Posted in 12 Days of Christmas, Author Recommendations

A Partridge in a Pear Tree: Favorite Stand Alone Book

Now I waffled over this how could I pick one single book as my favorite, there were lots to love and lots I wanted to spend more time in. It literally almost a coin toss between the final two, but in the end Niki Smith’s The Dark and Deep Blue won out! I just loved the way the magic system was used, and except for during some parts of the book, I’d love to be there to try it for myself. For those who don’t know the story or haven’t heard of the title, here is my review.

Below are spoilers for the book

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Synopsis

Twins Hawke and Grayson are part of a noble house, their grandfather is about to name their cousin the new head of the house. When a political coup happens and another family member takes over, the two boys have to flee.

The hide where no one would expect them, in an order of women, called the Communion of the Blue an order of magical women. Within the Communion, they are Grayce and Hanna, but while Grayce seems to take to the order like a fish to water, Hanna has a hard time. Grayce has never been comfortable being seen as a boy, and being in the Communion of the Blue feels like coming home for her. She learns how to spin the magical blue wool that controls the different elements in their world and finally finds her place.

Meanwhile, Hawke is having a tough time settling in, he meets an old friend who recognizes him from when they were children. She notes he needs to shave if he wants to keep up his disguise and she informs him that the family member who is responsible for the coup is coming for a blessing from the Communion of the Blue. Before they are officially made head of the noble house.

The twins know that the family member is really after a magical tapestry which shows the real heir of each noble house. The Communion of the Blue has a copy of the tapestry burned during the coup. Through this tapestry, they learned their cousin may be alive and hatch a rescue to take back their house and their family. Grayce though is reluctant to go back.

Their friend from childhood points out that Hawke hasn’t realized the change in Grayce, how she’s finally happy with who she is, the way she never was back when she was thought of as a boy.

Hawke apologizes to Grayce, and Grayce despite her reluctance goes with Hawke to help him find their cousin and help him take back his place as heir. But things are more complicated as they seem, and the Communion of the Blue may be involved.

When it comes down to proving who is the rightful heir before their relative is crowned, Grayce’s new skills she learned in the Communion of the Blue will prove to be the key to saving everything.

Review:

Literally so SWEET. The Communion of the Blue is where Grayce flourishes and the way it was described made me want to join. A sisterhood of magical women dying and spinning yarn that can cause magic in the world. Sign me up! But I think my favorite thing is the fact that Sister Marta the leader of the order is accepting of Grayce even after she is outed as being born male. The magical tapestry even changes to reflect who Grayce truly is, its so wonderful.

Five Favorite Things:

Sister Marta provides a great representation of a woman of color in power. In fact, the sisters of the Communion of the Blue are very diverse and Grayce and Hawke’s friend from childhood is also a person of color.
Grayce’s whole character. She’s so genuine.
The information about what the Communion of the Blue does, I love a well explained magical system.
The magical tapestry acknowledging Grayce’s gender.
The fact that Grayce gets to be the hero at one point.

Amazon: The Dark and Deep Blue

Image by Antonios Ntoumas from Pixabay

Posted in Author Recommendations

Virtual Tour with Shannon Messenger

Shannon and James Riley (author of books like Story Thieves, Half Upon a Time and new Revenge of Magic series.) Meet to discuss all things Keeper, some qustions were from Barnes and Noble some were from the fans. She talked about the need for part of a book inside of Keefe head due to the changes he was going through in the novella. She also talked about the fact she had gotten so many questions over the years about different powers and information it was nice to put it all in one place.

She discussed the map at length talking about how tough it was having a map draw that wasn’t from a sea-based perspective. She noted that she and her editor had piles of emails on the map and that it was probably her favorite thing.

As for Keefe she noted his scenes were hard to write because he didn’t like to focus on the tough emotions he needed to focus on and that even inside his own head he’d make jokes to distract himself from harder truths and that that was something she wasn’t used to working with.

Shannon also talked about the fact that Fitz was loosely based on Mr. Darcy, in the fact that he was so caught up in his privilege he couldn’t see what other were going through.

She also noted she’d wanted a plan where Jolie came back but it made Jolie look like such a villain after all Grady and Edaline had mourned for her that she scraped it, she also had thought of giving Grady and Edaline another child but wanted to keep the focus on Sophie in the end.

