Film Review: The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016)

a stag in fog; text reads 'film review: r crunden'

I have a real fondness for Snow White and the Huntsman (2012). I liked the casting, the storyline, the cinematography. It was fun and beautifully shot and moved along at a cracking pace. All in all, it’s just an overall fun fantasy movie. I hadn’t watched The Huntsman: Winter’s War, it’s sequel, however. Not for any particular reason, though. Just never got around to it. I finally decided to give it a go and I’m so glad I did – somehow Eric’s story has much, much more romance than Snow White’s, more adventure and fighting, and a broader plot than just Snow White against the Evil Queen. Like, I really enjoyed the first one, but I found this sequel such fun. It felt like a really fresh fantasy romance epic and I laughed through most of it because there are so many good one-liners and jokes. The dwarves and the huntsmen are just so, so fun together as a crew who join forces to fight against a new evil queen.

Winter’s War focuses on the Evil Queen’s sister, the Ice Queen, and her bitter war against love following the murder of her daughter by the man she had fallen madly in love with. With brutal hatred, she steals the children of her kingdom and turns them into her huntsman – the only law she enforces, other than loyalty and subservience, is that love is a sin. This law is wildly violated by Eric and Sara, two huntsmen who fall in love over the years, fighting and training side by side. When the Ice Queen discovers their romance, she ‘kills’ Sara and has the huntsmen toss Eric’s body into the sea. This is where the film turns from a prequel of Snow White, into it’s sequel.

Eric crosses paths with Snow White, helps her win her kingdom, and seven years later is on his own in a much more peaceful kingdom. That is, until King William, Snow White’s husband from the first film, arrives to tell him that the Magic Mirror has been stolen and Snow wants Eric to track it down and ensure that it’s dealt with. Eric reluctantly agrees and, along with one of the seven dwarves from the first film, Nion, and his half-brother Gryff, goes on a quest to find the Magic Mirror. Along the way, they run into trouble with more huntsmen, sent by the Ice Queen, only to be saved by Sara, who is very much not dead.

Eric, delighted by Sara’s return, is stunned to learn that Sara was locked in the dungeon after he left – him seeing her die was a trick of the Ice Queen. The trick played on Sara was believing Eric had abandoned her without thought or care. Now hardened by years of pain and anger, Sara rebuffs Eric, but he’s not remotely swayed and continues trying to convince her that their love is true and they’re meant to be together. From there, things only ramp up as everyone tries to settle their debts.

I really adored this whole movie. It’s epic, adventurous, hilarious and romantic. I loved all the individual romances; I loved the inclusion of the dwarf couples and banter; I loved the adventure side stories and the parts of the Enchanted Forest that we see. It’s overall just a very fun fantasy film with a whole lot of heart and I have to say, these two films are definitely on the top of my favourite Snow White adaptations. Bring on a third Huntsman film, please!

Film Review: My Son (2021)

a tree branch and a hand holding up a pigeon; text says 'film review'

My Son isn’t a movie I expected, which is always a good one to find! I saw that it had James McAvoy and Claire Foy, so I figured it would be amazing – and it was wonderfully well acted and filmed! The cinematography was brilliant and atmospheric, everything very grim and misty. It felt in equal parts a drama, mystery, suspense, thriller and action. But like, each moment felt distinct in and of itself, too, if that makes sense. The movie would turn a corner with one genre and slid into the next. I really appreciated that. I will say there are some parts I’m still a little unclear on, however. I feel like the movie was just starting when it ended, but overall it was still a very powerful film and I do recommend giving it a watch.

This review is going to contain some spoilers, so heads up. The storyline follows the main character, Edmond, who works abroad in the ‘oil fields’. It’s not really specified what he does, but he explains that he’s had trouble at work because of how dangerous it is and the confrontations he’s been in. The central plot focuses on Edmond returning to Britain after a long time away at work after his son goes missing from camp. His ex-wife Joan meets him and relays how difficult things have been during his long absences away. From the start, Edmond suspects Joan’s boyfriend of having a part in his son’s disappearance.

