This is the concept art by Susanne Hundseder for my short story “Grieving Sands,” which is an uplifting grief fantasy. For those who do not know, an uplifting grief fantasy is a story with fantasy elements to help those grieving. For anyone needing such a story, click on the picture above to take you to a site set up nicely for this story. Also, feel free to share if you know anyone who is struggling. We have decided to start sharing short stories without putting them up behind a paywall, so it will be free for anyone to read.
This story started as a writing prompt with the word sandbox. If you read the story, you will understand how amazing the artist did in capturing the women and their mothers. Her skill and the passion she showed with this project blew me away.
I plan to start posting collaborated artwork and projects along with other surprises as time passes. We have a lot planned that I am excited to share! But if you want the precise timelines and management of those projects, inside scoops, book recommendations, bookstore shout-outs, author shout-outs, a free fun fantasy quiz, and more, sign up for my newsletter.
The link is below, along with another link to the short story.
This evening I was able to attend an event with Oxford Exchange Bookstore discussing The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean.
Everyone liked how the main character was a very real person who had flaws, especially when it came to her being a mom and trying her best. One of the best and cutest parts people found about the book was the motherhood parts. Even the readers who don’t normally care for books revolving around motherhood. They loved how and where she gave birth to her son. The remarks and things said between her and her son. And how the main character, as a mother, was represented in a very human way.
Everyone loved how the story was structured, with the past and present meeting at the perfect place and clippings of real-world and fantasy-world quotes and articles at the beginning of the chapters. They felt it helped enhance the story and blend the world.
One of the biggest discussions was how in this book, they didn’t just talk about books. They also talked about video games, which brought a nice familiar aspect that lent coziness to the story.
A character everyone loved was Jarrow. They also loved how his asexuality was presented and actually recognized. It was amazing how the brother believed his sexuality compared to a lot of media and tropes where asexuality is unbelieved.
This book seemed like such a great book for bibliophiles and booksellers with all the descriptions on how certain books taste. It led us to discuss what kind of books we would eat and what they may taste like. We were thinking for horror, a thick, inky taste like blood.
This book and author both seem to have gone through many challenges. It sounds highly frustrating that so many parts of the book had to be taken out, including how it was supposed to be set in different countries. Also, how it was supposed to be a series but got condensed into one. Because of this, it left some parts feeling unfinished to some readers, while others found it fine. But I feel that the author is inspirational for tearing this book apart and still telling a decent, well-characterized story.
I had the chance to attend an enlightening book event with Oxford Exchange discussing When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill.
The reason why this event was so enlightening was because we had readers from many generations attend. It was great to hear their point of view and experiences that shaped how they viewed and read this book. This discussion got so personal and deep that I found myself wanting to sit in front of a fire with a coffee to continue talking through the night.
What was incredibly interesting was the fact that some readers liked the beginning of the book better than the end and some liked the end better than the beginning. There were also some who enjoyed the beginning and the end. The ones who liked the beginning liked that the women were angry. The ones who liked the end liked how the women had chilled out and became ok with who they were. A reader who lived in the 1950s, where this book was placed, said that she did not relate to the beginning because when she was living in that time period, the women she knew displayed their anger through depression. It was when those women started protesting that they found empowerment.
What I took away from this discussion that amazed me was what each reader lingered on in the story and how what they lingered on had them interpreting the story. You had some hold onto the anger. Some look for hope and see hope throughout. And some that saw rising to a challenge. There were also others that saw all of those areas and were able to take it all in.
When it came to the transitioning of the book and how the dragons went from what some readers viewed as fierce to then dragons with lipstick, purses, and other things, there were some who disliked that and others who loved it. The ones who loved it thought it was cute and saw it in a way that the women could pick up their femininity again they were throwing away and be them. The ones who weren’t a fan felt that it took them as readers out of the story making them unable to grasp what exactly the dragons looked like.
Everyone loved so many quotes from this book. Everyone also loved how well the author did in holding the headspace of a child for so long. The articles of the alternate history throughout were also a favorite for most of the readers.
This was a great book that held great protentional when it came to discussing issues through the generations.
What a great discussion about Deep by Rivers Solomon with Oxford Exchange Bookstore.
At the beginning, everyone agreed they felt a little lost but that the book was most likely made that way to fit the story. Everyone also agreed that the world was beautiful, immersive, and enticing enough that even though confusing, they wanted to stay and keep going. They also wanted to follow the main character’s stakes because they were personal enough to cling to and care about.
It was interesting to hear that many reviewers thought that Yetu seemed whiny. Everyone jumped to defend her in the group, believing that she wasn’t whiny and that, even if she was, she had excellent reason to be. She was being tortured in a very real sense by how she had to live.
Everyone discussed the bits and pieces that described how the mermaids looked and then went further into how they might have sounded. There were so many favorite quotes, moments, and scenes in this book that everyone stated. So many wished that the book could have gone on longer.
