Jordan, 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?
Author: Jordan Elizabeth
Genre: Teen & Young Adult
Series or Standalone: Standalone
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?
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.
On September 19, 2015, the alarm on my Samsung went off at 5am, though I had been awake for a while. Just for today, I set Rush’s “Marathon” as my alarm tone. Since I took up cycling, the lyrics have served as an inspiration to me: “You can do a lot in a lifetime / If you don’t burn out too fast / You can make the most of the distance / First you need endurance / First you’ve got to last…”
Ever the obsessive, I had my clothing set out last night, so that all I had to do was get a shower and get dressed. Everything else I needed was already stowed in the van.
At 5:40am, I set out, heading for the small town of Hope, Indiana for Hope Ride 2015. The sky was inky black, the rising sun a victim of heavy cloud cover. As I made my way south, thunder claps and lightning shattered the fragile sense of optimism I had for good weather. It sprinkled off and on. I was fifteen minutes from my destination when the skies opened up with a windshield-pounding deluge. My mood quickly soured.
By the time I arrived at Hauser High School, the starting and ending point of the ride, the rain had completely stopped, and my optimism began to reassert itself. As I pulled into the parking lot, I could see that my friend and unofficial cycling mentor Rick had already arrived. I parked my van, and Rick and I headed into the school to register. Prior to this ride, I had only ridden in three other organized rides, each with perhaps thirty to forty riders. As we entered the school, I was astounded. There were hundreds of riders milling about.
We got registered and headed back to the parking lot to meet up with a guy named Eric, someone I had connected with on Facebook who was looking for someone with whom to ride. Eric, Rick, and I set out at 7:30am, the cloudy sky casting a pall over our departure. The roads were still wet, and the cold air bit at my arms. Fifteen minutes into the ride, the rain came and stayed with us for an hour, perhaps longer. My mood headed south again as I pondered the possibility of riding 100 miles in the rain.
Meeting new people doesn’t bother me, but spending a lot of time with someone I don’t know usually makes me a bit uncomfortable. When we set out, a tinge of regret tickled my stomach. What if Eric turned out to be a jerk?
Turns out Eric is a heck of a nice guy. He and I spent a good portion of the ride talking about books and authors, our careers, families, etc. He and Rick also talked about various bicycle components, reinforcing in my mind just how much I have to learn about bicycles.
When we pulled into the first SAG stop, it was still raining. I ate a banana and a couple of small cinnamon rolls, refilled my water bottles, and we set out again for the next leg of our journey. As the miles passed beneath our wheels, I was proud of myself. I felt as though I was keeping pace with Rick and Eric, two very experienced riders. Sure, I would fall behind a bit as we headed up some of the bigger hills, but once I hit the top, I would hit it hard until I caught up with them.
After a little more than fifty miles, we rode into the town square in Hope. It was around 11am. Lunch was being served and smelled pretty damn good, especially after having eaten nothing but bananas, cookies, and granola bars. Rick suggested that we ride the next 25-mile loop, which would bring us back to the Hope town square, before we ate lunch. That was appealing to me because it meant that after lunch, we would only have about 25 miles left.
We set out to ride another twenty-five miles. At the next SAG stop in St. Paul, Indiana, we realized that the route did not make its way back to Hope until the end of the ride, as had been the case in years past. Rick was apologetic about causing us to miss lunch, and even offered to go buy me lunch (“a big greasy cheeseburger”) after the ride was over. We pulled out of St. Paul, a group of about seven or eight, knowing that we would do an eighteen-mile loop and end up back at the St. Paul SAG again.
Following our second stop in St. Paul, we headed out for our final leg. Twenty miles, give or take, to go. It became evident to me at a mile or so into this final leg that I wasn’t going to be able to keep pace with the main group. It was windy, and I was starting to feel in my legs. At first, Eric hung back with me. He then rejoined the main group, and Rick dropped back to ride with me. For a few miles, we kept pace with the larger group, which was about a hundred yards in front of us. Then, as the miles piled up and the wind continued to hammer at us, the group began to pull farther and farther away from us.
My legs were holding up okay on the flat stretches, but screamed at me every time I made my way up a hill. Ten miles into our last leg, we hit another SAG stop. I couldn’t have been happier! I ate a banana, and refilled my bottles. Even though I had only been on the bike for about ten miles since the last SAG, I was grateful.
We left that final SAG and made our way toward Hauser High School, arriving about forty minutes later. There was no fanfare, no one standing there cheering for us as we rode the final fifty yards and turned into the parking lot. Over half the cars that had been in the parking lot earlier that morning were gone.
I quietly pedaled over to my van, put my bike into the rooftop rack, and walked over to tell Rick goodbye. There were free root beer floats inside the building for ride participants. I wasn’t interested in the root beer float or commiserating with other riders about the shitty weather. I just wanted to get in my van and head home for a hot shower and time with my family. Emotionally and physically, I was drained. I just needed some time to myself. On one hand, I was proud of my accomplishment, and I was glad to be done. On the other hand, I had an empty feeling, but I didn’t know why. Why in the hell had I decided to ride a hundred miles on my bicycle? What did I get out of it but sore legs and a sore ass?
When I got into the van to leave, I was plugging my phone in and getting ready to leave when I saw that I had missed a call from Riley, my youngest child. There was no message because, as I have come to realize, kids don’t leave voice messages (or check their own voice mail for that matter!). I called her back, but didn’t get her. A few minutes later, we finally connected. I asked her how she did at her cross country meet. She said she did fine, but seemed more interested in how I had done on my ride. There was the answer to my question! Beyond the exercise, beyond my own need to push myself to the very edge of my limits, I did it for my kids. I did it to show them that if you put your mind to something, even something that seems out of reach, it can be achieved through hard work, dedication, and never quitting.
Before heading home, I joked with a lady in the parking that this was my first century, and maybe my last. Bullshit! I’ll do it again next year. Heck, maybe I’ll do two! I know now that I can. And surely it won’t be rainy and windy next year….
I got my bicycle back from the mechanic following my misguided attempt to adjust my front and rear derailleurs. The thing is, I’ve successfully adjusted my derailleurs before, but this time was different. They were both badly out of tune, and by the time I got done with them last Friday, they were both worse. Adjusting my derailleurs was first on a list of things I wanted to do to my bike prior to riding my first century, the Hope Ride in Hope, Indiana on Saturday, September 19, 2015. Turns out the second thing on my list was to take my bike to Buckskin Bikes for a complete tuneup.
Oh well, I can always depend on the guys at Buckskin to fix my screwups. Plus, it’s probably best that I had a professional look things over prior to riding a hundred miles in one day.
The past several days have been filled with nervous energy, trepidation, and more than a little self-doubt. I usually deal with these kinds of emotions by hopping my bike for a ride. So that’s what I did. I headed south and then east, out of town, toward the cornfield-lined roads of east-central Indiana. There’s only on three-mile stretch of road on this twenty-four mile route that I don’t like – a bumpy, poorly-maintained stretch of CR 300 East, heading south into Markleville, immediately following the only real hill on the ride, one that never fails to get me breathing hard. Let’s be honest – it usually kicks my ass!
Today as I rode, listening to a mix of progressive rock and metal, I didn’t think about much but the century ride in four days. I would occasionally glance at Endomondo on my Samsung, noting the number of miles I had ridden, taking an inventory of my legs and back, thinking to myself, “Well, Saturday, you’ll be [insert number here] percent done with your first century.”
I also thought about the weather, which doesn’t look good: windy and rainy. Blech. I haven’t yet looked at the hourly forecast because it isn’t yet posted, but all I can think is that I will be riding into a 20mph headwind in a downpour for one hundred miles. I’m a worst case scenario kind of guy. Sometimes it serves me well, sometimes it doesn’t.
Do I call my friend and riding partner and beg off, making some lame excuse about my knees? The thought crossed my mind. Several times. During today’s ride. Then I thought about my kids. Would I tell them that I decided to quit because it was going to tough? Not a chance. I always encourage my kids to do their best, and to give their all in everything they do. If I quit before I even start, how can I expect them to do their best?
I have resolved to give Saturday’s ride everything I have. If I manage to make it a hundred miles, I’ll have something to mark off of my bucket list. If not, it will be because either my body or my bike broke down. Either way, I will have given it everything I have. And there’s no shame in that.
