Author Interview: Abigail McKenna

Abigail McKenna is the winner of The Unicorn Writer’s Second Flash Fiction Contest! As such, I had the honor of interviewing her (Read her winning story here). Abigail resides in the sunny state of Florida. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading and rewatching her favorite TV shows. Recently, she started cross-stitching. A fun fact about Abigail is that she decided at ten years old that she wanted to be a writer. Read our full interview below to learn more about her and her writing!

Abigail McKenna (Photo Provided by Abigail).

Q) Why do you write?

A) It sounds cliché, but in a lot of ways, it’s because I just have to. There’s pretty much always been some sort of story brewing in the back of my mind, with characters and worlds that I need to explore. Sharing it is somewhat new for me, but I love the creation and exploration element, seeing what makes characters tick, viewing the world through their eyes. 

Q) What are your top 3 favorite books and why?

A) This is a mean question to ask a book-obsessed human, but one I’ve spent years pondering nonetheless, haha! The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis is my favorite book of all time, for reasons I’ve never quite been able to describe. I know that it feels like home, and that Digory Kirke is the character I identify with the most. Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a masterpiece that gets more brilliant every time I read it. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is one that never fails to give me all the feels. In a lot of ways, all three have inspired my own writing over the years.  

Q) Describe yourself in 3 words.

A) Introverted, observant, creative.

Q) What song would be your life’s theme song?

A) “But I Know You” by Jillian Edwards. God has always been my constant, and the only reason I’ve made it this far.

Q) Who is someone that inspires you?

A) There are so many! My family is probably the biggest inspiration, though. They’ve never stopped believing in me, even when I doubt myself. And God is a huge inspiration, of course. 

Q) Can you tell us about the books/stories you currently have available?

A) Sure thing! I currently have three short stories available! “Stayin’ Alive”, (which I believe your readers can find right here on your blog, Kayla, haha!) is an adventure comedy with all the humor of Uncharted and Indiana Jones. “West” is currently posted on the Tales of the Lonely Sun website; it’s a historical fantasy retelling of The Wild Swans set on the Oregon Trail, featuring brothers, magic, and a gentle romance. I also have a short story published in the “Whispers From Before” anthology called “The Breakriver Banshee”, which is a historical fantasy take on the Irish myth of the banshee. It’s part murder mystery, part friends-to-more romance, and has all the dusty Old West vibes!

Link to “West”: 

Cover of Whispers from Before which features one of Abigail’s stories.

Q) Can you tell us about your current writing project(s)?

A) I’m currently working on a historical fantasy novel about Bonnie and Clyde in 1930s Texas, looking for hidden magic. And while there’s nothing specific on the horizon, I definitely don’t think we’ve seen the last of Sam Cartwright and James Prothero!

Q) What goals do you have for your writing?

A) I want to publish a novel at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future! I don’t know yet what that will look like, whether pursuing traditional or indie publishing, but that’s the dream!

Q) What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

A) Write what you genuinely enjoy writing about, not necessarily what you think you “should” write. Write for yourself first, your story deserves to be told. 

Be sure to follow Abigail on Instagram, Goodreads, and her blog!

The Unicorn Writer Announces the Second Flash Fiction Contest Winner!

First, a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who entered the contest! Guest judge Mariella Taylor and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the entries. I highly encourage you all to enter again during the third contest.

Now, without further ado…*drumroll*

Congratulations to Abigail McKenna for winning The Unicorn Writer’s Second Flash Fiction Contest!

Abigail McKenna has been dreaming about magic since she was small, so now she weaves it into stories that are full of hope and the love of life. She can usually be found rereading an old favorite book, watching a mystery show, or dreaming about how to get her characters out of predicaments she put them in.

Read Abigail’s winning story below!

“Stayin’ Alive”

“Well, well, what have we here? Sam Cartwright and James Prothero. Two of my least favorite people in the world.” Xavier Johanson’s khaki suit was somehow spotless despite being in a musty jungle grotto, surrounded by moss-covered rock formations.

“Really? That’s the best you can come up with?” Sam brushed her toes against the ground to twist her body around to face him. “And just when I thought we were getting to be real frenemies.” Her shoulders ached from the chains holding her hands over her head. His goons had chained them to a small arch of rock that stretched over the area, hanging just enough off the ground to be uncomfortable.

“Sam, shut up.” James growled through clenched teeth, his own chains rattling as he copied her movement. The humidity made his glasses slide down his dark brown nose a smidge. “I told you to let me do the talking.”

“Yeah, and that’s going so well for us so far.” She retorted, allowing herself a little smile when he rolled his eyes. Her mind was making a list of everything she could see: four guards, five guns, one black bird minding his business over there, and one pompous blowhard. More soldiers with more guns outside, probably. They’d been in worse scrapes than this.

“Hello?” Xavier waved his gun at them both, eyebrows raised. “Over here, my turn now.”

“Oh, yeah, sorry,” Sam bobbed her head. “Please, go on.”

“As I was saying,” Xavier started pacing. “I’ve spent my entire life searching for the Coronado Emerald, and you idiots find it in two weeks?” His eyes narrowed. “Forgive me if I find that hard to believe.”

