Monday, August 24, 2015

The Crossways Cover Reveal and Blog Tour Sign-Up

"Let's get down to business to defeat the Huns..."

Sorry, Disney fan. Couldn't resist. Let's revise that.

"Let's get down to business to organize The Crossways...stuff."

Too long for a song. What I'm really trying to say is what's in the title, that I'm ready to organize my cover reveal and blog tour! The cover reveal will be on September 22 and the blog tour will run from October 19-24. I'm posting the sign-up sheets simultaneously, though I'll probably repost the blog tour sign-up after the cover reveal.

Anyone is welcome to participate. The more the merrier! Just fill out the below form(s) and I'll get back to you as soon as I have all the information put together! And because I want to give something in this post instead of just asking, scroll to the bottom for a link to a special sneak preview. :)

The Crossways Chapter One: Adriel


Monday, August 17, 2015

Creighton Hill Sale!

As a part of the Homeschooled Authors Read-to-Win summer reading program, Creighton Hill is on sale for only $0.99 on Kindle this week! That's 66% off regular price.

And that's not even all. See, there's more to the Read-to-Win program on Homeschooled Authors than getting $0.99 eBooks. If you write an Amazon review before the contest ends, you can enter to win a $100 Amazon gift card! How cool is that?

So hop over to Amazon for Creighton Hill, and once you've read and reviewed it, just put the link to your review into the giveaway on Homeschooled Authors for a chance to win!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Implant Blog Tour

Last month, I showed you the cover of J. Grace Pennington's newest book Implant. I was really looking forward to this book then, and I'm so excited to share it with you now. Because it's beyond fantastic. I can't begin to say how amazing it is. And because it's now here, I get to share an interview with Grace and my review of this fantastically amazing book!

About the Book

Welcome to the world of a universal cure.

 Gordon Harding didn’t ask for the life he has. He didn’t ask to be orphaned. He didn’t ask to go through life with cancer. And he certainly didn’t ask to be pulled into a future world without warning–a world where every human being is controlled by means of a medical implant. 

 And when he learns that he’s the only one who can destroy the base of operations, he’s faced with an impossibly painful choice: either hide and let the world decay under this mysterious futuristic force, or rescue humanity from oppression, knowing that there’s someone out there who is willing to use any means necessary to stop him.


Nearly two years ago, Grace visited my blog to talk about her books Firmament: Radialloy and Never. Today, she’s back to talk about her brand new release, a time travel dystopian called Implant. First off, Grace, could you introduce yourself and tell us a little about the things you’ve done since last time?

Hi, Morgan, thank you for having me back!  I’m a self-published author, just publishing my fifth book.  Three of those books are in my Firmament series, then there’s Never, a western mystery, and finally my latest book Implant.  I’ve also been writing more short stories, blogging, reading, and generally doing life.  It’s been quite the adventure!

Sounds like an adventure. Now to your newest book. What’s the most important thing people should know about the book before beginning to read Implant?

That’s a great question.  You might want to know going in knowing that, unlike the Firmament books, this is not a Christian novel per se.  I am trying to communicate godly values, and it’s clean (though violent, and one character drinks and smokes) but there’s no mention of God, no Bible verses, no prayers, etc.  These characters are not Christians, so it doesn’t really come into the story.  So if you’re expecting some gospel in there, you’ll be disappointed!

Implant is a dystopian with time travel. What inspired you to put those two things together? Did Doctor Who play any part in the time travel aspect? ;)

I had actually never heard of Doctor Who when I started writing this!  The time travel was more inspired by Star Trek, specifically the fourth movie, where whales are required to save the world (don’t ask) and since there are none, Kirk and company have to go back in time to get some.  Dystopias often feature a world in need of saving, so why not go back in time for the solution?  Seemed like a natural fit to me!

I remember that Star Trek movie. It was…interesting.  I agree that it sounds like a perfect fit. Could you tell us a little about the medical implants everyone in this future society has?

Well of course I can’t give away too much!  But essentially the Implants are just tiny chips inserted into the heart so they can directly affect the bloodstream.  They were first developed to cure cancer, but they evolved to be much more than that.  By the time of the story, they can cure everything—well, almost everything.