And seriously, I don’t blame him. This is one plot line that still bugs me because it wasn’t resolved by the end. But, basically, Edmond realises that Frank, the boyfriend, has been putting together plans to build a house for him, Joan and missing Ethan. Only there’s no bedroom for Ethan in the plans. Which he gleefully shows Edmond, whose son is missing. Why is he showing him these plans? Why is he so excited about this at this moment in time? He was such an unsettling character and, somewhat predictably, Edmond loses his mind. He assumes Frank’s done something wrong, and beats him up before calling the police. Upon arrival, the police arrest Edmond, but he isn’t charged as Frank doesn’t press charges. The whole scene feels like a pivotal plot point, like it’s going to be addressed later, and yet I don’t feel like it’s really addressed later at all? The plot moves on to focus on new suspects and we never really get a clear reasoning as to why Frank had these building plans and why he has absolutely no ability to read the room when Edmond was in tears over his son. Like, what is wrong with Frank?? Why don’t we get a clear answer on this? I want this part explained!

Edmond is then told by the leading investigator that the case has been dropped and the local police aren’t allowed to work on it anymore. He leaves, telling Edmond he’s on his own. Again, this part I don’t feel like is fully explained by the end, either. The case goes to London, but then what? We know Edmond continues investigating on his own locally, but why was the case transferred? Why don’t we find out about why they didn’t want the local authorities looking into the case? Why is Ethan’s case hushed up – he’s a missing child? I can’t see that happening! The whole town was in on the search and then it just stops. It builds up like there’s going to be more of a conspiracy, but like Frank and the building plans, it doesn’t really get addressed again.

After this hint from the investigator, Edmond uses Frank’s phone and find videos of Ethan in the weeks before his disappearance and happens upon two videos that feature the same car. He convinces Joan to use her brother’s connections to figure out where the car is registered and goes out to the countryside to find a creepy, derelict farm. He discerns quickly that the man there is involved in his son’s disappearance and, rather brutally, gets a location from him. He then goes to find Ethan while Joan tries to catch up with him.

The film does have a generally satisfying conclusion, but it’s also got an open ending and feels a bit abrupt, in my opinion. Like, I feel like there still needs to be another forty-five minutes of film to wrap up the creepy vibes Frank was giving off during that confrontation, to explain what was happening with the case and the investigator, and to wrap up what becomes of Edmond, Joan and Ethan in the end. It’s a wonderfully well acted film, and James McAvoy is as brilliant as always, like seriously heart-breaking in this one. I loved the cinematography and the atmosphere and felt like the film was building and building and building, but then it ended quite quickly, and I wish there was more explanation given. So, overall it was a decent watch and I would recommend it for sure, I just felt like it had a lot of loose threads by the end.

Author Interview: John St. Clair

coffee with a spoon beside a candle; text says 'author interview'

Be sure to check out Stalin’s Door!

Interview:

1. Paperback, hardback, eBook, or audiobook?

I honestly love all formats. For long term collecting, I prefer hardbacks. I do find myself buying and reading a lot of indie paperbacks, especially in 2021. My Kindle is also jam packed with lots of reading material. I will listen to the occasional audiobook, however nothing beats printed words on a page in my humble opinion.

2. Pick a genre, any genre!

My debut novel is Russian historical fiction. That said, I have read more science fiction than any other genre over my lifetime. If I’m not reading that, I’m likely reading something in non-fiction, and you can bet it has something to do with financial crime / true crime.

3. What is the first book you remember reading?

I love this question! I can clearly remember picking up Andre Norton’s novel “Daybreak 2250 A.D.” (also known as “Star Man’s Son”) at a school book fair when I was in the second grade. I was reading several grade levels ahead by that time. This is an excellent book—written by a woman in the 1950s, who broke ground within a genre heavily dominated by men at the time.

4. When did you first start writing?

I’ve received this question across multiple author interviews, and I am delighted to give the answer. I very clearly recall a short story I wrote in the second grade entitled “Star Gate 9.” For an 8 year old at the time, it was a pretty ambitious space opera! What I wouldn’t give to find and read that story again! In one way or the other, I’ve been writing ever since.

5. What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

I’m not entirely sure, except to say, I think I’ve always found it rewarding to tell stories. I do consider myself a creative person, and putting words on paper is not only fun, it’s also tremendously gratifying to hear from folks that have read my work. All of this certainly holds true today—and I am so very fortunate to do it full time.

6. What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

Without a doubt, it has to be my debut novel “Stalin’s Door,” which took me 5 years to research, write, edit, and publish. I’ve never poured so much effort into anything else in my lifetime!

7. Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

I did! “Stalin’s Door” was published in March 2021 as a paperback and eBook. In October 2021, I also published a hardcover version.

8. How many books/collections have you published so far?

Just the one novel so far. That said, I have written lots of short stories that have been submitted, and won, in writing competitions!

9. What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

Well, my debut novel is Russian historical fiction, and the second novel I’m working on is contemporary literary fiction. That said, I wouldn’t discount any genre if the story was right for me! I’m equal opportunity. I’d hate to be “typecast” into any particular genre, if I can help it.

10. Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

My debut is Russian historical fiction, so research was a critical component. I can’t overstate that enough! I felt it was crucial to take the time to research a country I’ve never lived in, in a time period I wasn’t alive, and for a language I don’t speak. I believe that the arduous research has paid off handsomely.

11. To plan, or not to plan your plot?

Ah, the eternal question: “planners” versus “pantsers*” I do a lot of both actually. It’s what works for me.

*writing by the seat of one’s pants.

12. What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

I chose the self-publishing route via KDP on Amazon for my debut novel. I have the greatest amount of creative control that way. I am planning this route for my second novel as well. That said, I am not at all against the traditional publishing route! I would certainly entertain any offers that come my way—and I would also seriously consider going the route of querying. I’ve not ruled anything out.

13. If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

Fascinating question! My answer is wholly subjective, and “as of this moment.” The Isaac Asimov universe of “Foundation” would be a neat one to visit, I think!

14. Do you currently have a WIP?

I am working on a second novel, as we speak. It’s entitled “Lucky Dainéil McElheney” and loosely involves the local mob in Boston in the year 2007. That’s all I can say for now!

15. Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

Reader’s of my novel “Stalin’s Door” may be surprised to learn that one of the main characters, Lera, is my favorite. She’s a wise grandmother, who is forced into exile, and bears a crucial responsibility to her granddaughter Zhenya.

16. Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

I do not listen to music when I write. In fact I cannot listen to anything at all! I must have complete silence, and I even wear earplugs!

17. Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

I don’t have any character art, per se, however I do have a hand drawn illustration by the artist Matt Soffe, which is prominently featured on the cover of my debut novel. It’s the neckerchief woggle—which plays an important part in my story. Matt’s work is featured here. He’s terrific and über talented!

18. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

I would say there’s never a wrong time to begin! Whether you’re a teenager or a senior citizen, I think it’s great that you want to write your stories. So—just go and do it. Believe me, once you start getting your thoughts on the page, the rest will take care of itself. Don’t worry if it’s good enough—just write for yourself. If you’re passionate about your story, and take the time to hone and craft your work, then it’ll find an audience! Just keep in mind that like anything else, it takes time. The more effort—blood, sweat, and tears you invest—the bigger the payoff with your readers will be. And if your work never connects with anyone else, just remember that it connected with the most important reader of all—yourself! If you’re thinking of writing—remember the adage about planting a tree. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is right now!

19. Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

I have! I am a regular participant in the NYC Midnight writing competitions. They have various contests throughout the year at all lengths—from 100 and 250 word “microfiction,” to 1000 word flash fiction, to their flagship contest, the 2500 word short story challenge, which kicks off in January 2022. I’ve participated in them all, and they offer real cash prizes, and real written critical feedback at every level. What’s neat is that every competition will group you into other like groups with randomized story prompts: genre, keywords, actions, etc. They’ve been around for over 15 years, so it’s one of the major league contests. Thousands of writers participate, and there’s even a very active message board where you can get instant feedback on your work! In 2020, I took 6th place (out of approximately 2000 writers) in the Writers’ Police Academy “Golden Donut” short story contest. You can read more about it, and my winning entry here.

20. Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

Not in any order of preference:

Ursula K. Le Guin
Frank Herbert
Orson Scott Card*
Vernor Vinge
Ray Bradbury
Joe Haldeman
Jon Krakauer

*not an endorsement of the man’s personal beliefs

21. Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

I’m most active on Twitter, and you can hit me up! I’m @uusaint.

Here’s a direct link to my Goodreads author page.

Here’s a direct link to my debut novel “Stalin’s Door”.

Author Interview: N S Ford

an open book atop another open book; text reads 'author interview'

Be sure to check out We Watch You!

Interview:

1.      Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

Definitely paperbacks, they are cheaper and more lightweight than hardbacks. I don’t listen to audiobooks, I haven’t got the attention span for them.

