Feeling Like an Outsider

Taylor Fenner Author Interview

Monsters & Mist is a thrilling fantasy novel that I thought was very entertaining. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Thank you! Initially I wanted to write a story about a girl whose nephew went missing who goes on a journey to find him and ends up learning about herself along the way. As the world and story unfolded it became about a group of characters that had been raised to see things one way who had to put aside those beliefs to work together.

Your characters were intriguing and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I always see a little bit of myself in at least one of my characters. Monsters & Mist was initially intended to be told solely in Andromeda’s perspective. She starts off the book feeling like an outsider – in her village, in her family even, because she looks different and acts differently, wants different things than everyone else. I often feel like I don’t quite belong, even among friends or with my family and I wanted to show that you shouldn’t feel bad because your differences are what make you who you are. All of my main characters had to go through a transformation throughout the book. Cygni, for example, didn’t think he was ready to follow in his father’s shoes but by having everything ripped away from him he became the leader he was always meant to be.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I think, especially now, it was important for me to get across that despite where someone comes from, what their background is, or how they were raised deep down people all really feel things the same way. We all have hopes, dreams, insecurities, and fears. There are five kingdoms in Monsters & Mist, and for generations the people from three of those kingdoms had spent so much energy hating the people of the fourth kingdom all because the god they worshipped willed them to, when if they had gotten to know those people the world could have been an equal, peaceful place.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I have a few different projects I’m working on at the moment, all of which are outside my usual comfort zone. My primary project is a horror novel set in an almost forgotten hotel in the Great Smoky Mountains and I aim to have it out in the first half of 2022.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Girl with Warrior Aspirations.
The Playboy Prince.
The Ruthless Queen.

One will seek to enslave the world. One will lead the rebellion. And one will be the catalyst.

The Warrior General with a tragic past.
The Disgraced Bounty Hunter.
The Girl with the Constellation on Her Face.

One will rise to the challenge. One will return what was once lost. And one will embrace their destiny.

Six lives. One world borne anew.

Natyre Boy

Natyre Boy by [Derek R. King]

Dazzling seascapes, soft fields brimming with flowers, and the homes of mythological beings are just some of the places you’ll be transported to by the words of Derek King in his collection Natyre Boy. The exotic images he evokes tell the story of the land over the course of a year, visiting all the seasons and the changes they may bring, through storms and calm, over a variety of landscapes. While King’s poetry is often kept short, it’s nonetheless effective in telling a vivid tale that blooms in the imagination, much like so many of the flowers he describes. 

Natyre Boy is King’s second collection of poems and focuses, and you may surmise, on the natural world around us and the beauty it both possesses and exudes. It brings to mind images of idyllic, lazy days spent gazing out at the ocean, or laying in a field as bees and butterflies flit about. King’s use of language is superb, often proving that less is more in the way he can paint a complete picture over the course of just several lines. Occasionally I felt that the rhythm stumbles a bit and a poem may be a bit awkward in the way it reads, but that is a rare occurrence as more often they flow with an unbothered ease, reflecting the endless march of nature that will continue one way or another. Deeper than the poems themselves, the collection is also a commentary on the cylindrical nature of all life and the fact that nothing lasts forever, despite whatever attempts may be made to that end.

Natyre Boy is not only easy to read but solidly enjoyable. The poems exude joy and warmth in their language and delivery, creating scenes of bucolic enjoyment that seems so rare and hard to obtain in our fast filled days. King’s words perfectly grasp those universal feelings that are often incredibly difficult to name but also instantly recognizable. This collection is a joy.

