Saturday, October 21, 2017

Doubt the Stars by Maddyson Wilson // Book Review

I think most of you regulars know by now that as much as I'd love to have the time to beta read and review ARCs and friend's books ... I just don't have the time! Now imagine me signing up to read an ARC on an impulse for two reasons: 1) a paperback ARC and 2) an amazing blurb.

I'm telling you guys, blurbs are important! Without such an excellently written blurb, I most certainly would not have agreed to review this ARC (Advanced Reader's Copy). My impulse paid off, though! It made for great reading material on my first train ride. I have no regrets. ^.^

How far would you go to save the damned?

Celeste Adair lives in a world painted gray. She's spent the last five years of her life stuck in a mental institution because she told the truth: there was an angel on the roof of her foster home. Since then, she's been slapped with labels she didn't deserve and words she didn't ask for. 

Luke Enoch lives in a world painted a fire red. He and his sister, Clover, have been living on the streets of Brooklyn for the last five years, running from the police because Luke has been accused of lighting the house fire that killed their parents. Luke has sacrificed everything to keep Clover safe and will do whatever it takes to make sure she doesn't suffer the same fate he has.

After waking up from what they thought to be their final breaths, Celeste and Luke find themselves trapped in the year 1392 with a single mission: protect Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers. With the centuries-old war brewing, the only shot they have at keeping Romeo and Juliet alive is keeping them separate. But, when fate (and a trigger-happy prince) steps in, there aren’t many things Celeste and Luke can do to stop all of Verona from falling into war. With the line between good and bad erased, Celeste and Luke will have to risk everything to keep the star-crossed lovers safe--even if it means losing each other.

You cannot blame me for falling for that blurb, amiright?! I mean ... come on.
Maddyson Wilson is a sixteen year old author and actress who has won multiple awards for her writing, including the 2014 and 2017 NC Young Playwright's Festival, and the 2009 Celebration of Poets. Most recently, her original play, "Glory Days" was showcased in the Hickory Playground. Maddyson resides in North Carolina with her parents and three dogs. When she's not writing, she can be found on stage at her local theatre or aimlessly surfing the internet.
You know how this works by now. I ramble and then sum it up on a scale of ten. :) (Or if you're in a total cheapskate mood, here's my shorter review on Goodreads.)

As I've said, it's the premise that initially hooked me. Like why did I not think of that?! As a huge fan of Shakespeare, I really enjoyed that entire element to the story. All the timey-wimey and angelic elements were not only very neat, but surprisingly easy to follow. Gotta love that ;) It was well executed, so I'm happy. :)

I really loved all the character interactions. I mean, let's face it. Most of these characters were just gold. Celeste is so dismal and snarky, and Luke tries to be better than that, but he's broken, too. Romeo and Juliet were a little crazy sometimes, but dude I forgot how young they were ... o.o And sticking all the angelic, crazies, and Shakespeareans in a Verona time loop was just a good call, okay?

The villain was spot on. Creepy prince who's a horrible person ... but also makes good points ... and wants help from a protagonist? Hmm ... And then there's Ramona. Another horrible person with a soft spot. No "true" villains--just messed up people who've decided to act like it instead of push through like the MCs.

Honestly, all the brokenness is part of what made me like the story. Was there more language and violence than I typically enjoy? Yes. But it was done effectively and not excessively for the most part. (I still recommend something like 16+ because of this, though.)

And in the midst of all the brokenness, I could see the allegory to Christ. This was the true beauty of the book. Beyond the great premise, nice execution, and downright epicness of Shakespeare-meets-Peretti-meets-asylum ... there was God. No, He wasn't a character. But every now and then a line would slap me, and I could see the truth behind it. The Jesus story behind it. It's done in the least blatant way possible, but I found it completed the story.

All in all, I really had no idea where this book was going the entire time, but I also kept from getting too lost. The ending was glorious in that it tossed something unexpected at me and took a huge turn. Then, ya know ... ended. -_-

Boiling all of that down, my result is 7/10 shrooms. I'm taking one off for more nasty language than I wanted, one for the occasional choppiness and minorly confusing elements of the story, and one because honestly, I wanted more Romeo and Juliet. They were side characters in their own story--the blurb told me as much. But they weren't as deep as anyone else ... and I wanted more. 

So here's to hoping Book 2 will give me some answers, clarification, character development, and light. :)
I know, I can hear you saying what else could there possibly be?! But hey, this is important.

You can befriend the wonderful Maddyson in all of these places:

And, if you'd like to give the book a read (if witty, broken, fantasy, retelling-ish tragedies on a time loop are your thing) then it is available for pre-order HERE.
What are your thoughts on that premise? How much of a turn-off is language in a book for you?

