Exploring the Five Orders: Healers

In the Stonebearer universe there are those who possess a magical power called the Khandashii. This power manipulates matter. Specific abilities and skills are determined by the strengths and talents of the user. Today we explore the Healing order of Stonebearers.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

What’s the use of magic and the ability to change the reality of the world, if it can’t be used to help someone? For Healers, the call to help those who are sick or injured is the strongest and best way they fulfill the drive to make the world better.

Just like today’s medical professionals, to become a Stonebearer Healer requires rigorous study and training. They must have a working understanding of how the body functions down to the most minute details. Without this knowledge, using healing magic is useless.

Those who become Stonebearer Healers must have a talent in using the parts of the power that make broken things whole. With this power, healers can knit back together bones, ligaments, tendons, and tissues that have been injured. To some extent they can also draw away viruses, bacteria, and toxins.

Most Stonebearer Healers venture out into the world to ply their trade in small towns and villages, places where they can do the most good. The use of magic is feared by the world at large so this is a challenge. However, in life or death situations when there are no other options, they will use their power to make the difference.

Healers featured in Stonebearer’s Betrayal include Mirelle, Katira’s mother, Firen, the Head of the Healing order, and his assistant Cassim.

I would totally stick Bill Nighy in as Firen, but I can’t find him in anything but a suit and tie. Go figure.


If you missed the post talking about the overall structure of the Stonebearer Magic System, look no further!

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If you love a great magic system, you’ll love Stonebearer’s Betrayal. Get your copy from Amazon today!

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Interview with B.A. Simmons

Last weekend the amazing Tremonton library held their annual Summer Reading Kickoff party; an outdoor extravaganza with games, food, firetrucks, a chalk fight, and an amazing community turnout. Ben and I were almost author table buddies and I couldn’t pass up the chance to interview him while I was there.

Come sail with us on a new journey!
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Onto the interview!

What are two things most people know about you and two things most people don’t? 

Two things most people know about me: – I am a jr. high English and social studies teacher – I have a collection of swords.

Two things most people don’t know about me: – I have six kids (hers, mine and ours family) with ages ranging from 21 to 2. – I grew up on a medieval living history farm. 

If you had a warning label, what would it say?

Just because I don’t say anything, doesn’t mean I’m not silently correcting your grammar.

Tell us about your Archipelago Series and even better, what inspired you to write seafaring science fiction?

The Planet Archipelago is a fictional world of islands and seas; there are no continents. It is home to four sentient races; humans being one of these, are the most recent to arrive to the planet. The humans on Archipelago are the descendants of a failed colony. Their ancestors came in spaceships with advanced technology, however they were cut off from Earth and the rest of humanity and because the planet is full of dangerous, hungry creatures, they found it necessary to regress to a more sustainable, medieval technology level.

It’s been hundreds of years since the first humans arrived and humans have spread across thousands of islands. Earth for them has become a myth, a religious legend. On one of these islands, a young man named Rob Engleman is curious about the world he lives on. His mentor, Doctor Morris, tells him all he can about the planet, but the conservative small-island community they live in forbids him from encouraging youngsters like Rob to explore. It’s just too dangerous. When an abandoned boat comes to the island, Rob sees this as his one chance to get away and begin the exploration he’s always dreamed of. Together with his older brother, cousins and some new friends, he sets off on a danger-filled journey of discovery where he learns about the lost history of his own people as well as that of the planet itself.

But there are more dangers on the planet than just the wildlife. A faction of humans called the Falcon Empire is the warpath, looking to conquer all the islands of Archipelago in the name of humanity and Rob’s home is next on their list of conquests. Rob must decide whether to stay and defend his home or continue his explorations of this strange and fascinating world. 

What’s the most important lesson your main character has learned so far?

Now, three books into the series, Rob has learned that true friendship and loyalty are just as important, as knowledge. 

I ask this question to everyone – what’s the most interesting item you have in your writing space and what’s the story behind it?

I have a small house, therefore my writing space is a corner of the dining table. I suppose the most interesting thing is the space itself. When I decided to take my writing seriously and publish my work, my wife agreed to support me on condition that I not neglect our family. Being at the dining table rather than cloistered in a back room ensures that I can’t ignore her or our children. It also has a great view of our yard, which is a constant reminder of my duties as a homeowner. 

What’s next? What are you working on?

My current WIP is the fourth installment in the Archipelago series. I’ve taken time here and there to write short stories, most of which are set on Planet Archipelago as well as develop other ideas unrelated to this series. I’m determined to finish this series (five books in all by the end of 2020. After that, I’ve outlined three other novels, but we’ll see which takes my priority when I come to that place. 


Sneak Peek into the Archipelago Series –

“Keep back,” Tyler shouted. “You’re interfering with an arrest!”

“Why are you arresting them? What have they done?” Mark asked.

He had an arrow nocked on his bowstring but hadn’t raised it. Tom and Pete followed suit, trying to be as non-threatening as possible.

“They’re thieves! Now back away or we’ll arrest you also.”

