Author Interview: Brittany Eden

Brittany Eden is the winner of The Unicorn Writer’s Third Flash Fiction Contest! As such, I had the honor of interviewing her (Read her winning story here). Brittany resides in Canada where she is a writer and mother to her littles, ages three, five, and seven. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, and tea-drinking. Read our full interview below to learn more about Brittany!

Photo provided by Brittany Eden.

Q) What inspired the piece “Thirst”?

A) My good friend (and member of my Realm Makers critique group) Kaitlyn Carter Brown’s story Queen of Shifting Sands was on my mind at the time I found out about this contest, and the theme of deserts, drought, and difficulty were rattling in my mind in terms of fantasy worlds as well as the real world. I love the desert metaphor for how life can feel, and I had been experimenting with my own style of poetry at the time, so I used this opportunity to try a story in verse, no pressure, just for fun, and it turned into something deeply emotional for me. I love it! (Kaitlyn just announced her story is being published by Uncommon Universes Press—go check it out!)

Q) What do you like best about flash fiction?

A) I love how flash fiction demands the writing be crisp and details dense, and I love the satisfaction of a story arc in that short a written work! If I’ve learned anything by reading and writing flash fiction over the last few years, it’s been that the medium itself is a unique way to hone my writing skills so that in longer works of my fiction, my scenes become tighter.

Q) How long have you been writing?

A) I’ve been reading longer than I can write, I’m definitely a reader first. Though I wrote incessantly in diaries since around age seven, then writing papers in university, and speeches and policy documents in politics, I didn’t write fiction until after having my second baby! Ironically, staying at home with my kids gave me the freedom and courage to go from being a lover of stories to a writer of them. It wasn’t intentional, at first, it was for enjoyment and pure fun, and then I realized that all my years of writing all sorts of other things had given me my own set of skills.

Q) Why do you write?

A) To remind myself (and my someday-readers) of True Love, and that He is real.

Q) Describe yourself in 3 words.

A) Vintage. Loyal. TEA+JESUSLOVER (that’s all one word, promise).

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

A) Oh, my life has a playlist. But if I had to pick one, I’d say Hallelujah from Handel’s Messiah and Messiah/You’re Beautiful by Phil Wickham (yes, that’s two, sorry).

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

A) C.S. Lewis. Cinderella. Queen Esther. Princess Leia. All my aunts.

Q) Can you tell us about your books/stories that are available or that will soon be available for readers?

A) Yes, through Quill & Flame Publishing House, the Heartbooks series is starting this fall! First…

  • WISHES—lyrical and poignant, Wishes is a vintage winter novella with all the lush royal romance and swoony Cinderella + Pinocchio vibes you could ask for, where an aspiring newspaper columnist is assigned the story of a lifetime but finds her fate and that of the Crown Prince connected by a much more personal story—one that could upend the upcoming coronation and change the future of the Royal Family forever. (Releasing November 2, 2022)
  • HEARTS—dreamlike and poetic, Hearts is a whimsical and romantic retelling of the classics Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Sleeping Beauty where Alice, Wendy and Aurora are the same girl—a secretive pencil artist with a dynastic feud destined to end on her cursed birthday. (Releasing Spring 2023!)

Q) What goals do you have for your writing?

A) To find joy in the writing, and uplift other authors and their amazing stories.

Q) What mythical creature would you like to have as a pet?

A) A cleaning robot.

Q) What are your favorite book tropes? Least favorite?

A) I love tropes. All of them. I’ll even take a good love triangle, if necessary. And not to get too deep (you gave me a blank space to write so here were go) but honestly tropes are things—you know, it’s a thing, a THING, in all-caps—because they are these honest reflections of the everyday, the cycles of life and the happenstance we see in our lives and others… and just like in real life, in fantasy they remind us of the eternal, the unseen, and the wished-for, not-yet. I always say, Jesus is the True Knight coming on a white horse (Revelation 19:11). The truest love story, the real love story. That’s why I love//stories. That is why I don’t disdain tropes, because there’s something there, something sort of indescribable, and things that are mysterious and difficult to describe are what I’m drawn to, in reading and writing.

Q) What was your most recent 5 star read?

A) Once Upon A Wardrobe by Patti Callahan (read it, you will not regret it).

Q) What advice would you offer other writers? 