Pages: 142 | ASIN: B08X77TC9K

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Karik’s First Battle

Karik's First Battle (The Legends of Karik Book 1) by [Evan Oliver]

After being exiled from a village unable to sustain him and his friends during the long and harsh winter, Karik embarks on a treacherous journey to find a place to stay. After multiple discussions, Karik convinces his stubborn friends to head north, where they might find shelter in one of the less populated villages. When they stumble upon a small settlement up north and are invited to stay, they reluctantly accept. However, they notice strange details around the village including its saggy construction and utter lack of population. They soon discover that many important events actually occur underground in an elaborate series of tunnels, including a strange pact with a dangerous dragon and dark secrets involving a mythological character. Karik must find a way to defeat this threat lurking in the shadows and keep his friends, and himself, alive until spring.

Kariks First Battle by Evan Oliver is a thrilling high-fantasy novella and is the first installment in the “Legends of Karik” series. However short, this first following an intriguing hero through an imaginative fantasy world that still feels grounded but deep. This reminds me of The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien in that it feels like an adventure that’s playing out in a world with a very deep backstory.

The characters are all compelling in their own way, barely riding the line of fantasy trope but bring enough unique characterization to make them feel fresh and alive on the page. The story feels like a reinvigoration of the type of fantasy story telling prevalent in the 80’s, but with a contemporary infusion of action and sense of adventure.

Kariks First Battle has a creative plot that is propelled by fascinating characters. I really feel like we’re just scratching the surface of something much grander in the Legends of Karik series. If you’re looking for an epic fantasy story where a host of striking characters set out on a dangerous adventure then you will find plenty to enjoy in this book.

Pages: 91 | ASIN: B08W73Q5D2

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A Near-Future Cyberpunk

Author Interview
Jason Arsenault Author Interview

Shunt follows a woman who receives an implant to remove her grief, but when things get unreal she tries to track down her Pain Surrogate and unlocks a conspiracy. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

The first criteria I usually have for starting a novel is that I’ve never read anything like this before. The idea that two people, cut from different social cloths, could become each other’s mental-health support, in the physical sense, was interesting and satirical to me. It also made for very entertaining reading (and writing) as emotional context would “bleed” into different character perspectives. I also wanted to write a near-future cyberpunk with loads of action and intrigue, so I wove those concepts together and let that evolve into what we have here.

Jade is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Thanks, I’ve soul searched a great deal to bring her out right (despite the emotional handicap implied by the brain implant and my own biases). In the case of Jade, I needed a character that felt the loss of something entirely unendurable and, to me, one of the most horrible things I could think of would be to lose someone of close kin that I love deeply. Like many among us through her efforts she simply wishes to return to a normal life.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Perhaps “personal responsibility” or that I see that we are losing the precious adversity that hones us to become better people. In the medical sense, it is much easier for a doctor to prescribe, e.g. benzodiazepines, than to arduously tease out the factors (both environment and neurological) that contribute to that person’s malaise. If your boss is the cause of your despair, find a new boss, same for a partner that puts you down, et cetera. There are people who do indeed require medical intervention, and as a published biomedical scientist I can attest to that. But our society is overmedicated, overstimulated, (for some overprivileged), and overpampered; it is overrun by spoilt brats. Wouldn’t it preferable for us to eat healthy and exercise than to try to fight the consequences of our vices when we are 65 (if we even get there). Our brains work the same way, we each have to tend to our gardens. This story is about getting what we want too easily and the consequences that that entails to ourselves and the world around us.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

As I wish to go through traditional publishers, I would say about when Saturn, Mercury, and Jupiter align during a solar eclipse, in both hemispheres. Perhaps sometime before the next millennia, if I am lucky. I have three other novels that are ready for submission, but I suffer from a full-time career that occludes most of my post-writing efforts such as contacting agents and randomly firing novels to the wrong publishers. All faults to that effect are entirely my own. I won’t stop writing though, that is a guarantee. So my work eventually will become, I hope, just too darn good to ignore.

