Friday 20 June 2014

Reborn Blog Tour - Interview and Review

Happy Friday! Today I'm very proud to be able to help out the talented Cherie Reich with the blog tour for her debut novel, Reborn. It's by no means her debut book though - I've thoroughly enjoyed Cherie's work in shorter forms, and Reborn does not disappoint. I got a chance to pick her brains on the genesis of Reborn and her love of classical mythology, and here are the results...

Hi Cherie. Congrats on the release of Reborn - I thought it was an excellent, involving read. Can you tell us a little about how the story came about?

Thank you, Nick! The idea blossomed from a character (Clarissa Black) I created for an online Harry Potter roleplaying game. This character was equally given the gift of prophecy after being brought back to life at birth. The idea stuck with me, even though Yssa and Clarissa had very different lives.

The thing about those ideas that want to be told is they don't leave you alone until you've dealt with them!

Can you tell us about how you started writing? Any tips for those who are considering such a career?

Back in 1999, I was obsessed with Phantom of the Opera (the musical, the movies, the books), so I started roleplaying in that world. For over ten years I honed my writing skills by roleplaying in different worlds and writing fanfiction. Although I don’t have an actual count, I probably wrote millions of words during this time. It wasn’t until 2009 that I decided to write in my own worlds.

My major tips for those who are considering a writing career are to write a lot and read a lot. Get your worked critiqued and pick up some smooth grammar moves.

Sounds like you have done some solid training. You can't beat reading and writing!

You write across a wide variety of genres - science fiction, horror, fantasy, yet each is recognisably your voice. Did this happen by accident, or was it a conscious decision to try lots of different things?

I wish I could say it was a conscious decision, but it wasn’t. I read different genres. I grew up reading mysteries, thrillers, and horror. In adulthood, I also added fantasy and some science fiction to my reading list. Reading across genres means my ideas often cross genres.

It's definitely good to read and write widely, some say you should choose your genre niche to write in, but I find it interesting to read different genres by the same writer. 

One thing that particularly impressed me about Reborn was the rich and multilayered worldbuilding. It seemed like a huge amount of time and effort had been put into creating this universe before you even started writing. Was that the case, or did it develop organically as the story went on?

A little of both actually. Back in 2006, I had the idea for this trilogy, so I drew a map and took some notes on gods, creatures, and people. I daydreamed about the storyline for three years before I wrote the first word. Some of the world came out in that first draft, but the world was honed and enriched during revisions and edits. To this day, it’s still showing me new things about it.

I thought the maps were a great touch. And it's always good to know exactly where your characters are!

You incorporate elements of classical mythology in your work, even in books that are set in space. Where did your interest in this area start, and how much time do you spend researching it? Do you have a favourite myth?

I’ve always love mythology. I enjoyed watching Hercules and Xena and seeing the gods and such interact with mortals. In high school we read Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. In college, I majored in Ancient Greeks and Romans (they called the major Classical Antiquities, but I often get confused looks when I say that) and minored in the Ancient Near East. I took classes on comparative mythology, which also included the Norse myths. So my majority of my research came while getting my Bachelors of the Arts.

My favorite myth would have to be the Homer’s The Odyssey. Odysseus is my favorite hero, and Athena, who features prominently in the tales, is my favorite goddess.

I like Jason and the Argonauts. Ray Harryhausen's films are also excellent myth adaptations.

Yssa has the ability to foresee events, yet she doesn't always appreciate this gift as it comes with a heavy burden of responsibility. What would be your ideal magical power?

As golden as it would be to see the future, I’d rather have the gift of speedy travel, whether it be flying or apparating from place to place.

That would be a heck of a time saver!

Another thing that stands out in your work is the romance element, with characters that come across as real and relateable no matter what race or species they are. Would you have any plans to write a straight romance story?

Yes, I do have plans for a few actually. Back in 2011, I wrote a YA contemporary novel with romantic elements. It needs a major rewrite, and I have to come up with my own musical for the novel to work, but I’d one day like to get back to it. I also have a couple ideas for NA contemporary romances. Of course, I find that contemporary needs so much more research than fantasy. I can’t just make things up. LOL!

Good point. A musical sounds very ambitious!

You keep up a very active social media presence, and also work as an editor and library assistant. How do you go about balancing all these roles and are there any tips you can pass on? Can you tell us a bit about your daily routine?

