I’d had Annabelle in my ‘to be read’ pile for a while, but I finally got around to it in February. Initially I picked it up as a light read. I was taking my daughter for her weekly swimming lesson and, being small, I thought it would be easy to dip into and finish within a couple of sessions. I was definitely not prepared. Do not be fooled. Annabelle maybe small, but she is mighty!
Set in the old Wild West, you are instantly transported to streets of dirt, wooden buildings, and saloons that were definitely not for young women from good families. Making a living was hard, having a life of your own was even harder.
I don’t like to give too much away with my reviews, I would rather my readers pick up the book and read it for themselves. There aren’t many pages, but small definitely doesn’t mean sweet on this occasion. What you will read is something raw, immensely powerful, and moving. Despite her vigilante persona, you would be hard pressed to find fault in Annabelle’s motives.
On the outside, Annabelle is a young woman who dresses well and speaks with good manners. To the towns that she passes through, she would make a good prospect for any gentleman to have hanging off his arm. But, that’s the last thing she would ever agree to be.
Whilst the book is set within the Old West, Annabelle’s views and opinions are much more modern, and you have to wonder how she would get on today. Why should she be somebody’s property? How do men think it is okay to lay a hand upon a woman? Why can’t no mean no? Why is it always the woman’s fault?
The sad truth is that thousand’s of women, and some men, ask these questions every day and still don’t get an answer. Too many times the victim is tainted and stigmatised. They were asking for it. It was the clothes they were wearing. They’d already said yes.
This tale will leave you with a sense of pride for Annabelle, but with that comes a heavy dose of realisation. What she has gone through has been felt by countless others, and will continue to do so, unless a change is made. Until you have walked in the shoes of the victims of these crimes, you will never truly understand the self loathing, blame and need for vengeance that swirl around in a never ending cycle.
This is something that Elexis is able to put across so beautifully. You feel Annabelle’s emotions. You are there for every twist and turn of her inner thoughts, and you do understand.
A quick read. A powerful read. A must read.
For your copy of Annabelle, head to Amazon and keep up with Elexis Bell and her new releases on Instagram.
It’s safe to say the world has imploded and any goals I set for myself last month went out of the window. I’m guessing you may have had similar issues.
In summary, my Facebook live with Cassidy Reyne in the World Indie Warriors Group went ahead as planned. We are now starting Camp NaNoWriMo, and you can follow along on Instagram with our daily challenge.
I did manage to go to the spa for my wedding anniversary. I went with my Mom, Auntie and one of my best friends. We had a lot of fun and laughs, good food, and plenty of time to relax and enjoy the pools and steam rooms etc.
I’ve been a few times now but, if you ever get an opportunity to go to Hoar Cross Hall, you really should jump at the chance. I didn’t get to do as much writing as I had hoped, although I did manage a bit of reading, but time seemed to pass so quickly while we were there. It’s a good job we were able to relax though as when we got home on that Monday, the situation changed rapidly.
There was a press conference in England announcing that anyone who showed signs of Coronavirus —a cough or breathing difficulties— should stay home for 14 days along with everyone else in their household. Unfortunately, that night I developed a cough, which meant we were imprisoned in our own home.
My hubby had already been given the go ahead to work from home, but I did feel really guilty about keeping my daughter off school. She’s only seven, so isn’t in the middle of a big year, but I knew she would miss her friends and being able to go out to places.
Anyway the cough amounted to nothing, I think it was just the effect of the steam room clearing my sinuses and chest, but by the time our 14 days were over the country was pretty much in a lockdown situation anyway. So, since 17th March all I have done is go to the corner shop once, been for one run and went to the doctors for a blood test, and that is it. We are trying to make use of the garden, and I have done the first cut of the season and jet washed the decking, but now there is a whole load of painting to do. Let’s hope some nice weather heads our way over the next few weeks as this last one has been very cloudy and windy.
