Category Archives: Book Reviews

2016 Book Archive

Time once again for the yearly recap of my reading. I’ve read a bunch of books this year and while I no longer have time to do extensive reviews of each on GoodReads, I offer you the following short reviews in case you’re looking for recommendations. This also is my way of keeping track of what I’ve read in one nice and neat format I can look back on. These are in chronological order because this year my OCD got the best of me. Enjoy!

  • Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill – I wanted to love this one after NOS4A2 but it was not quite as good. It was enjoyable as a horror/thriller but it didn’t stick with me like previous reads written by Hill.
  • The Finger Trap, Johnny Worthen – great meandering mystery with a main character who has distinctive voice. It was like getting a glimpse inside a middle aged guy and figuring out exactly what makes him tick while he tries his best to become an unwilling private investigator to save his own skin.
  • The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah – this was a book club pick and was heart-wrenchingly good. I cried, I rejoiced, I weeped. A period piece about WWII, which I don’t always love, but was extremely good. Highly recommended.
  • Old Scratch and Owl Hoots: A Collection of Utah Horror, short story collection – this was a fun jaunt through the minds of Utah Horror with a western theme. Western is not one of my preferred genres and not all the stories were created equal but there were several that were worth reading that I enjoyed. Short story collections are fabulous when trying out new authors or for fast reads between larger ones.
  • Waiting for Sunrise, Eva Marie Everson – another book club selection but one I didn’t particularly enjoy. It was light beach reading with a side of religious overtones. I know lots of people who liked it and thought it was inspiring but it wasn’t my cup of tea.
  • The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Stephen King – what’s not to love in a story collection by my favorite author? Some were weird, some were frightening and all had something to like.
  • Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5), Brandon Sanderson – the “middle” book in the second Mistborn series. I LOVED the first three books and while it is interesting and fun to revisit the world that has evolved around the magic from the first three for 500 years, I don’t love or feel as invested in these characters as I wish I did. A fun fantasy from my favorite fantasy author but not my favorite from him.
  • Physics of the Future, Michio Kaku – research for my current novel in progress. Should have been titled “Technology of the Future” since it was more about that than physics. Exactly what I wanted and sparked many of my futuristic elements when writing my future-based story.
  • Shadow of the Wind (Cemetary of Forgotten Books #1), Carlos Ruiz Zafon – another book club selection and a fabulous experience on Audible. It was written in Spanish and translated to English and hearing the audio narrator pronounce all the words properly gave it a beautiful tone. Many remarked that this one had so much going on that they felt like it was heavy and needed cliff notes but I loved it because it was meaty with layers that built upon themselves. Highly recommended.
  • The Tell Tale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe – a classic horror tale that I had never read. I don’t always enjoy classics but this one was light and fun and a quick read.
  • Living the Secular Life, Phil Zuckerman – I heard an interview with the author on NPR and it intrigued me. Loved reading this one since it applied very much to my own secular life. If you’re a secular person, or love someone who is, this is a great book!
  • Strangers, Michaelbrent Collins – I gave this local favorite horror author another try after hearing the premise of this story at a convention. While I liked it better than his zombie series, it was very fast paced and heavy handed. It also left you hanging at the end with a cliffhanger that feels like a ploy to get me to pick up the next installment. Still a huge pet peeve for me when authors don’t finish a story and think it necessary to leave readers dangling. It was fun and gruesome so if you’re into that kind of thing it was not disappointing. Just be aware of the loose ends left dangling at the end and if it isn’t something you can get past, don’t start it.
  • Yellow Crocus, Laila Ibrahim – another book club pick that I really liked. This one was a period piece from the era of slavery written from the perspective of the privileged white girl raised by the African American wet nurse. It was very entertaining with great characters that I felt connected to. The story felt fresh to me with a perspective I’ve never considered. Very good pick for a book club discussion on diversity.
  • Calamity (The Reckoners #3), Brandon Sanderson – the final installment of this fabulous “superhero” fantasy series that my entire family was highly anticipating. The whole series is well worth your time if you love fantasy or superheroes.
  • A Walk In the Woods, Bill Bryson – this started out well but was more a travelog than a memoir. I had hoped it was another like “Wild” but it was merely an account of one man’s attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail in middle age. Skip the book and watch the movie on this one. All the funny parts and none of the boring recounts.
  • The Dark, James Herbert – this was a monthly selection of the Horror Afficionado Goodreads group that sounded interesting at a time when I needed something new. It was meh – mostly because it was more suspenseful because the author strung the reader along with very little new information. The reveal at the end was a let down and I realized it was an older book and forgave the shortcomings. If you want a scary story but don’t love the modern horror genre, this would be a good one to check out.
  • David (The Unseen #3), Johnny Worthen – I had been waiting for this final installment of one of the best written YA series ever and was lucky enough to get an advanced reader copy so I didn’t have to wait until the release date. Lucky since it kept getting pushed further and further out. It helps to know the author personally. This was a very satisfying wrap up to a fantastic story. If you haven’t read all three, you should.
  • Keep Quiet, Lisa Scottoline – another book club pick. The premise is that a father and son are driving home late, the son driving even though he only has his learner permit and isn’t supposed to be driving at night, and they hit a jogger on a deserted road. The father decides his son’s future is too valuable to risk and tells his son to keep quiet. I found the story extremely frustrating because the characters kept making insanely bad choices and the plot twists were outrageous and unbelievable. Not one of my favorites but could be a light beach read if you’re into that kind of a story.
  • Vicious, V.E. Schwab – book club pick that I really enjoyed. Another take on people with extraordinary gifts where two extremely intelligent college friends become nemesis’. It was a great book for a discussion with readers since there was no clear-cut good guy or bad guy but rather complex and layered characters with believable motivations. Highly recommended.
  • The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn #6), Brandon Sanderson – had to finish the series but, again, not my favorite. It has more of a steampunk flavor and none of the characters I initially loved from the first three books. It was fun and lighthearted but I’ve come to more fully appreciate Sanderson’s epic fantasy.
  • The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1), Stephen King – after discussion with a friend who was reading the Dark Tower series for the first time, I decided it was time to re-read one of my all time favorite series. I more fully appreciate the first installment knowing exactly how the entire series plays out but it is still my least favorite of all seven.
  • The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2), Stephen King – being back in the world of the Gunslinger and his Ka-tet, I couldn’t stop. This was the first volume I read – back in junior high when it was first released – and still is so much fun to read.
  • The Passenger, Lisa Lutz – book club pick that was layered with suspense and mystery and thoroughly enjoyable. There were mixed reviews from some during our discussion but overall well received. If you like psychological thrillers that keep you guessing, this one is a fabulous one.
  • The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3), Stephen King – still my favorite series ever and I loved being back with my favorite characters on their journey.
  • Burying the Honeysuckle Girls, Emily Carpenter – this was a book club book that was surprisingly good. About a girl whose mother and grandmother are surrounded by mystery when they go crazy and either died or disappeared. As her own 21st birthday approaches, she tries to unravel the mystery before she suffers the same fate. I really enjoyed this one and later found out it is a debut from a brand new author.
  • Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #4), Stephen King – still my favorite in this series. I found myself quoting the iconic lines along with the narrator several times. Still one of the few books I’ve read more than once. I believe this is the sixth go for me and I still loved every minute of it.
  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – this was my pick for the book club since no other book I’d read since my last pick was as poignant. I listened to it again in preparation for leading the book club discussion and it was even better the second time. Such beautiful language and such a heart-wrenching story. Highly recommended!
  • Jewel, Bret Lott – book club pick that I, unfortunately, couldn’t find unabridged on audible. I thought it wouldn’t matter if I read the abridged version but found I had missed a lot of the meat of the story once I was mid-discussion at book club. A story about a mother who has a child at a later age, after she already has a house full of children, who has Downs Syndrome. The emotional parts were skimmed and if you’re going to pick this one up you should NOT settle for the abridged version.
  • Wolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower #5), Stephen King – I realized that while I’d read and re-read all the books in the series leading up to this installment, while I and the rest of the world waited impatiently for King to finish what he started, I had only read this one the one time when it was released. While the first 4 volumes felt like visiting with old friends and reminiscing about all the most loved stories from our past, this one was fresh and new and I’d forgotten a lot of things. Loved it as much as the first time.
  • Song of Suzannah (The Dark Tower #6), Stephen King – again, fresh and new and felt like I was reading new material. So glad the last one was on the book shelf and ready to go once I finished this one.

