Friday, August 31, 2018

Looking for some female protagonists?

Sometimes I feel like a bit-player in my life, as events outside my control rock the boat and threaten to engulf me. Maybe that's why I like to read at least a few novels with powerful female protagonists, just to remind myself I can steer the ship. (In fact, the protagonist in one of these novels is a pirate captain, more surely steering her own vessel!) And maybe it's why, as a child, I despaired of "girl's books" and devoured all my brothers' books instead, all the while telling myself stories where girls had just the same adventures as all those heroic guys. Anyway, here are some reviews of books I've read recently with female protagonists. If nothing else, posting the reviews is something under my control--it will distract me from the many things that aren't.

First is Stranger in Town by Cheryl Bradshaw. Fourth in a mystery series, it reads well as a standalone novel about a private investigator in Utah/Wyoming, chasing after the case of a missing child. Lots of statistics feed the reader's fears in this novel. But the author offers wholesome characters and promises a good outcome, one way or another. Enjoy the balance of fact and fictional mystery with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

Easy Innocence by Libby Fischer Hellmann is another mystery with a female PI lead. This one's set around Chicago's North Shore where a group of young women take fitting in, buying the right clothes, and enjoying their freedom just a little too far. Meanwhile there's society's insistence that those who don't fit in must be dangerous. This novel's dangers are dark and well disguised. Enjoy some dark five-star coffee while you read.

Aaron Paul Lazar's The Asylum will be released in the Love Under Fire collection in November. It stars a feisty female protagonist who's determined to bounce back from losing her job and her boyfriend. Then she's determined to solve the mystery behind her new employment. Meanwhile she hangs out with a wonderfully large Mexican-American family, eats great food, and entices readers to enjoy all the delights of the Maine coast. Enjoy with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

Then there's Cats’ Eyes by Mollie Hunt, in which a fifty-something-year-old female protagonist, with many cats, is beset by trials and tribulations solving the mystery of a diamond theft. The cats are great, as is the voice. Enjoy with some easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Not all female protagonists have to be PIs or solve mysteries of course. As promised, the heroine of Ivory Dawn and Demons and Pearls by P. S. Bartlett is a pirate captain, though she's just a teenager looking after her cousins when we first meet her. The stories have a breathless haste about them, and plenty of action and adventure. Enjoy with some lively easy-drinking two-star coffee.

The star of Amie: African Adventure by Lucinda E Clarke is a rather too everyday English woman, reluctantly persuaded to go with her husband on an African assignment. Well-researched and detailed, the story gives a very clear view of life in Africa, offering readers insight into very different points of view. But there's an overarching threat which turns information into terror as the story progresses. Enjoy with some seriously dark five-star coffee.

In contrast, the heroines of Algorithm of Power by Pedro Barrento (there are several, as the book takes place over different centuries) are well-educated, intelligent women of a future-history world. The author invites readers into his world first, revealing its future history later in a well-timed middle part. Blending clever science fiction with myth and interpretation, adding great characters and intriguing mystery, and tying it all together with cruel coincidence, he creates a fascinating novel of strange possibilities. Enjoy these dark tales with some dark five-star coffee.

Finally, the protagonist of A Reflection of Sophie Beaumont by L. M. Barrett may not really be a hero, but she's a mystery waiting to be understood, after being found dead by her loving husband. It's a truly dark tale, with the promise that control maybe isn't what we should be looking for. Dark five-star coffee is definitely the choice to go with this.

And dark five-star coffee is what I need to brew to keep me awake to the end of the day. Enjoy reading!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I need to read children's books to stay sane!

Aghghghg! My book-world is quietly falling apart, as publishers change and close, and even self-publishers prove to be built on shifting sands. Createspace is going to merge with KDP (logical - they're both Amazon) and "some" of my books won't work, but no one will tell me which. Or was that just a general warning sent to everyone. Or... whatever, it caused unhappy (unproductive) hours researching "stuff." But those were hours when I was meant to be researching public domain images for re-releasing my Bible stories. (They have a fantastic publisher, but he's closing soon and is very generously helping me cope with the change.) Perhaps they were hours that should have been devoted the re-release of my Mathemafiction novels (getting distribution through Ingram Spark, etc). Or perhaps to releasing overdue book reviews...

Yes, book reviews. Reading books is the only thing keeping me sane (well, that and drinking too much coffee and eating too many gluten-free cookies. I'm working on replacing the cookies with gluten-free bread and strawberry-jalapeno jam! Delicious!). So here are a few reviews, just to prove at least a few of those hours have been well spent.

Children's books and books for teens... a good place to relax the adult brain (that is rapidly turning to mush and childhood again)...