On the discussion with it lasting longer, it was brought up that maybe the book was the short length it was with nonreaders in mind so that they would have an easier time digesting the topic, and so it would welcome them into the reading world. I thought that was an excellent take.
Everyone loved this book and thought it had a great premise when it came to giving back to the lives that were stolen and giving people that were killed a history by becoming something else that was everlasting.
Rediscovered Books hosted Marissa Meyer’s virtual launch event for her newest book Cursed which is the last book in her duology after Gilded, a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. It was cool to hear that Rediscovered Books hosted one of Marissa Meyer’s first books she ever launched.
Many attended this virtual event where Meyer came with golden tinsels in her hair to represent the book! She started by sharing her inspirational photos that she used to develop the story. Apparently, she creates boards on Pinterest for all her books. This duology’s board was filled with pictures of creepy atmospheric settings, images, monsters, and creatures. Anyone can check out her boards on her Pinterest!
How Meyer came up with her retelling was something she brought up. Her thought process was that the main story was pretty lame when it came to happily-ever-after. She also found it obvious that the king was the villain of the story. So, she made the king the villain of her story, to do the original story justice, and decided, because she is her, that it needed a romance. That is when she came up with the brilliant idea of Rumpelstiltskin being the romantic interest. Also, funny fact, she wanted people to swoon for the king and then feel shame for swooning for him in this second book, so hopefully that worked haha.
She had her audio book narrator come in, which many people said that her books wouldn’t feel like Marissa Meyer books unless they are read by her, Rebecca Soler. This narrator said when doing a series, she has to go back and listen to herself and take notes on who is who, who wants to kill each other, and how she did the voices before. She also jots down adjectives to describe a character to be able to form a voice around them.
After the audio read, Meyer gave fun polls, where we learned that The Runaway Pancake is actually a classification of folktales. Also, that Rumpelstiltskin’s classification falls under Name the Helper. Another fun fact, scholars believe his name might have originally meant Little Rattle Ghost.
If she could change anything in her books, she said what haunts her the most is that she didn’t give Prince Kai a last name. Also, that she didn’t have more LGBTQIA+ characters in The Lunar Chronicles.
Her favorite world to build was the world for Gilded and Cursed because she loves fairytales, lore, and researching. She said she could research and do nothing else, but at some point, knows she has to write the book.
The easiest world she built was for Instant Karma because it is her only contemporary and there wasn’t as much world-building involved. Now, she is working with Locksmith Animation, which is an animation company in the UK, who are looking to adapt The Lunar Chronicles into a tv series. She is very enthusiastic and optimistic because during her meetings with them, she said that she could tell they knew what she was trying to accomplish with the series and why readers liked it.
Excitingly, Meyer said that she held onto lots of things for book two that she didn’t put in book one of this duology. I can’t wait to dive in and read all the reveals and twists that she had set up in book one but didn’t present. And more excitingly still, she revealed the title of her next book, which will be With a Little Luck. It is a companion book to Instant Karma and a ‘careful what you wish for’ kind of story. On top of that fact, she has many things in the works, including, more fairy tale retellings, graphic novels, swag, and more.
Thank you so much Rediscovered Books for the amazing event and letting many people from all around the world to get to attend.
Had an interesting conversation with Oxford Exchange Bookstore about The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake. The Atlas Six is a huge conversation starter for many reasons including plot, mechanics, story, characters, morals, and theme, so the conversation was a long and full one.
It was interesting diving into everyone’s favorite character when there were so many. But everyone’s favorite was mostly the same, except for a couple people had different answers. Most people loved Reina. Everyone also was in agreement that they believed Parisa was the author’s favorite character.
Almost everyone had the same take on the ending and are waiting until the next book to have some questions answered and things explained. The ending though threw some for a loop, while for one other they had guessed the twists right away.
One of the most interesting conversations we had was about gate keeping knowledge. We voted that gate keeping should not be allowed because then people would also have the knowledge to protect themselves if they needed to and knowledge is for all.
Everyone liked this book and the cool ideas it brought with it. I know I am excited to read the second one.
Tonight, I got to listen into an awesome book event between three authors hosted by Book People for Pride Month! The authors were Jason June presenting his book Out of the Blue, Brian D. Kennedy presenting A Little Bit Country (a debut), and Lyla Lee presenting her book Flip the Script.
The authors were dressed for pride! So that was cute! And the first question to them was how they like to spend Pride. Some of the answers were with parades, family, friends, and sunscreen!! Hahaha.
I thought it was interesting and so heart-warming how Brian D. Kennedy wrote his book set in the south, while making sure that he did not have the main character viewing the south as a bad place. He wanted to show how it can be different coming out in different places, especially someplace that is not as ready to accept it, but he wanted to show that there are ways to still live authentically even if you live in one of those places or come from one of those places.
Lyla Lee set her book in South Korea where there are no gay rights. Her book is set in a big city where it can be dangerous to be at Pride. She wanted to write two queer teens falling in love in that context because she needed that as a teen growing up, but she made sure she didn’t make it too idealistic.