Thanks to Audible and the power of multi-tasking, I was able to read 30 books this year. A number I thought I’d never attain again when life got crazy. So glad technology allows me to continue to enjoy this pastime I so enjoy. Here’s to reading even more in 2017!


Book List Archive 2015

Time for the yearly round up and archive of my efforts to remain a well-read person. This year I did not reach my goal but I did read a lot of really great books. Here they are, all summed up, for your reading pleasure. And in reverse chronological order because my OCD did not win that fight – this time.

  • The Innocent, Harlan Coben (Book Club) – a light yet entertaining whodunit perfect for the beach or a long weekend. The ending was satisfying although pieces of the story were a tad predictable.
  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – one of the best books I read all year which definitely lived up to all the hype I had heard about it. There are very bleak elements that leave you feeling grateful for the life you have since they are painted so authentically through the characters. A truly phenomenal book that everyone should read!
  • The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Laroux (Book Club) – a classic that I hadn’t read. I probably would have put it down had it not been a book club pick. I just can’t get into period pieces that old but still I’m glad I read it.
  • The Good Girl, Mary Kubica – also a good read but only because of how it was written. I found myself trying to solve the mystery of “before or after WHAT” all the way through. The ending was very satisfying. A great read for anyone who likes a whodunit.
  • The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins – one of the best reads of the year. Finally a smart, adult novel with twists I didn’t see coming and characters with real depth. It kept me guessing to the end and I recommend it now to everyone who asks.
  • Birthmarked, Caragh M. O’Brien (Book Club) – a light and easy read that left me wanting far more details than were given since it was written for the superficial YA market who doesn’t demand it. Such a shame!
  • All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr – had so much potential but, just like most novels set in the WWII era, left me feeling bleak and unfulfilled. I think it’s safe to say this is not one of my favorite genres.
  • The Fold, Peter Clines – I picked this up because I recognized the author’s name from the best scifi book I’d read the last year or so. Little did I know it was a continuation of that story which had stuck with me so much. Very enjoyable read!
  • The Paper Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg – I disliked this book so much. It was very clearly written for a YA audience who cannot think critically for themselves. The concepts were intriguing but not enough detail was given for anything to be plausible and the whole thing left me feeling insulted. My daughter probably would have liked it when she was eleven. To be fair, that’s probably the intended market so there’s that.
  • Warbreaker, Brandon Sanderson – a great stand-alone read from the master of epic fantasy. He is still one of my all-time favorite authors.
  • Mao’s Last Dancer, Li Cunxin (Book Club) – it was interesting to see how poor Chinese live but the book overall was not a very compelling one.
  • Mr Mercedes, Stephen King – a good old horror novel by one of my favorite authors.
  • Being Mortal, Atul Gawande – a fantastic book about living on our own terms and dying the same way. Every person everywhere should read this book. I expected it to be a social commentary about the current hot topic of Physician Assisted Suicide or The Right to Die which I was also expected to hate. What I got instead was one of the best books about one of the hardest topics any of us will ever face. I wish I’d read this book before my Mom passed away…
  • Celeste, The Unseen #2, Johnny Worthen (ARC) – the much anticipated sequel to Eleanor which did not disappoint. Except for the fact that the third is not released yet and so I must wait.
  • The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2), Patrick Rothfuss – a much anticipated sequel that fell short for me and felt disappointingly like a setup book for the third one.
  • Altered Perceptions, short stories to benefit mental health – I bought this as part of a crowd fund campaign to benefit a local author suffering with a mental health disorder. It is a collection of well-known authors with either deleted scenes or unpublished works. I got it for the Brandon Sanderson early draft of The Way of Kings. And THEN…. It was by far one of the BEST books I’ve read in a long time. Not because of the stories themselves, but because every author included a personal essay about how mental health had touched their lives in some way. Every person everywhere should read this book! Better yet, they should just publish the author essays and that is what everyone should read. Seriously, go read this book.
  • The Brand Demand, Johnny Worthen – FABULOUS social satire set in Salt Lake City so it felt like all the politics and struggles were real. One of my favorite books of the year.
  • Bog Child, Siobhan Dowd (Book Club) – a novel set around the time of the IRA in Ireland with some interesting facts about archaeology.
  • ITIL Service Strategy – a brutal course but I passed the exam and am now certified!
  • The Dovekeepers, Alice Hoffman (Book Club) – an interesting novelization of ancient Christianity with strong female characters. I wanted to hate it but it was a good read.
  • The Archangel Agenda, A.K. Alexander & Jen Greyson – this was a light and semi-steamy read but felt like a serialized novel where just the first act of the story was included and you had to buy the second (and probably third) to get the entire story. Apparently that’s the “in” thing now for Kindle readers?
  • Cutting For Stone, Abraham Verghese (Book Club) – a very slow burn but a fantastic read with a killer ending.
  • Firefight, Brandon Sanderson – much anticipated sequel to Steelheart which Hubby and I both loved.
  • Pretty Things, Christine Haggerty – a novella retelling of a Grimm Fairytale. I’m not a huge fan of the fairy tale but this was not a bad read. Not as Grimm or as dark as I had anticipated and it was very short.

It was disappointing to count and realize I only finished twenty four books of the forty total I set out to read this year. That’s an average of two books a month which is better than years past when I struggled just to finish the book club pick each month. I consume most of my books on Audible which means this small list represents the amount of time I had over the year where it was possible to multi-task. Because of that, it still feels like an overall accomplishment for the year. Here’s to bettering it next year!


Johnny Worthen: An Interview and a Review

I visited with author Johnny Worthen this week after reading his latest book, THE BRAND DEMAND. Johnny writes books I like to read and I wanted to give readers an insight into this mystery thriller, as well as pick his brain about some insider secrets for other aspiring authors.

 

Galen is political. Galen is fed up. Galen is a blackmailer.

Brand is a jerk who has money. He had an affair and Galen found out. Now Brand has
new problems.Worthen_TheBrandDemand_CMYK300dpi

A criminal and self-styled Robin Hood, Galen must face down a ruthless enemy who
does not share his ideological limitations.

In the footsteps of Edward Abbey’s THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG, THE BRAND
DEMAND follows a group of political activists who strike at the system with cunning and
guile while getting rich doing it.

Galen takes risks and money, but when his plans go awry, he quickly learns that politics
are no substitute for wits.