“Believe it.” Sam tossed her head, cringing inwardly as her dirty brown hair escaped her bun and brushed her shoulder. She needed a good long shower after this. “We didn’t even need all your goons and technology. Just good old-fashioned puzzle solving skills.”

“And the ability to read a map,” James muttered.

“And the ability to read a map!” Sam echoed with more confidence than she felt. “Which, I admit, was mostly Prothero.”

“Thank you so much, I appreciate the compliment.” James said in a dead-pan voice.

“I don’t care how you did it, I just need to know where it is.” Xavier leveled his gun on Sam and glared at James.

“Tell me or I kill her.” “Please, be my guest. You’d be doing me a favor.”

“Wow.” Sam twisted to look at him. “We’ve been working together for years now and you do me like that? I was going to make you a friendship bracelet.”

James sighed, rolled his eyes again, and said, “We moved it to a new section of the labyrinth. I took notes, they’re on my phone.”

Xavier nodded at one of the goons who bent down and started rummaging through James’ bag.

“You know what I think your problem is, Johanson?” Sam asked, her eyes on his gun.

He sighed. “No, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me.”

“You don’t inspire confidence.” She swung herself around to face the guard on her right. “Do you feel you’re being fairly compensated for your work here?”

He blinked, and Xavier scoffed. “Are you trying to unionize my staff right now?”

“No, no, just saying. If you fairly compensate your workers, it inspires brand loyalty.” She did the best she could to shrug with her arms above her head. “That’s your biggest problem, man, you don’t have brand loyalty. You think these guys are willing to die for you?”

The guards all shifted uncomfortably before the one closest to her said, “I gotta new baby at home.” They all turned to stare at him.

“Do you really?” Sam asked, and the way his face softened as he nodded made her smile. “That’s amazing, congrats, man!”

“Thanks. Baby girl. Sophia.”

“That is a beautiful name, I like it.”

“Thank you.”

“Wait, wait,” Xavier put his hands on his hips, “You didn’t tell me you had a baby!”

“I filed with PR for paternity leave months ago but they said you specifically requested me for this. Did you?”

Xavier had the grace to turn a little red. “Well, I-”

“See, that is exactly my point, Johanson, you don’t even know when your guys have new babies to take care of.” Sam shook her head with a tutting sound.

The guard seemed a little hurt. “Do you even know my name?”

“Do I…? Of course I know your name! It’s… uh…”

“Here’s the phone!” The second guard jumped in, pulling it out of James’ bag and tapping the screen.

Xavier focused his attention on the phone, his lips in a thin line.

Sam looked at James, who raised an eyebrow and mouthed, “Now?” She shook her head. Not yet.

“All that’s on here is music files, boss.”

“What? Give me that.” Xavier holstered his weapon and glared at the screen, then glanced at James.

“‘Best of the Bee Gees’? Really?” Sam stared at her companion. “What are you, seventy?”

“Excuse me for preferring disco to your yammering.”

“Maybe the sound files are actually his notes, boss,” one of the goons in the back offered. Xavier tapped the screen again and a tinny rendition of “Stayin’Alive” came through the phone’s speaker.

Sam caught James’ eye. “Sounds like they’re playing our song.”

He took a deep breath and said quietly, “This is gonna suck.”

Sam twisted around to face the guard closer to her as James did the same. “Sorry in advance, man; this isn’t personal.” She kicked, and the guard’s nose crunched in time with the disco beat. If they were going to die, at least the soundtrack was epic.

Book Review: Etania’s Calling by M. H. Elrich

Etania’s Calling is the New Adult Fantasy sequel to Etania’s Worth, and the author M. H. Elrich has done a beautiful job continuing the story set in the world of Tamnarae! Read my full review of Etania’s Worth here, my full review of Toothbreaker a novella by Elrich set in the same world and time here, and my most recent interview with Elrich here!

Six months after Etania saves Southern Tamnarae, the Vexli finds herself with a secret. She cannot access her Neuma; however, she doesn’t tell her suitor Keyel or her father Jakin even after Jakin recruits her to help fight Jazel who is seeking out the demon Narak. While on the quest to fight Jazel, Prince Zaden learns of Etania’s secret. Will Etania learn to trust Melchizedek or will lies and deceit lead to disaster?

Speaking of Prince Zaden, I don’t recall the last time my feelings for a character changed so drastically throughout the course of a book. This really speaks to Elrich’s character development and overarching theme of God’s redeeming love. I won’t speak too much more about Zaden for fear of spoilers!

One character I will speak about is Etania’s friend Bayanna. Bayanna is a strong, independent spirit who cares deeply about others. I was so excited to see her play a larger role in the sequel after being introduced to her in book one! I really, really hope there is a novella spin-off of Bayanna just as there was a novella spin-off of Sage with Toothbreaker!

One thing that I especially loved about this book is that it shows the reality of relationships–romantic relationships can be complicated and messy, and trust is a necessary foundation for a successful relationship, not just trust in one another but trust in God. Again and again, through the book’s characters, we are reminded to trust in God’s plan even though we may not understand it.