Cool concept. But scary, my mind easily jumps to what could happen if that was put in the wrong hands. What’s one thing you want readers to take away from Implant?

Sometimes avoiding doing the right thing is no better than doing the wrong thing, and there is no freedom without responsibility.

Dystopian is really “in” right now. Do you have any theories on why that might be so?

As a matter of fact, I do.  The world can be a pretty grim place, and especially in America I think people are starting to wake up to just how bad things are becoming.  Dystopias, for all their bleakness, give us hope that we can overcome and turn things around, even if it comes at great cost.

I completely agree. Those are actually the same exact things I’ve been thinking about the dystopian genre. What’s next for you as a writer? Any more Firmament books coming up? :)

Yes!  I’m not sure when exactly, but Firmament book four will definitely be coming.  It’s already written, but it’s still a very rough draft.  And I’d sortof like to get the fifth one written before I publish more, so I’ll be working on that.

I’m looking forward to more Firmament, for sure. I can’t wait to read more about Andi. And I’m hoping for more Elasson. :) Thanks for visiting, Grace! I’m looking forward to helping you share Implant with the world!

Thank you for having me, and for your help!  I can’t wait to hear how you like the book!


Recommended for: Ages 12 to Adult

Rating: PG-13 (violence and medical)

Wow. Just wow. Because I volunteered late with uncertain reading time, I wasn't sure I'd get the book done in time for this, but I ended up with plenty of time to read Wednesday and read the whole thing. In one day. I've come to expect no less than fantastic from Grace's books, and this certainly complied with that expectation. I finished it with the same awe and "I wish I could write like that" with which I finished Radialloy. Implant is amazing, and everyone should read it.

Writing: 5/5

Have I said it in this post yet? Grace is an amazing writer. Her writing is concise and her descriptions concrete. Throughout the entire book, I could clearly see all the places and events in my mind. I could feel the emotion. I tensed during the action. I was shocked at the plot twists. I lived the story. I was there with Gordon experiencing it. Grace knows just the right words to use to pull in the reader. Just as I was in the Dead Mines with Travis Hamilton, just as I traveled in the Surveyor with Andi Lloyd, I was pulled to a future dystopia with Gordon Harding. Just perfect.

Setting: 5/5

The entire thing is at least somewhat in the future. Gordon's home time period is not so different from now, and the future is a war torn nation. But it didn't feel cliche or anything. After all, Grace wrote the book before the dystopian craze really began. And there really aren't too many settings. Just the few places there needed to be. I'll talk about the medical aspect and the time travel in this section too. There's basically always something to do with medicine in Grace's books. Gordon's father was a doctor. His mentor back home is a doctor. In the future, Doc is obviously a doctor. And since it centers around medical implants, much of the story involves medical stuff. There is some futuristic medicine, but it all felt very realistic. I trust Grace to know what she's talking about in that area. :) The time travel also felt realistic. It wasn't your typical hop in a spaceship, go where you want to go (or where your TARDIS thinks you're most needed). Gordon is pulled through time, and it's a very calculated, not very certain, scientific experiment. It's not explained in detail, but it works well for the story.

Plot: 5/5

Grace is a master at plot twists. And mysteries. And plots in general. Obviously, I can't give much away or it would ruin the book. But while it does have the same save-the-world as most dystopians, it's not the same save-the-world as the typical dystopian. Gordon is out of his time period. He doesn't really have a lot invested in saving it. But he's gradually convinced that he should do something. And the twist. I did not see it coming. I felt like I should have, but I didn't. I was able to guess a few things accurately once that twist was revealed, but before, I had no idea what would happen, or if they would even succeed. No more, because I don't want to give spoilers, and I know I will if I keep talking about it.

Character Development: 4.5/5

I would probably have liked to get to know the characters a little deeper, but that doesn't mean they weren't well drawn and unique. They certainly were. The story is just so fast paced there really isn't any downtime, is all. Gordon Harding is a high school graduate with a job working for a doctor, Baum, but he has severe anemia which turns out to be caused by leukemia. Not exactly the sort of guy you'd picture as an action hero. Combined with the fact that he doesn't know who to trust and sometimes makes stupid mistakes. But his mistakes are completely relatable ones, which I would probably also make in the same circumstances. And he hates oatmeal. Just a briefly mentioned fact, but it stuck with me because, well, so do I. Doc is...not what you'd expect from a doctor. He seems quite heartless and unfeeling, but he's hiding a secret which made him that way. He's not what you'd expect from a mentor, even though he does constantly push Gordon to be better. Then there's Neil Crater. He's a man with principles, and a man determined to save the world.

