Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Fantastical Guest Post Event- Final Post

 Thank You!

Thank you guys so much for stopping by and taking part. We had a great turn out. If you would like to still read the guest posts, you can find those below. Remember that the main giveaway will end at 12a EST on Dec. 30th, so make sure to enter if you haven't already (or comment on this post and earn another). I hope to see you here during the summer event in 2016. Have a Happy New Year!


R. J. Larson and Writing Controversy- Winner Hayley B.
Jaye L. Knight and Non-Magic- Winner Rebecca D.
Patrick W. Carr and Characterization- Winner to be announced

Main Giveaway: The choice of book is between Emissary by John Locke and To Win Her Heart by Rebecca DeMarino.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 28, 2015

At Love's Bidding- Regina Jennings

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: After helping her grandfather at their Boston auction house, Miranda Wimplegate discovers she's accidentally sold a powerful family's prized portrait to an anonymous bidder. Desperate to appease the furious family, her grandfather tracks it to the Missouri Ozarks and makes an outlandish offer to buy the local auction house if they promise not to sell anything until he arrives.

Upon their arrival, however, they discover their new business doesn't deal in fine antiques, but in livestock. And its manager, ruggedly handsome Wyatt Ballentine, is frustrated to discover his fussy new bosses don't know a thing about the business he's single-handedly kept afloat. Faced with more cattle than they can count--but no mysterious painting--Miranda and Wyatt form an unlikely but charged partnership to try and salvage a bad situation getting worse.

My Thoughts: I did not find this book as enjoyable as the first in the series. Whereas in the first novel the hero and heroine came from similar social classes and there was a strong conflict of mistaken identity and mistrust, this novel had a heroine and hero of completely different social classes with a conflict of misinterpretation of facts. While these conflicts can often be enjoyable, Miranda (and even at many points Wyatt) described the Ozark people in a fairly stereotypical, backwoods manner, leaving a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

The romance between Miranda and Wyatt was good, with Wyatt truly shining as a hero in the last half of the novel when he started to overcome his insecurities. There was also some great dialogue involving rhubarb pie and "Lady Godiva", that I found delightfully comical.

At Love's Bidding had its moments, most of them interactions between just Miranda and Wyatt. Yet I did not care for the representation of many of the other characters. They fell flat to me, like cutouts of real people. I still plan to read the next book, if there is one, as I had really enjoyed the first. I just was not a fan of this.

I received this book through Litfuse in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Patrick Carr and Characterization- Fantastical Guest Post

Characterization –

What makes a memorable character? Why are we so attracted to some characters versus others? How can I make my characters jump off the page and at the same time be someone with whom my readers identify? 

These are some of the common questions writers of all stripes and experience levels wrestle with as we craft our stories. For those of us who are drawn to write literary fiction, these questions are paramount to the story process since the story must flow from the characterization itself. But even for those of us who write genre fiction, characterization is a necessary skill we must acquire (can anyone ever really master it?) in order to better connect with our readers. How many times have you read the review, or perhaps written it? “The characters were two dimensional. Everyone seemed to be the same and no one really jumped off the page.”

While I don’t pretend to have mastered any facet of characterization, I have noticed that the majority of my positive reviews have commented on my characters. One of my editors at Bethany House even went so far as to tell me, “You write characters like a woman.”

Yes, it was a compliment.

So, what I’d like to do is share with you three quick tips that I use to help me create characters that make an impact. This is by no means an exhaustive treatise on the subject, but I’m hopeful a few bullet points will give you a quick means of creating more three dimensional characters.
  1. Give every one of your major characters, and most of your secondary characters, a secret. This was so important to me when I wrote “The Staff and the Sword” series that I wrote it down and reminded myself of it repeatedly. My main character’s secret was the reason behind his drunkenness. The men around him were trying to keep their illegal hunt for the next king secret. Nearly every character in the series had a secret they were desperate to keep hidden and I made sure to put that secret in their character profile and read it often. By doing this I was able to write scenes that never lacked for motivation on the part of my characters. Their actions, just like people in real life, might have been incomprehensible for a while, but when the secret came out, all became clear. It’s a great tool and one I still use. After all, who among us doesn’t hold something secret in their past or in their heart.