But that said, I’ve recently finished a large piece about an alien structure hiding in our solar system and the human shenanigan that ensue because of it. I was quite pleased with it after the second rewrite and it is in the hands of a few test readers at the moment. It’s almost ready to start collecting rejection letters.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website | Twitter

A young woman named Jade receives a brain implant that connects her to a “Pain Surrogate” in order to alleviate her grief from the loss of her little brother. At first the relief is ideal; the shunt seems like the perfect solution. But when things begin to feel unreal in her mind, she hires a hacker to discover the identity of her anonymous pain recipient. This seemingly minor breach of security unravels an international conspiracy between PrimaCore, a huge pharmaceutical company, and a military eager to weaponize the feeds from pain surrogates with pathologically violent urges.

Jade’s quest to find her surrogate sends her on a wild adventure across the globe with black operatives hot on her trail. Meanwhile, an enhanced rogue agent within PrimaCore seizes the opportunity to topple the government, seeking to usher in the kind of world that she believes we all deserve.

Burnout Proof: How To Establish Boundaries To Avoid The Negativity Of Stress – Book Trailer

Individuals are burning out at alarming rates. People feel constant demand to deliver, so they’re either burning out or they’re leaving their jobs, due to high stress and burnout. With COVID-19, this is becoming more prevalent and amplified, due to all the demands from working from home (WFH).

In Michael Levitt’s Burnout Proof: How To Establish Boundaries To Avoid The Negativity of Stress, you will learn how to:

  • Recognize burnout signs in yourself and in others
  • Understand how you became burned out in the first place
  • Implement burnout prevention techniques that go beyond taking a 2-week vacation
  • Launch immediate steps you can take today, to stop the burnout from growing
  • Establish boundaries in your life, so that you can fend off potential burnout from external factors

Michael Levitt is the founder & Chief Burnout Officer of The Breakfast Leadership Network, a San Diego and Toronto-based burnout media and consulting firm. He is an in-person and Certified Virtual Speaker, a Certified NLP and CBT Therapist, a Fortune 500 consultant, bestselling author, and hosts the Breakfast Leadership Show, a top 200 podcast on iTunes. Michael’s A Top 20 Global Thought Leader on HR & Culture. and a former Healthcare executive, overseeing $ 2 Billion budgets.

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Perseverance: How It All Began

Perseverance: How It All Began by [Rebecca Branch]

Perseverance: How it All Began, is the first novel in a romance series following Cadence who is a nurse at a local hospital. The story follows her journey, as her friend Trystan (whom she has admired from afar), moves closer to her, throwing her emotions into turmoil.

Perseverance: How it all Began has an easy to follow structure. It is organized into chapters that are narrated by the two main characters, although most chapters are told from Cadence’s viewpoint. The story is simple to follow, but there are several very compelling twists and turns. Although the action is mostly centered around the budding romance of the two main characters, there are some moments of tension that really bring this novel to life.

Cadence is a well-developed character that comes across as authentic and believable. A nurse at a local hospital, the story focuses on her anguish in trying to choose between two men. Readers follow her emotional turmoil, fears, and dreams. Her character develops and deepens over the course of the novel, as she finds herself falling in love with Blake whilst still pining for Trystan, a friend who she’d fallen in love with but never admitted her feelings to him or anyone else.

The dialogue throughout the novel felt grounded and the characters motivations throughout the story were believable, both of these things combine to make a novel that is easy to be engrossed with. Cadence’s long-time friend Trystan is also a main character in the novel. We gain less of an insight into his thoughts, but he’s still an intriguing character without feeling completely original. He has a manly job, is intensely handsome, self-confident, and their relationship starts with him showing Cadence little, if any, romantic attention. However, once another man is in the picture his interest soon increases! These two characters are supported by numerous smaller characters, such as Cadence’s boyfriend, and their respective friends and colleagues. These characters add welcomed depth and interest to the story.

This novel is firmly focused on the romance between Cadence and Trystan and the descriptive writing focuses on the main characters and their physical descriptions, rather than building out the setting and world.

Perseverance: How it All Began is an impassioned romance novel that will appeal to readers looking for an easy to follow but stirring story that focuses on the relationships between people.

