Tag Archives: fantasy

Karenina Chronicles: Ebook Edition

The Karenina Chronicles, A Waterspell Novel by Deborah J. LightfootRelease Day Redux! Now it’s the ebook’s turn. The print edition came out November 17. On December 1, pre-orders of my newest book hit readers’ libraries and devices. I’ve been scrolling through it on my tablet, obsessively double-checking the table of contents and interior illustrations. Everything looks good!

Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered my latest. I’m hearing from my dearly beloved readers that some of you are rereading Waterspell Books 1-4 before starting in on the sequel, the newly published Karenina Chronicles. Bless you, dear friends! But for those who don’t have the time to reread four lengthy novels, please be assured that The Karenina Chronicles is pretty much a stand-alone. There ARE references to What Went Before, but I believe I’ve supplied enough backstory that any reader will be able to follow the new story (of The New Generation) without rereading (or reading for the first time) the previous quartet.

Example: It’s been YEARS since I read His Dark Materials. But I’ve recently listened to the audiobooks of Philip Pullman’s return to that world: The Book of Dust, volumes 1 and 2. Because of the little reminders that Pullman sprinkled through the sequels, I followed the story perfectly well, despite the many years that have elapsed since I read the Dark Materials trilogy.

So please do not feel that you must read Waterspell Books 1-4 before starting my new one. Though of course I love you for your willingness to do so!

Thanks to everyone for buying and reading. Please remember that books make great gifts! 😀

The Karenina Chronicles: A Waterspell Novel by Deborah J. Lightfoot

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Release Day! The Karenina Chronicles

Release Day! 🎉 The print edition of my latest book is now available at all of the booksellers. 🎉 I’m excited about The Karenina Chronicles. There’s a strong streak of a woman’s simmering rage in this book.

Direct links to the major booksellers for the print edition:

The ebook will release on December 1. Find it anywhere ebooks are sold: books2read.com/waterspellbook5

Summary: In the grip of a grief-fueled wanderlust after the death of her Earthly husband, Lady Karenina of Ruain Nina to family and friends escapes into unfamiliar lands, a harsh and distant country peopled with enigmatic characters: the Leviathan, the Nomad, the Outcast, and the Wolf. In their company she finds adventure, danger, champions, and rogues some of the latter worth killing, but at least one worth loving.

Continue the family saga that began in the WATERSPELL fantasy quartet (Warlock, Wysard, Wisewoman, Witch). Follow the further adventures of eldest daughter Nina in The Karenina Chronicles.

Thank you for your ongoing interest and support! 💙

I’m proud of this installment in the series. It’s a journey tale that covers a lot of ground. Karenina (Nina) would not leave me alone until I’d consented to tell the story of her “grand tour.” She insisted that I slip inside her saddlebags and make the trip with her. I’m glad I did. It’s been a journey of self-discovery for myself as well as for Nina. This addition to the series might not be a true standalone novel, but I believe readers can connect with the characters and follow their stories even without having read the first four books. There’s enough backstory scattered through this book to give readers the necessary background.

If you’ve been thinking about dipping your toe into the Waterspell ocean, The Karenina Chronicles is the book to start you off. These books mean a lot to me, and this newest one has a special hold on my heart.

The Karenina Chronicles by Deborah J. Lightfoot

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Book Review: That Which the Deep Heart Knows by RJ Wheldrake

Review: That Which the Deep Heart Knows
by RJ Wheldrake
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is epic. Grand. Beautifully written, masterful in scope and execution, brimming with palace intrigues, murder and treachery, high-stakes conspiracies and closely guarded secrets amongst a large and intricately choreographed cast of memorable characters. The action is intense, complex but well-paced, allowing the reader to catch their breath along the way and hear the rain battering the roofs of country inns while thunder rattles the windows of remote castles. Settings and characters are presented with a remarkable degree of finely wrought detail, details that paint the total picture of place and time, so that the reader feels they are present in each scene over a vast landscape.

This book is the work of an experienced, accomplished, highly talented author. I give it an enthusiastic and appreciative 5 stars and recommend it highly to lovers of epic fantasy. I’m moving directly into the next book in the series (A Trick of the Light, second of Wheldrake’s Toxandrian Chronicles). I’m eager for more excellent writing and another sweeping tale of adventure, destiny, love and sacrifice.