Galen has to come to grips with his own boundaries of action and love while running for
his life in Southern Utah. He has to stay under the radar, dodging skinheads and corporate
moguls, Latter Day Saints romance writers and cheating husbands and—of course and
always—the authorities.

 

Johnny, The Brand Demand is a departure from your previous works. When did you write it in relation to the others you’ve released?

I consider myself a multi-genre author. Since no one has asked me to specialize, I haven’t. “I write what I like to read. This guarantees me at least one fan.” Although my debut, BEATRYSEL is a literary horror, and my second book ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN begins a YA Paranormal trilogy, this is more a reflection of what was first out of the gate. Contemporary mystery/thriller is one of my favorite genres and I tend to write plenty of them. THE BRAND DEMAND is the first of this genre out of the gate, but not the last.

THE BRAND DEMAND was one of the first books I wrote. It was born out of the Bush years and my own frustration and imaginings. Over the years, I returned to it time and time again, tinkering and fixing, adjusting and reworking as my craft improved, until I could take it no further alone. Then I hired an editor in Nevada to help me fix it some more. When she was done, I sent it out in the world looking to get it published.

My main publisher, Jolly Fish Press, passed on it, thinking it was too controversial for that point in my career with them. JFP has me primarily as a YA author, though they are bringing out THE FINGER TRAP, a comedy noir detective thriller in the fall. They suggested I keep it in my quiver and they’d look at it again later on.

Being impatient, I didn’t wait. I submitted it to Cherokee McGhee, a small press in Virginia specializing in mysteries. Greg Lily, the publisher was wonderful to work with and bent over backwards with JFP to coordinate the release of THE BRAND DEMAND so as not interfere with my other releases this year. Another couple of edits, coordination on cover and stuff and I have become a mystery writer.

 

I’m not patient either! We could talk days about how you found the right publisher for your work – maybe we should in the future? But back to THE BRAND DEMAND, why a mystery with all these politics and religion thrown in?

Political ideology is the primary motivation for the protagonist, Galen Reed. It is his deeply felt beliefs in social justice that drives him to act. This ideology and its limitations and weak tethering are the crux of the book.

Religion is mentioned only insofar as it wields political power and is a central identifier in the community. THE BRAND DEMAND takes place in Utah and there is no separating the LDS church from the conservative politics in that state. Further, the LDS church has been known to reach well beyond Utah to influence social issues – Prop 8 in California being a prime example. To discuss politics in Utah and exclude the Mormon church would be dishonest.

 

That honest look at the world is largely what I loved about this book, as well as recognizing familiar places and history weaved in. The first chapter should come with a sensitivity warning – potentially pushing buttons left and right. Why risk possibly alienating readers in the opening pages?

I assume you’re talking about Levi, the bad bishop. THE BRAND DEMAND is an adult book. It looks at real situations, real dangers and real institutions in a fictitious way, strange as that sounds. The scene sets the theme and mood of the rest of the book; hypocrites and bad guys are made to feel uncomfortable and made to pay. What is a more telling example of a hypocrite that a clergyman taking advantage of his flock? In Utah, that flock must be Mormon. There are bad apples in every institution and to deny that is arrogance. Here I present someone who so goes against their beliefs as a philandering bishop that it becomes the perfect symbol for the rest of the book. Compare Levi to Galen as the book progresses and then at the ending.

I’m not attacking the religion, I’m attacking the hypocrites who preach it but don’t live it. I think it humanizes the church but I’ve seen that it can upset people. If they can make it through the first chapter and understand what I’m doing, readers should be in the proper mindset to understand and enjoy the rest of the book.

 

Well done. Personally, I love books that keep things real; grown up books that make no apologies about the world. Once past that chapter it becomes exactly as promised, a thriller that kept me guessing until the end. What is your secret to unpredictable twists?

THE BRAND DEMAND is a unique book for me because I woke one day and had the ending. I felt the triumph and tragedy of a single moment and then went to work building a book around that singular moment. I felt it like a sorrow, like a memory, an epiphany of understanding. I won’t say I worked backwards, but I always worked to that one moment.

To justify that moment, I needed a journey, I needed real life threats and stakes beyond anything a bourgeois zealot might expect to face. I needed my suburban activist to face real world pressures, violence and dangers. I needed him to realize a connection to what he was fighting for. The twists came from my cruelty in putting Galen through the trials he’d have to face to come to that moment. The details came from research and horror at the world we live in.

 

Is this a stand-alone novel or can readers expect more to come in Galen’s world?

Depending on the success of THE BRAND DEMAND and my publisher’s wishes, there might be more. I have laid a foundation. One thing to note for my loyal readers, is the unified world I create in my Utah novels. Characters from one book often appear in others. Look for Luke in THE FINGER TRAP this fall.

 

I saw the hidden gem in this one knowing your upcoming publications. I love when authors do that – a literary treasure hunt for those devoted fans. How long does it take you to write an average novel?

Honest, but lame answer: A lifetime. My life up to the point the book is finally sent to the printers is all incorporated into each book.

More useful answer: Once I decide on a project, I give myself one month to pre-write, outline and imagine, create characters, find names. Plan the attack with waypoint, scenes, ending, and theme – always theme. Once I have my pieces together, I try to write 1,666 words per day. I keep daily logs of my progress and make myself reach my goals as if it’s my job and I’ll be fired if I don’t. It’s kinda’ true and kinda’ not. It’s all insane mind-games to force me to put the black on the white. At this rate I get a book in about two months. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Then I edit the book. For some books, like THE BRAND DEMAND, the editing went on for years. For others, like my most recent works, a month is usually enough to get it where I want it to be. I write a synopsis or five and a blurb while it’s still fresh in my mind and then I let my readers have it for a run through. Then it’s off to market and I start another project.

 

Let’s stay on the subject of insider secrets for other aspiring writers. I envy you being this prolific writer, a new book releasing every few months. What I’m learning about the industry is most authors have numerous novels already finished while they keep their heads down, always writing more.  How many of your books are written and waiting to sell?

I have written twelve novels as of now. Six have been picked up by publishers. Of the remaining six, five are ready to be picked up by a publisher. Two are in series that begins this fall (Tony Flaner in THE FINGER TRAP). I’m expecting my publisher to pick those up by and by. The others are being shopped to agents for larger markets.

 

Twelve. I have a lot of writing to do if I ever expect to find similar success. What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far on your journey?

On the bad side, rejections surprise me. I expected them, but I also thought I’d get used to them. I haven’t and they never stop. Writing as much as I do, trying as hard as I am, I’m putting myself out there all the time. Every day I get rejected for something. It’s mentally debilitating.

On the good side, I love the other authors I’ve met. They too suffer from the rejections. They are comrades in arms. I love talking about writing, sharing with other authors, and just hanging out. I’ve met so many different authors, different kinds, different backgrounds and everything, and yet I feel a kinship to them all. The only thing better than hanging out with a bunch of writers is hanging out with a bunch of fans of my books.

 

I would have to agree on the genuineness of  the kinship with fellow writers. On the publishing front, are there more books we can look forward to? And if so, when?

Beyond THE BRAND DEMAND, this year I have the second book in THE UNSEEN trilogy: CELESTE. DAVID, THE UNSEEN BOOK THREE is schedule for 2016.

This fall, I release upon the world, my anti-hero slacker, detective, Tony Flaner, in the social commentary, comedy, mystery noir, THE FINGER TRAP.

