Save on YA Fantasy books during this promo! I’m a little late updating about it because I’ve been coordinating it everywhere else: getting newsletters ready, organizing the website. But there is still today and tomorrow left to save and to enter the giveaway!
Instead of directing you to the website, I made it easy. Here are the books! (These go straight to the Amazon page: here are the books available on Barnes & Noble)
You can also win a slew of awesome prizes:
- 2 $15 Amazon/B&N Gift Cards
- A spring basket with paperbacks, candy, jewelry and swag!
- A bouquet of flowers delivered to you (surprise bouquet!) or a loved one (you choose).
Our participating authors: Cate Dean, Shana Norris, Selina Fenech, Jeroen Steenbeeke, Elizabeth Baxter, Anna Kyss, Valerie Gillen, Katherine Pine, and me, Emily Ann Ward! Visit our website for more info about the giveaway and our books. Be sure to spread the word if you know anyone who might be interested. We’ll be tweeting with the hashtag #springbookbash so maybe we’ll see you around!
I’ve been updating sparingly because my husband and I recently bought a house! We pulled carpets up in the living room, one of the bedrooms, and the hallway, and sanded and refinished the hardwood floors. Then we had to move all of our stuff, as is the case when you move. But now we are finally settled. Only a few boxes left to unpack. Chris is putting our grill together right now! The last thing we have to do is fill our walls up! Maps, paintings, mason jars, and more. We’re so excited. This house is PERFECT for us.
All this stuff gets me thinking about how much you can tell about a person from their house. A good character building exercise would be to map out your character’s living space. Think of what they have in each room, where they got it from, what it means to them, if anything. How do they choose to decorate? What do they choose to hide in the closet? Is their space somewhere owned by their parents, a landlord, a manor in the family, or does your character own it?
The answers to these questions would vary greatly depending on your setting, your character, and your story. For example, a young adult character may only have a room that they have personal control over. In a high fantasy, a manor may not be as personalized as a two-bedroom house today would be. If your character is someone in a science fiction novel, maybe they can’t personalize their space at all because they’re on the barracks of a ship. If your character is a traveler, then focus on the places they choose to stay on their travels.
Regardless of the details of the situation, this is a good way to get to know your character. This is the place he or she sleeps, eats, relaxes, and more. It will speak volumes to what they value and what they spend their time on.
Hey, guys! I’m excited to be a part of the blog tour for Storm Dancer by Rayne Hall, a Dark Epic Fantasy. It sounds fascinating and it has great reviews on Amazon. I’d definitely check it out if I were you! You can see more along the tour: reviews and interviews. Read on for an excerpt!
Demon-possessed siege commander, Dahoud, atones for his atrocities by hiding his identity and protecting women from war’s violence – but can he shield the woman he loves from the evil inside him?
Principled weather magician, Merida, brings rain to a parched desert land. When her magical dance rouses more than storms, she needs to overcome her scruples to escape from danger.
Thrust together, Dahoud and Merida must fight for freedom and survival. But how can they trust each other, when hatred and betrayal burn in their hearts?
‘Storm Dancer’ is a dark epic fantasy. British spellings. Caution: this book contains some violence and disturbing situations. Not recommended for under-16s.
Even in the shade of the graffiti-carved olive tree, the air sang with heat. Dahoud listened to the hum of voices in the tavern garden, the murmured gossip about royals and rebels. If patrons noticed him, they would only see a young clerk sitting among the lord-satrap’s followers, a harmless bureaucrat. Dahoud planned to stay harmless.
The tavern bustled with women – whiteseers hanging about in the hope of earning a copper, traders celebrating deals, bellydancers clinking finger cymbals – women who neither backed away from him nor screamed.
The youngest of the entertainers wound her way between the benches towards their table, the tassels on her slender hips bouncing, the rows of copper rings on her sash tinkling with every snaky twist. Since she seemed nervous, as if it was her first show, he sent her an encouraging smile. Ignoring him, she shimmied to Lord Govan.
The djinn slithered inside Dahoud, stirring a stream of fury, whipping his blood into a hot storm. Would she dare to disregard the Black Besieger? What lesson would he teach to punish her insolence?
Dahoud stared past her sweat-glistening torso, the urge to subdue her washing over him in a boiling wave. For three years, he had battled against the djinn’s temptations. To indulge in fantasies would batter his defences and breach his resistance. He focused on the flavours on his tongue, the tart citron juice and the sage-spiced mutton, on the tender texture of the meat.
Govan clasped the dancer’s wrist and drew her close. “Come, honey-flower, let’s see your blossoms.”
She tried to pull herself from his grip. Panic painted her face. Against a lesser man’s groping, she might defend herself with slaps and screams, but this was the lord-satrap. She was too young to know how to slip out of such a situation, and none of her older colleagues on the far side of the garden noticed her plight. The other clerks at the table laughed.
“My Lord,” Dahoud said. “She doesn’t want your attentions.”
“She’s only a bellydancer.” Contempt oiled Govan’s voice. Still, he released the girl’s hand, slapped her on the rump, and watched her scurry towards the safety of the musicians. “These performers are advertised as genuine Darrians. I have a mind to have them arrested for fraud. I suspect …” He ran the tip of his finger along his eating bowl. “They’re mere Samilis.”
Dahoud, himself a Samili, refused to react to the jab. Govan was not only satrap of the province, but Dahoud’s employer, as well as the father of the lovely Esha.
“Samilis are everywhere these days.” Peering down his nose, Govan swirled the wine in his beaker. “Not that I have anything against Samilis. Given the right kind of education, their race can develop remarkable intelligence, practically equal to that of Quislakis. They can make valuable contributions to society.” He stroked the purple fringe of his armband, insignia of his rank. “Provided they respect their betters.”
The other clerks at the table bobbed their chins in eager agreement.
Dahoud the Black Besieger would not have tolerated taunts from this pompous peacock, but Dahoud the council clerk had to bow. Submission was the price for guarding his secret.
At the entry arch, a short man in the yellow tunic and turban of a royal rider was consulting with the tavern keeper.
“Is that messenger looking for you, my Lord?” Dahoud asked.
Govan shifted into his official pose and summoned the man with a flick of his sandalwood fan. The courier walked on bowed legs as if he still had a mount between his thighs. Conversations halted, glances followed him, and whiteseers peered, anticipating business.
Lord Govan put on his official smile to receive the leather-wrapped parcel.
“Forgive me, my Lord,” the herald said. “The message I carry is for Dahoud, the clerk.”
Govan’s hand pulled back and his smile vanished.
Dahoud’s stomach went cold: The Queen or her Consort would not write to an ordinary clerk. After three years of respite, his anonymity was breached. He stripped off the camel-skin wrap and broke the scroll’s seal. The ends of the purple ribbon dropped into the mutton sauce.
“The High Lord Kirral, Consort to the Great Luminous Queen, greets Dahoud, council clerk in the satrapy of Idjlara: Present yourself at the palace without delay. The Queendom needs the Black Besieger. K.”
The expansive curves of the signature “K” claimed more space on the parchment than the message.
In his bowl, the uneaten mutton was going cold, whitish grease separating from the sauce. A large fly drifted belly-up in the liquid, its legs clawing for a hold in the air. The memories of siege warfare wrapped around Dahoud, those sour-sweet odours of fear and faeces, of disease and burning flesh.
At twenty-five, he had a conscience heavier than a brick-carrier’s tray and more curses on his head than a camel had fleas. He had left the legion to cut himself off temptation, to deprive the djinn of fodder. After a siege, rape was legal, a soldier’s right, practically expected of him, part of the job. By returning to war, he would forfeit his victories over his craving. The djinn would again be his master.
Yet he ached to wear the general’s cloak again, to silence sneering bureaucrats, to make women take notice. He lusted for that power the way a heavy drinker, deprived of his solace, ached for a sip of wine. The yearning to wield a sword ached in his arms, his chest throbbed with the urge to command, and his loins flamed with the dark desire. He felt the panting breaths of women and their hot resisting bodies, smelled the scent of female fright and sweating fury.
“Why is the Consort writing to you?” Govan leant forward to grab the document. “You’re out of your depth with royal matters. I’ll read and explain.”
“Why should I want your counsel?” Dahoud tucked the rolled parchment into his belt.
“Don’t get pert, Samili!” Govan barked. “Give me that letter.”
“The Consort summons.” Dahoud rose. “Good afternoon, my Lord. Don’t expect me back soon.”
He strode to the exit, his mind reeling like a spindle. Could he deny that he was the Black Besieger? Refuse a royal order? Lead an army without stimulating the djinn?
On a low stone wall near the entrance gate, a row of whiteseers perched like hungry birds. Whiteseers had glimpses of futures others could not even imagine. One of them slid off the wall and sauntered in his direction. A coating of pale clay covered her sharp-boned triangular face and her long hair, and painted black and blue rings adorned her clay-whitened arms.
“Your hands,” she demanded.
“I need to know what will happen if -”
“Give your copper to a soothsayer,” she snapped. “We white ones only give advice. We can see the future; we can see several futures for everyone, but we won’t tell you all we see.”
“Advice is all I want.”
“That’s what they all say. Yet everyone asks for more. I give one piece of advice, the best I can give to help a client. They always demand that I tell them what I see. Well, I won’t.” Nevertheless, she grabbed the copper ring from Dahoud’s fingers and threaded it on her neck-thong. Her tunic smelled of old sweat and mouldy wool.
She grasped his hands to pinch their flesh, her long nails tickling. Her white paint contrasted with Dahoud’s bronze tan. When she felt the pulse and lifted his hand to her face to listen and sniff, he could have sworn he saw her blanch under the white clay as her closed eyes stared into his past. She sagged forward and stayed in a silent slouch.
At last she straightened, her eyes wide, her mouth open, but no words burst forth. So she had seen what he had done, and worse, what he might do once more.
“I assure you, I’ll never again…”
“I can’t read if you chatter.” She frowned at his hands. “My advice: Get stronger arms.”
He flexed his biceps, startled. “My arms are strong! I do trickriding, I wrestle, I lift weights.” Every night, Dahoud exercised until his muscles screamed, to block out his cravings and punish his body for its desires.
The seer’s mouth curled with contempt, making more clay crumble. “You’re not listening. I didn’t say strong. I said stronger.” She pinched his biceps. “Much stronger.”
“What difference can arm muscles make?”
“I told you to give your copper to a soothsayer.” She ambled off, leaving a cloud of unwashed stink and crumbles of clay.
Dahoud hurried to the stable to ready his horse. He had to persuade the Consort not to send the Black Besieger back to war.
Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), Six Historical Tales Vol 1, Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2 and 3 (mild horror stories),Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight Scenes and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).
She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.
I’ve submitted my most recent YA novel to the contest, Pitch Madness.
People are posting their Pitch Madness submissions on their blogs because we’re all morbidly curious, so here’s the pitch/excerpt that got me to round two. I hope I get into the finals — there will only be 60 finalists!
Name: Emily Ann Ward
Title: THE APPRENTICE
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 89,000
When seventeen-year-old Madison discovers her dad’s been murdered, his magic stolen, she’ll stop at nothing to learn the truth. Every clue points toward one man: the father of the guy she’s falling for.
The air crackled around Madison as she felt the energy inside her build. She loved this feeling, this anticipation, the way the magic surged inside of her, waiting and wanting. Her fingers twitched, and she narrowed her eyes at her opponent.
Colin stood across the mat, his knees bent, his hands slightly raised. He grinned at her, tilting his head down, his long lashes nearly covering his eyes. “Come on, hit me with your best.” His grin widened. “If you can hit me at all.”
She smirked. “Oh, you’d be surprised at what I’m capable of.”
He opened his mouth, probably to goad her a little bit more, but she didn’t let him get a word out. She released her energy, forcing it into the air, sending it straight for his chest. Her energy was purple, a unique hue just for her. He broadened his chest and straightened his shoulders. Cocky little turd.
Unfortunately, he had every right to be. He was an Absorber—everything she threw at him, he’d only absorb to be released later.
The energy hit his chest, and his skin glowed underneath his shirt as he absorbed it. If he were anyone else, he would have had to block it to avoid a nasty burn.
She sent another shot at him, but he was already releasing her energy, shooting it towards her—it had taken on Colin’s color, a deep green. She darted back while twisting her magic so it hit his. When they collided in the air, sparks flew: purple and green.
I love the Walking Dead. It’s a great show. Addicting, action-packed with flawed yet likable characters. But I’ve noticed something recently. The men make all the decisions. The men are the ones driving the plot. The women? Not so much. They’re usually subplots. For example, Andrea’s botched suicide and her wanting a gun; Beth wanting to kill herself; Maggie and Glenn getting together and getting kidnapped by Merle.
Of course, the love triangle between Rick, Lori, and Shane drove a lot of the conflict in season one and two. But it was primarily Shane who was making a fuss about it. Lori was over him as soon as she found out Rick was alive. Lori has had the most influence on the plot out of the female characters. Michonne is in a close second, I think, because she helped Rick’s group back into Woodbury.
Contrast this with a show like Battlestar Galactica.
Starbuck. All I have to do is say her name and fans of Battlestar Galactica can think of all the ways she changed the plot. Not subplots where she’s falling in love with someone or having emotional problems. No, there were times when her actions—not the actions of men reacting to her—change the plot.
The female cylons have way more influence on the plot than the male ones. There’s a woman president, for Pete’s sake.
I would talk about other TV shows, but to be honest, I can count the TV shows I’ve watched at least 75% of the episodes of on two hands. Lost passes as do most NBC Comedies. Breaking Bad has one influential female character, Skylar. And that’s the end of Emily’s TV list! (I’m in the process of watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Vampire Diaries, which definitely both pass…for now)
As I do when I analyze any story, I try to apply this to my own stories. Is gender affecting my plot so that for some weird reason, all the men are the ones in charge and changing things? Have my women become the docile, reactive creatures of so many TV shows and movies out there?
I’m happy to say: no, they’re not.
In Promising Light, Grace is a young noble prophesied to break a curse on a shape changing family. Her actions drive a lot of the plot. In Promising Hope, she is kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place and much of what she does is reactionary because of the situation she’s in. But I know that in Promising Power, she’s going to be driving that book. Sierra is—and will be—much the same way. A lot of the oppressors and political leaders in their world are men, so I had to work with that. Every setting will be different when it comes to gender relations.
In Connection, Anna is the main character along with her ex-best friend, Aaron. Anna struggles with her feelings for Aaron—does she forgive him? Does she let him back in her life? And how the heck is she supposed to respond to these new powers they have? Her and Aaron, I feel, have pretty equal development, page-time, and influence on the plot.
If you write anything at all, think about your characters and their roles in the story. I’m not saying women should influence a story just for the sake of you having women influencing the story. But I think if writers were truly writing honest, well-rounded characters, they’d find that of course the women are going to affect the plot because they’re people and people act and they make decisions and sometimes those decisions change the lives of everyone around them. When writers don’t respect that aspect of their female characters, it makes me lose a little bit of respect for them.
At the same time, I recognize that gender and its effects on plot lines will depend on the setting and the socialization of the characters. In a post-apocalyptic situation like the Walking Dead, the women may feel more comfortable letting the men lead their group through walkers and crazy adversaries. And the men were the ones who have been in dangerous situations before—mainly Rick and Shane being police officers. Plus, let’s face it, if a woman had stepped up into Rick’s position, would she have gotten the respect that Rick did? Probably not. (But come on, you guys, Laura Roslin was the friggin president!)
I recognize that sometimes characterization will influence who is driving the plot. I still love the Walking Dead and I’ll watch it until the end…probably. But I won’t stop watching just for that reason.
Just think about it, whether you write stories or you watch them. You might be surprised by what you see.
I read somewhere (Tumblr?) that there should be an awards show for books and authors. This got me thinking. We have a bunch of book awards: the Pulitzer prize, the Nobel prize for Literature, the National Book Award. Often, though, these have very few categories (Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction).
We do have the Goodreads Choice Awards where Goodreads users vote for their favorite books in various categories: Biography, Nonfiction, Fiction/Literature, Romance, Young Adult, etc.
But no, books don’t have something like the Oscars for books. I mean, can you imagine a bunch of reclusive authors dressing up and standing awkwardly on the red carpet, then getting up on stage for an award they really don’t feel they deserve?
Hollywood is full of beautiful, poised people. They make their living off of acting and looking a certain way. Though most of us are talented, writers are not paid for our looks or our performance skills. No one cares about what we wore to the grocery store. No one is getting their hair cut in our style.
But you know what? Let’s entertain this idea. These are the categories I think should be part of a future Book Oscars award show.
- Best Author
- Best Female Protagonist
- Best Male Protagonist
- Best Book Couple
- Best Romance/Fantasy/Historical/Young Adult/Mystery/Fill in the Genre Blank here!
- Best Book Cover
- Scariest Book
- Most Poetic Writing
- Most Interesting Nonfiction Book
- Best Series
- Most Prolific Author
- This Book Should Be a Movie
- This Book Should Be a TV Series
- I’d Never Want to Live There
- Wow, I Wasn’t Expecting This One to be Good
- Best Book Boyfriend
- Best Book Best Friend
- Most Interesting Magic System
- Couldn’t Put It Down
- Best Setting
- Didn’t See That Plot Twist Coming
- Most Likely to be Taught in Schools in 100 Years
- I Cried My Eyes Out In a Good Way
Well, maybe some of those are a little off, but you get the point. A book awards show would be strange. As a writer, I’d be like, ‘Oh hell no’ mostly because I’d be jealous of all these successful authors. But as a reader, I’d probably really enjoy it. Who are the people behind my favorite books? We can see their true colors when they’re expected to parade around in fancy dresses and suits.
Oh, and I vote Hank and John Green host it.
If You’re Going Through Hunger Games Withdrawals
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Scifi/dystopian set in a world where men can hear each other’s thoughts, called their “noise.” A trilogy with deep societal issues that echo the Hunger Games’ themes of inequality and power. The characters are younger, so while there is a romance, there’s very little kissing and definitely no fake proposals.
Divergent by Victoria Roth
I’m sure you’ve heard of this one if you’ve already looked into books similar to The Hunger Games. Set in a futuristic Chicago in a society that has been divided into four factions. Features a protagonist just as badass and multi-dimensional as Katniss and plenty of romance. First two books in the trilogy have been published, third is forthcoming.
Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden
Set in an Australia that’s been invaded by foreigners, seven teenagers became guerilla fighters trying to stay alive in a country no longer their own. Deals with a lot of survival-of-the-fittest issues similar to the Hunger Games. A seven book series that’s already finished — no waiting for the next release!
If You Want Action and Romance AND Beautiful Prose
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
This is at the top of my to-do list right now. I read the sample online, and it has some wonderful writing. The premise is set in a dystopian world and based around a girl whose touch is lethal. Sounds amazing, and the author has some very funny videos online.
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Another dystopian book, this time set in a world where love is considered a disease. Lauren Oliver weaves her words together like poetry while telling us Lena’s story as she’s infected with love. Beautiful writing, and the last book in the trilogy will be released next month.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
This book appeals to young adult and adults alike. A story set in Prague about star-crossed lovers, the book follows Karou, the unique girl with blue hair and a strange family, as she meets Akiva, a man some would call an angel. Beautiful, poetic writing with an intriguing story.
If You Want a Unique Fantasy World
Smokeless Fire by Samantha Young
This YA Paranormal centers around Djinn, gods who inspired the legends of genies, and Ari, who finds out she’s much more than she thought she was. Young’s Warriors of Ankh and The Fade series are also very unique. This is a self-published book available primarily in ebook (print is available, but not widespread distribution: better bought online).
Becoming by Raine Thomas
Amber has no idea what she is or what causes her to explode every three years, but in this story, she finally finds answers for the strange things that have happened in her life. A great romance tied up with strong world building and an exciting story. Also a self-published book that probably won’t be in your Barnes & Noble.
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Set in a medieval world where certain people have different graces (powers). Katsa has the Grace of killing, and she’s worked as an assassin for her uncle for years. Things change when she meets Po and investigates a mysterious kidnapping. Fire and Bitterblue are also set in the same world, though they focus on different protagonists.
If You Don’t Mind Crying Your Eyes Out
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
A powerful story about young love and the fleetingness of life. The book follows Hazel, a young teenage girl with cancer, who meets Augustus Waters, a boy her age who also has cancer. They bond over books and video games and slowly fall in love and learn what it means to love and live and. . .I know this is a cheesy description, but it’s so good.
If You Need to Understand the Female Species’ Obsession with Mr. Darcy
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (duh)
Okay, I know it’s not young adult, really. But I just needed to add it to the list since a lot of teens read this. It’s been a classic for generations among everyone, mostly females — if you have any book nerd friends, they’ll definitely be Darcy fangirls. Just read it.
If You are Anyone with Breath in their Lungs
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This is a book I cannot praise enough. Set in Nazi Germany during World War II, this story is narrated by Death and follows young Liesel as she learns about the power of words, friendship, and family. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and I think everyone should read it. Don’t disappoint me.
What are your recommendations? Young adult or no, what books should we be reading, in your opinion?