Book Review, Fantasy

Book review: The Fair Queen

The Fair Queen: A Young Adult Fantasy (The Fair Chronicles Book 1)

Lyndsey Hall | September 5, 2020

(Goodreads) | (Amazon)

Blurb:

The trees in Hartwood forest are hiding an ancient secret, a door into a magical realm where fairy princes and monsters are one and the same.

Seventeen-year-old Aria Colling is bored of her small town and dreams of a life filled with excitement and adventure. She’s about to learn you should be careful what you wish for.

After a chilling encounter at the local summer fair, Aria is ripped from her normal life and dragged through the Veil into the Fair Realm by a strange, silver-eyed boy and his band of fairy soldiers. They believe she is the legendary Fair Queen, the subject of a prophecy that promises to unite the war-ravaged realm and bring an end to the centuries-long conflict between the Five Kingdoms.

But it can’t be true. Can it?

Beset by terrifying creatures at every turn, and hunted by a tyrannical king who will stop at nothing to prevent the prophecy from coming true, Aria will have to rely on her wits if she’s to escape the Fair Realm with her life.

My impression:

This story was captivating. Between the gorgeous prose and the beautifully described world and characters, I had difficulty putting this book down. I got so attached to the characters so quickly…. and I may have messaged the author directly after a certain thing happened because I was just so invested.

I was particularly fascinated by the solitary creatures and their origins. So much was familiar from mythology, yet just different enough to keep me guessing. The little hints of romance throughout were lovely, and it made me happy to see openly gay characters treated just the same with their romantic dalliances as the straight characters.

This book is for…

I highly recommend this book to fantasy lovers–you won’t regret it! It may be marketed for Young Adults but I’m 32 and I loved it. All ages would enjoy this read.

Click the links above for Amazon and Goodreads, or go straight to Lyndsey Hall’s website to check her out!

General, Order of the Hunt, Reading, The Wraith, Writing Process

Drum roll, please…

Fam, you may have already seen this on my Instagram but if not, I wanted you to know what’s going on with me.

This month I have:

  • Finished Order of the Hunt and sent it off to my editor
  • Dove deep into planning out awesome stuff for the future of my brand
  • Took inspired action to write a Halloween-themed short story involving the characters from The Wraith’s Bargain.
  • Searched through various drafts of my books to find the very best deleted scenes that I could polish and share as extra content.
  • And! I created a Patreon.

That’s right, fam. I’ve made the decision to provide exclusive bonus content to fans to tide them over until the April release of Order of the Hunt. If you don’t know much about Patreon, it’s a membership site where you pay a small monthly fee in exchange for access to extra content from creators. It supports artists and gives you more of what you love. Really, it’s a win-win.

And, everyone who joins before Nov 1st 2020 will receive a free Halloween short story about Dana and her friends – regardless of which tier they join.

My Patreon is comprised of three tiers, depending on how much you want to contribute or how much value you want to get out of the membership. I may add things in the future, but here’s what we are starting out with:

Tier 1: $3 monthly

This tier is for those who want to be a part of a community where everyone shares your interest in the books! You’ll get access to the exclusive Facebook group, receive behind-the-scenes updates and content, and twice monthly Q&A threads to ask me your burning questions (like about what really was going on during The Wraith’s Bargain).

Tier 2: $10 monthly

Everything from the previous tier PLUS:
You will receive monthly exclusive content about the world of the books, including deleted scenes. When books are near completion, you’ll also get early access to chapters. You’ll receive a complimentary digital ARC (advance reader copy) of new releases.

Tier 3: $15 monthly

Previous tiers PLUS:
You’ll receive first looks on drafts and works in progress.. and the ability to give input. You may be able to influence some aspects of the story! This tier also will receive bonus novellas as they are ready and access to exclusive short stories a few times a year. You’ll receive a complimentary paperback ARC (advance reader copy) of new releases (ship to USA only).

Sign up today to get access! I don’t plan on offering that short story again any time soon so this is your only chance to grab it.

Comment below and let me know what you’re most excited for–or what you’d love to see!

Personal

Was that a cough?

You know what’s been really hard this year? Having a body.

I’m not even joking.