While all this is happening, I’m placing my unsold titles. I have a literary horror called WHAT IMMORTAL HAND, that I won’t let go of until I get the right home. It’s awesome. I have a new crime thriller called A BLIND SQUIRREL that’s cool with a capital C. It’s one of my Utah novels so has characters from my other books in it. I just finished a YA adventure called ANDI KENDRICK: THINGS BEQUEATHED which will be a good follow-up for fans of THE UNSEEN trilogy. My un-ready book is a YA dystopian that I put aside to ferment for a while. And finally, this week marks the final days of my pre-writing for a Science Fiction book (and potential series). WIP name: Coronam.

 

 I can’t wait to read all of them. Where can readers find and connect with you?

Johnny and BrandWebsite

Blog

Amazon

Goodreads

Facebook

Twitter: @JohnnyWorthen

For locals in Utah, come out to the Sugarhouse Barnes & Noble, Saturday April 18th from 2:00-5:00 p.m. for the official BRAND DEMAND Launch party and signing shindig. Here’s the invitation to the Launch Party Shindig

Thanks for stopping by, Johnny! Readers can check out my Goodreads review of THE BRAND DEMAND HERE. It is a fabulous read so do yourself a favor and pick it up today.


Review: Pretty Things by Christine Haggerty

Pretty Things Cover

When Maddie’s father catches her with a boy, he hauls her into town in a pig wagon and finds her a husband. But Peter’s cabin in the woods promises something very different than Maddie’s happily ever after.

Pretty Things, a retelling of “The Robber Bridegroom,” is the first novella in the Grimm Chronicles series. Warning: not your granny’s fairytales!

 

 

 

 

I’ve never been one for fairy tales – because I always thought of them in the flavor of the Disney franchise or Mother Goose. But this is not your typical children’s fairy tale and it grabbed me from the first line. Christine Haggerty weaves a tale with adult themes of seduction and betrayal with a splash of daddy issues to the classic tale of the Robber Bridegroom.

I’ve rarely been tempted outside my preferred genres, especially when it comes to retelling an already famous tale. However, this one made me wonder how true to the classic it was and I found myself researching the original. While those with a love of The Brothers Grimm and their ancient tales will surely recognize key elements, this is a fresh new take on the old. It is a short novella, easily dispatched over a large coffee, yet the characters are full of depth. At times I found myself rooting for Maddie and other times loathing her and siding with others. This is a gem of a find everyone should treat themselves to.

For a peek at the book trailer, check it out HERE.

Purchase the novella HERE – currently priced at 99 cents.

 

Pretty Thing Banner

Christine Nielson Haggerty grew up in rural Utah with three brothers, a sister, several chickens, a goat, and an outhouse. She always loved the escape of fantasy and the art of writing, and her passion for life is to craft stories of strength and survival.

As a former high school language arts teacher and a black belt in karate, Christine has found a niche in combining those skills to help authors write effective fight scenes.

An award-winning young adult author, she is now launching her dark fantasy fairytale novella series The Grimm Chronicles.chaggertypic

 

Amazon

Website

Facebook

Twitter


Book List Archive 2014

It’s New Year’s Day – time for reflection and putting away Christmas decorations. It has become tradition to capture my yearly list of books I’ve read from the site and archive them as a blog post with a little insight about each one. Long gone are the days I had time (or energy) to review every one as separate posts. However, if you’re on Goodreads, friend me up since I give at least a little blurb and a rating there when I finish reading. Here’s my efforts this year to become remain a well-read author.

  • The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor (work book club) – Self-help is not my favorite genre but this one was fabulous and just what I needed at the time. It even influenced my January blogging.
  • These Is My Words, Nancy E. Turner (book club)
  • Lone Survivor, Marcus Luttrell – the movie was better. Rarely is this true, but this time it is.
  • The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson – rocked my epic fantasy world like nothing else since Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.
  • Wild, Cheryl Strayed – a great read and another surprise since I rarely like memoirs
  • A Prisoner of Birth, Jeffrey Archer (book club)
  • Beatrysel, Johnny Worthen – one of the best books I read this year. Mostly because it was dark and unique and spoke to  me deep down in my core like nothing before it. (Caution: Not for the faint of heart!)
  • Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson – more than hooked on this author and this series especially. I devoured it!
  • In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer, Irene Gut Opdyke (book club)
  • The Colony: Genesis, Michaelbrent Collings (not my favorite this year!)
  • Eleanor, Johnny Worthen (ARC*) – seriously, if you haven’t read this book go get a copy right now. Kids and adults and everyone in between will love this one. Johnny won Utah’s Writer of the Year for this book and it was deserving.
  • NOS4A2, Joe Hill – fabulous horror book like Stephen King used to write.
  • The Circle, Dave Eggers – (work book club)
  • The Tipping Point, Malcome Gladwell (work book club)
  • Monster Hunter International, Larry Correia – great military fiction with a supernatural twist
  • Heft, Liz Moore (book club) – one of the best we read this year.
  • Copper Descent (ARC*), Angela Hartley – one of my first blog tour posts
  • The Shining, Stephen King – I read this as a kid and wanted a re-read before the sequel. Not as frightening the second time around.
  • Doctor Sleep, Stephen King – changed the way I look at a mundane piece of the world. Still the master!
  • Second Firsts, Christina Rasmussen – (book club) – great read about dealing with loss. It was amazing to help deal with the loss of my health at the time. Little did I know I’d need it on such a deeper level later.
  • ITIL Service Operation – technical manual for a certification. Not a light or very enjoyable read, but necessary. I lament all the great fiction I could have read instead!
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (my pick for book club) Amazing, amazing. I love Gaiman!
  • Monster Hunter Vendetta, Larry Correia – guilty pleasure via Audible
  • Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell – great read if you’re a writer
  • Call the Midwife, Jennifer Worth (book club)
  • Divergent, Veronica Roth (book club) – I wanted to hate it after seeing the movie but it was better and I didn’t.
  • The Colony: Renegades, Michaelbrent Collings – got a free copy on Audible and hoped the sequel was better. It wasn’t.
  • The End of Dieting, Joel Fuhrman – the book my doctor told me to read when embarking on veganism
  • Suspect, Robert Crais – recommended author to study on writing action which did not disappoint
  • Mitosis, Brandon Sanderson – more like a short story but I had to buy it so it counts!
  • Heart of Annihilation, C.R. Asay – (book club) another blog tour visitor (written by my writing group buddy)
  • The Giver, Lois Lowry – my oldest had to read it and kept talking about it and the movie was coming out so…
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie (book club)
  • ITIL Continual Service Improvement – another technical manual and certification that took far too much time away from “real” reading. But I passed!
  • The Martian, Andy Weir – best science fiction of the year that I happened to just stumble upon on Audible.
  • The Fault In Our Stars, John Green – did not live up to the hype!
  • Revival, Stephen King
  • Insurgent, Veronica Roth
  • Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler – great stories and a great behind-the-scenes look on the writing process of successful authors.

I have a rule that life is too short to waste time on books I don’t like after a few chapters. This list does not include two books I put down only partially read this year. One of them being Outlander, yes the same one everyone raves about and that they made a television series about. The other was some drivel that I don’t even remember the title of. Given all the time outside of work it took me to obtain two new professional certifications this year, I got a ton of great reading in. Can’t wait to do it all again in 2015! Happy reading to all my fellow readers out there.

