Book Review: The Shifter by Janice Hardy

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Last week’s guest was Janice Hardy, author of The Healing Wars, a middle grade fantasy. I’ve only read the first two books in the trilogy so far: The Shifter and Blue Fire, though I will be ordering the third book soon.

This series takes us on an adventure with Nya, a fifteen-year-old girl who lives in a society where the only medical assistance anyone receives is through magically gifted people called takers who have the ability to heal through touch, take the pain into themselves, and deposit it into a special mineral. Nya, however, is a unique type of taker.

Her special skills and strong-willed attitude carry her through multiple obstacles while keeping the readers turning pages wanting to see what happens next. I highly recommend this series for roughly ages twelve and up.

To learn more about Janice Hardy or the series, click here. To purchase one of the books, look below and click the appropriate title.

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The Shifter: Healing Wars Book 1

 

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Blue Fire: Healing Wars Book 2

 

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Darkfall: Healing Wars Book 3

 

See ya next time, Legendary readers!

Guest Blog: Janice Hardy!

Good morning, Legendary readers! I’m so psyched to have this guest blogger today. Janice Hardy may cause me to fangirl just a little. I’m in love with her Shifter series, but you’ll have to wait for next week to hear my review of it. (You can already tell I completely hated it, right? LOL) Well, I’m going to step to the side and let her take over. Enjoy!

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Chasing Down the “What If?”

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Hello everyone! I’m delighted to be here today to talk about turning sparks of inspiration into a story. “Where do you get your ideas?” is one of the more common questions I get as an author. Every idea has come from a different place, but what connects them is the need to answer a question.

  • What if a society could buy and sell pain? (which turned into my novel, The Shifter)
  • What if (a certain creature) created the vampire myth? (which turned into my newest novel, Blood Ties)
  • What if someone spent most of their life as an undercover spy? (which is the novel I’m currently working on)

Sometimes my ideas follow the “how would?” question, but it’s the same principal. Something sparks my imagination and a question about it appears. I start thinking about that question and it leads to possible problems and story conflicts, and then my characters start appearing. Sometimes the characters come first, and that leads me into their worlds and their problems. From there, I build the story.

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For The Shifter, the world came first, since I needed to explore how a society would buy and sell pain. I needed to work out the economy and practical aspects before I could figure out who might be trapped in that situation and have a terrible problem to solve (the protagonist). I decided that the magic users (the healers) of this world could heal by drawing pain and injury out of a person and putting it into an enchanted metal, and then the metal was sold and used for things, such as weapons and defensive items. I knew immediately that my protagonist was someone whose power worked differently, and that was the source of her problems–and the key to her success over those problems.

And thus, Nya was born. She’s unique in her world–a pain shifter who can heal, but she can’t sense the enchanted metal, so she can’t get rid of that pain unless she shifts it into another person. In order to help someone, she must hurt someone else. Her dream is to be a “real” healer, so this is a terrible power to have. Even worse, her city is under enemy occupation, and if she’s captured by the enemy, she’ll be used as a weapon against her own people.

All I needed then was a reason for Nya to risk herself in this world. So I had her little sister (also a healer) disappear for sinister reasons (no spoilers!) and Nya had to find and save her. Once I had this basic answer to my “what if?” question I could brainstorm where the story might go and plot my novel. The “how would?” questions really came into play here, as I wondered:

  • How would Nya use her ability when threatened?
  • How would Nya feel about hurting some people to help others?
  • How far would Nya go to save her sister?

It was a lot of fun for me as a writer to turn Nya loose and discover the answers to those questions.

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Blood Ties followed a similar process, but the focus was a bit more on my protagonist Grace from the start. I knew that “vampires” were after her for a particular reason, but I had to figure out why. The vampire angle went so well with blood I had to use it, but I wanted it to be about more than food source. I chased the original “what if?” idea down and created what I hope is a fun twist that blends two myths in an unexpected way.

 

 

My current project has gone in the opposite direction. It’s heavily character-driven, so all my “what if?” and “how would?” questions are delving deep into the personality and behavior of the character, such as:

  • How would an undercover spy reconcile lying to people she calls friends?
  • How would she feel about her people versus the people she’s been living with?
  • Where would she draw the line between her loyalty to her friends and her people?

Unlike my first novel, this world is developing around the character to help explore and show the conflicts and consequences a long-term undercover spy would face.

What I enjoy most about developing a novel through “what if?” questions, is that they always give me somewhere to go. They allow for endless possibilities for plots and situations, because different characters will behave differently even in the same situations. Change one aspect of a character’s personality and I can change the whole story.