Implant is a roller coaster of emotions. It is an exciting adventure and a story with a message of freedom, and what it truly means. Just my kind of story, and whether it is yours or not, I think you'll enjoy Implant. It is a book you do not want to miss.

About the Author 
J. Grace Pennington has been reading stories as long as she can remember, and writing them almost as long. She is also a prolific medical transcriptionist, amateur musician, chocolate eater, daughter, sister, friend, and laundry folder. She lives in Texas, and if she was part of the Implant society, her role in the rebellion would probably be monitoring current events and correspondence in the computer center.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Ranking Cinderella

Over the last, oh, six months or so, I've read a lot of fairy tale retellings. Most of those added to my previously scanty list of Cinderellas. My number of Cinderella retellings (not counting the OUAT one, I forgot about that, or the Cinderella part of the storyline in Into the Woods) now numbers 14. And just for fun, and because I meant to review several but forgot, I'm going to give you my ranking of favorite Cinderellas. Last place was actually easy, but other than that, well, it's like trying to rank your favorite Doctor. They're all different, but yet the same, and yet pretty equally awesome.

14. Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

I love Margaret Peterson Haddix's dystopians and sci-fis, but I wasn't overly impressed with Just Ella. Maybe it's because most of her girl protagonists are too concerned with having a boyfriend for my taste. And there were three very mildly suggestive sentences (really, it was very mild) that wouldn't cause me to say it wasn't a clean book if it was YA, but, though my old library puts it in the teen section she recommends it for a more middle grade audience, so I would probably take a sharpie to it before handing it to a child. Still, it was an interesting take. What if Prince Charming wasn't actually charming, but really pretty stupid and Ella didn't know it until after becoming engaged?

13. Ella Enchanted (movie)

I saw the movie prior to reading the book, so I can like it. It's a Cinderella story where the fairy godmother gave her the gift of obedience so that if anyone tells her anything she has to obey. Like, Ella, hop on one foot for an hour. She hops. Prince Char was sweet, and will make a good king. And I loved seeing Cary Elwes play an evil uncle. Weird, but strangely enjoyable. Now, the movie is...quite cheesy and the book is way better, but I still enjoyed it. And I liked the emphasis the movie put on freedom. It had a political angle. 'Nough said.

12. CinderEddy by Kendra E. Ardnek

One day when I was sick, I read a bunch of Kendra's short stories I had been keeping on my kindle. Don't ask me why I pull out Kendra's books whenever I get sick. They're fun comfort, I guess. CinderEddy is a gender-bent Cinderella, which means the Cinderella figure is a young man. But instead of a ball, the princess is kidnapped and eligible young men have to try to rescue her to win her hand. It was a quite interesting tale with a great message about helping others. I enjoyed it, but it doesn't nearly take the prize of my favorite Kendra E. Ardnek book. That is reserved for Water Princess, Fire Prince.

11. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This was a particularly interesting take on Cinderella. Cinderella is a cyborg. This book really made me think about what it would be like to have metal body parts. While I didn't love the worldbuilding, it was certainly interesting. I thought the disease was an interesting extra story element and there was an intriguing political angle. Now, it was rather predictable. I guessed the twist really early. Scarlet and Cress, the next two books in the series, were less predictable. I'm anxiously awaiting Winter, the last book in the series, but I have been warned against the companion book Fairest. The romance in these stories is, how shall we say, superficial. So I'm not overly fond of it, but it's fairly clean, comparable to Hunger Games romance.

10. A Cinder's Tale by Stephanie Ricker

This story is a part of the Rooglewood Press Five Glass Slippers publication, which was a fairy tale retelling contest. This one was a sci-fi. Cinders are people who mine for cendrillon, a substance used in the manufacture of spaceships and like things. It is a very dangerous job. It was incredibly unique, and I enjoyed the space angle and the danger from the climax, even though it wasn't my favorite of the collection.

