Contest Results & Book Signing Memories

I could be mean and wait until the end of this post to announce the winners of the Name That Character contest. But, I’m not.

You all came up with such great names! It was sooooo hard to choose! 33 different people submitted names! Wow!

General GENERALS NAME shall henceforth be known as General Uriah Stewart. 

Congratulations to Emily Drown for the name Uriah and Addyson Huneke for the name Stewart.

Honorable mentions are Chloe L. for the names Tavish and McLain, and C.B. Cook for the name McGowan.

HE WHO MUST BE NAMED shall henceforth be known as Ian McCrae. 

Congratulations to Amy K. for the name Ian (she also came up with the name Tavish) and to Valerie S. for the name McCrae.

Honorable mentions are Jesseca Wheaton for the name Dunn and Josie Ophoff and Sierra Faith, who both came up with the name Jotham.

Congrats to all the honorable mentions and winners! And thank you everyone who entered! I’m definitely keeping this list of names, so you never know when I might use it again.


 

This past Saturday, I went to Indiana for a book signing, meet & greet, and book talk. About 20 people, both kids and adults, showed up. I had a great time chatting with everyone. I even managed to sound somewhat intelligent while answering questions. I doubt any of the kids getting their books signed realized that I was just as terrified to talk to them as they were to talk to me.

One of the questions I was asked was what books to I recommend. I should’ve been prepared, but I wasn’t completely. So here’s a better list:

My top 7 recommended Christian YA books

  • The Ilyon Chronicles by Jaye L. Knight. So far, 2 books and a novella are out, and book 3 releases in May. I already had the chance to beta-read it, and it’s amazing. 🙂
    • Genre: fantasy
    • Magic: None
    • Spiritual Content: Very well done and doctrinal sound. The Christian aspects are not so much allegory as a mirror of our own world.
    • Sexual Content: None besides a few hints at what men can do to vulnerable young girls. It is tastefully dealt with.
    • Violence: Some fight scenes. A few executions. Mild torture. Nothing above PG13 level violence.
  • The Makilien Trilogy by Molly Evangeline. This is actually the earlier pen name of Jaye L. Knight. This trilogy has more of an allegorical, basic good vs. evil feel to it.
    • Genre: fantasy
    • Magic: None
    • Spiritual Content: Well done. Mostly focuses on belief in God and trusting God through hard times.
    • Sexual Content: None
    • Violence: Some fight scenes and large scale battles. Mild torture. Nothing about PG13 level, though most of it isn’t above PG.
  • Out of Time series by Nadine Brandes. The first two books are out and the third book releases in October. I can’t wait. 🙂
    • Genre: dystopian
    • Magic: none
    • Spiritual Content: Well done. Focuses on pursuing God with the time you’ve been given and finding peace in God.
    • Sexual Content: Nothing besides a kiss, some mentions of attraction between a girl and boy, and one childbirth scene (tastefully dealt with).
    • Violence: This is a very intense book. The author recommends 14 and up, depending on the maturity of the reader. There are some maiming, deaths, intense action scenes, explosions, etc. Still, nothing is too graphic and sticks in the PG14 level.
  • Follower of the Word series by Morgan Busse.
    • Genre: fantasy
    • Magic: Yes
    • Spiritual Content: Pretty well done. The spiritual aspect is very much an allegory. I might not agree with everything, but the allegory really helped me think about the nature of Christ’s sacrifice.
    • Sexual Content: a clean PG13 level. One character is sold as a female slave and given to a guest for “entertainment” (but nothing happens). Past, impure actions are mentioned. It is all tastefully done.
    • Violence: PG13 level violence. Some battle scenes and violence like that.
  • The Bailey Baxter series by Kim Moss. A sweet, contemporary series that deals with the problems of a young girl growing up in a small town.
    • Genre: contemporary
    • Spiritual Content: pretty well done. There isn’t much spiritual aspect in the first book, but as the main character grows in her faith, the spiritual content of the books grow as well.
    • Sexual Content: some kissing. The fourth book has a few more mature themes since the main character is now graduating high school, but it is still clean and very tastefully done.
    • Violence: Very little.
  • Legends of the Woodlands by Angie Brashear. An allegorical fantasy series.
    • Genre: fantasy
    • Magic: Yes
    • Spiritual Content: fairly well done. It is very allegorical, so sometimes the spiritual part can be difficult to detect in the story part, and I don’t always agree with all the spiritual aspect part, but it is still a very encouraging and uplifting series.
    • Sexual Content: Clean. Some kissing. A lot of attraction between characters. This series is heavy on the romance part, though the romance is clean.
    • Violence: PG13. Some battles scenes and executions.
  • Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. A very dense, old-style fantasy-allegory.
    • Genre: fantasy
    • Magic: Yes
    • Spiritual Content: Well done. It is the type of series where each time I read it, I get more out of it. It is allegorical, so sometimes the the spiritual part can be hard to detect from the fantasy part.
    • Sexual Content: None
    • Violence: Some violence, but not much.