Balancing different roles can be very difficult. In the past year I’ve had to give up being a freelance editor, although I still do critiques for my critique partners. I had to decide if I wanted time to work on my own writing or other people’s, and I chose my own. I’m very lucky I work full-time for a small academic library. When I don’t have work-related work, then I can do as I please, whether that be social media, reading, or writing. So I’ll often come into work, catch up on the day job, check out social media, and then see where the rest of the day takes me, whether it includes writing, editing, blogging, or reading.

The best tips about balancing multiple roles are to be organized, make lists, set goals (daily, weekly, monthly), and not be too hard on yourself if you don’t get everything done as planned.

Sounds like the sort of job I'd like. And it's quiet, too!

How are you getting on with the follow-up works in the Fate Challenges series, and are there any advance nuggets of info you could share? (Feel free to shoot me rather than answer this question, if you'd prefer!)

Well, I must admit working on the next books has been rather slow. I spent the past five months almost exclusively on Reborn, so I’m a bit out of practice when it comes to writing first drafts. I’m currently working on Repledged (a prequel story set 800 years before Reborn, which I plan to offer for free later this year). After I finish Repledged, then I will write Remarked (a novella told from Liam’s point of view and book 1.5 in the series). Then, it’ll be time to write Repledged (#2), Reigned (another prequel set 500 years before Reborn), and Redestined (#3). My goal is to write and publish the rest of the series within the next couple years.

And I’m really trying to keep mum on what happens next, even though I want to tell everyone what happens next, but I can say The Fate Challenges isn’t the only series set in the world of Amora. The God Challenges will feature the god Apenth and a new Phoenix Prophetess set 2500 years after Reborn. There will also be a prequel novel, which will explore the true Prophecy of Sólfœra and will be set 2000 years after Reborn.

You've got your work cut out! I look forward to reading them all.

Finally, could you sum up Reborn in five words? 

A prophetess must challenge Fate. OR Coming-of-age tale with chosen one.

I do love the idea of her not only foreseeing fate, but having the ability to change it. It's a great hook!


To save a kingdom, a prophetess must challenge Fate.

On the day of Yssa’s death and rebirth, the god Apenth chose her as the Phoenix Prophetess.

Sea serpents and gods endanger the young prophetess’s journey and sour the omens. Yssa is cursed instead of blessed, and her duties at the Temple of Apenth prove it. She spends her days reading dusty scrolls, which does nothing to help her forget Tym, the boy back home. But the annoying yet gorgeous ferryman’s son Liam proves to be a distraction she can’t predict, even though he rarely leaves her alone for two sand grains.

Her boring temple life screeches to a halt when visions of her parents’ murders consume her. Yssa races across an ocean to stop the future. If she can’t change Fate, she’ll refuse to be the Phoenix Prophetess any longer. Fate, however, has other plans for her and the kingdom.

Yssa must either accept her destiny or fight to change Fate.

Available in Ebook and Print!

Click here to add on Goodreads.

The authors of Untethered Realms and I are giving away over $50 worth of books to one lucky winner. The giveaway is open internationally.

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A self-proclaimed bookworm, Cherie Reich is a speculative fiction writer and library assistant living in Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies, and her books include the horror collection Nightmare, a space fantasy novella collection titled Gravity, and the fantasy series The Foxwick Chronicles and The Fate Challenges. Reborn is her debut novel. She is Vice President of Valley Writers and a member of the Virginia Writers Club and Untethered Realms. For more information, please visit her website.

And for good measure, here is my review of Reborn. I was honoured to receive an ARC from Cherie.

Reborn is a brilliant, absorbing fantasy novel that really gripped me and didn't let go. It has many classic fantasy elements, as well as some that may not be so familiar, but what really made it work was coupling these with the story of a young girl that is easy to relate to. Yssa is a typical teenage girl in many ways - growing up on a small island, she is slightly gauche and unsure of herself. She has a crush on her childhood friend. But she has been marked out as special from the day she was born (or reborn) as the Phoenix Prophetess, a child chosen by a god to serve her kingdom by foreseeing events. She doesn't always appreciate this gift, and longs to be normal. There is a heartbreaking moment that makes her feel her blessing is more of a curse. But she is also a brave character, and rises to the challenges that come her way. I feel Yssa was a really well-drawn character, and that also goes for the other main players in this book, especially Queen Samarra, who I never entirely trusted.

Another main point that made me love this book was the worldbuilding. It is clear that Reich has spent a lot of time and effort painstakingly creating a universe with its own races, laws, customs and gods. Sparkling descriptions made me feel fully involved in the scenes. There were even maps provided, which you don't get in every book. There were many interesting creatures, such as the karshiptas, perytons and woodwoses.