Being a human right now pretty much sucks. You have to put yourself in danger to get your basic needs met. Your very lungs could betray you by bringing the virus into your body. Your brain can betray you–especially those living with anxiety–in the worst way.

I was listening to a podcast the other day and the host said something along the lines of: “Your beliefs create your reality. If you are sick and you believe you’re well, that’s the placebo effect. You actually become well, and it’s more effective than medicines in some cases. The opposite is true as well. If you’re healthy and believe you are sick, that’s called the Nocebo effect; you actually make yourself sick.”

That was something I needed to hear as I’d been struggling recently with whether or not I’d caught Covid-19 at work. I’m religious about wearing my mask–except in the one place I can’t, which is at work. Which is the one place I was exposed to not one, not two, but three people who tested positive.

There’s a cosmic joke here, in that many of the symptoms of the Coronavirus are also symptoms of anxiety. Chest pain, shortness of breath, chills, gastrointestinal issues, fever… yes, anxiety can cause a psychogenic fever. Granted, it’s a low fever, usually 99-100 instead of the 100.4 plus that is a real fever, but still.

Combine that with the beginning of allergy season? Hoo boy.

Long story short is that I recently was convinced that I had contracted Covid-19. I went to CVS, stuck a giant Q-tip up my own nose, sneezed all over it, and waited two days for my results.

Negative.

Thank the universe for that! But it goes to show that our minds are very powerful. As soon as I got that result, I felt better. Well, except for the normal allergy symptoms. But the rest went away.

What I’m trying to say here is…

While some of us with issues like anxiety disorders don’t have much of a choice, everyone can make an effort to try and keep their cool and try to remain positive about their situation in the world around them. That same podcast host that I mentioned earlier also said something along the lines of: “I’ve noticed I experience more anxiety when I don’t accept the world for what it is. But once I accept it and move to work through it the best I can, the anxiety goes away.”

During that week or so when I wasn’t feeling the greatest? I wasn’t accepting the situation. Anxiety sucked the creativity out of me and honestly I lost the will to do many things — like work out, pay attention to what i was eating, post to instagram… etc. All I wanted to do was escape reality through fantasy books. I was reading voraciously and really enjoyed the stories I was consuming. But it wasn’t healthy.

Did I have a point here?

Don’t be too quick to despair when things seem to be going downhill. I have a friend who is convinced that the worst thing will always happen to her–and spoiler alert, it does. Meanwhile, I have the opposite outlook–and my results are generally better. Even with things that are just luck of the draw.

And when all else fails and you can’t get out of your own head…do what I did. Grab a good (preferably big) book and settle down until the storm passes. Even just the change to your mindset the escape will give you can help your situation immensely!

Cheers,

Jo

Book Review, Fantasy, Reading

Book Review: Hidden Realm

Hidden Realm (Legends of Lightning, Book One)

T.R. Slauf — October 6, 2020

(Goodreads) (Amazon)

Blurb:

“The next Realm Walker will bring with them a storm. Lightning must fight the Crimson shadow, or the lands will be cast into eternal darkness.”

When she was a child Esther was plagued with vivid nightmares, now they have returned to haunt her. Blood thirsty monsters chase her through a forest of dead trees while a mysterious hooded figure stalks her. After awaking with fresh wounds from her dreams Esther searches for the truth about who she is and the Hidden Realm she is destined to save.

Join Esther on her journey of self-discovery as she travels into a world long forgotten. Unsure if she can trust her hooded guide, she is hunted by unknown enemies and smothered by expectations of grandeur. Deciphering friend from foe as she travels the lands trying to unite kingdoms torn by pride.

My Impression:

Fam, this story was unbelievable. I won a contest and was able to read the book before it’s launch and I am so happy that I got to. The characters are realistic and nuanced. I love Esther and Oisin’s friendship, as many of the other characters grew on me as well.

Something I especially loved was the inclusion of the original Grimm’s tales in worldbuilding. I never would have thought to do something like that, and Slauf does it so well! I’ll be honest in that I’ve never actually read the original tales.. but my interest has been piqued by this and I may soon add them to my never-ending TBR!

Today is launch day.

Seriously, go check out Hidden Realms and T.R. Slauf’s website. This book is for you if you enjoy dark fantasy, twisted fairytale retellings, and gritty, realistic, tales. The book definitely has more than a few adult situations and is not for the faint of heart! Over all, I loved it and cannot wait for the next installment.

General

On living authentically

Since the pandemic hit, I’ve seen a lot of changes in people. Some for the better, some for the worse. Some (me) have let go of their health and let themselves become immersed in doomscrolling and comfort eating. Others (also me) have taken it as a wake up to take care of themselves and to work whole-heartedly toward their dreams.

One of the things I’ve always admired in other people, older women especially, is how some have learned to live authentically.

What is living authentically?

Well, my friends, that’s the question of the day. I actually googled this to make sure I’m giving you the correct answer here–Living authentically is essentially being true to yourself. Living your life the way you want to, not beholden to the limiting beliefs of others. It means speaking your mind, saying what you mean, and sticking to your word. It means taking care of yourself–your body, your mind, your soul–so that you can then take care of others. This could be self-care days, healthy diet and exercise, and moving away from toxic influences in your life. It means working toward your dreams… because if you don’t, what’s the point?

But there’s a struggle many come across…

How do I live the way I want to when I’m stuck in a 9-5 I hate, when I have bills to pay? When I have a family that depends on me?

How do I dress the way I want when I’m beholden to a corporate dress code?

My answer? Baby steps.

I’m still working toward it myself. My day job is a lower-level leadership position in a corporate environment. I have to look professional, speak professionally, and have zero personality.

At least, that’s what they taught me.

But since the pandemic started? I’ve seen a lot of people doing weird shit in public with zero ramifications. So I decided to test the theory in the worst possible place: my business.

What I’ve been wanting to do? Shift my aesthetic toward the one I’ve always admired. I want people to think I’m a witch.

But.. I’m at work. So? Corporate witch.

Let me tell you, there’s just about zero out there on Google about how to be a Corporate witch. Though apparently there’s an indie book by that name that I haven’t read. Anyway, I had to figure it out myself.

So the first thing I did? I started being more genuine when speaking with others. Aside from the boss, I’ve been letting my personality shine through a bit when talking casually with my employees. I also started allowing myself to wear things that still technically fit the dress code, but aren’t what you first picture when you think of corporate attire. Some plaid pants here, black nail polish there, and what I’m wearing today: a black and red pocket dress with leggings underneath. Actually talking about my book if someone happens to have heard about it. Little things that make me feel more real.

And? It’s working. One day I commented on how badly it was storming outside and that it was a bit apocalyptic. One of my employees said that seemed like my aesthetic–that, and the universe imploding.

I was overjoyed, fam. He was totally right, I love dark stuff like that!

But the moral of the story here is: being more myself, even in a corporate environment, hasn’t actually negatively affected me at all. I would argue the opposite.

I have yet to wear my witch-hat out in public–it’s been Summer here, after all–but I’m working toward that in the fall.

So, tell me… what steps are you taking to be more yourself? Or have you taken in the past? I’d love some tips!

Fantasy, Order of the Hunt

Announcement: Next title release

Heeyyy fam! Thought all was quiet around here, eh?

Well, it was.

Anywho, I’ve been busy working on the next project. Without further ado…

Before Dana could join the Order, they had to find each other… and their own powers.

That’s right! The next novel is actually a prequel to The Wraith’s Bargain. It’s currently off with an alpha reader, but I’m planning on having it ready to release this coming April.

Some of you may have read some rough drafts of part of it on Wattpad… those have been taken down. But they’ll be back in this book, better than ever, with added content and a promising resolution. 😉

Now I really would love to know… which Order member are you most interested in learning about? The focus wasn’t on them quite so much in TWB, so I’m excited in sharing more about them!

Comment below or catch me on social media and let me know!

Uncategorized

How it feels to be a published author…

Good morning, Fam. It’s 6 AM on a Saturday and I’m sitting here with my waffles and chai latte and realized, I haven’t really updated you all in a while.

So let’s talk about what’s been going on recently.

Yesterday was the 1 month book-iversary for The Wraith’s Bargain. And how does it feel?