The Ian's Realm Saga by D. L. Gardner is a cool fantasy trilogy that I read a while ago and couldn't resist rereading when it was offered a single ebook. Modern day teen who plays and writes computer games, not many friends, suddenly thrown into a world where heroes are made. I really enjoyed all three novels. Drink some elegant, complex four-star coffee while you read.

Another middle-grade series includes The Land Without Color and The Great Sugar War, both by Benjamin Ellefson. Fairy tales that are fun for kids and thought-provoking for adults, these portray modern-world problems (overeating, unthinking acceptance of reported news, a world of black and white with no shades of gray, and the importance of thinking for ourselves) through the lens of a magical world where middle-grade humans struggle to unite their zany friends into good fellowship. The hero's are male, making these particularly good for reluctant boy readers. Enjoy with some bright lively two-star coffee.

The Wizard of Tut Tut Bun by John McCarrick is a chapbook for middle-grade readers, nicely designed so that each chapter is an individual story feeding into an overall story arc. It reads like a grandparent telling a tale to children gathered on the floor, or like campfire stories on vacation. Fun characters (talking trees anyone?) and a nicely satisfying conclusion, enjoy with some more lively two-star coffee.

Max’s Story: A dog’s purpose puppy tale by W. Bruce Cameron is a very cool middle-grade novel with neat illustrations and a DOG. Who can resist a fiercely protective Yorkie discovering his designated human? The novel offers wise lessons for humans and dogs and vividly portrays the small dog's point of view. Enjoy this lively read with some lively two-star coffee.

The Very Worst Riding School in the World book 1 and book 2 by Lucinda Clarke may be aimed at slightly older readers, but the humor and voice are pleasantly natural in this memoir of an English women in Botswana, a non-rider accidentally teaching youngsters to ride. It's a fun read for many ages and cultures, entertaining, informative, and even oddly uplifting. Enjoy with some more two-star coffee - it's a very lively tale.

For younger children, I've been reading the Underground Toy Society books by Jessica D. Adams. The Underground Toy Society's Song Book, The Underground Toy Society Halloween Scare, The Underground Toy Society Helps Beary Bear and The Underground Toy Society Saves Peggy. I was surprised by the variety in the books, from simple picture book to intriguing story with "about the author" details. A series that grows with the kids perhaps. Enjoy some lively reading with lively drinking and two-star coffee.

One final picture book to round out my collection, then I'll go drink some of that coffee. What if Everybody said that? By Ellen Javernick is a bright fun book with details drawn from real life and a very wise lesson. Each page involves a different "What if everyone said...?" example. Good humor well presented; enjoy with some elegant complex four-star coffee with this one. Which is exactly what I'm about to enjoy!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Chilled Spines anyone?

Today I'm delighted to welcome the spine-chilling author, Nancy Gray to my blog, as she tours the internet with a cool scary book for middle graders, The Scarecrow. But what draws an author toward writing horror... and horror for kids? Here's Nancy's answer to the question:

Why Horror?

When I was asked to write a blog about my work, I honestly wasn’t sure where to begin. So I started thinking about questions people have asked me before, and one of the things that seem to surprise people when I talk about my work is the fact that I enjoy writing horror. People probably wouldn’t expect it from me. They probably, in fact, would think I would prefer to write fantasy or young children’s stories instead of middle grade horror novellas, but horror stories are how I got my start and what I enjoyed when I was a child. So I’m going to try to explain why horror is important to me and why I think these books are worthwhile.

Even though people don’t like to admit it, deep down I believe that everyone likes a good scare as long as it’s caused by something that doesn’t have a bad outcome. People like to tell a good “close call” story or a story about seeing something they can’t explain if the audience is willing to listen. We all have a deep fascination with the unknown and things that can’t be easily explained. Even though no one likes to say it, we tend to look in the direction of an accident because we have a fascination with things that are grim.

When I was a child, I read books from the Scary Stories series. I read these books because I was fascinated by the gore and the horrific things that happened in the stories. The stories made me jumpy and a little nervous but it was a good feeling, an interesting shiver that would make me always look over my shoulder. As I grew up I started watching scary television shows and reading books like Goosebumps. I started reading Stephen King novels probably when I was too young.

The point that I’m trying to make is that horror books are worthwhile because they stimulate that need that we have to see the grim side of things and to experience a close call through the eyes of another person. We can read a story, feel afraid, and then breathe a sigh of relief knowing that it’s all just a story in the end. No one knows how keenly we need this kind of outlet than children.  

