Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Birthing a book is hard work


I never intended to disappear for so many months. On New Year's Eve we had a serious leak under our kitchen sink which led to having our foundation leveled (apparently a common problem in North Texas), more expensive repairs, and months' of other plumbing issues which still aren't resolved, but it looks like we're going to have our entire sewer system replaced (cast iron pipes for PVC). Needless to say, with all the money going out and watching our savings deplete as quickly as the plumber's water test proved there was a leak somewhere, I went back to work. I signed a lease for a 10 x 10 stall in an antique mall. It's been a lot of work, but more fun than I anticipated, meeting new people all the time and learning about "vintage" stuff. And best of all, all those extra steps I walk every day are helpful in managing my lymphedema, even in this Texas heat.

For awhile, I feared I had lost my ability to write. I had planned to finish Fiona's Gift in January and publish in March or April, but I couldn't concentrate, either on writing or reading books of any kind. But I kept pushing ahead, sometimes only writing a couple sentences or paragraphs a day, determined to slog through the drought of words. The book was complicated by the fact that the headstrong Fiona changed the plot on me. Good thing I let her, though, because it made the story much stronger. It also turned out to be the longest novel I've ever written--156,000 words!

I was able to finish, to my great relief. The Kindle version releases June 24, but it will be next month before the paperback will be ready, in part because the manuscript is so long, and because I have to remember how to format. Because Fiona's story changed, Tristam's will, too. I hope to begin the last book in this series as soon as possible.

Also because of something that happens in this book (totally unexpected), a third series is percolating inside my head: Mercy's Grandchildren. I really, truly thought Tristam's story would be the end of my time in Levathia, but the characters have taken on a life of their own, and I no longer control their lives. I am merely a scribe to record the stories they wish to be recorded. One of the strangest (and coolest) things that has ever happened to me!

Fiona is Mercy's most difficult child: headstrong to the nth degree. Her story is a kind of "prodigal daughter" tale (along with the further adventures of Val and Emma, and getting to know Tristam better). Even I didn't know what her "gift" would be until I finished writing the book! I hope and pray it is a satisfying read and an encouragement, which is always my goal, along with glorifying God my Father.

I have dedicated this book to a precious young mother who lost her life last December while battling covid in a hospital. I never had the opportunity to meet Allie in person, but she and I connected on FaceBook after her mother introduced her to Mercy & the gang. Allie was such an enthusiastic participant in my FB launch party for Mercy's Joy, which I designed to "feel" like an actual coronation party with a medieval tournament. For the first time I was SO tempted to give her one of the prizes, even though random(dot)org never once picked her number! She was so sweet to message me with heartfelt thanks that reading how Mercy and Valerian and Kieran handled the extreme trials in their lives encouraged her in her own struggles. That has been an unexpected blessing of this author journey--to connect with readers on such a deep level, I felt like a family member died when sweet Allie succumbed to the ventilator.

May you find joy in the midst of trials, for there is definitely joy to be found when we open our eyes!

Fiona's Gift on Amazon is 99 cents to preorder, and if I forget to change the price, like I did last year for Valerian's Flight, it will still be 99 cents after launch date. My chemo-induced brain damage is your gain! LOL

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2021

What a strange year for reading and writing and (lack of) concentration! I struggled to finish what I thought was going to be the easiest to write in my current fantasy series and felt a huge sense of relief when I published it in July. So far book 4 is flowing easier, but the story is veering away from what I thought it was going to be, so it will be interesting to see how this difficult character redeems herself....

Meanwhile, though I'm not including any on this list, I read much more nonfiction than I have in a long time, mainly because I made a New Year's resolution to develop a green thumb. I knew I couldn't grow plants the way my father did, or my sisters do, so I did it my way: science projects! I've managed to keep 90% of my houseplants thriving, but I'm still failing spectacularly with outside plants in this unforgiving climate. I'll keep trying!

Much of the fiction I read this year was by the same author, the fabulous Corinna Turner, which is why so many of her books appear in this list. I only "met" my Goodreads goal by counting Gerald and Piggie books I read aloud with my 7 year old granddaughter. Author Mo Willems does a fabulous job of writing fun and accessible books for struggling readers, and I appreciate him for encouraging my granddaughter and grandson to love books, but I haven't included any of those books in this list.

#10: The Guardian series by Kathryn Braddock

I read books 2 and 3 this year, and I must say, this teen author is so good at getting inside a wolf's head and making these characters believably realistic! If you like fantasy with wolves, I recommend beginning with the first book, as the trilogy is episodic.

