Blog Archives

Unpleasant Realities

Marie Balustrade Author Interview

Marie Balustrade Author Interview

Wings at Dawn follows a journalist on a fact-finding mission about child pornography and human trafficking in India. Why did you choose this topic for your novel?

I was a development worker in Asia for 15 years, during which time I encountered many social issues that have become the breeding ground for the perversions and evil of mankind. The development workers I met working on human trafficking experience horrors beyond belief on a daily basis, and yet, the trafficking of young boys remains taboo. The character Amrita and her team are not figments of my imagination, but based on real unsung heroes who fight the battles for the unheard voices. My novels will always deal with unpleasant realities that need to be brought to light because it is only awareness that will save lives.

Your characters were well developed, but Matt was my favorite. What were some themes you felt were important to capture in your characters?

I wanted credible and flawed heroes with acute sensitivity on a personal and professional level. It was important to dispel the notion that journalists are callous and heartless cynics as they go around the world on assignment. The professional side was important to highlight, yes, as well as the drive that propelled them forward to pursue the issues and remain committed to the work. However, a strong sense of social justice and community service was essential in building up the friendship among the three men, as well as the individual personalities. Unconditional friendship is something that I also needed to bring out in this book, as it is so rare, but so precious.

The novel showcases Indian culture and food. What experiences of your own were you able to use in your novel?

12 years of living in India provided the perfect resource for Wings at Dawn. Every item described in the book is something I ate, cooked, and or enjoyed at some point while living in Delhi and exploring the country. The description of the places, cuisine and cultural nuances are based entirely on personal experience, which is why I was able to go into such intimate detail for Matt’s sake. The opening scene with Alex, for example, is one of my favourite walks in Old Delhi, exploring Chandni Chowk with the pleasure of resident searching for treasures that no tourist will encounter in a fleeting visit.

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

The next book, Sunset Shadows, follows the trio, Alex, Julian and Matt through another assignment, but this Julian’s story, as he explores the dark world of transgender trafficking throughout Asia and Europe. Due out in Spring of 2020.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Wings at Dawn by [Balustrade, Marie ]

Writer and photographer, I am a native of the Philippines who grew up and lived in various countries, resulting in photography and writing becoming integral pillars of my soul and, hence, inseparable from my being. The urge to write about what I photograph or match a photograph to my writings are processes that are never far from one another. In the same manner, while on retreat in the mountains of Kodaikanal, India, one year, photography transcended into a form of prayer. When I need to find my center or escape the madness of the world around me, I grab my camera and immerse myself in a world that understands me, and I it.

My novels deal with controversial social issues that span the globe. The stories are not meant for the reader to swoon over and fall in love momentarily for a shallow romance. I want the audience to cry with me, to be enraged, be disgusted, and after turning the last page, they should be more vigilant.

All my books and stories are supported by extensive travel and research, in addition to firsthand experience, having been a development worker in Asia for over 15 years and seen horrors that few will ever write about. My life experiences are the foundation for my novels, and I write from the soul, not an empty page.

Buy Now From B&N.com

The Struggles Between the Light and Dark Court

Tarrant Smith Author Interview

Tarrant Smith Author Interview

Kept Darkly is book three in The Darkly Series. What were some new ideas you wanted to explore in this book that were different from the first two books?

In Enchanted, book one, the reader is introduced to the fey race but all the action happens in the human realm. In Bound, book two, the action is split between the human realm and Tir na n’Og, the realm of the fey. I spent a great deal of time exploring the conflicts between the two fey courts and what life is like in each in Bound. I also suggested that the fey race and the struggles between the Light and Dark Court is the source material of our Arthurian Legends. Most of my writing inspiration comes from Celtic mythology and so it was easy to incorporate this idea into the books. In Kept Darkly I run with the idea by sending Sel, Riona, and Crank into Annwn, the Celtic underworld to recover Arthur—also known as the Absent King. The first mention of the Absent King occurred in Bound Darkly. In Kept Darkly, I get to reveal to the reader his ultimate fate. Of course, this quest is all just a backdrop for Sel and Riona’s love story.

Kept Darkly follows the unlikely pairing of Riona and Sel. Their relationship kept me guessing and hoping for a happy ending. What was the inspiration for their relationship?

