Friday, August 30, 2013

The Yogi's Curse (Zak & Zoe Adventures Book #2) Book Review

Zoe and Zak are back in India. Again. And this time they’re attending Moonstock Himalayan Boarding School, which might seem fun except for the fact that the school is a little strange. Students ride elephants instead of school buses, snarling monkeys work as security guards, and angry parrots monitor the halls. And even when they manage to get used to the wildlife, the food is absolutely terrible.But living with a bunch of other kids their age can be a lot of fun too, or at least it seems that way until Zoe’s roommate goes missing. Following the directions written on a steamy bathroom mirror, Zoe and Zak fly through the clouds on their magic carpet to learn that the two of them have been chosen yet again. This time they’ve been asked to lift the Yogi’s Curse.It’s not going to be easy. Zoe and Zak don’t even know what the Yogi’s Curse is let alone how to lift it, but like it or not, they soon discover that a whole lot of people are depending on them. Now, if they’re going to save the day, they’re going to have to fool the monkey guards, avoid the nasty parrots, and maybe even develop a supernatural ability or two. Because lurking beneath Moonstock is a powerful new enemy. And if Zoe and Zak can’t stop him, nobody can.
Purchase: Amazon

My Review
I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.  This is book two in the Zak and Zoe Adventure Series. It's been three months since their Ghost Leopard adventure. Two weeks ago, Zak, his dad, Zoe, and her mom moved to New Delhi for their parents new job. Because of the amount of traveling they are required to do, Zak and Zoe apply to the very best boarding school in India. They embrace this as a new cultural experience, to make new friends and learn from all of the challenges 7th grade will give them. They would have never guessed that their Ghost Leopard adventure was a piece of cake compared to what's in store for them this time.

Lars Guignard has done it again with a fantastic action adventure novel. I loved the story staying consistent with the nasty school food and each teacher having notably unique characteristics. This was such a fun and imaginative novel, with some emotional aspects as Zoe struggles to fit in, fights homesickness, and struggling with her new yogi powers. This is must read for any 10-12 year old! This is a great series and I can't wait for book 3!

About the Author
Prior to writing novels, Lars Guignard wrote for film and television. As a teenager he attended boarding school in the Indian Himalayas and his experiences there provided the inspiration for the Zoe and Zak series which now include: Zoe & Zak and the Ghost Leopard and Zoe & Zak and theYogi's Curse.

He now makes his home in the Pacific Northwest where he is busy completing the third Zoe & Zak adventure for release in the Fall of 2013.
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Monday, August 26, 2013

Spider Prince Interview

Legend of the Spider-Prince: REBEL

Wyl is a young rebel whose life of dangerous lies and hidden truths has cost him his childhood and his ability to trust. He is fanatically loyal to the rebel leader, a woman embroiled in a blood-feud with Trascolm's ruling clan. When he’s not away spying, he’s her secret bodyguard—she needs protection from her army of renegades and outlaws as much as from bounty-hunters and assassins sent by her archenemy. But when the rebellion meets with disaster, the rebel leader's strategy changes. Wyl is thrust into a hostile royal court of underage teens—mere children, to his mind. He’s expected to embrace this more civilized way of life, but his brutally-honed instincts betray him, and he makes enemies instead of friends. Wyl—a boy raised by outlaws—is in over his head and must somehow master the subtleties of court intrigue well enough to keep the rebel leader and her rebellion alive, despite the treacherous machinations of her enemies, and do it without getting himself killed.  

About the Legend of the Spider-Prince series In a war-torn land where men have unbridled influence, but women hold the reins of power, a young rebel becomes entangled in a deadly web of magic, court intrigue, and revenge amid an escalating wave of events that will ultimately destroy magic, overturn governments, cause the near-collapse of civilization, even threaten the very existence of life on Eryth—and make him a legend.

Buy on Amazon | B&N | Smashwords | iTunes | Kobo | Diesel | Paperback

 

Interview courtesy of Liberty Ann Ireland

 

1.       First off, how has your week been?

These past few weeks that I’ve been published have been the realization of a lifelong dream. It’s been exciting and even scary, knowing that my life has been forever changed. I’ve been a closet writer all my life, so discovering that I have readers seems surreal. The escalation in that readership has been thrilling.