9. The Moon Master's Ball by Clara Diane Thompson

This was a rather scary version of Cinderella, but I quite liked it. There is a festival that all the people love, but Tilly Higgins hates it and will do anything to avoid it. She had some bad experience with it that is not explained for quite some time, and she has never gotten over it. And then she gets caught up in the festival and the Moon Master. Lots of intrigue and scary similar to OUAT. I wasn't exactly happy with who she ended up with, but I guess that's okay. I enjoyed it anyway. This also is a part of Five Glass Slippers.

8. Cinderella (1950) Disney

I know this isn't technically the original version, but it is to me. This is the basic tale of Cinderella. It is one of the few Disney movies I grew up on (that whole "locked in the vault" thing can be really annoying), and so is special to me because of that. Cinderella is mistreated by her evil stepmother and stepsisters (a huge plus to my Annie loving young self), she has animal friends to help her, and it's a sweet story with a happy ending. Now that I'm older, I find it rather amusing that the king puts the ball together because he wants grandchildren. The mice have plenty of personality, as does the stepmother, but Cinderella and the prince...well, they seem to be a little flat. She's sweet, that's about all there is to her. And the prince is hardly in it. I personally prefer there to be more of the prince, but as childhood memories, this version cannot help but rank fairly well.

7. A Dream Not Imagined by Shantelle Mary Hannu

I hadn't been expecting to be able to read this one, but after helping with some formatting, I volunteered to read it as a review copy. I had heard nothing but good about it, so I had somewhat high expectations. At first, I thought maybe they had been misplaced. It seemed just like any other typical Cinderella story. And then. Things go terribly wrong at the ball. Ellie Abbington's dreams are shattered. But she is told that God is in control, and His way will be a dream not imagined. That's not all. Twists galore follow, but I don't want to give any spoilers. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, and it thrilled the lifelong love of poor little rich girl, rags to riches, and hard luck stories, as well as the new-found love of sweet, meaningful romance, while having a wonderful, Christian message absent from so many of the stories on this list. 

6. Broken Glass by Emma Clifton

What if the slipper fits, but on the wrong girl? This is something my sisters and I have talked about, and Emma Clifton explores this quite interestingly in Broken Glass. Yes, it's Rosalind's slipper, but she wasn't wearing it. She doesn't want to marry Prince Marius, she's courting his younger brother Henry. And Marius doesn't want to marry her any more than she wants to marry him. So they come up with a plan to get them out of it. Strangely enough, quietly dangerous middle brother Darcy agrees to help. It gets rather twisty after that, and I quite liked the ending. Then the epilogue sets up for a Beauty and the Beast retelling that the author is publishing herself. Interesting, has some action, has some romance, has some intrigue. Well deserving of its place in Five Glass Slippers.

5. What Eyes Can See by Elisabeth Brown

Cinderella doesn't actually want to go to the ball. She doesn't care if she ever meets the prince. What I found particularly interesting about this retelling is that the step family is actually nice. As much as I love the traditional mistreated Cinderella, I found this to be quite refreshing. Much of the focus ends up being put on stepsister Drusilla, who is very kind. Yet, she is not afraid to speak her mind. This story was very sweet, a beautiful romance, and had an unexpected ending. I loved it very much.

4. Waltz Into the Waves by Sarah Holman

Short and sweet, Waltz into the Waves makes one of my favorite Cinderella retellings. It was a beautiful little story, and I'm already eager to read it again. The romance was sweet and clean, and just perfect. Sarah made Cinderella her own, while still remaining faithful to the original. I loved Alex, he was so sweet. About halfway through, I realized I was envisioning Hadley Fraser as he was in the role of Raoul in Phantom of the Opera for Alex. I'm not sure why, but it really brought Alex to life even more, and I loved that. Waltz into the Waves was a delightful little story that I loved.

3. The Windy Side of Care by Rachel Heffington

This one was my favorite of the Five Glass Slippers collection. It was incredibly well written, for one, in a simply delightful old-fashioned style. The characters were so well developed. Alis and Auguste have such distinct personalities. And then there is Rachel's twist on the story. Alisandra looks like the king and queen. The prince does not. And so she is convinced that the throne is hers and not his. She naturally wants it, to displace Auguste, who doesn't actually want the throne at all. But then they fall in love, and, well, they come up with a plan. 

2. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

My friends were not exaggerating when they said the book was 500% better than the movie. Why did I not read this as a child? I knew about it, but it wasn't until this year, after watching the movie, that I actually went to the library and checked it out. And I loved it! Ella has the same gift of obedience given to her at birth as she does in the movie, but there is little else in common. Well, other than that Hattie is mean and Olive is really stupid and Prince Char is sweet and amazing. Ella meets Char at her mother's funeral, and they become good friends, a friendship that grows over the course of the book. She goes to finishing school, which she hates, tries to get Lucinda to take away her curse, which she won't, is mistreated by her stepmother, goes to the ball...but my favorite parts are the unique parts, yes, the ones with Char, like when they slid down the banister together, or their letters when he is in Ayortha. Ella is a very realistic girl, and a smart thoughtful one. Yes, you could say Ella Enchanted puts obedience in a bad light, but it's more about forced obedience being bad. I love this book. It is one of which I reread parts immediately after finishing.

1. Cinderella (2015) Disney

This Cinderella. Oh my goodness. It is so beautiful and sweet and innocent and heartwarming and amazing and lovely and sad and inspirational. This is the one that induced fangirl squealing. (All blame for that goes to our "honorary sister." :D) It was just so good. Like, I have to grasp at straws to find things I didn't like. Like, there were maybe three costumes that felt a little out of time period, and Helena Bonham Carter's Fairy Godmother wasn't as motherly as the one in the animated movie. It followed basically the same storyline as the animated movie with a few changes, one of which nearly made me cry, but while the animated feature tends to focus more on the animals, the live action focuses more on the people. Ella is so sweet in the face of adversity, yet very human at the same time. Prince Kit was also sweet, sometimes a bit awkward, but in a good way. I loved how she met him before the ball, and how he wanted her to see him as a person, not a prince. And Kit's secret garden! Yes, I was silently freaking out over it. Blame Frances Hodgson Burnett for that. This movie was so well made, and it had a good message of being kind, even to those who are unkind to you. Movies like this are a rarity, and it was like a breath of fresh air. I can't wait for it to come out on DVD. I will certainly be watching it again and again.

Have you read or watched any of these Cinderellas? Any I should add to my list?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Crossways Release Date!

The time has now come to announce to the world when The Crossways, book 2 of Time Captives, will be available. Ready?

October 19, 2015

It's only about two and a half months away! Crazy awesome, right? I can't believe it's so soon. I have a lot to do before then, including more edits, buying the cover photo and finalizing the cover design, formatting the book, and organizing another blog tour celebration. Exciting!

Most of all, I'm excited about introducing Adriel and Eleanor to the world. I love those guys. And I'm interested in seeing if a certain young reader in my target age demographic is just as anxious to read book 3 as he is to read book 2. 

And so you know what the next book is about, here is the official description of Time Captives: The Crossways.
“M’lady, it has been fairly well confirmed that the Redona was hidden away by the merfolk at the conclusion of the Great War instead of destroyed as was commanded. My brother has confirmed to me Joseph’s belief that it was concealed at the Crossways.”

Toarna pressed her fingertips together in thought. “It must be recovered and destroyed as was at first intended.”

Emily, Allan, Jill, and Joey have been reunited with their long lost ancestors. But with that reunion comes the true beginning of their quest: free the rightful king of Calhortz so that he may be restored to his throne. The Redona, the only object that can free him from his long imprisonment, is rumored to be concealed in The Crossways, a mountain across the sea which cannot be entered.

A slave since birth, Adriel’s resentment and hatred towards the strytes only grows as his family is continually ripped from him. He longs for the freedom the Time Captives are prophesied to bring, but he doubts their existence, just as he doubts God’s love. Circumstances in Calhortz are so dire. How could they ever improve?

Who can enter The Crossways? Will the king ever be freed? Or will the slaves of Calhortz lose all hope of freedom before it is even offered to them?

The Crossways is the second book of the Time Captives trilogy, a tale of faith, family, fantasy, and a fight for truth and freedom.

What do you think of the description for The Crossways? Are you excited for its release?

