Remember Me?

This is just a little reminder that we’re posting over on Chasing Dreams Publishing now.

We’ve got some great posts – including author interviews with Jozi Flash 2018’s anthology contributors!

Go check it out! They’d love to hear from you!

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Writer’s Block or Boredom? How to add conflict to plot fillers.

Struggling with writer’s block? Can’t get past a certain point in your writing? Take a look at this post over on my website. It has some useful tips and tricks for overcoming writer’s block.

Double Cover Reveal – A Falling Friend, A Forsaken Friend – Sue Featherstone & Susan Pape

Two covers in one day? You guessed it!

Thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity to be part of this! There’s a giveaway at the end!

A Falling Friend

There are two sides to every friendship.

After spending her twenties sailing the globe, making love on fine white sand, and thinking only of today, Teri Meyer returns to Yorkshire – and back into the life of childhood friend Lee. Plus, there’s the new job, new man – or three – and the guaranteed lump sum of a bursary for her academic research piece on the way. Life is first-rate.

What could possibly go wrong?

Going out on a limb to get best friend Teri a job at the same university seemed like a great idea. But it doesn’t take long for Lee Harper to notice a pattern. Teri seems to attract trouble, or maybe she creates it, and Lee can see exactly where things are spiralling – downwards. But Teri’s not the sort to heed a warning, so Lee has no choice but to stand by and watch.

And besides, she has her own life to straighten out.

For fans of BRIDGET JONES, this ‘witty’ chick lit has been described as a ‘rollicking good read’ and is the first in the FRIENDS trilogy following the lives of two thirty-something women, who, despite their close friendship, don’t always see eye-to-eye.

The Cover

AFF cover

 

A Falling Friend is available to purchase on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads.

A Forsaken Friend

AFF2 Cover

No-one said friendship was easy.

Things can’t get much worse for Teri Meyer. If losing her job at the university and the regular allowance from her dad’s factory isn’t bad enough, now her ex-best friend has gone and stolen her ex-husband! Well, to hell with them all. A few weeks in the countryside at her brother’s smallholding should do the trick – and the gorgeous and god-like neighbour might help.

But then there’s Declan, not to mention Duck’s Arse back in Yorkshire…

It’s not as if Lee Harper set out to fall in love with her best friend’s ex-husband. But, for once, her love life is looking up – except for all the elephants in the room, not to mention Mammy’s opinion on her dating a twice-divorced man. Perhaps things aren’t as rosy as she first thought. And now with one family crisis after another, Lee’s juggling more roles – and emotions – than she ever imagined.

Maybe sharing her life with a man wasn’t such a grand idea.

The FRIENDS trilogy continues in this heartwarming and hilarious hoot as two best friends navigate men, careers, family and rock bottom in this brilliant sequel to A FALLING FRIEND.

A Forsaken Friend is available to purchase on Amazon UK, and Amazon US.

About the Authors

Sue Author Pic

Sue Featherstone and Susan Pape are both former newspaper journalists with extensive experience of working for national and regional papers and magazines, and in public relations.

More recently they have worked in higher education, teaching journalism – Sue at Sheffield Hallam and Susan at Leeds Trinity University.

The pair, who have been friends for 25 years, wrote two successful journalism text books together – Newspaper Journalism: A Practical Introduction and Feature Writing: A Practical Introduction (both published by Sage).

Their debut novel, A Falling Friend, published by Lakewater Press, has been followed by a second book, A Forsaken Friend, in their Friends trilogy.

Sue, who is married with two grown-up daughters, loves reading, writing and Nordic walking in the beautiful countryside near her Yorkshire home.

Susan is married and lives in a village near Leeds, and, when not writing, loves walking and cycling in the Yorkshire Dales. She is also a member of a local ukulele orchestra.

They blog about books at https://bookloversbooklist.com/

You can find both Sue and Susan on Twitter: @SueF_Writer and @wordfocus

Giveaway

One winner will receive an e-book of A Falling Friend and an e-ARC of A Forsaken Friend as well as wine voucher!

Go here to enter!

 

Positive-negative book reviews: What are they, and how do they help you?

As I delve into the world of book reviewing, I’ve been noticing a trend among authors to get rather despondent if reviewers give their books less than four stars on the rating scale.

As an author myself, I can completely relate to wanting everyone to absolutely love my books, but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that.

As an editor and reviewer, I can tell you right now that a positive-negative review is far better on the rating scale than a besotted and raving five star review will ever be (at least where other prospective readers are concerned).

First off, what is a positive-negative review?