Overall, Elrich’s in-depth world-building paired with relatable characters and Christian-based themes such as trusting God no matter your circumstances and God’s redeeming love has resulted in another 5-star read!

You will enjoy Etania’s Calling if you enjoy:

  • Biblical truths woven in a well-crafted fantasy world
  • A refreshing spin on the tired love-triangle romance trope
  • Strong but flawed female characters
  • Unicorns and dragons

I HIGHLY recommend Etania’s Calling (as well as Elrich’s other books)! You can order your own copy here AND remember to request a copy at your local library!

Photo by @theunicornwriter93 on Instagram.

Author Interview: M. H. Elrich

Etania’s Worth, a YA/NA Christian fantasy, is one of my favorite books EVER. The author M. H. Elrich’s worldbuilding is phenomenal and her characters are extremely relatable. Moreover, her book teaches readers about God’s grace and the beauty that unfolds when we surrender to Him and his calling for our lives. Our top priority should be our relationship with the Father, and Etania’s story reminds us of that. AND GUESS WHAT? The sequel, Etania’s Calling, released last week! *squealing and happy dancing*

In honor of the book release, I had the privilege of interviewing the award-winning author M. H. Elrich. Her short stories have won Best in Show, first place, and second place in local contests. Elrich is currently a middle school English teacher in the sunny state of California with aspirations to become a full-time writer one day. In her free time, she enjoys watching TV (mostly anime and cooking shows), reading, and going on nature walks. To learn more about this talented author, read the full interview below!

Author M. H. Elrich (image provided by Elrich).

Q) Is there a fun fact about yourself that you would like to share with readers?

A) I enjoy puns, am fluent in sarcasm, but always want to make people I love smile.

Q) How long have you been writing?

A) I have been writing professionally since 2018, but my passion for writing began before that. I was involved in the school newspaper and wrote stories when I was little, a literary magazine in highschool and college, and formed a writer’s group with a friend in 2011. This tells you that I’ve always loved writing and been writing something.

Q) Why do you write?

A) I honestly feel it’s a calling. I know many authors claim the same thing, so it may sound like a cop-out. But I remember distinctly, when I was in fourth grade and my church was going through 40 days of purpose, God calling me to write stories. I didn’t know that journey would be filled with so many up’s and down’s, but I’ve persevered because of God.

Q) What are your top three favorite books and why?

A) This is certainly a struggle! My current top favorite books are the Bible (of course!), Beauty by Robin McKinley, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, and Fierce Heart by Tara Grayce. I know that is four, but it was really hard to just pick three. My favorite genre to read is fairytale retellings and fantasy romance. I also like a few classics (namely, Shakespeare and Austen).

Q) Describe yourself in three words.

A) Practical, Caring, Hardworking

Q) What song would be your life’s theme song?

A) “I’m Letting Go” by Francesca Battistelli. I feel like I’m always letting go of something.

Q) Who is someone that inspires you?

A) C.E. Stone. She just has such a wonderful heart for others and is very empathetic. She is so sweet!

Q) What inspired the Daughters of Tamnarae series?

A) The series actually started as a portal fantasy with Lavanna, Etania’s daughter. Many iterations later, Etania’s Worth came to be. I was inspired by the books I was reading (The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings) and the settings where I would vacation with my parents (Lake Tahoe and Lake Lopez in California).

Q) What can people expect from Etania in book 2 Etania’s Calling?

A) Etania is going to struggle A LOT in this story. Some things you thought were resolved in Etania’s Worth really aren’t, and some new characters cause her a lot of grief in this book. She definitely has to learn to trust God in this book.

Q) If Etania was to describe book 2 in her own words, what would she say?

A) She would probably say, “I’m just glad that is over.” This book is definitely more action-packed than my previous one, so if you thought Etania’s Worth moved quickly, be prepared to strap in for this one!

Q) What was your favorite scene to write in Etania’s Calling?

A) So there is this one scene where Etania and Keyel are tricked and it was oh so fun to write. I think most of the readers will be yelling at Etania and Keyel when this happens because I was, and I wrote it! *gives evil laugh, then clears throat* Yeah, it was fun.

Q) Does Etania and Keyel’s relationship continue in book 2 (or does this question lead to spoilers)?

A) The answer to this question is one that could give spoilers, so I’m going to hold back a bit and tell you what I can. Etania and Keyel’s relationship continues in the next book, but is disrupted by a third player. Whether or not it remains intact is something I cannot tell you, but what I can say is that I’m not a fan of love triangles, so that love triangle doesn’t last beyond this book. So for all of those who don’t like love triangles, I promise this one is worth reading.

Q) Can you tell readers about any of your current writing projects?

A) I’ve been working primarily on short stories, one of which should be published in March. I also plan to write Etania’s Destiny (the last book in Etania’s arc) next summer. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will be published next year, but I plan to write it. I also have part of Promisekeeper, the sequel to Toothbreaker, to work on as well. So I have a lot of writing projects on my mind, but time has been a problem lately.

Q) What goals do you have for your writing?