A) Read! Read read read. Enjoy reading, enjoy stories, because that’s the best way to learn from them. Remember why we write and why stories matter, by drinking in the wonderful works of others.

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

A) Thank you so much! And, P.S. This is the way [I’m also a Star Wars fan].

Image provided by Brittany Eden.

Be sure to follow Brittany on Instagram @brittanyedenauthor AND subscribe to her newsletter here for Brittany’s favorite things, secret writing updates, and for the application to join her street team!

The Unicorn Writer Announces the Third Flash Fiction Contest Winner!

First, a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who entered the contest! Guest judge Cassandra Hamm and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the entries. I highly encourage you all to enter again during the next flash fiction contest, date to be announced.

Now, without further ado…*drumroll*

Congratulations to Brittany Eden for winning The Unicorn Writer’s Third Flash Fiction Contest!

Brittany’s fascination with Wonderland may have given her the courage to exclusively use a sparkly Cinderella book bag while completing her First Class Honors degree in Greek & Roman Civilization and Political Science at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. She’s traveled to over twenty-five countries and has walked the Great Wall of China in Beijing, the Acropolis in Athens, Table Mountain in Cape Town, and Ipanema in Rio. She also once lived in a Circus. 

You can find Brittany drinking tea, reading, and chasing her three kids, usually at the same time. If that fails, you’ll find her writing starcrossed romance with timeless endings or on Instagram oversharing pictures of the scenery around her and her husband’s home in Vancouver, Canada, and commenting passionately about C.S. Lewis, K-Dramas, Wonder Woman, Bournville chocolate, and Irish tea. 

Read Brittany’s winning piece below!

“Thirst”

Was that the moon still ever shining

Above this wretched wasteland hoping

Thus far regret, no rain descend

No drops or hint of any end

My heart—it broke by arrow, bow

The sky a blue-toned jewel aglow

And beating like a drum, dreams

Awakened day, soon future seems

Pattering songs since eternity

Sapphire downpours infinity

To thwart the drought I raised my hand

I prayed amid the sun-scorched sand

The light betrayed our greater need

For flooding streams, for heavenly seed

Is it my heart or the expanse

Horizon stretched by loss—a dance

Is there an enemy, or just inside

A desert with nowhere to hide

The rays of light, the kiss of night

Both dawn and sunset feel too bright

If I could gaze beyond and see

A storm cloud destiny, a sea

A healing rain, a history

Sundrop soon sweet victory

Jewels soared behind my shut eyes

Dream ended with a heaving sigh

The skies will bleed a river free

A holy shower for you and me

I felt alone, lost trail a mess

Yet forward pressed, through wilderness

Diamond starlit fire by night

Hasty dayclouds ‘ere in sight

A call was heard above the dunes

A ringing more than ancient runes

Shrill lonely horn and fractured lie

Sojourning souls not left to die

Followed a sound, a seed like hope

One dared to do much more than cope

The fiery heat, the narrow road

The bearing of a heavy load

The journey on this sparkling sand

Called love or life—I raised my hand

Again, because I saw a form

A figure, healer, through the storm

On long-awaited clouds he’d come

To wet and wash the feet of some

Who chose to cross far desert road

How tortuously was there a load

But then the man who sailed the storm

From where the scent of rain was torn

And future hoping less a dare

My dreary desert seemed more fair

That I would leave it some way soon

So soft the hurt of waning moon

Unless the rain-King reached it first

This soul to drink and forget thirst

The parched heart heat, a dusty swirl

A new world would at last unfurl

These souls beneath a raging sea

No longer ‘fraid or far, in He.

Author Interview: R. M. Archer

Last week, I shared my review of Calligraphy Guild and this week I have the honor of interviewing the author R. M. Archer! Residing in Virginia, Archer is an author, editor, course creator in addition to being a stablehand at a horse farm. In her free time, Archer enjoys spending time with family and friends, playing video games, watching TV/movies, reading, crocheting, and fashion design. A fun fact about Archer is that she was in choir for twelve years and her choir had the privilege of singing back-up to Celtic Woman one year. Read the full interview below to learn more!

R M. Archer (photo provided by Archer).

Q) How long have you been writing?

A) About fourteen years. Just about as long as I can remember, lol.

Q) Why do you write?

