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juliana spink mills Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Juliana Spink Mills. Juliana Spink Mills was born in England, but grew up in Brazil. Now, she lives in Connecticut and writes science fiction and fantasy. She is the author of Heart Blade and Night Blade, the first two books in the young adult Blade Hunt Chronicles urban fantasy series. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and online publications. Besides writing, Juliana works as a Portuguese/English translator, and as a teen library assistant. She watches way too many TV shows, and loves to get lost in a good book. Her dream is to move to Narnia when she grows up. Or possibly Middle Earth, if she’s allowed a very small dragon of her own.

Juliana Spink Mills’s latest book, Night Blade, is a YA novel urban fantasy fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—In the aftermath of the Heart Blade’s return, Del and Rose have different roads to follow. One leads forward, the other to the distant past. Rose is on a mission to infiltrate and double-cross the ultimate heist, and retrieve a game-changing prize. Meanwhile, as the Court of the Covenant prepares to meet, Del has a quest of her own. She must untangle her lost identity or risk her entire future. With the Blade Hunt prophecy in motion, darkness threatens to rise, and a new sword emerges from the shadows.

And a little “taste” of Night Blade:
  The vampire smiled at Raze. “How do you feel about a little undercover work?”
  “Undercover work? What kind?”
  “The dangerous kind. The sort of work that should suit Raze perfectly, since you’re so determined to leave Rose behind,” he said. “A challenge. You’re infiltrating a heist. I think you’ll make an excellent cat burglar.”

nightblade_front_mills Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Night Blade?

Night Blade is the second in my YA urban fantasy trilogy. The idea for the series came from a short story I was working on. That particular story was never published, but the world stuck in my head and kept growing, and eventually became the first book, Heart Blade.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

I think my two favorites are Camille, an immortal half-demon, and Ben a teenage witch. Camille is fun to write, because her personality is similar to my own (demonic immortality aside). As for Ben, I just like him. He’s had a lot of bad things happen to him, but he doesn’t give up. And, more importantly, he always tries to do the right thing, even if it’s going to cost him.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

Both my books were published by a small press. I think the advantages were that I was involved in every step of the process. I was given everything you can expect from a larger press—editor, copy editor, professional cover art—but additionally, because I worked so closely with the owner of the press, I was involved in a lot of the decision-making. It really was a lesson in what it takes to bring out a book! For a first timer who up to that point had only published short stories, it was a real learning experience.

The disadvantages of a small press are probably obvious, and center mostly around market reach.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m definitely a planner. That said, I’ve become a lot more organic in my process as I’ve gained confidence in myself as a writer. So now, instead of the rigid chapter outlines I used in the past, I tend to do a list of bullet points: key events that need to be incorporated. This gives me wriggle room to go ‘off road’ when I want, and I constantly update this list as the story progresses.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I was definitely a Narnia girl. I was gifted the full Narnia set as a going away present when I moved from England to Brazil at the age of eight. Brazil was new, and exciting, but also confusing and strange, so I absolutely connected with Lucy Pevensie and the rest of C.S. Lewis’ portal-travelling youngsters. I credit those books with a life-long love of fantasy novels.

What writing project are you currently working on?

After a much-needed break to write a sci fi thriller, I’m now working on Star Blade, the last book in my YA trilogy. The planning stage took ages—there is so much to fit in!—but now I’m up and running and delighted to be back in this familiar world of mine. I missed my characters!

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

My favorite bit of advice ever, and one I always pass along, is: “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Nothing happens overnight in publishing. If you love writing, allow yourself the gift of time. And keep writing!

Want to learn more about Juliana Spink Mills and Night Blade? Check out her:  WebsiteFacebook pageTwitterInstagram, and  Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Night Blade.

Thanks to author Juliana Spink Mills for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Elaine Isaak on February 21, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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Claire Davon bio photo Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Claire Davon. Claire Davon has written on and off for most of her life, starting with fan fiction when she was very young. She writes across a wide range of genres, and does not consider any of it off limits. If a story calls to her, she will write it. She currently lives in Los Angeles and spends her free time writing novels and short stories, as well as doing animal rescue and enjoying the sunshine.

Claire Davon’s latest book, Water Fall, is a novel fantasy fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—Lara thought she had time to ease into her role as water Elemental, guardian and defender of the sea and all its creatures. Time to learn the skills to rise to the next Challenge, many decades away. Then she felt the shift. When Sullivan intrudes upon her oceanside sanctuary, stirring memories of the blazing night he bound her to him, body and soul, the shark king confirms her suspicions. A new Challenge is upon them. And Sullivan, the prime suspect in her predecessor’s death, demands her trust.

