics, or perhaps among the new ones, such as Panem or the Glade. But how did those worlds get there? Where did they come from? Perhaps you’re wondering how you might go about creating your own. I don’t have the answers to all those questions, nor perhaps does anyone else, but I can at least give you three hints from my own writer’s journey.

The first hint is to open yourself to your muse. C.S. Lewis famously said the entire world of Narnia was born from a single image that popped into his mind, a picture of a faun, walking through the snow, carrying a pile of Christmas packages in his arms. While I am certainly not C.S. Lewis, a single flash in my imagination gave birth to Jim Morgan’s adventures in a world of pirates and magic. I saw a young man, a black crow on his shoulder, standing on the pirate ship’s prow, the sails caught on a morning breeze. I can’t explain how the amazing human imagination works, but being relaxed, taking long walks, listening to music, all those things help daydreams take hold and grow. Close your eyes. What do you see? When you find a picture that captures you, grab hold of it and don’t let go, for somewhere in that image is a story to be told!

The second hint is to learn the language of storytelling. Once an author has a picture in mind, one that has begun to take root and grow, how does she successfully transfer it to the page? Even though most well told stories feel unique and original, the majority of them follow a measured and well-worn road, one travelled by many storytellers before, a specific set of beats and notes, a series of guideposts that aid both writer and reader in finding their way from beginning to end. If you look closely at your favorite books, you may see the pattern take shape. But if you’d like to learn from an expert, try Joseph Campbell’s books or Christopher Voegler, who has helped make Campbell a bit more digestible. Don’t be afraid to learn form and formula! I promise it won’t rob you of your creativity. On the contrary, it will help you more easily shape and mold on paper the world you wish to build in your mind.

The final hint I’ll offer is to never forget our real world as you create your fantasy universe. To me, one of the most moving moments in all the Lord of the Rings is the death and confession of Boromir, very much the same way that one of the most challenging moments in the Hunger Games is the death of Rue. There is nothing fantastical, magic, or unrealistic about either of those scenes, scenes of loss, of friendship and loyalty broken, of pain. But they are the moments that connect us most deeply with the characters and plots of the stories. The heart of every perfect fantasy is found in earthbound emotions and human experience.

So there you have it! Three hints to the creation of fantasy adventures; I hope they help you on your own writer’s journey, or at the very least, aid in your enjoyment of the great fantasy literature so many amazing authors continue to produce. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, a few of you might add Jim Morgan to your list, and join him, the Ratts, Lacey, and Cornelius on an uncanny adventures full of pirates, sorcerers, and sea monsters.

JMKTSecondBookKindleCoverAbout Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull (#2 in series)~

Hot on the heels of Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves, which was praised by About.com’s Fatherhood Guide, YAReads.com, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews and influential book bloggers across the globe as “a rip-roaring good tale for children of all ages,” Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull sees old friends, new foes and magic forces tempt and test its protagonist, who is, one year following King of Thieves conclusion, at long last ready to return home to Morgan Manor.

Faced with terrors beyond his imagination – pirate battles, hidden islands, sorcerers and sea monsters – in Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull, the formerly spoiled-rotten Jim Morgan must learn to trust new allies, discover the power and magic of true friendship – and, just possibly uncover a hero hidden within him.

Ripe with fantastical challenges and miraculous victories that will resonate with any young reader who finds themselves in the thick of navigating young adulthood’s complexities, Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves is a good old-fashioned adventure story fit for a 21st century attention span.

“I wrote Jim Morgan to grab the attention of boy readers who have few options on bookshelves in today’s marketplace,” says Raney of the series. “Contrary to popular belief, I feel that boys actually enjoy reading, provided it’s rich with excitement, danger, and emotional themes they crave.”

James Matlack Raney, Biography~

JMRJames Matlack Raney grew up all over the world, including Europe, Latin America and Africa. These days, he calls Southern California home, and spends his time writing adventures…and occasionally living a few of his own.

Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull is available now via Amazon and in select brick-and-mortar retailers.