Once again I wanted to pair the most unlikely of couples together, play with the idea of blending the two courts—light with dark—and continue the themes of trust and acceptance, of fate and choice that all my characters tend to wrestle with. In Sel, I had someone who was all about duty. He’d lived his entire life in service to his queen and her court. He’d abandoned any thoughts of having a family beyond his daughter Sinnie long before the reader meets him in book one. The mystery of who Jennifer MacKell is to Sel is a secret that must be forced out of him by Hueil. The Seelie Queen also has to force Sel to embrace life beyond her and duty to the Light Court. Sel is a character who has limited himself by choice. In contrast, Riona is a character whose limitations were forced on her by others; by her abusive father, by her tenuous position in the Unseelie Court, and the Seelie Queen’s dubious protections. How does Sel learn to embrace a larger life? And how does Riona manage to rise above her past and abuse by others to become the master of her own life’s direction? These were the questions and conflicts I had to solve while writing Kept Darkly.

This novel does a great job of describing the unique struggle between the seelie and unseelie groups. Were these groups predefined before writing, or do they develop organically while writing?

Celtic mythology provided a fairly clear idea of who and what the seelie and unseelie were, their characteristics and what the aim of each court might be. The idea of a caste system in each court developed organically as I thought about this world. And because the two courts are a mirror image of each other, what exists in one by definition must also exist in the other. At the top of the caste hierarchy are the nobles. These are elven like beings. They’re beautiful and make up most of the population at court. Then there is the warrior caste. In the Seelie Court this is represented by the queen’s guard; they’re orderly, driven by duty, and a little pompous. On the unseelie side, there’s Hueil’s caste. Unseelie warriors are an unruly lot. They love a good fight and they follow the law that the strongest always rules. The next caste in both courts is made up by the craftsmen. This group is by far the most diverse and I don’t spend much time exploring them in the books. The lesser fey make up the bottom of the fey caste system. These are the sprites, fairies, boggarts, and assorted elemental spirits that most humans think of when the term fey (fae) is used.

What can readers expect in book four of the series, Surrendered Darkly?

As I was writing the Darkly books it became apparent that alongside the mythology, the conflicts of the two courts, and the individual romances that I was recording the rise of the House of Caw, specifically of Hueil and his family’s attempts to unseat King Melwas in order to correct the perceived ills of the Unseelie Court. So, in book four I took a hard look at Neb, Hueil’s younger brother. Neb’s true talent is his ability to remain relatively unscathed while his remaining brothers scheme and fight among themselves. In the past, Hueil had always looked after Neb and I wanted to know why. In Surrendered the reader discovers that Cora and Neb had known each other in their youth and that it was the ending of that relationship that shaped them. Can you return to a past love? Can you see beyond betrayal and who they once were to the person they’ve become? And just for the fun of it I threw Neb and Cora squarely between the conflicting desires of two very different goddesses.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookWebsite

Kept Darkly (The Darkly Series Book 3) by [Smith, Tarrant]As the Seelie Queen’s champion and captain of her guardsmen, Sel, son of Selgi, has lived a life ruled by duty and honor. For centuries, his Queen’s wishes have dictated his every action. Not once has he questioned the legendary seer-queen’s edicts or flinched upon receiving a new mission—that is, until now. The Queen has ordered him from her side and from her court so that he might take an unseelie as his mate, fulfilling the requirements of an ancient fey law long ignored. As if that weren’t bad enough, the Queen has named the unseelie girl. It is Riona, the dark and hauntingly beautiful bastard daughter of the morally corrupt Unseelie King. What the hell could the Queen be thinking?

Riona has lived most of her life hiding from her powerful father. She is the unwanted issue of a despised king and his lusty courtesan, a political pawn her father is determined to use to his advantage. But King Melwas can’t use what he can’t find. Riona, who has grown used to betrayal in the Unseelie Court, is grateful for the timely intervention of the Seelie Queen in escaping her dreary fate—that is, until she learns that the Queen intends to reward her captain by formally binding Riona to him. She knows Sel by reputation only. He is said to be cold, unfeeling, and frighteningly powerful. He is also rumored to be desperately in love with his sovereign. There is no chance that the Queen’s most loyal defender will ever truly love her, so why, then, cannot Riona steel her heart against him?