It also frees me to brainstorm an idea without restrictions. It’s easy for writers to get scope-locked on a plot unfolding a particular way, and that can make us miss less obvious (and usually more interesting) solutions to our character’s problems. But chasing a “what if?” question can go anywhere, and lead to surprising twists and outcomes that are just as much fun to write as they are to read.

Thanks for reading, and if you’re a writer, I hope this sparked some interesting questions about your own stories as well.

What draws you to a story? Do you enjoy exploring “what if?” questions as a reader? What about those of you who are also writers?

Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, including The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She also writes the Grace Harper urban fantasy series for adults under the name, J.T. Hardy. When she’s not writing fiction, she runs the popular writing site Fiction University, and has written multiple books on writing, including Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (And Really Getting It), Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, and the Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft series.

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Interview with J. B. Garner

Hey Legendary readers! So, we’ve been doing author interviews lately and this week I am glad to share my interview with author J. B. Garner!! Here ya go!!

Last week you were talking about balancing the description and plot in your book. Your post held some great advice! How long did it take you to learn how to balance and how did you know when you went too far to one side or the other?

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It took a while before I got everything just right, and to be honest, that kind of balance is a constant work in progress. Every new book and genre calls for shifts in that balance. A modern drama, for instance, might need a little less raw description, as you are dealing with real-world elements people already know, while a full blown epic fantasy might need more description, as you have to evoke the imagery of this fantastical new world to the reader.

As for knowing when you go too far, beta readers, test readers, and editors are the best way to know if you’ve gone too far. But if you have to judge it on your own, you know you’ve gone too far over on description when you reread a section and you start to get bored with it, as excessive description throws off the pacing of the plot. And you know when you’ve gone too far towards plot when you lose the ability to picture the scene and characters in your mind.

In Rune Service: Dwarf for Hire, your main character is not your typical sexy leading lady. What on earth made you think of writing Mary Stone the way you did? Do you want to tell our readers what’s so unique about our heroine?

I guess a few things inspired me. First and maybe most of all, I wanted to break the mold for both a romantic tale and an adventure tale. The fact is that anyone can find love with someone else, and I’ve seen plenty of odd couples and pairings in real life. And as for the adventure bit, far stranger people have been heroes. Why not a four-foot tall bearded Dwarf lady?

Second, I think dwarves as a fantasy race don’t get the same attention as your usual elves and dragons and all of that. I personally find many variations of dwarves to be really cool, and they speak to me. So, honestly I wanted to make a dwarf the heroine of a piece, just to celebrate that coolness.

What books or authors do you think inspired you most?

The funny thing is that I feel like any list I would write would be a horrible disservice, as I have read so many books and absorbed so much media that my inspirations are everywhere. I’d leave critical people out if I tried to make that list.

BUT for Rune Service, I can give some definite inspirations. My biggest sparks for it were Jim Butcher and the Dresden Files, for the urban fantasy elements, and the MythAdventures books by Robert Aspirin and Jody Lynn Nye, for the humorous fantasy bits. Oh, and I have to credit the movie Clerks from Kevin Smith for the idea of the convenience store setting.

What’s your favorite aspect of writing and what part do you have to fight to make yourself do because it’s just draining?

My favorite part is the middle part of each book, where I’m just writing and going and don’t have to worry about getting the initial hook of the first chapter right or finding a good way to stick the landing satisfyingly. As for the draining part, that’s definitely the first chapter! I wind up usually having to rewrite every one of my first chapters three to five times to get it just right and that just takes it out of me.

Okay, I know there’s a sequel to Rune Service: Dwarf for Hire, but are there more tales in store for Mary Stone and what is next on your list to be published?

For sure! Dwarf for Hire is meant to be a fun, on-going tale, with each book being their own individual story, so I have plenty of ideas for the future as we learn more about Mary’s past and her bizarre group of friends. My hope is to have a third book out later this year.

As for what’s next, well, I’m catching my breath at the moment, but I just put out a superhero reverse harem romance, The Miracle Touch, alongside my long-time collaborator, J. A. Cipriano, that I think is a heck of a lot of fun for those looking for action, adventure, and a bit of more adult romance.

Final request. Recommend one of your books, other than Rune Service, that you would want people to read.

Only one? Spoil sport! Okay, well, if I am limited to one, I am going to plug the oddest of my book series, one that was a true passion project. It might not be for everyone, but so far, even the person who bought it on accident and reviewed it wound up liking it.

Check out Three Seconds to Legend, starting with The Opening Bell. It’s a series I can best describe as a mix of family drama, martial arts action-adventure, and coming of age with some sprinkles of LGBT romance and Greek myth, all set in the world of modern professional wrestling. It’s odd, it’s strange, but those who do read it have always found it satisfying.