Find James Matlack Raney on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and his blog, Storygazing.

Website: http://jimmorganbooks.com/

STAY TUNED FOR A REVIEW AND AN INTERVIEW COMING UP OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS!

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Exclusive and Magical Interview with Talented & Creative Melika Lux on Much More than Her City of Lights Novel

Today, we have a special treat  because we have an exclusive interview with a very talented and sweet person, author Melika Lux. You can read my review of Melika’s book by clicking CITY OF LIGHTS.

Our interview is VERY in-depth and you will marvel at Melika’s original personality, including how a trained stage soprano has such an addiction to Great White Sharks!!

Melika LuxI am pleased to have you stop by for a visit today, Melika! You sound like a fabulously creative person. How are you?

Melika:  I am great, Erin, and thrilled to be here!  

Erin:  So happy!  Let’s move on and learn more about you and your writing!

Q:  When did you first begin to write? What gave you the inspiration?

A:  My love for writing grew out of an early love for reading.  I think what led me to this point, what essentially caused the inspiration to germinate, was that my mother started reading to me when I was in the womb, and my father told me wild, not-exactly-verifiable tall tales while I was still in the cradle.  I remember writing little stories and vignettes when I was a very young child and also staging my first play (an adaptation of King of Kings) when I was eight years old.  The budget was nonexistent, so my family was conscripted into the production, with my dad and mom playing six parts each.  I think that was when the writing bug first reared its head and bit me squarely on the heart. I felt a little like Cecil B. DeMille after that.  There is a VHS of the play floating around somewhere.  It is one of my first memories of writing.

One turning point I can recall was when I was about eleven or twelve.  I wrote a very short story along the lines of Jurassic Park.  It was about a brother and sister being chased to the edge of a cliff by a T-Rex.  The kids gave the Rex the old “one-two-jump!” fake out and the dinosaur tumbled over the cliff.  End of story—happily ever after for everyone except the Rex. But the point was that it was fun! I had actually finished something I’d set out to write! It was great, even though it was only six pages long! You have to start somewhere, right?

Q:   What inspires you currently in your overall writing?

A: What began to stand out more and more to me as the years wore on, and what I think was the real reason I truly grew to love writing so much, was the freedom it gave me to be able to get lost in a different world.  I love creating characters and their individual stories.  Everything that a person experiences in his or her life affects the person they become and how they react to situations, so being able to explore this with my characters is something I am always eager to do—uncovering what motivates them, what drives their worldview, why they would make a decision in a particular situation, what makes them tick, etc.  It is thrilling when characters develop so fully that they essentially start to write the stories themselves.

Currently, I’m most interested and inspired by trying out different storytelling mediums and POVs. My preferred method of telling a story is first person, but in my latest works, I’m using third person limited and also third person omniscient, which presents a whole heap of challenges! I’m also experimenting with short stories. You would think this would be easier, but I’m finding it an exciting challenge to tell a complete and gripping story in 40 pages or less rather than having a broad canvas (my last novel, Corcitura, was 700 pages long) on which to paint, essentially, the characters’ lives.

My last two novels were primarily historical fiction, City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier being an historical fiction/family saga set in Paris in 1894, and Corcitura  being an historical fiction/supernatural thriller, complete with hybrid vampires, which takes place over the years 1888-1895 in locales across Europe and in Gilded Age New York. I have felt very comfortable writing in this era due to the fact that I read a tremendous amount of fantastic Victorian literature during my high school and college years and fell in love with the period. However, I am now transitioning into dystopian, horror, comedy, and fantasy. Talk about freeing! I no longer have to worry about when a word came into the vernacular! Huzzah! Besides that added bonus, I love to genre-hop and not confine myself to one particular time period. It keeps thinks exciting.

Q:  Did your musical background play any part in your writing? Also, explain your musical background for our readers.