Honestly? Not that different. Strange as it may seem. I mean, I feel immensely proud of myself, and I’ve already been working on my next project. That will be announced, soon. 🙂

There are little things, though. I’ve had some family and friends give their feedback on the book, someone my husband works with bought a paper copy and asked me to sign it, and said they really enjoyed it. That’s a good feeling. My husband surprised my for my birthday earlier this month with a mounted canvas print of my book cover. Now it’s hanging in the dining room, where I do most of my writing, so I can see it each day.

What is different is this sense of myself that I have. I’m an author. I can really say that now, and not feel as if I’m playing at something bigger than I can handle. I have a published novel, two in the works, and another concretely planned. I have ideas for books and series after I finish with The Wraith books. In short, things are good!

I’m nowhere near achieving the dream of quitting my corporate job and writing full time. Mortgages and insurance and important things. But still, baby steps.

One thing I would love to ask of you all, if you’ve read The Wraith’s Bargain, please leave a review on your favorite review site. I love to hear what people think of the story and I read every one! Reviews really help authors out more than you may realize. It helps other readers to decide whether this is a book they would enjoy.

Here are some quick links: Amazon | Goodreads

Okay now that I’ve done that shameless plug, it’s time to get ready for work. Duty calls! See you all next time. ❤

Uncategorized

Program review: Everything Authorship

Hey, folks. Today I decided to do something a little different and review the group coaching program I used for launching The Wraith’s Bargain. It was hosted by Pagan of Paperback Kingdom. There’s a lot of hype around her program Everything Authorship – and a big investment. But is it really worth it?

Is Everything Authorship worth it?

As a debut author who had been relying on mostly free resources up until diving into this program, let me tell you what I experienced:

A Group Environment

Having other authors who were going through the same exact thing I was at the same exact time was really helpful. We bounced ideas off of each other, swapped features and worked together on our launches, and even helped each other with our blurbs and whatnot! This was great because some of us were in waaayyy different time zones.. for instance I’m in the United States while Pagan is in Australia. Some of the time I had questions, she would be asleep. I could post in the group and the others would help me to brainstorm until it was morning down under and she could help.  She was incredibly involved with all of us. I really enjoyed that we were launching books alongside her—she would share what she was doing that week or month and we could literally just copy it and adapt to our own books. Talk about useful.

Excellent Resources

I was blown away by all the resources we were given for this program! We got access to her program Storyseller Academy, not to mention social media Trello boards, marketing templates, manuscript templates, and courses. The courses were on tons of things like how to do Facebook Ads, upload our books to different platforms, get books into libraries, do press releases, and plan our launches.

Plus, any questions or advice we had would be resolved in our group calls or through private messenger conversations!

Pagan herself was an excellent resource. I could message her any time and she would answer as soon as possible with detailed information, links, or advice. She even helped me through a ton of tech problems I was having with my email list and my book formatting. This chick formatted my book for print for me and did a really freaking awesome job! It looks so fancy that I’m tempted to pay her to format the rest in the series so they look just as great!

Keeping it real: Drawbacks

I gotta be honest with you all and share the potential down points of the program as I experienced it. Note that it was the first round of the program and Pagan asked for our feedback at the end. She made adjustments and has actually already revised Everything Authorship based on our suggestions. I was really happy to be able to help make the program better for future members!

One thing I struggled with was that my book really wasn’t ready to be published when I started the program. A few of us were still writing or hadn’t gotten beta readers yet – that has been remedied as future rounds of the program make sure you’re actually ready to publish, first! Despite that we managed to get it in shape in time for launch. 

Another thing I and one other person had issue with was accountability. I don’t know about the other author but for me that was a personal failing. Pagan was a great cheerleader and resource and kept giving us homework assignments and to-do lists… but in the end, it is up to you whether your launch succeeds or fails. As of writing this article my launch hasn’t happened yet—I’ll be releasing my book into the world in two weeks’ time. But I know that I get exactly the amount of work I put into it, out of it. Pagan did come up with an awesome resource for self-accountability and shared it with us after our feedback—a self-grading worksheet to help you judge your progress, see lists of priorities, and score yourself so you always know where you’re at. I’ll definitely be using that for my next launch.