  2. Assign your characters a face. I learned this one from a good friend of mine who happens to be a romance writer. She shared with me her penchant for using One Note to keep a catalog for all her characters and she usually based them on the currently most popular actors or actresses. I approached it a bit differently, using more ordinary-looking people, but the end result was the same. Every time I introduced a new character I would find their likeness. Search engines are great for this. I just type in the facial features I want and voila! Instant characters. Of course, many times I will use people I know. I don’t think I’ve written a book yet that didn’t have at least one of my sons in it.

  3. For my final tip, I’m going to suggest a piece of advice from Sol Stein, one of the foremost authorities on writing. Make your character want something. Then, make sure he or she doesn’t get it. I fell in love with this piece of advice the first time I heard it and when I took it and coupled it with number 1, above, I knew I’d found the means to create fully realized characters. For example, in “The Staff and the Sword,” my main character, Errol, desperately wants a drink. But why? Because the secret he holds within his heart is one he wants to keep hidden even from himself. More recently, in my new book “The Shock of Night,” Willet Dura is desperate to be free from his night-walks. Why? Because the circumstances under which they occur threaten to expose the broken nature of his mind.
So there you have it. I hope you will find these few tips useful and that they might lead you to deeper characterization for your stories.


Patrick W. Carr was born on an Air Force base in West Germany at the height of cold war tensions. He has been told this was not his fault. As an Air Force brat, he experienced a change in locale every three years until his father retired to Tennessee. Patrick saw more of the world on his own through a varied and somewhat eclectic education and work history. He graduated from Georgia Tech in 1984 and has worked as a draftsman at a nuclear plant, did design work for the Air Force, worked for a printing company, and consulted as an engineer. Patrick’s day gig for the last eight years has been teaching high school math in Nashville, TN. He currently makes his home in Nashville with his wonderfully patient wife, Mary, and four sons he thinks are amazing: Patrick, Connor, Daniel, and Ethan. Sometime in the future he would like to be a jazz pianist, and he wrestles with the complexity of improvisation on a daily basis. While Patrick enjoys reading about himself, he thinks writing about himself in the third person is kind of weird.

Giveaway- Patrick is giving away a physical copy of The Shock of Night to one winner within the continental US.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Main Giveaway-
Choice of book is either Emissary by John Locke, or To Win Her Heart by Rebecca DeMarino.
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Golden Braid- Melanie Dickerson

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: The one who needs rescuing isn’t always the one in the tower.

Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man around. And her skills as an artist rival those of any artist she’s met. But for a woman in medieval times, the one skill she most desires is the hardest one to obtain: the ability to read.

After yet another young man asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides they need to move once again, but this time to a larger city. Rapunzel’s heart soars—surely there she can fulfill her dream. But Mother won’t let her close to a man. She claims that no man can be trusted.

After being rescued by a knight on the road to the city, and in turn rescuing him farther down the road, Rapunzel’s opportunity arrives at last. This knight, Sir Gerek, agrees to educate Rapunzel in order to pay back his debt. She just has to put up with his arrogant nature and single-minded focus on riches and prestige.

But this Rapunzel story is unlike any other and the mystery that she uncovers will change everything—except her happily ever after.

My Thoughts: The last couple books I read of Melanie's were honestly not my favorite and I had kind of given up on her (I'm sorry). However, I was sent The Golden Braid for review and found that I liked it almost as much as the first book of her's that I had read.

Like all the princesses, Rapunzel is a kind person, but that doesn't stop her from being distrustful and wary. And unlike in The Princess Spy, she is capable of taking care of herself and defending others. As in the movie, Tangled, she is super talented (though she has a few more skills this time) and is unafraid to seek out what she wants in life.

Overall, the story reminded me far more of Tangled than any other version of Rapunzel that I can remember, though her dreams did hint at other versions. I'm glad that the Fiction Guild surprised me with this book for review, as sadly I probably would not have read it other wise. Make sure you don't pass it up yourself!

I received this book through the Fiction Guild in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Very Own Short Story and Splickety's Lightning Blog

I am so very excited to tell you that Splickerty's Lightning Blog published my short story Family Stickers yesterday morning. This is my first published work and I would love it if you all stopped by to take a look at it! Comments would be greatly appreciated as well.