A: Definitely. I’ve been surrounded by music since I was born and have been singing, dancing, and playing the violin and piano since I was three years old. I was part of a children’s performing group for most of my childhood and was also a member of a local youth symphony orchestra from the ages of 8-18. In addition to singing throughout my community and state, I also performed the role of Meg Giry in a college production of The Phantom of the Opera. What a blast! 😀

In regards to my writing, I draw a lot of inspiration from certain pieces of music, especially movie soundtracks and instrumental numbers, which I love to have playing in the background as I write. Currently, for the dystopian/fantasy novel I’m writing, I keep epic music/soundtracks looping at a low volume in my ear buds. It really spurs my imagination and helps when trying to strike the right mood in battle and intense scenes, especially when there are “creatures” involved.

For City of Lights, Hanging by a Moment by Lifehouse was a huge inspiration and a song I kept looping in the background as I wrote the novel:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESWjziG5B54

To me, this song epitomizes Ilyse and Ian’s love story, and remains a favorite of mine to this day.

Q:  Have you ever danced or been on the stage? If so, explain and if it helped in the writing of your book. What inspired you to write about a Parisian chanteuse in City of Lights?

A: Yes! As I mentioned above, I was part of a children’s performing group from the ages of 3-11. Additionally, I am a classically trained soprano. My most recent performance was in February 2012, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, FL. You can view the entire concert or excerpts of my solos by clicking on the following link: http://booksinmybelfry.com/music/

Music has always been inextricably linked to City of Lights. The entire novel was actually inspired by a song. One night in December 2002, I was puttering around in my room when I suddenly started singing verses of a song I had made up in that moment.

“Tonight’s the last time that I’ll see your face, my love. This dreadful moment has finally come to be. Tonight the passion ends for you and me, my love. I’m traveling to a place where life will be hell for me…good-bye.”

My mind exploded with questions. Who was this girl? Why was she being forced to give up her love? Why would her life be so awful?

From that song, City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier was born. The song became Tonight, the lyrics directly inspiring the novel and making their way into a pivotal scene toward the end of the book. Now, the only thing remaining was a setting. I’m a singer, a Francophile, and a devotee of fin de siècle culture and literature, so the idea of Paris, a cabaret, forbidden love, and the added tension arising from my heroine being estranged from her brother (her only living relative) was too exciting not to pursue.

My grand plan all along was (and still is) for City of Lights to be a musical.  In addition to Tonight, I wrote eight other songs that inspired further chapters and the overall story arc, the lyrics of those songs also being adapted into dialogue and scenes. Even though the musical is still on the distant horizon, the spirit of the songs thread through the entire novel. And in case you were wondering, the recordings are securely stored in an undisclosed location, waiting for the day when they will see the light once again.  😉

In May 2003, at the age of eighteen, I began writing Ilyse’s story. Eight months later, City of Lights was complete, and another four years later, it was published. Now, it has been given a new look and is being made available to an entirely new readership!

COL Cover

Q:  Myself, I love books and information on the late 1800s to early 1900s in Paris. The entire ballet scene and its behind the scenes drama can be an infuriating tale to tell. Apparently, women still endure the dealings of men pulling their strings so to speak. What interests you most about this time period? Any further thoughts on the performance industry?

A: I’ve been interested in the fin de siècle for as long as I can remember. I think I first became cognizant of how exciting this time period was when I was about 8 or 9 and had just learned to play Orpheus in the Underworld with my local youth symphony orchestra. The Galop Infernal in that operetta became, of course, the Can-Can theme. That piece stayed with me over the years and led me to do research when I got older. As I learned more about France and the culture surrounding the cabarets and dancehalls, I was hooked and became a confirmed Francophile. Since writing City of Lights, I have become increasingly interested in that whole milieu and have since read Camille (A brilliant and tragic novel about the lives of the demimondaine—highly recommended!) and a few novels by Colette. I’m always on the lookout for new reads from or about that fascinating time period when securing the right patron could either make you a star or confine you to the gilded cage, as was the case with Ilyse.  