I’ve had to wrestle with finding time for all the things I need to do as an author with a new book published and more books to write, and family and a day job, and the occasional need to sleep. Discovering last Wednesday that a reader had posted my story as an illegal download was a real downer. It’s exasperating to have to put everything else aside to defend my rights against readers who like my writing, but fail to express it in a way that would actually help me write more books for them to read. It really makes me appreciate readers who buy the books they like and share their enthusiasm for them in a constructive way. Focusing on those readers puts my inner world back into balance and makes me eager to get back to work telling stories. 

There’s even been a little serendipity. Years ago, I had a bad riding accident that left me with vertigo. I learned a couple weeks ago there’s been a little progress made in treating it, and for the first time in twenty-four years, I feel cautiously hopeful that some of the effects of that injury can be alleviated, if not undone. If this treatment works, will restoring my ability to indulge in adrenaline-rich activities overcome my awareness of my mortality? Am I older—but wiser—or an unreconstructed adrenaline addict? I hope I’ll get to find out.
All in all, this has been an extraordinary, unforgettable time.

2.      Did you imagine that writing and being published would fall into place the way it did?

Absolutely not! I always imagined I’d try to go the traditional route and probably never get published. I’ve spent all but the last few years of my writing life simply focused on writing stories. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my stories, and I never imagined myself having the patience or persistence to wear all a publisher’s hats—or to come up with the financial resources to delegate them. I figured, if I was cut out to be a marketer, my query letters would have gotten a better response! 

But that thinking was what opened my mind to going independent—I’m a long-form writer, not inclined to short-stories or pithy, catchy Twitteresque masterpieces. Writing a novel or a series isn’t even remotely like writing a sales letter. If it was, I’d have a lucrative day job at an ad agency—and every advertising wiz in the world would be writing bestsellers. 

I don’t think the traditional publishing world has its finger firmly on readers’ pulses. I used to regularly bust my budget buying books, but increasingly, that hasn’t been happening. I walk out of bookstores empty-handed after a matter of minutes, then go home and re-read old favorites. Discovering manga played havoc with my budget for a while, but the ones I like seem to get dropped or are too long-established for me to afford to acquire a taste for them—I learned that lesson collecting Fullmetal Alchemist. Arguably, what I like either isn’t being written or isn’t being traditionally published. 

The game-changer came when I looked closer at the odds against getting a whole series traditionally-published. I mostly write series. I couldn’t accept the risk of being cut off from my own story if the first book were abandoned by its publisher, leaving the others in the series stillborn because I no longer owned the rights to that first book. That kind of thing happens all the time. I’ve invested too much in my writing to risk that happening to me.
So, I’ve had to stretch and learn and adapt, and none of those are bad things. I made the decision to go indie on April 18, thinking I’d publish on October 31, but everything was ready by early July. There seemed no point in waiting, so I published it first on Smashwords, figuring I’d have time to go through the various formats and nitpick before making publication “official.” I was completely caught off-guard when a couple chapter samples were downloaded while I was still fumbling with my Smashwords dashboard. I sold my first ebook within 12 hours. I never expected that to happen, and I feel like I’ve been trying to catch up with my book ever since!

3.      What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The hardest part was finding beta readers. After I wore out my family as readers with the earliest drafts, I couldn’t put my hands on suitably-qualified readers with fresh eyes. I was reluctant to try my luck online, but after a few false starts, I found a couple of online critique groups, Critique.org and CritiqueCircle.com, that were enormously helpful. Other authors will spot things a pleasure reader might not, and critiquing others, in return, really sharpened my understanding of the craft. The “rhino hide” I developed from accepting constructive criticism is still handy when putting on my marketing/promoting hat, allowing me to have a more objective perspective on it as a product rather than as my firstborn book.

4.      Did you learn anything from writing your book?

Honest feedback is priceless, and sometimes the hardest to hear is what you most need to hear. 

Write when you’re fresh. I’m a night owl by nature, but comparing what I write when I get up at 3 a.m. to what I write before I go to bed at 3 a.m. has turned me into a serious early-bird, though it’s hard to change a lifetime of night owl habits. I backslide, sometimes, but not as much as I expected I would. 