"It melts seconds after touching the glass, yet a thin layer collects over what is left of Keith’s happy family: a father, a daughter, and a shadow of the past."--Excerpt from Family Stickers.

Want to know what the story is all about? Hop over to Splickety's Lightning Blog to read this short (800 word) story.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Jaye L. Knight and Non-Magic- Fantastical Guest Post

Non-Magical Fantasy

When you think fantasy, you think magic, right? I mean, fantasy and magic seem to go hand in hand. It can be a very controversial topic, and one that keeps many readers away from the fantasy genre, even if it’s Christian fantasy. That definitely makes it a bit harder to market Christian fantasy if it is automatically assumed to contain magic. I have my own opinions on magic in fiction and have read Christian book series that contain magic (Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia, anyone?), however, I write non-magical fantasy. 

It wasn’t really a conscious decision on my part. I think, in a way, it was because of my love for historical fiction. You see, I started out as a historical romance author. I LOVE history. But I also love fantasy and the unlimited creativity and possibilities it presents. So my solution to this, is to write fantasy with a historical feel to it. My fantasy worlds may contain different races of people and creatures, but you won’t find any characters wielding magic. It may not be typical of most fantasy, but isn’t that every author’s job—to offer something a little bit different? And I hope that, perhaps, someone who ordinarily wouldn’t pick up a fantasy book because of magic may take a chance on Ilyon Chronicles and be able to enjoy the adventure and message that can be found in a fantasy world.

Jaye L. Knight is an award-winning author, homeschool graduate, and shameless tea addict with a passion for Christian fantasy. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope. She has been penning stories since the age of eight and resides in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. To learn more about Jaye and her work, visit: www.jayelknight.com

Resistance Text:
“Don’t you know? Animals like you have no soul.” 

Could God ever love a half-blood society looks on with such fear and disdain? Jace once believed so, but when a tragic loss shatters the only peace he’s ever known, his faith crumbles as the nagging doubts he’s tried to put behind him descend on his grieving heart. With them come the haunting memories of the bloodstained past he longs to forget, but can never escape.

Taken from home at a young age and raised to serve the emperor, Kyrin Altair and her twin brother live every day under a dangerous pretense of loyalty. After her unique observation skills and perfect memory place her into direct service to the emperor, Kyrin finds herself in further jeopardy as it becomes increasingly difficult to hide her belief in Elôm, the one true God.

Following the emperor’s declaration to enforce the worship of false gods under the penalty of death, many lives are put in danger. But there are those willing to risk everything to take a stand and offer aid to the persecuted. With their lives traveling paths they never could have imagined, Jace and Kyrin must fight to overcome their own fears and conflicts with society as they become part of the resistance.

Jaye is giving away an Ilyon Chronicles Bookmark from her Etsy store at https://www.etsy.com/listing/237960336/bronze-dragon-bookmark-your-choice-of
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Main Giveaway: Choice of book is either Emissary by John Locke, or To Win Her Heart by Rebecca DeMarino.  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 14, 2015

All is Calm/ All is Bright- Colleen Coble

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description: All is Calm

Brendan Waddell has always considered Bluebird Ranch a little piece of heaven: an idyllic ranch that pairs abused children with abused horses, run by one of his marine buddies. Now, it seems just the place to spend Christmas recovering from an on-the-job injury.

Lauren Everman first came to the ranch as a foster kid, but now knows it's the perfect hideout. As the witness to a murder, Lauren needs somewhere to lie low. Her beauty immediately catches Brendan's attention-- but so does her secretive behavior. This Special Ops Intel man knows a woman on the run when he sees one. Can he trust her, or is she putting the ranch at risk? One thing is certain: he's going to do everything he can to keep her safe so he can see what magic Christmas brings.

All is Bright

As manager of the Tidewater Inn, Delilah Carter has been planning a spectacular Christmas wedding for her friend, Elin Summerall. But when Delilah's car is forced off the road and into the ocean, she finally has to admit that the strange phone calls she's been receiving lately may be more than just pranks.

Sheriff Tom Bourne has always had a soft spot for Delilah, and he's determined to protect her. He hopes to win her heart by giving her the surprise gift of a lifetime.. but first he has to make sure nothing happens to her before Christmas Day.