As for the performance industry, the main facet that I culled and incorporated into City of Lights was favoritism. Ilyse, although she is talented and the best singer to have graced the Parisian stage in years, is Sergei’s favorite. He “plucked her from obscurity” (a fact he never lets her forget) and made her a star. Without him, she most probably would have starved or been forced into a life of squalor, but given how controlling and suffocating Sergei’s hold over her is, accepting his patronage is a choice Ilyse regrets almost immediately.

Q:  I read the biography on your website and laughed to myself because in high school I decided I was either going to school to be a writer or a marine biologist (same as you)!!! I decided I was not cut out enough for the math and just loved the ocean and animal cause, so I went to college for Journalism instead so I could write all about all the many things I love. I came away also with English and History degrees. That all said, besides being afraid of sharks, what really did pull you towards your creative pursuits as compared to science? How do you feel about your decision?

A: Haha, what a coincidence!!! I’ve been obsessed with sharks from a young age. I remember going to Sea World as a three-year-old and spouting off names of all the sharks in the little pond outside the Shark Encounter ride. I also literally started watching Shark Week at the age of two during its inaugural season 26 years ago (dating myself here ;). I still remember them flashing the poster of an enormous Great White shark with a Bermuda-shorted surfer inside its gaping mouth. Fun stuff! 😉   

Then came Jaws—the movie, not the book. Let’s not even go there in regards to the book. I’ve never been more disappointed with a reading experience in my life! But I digress… I became fascinated with Jaws around the age of five when I went to Pic ‘n Save and saw the movie poster. What is it with me and posters? Anyway, I now make it a point to watch the movie twice a year, once on my birthday and once on the last day of Shark Week.  You probably wouldn’t want to watch the movie with me because I know practically all the lines and usually say them in the same voices the characters use. My favorite, obviously, is Quint. “I’m talkin’ about sharkin’!” I sing his little sea shanties with him, too. 😉

What made me consider a career change, however, probably had something to do with Nigel Marvin and the premiere of Air Jaws around the year 2000. The fact that sharks could rocket out of the water was a paradigm shift for me and sort of tilted my world off its axis. Breaching sharks! It was a literary goldmine! Not to mention that it scared the wits out of me to think that I could be quietly minding my own business in a nice safe boat when Mr. Whitey would suddenly decide to go airborne and take me along for the ride. So that was when I knew I’d have more fun writing sharks into my stories instead of sharing the water with them. Strangely enough, though, a small insane part of me would still love to go cage diving with them in South Africa. We’ll see… 😉

As far as creative pursuits in comparison to science, I still love the minutiae of marine and ocean studies, but I now find it much more exciting to be able to do the research or incorporate what I know about sharks and their behavior into my writings. In the dystopian epic I’m working on, white sharks play a huge role as one of the main antagonists (technically, a race of antagonists, because there are a lot of them!) of the story. They have their own species name, stratified society, unusual sharky abilities, and rather wicked roles to play in the oppressive world I’m creating. They are the toothed enforcers of the realm and have a symbiotic relationship with the undead soldiers who train them. They also get to wear steel helms and are so fierce you honestly can’t help thinking they are just a little bit awesome, as all Great Whites generally are. 😉 If I say any more, I’ll be giving away the plot, but suffice it to say that sharks are fascinating in real life and in literature, so I’m having a tremendously fun time giving them their own personalities and storylines and writing about their undeniable appeal in the new book. By the way, I’m a bit of a shark snob, so pretty much the only species of shark I’ll ever write about are Great Whites—my favorites. I tend to view every other shark as a poser. 😉

As a side note, I recently took the Discovery Channel’s shark personality quiz and was matched with, you guessed it, Carcharodon carcharias. I always had a feeling… 😉  

Q:  What do you feel was an interesting or important point in history in regards to women and women’s history?

