Title: Half a Soul (Regency Faerie Tales Book 1)
Author: Olivia Atwater
Genre: Regency Romance, Fairy Tale Fantasy
Dora Ettings knows she will never be married. As a child, a faerie lord tried to steal her soul; he only got away with half of it. Since that day, Dora has never been able to act normally. She says the wrong things and feels very slightly, if at all. But her beautiful cousin Vanessa has a plan to cure her. Elias Wilder, the young Lord Sorcier, is the best magician in England; surely, he can find a way to make her whole.
Vanessa arranges for a trip to London, where Dora crosses paths with the cantankerous Lord Sorcier and his friend Albert. Although Elias has a great contempt for polite society, he is interested in what ails Dora. In the midst of society balls, marriage plots, and a mysterious plague, Dora and Elias grow closer. To the outside world it almost seems like the Lord Sorcier is courting the strange Miss Ettings. But Dora knows the truth: his attentions to her have only to do with case. For how could the most powerful magician in England fall in love with a woman with only half a soul?
I happened across Half a Soul randomly on Amazon, but I like regency romance (in the vein of Jane Austen) and I like fantasy, so it seemed like a good fit. I sampled the first chapter, and I was engaged with Dora’s plight from the beginning. I was curious to see how a character with half a soul would act and how her romance might unfold. The day I began reading in earnest, I was feeling drained and overwhelmed. I read the entire book without stop and finished it in a few hours. The next morning, I re-read my all favorite bits, which turned out to be most of the book. I found Half a Soul to be, not just entertaining, but also healing and restorative. It made me feel good.
One of the reasons why it was so easy for me to read was because I connected to Dora early on. After the faerie drains her passion, Dora becomes dreamy and erratic and can’t quite function in normal society. (I feel you, girl. Same here.) She is often insulted and treated poorly by those closest to her, and her response is subdued. Yet even though she doesn’t feel strongly, she does feel. In fact, she has a great capacity for caring, which comes out more and more during the course of the story.
Dora’s strangeness actually helps her during her first encounter with Elias, the Lord Sorcier. Elias has a reputation for impropriety, and boy, does he earn it, acting downright rude to Dora the first time he sees her. Dora is barely bothered by his insults and holds her own with witty comebacks. The relationship between Dora and Elias, which begins with verbal sparring, gradually becomes sweet and warm, as Dora learns more about Elias and comes to understand the depth of his character. The Lord Sorcier is a man of passion and ideals, unhappy with the ways of the world.
I’m so pleased and proud to announce that my third novel, Company, will be published on September 5, 2020, available as an e-book on Amazon. Priced at $4.99, it’s less than a specialty coffee at Starbucks and will stay with you longer. A physical print version of the book will be coming out in October this year. If you don't mind, I’d like to tell you a little about what Company is and why I’m so proud of it.
Company tells the tale of an unlikely friendship between an amnesiac ghost and an abandoned imaginary friend. As a ghost, Curtis is trapped in Thornfield Manor, a beautiful, but isolated house in the California mountains. Bored and alone, his memories are slowly falling away, including the memory of his death. One day, a stranger arrives at Thornfield Manor. After her parents died, Charlotte created an imaginary friend and “sister” named Jenny to deal with her depression. But after Jenny develops a mind of her own, Charlotte is desperate to get rid of her. Charlotte dumps Jenny at Thornfield Manor. As the only two beings who can see and interact with each other, Curtis and Jenny strike up a quick friendship. Jenny is determined to solve the mystery of Curtis’s death and help him cross over. But Curtis worries: if he does cross over, what will become of Jenny?
I’m proud of Company, because I put my heart and soul into writing this beautiful and thought-provoking story. It has a little bit of mystery, a little bit of romance, and a little bit of philosophy. It’s an emotional book, and some scenes will leave you feeling choked up, but it has a sweet ending that I hope will make you smile. Company is the kind of book I’d imagine someone reading on a vacation in the mountains, sitting outside a log cabin in the cool of the morning, with a hot mug of coffee or tea or hot cocoa.
Believe it or not, I came up with the idea for a ghost and an imaginary friend back in 2012. At that time, I wasn’t sure if the idea was strong enough to be sustained for a whole novel. So, in 2013, I decided to write it for National Novel Writing Month, an event that challenges you to write 200 pages in 30 days. To my surprise, I completed an entire rough draft of Company in a month. But I got stalled on revision for many years. Then in 2018, a tumultuous and uncertain year for me, I looked at Company again and found new inspiration. For the next two years, I began revising it whole-heartedly, using all my skill as a writer to hone and polish my vision. I hope that when you read it, you’ll get swept up in the characters, the friendship they form, and the journey they make together.