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.
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.
Author: J. Edward Ritchie
Series or Standalone: Standalone
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.
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!
It doesn’t matter if it’s a two hour trip or a trip across the country, I love being on the road. Sure, air travel is quick and convenient, but the view you get of the world is far away and sometimes obscured by clouds. Traveling by car allows you a better view of the landscape, though it still restricts you to what you can glimpse at speeds often topping seventy miles per hour. My preferred mode of travel is by bicycle.
Last week, I hopped on my bicycle for what was to be a ride of about twenty-two miles stretching from the shores of beautiful Black Lake to Cheboygan in northern Michigan. I was meeting my family at The Big Dipper, an ice cream parlor straight out of the 1950s, where I would eat an ice cream sundae that would likely nullify the calories I had just burned on the ride.
Just a tick over seven miles into the ride, I crossed a small bridge and felt my rear tire go flat. I pulled off the road onto the gravel shoulder reached for my phone to call my wife to come and pick me up, then thought better of it. I decided to do a roadside tube change, if for no other reason than to prove to myself that I could make the repair in less than optimal conditions, which for me is putting my bike up on the rack and raising it to eye level.
Twelve minutes later, with a little chain grease on my hands, I had installed my spare tube, and was back on the road. Eleven minutes after that, my tire went flat again. I pulled onto the shoulder and grabbed my pump, though I knew in my gut that I was not going to be riding anymore that day. I put a few pumps of air into the tire, waited, and confirmed that I was again dealing with a flat tire. Again, I reached for my phone and was dialing my wife when I spotted our minivan coming toward me. They pulled over, picked me up, and we went for ice cream. As much as I enjoyed the sundae, made with salty caramel vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge, I felt out of sorts, and was a little pouty. My youngest daughter Riley, fourteen, noticed my poutiness and asked what was wrong. “Bummed that I couldn’t finish my ride,” I replied. In a gesture that belied her young age, she put a hand on my arm and said, “It’s okay Dad. You’ll get ‘em tomorrow.”
I woke up early this morning, eager to “get ‘em,” to get that one last ride in before we ended our vacation and returned home to Indiana. I wheeled my bicycle out by the lake. I figured if I had to wrench, I should enjoy the view while I was doing it. I started by patching the least-damaged of the two failed tubes from the previous day’s ride. I put some air in it to make sure that it held, and satisfied that it did, I put it and the tire back on the rim. I checked it ten minutes later and found that it was flat. Go figure.
I decided to use my last new tube. Perhaps in a rush to get to the breakfast table (biscuits and gravy are one of my food vices), I tore a hole in the tube with the tire lever while getting the tire back on the rim. After breakfast I found the tire flat again, and decided to take the rim and tire into Cheboygan to the relatively new City Bike Shop. As it turned out, I got his last road bike tube. He told me that he had gone through a lot of tubes in the past week or so.
Forty-five minutes later I was doing what I had set out to do since I had gotten out of bed that morning: taking one last ride around Black Lake before our vacation came to an end.
All of the difficulties with inner tubes had me feeling pretty deflated and frustrated. Why go through all that trouble just to take a bike ride? The answer is quite simple: for me, riding is the key to having a happy and healthy life. While riding keeps me (somewhat) physically fit, it also keeps me emotionally fit.
Plus, cycling is a great way to explore new areas. Much of the riding I do is on the same roads where I live, so a chance to ride roads I have only ridden a few times, or never at all, is always an exciting prospect for me. Riding a bicycle allows for an intimacy with the road, the landscape, and the people you encounter that you just can’t get any other way. You become part your ever-changing surroundings in a way that riding in a steel box doesn’t allow. Bicycling allows you to interact with people that you encounter – the guy watering his flowers, the woman teaching her daughter to ride a bicycle in their driveway, the elderly woman walking her dog – in a manner that may brighten their day just a bit – something as simple as a nod, a wave, or a friendly smile. And they may return your gesture – a payment made with the currency of human interaction.
It was a bad couple of days for inner tubes. But all the trouble I had to go through for this one last vacation ride was a small price to pay for the calories I burned, the emotional high I got, the beautiful Michigan scenery I saw, and, best of all, the fact that I got to intimately interact with my surroundings.