The world today is a scary place. Amid stories of child trafficking, families splitting up, school shootings, and other horrible realities that children are exposed to, stories about children fighting monsters and facing their fears are important. In the Spine Chillers series, my characters have to save themselves by being clever, thinking things through, and using their talents in creative ways to fight off the monsters that thrive on their fear. In facing the creatures, many of them have to confront their own inner demons as well and learn what they are and aren’t capable of in order to protect themselves and others. If my stories can give children courage, and can convince those facing something that seems too big for them that they can be confident in themselves, then I’ll have done what I set out to do with these novels. I’m proud to be a horror writer, and especially one for middle school children.

 Wow! What a wonderful answer Nancy. And yes, I always loved horror stories too. Still do.

SPINE CHILLERS: THE SCARECROW by Nancy Gray, Mid-Grade Horror, 113 pp., $2.99 (Kindle)

Author: Nancy Gray
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 113
Genre: Mid-Grade Horror


Eleven year old, Sophie, arrives at her Aunt and Uncle’s farm to horrible news: her cousin, Hunt, has gone missing.  When Sophie starts searching for clues to where her cousin went, strange things happen.  The scarecrow wanders around the cornfields at night and murders of crows lash out at other animals for no reason at all.

An ancient spirit wants revenge. Sophie will have to be brave and clever in order to save her cousin…and herself!




Chapter 1 – Aunt Angie’s Farm

Sophie leaned against the car window listening to the soothing sounds of the dirt road that threatened to lull her back to sleep. When her head rolled to the side, her glasses occasionally rattled against the windowpane, waking her from her dreamlike state. She glanced at the scenery rolling by like the background of a side-scrolling video game. Even though most of what she could see was the forest, she knew that they had to be getting close to the farm. The oak trees would occasionally part revealing a long patch of clover or grass that looked luxurious in the setting sun. She imagined rolling around in the grass like a happy puppy and then exploring the woods, climbing into a tree or discovering a hidden trail.
Just as she thought that she couldn’t take wondering if they were getting close and was about to ask, she realized that her parents were talking in hushed tones that they thought that she couldn’t hear. They must’ve thought that she was still asleep. She closed her eyes and listened, curious about what they were saying.
Her mother sighed and said, “Sometimes I really don’t know how you two are related.”
Her father chuckled. “Yeah, but at least she isn’t living out in the woods foraging berries or something. Angie’s always been a flake.”
“Do you think that Sophie likes coming here? I mean, the farm used to always scare her so much when she was little, but she acted like she was excited to come this time.”
At first, Sophie thought about telling them that she could still hear them, but instead she just continued to lean against the car door with her eyes shut.
“Well, she’s always liked seeing the animals and I think she likes spending time with her cousin.”
Her mother made a snorting noise and said, “Sometimes I wish she didn’t. That boy is a bad influence on her.”
“I talked to Angie about that. This time, if they want to explore they’ll be going with one of us.”
Sophie frowned at her mother’s comment. Part of the reason why she enjoyed going to the farm at all was to spend time with her cousin Hunt. They were a lot alike. They both loved exploring the farm together and playing with the animals. They even could be mistaken for siblings because they both looked alike as well, around the same height with blond hair and blue eyes. Even though she hated to admit it, her mother was right.  Sometimes Hunt did get her into trouble, but it was always fun. They loved to sneak into places on the farm that they weren’t supposed to go, like the old barn or the woods nearby. Playing with Hunt always meant going on some sort of adventure.
She thought miserably, “It just won’t be as fun if mom and dad are close by. I never get into any trouble at home. Why can’t they just let us play? I guess, at least, we won’t be getting lost in the corn field this time.
Sophie’s dad said in a voice that shook her out of her daydream, “Sophie, we’re here.”
She opened her eyes and stared out the window at the rows of feed corn in front of her, fascinated. The road was so narrow the plants scraped against the sides of the car. She could hear a tractor up ahead and their car slowed down. The tractor motor stopped and her dad stopped the car. Sophie craned her neck and saw her uncle waving at them from the seat of a large, green combine and motioning for them to get out of the car.
Her father muttered, “Looks like Mike wants to talk. Come on, Sophie. Why don’t you get out and stretch your legs too.”
She gladly got out and stretched then ran in the direction of her uncle. He gave her a long hug and said, “There’s my favorite niece. Good to see you, Sophie. Give me a minute to talk to your dad, and then maybe I’ll give you a ride on the tractor later.”
Sophie said, “Okay.”
She thought, “He usually seems more excited to see us. Why is he frowning? Is something wrong?
Her uncle put an arm around her father’s shoulders and walked down the road until they were far enough away that Sophie couldn’t hear them. From the way they pointed in her direction, she knew they didn’t want her to listen in and were talking about something that concerned her as well.
Sophie walked up to her mother. “Mom, can I go look around?”
“Okay, but don’t go too far. I’m going to talk to your dad. Stay close to the car.”
Sophie squinted and shielded the sunlight from her eyes, glancing at row after row of corn. Finally, she spotted what she was looking for and carefully entered the corn, counting the rows so that she wouldn’t get lost, until she reached the clearing. Hanging on a pole in the center of the open area was a scarecrow. Oddly, there were several crows perched on top of it. One was even pulling on one of its button eyes. The black birds glanced at Sophie for a moment with dark, doll-like eyes and then flew away as she approached to get a closer look.
Since the scarecrow’s head was tilted downward she got a good look at its face, and immediately wished that she hadn’t. The head was made of a burlap sack. Even though it was just a cloth bag, the folds around the bottom and the eyes were deep, creating grooves in the material, making the scarecrow appear to have an unhappy expression, possibly even an angry one. One of the button eyes hung limply where the crow had pecked it loose, and the wide brimmed black hat on its head cast a shadow that made the body seem to leer over her like the intimidating silhouette of a villain in a western movie. Sophie stepped back slowly and then turned and ran in the direction of the car, not stopping until she reached her mother. Sophie hugged her tightly around the waist.
Her mother glanced down at her and asked gently, “Sophie, what’s wrong?”
“Can we go?”
She nodded. “Yes, we were just about to go to the guest house and get settled in.”
Sophie got into the backseat of the car and didn’t glance back in the direction of the scarecrow until they were driving. When she did turn to look, even though she knew it wasn’t possible, the scarecrow’s head seemed to be cocked in a different direction, slightly upward, as though it was watching them leave. Just as she was about to say something to her parents, a wall of crows flew up from the cornfield and obscured her view. When they were gone the head was resting down again. Sophie made a whimpering sound in the back of her throat that she was glad her parents didn’t hear and shifted further down into her seat, hoping that even the top of her head wouldn’t show through the back window.