There are many more, but perhaps I’ll have to save those for another blog post. 🙂

Interview with Jesse Dornan – Narrator of Dare

As promised, Jesse Dornan, the narrator for the audiobook version of Dare, has agreed to a guest interview on my blog. 🙂

Dare Audiobook Cover

Hi, Jesse! Thanks for stopping by my blog today. I’ve had a lot of readers asking about the person who is narrating The Blades of Acktar, so I’m glad you were willing to oblige them.

Tell us a little about yourself. Anything you’d like to share with all The Blades of Acktar fans?

Well, I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah to a family of artists.  I went to the University of Utah for my undergraduate training. I worked with some wonderful teachers in the Actor Training Program.  I had a stint in New York.  Then worked as an assistant director in Asbury Park, New Jersey. I toured the country with a children’s show, Pippi Longstocking.  I went to places I never thought I’d see.  Then it was off to Milwaukee Repertory Theatre for an internship.  There I got to work with incredibly passionate professionals. Graduate school in Sarasota Florida was the final stop for me before making my home in Chicago.  I love it here.  On the side I teach yoga, fitness, and spin classes.  That keeps me in shape and confident in front of others.  My real passion has always been acting.  I’m glad I could find a creative outlet through working on audiobooks.

Wow! You’ve sure traveled a lot! And it sounds like you definitely keep busy! 

What got you interested in narrating audiobooks?

I’ve always loved and admired those that can tell a convincing story off the page.  My mom used to read to me.  She’d do all the voices and it was such a delight.  She’d often record her reading so I could play it back when she wasn’t home.  I listened to books on tape with my stepmom.  Stephen King was our favorite.   In undergrad I read a chapter of Harry Potter for a class on narration. Once I got to Chicago I was looking for work that would keep me creatively fulfilled.  ACX came across my browser one day as I was searching for Voice-over work.  In hindsight all my experiences with spoken word brought me to a new passion.  I’m thankful that narration hooked me at such a young age.

My dad read the Little House books to me when I was little. Perhaps someday I’ll have to have him record The Little House in the Big Woods just to hear him do Pa’s story voice again. 

I absolutely love your rendition of the characters’ voices, especially Shad’s and Lord Alistair’s. How do you go about deciding character voices when you produce an audiobook?

I thought, oh my gosh, I have to create all these characters voices.  I wanted them to be distinct regionally, since Tricia laid out such a detailed map.  I felt like I was in Middle Earth!

Shad came to me as I was working on a theatre show Fallen Angels.  We chose to use RP or Received Pronunciation for our characters. It’s a heightened form of British.  My character, Willy just fit with Shad. Since Shad and Lord Alistair are related I wanted to use the same sort of dialect for both of them.  I used an aged British accent for Alistair.  I think he sounds a lot like Ian McKellan, who is one of my idols.

As for others, it comes to me intuitively as I read the book to myself.  Some I just throw on there and see if they sound right.  I wanted Renna to have a grounded voice, but still make it clear she was a female.  It’s actually hard for me to do a woman’s voice and not sound canned or airy.  She has to be a real person too.

Well, your choice of voices for Lord Alistair and Shad was perfect! I think most male narrators have a hard time doing women’s voices, so I was rather happy with how well Renna and Brandi turned out. I’ve heard some audiobooks where the women sounds REALLY fake. 