#9: Her Mistletoe Mistake by Franky A. Brown

Romance is not my favorite genre, but Brown is especially good at writing "rom com" and this story is no exception! Ski-instructor Chloe and serviceman Nathan have both been burned in the recent past, but when they meet there are fireworks of all different kinds. A fun Christmas story with two lovable MCs and a cast of well-rounded minor characters set in the fictional town of Mistletoe, Colorado.

#8: Rightfully Ours by Carolyn Astfalk

This is an unusual love story about two teens, Paul and Rachel, but also involves a mystery about historical artifacts. The characters are real and engaging, and the setting is so well-drawn, the reader feels transported to the place. There is a strong theme of chastity and waiting until marriage, and the story deals realistically with the temptations faced by every teen in love.

#7: Liberation: A Dystopian Novel about Courage, Freedom, and Sacrifice by Corinna Turner

This is the third book in Turner's incredible I Am Margaret series, and it continues where the last book left off. Margaret, Bane, Jon, and the rest of the exiles are as safe as possible from the vengeful EuroGov, but Margaret can't help but think about how to liberate other teens destined to be killed to recycle their organs. So liberate they do, but at a very high cost. Nail-biting action and suspense! I recommend you start with book 1: I Am Margaret. You will never forget the courage of this amazing young woman!

#6: Word Has It by Julie B. Cosgrove

Mystery has never been my favorite genre, but Cosgrove writes fun cozy Christian mystery series. This is book 1 in a new series, and I love the way the author weaves the stories around word-themed clues, since her MC Wanda loves to play Scrabble with her nephew the policeman in a small Texas town. Wanda is believable and makes you want to give her a hug, and her friends and neighbors are all realistic, from the sensible to the zany to the suspicious. Recommended, even if you don't read mysteries!

#5: Marrying Emma by Melanie D. Snitker

I've read several other books by this terrific author. She writes Christian romance, and although romance is not my favorite genre, Snitker is SO good at writing sympathetic characters with whom it is easy to relate and cheer for. This book has two especially sympathetic characters: Marty who has lost a leg in an accident, and Emma who has had a heart transplant. Both are lonely but neither believes they'll find someone who can live with their medical challenges. This book can be read as a standalone in the series Brides of Clearwater, but it's good enough it will make you want to read more of them!

#4: Wild Life by Corinna Turner

This is #5 in Turner's excellent unSPARKed dystopian series, set in a future United States with dinosaurs. I used to despise dystopian novels until I discovered this author. She has created courageous and sympathetic characters with whom it is easy to love and admire, and focuses more on their spiritual lives while they are surviving in harsh and unforgiving places. I recommend you begin with book 1, since this series is episodic, but if you ever liked dinosaurs, it is worth your time, and you may find a new favorite series, like I have!

#3: A Dino Whisperer at the Zoo by Corinna Turner

Okay, this one is technically a short story, but it is SO good and can be read as a standalone from Turner's dinosaur series AND as a bonus, it's free on Amazon, so check it out! This author is SO good at writing heart-stopping action.

#2: Breach! by Corinna Turner

This is a stand-alone prequel novel in the unSPARKed series, and is well-written, compelling, and blew me away that Turner could write a dystopian novel with such a powerful pro-life theme! As a bonus, it details the origin of my favorite character in this world.

#1: Heartless Hette by M. L. Farb

Even though this book is #3 in a series, it is a stand-alone in every way. And oddly enough, when I first began this book, which became my favorite read of the year, I was worried I wouldn't be able to finish it. Farb is one of my new favorite writers, but Hette was not a very sympathetic character at first. As I continued, I saw why. This is the story of her journey--not just a physical quest, but a test of character for her. And what a magnificent journey it is, full of twists and turns, totally unpredictable! I loved the section with the riddles, and the wonderful supporting characters. I was fully immersed in this story and could feel the mud and grit, the unbearable tension and despair. The ending was completely satisfying and very unexpected! Highly recommended for all ages.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Time to stock up on Clean Indie Reads!


Today through Cyber Monday is a fantastic annual sale of Clean Indie Reads in several genres, all either free or 99 cents! I have several books in this sale, but I want to especially recommend three of my favorite fantasy series represented: Annals of Alasia by Annie Douglass Lima, Ilyon Chronicles by Jaye L. Knight, and The Blades of Acktar by Tricia Mingerink. Though I haven't read all of the books listed on this site, I've read a large percentage of them, and I can recommend most of the authors.

Here's the link: Black Friday Book Sale

I hope you find some new favorite authors!!!!

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Newest installment in my favorite dinosaur dystopian series


The Book Dragon has finished Corinna Turner's latest installment in her unSPARKed! series, Wild Life, and gives it five enthusiastic claws!