2.      Pick a genre, any genre!

I can’t choose one … classics, thrillers, science fiction, memoir! Those are the genres I read the most.

3.      What is the first book you remember reading?

I remember looking at Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak in the infant school library and being both entranced and frightened! 

4.      When did you first start writing?

I used to make little books by folding and stapling sheets of paper. I’ve been writing stories pretty much since I learned to write!

5.      What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

I wanted to write, partly for myself – enjoying crafting a plot, inventing characters, choosing what words to use – and partly for other people, as it’s a great feeling to have people enjoy what you write! That still holds true for me. 

6.      What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

My debut novel We Watch You is an achievement I’m very proud of! I worked at it for 3 years, on and off, changing the genre and adding another ending! Then I formatted, published and marketed it myself.

7.   What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

My usual genre is ‘thriller with a speculative twist’! I like to write a domestic or psychological thriller but with something unexpected and unusual to the genre. Science fiction and psychological horror are also a trademark with me. 

8.   Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

I do a bit of research as required to make the details plausible. The internet is a great help!

9.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

Absolutely have to plan it, I have a synopsis of each chapter to work from. It can change along the way, but I need to know where it’s going.

10.   What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

I self-published my novel on Amazon, as I hadn’t managed to get any literary agents interested in it (very few of them bothered to reply at all) and I wanted to put the book into readers’ hands this year (2021) rather than keep trying to go through the ‘traditional’ route and getting nowhere. I’m really pleased with how it’s worked out. I plan to stick with self-publishing as it’s a great way to get my work out quickly and have control over it.

11.   If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick?

I’d want to live in the ‘Railhead’ trilogy by Philip Reeve, which is set in the far future where sentient trains travel across the universe. It’s not a perfect future but it’s not a dystopia either and just imagine being able to visit so many planets!

12.   Do you currently have a WIP?

Yes, I’m working on my 2nd novel, which is a mystery thriller with a music theme.

13.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

I find that the best kind of writing music doesn’t need much attention paying to it, so I’m not distracted. I can’t recommend a specific song but I would suggest classical music, film soundtracks, chill-out or instrumentals of any kind.

14.   If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Keep going! Don’t worry about getting it perfect, just get the story down and you can refine it later.

15.   Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

Classic writers I love include Stella Gibbons, H G Wells, Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, Daphne du Maurier and Thomas Hardy. More recent writers whose works I love include Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman, Lucy Worsley and Anthony Horowitz.

16.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

You can find my Twitter, Instagram, Amazon page, Goodreads and blog here.

Reviews & Interviews Roundup

Book Review: Dim Stars (2020)
Book Review: The 13th Zodiac (2021)
Children’s Book Review: Annabelle & Aiden (2016)
Children’s Book Review: Lola: The Bracelet of Courage (2021)
Children’s Book Review: Jack the Unicorn (2021)
Children’s Book Review: The Adventures of Addy: The Tale of the Prince and the Dragon (2021)
Children’s Book Review: How to Hug a Cloud (2021)
Children’s Book Review: Bats at the Library (2008)
Author Interview: Eva Seyler
Author Interview: Amy Campbell
Author Interview: L.A. Wasielewski
Author Interview: Pedro Gabriel
Author Interview: L.L. Stephens
Author Interview: A. K. Ritchie
Author Interview: Amy Maltman
Author Interview: Luther Kross
Author Interview: Sinnamon Carnelian
Author Interview: Ciarán West
Author Interview: Mansur Hasib
Author Interview: Val Neil
Author Interview: Alan Denham
Author Interview: Barbara Avon
Author Interview: Rita A. Rubin
Author Interview: Maxime Jaz
Author Interview: Chris Clancy
Author Interview: Elford Alley
Author Interview: Dan McKeon
Author Interview: Elena Nix
Author Interview: Charlotte Sullivan Wild
Author Interview: M. W. McLeod
Author Interview: L. Krauch
Author Interview: Sarah Bell
Author Interview: D.N. Schmidt
Author Interview: Casie Aufenthie
Author Interview: Courtney Maguire
Author Interview: Diana L. Smith
Author Interview: Jamie Jackson

Author Interview: Eva Seyler

a book on a fabric surface; text says 'author interview'

Be sure to check out The War in Our Hearts!