Nancy Gray 
Nancy Gray has published a number of works including her young adult fantasy series Blood Rain. Her short story “Chosen” appeared in Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Author Quest: a Penguin Special from Grosset & Dunlap. Her work also appears in various anthologies.

Nancy Gray has been writing for over ten years. Gray lives in South Carolina with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys books, video games, anime, manga, and horror.
Her latest book is the mid-grade horror, Spine Chillers: The Scarecrow.




Sunday, August 19, 2018

Plotter? Pantser? Yes and yes, perhaps?

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Dan Jolley to my blog, with new about Gray widow, walk, web and war. If you look at those covers, you'll the spider-sense in these cool scifi, fantasy, superhero novels. Plus there's a female protagonist. I'm hooked and eager to read. But I'm also curious, so I've asked Dan:

 Do trilogies start with all three books planned out, or do they grow as you write them?

The answer is... yes and yes.

The Gray Widow Trilogy is a good example. I technically got started on it back when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth (1996), when I had only ever had comic books published and didn’t really know anything about writing novels. (If I’m being honest, I didn’t really know anything about anything back then. Twenty-five seems so YOUNG to me now. Get off my lawn!)

Anyway, I originally intended the story to be a comic book, but when I couldn’t find the right artist with whom to collaborate, I decided to turn it into a screenplay. So I went out and bought a bound edition of a couple of Quentin Tarantino’s scripts, hoping to use them as a template—and I read his introduction, in which he said, and I’m paraphrasing, “Look, film is a collaborative medium. If you want to have total control over your story, write a novel.”

I took that to heart.

At the time, all I really wanted to do was get the whole story down on paper. I thought maybe, *maybe*, if I was insanely lucky, I might get it published at some point, but it was really just about finishing the story.

It took a loooonngg time for the first book to find a publisher. Over the course of the next two decades, and multiple major rewrites, the story kept evolving in my head, even as I was writing and co-writing a number of other original novels, tie-in novels, and film novelizations. When I finally struck a deal with Seventh Star, the general story in my head had gotten a good bit bigger. Big enough for about three books, I thought.

I knew who the villains were, and what they wanted: they were extraterrestrials carrying out a secret weapons experiment designed to modify human DNA and create military archetypes to be used in an interstellar war.

I knew who one of the affected humans was: Simon Grove, a young man whose genetic Augmentation was supposed to turn him in an Infiltrator, capable of altering his body to look like any other human. But the process went wrong for Simon, and turned him into a vicious, bloodthirsty, less-than-human killer. (Simon actually came to me in a nightmare when I was about twenty.)

I knew *very* well who the protagonist, Janey Sinclair, was: a young woman who’d suffered loss after loss in her life, and who’d promised herself she was going to use her Recon Augmentation, which allowed her to teleport from one patch of shadow to another, to try to prevent other people from experiencing the same kind of pain she had.