It's the season of miracles. But will both Erin and Delilah get the ones they need this holiday season?

My Thoughts: All is Bright was an exciting mystery with a lot of suspense for such a short story. I really enjoyed reading about Tom and Delilah and how they finally found the courage to admit they had feelings for each other. While the villain was not the most believable, the rest of the story was amazing.

You might have noticed, however, that I started with the second story first. This is because I did not care overly much for All is Calm. The conflict itself seemed overblown in this story and it was one of insta-love, which I am not a fan of. Lauren and Brendan were great characters, I just couldn't believe that they would get together so soon after meeting.

The rating I have for this book is the average of the two stories' scores. All is Calm would be about a 3 for me while All is Bright was a 4. I know that if you only want to read one of them, you can pick them up seperatly for your kindle, just not in print.

I received this book through the Fiction Guild in exchange for an honest review.

Visit this link to enter for a chance to win the full Christmas Novella collection (That's 2 books and 4 novellas) from Colleen Coble.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

R. J. Larson and Writing Controversay- Fantastical Guest Post

Writing Controversy

My latest work, Valor, is based in part on the much-debated, controversial text from Judges 11:30-40, concerning Jephthah and his courageous daughter. Their story stirred my imagination from the first time I read it as an eight-year-old. I remember staring at the page in my Children’s Bible, greatly distressed and seriously resenting that particular story’s ending. Why had that girl’s father made such a rotten vow? Why had she agreed to fulfill her father’s vow—couldn’t she have run away? (No, I was never tempted to run away from home when I was a child, just sayin’.) But I wished I could change the ending for her.

Fast-forward decades later. 

Last year, while I was writing Queen (inspired by Esther and other scriptures set in a fantasy realm) it occurred to me that the Agocii lands were an almost ideal place to present the story of Jephthah and his daughter. Much as Israel during the time of Judges—when there was no king, but each person did what was right in his own eyes, when pagan beliefs and customs surrounded those who followed the Lord, and when wars and conflicts presented themselves at every turn—the Agocii reflected spiritual and social turmoil similar to Israel’s during the time Judges. It seemed a perfect place to present Jephthah’s story.

I chose the warrior Vsevold from Queen as my fantasy-realm Jephthah, and with Aniya’s name chosen for his daughter by a friend, I turned my attention to researching the verses which had distressed me when I was a child. Almost immediately, I found numerous web sites citing the debate over Jephthah’s story. The original Hebrew of the text is a marvelous multilayered and versatile language, which often conveys multiple meanings. In Jephthah’s case, this meant that his story, and mine, had two potential and equally defensible possible endings. First, as the most basic and straightforward translations suggest, Jephthah could have actually sacrificed his daughter as he vowed. Or, according to the nuances of some of the Hebrew words in those verses, Jephthah might have dedicated her to the Lord—to serve the Lord’s House, some of the debaters insisted, to live the remainder of her life unmarried and a virgin. The dedication theory also sets aside any quandaries concerning Jephthah’s hero-status mentioned in Hebrews 11, placing Jephthah in the company of  Gideon, Barak and Samson.
Could Jephthah’s daughter have survived the threat of sacrifice? I certainly hoped so. Whatever happened, I knew above all that the Lord abhorred human sacrifice, and this must play out strongly in Valor. I dug through the debates and accompanying commentaries, and found several mentions from different sources that the “dedication” theory had first been presented in the early middle ages when it was common for women to become nuns, never marrying in order to serve the Lord. While that gave me pause during research, I still found merit in both sides of the debate.

After reading all the debates, looking up the Hebrew root words, and studying the circumstances surrounding the book of Judges, I had to make a decision. My main hesitations were:

1. Deuteronomy 23:3. (An illegitimate man many not enter the assembly of the Lord, nor many his descendants down to the tenth generation.) Jephthah and his daughter were considered ceremonially unclean due to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding his birth, therefore she couldn’t have served in the Lord’s House as some Dedicated theorists argued. (Though she could have been isolated for the remainder of her life, unwed and a virgin.)

2. The apparently late emergence of the dedication theory. 

3. Numbers 30:2. (If a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath and obligates himself by his own word, he must not break his word. He must do everything he said.)