Thank you SO much for letting me interview you. I really am excited about checking out more of your stuff!

Well, until next time guys!

Book Review: Rune Service by J. B. Garner

Hello Legendary Peeps! Last week you met J. B. Garner and learned some interesting information on how to balance descriptions in your literary world. And let me say, he did a fantastic job of that in Rune Service: Dwarf for Hire.

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I will admit, it took me a little bit to get into the book, but my life was crazy hectic when I read it. (Thank you flu season.) Once my brain cleared up, I was completely absorbed. The characters are hilarious, the action is booming, and the plot kept me rooting for the main character the entire time. I will definitely be checking out book 2: Rune Service: Once in a Blue Rune.

If you’re looking for a fun, fast-paced read, then Rune Service: Dwarf for Hire is just for you.

To find out more about the book or purchase, just click here.

 

Rune Service: Dwarf for Hire

A prince in danger, an epic quest, and a cup of coffee, all at your local Easy-E-Mart!

When Mary Stone started her overnight shift at the convenience store, she never expected to run into an elf begging for help because she is supposed to know magic. Key word, supposed to.

Now she’s caught in a world where dragons are real, wererabbits are a thing, and the creatures that go bump in the night really do hide under beds. 

And all of them are after her.

Worse, if she doesn’t find a way to master her powers and save the elf who turned her life upside down, she may never find out the one thing she’s been after all these years. The truth about who she really is.

 

Special Guest: J. B. Garner

Hello legendary readers! Today, we have special guest author J. B. Garner. I recently read his book Rune Service and fell in love, but you’ll get to hear more on that one next week. This week, he’ll be sharing some seriously helpful advice on balancing your writing. And heeeeeeeere’s J. B.!

Hello! My name is J. B. Garner, author, editor, and fellow reader, living in Pensacola, FL. I hope you’re all having a great day, and I also hope you’re ready to talk writing! MeLeesa asked me if I could take a second to talk about one of my favorite topics when it comes to the art of wordsmithing, so thinking about it, I decided to have a chat with y’all about description in fiction and how we look at the world, both real and fictional. Enjoy!

As a writer, your job is a hectic one. Not only do you need to create and characterize your cast, you have to script the plot, provide dramatic tension, and so on. One of the most important duties you face is the creation and description of the world surrounding your characters. After all, every actor needs a stage on which to perform!

There are many theories and styles of writing descriptive text, too many for such a humble article as this. What I want to focus on today is the balance of description with the action of the plot. Essentially, the effect that unbalanced description and exposition can have on the pacing of your story and how to work around this unbalance in a natural way.

We all know what unbalanced description looks like. When every character is introduced with a paragraph of lovingly written description, from top to bottom and every bit of clothing, that is unbalanced. When every intricacy of the environment is laid out, that is unbalanced. When every action is laden with adverbs and adjectives, no matter how minor, that is unbalanced.

I’ve heard it said that the more senses you can engage with the reader, the more memorable your writing becomes. I don’t deny this, but it must come in a natural balance. Trying to engage too many senses at once or simply giving into purple prose causes the kind of unbalanced text blocks I talk about above. The detrimental effect this can have on your plot, especially the pacing of it, should be obvious.

Worse yet, unbalanced description is unnatural when it comes to how we perceive the real world. When you meet someone for the first time, especially in passing, do you really pay that much attention to them? The human mind loves to generalize and categorize things to deal with the amazing breadth of input our sense provide. On first sight, most things in our environment are categorized and then put into a box, then otherwise ignored until we force ourselves to focus on them.

That’s why unusual things draw our attention so easily. They don’t fit in a predetermined category and our brain sends the signals that we need to focus on this thing closely. Even on things that we focus on, data doesn’t just come in like a computer readout. Different people focus on different aspects of people and objects. Not every detail is immediately apparent or important. On top of that, the situation the observer is in dictates a lot about where his/her focus will be. A character in a dangerous action sequence will have far different priorities and focus than one sitting at a bar, for example.

You can use this naturalistic approach to description and observation to balance out your descriptions. As we naturally pick up details over time as focus and perception change, you can likewise parcel out description over a scene instead of clumping it all up in one paragraph. Consider what a character’s focus might be and use that to describe the most important details at the time, bringing the rest out as they come to the fore.

You can even use this technique to add to your characterization efforts. What a particular character sees first in another can be a clue as to their priorities, background, and knowledge. How a character sees their world can be as insightful as how they interact with it.

I hope that was helpful! Until next time, good reading, good writing, and good luck!

