J to tha M Review The Elemental Mysteries Series

Four Book Reviews in One!

elemental mysteriesSince our scheduled reviewer was unable to make the deadline, we decided to post a J to tha M chat about a series we both read and really enjoyed. Hope you do, too!

M: So, that rec you gave me last week.

The Elemental Mysteries series by Elizabeth Hunter

That Kindle is doing the job and making you read more – yay!

J: Heh, yes. Did you like?

M: I really did. Ate them up.

J:  the most impressive thing about these books is that they’re self-published

I know she works with an editor or several

M: I think the most impressive thing is the world building, to be honest

Vampire clans coming from each of the four elements and being able to manipulate them

the self-publish adds to the interesting, though

her books are a great example of self-pub done right

elemental mysteriesJ:  I really think so, too. What was amazing was that I didn’t THINK I was super attached to the characters in the first one – A Hidden Fire – but I still couldn’t wait to read the next one – This Same Earth. So apparently I was connected. And then The Force of Wind, and A Fall of Water.

M:  yes, exactly. I felt there were some minor issues with the first one – pacing, some editing, small stuff like that – but I was so happy to find she fixed those little irritations in the subsequent books

I think in fixing those issues, it allowed me to make that strong connection I wanted but just didn’t quite get in the first one

J:  Another surprising thing was how much I actually rooted for the heroine. I mean, she managed to get herself kidnapped every time she turned around, but she wasn’t whiny or weak

M:  yes, she did a great job on that balance

making the heroine strong and self-sufficient while still having human weakness in a vampire world

and then toward the end – yeehaw. B was an awesome badass

J:  Oh, and real vampire fights. Hallelujah! I don’t usually seek out vampire books, and it actually surprised me when this one was

but I was excited to see real action

not lots of worry for nothing

elemental mysteriesM: and well-written real action

J: ohhhhh

and the love scenes

the way the vampires mated and drew strength

M: mm, yes

it’s similar to BDB in that they get strength in feeding from their mates

which is a huge sexy trigger, I think

and she managed to do it very well and very uniquely in the world and mythology she built

J:  hmmm. I still haven’t read that

it’s kind of funny to see the different vampire mythologies

how they cross and mirror and then take off in another direction

elemental mysteriesM:  lots of fun things to work with when writing about vampires

but speaking of all the sexy triggers…

Giovanni

J:  oh hey

the name is enough

M:  I mean, she hit just about all those triggers and made him believable and not over the top

Gorgeous Italian renaissance man. Ruthless and unbeatable fighter. Deadly killer. Protective, faithful, loving.

and a fire vampire

I mean, come on. That was awesome.

A vampire who can control fire

J:  without killing himself

also important

so he’s specialer

M:  just the mental image she painted of him walking toward his enemies with blue flames licking all over his upper body, ready to blast them out of existence

Yep. Sexy.

elemental worldJ:  and then there’s Carwyn

adorable

and set up beautifully for his own book – Building from Ashes

M:  yes

and I love how the characters are not all purely good or purely bad (except Lorenzo – he’s a great villain)

she manages that balance very well, too

shows the real flaws like we all have and makes you cheer for them

J:  he seemed a little….dimwitted for a villain at times

but then that was a great device, too

because dumb people are often more dangerous than the smart ones

M:  I didn’t exactly see it as dimwitted, more like he let his personal vengeance get in the way of world domination

that was his flaw

I went through all four Gio and Beatrice books this past week, and am halfway through Carwyn’s story

J: Yay! Glad you liked.

M: Oh, yes. I really did. So glad I continued on to the second. I feel it’s much stronger, as is the rest of the series. Isn’t A Hidden Fire still free on Amazon right now? I need to go buy the next in the spin-off series.

brb

Book Review Elemental Mysteries

About the Author

Elizabeth Hunter is a contemporary fantasy and romance author. She is a graduate of the University of Houston Honors College in the Department of English (Linguistics) and a former English teacher.

She currently lives in Central California with a seven-year-old ninja who claims to be her child. She enjoys reading, writing, travel, and bowling (despite the fact that she’s not very good at it.) Someday, she plans to learn how to scuba dive. And maybe hang glide. But that looks like a lot of running.

She is the author of the Elemental Mysteries and Elemental World series, the Cambio Springs series, and other works of fiction.

On Writing: World Building Through Research, History, and Just Good Ol’ Imagination

Vikings and Chatting and Travis Fimmel, Oh My!