Buy Now From B&N.com

Looking for Redemption

Br. Benedict Dyar OSB Author Interview

Br. Benedict Dyar OSB Author Interview

The Flame of Telbyrin follows two elves on a thrilling quest to find out why the Flame of Telbyrin is going out. What served as your inspiration while writing this book?

As a young boy, I enjoyed the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and also many fantasy movies. The inspiration was mainly wanting to compose a story full of light with some light theological concepts and messages. As a Christian monk I value this and also believe that fantasy adventure can be a channel for these concepts.

The Elves, Orilin and his wife Larilyn, are intriguing and well developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind their development?

I’m flattered that Orilin and Larilyn were well liked. I must confess they are like my children! I love them and want to see them succeed. Some of the driving ideals behind Orilin were both the classic ideal of a fantasy hero and a troubled soul looking for redemption. Larilyn is my favorite character in the book. She is modeled off of the Biblical character of Ruth. “Where you go I go. Where you stay I stay.” I wanted to make it clear that Orilin and Larilyn love each other very much.

The mythos and in this world is deftly created. Was this designed before writing or did it develop organically while writing?

The design of the world of Telbyrin was mainly designed before writing. The character development was done as the story went on. The theology and mythos of Telbyrin was also improved on as the story went on.

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

The next book: The Vicar of Telbyrin, will be the story of Orilin and Larilyn’s son. Hopefully it will be available for readers no later than early of next year.

Author Links: GoodReads | Amazon

The Flame of Telbyrin: A Tale of Heroism and Faith by [Dyar OSB, Br. Benedict]The Eternal Flame of Telbyrin has existed since the foundation of the world. All the peoples of Telbyrin venerate it as the symbol of all creation’s prayers that go up to the Creator — all except the dreaded Meldron, a race hidden within the Mountains of Black with a supposed secret knowledge of dread power.

As two young married Elves make their way towards the Flame on annual pilgrimage, they discover that the Flame is going out. All of a sudden, these two Elves are caught up in an adventure of discovery of why the Flame of Telbyrin is going out and who or what may be behind it.

Buy Now From B&N.com

A Proven Warrior

Tarrant Smith Author Interview

Tarrant Smith Author Interview

Bound Darkly is an exciting paranormal fantasy novel. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the story?

After I finished writing Enchanted Darkly, the question of Hueil’s backstory wouldn’t leave me alone. Why was he exiled by King Melwas and how was he going to step back into a life and a world he’d been forced away from after so many years? I knew his exile and Jennifer had changed him on a fundamental level and I wanted to explore that dilemma. Sinnie’s character and the close connection to Jennifer was a secret that I also wanted to explain. Why did Jennifer, a light court halfling, make such an impression on Hueil? And how was Hueil’s courtship of Sinnie, a seelie, going to play out? All these characters were so well defined for me that Bound Darkly was one of the easiest books for me to write. For the most part, all I had to do was stand back and let the characters tell me what happened next.

What was one of the hardest parts in Bound Darkly for you to write?

The hardest parts of Bound Darkly to write were the scenes where Hueil’s self-destructive nature gets in the way of his and Sinnie’s budding romance. His doubts and inability to trust all things seelie were reoccurring obstacles for him. There were times I, like Sinnie, just wanted to slap him when his stubborn nature kicked in. But next to Crank, whose story is told in the fifth book, Hueil is my favorite Darkly Series character. His story arc is the longest in the series. He goes from being the villain in Enchanted to redeemed hero in Bound. And then in Kept Darkly, he rises to become the Unseelie king.

How did you create Sinnie and Hueil’s characters in a way that contrasted yet still supported the characters development?

Since Hueil’s character was fully formed by the time I started Bound, it was Sinnie’s character that I spent the most effort in creating. She needed to be as unusual a seelie as Hueil’s unseelie character. She also needed to be a challenge to win, on both a social and personal level. I wanted her strong enough to stand up to Hueil and a proven warrior in her own right. Someone whose skills he could learn to respect. They needed to meet as equals. I knew that a damsel in distress would never appeal to Hueil. I also wanted Sinnie’s backstory to contrast sharply with the struggles of Hueil’s unseelie life. In the end, Hueil has to learn to trust while Sinnie has to find a way to see beyond the crimes of his past, past her right and wrong thinking to a place of understanding and acceptance.