The pacing, I feel, was spot on. It is a fairly slow start, but this allows the scene to be set and the reader to become familiar with the characters' world. After the heartbreaking moment alluded to above, it just builds and builds until it becomes unputdownable. And you don't get much higher stakes than the destruction of an entire kingdom. Although the story was resolved at the end, there are still questions unanswered and I can't wait to read the forthcoming installments to find out more. All in all, a rich and satisfying fantasy with characters you can invest in that I would recommend to anyone. 5 stars.

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Writing Update, How to Write with Kids, and New Cat Anthology

Happy Tuesday! First of all, apologies that I haven't been around to your blogs the way I'd like to over the last week and a bit. My laptop is currently being shared with the house, due to my good wife's machine being the innocent victim of a rogue charger from eBay which fried the motherboard. Won't make that mistake again. Also, my elder stepdaughter has had to borrow it to finish off college assignments, although she's now out for the summer. We can't spring for a new laptop just like that, so I'll need to get to grips with using the touch screen on my better half's iPad when she needs the laptop to conduct her business!

So, what of my WIP? Well, last week was a bit of a lost week. I only managed to cobble together 1000 words, partly because of the reasons mentioned above, but also because of another situation which is too draining to get into here. I'm making sure this week is a lot better, and so far I've kept on track. Not trying to catch up with what I missed last week, because I fear I'd burn myself out. I just aim to keep on the trajectory I set for myself, of 5000 words per week. The story is getting to the tricky middle stage. I have an idea of what should happen, but it's the mechanics of getting there scene by scene that is proving a struggle. Just a first draft, I keep telling myself. It's never going to be perfectly smooth at this point, so I'll just keep going.

I've also been heartened by the excellent feedback I have received recently for Part 1. Thanks, Tyrean and Meradeth for being great betas! I look forward to working on your suggestions, and your encouraging comments have spurred me to continue with Part 2. I'm finding that writing a trilogy comes with its own unique set of challenges.

So, onto the main thrust of this post. It's mainly advice for those with offspring, but could be applied to any situation. With the onset of summer days, I'm aware that many of my American friends already have their kids at home all day, here in Scotland we break up next week, while England have a good few weeks left to go. Your jealously guarded bubble of sacred writing time is about to be rudely burst by requests for ice lollies and demands to play football. That's too bad. You should get involved with your kids' activities and enjoy this time with them. Does that mean you should take a break from your work, like them? Not at all!

You just have to get a bit more creative with how you schedule your writing time. If your kids are late risers (aren't most?) you might get a fair bit of interrupted time in the mornings before their sleepy heads leave the pillow. Or, you could keep them so busy during the day that they'll crash out at a reasonable time and allow you the rest of the evening. Me, I'm a morning/daylight writer. If I try to write any time after around 6pm, it just gets all fuzzy and doesn't make any sense. I'm sharper when the day is fresh. I already do a paper round where I start at 6am during the week. I'm not actually obligated to start that early, I just need to get the papers delivered by nine, but I need to get back to get the kids up and ready for school. During the holidays, I won't have that responsibility, so I can do the papers a bit later and get a bit of work done beforehand. This approach has the added advantage of knowing I only have a limited timeframe before I need to leave, thus hopefully making me more productive. When you have all day to write, it's that much easier to find other essential jobs to do first, like polishing your collection of priceless Ming vases (not that I have any of those). Plus, there's the bonus of complete silence, when even the dogs are fast asleep.

The last thing you want is to be batting your kids off with one hand while you try to scrap out fifty words with the other. It's not fair on them, and is only going to lead to tension and bad tempers. I came over all parenting coach there! I'm not an expert by any means, but the main point is to make sure your kids have a great time, because it's their summer and a time of what feels like dizzying freedom. I will still have articles and editing to do, but I can be a bit more multitasking with them, attending to the kids at the same time. It's not as intensive as my writing where I need to have absolute concentration or things go badly wrong.

And, like I said, if you don't have kids, this advice can be applied to any situation where you find yourself with seemingly less time to write.

One more thing before I go. I didn't mean for this post to be so long! My awesome friend and CP, Kyra Lennon, recently became a volunteer for her local branch of Cats Protection, helping rescued and abandoned moggies to find a forever home. An excellent endeavour in itself, but she's come up with the added idea of creating an anthology to help raise extra funds. This will feature short stories and possibly even longer works, poetry, and real life stories all based around cats. I think it'll be a lot of fun, and I already have an idea floating around my cranium. You can go here to find the Linky List and sign up. I really hope Kyra has loads of interest for this because it's a great cause!

Friday 6 June 2014

Champion in Flight is out now!