((Oh, and speaking of pre-order ... watch for a paperback Andora's Folly! Soon, I promise.))

Friday, October 20, 2017

War of Loyalties Cover Reveal

A Friday post! Because my Fridays have freed up and that makes me happy :) And because the cover reveal  is today only.

First up, I have an absolutely GORGEOUS cover for you. No, it's not one of mine, so I'm completely unprejudiced in saying that!!

This cover is for Schuyler McConkey's War of Loyalties which is being published this fall!! You guys, I am SO excited for this book! Like ... more than I get excited about famous people's books.

I first learned about it through Schuyler's blog and immediately liked the concept. There are so many unique characters. And it's historical fiction, which is obviously the best ever. (Do not fight me on this one.) But I'm getting ahead of myself! First the cover, then the blurb.

April, 1917. A ring of German spies threatens the coastal town of Folkestone, England. Newly-recruited agent Ben Dorroll must uncover which British citizens are traitors to their country. When his first attempt at espionage falls prey to a trap laid by German sympathizers, the security of the British Secret Service is threatened. Feeling lost in a strange country and aching for a steady place to call home, he wants to resign and go back to his American medical work. But when he learns that his family identity holds the key to capturing the spy ring, Ben has no choice but to unite with the mysterious Jaeryn Graham so that the truth can be discovered. 

In the aftermath of the Irish Rebellion, Jaeryn Graham's British colleagues look warily on his Irish background. Always up for a challenge, he thinks his a new mission in the Secret Service should be an opportunity to prove his prowess. But after an encounter with death and alienating two agents, he finds the road to victory isn't as easy as he thought. Unless he can win the loyalties of his newest assistant, Ben Dorroll, his secret ambitions and his perfect success record will be destroyed.

That should excite you, no matter what you enjoy reading! ;) I'm so glad that Schuyler is going to be able to publish her novel this year, the centennial of WWI, during which the book is set. More specifically: November 30th!

Until then:

Check out more about War of Loyalties at My Lady Bibliophile
Are you as excited about this book as I am? What makes a good cover in your eyes?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

10 Ways to Get Your Characters to Love You // Guest Post by Claire Banschbach

Today I have Claire Banschbach on the blog to talk about how to treat your characters properly! And I love what it boils down to. Pay attention, as her points describe the most notorious favorite parts of every story!

As writers and authors, we all like to joke about how our characters hate us. And sometimes it might not even be a joke. I mean, there’s a reason that “writer’s block” can be explained as imaginary friends not talking to you.

So, in order to keep the words flowing and characters talking, I’ve compiled an easy list of ways to get them to like you right off the bat and even at word count 120,000. (I write fantasy okay? :P)

  1. Don’t kill them off – You might think this is a given, but resist that frequent occasional urge to pare down the cast. 
  2. Make sure there are lots of furry animals for them to cuddle in times of stress – puppies especially. 
  3. Have the antagonist offer them warm cookies right before s/he threatens to destroy the world – not only would that be a crazy plot twist, but everyone would have a chance to sit down and relax for half a second before making the mad dash to stop villainous plans. 
  4. On that note, basically just make sure there’s lots of cake/cookies/ice cream available in general – the more food, the better. Make a stop for tacos occasionally. 
  5. Make sure they have regularly scheduled naptime – always important. You might as well power nap while they are. 
  6. For heaven’s sake, DON’T TELL THEM what’s going to happen before the end. Lock that information away and throw away the key. But don’t forget which way you threw it – make them think it’s going to be a happy ending. But maybe they’ll just hate you at the end. You know what, scratch this rule. 
  7. Maybe only break one or two fingers or ribs – in one chapter. I kid. Sort of. Go easy for a few chapters. Let them have a chance to recover for a hot second. 
  8. When sending characters off on a long journey, give them some sort of aerial transport. It’ll make things much easier – nobody likes walking everywhere. Especially all the way across the known world to throw a piece of jewelry in a volcano… ;) 
  9. Skip the love triangle – all complaining and moaning about this specific trope aside, it just makes it easier for the hero/heroine to concentrate on saving the world. And decreases the angst factor by like ten million. 
  10. Give them a day off – saving the world is a lot of work. Let them hang out with their buddies, have a beer/tea/whatever beverage of choice, have a snowball fight, feed a friendly dragon…whatever. ☺ 

Claire M. Banschbach is a native West Texan. She discovered a deep and abiding love for fantasy and science fiction at a young age, prompting her to begin exploring worlds armed only with an overactive imagination and a pen while obtaining degrees in Kinesiology from Texas A&M and Physical Therapy from Texas Tech University.

She talks to fictional characters more than she should while struggling to find time for all their stories. She currently resides in Arlington, TX where she works as a Pediatric Physical Therapist.