A) I would really like to win an award for one of my books and make enough money from my writing to support my family. I’ve been praying on how to make that happen, so I’m sure you’ll see some new things from me this year!

Q) Can you tell us how your faith intersects with your writing?

A) For me, my faith is very apparent in my writing. I usually pray before writing and have felt the Spirit leading me as I type. I also think that the faith elements are very apparent in my books and my short stories. In my books, my faith is presented through Melchizedek and Deo, my names for God. In my short stories, it is more symbolic in good versus evil and Christian themes.

Q) Will you tell us a little about your own faith journey?

A) I became a Christian when I was young, accepting Jesus as my savior as a young girl and being baptized when I was in fourth grade. So there has never been a time in my life where I was without faith. There have been plenty of instances where I struggle with my faith, though. I have often struggled with accepting God’s calling on my life (Etania, anyone?) and being patient with His timing. I also have been through a lot (my parents lost our childhood home, my husband lost his job and we were living on charity for a few months, and had to move in with my parents after we were married). During that time, I felt like God was refining me, like it says in Job. He constantly reminds me that I need him and need to rely more on Him than myself. These are some lessons he is currently teaching me, and I’m sure there is more to learn!

Q) Do you have a favorite Bible verse?

A) My favorite Bible verse is Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” I remember stumbling upon this Bible verse when I was looking for my Senior quote/verse (I went to a Christian highschool). I didn’t want to do what everyone else did, and I saw this one and knew it explained how much faith means to me and how much I have to rely on God.

Q) What advice would you offer aspiring authors?

A) Never give up. It can be hard to be an author. However, if you really believe it is something God has called you to do, then keep at it, even when it is hard. God will help you get through every obstacle. Find some cheerleaders. Sometimes, you feel like you are shouting into the void and no one is listening. But then, that one person will come up to you and tell you that they love your writing. For me, that is my writing group. If I didn’t have their encouragement, I wouldn’t be able to keep going. Especially the encouragement of C.E. Stone. She is the reason I’ve been able to finish two books. So find your cheerleaders to keep you going.

Cover of Etania’s Calling (Isn’t it beautiful?) surrounded by pastel colored roses and faux rainbow cupcakes.

Haven’t read Etania’s Worth yet? You can order it here! It is also available on Audible in audio format. You can also request it at your local library. Remember to leave a review after finishing it – reviews are everything to authors! Etania’s Calling can be ordered here!

I can’t wait for you to read these amazing novels!

Happy Release Day to Etania’s Calling by M. H. Elrich!

Etania’s Calling, the sequel to Etania’s Worth, is finally here!! *cue confetti*

I absolutely ADORE Etania’s Worth by M. H. Elrich — a clean Christian fantasy?? Yes, please! Read my full 5-star review of Etania’s Worth here.

Unfortunately, I don’t quite have a book review to share with you just yet for the sequel (but I will be posting it soon!) In the meantime, here is the book blurb:

Etania has a big secret…

Six months after she saves Southern Tamnarae, Etania’s father returns from hunting Jazel. He asks Etania to travel north with him and use her abilities as a Vexli to capture Jazel, but there’s one problem. Etania doesn’t have any Neuma. It’s a secret she’s kept from Keyel and Jakin while overseeing the Changed.

Hoping she can deal with Jazel and return home without anyone finding out, Etania embarks on the quest. But the charming Prince of the north, Zaden, quickly discovers the truth. Can she trust this mysterious prince to keep her secret, or will lies lead to disaster?

Order your copy of Etania’s Worth here and order Etania’s Calling here! You can also request copies at your local library.

Want to WIN a copy of Etania’s Calling along with other bookish goodies?? Then check out the Winter Bookfest going on TODAY FEBRUARY 12, 2022 over on Facebook (link to join here)! Hope to see you there! 🙂

Join numerous Christian authors over on Facebook for prizes and bookish fun!

Author Interview: Mariella Taylor

I am so excited to introduce my co-judge for The Unicorn Writer’s Second Flash Fiction contest: Mariella Taylor! Mariella is a library cataloguer who assists with many projects including children’s programming, customer service, interlibrary loan, and collection management in Iowa; however, she considers herself a Mississippi girl at heart. Mariella stated, “I grew up on the Gulf of Mexico somewhere between Jackson and New Orleans and the ocean side is my favorite place on the planet. It’s my home and no matter where I go on this earth, I always come back to that.”

When asked about what she enjoys doing in her free time, Mariella said, “I would love to say I have a lot of hobbies outside of reading and writing, but I don’t. Occasionally, I enjoy doing puzzles and paint by numbers or coloring with gel pens. I embroider, quilt, and crochet as well. I love watching Disney movies and musicals. The King and I is my favorite musical, closely followed by Les Misérables, Newsies, and The Sound of Music. I’ve recently become fond of the musical Ninth Hour and my favorite song from it is ‘I Believe in Peace.’ I love taking walks outside, rollerblading, ice skating, and I’ve recently taken up kick boxing. I also love creating way too many DnD characters that I will probably never get to use.” 

To learn more about Mariella read the full interview below!