A: I’ve often wondered how I would have fared as a woman writer if I had been born a few centuries ago. When I think about this, the person who always comes to mind in regards to the restrictions on women and how they were looked down upon for being writers (as were women who chose to go on the stage; the horror! Remember the scandal with Nell Gwyn?!) is Charlotte Bronte and how she originally signed her name to Jane Eyre as Currer Bell. I know the novel had been rejected many times and she was listening to the advice of Wordsworth and others, who claimed that “novel-writing wasn’t the proper pastime of a lady,” but it must have been infuriating to not be able to lay claim to your own work, especially a work as brilliant as Jane Eyre. It’s infuriating to me nearly two centuries later! In my own writing, particularly in the first book of my fantasy duology, I have a character who looks down on his fiancée because she reads too many novels. Can you imagine that kind of attitude today?! So, as far as women’s history goes, I believe that when we started to take charge of our writing careers and not care what men and other women (who could be just as spiteful and controlling, if not more so) or society thought of our chosen profession, this was a giant leap forward and an important advancement, at least to my thinking, for the suffragette movement and ensuring the right to vote.

Q:  Do you feel women should “schedule” time for themselves as writers? Do women sacrifice too much instead of pursuing the muse inside them?  How do you make time for writing?

A: I think it depends on your situation in life. If you’re single, of course you should have more time to write, or at least I would hope so! If you have family and job obligations, however, it becomes much more difficult to carve out pockets of time, but still not impossible. If you’re driven enough and passionate about your writing, though, you can find time to write in just about any instance, even if it’s only a few seconds to scribble down ideas on the corner of a napkin. I’m speaking from experience here. 😉

I do think, however, that women should try to set aside some quiet time (easier said than done!) where they can be alone and just let inspiration flow onto the page. I have a friend who designates specific days during the week where she will not take any phone calls or make appointments and just dedicates those set times to writing, so you can make it work; you just have to be creative about it.

I try to carve out writing time at least every day. Sometimes I’ll have a span of maybe four or five hours in the evening, and sometimes weekends are totally devoted to writing. It depends on family obligations and other things that are going on, those so-called “life interruptions” that can be so detrimental to letting the muse have its day! 😉

Q:  Where are some grand places you’ve traveled, or would like to travel? And why?

A: To date, I’ve been to Switzerland, England, Wales, France, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic (visiting Prague was a great help in setting the scene for the latter part of Corcitura), Austria, and Hungary. In addition, I’ve been to several Caribbean islands and 25 of our 50 states, my favorite being Hawaii, which I had the opportunity to visit eleven years ago. I do not have an ounce of Hawaiian blood, but my first name is Hawaiian (it means Melissa), so I’ve always felt an affinity for the islands.

I would love to visit Ireland and also Russia one day—Ireland because my paternal grandmother’s family is from there and I’ve always been fascinated by the country (most recently by the entire Home Rule debate—thank you Downton Abbey! ;), and Russia because I’ve been a Russophile since I saw the animated movie Anastasia when I was twelve. The viewing of that film also engendered in me a fascination with the Romanovs that continues to this day.

Q:  Do you have some favorite authors? Some authors who have mentored your thoughts?

A: Yes, several! Some of my particular favorites would have to be P. G. Wodehouse, Jean Plaidy, Georgette Heyer, Daphne Du Maurier, Agatha Christie (I can never get enough of her mysteries! So entertaining!), Alexandre Dumas, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, and Sarah Rayne for her riveting novels of psychological suspense! Wilkie Collins is my wild card in there, too, and I also love everything I’ve ever read by Shannon Hale. Her novels are pure magic. 

As far as mentoring, it would have to be Dumas for his amazing ability to write action scenes, Wodehouse for showing me the trick to making people laugh in fiction, Jane for the effortless way she writes the “dance of romance,” and Tollers and Jack (Tolkien and Lewis) for being the standard by which I measure all fantasy and motivating me to always be original.

Q: What other writings have you done? What’s next for you?