Okay- Now for the Cost Analysis

What’s included:

·         Access to Storyseller Academy ($697)

·         3 months of group coaching from Pagan herself ($1,500 value)

·         3 private coaching calls ($1,050)

·         Private Voxer (voice chat) access ($1,050)

·         Editing and cover design ($2,000)

This all adds up to over six grand…

And yet the whole program is just under two!

For me, this was really what sold me. To have someone to guide me along the way, unlimited support, friends to network with and help each other out on social media and whatnot, and having access to all these resources?

Fam, the editing alone. I price checked and it would have been $1800 just for my developmental edits. And I got a gorgeous cover ($225 value) along with it??

I mean, look at this! Thanks to Mandi Lynn at Stone Ridge Books!

Yeah – it’s a big chunk of change. But it’s money you would have been spending anyway if you want to do this thing right. She’s got payment plans, or you can save up for a bit and then invest in yourself. Trust me, you won’t regret it. 

Anyway, long story short – is Everything Authorship worth it?

Hell to the YES.

Got specific questions? Hit me up. I’m not afraid to be honest!


This was originally a guest post at Paperback Kingdom.

freebie, The Wraith, Writing Process

Pre-order Bonus for TWB!

Hey fam! We’re just under 6 weeks from release day so I thought I’d go ahead and share this fun little gift.

Original post over on Instagram.

Free fan art!

How do you get access to this lovely piece of digital art? Simple – just pre-order The Wraith’s Bargain and email or message me a screenshot of the order confirmation! (Email me at Jo @ JoNarayan .com or message me on any of my socials!)

The art is by 2ndChanceCreatures on Etsy and I’m super thrilled with the result! If there are good responses to this art, I’ll be commissioning more pieces for future giveaways, so definitely let me know what you all think!

Other updates

I’ve started getting reviews in on my advance reader copies and will be sharing them on my Instagram – if you’re not following me you ought to!

Thursday I had a feature on Armed with a Book and I also have at least 2 confirmed features for July. I’m working on getting more and they’ll be posted to my Press & Media page!

The paperback of The Wraith’s Bargain is almost ready! I got a proof copy but the formatting was a little wonky so those adjustments have been made and resubmitted. Fingers crossed this next one will be perfect. If so, the paperback will be ready for launch day as well which is super exciting for me!

Tell me, do you prefer paperbacks or ebooks? Comment below!

The Wraith

We’re 2 months out!

Hey, fam.

I know there’s been some radio silence. But… I did it.

I finished editing and formatting for The Wraith’s Bargain. What’s more? I added 60 pages. Sixty freaking pages!

The total pages come to 378, including acknowledgments and whatnot. And as of today, the book releases in 2 months! I’m SO EXCITED for you all to read it!

That being said… here’s a PSA.

This was inspired by a conversation I had with a family member, not long ago. I’ve had a lot of family and friends say that they want to read the book, that they want to support me. Which is amazing and fantastic. But take a look, here.

Does this look like a book about sunshine and roses? …. Nope.

This book is dark. It’s actually classified as dark fantasy/ ya fantasy / ya paranormal. But less emphasis on the YA… because the New Adult category isn’t really big enough to have categories yet. Here are some of the topics covered:

  • Violence and (non-graphic) descriptions of torture
  • Demons. Lots of demons.
  • Magic
  • Curse words
  • Sex between unmarried people
  • Theft
  • Toxic relationships
  • Manipulation
  • Mental health issues
  • Death
  • (mild) Addiction

….And that’s just off the top of my head.

What I’m getting at, is this book series has a particular target audience. People who need dark tales, drama and angst, and who can see the underlying messages about trust, perseverance, and personal growth.

If this book isn’t your jam, please don’t force yourself to read out of a misplaced sense of loyalty. What supports authors is having engaged readers who actually enjoy their books (and who leave reviews)!

Okay, that being said.

I’ll be calling for Advance Reader Copies here soon, and I have a limited number to give away. If you’re already interested, drop a comment or keep an eye out on my social medias! I’ll be posting on Facebook and Instagram, and maybe Twitter if I have enough left over.

I’m super excited and I know y’all will love this book. I finished the final read-through yesterday and was just amazed at this thing that came out of my brain. The hard work has really paid off and I can’t wait to share it with you all!