A) I believe that books, and storytelling in general, are incredibly important. God gave me a passion for books and writing at a very young age, and I’ve done my best to faithfully serve Him through my pursuit of that passion. There’s a shortage of high-quality YA fiction that highlights Christian values in a way that’s real and doesn’t have to be in your face to make its point, especially Christian-authored YA that isn’t afraid to tackle the tough topics that secular fiction is already looking at (and has been for years), so it’s my desire to write the books I want to see and to reflect Christ and His truth through the stories I tell.

Q) What are your favorite book tropes? What about least favorite?

A) My favorite tropes include best friends to lovers and found family, as well as just about any other tropes that involve healthy relationships, lol. On the logical flip side, I’m tired of the generic love triangles and toxic “misunderstood bad boy” relationships, and I’m SO done with the “forbidden love” stories where one party is betrothed and doesn’t bother to dissolve said betrothal with an adult conversation before pursuing a relationship with the character they’re “in love with.” That one has to be my biggest pet peeve trope.

Q) Describe yourself in three words.

A) I guess I’d go with “principled,” “teachable,” and “trying” (that last one being a verb, not an adjective, lol).

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

A) Ooh, good question. I actually keep theme songs for different seasons of my life, but picking just one to encompass the whole thing is tough. I really appreciate and relate to “Stories” by Lilli Furfaro; it lacks a faith element that I’d definitely want in a life theme song, but otherwise I think it hits the nail on the head. Another good one might be “Many Roads” by Andrew Peterson.

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

A) Nadine Brandes. She seems to balance writing and family with so much grace; she finds so much joy both in storytelling and in being a traditional, (currently) counter-cultural mom and wife and homemaker; her books contain so much truth and they’re so bold with their faith elements without ever feeling preachy; she’s so genuine and friendly in her interactions with readers. There are so many things I admire about her, both as an author and a woman.

Q) Can you tell us what inspired Calligraphy Guild?

A) As both an author and an extrovert, I love the idea of a physical location where authors get together on a daily basis to write together, collaborate, bounce ideas back and forth, etc. All the things that online writing groups do, but with the added benefit of face-to-face interaction and a dedicated writing space. My primary online writing group calls itself The Fortress and imagines such a physical location for itself, and the Phoenix Fiction Writers wrote a few scenes for their blog that took place in their “HQ,” which is a similarly imagined locale. I think it was around the time that PFW was doing those snippets that I started to consider writing a story where such a location actually existed and served the sort of purpose that The Fortress and PFW Headquarters were imagined to serve, so that was piece #1.

Piece #2, which struck against #1 to create the initial spark for Calligraphy Guild, was a dream I had about an ink that gave you magical abilities if you drank it. I ditched the “ingestible” part and changed what exactly the ink did, but that’s where the idea of magical, time-binding ink came from.

Q) What do you hope readers take away from Calligraphy Guild?

A) I think there are a lot of things that could be taken away from Calligraphy Guild. The more I reread it, the more little snippets of themes and ideas I discover, and I think Calligraphy Guild will impact different readers in different ways, so I’m excited to see how God uses it to uniquely impact readers! But the most prevalent theme, I think, is that of community, and I hope that readers come away inspired to strengthen the communities they’re in and better appreciate their relationships.

Q) How does your faith intersect with or influence your writing?

A) It depends on the book, to some degree. Some of my books have more overt faith elements than others. But all of my books are informed by my worldview, which is deeply rooted in my faith, so I seek with all of them to reflect truth and beauty, to highlight God-honoring themes, and to include content that ultimately edifies while leaving out content that would only serve to distract or even harm readers.

Q) Do you have a favorite Bible verse?

A) Matthew 6:33 is one I often find myself meditating on and try to live by: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

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

I can’t say a whole lot since I’m still in early stages–I don’t want to get hopes up or spoil too much–but I’m currently drafting a non-fiction book about worldbuilding and planning a sci-fi novel. (The novel is connected to the sci-fi short stories in Short Story Collection vol. 1, so check that out if you want a feel for my style of sci-fi or a hint as to what the novel might be about. 😉 )

Q) What goals do you have for your writing?

A) This is a big question, especially because there are multiple categories of goals for my writing, lol. The most important thing to me is to write God-honoring books, of course, and then to see readers positively impacted by them. Those are the big, intangible things, and they’re the priority. But on the more materialistic side, I’d like to be able to make a full-time income from my writing-related endeavors, so that I can keep doing what I do and accomplish the intangible goals without worrying about tangible needs, and it would be super cool to see at least one of my books adapted for film or TV someday.