This is a review that garners three or fewer stars on the rating scale, but; and this is important, still ends the review with positive feedback for the author.

When writing a positive-negative review – I really need to come up with a shorter name for that… PNr? That works. Now, where was I?

When writing a PNr, the reviewer will typically start with a list of “don’t likes” or, negatives. Some of these may be personal preferences, others will be technical such as editing mistakes. Whatever it is about the book that put the reader off, will be listed first.

To end the PNr, the reviewer will focus on aspects she did like. Whether it’s a relationship between characters, the humour in the writing, or even the style of writing, these are the characteristics that will balance the review from being negative, to being positive-negative.

A review that’s written in this format, is really helpful to both authors and readers, in spite of the sting that can come with the critiques and lower rating.

Why are positive-negative reviews good for authors?

A PNr gives a balanced perspective of a story that some critical readers will often overlook if reviews are too positive.

The Writing Cooperative states:

[Customers] will usually first note the number of total reviews — as a gauge of popularity — and then look at the average rating, and then possibly browse the content of the reviews. If they do, they normally read (more likely scan) one or two of them. And if they are like most people, they skip the positive ones and read a negative one first, before going back to a positive one (if they even do that).

A PNr; in this case, is really beneficial based on this trend, because if your rating is low, but the review ends on a positive note, readers are more likely to be willing to give your book a chance to let them decide for themselves.

Gigi Griffis posted the results of a really great survey on her blog, which states:

As for what we’re looking for in those reviews…mentions of typos and bad grammar are (by far) the thing most likely to put us off (self-published authors take note: hiring a copy editor is well worth it). A dragging middle (25%), unbelievable plot line (21%), ending people hated (21%), and unlikeable main character (20%) were also significant detractors. And 16% of respondents said they don’t want to buy a book with a cliffhanger ending.

A quick caveat: PNrs should not dip below three stars unless the book is literally a hot mess of poor grammar, atrocious spelling and terrible formatting that make it painful to read.

As Neal Wooten states in this article for Huffington Post:

If a book is well-written and well-edited, it should never get less than a three-star review. Just because you were not able to tell what the story was about from the book description, or if the story didn’t appeal to you as much as other books, is no reason to give a professional book a one or two-star review. That’s just petty. Stories are subjective, and just because it didn’t appeal to you doesn’t mean it won’t appeal to someone else. Explain in your review why you didn’t like the story. That’s what reviews are for.

Not only that, but PNrs often offer some really useful feedback, which, if you’re serious about improving as a writer, you may be able to implement in future projects. Obviously, take this with the DIWTTTSOM pinch of salt (Do I Want To Tell Their Story Or Mine?).

Why are positive-negative reviews good for readers?

As a reader with very limited time on my hands to read a book just for the sake of reading it, I love PNrs.

I will very seldom buy a book that only has positive, rave reviews. I’m a critical reader, and deliberately avoid the best-sellers list, seeking out indie authors and self-published books in an effort to support writers who are doing what I aim to do. In cases like this, I admit to assuming (wrongfully, I would hope), that if the smattering of reviews are all four stars or more, they’re written by friends and family who are supporting the author.

Unless those reviews are exceptionally well-written, I’m more likely to be wary of buying a book that only has positive feedback.

As a disclaimer, there are readers who claim to only read books with 4+ ratings on the bestsellers list. If there’s a lower review in there, they’ll bypass the book entirely. In my opinion, this is grossly unfair to new, or little known authors, as they’re the ones you’re skipping by judging books on these criteria. It’s also incredibly limiting to your ability to read widely, but that’s a rant for another day.

Why are positive-negative reviews good for reviewers?

As a reviewer, part of what you’re trying to cultivate (I may be wrong, here) is an ability to think critically about a story.

Rating books based on your personal opinion is all well and good, as long as you recognise that your review is subjective.

PNrs allow you to take a step back from your emotions, review both positive and negative features of the book for a reader who may not necessarily share all your opinions, and then give a rating that is still true to your preferences.

Not only does writing a review like this give you the advantage of considering all the options, but it also allows you to provide a far more satisfying five star review for the books that truly earn it.

As Wooten’s article states:

A five-star review should be for a book that has everything: good writing, good editing, and a story that makes you want to read it again and tell your friends about. Some people are too generous, which is generally not a bad trait to have in life. But I’ve looked at all the reviews of some reviewers to find that they’ve given a five-star review to all 30 books they’ve read. And while it’s very polite, it doesn’t serve the purpose for potential new readers. Seriously, nobody could be that lucky.

