Author Interview: Jordan Elizabeth

IMG_7547Jordan, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?  I have my degree in education and right now I’m working as a trainer. I am obsessed with writing and reading. Maybe sometimes it borders on the unhealthy. Like, I will be listening to someone talk and think of a million different story lines. I suddenly realize they are still talking and I have to admit I’ve just visited a fantasy world, and can they repeat the last five minutes?

I am an author who struggles for story ideas. What advice would you give me? Get out and dream. The majority of my ideas come from my dreams. Whenever I wake up, I jot down what I remember from the night. I also try to do as much as possible. I will go for a walk in a park, visit a new area, just sit in the mall and observe. One year when I went to Niagara Falls, there was a man painted cold handing out necklaces. That inspired my short horror story “The Gold Man.”
Where did the idea for Escape From Witchwood Hollow come from? Is they any of you in Honoria? My friends, cousins, and I were always making “movies” when we were younger. I came up with this idea for us based off the woods near our house, which included a cemetery and old foundations. I didn’t base Honoria’s attitude after me, but I did play her in the movie so I did picture myself when describing some of the features. I also played Lady Clifford in the movie, so I also based a bit of her appearance off of me.
Tell me about your daily writing routine.  I get home from my day job, run errands, get dinner, and then paste myself down in the computer chair to get to work. I’m usually up until midnight, and then back up at 6am. Hard considering I’m a big fan of sleep.
Do you need total silence, or do you write while listening to music? If so, what kind of music do you listen to?  Total silence!  I have to be alone in a room with the door locked to ensure no one disturbs me. I like to get lost in my writing.
How do you deal with stress? What do you do to take care of yourself physically and emotionally?  I will talk to my mom, go for a walk, or write. If I’m really stressed, I will break away from my current manuscript to whip out a short story based on my feelings. I’ve found that’s the best way for me to deal. I’ve been told to sleep it off, but then I would just stay in bed all day mulling.
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Book Review – Escape from Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

23351890Title: Escape from Witchwood Hollow

Author: Jordan Elizabeth

Genre: Teen & Young Adult

Series or Standalone: Standalone

Summary

Everyone in Arnn – a small farming town with more legends than residents – knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.

After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to Arnn. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.

Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.

To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness.

How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?

4 STARS

Review

I don’t typically read books in the teen/young adult genre, but I was approached by the author, Jordan Elizabeth, who offered me a free copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

From a presentation standpoint, the electronic version of this book is beautifully rendered. I typically read on the Kindle app on my Asus tablet. However, I was able to read this book with ease using the reader app that came with the Windows 10 upgrade.

The story itself moves at a suitable pace, switching seamlessly between past and present, subtly and effectively weaving together different lives and times in preparation for an ending that was both surprising and satisfying.

My issues with the story are twofold, though both are relatively minor. First, I thought that the character development, particularly in the case of Honoria, was lacking. In spite of the fact that she lost both of her parents, in spite of the fact that she is the new girl at school and in the small town of Arnn, she seems surprisingly well adjusted. She has some struggles, some internal and external strife, but I guess I expected more. I feel that some more internal struggle would have helped to address my second issue with the story, that of the story itself.

While I felt that the story moved at a suitable pace, I don’t feel there was enough conflict spread throughout the book. While I never minded coming back to the book for a quick five-minute read, or to delve more deeply for half an hour or more, I never had a problem putting the book down either. I never felt as though I had to get back to the book to see what was going to happen next.

In spite of the issues I had, I thought there was some very good writing throughout the book. Had there been some more character development along with some additional conflict, this would have been an excellent book.

Bottom line: Though character development and conflict, Escape From Witchwood Hollow is a solid book. I’d like to read more from Jordan Elizabeth.

Author Interview: J. Edward Ritchie

JRitchieNewHeadshotMr. Ritchie, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Thank you for featuring me on your blog. I’m a novelist/screenwriter specializing in epic storytelling and fantasy world creation. From an early age, I gravitated towards the depth and escapist joy of grand tales like Star Wars. Whenever the pressures of life became overwhelming, I’d lose myself in the stories of books, comics, video games, and movies. Experiencing the classic hero’s journey put everything in perspective and made it easier to cope with whatever was bothering me. That same passion for iconic myth and storytelling now drives my own work.

I spent ten years in Los Angeles as a screenwriter, which is a vastly different medium of writing compared to traditional prose. I learned how to quickly identify and set up the core narrative structure of a story while relating the details of complex, fantastical worlds through brisk but engaging language. Not having the luxury to fill pages with excessive detail helped me to focus on only the aspects of my worlds that were important to the plot and characters. It’s a skill set that has served me well in the transition to novels.