“Sir, I can assure you they are no thieves. They’re part of my crew and we’ve done nothing illegal,” Mark said as he slowly stepped closer.

“You take another step and I’ll gut this boy here and now,” Tyler threatened. He moved the point of the sword to Edwin’s abdomen and pressed there.

Mark paused. He looked at Edwin wincing as the point of the sword broke the skin and a small bloodstain formed on his tunic. He looked at Anna who had exhausted herself trying to break free of the deputy’s grip and now stood with her arms wrenched behind her back.

“Sir, whatever you think they’ve stolen, we will compensate you for.”

“I doubt you could. These were … rare and valuable items,” Tyler said. “So I suggest you give us no trouble as we take these thieves to the jail and you can visit them there until after their trial.”

“What happens after their trial?” Pete asked.

“When they’re found guilty, they’ll be executed. We don’t believe in long prison sentences here.”

There was silence. Each side-eyed the other, waiting for one of them to make a move. It was into this standoff that a new figure emerged from behind the nearest house. Rob ran out into the road and struck the deputy that held Anna with his bronze axe.


The ultimate nice guy, B.A. Simmons

About today’s guest –

B.A. Simmons grew up roaming the mountains of the western United States. He still finds time to explore and run the trails. He started writing when only 10 years old and hasn’t stopped since. His love of science fiction is only rivaled by his love of history, or his love of family.

He attended Utah State University where he graduated with a degree in English Education in 2011. He teaches junior high school English and social studies. He is a self-professed sesquipedalian ludditish renaissance man.

He currently resides in Ogden, Utah with his amazing wife and kids, two dogs, a cat and myriad of imaginary worlds.

Connect with B.A. Simmons

Check out B.A. Simmons’s books!

Book 1: The Voyage of the Entdecker

Book 2: The Hellhound Consortium

Book 3: The Perils of Archipelago


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Book Review: Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson

The beautiful Spanish Edition cover of Elantris

Growing up, I always had a book tucked away with me in my school bag, or violin case, or carry on, or simply stuck under an arm. The epic saga of the Wheel of Time filled in the gaps between classes at high school and during longer orchestra breaks when the second violins had to go fend for themselves.

While Robert Jordan’s vision of the Wheel of Time world and its characters is still a masterpiece in my mind – the tone of the story itself grew darker with each giant book to the point where it became harder to see if anyone would have a happy ending. Like the rest of the fans of the series, Jordan’s early death caused me a great deal of worry. Would whoever took the reins and finished the story be able to do it justice?

Knowing what I know now, I shouldn’t have worried. When Sanderson took up the story, he captured the story and its characters and breathed life and hope back into them. Readers could imagine the satisfying ending they’d been wishing for and then he delivered it.

But, this post isn’t about Wheel of Time. It’s about Brandon Sanderson’s first published book, Elantris.

The Story:

Elantris was once a city of magic and those with incredible power lived there. When the cataclysmic event of the Reod happened, the city and its inhabitants became cursed. The gates of Elantris were closed to the outside world. The inhabitants of the city couldn’t die or heal and were doomed to suffer continuous pain from any injury for the rest of their days.

When Prince Raoden shows signs of the curse, he’s thrown into the now closed city and is doomed to suffer with those living there. He’s not willing to accept that, however, and immediately goes about trying to make things better for those condemned in Elantris. While he does this he discovers vital clues that will help him solve the mystery of why the magic stopped working.

Against him are the gangs in Elantris who gang up on any new comer to steal what meager provisions they might carry and a high ranking priest mandated to convert the country to the Derethi religion. With him is the resourceful and determined Princess Sarene with whom which he was destined to wed if not for the curse.

My Review:

I love a strong fantasy with magic that feels real and makes sense, so this book already had a lot going in its favor before I even opened it. Prince Raoden is the kind of character that you want to root for. He genuinely wants to make things better despite his own problems and is willing to work. He knows how to organize people and inspire them to his cause. The situation he’s thrown into is a hard one. It would be way too easy to fall into despair, but he refuses. Of all that happens in the book, his character is what makes the story successful.

There is a fair amount of political maneuvering in the book and for the most part it serves its purpose, which is to raise the stakes for our heroes. But for me, it also ground the action to a halt.

That said, I loved how the big problem was solved (no spoilers!) and thought that the solution itself was nothing short of ingenious.

Recommendations:

This is a solid fantasy book that will clearly hold a lot of appeal with fantasy readers. I would recommend it for readers 12 and up for descriptions of injury and political intrigue. There is no offensive language or overly romantic situations. While this would be a good starter book for those who would like to familiarize themselves with the fantasy genre, I wouldn’t consider it a typical example of a fantasy novel.

I’d still give it five stars. 🙂


Psst! Jodi here. Did you enjoy today’s review? Did it help you decide if this book was for you? Cool, eh?

Guess what? You can do the same for me. If you’ve read Stonebearer’s Betrayal, head on over to AmazonGoodreads, or the book site of your choice and leave me a review.