To summarise, reviewers generally really want to like every book they read. We don’t like criticising books for the sake of it; and if we do give a PNr, please acknowledge it for the advantages it carries, and the time it took to write.

For examples of some PNrs I wrote, take a look at this review, and this one.

As a reader, what sort of reviews make you sit up and take note of a book? I’d love to know your thoughts on PNrs: do you find them useful, or would you prefer rave reviews?

Cover Reveal & First Chapter – The Things We Need to Say by Rachel Burton

Once more joining up with Rachel’s Random Resources, I’m taking part in the cover reveal of The Things We Need to Say by Rachel Burton!

In addition to the cover, the first chapter has also been posted! Enjoy!

About the Book

Sometimes the things we never say are the most important.

Fran loves Will with all her heart. They had a whirlwind romance, a perfect marriage and a wonderful life. Until everything changed. Now Fran needs to find her way again and teaching a yoga retreat in Spain offers her just that. Leaving behind a broken marriage she has some very important decisions to make.

Will needs his wife, he needs her to open up to him if they’re to ever return to the ways things once were. But he may have damaged any possibility he had of mending their relationship and now Fran is in Spain and Will is alone.

As both Fran and Will begin to let go of a life that could have been, fate may just find a way of bringing them back together.

Perfect for fans of Katie Marsh, Amanda Prowse and Sheila O’Flanagan

The Cover

And now, the cover!

6 The Things We Need to Say_Final Cover

 

Wow! Can I please go to Spain?

The Things We Need to Say is available for pre-order on Amazon UK. It releases 11th May 2018.

About the Author

Rachel BurtonRachel Burton has been making up stories since she first learned to talk. After many false starts she finally made one up that was worth writing down.

After graduating with a degree in Classics and another in English, she didn’t really know what to do when she grew up. She has worked as a waitress, a paralegal and a yoga teacher.

She has spent most of her life between Cambridge and London but now lives in Leeds with her boyfriend and three cats. The main loves of her life are The Beatles and very tall romantic heroes.

Her debut, The Many Colours of Us, was an Amazon Kindle bestseller. Her second novel, The Things We Need to Say, is released on 11 May 2018. She is currently working on her third novel in which the heroine follows the love of her life to live in a city in northern England. It has no autobiographical elements at all … maybe.

Find her on Twitter & Instagram as @bookish_yogi or search Facebook for Rachel Burton Author. She is always happy to talk books, writing, music, cats and how the weather in Yorkshire is rubbish. She is mostly dreaming of her next holiday….

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/rachelburtonauthor/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/bookish_yogi

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/bookish_yogi/

And now, the first chapter of The Things We Need to Say!

DECEMBER 2004

 It started at the party. His hands on my hips, my forehead against his shoulder. He asked me to dance but he didn’t know how. We stood together at the edge of the dance floor shaking with laughter at his two left feet. I don’t know how long we stood there. I don’t know if anybody noticed.

He’d waited for me, sitting with my friends, not sure if I’d turn up or not. I wasn’t in the habit of going to work Christmas parties; I only went in the end because he said he would be there, because he said he would wait for me. I arrived just as the main course was being served. I slipped into the seat next to him. His hand brushed against my thigh as I sat down. He held my gaze for longer than he should have done.

I fell in love with him that night as we stood on the dance floor laughing, my hands on his waist, feeling the muscles of his back, the warmth of his body, through his dress shirt, the press of him against my hip.

That was where it began. I sometimes wonder if that should have been where it ended.

But later that evening, as I got out of his car, and I said those words I should have kept to myself, we both knew there was no going back.

 JULY 2016

Fran

She wakes up in the same position in which she fell asleep, her husband’s arms around her, their hands entwined on her stomach. Neither of them have slept that deeply for months. Fran remembers something: a hotel room on a Greek island, a feeling of hope, of new beginnings. She doesn’t allow the memory to linger. This is what they have now. They can be happy again if they allow themselves to be.

The hot, humid weather has broken in the night and she listens to the sound of summer rain on the roof. Will moves gently against her, pulling her closer. She feels his breath against her neck and the sensation of hot liquid in her stomach, a combination of desire and need. This is their second chance – she can’t let it pass her by.

‘I love you,’ Will says sleepily.

‘I love you too,’ she replies. It feels good to be saying it to each other again. She’s never stopped loving him; she just forgot how to tell him for a while.

‘Do you want me to go and make coffee?’ Will asks, nuzzling her neck.

‘Not just yet,’ she replies, turning around to look at him. His brown eyes are dark, impenetrable pools. His hair is pushed back off his face. Sometimes she forgets how much all of this has affected him too. Sometimes she forgets everything except her own pain. She feels his warmth against her, his strength. She feels as though the gulf that had been threatening to open up between them for the last year is slowly closing. She realises they have so much life ahead of them. So much time to learn to be happy again.

‘I thought I’d lost you,’ Will says quietly, reaching up to stroke her face. ‘I thought you’d gone, but recently I feel as though you’ve come back to me.’

She smiles softly. ‘I thought I’d lost you too,’ she says. ‘This last year has been …’ She doesn’t finish. She can’t finish.

She watches as a shadow of anguish crosses his face, as his brow furrows, as his jaw tightens. She recognises that look, recognises the pain he is trying to hide. She hears the shudder of his breath. His eyes flick away for a moment; he pauses for a fraction too long.

‘No,’ he says. ‘You never lost me. I’ll always be here.’

She kisses him gently then, and feels his hand drift down the bones of her spine.

Later, showered and dressed, they finally appear in the kitchen; Will’s younger brother, Jamie, is already sitting at the table drinking coffee. Will and Fran are hardly able to stop touching each other.

Jamie smiles at them, raising an eyebrow. ‘You’re up late,’ he says. Fran feels herself blushing, her stomach flipping over, and turns away towards the toaster.

‘Thanks for last night,’ Jamie goes on. ‘I needed that.’ Recently separated from his wife, living apart from his children, Jamie is lonely. Last night wasn’t the first Saturday night he’d spent with them. Fran knows Will has been throwing himself into cheering his brother up. She doesn’t mind. Jamie makes Will smile and it’s good to see him smile again.

As Will and Jamie start talking about the cricket, she feels her husband’s hand on her thigh, the warm, solid sensation of him right there next to her. They have been given a second chance, and they have grabbed it with both hands. She isn’t naive enough to think everything is going to go back to the way it used to be, but she knows that they can move on; they can talk and heal together. They can take another chance on living, find a new kind of normal.

Will stretches, draining his coffee cup. ‘This weather isn’t going to let up is it?’ he says looking out of the window where the rain is rattling against the frames like beads in a jar. ‘I’m going to have to cancel the cricket.’ As captain of the village team it is up to him to reschedule this afternoon’s match. Fran is quietly delighted that the weather means she doesn’t have to spend her last afternoon with her husband before she goes away watching him play cricket. Will gets up and walks into his study, shutting the door behind him.

‘How are you feeling about tomorrow?’ Jamie asks.

‘Nervous,’ Fran replies. ‘It’s the first time I’ve been on a plane on my own, which is pathetic at my age, I know.’

‘It’s OK to be nervous.’

‘It’s the first time Will and I have been apart since …’ She trails off. Jamie knows what she’s talking about. ‘I’m worried about him too.’

Jamie smiles. ‘I’ll look after him,’ he says.

After a moment Jamie gets up and follows Will into his study. He doesn’t knock; he just opens the door and walks in. As Fran starts to clear the breakfast dishes she hears raised voices but can’t quite make out what they are saying. She rolls her eyes to herself. As an only child she has long since given up on understanding Will and Jamie’s relationship: best friends one minute, bickering the next. She just hopes Jamie doesn’t stay too long – she wants her husband to herself for the day.

Will

It rains all day, the sky grey and waterlogged and heavy with cloud. After Jamie leaves, Will pulls Fran towards him, his hands at the back of her head where her skull meets her neck, where her hair is cut so short.

‘No cricket,’ he says. ‘I’m all yours.’

She smiles, standing on tiptoe to kiss him.

‘Can we just watch a film or something?’ she says. ‘I’m tired and I have to pack for Spain later.’ His stomach drops at the thought of her going away. He wishes he’d never encouraged her to do it.

‘I’d forgotten about Spain,’ he says.

‘No you hadn’t. It’s the only thing we’ve talked about for ages.’

Will had watched Fran spend the last few weeks flipping back and forth between excitement and terror at the thought of going to Spain on her own. He knew she was strong enough to do it; he knew she was stronger than anyone realised. But he also knew that she wondered if she was ready. When she first mentioned Spain to him he had seen it as a perfect opportunity to help her begin to put herself back together again after what had been the worst year of both their lives. He tried to believe that everything life threw at him was an opportunity.

Fran had been teaching at a studio in central Cambridge for six years and had been asked to teach for a week on a retreat in Spain. Will had always supported her teaching, always tried to put her career on a level par with his own and had done everything he could to help her find the strength to go back to work in January. None of it had felt as though it was enough. None of it would make up for the last year, the things he had said, the things he had done. Suddenly he is terrified about being on his own. Neither of them have been alone for months.

‘What do you want to watch?’ he asks, squatting down in front of the TV.

‘Can we watch Some Like it Hot?’ Fran replies.

Will rolls his eyes. He must have seen it a hundred times, but puts it in the DVD player anyway and goes to settle himself on the sofa. ‘Come here,’ he says, and she sits with him, leaning back against his chest.

‘Are you OK about Spain?’ he asks quietly.

‘I think so,’ she says. ‘I’m nervous, but I’m excited as well.’

‘Elizabeth will be there with you, won’t she?’

‘Yes, and Constance. In fact, I already know most of the other people who are going. I’ll be fine.’ She pauses. ‘Are you going to be OK?’ she asks quietly.

‘I’m going to miss you,’ he says, lying back on the sofa, wrapping his arms around her. He doesn’t know how to answer the question. He wants to tell her everything but knows that now is not the right time.

‘I’m going to miss you too,’ she replies.

He kisses the top of her head as she presses ‘play’ on the remote control. He watches her as she watches her favourite film, her lips moving along with the characters – she still knows every word by heart. They used to spend rainy Sundays like this when they were younger, when life seemed easier.

Halfway through the film he realises that Fran is crying – fat, salty tears running down her cheeks.

‘Fran?’ he asks quietly, pressing pause on the remote.

Fran doesn’t reply, she just turns around and he takes her in his arms. He feels her body against his. She clings to him as though her life depends on it and he holds her close as she cries and cries. He can’t remember the last time he saw her cry like this. They had both done their grieving in private over the last year but to Will it feels as though Fran has been holding all this in for months, shutting herself down. He’s relieved that she finally seems ready to let go.

‘I want my old life back,’ she sobs. ‘I want to be happy again.’

‘So do I,’ Will whispers. ‘And we will, in time. I promise.’

‘I wish we’d never bought this house – we had so much hope.’

‘Shhh …’ Will says softly, stroking her hair as she weeps against him.

 

Cover Reveal – The Best Boomerville Hotel by Caroline James

Another cover reveal? Heck yeah!

Teaming up with Rachel’s Random Resources, I’m taking part in the cover reveal of The Best Boomerville Hotel by Caroline James!

The book is the first to be launched in the Ruby Fiction imprint by Choc-Lit, so this is super-exciting!

About the Book

Jo Docherty and Hattie Contaldo have a vision – a holiday retreat in the heart of the Lake District exclusively for guests of ‘a certain age’ wishing to stimulate both mind and body with new creative experiences. One hotel refurbishment later and the Best Boomerville Hotel is open for business!

Perhaps not surprisingly Boomerville attracts more than its fair share of eccentric clientele: there’s fun loving Sir Henry Mulberry and his brother Hugo; Lucinda Brown, an impoverished artist with more ego than talent; Andy Mack, a charming Porsche-driving James Bond lookalike, as well as Kate Simmons, a woman who made her fortune from an internet dating agency but still hasn’t found ‘the One’ herself.

With such an array of colourful individuals there’s bound to be laughs aplenty, but could there be tears and heartbreak too and will the residents get more than they bargained for at Boomerville?

The Cover

And now, the cover!

 

TBBH high res cover

I love this cover. It’s so typically British, and for some reason, I’m reminded of some old cartoon bumper editions I had when I was a child. I’m so looking forward to reading this!

The Best Boomerville Hotel is available to purchase on Amazon UK, Kobo, iBooks, and iTunes.

About the Author

Choc Lit Caroline James PicCaroline James has owned and run businesses encompassing all aspects of the hospitality industry, a subject that features in her novels. She is based in the UK but has a great fondness for travel and escapes whenever she can. A public speaker, consultant and food writer, Caroline is a member of the Romantic Novelist’s Association and writes articles and short stories and contributes to many publications.

Her debut novel, Coffee, Tea, The Gypsy & Me is set in North West England, at the time of a famous gypsy horse fair.  The book went straight to number three on Amazon and was E-book of the Week in The Sun.

So, You Think You’re A Celebrity…Chef? was runner up the Winchester Writers festival for best TV Drama and takes a light-hearted look at the world of celebrity chefs as they battle it out for fame and fortune. Coffee, Tea, The Caribbean & Me was runner up at The Write Stuff, LBF, 2015 and is an Amazon best-seller and top recommended read by Thomson Holidays. Jungle Rock, a romcom novella set in Australia, revolves around a TV game show.

In her spare time, Caroline can be found trekking up a mountain or relaxing with her head in a book and hand in a box of chocolates.