Guest Post by Sandi Layne

Finding Inspiration for writingFirst, I want to thank J and M for letting me hang out on their blog. I’ve been here since Day One (on the blog. . .) and I love to watch them “chat” and so on. So much fun!

The only place I’ve really posted in a “chat” format was on my blog in conjunction with author Lissa Bryan. She and I discussed the History Channel’s original series VIKINGS every Monday for nine weeks.

It was fantastic. You see, I write about Vikings myself. Just not the same breed of Vikings as were on the show, so I enjoyed very much seeing the variations in the culture of those in Scandinavia and those in Nordweg—today’s Norway. The latter are what I’ve spent years growing a bit close to, in one way or another.

Compare and Contrast

In my book Éire’s Captive Moon (book one of my Éire’s Viking Trilogy), I researched and wrote of the Northmen from Nordweg, who had a different social system from the people who lived in what are now Sweden and Denmark. Though I use the word “viking” in the title, the men themselves did not use that word so it isn’t actually used in the stories. They called themselves Ostmen,while others in Europe used the term “vikingr.” This could refer to a man who lives near a vik – or one who sails or roams on the sea. It is an Old Norse word, and I use Old Norse dictionaries as I write these stories.

I did not use the old sagas as a basis for my writing, in general. Instead, I used what history I could glean from accounts from Éire—Ireland—and what has been found in archeological digs in Norway and Ireland. When Lissa indicated that the series has used some of the legends that came from the warrior Ragnar Lothbrok (there are alternate spellings, of course), I knew I’d have little knowledge of the plot that the series would take, though I did recognize much of the clothing and housing and crafts used in the series.

And, of course, the fighting styles. The Northmen fought with battle axes and spears, mostly. Very few had swords as they were costly and hard to make.

I did compare many things that I saw in the series to what I had found in my research, and many of the cultural references are the same. The leadership was different, involving a different political structure. Norway was not yet bound together as a cohesive body under one ruler at the time of my writing.

Timing

I am really kind of relieved that I had the first book in the trilogy written many years ago, initially. Self-published as Captive Irish Moon, the book was finished in the summer of 2004. My research didn’t end there, though! I’ve kept at it and new finds have been discovered, which made my original timeline off and it was very frustrating.

Getting the opportunity to adjust some of the details was great when ECM was accepted by my publisher. The original book is still the original story, but I’ve allowed myself to expand it through my notion of getting to the leadership of the only Viking who ever claimed the High Kingship of Ireland: Tuirgeis (also known by other names). Each of the three books in my series deal with the Norse culture of the early ninth century, including their clothing, beliefs, social structure and marriage customs.

I also explore how the Ostmen invade Éire and settle there.

I am relieved, as I said, because my story is told, in my head, for the most part. Book two was in editing by the time VIKINGS was broadcast on television, so I knew that there would be no subconscious borrowing of legends or materials or anything. For my personal mental health, this is a good thing. The second book of my trilogy is called Éire’s Viking and it should be out early in 2014.

The third book is being written now and I’m calling it Éire’s Devil King as a working title. I know that History Channel is planning a second season of their show in 2014, but by the time it airs, my trilogy will be complete on my end, so I will enjoy the show as it is presented.

Reverb Effect?

I think that I was fortunate to have a book out on Vikings from the same era (more or less) as those in the History Channel show. I confess to shamelessly tweeting to my followers that if they just couldn’t wait for Sunday night and the next episode of VIKINGS, then they could buy my book for their Kindle and get more Vikings immediately.

Did it work? I have no idea. Maybe?

By the time the next season rolls around, Éire’s Viking will likely be out and I would like to hope that the contrast between what is likely to happen in the life of Ragnar Lothbrok and the what is happening in the life of Agnarr Halvardson, who chooses to settle in Éire, will be appealing.

[For any of my readers who were Team Agnarr after reading Éire’s Captive Moon, I think book two will make them happy. And the Team Cowan people? You’ll be happy, too.]

About the Author

Wife of one and mom of two, Sandi currently resides in Maryland. Besides historical fiction, she writes contemporary inspirational romances – one of which will be released this summer.  Her interests involve researching anything, autism, and learning how to spin by hand. Coffee and the written word are her addictions, and she loves the world before the sun lights the sky.