It doesn’t have to be big and long like this one – a few sentences is perfect! Thanks in advance!


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Interview with C Michelle Jefferies

Creatives attract other creatives like the last cheerios in a bowl of milk. Today’s creative, C. Michelle Jefferies, redefines what it means to incorporate creativity into her own life by pursuing everything that sparks her interest – from writing assassin fiction to hand dying meditation wraps.

Michelle and I met at a writing retreat years ago and became fast friends over talk of yoga and the best ways to kill people in fiction. While we don’t see each other often, it’s a real treat to spend time together. Nowadays, we tend to cross paths while teaching at different writing conferences.

Michelle’s dream – Owning a creative space with room for all her creative outlets and yoga. (Photo by Dmitry Kotov on Unsplash)

On to the interview!

First, a getting to know you question. If you had one million dollars and 24 hours to enjoy it, what would you do with it? (and why?)

I would buy a piece of land, with lots of room for gardens, trees and a pond to do paddle board yoga in. And hire someone to build my dream house, with a dye/workroom and retreat space for people to come and do conferences and retreats. I would love a place that I could dye and make stuff in that could be cleaned with a hose and mop. Instead of my kitchen. 🙂

You are perhaps one of the most chaotically creative people I’ve ever met. What are three creative things you do that most people don’t know about?

Hehehehehehe, how appropriate that title is.(chaotically creative) Can I use it for my business cards? [Yes! Go for it.] Well, I have a lot of passions. And I imagine most everyone knows I love dye, soap making, and book binding. But probably not that I have been looking at making shoes for a while. Or that I have sewn clothes and knitted for years. And I love hand building ceramics since high school. Or that I have become obsessed with growing certain plants in my flower bed.

I think the best way to describe me is that I am a maker. I see things and either want to make them for myself, or I get this desire to deconstruct the process to understand it and do it myself. I spent last fall studying what plants in my area I can make paper from, and how to make paper and cotton thread. Or that I’ve researched how to take an animal hide and make rawhide and leather. Or to use the hooves to make glue. This week is ink making week. Next week is paper making. I’m fascinated with process. (You should see my office! It’s like the (craft supply) room of requirement in Harry Potter!)

My goal this summer is to make a book from scratch. From the paper inside to the leather and rawhide thread for binding it. I’ve even researched making my own needles for sewing it. As well as the ink and dip pens to write in it. (and charcoal pencils, oil paints, water color paints, paintbrushes, etc.)

What has been your favorite project/series to work on and why?

Project wise my favorite non writing thing is dye work. I love taking blank white fabric and making it colorful. I just finished gathering all the supplies I need to do Shibori and Indigo dying like the Japanese artists do.

Writing wise I have to say my first series (Chrysalis series, Latent, Ascension, Interlude, Convergence, and Catalyst) is my favorite. It was my first real project and the first time I ever experienced those writing milestones, creating characters, finishing a draft, getting published and then finishing the series. I love all of my work, but Noble’s story is my favorite.

I have a few non-fiction books that I have produced that I am quite happy with as well. I have two how-to write books, one on structure and master chapter outline, one on writing series. I am working on a third how-to book on series bibles.

And I have two books written for middle grade age children 8-12 that teach manners in a fun way. They’re called Enchanted Etiquette, and Dragon Decorum.

During the course of all your writing and teaching what’s the funniest/most amazing/inspirational experience you’ve encountered?

I’ll have to go with amazing, I was teaching my structure class at a conference and as I started to teach the head editor of a big Utah publishing house came in and sat on the front row. I noticed them and kept teaching even though my heart rate had probably doubled. After that class they stopped me in the hallway and, in front of some of the conference organizers told me how much they enjoyed my class and wanted a copy of the slides to show their authors who struggle with structure. I was definitely flattered. That was the day I learned that I knew my “stuff” and that I was worthy of teaching it.

What’s the most interesting item you keep in your writing space?

After standing in my office for at least 15 minutes, (I have a lot of strange things in there) I would have to say my musical instruments especially because I am not musical at all. Yeah, definitely my drums and pentatonic flutes. Not traditional western drum set but hand- made drums of wood and rawhide. Hand carved wooden flutes tied with leather. (and a very cool western made “ocean drum” that I found at a thrift store.)

What’s next? What are you working on?

I am working on two series. I switch between them when I get blocked or need a break.

One is Storm Compass, a YA coming of age adventure about a boy who is born a nobody and how he just happens to save the world.

The other is my Trinity Operations series, It is about a group of people who organize and fight the powers that be, facing amazing odds against them to do so.

I am hoping to get these done by the end of this year to release this next year and the next.


About today’s guest:

C. Michelle Jefferies is a writer who believes that the way to examine our souls is to explore the deep and dark as well as the shallow. To manipulate words in a way that makes a person think and maybe even second guess. Her worlds include suspense, urban fantasy, and an occasional twist of steampunk. When she is not writing, she can be found on the yoga mat, hand binding journals, dyeing cloth, and serving ginger tea. The author and creator divides her time between stories, projects, and mothering four of her seven children on the wild and windy plains of Wyoming.