*ARC = Advanced Reader Copy in the publishing world. Which means I got to read it before it was available to the public. Always a fabulous thing for an impatient woman like me!


Heart of Annihilation

Today I have the honor of kicking off the blog tour for one fabulous book – Heart of Annihilation by C.R. Asay. A book with a very special place in my heart. C.R. is a member of my own writing group so I’ve watched and participated intimately through the entire creative process. I’ve read it countless times. It’s amazing. But don’t let my biased judgement be the only thing that sways you… it is an exciting and imaginative read that you don’t want to miss. Especially if you love science fiction with a military twist and a strong female lead. Or maybe it’s military with a science fiction twist? Just trust me and pick this one up.

When U.S. Army Specialist Kris Rose catches members of her unit stealing ammunition to kill aliens, she is forced to defend herself—with a freakish electrical charge shooting from her fingertips.

Shaken by her newly found power and hunted by vigilantes from her unit, Rose is forced away from her structured, military world and into a fight for her life. 

With the aid of her battle buddy, Corporal Thurmond, Rose sets out to learn more about the aliens under attack. In the process, she discovers her bizarre connection to a devastating threat to Earth—an alternate dimensional weapon called the Heart of Annihilation.

From a chuteless free-fall from 20,000 feet, to deadly bullet wounds and the unforgiving Sonoron Desert, Rose enters a world where aliens are real. And she may be one of them.

I sat down with C.R., otherwise known as Christauna, for an interview figuring I already knew all the answers. I was wrong… 
__________
 Where did your idea for Heart of Annihilation come from? 
Heart of Annihilation grew very slowly. I wrote a scene about Specialist Rose facing down a greasy, redheaded lieutenant with an M16 and then I let it sit for weeks. Maybe months. I sure thought about it a lot. Why was she there? What put her in that situation? I’m honestly not sure exactly how it grew from there. I knew I wanted something sci-fi. I thought aliens. My husband suggested dimensions. We compromised. I wrote a lot of disconnected scenes but it wasn’t until over halfway through the book that I knew where I wanted my characters to end up. Then it was just a matter of revising over the course of 5-6 years, molding the story like a clay sculpture until it resembled what it is today. I will probably never again write a book the way I wrote Heart of Annihilation. This one is special. 
I remember that first scene well… And now here you are with a book you can hold in your hands. So cool! Every parent secretly has a favorite child – do you have a favorite character you love more than the rest?
 Yeah…Thurmond. Definitely. He’s just such a rock solid person and decent human being. He epitomizes how I see the U.S. soldier. He’s a hero. It also helps that he has a lot of the quirks and personality traits I see in my husband…
What is your secret to writing violence?
 You can’t pull any punches, no pun intended. Human beings are the best, most gracious creatures in the world, but they are also the vilest. Just turn on the news and you will see a lot of worst-case scenarios. When you’re writing a book that naturally contains a lot of violence, sometimes you need to look deep inside yourself and write what is most distasteful to you in order to elicit the same emotion in the reader.
I wrote the whole storyline for the character Caz Fisk in about two weeks of almost constant work. And I hated it. I hated sludging through her mind and wondering what hateful thing I was going to have to write next. It was a dark two weeks that left me in a sour mood and short tempered with my children. Editing those sections later wasn’t as bad as the writing, but having to channel her violence was very unpleasant. And they turned out great.
Caz is actually my favorite character – because she’s so gritty and violent. You nailed it. Is this a stand-alone or is there more to come?
I anticipate this to be a 3-4 book series (I’m aiming for 3). The second book, working title Miss Risk, is complete in rough draft form. Book 3 is in the early stages of drafting.
How long did it take you to write Heart of Annihilation?
Write or edit? The writing probably took about a year. The editing/revising? More like five years. That’s not normal, even for me, but Heart of Annihilation is the first novel I wrote and so it was the one on which I learned the writing process. Usually an author will abandon their training novel and just write a new one in order to grow as a writer. The plot and characters in Heart of Annihilation were so compelling to me that I couldn’t let them go. So I revised into publication.
I like the sound of that: “training novel”. I might have to steal the term. What exactly is your writing process?
When I have an idea I will let it roll around in my head for days, weeks, sometimes months, gathering more ideas to it, adding some characters, even some structure until one day the starting sentence will form in my mind and I have to race to my computer to get it down. Once it’s down the rest follows fairly quickly. I don’t outline. I write by the seat of my pants and revise heavily in the aftermath.
I’m surrounded by “pantsers”! What is your favorite part of being an author?
Watching characters come to life. All the plots and magic systems in the world are no match for a flesh and blood character who is so real you wish you could meet him/her. Although preferably not at night in a dark alley with some —
Okay, let’s not go there… Least favorite part?
The actual writing. No really, it’s a painful process. Exhilarating at times, but more often frustrating and hard. I love revising afterwards but the actual writing exhausts me and causes giant sweat rings to form under my arms.
Sweat rings are very un-ladylike. Knowing that’s your least favorite part, what keeps you motivated to write?
The potential thrill of introducing characters to others and creating an experience of wonder in readers.
What else have you written?
I have a haunted house horror story I’m working on called Project Specter. I’m really excited about this one. I also have a couple of anthology pieces coming soon. One is to support TADSAW (Train a Dog, Save a Warrior), which will be out on Veterans Day 2014. The second is for Utah Fantasy Authors, with all contributors being local authors including a certain someone whom I’ve visiting today *wink, wink*.
Hey, no spoilers!! We’re talking about you, remember? How did you go from aspiring writer to published author?
With an insane amount of persistence and work. I have rejections from literary agents and publishers piled to the ceiling. Each and every one took turns crushing my spirit allowing me to be reborn from the ashes better than before. I learned, I worked, and I dreamed until I was able to make my dream a reality.
Being an author takes some pretty tough skin.  Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
Never stop learning and improving your craft. Don’t settle or take the easy route. There is no easy route. “Good enough” is not good enough. Find a way to make it better. Set your sites high and never stop aiming for exactly what you want. A book is a work of art. Make sure yours eventually matches your vision.
Great advice. What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far on your journey?
That I can do hard things. Like really hard things. I have ADHD which makes some of the simplest tasks in the world seem like Everest. But I can scale it. Having this book come out will forever attest to my ability to overcome my disability and be just as successful as I aspire to be.
Wow, I had no idea. Now I understand the tears when you held your baby in your hands for the first time. Are there more books we can look forward to? And if so, when?
I’m aiming for the release of book 2 summer 2015 with the 3rd book to follow in 2016.
I’m looking forward to finding out where the story takes us from here. You’ve built such an interesting world of inter-dimensional politics driven by compelling characters who each have their own agendas. Okay, I kind of already know but I’m sure anyone who reads Heart of Annihilation will want to know, too. Membership in a writing group does have its perks. Even better than an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) is getting to see something as it is created… But I digress.
Where can readers find and connect with you?
Like my Facebook page and Goodreads page to get news of giveaways and forthcoming books.
You can also check out my website crasay.comand my blog nonsensicalessentials.blogspot.com.
  __________
Thanks for visiting, Christauna, and for another fabulous book for my shelf. Folks, I’ve seen the swag planned for giveaways and it is even cooler once you’ve read the book. So what are you waiting for?
You can buy Heart of Annihilationat the following retailers:

AMAZON
BARNES & NOBLE

If you’d like a chance to win your own free copy, you can enter by commenting on this blog post! Rafflecopter will then pick a random winner next week. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

C. R. Asay joined the Utah National Guard at the age of seventeen. After spending time in the 625th Military Police Corp she transferred to the 19th Special Forces group as a counterintelligence agent. She retired from the military after marrying her best friend and graduating from college so that she could embark on the most exciting adventure of all; being a mom.
The short story version of her first novel, Heart of Annihilation, earned an honorable mention from the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. C. R. Asay currently resides in West Jordan, Utah, with her husband, four children, and a dog. There is always a dog.