Pages: 432 | ASIN: B07BF4MM46

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Animals

Animals by [J. E. Lynch]

All was rosy for the Burnhams till they went on a year-long holiday. Three family members returned with a nightmare that would plague them for the rest of their lives, while little Eleanor never made it back at all. She simply vanished on a nice sunny day on the beach, only to appear in a cave far away from her family. That marked the start of a life-changing experience that saw her raised by unusual animals. Her training in the wild molded her into a ruthless young predator, not unlike her tutors. She soon found out that she was now an assassin created to carry out the will of her vengeful animal captors. Ellie embraced her new life, but her mind kept pulling up images of her old life that featured a happy family. Would she chase the freedom she once had, or would she stay a killing machine?

J.E Lynch’s Animals brings a startling folktale to life. The book’s intriguing plot piques curiosity early on and sustains it all through the story. It features animals running a covert recruitment program and feels like a metaphor reflecting our nature and actions as humans, like George Orwell’s allegorical novella Animal Farm. Even though Lynch tries to present truths in an unusual way, he doesn’t leave you scratching your head. His themes are clear, thought-provoking, and fascinating.

Lynch is great at stimulating the senses with very descriptive sentences, relying more on simple words than flowery language. I love how the author approaches the main character’s evolution. He leaves just enough clues to show there was a chance she could change course without making you feel it was inevitable. The animals also had distinctive personalities that resonated with me. I found myself rooting for some and scoffing at others, a sign that I was heavily invested in the characters.

I breezed through all 300 pages of this book. I’m not sure I’ve finished a book of that size in such a short time. I definitely have the story’s pace and intrigue to thank for that. And to top it off, the story ends with a smashing cliff-hanger. Good thing the sequel is out already. So, I don’t have to wait to get my paws on it.

Animals is a thought-provoking young adult novel that is daring, creative, and immensely entertaining.

Pages: 303 | ASIN: B07NQK2HXN

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The Roar of a Dragon

The Roar of a Dragon by [Robert Blanchard]

The Roar of a Dragon by Robert Blanchard is an adventurous fantasy narrated by Aidan, who begins the story from his childhood and humble beginnings in the countryside. The story develops from Aidan’s growing up on a farm and learning about the necessities of life. He details his family life and precisely how his upbringing prepares him for an initially traditional life, then unexpectedly changes. Aidan quickly discovers that the life he was raised for, and his destiny, is far more than he could imagine.

A simple twist in events, and realization by Aidan, propels him into a different life. He constantly struggles with dreams of his mother and a past and future that he learns to accept. The challenges of Aidan’s coming of age and developing into a solid and noble role are well-written with deep compassion and ambition.

As Aidan struggles with his fate and many obstacles ahead, he also grapples with his emotions and struggles to fulfill his soldier training. The book is more than a fantasy as it’s a deeply personal account of a young man’s transition from a naïve farmer’s son to someone who can make a difference in battle and beyond.

The characters are well woven into the story, shaping Aidan’s life and development into a bigger world that’s dangerous and exciting. It quickly becomes increasingly clear that Aidan’s life will play a significant role in a conquest that will require him to prove himself. The story beautifully explores Aidan’s life and his inner thoughts during his growth. He narrates every stage of his journey with exceptional clarity, with just enough detail and flavor to continuously engage the reader.

The Roar of the Dragon is a fantastic story of adventure and fighting battles, both literal and personal, with a rich character layer and development. Each scene is well described to paint authentic, rustic landscapes in a surreal fantasy world that comes to life. Aidan’s life is full of vibrant action that keeps the pages turning once you begin reading. He faces both external forces, from dragons and war, and his internal conflict.

The book is an incredible read, and you’ll easily move through the story quickly with anticipation for the subsequent development. The Roar of the Dragon is entertaining and well structured, detailing Aidan’s ability to face and conquer various levels of conflict in a unique fantasy world.

Pages: 280 | ASIN: B074BCDYTH

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