With the launch of my debut novel, Fall From Grace, I have been focused on creating an online author brand through social media, blog essays, etc. It’s all a completely foreign landscape to me, but I’ve found the online writing community to be quite welcoming.

For a more in-depth biography, check out my website.

I just finished your book Fall From Grace, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Give me a little background on how the book came about. Where did the idea come from?

When the seeds of the initial concept were first planted over a decade ago, there was an influx of sword and sandal epics hitting theaters. I couldn’t get enough of them. Then, I randomly stumbled across a book called A Dictionary of Angels by Gustav Davidson, probably the single most complete A-to-Z compendium of angels on the market. I never had a particular interest in angel lore, but while flipping through that book I began to realize that the fight for Heaven was warfare on a scale I hadn’t seen before. The story also hadn’t been told with any decisive detail in religious texts or pop culture. The more I read, the more the world and characters took root in my mind. Despite the grand scale of the project, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to move on until I told the story. An article on my blog breaks down the development of Fall From Grace from concept to publication.

51xRW3hs0BL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_I know that Fall From Grace is self-published. Did you shop the book to any agents or publishers?

My managers in Los Angeles, Heroes & Villains Entertainment, reached out to numerous agents and publishers. However, the sheer amount of time it took to get a response (weeks or months) became counterproductive. Rather than continuing to submit the manuscript, we decided it would be more beneficial for me to self-publish. Personally, I needed to get my work out there to the public. Self-publishing meant a lot more work on my end but there was also a thrilling, entrepreneurial feel to the process. Besides, I had nothing to lose. A publisher can always still pick up the novel.

As an author who struggles for story ideas, what advice would you give me?

Focus on the type of material you enjoy and inundate your mind with it. Whether it’s a song, an article online, an episode of TV––whatever sparks your interest can be the avenue to a new story. I don’t sit down at my keyboard with the sole purpose of churning out new ideas. Rather, ideas seem to spawn in my mind while I’m knee-deep in material that feeds my own creative hunger. Trying to force ideas is like poking at your brain and hoping to snag the one random neuron that will generate greatness. Keep an open mind, feed your creativity, and ideas will inevitably bubble to the surface.

However, sometimes the chaos of the real world can stifle ideas whispering in your head. Occasionally, I use a technique of basic sensory deprivation to hear those whispers. I turn off all the lights and cocoon myself under the bed sheets, removing all exterior sound and visuals. Then, I just let my mind wander. I’ve broken through a lot of story problems with this method.

Did you have someone edit the book, or did you do it yourself? Do you have any beta readers?

My reps at Heroes & Villains are grammatical masters and helped scan the novel for errors. I spent a great deal of time and effort researching proper novel formatting and then edited the story line-by-line, chapter-by-chapter on both my computer screen and printed out on paper. It is an exhaustive process that I don’t necessarily recommend if you can afford an editor. Luckily, some previous editing experience had prepared me, and the end result was a novel that met the high, professional standards of the industry.

Beta readers are an absolute necessity. I utilized a handful of close friends from the initial story outlining sessions through a completed draft. It’s good to have a variety of readers: someone that has sound knowledge of story structure, a diehard fan of your genre, and especially someone who can be brutally honest.

What’s next for you? Have you started your next book? If so, can you give us a hint?

I am just beginning my next novel, a companion piece to Fall From Grace that will be under the banner of Fall From Grace Chronicles. I don’t want to say too much, but it will be a series of short stories that expands upon the events seen in the war for Heaven. I felt that I had more stories to tell taking place during the war before I could officially move on to the sequel.

Tell me about your daily writing routine.

I’m a big advocate of outlining, especially for the fantasy genre. I never want to waste my time writing something that I won’t use, so a detailed outline essentially acts like my first draft. My outlines break down character info and arcs, settings, themes, sociological aspects of the world, and the major turning points of the story. From there, I fill in the gaps scene-by-scene, even including lines of dialogue, etc. When I begin to write the actual manuscript, it tends to go quite smoothly. Having said that, nothing is set in stone. Listen to your characters. No matter how much you plan ahead, you will invariably find new and exciting twists in the story that were never plotted out.