5.      Is there a part of the story you really liked but had to remove, and if so, could you tell us why?

At one point, the series opened with Helgurdda and her tragic betrothal to Hereres, leading to the start of the blood-feud. But as the story progressed, I realized it wasn’t really her story. Though the conflict centers on her rebellion and the blood-feud with the royal clan, the pivotal decisions that moved the story forward weren’t hers, but rather Wyl’s. I’m glad I wrote those early scenes because they anchored the setting of the story, but they’ll never be published. They belong in the backstory. Part of the craft of writing is knowing what needs to be in the story and what doesn’t. 

6.      Once we finish this book and fall in love with your characters, we are going to want the next book immediately.  What can you tell your readers to help calm their hunger for more?

I’m just as anxious to finish writing it as they are to read it, but I still have that perfectionist thing going, so it won’t be out until it’s right. It won’t take the years it took to write Legend of the Spider-Prince #1: REBEL, but that’s because I originally conceived the whole series as a single book, not realizing how much room it would need. I spent a lot of time breaking it apart, outlining what I had, organizing it into a coherent story, and then structuring each book and each trilogy. I couldn’t finish the first book without doing that, but there’s no need to do that again for the rest of the books in the series. After I finished Legend of the Spider-Prince #1: REBEL, I completely rewrote it three times before deciding that several third-person point-of-view characters and using past tense gave the narrative the right feel, so that’s another experiment I won’t need to do again. The good news is that finishing Legend of the Spider-Prince #1: REBEL left the other eight books in various degrees of completion. With each scene I finish in Legend of the Spider-Prince #2: ROGUE, more gaps in the various character and plot arcs down the series are spontaneously filling-in from their own momentum. All the critical parts of each book are already written, so it’s more about tweaking the journey than deciding on the destination. The more story I put behind me, the more inexorable the later bits feel. I don’t know how long this whole process will take, but my gut feeling is months for each book rather than years—an advantage to self-publishing. This is new territory of a different sort for me, because I’ve never had allot time to the care and feeding of an existing book while writing another, so it means I’m going to have to take time management to a higher level.

7.      Now, if this is part of a series, what’s the plan, and will they all be from the same person’s perspective?

This is a nine book series, a trilogy of trilogies. The first trilogy is mostly written, excepting a few arcs where I’m projecting and testing to see how they’ll play out in the last trilogy. The second trilogy is about half in draft and half in outline, and the last trilogy is in about the same condition, waiting on some decisions I have to make on those 2nd trilogy arcs so I can be sure all the loose ends are tied off. I plan to keep the same format, Wyl as the central character, and include narratives from other major characters and their subplots wherever they seem apt. The tricky part is including enough from other characters’ perspectives to advance the plot without creating a cast of thousands, which I feel dilutes the emotional impact of a story.

8.      What do you do if you ever suffer from writer’s block?

Writer’s block is my subconscious’s way of saying that something in the plot is not adding up. I don’t generally fight with it any more, I just take a break and let my subconscious do its work. What follows is usually one of those Eureka! moments when it dawns on me that the wrong person is telling the story, or something along those lines. The Legend of the Spider-Prince series came from a long succession of those kind of moments. Sometimes a block will come because something needs research, and since I like research, that’s easy enough to fix. Whenever I try to force a block, I end up with a lot of irrelevant material I have to discard later, so this approach is actually more efficient.

9.      What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?

Most of what I write is epic fantasy, but I also have a couple science fiction epics, a Napoleonic/Regency epic, an historical epic set during the Fourth Crusade, a couple contemporary adventure/suspense epics, and even a couple stand-alone Regency romances. Most of my stories have a military angle—yeah, big surprise there—but my interests are more in human conflict and intrigue than in war itself.

Many of my main characters happen to be young, but I don’t specifically write for a young adult or new adult audience. Growing up, I was always reading stuff people thought I was too young to read. A lot of younger readers are the same way—and a lot of adults read YA. I will say though, that not everyone, regardless of their age, has a taste for intrigue or knowing what lies beneath the surface of what goes on around them. I write the stories that have held my own interest over the course of years, despite me knowing how those stories will turn out. That fits my criteria for “compelling stories worth investing the time to write.” Worrying about what category they might fall into for marketing plays no role in writing them. Let the chips fall where they may. Fantasy gives me the greatest range of choices in how to tell a story, and I enjoy world-building, but some stories just don’t need a unique world to play out properly.