A: My latest novel, Corcitura, was published last year. Here is everything you need to know about the novel in a nutshell: Two vampires…one victim…endless trouble. Beginning in London in the year 1888, Corcitura tells the story of best friends Eric Bradburry and Stefan Ratliff, two eighteen-year-old Englishmen who are experiencing their first taste of freedom by setting out on a solo, grand tour of Europe. But what begins as the adventure of a lifetime, quickly explodes into a twisted untangling of centuries-old secrets as our protagonists are forced to flee from people who turn out to be much older—and somehow possess alarming otherworldly powers—than they originally appear. I am talking, of course, about vampires, and the two progenitors of the Corcitura are the stuff of nightmare: a half-wolf, half-vampire Vrykolakas and a five-hundred-year-old Upyr with an uncontrollable desire to create a hybrid creature to use as his own personal agent of destruction.

But vampires are just one facet of this story. Not only are the vampires horrifying, and their trickery something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but they have fascinating backstories that are inextricably linked with one of the main protagonists and his family—especially his sisters, who have a crucial role to play in how this story works itself out. If you love seeing female vampire protagonists having a major role in the outcome of the story, then you will love the two in this book. Let’s hear it for the girls! They have enough history and chutzpah to fill volumes more—which is my intended plan. They also happen to be werewolves. And if that duality doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will!

My current project is the book with the sharks that I was talking about before. It is a complete revamping and reworking of my original first novel that I began at the age of fourteen, but abandoned for school, life, and other projects. I have been working on it since July of 2012 and have been totally transforming it into a dystopian epic set in a brutal and lawless world. The entire theme and outcome of the story have changed drastically (the sharks were always there, although they are a much bigger part of the story now), but all the exciting bits (mythical beasts, hidden identities, battles, political intrigue, and some truly horrifying and treacherous villains) are still part of the fabric of the story. With the passage of years, however, everything within the story seems to have more meaning and gravitas to me now. It is definitely not the same book I would have written as a fourteen-year-old, so I am very happy I put the novel on hold.

Additionally, I am mapping out and reworking my fantasy duology (which I’ve also been writing since 2003—that was my banner year for creative ideas, it seems!) and am currently finishing up a collection of short comedy/fantasy/horror stories set in Eastern and Northern Europe in the 1800s. It has been an exciting challenge to essentially create mini-novels in 40 pages or less for this collection.   

Q:  How can readers connect with you?

A: I would love for readers to connect with me on any or all of the following sites:

My website:  http://www.booksinmybelfry.com/

Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/950456.Melika_Dannese_Lux (Books are my passion. I love discussing great novels and non-fiction/history with other readers, so feel free to send me a friend invite!)

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/BooksInMyBelfry 

And if you want to contact me directly, here is my email: booksinmybelfry@hotmail.com

Erin:  Thank you so very much for sitting down and talking with me today. We wish you much continued success in all your creative pursuits!  It was so nice to get to learn more about you.

Melika:  This has been so much fun, Erin! Thanks for letting me share a bit of myself and my work with you and your readers! 😀

City of Lights, Synopsis~

COL CoverPublication Date: October 23, 2012
Books in My Belfry, LLC
Paperback; 166p
ISBN-10: 0615708269

What would you risk for the love of a stranger?

Ilyse Charpentier, a beautiful young chanteuse, is the diva of the 1894 Parisian cabaret scene by night and the unwilling obsession of her patron, Count Sergei Rakmanovich, at every other waking moment.

Though it has always been her secret desire, Ilyse’s life as “La Petite Coquette” of the Paris stage has turned out to be anything but the glamorous existence she had dreamt of as a girl. As a young woman, Ilyse has already suffered tragedy and become estranged from her beloved brother, Maurice, who blames her for allowing the Count to drive them apart.

Unhappy and alone, Ilyse forces herself to banish all thoughts of independence until the night Ian McCarthy waltzes into her life. Immediately taken with the bold, young, British expatriate, Ilyse knows it is time to choose: will she break free and follow her heart or will she remain a slave to her patron’s jealous wrath for the rest of her life?

Melika Lux, Biography~

Melika LuxI write historical fiction, suspense, supernatural thrillers, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, short stories—you name it, I write it! I love to read just about anything and everything and am particularly fond of historical fiction, the classics, mysteries, epic fantasy, history, and non-fiction. I am also a classically trained soprano/violinist/pianist and have been performing since the age of three. Additionally, I hold a BA in Management and an MBA in Marketing.