Wow! Thanks J. B.! I suddenly have the urge to go back and check my new manuscript to see how I’ve been ding with that. Lol.

Ok. To learn more about J. B. Garner and his work, just click here.

J. B. Garner was born in Baltimore, MD on December 1, 1976, the youngest of three children. While still young, the family moved to Peachtree City, GA. His parents always encouraged his creative side and J. B. began writing and drawing from an early age. Though considered talented by his teachers, he never fully applied himself and bounced through high school and into college at the Georgia Institute of Technology. During his freshman year, his father died suddenly.
Grief and lack of purpose caused J. B. to drop out of school. If not for a few close friends, he might have dropped out of life as well. Taken in by his friends and given a second chance, J. B. matured, applied himself, and finally, after over a decade of hard work, is now back to doing what he loves the most: writing.

Mobile Literary Festival

Next month is the Mobile Literary Festival! EEEEEP! I can’t wait!!!

I’ll be hanging out at the Ben May Library, celebrating a love of reading with some amazing authors from a variety of genres. Rubbing elbows with award-winning writers and sipping on soda with people who are passionate about books is a dream day. And if that weren’t awesome enough, guess who’s in charge of the children’s activities????

ME!!!!

I’ll be chatting it up with the kids while they make monster masks, write magical spells, and create their dream characters.

(If you can’t tell, I’m a little excited.)

If you live in the Gulf Coast area, you should totally come and hang out with us for the day. Information is below!

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Interview With Carrie Dalby

Hey readers! Today we’ll be talking with Carrie Dalby and I am taking full advantage. I have some major questions for her to answer! Since I’m super excited, we’ll just jump right in.

Hello Carrie!

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Carrie Dalby: Hello Meleesa and Legendary readers!

A few days ago, I reviewed your book Fortitude. Great job by the way! I loved the story! Okay, on with the question. Fortitude read very vividly. How much research went into this novel? Or are you like, a history major who knew everything?

Carrie Dalby: I’m open about admitting I failed my AP U.S. History test in high school. History wasn’t my thing—it was for old men, right? It wasn’t until I developed a love for historical fiction in early adulthood that the past came alive for me. Authors like Katherine Paterson, Laurie Halse Anderson, Avi, and Richard Peck wrote such amazing historical novels that I fell in love with the genre. How do you make a history buff out of an AP failure? Vivid characters!
(And yes, all those authors write middle grade-young adult historical fiction, among other things. But as a children’s literature geek, that’s what I turn to first.)

You’ll get no smirk from me about reading middle grade or young adult. I love the genre! And I agree about the vivid characters creating a love for the genre. Your characters did the same for me. So, in Fortitude who did you love writing the most?

Carrie Dalby: As it’s told from Claire’s point of view, I of course liked telling her story, but Loretta was fun. Her personality tends to steal the scenes she’s in. (I have a reccurring problem with secondary characters who take on a life of their own and become main characters.) And Auntie’s snappy dialog was entertaining. And on the opposite spectrum, I hated Joe Walker from when I first wrote those opening chapters. It wasn’t until the end of the first draft, when I was struggling with where his character was going, that I finally released my hatred and accepted him as a Gilbert Blythe. (Please tell me you understand that reference!)

Duh!! I had a crush on Gilbert Blythe! Ha ha ha! But I also have a crush on Joe Walker, so that makes complete sense! Okay. I know secrets that have yet to be released onto the world. I know that some of these characters continue on in your new series. Could we talk about that for a moment?

Carrie Dalby: Gladly! My project of the last two years has been crafting a multi-generation Gothic family saga for adults titled The Possession Chronicles. The eight book series spans 1904-1929 and takes place in the Mobile Bay area. A few of the characters live on/are from Dauphin Island, which sits at the mouth of the bay, so some of the characters in Fortitude have cameos in this series. Those wishing to know what happens to Claire should be satisfied. I’m in the process of querying publishers with the first book, Perilous Confessions, and hope to have news to share soon.

Well, I’ll definitely be watching out for that news. Gothic is a new genre to add to your list of writing styles. What have you found you enjoy the most? Where is your literary home?

Carrie Dalby: Historical for sure, though given the right characters I’d write a story set in any time. I do love to read and write coming-of-age stories, which can span anything from preteen to adults out in the world for the first time, which most of my stories encompass. Along those lines, I also have a contemporary middle grade novel in the process of revisions.

Wow! You are one busy woman! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today.

Carrie Dalby: No problem. Thanks for having me and thanks for chatting with me today. I always enjoy dishing about books and writing.

Thanks for joining us readers! I hope you enjoyed meeting author Carrie Dalby. To find out more about her and stay updated on her progress, click here.

Stay Legendary!