Mariella Taylor (photo provided by Mariella)

Q)    Is there a fun fact about yourself that you would like to share with readers?

A) I am the first generation in my family born in America, and I was the first to complete a master’s degree in my choice of study. My family is from a small mountain village in Italy, and our home was used as a hospital during World War II. When the military took over our home, my family went to live with some neighbors in their sheep barn. One of my grandfather’s favorite stories to tell is that he doesn’t actually know what day his birthday actually is. The neighbor’s wife was pregnant at the same time as his mother, the babies born two days apart. The neighbor man wrote down both children’s information, took it into the city when they went to sell wool, and came home with birth certificates bearing the same date. So no one knows if my grandfather’s birthday is actually August 5th or August 7th because no one could remember. 

Q)    How long have you been writing?

A) I have been writing for a little over 20 years now, and I have been editing professionally for a little over 10 years. My work is featured in multiple anthologies, both Indie and academic. 

Q)    Why do you write?

A) For me, writing is like breathing. I need the ability to pour my soul onto paper in the same way that my body requires oxygen. If I could guess, my body is formed more from letters and ink than from blood and bone—but maybe at some point they’re the same thing. Stories have been my saving grace in so many ways throughout the years, and when I realized that I could take words and create beautiful things from the hardships of life, it healed something inside of me. Writing serves many purposes for me, but at the end of the day, I write because I need it, and I can only hope that I’m creating stories and characters and worlds that in some way, others need too. 

Q)    What are your top three favorite books and why?

A) What is it with people trying to get me to pick favorite books these days, haha! My standard answer is basically that that is impossible to choose a top three, unless we’re separating them by genre. My favorite genre is always, ALWAYS fantasy. That said, I will make an effort to name a few of my favorite books and loosely define why.

  • The Great Gatsby – I will be the first to say that I am not a fan of most classics. But Great Gatsby and its themes and characters have a special place in my heart. I would also say that Fitzgerald did a good deal toward helping me discover my own writing style. I read all of his work once I discovered Gatsby because there was something in the way that Fitzgerald’s voice as an author that stayed with me and really made me think and feel the stories, and that was something I wanted to emulate in my own work. 
  • Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel will ALWAYS hit the top of my list, time and time again. I may not have the history with it that I have with Gatsby, but I remember the first time I saw the cover in my local library. I remember holding it in my hands and knowing this book would change my life. I have reread it countless times, and every time I learn to love it more. The worldbuilding and description in this story are immaculate and beautiful and I never tire of them. 
  • Palimpsest and Deathless – I know this is two, but you’ll have to bear with me because both of these are of equal importance to me only in different ways. Both stories are by Catherynne Valente, and while they definitely aren’t for everyone, I find them incredible. Palimpsest was one of the first dark punk fantasies that I ever read and whenever I’m struggling with my descriptions, this is the book that I pull off the shelf and flip through to inspire myself. Deathless, on the other hand, was the first retelling that I ever read. It’s a retelling of my favorite Russian myth, The Death of Koschei the Deathless, and this book was one of the stories that made me fall in love with well-written dialogue. Many of my favorite quotes come from the pages of that book, and it’s one that I gravitate toward whenever I’m teaching about writing dialogue. 

Q) Describe yourself in three words.

A) Protective, Snarky, and problematic. 

Q) What song would be your life’s theme song?

A) Dream of Mississippi by SJ Tucker. It’s one of my favorite songs that I come back to again and again. The lyrics and the music are beautiful. (Also, that entire album is DELICIOUS, but that’s a topic for another day.) 

Q) Who is someone that inspires you?

A) My mother, Tammy. She adopted me into her family and healed a lot of things in my heart that I didn’t know I needed. She amazes me continually and inspires me as both a person and an author. She’s come through so much and guided me through so much on a personal level, but as an author she’s equally incredible. She, alongside my sister (Annie Grace), taught me what it was to write out the hard things in my soul. The things that wouldn’t come out but needed to find a resting place. And knowing all the things that these two women have come through, I’m deeply inspired by them and their beautiful stories. 

Also, my sisters. My sisters inspire me so much, whether they’re blood or chosen. I have so many wonderful girls in my life, and they all inspire me in so many different ways. My sister, Dee, just wanted a small, quiet life with a husband and children where she could stay home and write her books, and she made that happen for herself in a world that scorns not entering the education or work fields. My sister, Benji, decided she wanted to spend her life being challenged and after failing high school chemistry, turned around and pursued a degree in it. She fell in love with science in college, and now she’s a chemical engineer working in pharmaceuticals and loving life. My sister, Annie Grace, who struggles with chronic illness amazes me every day with how she continues to push forward and pursue her books and make those around her happy even when she’s not feeling well herself. And there are others, so many others, that I don’t even have the space to mention without taking up entire pages. But if they’re reading this, they know that as I’m writing these words, I’m thinking of them. ❤ 

Q) Can you tell us about your stories featured in the anthologies Whispers From Before, The Depths We’ll Go To, and For the Love of a Word?

A) I can absolutely do that! 