Note: Contrary to my usual practice, I’m not including the book’s cover with this review because the cover — beautiful as it is — tends to suggest that the story is a romance. The young woman pictured on the cover is indeed a romantic figure, and she serves as the pivot around which the story turns. The cast of characters, however, is large and varied, with many among them who lodged themselves deeply into my heart and my sympathies. I cared for them, and the story’s end brought tears to my eyes. This is not a happily-ever-after tale. Some of the characters never find happiness, and even those who enjoy years of blissful togetherness are eventually at the mercy of the fates. Do not, therefore, judge this book by its cover. It’s not the category romance that one might expect from casting a quick glance at the beautiful girl in the purple dress.

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What Makes Great Dialogue?

Dialogue should sound natural—like real people talking. Or more precisely, like really interesting real people talking.

Strive to write dialogue as the natural outcome of the characters’ needs, desires, thoughts, personalities, reactions, and relationships. Don’t use it to dump information on the reader or, even worse, use it just to break up long passages of narrative.

Avoid commonplace dialogue—characters taking up space saying empty things like “Hi, how are you?” and “Fine, how are you?”

Literary agent Noah Lukeman wrote in his classic book, The First Five Pages:

“The presence of commonplace dialogue means the manuscript as a whole will need a lot of cutting: if there is one extraneous line of dialogue on the first page, by the rule of manuscripts, you will also find one extraneous line on each page to come.”

According to Lukeman:

“Dialogue is a powerful tool, to be used sparingly, effectively and at the right moment.”

I greatly admire Ursula Le Guin. (If you don’t know her work, read the Earthsea books—you’ll be swept away.) For examples of pitch-perfect dialogue, see her Tales From Earthsea. Below is an excerpt. Study it and see all that it does, the many levels on which this dialogue succeeds.

We learn the personalities of father and son. The son is quiet, he doesn’t say much. He’s subject to his father’s will, but he’s hoping his old man will stop pressuring him. The father is obviously conflicted: proud of his son’s gift, but disappointed that it doesn’t make the boy suitable to follow in his dad’s footsteps in the family business. The father is also in awe of his child’s talents. We learn so much from this dialogue, and the whole exchange rings true. Believable personalities are revealed.

Also study this passage for examples of how to punctuate dialogue, and how to break up the speaking with a little action. People move around, gesture, pause. They don’t just stand and talk.

The next morning Golden told his son again that he must think about being a man.

“I have thought some about it,” said the boy, in his husky voice.

“And?”

“Well, I,” said Diamond, and stuck.

“I’d always counted on your going into the family business,” Golden said. His tone was neutral, and Diamond said nothing. “Have you had any ideas of what you want to do?”

“Sometimes.”

“Did you talk at all to Master Hemlock?”

Diamond hesitated and said, “No.” He looked a question at his father.

“I talked to him last night,” Golden said. “He said to me that there are certain natural gifts which it’s not only difficult but actually wrong, harmful, to suppress.”

The light had come back into Diamond’s dark eyes.

“The master said that such gifts or capacities, untrained, are not only wasted, but may be dangerous. The art must be learned, and practiced, he said.”

Diamond’s face shone.

“But, he said, it must be learned and practiced for its own sake.”

Diamond nodded eagerly.

“If it’s a real gift, an unusual capacity, that’s even more true. A witch with her love potions can’t do much harm, but even a village sorcerer, he said, must take care, for if the art is used for base ends, it becomes weak and noxious … Of course, even a sorcerer gets paid. And wizards, as you know, live with lords, and have what they wish.”

Diamond was listening intently, frowning a little.

“So, to be blunt about it, if you have this gift, Diamond, it’s of no use, directly, to our business. It has to be cultivated on its own terms, and kept under control — learned and mastered. Only then, he said, can your teachers begin to tell you what to do with it, what good it will do you. Or others,” he added conscientiously.

There was a long pause.