I even knew who Janey’s love interest was going to be—the assistant manager of her apartment building, Tim Kapoor—and the haunting secret from Janey’s past standing in the way of them being together.

And I knew, down to the last word, what the last line of dialogue in the last chapter of the last book was going to be.

So I told Stephen Zimmer that I had plans for a trilogy, we signed a deal, and I was off to the races. The first book was already in the can, after all.

The second book had a lot of concrete parts, but... there were still some significant hazy bits, too. I’m the kind of writer who thinks about a story for days, or weeks, or months, and then slaps it all down in a rush once everything makes sense. So I ended up spending about seven months of the year I’d been given to get the second book done just thinking about it. Once I’d worked all the hazy parts out in my head, that left what amounted to a bunch of typing, which I did all during the autumn and part of the winter. The second book came out on schedule. I ended up following roughly the same pattern for the third book.

Knowing where the story ends is crucial for me. I’m the opposite of a “pantser,” I guess. I outline relentlessly, talk out plot points with my wife, drive around and listen to loud music while my subconscious works on the story. But ultimately, knowing where the journey ends lets me build toward that, and I always know where the journey ends before I ever set foot on the road. It’s sort of like going on a cross-country road trip. It might take a while to get there, and maybe you’ll veer off course a few times and discover some fun roadside attractions, but if you know where you’re going, eventually you *will* get there, and when you arrive it’s the greatest feeling in the world.

To sum up:

My trilogies start out mostly planned, since I know what the story is and who the characters are before I ever start writing. But along the way, as interesting bits and pieces present themselves to me, I’ll let the story feed off of them, too, which allows the books to grow while they’re being written. So, are they planned, or do they grow as I write them? Yes and yes.

Thank you Dan, and what a cool answer. I've always liked to say I'm a "pantser" with my writing, and I can really relate to listening to music, waiting for the characters to tell me where they're going. But if I plot too much and write too fast, the characters demand rewrites and it all goes wrong. So instead, it takes forever (nearly) till I'm ready to put finger to keyboard and get going. By then though, I know where the story ends--which makes me a "plotter" instead. Then those characters just create diversions and road-side attractions instead of distracting me. So maybe, like you, I'm the opposite of a "pantser" too. I love yes and yes answers!

And now, an introduction to the books...
The final installment in USA Today Bestselling Author Dan Jolley’s Gray Widow Trilogy, Gray Widow’s War, is featured in a new blog tour set to take place August 13-19. Featuring a great heroine in Janey Sinclair, the Gray Widow, the series is action-packed and appeals to readers of many genres.
With aliens and genetic mutations in the series, the Gray Widow Trilogy encompasses science fiction, urban fantasy and superhero fiction. The covers for this series were done by Dark Horse Comics artist John Nadeau.

About the author

Dan Jolley began writing professionally at age 19. Starting out in comic books, Dan has worked for major publishers such as DC (Firestorm), Marvel (Dr. Strange), Dark Horse (Aliens), and Image (G.I. Joe), and soon branched out into licensed-property novels (Star Trek), film novelizations (Iron Man), and original novels, including the Middle Grade Urban Fantasy series Five Elements and the Urban Sci-Fi Gray Widow Trilogy.

Dan began writing for video games in 2007, and has contributed storylines, characters, and dialogue to titles such as Transformers: War for Cybertron, Prototype 2, and Dying Light, among others. Dan lives with his wife Tracy and a handful of largely inert felines in northwest Georgia, and enjoys connecting with readers via his website ( and on Twitter (@_DanJolley).

Where to find him: Author Links:
Twitter: @_DanJolley

About Gray Widow’s War: When Janey Sinclair vowed to use her ability to teleport from shadow to shadow to protect the city of Atlanta, she only wanted to spare others the kind of agony she’d endured herself. To prove that not all suffering is necessary. To heal the splinter-edged rifts in her own heart.
But soon Janey realized she was part of something much larger. Something that spanned the globe…

And reached beyond it.

The forces behind Janey’s Augmentation—the authors of the grand experiment striving to use human DNA as raw material in a vast intergalactic conflict—have arrived on Earth. And if the planet is to survive, Janey Sinclair must unite friends and foes alike. Humanity itself hangs in the balance, as Janey wages the GRAY WIDOW’S WAR
Gray Widow’s War is book three of the Gray Widow Trilogy.

Where to find it: Links for Gray Widow’s War
Amazon Print Version
Kindle Version
Barnes and Noble

Fnd out more. Follow the Tour!

8/13 Jordan Hirsch Review
8/13 Shells interviews Guest Post
8/14 Ally Books and Reviews VLOG
8/16 Breakeven Books Author Interview
8/17 Sapphyria's Books Top Ten's Llist
8/18 The Seventh Star Guest Post
8/19 Sheila's Guests and Reviews Guest Post

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

1984, Brave New World, and Narnia... What's you brave new world?

Today I'm delighted to welcome Stephen Zimmer back to my blog. He's written lots of scifi, swords and sorcery, fantasy and even steampunk--you can find my reviews of Heart of a Lion and Thunder Horizon by clicking on the links--two books that I really love! But today he's touring with something a little different...

Dream of the Navigator Blog Tour
August 15-22, 2018

I've heard this new young-adult release described as "1984 and Brave New World meets Narnia."  So, of course, I had to ask the author... Over to you Stephen!

What did you love about 1984, brave new world, and narnia?

1984 by George Orwell, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis all had profound influences on me during my formative years.  Of these, I read the Chronicles of Narnia first, in grade school, then encountered 1984 in high school, and finally read Brave New World during my college years.

The Chronicles of Narnia is one of the main reasons that I am a speculative fiction writer today.  As a child, reading these books (given to me by my mother) opened my eyes to the wonderful realms of fantasy and the possibilities in fantasy literature.  Very few series have had a more satisfying conclusion than The Chronicles of Narnia did with The Last Battle, the seventh title in the series.  In addition to being a very joyful and fulfilling conclusion, this truly grand finale had some extremely profound concepts embedded within it. 

The entire sequence of “Further Up and Further In,” taking place when the ensemble of characters has entered the true Narnia, left me with much to ponder across the years.  The deeper into the true Narnia they go, the more Narnia opens up and expands, giving the idea of truly infinite horizons that are accessed once one turns inward rather than casting about outward for something to hold onto. 

Similarly, the reader is left with the thought that the entire series they have just read is not even a scratch on the surface of the adventures awaiting the characters who have entered into the true Narnia.   I love the concept of higher realms/alternate realities and a transcendence of time and space, spheres of thought that are now making their mark on the cutting edge of scientific inquiry today, especially in the realms of quantum physics.

1984 is a classic work of literature that has had a tremendous impact on the world for its stark and foreboding portrayal of a pervasive dystopian environment that is used to manipulate and control the masses.   One of the things that I find most profound abut 1984 is the story’s focus on the use of language, the manipulation of words, and the control of historical perspective.  

Words in 1984 no longer have their true meanings and things in that world have become so relative in nature that it is acceptable to say two plus two equals five.  To me, these are the areas that have some very troubling parallels to trends of today in regard to language, an observable decline in reason and objectivity, and many other issues. 

In my eyes, Orwell truly was a prescient individual.

Brave New World, like 1984, is also a classic work of literature.  Like 1984, it explores an atmosphere where there is extensive control and manipulation of a population, but instead of using a dystopian environment within the storyline it makes use of a more utopian one to control and steer the masses.

Centering around the use of the drug soma, the means of keeping the society placid and cooperative are much more pleasant in nature than the harsh methods used in 1984.  The drug’s extensive use helps gird a society where people are genetically engineered and assigned to various classes based upon their level of intelligence and the profession/work they will be doing.   

The presentation of a utopia as a means of control, something very different from 1984, is a very insightful concept that I found incredibly interesting the first time I read this book.

On a side note, though not entirely unrelated, I also recommend reading Huxley’s essay “Brave New World Revisited” which takes a look back at the novel around 25 years after its release and weighs the themes presented within it in light of what has transpired in the world during that period of time. 

All three of these tremendous works of literature gave me a lot to think about, from the time that I first read them up through today and I’m sure for many years to come.  From mass control of the populace through the use of dystopias or utopias, to the concepts of infinite worlds and higher states of consciousness and existence, these stories give readers a lot to think about in relation to their own world and lives. 

For me, those are the most rewarding kinds of stories, which is also why they had such profound and lasting influences upon me. 

About the author: 

Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels and novellas(Sword and Sorcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk), the Ragnar Stormbringer Tales (Sword and Sorcery), and the forthcoming Faraway Saga (YA Dystopian/Cross-Genre).

Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the forthcoming Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot.

Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.

Where to find him: Author Links:
Twitter: @sgzimmer
Instagram: @stephenzimmer7
About  Dream of the Navigator: 

"1984 and Brave New World meets Narnia"

Cities have been replaced by technates. It is a world of soaring apartments, hundreds of stories high, where technology measures, monitors and rations to meet the needs of the greater populace. It is a world of drones, in the air and on the ground, and advanced robotic beings who carry out much of the harder labor, security, and even pleasure assignments.

Those discontent, or who resist, are taken to Rehabilitation Centers, established after the embrace of the Greater Good Doctrine.