This is book two in the Darkly series. What can readers expect in book three?

Book three, Kept Darkly, is where I explore Sel’s story. From the first two books, readers know that Sel is the Seelie Queen’s captain and Sinnie’s father. But what they will discover is that the captain has secrets and suppressed longings that have been pushed aside in the name of duty to queen and the Seelie Court. I will also take the reader into one of the many god realms in book three, delve deeper into the conflicts of the fey courts, and reveal the final fate of the fabled Absent King.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookWebsite

Bound Darkly (The Darkly Series Book 2) by [Smith, Tarrant]

Sinnie has lived a secure, uniquely privileged life in the Seelie Court of Tir na n-Og. For as long as she can remember, her doting father, Sel, son of Selgi, has been the Captain of the Queen’s Guard. She cannot imagine the dark warrior prophesied for her future by the meddling goddess Blodeuwedd. Nevertheless, Sinnie’s fate is forever sealed the day the goddess whispers the riddle into her child’s ear. He would be a warrior born of the dark, raised by the despised, and tempered by the unlikely – and he would be Sinnie’s only chance at true love.

After spending nearly a thousand years exiled in the world of men, Hueil, son of Caw, has returned to the Dark Court of the unseelie to find much has changed in his homeland. The restoration of his name and his new duties at court should have brought him satisfaction, but the many years of banishment and Jennifer Mackell have changed him. Unable to name the yearning that now plagues him, Hueil travels back to Jen’s cottage to seek answers. What he finds is Sinnie, a seelie warrior who is both fire and flame, and a woman who might very well be the death of him – if he is lucky.

Buy Now From B&N.com

I Have Demons

I Have Demons by [Adam, Christopher]

Christopher Adam’s book, I Have Demons, is a collection of three stories that are snapshots of the lives of three different people in and around the city of Ottawa, Canada. As the author describes in the preface, the main characters in these stories in some way “live on the margins,” both physically and socially. From an elderly woman who is neglected by her son and relishes any excitement she can find outside the retirement home in which she lives, to a priest who finds himself struggling to find compassion for a mentally ill man who pressures him into a uncomfortable task, to a struggling college graduate who has to put all dignity aside to try to make it in the big city, the author highlights the struggles of people who are frequently overlooked by the rest of mainstream culture.

The thing that left the biggest impression on me while reading this book was Adam’s excellent use of descriptive writing throughout his stories. His ideas become real for his readers through the way in which he is able to describe things, not just by using many adjectives, but by using detailed imagery that makes his story seem real. Everything that he describes, from a blustery wind to an old woman’s hands, takes shape in the reader’s mind through his words and metaphors. The descriptions create a feeling of uniqueness in his stories, and in their own way, can help the reader to see ordinary things from a fresh perspective.

Having said that, I don’t think the title matches the content of the book in terms of a meaningful description. Although the words in the title come from a quote in the book, I don’t feel like this particular quote gave me the correct impression of the content of the book. While the author may want to convey the idea that all his characters have to deal with their own demons, I think that, without context, the title seems suggested to me that this book is one of horror or suspense. Regardless, because the stories are well-written, thoughtful, and descriptive, I highly recommend this book.

Pages: 130 | ASIN: B07K4QG839

Buy Now From B&N.com

The Enchanters’ Child

The Enchanters' Child by [Sarikonda, Navya]

The Enchanters’ Child is a fantasy novel that follows the journey of three teenagers who are brought together through a bizarre set of circumstances. The Enchanter’s Child is a tale of friendship and, ultimately, trust.

The story is narrated by the three main characters; Wren, Quinn, and Zayne. Each of these characters are young, brave and determined. Each are hiding their true identity from the others – one is the last of Arobol, a group of magic-wielders, one is a prince – the son of the King and a member of the Gavreel Society and one is the infamous Black Assassin. Throughout the journey each must keep their true identity a secret, as they work together for a common purpose – to find the sorcerer. As the story develops we see their purposes are not as common as they have lead each other to believe.