What does your process for creating an audiobook look like?

It took me over 85 hours to produce the first book.  It was a lot of trial and error.  I discovered so much about programs like Twisted Wave and Audacity.  It took a lot of patience and time but I enjoyed the obstacles.  They helped me grow.

I record all the audio now, raw.  Then I go back and take out long pauses.  I send it off to the author and wait for their notes.  Then on the second pass I read with the text next to me and find any mistakes with words, as well incorporate notes.  While doing this I take out all the background noise, using a program called Audacity.  Then I master the track.  This involves normalizing; making all the sound levels the same, so the listener doesn’t have to ride the volume nob.  I cut the peaks of the audio down to -3 decibel’s, otherwise you might lose your hearing on the louder parts of the audio.  Then I send it off again and wait for the final approval from the author.  I’ll make tweaks if need be then send off the final product for ACX approval.

Wow! A lot of work! I certainly appreciate it. 🙂 

A number of my blog readers are also indie authors who might someday be looking for a narrator for their books. Where can they contact you?

dornanjesse@gmail.com

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog today! 

In case you haven’t done it yet, you can listen to a sample of Dare‘s audiobook here.

The giveaway for a copy of the audiobook of Dare is now closed. The winners are:

Noel Young, Ariel Torres, Sierra Blasko, Rebekah, and Molly. I just sent you an email with your free audiobook code.

 

Congrats to the winners and thanks to everyone for your enthusiasm!

 

 

Black Friday Promo Survey

Turns out, Black Friday is the Friday before Deny’s release and Deny releases on Cyber Monday. This either could be a really good thing, or a really bad thing. I’m going to be participating with 23 other Christian indie authors to put together a Black Friday promotion. Over 70 books will be a part of this promotion.

We want to know what YOU want to see in a Black Friday promotion. Please fill out the below survey:

Fun Fiction Friday – Waking Beauty

Today’s book Waking Beauty is one that I was excited to read from the moment I saw it in Enclave’s release line up. I was even more excited after I attended the Facebook release party that Sarah Morin and Morgan Busse co-hosted to celebrate their releases Waking Beauty and Heir of Hope.

About the Book

What would happen if the Sleeping Beauty refused to wake up?

This rescue isn’t going at all how he planned. Secondhand hero Prince Arpien intends to gain a throne and the Sleeping Beauty’s heart with a single kiss when he wakes her from the evil fairy’s curse. But kissing the princess is only the beginning of a series of unforeseen obstacles: man-eating bugs, deadly spindles, talking lapdogs, and fiery pickles. The Sleeping Beauty is the biggest complication of all.

Princess Brierly is Beautiful and fairy-Gifted, but also . . . daft. After one hundred years of sleep imprisonment, Brierly refuses to believe this rescue is anything more than a tantalizing but doomed dream.

Arpien is drawn to the vibrancy beneath Brierly’s indifferent exterior. Can they reclaim her kingdom? Do they dare trust in the Prince of the old tales to help them battle the evil fairy who cursed Brierly? What is the price of waking beauty?

This is not the story of an innocent damsel-in-distress or her cardboard rescuer. It is a full coming-of-age struggle in a world where truth shifts as often as dreams.

About the Author

SarahMorin0025

Sarah E. Morin has three great passions in life: God, books, and working with young people. She has written articles and poetry for local publications and international periodicals in the museum field. Her dramatic works range from a musical about Susan B. Anthony to fairy tale poetry. She enjoys performing her work, especially pieces that allow her to dress up in her queen costume.

Sarah E. serves as Youth Experience Manager (kid wrangler) at an interactive history park. Her 100 youth volunteers are her best consultants in the fields of humor, teenage angst, and spinning wheels (which, they assure her, are not hazardous to anyone but Sleeping Beauty).

My Recommendation

This book was not what I expected. At all. When it arrived, I opened the box to find a tome rather than a slim novel as I’d been expecting (if I’d checked the page count before hand, I would’ve realized it is 480 pages long).

This is an epic, not a quick, easy-read fairy tale.