Sullivan remembers the carnage—human and paranormal—the last time the Elementals failed to win Challenge. It must not happen again. But in the six years since he reluctantly left Lara’s side, she hasn’t learned nearly enough to defeat a rapidly rising enemy. A gargantuan Demonos that makes him look like a minnow. Shifters don’t normally aid Elementals, but Sullivan made a deal with the gods to teach her to fight. Now if he could only convince his wayward body to put aside the searing memory of her touch. Because distraction now could spell disaster to them all.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Water Fall?

WaterFall_Digital_Large claire Water Fall is the third book in a five-book series called Elementals’ Challenge. Each one centers around an Elemental, who is an immortal being with powers related to their element. In this one the water Elemental, Ondine, is new to the Elementals and has to find her core strength in order to fight her enemy. I loved writing about a new Elemental, one who was human not so long ago and who had to figure out her new station while facing a great threat to the world, and to herself.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

As much as I love Ondine (the Elemental) I think my favorite character in this book is her love interest, the shark shifter/demi-god Sullivan. He is a both a strong character with a core of steel but also a romantic who has wanted this woman for eight years. He does what needs to be done.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

This one is self-published. The series started out at a publisher (Samhain,) but they closed two weeks from releasing the second book. At that time, I opted to self-publish the remainder of the series (a total of five books) for many reasons, but the primary one is control over the subject matter and the covers. I love my covers. This series and the covers are interwoven to me.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I am a total pantser. I think about reforming and becoming a plotter, but it never works out for me. My books ebb and flow and take unexpected turns. I usually start a story by simply starting, with a general idea of what I want to write about, but no real idea of how I am going to get there. Maybe someday, I’ll plan…but I’m not holding my breath

What was your favorite book as a child?

If by child, you could say a twelve/thirteen-year-old, then hands down my favorite book was Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. My parents had tons of books laying around, and I picked this one up and my world changed. It was not only my introduction into SF/fantasy, but also an introduction into my own fantasy life. For years, I wanted to be a dragonrider and would invent elaborate stories around the world and dragons. I think my interest in SF/fantasy started the day I picked that book up, and it has never waned.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I just sold the second book in the Universe Chronicles series to Soul Mate Publishing. In addition, I am working on edits for the fourth book in the Elementals’ Challenge series, as well as writing a paranormal romance that is going to be in a box set the middle of next year. I’ve usually got a short story or two in the pipeline, but at the moment my focus is on the novels.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

There are two pieces of advice that stick with me. The first is to write every day, and I do that. The second is to write a story, send it out, and start working on a new one. Both pieces of advice have served me well. I may not always like what I put down on paper every day, but it gives me a framework to go off of. You can’t edit what doesn’t exist.

Want to learn more about Claire Davon and Water Fall? Check out her: Website, Facebook page, Twitter, Pinterest, and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Water Fall.

Thanks to author Claire Davon for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert on February 7, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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Stubborn as Summer by Justine Graykin

j_graykin_photo “I’m standing on my deck looking out over the leaf-strewn grass, through the woods towards the wetlands. It is a warm October day, drawing close to Halloween, a time, as we say in New England, when the frost is on the pumpkin.

Except there has been no frost.

It is as if summer is holding its breath, refusing to give way to fall.

I am more than half a century old. This seems to me quite remarkable. I remember a world before computers, before the Internet. My grandmother knew an inconceivable world without telephones, cars, or electricity. I was amazed to think about it when she described that world. Now my children look at me the same way.

This year I finished climbing all the mountains in New Hampshire that are four thousand feet or higher, including the Presidentials, Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison and Monroe, windswept rocky piles where the weather can change quickly, the conditions turn deadly, and lives are lost every year. I hiked those mountains and camped out in them alone.

On the trail, the 20-somethings, 30-somethings, 40-somethings, excused themselves to pass me, striding along, leaving me behind. But I kept plodding along, and I reached the summit eventually through sheer stubbornness.

This year saw the publication of one of my novels, at last, after years of effort, writing and rewriting, submitting and compiling the long list of rejections. At last I had success with Archimedes Nesselrode, a whimsical romantic fantasy rather different from my others. But then again, they are all different from one another. I am asked what kind of fiction I write, and I am at a loss to say. It rambles in all sorts of directions, save one: It is never dark. There is enough suffering in reality. I’ll only allow suffering in my fiction if I can put an end to it.