You can connect with her on Facebook, her Website, or send her a Tweet.

Stay tuned for my review of The Best Boomerville Hotel, which will take place during the blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources on the 14th March! 

 

Wordsmiths – January 2018 – Bethany A. Jennings

Wordsmiths is a monthly post that interviews new and established authors, links to their media and published work, and best of all: excerpts!

January’s post is a little bit late because of the holidays (oh my gosh, can you believe we’re in 2018 already?!) Today I’m chatting to Bethany A. Jennings, author of the short stories, Threadbare and Dragon Lyric.

Let’s get started!

Wordsmiths Feature Image - January2018

Hi Bethany,

Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview!

To start with, paint me a picture of your favourite writing space. What’s in it, what colours do you surround yourself with, and what would you change about it?

My favourite writing spot is my living room couch, followed closely by my bed (pecking out something intense on my phone after midnight, usually!), and I haven’t customized either of those spaces for writing, so I’ll describe my third favorite place—my desk. It sits in the family dining room, where the walls are a warm cream color and covered with maps and my children’s abstract paintings. I have fantasy art by Julia Busko around and on the desk itself, a stack of books, a rock salt lamp, and a very messy basket full of paperwork and odds and ends. If I could change anything about it, I’d have that desk inside a quiet room with purple walls (and a comfy chair instead of a folding chair!), but for now I make it work with what I have. 

About You:

1. What is the first book that introduced you to the fantasy genre?

That’s hard to say because my mom read me SO many books growing up! It was my father, however, who introduced me to The Chronicles of Narnia, and read the whole series to me. While I doubt it was my very first foray into the fantasy genre, it was a memorable one! Another series that shaped my taste for fantasy early on was The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander.

2. Are you friends with other authors? How do they help you become a better writer?

I have several writer friends who are very close and dear to me. They inspire me with their ambition, broaden my taste with genres or book elements I might not normally read or consider, give me feedback on my writing, and cheer me on so I can push through discouragement and make progress.

3. If you could choose any language to write in, would you still choose English?

I don’t think I know enough about other languages to decide fairly! I probably would still write in English, though. 

4. What would you give up in order to become a better writer?

Spending money. Hahaha. In all seriousness, though, investing in an author coach has been one of the best things for my career! My coach (Janeen Ippolito) has revolutionized the way I see my writing, pursue it, and market it. Another important investment has been going to an annual writing conference.

5. You’re a Christian fantasy writer, a combination that is sometimes viewed as a contradiction of beliefs. How does Christianity impact your fantasy stories, and how do you personally reconcile magic with belief?

Ooh, that’s a meaty question! My faith in Christ is foundational to my life, and although it may not be visible in all my stories, the underlying worldview always flows from that. I often work deep symbols into my stories, using my fantasy worlds as a metaphor for reality, mostly because that’s how my brain works—I create fantasy so I can understand and process the real world from new angles. When it comes to magic, I’ve approached it from a few different directions: in some stories it’s just science we don’t understand yet, and in some it’s a supernatural gift. Often it is both.

6. What is your favourite punctuation mark, or the one you inadvertently find yourself using the most?

The em dash! My precioussss…

Gollum
Image by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

7. If you had to list story elements in order of importance to you as a writer; from most to least, where would you place the following: plot, character, setting, conflict, resolution?

Character, resolution, conflict, plot, setting.

About Threadbare:

8. Threadbare is the first short story you published. How did publishing it change your writing process?

There is a thematic depth to Threadbare which, after publishing it, forever “spoiled” me—it made me realize I craved that depth, and I couldn’t honestly share a story with the world unless I knew there was a meaning and a purpose behind it, as I knew I had with Threadbare. So now a major part of my writing process is understanding the WHY behind a story, the reasons I’m writing it, and the purpose I have in sharing it with others. I value stories that are meant as pure entertainment, for sure, but as an author I feel compelled to ensure there is a piece of sincere truth from my heart in everything I publish.

9. The story is clearly part of a much bigger world. It opens with Bess fighting a battle with magic, but very quickly it’s revealed that she’s one of a few who use magic in a world similar to ours. Do you have plans to write more stories, or even a novel, based in this world?

Yes, I do hope to write more stories! I would love to write a series of them, each focusing on a specific member of Bess’s team, but the thought of writing a full-length novel has occurred to me too.