Connect with Michelle:

Check out Michelle’s Ashes Series –

Description of Descending, book #1 in the Ashes series:

All he wants is to fly.

Ashby Standing has it all planned out. Prove his ability to captain a starship in the simulator. Then enter the Star Captain Academy a year early skipping another hellish year of being bullied at school.

When a new street drug proves fatal, taking the life of Elija’s son Nicolai. Noble has no choice but to step back into his role as an agent for Trinity. In spite of his age and his other duties. Including coordinating a twenty year celebration for the colonization of Caledonia.

After losing Arial, Lyris is hyper focused on making sure all of her children are safe nd protected. Even if it skirts what is legal or moral.

Everything converges into a complicated mess as moral obligations, desires, and ego’s battle for dominance and for some, descending into the depths of dark is the option seems the best choice. .

Buy Descending Here!


Need more convincing? Here’s a sneak peek!

Someone slammed hard into Ashby Standing’s shoulder, forcing his chest into the cold metal of his locker as his cheek smashed into the chevron shaped vents at the top.

“Nice balance, four eyes, maybe you should get your ears checked as well,” Ashby’s personal bully, Mitchell, said. Laughter erupted from the students within hearing range. Ashby adjusted his glasses, more annoyed with their constant presence than the other student’s antics. The bully continued down the hall toward the science labs.

“What a freak,” another student whispered as they passed.

Ashby pushed himself away from the door and brushed his fingertip over the sensor to open his locker, then proceeded to place his books on the shelf and exchange his morning class notebooks for the afternoon ones. He was glad that Mitchell had moved on instead of making a bigger deal out of something.

“Ash!” Doran’s voice echoed off the metal. Ashby cringed at the nickname. He hated the burned and fire jokes that often came with it. Still, his eyebrow raised as his triplet brother, Doran, bolted down the hall toward him, followed by a few people in the far distance. Doran almost never called him Ash. Unless it was important.
“Ash!” Doran pulled some object from his satchel.

Ashby sighed. Doran never learned. It seemed Ashby was forever doomed to be dragged into all sorts of problems by his brother.

“Oh no, absolutely not,” Ashby countered. “Dad said I didn’t have to help you.”

Doran panted as he shoved a black ball into Ashby’s hands. “Remember when I said that I thought the coaches were altering the dantu puck weight?”

“I think—”

“This is the proof.” Doran met Ashby’s gaze with a certain pleading. “Please. Ash. I need your help.”

“What do you want?”

“Hide it. Put it in your pack, no one is ever going to suspect you.” Doran begged.

Ashby put the ball on the shelf in his locker behind the large physics workbook, then set his English book on the top to hide it from sight.

“Mr. Doran Standing, what do you think you’re doing?”

Doran looked over his shoulder then ran.

“Wait, hold on,” the principal said as he slowed to a stop next to Ashby. One of the other teachers continued to follow his brother.

Ashby turned and raised an eyebrow. “Me?” He looked over his shoulder. Doran was gone from sight.

Excerpt from Descending, available on Amazon

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From Book Launch to Now – Going off the Rails, in Style!

Back in December I wrote, in super dramatic terms, about bringing my first book into the world and how it was way more like being a first-time mom than I ever expected. Looking back, I agree with every word.

It’s been almost six months since the release of Stonebearer’s Betrayal and the roller coaster of emotion is now more like a carousel. There are still ups and downs, but they don’t make me scream and I only get motion sick if I close my eyes for too long. Each turn is predictable with each next step already planned. Each tiny up has its own tiny down.

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

It’s all very manageable and to be honest – a little boring. It’s work. Plain and simple. I create goals to complete. Some are big, like finishing 2000 minutes of editing each month to finish Stonebearer’s #2. Some are tiny, like making sure my email stays under control. Some can be tedious, like ensuring my social media presence stays solid. (By the way, my Instagram is fabulous.) Some are fun, like attending conferences and signings.

I find myself hoarding time like a miser. Each minute I can work in peace while the kids are at school is measured and optimized. The hours of the day are sliced and diced into focused chunks, 45 minutes here to write today’s blog post, 10 minutes there to fold the laundry, 15 minutes here to answer an email, another hour there to edit another scene.

Right in the beginning, when the world of possibilities was wide open, I lost focus on my big goal, to earn my success by creating great novels, and instead spent way too much time chasing micro opportunities down rabbit holes. Whole days were eaten in the search for podcasts and book review sites willing to even look at me. I didn’t write or edit a word of fiction for months.

I turned into a crazy person. I collected every bit of data and studied each analytic hoping to see an upturn that said I’d won the author lottery and the mainstream market had noticed my little book. After months of working and watching, I realized the only way to continue growing my fan base would be to keep writing more books for people to enjoy.

So here I am. Working. Hard. Everyday.

I don’t regret my weeks and months spent being a little crazy and obsessive – it comes with the whole becoming an author package and needs to be experienced to be understood.

I’m all better now. Here, have a smiling potato.