Q) Can you tell us a little about your experience as an indie author?

A) Indie publishing has been amazing. It’s had its difficulties, too–I made a lot of mistakes when I was first starting out, especially–but it’s definitely been the right choice for me. I love having the opportunity to make all of the final decisions, to assemble my own team and work with so many great freelancers and artists, to publish on my own timeline, and to get my book straight to the readers who connect with what I write and why I write it. Indie publishing has its challenges–finding the right people to work with and the right readers, having to work out all the technical glitches yourself, getting your book distributed as broadly as you might like–but the satisfaction of bringing everything together, the joy of working alongside the perfect team, the delight of giving a book to readers as soon as it’s ready without having to wait on someone else to see its potential (for impact or sales) is all well worth it. Indie publishing isn’t the right choice for every author, but I have no regrets.

Q) What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

A) You’re not an aspiring author. You’re an author. Right now, if you’re dedicated to pursuing your passion for storytelling, you are an author. Don’t let that scare you. Sometimes we let the word “author” bring too much pressure and we start to take it too seriously, until we’re so worried about writing something good that we forget to write something we love (been there, done that); you should still absolutely write for the love of it, write what’s important to you, write those books that only you can write. But do so with the mindset that this is important work, that it’s meaningful work, that you are free to pursue this work if it’s what God has placed in front of you. It’s not something still in the future that you might attain someday. You’re already doing it. So own it.

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

A) Thank you, Kayla, for having me! And thank you, reader, for “listening in!” If you’re interested in checking out Calligraphy Guild or any of my other books or services, you can find links to everything on my website. I hope you find something there that blesses you!

Synopsis of Calligraphy Guild. Image provided by R. M. Archer.

Be sure to follow R. M. Archer @rysaarcher on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Annnd remember that Calligraphy Guild releases in just a few days (June 17)! Be sure to check out my review from last week here.

Flash Fiction Contest Deadline Has Been Extended!

A quick post this afternoon to let you know that the deadline for the third flash fiction contest has been extended to JUNE 11 at 11:59PM! Click here to access the Google form for rules and to submit! Please share with your writer friends 🙂

Book Review: Calligraphy Guild by R. M. Archer

Happy Saturday, friends! I’m so excited to be sharing my review of the book Calligraphy Guild by R. M. Archer, releasing June 17! Calligraphy Guild is a delightful, clean fantasy book set in a world where time is recorded using dragon ink–that same dragon ink has the power to re-write time, though *that* is forbidden.

Duyên Lai is genuinely happy. And why wouldn’t she be? She has a loving family, she has a loving boyfriend, and she’s recently been admitted into the ranks of the calligraphers of her village, recording history’s stories. But then the Guardians arrive alerting the calligraphy guild that the greatest rule has been broken–someone has used the dragon ink to rewrite time. This realization that someone has betrayed the guild turns Duyên’s world on end. The guildmates, once a close-knit family unit, turn on one another. An added layer to this stress, Duyên finds it impossible to block the voices of dragons in her mind. The impossibility of blocking dragons’ voices caused her grandmother to go insane. Duyên worries for her own sanity as well as for the fate of her guildmates…will the guild find the time-changer before its too late for them all?

What I enjoyed most about the book:

  • The emphasis on positive relationships
    • I feel that a lot of books contain strained relationships to build tension (my own writing included). I really appreciate the positive relationships between parent-child, sibling-sibling, grandparent-grandchild, mentor-student, etc.
  • The relatable characters
    • Duyên’s struggle with understanding her emotions and Tora’s struggle controlling her emotions are both very relatable to me. Though I do not struggle with losing my temper like Tora, I often struggle with seeing my strengths. Further, I also related to Sairsha who felt she wasn’t good enough to belong.
  • It’s a clean fantasy read suitable for YA readers
    • This book is not only clean, but sets a good example of what healthy relationships should look like. It addresses real-life struggles in a relatable way. In addition, it has valuable themes woven within the words. It teaches readers that we don’t have all the answers, and that’s okay; it teaches readers that even the best of us make mistakes; it teaches us that we have control over our timelines to a certain extent, but changing the past would ultimately change who we are in the present.
  • The element of mystery

I really enjoyed Calligraphy Guild, and I hope to see more works from R. M Archer in the future! Overall, I rate the book 4 stars, and I would consider re-reading it. I definitely recommend it to readers who enjoy fantasy, but may not appreciate epic tales, and those who appreciate strong world-building and character development.

