Monday, May 28, 2012

Angel In the Woods by Rachel Starr Thomson

STORYLINE: Hawk is a nobleman’s son in search of a giant to kill or a maiden to save. The trouble is, when he finds them, there are forty-some maidens—and they call their giant “the Angel.” Intrigued by conflicting rumours, Hawk ventures out to see if the strange man in the woods is angel or demon.

As a reward for his courage, he is swept into the heart of a patchwork family and all of its mysteries: the Giant, who guards the woods with vengeful power and tends his flock with infinite tenderness, the
Pixie, whose only clue to her past is a piece of embroidery, Illyrica, whose scarred throat explains her silence and hints at a tragic history, and Nora—mistress of the Castle, of laundry, of the children, and increasingly of Hawk’s heart.

As the Giant trains him to protect and provide for the family, Hawk is transformed by the innocence and love of those around him—but the outside world cannot be kept at bay forever. The wealthy and
influential Widow Brawnlyn suspects the Giant of hiding a great treasure. Driven by greed, she sets out to tear the family apart and bring the Giant to destruction any way she can. Appealing to Hawk’s pride and desire to be a hero, Widow Brawnlyn and her dangerously beautiful daughter Genevieve place him at a crossroads: caught between the terrible truths he discovers about the family’s past and the unalterable fact that he has come to love them, he must face his fears and overcome his flaws if he is to rescue the Angel in the woods.


It took me a little while to get into The Angel In the Woods, but as the story of Hawk, the Angel, and the children grew, the more I began to love it. Watching Hawk grow--in his care for the children, in his love for Nora, and into the warrior he always wanted to become--was a journey that was a mastery of storytelling in its powerful and understated way.

This story reads like a simple, beautiful fairytale. It didn't strike me as absolutely amazing while I was reading it, but several weeks after finishing the story, it was still on my mind. The more I think about it, the more truth and beauty I find in the story.

Rating: five out of five stars

Friday, May 25, 2012

In Pictures: May 2012

May was a busy month! Now that's it's finally getting warm here, events are stacking up like crazy. We've had something going every weekend in May, and the same is true halfway through June.  Here's what we've been up to--I hope to make this a regular feature on the blog if everyone enjoys it! :)

My first attempt to make fruit leather. Lesson learned--when the recipe says use microwaveable plastic wrap, use microwaveable plastic wrap, not foil. The foil stuck to the pan and it took me two days of soaking the pan to get it all off. :/

Paper lanterns that I hung above my desk! :)

Fishing--and not catching anything.

My friend Elyse and me on our way down to Green Bay for the weekend!

Elyse playing her new electric violin--which sounds awesome.


Rock-climbing--first time ever outdoors. It's awesome!

Justin and I took a day to ourselves and went hiking in a beautiful gorge about a half hour away from Marquette. This is part of the river that ran along the bottom of the gorge

And this was the falls we hiked in to see. Beautiful!

We ate lunch on this overlook, beside that tree--three hundred foot cliffs right below us

 Us at the falls! I has a handsome hubby! :)

 The ore dock in the rain

Mudding, a Yooper special. :) My friend Kala and her daughter got very, very stuck in this wonderful mud pond. So did Justin & I--my Jeep was buried in mud past the bottoms of the doors. Thankfully Mitch & Elyse have a winch on their mudding truck and they were able to pull us all out.

The first Italian soda of the year!

Highlighting my own doesn't look too bad, but it was a harrowing process

My friends Elyse and Alexa finishing their 13.1 mile half-marathon in Green Bay. You rock, ladies! :D

June looks to be filled with a tea party, playing music at the veteran's home, some canoeing/kayaking, and a 50-mile bike ride...thus far. We'll see what else ends up happening!

**DON'T FORGET! There's a giveaway going for e-copies of Gregory J. Down's "Brother Thief", first in the "Song of the Aura" series. Enter on this post!**

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Characters In My Living Room Part 3

The third part of my Characters In My Living Room series is up at the New Authors Fellowship!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Scribbles by Tommie Lyn

(Sorry for not posting this yesterday! It was a bit busy after getting back from Green Bay on Sunday)


Do dreams come true? Meg MacAllister hopes they don't.... Because in Meg's dreams, she kills. Or worries that she does.... Johnny Peyton doesn't believe her fears have basis in reality. At first. Does she? Or doesn't she? And does she really want to know?


Scribbles was a creepy book! The plot was a wonderful concept and had me hooked to it. The writing was pretty good, although the characters didn't really jump off the page at me and I really didn't get connected to them. All in all, though, a nice book to sit down with in the afternoon (not evening ;) ).

Three out of five stars.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Meet the Author: Gregory J. Downs

 Hey everyone! Welcome to my interview of Gegory J. Downs, the author of the Song of the Aura series.
First, a bio:

I’m the author of more than a few stories, including the six-novel Song of the Aura series, the two-novel Excather Cycle series, the ongoing Ghostwalker’s Chronicle series, and multiple short stories, as well as a how-to book about self-publishing. As far as the rest of my life goes, I like all sorts of fantasy games, movies, and books. My current projects are the next book in the Ghostwalker series, and a standalone epic taking place in the world of Song of the Aura.