Even if that vow displeased the Lord? This made me hesitate.

Certainly the Lord would never approve of human sacrifice. Therefore … and yet ….
Being fallible as so many other leaders from the Scriptures, such as David, Samson, and Abraham, could Jephthah (within the chaotic framework of his times) have fallen prey to a rash and desperate vow in an attempt to bargain with the Lord, when faith in the Lord’s provision for victory would have been enough? 

Could Jephthah have committed a terrible sin, yet still be regarded as righteous based solely on the fact that he believed in and followed the Lord?

No matter which way the book might end, it would not be happy. 

After weighing both sides of the controversy, I wrote Valor, praying through each chapter. Was it easy? No. Yet I hope you’ll enjoy the story and love the characters as I do. 

R. J. 

Larson is giving away an ebook copy Valor. This giveaway is open internationally. 

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Main Giveaway: Choice of book is either Emissary by John Locke, or To Win Her Heart by Rebecca DeMarino.  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Shock of Night- Patrick Carr- CSFF Tour

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description:When one man is brutally murdered and the priest he works for mortally wounded on the streets of Bunard, Willet Dura is called to investigate. Yet the clues to the crime lead to contradictions and questions without answers. As Willet begins to question the dying priest, the man pulls Willet close and screams in a foreign tongue. Then he dies without another word.

Willet returns to the city, no closer to answers than before, but his senses are skewed. People he touches appear to have a subtle shift, a twist seen at the edge of his vision, and it's as though he can see their deepest thoughts. In a world divided between haves and have-nots, gifted and common, Willet soon learns he's been passed the rarest gift of all: a gift that's not supposed to exist.

Now Willet must pursue the murderer still on the loose in Bunard even as he's pulled into a much more dangerous and epic conflict that threatens not only his city, but his entire world--a conflict that will force him to come to terms with his own tortured past if he wants to survive.

My Thoughts: At first, I didn't like Willet. I thought he was a bit arrogant and judgmental. Then, after a couple chapters, I started to feel an odd kinship with him. He has lost a lot in his life and lives under the weight of a terrible secret, as well as seems to be able to count the number of people he trusts and deeply cares about on one hand. His is a difficult existence that has been hard won. So while I still can't say that he is the nicest guy, I ended up caring about him.

The story is fairly fast paced, taking place over about a week. It is full of danger and extremely high stakes, making for a gripping read. Unlike Patrick's last series, The Shock of Night is pretty dark and ultimately depressing, with only a hint of light after the dawn. I'm still a little brokenhearted after the ending, and am sitting here wondering what I'm going to do while I wait to find out what happens in the next book.

There were moments when I was confused. Those usually involved conversations between Willet and Bolt that read basically like this:

Bolt- You know what this means?
Willet- Of course.
*Me clutching book*- Tell me!

 If not for those instances, I probably would have given the book a full five stars instead of just four. I loved the story and the relationships between the characters, I just don't like being the last to know what's going on. I can't wait to read the second book.

I received this book through Bookfun Network in exchange for an honest review.

And come back on Dec. 22nd to enter into a giveaway by the author for The Shock of Night.

Tour Participants: While I did not receive my review copy through CSFF, I am still posting along with the tour. You can read other reviews for this book at the following links.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fantastical Guest Post Event- Giveaway

Fantastical Event:
It's December, that time of year for buying gifts and giving them. It's also the time when a number of Fantasy authors are releasing new books. This year, as part of a Guest Post Event, there will be three authors posting here at Backing Books to share with you their new titles. Each is having a giveaway, as well am I, so stop by for each post to enter in and learn about new books you might like!


-Event Kick-off Post: Dec. 1st

-R.J. Larson: Dec. 8th

-Jaye L. Knight: Dec. 15th
-Patrick W. Carr: Dec. 22nd
-Wrap-up Post: Dec. 29th

Main Giveaway:

I'm giving away an awesome (at least I think it is) prize for this event. It is a pair of touchscreen gloves, some hot chocolate, and choice of either Emissary by Thomas Locke or To Capture Her Heart by Rebecca DeMarino. Winner will be chosen at the end of December. Open to US entrants only.
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