My story in Whispers of Before: Tales of Myth and Legend is a retelling of two Polynesian stories. One of them is a loose retelling of Maui and the Fire Goddess, Mahuika. The other is the story of The War of Two Sisters, Mahuika and Namakaokahai. Which inspired the title “Namakaokahai’s Treasure.” The story is about a boy named Kai raised beside the river in the great jungle and the struggles he must overcome to heal his mother’s heart and to save his beloved, Mele. 

The Depths We’ll Go To features two of my poems, as well as my short story, “The Sea’s Beloved.” This story is a loosely inspired by my own Italian heritage, as the main characters are a young village girl from the mountainous seaside and a Sicilian river god. “The Sea’s Beloved” is a story that invokes both history and fantasy through its world building and its references to the ideas of early siren mythology, fae-style courtship, and witch hunts. A re-edited and expanded version will be released in the anthology, Aphotic Love in spring of 2022. 

For the Love of a Word is a little bit of a different anthology. The purpose of the anthology was essentially to write encouragement and love letters for discouraged authors. My short piece is technically a lyrical essay reminiscing on an author watching their protégé grow and exceed them. 

Q) Can you tell readers about any of your current writing projects?

A) I have a LOT of ongoing writing projects. I am currently working on two novels. One a middle grade fantasy mystery reminiscent of high fantasy adventure, as well as Howl’s Moving Castle and other works by its author. The other is a dark political thriller fantasy entitled Destruction of Kings and featuring an orphaned queen reclaiming her father’s throne and her immortal guardian as they try to strengthen her failing kingdom and discover who is attempting to assassinate her. I’m also working on putting together a collection of poetry, as well as a collection of short story mythology and history retellings. 

Q) What advice would you offer aspiring authors? 

A) Write for yourself. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have people in mind when you’re writing but write first and foremost for yourself. Write the things, both good and bad, hard and beautiful that are inside of you. Write the things you need, and others will flock. 

I read a quote once that said, “Don’t discount the beautiful and ruinous things that made you.” 

That is why people turn to story. For truth, to find people and ideas they relate to and can claim as their own. You want to write a story people love? Then you must risk the things inside of you. And that starts by allowing yourself the freedom to make your stories, your poems, your art the things you need them to be—not just the things you think people want to see. 

Q) What do you like most about flash fiction?

Flash fiction amazes me when it’s well done. I love seeing how much world, story, character, and description that authors manage to pack into such a small word count. I love watching author’s careers develop the more they publish and seeing how their skill and stories emerge in finer and finer detail over the years. 

Q) What are you most excited about being a guest judge for The Unicorn Writer’s flash fiction contest? 

A) I LOVE judging contests, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been invited to do so. I am so excited to get to read the entries. Not only because I ADORE the theme that’s been set before the authors, but also because I love watching all of you have fun creating. 

Q) Is there anything else you would like to add?

A) Go forth and have fun! Write your little hearts out, dears. ❤ 

Be sure to follow Mariella on social media:

We cannot wait to see all your wonderful entries for the flash fiction contest! Remember to see last week’s blog post for more details on the flash fiction contest. You can also visit this link for submission details.

The Unicorn Writer Announces Second Flash Fiction Contest!

Happy Saturday friends! 

It is my pleasure to announce the Unicorn Writer’s second flash fiction contest! The contest is open to both new and experienced writers. Submissions are open NOW through Saturday, February 26, 2022 at 11:59pm.

*Cue confetti and happy dancing!* 

Some of you may be wondering: what is flash fiction? Flash fiction is short fiction. Different publications and contests have varying definitions, but for this contest, flash fiction  constitutes as fiction 1000 words or less as determined by Microsoft Word. 

Any and all genres are welcome, but writers must provide CLEAN and family-friendly content (No erotica, explicit language, graphic violence, etc.). Magic is acceptable (and encouraged – the Unicorn Writer greatly enjoys fantasy)! However, your story could be fantasy, science fiction, realistic fiction, Christian fiction, mystery, humor, or something else! Just have fun with your story! 🙂

Prompt: Write a story in which the setting is the jungle AND the following words appear: labyrinth, bird, and emerald.

Exciting News: Author Mariella Taylor will be the guest judge for this contest! Next week, I will have the privilege of interviewing Mariella here on the blog. She is a talented writer and such a sweet soul – I’m so happy to have her as a guest judge!

Flash Fiction Contest Details: 

For the judging process there will be three categories: Content, Technical, and Overall Impression.

The content category is not just whether you followed the guidelines and provided clean, family-friendly content; it looks at the story as a whole. Is it impactful? Is there a clear beginning, middle, and end? Is there a clear theme(s) that resonates with readers? 

Be sure to send quality, proof-read work when you submit to do well in the technical category! 

The last category, Overall Impression, will include the judges’ impressions of the piece. Is it memorable? Is it unique? Is it enjoyable? 

Please note that with all writing, some subjectivity plays a role. Just because you do not win does NOT mean your story isn’t well-done. We expect some outstanding entries, and know you all will make our job difficult! (Due to the expected number of entries, feedback will NOT be provided on individual stories.) 