Interested in checking out my book baby? It’s a great read for fans of Wheel of Time, appropriate for ages 12 and up (although my 11-year-old loved it too!) Here’s a handy link to Amazon to learn more.

Love staying in touch? So do I! Let’s connect. You can follow here on WordPress, or choose your favorite social media – I’m on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Interview with Jared Garrett

Last weekend was the annual Spring into Books mega author signing where all of us authors got to have a mini writerly family reunion. It was there I learned that my buddy Jared has a brand shiny book coming out soon – Red Prince, a mesoamerican fantasy (very cool). So I had to grab him for an interview!

Fun fact! Jared keeps Anduril, the Flame of the West at his writing space, among other interesting things.

On to the interview!

First, let’s get to know you a bit better. How would you feel about being stranded on an uninhabited tropical island and what are the three items you’d bring?

I would be all right with being stranded on said island for a limited period of time. If it was permanent, I’d probably have to register a complaint with my travel agent. Yes, yes, yes, yes. Also, New York’s hottest stranding has every item you could need: a hatchet for cutting, hammering, and being the steel to spark off of for fire; a jet-ski which is that thing where you can ride around in bodies of water and do sweet tricks; and plenty of gas for the jet-ski.

What I’m saying is that all I’d need is a hatchet and a conveyance off the island. To stick to the conventional rules, I would bring a hatchet, a big spool of bailing wire, and 10 lbs of dental floss. And if someone could have a big slice of cake ready for me after I was rescued- that’d be great.

What are two pet peeves of yours that make you want to flip the table?

I have a lot of these, so I’ll narrow them down to things that happen at tables. I get pretty frustrated when the people I’m eating with aren’t paying attention enough to the group to hear when they should be passing things to folks asking for the steaks or mashed potatoes or what have you. Granted, I have a +13 on Passive Perception, so I hear everything being said, but folks need to tune in and maybe not slip into their endless private conversations about string theory, Breath of the Wild, or what have you.

Another table-related pet peeve is a wobbly table. You sit there and lean on the table and you just see-sawed your companion’s food into their face. No bueno. This really makes me want to flip the table over and fix the dang leg.

Okay, in truth, all joking aside, I have two actual major pet peeves. First is when someone leaves trash or mess. How hard is it to clean up after yourself? How inconsiderate can you be to not care about the people you share that space with that you leave a mess? Second, someone eating or drinking while they’re on the phone with me or anyone else. That makes me want to flip the table, chop it to pieces with my hatchet, then burn it. Is this civilization or isn’t it?

You’ve written in multiple different time periods and genres. Which one is your favorite and why?

My debut was a novelization of my own childhood in a cult that splintered off of Scientology in the sixties – which I happily escaped from when I was 17. So that’s a modern, coming of age story. And I loved writing it. I have a few more like that in my folder of projects to get to. That book is probably my favorite since I poured five years of my writing life into it. That said, it’s a blast writing in a speculative future where I can riff on modern technology and try to come up with cool evolutions of today’s tech, societal trends, and governments. But it’s a lot of work to put real science into science fiction. Which is why I tend to stick to fantasy. I tried writing fantasy set in a sword and sorcery world and it went okay, but felt very derivative of masters like Mercedes Lackey, Terry Brooks, and R.A. Salvatore. So now I write fantasy in our world, with the fantastical elements being largely influenced by world religious mythology and legends of the regions and times I write in. This stuff lands in the sweet spot of where I like to speculate based on all of my studies and reading about world cultures and history. So I’m happy in my fantasy stories right now– writing fast-paced action filled with big heroes who get the stuffing beaten out of them and keep going. It’s a lot like if you mashed up Tarzan or Princess of Mars and Die Hard.

All that said, I’m planning an espionage thriller series set in our modern day. I adore Robert Ludlum and other espionage masters, so it’s high time I give it a whirl.

Whatever I’m writing, what readers will quickly learn I love is to write about flawed, determined, tough people who choose to stop evil at great cost to themselves. And the good guys always win. And there’s always some romance.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself while writing your books?

That I don’t write for an age. For the longest time, I thought I was a YA author. But I write for all ages and literally everyone. I have a couple books that are used for reluctant readers. I write clean enough for anybody to read. It was a great thing when I had my “I don’t care about age categorization” epiphany. I could break free from some of the goofy baggage attached to some of the age categorization sub-cultures, which was very good. I don’t feel weighed down by having to be careful of this or that crowd. I just write awesome stuff now, with zero worry about the opinions of self-appointed gatekeepers.

Another thing that was surprising to me was that when I tried to write a love triangle in Beat and Push, it didn’t work. It didn’t ring even close to true. It occurred to me that in my, admittedly limited, experience, I’d never encountered a love triangle. And I read YA books that were awash in angsty love triangles and it turned out I didn’t believe them.

As for learning something about myself- I have learned that if I want to write stories that make me proud, I have to put my all into it. It’s scary to have such ambitious ideas for my books, but screwing my courage to the writing point has been a valuable exercise. I feel comfy in my skin now that I’ve learned to write the story the way it is in my head and heart. Without skirting or taking the easy way out.

