Review: Kingdom at Sea (The Kinsman Chronicles, Part #4) by Jill Williamson @Jill Williamson

Jill Williamson’s Fantasy Saga Continues!

In the second volume of Jill Williamson’s Kinsman Chronicles, a remnant has escaped the destruction of the Five Realms and now lives on several hundred ships adrift at sea. As a flock, they sail north into the unknown in hopes of finding land that might become their new home.

As the king’s illness worsens, Sâr Wilek takes authority over the expedition and struggles to rule the disjointed people, while assassination attempts, vicious serpents, and dark magic endanger his life.

One prophecy has come to pass, but another looms dauntingly in the future. Who is this Deliverer? And if the Magonians have him, what might that mean for the realm of Armania?

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

I stayed up late to finish this because sleep is for the weak and this book is AMAZING. (Though, it’s from Jill Williamson. I’m not sure what else I expected.) It’s supposed to be a novella, so I’ll keep it short, but count me a rejuvenated fangirl.

The plot:

Like the rest of this series, there are several perspectives we follow through the course of the book. I didn’t expect to be surprised as often as I was. Several times, I was predicting one outcome and got one very different. There

The characters:

I’ll try to limit this to a few lines each. It may be difficult. *clears throat* Here we go.

Wilek: I’ve mentioned before that he reminds me of my favorite character from my favorite film of all time—Prince Hector. He still does. He messes up, but takes responsibility. He tries to do the right thing, but half the time gets screwed over by his father and brother (Janek, not Trevn). I just want him to be safe and happy and LIVE, DAMN IT.

Charlon: I was glad to see more moral dilemmas with her in this one, more conflict. The interactions between her and Zeroah were especially fascinating and I enjoyed that development. Zeroah has also begun to grow on me—probably because she’s grown a (small, but still existent) backbone. (YES!)

Trevn: Ah, my spunky summer child. It’s hard not to love him. The author has admitted he’s her favorite and I see why. Idealist, hardworking, romantic at heart…my sweet baby. Written believably with flaws to match his perfections, he is perfect because of it.

Kalenek: The storyline of a guard who can’t fight has intrigued me from the start. I feel bad about him and Onika just because I don’t see how it can end well, but the relationship between him and Wilek is a bromance for the centuries. Watching Kal juggle his duties as Wilek’s shield, Mielle and Amala’s guardian, and his feelings for Onika was a deeply engaging and truly helped me integrate emotionally with his character.

Mielle: She didn’t get as much page time as in previous installments, but she was still around enough for me to say her and Trevn are an OTP to die for.

Miscellaneous others: Janek and King Echad can die at any point and I won’t be sad. Janek had two sentences where I thought I might reconsider my assessment, but no. The same goes for Rodegoth and Mreegan. Seriously, it can’t happen fast enough. Ulrik is an idiot who needs to be slapped like the foolish child he is, Qoatch should find someone who appreciates his loyalty, and Inolah is awesome. I ship Hinck and Pia and that Tennish High Queen should take a chill pill. Or several. And someone slap Amala, too, because she’s also an idiot child.

In short, this series is amazing and you can download part 1 for free for all major eBooks. It’s awesome. I highly recommend you READ IT as well as the companion trilogy, the first of which is also free. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have downloaded part 5 and have a date with my Kindle.

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Review: Final Advent (No Angels, #3) by Eli Hinze @Eli_Hinze

Death overshadows everyone at some point, but for Liz Patrona that time comes far too soon. Word comes that Wily, her ruthless enemy, survived being thrown into the Black River and crossed into Geminus to usurp the kingdom’s throne. Now his sights rest firmly on her world. Knowing Liz is the only threat in his path, he curses her to die in one year’s time—unless she can kill him before the clock runs out. In the months she has left, she must travel into Geminus, forge precarious alliances with those who’ve survived Wily’s reign, and battle for her very survival. Yet what lies in Geminus may be more than she bargained for. In these foreign lands looms a sinister secret about her own past. Something that has been guiding her from her first breaths to her final steps.

In the long-awaited conclusion to the No Angels trilogy, Liz is pushed one last time to discover the bounds of how far she’s willing to go to protect those she loves—even if it means losing herself along the way.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

Endings are always hard to read. This is the last in a trilogy I’ve been following since No Angels was just a newborn baby book. I have watched this author with rapt attention and I am so glad to say she has only gotten better.