An argument for honestly reviewing books – and why every reader should do it

I’ve blogged before about how diverse reader’s tastes are noting that there are so many ways a book can be regarded depending on who reads it. So there must be a way to slog through all the books out there and narrow down which ones you personally will like. Which is why I argue that every reader has an obligation to honestly and objectively review every book they read.

I’m a huge reader. No secret there. What many don’t think about is that the number of books you can read in your lifetime is finite. There are far more books out there than you can read in one lifetime. Yes, even yours. That finite number varies by person depending on how fast and how often you read. For example, I read three books a month on average. That’s thirty six books a year – give or take. If I have twenty more reading years, I only have time for seven hundred and twenty more books. Ever. Which is why you really should choose wisely. For the same reason, I also think you shouldn’t finish a book that doesn’t hook you and keep you entertained either. Unless you’re in a book club since arguably you have an obligation to read those selections regardless.

So how do you pick which books to read so you get the most out of your remaining, and technically very limited, reading time?

Personally, I use recommendations from friends and fellow readers. Another reason I love Goodreads so I can see what people say about books before I decide. (Especially helpful when you have friends who read and enjoy the same books you like so you can see what they enjoyed – or didn’t.) I shy away from books that don’t get at least an average three-star rating (out of a possible five). But here’s a little secret… I usually only read the middle of the road reviews and I especially am interested in the “bad” reviews. Those are the reviews that – if written objectively – give me the best insight. If I see that someone didn’t like a book because of something that I might actually like, I’m more likely to pick it up. If someone didn’t like how dark a book was or how bloody the action was but I really like dark and bloody books, I would probably pick it up.

In the past few months I’ve heard arguments from many different people about not wanting to honestly review every book which all boil down to a couple of general ideas that I take exception with:

“I don’t usually review if it is going to be less than 3 stars.”
“I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

I think both of these arguments approach book reviews from the wrong side of the issue. I don’t review books for the author’s benefit, my reviews are designed for other readers like me so we can find books we like (and avoid those we won’t). The hard truth that every author must grapple with accepting is that no matter how much effort and love went into writing a book, not everyone everywhere will love it. Reviews are designed to be the unbiased opinions of readers, and everyone everywhere is entitled to their own. Once a book is in the hands of readers, there’s nothing that an author can change about it anyway.

What if every review was a glowing one and there were no differing opinions? Or what if no one reviewed books ever because they were worried about hurting either the author’s feelings or the feelings of those who had a different opinion? Then every book would be as much of a gamble as randomly picking something off the shelf – without reading the jacket. By not giving an honest and truthful review, regardless of how you liked or didn’t like a book, you’re doing a disservice to every reader who comes after you looking for insights on whether they would like to read it. Of course I don’t think you should completely trash a book (or the author) if you don’t like it, but give me an objective and constructive reason why you didn’t like it that can help me decide if I might also rather skip it. Then let me decide.

Because of this, I rate books in the following manner:

  • 5 stars = Loved it! I abandoned all aspects of my life in order to voraciously read this book
  • 4 stars = I really enjoyed it and I would highly recommend it to others – but I still slept at night, mostly.
  • 3 stars = I liked it but I didn’t love it. I found nothing to complain about but it didn’t rock my world either…
  • 2 stars = I didn’t like it overall although I did finish it. (Incidentally, books with this rating have generally been ones I read for book club which illustrates the point that it takes all kinds of readers and not everyone likes the same things.)
  • 1 star = I either hated it or I didn’t finish it

On top of a star rating, I always give the feel of the book and the impression it left me with overall. I don’t bother with a synopsis of what the story was about from start to finish, you can get that elsewhere. What I really emphasize is what worked for me and what didn’t, and why. Something that would help someone else objectively draw conclusion as to whether they would like it or not. I do this because those are the kinds of reviews I look for when deciding to give a book a spot on my finite list of things I’ve read between now and when I die.

You remember what they say about treating others the way you want to be treated, right? If you are a reader, won’t you consider doing this as well? Future readers will thank you, myself included!


Eleanor, The Unseen

Time for another blog touring author to stop by for a visit. Today I have the privilege of hosting Johnny Worthen, author of Eleanor, The Unseen coming July 1 from Jolly Fish Press.

It was a gamble for Eleanor to rejoin humanity, but she was driven to it. She’d been too successful forgetting. The last vestiges of her family hung by a thread in her transformed brain and drove her to be reckless. Ten years later, Eleanor hides in plain sight. She is an average girl getting average grades in a small Wyoming town: poor but happy, lonely but loved. Her mother, Tabitha, is there for her and that’s all she’s ever needed. But now her mother is sick and David has returned. The only friend she’d ever had—the only other person who knows her secret—is back. And Eleanor again becomes reckless.

Eleanor is a modest girl, unremarkable but extraordinary, young but old, malleable but fixed. She is scared and confused. She is a liar and a thief. Eleanor is not what she appears to be.

Johnny is one of my fellow Utah Fantasy Authors and I twisted his arm to give me a copy of Eleanor before anyone else could read it because… hello, you all know I’m not a patient woman! This book grabbed me quick and fast; despite the fact it is touted as juvenile fiction, which I rarely read. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again for the record: Johnny Worthen writes books I like to read.

Eleanor is the story of a girl who is not what she appears. You think you know her story, or at least the biggest piece of it, from the opening scenes – scenes that are so well written they pulled me in and had me thinking about the hinted mystery immediately. But as it unfolds, you learn that what you think you know might only be the surface of what is really at the heart of Eleanor – a smart, feisty girl trying to hide in plain sight. She knows little about her true nature and what she does know she loathes. This book masterfully captures the feel of growing up in a small town where everyone knows everyone and they all think they know what the real stories are. It is also a great story of the bond between mother and daughter and between trusted friends. It is a unique paranormal coming of age story from the mind of a fantastic storyteller.
If you love a good mystery, are a sucker for the paranormal, like to ask yourself “what if” questions, and in general like reading well-written books, then this one is for you. It is an entertaining story for any age that doesn’t limit itself to adult readers. I would let my daughter read this one, and so should you.

I asked Johnny to visit with a guest post about how he creates such amazing and well-rounded characters since it is something he consistently does well in his work. Enjoy…

**********************
Each story begins with an idea of a theme I explore, a question or a specific conflict. To this I identify the forces I’ll need. These are the agent and the character. They are born out of function. This is the seed.

I nurture this seed and sink some roots. For the character to function as I would like, it is already in motion moving toward the goal I have in mind. I imagine what their past was that put them on this trajectory. This is their background and history and I usually outline it loosely allowing myself space to connect and rearrange but always having the framework to justify the rest.

If I haven’t already named the character by then I’ll name them at this point. I knew ELEANOR’s name before I knew her story. She introduced herself and we worked it out together. 

Naming is a huge issue for me. I’ll let you in on a secret. I often use puns to identify the character’s function and core. This is to remind me of what the character is about and also to leave a clue for the reader, something to write an essay about in English class. I often conceal this by translating it into another language.