I do need to explain that this is not a fast-paced, epic fantasy novel. Magic is discussed, but the most magic present in the story is the use of the dragon ink to change time (which is off-page). It takes roughly 80 pages for anything to *happen* but I greatly appreciate the world-building early on and loved getting to know the characters and their relational dynamics. In fact, if Archer were to ever offer a webinar or class on world-building, I’d be the first to sign up! But, again, if you are looking for a fast-paced, high energy novel, this may not be your cup of tea…right now anyway. If you are looking for great world-building, characters who can talk to dragons, time-changing magic dragon ink, and ultimately a good story, then definitely check out Calligraphy Guild!

Pre-order your copy of Calligraphy Guild here and remember to request a copy at your local library!

All images provided by R. M. Archer.

Check out the other blogs/blog posts on the book tour!

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: Starganauts: Retribution by C. E. Stone

After reading C.E. Stone’s debut Starganauts last year, I anxiously awaited for the sequel Starganauts: Retribution and–let me tell you–it was well worth the wait! 

Before diving in, remember you can read my review of book 1 here and you can check out my most recent interview with author C. E. Stone here

Since this is a sequel, it is difficult to go into too many details without giving away certain developments in book 1. I will say that the title is fitting to the plot of book 2, and, like book 1, the sequel is rooted in biblical truth about God’s protection, grace, and redeeming love though set in a fictional dystopian universe. Kaity’s journey in this book greatly resonated with me, but to learn more about her character growth, you will have to read the book(s) yourself! 

My favorite quotes from the novel which highlight some of the big themes include:

  • “Was she simply unaware of her dreams and motivations, or was she living for something shallow?”
  • “I think I mistook foolish optimism for the Holy Spirit’s leading.”
  • “God often uses the wilderness to train and shape His greatest servants.”
  • “We don’t always get to choose what we want.”
  • “Will you turn from your selfish desires and accept my calling for your life? Will you live for me, instead of the idols of comfort and stability?”
  • “She’d lost sight of His goodness in her obsession with the negative.”
  • “Do not forget that God has a plan even when the odds seem impossible.”
  • “Truth is, we can’t live in ‘ifs.’”
  • “Only surrender would save her.”
  • “Failure need not define you….”
  • “For I shall work great good out of…evil.”
  • “God guarantees our salvation, not our ease.” 

I greatly enjoyed the amount of detail in Stone’s writing, but wished for more dialogue throughout the story. There is a lot of narration and “telling” versus “showing;” yet, I found myself on the edge of my seat throughout the book waiting to see what would happen next! I do also wish that the book had a glossary of terminology used throughout the book. At times, it was difficult to remember which titles belonged to which characters. 

Overall, I give Starganauts: Retribution 4 stars. I highly recommend the science-fiction adventure with PowerRanger vibes to adult readers who enjoy epic space battles and stories that share the gospel. 

Order your own copy of Retribution here! And remember to request a copy at your local library. 

Graphic provided by C. E. Stone.
Photo of Starganauts from @theunicornwriter93 on Instagram.

Author Interview: C. E. Stone

A few months ago I had the privilege of interviewing C. E. Stone and reviewing her science fiction book Starganauts. In honor of her recent release, Retribution, the sequel to Starganauts, I sat down with her again!

Stone is a professional tutor in addition to being a talented author in the sunny state of California. When she has free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, sketching, and photo-editing.

Author C. E Stone (photo provided by Stone).

Next week, I’ll be sharing my full review of Retribution, so stay tuned. In the meantime, continue reading to catch up with C. E. Stone!

The covers for Starganauts and Retribution (photo provided by Stone).

Q) What mythical creature would you like to have as a pet?

A) I would love a Pegasus! They’re so beautiful, elegant, and epic. I’d love flying on the back of my own Pegasus because I could go so many places! Plus, it’s a horse-creature, so it would be more straightforward to take care of than a dragon or chimera. Got to be practical with those imaginary creatures, right?

Q) Which location in a book would you most like to visit and why?