We meet a whole new plethora of races, new characters, and a new (or is he?) villain, too. There are some wonderfully imaginative creatures and structures brought into play here and that was one of my favorite parts. Not to spoil anything but—STONE ENTS.

The plot:

This baby comes out to 362 pages, but I read through it in three sittings. It moves quickly, but remains fully fleshed out and multidimensional. There was a sense of impending doom with this story, just because of THE END in sight and the premise of Liz having limited time to live. That was something new to me for this series, but to be expected at the close.

The characters:

Liz started in book one with all the mushy ferocity of the Pillsbury dough boy. She’s now a glorious wielder of distilled badassdom, but retains that kindness and softness so many “strong female characters” lose. I was delighted with the balance.

One of my favorite things about this series is the relationship between Liz and Riven. I mean, a lot of these warrior romances in YA books can get borderline (or outright) abusive, but none of that here! There is a beautiful equality in their relationship and I could blather about it on and on. Even with the impending doom of the story, their romance had me all giggly.

At just around a quarter in, we are introduced to Leon who is now one of my favorite characters in the whole trilogy. Mixing tragedy, badassery, and a lovely romance subplot, Leon has all the traits I can’t resist. I realized that the author has been planning to bring in him and Vita since the beginning and that made is SO MUCH MORE AWESOME!

Mark is still here and I am SO GLAD the author actually gave him a life. He deserves one. Usually, the “best friend” character ends up miserable, lonely, and/or overshadowed by the awesomeness of his/her counterpart. Not so with Mark. He has a bright human future ahead, is autonomous, and a self-motivated character—I was so happy.

There were sad parts, happy parts, and an overall feeling of bittersweet. It was a wonderful conclusion to a wonderful series and I cannot wait to see what the author does next.

Find The Final Advent on Goodreads

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Read my reviews of No Angels and Collapsed Cathedrals

Interview: Intisar Khanani @booksbyintisar

Years ago, I came across a Kindle free promo for a book called Thorn. It looked cool and, well, FREE, so I went ahead and made my first venture into eBooks. Guess what? It was awesome. Not long after, I started talking to the author and found out she was awesome. To prove it, I’ve asked her to drop by for an interview today and show you all herself!

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Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five. She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters.

thorn_coverfnlrevfnlf_low_resWelcome, Intisar! It’s been a while. Can you tell us a little about your latest release, Memories of Ash?

Memories of Ash starts up a year after Sunbolt ends, once Hitomi has had a chance to recover from what she did to herself (trying to be spoiler-free here) and study some magic with her new mentor, Brigit Stormwind. But our pasts don’t tend to leave us alone, and Hitomi’s past comes back with a vengeance when Stormwind is called before the High Council of Mages to answer charges of treason—charges brought forward by none other than Hitomi’s old nemesis, Arch Mage Blackflame. With Hitomi’s fine-tuned sense of honor she isn’t about to let her teacher be unjustly imprisoned, and thus begins her next adventure. Using equal parts magic and trickery, Hitomi must sneak into the seat of the High Council itself to free her mentor. If she succeeds, she’ll spend the rest of her life running from rogue hunters. If she fails, she’ll be enslaved by the Council and slowly drained of her magic until she dies.

Yes, DO go check this one out guys. What’s the weirdest thing you researched for this book?

Not too many truly weird things, but I did research some fun things! I learned about the eastern method of tattooing called tebori. I researched the basic structure and design of historic row boats in South Asia, and then ended up cutting that chapter (*sob*). And by far the most fun, I researched the Festival of Guilds, a three day celebration that used to take place annually in Ottoman-era Istanbul, complete with parades, sporting competitions, theatre, street performances, and “the burning of the fortresses” (massive wooden models)… pretty much all of which made it into the book!

One of my favorite things about your books is you bring a massive array of cultural influences from this world while still making it unique to your fantasy worlds—something I don’t believe many writers do well. Is there a particular approach you take to writing diversity?

My approach to writing diversity is to pull from world cultures I am somewhat familiar with and then research the heck out of them in order to gain a deeper familiarity with the culture and place. If possible I talk to people from the cultures I’m writing, if not I do my best and figure a little error is allowable given that it’s a fantasy land. For example, in Memories of Ash, the great city that Hitomi visits is based on historic Ottoman Istanbul. I read first-hand historic accounts from visitors to the city, pulled on my own memories of visiting the old parts of Istanbul, and then spoke with Turkish friends to both name the city and act as a sounding board for some of the details. The city itself plays a relatively small role in the story, but having a sense of culture, gender norms, architecture, food—all of these create a more robust world. Of course I took licenses, but usually they were relatively minor and related to introducing magic to the world. So, I replaced the great government-run universities with the Mekteb-e Sihir, or School of Sorcery. I think the biggest road block for me was learning to get past the euro-centric worldview of most fantasy. Once I was able to envision a world with different cultures, and characters who were from those cultures, writing diversity suddenly became twelve kinds of awesome.

I am constantly boggled by your depth of research. Do you have any advice for authors wanting to incorporate more diversity into their stories?

sunbolt_cover_e-small1. Diversity = Complex Realities. I think in writing diversity it is vital to remember how complex the world is and how wonderful that diversity of experience and reality really is. Writing characters of diverse backgrounds and experiences is going to change your story, create new nuances and depths of meaning to interactions, and that’s a beautiful thing. And remember diversity implies many things, and the intersection of those things as well—gender, age, culture, mental health, ability, religion, and on… Red alert: if the culture or background of your character doesn’t impact the story, you haven’t quite got a grasp on who they are yet. So, creating an African American cis/het male character who’s lived experience is exactly like a white character’s ignores the probability that he has seen and dealt with institutionalized racism since childhood. That doesn’t mean your book has to be all about racism—but realize that your story should not be whitewashing the background, culture, and lived experience of your characters.

2. Be respectful and learn without judgement. It’s really important to recognize that just because we don’t understand something in a culture, or like it, doesn’t mean we should be critiquing it in our work. Don’t like arranged marriage? Given that it isn’t part of our culture, maybe you don’t understand it. Either way, don’t write it (and the inevitable storyline of running away to seek freedom, or hoping the abusive husband dies an early death) until you’ve done a LOT of research on it, including talking to people who have chosen arranged marriages and reading first hand positive accounts. It’s always easy to find the negative perspective on something, especially something generally misunderstood in the West, so seek out those alternative viewpoints. If you absolutely must write the running away/abusive husband slant, don’t base that story in another culture, because you’re going to end up adding to bigoted stereotypes that people from that culture have to live with every day. It’s both disrespectful and hurtful. OR, make sure your main character has a totally different, positive experience and grant this negative experience to a side character, so that you can explore (and allow readers to appreciate) both the good and the bad.

3. Don’t cherry pick. Don’t jump onto the bandwagon of “Jinn are cool!” or whatever happens to be the next craze, or try to create your own, while only importing that particular element into your story. For example, if you’re writing about Native American mythology, you’d better have some Native American characters, and the one who saves the day or ends up being the Chosen One by the spirits better not be the white character. Then follow points one and two above—so you don’t just have people with, say, Native American names, but you’ve figured out / researched what tribe(s) they’re from, their belief system(s), their history under American governance (or oppression), and their cultural norms. Sure they know how to navigate American / white culture, but that doesn’t mean they don’t also know how to navigate and love their own heritage, culture, and practices. Throwing in a few names and stealing a mythology is cultural appropriation, not writing diversity, so be thoughtful about what you do, and try hard. It’s okay to mess up, but you’ve got to be trying to make it work. Not sure if you’ve done well? Seek out beta readers from the backgrounds you’re trying to portray and ask them.

moa_fc_fnl16_bn-673x1024Great advice! I’m going to have to ask you back for a blog post just on that, LOL. What is your writing routine? Do you have a regular one?

I write almost every night, once my little people are in bed. Since I’m a homeschooling mama, I usually only have a couple times during the week when both my kids are out of my care and I can write in the daylight hours. The vast majority of my writing happens once they’re asleep. As for routine… I grab my laptop, sit down wherever I can (usually my bed, sometimes my desk), check-in on e-mail and social media (I try to keep this brief), and then get to work.

I do often manage to write online with friends—we check in on Facebook, log off for a writing session, and then check back in at the end of it. (Shout out to Melissa Sasina and you, Elisabeth, as awesome online writing buddies!) This helps keep me accountable and makes writing much less of a solitary endeavor. But when we don’t have a writing session planned, I really don’t have any rituals or habits other than to sit down and start typing.

Shout out back! What for you is the most rewarding part of being an author?

Sharing my stories. Really. Sometimes that sense of having shared comes from a tweet by a reader who enjoyed a book, sometimes it’s reading a new review that’s showed up, sometimes it’s just knowing that my books had a good day of sales and that means someone, somewhere in the world, is jumping into my worlds and (hopefully) enjoying the read.

That truly is an amazing part. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Writing one-draft wonders. I love writing, and I’m even learning not to hate editing, but the revision process is still the most difficult part of the whole equation. If I could just write a gem of a first draft each time, and not have to do more than tweak a few sentences for consistency before publishing, I would be the happiest little hamster in the cage. (I have no idea what that means. I think I would probably hate being in a cage, but it sounded good when I wrote it. Now we see why I need revision…) Most novels require between 4 and 6 rounds of revision for me, which can be grueling and sometimes take years. Meanwhile, the first draft may only take a couple three months. So yeah, being able to write awesome novels straight off would be fabulous.

Haha! We’d all love that, I think. Thanks so much for dropping by! 🙂

Don’t forget to visit Intisar and her books in the links below!

Interview: Elly Gard of The Spilled Inkwell

Today I am delighted to be hosting a young lady I have had the pleasure of knowing through the magic of the internet. I am incredibly proud of her despite having nothing to do with making her as amazing as she is. When I critiqued her manuscript, The Hidden Pharaoh, I nearly cried because she wrote twice as good as some adults I’ve workshopped and she was only 13 at the time. In other words, she’s going to be big, people. And now…let’s get to the interview!

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Elly Gard is a writer, an over-thinker, an inventor of words, a dreamer of improbable dreams, and a Catholic who strives to find God in little things. She is a senior in high-school, is, and has been homeschooled all her life. At heart, she loves rainstorms, but she lives in the desert with her parents, her brother, two dogs, and a cat who thinks she’s a Russian tsar. When she’s not conversing with her characters, indulging in her inkwell, spending time with her soundtracks, or adventuring with her associates, she could probably be located in her room nursing a novel. She possesses an undying fondness for all things Broadway, likes watching TV shows on Netflix that got cancelled ten years ago, prefers swing dancing to karaoke, and puts too much granola in her yogurt. You can read about her adventures on her blog, The Spilled Inkwell.

Welcome, Elly! What got you into writing?

A lot of things got me into writing! I’ve been thinking up stories since I was old enough to hold a crayon, and I think my family’s encouragement at that point was crucial to my passion growing into what it is now. Then, the stories usually involved talking animals; one time when I was seven my friend and I wrote a fairy tale about a girl who turned into a horse. Our moms had it printed out and laminated and we thought we were the next Mary Pope Osbournes!  When I was a little older, my parents encouraged me to enter a few of my stories and poems in 4-H contests, and I began attending a writing club at a local middle school. My teacher – Mr. Taylor – encouraged me to keep writing. During those years, I wrote stories and poems galore; eventually I had binders full of them.

But…I couldn’t write novels. Give me a prompt, and I could give you a ten-page suspense story. Give me a picture and I could summon up a purple-prosed poem. Tell me to write a book? I didn’t even know where to begin. Then, in 8th grade, my mom found a homeschool curriculum called One Year Adventure Novel (OYAN).  I wrote my first historical fiction novel (The Hidden Pharaoh) that year with the help of OYAN’s guidelines, outlining templates, and live webinars. Other students on OYAN’s online Forum both encouraged and critiqued my work, and that first year of the curriculum was invaluable. I’ve now written three novels and one novella. I intend on writing many more. 😉

Elly was awesome enough to send me this bound copy of THE HIDDEN PHARAOH! (That is not a stain on the cover. It is the lighting, I swear.)

I too wouldn’t have started writing without homeschooling. Cheers for supportive moms! What has been the highlight of your writing thus far?

Last year, my first fantasy novel (Of Lavron) placed as a finalist in the OYAN Contest. This really encouraged me to keep writing the series I’d previously viewed as an experiment. I’d only written historical fiction up until that point, but last fall I thought I’d give medieval fantasy a try. I ambitiously and very messily “plotted out” a fantasy trilogy and began writing the first book. I didn’t know if I’d actually accomplish that series, if my idea would stick, or if the story was even good; but I kept writing anyway. I’m so glad I did. I love writing the Lost Princes series, and even though I’m taking a break from Of Lavron’s sequel to edit my two-year-old NaNoWriMo monster (Riding in the Red), I look forward to continuing the series soon.

Yes, fantasy is the best! (Said the fantasy lover in a wholly unbiased way.) What genre(s) are your favorite to write/read?

I’m partial to historical fiction. It is my favorite genre to write, and it’s usually my favorite genre to read, too. (I also love BBC’s period dramas, and am rather a guru for history in general). Unfortunately, well-written his-fic doesn’t dominate the YA market right now, so you often have to dig to find the gems. Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, Ruta Sepetys’s Salt to the Sea, and Genevieve Valentine’s The Girls at the Kingfisher Club are some of my favorites.

Recently I’ve also found myself drawn toward fantasy. Last winter, I happened upon Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener, and it was so wonderful that it automatically had me searching for more whimsical fiction. Around the same time, I also became a fan of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles (if you haven’t read them, give them a try! I usually don’t prefer popular dystopian, but these are exemplary). Likewise, Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series has – in the past thirty days – enthralled and captivated me. I guess my favorite genre changes with the seasons. It’s a good way to keep myself well rounded.

It is always good to read a little outside your comfort zone now and again. (Maggie Stiefvater will ruin your life. Just FYI.) Have you ever gotten to meet any of your favorite authors? What happened? If not, who would you like to meet?

Well… I have met several people who became some of my favorite authors. For example, a lot of my friends are writers, and I think they write beautifully (@Elisabeth!). The OYAN Summer Workshop has allowed me to meet several authors (Jill Williamson!) whose Blood of Kings trilogy I later read and obsessed over.

Also, a lot of my favorite authors are dead. It’s rather unfortunate. I can’t tell you how much I’d love to have tea with C.S. Lewis and discuss theology with J.R.R. Tolkien. Victor Hugo would be cool to talk to if we could get past the language barrier.

If I could meet let’s say three of my favorite [currently living] authors, I’d really like to meet J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter), Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle), and Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity). I’d ask J.K. Rowling for advice on writing a theme-incorporated series, because I love how everything in Harry Potter leads up to The End. I’d ask Maggie Stiefvater how she writes her characters so beautifully, because I absolutely love how realistic and true they feel in her books. And, I would ask Elizabeth Wein how to successfully research a historical fiction novel and implement that history throughout the story so that it becomes an undeniable part of it.
Goodness, I feel like I’ve cheated all the other authors I admire. (I didn’t forget about you, Gail Carson Levine!)

Yes, I’m still jealous about you meeting Jill. 😛 What’s one thing people are surprised to learn about you?

People are really funny when I tell them I used to write ghost stories. They usually say something like, “Oh, Ellie, you’re so nice! I feel like you’d only write happy things.” At that point, I usually laugh it off so I can maintain my “nice person” façade.

I think I try to write redeeming things, but I don’t know if I’d call myself a happy-book writer. My books are usually rather melancholy in nature, and if they’re not that, they certainly aren’t sunshine and rainbows. It’s something I’m actually proud of. I’m a really happy person, but my alter ego could be considered vaguely morbid.

This world needs more redemption stories, in my opinion. What will let you know when you have “made it” as an author?

When I see something I wrote on the shelves of a book store, I think I’ll feel like I made it. In the larger scheme of things, I think that if I can look back on my life at the end of it and know that someone read my story and was moved by it, I’ll know that I’ve made it as an author.

Thank you so much for making the time to stop by, Elly!

Visit Elly on her blog

Interview: Tenaya Jayne @TenayaJayne

We haven’t had an interview in a while, but today I’m thrilled to welcome literary ninja Tenaya Jayne! I’m on her street team and I absolutely loved her debut novel, Forbidden Forest, which is free on Kindle Unlimited! You can read my review here and click on the book covers for the Amazon pages. Without further ado, Tenaya Jayne, everyone!

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Nationally Bestselling author Tenaya Jayne has always walked a shaky line between reality and fantasy. A nomad by nature, she’s lived all over the US, and now resides happily in the Midwest, with her husband and sons. She’s an advocate for Autism awareness and women trapped in abusive relationships, and feels everyone has too much pain to not enjoy an escape into a fictional fantasy world. Her passions include reading, independent and foreign films, cooking, and moody music.

forbforest-new-cover-smallFirst off, can you sum up the latest book, Blood Lock, in a tweet, 140 characters or less?

Nope. *insert helpless laugh. I suck at twitter.

Ha! We all have our weaknesses. Where did the initial idea for Forest and Regia come from? What story/experience/event do you think inspired the series most?

forest-fire-number-coverfix1My muse was being petulant. I was supposed to be writing a sequel to Blue Aspen, when Forest and Syrus took over my brain. You’re an author, you know what I mean. I think I needed Forest. She came to me and gave me an outlet and voice for a number of things I’d been going through. The night she fell into my head, it all happened so fast. I built Regia from the ground up in a few, adrenaline filled, hours. I had no idea, at the time, Regia would be my whole writing life for the following six years.

darksoulcoversmallI do know what you mean. Characters really can help us work through tough times and I know many of mine have done that for me, too. What does your typical writing day look like?

I drop my son off at school, hit the gym for an hour, head home, shower and then write. I write a few hours and then my alarm goes off, letting me know I have 15 minutes before I have to leave and pick up my son from school.  I have to drive 20 minutes to the school, but that suits me fine because I always do my best brainstorming while I’m driving.

I find that driving, and being on the treadmill are the best things to get my head in the right place for when I actually get to sit and hit the keys. I don’t work on the weekends, and the summer is really hard as well.

bbcover1smallSounds like a pretty structured regimen! Do you have a go-to source for story inspiration? What is it?

Bottom line is music. Without music, inspiration is faint. Aside from that I’m inspired by other art forms: dance, paintings, and movies. Art evokes emotion. I’m an emotion junkie.

ebookblcover1Feelings are vital to creating art and we all have to find our muses! Throughout this series, you concentrate on different characters in different books. What is your biggest challenge in writing such an array of main characters?

I connect with some more than others. I love all of my characters, but they are like real people. You have best friends, friends, acquaintances and enemies. It’s like that for me with my characters.

Understandable. We all have our favorites. 😉 Do you use any tricks to get into the head of the character you’re writing that day?

Music is the key for this. I have extensive playlists for every book I write. Each character has their own playlist aside from the main list. Every character along with every couple has a “sound” So for example, in my current WIP, when I need to get into Tesla’s head, I listen to Halsey. That is her sound.

verdantnumberfixcoverHalsey? I can’t wait! Besides a laptop/notebook and pen, what is the one thing you couldn’t possibly write without?

My beloved jawbone speaker, a tall glass of iced tea, and long phone calls with my best friend, Amanda. She’s great to brainstorm with.

It’s awesome to have friends for support. How about your weapon of choice in the Hunger Games?

A backpack full of grenades.

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Coming Soon

I’m pretty sure that’s cheating, but okay. Werewolves or Vampires?

Both, unless they sparkle.

No, this is a sparkle-free zone, haha. Hogwarts house?

Gryffindor but I’d have a Slytherin boyfriend. J

Good choice of partner. (As a Slytherin, I say that in a purely objective and unbiased manner.) Thanks for stopping by!

Don’t forget to check out Tenaya and her books. You can find her conquering the internet in various places here:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | YouTube | Pinterest | Amazon | BN.com

 

Girls that defy society for absolutely no reason

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Books helped me so much, I can’t begin to say.

I grew up in a strict religious circle. Girls didn’t wear tank tops or dresses above the knee, girls didn’t talk back, girls didn’t go to college, girls let their daddies pick their husbands, and girls certainly didn’t have their own professions.

I was something of a rebel, often getting the boys into trouble because I’d suggest “great ideas.” I would climb fences, wrestle goats, play in the mud, and hold my own in a water balloon fight. But did I challenge any of those rules shoved down my throat? You may be disappointed, but no, not really.

Ask any feminist bookworm their favorite heroine and they will probably tell you about a character who stood up to social norms. I’ll bet she went against the grain, proved herself independent, and didn’t listen when the world said “no.” Whether she ran away from marrying a man she’d never met or became a mage or assassin, she didn’t take her culture’s crap.

That’s great, but why’d she do it?

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First day of college.

As modern readers, we can see forced marriage, restrictive dress codes, and professional limitations on women are sexist. We forget that women and girls raised with these things don’t. In fact, I’ve seen misogynist ideas enforced by other women far more than men.

Most women who are victimized like this will get offended or laugh at you if you tell them—assuming they even listen. They don’t just spontaneously shed their shackles and start dancing to freedom. It takes more than one or two incidents to get them to that point, contrary to what many, especially newer writers seem to think.

And it hurts. Realizing that you’ve been manipulated by people you love and trust? Damn, it’s painful.

For me, it took years. When I was eight my family left that church, but I was still being molded into someone’s future “submissive wife.” Don’t get me wrong, marriage is a beautiful and  blessed institution, but it needs to be between two equal partners.

At fifteen, I wrote my first book and joined the online community which exposed me to a lot of new ideas—which I totally rebuffed at first. However, tank tops became a part of my wardrobe somewhere in there. Then my parents divorced which revealed a lot of hypocrisy about things I’d been taught and sort of pushed me over the edge.

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Fun fact: I have been excommunicated.

A few months later (yeah, even more time after that), I signed up for my first college class. I didn’t reject my faith, quite the opposite, but I do realize that the version I’d been presented was way off. It was being used to control me and everyone else in that organization.

So what does this have to do with literary heroines? Writers need to understand how people in this type of situation actually think. These things need patience, these things generally need hundreds of little incidents built up over time. Like someone in an abusive relationship, it can take a while.

Authors and other artists are in the unique position of being able to talk about this and they absolutely should. Reading was one of the main ways I realized that how I’d been raised wasn’t okay and I know that it has the power to do the same for others.

Girls don’t just up and flick the middle finger at oppression—no one does. There is a reason they decide what they’re living in is unacceptable. It takes a lot of time, a lot of work, and a lot of courage for a girl to stand up like that. It’s why the ones that do are so compelling.

P.S.

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Eat your heart out, Burnet Bible Church Cult

That time I outgrew YA

I started writing YA when I was well within the age range. But these past two years, I’ve been branching out into Game of Thrones and other not YA ilk. Outside reading, I’ve started involvement with human rights and the heavy issues that come with that.  As I creep ever further from the YA realm of 14-18, my perspective has changed a great deal.

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The storylines for my newer WIP’s started centering around different characters, darker themes. (But don’t worry, Haddie and Janir are safe.) I started toying with several ideas that cast young parents and widows in protagonist status—both generally considered no-no’s in YA. Truth be told, I feared I was growing out of my beloved genre.

Then not too long ago, I realized how much I missed certain things about YA. Young Adult characters, with scant exception, still believe the world can be changed for good, that there’s something worth fighting for. There’s a kind of innocence that’s rare in adult fiction and I had missed that so, so badly.

woman-1413054_960_720That was when I remembered the magic of YA, why it so successfully transcends age barriers. The thing is, we are all or have been young. We’ve all experienced or are experiencing some form of learning about the world, ourselves, and relationships. (Though people assure me that learning never really stops.) YA is so universal and successful for that very reason.

Loving and reading YA doesn’t mean you don’t dabble in other things. What’s more, YA itself covers a vast array of subgenres and issues. Whether you want to read something philosophical, sarcastic, humorous, contemporary, historical, speculative, surreal, or just about anything,  I guarantee the Young Adult section has it. There are very few limits on what it includes these days and the only consistent feature is protagonist age.

book-1149031_960_720Every so often, I want to read something about “grown-ups” screwing the world over, but I can still love YA. It stays there, like your high school best friend who still calls even after you both start grad school.

Truth is, I don’t think it’s possible to outgrow YA. That’s like saying you can outgrow ice cream.