When asked how long the series would go she talked about how lucky she was that her publisher was working with her to see how long the story naturally went, so she didn’t have an answer to that.

Overall it was a cute and fun interview, I learned some new Keeper facts that I didn’t know, also Iggy was originally going to wear little outfits instead of change colors but Shannon scrapped that because she though Iggy would tear up the outfits.

Be sure to enter my Keeper giveaway it goes till the tenth! Instructions are on the original post here.

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Posted in Author Recommendations, Yallfest

Worlds from Words, the Art (and Science?) of Worldbuilding

This was a great panel and one of the more useful ones for me. The panel was moderated by Veronica Roth who is most famous for her Divergent series, Jennifer L Armentrout, who is famous for her Lux Series along with many other paranormal romances. Traci Chee, who is famous for her The Reader series. Somaiya Daud who is famous for her Mirage series. Jordan Ifueko who is famous for her breakout hit Raybearer and Samantha Shannon who is famous for her The Bone Season series.

When asked how much research they do Traci Chee noted she did the least work possible for her fantasy books such as the Reader. But that she was more detailed and exact with her books like We are Not Free, because she was dealing with real people’s lives and experiences.

Jordan Ifueko said she started with myths and lore because that informs who a culture is. She notes that she starts with mythology she finds it easier to find out how characters would react once you know what they believe.

Somaiya Daud, says she likes to get into the weeds of history on Scrivener, she says she likes to save her worldbuilding knowing she isn’t going to use it in the story. She pointed out she had a two thousand year time line where only two events appear in the story and that she’s big on historiography. She said she had an inner Toliken in her head.

Jordan Ifueko talked about how Raybearer was coded as real world cultures, but where the power struggles didn’t come from issues of European colonization like they did in the ‘real’ world.

Somaiya Doud also talked about how she based a lot of her stuff is how folktales are told in Morocco. vs how North African women actually are. She talked about having familiar cultural markers then making up stuff around it so people from that culture see the familiar marker in story. Doud also talked about adding information the same way Dragon Age does via like a codex system.

The whole panel agreed that the one religion fantasy trope was unbelievable. Because the one thing people fight about in the real world more than anything is religion. So it would totally happen in a fantasy world.

Image by ejaugsburg from Pixabay

Posted in Author Recommendations, Yallfest

Dark Stories Shine Bright

This panel was great moderated by Marie Lu most famous for her LEGEND series with Kalynn Bayron, who is famous for her book Cinderella is Dead. Z Brewer who is famous for their newest book Into the Real, Jay Kristoff who is know for many projects such as the The Illuminae Files he worked on with Amie Kaufman, finally Adam Sass we had famous for Surrender Your Sons.

Marie Lu asked about what they were currently working on,

Z Brewer is apparently doing some video game type stuff at the moment which sounded super interesting.

Adam Sass is working on a rom-com and a story on teen fugitives.

Kalynn Bayron is working on an MG paranormal project.

They all agreed that dark stories were a good place to work through your own issues or larger issues like the patriarchy.

They had some thoughts on how to build a villain. The panel noted that you should be able to see the story from the villain point of view. Think about villainy itself, why are women always the villains. Also think about morally grey characters. Are there villains’ who are being evil for evil’s sake?

Heros in dark stories deserve agency and demand to be respected, survival in a dark story is not enough.

Z Brewer or Adam Sass said queer people often process trauma through humor which I thought was just an interesting note from the panel.

When writing dark stories you need to remind yourself your characters will have some kick ass scenes beating the villains’ at the end even if they are in a dark place at the moment.

Z Brewer also noted that self care during/after writing the book was important.

Kalynn Bayron pointed out the importance of thearpy.

Finally when asked about the MG/YA line for dark stories, the authors agreed that for MG it can’t feel as personal, there needs to be some sort of shield mechanism either through point of view or the way the story is framed. They all agreed that MG can have the same themes just make them more I hate to say softer but assessable.

Image by LUM3N from Pixabay

Posted in Author Recommendations, Giveaway

Unlocked Giveaway

So through my own faulty book ordering I got two copies of Keeper of the Lost Cities Book 8.5: Unlocked. So I’m doing a giveaway.

Rules:

You need to be 18+, if your younger someone enter for you.