A) Rivendell. While I write sci-fi, fantasy is my first love. The Lord of the Rings is my favorite series of all time, so I’d love visiting Rivendell! How cool would it be to walk along the cliff side, listen to the rushing waterfalls, or sit in a beautiful Elven gazebo and write? Plus, I’d get to meet Elrond, Arwen, and maybe even Bilbo or the Fellowship…depending on when I went.

Q) How do you select what books you want to read?

A) It’s a combination of what I’m in the mood for and what I need to read. I like mixing up my reading list between fun reads, mood reads, and ARC/fellow author reads. Variety is the spice of my reading life!

Q) What are your favorite book tropes? Least favorite?

A) My favorite tropes are good vs. evil, Savior characters, coming-of-age, underdogs, caring female characters, manly men, and slow-burn romance. My LEAST favorite tropes are love triangles, Mary Sue characters, invincible heroes, god-complexes, misunderstood villains, and love at first sight.

Q) What was your most recent 5 star read?

A) When Legends Rise by Daphne Self. She’s a fellow Christian sci-fi author and is publishing this book in July. She gave me an advanced copy in exchange for an endorsement and I absolutely LOVED it! Assassins, interplanetary travel, and secret bases collide with strong Christian themes and epic action scenes in this powerful story that chronicles one man’s journey to faith. I highly recommend it!

Q) Where is your favorite location to read? To write?

A) I enjoy reading on my exercise bike, of all places. Something about exercising while reading focuses my mind. I’ve mentioned before that I have aphantasia, so I really don’t visualize what I read. For whatever reason, exercise stimulates my brain and helps me picture more than I normally do.

My favorite place to write is on my laptop while overlooking a beach. My family has gone to the coast several times and I always set aside a few hours to write. There’s nothing more calming and inspiring to me than hearing the crash of waves, feeling the sea breeze, and gazing out across a horizon of glistening blue.

Q) Can you tell us about Retribution?

A) The real question, Kayla, is can you get me to stop? 😆

Retribution picks up a year after the events of Starganuats. The characters settle in on a new world, in a new society, and then are thrust back into battle and service as Starganauts. A theme of Retribution is a coming war, symbolized by a storm. Samantha struggles through a dry spell of revelations from the Lord before finally receiving a vision…and being unable to tell anyone about it! Kaity loves her comfortable new life and hates the thought of returning to Starganaut duty. This prompts a drastic decision on her part, which affects the whole team.

Sharko is still getting used to leading the team, and his leadership is severely tested right before the first battle. There’s also a villain who I enjoyed writing, because he’s more complex than Vogul. Indeed, I’d say I actually feel sympathy for him, even though I hate him for his evil actions. What’s even more fun? He’s a mystery villain until halfway through the book!

There’s a LOT of battles in Retribution, along with telekinetic abilities, mind-reading aliens, and trips to exotic planets. It’s primarily a war book about vengeance, forgiveness, and leaning on Jesus through life’s fiercest storms. I also focus on the characters and the struggles they face through these events.

Q) For those that haven’t read Starganauts, can you tell us how it sets the stage for Retribution?

Starganauts introduces us to the Gorvan Galaxy, the setting of the series, and to the eight humans from Earth who discover orbs that transform them into superhuman warriors (“Starganauts”). We also catch glimpses of Trylithia, a planet of blue-skinned aliens in the Gorvan Galaxy. There are a few scenes about a king, or tormac, of a place called Duskrealm. This tormac backs Vogul (the main villain) and provides him with a planet-killing gunship. Duskrealm features heavily in Retribution and there is a tie-in with the sequel’s villain…though I won’t say more.  I want to leave the details as a surprise. 😊

Q) Which of your original characters do you most relate to?

A) Kaity Anderson, hands down! She’s empathetic, cheerful, and an encourager who likes to be there for others in hard times. While friendly, she’s very timid by nature. She’d rather melt into a wall than be the center of attention, she prefers peace and quiet to excitement, and change is hard for her. Most of all, she’s someone who deeply feels her emotions and tunes in to others’. I relate to her on ALL these levels, because she’s the character most like me. I too hate the spotlight, and I’ve had many people tell me I’m so empathetic that I should be a counselor. Lol! The only big differences between us are that I’m a fairly content person and I don’t have trouble letting go of the past. Not so, for Kaity. I’ve also never been sucked through a wormhole and survived a desert planet, so there’s that, too. 😉

Q) Can you tell us about your experience as an indie author?