Unlike most novels I’ve written in, Company takes place in the real world (California) and in modern times (2019), so it is more accessible to people who are less inclined toward traditional fantasy. It is best for teens and adults; younger children probably won’t be interested in it. Company has a few curse words and deals with death, and for those reasons, I’d put it at a PG-13 rating.
If you decide that you want to buy Company, it is available for pre-order right now--just click on the button below to reserve your copy. If you need more information, I have the first chapter available on my blog. Over the next few weeks, I hope to add a more sample chapters and bonus features that share my experience writing this novel. If, however, you decide this is not the book for you, that’s okay, too. I appreciate you listening to me with an open mind.
I know from experience that certain books can hit you in a way that stays with you for the way of your life. It’s my hope that, for some readers out there, Company may be that book. However, finding those readers is still a struggle for me. As an independent author, I don’t have a big marketing team, so I need all the help I can get in order to spread the word. If you think of anyone who might like this story, please send them this link. Or, if you have a social media account (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), please post there. Thank you again. I appreciate your love and support.
Sincerely, Rebecca Lang
Title: Her Last Mission (A Better Late Romance)
Author: Michelle Knowlden
Genre: Romance, Mystery/ Thriller
Sandra Baak (Sandy) has spent her life periodically impersonating her twin brother Sanford (Ford) in order to make sure he got ahead. When she was seventeen, Sandy spent a year playing Ford while attending a prestigious private school, where she met Mark Orlando. Sandy fell for Mark early on but never had the courage to tell him her true identity.
In the intervening years, Sandra has led a full life as a single woman. In addition to her work as an engineer, she uses her skills in technology to conduct counter-espionage missions--again, in the guise of Ford. When her handler suspects that Mark Orlando, the CEO of Orlando Tech, is involved in peddling government secrets, Sandy finds herself once again in the presence of her old flame. Can she continue to keep her identity under wraps while she conducts her last mission? Or is it time to let her disguise go and tell Mark how she feels?
I know Michelle Knowlden, and I like her stories, the Abishag Mysteries being my favorite. Her latest book came out early this July, for only 99 cents. I was excited, since this is the first full novel of hers I’ve read in a long time. Being a friend may create a bias; however, I will try to be as honest in my review as I can.
Her Last Mission is a light and wholesome riff on Twelfth Night with an industrial espionage mystery thrown in. It has its romantic moments, but I would not exactly call it a romance. The love story comes across less like a journey or an experience, and more like a problem that needs to be solved. Between romance, family drama, and mystery, there were a lot of plot threads flying around. The set-up slowed down the first half of the story, but it picked up in the second half.
What grounded the story and tied the plot threads together was the character of Sandy, a single older woman who has spent her life fulfilling family and career obligations and now finds herself considering a very different future. She tries to reconcile these different aspects of her life and understand what brought her to this point. I found Sandy’s journey very relatable. For me, it made the book a worthwhile read.
A Certain Slant of Light is A Heart-Wrenchingly Beautiful Tale About Love, Language, and the Human Spirit
Title: A Certain Slant of Light
Author: Laura Whitcomb
Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Literary Fiction, YA?
A long time ago, Helen died, but her soul did not make it into Heaven. For over a century, she has existed as a ghost and a writerly muse, attaching herself from one literary figure to the next, watching their lives but never being more than a whisper in their ear. Helen’s latest haunt is an English teacher and aspiring writer named Mr. Brown. One day, as Helen stands beside him in his English class, a boy notices her.
The boy is not what he appeared. James died as a young man and also became a ghost, but very recently, he discovered he could enter an “empty” body. Possessing a high school boy named Billy gives him access to the world again and allows him to see Helen. As the two ghosts begin a whirlwind romance, Helen wonders if she, too, can enter a body and be with James. After so much time spent watching in the distance, is it possible that Helen can once again partake in life?
It has been a long time since I read a book I unabashedly loved. But that is how I felt about A Certain Slant of Light. It is sweet and romantic, full of yearnings and emotions, with beautiful prose and a genuine affection for words and literature. I loved Helen and James. I loved their old-fashioned courtship and their passionate yet somehow innocent romance. This rendered the second half of the book hard to read, as the tension started to ramp up and I became genuinely afraid of what might happen to them. But, though it took a lot of pain and struggle to get there, the ending was happy and left me as a pile of mush, basking in emotion.