The WINNING story of the Unicorn Writer’s first flash fiction contest will be announced and featured on the blog on Saturday, March 4. The winning author will also be invited to be interviewed. **By submitting an entry, you consent to having your story published on the blog indefinitely. All story rights remain with the author, but the winning story will remain published on the blog for the foreseeable future.**

Now that we’ve reviewed the ins and outs of the contest, we can’t wait to see what you all write!

To submit, please follow this link:

Author Interview: Laura A. Grace

Last week I shared my review of the devotional Finding God in Anime and this week I get to interview Laura A. Grace, author and one of the devotional’s organizers!

In addition to being a talented writer, Laura is a stay-at-home-mom and avid YouTuber in North Carolina. A fun fact about Laura is that she doesn’t like chocolate. When asked what she enjoys doing in her free time, Laura said, “Hmm I feel it sort of depends on my mood, I think? I would probably say the biggest thing after reading would be playing video games. I’ve really been into playing Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity because I deeply enjoy playing as the character Prince Sidon due to him being my favorite character from the Zelda Universe.”

Read the full interview below!

Laura A. Grace (photo provided by Laura)

Q) What are your top three favorite manga and why?

A) Oh man! What a hard question! I think my all-time favorite would be Haikyu!! mainly because I’m always thinking about these characters (especially Hinata). I finally read through the manga for the first time this past December and it was better than I ever imagined! I would say my second favorite would be A Sign of Affection because it’s the only manga I read as soon as it arrives and then read it again later that day (but at a slower pace). I also adore the story! For my third choice, I think I’m going to say Spy x Family (even though I almost wan to say Play It Cool, Guys) because I really love the characters and just how wonderful the family is. It has a lot of good shenanigans that never fail to make me laugh and deeply looking forward to the anime premiering this April!

Q) What are your top three favorite anime and why?

A) This is even a harder question! LOL! I don’t watch nearly as much as anime as I read because in the past I would binge watch an anime every few months. Now the only thing my husband and I watch together is anime! LOL! I still haven’t seen a lot of anime (because I love rewatching my favorites), but for number one, hands down it would be Haikyu!! I know that’s my number one manga, but I am genuinely obsessed with these characters! LOL! For number two, I think it would be safe to say Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. It’s the second anime I’ve only watched as the episodes have streamed each week and is the first anime I decided to start and watch by myself. (I almost 9 times out of 10 only watch anime with my husband. It’s very rare for me to watch it by myself.) I never imagined I would love this anime as much as I do or how impactful the characters would be! For my third…I am unsure of what anime to say! LOL! I feel there are quite a few coming to mind, but I think I’m going to say One Piece? It has led to my husband finding his all-time favorite anime and what got him into reading manga. I also love the characters and definitely wish I could be part of the Straw Hats crew!

Q) Describe yourself in three words.

A) Kind. Excited. Passionate.

Q) What song would be your life’s theme song?

A) Faith by Jordan Feliz

Q) Who is someone (real or fictional) that inspires you?

A) Even though I might sound like a broken record, I’m going to say Shoyou Hinata from Haikyu!! I talk about him often on social media and in just in my personal life and have told people that he is my real life senpai despite the fact that I’m older then him. LOL! It’s hard for me to describe just how inspiring he is, but I deeply relate to his excitement and encouraging others. I am also very moved by his dedication in how he continues to keep growing despite what others may say about him or his physical “limitations.”

Image of Fanart of Laura A. Grace and Hinata (provided by Laura).

Q) Can you tell us about Dear AuthorFinding God in Anime, and any other works you have currently available? 

A) Sure! Dear Author came from a time where I felt I had to pull back from supporting the indie author community due to having my third child. While I knew and wanted to focus on my family, I felt inklings of fear that I would not be back to support those authors the same way I had before my child’s birth. I wanted to give them something to show that I would still be thinking of them even if I was not nearly as active in the author community. Dear Author was a direct result of that desire. I have been so thankful that these letters have encouraged many indie authors and writers that there are eager readers wanting to devour their stories!

Finding God in Anime was inspired by conversations I had with my friend and now co-partner, Moriah Jane, of how great it would be to have a devotional that centered around anime. While it had been some time since we had both expressed in wanting something like this, last January I asked her rather out of the blue if she would be interested in us organizing a devotional like the one we personally wanted to read. She said yes and has equally been an inspiring and encouraging adventure as Dear Author has!

While my poetry collection isn’t available to download on a book retailer site, Team Lines was the first time I experienced writing something that was fun. Each poem is inspired by my favorite team in the manga and anime Haikyu!! and had such a blast finding creative ways in trying to write a mix of poetry and fan fiction for the first time.

The only other project I have (though not published yet) is my manga Gathering Faith. I don’t have much out on this story right now, but I’m hoping that my illustrator will be finishing the illustrations early this year! This manga was extremely unexpected and was something I had never planned to write, but has been such an encouragement to me personally. My main character, Maho, has reminded me to have faith even when I don’t know the next steps.

Q) Can you tell readers about your current writing projects? 