A) I’m going to sum it up in one word:  rollercoaster. Being an indie author has been wonderful. It’s been amazing seeing the fruition of years’ worth of hard work. It’s been surreal holding a copy of my book in my hand…and having lots of people buying it! Sales have been fantastic. I’ve sold about 150 copies of Book 1, which is far more than I ever imagined. People’s compliments, support, and encouragement are wonderful and make my day.

However, it’s also been difficult. Being an indie author has involved blood, sweat, and literal tears. Edits for Retribution were a PAIN. Reviews are my weakness, and I’ve gotten enough 1- and 2-stars that I’ve sometimes felt like giving up. I’ve also been told “Christian” and “sci-fi” don’t belong in the same sentence, and been harshly criticized by someone I don’t even know. Some days are tough. Some days are glorious. It’s definitely a journey, and I’m in it for the long haul. Overall, it’s an incredible thing to publish and glorify God with my writing, so I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Q) What advice would you offer aspiring authors?

Authoring isn’t for the faint of heart. Go into it with a mindset that this is a journey, not a one-stop destination. Unless you’re incredibly lucky, writing and publishing are a TON of work and require perseverance, creativity, and motivation. Being an author is one of the most rewarding things on the planet, so stick with it! Find a community to support you and BE a support for others.

Above all else, seek to honor God. Resist the pressure to conform or give in to the world’s expectations. Don’t be discouraged when you face opposition. Jesus had a LOT of critics, yet that didn’t stop Him from fulfilling God’s plan for salvation. Write the story God lays on your heart, and trust Him with the details.

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

A) I’d like to mention that I’ve already written Book 3 of Starganauts, titled Defector! A defector is someone who changes allegiance, and that’s the central theme of this book. There will be a betrayal…or possibly two! You’ll get to meet my dangerous, cybernetic space pirates and travel with the team to the edges of the Gorvan Galaxy on a very personal quest. I’m taking my time to edit this one, but I already have the tagline for it:

“In the betrayal of one lies the salvation of many.”

I hope that whets your appetite for Defector. In the meantime, thank you so much for interviewing me, Kayla! This was fun and you asked great questions.

Image provided by Stone.

Order your copy of Starganauts here and Retribution here! And remember to request copies at your local library.

Looking forward to sharing my review of Retribution with you all next week. You can read my review of Starganauts here.

Book Review: Eva Evergreen Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe

In search of comparative titles for my own manuscript, Eva Evergreen Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe was recommended to me by a friend. I listened to the audiobook read by Caitlin Kelly who does a fantastic job making the characters come to life! Overall, I greatly enjoyed the book.

Eva Evergreen is a middle grade fantasy that follows 12-year old Eva as she sets out on her novice witch quest; however, Eva is at a disadvantage because she only has a pinch of magic and her spells usually go awry. For example, she gets a sunburn instead of summoning rain. In addition, using magic drains her and after casting a simple spell or enchantment, she falls asleep. Yet, Eva is determined. She sets out on her quest to earn her license as a novice witch, but things are not easy for a young witch with only a pinch of magic.

Eva finds herself in the seaside town of Auteri. Many people, including the town mayor who is needed to sign off on her paperwork, doubt her. But, she is able to secure a Guardian and make some friends, including a flame fox whom she names Ember. Though she at times even doubts herself, she never gives up.

Truly a heartwarming story about perseverance, friendship, and learning to embrace who you are, Eva Evergreen Semi-Magical Witch is a story children, young adults, and adults alike may enjoy. Readers who favor coming of age stories with likable, determined protagonists will greatly like Eva Evergreen.

The book is an easy 4 star read for me. It didn’t get a full 5 stars because over halfway into the book, there is an automobile and mention of airplanes – it took me out of the world that had been built up until that point.

Furthermore, the book seems to promote hope, but then in Chapter 18 it states, “…Because hope was a cruel sorcery of its own. The power of hope was always tainted with the sharp sorrow of unfulfillment.” I can’t get this out of my head. It is difficult to say sometimes what is hope compared to false hope, but isn’t the purpose of hope to trust that something will be fulfilled? And once it is fulfilled, the hope changes into something else like gratitude? I understand the line in context of the character it referenced; however, I feel that it is misplaced in the story overall – it just doesn’t fit if that makes sense.