The self isolation itself hasn’t been that big an adjustment for me. As a stay-at-home-mom and author, I tend to spend a lot of time at home alone anyway. Plus, I detest doing the food shopping and often keep putting it off until eventually I either do an online shop or decide that actually, we really do need food, and head to ASDA. Even having the hubby around hasn’t been too bad, generally he keeps himself to himself in his office upstairs. My main issue has been having Amberley at home and trying to attempt the dreaded “homeschooling”.
Before she started in primary school I did consider homeschooling her, there is a reason I didn’t. There are a few actually, but the main ones being, I am not a teacher and I’m under no illusions that I could ever be. I just don’t have the patience. Another, Amberley is a very active child who needs a lot of stimulation, and certainly needs space to run around. Finally, she just does not listen to me.
I don’t mean in a “no, you’re not having that chocolate” or “off Minecraft, it’s dinner time” kind of way, she’s actually not too bad at that, it’s in those instances where you are trying to explain a maths equation, or that she can’t write about a pony because the task is asking for dinosaurs.
I’m not stopping her creativity, by all means she can write her pony story after she’s written the dinosaur story, but herein lies the problem. She won’t write the pony story when I say she can because she doesn’t want to anymore. Sigh.
I’m sure I’m not alone and, unfortunately, we may have this situation for many months.
To top off my never-ending-March, my Mother’s Day plans of travelling to the Netherlands were cancelled. I had hoped to meet up with Cassidy and another of our writing friends, Kara S. Weaver, but instead I was treated to a homemade card and a healthy dose of self-isolation because the hubby hadn’t planned ahead and thought to order anything. It wasn’t too bad though, I ended up blitzing the entire house and cooking Sunday lunch for my troubles.
With all that happening, I achieved nowhere near my target of 60,000 words towards Sorceress of Flame. I did, however, manage to have a look at each chapter and condense them so it feels like I’m more in control and know exactly where I need to fill in the gaps.
So, April is now upon us and I must set some kind of target, which is kind of easy as it is Camp NaNoWriMo and I already have a graphic ready and waiting.
I’m aiming for approximately 15,000 words over the course of the month on Sorceress of Flame. I am absolutely making this my priority, and even finished the book I was reading right on time. This will take my total word count to around 75,000 and I should be finished, or close to finished, with my first draft. I still really want to aim for a November publishing date, but it’s going to be tight.
Underneath that you may have spotted another little project. This has been niggling at me for the past year and I’ve finally given it a name. Otsana. Google it, and it may give you a clue what it’s about. I wrote a snippet from a prompt on Instagram this time last year and I’ve come to realise that it is an ideal prologue. I’m still not fully sure where it’s going to go, but that’s why I want to do a bit of research and see if something comes to me.
Well, I’ve been rabbiting on for ages now, so I’d better leave you to get on with your day.
Our author Q&A for March is with the fabulous Cassidy. Like Kara last month, I first came across Cassidy on Instagram and in a few Facebook writing groups. We have since become great friends, and I have enjoyed reading her books tremendously. In fact, I’m reading her second novel, The Sentinels 2: Saving Him, right now. Here’s a little bio to start us off.
Cassidy Reyne is the Alter Ego of a Swedish girl living in England. She’s been happily married for over 25 years and has two grown up children.
Cassidy writes contemporary romance with some suspense thrown in for fun and excitement. She currently has two books published in The Sentinels series and is working on book 3 as well, as a standalone romance novel.
She currently lives in South London, UK, where she and her husband run their own business from home.
When she isn’t writing she enjoys reading, going to the theatre, spending time with friends, travelling, visiting her family on an island in Sweden, and drinking a glass or two of a good wine. Sometimes the wine is replaced with vodka or rum. A cocktail would never be refused.
Getting to Know You
What motivated you to become an indie author? This all started just over 2 years ago when I was sitting at home with nothing much to do. My husband and I have our own business but there isn’t enough for both of us to work full time. I think I was also experiencing ‘empty nest’ syndrome as my daughter had just gone back to Australia, where she is currently studying for her Masters in Marine Science, and my son spent his time either at school, playing sports or with his then-girlfriend, so was rarely at home. I was going a bit stir crazy and needed to challenge myself, and the scariest thing I could think of was to write a book. I’d had a story in my head for over 10 years that sprang from a dream and I decided to finally write it down. The thing is, I always believed I could never write a piece of fiction after my English teacher in Senior High told me to stick to analytical essays. I know she meant that as a way for me to get top grades and not that I was useless at storytelling, but it stuck and stayed with me for all these years.