“I told him,” Golden said, “that I had seen you, with a turn of your hand and a single word, change a wooden carving of a bird into a bird that flew up and sang. I’ve seen you make a light glow in thin air. You didn’t know I was watching. I’ve watched and said nothing for a long time. I didn’t want to make too much of mere childish play. But I believe you have a gift, perhaps a great gift. When I told Master Hemlock what I’d seen you do, he agreed with me. He said that you may go study with him in South Port for a year, or perhaps longer.”

“Study with Master Hemlock?” said Diamond, his voice up half an octave.

“If you wish.”

“I, I, I never thought about it. Can I think about it? For a while — a day?”

“Of course,” Golden said, pleased with his son’s caution. He had thought Diamond might leap at the offer, which would have been natural, perhaps, but painful to the father, the owl who had — perhaps — hatched out an eagle.

(From “Darkrose and Diamond,” Tales From Earthsea, copyright 2001 by Ursula K. LeGuin)

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Book Review: Hearts of Ice and Stone by Martin Dukes

Hearts of Ice and Stone by Martin Dukes
 
Review: Hearts of Ice and Stone
by Martin Dukes
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
 
Book description: Laura never realised she was different, or that she was touched in some way by the heavens, until she first set foot, contrary to all law and tradition, within the portals of Darkharrow. Here, in the remote Eastings of Britannia, far from the wealth and the power of London, the dead lie sleeping beneath the ancient towers and cloisters of the great abbey. For some, destiny dictates that their long slumber shall endure until the last trump sounds and all the dead shall rise from their graves, but for some the care of the Camalodolite Order shall reawaken them long before that day. No one has ever been able to look upon the countenances of the departed and tell whether they may be awakened, whether their hearts are of ice or of stone – until now.
 
Caught between the competing affections of those who love her, threatened by those who would destroy her, Laura finds herself enmeshed in a web of conspiracy that draws upon her deepest resources and enforces choices upon her that are of the most momentous kind.
 
My review: Dark, fascinating, original, and beautifully written
 
I love this book! It is utterly engrossing and kept me turning the pages late into the evening. I give it 10 stars for the original storytelling, masterful writing, fascinating characters, and a crisp, compelling plot that sweeps the reader into an ever-darkening story. The prose is elegant and perfectly matched to the story’s brooding, spooky, gothic aesthetic. Fans of Edgar Allan Poe and of Bronte’s Wuthering Heights will revel in this book. I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended. Take a chance on an author you might not know — you won’t be disappointed.

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Passing Through Portals: Fantasy Review Copies for Readers

First, let’s define it: A portal fantasy is a story about a character who gets transported (perhaps voluntarily, perhaps not) into a fantastic or alternate world. They pass through a portal of some kind (a wardrobe? a tunnel? an interdimensional hole?) and find themselves in a reality that’s different from the world they left behind.

“As anyone who reads science fiction and fantasy can tell you, life is full of doors … appearing unexpectedly, leading to unexpected places. Other worlds, other times. Narnia. An alien planet. The Bronze Age.” James Davis Nicoll

During December, you’re invited to explore a couple of dozen portals and doorways, via “Passing Through Portals,” a month-long promotion sponsored by StoryOrigin and 20 or so participating authors, myself among them.

You can pick up a free review copy of Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock. And while you’re there, please check out all the other titles, also free to download and read, in exchange for honest reviews.

Enjoy your otherworldly travels!

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Travel Inspires Writing

In the Before Time (pre-2020 Pandemic) I enjoyed traveling. Recently I had occasion to look through old vacation photos, and I found three that must have served as direct inspiration for pivotal elements in my Waterspell books. Their influence operated subconsciously. I didn’t have the pictures before me when I wrote their imagery into my story. When I came across the photos, however, long after the fact, I instantly recognized all that they had given me.

The Lake of the Lilies

Lily pond at Honey Creek State Natural AreaI snapped this picture at the Honey Creek State Natural Area in the Texas Hill Country, on a tour organized by the Texas Nature Conservancy. The outing was advertised as a wildflower tour, but when we got there our guide apologized for the almost complete absence of wildflowers—the deer had eaten them between the time the tour was arranged and before we arrived. I remember the beauty and wildness of the place, though. This old snapshot does not do justice to the shimmering of sunlight on the pads of the water lilies. Clearly, the vision stayed with me, and inspired the Lake of the Lilies in the woods near Verek’s manor house.