When I was writing and working other jobs, I had to fit it in whenever I could. Now that I am able to write full-time, I treat my writing day like a typical 9-5 job. In the mornings, I’ll wake up with some video games, usually a story-intensive game that helps get the gears turning. During breakfast I check my social media accounts and email, trying not to get lost in the minutiae of the Internet. I write through the afternoon, taking a break at lunch to walk my dog and get some fresh air. I’ll write until my wife gets home in the early evening. Once she is home, it’s family time. It can be difficult to turn off the writing part of my brain at that point, but I’m much happier for it.

Do you need total silence, or do you write while listening to music? If so, what kind of music do you listen to?

When writing in Los Angeles, the constant sounds of the city were background noise that I had no choice but to accept. Now that I live in a much quieter area, I cherish the silence. However, if I am researching or working on social media, I’ll usually have on music. I listen to pretty much everything, my favorites ranging from Wu-Tang Clan to Black Sabbath to Adele.

How do you deal with stress? What do you do to take care of yourself physically and emotionally?

Stress and anxiety have been a daily part of my life since childhood. After all, the creative mind tends to be the most tortured, doesn’t it? Physically, walking my dog every day forces me to get outside and live less like a hermit. Walking a couple times a day may not seem like much, but it does wonders for your health. My wife is the greatest emotional support I could ask for. Her love keeps me grounded and sane. It’s only because of her encouragement and belief in my talents that I am able to continue along in a career that can have such overwhelming rejection.

Love is the great nullifier of life’s bullshit.

Book Review – Fall From Grace by J. Edward Ritchie

51xRW3hs0BL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Fall From Grace

Author: J. Edward Ritchie

Genre: thriller

Series or Standalone: Standalone

Summary

Heaven: a paradise of all that is pure in Creation. Led by brothers Michael and Satanail, the Angelic Host is a testament to cosmic harmony and love. When an unprecedented revelation threatens to uproot their peace, a schism splits the Host’s loyalties. Every angel has to make a choice: faith or freedom. Good or evil.

Salvation or damnation.

War consumes Heaven in the first and most destructive loss of life that Creation will ever know. As brother turns on brother, the fate of both Heaven and Earth rests in the hands of the Creator’s chosen son, Michael. How far will he go, what will he sacrifice in the name of their Father, to protect his family?

Witness the tragic downfall of a civilization as told from both sides of the bloody rebellion. More than myth, more than legend, Heaven’s war will forever stand as a harrowing warning that even the purest of souls can fall from grace.

5 STARS

Review

It was evident from the first page that J. Edward Ritchie is a very good writer. The prose contained in Fall From Grace is beautiful and ugly, serene and violent, divine and evil. Ritchie presents both sides of this powerful story – this epic battle of good and evil – in a manner that paints each side of the conflict sympathetically.

Brothers Michael and Satanail are the leaders of the Angelic Host until Satanail makes a discovery that causes him to defect, leading an uprising against Michael and the rest of the angels that stand for good. Filled with excellent character development, thrilling battle scenes, and poignant reflection by angels on both sides of the battle, Fall From Grace goes way beyond our traditional view of good and evil into those gray areas of morality, family loyalty, and the lengths others will go to in the name of their faith.

There were times when I was reading the book when I thought some scenes were a bit over the top, times when I thought that the author had taken an issue too far. Without fail, I was proven wrong, because what was written ended up becoming integral to the story. No wasted words here folks!

Bottom Line: First-time author J. Edward Ritchie hit a home run with this book! His exquisite prose lends an almost “classic literature” feel to this book. I am looking forward to more from Mr. Ritchie!

Book Review: Germ Warfare (of the Corporate Kind) by Noel Warnell

41xdnMqsw8L._SS300_Title: Germ Warfare (of the Corporate Kind)

Author: Noel Warnell

Genre: Humor/Self-Help

Series or Standalone: Standalone

Summary

This hilarious debut book is the result of 15 years ‘in the trenches’ research in workplace diseases and by reading it you’ll take a giant leap towards a happier and healthier place to work, for yourself and others as you: • become aware of the 25 disgusting diseases lurking in your office • discover how to quickly and easily identify symptoms • receive expert guidance on how to disrupt and destroy them.

4 STARS

Review

I read this book in less than an hour, and spent a good portion of the time chuckling to myself. You see, I work for a mental health provider. A few years ago, I left my job as director of one of the organization’s outpatient offices to write grants full-time. With the change in job came a change in the location of my office. I went from having my own office with a door that I could shut to working in a large suite of offices and cubicles. As it worked out, I ended up stuck in a cubicle. I went from working in an office filled with mostly social worker types to working in an office filled with all manner of administrative staff (IT, accounting, billing, human resources, etc.).