One thing I don’t write is short stories—I’ve written exactly two, and they’re the exception that proves the rule. Both are dark and clearly there is nothing more to be said at the end of them. My longer stories are also dark, and when they come to an end, I also feel satisfied that there’s nothing more to be said, whether the characters are alive at the end or not. I like to have room to do justice to a story, so most of my stories are trilogies or longer, but I like character development, so they all build to a conclusion rather than have the characters remain virtually static and accrue endless, maybe pointless, adventures. 

10.  What book(s) are you reading now?

Mark Lawrence’s Emperor of Thorns. The second book in his Broken Empire series, King of Thorns, came out when I was hard at work on Legend of the Spider-Prince #1: REBEL. I only read it through once—I’m one of those people who loves to re-read books, even back-to-back—so this little hiatus from writing to launch Legend of the Spider-Prince #1: REBEL has given me a chance to re-read the second book and refresh my memory before plunging into Emperor of Thorns. It’s hard for me to read other people’s books when my own is eating me alive, so I have actually quite a few books clambering for attention—most of them from indie authors who are new to me. I hope to gobble up a few of those books before I plunge back into finishing Legend of the Spider-Prince #2: ROGUE.
 

About the Author

I loved fairy tales as a child, but could never get enough of them until I learned to read for myself. I spent my formative years with my nose in a book or playing dungeon master for my sisters long before there were actual games requiring one. Our Barbies fought Klingons, conquered the galaxy—and always had room on their spaceship for horses. I am a horsewoman, an archer, a fencer, a former military officer, and a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism—all useful skills and experiences for a fantasy novelist. I am currently holding down a day job in Mississippi, USA, where I live with my husband and two daughters, and am presently down to one horse, one cat, and one dog—and ‘way too many books.

Visit me on the web at www.margoander.com My Facebook author page is at www.facebook.com/AuthorMargoAnder I have a blog, www.margoander.wordpress.com, where I review books I like by other indie authors. I have another blog, marguerot.wordpress.com, where I blog about writing.

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Dissolution of Peace Book Review


When Earth Navy Captain Christina Serenity is brutally attacked by a traitor, her life is saved by Security Forces Corporal Michael Carlson. On the heels of her recovery, her ship is attacked by terrorists, and she is thrown into a difficult assignment. She must chase after the only clue they have, a Martian ship called the Phobos, and find out what secrets it hides. To make matters worse, someone still wants her dead.

Her ship, E.S.S. Australia embarks on a mission that leads Serenity on journey of discovery, friendship, betrayal, and revenge. She quickly learns the only thing harder to prevent than war, is love.

Now Serenity must trust her protection crew to keep her alive long enough to solve this puzzle while trying to prevent an interplanetary war.

The line has been drawn. Who will cross first?
 Purchase: Amazon | Barnes and Noble
        

My Review
I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.  Janice Kantor desperately wants a promotion. In order to get this, she's required to do Protection Security for a year. She's accustomed to policing on Earth, so when she assigned to the ESS Australia, she is unsure what to expect and hopes her year will go by quickly.

Mike Carlton, is the head of Protection Security for the personal security of the captain of the ESS Australia. After the occurrence that had happened with his previous partner, he chooses a candidate he thinks he won't get close to. After all, she barely passed her exam, so he doubts she'll take her post seriously. Boy was he ever wrong.

Captain Christine Serenity, she's the youngest captain of an Earth vessel. Because of this, the Admiral is constantly questioning her suitability for her position. Recovering from an injury made by a traitor to Earth, she has constant security around her at all times. Things get even more dangerous when she uncovers a secret bigger than you can imagine.

This book was a fantastic science fiction thrill ride. There was non-stop action, romance and even a mystery in the mix. Carlton and Serenity’s attraction was not only believable but also plausible. This book could very easily become a memorable sci-fi series comparable to Star Trek. This should be on everyone's TBR List, a definite must read!

 About the Author
Richard Flores IV is a writer of Speculative Fiction living in Vacaville, California. He has had several short stories in publications such as Liquid Imagination Online, Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction, and InfectiveInk.com. His novel debut came in October 2012 with Dissolution of Peace, and he hasn't looked back. Richard is the Editor-in-Chief for Plasma Frequency. He fits writing around raising his three young boys, volunteering with the youth soccer league, and watching San Jose Sharks hockey. He also blogs regularly about writing, life, and how the two mix together.
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