You can reach me by email at…

…or at my blog, at

…or on Twitter, where I go by the totally-original moniker of “@GregoryJDowns…”

…or you could even contact me on Facebook! I have a fanpage for each of my three series: (my Arthurian series), (my epic fantasy series), and (my current series).

And, on to the interview!

~How do you get ideas for stories? Specifically, what gave you the idea for the Song of the Aura series?

I get ideas for stories from… well, everything. My best ideas have come while I’m out running and thinking about whatever I was just reading/watching. Song of the Aura actually grew out of a rainy day. I was inside with a friend and we got bored, so we drew a big map of a fantasy world where there were two continents at war: the ‘magic’ and ‘knights’ people and the ‘steampunk’ people. Later I added element-powers like you see in Wheel of Time or Avatar, and plunked the whole story down in my original fantasy world called “Sceptre.”
Some people say I ripped off Avatar: The Last Airbender. That is mostly a lie.

~It reminded me of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but I liked the similarities! When did you start writing? Do you feel that God specifically called you to write, or is it something you took up on your own?
I started writing when I was made to for school. Only in highschool did I figure out you could write things for fun, too… and pretty soon I’d written a book and decided I wanted to do that for a living. I do feel called to write, though I’m open to whatever else God has in store. Perhaps I’ll become a novelist, like I hope. Perhaps an apologist. Perhaps a teacher. Who knows? I really like writing novels, though… that’d be first choice.
~Do any of your characters take over the story, or do they generally stay well-behaved?
I am the master of my characters. Oddly enough, I had never heard of this ‘character rebellion’ other authors seem to fear. The writing group I’m in is full of people who talk to their characters. That’s great, but not how I, ahem, “roll,” as the delinquents say. My characters are pawns in my scheme of doom. They do as I say, because they exist only in my head.
On a side note, “Nim’s Island” is a great movie, and Jodie Foster argues with her own Main Character in that.

~Um, yeah, Jodie Foster's character in Nim's Island basically portrays my everyday life. *embarrassed cough* :) Why did you decide to write fantasy?
I didn’t, it’s just that so far all my ideas have ended up looking like fantasy. I have a few non-fantasy shorts, but that’s it. One day, though, I’m sure I’ll turn to other things. I have some ideas… we’ll see how it plays out. I have plans for at least one Sci-fi and one thriller novel in the next few years.

~Which fantasy creature is your favorite?
Hobbits. Here I must digress: I have never understood why people like dragons so much. I like them, but I only write them to kill them. All dragons are evil in my mind. I must read too many Tolkien essays. And unicorns… I only ever liked one unicorn story. It was by a friend of mine, and the unicorn had all his unicorn friends come kill a unicorn hunter. That was cool.

~I agree with you, on the unicorns anyway. ;) Did you base any characters off of someone you know personally?
I named a character in my first-ever short story after a good friend of mine. Then the character almost killed himself… I never did that again.
Ahem. Well, apart from that, I sometimes base certain characteristics of characters off people I know. But never whole names/personalities. Anyway, I think to a certain extent every character an author writes has a sliver of that author in them. So in a way… everyone a person writes is based slightly off of their very own self.

~Who is your favorite character that you've created? That you've read about?
My favorite character of my own so far… is the one I’m writing now. His name is Arley and he is incredibly annoying. The most annoying MC I’ve ever written. It’s awesome.
My favorite character in reading is… Samwise Gamgee. Do I even need to explain that?

~Nope. Sam is just awesome, and anyone who argues with that can go sit with their nose in the corner. ;) How do you go about writing a book or story?
I could go on for hours and pages about this. It’s different every time, really. I’ll try to boil it down.
Step 1. I get an idea. “Airbending looks so cool!” or “What if the dragon was a steampunk robot?” or “What if I wrote a sequel to this fantasy story, but a thousand years later, and with guns and bowler hats?” are all previous inspirations of mine.
Step 2. I elaborate. A plot outline or a map or something similar. I rework the world/story as I go. Sometimes I have it outlined scene-by-scene, and sometimes I write a whole novel out of a two-paragraph summary.
Step 3. I write it. This is the most painful step.
Step 4. I edit it. Sometimes I edit as I write, changing huge chunks that don’t fit, and sometimes I just skim over afterwards and fix any gaping holes. Then it’s on to the publishing phase.

~What do you do if you have a severe case of writer's block?
I don’t believe in writer’s block. No one runs out of ideas… just motivation and interest. When THAT happens, I tend to regress into a twitter-facebook-blog-compulsive-rankings-stalker for a while. Don’t do that. What’s better is to try something crazy in the story and change it later if you need to. Or start a new story. Or drink some tea. I drink a lot of tea when writing.

