Friday, August 7, 2015

Guest Review: Five Enchanted Roses

Hi guys! I have another guest review for you guys! Here's my sister, Cortney:

Thanks for having me again Heather!

What happens when the stories of five different authors are selected for an anthology of Beauty and the Beast retellings?  You get the imaginative and exciting Five Enchanted Roses: A Collection of Beauty and the Beast Stories by Kaycee BrowningSavannah Jezowski, Jenelle SchmidtDorian Tsukioka, and Hayden Wand.  Each of the stories are unique and intense with very different Beauties, Beasts, and settings.  Some Beauties are sweet and compassionate while others are tough and temperamental, but all are brave and willing to face the adventure that comes their way.  The Beasts, also, are varied in temperament.  All are afflicted with a curse of some kind, but they cope with this hardship in different ways.  They alternately embrace the curse, deflect the truth with jokes, or nobly accept the results of past decisions and mistakes.  In addition, the various settings are quite different from one another.  Still, all of the stories are united by their inspiration and by their theme of redemption.

The first retelling in Five Enchanted Roses is Esprit de la Rose by Kaycee Browning.  This is a very interesting historical/fantasy story with vengeful mermaids, suffering pirates, a magnetic captain, and a compassionate heroine.  Cecilia wants a new life, so she sets sail with her privateer father, hoping to find a home with her respectable aunt in England.  However, her father’s greed has summoned the wrath of the Fee who attack his ship and accidently send Cecilia to world where they intended to punish her father.  Cecilia finds herself on another ship with inhuman specters who used to be sailors who had crossed the Fee.  She alone on the ship is a solid human, and the spectral sailors all believe she is the key to their escape back to the real world.  However, in order for them to escape, she must suffer, but Captain Pepin claims to know a solution to all their problems.  Following his plan is not easy, though, and Cecily has much more danger and adventure in her future.

The second retelling is Wither by Savannah Jezowski.  Bet, the Beauty in this story does not match the typical ideal of a beauty in a fairy tale.  She is more gruff and hardworking with a real temper.  Her sister, Sookie, is a much more innocent, tender, and traditional beauty, so she is a logical choice for a companion for the hideous and unloved Corwin.  However, the world is a dangerous place with Creepers, Ghouls, and other monsters on the prowl, and Bet is not about to let an unknown monster claim her little sister.  She marches off to the mysterious Briarstone Abbey to fulfill her father’s debt in her sister’s place.  After several harrowing experiences, Corwin realizes Bet may actually be the perfect companion for his dangerous life.  Bet, too, begins to realize that rumors may not always be true and that appearances can hide a deeper truth.

In the third tale, Stone Curse by Jenelle Schmidt, there is more than one hero and more than one Beast.  Karyna, a lady-in-waiting, has survived a curse and loyally remains in the castle.  On the Princess’ birthday, the court turned to stone, the visiting Prince Barend was transformed into a beast, and the Princess herself disappeared.  Karyna’s father is among the stone courtiers, and she narrowly avoided the same fate.  Now, after two years, only a handful of servants remain while the country has fallen into turmoil.  At last, Karyna realizes that the person who cast the curse must be dwelling in another nearby castle and may be holding the Princess captive there.  Boldly, Karyna embarks on a journey to end the curse.  Prince Barend fears for her safety but cannot leave the castle without losing his human mind.  Meanwhile, another man is seeking to end the curse, and the castor is also suffering.  Only when four key characters come together once more can the curse be broken.

While the other stories have a traditional European feel, Rosara and the Jungle King by Dorian Tsukioka stands out with its jungle setting.  Rosara, the daughter of a chieftan, loves her jungle home, but her village is brutal.  One warrior longs to replace her father as leader, and he can only do this by taking Rosara as his wife.  Unfortunately for Rosara, he is a cruel man who already have two wives who bear the marks of his club and violence.  She seeks refuge in her beloved jungle where she encounters a regal jaguar named Tupa.  Her situation starts to grow more and more desperate, and she seeks the aid of the karawara, jungle spirits who sometimes interfere in the lives of humans but always with a cost.

Finally, the fifth story is a historical retelling called The Wulver’s Rose by Hayden Wand.  The story is set in Scotland in the 1600s and 1700s.  One of the last witches of the world has cursed Lauchlan, her former brother-in-law, and his daughter to be trapped in the forms of a wulver (half-human, half-wolf) and a rosebush.  Nearly a century passes, and her curse will soon result in their complete destruction.  At about this time, young Bonnie Alleway’s family suffers some terrible losses, and she blames herself for their suffering.  They lose their home and their wealth, and two of her siblings suffer severe after-effects to their health.  Her brother urges her to forgive herself as he has forgiven her, but she has trouble.  Her family relocates to a tiny cottage in rural Scotland where she begins to sense a dark evil and hears a repeated plea for help.  For comfort, she clings to her faith and a simple prayer she learned as a child, and she holds onto both of these after her father plucks a rose and a monster demands her in payment for her father’s mistake.  Hoping for redemption, Bonnie meets the wulver’s demand, but she still must discover why God has led her to the beast’s castle as well as whose cries she hears in her nightmares.