The story is set in a variety of places including towns, forests, artificial towns and even an opulent castle. There are rich descriptions of sights, sounds and smells of the setting. Sarikonda cleverly describes the setting to ensure the reader feels they are there. The forests and gardens are full of magical plants and beasts. The towns are described in depth – easily transporting the reader to the setting.

The characters are generally well developed, although Wren appears to be the ‘main’ character. The story is told from each of their perspectives, allowing the reader to view the journey from three very different perspectives. The characters are developed through their dialogue and thoughts, and descriptions of their costumes, powers and even their unique weapons. The story opens with Wren as narrator, and closes with Zayne’s narration. Rather than losing continuity the story is actually enhanced with the change of narration. It is cleverly done, although I felt that the two male figures could be differentiated further.

Overall, The Enchanters’ Child is an engaging read. The plot is interesting and easy to follow. The setting is described using an array of rich imagery and the characters are intriguing and well developed. Just as you would expect from the title, it is a captivating story packed with magical twists and turns.

Pages: 290 | ASIN: B07L64XW8B

Buy Now From B&N.com

“Bottom Down, Penelope Brown!”

"Bottom Down, Penelope Brown!" by [Pulliam, April B.]

For as long as she can remember Penelope Brown can’t stay sitting down. She wiggles and worms, dances and turns, and every teacher she’s had will insist throughout class that she remain in her seat. As Penelope enters the third grade, she dreads the new teacher, knowing exactly what she will say – or will she?

April Pulliam delivers a touching message with a simple story. The characters are kept to a minimum to focus on the issues at hand. Penelope is likable and relatable; she is described in good light with age-appropriate language. I appreciate how Pulliam never outright stated Penelope’s difficulties as a problem. She consistently views the characters through a young child’s perspective.

Penelope struggles, like many children, to stay in her seat. Like many young children she wriggles and squirms and is brimming with energy. How do children handle this? How do they handle the teachers that constantly tell them to put their ‘bottom down’? These are lessons that I think many elementary school children can relate to and one that is presented in a fun and understanding manner in this book.

Pulliam and Grantham team up to craft a wonderful opportunity to introduce and validate a child’s woes comparable to Penelope. I would highly recommend Bottom Down, Penelope Brown for the modern classroom.

Pages: 23 | ASIN: B07SRX418X

Buy Now From B&N.com

Saving Time

Saving Time (Community Chronicles Book 3) by [Lees, Jenn]

In her third book in the Community Chronicles series, Jenn Lees continues the adventures and perils of a world that is spinning into chaos after a major stock market crash. Set in the year 2061, Saving Time is the story of brave Scotsman and his companions who risk their lives to save Scotland from nuclear destruction. In a world where the government has deserted its people and bandits are always a threat, the story’s hero must take matters into his own hands even if that means risking a trip back in time to get the information he needs. Through her story of loyalty and betrayal, Lees shows readers the meaning of self-sacrifice for the betterment of all.

Although the book starts off a bit slow, I found the story line increasingly compelling as the book progressed. The topics of love, time travel, and impending worldly destruction that run throughout the book are ones that are likely to appeal to the reader and keep their interest. In terms of grammar, flow, and ease of reading, the book was well written and enjoyable.

I felt like the time travel part of the book was not as compelling as it could have been. It didn’t seem integral to the plot. The reasoning for traveling to the past seemed vague, especially when the information that the characters acquired from this journey was ultimately unnecessary in dealing with the nuclear threat. I thought that the surprise assistance that showed up for the ultimate resolution of the threat seemed coincidental and made the original plan seem unnecessary.

The characters were interesting and well developed. When they make their way through 21st century England, I enjoyed the outsiders perspective, but would have enjoyed a deeper contrast. Rory and Siobhan’s relationship reflects that kind of contrast and I savored the experience of watching the slow development of their characters.

Overall I thought the book was enjoyable, particularly after reaching the second half where the story really picks up speed. This would be well suited for anyone looking for post apocalyptic fiction with a time travel twist.

Pages: 255 | ASIN: B07PWYVYJC

Buy Now From B&N.com

A Bite of the Past

A Bite of the Past: Undying Love - Book One by [Nightingale, L.]