I ask this question to everyone – what’s the most interesting item you have in your writing space and what’s the story behind it?

I have Andúril, the Sword of Kings, reforged by Elrond for Aragorn to wield in the ultimate battle against the dark forces of Sauron. It hangs on my wall. So does Sting- the sword not the singer. I have a fancy picture of the Serenity and one from Battlestar Galactica. I have a huge print of Frazetta’s Death Eater glowering at me. I’ve got a six inch tall, beautiful sculpture of Gollum looking over my shoulder and the Argonath looming over me from a bookcase behind me.

But the most interesting thing to me is the six bibs and completion medals from the endurance races I’ve done and a print copy of every book I’ve published. These remind me that I can do the hard things, and not only that, I love doing the hard things. I thrive on pushing past what I thought were my limits. The bibs and books remind me of that and keep me going.

What’s next? What are you working on?

I’m querying for my memoir and am on the last possible submission place for my Old West Gunpowder fantasy with dragons and monsters- if the place I’ve sent it doesn’t want it, I’ll self-publish it. I am outlining my espionage series. And for actual new words, I’m finally going to write the rest of Passenger to Carthage, my steampunk time travel story about a woman trying to save Joseph Smith from assassination so he can become president. For entirely secular reasons. She thinks Manifest Destiny is one of the worst evils ever and wants to save the indigenous peoples from it- and Joseph Smith was opposed to Manifest Destiny. This started as a short story and is going to be at minimum a novella.

Also, my newest book, Red Prince, is out on May 31st. It’s the third in a mesoamerican fantasy trilogy and it is no holds-barred fun.

Red Prince, coming May 31st!

About Red Prince

Lakhoni and his family are in search of a home away from the blood, evil, and memories of Molgar and his plans to rule two nations. Alronna’s dreams are leading them north, to a land of abundance and peace.

But when they come upon a slaughtered village, the chase begins anew. Gadnar, Molgar’s, powerful brother, escaped the showdown at the end of Usurper and is spilling blood everywhere he goes. He seeks the final ancient Relic, certain it will give him power over the land.

Setting aside their quest for peace, Lakhoni, Alronna, Simra, and their companions track Gadnar, determined to end his reign of terror. But as the source of his power becomes clear, they will have to face down an evil as ancient as creation. If they fail, monsters beyond imagination will enshroud the land, putting all the people under thrall. But to succeed, they will have to pay the ultimate sacrifice.

Sneak peak!

Alronna dropped onto the smooth log next to Lakhoni. He flinched. “Alronna. Haven’t seen you much.”

She nodded. “I’ve been trying to figure out these dreams.” Her face, lit orange and yellow by the flames, looked confused. “I know what they mean and know I’m going to listen to what they’re telling us to do—go north. But why am I having them?” She grew quiet for a moment. The next thing she said was so quiet he almost couldn’t hear. “And why do they only come if I’m holding the Sword while I’m sleeping?”

“What?” Cool tingles slid down his neck and back. “You never told me that.” Lakhoni’s eyes dropped to her side. The Sword of Nubal hung there, resting and poking out somewhat awkwardly on top of the log.

“I realized it only a few days ago and tested the idea.” Alronna swallowed. “I’m sure. If I sleep with one hand on the Sword, the dreams come. If not, they don’t.”

“So don’t.”

“You mean ‘so do.’” Alronna shifted and gave Lakhoni a sardonic smile. “Why would I not have the dreams if they’re guiding us the right way? What else could they help us with or warn us about? Why would I ever let go of the Sword?”

“So you can have a peaceful night’s sleep.” Lakhoni took in his sister’s face—no longer gaunt from slavery, but not young and soft like before she had been taken. Now she looked like a warrior woman, a lot like Anca and Marana of the Azarites to the northwest. She looked strong. Unstoppable. But right now, she also looked worried and confused.

Excerpt from Red Prince, by Jared Garrett

He’s in plaid, he’s got grace, he’s got a beard on his face – it’s Jared!

About today’s guest:

Jared Garrett is the author of the number one bestselling scifi thriller Beat and a bunch of other lies in book form. He is a family man raising seven kids with his best friend and wife of two decades.

Jared had an odd childhood in a nomadic cult, which he left at seventeen. He’s worked as a firefighter, a BBQ restaurant manager, a cowboy theater actor, a bellman, and as a rubber vulcanizing engineer, among many others.

His favorite authors are Terry Pratchett, Robert Ludlum, Katherine Paterson, Douglas Adams, Patricia McKillip, Brandon Sanderson, Mercedes Lackey, R.A. Salvatore, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and many more. If you ask him where his story ideas come from, be prepared for a lengthy discussion about inspiration dust, hauling a towel wherever you go, and dogs. Lots and lots of dogs. No, seriously. Dogs.