All five stories are ingenious, lovely, and well-thought out retellings of the classic tale.  I really enjoyed the whole collection!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

My Kansas City Live Interview

Hey everyone!
I just wanted to update you on a few things. First of all, this morning, I had an amazing time on a local TV show, Kansas City Live!
You can catch the interview here.

Also, tonight is opening night for Narnia at Weston Community Theatre. Come see me as a unicorn July 8th, 10th, and 11th at 7:00 and 12th at 2:00. 

Finally, my opera piece, "Regret," is being performed at the Kansas City Fringe Festival this month! I am so excited. For more information about the Words + Music performance at the Fringe Festival, look here.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Guest Review: Draven's Light by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Hey everyone!I am handing the reins over to my sister, Cortney, for her review of Draven's Light by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.

Here she is!

Thanks for having me, Heather!  And congratulations on your new book, Carried Home!

This review is of one of my new favorite books: Draven’s Light by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.  It is a fantasy book (but with a strong historical feel) from the Tales of Goldstone Wood series.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s books are always amazing, so I had high expectations for this book, and Draven’s Light certainly did not disappoint.  The characters and their relationships with each other are deeply developed, the setting is darkly and brilliantly drawn to life, and the story itself reveals the bright beauty and power of love in a seemingly bleak world.

As the newest addition to Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s Tales of Goldstone Wood, Draven’s Light can easily stand alone as an outstanding story, but it also casts new light on the history of the Goldstone Wood world.

The story contains both familiar characters from the series as well as various new and unique characters.  The Brothers Ashiun will be the most familiar for readers of the series.  One of the brothers, Akilun, tells the story to a young girl.  His story is about a young man named Draven.

Growing up in a dark and barbaric world, the young man knows that he will have to kill an enemy in order to earn his name and the respect of his tribe.  However, when the time comes, he cannot kill, so his father, the chief, renames him Draven, or coward.

Only Draven’s club-footed sister, Ita, does not despise him even though the village sees them as complete opposites: Draven as a large and powerful coward and Ita as a weak but incredibly brave young woman.  She earns a place of honor among her people for her bravery, but she still values her brother’s “cowardice” for what it truly is: the bravery and compassion to stand up against the brutal and bloody rituals and conventions of their people and their father.

Unlike Draven, the fierce Ita does not have the courage to oppose their father’s will, so she blames herself along with her people when they invite a curse down upon their heads.  Soon, the lives of the people who despised and shunned Draven are at stake.  Is the coward they rejected brave enough to save them and his sister in time?  Not only their lives but the future is very much at stake, and the actions Draven takes will affect the entire area and its people for generations to come.

His story is a beautiful example of love and the true meaning of bravery, and I would highly recommend this book to any fans of fantasy and great stories.

Thanks, Cortney! Sounds like an interesting book!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Romantic Time's Convention (RT) Part 4

I think this is going to be my last post about RT, so if you were annoyed by me before, please bear with me and know that this is the final post. :)

So. After about three non-stop days of the busy writer's convention, I was ready to have a small break. So my dad and sister and I decided to go on an expedition to the mall and I had Dippin' Dots, which I hadn't had in years. It was almost eerie going to the mall, where things were much more quiet and in a "normal" setting. But after a while, I was itching to go back to the convention, especially because the next day was the Giant Bookfair.

 Finally, the day of the book fair came. I was SO excited, because my awesome publisher's mom had sewn me a dress that matches the cover of Swept to Sea! How fun is that??? It was a joy to do the book signing in the dress. I had so much fun, especially because a lot of young girls came up to me, excited, and said I was a princess. A lot of people wanted to take a picture of me. I loved talking to the younger people whose eyes brightened when they heard that I was published when I was 16. I love inspiring other people like that.

Oh, also: I ran into Arianna Rebolini of Buzzfeed once again, and wound up on another Buzzfeed post. I am number 53 on this list, where I mentioned one of my favorite romance novels.

Here's me and the owner of Clean Reads, my publisher. I always love a chance to see Stephanie! 

Below is me and Clean Reads' very own handsome cover model, Rob Bierman. He represented Clean Reads at RT this year, and he's so sweet. 