Interview:

Paperback, hardback, audiobook?
 
Audiobook! I devour hundreds of hours of audiobooks each year, thank you ADHD brain that cannot focus on reading if my hands aren’t occupied doing something else as I listen. As for physical copies, I prefer paperbacks.


Pick a genre, any genre! 

Honestly my first love is nonfiction, especially about historical figures/events, because much of that information feeds into the historical fiction I write. For fiction, I read a LOT of kids’ books (MG and YA), especially historical, but there are some contemporaries I enjoy as well, and I like a good mystery or romance occasionally as well.


Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only? 

It is safely in a teal green folder for my eyes only. Although I enjoy teasing people with how utterly rubbish it is. (Because it is the ravings of a teenager.)


How many books/collections have you published so far? 

One novella and two novels (the second of which releases in May next year).


What genres do you write in (or hope to)? 

Historical fiction, although I have one WIP that’s a fictionalised memoir. I also have a historical romance coming down the pipeline – think 1930s-40s snappy comedy. Totally out of my wheelhouse, but the characters are SO FUN.


Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head? 

I am OBSESSED with research! And I love doing it, so that works well for historical fiction.


To plan, or not to plan your plot? 

I always start with the characters. Then the characters either don’t shut up or won’t cooperate, never anything in between. The plot is always secondary to character development for me.


What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it? 

I was initially with a small press; now I’m an indie. I’d love to be trad published someday, but I really also do like having full control over my work (and be on my own timetable, heh).


If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? 

Probably Narnia! Puddleglum and I would be besties.


Do you currently have a WIP?

Do I ever NOT have a WIP? Lollll. Yes, I have like 5 in varying stages of completion. The one I’ll be working on in Jan-Feb of 2022 is a former middle grade novel that I’m re-writing as an adult novel, that I plan to release in 2023. It’s about a boy and a girl in small-town Oregon in 1925 who start uncloseting the boy’s family skeletons.


Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart. 

I’m going with Leni for this one (from THIS GREAT WILDERNESS that’s coming out next May). I poured a lot of myself into her AND she’s the reason I discovered I’m autistic.


What do you consider your *current* magnum opus? 

100% THIS GREAT WILDERNESS. I love all my stories, but this is the best so far and, I think, will probably always have a super special place in my heart even if technically/craft-wise something that comes along later outdoes it.


Do you have a favourite romance in your books? 

Hee hee. I love ALL the romances. But again I’m going with Leni and Raymond. For now. Because I’m going to be cagey about a future couple. Leni and Raymond are a couple of grouches clashing in the night, with Raymond’s eight-year-old son Anton as the sunshine character. It’s heckin slow burn, too. And only one bed/floor/wagon.


Do you listen to music as you write? 

Here’s my generic writing playlist. I also like orchestral stuff, such as Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. And here’s another one for #RussianBluesWIP that I also write to a lot.


Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? 

I take my character sketches very literally. I don’t have any on my website for Ripples or This Great Wilderness yet (it’s on my to-do list), but I have a gallery here for The War in Our Hearts.


Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers? 

Bill Bryson, Jon Krakauer, Hilary McKay, Christian Miller, A A Milne, Erik Larson, Dorothy Sayers, Elizabeth Wein, Ellen White, Opal Whiteley.


Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you! 

All my social media links are here. I am most active on Twitter, though.

Author Interview: Amy Campbell

a picture of a cup of coffee, a laptop and a journal/pen; text says 'author interview: indie book spotlight'

Be sure to check out Tales of the Outlaw Mages!

Interview:

1.      Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

Paperback and audiobook. I “read” faster with audio but for eyeball-reading I love me a good paperback. (I don’t have a lot of time to sit and read so audio is super helpful!)

2.      Pick a genre, any genre!

Fantasy. Always fantasy. Bonus points for horses/equines/dragons/griffins.

3.      What is the first book you remember reading?

Billy and Blaze (an old school horse book. I’ve been on brand my whole life).

4.      What book shaped your childhood most?

My childhood and love for writing? Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion. I devoured the whole series. I pretended I was Alec and The Black with my model horses. My first writing effort was a book that very much mirrored The Black Stallion.

5.      When did you first start writing?

I think maybe I was 7?

6.      What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

I’ve always loved to read, and writing is putting the movie in my head onto a page. I was also the sort of reader who would “interact” with the characters I read about to the point where they nearly leapt off the page and I would pretend to have adventures with them. I still have adventures with my own original characters in my brain now!