Find Sandi Anywhere…

Website

Éire’s Captive Moon on Amazon

Sandi Layne on Goodreads

Twitter

Facebook page

On Writing: Worldbuilding

IT’S EASIER THAN YOU THINK

Guest post by Denise Golinowski

on writing: world buildingAs a fantasy author, I often hear how intimidating worldbuilding can be for writers. I often wonder—is it the whole “world” thing or the “building” thing? Suspecting it’s a case of both of those and more, I suggest we change the term and, hopefully, change the attitude. [Drum roll and appropriate trumpet flare]

Henceforth, I shall call the process “world-discovery.”

I think the term works better because it’s more about discovering what’s familiar or different about my character’s world and putting those details on the page.

For me, a story begins with a character, a personality who saunters or struts or leaps onto the stage of my imagination and demands that I tell their story.

The first step to world-discovery is to take in the details of my character. Besides the basic statistics—name, age, sex—I take note of what is unique about this character? What will keep my attention through the writing, and the reader’s attention through the reading? Attractive characters are easy to sell, but there is also something to be said about the flawed character. Bottom line, your character must be interesting enough to you to carry the story for the readers.

A character’s clothing will give you plenty of hints about their world. Do they look like they stepped off a fashion runway (a contemporary world) or a starship (a futuristic world)? Are their clothes machine-made (a world with technology) or homespun (a world with low technology or none)? Do they carry weapons (again, high or low technology) and are they comfortable with the weapons (in defense or offense)?

Let them reveal their story to you. Listen carefully. Whenever they present you with something unfamiliar, take a moment to examine it. Whenever their story requires something unusual, delve into the reason and then explore your options for fulfilling that need. No one lives in a white box. Every room your character enters, how is it furnished? Every street they walk, how is it paved? Every person they encounter, how are they dressed or occupied? Make your character show you what they need from their environment and then discover how to supply those needs.

As you discover more and more about the character’s world, you will begin to do your research. This is a slippery slope and one you have to treat with respect. Dig to get the details you need to tell the story, but don’t fall down the hole into parts unknown and unrelated to your character’s story. Also, don’t become so enamored with your discoveries that you toss in everything, including the kitchen sink, because it just so interesting.

Remember: If it doesn’t move the plot or provide character development, it doesn’t belong on the page. Think of it this way. You use a cell phone, but do you really know how it works? Do you need to? The answer is probably no to the first and definitely no to the second. And neither does your reader.

In my newest book, COLLECTOR’S ITEM, my shapeshifters live openly in society, having come out of the closet, so to speak, about twenty years ago. An entire legal system had to be developed to protect both humans and shapeshifters, codified in the Paranormal Rights Act, but I didn’t need to give my readers the details of the Act and legal system, I only refer to them where they impact my story.

My shapeshifters and their animal personalities are separate entities sharing a physical form. They communicate to each other, but the animal personality is always under the control of the human side. Shapeshifters live in clans and raise their children communally, openly preparing children for the emergence of their animal personalities with the onset of puberty. This dual nature is anticipated but in rare instances, can create serious psychological issues that were once a death sentence, but with the help of modern medicine is now manageable.

I loved developing these parts of KT Marant’s world, but they were only mentioned in passing, or hinted at, in COLLECTOR’S ITEM. Putting any more into the story than I did would have slowed the action of what I hoped would be a suspenseful story.

Think of those fascinating details as seasoning. Put in too much and you’ll spoil the dish. Put in just the right amounts in the right combinations and you’ll have a dish fit for a king.

World-discovery is fascinating. If you are engaged in your character and the story, I know you will easily discover all the details you need to successfully portray their world.

About the Author

Denise Golinowski has always been a writer. A hopeful romantic, she gravitated to fantasy and romance.  Collector’s Item is her second enovella with the Wild Rose Press and is currently available exclusively on Amazon.com for Kindle.  Her first enovella, The Festival of the Flowers: The Courtesan and The Scholar, is also available from The Wild Rose Press.  Denise is a PRO member of the Romance Writers of America, Virginia Romance Writers, James River Writers, Writers Endeavor, and RichWriters.  A native of Richmond, Virginia, Denise lives with her uber-supportive husband and one devoted lap kitty. She is currently working on a Contemporary Paranormal Romance involving another member of the Marant Clan—KT’s older brother, Peter Marant.  You can find her on facebook at Denise Golinowski/Author and at her blog, Golinowski’s Gambol. You can buy Collector’s Item for Kindle at  www.collectorsitembook.com. Visit her blog, Golinowski’s Gambol, and visit Denise on Facebook at Denise Golinowski/Author.