“I am Theodore Callington. I have a family. And a home. I belong somewhere.” These longing words are spoken by Teddy, who has lived a tortured life. An orphan taken in by a murderous uncle, regularly beaten to a pulp. An escaped cowboy, loved by an adopted family but trampled in the rodeo. And an unwilling vampire, slowly feeling his way to redemption. What will happen when Teddy attempts to reclaim his humanity from the devilish vampire who made him what he is? Follow Teddy’s twisted and terrifying journey in L. Nightingale’s A Bite of the Past: Undying Love.

A Bite of the Past is an exploration of what it means to be human, and conversely, sub-human. It is a heartbreaking story of cruelty, rejection, and longing for the love and stability of a family. Teddy’s journey is also one of hopefulness, reconnection, and the ascendancy of good over evil.

As our devastatingly handsome and sometimes repugnant main character, Teddy is truly a tortured soul—one dealing with the excruciating pain of his past but also searching for the truth and love that lies between the horror. Through sheer will-power, Teddy salvages the memories that have been suppressed by his malevolent teacher—the ruthless László. Under his tutelage, Teddy is truly a gruesome creature who carries out deeds that are sometimes hard to read.

Nightingale’s prose can be disorderly at times—perhaps intentionally so, as a reflection of the muddled psyche of her main character. He is confused much of the time, piecing together fragments of memories while simultaneously trying to quell his inner demon. This confusion spills over to the reader who, at times, feels lost as the narrative doubles back.

The twists, turns, and major surprises of the book do keep the reader engaged through the final cliffhanging scene. Gruesome descriptions of fights and killings will appeal to fans of macabre action. The throwback scenes to the wild west are charming, and Teddy’s vernacular peppers the book with memorable sayings, such as “the temperature would drop like a naked gunslinger beefed on a Dodge Street.” Overall, the yearning for love will resound with all.

A tale of a wayward cowboy looking for redemption that will strike a chord with its readers.

Pages: 343 | ASIN: B07SGWRTCN

Buy Now From B&N.com

Issaura’s Claws

Issaura's Claws (Incarn Saga Book 1) by [Wibell, Katharine]

Issaura’s Claws, written by Katharine Wibell is the first book in the three book Incarn series. The story is set in the kingdom of Elysia, an island inhabited by two races: humans and theriomorphs. The novel focuses on themes of racial divides, trust, friendship and gender stereotyping. Interwoven are legends and traditions, gods, and mythical creatures. All are called to work together when the kingdom comes under threat.

The setting for Issaura’s Claws is the kingdom of Elysia. Although outwardly appearing united, socially, the kingdom is divided invisibly into two groups: humans and theriomorphs. This divide becomes evident to the reader in the opening lines of Chapter One; “Trouble.  In the schoolyard, Lluava spotted a group of boys near a large oak. Definitely humans”. The reader feels Lluava’s pain as she describes these bullies and how they attack an innocent lamb. We then see her surprise and disappointment as she realizes that even her teacher sees theriomorphs as inferior. The author cleverly contrasts the beautiful setting with the social turmoil that exists in the kingdom. It is a clever way to address themes of stereotyping and racial divides.

Lluava is the main character in this story. She is a seventeen year old theriomorph, (a race that appears human but has the ability to change into animal form) and it is evident from the beginning she is headstrong and determined. Unlike her mother and many other theriomorph’s she values the old traditions and has not succumbed to all things human like many others. When an army needs to be raised she volunteers without hesitation. She begins to break down gender stereo types when she is placed in the women’s camp to learn to nurse the sick. She demands to be trained in combat, and is eventually permitted to train at the men’s camp. It is there that she soon proves she is a force to be reckoned with.

Overall the story is interesting an easy to follow. The one aspect of the plot that I felt could be improved was the number of ‘traps’ Lluava and her friends fall into. She and her friends are portrayed as intelligent, so the number of blatant traps they seem to fall into becomes implausible.

Issaura’s Claws is an entertaining fantasy novel. Descriptions of the setting and characters are detailed and rich. The themes of the story parallel with dilemmas that society faces today. I look forward to reading the second book in this fantastic series.

Pages: 362 | ASIN: B01MZZB80P

Buy Now From B&N.com

%d bloggers like this: