Author Interview: J. Grace Pennington

J Grace PenningtonThe next author in our lineup of homeschooled authors is J. Grace Pennington, author of Never which I reviewed last Friday. Please join me today in welcoming her for an interview.

How did you chose the story line for Never? What was your inspiration?
It started out as many of my novel ideas do–with a smattering of various disconnected elements that I wanted to get into one story together. I had the idea of the “never” theme, the idea of the mystery, the mines, the western setting, and some other things, and I pulled them together into a single plot with a lot of planning and a little inspiration from some favorite books and movies.

How much research did you do for this story?
Not very much! The element I researched most was probably the mines. I looked up everything I could find in our encyclopedias about coal mining, and talked to some people I knew who had visited or toured old coal mines. Other than that I just researched small elements as they came into the story. Firearms, sleepwear, tobacco usage, etc. Just enough to keep the story fairly period-accurate.

What message would you like readers to take away from this book?
Basically to never give up. Life is often hard, even if most of us don’t have to get worked half to death in a torturous coal mine. Things are tough, bad things happen, and sometimes we feel an awful lot like just letting go of what’s right. But we have a Source of strength that will never fail us, and so we can choose to hold to our principles no matter what the cost. That’s what I wanted to show. Hope in the midst of darkness.

Tell us about your experience with self-publishing. Why did you chose to self-publish?
Self-publishing is definitely a lot of work! I choose it because it offers a lot more control. Everything stays in the hands of the author, which is ideal in many ways, it just requires lots and lots of work. With this, my second book, I had someone to help me with part of the process, a designer who formatted it, designed the cover, and helped me proofread. That made it significantly less hard, even though it was still fairly stressful. I definitely recommend getting help if you can, even if it costs you something, but keeping the control in your own hands seems wise to me, if at all possible.

Are you working on any new books?
Yes! Right now I’m working on the next few books in my young adult science-fiction series “Firmament.” The second book will hopefully be out later this year, and the third book is about halfway finished, while the fourth is just past the outlining stage. I also have another book, “Implant,” which I hope to publish later in the year.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
They say to write what you know. Some people interpret this to mean you can only write about the lifestyle that you live, and experiences similar to those you’ve actually been through, but I don’t think that’s the case. While I’ve never lived in the Old West, never solved a murder mystery, and never once been coal mining, I think I did write what I know in this story. I may not have experienced mining, but I’ve experienced darkness. I may not know mystery-solving, but I do know fear. I may not have had to survive through torture and starvation, but I have had to cling to hope when I felt weak and hopeless inside. I think these are things we can all relate to, on some level. And I hope that readers are able to take something away from it that can help them on their journeys.

Thank you for having me on your blog, Leah!

Thank you for joining us, Grace! If anyone has questions for Grace about Never, writing, self-publishing, her other books, etc. feel free to leave them in the comments section!

Book Review: Never

Never

“Listen to me, kid. It don’t matter what happens. It don’t matter what anybody thinks or does. All that matters is that you keep fightin’ and never, you hear me? never give up.”

I think this is the first time I’ve given a self-published book a five star rating. I found “Never” through a blog scavenger hunt the author did to celebrate the book release. When I downloaded the free sample, I didn’t know what to expect. The sample definitely hooked me.

Travis Hamilton, a scholarly young man, is an unlikely suspect for murder. When he is convicted and sentenced ten years labor in Dead Mines, his brother Ross is determined to clear Travis. Ross knows his brother cannot survive the sentence, and he knows Travis is not the murderer. But the web of deception is more tangled than either brother imagined. As their journeys increase in difficulty, both brothers turn to moral convictions that must “never” be abandoned, no matter what the cost. Can Travis survive the evil rule of the mine boss? Can Ross reach the bottom of an ever deepening mystery before it’s too late to rescue his brother?

Some of Travis’s experiences in the mine might make this book unsuitable for young children. If it was a movie I’d give it a PG rating. That said, this story was refreshing. Even in Christian fiction, it’s rare to see heroes sticking to what they believe as tenaciously as Ross and Travis. The author did a wonderful job showing principled good winning over unprincipled evil. I’ll be looking forward to reading more from this author.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Author: J Grace Pennington
Audience: Tween–YA
Genre: Historical Adventure
Pages: 318
Publisher: Self-Published

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Author Interview: Molly Evangeline

Molly EvangelineLast Friday I reviewed The Pirate Daughter’s Promise. If you haven’t already done so, go comment on that post for your chance to win a free copy of the book. Today, author Molly Evangeline is here for an interview. Please join me in welcoming her.

What gave you the idea for The Pirate Daughter’s Promise?
All I used to write were horse stories until I saw The Fellowship of the Ring as a teenager. That was the first step that started me in the direction of writing action/adventure type stories. A year later, I saw the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie for my fifteenth birthday and fell in love with the idea of pirates and sailing. The plot for The Pirate Daughter’s Promise developed shortly after that.

How long did it take for you to write this book?
I wrote the first three or four chapters as the story was developing, but hit a snag and set it aside for about three years. My love for pirate stories resurfaced again with the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie so I pulled the story back out. Once I got into it, I wrote the remaining chapters in about two and a half weeks.

Tell us about your self-publishing experience. What has been the best and hardest thing about self-publishing?
It took a long time to really settle into self/indie publishing. When I first chose to self-publish The Pirate Daughter’s Promise it was because I had no idea how to get into traditional publishing and I was impatient. Now it’s a decided choice, and I don’t think I’d ever choose traditional publishing even if it was offered to me. The best thing about it is the control and the potential to actually make a living off it. I am a very do-it-yourself type of person. I typically spend over a year actually writing a book, and when I put that much effort into something, I want to see it to the end so I know I’ll be 100% happy with it. And the fact is, if you’re trying to do this as your job, indie publishing is much more profitable than traditional publishing, but it all depends on your ability to market and sell books. That’s where the hardest part comes in. Marketing is something you have to work very hard at, especially if it’s not something you’re good at. It takes a lot of time and effort that you would much rather spend on the actual writing process. But, if you’re doing what you love, it’s all worth it in the end.

What person has influenced your writing the most?
Definitely my mom. She is a writer too, and if she had not been writing while I was young, I may never have tried it myself. It was also her decision to homeschool me that played a huge part in where I am now. All that extra time I had to devote to writing, and imagining, and improving my skills was invaluable. A homeschool lifestyle also gave me the DIY attitude I needed to pursue self-publishing and setting up my own indie publishing company. I also have to point to J.R.R. Tolkien as the second most influential person in my writing. Discovering The Lord of the Rings when I was thirteen was a turning point for me. That’s the first time I realized writing was what I wanted to do with my life, and his stories still have a huge effect on what I like to write today.

Are you working on any new stories?
I am right in the middle of writing a new young adult fantasy series called Ilyon Chronicles. It’s the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken. It will be six books (unless something drastic happens along the way and a seventh book pops up). I started the first book, which turned out to be the longest book I’ve ever written, in June 2011, and I am now just about finished with book two. It’s set in a medieval/ancient Rome type setting with a tyrannical government and dealing with some issues we have now in modern society, so it’s full of action/adventure as well as many spiritual, emotional, and physical struggles. I’ve never been so close to or related so much to my characters as I have this group. I’m only a third of the way through the series and I’ve already laughed and cried and experienced incredible highs and lows with them.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
I am beyond excited to share Ilyon Chronicles. I have a ton of work to do before that can happen, but every day I’m working hard to get there. There’s something special about this story. The things God has been showing me and the way He’s guiding me through all the little details is amazing. This story is so far above anything I’ve ever done before, and I can hardly wait to see what readers think and what God does with it. I’ve already set up a website for it, http://www.ilyonchronicles.com, and have an active Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/ilyonchronicles. I try to keep it updated often with where I am in writing the series, and occasionally post little snippets of the story.

Thanks for the interview, Molly! Readers, do you have thoughts or questions about anything Molly said?

Book Review: El Dorado

Roll up your sleeves and get ready to dive into another adventure with Sir and Lady Blakeney! As promised, here is a review of a sequel to The Scarlet Pimpernel. Don’t ask me what a Spanish sounding title has to do with a story of the French Revolution. I haven’t figured it out yet. I tried looking up what “El Dorado” means the other day, but Google translate didn’t know. Any ideas? Anyway, here’s the review. The quote should should sound familiar. 😉

“Dear heart,” he murmured, “do not look on me with those dear, scared eyes of yours. If there is aught that puzzles you in what I said, try and trust me a little longer. Remember, I must save the Dauphin at all costs; mine honor is bound with his safety. What happens to me after that matters but little, yet I wish to live for your dear sake.”

Only one thing matters more to Sir Percy Blakeney than his wife, Marguerite. His honor. And his honor is bound to his newest mission. The French revolutionaries hold their young prince captive. The young Dauphin’s life is in danger, and Sir Percy (also known as the Scarlet Pimpernel) determines to rescue the lad. The mission is fraught with danger, especially now that Citizen Chauvelin knows the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Marguerite’s love struck brother, Armand, isn’t helping matters either. Are the reckless adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel about come to end?

I haven’t read all of the sequels to The Scarlet Pimpernel, but this is one of my favorites out of the ones I have read. (I think I might say that about all of them, though.) Sir Percy Blakeney is doing crazy things to rescue people. What’s not to like? 😀 For anyone who hasn’t read The Scarlet Pimpernel, these books can be pretty heavy on the romance, but there’s nothing explicit, and Percy and Marguerite are married, so it’s not inappropriate either. If you’re not big on this period of history, don’t let that stop you from reading these books. I had the same reservations and The Scarlet Pimpernel won me over. Enjoy your reading!

Author: Baroness Emmuska Orczy
Audience: Tweens and Up
Genre: Classic Adventure
Pages: 341
Publisher: My copy is from Dover Publications

What are your expectations for this sequel to The Scarlet Pimpernel? Do you think it can live up to the first book?

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Author Interview: Chuck Black

On Monday I posted a review and giveaway of Sir Bentley and Holbrook Court. Tomorrow is the last day to enter the drawing to win a signed copy of Sir Bentley, so make sure you leave a comment on the giveaway post!

Enjoy today’s interview with author Chuck Black.

How long has it been since you started writing the Kingdom books?
I began writing the Kingdom Series books in 1999. I started with Kingdom’s Edge, the third book in the series. My inspiration for writing that first book was to find a way to help my children get excited about their faith, and to help them understand the spiritual warfare that the Bible talks about so often. The story of Jesus was the best place to start. All of the other books, including the Knights of Arrethtrae, flow out of Kingdom’s Edge.

Do you have a favorite book out of the Kingdom Series or Knights of Arrethrae Series?
That is a difficult question to answer. I like different books for different reasons. Kingdom’s Edge because it was my first and purest work. It felt as though God specifically gave it to me to write. Beyond that I don’t think I could pick one of the Kingdom Series books over the other. For the Knights of Arrethtrae series, it would probably be a toss-up between Sir Dalton and Sir Quinlan with the other four coming in a close second :).

Tell us about your journey from self-publishing to traditional publishing.
I self-published four of the Kingdom Series books because I did not want to take the long and usually unfruitful path to traditional publishing. We stumbled into a market in the homeschool community with the books that gave us an indication that there was a real need for a series of wholesome, exciting, Christian novels. After five years of watching the interest and the sales double each year, I came to a place where I was exhausted and could not keep up with the growing demand for the books. That is when I asked God to really bless the books, if it were within His will to do so. A few months later, Multnomah Publishing signed on for the books and we expanded the series from four to six books. Once those proved to be successful, I signed another contract with Multnomah for the Knights of Arrethtrae series. It has been an unusual journey all testifying to God’s hand working it all out.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
I would encourage aspiring authors to read a lot and to learn the techniques of their favorite authors. For example, how does the author develop the characters, is the story plot driven or character driven, how does he handle dialog, and how much detail is necessary to make a scene feel real. I would also recommend getting the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. It is an excellent resource for beginning writers. Finally, I recommend practicing your writing and having people give you honest and objective feedback. Before I decided to print 500 copies of Kingdom’s Edge, I printed five copies under a pen name. I then asked people for feedback. Be prepared for both the positive and the negative feedback and then adjust. Constructive criticism is the best tool for learning, if the receiver is willing to accept it.

Do you have any new books in the works?
Actually, I just signed a contract for a trilogy with Waterbrook Multnomah. I can’t give too much a way but it will be a modern-day spiritual warfare series. I’m excited about it, and I pray that God will use it to inspire people to serve Him with all heart, soul, mind, and strength!

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
The central theme of all of my books is this…God is looking for hearts that are completely devoted to Him so that he might strongly support them (2 Chronicles 16:9). Find your passion for God through the talents and abilities He has given you and then say “yes” to the call and the adventure He has waiting for you. It will be the thrill of a lifetime…I guarantee it!

My website is www.KingdomSeries.com and if anyone would like to write to me, I can be reached at kingdom[at]perfect-praise.com. Thank you for the chance to share my heart with your readers.

Thank you for this wonderful interview, Mr. Black!

Book Review: Hero

A thin film of white powder trickled out the holes Mike’s teeth had made. He shook a little into his palm and looked at it. It was as fine as talcum powder. Powdered sugar. Why would anyone send a package of powdered sugar through the mail? He wet a finger, touched it to the powder and tasted it. Then he just stood there, his face twisted out of shape, and shock rolled through him in waves. What he had just tasted was heroin.

When Chris George and his dope sniffing dog Mike botch a case, they get kicked out the the Cost Guard. Lieutenant Ballard is convinced Chris is involved with the mob and messed up on purpose. When Chris takes a new job as night watchman at a warehouse, he isn’t expecting trouble. Not until Mike finds a package of heroin. Chris doesn’t think he’ll be believed if he brings the heroin to the Cost Guard. What will he do when his life is threatened?

This book has been a favorite of mine for a long time. It’s an intense, high-stakes story, but remains appropriate and clean for younger readers. In my opinion, this is the best of Walt Morey’s books.

Author: Walt Morey
Alternate Title: The Lemon Meringue Dog
Audience: Tween–Young Adult
Genre: Adventure
Pages: 165
Publisher: Puffin Books

Have you read any Walt Morey books? Which one is your favorite?

Book Review: The Prisoner of Zenda

“Is the king dead?” he whispered.
“Please, God, no,” said I. “But he’s in the hands of Black Michael!”

Rudolf Rassendyll, an Englishman, bears a striking resemblance the king of Ruritania. A chance meeting in the woods leads to Rudolf’s acquaintance with the king. He never expects his face and head of Elphberg red hair to force him to become an impostor, but when the king goes missing, Rudolf is persuaded to impersonate the king until a rescue can be effected. Will they be able to snatch the king away from Black Michael? And what of the love blooming between Rudolf and Princess Flavia?

My first introduction to this story was in video format. I later read the book as part of the required reading for the One Year Adventure Novel writing class. I loved both versions. In some ways the story is a typical adventure tale but it has its own unique flair. A good read for girls and guys alike.

Author: Anthony Hope
Audience: Tween–Adult
Genre: Adventure
Pages: 208
Publisher: Penguin (and many others)

What books do you think The Prisoner of Zenda is similar to? What is your favorite scene from this book?

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