The beginning was a little slow for me. The writing style reminded me a lot of Lewis Carroll (think Alice in Wonderland or the poem The Jabberwocky). There are a lot of made-up words and things that the reader has to figure out as they go along as well as a number of long strings of titles such as Peerless Prince, etc. It’s a style that evokes an older, whimsical style of writing. It is fun writing, but a little difficult to get into until you get used to it.

Besides the writing, the story also unfolded slowly. Each piece of the puzzle was revealed after the characters do a lot of character-stuff and character reflection. Overall, I’d rate this as a very, very character-driven novel rather than plot-driven. As a plot-driven reader, I felt like it could’ve been trimmed a little bit, especially in the beginning when (to me) it felt like the characters weren’t accomplishing anything for several chapters.

But once I reached the end? It was worth it. Totally. Once the action started happening, it drew all the pieces together. The three different POV characters all had their own role to play in the ending, and it had a few twists that I wasn’t expected (and a few I was).

While I liked all three characters, Nessa was my favorite. Probably because she is the most straightforward of the three POV characters. While the POV switched between Arpien, Brierly, and Nessa, I was never confused by whose head I was in. They all have very distinct voices.

My favorite part of the book was the theme of dreams vs. reality. While Brierly is the one that refuses to believe she is actually awake and not still stuck in dreams, she isn’t the only one who is stuck in delusions. In a way, all the characters have their own delusions, their own Dreams, that they need to wake from in order to find Reality. It made me think about what I might be deceiving myself with and what thorns I might be clinging to because I believe I’m strong enough to handle them on my own.

Have you read Waking Beauty yet? Or is it on your TBR list?

Fun Fiction Friday – Of the Coldblooded

Anyone who follows my Facebook page probably noticed my excited pictures when Angie Brashear’s newest release Of the Coldblooded arrived on my doorstep. Thanks to blog tours and overall busyness, I hadn’t had a chance to post this as part of a Fun Fiction Friday until now.

OtC - eBook Cover

About the Book

Laila Pennedy is a warrior, no longer insecure and weak.

She’s confident the Faithful will overpower the Rendow Clan. Besides, Lars Landre, the Chosen of the Woodlands Region and her betrothed, cannot be defeated. She believes this with all her heart…until tragedy collides with conviction.

In the wake of disaster, the Kinhood threatens to capture Laila, yet offers mercy until autumn’s third full moon if she abides by their commands. But she’s set on revenge. And this time, she won’t be deterred.

This time…she’s the hunter, not the hunted.

Unexpected loss. Compelling wrath. Bygone faith. How in all the Woodlands will Laila survive?

Isn’t this cover gorgeous? And for those of you who were wondering, it looks really nice on my shelf next to the first book in the series Of the Persecuted. 😉

My Recommendation

This book has a shift in tone from book 1. In Of the Persecuted, Laila is scared and insecure. But she also sees some of the wonder of her world, and there’s a lot of wonder to see.

In Of the Coldblooded, Laila is confident. Too confident. In both herself and in Lars. Her confidence in people is so much that when the first major plot twist happens, her faith is challenged.

While the first book concentrated on finding confidence in faith, this book shows how that confidence and faith needs to be rooted in the Maker, not in people or self. I really like how that theme was woven through not just Laila’s character arc, but several character arcs during the book.

Once again, this fantasy world is vast with creatures both familiar from the first book and a few new dangers. The plot twists and turns. I guessed a few of the plot twists (mostly because my optimistic self wanted it to be that way), but a few still surprised me (both happy ones and shocking ones).

My only small concern with this book is it almost felt like it had too much action (I know, strange coming from me). Sometimes, the action sequences happened so quickly, I had to go back and reread to page to figure out what was going on. This book didn’t have as many moments of quiet reflection between action the way book one did. There is more violence in this book than the first book, and one execution scene that churned my stomach (and that doesn’t happen often). Still, I didn’t think the additional violence or dark tone was gratuitous. They were necessary for the character and plot development. Laila is struggling with a darker side of herself, and that tone comes out through the book. She has become coldblooded, and that doesn’t leave a lot of room for quiet reflection.