Happy Friday everyone! Today it's my pleasure to help out my good friend and awesome beta reader, Tyrean Martinson, whose second installment in her Champion series released this week. Here are all the details you need...

A year after she won the battle for Septily, Clara feels trapped in Skycliff by the Allied Council. As the last pieces of information about the Healing Caves fall into place, Clara is attacked by an assassin. Covert Drinaii mercenaries and the Council aren’t going to stop Clara from her quest to heal her broken blade. As Champion of Aramatir, she must act.

Meanwhile, in the joint kingdoms of Rrysorria and Wylandria, the youngest and still cursed swan prince despairs of ever being whole again. In a moment of anger and desperation, Liam discovers a blood link between him and a dark sorceress.

Clara won the battle for Septily, but her battle isn’t over.

Champion in Flight is the second book in The Champion Trilogy.

Tyrean Martinson lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest, with her encouraging family. She likes to write, read, teach, ski, bicycle, and walk.

Tyrean has been published in Overcoming Adversity, The Best of Every Day Poets and Sunday Snaps: The Stories. Dragonfold and Other Adventures, and Light Reflections showcase Tyrean’s stories and poetry. She is currently hard at work on the third novel in The Champion Trilogy: Champion’s Destiny.

Purchase Links:


Author Links:

Cool Reviews for Champion in the Darkness, used with permission by the reviewers:

“So often I've read ‘Christian” books which have the same theme. ‘God is love and everything will work out for you.’ Yes, God is love, but He is SO much more than that. And Tyrean showed so many more of His attributes. A judge, a shepherd, and a warrior. I was really surprised and impressed, and I came to love the story all the more because of it.”- Jack Lewis Baillot, author of A Stretch of Loyalty, Haphazardly Implausible, and Abolished Impracticality.

“I loved the way the author connected you to the characters and made them seem like real people.” – Rylee, Teen Reviewer

“while the religious side was evident, it never overwhelmed the story. I appreciated how Martinson not only showed people displaying faith when times were easy, but how she explored loss of faith when times were hard, and how different people coped with doubt, anger, and fear.” – Nickie Anderson, author of Bright Star

Wednesday 4 June 2014

IWSG - Word Choices

Welcome to another monthly installment of the Insecure Writers' Support Group, hosted by the mercurial Alex J. Cavanaugh. Mercurial. That's a good word, isn't it? But what does it actually mean? According to the first meaning is "changeable, volatile, fickle" etc. Well that doesn't sound like Alex. He's one of the most dependable people I know. The second sense is "animated, lively, sprightly, quick-witted". That's more like it. So that's what I'm feeling insecure about this month - inappropriate word choices. Not necessarily using a word with the wrong meaning, but a word that doesn't seem to fit in the story.

Let me explain. I've had more than one CP suggest that I use rather "big" words that are jarring and interrupt the pace of the story. They even told me they had to go to the dictionary on a couple of occasions, which really threw them out of the story. Now, part of me likes the idea of being an educator and introducing people to new words, but not if it's to the detriment of smooth narration. And the story has to come first above everything.

A bit of backstory. I've always had an affinity for words, from an early age, and was obsessed with knowing as many as possible. Although my writing might have many other flaws, spelling was never an issue for me. I felt that words were precious things and deserved the care and respect of being spelt properly. At primary school, classmates would come to me rather than the teacher to check how to spell something. I've shaken my head in despair at enough official school newsletters and teachers' comments since then to know that teachers aren't all they're cracked up to be!

By my teenage years, I had honed my passion for wordplay to a fine art. My favourite pastime was to hang out with my friends talking the most convoluted rubbish possible. For hours. We would try to out-rubbish each other. (It's probably why none of us ever had a girlfriend). As an example, I preferred to say (and still do) "How do I gain access to this" rather than "How do I open this" if faced with some recalcitrant packaging. (That one actually comes from the wonderful novel The Queen & I by the late Sue Townsend, in which the monarchy get deposed from the palace, and the Queen has to open a tin of beans for the first time.) Vestiges of this behaviour linger to this day and probably annoy my family no end, but it's like a nervous tic. I do have a natural proclivity to rather flowery language, which I've worked hard to pare down in my writing.

So, the point of this post? Not knowing where to draw the line. Using stronger, more distinctive words is advice that often comes up, but this can definitely be taken too far. Like most things, it's a matter of balance, and finding that balance is one of the great challenges of writing - one I think I'll be undertaking for a long time to come!

How easy or difficult do you find it to pick just the right word?

Go here to check out the other bloggers in the IWSG.