Monday, August 3, 2015

I Come in Simplicity

I come in simplicity
Longing for purity
To worship You
In spirit and truth
Only You

Lord strip it all away
'Til only You remain
I'm coming back
To my first love
Only You

 You're the reason I sing
The reason I sing
Yes my heart will sing
How I love You
And forever I'll sing
Forever I'll sing
Yes my heart will sing
How I love You

We sang this song in church Sunday. In worship team practice, I played it thinking about the notes. Again, when we sang during the service, I paid little attention to the lyrics. But during prayer time, several people mentioned this song, and it really finally meant something to me.

I get so distracted by life. I get so distracted by what book I'm reading or writing, what plans I have for the week, what worries I have. But that doesn't matter. God is what matters. Lord, strip it all away 'til only You remain. I need to get back to my first love, only You. We all wander. It's like in "Come Thou Fount:" "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love."

It's not that I don't read the Bible. I do, every day. It's not that I don't pray. I do, all the time. But I still get distracted. I still don't live like I should. I'm doing a really bad job articulating the thoughts that were so clear in my heart during prayer time at church. It's that, well, I do these outward things. My heart is sometimes in it, sometimes not. And even when it is, it isn't in it enough.

It's a heart thing. Christians as a whole tend to do the outward visible things, but be lacking when it comes to the heart. Which is evidenced by something else brought up at church: some churches polled unbelievers to see what would get them in the door (lots of flashy technology and no convicting sermons) and then did it. It's a disturbing trend. The Church is falling away from her first love.

I come with my broken song
To You the Perfect One
To worship You
In spirit and truth
Only You

Give me a childlike heart
Lead me to where You are
Cause I'm coming back
To my first love
Only You

You're the reason I sing
The reason I sing
Yes my heart will sing
How I love You
And forever I'll sing
Forever I'll sing
Yes my heart will sing
How I love You

And I wanted to share something else brought up in the communion message, the sermon, and testimonies afterward, something which I've been learning personally as well, and it appears others have too, as even a friend posted on a similar subject recently: Faith and trust.

It's so easy to say "I trust that God has everything under control." But do we really? We worry. At least, I know I do. Even if we do truly believe that God has a plan and He knows what He's doing, we still want to know how and why. God will work this out, but how? God has a reason for this. Why?

Let me share a little of my personal struggle with trust. I moved about two months ago. I'd felt we needed to move for awhile, so, while I didn't want the change, I knew it needed to happen. But that didn't stop the uncertainty. We still don't really know why we moved. There has to be a reason God wants us here instead of our old home, but what is that reason? We're working hard to finish our basement. Yes, we need some of that space for living, but there's more than we had before, with a better setup, so what are we supposed to use it for? What does God want us to do now? Will I be able to get a lot of music students? What if I can't? What do I do then? What's supposed to happen with my books? How do I use that gift of writing properly for God? How do I get more sewing jobs? But how do I do that while waiting for my sewing room to be finished? Am I even supposed to get more sewing jobs? Will I find a family to babysit for? Is it ever going to be actually possible for me (and some friends) to make our favorite daydream of making a movie into a reality? Is that something I actually should pursue, or just relegate to daydreaming? And when will I get married? I know I'm not ready now, and I'm not ready to be ready for that for at least a few more years, but when will it be? Will it ever be? I want to know. I want to be able to have my whole life planned out.

God knows. He knows the answer to every single one of these questions. I'm always gonna have 'em. And if not these specifically, then others. But I don't need to worry about them. God gives us tasks for now. He has a plan for how it all works together, and it will work together, because He is orchestrating it. I just have to have faith and do the task He sets before me for now. Right now, that's finishing our basement. Why? God will show us when it's time. I'm also preparing The Crossways for publication. That's my task now. God knows what will come next, and as much as I want to know what and how and why, that's God's job, not mine.

Part of the communion message focused on having a childlike faith. Give me a childlike heart. As children, we trust our parents to take care of us. We have faith that everything will turn out alright. But as things go wrong, as people let us down, we learn not to trust. And that affects our trusting God. Because even though God is the only One we can always trust, we've already learned not to. We need to have that childlike faith again. That trust that God is in control over everything. Oh, it's hard. It's more than hard. But that doesn't mean don't do it. That doesn't mean give up. Trust God in everything.

Come to God in simplicity, longing for purity, bring our broken song, receive a childlike heart. I'm coming back to my first love, only You.