This an excerpt from a fantasy/ romance/ historical fiction I've been working on during quarantine. In an alternate version of America, where magic is commonplace, a witch and wizard have adventures as they travel the country in pursuit of magic and gradually fall in love. Right now, I call this story Hazel and Saul, after my main characters, but the title is subject to change. This is a second draft, which means it's pretty early on in the writing process. I haven't added a lot of details and description, and the prose is rough. This scene takes early in the story, when the title characters first meet.
Hazel Meets Saul
Pennsylvania, October 1870
He was worse than a peddler. The wizard stood at the gate of her aunt’s house, banging on the door for a good ten minutes. Hazel could tell he was a wizard by the gaudy purple cloak he wore, popular among only the lowest rung of that profession. Hazel had made the mistake of peeking out through the window to see what was making the noise. Unfortunately, he’d seen her, and his rapping had only grown more furious.
“Miss Blackwood! Miss Blackwood!” he cried.
Hazel pressed her hands to the side of her head. She had a terrible headache and his pounding on the gate only made it worse. She’d been sick these last three days and wanted nothing more than to curl up and rest. But here was this annoying creature, disturbing her peace.
“Miss Blackwood! A word, please! Just a word!”
Hazel sighed. From his voice he sounded rather young. Young and full of energy and shamelessly relentless. She decided she wasn’t going to get rid of him, so she put on her cloak and bonnet and hobbled out. It was cold and chilly, and the wind on her face made her shiver, despite the warmth of her cloak. She walked down the path through the front yard until she reached the gate.
“Ah, Miss Blackwood!” The wizard sounded relieved. “Thank you for your indulgence. I crave but a moment of our time. You are Miss Blackwood, are you not?”
“I am, but--”
“My name,” he said with a flouncy and exaggerated bow, “is Solomon Felix Zephyrus, an apprentice wizard of distinction, and I have a proposal for--”
He stopped and blinked. He leaned forward and stared at her face, as if seeing it for the first time.
“You’re young,” he said, with some dismay.
Title: The Guardian: A Dream-Hunter Novel
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Genre: Romance, Fantasy
After thousands of years of being tortured in hell, demigod Seth has one chance to escape his misery. His master, the primal god Noir, has captured Solin, god of dreams, who has information about a key that can grant great power or cause great destruction. Seth is put in charge of interrogating the Solin. Little does he know that Solin’s daughter, Lydia, has come to free him. Lydia is an immortal were-jackal with the power to walk into another person’s dreams. But she is no match for Seth, who quickly captures Lydia and offers Solin a trade--the missing key for Lydia’s life. Solin agrees, and Seth keeps Lydia as collateral. But when Seth gets to know Lydia, he finds himself drawn to her. And though Lydia would like nothing more than to hate the man who tortured her father, the more she learns the horrors of Seth’s past, the harder it is to keep her own creeping feelings at bay.
A friend recommended Sherrilyn Kenyon to me a while ago, but I hadn't really gotten around to checking her out. So when I spotted one of her books at the La Habra Library bookstore for the low, low cost of ten cents, I quickly jumped on the chance. I was not disappointed. I finished the book the same day I bought it. The Guardian was that addicting.
The Guardian is a romance book first, a fantasy book second. It has a kind of Beauty and the Beast vibe going, which I really like. If it were a film, it would be a hard R for cursing, sex, and, most prevalent, scenes of violent torture. (More on that later.)
Title: Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Author: D. H. Lawrence
Genre: Classic, Fiction, Romance (?)
When Constance Chatterley’s husband Clifford returns from World War I paralyzed from the legs down, the two try to make the best of a bad situation. Clifford throws himself first into a literary career and later turns an industrial eye toward the mines that pepper his land. Although Connie does her best to support her husband, she falls into a depression. Something vital is missing from her life. She meets the gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors, a man who is reclusive and insolent, but who attracts Connie in a primitive way. They begin an affair, and through it, Connie finds out what it means to be truly alive.