I continue to recommend this series and this author to those who are looking for good Christian fantasy. Now I’m eagerly awaiting book 3 and whatever twists and turns it has in store!

RELEASE DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As you could tell by my spastic title, Dare officially releases today! Eeeep! Let the Party BEGIN!

To get everyone excited about the release, here’s the book trailer I posted to Youtube yesterday.

To celebrate the release, I’ve set the price of the ebook versions across all platforms to $0.99 for the first two weeks. After that, the price will go up to $2.99.

As an ebook, it is available on Amazon as of right now. I hope it get it up on Smashwords, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and basically anywhere you want to get an ebook as soon as possible.

Due to being a newbie and not knowing how long it takes Amazon to upload a print book, the paperback is still being processed by Amazon. I will let you know as soon as it goes live.

Today is also the start of the blog tour. Here is the schedule with lots of great posts for the next week:

Schedule

June 2

June 3

June 4

June 5

June 8

June 9

June 10 

This next week is going to be a blast! I hope you have as much fun on the blog tour and Facebook party as I have planning them. 🙂 I’m excited to finally share this book with you, and I hope you enjoy it!

For more celebration, I’m also holding a Grand Prize giveaway! (Due to the issues with shipping weapons internationally, this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only). You can enter the giveaway here:a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dare Grand Prize

Cover Reveal – As Wish Made of Glass

Today I’m taking a break from Dare‘s release to participate in the cover reveal for A Wish Made of Glass by Ashlee Willis.

Isn’t this cover stunning?

AWishMadeofGlassFinalAbout the Book

Deep in a forest glade, the fey folk dance with Isidore, a young human child. Their kinship is the very fabric of her childhood. When her mother dies and her world darkens with sorrow, Isidore finds her belief in the fey folk wavering.

The love of her new step-sister, Blessing, proves an unexpected gift in her time of need. Yet even as their friendship blooms, Isidore begins to see that Blessing is everything she herself has always wanted to be, but is not. Jealousy grips Isidore as she watches this beautiful new sister steal away all she holds dear.

Driven to desperation, Isidore turns to the fey folk once more. She has only one wish to claim from them, one chance to make things right. But she must tread carefully. For wishes, like hearts, are easily broken. And obtaining the one thing she desires could mean destroying the one thing she truly needs.

the Author

AshleeWillisAuthorPic

Ashlee Willis is the author of fantasy for young adults. She lives in the heart of Missouri with her husband and young son. While most of her days are balanced between writing, reading and being a stay-at-home mom, she also finds time to enjoy forest rambles, photography, and playing the piano.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:

Blog:  http://ashleewillisauthor.wordpress.com

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7849640.Ashlee_Willis

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/AshleeWillisAuthor

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Ashlee-Willis/e/B00KC96M6K/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/BookishAshlee

Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/BookishAshlee/

This sounds like one book I’m adding to my TBR list!

Fiction Friday – Adventures and Adversities

Today’s Fiction Friday spotlight is Adventure and Adversities by Sarah Holman.

About the Book

One day Alditha is content living with her family, the next she is taking her friend’s place to serve at the king’s castle. Her father’s final instructions, to keep smiling and to do what is right, will be harder to live out than she ever imagined. She will face a royal nephew who delights in making people miserable, an angry servant girl who will stop at nothing to get what she wants, and noblemen who plot murder. Will she be able to keep the promise she made to her father? Will she find the faith she longs for during all her Adventures and Adversities?

My Recommendation

I got this book a while back on my kindle and didn’t get around to reading it for a while. When I did, I was browsing my kindle books and reading the first couple pages of a few books to see what one grabbed my interest. I’d already tested a few books and was prepared to do the same with this book. Then I realized it had been half an hour and I was already well into chapter five.

Although this book doesn’t have a ton of high action like most books I enjoy, it is very compelling. It has scenes of action sprinkled with day to day life of the main characters that is so well-written that I found myself unable to put the book down. Alditha, the main character, reminded me a lot of Anne of Green Gables or Elsie Dinsmore in that the other characters change because of her example. But, this doesn’t mean Alditha isn’t a dynamic character. She does change as she learns that trusting God doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be stoic. I really enjoyed that she was such an inspirational, motivating character. She’s such a good role model for readers, and it is rare to find a character than can both be a role model and interesting.