Regina Jennings and I with our matching book cover dresses! She wasn't wearing hers, but she had brought it along. 

My awesome friend Karen

The one and the only Francine Rivers!

Below is.. another Karen!  This is one of my favorite authors, Karen Witemeyer. All of the inspirational authors were organized into one line this year, which was really convenient. 

Tamera Alexander! Love her!

It's always a joy to see Deeanne Gist! She is such a sweetheart. I love all of her books. 

This is what I look like after standing at the book fair for four and a half hours in a heavy dress. I collapse on my hotel bed and eat Pringles and drink coffee. 

After I recharged in my hotel room, I went to a fascinator-making party. Here I am with my sister and my friends, Karen and Angela! Aren't our fascinators lovely?
At the final party of RT, I ran into Rob again, so we had to take another picture. This party was Heather Grahams's annual ball, which promises lots of yummy food and a spooky performance.

And...that's it! I packed up late that night and went to the airport for another early flight back home to make it to Kansas City in time for my performance at the Coterie Theatre.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Romantic Time's Convention (RT) Part 3

Be prepared for another chronicle in my adventures at the RT convention. 
So, remember how I told you about Club RT? Well, it was finally time for my slot of appearing at Club RT. After much ado, trying to find where on earth I was supposed to do, I spoke to a lady who gave my my name plaque and told me I could sit anywhere I liked. So, I set up shop and waited for people to come near me so I could tel them about my books. All in all, it was a fun experience. 

Right after my time slot at Club RT, Melanie Dickerson appeared for her time slot. So, naturally, I had to stop to say hi and get a picture with her. She is so sweet! 

That night, after many rehearsals, my sister and I skipped out on the night's parties and went out to dinner with our dad and one of his friends from work. The lemon cake at the restaurant we visited was ABSOLUTELY fabulous. It was also a nice change of scenery to get away from the fabulous hustle and bustle of RT.

The next morning, I attended the "How Sweet It Is" breakfast mixer held by many fabulous inspirational authors. This is always my favorite part of RT. So fun, and such a great time to see lots of friends! 

The lovely Lenora Worth and I. I'm so glad she was able to come this year! She's so sweet. 

Betsy St.Amant and I! We knew each other from Facebook, so it was great to finally meet in person.

So..that's all I will post about for today. Catch me later for more about the convention including lots of details on the Giant Book Fair where I signed books, dressed as my main character Eden!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Romantic Times Convention (RT) Part 2's some more about the Romantic Time's convention.
I made a stop at Club RT. This was a room where, throughout the week, authors were scheduled to just sit at tables and talk to current fans and hopefully future fans. What a cool idea, right?  I was signed up to appear on Thursday, so I had to stop and take a picture of my name on this lovely sign. Then, at 12:00, the real work began. 
There were hundreds of workshops that went on, and the choices were endless. Basically, most days at RT went like this:
Get up. Get breakfast.
10:00-12:00 workshops. 
12:00-1:00 skip part of a workshop to get lunch in the crowded hotel venue. 
1:00-5:00 attend workshops.
5:30-12:00 parties, line up for parties, meet other authors and readers. 
So basically,, the schedule is jam-packed. On my first day, I attended a lot of very helpful seminars, and then got ready for the party of the night. This night's theme was cowboys and barbecue, so I dressed in fringes and, of course, a glittery cowboy hat. 

For dinner, they served: iced tea, (Which needed to be sweet. Oh my goodness. I put so many packets of sugar in there.), barbecue, potato salad, coleslaw, corn bread, and delicious fruit cobbler. The party featured dancing and a mechanical bull, but I didn't partake in either. 

So, while I was standing in line for this lovely party, I was approached by none other than Arianna Rebolini of Buzzfeed. You can imagine my shock at seeing the person who had written many Buzzfeed posts that I had read. (Thanks, Buzzfeed, for taking time away from my writing. Just kidding!) Arianna introduced herself and informed me and the group of people around me that she was writing a post about RT for Buzzfeed, and wanted to know reasons why we read or write romance. So, surprise surprise, I got to be featured in a Buzzfeed post! (Read it here. I am number two. on the list.) I also got her beautiful business card and some super cool Buzzfeed stickers. I felt really special. LOL

The next day, I started my day off right with attending an Inspy-author western pictionary party. That's right, folks, I played pictionary with the likes of Becky Wade, Francine Rivers, Colleen Coble, and many, many more. It was quite fun. 

Me and Becky Wade! I love her!

Stay tuned for more posts about my adventures at RT later this week. Read yesterday's post (Part 1) here.