From its title, Lady Chatterley’s Lover sounds like a melodrama. It’s not. This is a novel of ideas, and the story is the canvas upon which the ideas are stitched. What D. H. Lawrence really wants to do is posit a thesis as to the ailments of the modern world, namely, the disconnect mankind has toward their fellow man and the natural and the physical world, due to materialism, industrialization, and over-intellectualism. The solution, he posits, is a return to a more pagan time of “real men and real women,” which means sex.
I like my novels to have ideas in them; however, these ideas come at the expense of the story. You might think that Connie cheating on her wheelchair-bound husband would cause drama. It doesn’t. And the reason is simple: no one cares. No one cares about Clifford. No one cares about morals. No one cares about what society thinks. And as such, there are no consequences, only inconveniences. I’d say that this is a comment on the disconnect of people, but I’m not sure it is. I think the problem is that D. H. Lawrence became so enamored with his ideas he forgot about the characters.
After Thanksgiving, I did a double feature at AMC: Queen and Slim in the morning, and Knives Out almost immediately after. I’d never done a double feature, but I didn’t have much choice. Too many good movies come out in the holiday corridor and I don’t always have a spare Sunday to sneak out and see them.
Queen and Slim came on my radar, because I saw the trailer--online or in a theatre, I can’t remember. Queen and Slim is an R-rated romantic drama about a black couple who become accidental criminals and must flee the law. Right away, I liked the characters and the tense situation they found themselves in. The film fell off my radar for a while but came back when the reviews came in and some of my favorite movie pundits recommended the movie.
The movie doesn’t waste time. It begins with a woman (Jodie Turner-Smith) and a man (Daniel Kaluuya) going on an awkward first date. Their names aren’t given until the very end, so I’m going to go off the title and call the woman Queen and the man Slim. Queen is a defense lawyer whose client just received a death sentence. She is guarded and aloof. Slim is an amiable, warm, religious man. The date does not go well. As Slim tries to drop Queen off, he gets pulled over and aggressively searched by a racist cop. Queen tries to record the cop on her cell phone, but the cop shoots her in the leg. A heated fight breaks out between Slim and the cop. Slim grabs the cop’s fallen gun and shoots him, half in defense, half by accident. The cop dies. Before the title card officially drops, they are on the run.
My first reaction, fresh out of the theatre, was that Queen and Slim had a lot of elements that reminded me of a good fantasy movie (my favorite genre), even though it clearly wasn’t fantasy. Queen and Slim was an unexpected journey which ripped the characters out of their normal lives, brought them to interesting places and people, forged deep bonds, and forced them to contemplate deeper meanings of existence, destiny, and legacy. It was Romantic with a capital R. Not only did Queen and Slim fall in love, they expressed what love meant to them as individuals so beautifully and poetically, it made my heart twist.
(Warning: Although I try not to spoil anything in particular, I do mention details that take place halfway through the movie. If you are sensitive to these thing, you may not want to read.)
Titles: An Abundance of Katherines, Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns
Author: Jonathan Green
Genre: YA, Coming-of-Age
An Abundance of Katherines
Colin has a habit of dating Katherines. They have a habit of dumping him. But Katherine #19 has done a real number on him. On top of that, Colin is a child prodigy who is quickly not turning into a genius adult. To distract him from his woes, his friend Hassan suggests a road trip. They wind up in Gutshot, Tennessee where Colin runs into a girl named Lindsey Lee, gets a head wound, and has a revelation--an idea that will certify him as a genius and possibly win back Katherine’s love. He will create a mathematical theorem for figuring out exactly how long a relationship will last.
Looking for Alaska
Miles Halter’s life in Florida is boring, so he convinces his parents to send him to a prestigious boarding school in Alabama. There he meets his roommate Chip “the Colonel,” who gives him the nickname of Pudge. More importantly, Miles sees Alaska Young, a gorgeous girl with a room full of books and a lust for life. He falls for her instantly. Between the Colonel, Alaska, and the other friends he makes, Miles has the chance to live the life he’s always dreamed: studying, pulling pranks, drinking, and smoking. But something is about to happen, which will change Miles’s life forever.
Quentin (Q) Jacobsen has admired his neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman, since they were kids. But she’s a beautiful, popular, daring girl that is totally out of his league--until one day when she spirits him away in an epic adventure of revenge, breaking and entering, and pranks. The next day, Margo disappears. But she leaves behind a series of clues. Quentin is convinced he can solve the puzzle and find her--but to do so, he’s going to have to go beyond admiring Margo and understand her as a person.
Writer. Critic. Dreamer.