US only, sorry all my international friends, I just can’t pay shipping.

Follow my blog for an entry, if you are already following have friend/followers follow the blog and mention your name, they get an entry plus you get an entry.

Want extra entries follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

The contest will be up till December tenth when I decide a winner through a random generator.

Posted in Author Recommendations, Yallfest

Queering Everything

This panel was made up of some big names in the LGBTQIA+ YA fiction world. We had Patrice Caldwell who is releasing her book in 2020 it’s called A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope, and is very queer. Corinne Duyvis whose The Art of Saving the World includes an asexual lesbian her other works have include dynamic genders as well. Mark Oshiro, their newest work is Each of Us a Desert, about two women falling in love against a harsh fantasy desert background, Adam Silvera whose most recent work is Infinity Son about two brothers who get powers and this time the gay one does. Finally we have Aiden Thomas they are responsible for the mega hit Cemetery Boys.

The panel spent a lot of time talking about how to approach gay origin tales from a structural level. Like making the myths queer. They also examined why the use of modern terms feels weird in a fantasy setting is it just something we’re trained that feel contemporary?

A couple of the books they suggested for reading were (and I agree)

Cinderella is Dead by Kaylynn Bayron

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

They also talked about the great variety of queer fiction available for young adults today and how they can’t wait to see what growth in the genre brings (since it’s already brought such good things).

Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay

Posted in Author Recommendations, Yallfest

How to Plan a Series

Moderated again by the wonderful Brendan Reichs. This panel was filled with some big names such as Stephanie Garber who is most famous for her Caraval series. Marie Lu who is famous for her LEGEND series, though I’m currently enjoying her Skyhunter series as well. There was Tochi Onyebuchi is famous for his War Girls duology. Finally we had Garth Nix, a fantasy name whose been working for years and basically has too much work to pick from, but is probably most famous for things like Sabriel.

The panelists were talking about how subconsciously they will know its series even if they don’t know consciously yet.

Onyebuchi talked about how if he still had really cool content that didn’t fit into book one that meant that there needed to be a book two.

Reichs asked them how they kept track of details.

Garber said she kept notes.

Onyebuchi praised the features of Scrivener when when writing characters and linking all character details

And Marie Lu pointed out she never reread her old stuff, which became an issue sometimes when she was writing books related to her universe she created. She also asked the others if they ever had a character who just wouldn’t go away, she pointed out Thomas from Legend as one who was supposed to be a throwaway character.

Garber talked about a character she wrote for book to for the Caraval series who ended up taking over the book, and how she ended up having to pull back and make him a minor character.

Garber asked the other panelists if they ever cheated with their work, ie. brought someone back who should by their universes rules be dead, mess with details a bit?

Lu said she tried to keep it solid eariler in the series but felt like it was okay to mess with it later in the series.

Onyebuchi compared it to Marvel ret-con and didn’t see a problem with it.

Someone I don’t remember who, said to avoid the sagging middle you beat the characters up in the middle.

Lu also said readers expect different things from different books in the series, with the first book, they want a fun fast read, with the 2nd they want more of the characters and more emotional arcs, and with the 3rd they wand a resolution.

Reichs asked about how do you deal with the fanbase hating your ending, the consensus was that you can only make yourself happy. You can’t make all your fans happy no matter what you write and that you can only hate something that you love.

Finally some last advice on writing a series was to put breadcrumbs you can follow if you want to revisit the book, nothing huge the fans would see but enough you can pick up on and link another book off of. Marie Lu also suggested something called an ID pass where you put as many of your favorite tropes that make you happy in the book and do a pass looking to see where you can fit those. The main idea of the panel seemed to be put everything you love into the book or books that you are writing.

Posted in Author Recommendations, Weekly Wrap-ups, Yallfest

Weekly Update

This week has again been slowed down by everyone’s friend pain. But I’m still doing pretty well despite that. I’m working on about three books at the moment which I hope to finish before the end of the week.

Reading

1) Unlocked Book 8.5

2)The Dragon Warrior

3) This is Not a Ghost Story

Yallfest

I’m continuing to write up the summaries of the panels I went to, more for me if nothing else. I mean, you guys have the videos but I hope you’re enjoying them at little.