ANcoverLarrythumb So, publishers seeking dark and dystopian, gritty and urban, heart-breaking, gut-wrenching Oprah books, have passed me by, until now. And readers, exhausted from reading all that emotional mayhem, embrace the gentle humor of Archimedes Nesselrode with delight. Because we all need a bit of fun, a touch of the whimsical, now and again.

At conventions and author events, all those 20-somethings, 30-somethings, 40-somethings have their stack of books, their publishing history. But here I am with Archimedes, and I’ll get there through sheer stubbornness.

In many traditions, Halloween marks the turning of the year. It wears the face of the Crone as it watches summer wither and fade, taking on the appearance of Death as it pulls over its head the cold blanket of winter. But this year, summer digs in its heels, refusing to yield. And here I am, more than half a century old, climbing mountains and persisting in this damn fool ambition to be a writer, suddenly with success. Plodding on. Stubborn as summer.”

Justine Graykin is a writer and free-lance philosopher sustained by her deep, abiding faith in Science, Humanity and the belief that humor is the best anti-gravity device. Author of Archimedes Nesselrode, a book written for adults who are weary of adult books, she is producer of the BroadPod podcast. She lives, writes and putters around her home in rural New Hampshire, occasionally disappearing into the White Mountains with a backpack. You can find her on her website at www.JustineGraykin.com

The Wicked, Weird and Whimsical Words Halloween Blog Tour runs every other day October 23-October 31. Join us all five days for Halloween fun! Be sure to say hello on any post to be entered in a giveaway at the end of the tour.

Thanks to Justine Graykin for her guest post. Be sure and visit the other blog sites for fun Halloween-themed posts (including my guest posts). Coming up on Whimsical Words between now and All Hallow’s Eve: speculative authors L.C. Hu, Trisha Wooldridge, Elizabeth Black, and Gail Z. Martin.

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On July 31, 1965, English author, JK Rowling, was born in Yate, Gloucestershire, England. By now, most of us have read at least one of her Harry Potter novels (or for those “I’d rather see the movie instead” folks – have seen one or more of the films based on her books). And many of us have heard about her journey from a barely-getting-by single parent to one of the most successful children’s writers of our time.

I won’t share the inspiring story of JK Rowling’s writing career here, but encourage the curious to visit her website: www.jkrowling.com and discover the details for themselves. What I will share is my gratitude to a writer whose fantasy series about a boy wizard, his friends, and their adventures encouraged many young people to pick up a book (or seven), and read.

Some books take readers on journeys whose destinations can only be reached in the imagination. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter novels are those kinds of books. I thank her for the sharing her magical world and for inspiring me to write my fantasy novel, The Enchanted Skean. And I wish her the Happiest of Birthdays!

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Skean copy Though I dislike competing “against others,” I understand that such contests raise the visibility of a book, or in this case, a book trailer. Authors need to do some of their own publicity, even if it’s outside their comfort zone. So I’m stepping into the scary world of promotion and asking for the help of my readers.
The book trailer for “The Enchanted Skean,” my YA fantasy novel from Mockingbird Lane Press, is competing for the You Gotta Read Video Award from July 21 until July 26.
So, dear readers, please go to: Http://yougottaread.com/category/video-contest/  and vote for #17 – “The Enchanted Skean.” That’s #17 – “The Enchanted Skean” by Vonnie Winslow Crist featuring excellent work on the book trailer by MLP’s Jamie Johnson.
Thanks!

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Sandra Saidak Thanks to fantasy author Sandra Saidak for stopping by and sharing how she’s used folklore in her writing. (As my readers know, this is a subject near and dear to my heart, too!)

Using Folklore in Writing Fantasy by Sandra Saidak

I guess I’ve always known about the shapeshifting seals called selkies. I’d heard at least a couple of old ballads, and even seen one printed up in a Beauty and the Beast fanzine. But when I began writing the story which eventually became The Seal Queen, I knew that selkies weren’t quite what I was looking for. I knew I needed some kind of animal shapeshifter, and since the book was going to take place on the southern coast of Ireland, seals certainly made the most sense.

It was while sitting in a Barnes and Noble with a hot chocolate and a copy of The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John and Caitlin Matthews, (a wonderful book, which I could not possibly have afforded at the time) that I discovered the roane. While similar to selkies, and just as likely to have their fur stolen and forced to become the wife of some fisherman, these gentle creatures were much more like what I was looking for.