The setting is also interesting since it is set in a make-believe medieval kingdom, but still tied to real history and a real time period. The research was well-done, and I felt like I was actually living in Taelis with Alditha.

About the Author

Sarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of five published books and counting. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined.

Have you read anything by Sarah Holman? Do you like characters that are role models?

Fiction Friday – Mardan’s Mark

I’m hoping to start a new feature on Friday’s where I showcase a book or series I’ve really enjoyed. It’s not a book review. More like my random, fangirl gushing about books I absolutely adore.

I’d like to start with Mardan’s Mark and Healer’s Curse by Kathrese McKee.

Mardan’s Mark

About the book

Srilani is second in line to the throne, and she’s always known what is expected of a princess — bring honor to her family and marry well. Aldan has been a pirate’s slave for as long as he can remember, and all he wants is to be free. The Twin Kingdoms have been sister nations for centuries, but now their unity and existence are threatened by enemies both inside and outside their borders.

After pirates abduct Srilani and her three siblings, they are stranded behind enemy lines and across the Great Gulf. As the eldest, Srilani is faced with the dangerous task of bringing her father’s heir home. She convinces Aldan and his two fellow slaves to share their journey to freedom. These unlikely allies — seven young captives — must defeat the web of lies, murder, and betrayal tearing the kingdoms apart.

My Recommendation

Read this book! Seriously! I heard lots of good things about it and was expecting a good book, and it still blew me away.

The characters are excellent. Srilani is a tough girl who can fight her way out of trouble but also has a vulnerable heart. Too many books and movies don’t get that balance. Either the girl is an almost heartless, kick everybody’s butt kind of girl or she needs saving all the time. Sometimes in Christian fiction, the tough girl is the one who needs to be softened until by the end of the book she’s totally given up her tough girl attitude. Srilani is none of those things. She both saves the guy and needs to be saved. She finds a way to be vulnerable but without losing her fighting edge.

Not only was Srilani awesome, but her male lead was also amazing! Aldan can hold his own with her and doesn’t fall into the helpless male sidekick stereotype.

Best of all, several of the other characters also got their own points of view in the book. The character voices were all distinct, so I was never confused.

I also adored the setting. Too many fantasy books fall into the trap of basing their setting only on Europe. It’s fantasy. It can be set anywhere. The setting in Mardan’s Mark is based off the Gulf Coast area of the United States, which gives it a flavor not found in many other fantasy novels.

Finally, the cultures of the different kingdoms are well-done. I could see parts of all kinds of cultures, but I never felt they were directly based off any one culture in the real world. The Christian aspect of the culture is well-done, and feels like an Old Testament kind of faith, which is neat.

Healer’s Curse

Healer's Curse About the book

Was this my curse? To lose everyone I loved?

What good is Elilan’s gift of healing if she can’t save those she loves? Elilan must risk failing once again or turn her back on her calling—and the stranger she’s learned to love—in Healer’s Curse.

My recommendation

After reading Mardan’s Mark, I wasn’t sure how Healer’s Curse could compete. The novella follows the events that are happening at home during the events of Book 1. I wasn’t disappointed. I could see how this novella was setting things up for book 2, but it also managed to be it’s own story. Elilan was strong like Srilani, but also vulnerable and I couldn’t help but root for her. And the main guy? Well, he gave Aldan a run for his money. I’m really looking forward to seeing all these characters together in the next book!

In the interest of full disclosure, I was given a copy of Healer’s Curse in exchange for my honest review/recommendation. I bought Mardan’s Mark myself.

Cover Reveal!

*Drum Roll*

I’m super excited to reveal the cover for Dare: 

Dare Ebook Cover

My friend Ashley did the cover for me. She’s a graphic designer and illustrator, and it’s a mark of a good friendship when she can design a cover for a picky author and still remain a friend. 🙂

Her email is ashleyjoyillustration@gmail.com if anyone is looking for a designer or illustrator.

So what do you think? Isn’t it stunning?