I unfortunately don’t have any fictional writing projects as I decided to “shelve” my fictional projects for now, but one of my writing goals this year is to write another fanfic-inspired poetry collection! I deeply loved writing Team Lines and want to write a collection that centers around another school in Haikyu!! called Nekoma. I’ve written one poem already and hoping to write 11 more throughout this year!

The only other writing projects I currently have is to finish editing my pieces for the next Finding God in Anime devotional and to start typing up reviews of clean manga I’ve read for the Clean Fiction Magazine. I’m really looking forward to both of those!

Q) Can you tell us how your faith intersects with your writing?

Since I first started writing about ten years ago, I have been a firm believer in conveying there is hope for the real world. I realize that for many (and even for myself at times) that fiction is an escape from hardships in real life, but I know there isn’t just hope in those fictional worlds where heroes and heroines save the day. There is hope for our lives too because if I could say the biggest way Jesus has changed my life, is that He has made me hopeful. That is one of the biggest ways and influences I see how my faith intersects with my writing. Even if it’s a happy-go-luck story or one where my heart is bleeding on the page, hope is always the foundation for my stories.

Q) What advice would you offer aspiring authors?

A) My number one advice use to be to have fun writing. That was something that was recommended to me by numerous authors, but while I still think that writing advice is very important, I think the advice I would give to aspiring authors is don’t be afraid to give yourself grace with your writing, publishing, and marketing journey.

I don’t know for every writer, but I struggle a lot with expectations and self-pressures. I never grew up thinking or wanting to be a writer and feel more often than not, that I’m not quite measuring up to what I feel I’m supposed to be doing as an author. It can feel very overwhelming and I think that is why I felt I needed to step back from my fictional writing this year. It was a hard decisions because I knew readers would be disappointed, but showing grace to myself by not beating myself up because I’m struggling is something a writer will always need in their journey when things didn’t go quite as planned.

Q) Can you tell us about Cheery Tangerine?

Ah, I would love to! Cheery Tangerine Creations has been a new dream of mine in creating anime-inspired enamel pins and keychains. During the release of Team Lines, I connected with a pin maker and absolutely adored her art! I got my first set of pins from her and as I followed her pin-making journey, I met other pinmakers that I equally adored their art and inspired me to make my own pins too. Their pins have been a deep place of happiness for me and can say I’m hooked on buying new pins and making them! LOL! I currently have a new keychain idea in the works and hoping to get my next two pins manufactured later this month!

Be sure to follow Laura on social media:

You can also get your own copies of Dear Author and Finding God in Anime through Amazon here and here! Remember, you can always request copies at your local library as well!

My Story The Once-Stars is Available NOW on Go Havok!

Hi everyone!

I’m bringing you an impromptu post to share that my flash fiction piece, The Once-Stars, is available to read on Go Havok! It is only available until 3am EST 1/22/2022, so hurry!

Rates and comments are greatly appreciated! If you would like to rate and/or comment, you can subscribe to Havok for less than 2 dollars (there’s another option for less than 5)! This will also grant you access to archived stories AND allow you to contend for reader prizes.

Read The Once-Stars HERE.

Subscribe to Havok HERE.

I hope you enjoy! 🙂

Book Review: Finding God in Anime A Devotional for Otakus

Are you an otaku (a Japanese term used to describe a person with “consuming interests” particularly anime or manga)?

I really enjoy anime! I grew up with Pokemon and Sailor Moon, but my husband really made me into the otaku I am today! The first anime we watched together was Naruto followed by Naruto: Shippuden. Since then, I’ve watched and enjoyed That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Fairy Tail, Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits, and more.

I had watched and enjoyed these animes, and the messages they shared, but I never thought to look for God within the cartoon frames; yet, Laura A. Grace did. In fact, she created an entire anthology full of devotionals inspired by different anime! The back cover says, “We believe that God can be seen throughout his creation – even in places where people might not intend!” How beautiful is that? God is all around!

From messages about trusting God’s plan and needing God to save us to lessons reminding us to seek out God and that God can rekindle dying flames, Finding God in Anime is full of anime-inspired devotionals that spoke to my soul.

Some of the devotionals that stood out to me are:

  • We Don’t Need the Memories by Laura A. Grace
  • Not By My Might by Hannah Carter
  • Searching for the Real Father by Renee Le Vine
  • Endeavor: A New Fire by Daniel Andrade
  • A Matter of the Heart: Human Will vs the Holy Spirit by H. S. J. Williams

After completing this devotional, I am more aware that God can be found everywhere, even in anime! I am excited to continue watching my favorite animes (and anime anew) with this new lens of seeking God.

I highly recommend this devotional to fellow otakus and those wishing to go deeper in their spiritual walk. HOWEVER, even if you do not consider yourself an otaku, the messages within this book are still relevant. January is the perfect time to start a new devotional – download your FREE ebook on Amazon here (you can also order a paperback copy if you prefer – I have a paperback copy myself because I like to interact with my devotionals and I’ll definitely be re-reading and re-visiting this one!).

Interested in writing a anime-inspired devotional for a future Finding God in Anime devotional? Please visit Laura A Grace’s website to learn more!

Photo by @theunicornwriter93 on Instagram.