Looking for Jared’s books? Look no further –


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Magical Places: Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia

Ever want to go somewhere that makes you feel like you are on another planet? Those who live in the western United States are familiar with the Bonneville Salt Flats – an impossible stretch of pristine white perfectly flat ground that stretches to the horizon. I’ve been there. It’s both incredible as it is blinding.

Bonneville Salt Flats is ringed by the different ranges within the Rocky Mountains, which are visible in the photo below. Now imagine if it were 100 times larger and you’d have Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats, the largest salt flat in the world.

Me, being a complete dork on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Salt flats are formed where prehistoric lake beds have filled and dried millions of times over the course of eons. In Utah, that prehistoric lake was Lake Bonneville and it used to cover over half of Utah. This cycle of filling and drying left behind a meters thick even layer of salts that are distributed so evenly that NASA uses them to calibrate the altimeters of Earth observation satellites.

Salar de Uyuni is part of the Altiplano (literally translates to ‘high plain’) of Bolivia and originated from the prehistoric lakes Lake Minchin and later Paleo Lake Tauca. The altitude is so high in fact, at 11,800 ft, that it’s recommended for travelers to acclimate in La Paz for a few days before visiting. It’s also bitterly cold in the winter, dropping as low as -4F (-20C).

Because it’s as beautiful as it is alien, it has become a highlighted tourist stop for those traveling in Bolivia. Hidden within the vast expanses of these salt flats are technicolor lagoons, gushing hot springs, and surreal deserts.

Now I totally want to create a story that has a salt flat… so cool.

As the brine beneath the crust rises and falls it forms geometric shapes.

Interesting facts about Salar de Uyuni:

  • It’s the largest concentration of lithium on the planet. The battery in your phone most likely has lithium from Salar de Uyuni in it.
  • The final battle scene in The Last Jedi was filmed here
  • After the rain it creates the largest natural mirror in existence.
  • It’s a huge breeding ground for three species of Flamingo who turn pink from ingesting the pink algae.
During the rainy season, Salar de Uyuni becomes a giant natural mirror

Resources:

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Interview with Kenny B. Smith

There are authors, there are editors, there are mentors, and then there’s Kenny – a snarktastic bundle of the three, plus a good friend of mine. It’s a pleasure to bring her to the blog today and share more about her journey and what makes her tick.

Kenny and I have bounced around various writing events ranging from signings at the Printed Garden, to fan conventions such as Wizarding Dayz, and to writing conferences such as Fyrecon. We share a lot of the same darkly cynical humor and sarcasm so it was only a matter of time before we became fast friends.

How about some dark and stormy reading? I’m in!

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

On to the interview!

First of all, I’d love to get to know you better. What makes you laugh the most, and why?

Puns. The more horrible, the better. And B SciFi movies. The terrible ones with descriptions that don’t match and awful plot ideas. Airplane vs Volcano and Sharknado – like that. I think I just like bad acting and both of those fall under that category. They usually have one really good A-lister (at least 70% of the time). Those are the funniest because they know how to act well. The people acting in the show around them make them look overly dramatic or just bad themselves. It’s hilarious.

If you could choose any fictional character (including ones you have created) to have dinner with, who would you choose and why?

Carmen Sandiego – I was always a fan as a kid and she seemed like such a bad guy. The kind who knows things you can’t possibly know and will never learn. But then, Netflix flipped the script on it. So, I have to wonder, which one is the real Carmen. Besides, the adventure stories would be so much fun to write up. Ca you imagine retelling the story of stealing the Great Wall of China? Masterful.

Tell us a little about the Evolution series and your journey in writing it.

The Evolution series came about when I was writing some history curriculum. I am obsessed with World War II. While not a conspiracy theorist, I do believe it was a body double that was burned in the ditch at the end of World War II and the high ranking Nazis, some of them, escaped to South America, which is why the CIA was so involved in controlling the government in those countries in the 50’s and 60’s. The documentary series Hunting Hitler is very telling. Had Germany managed to take Britain by any amount of special circumstances, then they would have crossed to friendly countries and started over here. I am currently knee-deep in the third and what should be the final book but I feel like it doesn’t close everything up. So, I am debating changing the ending or writing a book four, for gratuitous reasons. The story develops well on its own and I don’t want to force it. This is not the first series I have written but some are published as a ghost writer. So, I can’t share those.

For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve been deeply involved in all sorts of events. What’s the most bizarre or weirdly wonderful thing you’ve encountered at a writing conference or fan oriented convention?

1 – The first KidCon I was ever involved in, we built a castle out of donated foam. My husband was the architecgt and project manager and it was some long hours. During the event, someone stole the PVC pipe holding things together on the back wall of the castle itself. It was strange and caused quite a scare as we thought the wall was completely broken and falling..

2 – Deflowering the Castle!!!! Okay, you have to understand the delirium that comes with FanX Comic Convention. It was Saturday night around 10pm and we were still breaking down KidCon. Mind you, I had spent ten hours a day at the Salt Palace since Monday helping to set up. By this time, we had seen at least 3000 kids and were just tired. Brain fried, I removed all the plastic plants from the castle walls and declared it had been deflowered! And someone else wanted to know if my husband knew I wanted something so big. Yep, I need to start a blog on stories behind the scenes working with kids. So – the second one is less family friendly than the first. Use whichever you like, or both.