You can connect with her on Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Blog | Instagram

So there you have it. All joking aside, what are some things you tend to do that make your characters not like you so much? Do you think any of the above might help smooth things out? :P Anything I missed? Let’s talk in the comments!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

How I Write A Blog Post

A long while back I wrote a blog post on how I write a chapter. In fact, it was my ninth post, and inspired by Katie Grace's post on how she writes a blog post. While I'm sure my process for chapters has changed as I've selected new projects, I have now found a consistent method for writing a blog post. Even though it's not a proven successful formula, it's a formula nonetheless. ;)

You've probably noticed the pattern in how I post. My way is not the only way to do it; everyone finds their own pattern. But I do encourage you to find a blog post pattern if you haven't already! Mine goes like this:
  1. Title
  2. Introductory Paragraph
  3. Post Header Image
  4. Opening Paragraph
  5. Point One Header Image
    • 1-3 Expounding Paragraphs
  6. Point Two Header Image
    • 1-3 Expounding Paragraphs
  7. Point Three Header Image
    • 1-3 Expounding Paragraphs
  8. (Repeat until all points are covered)
  9. Closing Paragraph
  10. Ending Tildes
  11. Concluding Statement and Question
Of course, that's only how it goes when I'm writing a topical post. And sometimes I don't have points that vary enough to bother outlining with headers. This post, for example. I could have put FORMULA above the outline there, EXCEPTIONS above this paragraph, etc. But it seemed a little pointless ;) Posts like reviews and blog tours are going to look quite different.

My schedule for posting is every Saturday, with occasional posts on Tuesdays if I have extra content. Sometimes I agree to do posts for other people that require a specific date that could be any day of the week, but that's fine. Aiming for consistency is my goal. And I'm pretty sure I haven't missed a single Saturday since I began in February of 2016! Because I'm sure you want to know, I've done posts in as little as twenty minutes and taken as long as 6 hours. I'd say my average is about 1.5 hours for each blog post.

As for my process of actually drafting a post, it usually looks something like this:

  • make a couple bullet points as an outline/guide
  • write the post, using bold and italics as I go
  • save the post as a draft to finish later (sometimes)
  • create images on Canva by duplicating
  • reread the post, adding links to people's names
  • use Blogger's preview feature
  • (hopefully) fix any weird formatting issues that came up 
  • schedule post (if necessary)
  • add labels
  • customize permalink
  • share the post on social media

And that's basically it! 
Fairly straightforward, right? (If you're not familiar with blogging, don't let this post scare you; it's not as complicated as it sounds.) How do you write your blog posts?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

I'm An Award-Winning Author!

It costs money to enter book awards, so I've only entered a few. Is it bad to say I don't even really remember which ones? Entering Readers' Favorite in April was definitely a spur-of-the-moment decision. But, oh my goodness!!! It was SO worth it ^.^

I decided it was worth the $100 entry fee when Martin Hospitality received a 5-star review from Readers' Favorite that I didn't know was complimentary for entering. Needless to say that review made me very happy! You can read it here. And I thought no more about it.

Then on October 1, an e-mail announcing the winners of the 2017 Readers' Favorite Awards hit my inbox about the same time crazy-excited Hangouts messages appeared from Ivy Rose. She sent me this screenshot:

Martin Hospitality won Honorable Mention in the Christian Fiction category!! Yes, there are 140+ categories and therefore a lot of winners. But that made it really hard for me to choose a category! And this is a worldwide competition. One of the most popular there is. So I am beyond thrilled that I made the cut!!

Here's another picture of the announcement ... it's so surreal. You can view all the official winners here.

My primary reward is that I now have two shiny badges that I can share and even put on my gorgeous firstborn book if I feel like it :)

Another perk is that I'm invited to mail them 3 of my books for them to display and potentially sell at their booth at the ginormous Miami Book Fair International ... the largest book fair in the nation. So that's super exciting and I'm mailing them today! I'll take all the exposure I can get. Which means I want to figure out how much press release is complimentary and how much is part of their services for a small fee. At a minimum, my Google rankings should go up!

So I want to thank you all for your tremendous support and excitement. Between Martin Hospitality winning this award, and the drafting of Matinee Regulars going unbelievably well, I feel like my writing career has taken a huge leap lately! And you guys are one of my greatest resources. Please know that I do not take you for granted ;)
Honestly, I don't even know what else to say except ... celebrate with me?! Besides all the loving words you guys will put in the comments (because you're awesome like that), if you feel led to share about this on your social media accounts, please tag me @abitheauthor so I can enjoy them and share them with my followers!!! You guys are the best. It's literally enough that you're just here for me to share this news with because otherwise, I would've exploded! ^.^