Not all of my characters have this, but many of them do. My signature character is Tony Flaner, a slacker detective who you won’t meet until next year in THE FINGER TRAP. The pun there is from the French, “Flaneur” – wanderer.

In ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN, I’d direct you to David Venn. I speak Danish. I was an exchange student there. “Ven” in Danish means “friend.” It’s as simple as that. Similarly, Eleanor’s last name is Anders, a common enough Danish name. Think Anderson, but it’s also related to “ændring” which means “change.” These linguistic clues help me to conceive of the character’s core as they develop.

The next thing in character development is their voices. Even before I think I know what they look like, I need to know what they sound like, both inner and outer dialog. If I can’t hear them, if I can’t put them in a room with each other and have them carry on a conversation, they’re not ready yet. If this happens, I know I need to go back and fill in some more of their back-story, remember who they are and what they want. Flesh them out with the usual prompts; internal and external conflicts, habits and mannerisms, occupation, family, etc. I’ll assign them some details even at random just to get a handle on them.

The final and ultimate test for me is always the conversation. When I’m stuck in a book, I often just put the right characters together and get them talking. It’s magickal, and I don’t use that word lightly. The characters will interact, push their agendas, move the story themselves, react, plot and plan. Maneuver and tell where the story needs to go. When this happens, I just have to take the dictation. I’m out of it. It’s alive. That’s when I know my characters work, when they can do that.

*************************** 

Thank you for that insight, Johnny! I loved getting a glimpse inside your mind. Thanks for stopping by on your blog tour. 
If you’d like a chance to win a copy of Eleanor (and you know you do!) enter the blog tour giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you’d rather have the instant gratification, instead of waiting to win, you can get your copy online:

AMAZON
BARNES & NOBLE 



JOHNNY WORTHEN graduated with a B.A. in English and Master’s in American Studies from the University of Utah. After a series of businesses and adventures, including running his own bakery, Worthen found himself drawn to the only thing he ever wanted to do—write. And write he does. When he’s not pounding on his keyboard or attending writers conferences, Worthen spends his time with his wife and two boys in Sandy, Utah.

You can find Johnny online at the following places:
FACEBOOK
TWITTER
WEBSITE
GOODREADS


Copper Descent

This is my first author interview as part of a cool thing called a blog tour. (Don’t worry, I didn’t know what they were either…) When an author has a new book coming out that they want to publicize, they set up a virtual book tour by visiting bloggers like me who will take the time to read an advanced copy and give an honest review. Since I’m not a patient woman and I love to read, I immediately jumped at the chance to get my hands on books before the general public.

Today I’m joined by the author of  Copper Descent, Angela Hartley, who is also one of my fellow Utah Fantasy Authors.

The tale of Sinauf was a secret nineteen-year-old Nina Douglas’ ancestors kept hidden for eighteen generations. But the truth has been brought into light.

The dark god of legend is real.

Caught in an ancient war still raging strong in the modern world, Nina is confronted with Sinauf—the embodiment of all she fears and desires. Like a moth drawn to a deadly flame, Nina must resist the seductive charm of a beautiful monster, or prepare to lose everything she holds dear. 

 

I read Copper Descent before it had a cover and without knowing anything except that Angela had asked if anyone was willing to read it and review it as part of her blog tour for the launch. I had no idea how it was being marketed but I would have described it as a young adult urban fantasy. (I later found out it is New Adult Horror. Same thing, right?) My favorite aspect was how real the characters are portrayed. The main character, Nina, starts out as a teen but for the majority of the story is a young woman. She kisses boys without commitments, she experiences the heat of passion when she is attracted to someone (more than once), runs away when things get tough, fights with her parents, and is selfish and self-centered at times. She was a realistic breath of fresh air. And then, to my surprise, the evil antagonist chasing after our heroin is actually the devil. As a very non-religious person, I expected to be annoyed with this turn of events but it was so well written I instead found myself sucked in and unable to put it down. I love the way Angela took age-old themes and gave them new life. She expertly weaves Native American legends with all the religions of the ages resulting in a character I both understood and empathized with – even as he plotted to destroy mankind. The book has many elements of fantasy since worlds beyond our own are brought to life. And even though one of the main characters is Lucifer himself, the themes are nothing like you would expect. I highly recommend it – although I must disclose it does have violence and some sexuality for those of you who might have sensitivities. I would give it a PG-13 equivalent rating. 

Initially, I only committed to reviewing the book in exchange for the early sneak peak. But then it was so entertaining and I had a million questions I wanted to ask about it so I sat down and picked Angela’s brains for an interview instead.


Me:  Where did your idea for Copper Descent come from?

Angela:  When I first started writing, a dark figure showed up in all of my work. He became a calling card, really. I never knew when or how he would appear, but there was no doubt he would be there, lurking in the shadows and waiting for his opportunity to wreak havoc. Copper Descent started out as an exploration. I wanted to understand the monster. I also wanted to find a girl who was strong enough to take him on. The rest kind of took on a life of its own. No one was more surprised than me when I discovered he was Lucifer, but it also made perfect sense. So, I ran with it.
Me:  I recognized some universal themes of Christianity, but is there any truth to the Native American legends you reference?
Angela:  Having lived in Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah for the majority of my life, I’ve grown up hearing many stories about the Native American tribes in these areas. There are some pieces based on actual facts, like the Freemont Indians who disappeared from Nine Mile Canyon, and I incorporated parts of the Timpanogos legend, but I think all good lies are seeded with a bit of truth. And that’s really what a storyteller is—an excellent liar. Whatever accuracy is found in the pages were only a set-up to deliver the words in ways I found pleasing.
Me:  What is your secret to so accurately portraying the teenage experience without the angst one would expect?
Angela:  I’m actually raising teenagers right now, but I have unique circumstances. When my oldest daughter was eight-years-old, she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Just like Nina, she was forced to grow up way too early, and has had to face challenges way beyond what her peers experience. Because of her struggles, she’s learned not to sweat the small stuff, or play into the drama. She’s my hero, and inspiration.
Me:  Another example of taking everyday life and letting it fuel your writing. I love it. The ending of Copper Descent was satisfying in its finality and yet left things open for potentially more to come. Are there plans for a sequel?
Angela: Copper Descent is actually the first volume in a seven part series entitled The Sentient Chronicles. The first three plots are designed to stand by themselves, each following a different set of characters, but everything comes together in the fourth book. The entire series follows Lucifer through his fall, his rise, and ultimately his journey back to the angel city.
Me:  How long did it take you to write – start to finish?
Angela:  Writing the novel took less than a year. Now, finding a publisher was a whole different ballgame. I searched for six years before I found the right fit.
Me:  Wow, that makes my own journey so far seem like small potatoes. I’m glad you stuck with it. What is your writing process?
Angela:  I write an ending, and then figure out how it happened. Most of my work is exploratory. I try to outline, but never end up where I thought I would.
Me:  Another “pantser”. I sometimes wish I could write that way but it doesn’t work for me. So, what is your favorite part of being an author?
Angela:  When someone is inspired by my work to think in a way they may have never considered otherwise.
Me:  Least favorite?
Angela:  The rejection. You need to have a pretty thick skin to make it in this industry, and it’s tough putting your heart out there time and again only to have it trampled. I think all writers must be a little crazy or masochistic to allow ourselves the opportunity to be so vulnerable.
Me:  No comment on where I think I fit into those categories, thanks. What keeps you motivated to write?
Angela:  I don’t think I could stop, anymore than I could cease to breathe. For me, creation equates happiness, and I live best inside my head. It’s the real world that tends to trip me up.
Me:  Where and when do you write?
Angela:  I treat my writing like an actual job, and work in some aspect of the craft for at least four to five hours a day, generally when the kids are in school. I have a netbook, and I tend to rotate my scenery often so I don’t get bored with my surroundings.
Me:  What else have you written?
AngelaCopper Descent is my first published work. Eight years ago, my hard-drive burned up on my computer, destroying all of my documents. My back-up file wouldn’t load on my new system. At the time, I was devastated, but now I look at it as a gift. My early work is dead and buried. It will never come back to haunt me *smile*.