Putting those first few words down on the screen was terrifying and I had to keep telling myself that no one else had to see it. It could just stay as a private document on my computer. A few months later I took the plunge and published it on Amazon. I decided early on I wanted to go the indie route as I wanted to keep control of my own work and do everything myself from start to finish. I wanted to stay busy and, oh my goodness, have I stayed busy.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time? That’s a difficult question since I write on and off all day, most days of the week, as I really enjoy it. But, when I’m not in front of my keyboard, I enjoy meeting up with friends, going to the theatre or seeing a movie, eating out, and spending time with my family. On Saturdays I work at a small dance school in the reception and doing admin for the principal. I also love to travel and we tend to go on at least one big holiday every year. Last year we went to Australia for a couple of weeks for our daughter’s graduation and also had one week in Dubai before we came home. As I’m Swedish I go back there as often as I can to see my parents and the rest of my family and, even though it doesn’t feel as if I’m going on holiday, it’s still a nice change of environment.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you? Hmmmm, let me think. It’s probably seeing the story that’s bouncing around in my head build up on the screen and the characters come alive with their personalities. As most writers will tell you, they tend to take on a life of their own and go off on tangents you hadn’t expected. That’s part of what makes it so… addictive, I think is the right word. No matter how much you plan and plot (I’m a pantser by the way so not much plotting here) the story and the people in it will make it their own and you’re just along for the ride.
The Writing Process
What is your writing process? As I mentioned, I’m a pantser. I like having the outlines of a story in my head, but I don’t plot or plan the chapters or keep to a strict schedule of events. I usually have the beginning, middle and end, and everything else just seems to slot into place. Saying that, I have finished the first draft of the third book in The Sentinels Series and I had to draw up a timeline to know when and where previous events had taken place. I’m also prepping for the fourth book and suddenly I was really glad I’d created that timeline as it has its beginnings during the third book and spans three years in total. There were a lot of events and details to keep straight and having it all laid out over months and years definitely helped.
The actual writing process is just that. Writing. I don’t edit as I go along and instead keep getting those words down until the story is mostly finished. Once the first draft is finished I go back and look at the story and try to find the plot holes, continuity mistakes, and all the other stuff that you always find in a rough draft. After that, it’s time to really start the editing part, which is the tough bit, but it has to be done. I wish I could just write and leave everything else to others, but unless I become hugely successful and can hire people to do it, I just have to get on with it myself. To be honest, I don’t dislike it all that much. It’s a nurturing process and it’s kind of amazing to see how the story changes and evolves into something other people might just want to read.
How do you get inspired to write? Yikes. Inspiration. I really don’t know where my ideas come from. They tend to just pop into my head at the most awkward times, such as when I’m driving, or in a meeting. Invariably, it’s when I can’t write it down. My first book came from a dream, though, and I developed that story in my head for 10 years. Sometimes, reading someone else’s book will trigger an idea and I then try to develop it further and make sure it’s not using the same story line as the book I’m reading.
What’s your advice for aspiring writers? The most important piece of advice I think I can give is to just write. If you have a story in your head, or just the beginnings of a story, write it down. Don’t be afraid of seeing the words on that screen or in your notebook. Everything can be changed, rewritten and edited until it’s as good as it can be. Another bit of advice is to find like minded people. The writing community on social media is huge, and incredibly helpful. Join groups, ask questions, ask for help and advice, and then try to implement everything you think will improve your work. There are so many people out there who love to help others out and have tons of experience if only you have the courage to ask. Finally, believe in yourself but be prepared for others to criticise your work. Nearly all of the time it’s done out of love and helpfulness, but as we all know it’s not always easy to convey that in words alone. Some people will love your story and others won’t. That’s just how it is and it all makes for a balanced view to guide others to your book.