For most, virtual realms, substances, and entertainment provide escapes, but for Haven, Cayden, Jaelynn, and Salvador, growing up in Technate 6 is a restless existence.

A hunger for something more gnaws inside each of them. Discoveries await that open the gates to transcend time and space, and even new planes of existence. Nothing in their universe, or others, is impossible to explore.

What was once reality, now seems like an illusion in a deepening experience.

Begin the journey to Faraway, in Dream of the Navigator, the first book of the Faraway Saga!

Where to find it: Links for Dream of the Navigator
Amazon Print Version
Kindle Version

Barnes and Noble

Where to find out More: Tour Schedule and Activities

We are celebrating this new release with a full blog tour featuring reviews, interviews, video contents, guest posts and top ten lists!

8/15 Sheila's Guests and Reviews Guest Post
8/15 Jorie Loves A Story Review
8/16 MyLifeMyBooksMyEcape Author Interview
8/17 Ravenous for Reads Author Interview
8/17 Will Read For Booze Top Ten List
8/17 The Sinister Scribblings of Sarah E. Glenn Guest Post
8/18 The Book Lover's Boudoir Review
8/19 Jazzy Book Reviews VLog
8/19 Robin's Book Spot Review
8/20 Soul Meets Books Review
8/21 Sapphyria's Books Guest Post
8/22 Literature Approved Review
8/22 Jorie Loves A Story Video Interview


Friday, August 10, 2018

Boxed or Trained? Where does Steampunk Inspiration come from?

Today I'm delighted to welcome JL Mulvihill to my blog, author of the Steel Roots series which began, not so many years ago, with the wonderful Boxcar Baby (click for my review) I'm eager to "meet" her here... and eager to read more of her series. (Will someone please invent time travel so I can fit more reading hours into the day!) So here she is, ready and waiting to tell us about inspiration, steampunk, history, fantasy, and, of course, trains. If you ever dreamed of growing up to be a train driver... Welcome!

 J L Mulvihill

Changing the world one story at a time.

You may ask me where I draw my inspiration from when combining real historical detail with fantasy.  I feel sometimes like I am standing in more than one world at a time. I have a fondness for fantasy and the wonderful child-like state of believing in it all. Yet, I am also fascinated by history and the evolution of invention. I am also a firm believer that every element in a story should be conceivable even if the story is fantasy. A compelling story is one where the reader can immerse themselves without the stumbling blocks of “Oh that is so not real.” 

Steampunk is one of those amazing genres where you can make it all possible if you just try. I tend to do a lot of historical research for my stories. I research everything including places, events as well as historical people and technology. It's fun to incorporate a fact which the reader can look up and see that this is real and then wonder if maybe it's all real. Taking the factual and adding a twist of fiction ever so slightly makes the story so it is almost believable yet not near impossible.

One of my favorite authors, L. Frank Baum wrote an impossible world called the Land of Oz.  Yet, when he wrote of OZ he created this land in such a way that people truly wanted to believe that it was and is a real place. I read in his biography that he wrote a weekly column in the newspaper chronicling the misadventures of various characters in the Land of Oz. People bought the paper with eager anticipation of the news from the Land of Oz as if the place were real.  As a child I lived in this world and many others and I think maybe a lot of my inspiration for the Steel Roots series may have come from these adventures.

I also love the author Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House on the Prairie books. I enjoyed the stories she wrote about her childhood living a simple yet dangerous life on the frontier. The stories she wrote are real stories and real places with real people who touched my young mind and heart as much as the fantasy characters did. 

I have always had an interest in history even at an early age. I am fascinated by the past and often wondered if I had been born in the wrong time.  I realize the hardships endured by the lack of modern technology made life difficult. Yet, the simplicity of life mixed with the wonder of invention in this particular era is amazing and eye opening.

What can I say about trains though, and why I chose this historical aspect? I remember when I was a little girl and I stayed with my grandparent in Red Bluff California.  I would hear the train whistle at night in the distance, and the sound always comforted me and lulled me to sleep. I think back on this event fondly, wanting to share it with the world and immortalizing my own memories. This too makes it all so real not just for the reader but for me as well when I write the story. I think all these factors combined are my inspiration and why it all blends so well.

 J L Mulvihill

Changing the world one story at a time.

Thank you so much! And now, what else can readers learn about the Steel Roots Series

More and more readers are discovering the wonderfully imaginative Steel Roots Series from JL Mulvihill! A young adult, steampunk, alternative history adventure, the Steel Roots series features three books, The Boxcar Baby, Crossings, and Rails West.
Character-driven and beautifully written, the Steel Roots series is the focus of this new blog tour running from August 8-16!