7.      What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

My first published book, Breaker. It was always a dream of mine to be a published author. And now I am—through all of my own hard work and determination. And even better, other people like the book. Have found meaning and representation in the book! There’s no greater honor than that.

8.      Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

I don’t even know where my first books would be. Many computers ago, lost for sure! I never got beyond first drafts, though, and back then (as now) I always hated on my first drafts.

9.      How many books/collections have you published so far?

Two – Breaker and Effigest.

10.   What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

Epic fantasy, but more specifically queer weird western epic fantasy. I know, I know—pick a lane! I can’t.

11.   Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

Both! I got many a book through Interlibrary Loan to figure out some of the things for Breaker, like for the wind pump and some of the recipes.

12.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

I tried with Breaker. I really did. But it was a battle the whole time. I tried again with Effigest and learned that I just have to write a dirty first draft and go from there, without an outline in the world!

13.   What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

Indie. Yes, because I like the control over my product. Everything about it is me. I don’t want to sign away the rights to my characters to someone else.

14.   If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings.

15.   Do you currently have a WIP?

Yes, just finished the first draft of Dreamer. Hoping it will release late spring/early summer 2022!

16.   Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

Blaise, definitely Blaise. Though I love all of them. He’s one of my oldest characters – he’s existed in my head for more than 20 years! He was always a mage, always had a slew of problems. But at heart he’s always been a kind soul, wanting to do the right thing. But this time around he got upgraded into a queer asexual magic cowboy riding a pegasus so … I think that makes him extra fun. Along with the boatload of baggage I gave the poor guy. Also, he decided he wanted to be a baker so … that made life interesting.

17.   What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

I guess it would be Breaker?

18.   Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

Even though one of my main characters is asexual, I strive to still represent the fact that aces can have deep, loving relationships. Blaise has a boyfriend, and their relationship didn’t begin under the best of circumstances. But it’s bloomed in a way that makes me really love the pair.

19.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

Only if my kids are around and/or my husband is gaming in the same room that I’m writing in. I have quite a long playlist for my writing. A favorite that really represents a lot of my characters is ‘Lions Inside’ by Valley of Wolves.

20.   Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

I do! A very talented artist on TikTok drew fan art of my characters, and I loved her work so I had to hire her to do commissions. So far Mary Carman/Sapphic Witchy has completed work for Blaise and Emrys, and Jack and Zepheus. 

21.   If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Read a lot. Write a lot. If writing is your dream, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.

22.   Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

I entered Breaker in the Equus Film & Arts Festival literary division. I won Reserve Champion in the Equine Fiction – Western category! I read Equus magazine all the time growing up, so it’s pretty exciting to be a Reserve Champion in anything with them!

23.   Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

Samantha Kroese, long time friend and indie author who gave me the confidence to try to publish!

A.R.K. Horton
Patricia Briggs
Kevin Hearne
Robin Hobb

24.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

Website
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Book Review: Dim Stars (2020)

hands holding a book open; text says 'book review by r. crunden'

Dim Stars: A Novel of Outer-Space Shenanigans by Brian P. Rubin

Plenty of his classmates were drafted into the Fleet when the Forger War broke out, just like he was. But none of them became galaxy-famous war heroes when they were still teenagers. Dash hadn’t aspired to much before the war started, so he wasn’t sure how to aspire to anything at all once it ended.

Oh, this book! You simply must give this book a go! It’s charming and wonderful!

Firstly, it must be pointed out that this book has a jaw-droppingly cool cover. Better still, from the start, Dim Stars pulls you right in and is great fun! The humour is seriously great! Like,

“We’re one ship on an asteroid filled with who-knows-how-many people who want to shoot at us, which will be jumping into—if I’m not mistaken—another dimension in four minutes.”

Due to the fact there’s a first mate aboard who is a talking Octopus, coupled with the gorgeous cover, my brain instantly imagined an animated version of Dim Stars that was basically Below Decks meets Final Space for the first chapter 😉

Not unlike my beloved Mooncake, Squix, the Octopus in Dim Stars, is the first mate aboard the once-famous Captain Dashiell Drake’s ship and travels the galaxy with him. All comparisons instantly faded, however, as I was quickly immersed in the universe and the world-building is great! You can tell Rubin spent a lot of time fleshing everything out.