What are your five favorite books, and why? Only five?! I have so many more favourites than that!
Sheesh, this is going to be difficult. As a kid I loved the stories by Astrid Lindgren. They are so beautifully written and tell such amazing tales, both real life and fantasy. One of them is Brothers Lionheart which always fascinated me with its intrigue, spies, monsters, villains and both endless love and deep sorrow.
I also love the Earth’s Children Series by Jean M Auel as she’s brought the age of Neanderthals and Cro Magnon people so beautifully alive, based on pre-historic finds, cave drawings a huge amount of research and an incredible imagination. I feel drawn back 30 000 years into our past and it all seems perfectly real and plausible.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson is another that I absolutely love. The stories are incredibly well written, captivating and exciting. They also take place in several parts of Sweden that I know well and it gives me a little bit of home as I read.
For biographies I’d have to say Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox. His recounting of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and his rise to fame is incredibly moving. I could hear his voice leap off the pages, telling me not to feel sorry for him but to think how lucky he was to have had — and continue to have — such an amazing life. I can only admire his resilience and optimism.
Among the classics I often return to Jane Eyre. It’s such a beautiful story and although it depicts life in the 19th century, much of it can be found even today. The drive to be independent and to make your own choices, a desire to love and be loved, and the courage to stand up for what you believe is right, is something we can all learn from and strive towards in our lives.
What books are on your reading list this year? Eeeehrm, my reading list is huge! I’m currently reading Murder at Macbeth by Samantha Goodwin and once that is finished I’ll be going onto Jim and Martha by Joel Schueler. I also have Fae Touched by Lisa Rae Roman, Chasing the Knight by Brittney Sahin, and Legacy of Secrets Series by Lisa Logue. Plus about a million others waiting on my Kindle. There’s just not enough time in the day for all the reading I’d like to do.
The Sentinels : Saving Her
Nikolas has finally found his soulmate. With painful experiences from previous relationships he grasps this chance of a happy future with both hands, but can he hold on or is he about to lose her forever?
After a chance meeting Nikolas knew Anya was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. When his enemies nearly kill her he doesn’t hesitate to put his life on hold to save hers. But as tragedy strikes again will he be able to save her for a second time – and at what cost?
What inspired you to write The Sentinels Series? Well, as I mentioned before, the idea for Saving Her came from a dream I had over 10 years ago. I woke up and immediately thought it made such a good premise for a book. After that, I started to develop the story in my head and worked out how the characters acted, their likes and dislikes, and what made them who they are. Eventually, I had the whole story written in my head, but that’s where it stayed until I decided to stop being scared and just throw it out there. Saving Him builds on the first one as I felt they hadn’t finished telling their story. There were past events that needed to see the light of day and be brought to their conclusion.
Is there going to be a follow up to Saving Her and Saving Him? Yes! I have already written the first draft of book 3, which centers around Logan Wells, and book 4 will tell Grayson Hawke’s story. Both characters are in the first two books so readers will be well acquainted with them. They have been shouting in my head for quite some time that they also want to be heard — who am I to refuse?
The Sentinels Series is available from all Amazon sites and Kindle Unlimited.
I was extremely lucky to be a beta reader for Dance of Despair and I feel privileged to have been a part of it’s development as it is an amazing read. And no, I’m not exaggerating.
Last year I read the first book in The Ilvannian Chronicles, Crown of Conspiracy, and I ate it up. I asked in my review at the time, ‘Why hasn’t this Indie author got a book deal?’. My view hasn’t changed. In fact, Kara S. Weaver is a writing genius. Traditional publishers are seriously missing out by not having her on their books.
Crown of Conspiracy set the tone for the series perfectly with the tale of a reluctant princess, filled with action from the first page to the last. Untold secrets, betrayals and theories galore, I really didn’t want it to end, but end it did, and with a huge cliff hanger.
Dance of Despair picks up where we left the action, and here’s my review, without the spoilers.