Read on to find out more about the author, the books, and where to find them.
About the author: 

A California native born in Hollywood, J.L. Mulvihill has made Mississippi her home for the past seventeen years. Her debut novel was the young adult title The Lost Daughter of Easa, an engaging fantasy novel bordering on science-fiction with a dash of Steampunk, published through Dark Oak Press in 2011. The sequel to this novel is presently in the works.
Her Most recent novel, The Boxcar Baby of the Steel Roots series, was released in July 2013 through Seventh Star Press. Steel Roots is a young adult series based in the Steampunk genre and engages the reader into a train hopping heart stopping adventure across America. Book 2, Crossings released December of 2014.

She is also the co-editor of Southern Haunts; The Spirits That Walk Among Us which includes a short story of her own called Bath 10, and a fictional thriller involving a real haunted place. Her poem, The Demon of the Old Natchez Trace, debuts in Southern Haunts part 2, Devils in the Darkness.

J.L. also has several short fiction pieces in publication, is very active with the writing community, and is the events coordinator for the Mississippi Chapter of Imagicopter known as the Magnolia-Tower. She is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Gulf Coast Writers Association (GCWA), The Mississippi Writers Guild (MWG), as well as the Clinton Ink-Slingers Writing Group.

Where to find her:
Twitter: @JLMulvihill
Official sites:

About The Boxcar Baby: 

Born in a boxcar on a train bound for Georgia. At least that is what Papa Steel always told AB'Gale. But now, fifteen years later, the man who adopted and raised her as his own is missing and it's up to AB'Gale to find him.

Aided only by a motley gang of friends, AB'Gale train hops her way across the United States in a desperate attempt to find her papa and put her life and family back the way it was. Her only guide is a map given to her by a mysterious hobo, with hand written clues she found hidden in her papa's spyglass.

Here is the Great American Adventure in an alternate steampunk dystopian world, where fifteen-year-old AB'Gale Steel learns that nothing is as it seems, but instead is shrouded in secrets and mysteries ... and that monsters come in all shapes and forms.
The Boxcar Baby is the first book of the Steel Roots series.
About Crossings: 

Bishop Steel is still missing, so AB’Gale must follow the map continuing the search for her papa. Her quest leads Abby down dangerous paths that threaten to get her captured by the System. Danger lurks at every turn of the road, on every doorstep and every train.
Finding it difficult to know who to trust when she discovers she is now wanted for crimes against the System, Abby travels under the guise of a young boy. Conflicted with the desire to rid her world of the unjust or find her papa, Abby finds few friends amid hobos, air pirates, and entrepreneurs.

Abby finds that real friends will never abandon you, nor will they allow you to give up on your convictions. A true awakening to internal conflict and the desire to put right what is wrong, this is the great American adventure ringing with the sound of freedom along the steel routes.

Crossings is Book Two of the Steel Roots Series.
About Rails West: 

“The System Regulatory Unit has determined that the responsible parties of last week’s explosion in Downtown St. Louis are none other than the notorious Abigail Steel and her band of pirates. She is wanted for questioning regarding numerous acts of rule breaking against the System. She is considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached but informed upon at once.”

Not only is her name misspelled, but the System has her description all wrong because AB’Gale Steel is not a criminal. She just wants to find her papa and now she feels she is so close, but will the System catch her before she finds him? And what about the marks on the map the old hobo gave her? What was Papa doing in all those places? Why is the System so concerned about Bishop Steel and his daughter? Are the people of America seething with frustration? And is there an insurgency boiling beneath the surface?

All the answers lie within Rails West.

Where to Find Them: Links for The Boxcar Baby:
Kindle Version
Print Version
Barnes and Noble Link for The Boxcar Baby: Links for Crossings:
Kindle Version
Print Version
Barnes and Noble Link for Crossings: Links for Rails West:
Kindle Version
Print Version
Barnes and Noble Link for Rails West:

Find out more: Follow the Tour!

8/8 Jazzy Book Reviews Guest Post
8/8 I Smell Sheep Guest Post
8/9 Inspired Chaos Guest Post
8/9 Breakeven Books Author Interview
8/10 Sheila's Guests and Reviews Guest Post
8/11 Bookmark Your Thoughts Review
8/11 Ravenous for Reads Author Interview
8/11 Sapphyria's Books Guest Post
8/12 The Book Lover's Boudoir Review
8/13 The Reading Bud Review
8/14 Swords and Red ses Review
8/14 Ravenous for Reads Guest Post
8/15 Literature Approved Review
8/15 Honestly Austen Review
8/16 YA/NA Book Divas Guest Post
8/16 Love Bites and Silk Guest Post