Escaping homicidal armored alien invaders was bad enough. Having to exercise while doing it was even worse.

The main characters are Kenzie and Dash: fourteen year old Kenzie’s just bought a place in Dash’s crew so that she can stick it on her CV. Dash is once-famous, ‘hero of Gantoid IV and intergalactic adventurer’ and now using his old fame to pay the bills with Squix by offering places to cadets for a fee. When Kenzie gets a chance to fly with Dash, she ends up on an adventure neither were prepared for.

What I like most about this book was how easy it was to slip into the universe Rubin created. I often have trouble imagining sci-fi books in my head, but not this one! This one just felt like the world enveloped you.

Rest assured this is a super fun debut and fans of sci-fi, adventure and action should check out Dim Stars! I can’t wait to see what Brian P. Rubin publishes next!

Thank you so much to the author for sending me a copy of this book!

Book Review: The 13th Zodiac (2021)

a girl reading a book; text says 'book review by rebecca crunden'

The 13th Zodiac: Book One (The 13th Zodiac #1) by L. Krauch

“White hair, and Eternity on her shoulder.”

This is the first book I’ve read by L. Krauch and it’s a strong start to what looks to be an awesome, fantastical series! I saw the recently released covers for the next books and they look fabulous, I must say. If this book is anything to go by, the next two will be just as steeped in mythology, world-building and heart.

GENERAL SPOILER WARNING

I’m not sure how much of this review is *actually* spoilery, but since I wanna go into some of the worldbuilding and backstory that you don’t get at the start, heads-up. 🙂

Single-shot rifles were no match for a madwoman and her axe.

For those looking for a fantasy romance, The 13th Zodiac is it. With a truly unique twist on the notions of Fate, Time and Eternity, this builds a tale that feels both familiar and fresh. I was really struck by the backstory and basis for the world, and I love the mythos employed by Krauch in the shaping of it.

Time was freed. Now, she seeks her other half so she can repair the Eternal Clock and return things to the way they were, before Urth and Sky made man.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about worldbuilding and how different authors approach it, and I really like Krauch’s take. Especially the shattering of the Keeper of the Stars and the whole backstory of Time ripping her soul in half and creating Eternity (the 13th Zodiac).

Someone with one black and one white wing wielded the Spear of Stars. But it was not the same Fate I knew. They stood over the bloody body of Time.

The story begins with our lovely prince, one Jase Raion, reaching the island kingdom of Aria and meeting Liya, the lost princess of the kingdom. He literally runs into her, ha, and their lives quickly become entangled. And very quickly we get our OTP.

“All right, princess. It’s time to go.” He gently gathered Liya into his arms.

I MEAN— (/◕ヮ◕)/

The prince and the princess are indeed adorable, shippable characters to be sure, although many of the side characters don’t quite agree! There’s a scene towards the end that perfectly encapsulates this, although I shan’t spoil ya!

From fantasy to mythology to action/adventure to found family to romance, Krauch manages to pack an impressive amount into her debut novel and I can’t wait to see what fantastical tales this author comes up with next!

Author Interviews Roundup

artsy design background like a compass; text says 'author interviews'

In case anyone missed any of the recent indie author interviews I’ve done, here is an updated list of all the interviews I’ve posted so far. Be sure to check these great authors out!

Author Interview: L.A. Wasielewski
Author Interview: Pedro Gabriel
Author Interview: L.L. Stephens
Author Interview: A. K. Ritchie
Author Interview: Amy Maltman
Author Interview: Luther Kross
Author Interview: Sinnamon Carnelian
Author Interview: Ciarán West
Author Interview: Mansur Hasib
Author Interview: Val Neil
Author Interview: Alan Denham
Author Interview: Barbara Avon
Author Interview: Rita A. Rubin
Author Interview: Maxime Jaz
Author Interview: Chris Clancy
Author Interview: Elford Alley
Author Interview: Dan McKeon
Author Interview: Elena Nix
Author Interview: Charlotte Sullivan Wild
Author Interview: M. W. McLeod
Author Interview: L. Krauch
Author Interview: Sarah Bell
Author Interview: D.N. Schmidt
Author Interview: Casie Aufenthie
Author Interview: Courtney Maguire
Author Interview: Diana L. Smith
Author Interview: Jamie Jackson