I wish I’d had a copy of Germ Warfare when I started my new job on cubicle island. It would have saved me a lot of frustration, and would perhaps have slowed the graying of my hair. I won’t run down the different types of corporate diseases, such as “Bitchy-witchy”, “Verbositoxis” or “Fluff,” but I will say that as I read the book and thought about my workplace, I could identify with many of them. Hell, I have symptoms of a couple of them myself. I highly recommend that you buy a copy and stow it in your desk. I recommend taking it with you for your 9am visit to stall #1 – you know, after the coffee and oatmeal kick into high gear.

Bottom line: This a quick and funny read that sheds a humorous light on the different types of people we encounter at work.

Reviewer’s Note: I received a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Book Review – Tortured Dreams by Hadena James

imgresTitle: Tortured Dreams

Author: Hadena James

Genre: thriller

Series or Standalone: Book 1 in the Dreams & Reality Series

Summary

Aislinn Cain’s life is a horror story – A Serial Killer Thriller

When the US Marshals Serial Crimes Tracking Unit comes knocking at Aislinn Cain’s door, she is given a chance to use her past to save other people’s futures. She has survived attacks by two different serial killers and devoted her life to studying the darker side of human history.

A new killer is using medieval torture methods to slay his victims. She can give them a glimpse into his twisted world, but not without a cost. If she opens herself, she risks falling into the depths of her own darkness. Can she afford to help, knowing that the cost could be her own humanity?

Review

1 STARS

I was excited when I started this book, sure that it was going to be a top-notch thriller. How can you go wrong with a killer that uses medieval torture devices? What I got instead was a book filled with a lot dialogue, much of it meaningless, and very little in the way of action.

The main character, Aislinn Cain, is a shallow, unapologetic sociopath, and thus, very hard to like or even care about. I don’t feel like any of the characters in the book were particularly well-developed. Most, including Aislinn, felt like robots responding to stimuli, but unable to do much of anything else.

What action there was, although somewhat fantastical and hard to believe, did manage to move the story along, unlike the endless, meaningless banter between the various characters.

Bottom line: This book could have been cut by twenty-five to fifty percent and wouldn’t have lost anything except a lot of meaningless dialogue.

Book Review – Cold River Resurrection by Enes Smith

urlTitle: Cold River Resurrection

Author: Enes Smith

Genre: Thriller

Series or Standalone: The Cold River Series – Book 2

Summary

City girl Jennifer Kruger got more than she bargained for when she trespassed on the Cold River Indian Reservation, searching for Bigfoot. She became lost and stumbled upon grisly evidence of murder and mutilation. Rescued by Cold River Tribal Police Lieutenant “Smokey” Kukup, and caught up in a modern war, she seeks to stay alive as she finds herself attached to Smokey and his precocious nine-year-old daughter.

Cold River Resurrection is an action-filled thriller set on a modern day reservation.

3 STARS

Review

I judge a book by my eagerness to return to it, to get back to the action. This book kept me coming back often, and was firmly a four-star book…until the book’s climactic scene, when the realism that had been firmly established throughout the book was thrown out the window in favor of something out of left field – a convenient way to excise the main characters from a seemingly inescapable situation.

Despite my disappointment in the novel’s climax, I still enjoyed the book. The plot moved at a pace that kept me engaged and wanting more. Where else are you going to find a book with Sasquatch hunters, a drug cartel, and an Indiana reservation? It took a while, but the author did a convincing job of weaving all disparate plot lines together into a cohesive and (mostly) convincing story.

The author also developed interesting characters. “Smokey” Kukup is the strong, silent type – an American Indian man raising his nine-year-old daughter Laurel following the overdose death of his wife. He struggles with guilt over the death of his wife while wanting a better life for Laurel, who has unwavering love for and faith in her father.

And then there is Jennifer Kruger, a young woman lost in the woods while hunting for Sasquatch with her boyfriend. She is rescued by Smokey, and as the story progresses, they begin to develop feelings for one another. A little predictable? Absolutely, but the budding relationship develops at a believable pace rather than the two just hopping into the sack. And, it develops to the delight of Laurel, who feels an immediate bond with Jennifer, a feeling that is reciprocated by Jennifer.

Bottom line: Cold River Resurrection, despite a few flaws, is a good book and worth your time, especially if you enjoy books by the likes of Tony Hillerman. The information about American Indians and their beliefs adds a different dynamic to character and plot development.