Overall, I’m excited to have discovered Eva Evergreen Semi-Magical Witch. Not only is it a cute, heartwarming story, but the epilogue sets up future books. Further, I think it is a great comparative title to my own manuscript (more information on it will be shared soon)!

Picture from Amazon.

You can order your own copy of Eva Evergreen from Amazon here OR you can request a copy at your local library!

Author Interview: Cassandra Hamm

Today, I have the privilege of interviewing Cassandra Hamm, guest judge for the Unicorn Writer’s third flash fiction contest! Cassandra is an author, public librarian, and a part-time editor for SnowRidge Press. When asked what she enjoys doing in her spare time, Cassandra stated, “In my free time, I love to read and write, of course, as well as put together jigsaw puzzles and hang out with my cats, Keefe and Chase, though usually not at the same time. The two habits aren’t particularly compatible.” Learn more about her with the full interview below!

Cassandra Hamm (photo provided by Cassandra)

Q) What mythical creature would you like to have as a pet?

A) Perhaps this is cliché, but it seems fitting because of the subject matter I write about–I would love to have a tiny dragon as a pet. Yes, they’d be annoying, but they’d also be adorable, and, hello, dragons.

Q) Which location in a book would you most like to visit and why?

A) I would love to have attended Hogwarts. Alas, I am too old now. But I can dream of learning magic and hanging out with magical creatures and playing quidditch!

Q) How do you select what books you want to read?

A) I am a mood reader. I often go through book binges where I read a lot of one genre and then move to another genre. I also like to finish book series in a relatively quick fashion unless it’s a series I’m not particularly enjoying, in which case I might wait a year or more to read the next book).

Q) What are your favorite book tropes? Least favorite?

A) I love a good enemies-to-lovers and, if it’s done well, friends-to-lovers (I know people usually like one or the other, but here I am), as well as fake-dating and magical boarding school (Hogwarts, Keeper of the Lost Cities, Nevermoor). I tend to hate love triangles, especially if they’re totally unnecessary to the story, and to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the “chosen one” trope. I also get really frustrated by the miscommunication trope where if people just talked to each other, this whole problem would be avoided.

Q) What was your most recent 5 star read?

A) I just finished How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. It’s completely different from the movie and just as fantastic. Also, David Tennant does an amazing job with narrating. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Q) Where is your favorite location to read? To write?

A) To be honest, I usually just read and write in my room, though I can read pretty much anywhere. I should probably have some sort of designated writing space, though.

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

A) My work appears in several anthologies, including collections from Havok Publishing, Ye Olde Dragon Books, Dragon Bone Publishing, and Twenty Hills Publishing. They range from flash fiction to short stories to poetry in various genres and styles, though my preference is fantasy written in third person limited (with a deep POV). I also have many stories published on Havok Publishing’s website, though those are only available to the public for a few days out of the year. Check out my website to see more about each anthology.

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

A) My current WIP is a middle grade fantasy novel in which only people under the age of thirteen can see magical creatures. My main character, Drew, just wants to get rid of the tiny dragon living under his bed and ruining his life, but as he starts to care for the dragon, he has to decide what lengths he’s willing to go to in order to remember her. It’s full of shenanigans, family problems, and the struggles of pet parenthood.

Q) What advice would you offer aspiring authors?

A) Your writing is separate from who you are. It might be very important to you, but it is not you. When people give you criticism, they are not criticizing you, just your work, which can always be improved. 

Be sure to follow Cassandra on Instagram and Facebook!

Annnnnd, be sure to check out the flash fiction contest happening now here! Comment below with any questions about the contest.

The Unicorn Writer Announces Third Flash Fiction Contest!

Happy Saturday friends! 

It is my pleasure to announce the Unicorn Writer’s third flash fiction contest! The contest is open to both new and experienced writers. Submissions are open NOW through Saturday, May 28, 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 Google Docs. 

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 a desert AND the following words appear: moon, sapphire, and love.

Exciting News: Author Cassandra Hamm will be the guest judge for this contest! Next week, I will have the privilege of interviewing Cassandra here on the blog. In the meantime, be sure to check out my first interview with Cassandra when she won the first flash fiction contest here!

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, June 4, 2022. 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: https://forms.gle/DXpe9GzEJGqJSppz8

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