I searched for more information, but could only find one folktale involving the roane, which I will briefly paraphrase here:

A seal trapper lost his knife while attempting to kill a bull-seal. That night, a stranger came to his door, asking to purchase a large number of seal skins. The trapper gathered together a sizable bundle, and while loading them onto the stranger’s horse, found himself pulled onto the horse behind the stranger, who at once rode them to the edge of a cliff—then over it, into the sea.

The trapper found himself in the sea cave of the roane. he stranger, who was actually a roane in human form, was now a seal. Gathered in the cave was a sorrowing group of roane, who surrounded an injured bull-seal. One of them, in human form, held a knife, and asked the trapper if it was his. Terrified, the trapper could only nod. Then, to his amazement, the roane handed him his knife and told him the seal could be saved if the trapper would draw a circle around the wound with the knife, smooth it with his hand, and pray for it to be healed.

The trapper did so, and before his eyes the wound closed and soon disappeared. The trapper swore an oath never to harm another seal and was taken home.

As soon as I read the story, I knew two things: these were the creatures I was looking for, and this tale would appear in my novel. So far, all I had of that novel was a scene in which a pregnant woman was fleeing an abusive situation, and then arriving on an enchanted beach where she could finally feel safe. There, she would begin to discover her own strength and resourcefulness. The themes I saw in the folktale—forgiveness, hope, redemption and healing magic—resonated so strongly that I knew this one little story would shape my entire novel. You can find my version of the tale in Chapter 22 of The Seal Queen.

Sandra Saidak The Seal Queen The Seal Queen’s Cover Blurb: “Drawing on Irish folklore, The Seal Queen tells the story of Briah, an escaped slave who finds sanctuary, for herself and her unborn child, on an enchanted beach. There her life is filled with contented solitude, the joys of motherhood, and even the possibility of love with a merman whose song haunts her dreams.

But Briah’s magical world is shaken when she discovers that her son is the long-awaited savior and future king of the roane (shape-shifting seals, and gentler cousins of the selkies). Briah wants to help these magical creatures, but is unwilling to see her son become a pawn in their deadly schemes. When faced with the choice between sending her child to battle his diabolical father or allowing the roane to be exterminated, Briah insists on finding a third option.”

Find out more about Sandra Saidak by visiting her on Facebook (Sandra Saidak) and checking out her website: http://sandrasaidak.com/

Her books can be purchased on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Saidak/e/B006C1QZR8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 Including not only The Seal Queen, but also Sandra’s prehistoric fiction series, Kalie’s Journey, beginning with Daughter of theGoddess Lands, an epic set in the late Neolithic Age and continued in Shadow of the Horsemen. And a story set in the Kalie universe can be found in Sandra’s short story collection, In the Balance.

Thanks again to Sandra Saidak for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a magical day! – Vonnie

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Skean copy The first reviews of The Enchanted Skean are in, and I couldn’t be happier. Now, I know that not all the reviews are going to be as positive, but I’m delighted that so far readers are pleased with my young adult fantasy novel.

First Amazon review: “5 Stars – What An Imagination. I loved this novel. It transported me into a three dimensional reality full of rich details and memorable characters. I only wish the second book were already published so that I could continue with the characters for the next phase of the journey. P.S. I really want a dragonet of my own!” – Dawn C.

The first review of The Enchanted Skean by Douglas R. Cobb appeared in New Yorker Times. It’s quite long, and I won’t include the whole thing here, but here are a two excerpts:

“Once you begin reading The Enchanted Skean by Vonnie Winslow Crist, you won’t want to put it down.”

The Enchanted Skean… is a remarkable fantasy novel that will have your enraptured from the opening page to the very last one. If you love reading epic fantasy novels filled with magic, myriads of cool characters and races, and plenty of warriors and action, I highly recommend you check out [this book]. I’m very much looking forward to reading the next book in the Chronicles of Lifthrasir, and you will, also, once you read The Enchanted Skean.”  To read full review: http://newyorkertimes.com/2013/04/theenchantedskean/ (Sorry, site has been taken down).

Curious about the book?  Here’s a link to The Enchanted Skean’s book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-8C9OkyJCU and a 3-chapter excerpt: http://vonniewinslowcrist.com/books/the_enchanted_skean_excerpt

Thanks Douglas R. Cobb and Dawn C. for your reviews. I hope other readers like the book as much as you.

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