Me:  How did you go from aspiring writer to published author?

Angela:  My entire journey took ten years. In the back of my mind, I always thought I’d write someday, but it took losing my father for me to realize that sometimes there are no more tomorrows. I went back to school at thirty, drafted my novel at thirty-three and spent the next six years querying. I didn’t sit idle, but continued to revise and work on other projects as I waited for responses. Mostly, I built my social media platform. At this time, I took a job offer, not because I wanted a career in that field, but gave me an opportunity to be visible. In the public eye, several speaking prospects presented themselves. My novel started reading beautifully, my query was flawless, and I found myself writing a column in the local paper. Some would say the universe aligned, but the truth is I worked my butt off and allowed myself to be uncomfortable.
Me:  What advice do you have for other aspiring writers?
Angela:  Fall in love with the work, not the dream. If you’re writing because you want to be famous or make millions of dollars, this isn’t for you. It is a long, hard road full of disappointment, but if you love the work you can discover aspects of yourself and others that make the journey worth your time. My best advice? Quit. If however, you find that you can’t, you are not an aspiring writer, but in fact a true writer. We are all addicts here, hooked on words and ideas. The more you surrender to the impulse to create, you’ll find those imaginary worlds will become clearer and more concise. Which is why you either need to quit or indulge as often as you can.
Me:  You heard her folks, quit now or jump on the crazy train that is being a writer. *smile* What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far on your author journey?
Angela:  That there is no end. There are always new mountains on the horizon. But I’ve also discovered I can do hard things, and I actually look forward to the challenges ahead.
Me:  Are there more books we can look forward to, and if so, when?
Angela:  I’ve recently finished Iron Resolve, the second book in Sentient. No release date yet, but hopefully in early 2015. In this novel we follow Myke Preston—a man with a weak disposition. He walks away from his wife and child only to discover Brooklyn has crumbled quite literally underneath his feet. The only way back to his family is through a maze of doors leading through his hellish past. It is raw, powerful, and for anyone who has dealt with addiction, infidelity, or domestic violence, incredibly inspirational. Utah Fantasy Authors plan to release an anthology later this year, The Secret Door. I’m writing a dark wizard story for that. In my spare time, I’m also working on a stand-alone novel—a cautionary tale of hypnotherapy and mass murder called D-Brie. And yes, Sinclair has a cameo appearance in this novel.
Me:  I can’t wait to read more. Where can readers find and connect with you? 
Angela:  
Thanks, Angela, for the instant gratification of an advanced read and for taking the time to talk with me and my fabulous readers who are now hopefully ready to rush out and get Copper Descent for their own libraries. Trust me, it was a great read and you will want to.

Copper Descent is available now HERE on Amazon and in print late June

Angela Hartley spent much of her childhood being shuffled from house to house with only a book for companionship. The magic she found in the written word saved her in many ways, transporting her into worlds far more enjoyable than the one she resided in. Literature became a passion and the idea of writing carried her through years of uncertainty.

 
After high school, she met and married her own Prince Charming. They rode off into the sunset in his blue Toyota and a whole new world full of hope and happiness opened up. He claimed they could move mountains together, and they did. While facing the painful realization that sometimes there are no tomorrows following her father’s tragic death in 2005, she decided it was time to follow her dreams. With the love and support of her family, she dove into another world, full of procreating angels and demon rock stars.

Her debut new adult horror novel, Copper Descent will be released on Amazon May 2014. Angela currently resides in Midway, Utah with her three children and husband. 


Book List Archive 2013

Time for out with the old and in with the new posts recapping the major accomplishments of the past year (and cleaning off the side bar to make room for tracking this year’s list). I thought 2013 was going to see far more books under my belt since last year was truly an overachiever one when it came to reading. However, I’ve had far more energy to be off my couch in recent months and you can’t listen to audible while doing yoga like you can while running.

  • The Winter of Our Disconnect, Susan Maushart (book club) – this book changed my children’s lives and is well worth reading
  • A Memory of Light, Wheel of Time #14, Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson – so much better than I ever hoped for and well worth the 15 years it took to wait for the end of this series.
  • Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Rachel Maddow – disturbing and eye-opening
  • Firefly Lane, Kristin Hannah
  • Still Alice, Lisa Genova (book club) – frightening look at Alzheimer’s
  • The Reservoir, John Miliken Thompson
  • Mistborn: The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson 
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo
  • Dark Places, Gillian Flynn
  • 14, Peter Clines – best scifi read this year
  • And I Don’t Want to Live this Life, Deborah Spungen (book club)
  • The Dog Stars, Peter Heller
  • Mistorn #2: The Well of Ascension, Brandon Sanderson
  • Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (book club) – this time I read it instead of listened and loved it even more
  • The Kitchen House, Kathleen Grissom (book club)
  • Mistborn #3: The Hero of Ages, Brandon Sanderson – the ending of this series cemented Sanderson’s place as my new favorite fantasy author
  • Old Man’s War, John Scalzi
  • A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness – this was a haunting read that stuck with me a long while
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol S. Dweck (work book club)
  • Horns, Joe Hill – one of my very favorite reads this year
  • The Rent Collector, Camron Wright (book club)
  • Joyland, Stephen King
  • Hounded, Kevin Hearne
  • The Dog Stars, Peter Heller (my pick for book club so I re-read it in print instead of listening). This is a far different book in print than in audible and I liked the audible far better.
  • Hexed, Kevin Hearne
  • The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman (book club)
  • Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge – not my favorite scifi and proof that if you put something down twice it probably doesn’t deserve getting finished
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman – also one of my favorite reads this year – such a great one!
  • Mistborn #4: The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson
  • Happy Money, Elizabeth Dunn (work book club)
  • Slim for Life, Jillian Michaels
  • Immortal Instruments: City of Bones, Cassandra Clare – I hope the movies are better than the books
  • The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (book club) – I’m now officially a huge Gaiman fan, too
  • Mothers & Other Liars, Amy Bourret (book club)
  • No Plot? No Problem!, Chris Baty – oh how I wish I’d read this years ago to make NaNoWriMo easier!
  • Steelheart, Brandon Sanderson – read aloud with hubby on our road trip
  • The Name of the Wind: The King Killer Chronicles Day One, Patrick Rothfuss – also read aloud for hubby on our road trip after I filled him in on the first half; and yet another epic fantasy series I want to grab the next one immediately.

That’s thirty seven books this year. A far cry from the goal I set of fifty but still impressive since the theme this year was apparently fantasy. I read some major tomes that in terms of sheer number of pages alone could count as several books. I set the goal of forty books in 2014. Whether I hit that goal or not, you can be certain I’ll be reading every chance I get!