I am a HUGE fan of Psych, most British drama, comedy, and mystery shows, and am always up for a movie quote challenge. Jaws is my favorite movie of all time, with The Lord of the Rings being a very close second. Tell me something about yourself, and I’ll most probably be able to “Six Degrees of Separation” it back to Gandalf.

Lastly, I love to spend time with my family and friends, and I absolutely adore traveling. Not only is it great to experience other cultures, but travelling expands my horizons as a writer and sets my imagination reeling with a million different ideas for stories. If I hadn’t decided to become a writer (And there’s a Gandalf story for that, too.), I would have become a marine biologist, but after countless years spent watching Shark Week, I realized I’m very attached to my arms and legs and would rather write sharks into my stories than get up close and personal with those toothy wonders.

I am currently working on the sequel to my supernatural thriller/historical novel Corcitura, a collection of comedy/horror/fantasy stories set in Eastern Europe in the 1800s, and the first book of a planned fantasy duology. To learn more, please visit www.booksinmybelfry.com.

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Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/cityoflightsvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #CityOfLightsVirtualTour

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The Cross and the Dragon by Kim Rendfeld: Legend turned Novel a Superb Middle Ages Tale

I’ve been interested in the Middle Ages since I was a little girl, fueled further by a middle and high school art teacher who had us crafting  castles, headdresses, and crests. I reveled in legends and fantastical stories of maidens, soldiers, castles, and dragons and had a love affair with King Arthur, Lady of the Lake, and even Robin Hood. It was all so romantic, mystical, and endearing….and even after taking a college course on the Middle Ages and learning the horrible conditions they endured, I still immensely enjoy reading and watching anything written about this time period.  In the past several years, there seems to have been a resurgence of stories written surrounding the Middle Ages with works such as Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, but there is still room for more wonderful writers to really delve in to this rich time period.

Thoughts on The Cross and the Dragon~

9781611792270-CrossandDragon-small2I just finished reading The Cross and the Dragon, a debut historical novel by author Kim Rendfeld.  She quite amazingly takes the legend and the poem, Song of Roland, and crafts it into her own romantic tale with her own original outcome. Not only is her book phenomenally researched, it also shows a tremendous amount of thought and creativity, not to mention storytelling ability.  Though there is much historical detail, the reader is never impeded by it and her tale is smoothly weaved with a flow that dripped satisfying like honey melting on my tongue.

I read it almost in one sitting, during which I could not bear to put it down for fear I would fail Alda, her female protagonist, in her pursuits and that I’d lose the momentum of the exhilaration I was feeling of reading such a wonderful novel.  Yes, I loved it!! I was swept away into a glorious tale of a strong young woman and her man, who equally loved her as much during a time when men didn’t always love women as romantically as would be desired.

I felt happiness, romance, sadness, anger and then I was even overcome with tears toward the end.  I felt connected to Alda and her husband, Hruodland (or Roland), which means that Rendfeld wrote with superb character development.  Her supporting characters were just as endearing (and hated) and I loved how Hruodland and Alda’s family members understood Alda’s strength, will, and courage.

I also was encouraged to read between the lines with Rendfeld’s writing, mostly through her character of Ganelon–a former suitor of Alda’s who seeks revenge and has a blood feud with Hruodland–that common treatment in history that alluded to women being slaves to their husbands, without thought or independence (even beaten and raped), was abominable. I was extremely pleased that Rendfeld showed, through Hruodland, how men should love and respect a woman. I loved Rendfeld’s use of Alda as a brave, resilient, and educated woman able to make her own decisions based on her freewill.

Rendfeld shows us in her writing how politics could outweight and outmaneuver feelings during these decades, but shows us the emotional love affair between Alda and Hruodland as an example of how a relationship could properly overcome these bonds of culture and religion.  Of course as religion was a very distinct part of life in the Middle Ages (even to the point many battles were fought over it), Rendfeld was true to how their religion would facilitate their decisions and schedule their lives, emotions, and beliefs; however,  she also showed us how religious zealots could sometimes misinterpret the Scriptures to suit their own purposes or go to extreme measures for salvation. Alda was a character who fought against all norms.