I ask this question to everyone – What is the most interesting thing you keep on your desk, or bring to your writing space, and what is the story behind it.

My dolphin pen. When it falls on the floor, it will cut you with a fin. It no longer has a cap or ink but I wrote my first query letters 20 years ago with it and now, I can’t seem to let it go. It’s more of a weapon now than it was then because it literally could stab someone in so many ways. On the bad days, I contemplate trying to break it open to see if I can add ink. It sits next to my army issue typewriter which still functions by the way.

What’s next? Tell me about the next project (or projects) you are working on.

Finishing book three in the Evolution series. Then we have the Blue Quill Anthology that we are publishing through Teapots Away Media. We have an awesome idea for a podcast that will be taking things back to the 1950’s (think War of the Worlds) if the media arm can pull it off. We are compiling a set of memoir stories relating to the original versions of fairy tales that take on current issues. I am working on another dystopian scifi and a new Adult Fantasy myself and we have two authors who have submitted works to be released next year. I have short stories coming out in a charity Halloween anthology for Fyrecon and possibly with the Salt City Genre Writers.

The ever talented and always amusing, Kenny B Smith

About Kenny B Smith

Kenny likes to read, of course, and when she’s not writing, she is researching history, one of her favorite subjects. Researching allows her to rewrite history in her speculative fiction novels. Accuracy is something she values in her work.

In her spare time, she enjoys quilting and sewing, hanging out with her kids and teaching. As someone who has volunteered her time with children often, she values their creative space and loves to help them express it. She also teaches classes to adults. Her latest class is how to write an effective query letter.

Not always a teacher, she loves to learn and learn she does. She has certificates in Radio & TV Broadcasting, Private Investigation & Security and is working on one in Antiques. As history was her major, she knows how to learn about anything although research is not her favorite task.

When she’s not dreaming up new book ideas in the fantasy and speculative fiction genres, she is writing non-fiction (ghost writing), unschooling her kids, watching crime procedurals or playing Hunt A Killer with her husband. He says she has an unhealthy fascination with serial killers and their psychology, war artillery and military strategy.

Her current venture to help others – she’s started a publishing house. Not traditional, not boutique, not vanity, not just services. They are a mentor publishing house. Do we know what that means exactly? No. But if you ask her, she is always willing to explain.

Connect with Kenny:

About Kenny’s most recent book D-Evolution

D is back and now finds herself inside city walls, which is proving to be no safer for her than the comfort of her former home in Bunker Six. While Doc is determined to find more people with potential like D, others are looking to rid themselves of anyone with potential. Can D save herself and others like her?

Xayres has known for his political successes but inside the city, he is fumbling. With little knowledge of the world outside and even less practice with the skills necessary for successful missions, Xayres finds himself being saved by everyone around him. Can he learn the skills he needs to survive before it’s too late?

Erack loves his solitude but is forced into the limelight to lead the charge to find the defunct Bunker One. Can he hide enough to focus on the task at hand and get his colleagues to safety before the resistance erupts into its own civil war?

Find D-Evolution and the rest of the Evolution series on Amazon

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Power Word: Vitality

Recently I went on a Disneyland vacation with my family and let me tell you, the happiest place on Earth is not for the weak. As a writer and author I spend an unhealthy amount of time sitting at a desk. I do my best to incorporate physical activity into my day, but the fact stands, I’m not the svelte active woman I was ten years ago.

Walking around the massive acreage that is the Magic Kingdom takes stamina all by itself. Herding a group of highly distractable kids around the park, takes stamina, beignets, patience, and an ungodly amount of caffeine.

Which brings me to this month’s power word: Vitality.

Somewhere between Splash Mountain and the 28th request from a little person to ride something on the other side of the park RIGHT NOW, I realized just how tired I was. I used to be able to do theme parks with the best of them. Now, I totally get why my parents wanted to stop and sit down.

I define vitality as the overall feeling of health and well-being. It’s a mix of eating well and taking time to celebrate the potential of our bodies through motion. That motion is different for everyone. One person might crave that morning run, another might enjoy a walk around the block, another can find it while playing at a park with their kids.

Energy is a funny thing. The more you use, the stronger you become in time. Those who are regularly active, have more energy than those who aren’t.

For me, focusing on vitality means to find ways of incorporating more motion into my day. I’m spending time tending to my yard, choosing to walk rather than ride in a car when possible, and taking my kids to parks to play.

Vitality is also being more aware of the quality of the food I eat and how much. I have to cheat here and use a calorie counter, I find it’s the only way I can stay accountable.

Overall, I’m happy with my body and I want to use it every way I can. I’m a work in progress and want to continue to improve by being more intentional about my actions.

What are ways you increase your vitality?

What’s your favorite healthy snack?

If you want to read my other power word posts, head over to the post, Power Words of 2019.

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