In Jason June’s book, he had two settings, but in the Blue, everyone loves who they love and who they are. It is very intriguing how all their settings are so different from one another and was very interesting listening to them talk about it!
Jason June brought up the fact that in the books that Lee and Kennedy wrote, the main characters are public figures being watched as they are trying to explore their identity. Which would be so hard! That led into favorite queer and gay icons. Layla Lee’s favorites are Halsey and Lady Gaga.
It was really cool listening to Kennedy’s passion with this being his debut. His passion lies in country music. He talked about how he loved diving into country music and getting to nerd out about it while building his own world.
They all would love to see more diverse voices because they believe that people need that. When they were growing up, they NEEDED that to feel less alone and less confused. They would also love to see more queer rom-coms to bring about more fun and happy reads to queer books. I could not agree more!
Got to have an amazing conversation with Oxford Exchange Bookstore’s Book Club about Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune. The wonderful hosts started off the club with a question about what tea would be served for everyone at the particular tea shop in the book. Some interesting answers were jasmine-green tea, orange tea, and mint-lemongrass. It was cute to hear the explanations of why those teas would be chosen and it led into even funnier topcs!
The best part about this discussion was learning how this book worked for different people just like how the book highlights how everyone is different so everyone needs different care and everyone will have a different path after death. The book also did amazing when it came to grief and being honest about it, especially how grief is soft and tender but also hard and harsh at times.
It seemed like out of all the characters many of the group’s favorite was Nelson, although a very interesting things was brought up on how a favorite character could not be chosen because all the characters felt like one unit. Another thing that was discussed about characters was how Klune did a terrific job in using the fear of the unknown when it came to the manager.
For my own personal take, I just want to make sure that I state that my favorite lesson in this book was the fact that your death is yours and no one else’s. I love that because it helps readers grasp control of their fear of the after-death.
Astoria Bookshop hosted a launch interview for Adrienne Tooley’s newest book Sofi and the Bone Song. This book is about a girl named Sofi who has trained very hard and is ready to inherit the title of music like her father has. In this world only certain people can play music and through years of training, Sofi found love in it and has made it a part of her identity, until she loses the title to a girl who had never played before.
Tooley said that the idea came to her from her want to know what it would be like in the life of a bard mixed with her life, since Tooley is big into music. Tooley even used to write music and music is how she met her wife.
Apparently, according to the interviewer Allison Saft, there are many really cool magick systems in this book. Tooley explained how one of the magick systems were created just to make Sofi angry. Sofi is a perfectionist much like the author who after writing the first draft of this book and sending it to her editor, didn’t like how many questions the editor had, so she started it all over and wrote it again.
It was cute hearing how this book is a rivals to lovers book between Sofi and the girl who took her title, and it was interesting to hear the author talk about why she chose to stay in one point of view for this book. The reasoning was because she wanted to focus on Sofi’s story and she thought that having the other girl’s point of view also would be too much of a distraction from what she was wanting to get across.
It was easy to tell in this interview how much work that Adrienne Tooley puts into her books. I hope that this book is enjoyed world-wide.
Oxford Exchange Book Club with the Oxford Exchange Bookstore gave us a great discussion on a very popular and well-known book, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.
The club started out asking who everyone’s favorite character was. The top character who came in first was Rhysand and the second favorite was Lucien. It was very interesting and cool to hear that Amarantha was someone’s favorite character and why (because she was well established)! It was also really cool to hear how much everyone loved the masks that were worn throughout this book and that some did not want them to be taken off at all.
It sounded like a winning-majority’s favorite scene in this book was the giant worm scene because of the obstacles, how it had been developed, and how the task had not come easy to the character at all. That was a hot topic in the club on how important it is for readers to not feel like things come too easy for the characters and how readers want things earned. Although this is a fairy tale retelling, some found that certain parts in the book were too easily defeated or accomplished.
Many liked how the main character was illiterate and how she was challenged in that way. It was also interestingly pointed out how cool it was to see Feyre being the illiterate one instead of Tamlin when it comes from being a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
As for the ending, some loved how it gave the character more depth, some found it too easy and unbelievable, and some found it clever. It was very interesting to discuss preferences for readers, but even more interesting how in the end, everyone still found it entertaining and enjoyed it.
One of my favorite discussions was about the tv series coming out in the future for this series and how we hope they will go about capturing the beauty of this book and its imagery. My second was how differently everyone reads. For Sarah J. Maas’s books, I find myself unable to read them fast, my mind will linger on the images and the beauty of the words keeping me still, whereas some find it so compulsively good that they find themselves reading it fast and for hours nonstop until their eyes are strained. But adding to that discussion and the coolest part was how different everyone pictures characters in general. How some readers don’t picture images in their minds at all, how some feel more than see the characters like they are a type of energy or aurora, and how some do both or picture only a blur with a key feature.
I love these deep conversations with these great people and readers. Thank you, Oxford Exchange.