My review: Even though I would prefer this story had been written as one long novel, the "serial" format reminds me of some of my favorite old TV shows in the 1960's (yes, I am that old), where each weekly episode ended on a cliffhanger, or at least with something unresolved so you'd anticipate the next installment (notably Lost in Space and The Time Tunnel). The unSPARKed! series is exactly that. It's difficult to wait for the next episode, but it is DEFINITELY worth the wait! This story has become one of my all-time favorites, with memorable characters I've come to care about very much, set in a future United States with dinosaurs, which I've loved since I was a young child. Unlike Jurassic Park, this story focuses more on the spiritual life and day-to-day survival of the human characters and hardly mentions the science involved in bringing dinosaur species back from extinction.

In this installment, which is #5, 16 yo Darryl and her brother Harry are settling in with their new employer Josh, who is a hunter living in the unSPARKed wilds where dinosaurs roam and life expectancy is short, even within a specially designed HabVi (a reinforced and modified RV that sounds like it's been crossed with a tank). Not only do the teens have much to learn from the experienced Josh (who is only 18 himself), they face danger from more than predatory dinosaurs.

I would have loved this series as a teen, and love it now even though I'm far past that age. I recommend it for anyone who likes adventure and survival stories with a clean and religious bent, especially readers who like dinosaurs. I would suggest you begin with #1 and read them in order, though there are other stories in this world which can be read out of order.

This novella and the rest of the volumes set in this world can be found at Catholic Teen Books. You don't want to miss this talented author's stories!

Monday, October 4, 2021

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: An epic fairytale quest by one of my favorite fantasy authors!


The Book Dragon has read Heartless Hette by M. L. Farb and gives it a resounding 5 claws!

My review: Having fallen in love with the previous three books I've read from this author, I confess I was a little nervous when I started this newest story. The POV character, Hette, didn't seem like someone with whom I'd want to spend several hours while going on an adventure. And the situation seemed like the setup for a gothic horror story. BUT I am glad I kept reading, because Hette's journey was more than a fantastic physical quest; it was a JOY watching her learn life lessons from unexpected people (and fantasy creatures). While Farb drew from fairy tale lore and set the story in a fictional Germania (which I also love, having German heritage) this is an original story, NOT a retold fairy tale. The supporting characters are fully present and add so much depth to the story; the setting is so realistic, you can feel the grit and mud and cold and unbearable heat; and the tension becomes unbearable in places, it's so well-plotted. I LOVE the riddles, too! That part reminded me of Bilbo Baggins and Gollum, but only superficially, because Farb makes everything fresh and new. The ending is very satisfying, in unexpected ways! Highly recommended for all ages.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Fun Book 2 in a Christian cozy mystery series


The Book Dragon has read Word Gets Around (Wordplay Mysteries Book 2) by Julie B. Cosgrove and gives it 5 claws!

My review:  I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Word Has It, and was excited to see the author had released another volume. From the first few pages, I felt as if I was revisiting old friends, for Ms. Cosgrove is excellent at creating believable, loveable, and very unique characters. Her group of senior citizen friends, led by Scrabble-loving Wanda, find themselves in the middle of another mystery in their small Texas town involving cryptic one word notes left on windshields, a missing reporter, a trashed newsroom, and gourmet coffee. This is such a fun story, and I feel even more attached to Wanda and her friends. Her nephew the policeman is adorable too, and now I'm wondering if "Aunt Wanda" is going to be playing matchmaker in a future book.... This author has made me a fan of cozy mystery. If you love squeaky clean cozies with thoughtful twisty plots and loveable characters, this series is for you! As a bonus there are recipes included in many chapters (Wanda and her friends love to cook).

Monday, July 12, 2021

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Suspenseful, moving prequel in a dinosaur dystopia series


The Book Dragon has read Corinna Turner's Breach! and gives it 5 roaring claws!
My review: Having read all the other installments in this fantastic dinosaur dystopian series, I was eager to finally read the prequel to discover the origin of one of the important characters and was NOT at all disappointed! The POV character is sympathetic and realistically portrayed, and his plight added to the already tense and suspenseful situation regarding a fence breach by a T-rex in a crowded resort. It's genius how the author combines an action-packed story involving deadly dinosaurs with a strong pro-life message, but it works wonderfully well, drawing out every emotion on the spectrum within a relatively short span of pages. Anyone who loves dinos, like I have my entire life, needs to read all the installments in this series. Though this one can be read out of order, I encourage you to begin here and read everything in chronological order, if possible. Even if you jump around, like I have, everything will make sense (and make you want to re-read the whole lot again and again). Prepare to be immersed in an unforgettably believable dystopian North America!

Note: Find this and other books by the prolific Corinna Turner at Catholic Teen Books.