Unlocked Tour

Due to Unlocked coming out, Shannon Messenger is doing virtual tour times for everyone who bought special editions from different places. I bought the special Barnes and Noble Edition so I get to hang out with her and other fans this afternoon.

Overall this past week or so has been pretty exciting, now I just have to get all my posts together. Tell me what kind of content you are looking to see, reviews, challenges, anything else?

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Posted in Author Recommendations, Yallfest

UPDATED: Fantastic Fantasy and Astonishing Adventure

The second panel I went to on Friday included panelists John August famous for the Arlo Finch series. Sayantani DasGupta famous for the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series. Kwame Mbalia famous for the Tristan Strong Novel series, and Claribel A. Ortega famous for her book Ghost Squad. The panel was moderated by Soman Chainani famous for his The School for Good and Evil series.

They discussed the differences between portal fiction vs. pure fantasy and how they as a group seem to prefer portal fiction such as Narnia and the Wizard of Oz books in their youth because it gave them a sense of being part of the story. They thought that was probably part of the reason they wrote portal fiction. Chainani asked the authors about how their own cultures or upbringings affected their writing.

John August talked about pulling from his days in scouting to create an adventure, and he wrote the book set where he grew up because he’d never seen any books like what he was looking to do set in Colorado. He also liked the idea of the adventurer being able to leave the scary thing for awhile and go home to bed. That in that sense the portal wasn’t something you had to spend all your time through.

Sayantani DasGupta talked about the immigrant experience being its own form of a portal, someone who was an immigrant could access two or more space at once, she used the metaphor of the strings on a guitar. Someone who was an immigrant could operate on more than one string, while people who didn’t have that upbringing couldn’t even see that there were different spaces.

I also liked how Claribel A. Ortega talked about the importance of traditions in her stories and how myths and old sayings were things that needed to be held on.

The panel also went over parallel universes vs. wish fulfillment. Chainani asked the authors what they considered their work. I particularly appreciated Kwame Mbalia answer who said wish fulfillment, but basically just the world as it should be if it weren’t so dumb. He made a great point.

The two best pieces of advice that came out of the panel were one from Kwame Mbalia was to use all five senses of the character when writing and that helps ground the writing for the reader.

The other I’m not sure who said it, but it was the the more specific your writing is the more universal. I believe it came up when Sayantani DasGupta was talking about writing Bengali folklore, she said she’d never seen it written, but she said allowing herself to feel authenthic enough to write the story made the story universal by her putting in all the little details that only she would know.

Finally one more piece of advice they all said to tell yourself the story and it becomes true, I think that in concert with the universality comment make for some powerful advice.

Image by Gerald Friedrich from Pixabay

Posted in Author Recommendations, Recommendations, Updates

Yallfest (YallWrite)

Are any of ya’ll come to the panels at Yallfest. Usually it’s a book festival held in Charleston SC. But this year due to COVID they are focusing on writing instead. There are so many great writers coming to share their knowledge and they are doing all sorts of contests and author chats leading up to it. It’s going to be the weekend of November 13th through the 14th, but there are some panels on Friday as well.

In their own words with YALLWrite is a craft-themed, online festival for readers, writers, illustrators & storytellers to stay connected and inspired despite our social distance.

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They have lots of great panels that can be found here.

The couple that I’m looking most forward to are Fantastic Fantasy and Astonishing Adventure

How do you build a world for middle grade readers, establish magic, and supernatural phenomena, avoid info dumps and engaged middle grade readers with the wildest flights of your imagination? How do you keep your fiction grounded in the emotional reality of being a middle grade person, when you’re casting them far from the reality they know? Basically, how do you make stuff up and make it feel real?

Moderated by Soman Chainani with John August, Sayantani DasGupta, Kwame Mbalia and Claribel A. Ortega

The Story Corpse

WITH VICTORIA ā€œV.E.ā€ SCHWAB

One because V.E SCHWAB! And two because the description sounds amazing This class will look at drafting as the construction of a body, from the bones of plot, to character muscle, to the flesh of prose. Attendees will hopefully leave feeling more ready to conquer the always strange and sometimes overwhelming necromancy of bringing a book to life.

Seriously theses are just a few of the panels that are available, you all should really go register.

This post was not sponsored by YallWrite just an excited fan looking forward to meeting people.