 

300px-Grandes_chroniques_Roland

Eight phases of The Song of Roland in one picture from Wikipedia

The Song of Roland is known as France’s oldest surviving piece of literature and is a poem of heroism stemming from the battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778 in which Hruodland (Roland) was a commander of the rear guard of Charlemagne that was defeated by a Muslim army.  Historically, Hruodland died during this raid.  The tale of this battle was passed down as legend and propaganda over the years and was later romanticized into The Song of Roland in the 11th Century.  It’s the love story of Roland, and this poem where he is mentioned briefly, that propelled Rendfeld to turn this legend into a storytelling masterpiece of her own.

If you like strong female leads in history that are feisty, courageous, and bold in a time where women were used mostly as political pawns and child-bearing vessels, you’ll love this novel.  It’s more romantic legend than the common historical literature. Rendfeld’s smooth prose, character development, and tight detail really make this book elegant historical fantasy that could be passed down through the centuries with anyone wishing to tell a tale with a lute and harp in tow. Oh, I was lost in time…….in reality, certainly one that anyone would love to have in their collection.

Interview with Author Kim Rendfeld~

NOW, READ MY IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW with KIM RENDFELD by CLICKING HERE!

Giveaway~

Kim Rendfeld is graciously giving away one (1) SIGNED print copy The Cross and the Dragon. With a beautiful cover and superb storytelling, this is a book you’ll want for your library. Open to United States residents only. Please leave a comment with your email (to contact winner) or email me to hookofabook(at)hotmail.com.

For an extra entry into the contest, you can follow my blog and let me know. The giveaway is open until 11:59 p.m. EST on March 2, 2013.

The Cross and the Dragon Synopsis~

9781611792270-CrossandDragon-small2A tale of love in an era of war and blood feuds.

Francia, 778: Alda has never forgotten Ganelon’s vow of vengeance when she married his rival, Hruodland. Yet the jilted suitor’s malice is nothing compared to Alda’s premonition of disaster for her beloved, battle-scarred husband.

Although the army invading Hispania is the largest ever and King Charles has never lost a war, Alda cannot shake her anxiety. Determined to keep Hruodland from harm, even if it exposes her to danger, Alda gives him a charmed dragon amulet.

 Is its magic enough to keep Alda’s worst fears from coming true—and protect her from Ganelon?

Inspired by legend and painstakingly researched, The Cross and the Dragon is a story of tenderness, sacrifice, lies, and revenge in the early years of Charlemagne’s reign, told by a fresh, new voice in historical fiction.

For Purchase~

The Cross and the Dragon, published by Fireship Press, is available in e-book (via Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and other readers) and in print from Amazon (U.S., Canada, U.K., and other countries) as well as Barnes & Noble.

 Kim Rendfeld, Biography~

KimBookPhotoSmallerKim Rendfeld has a lifelong fascination with fairy tales and legends, which set her on her quest to write The Cross and the Dragon.

She grew up in New Jersey and attended Indiana University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English, with a minor in French. If it weren’t for feminism, she would be one of those junior high English teachers scaring the bejesus out of her students, correcting grammar to the point of obnoxiousness. Instead, her career has been in journalism, public relations, and now fiction.

Kim was a journalist for almost twenty years at Indiana newspapers, including the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, The Muncie Star, and The News and Sun in Dunkirk, and she won several awards from the Hoosier State Press Association.

 Her career changed in 2007, when she joined the marketing and communications team at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She gets paid to agonize over commas and hyphens, along with suggesting ways to improve writing, and thoroughly enjoys it. She is proud to have been part of projects that have received national recognition.

Kim lives in Indiana with her husband, Randy, and their spoiled cats.  They have a daughter and two granddaughters, with a third due in May 2013.

See more about Kim Rendfeld and her books at www.kimrendfeld.com.

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