10. Threadbare is a lovely story of courage and hope. What inspired the idea of magic seen as threads?

Threadbare was born from a long personal struggle I endured with a “gift” of my own. I had to set aside a major project for a time (I didn’t know for how long, at the time), which was brutal. Doing so made me realize that the project and my goals for it had become unhealthily integral to my identity—without them, I didn’t even know who I was. While working through the pain of that struggle, unraveling layers and layers of faulty thought processes and loss and grief, I began to think of my trouble as “tangles” entrapping me. Every time I unraveled one tangle, it seemed, I’d find a worse one beneath. One day I had the thought, “What if there was a character who had literal tangles entrapping her?” And so Threadbare was born. Writing it was very cathartic, and became a part of my healing.

11. The cover for Threadbare is gorgeous. Who designed it, did you have any input on the creative process and how much of the design matches your original vision for it?

It matches my original vision almost perfectly! I made some mock-up covers of my own to serve as a rough idea, and then hired LoriAnn Weldon of Magpie Designs, Ltd. She took my ideas and recreated them as the beautiful cover Threadbare has now! I especially love what she did with the title text. 

 About Dragon Lyric:

12. Dragon Lyric was quite possibly one of the most unique short stories about dragons that I’ve ever read. What inspired it, and how long did it take you to write?

I actually typed up the first few pages one late night in 2014, and I was so disturbed by the darkness of the story that I tucked it into a folder in my computer, unfinished, and left it there for several years. In 2017, I was older and more prepared to handle the material, and showed it to some friends—who begged me to finish it. So it actually took me several years to complete. But the actual work of writing it only took a few days or weeks, combined; it’s just that the writing sessions were very far apart! As to what inspired it initially…I’m not actually sure! It was one of those “flash of lightning” inspirations. My running theory is that I felt “devoured” by my responsibilities at the time (I had just found out I was pregnant with my fourth child) and my subconscious created a cruel dragon out of the overwhelm I was feeling.

13. Like Threadbare, this story seems destined for more. Do you plan to write more about Theryn and her world?

This should probably be a secret, but…yes. 😉 I have actually already written a partial draft of a sequel! We shall see if it ever sees the light of day…

Excited

14. What did you edit out of this book?

Not much! It was very tightly written. However, I did rework the ending several times to hit all the emotional notes that I wanted.

15. Theryn is not a typical heroine of a romantic fantasy. Nor is Roth the typical hero. Reading the blurb, it seems the story may be destined for a happily ever after, but the ending was quite delightfully unexpected. Without giving too much away, why did you choose to go that route? Were you just trying to avoid clichés or is there a message you hope readers will take away from it?

I definitely hoped for readers to take away a message, or at least for the story to spark thought. Speaking as a Christian, I know that in the church there is often pressure for an abused wife to stay with her husband—despite the danger to her physical, mental, and spiritual health—and that grieves me. There are some situations where I believe taking Theryn’s course of action is necessary, and I wanted to show that in how I ended the story.

About Your Future:

16. What does literary success look like to you?

Being agented, with my novels published through a major publishing house and (let me dream big here!) developing fandoms of their own. J I would also like to continue self-publishing shorter works—so ultimately I’d like to be a hybrid author. But traditional publishing has always been my goal and will probably continue to be my “barometer” of success unless something drastic changes.

17. Do you think that as your readership grows, you may fall into the trap of changing your stories to give people what they want, or do you plan to avoid that?

I don’t think I would fall into that trap easily, because I have very strong feelings about what I feel called to write and pretty good self-awareness about what works for me. So I plan to avoid that!

18. If you could have a discussion with your future self, what would you remind her of that you think you’ll want to be important to you for your whole life?

You write for Christ your King—seek Him first, trust Him with your journey, and remember that being close with Him is a greater joy than any earthly success can give you.

19. If a significant person in your life were to give you one piece of advice about your plans for the future, who would it be, and what would you want to hear from them?

I would love to hear from any number of successful authors how they pursued their vision for a project through the difficulty of making it marketable and appealing to a broad swath of readers. And how to keep a balanced perspective on their own craft and calling.

20. Social media plays a big role in modern society. I know you have your own Facebook group, and you’re on Twitter. What would you most like to see developing from the platforms you use in the near future?

I would love to see my Twitter platform gain more prospective readers and continue to encourage authors through my hashtag game, #WIPjoy. And I would love to see my author Facebook group grow, and for members to be bold and share their thoughts about my books (or just their lives!) in it. I’d love for it to be a space of mutual enjoyment and nerdy fun.