Unlike the first book, this is told from the perspective of two characters. One remains in Ilvanna, in the familiar setting of snow and mountains, but it is anything but comforting. The other finds themselves in exotic and vibrant surroundings, struggling to find their place while also hiding their identity.
Kara has such an easy and natural way of bringing in details of the world around the characters that you are instantly transported into the cold stone halls of the palace, or searing heat of the desert.
All of the characters are well detailed and real! There is no hopeless princess or macho man coming to save her. No, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, which are consistent throughout.
What I love about Dance of Despair is the side characters, who are anything but! From the palace healer, to the Araîtiste (tattoo-artist), to the Gemsha (I’ll leave you to find that one out), and even Gods, everyone has their moment in the spotlight. Every one has a purpose. Every one adds a little nugget of information, driving the plot forward and filling in the gaps left by the passage of time.
Some characters you will love, believe me I have many, and others… not so much. What I can guarantee is an emotional roller coaster as you become submerged in the story and walk in the characters footsteps. You will laugh (Kara still owes me a coffee after I spat my cortado over the train!), cry and shout in frustration in equal measure, but one thing you won’t be is disappointed.
Shalitha and Talnovar went through hell in Crown of Conspiracy. In Dance of Despair they are doing just that. Both are dancing on a tight rope of despair trying desperately to reach the other side. I’m not going to give anything away, but it’s certainly not a smooth crossing. Both are vulnerable, both are damaged, but can they be healed? All I will say is, expect the unexpected.
You would be crazy not to give this series a read. If fantasy isn’t your thing read it anyway, because the story is told in such a subtle way that you don’t even realise that it is fantasy. You will be drawn in from the very first page, so deeply in fact that you will likely read through them in a day or two. You’ve been warned. Make sure you clear your diary as, once you find yourself tangled in the conspiracy, you’ll have a hard time walking away. I really can’t wait for the next instalment!
For your copy of Crown of Conspiracy and Dance of Despair, head to Amazon.
So, February didn’t go quite to plan. How about yours?
My main goal had been to reach 60,000 words on book 2, Sorceress of Flame, to stay within target of publishing in November. I knew it would be tough due to the school holidays. What I hadn’t factored in was a month of storms resulting in my daughters school being flooded and gifting her an extra week of holiday. It’s safe to say by the end of two weeks, I’d had enough.
The worst part was there was never a dry day, so it really limited where we could go, but we did manage a little trip down to London and met up with fellow author and World Indie Warrior, Cassidy Reyne.
A visit to the Natural History Museum and the Tower of London have certainly given me some sparks of inspiration, it’s just a shame they’re for a completely new and unrelated story idea.
I managed to reach 54,790 words, which isn’t great, but I found the story grinding to a halt and I couldn’t figure out why. I decided my best course of action was to read through everything I had written for Sorceress of Flame and do a mini edit. After moving a few chapters around, and updating my timeline, I feel like I might be onto something.
So, what am I up to in March? I’m glad you asked!
The first item on the agenda is a Facebook live with Cassidy Reyne on the World Indie Warriors Facebook Group (It’s free to join!). We will be discussing the upcoming Camp NaNoWriMo, including what it is and how we are getting involved as a group.
The second exciting thing is my wedding anniversary on the 14th March. And, how am I going to celebrate? I’m going to spend a night at a spa with a close friend and family, leaving hubby at home alone with Madame.
To top it off, the following weekend (Mother’s Day in the UK), I am travelling to the Netherlands to meet up with Cassidy and another of our writing friends, Kara S. Weaver. We are crossing everything in the hopes that it can still go ahead, what with the Coronavirus trying its best to sabotage us.
Writing wise, I really want to get past the 60,000 words mark. I have a huge gap in the middle of the book, as I knew how I wanted it to end, but I’d really like to close that up in preparation for April’s CampNaNo.
I’m going to continue with my Author Q&A and Book Review, and I also have a book to beta read, so I’m sure there’s never going to be a dull moment. In fact, I’m so busy right now that I’m doing my best representation of procrastination by writing a huge shopping list for Ikea.