~Can you tell me a little about future projects you have planned?
Song of the Aura was my biggest project yet. Totaled, it’s about 300,000 words. The next behind that is The Excather Cycle, which is two parts equaling about 100,000 words.
The project I’m working on now should be between 200,000 and 300,000 words total. It’s set in the same world as Song of the Aura… but thousands of years later. There are guns. Bowler hats (remember…?). Trains. And vengeful false deities. It’s not quite a sequel, but there are related incidents. It also resembles steampunk- slightly- but I really, really balk at labeling it that for some reason. That’s all I can say at this point, but I hope to have something (or multiple somethings) out by the summer.

~Awesome! What is your favorite funny writing quote?
I don’t really have one. But I want to ask you a question instead:
“How do you get a writer off your front porch?”
Pay him for the pizza

:) And on that note, thanks Gregory for taking the time to join me on Magical Ink.
Readers, you can find all of Gregory's Song of the Aura novels on Amazon, as well as Mordred (book 1 in the Excather Cycle), a short story collection, Dreams of Steel, and his novella, Ghostwalker. There is also an omnibus edition of the entire SotA series available on Barnes and Noble as an e-book.
Also, don't forget that we're running a giveaway for THREE e-book copies of the first book in the Song of the Aura series, Brother Thief. To enter, leave your name and email address on THIS POST. I'll draw a name in two weeks (June 1st) and notify the winners the next day (Saturday, June 2nd). Don't forget to post on FB, Twitter, your blog, and whatever other social media you're a part of and let your friends know about this great opportunity!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Characters In My Living Room

What happens when my characters decide to drop in for a visit? :)

Characters In My Living Room is an ongoing series at the New Authors Fellowship. Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Song of the Aura Books 1-3 by Gregory J. Downs


Gribly is a thief, and a good one.He can control sand, and in Ymeer, that means he can go anywhere he wants. His talent attracts the attention of a dark, dangerous young man, Gramling, and his lord. On the run, Gribly stumbles upon Lauro, a boy who claims to be a messenger from the King of Vastion in the south.

But do simple messengers control the winds?

Forced to work together, the two set off to find an Aura, a being who can teach them more of their powers and explain the strange happenings in the world around them. On heir quest, they meet a girl named Elia, who can control water.

They are all destined to be a part of incredible events...if they survive.

Become a legend...or die trying.


 Each book of Song of the Aura is short, almost novella-length, so they are good for when you want something that is well-written, but reads quickly. At the beginning of Brother Thief, the writing seemed a little stiff to me, but by Winter Warrior and Grym Prophet, Downs' writing style is easily settled into and enjoyable.

The story-world reminded me a little of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Not in a bad way, either--I thought it was original, yet had enough of an Avatar flair to endear it to watchers of that series. You can never have enough water-bending, right? ;)

The characters seemed fairly well-drawn, though a few things about Lauro surprised me a little and didn't feel quite foreshadowed enough. Interestingly enough, the character I felt the most sympathy for was Gramling, and I'm looking forward to seeing where his character arc takes him.

There is one mild cuss and some story-world curses. I think I would easily recommend this series to 15-16-year-olds and up, as its a fun, quick read.

Rating: 3.5 out of five stars.

Come back on Friday for an interview with Gregory J. Downs adn to enter the giveaway for THREE copies of the first book in the Song of the Aura series, Brother Thief.

Places to find the Song of the Aura series:
Barnes and Noble

Friday, May 11, 2012

Why I write reviews like I do

There are two reasons I write reviews.

1) I like doing it. It's like the online version of my home library, where I'm constantly loaning out books to my friends and urging them to "read this one--it's amazing!". :)

2) I like to know what's in m novels before I start filling my brain with it. My husband and I almost always look up movies and TV shows on Plugged In Online before we start watching them, because there's a lot of junk out there that we don't necessarily want to fill our minds with. I couldn't find a review site that did the same for books, so I decided to start my own. I try to be honest about the book's writing and contents without giving away too much of the plot...which is hard sometimes. :) I know when I was a kid, my mom had a hard time finding books for me to read, so I hope I've helped a mom or teen or two figure out what books are good for them. :)

That's all.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pattern of Wounds by J. Mark Bertrand


It's Christmas in Houston, and homicide detective Roland March is on the hunt for a killer. A young woman's brutal stabbing in an affluent neighborhood bears all the hallmarks of a serial murder. The only problem is that March sent the murderer to prison ten years ago. Is it a copycat -- or did March convict the wrong man?

Alienated from his colleagues and with a growing rift in his marriage, March receives messages from the killer. The bodies pile up, the pressure builds, and the violence reaches too close to home. Up against an unfathomable evil, March struggles against the clock to understand the hidden message in the pattern of wounds.


J. Mark Bertand's gruff, oddly-philosophical detective Roland March is back at it again. 

Really, I don't know how to talk about this book without repeating everything I said in my review of Back On Murder. It's realistic, it's gritty, and yet it knows where to stop and leave stuff off-screen. It's a wonderfully written book that should make fans of detective stories put down their remote and go to the library.

Again, I'd suggest this for those 18 and up, just because of the nature of the story.

Rating: five out of five stars

Friday, May 4, 2012


In Remembrance of Matthew Isaiah Titus, born into Heaven on April 11th, 2012. I love you, Matty.


All blog content copyrighted 2012 by H. A. Titus