Big Bang Theory

Excerpt from Threadbare

A long sleep does nothing to help my magic. I wake, still exhausted, with a knot in my middle that rivals the one I saw in my hands the night before. The tiny windows of the safe house bedroom cast sunlight down on the concrete floor. The door is closed. It’s quiet— an oppressive kind of silence that beats on my ears, reminding me how alone I am. I sit on the edge of my bed, stiff and sore, wondering if the others have gone to the store or chased down another Drifter, leaving me here alone.

Useless.

Magic drifts around me, faint but appealing— a sensation that feels more like a taunt than an invitation right now. Its faint pressure tugs at me, prickling on my skin, begging me to interact with it.

Fighting the ache in my bones, I reach out and catch a wave. The mass reappears in my hands.

Trembling and gritting my teeth, I try again and again to disentangle it, but I can free only one tiny, glittering strand. I bury my face in the tingling threads, crushing them in my hands, and cry until my heart feels like it will tear in two.

I’m trapped. I can’t manipulate the waves anymore. I can’t continue my training. I couldn’t withstand the current, couldn’t hold my own threads steady.

I’m worthless.

The rattle of the doorknob and the creak of hinges are dim details on the edge of my awareness. Then Marshall sinks onto the squeaky mattress beside me, wrapping a wiry arm around my shoulders.

I turn and weep into the soft folds of my mentor’s flannel shirt, taking in the scent of pine dryer sheets and Cajun seasoning.

“I’m so sorry! I’ve put the whole team in danger. I’m no good for you all. I shouldn’t have tried to train with you. Why did I think I was ready for battle?”

He rubs gentle circles on my back until my agony fades to desolate sniffles on his sleeve.

“It’s a great loss, Bess,” he murmurs finally, “and there’s no shame in being sad about it.”

I smudge away my tears. “No, I’ll untangle it. I’m sure I can.”

“It’s pretty bad.” He’s quiet for a long moment. “I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but I’ve never heard of such a severe tangle unraveling.”

He falls silent, leaving me to piece it all together.

Everything in me fights back against the suggestion he’s planting. “I won’t let you cut my threads.”

He lets out a quiet sigh. “But either way, you’ll be free.”

“Free to do what? To be helpless and useless?” I push away from him, my throat constricting. “You leveled up to a blade when your threads were severed, but most people revert to Threadbare and their magic never comes back.”

“And they’ve gone on to live quiet, normal lives away from this conflict.” His voice is measured, cautious.

I picture living as a Threadbare: plugging away at a meaningless job, blind to the magical forces eroding my confidence and motivation, surrounded by others who are sapped of their strength and peace by enemies no one can see.

I tremble. “I don’t want that! I’m not a super magic warrior with extra special powers, like you are. This is all I have.” My voice breaks. “I have to untangle it.”

“Bess…” He tries to lay a hand on my arm, but I edge away. “I didn’t have special powers either. When my threads were severed, no one could’ve predicted I’d advance to a blade instead of losing my magic.”

“Like I said, you’re you.” I slide back against the wall and pull my knees up under my chin, fresh tears rolling down my face. “I’m nobody. I never belonged here to begin with. I’m nowhere near as gifted as the rest of you.”

Hardened ferocity comes into his face, and he stands, shaking a single finger at me. “Whatever you do, kid, I don’t ever want to hear you say you don’t belong here. I wanted to train you. You’ve apologized to me again and again for failing, but all I see is a girl who always gets back up.” He rests a hand on my shoulder for the briefest moment, then walks out, shutting the door behind him.

I sit on the bed, huddled against the wall, until the shadows lengthen and the sinking red sunbeams pierce my eyes. Anna raps on the door and calls me to dinner, but I ignore her. Over and over, I draw out my hideous mass of strands and tug and pull at the endless loops.

By the time darkness fills the room, the glowing ball has threads trailing out of it in all directions. It’s an improvement. At least it’s something. I picture Marshall summoning his blade and slicing my tender strands apart, and anxiety grips me. No; I will fix this, even if it takes years.

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Threadbare is on sale on Amazon now!

Bethany’s short story, Dragon Lyric, can be found here.

Thanks so much for taking the time to spend with us today, and we look forward to what’s still to come!

Author pic

Bethany A. Jennings is a science-fiction and fantasy author, a sandwich aficionado, and a chronic night owl. She is endlessly passionate about the power of speculative fiction to shape hearts and cultures and unveil hidden realities. Though worlds and stories are always dancing in her head, she is often found wrangling her younglings, running Twitter events, editing, and doing graphic design. Born in SoCal, Bethany now lives in southern New Hampshire with her husband, four kids, zero pets, and a large and growing collection of imaginary friends.

You can connect to her on her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter or Instagram, or reach her on her website

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