Carin’s Sanctuary Oak

Major Oak photo by Jerzy KociatkiewiczDuring a trip to England, I got to see the Major Oak in the midst of Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. We soaked up the whole Robin Hood–Sherwood Forest magic of the place. I came home with a beautiful Lincoln Green scarf woven of English wool and sporting an embroidered Robin with his bow drawn. Looking at this picture of the Major Oak, I have no doubt that the tree was the subconscious inspiration for the Sanctuary Oak that saves Carin from the wasteland dogs. The above photo by Jerzy Kociatkiewicz appears at The Treeographer and shows the tree standing alone in the midst of a clearing, just as Carin’s Sanctuary stands. The branching pattern of the Major Oak’s thick limbs suggests how Carin is able to leap into her sanctuary tree to escape the dogs, and how she can sleep that night, though uncomfortably, by lashing herself to one of its thick horizontal branches.

The Mirror Pool

Towertop compass design at a Texas Hill Country state parkFour stone benches ring the well of the wysards in the cavern of enchantment deep beneath Verek’s manor house. The benches are arranged like the four cardinal points of a compass. When I came across this old vacation photo, I gasped in recognition. Look closely, and you can see the ornate E, S, and W directional markers of this stone compass that’s laid into the floor of a watchtower (or observation deck). The letter N for North barely appears at the left edge of the picture. I can’t remember exactly where I took this photo in the Texas Hill Country, but I’m inclined to think it’s either Longhorn Cavern or Inks Lake State Park in Burnet County, next to Inks Lake on the Colorado River. Seen through the lens of my writing, I easily picture the mirror pool replacing that stone mosaic in the center of the floor, with the benches set around the pool at the cardinal points, the directional letters giving way to carvings of key, crescent moon, fish, and radiant sun.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” (Attributed, probably incorrectly, to St. Augustine.)

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Time to Work Out the Plan

Waterspell tagline on sunsetFor a year, I’ve been laying the groundwork:

• New covers, first for the ebooks and now for the paperbacks
• Ongoing work on the audiobooks
• New book trailers, created via Biteable
• Reformatted Facebook author page
• Updated Amazon author page
• Updated Goodreads profile
• Lots of social media graphics newly made at Canva.com

My next steps include looking into the usefulness of these things:

• BookBub
• The Fussy Librarian
• Blog tours
• Goodreads Giveaways
• Amazon advertising
• Written Word Media
• Instagram

I know who I’ll ask for new reviews to augment the glowing reviews that Waterspell received upon the books’ initial publication. The circle I move in, these days, is much changed from the social circle that I knew before my husband’s death in 2012. Now, I number among my friends many anti-fascist activists, folks I got to know after November 2016. Most of them didn’t even know I was a many-times published author; it wasn’t what drew us together. Now, gradually, I’m revealing my past life and enlisting the support of those who are willing to help me recover something of it.

Waterspell Book 1 detail

Am I dreaming, thinking I can relaunch a 10-year-old fantasy series? Possibly. But I’m making final edits to Waterspell Book 4, preparing for a 2022 release. And the audiobooks are slowly coming together, after my wonderfully talented narrator endured a major upheaval in his own world. It took him away from the work for six months—disruptive, yes, but not as damaging to a career as was my own dark, nine-year period of grief and neglect. If nothing else goes too badly wrong, the audiobooks should be released in 2022, along with Book 4.

I’m thinking those two events could be and should be enough to spark new interest in the original trilogy. If I will get out there and promote, dammit. It’s no secret that promotion takes money, and I’m prepared to pay, within reason, for advertising. Here’s what I plan for my first sponsored Facebook post:

waterspell-fb“Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and Charlotte Brontë.” From award-winning author Deborah J. Lightfoot, an unforgettable epic fantasy that readers call “extraordinary, enthralling, completely unpredictable.” Think “Jane Eyre meets a sorcerer.” Coming in 2022, Book 4 of Waterspell will complete the series. Print & ebooks available. Audiobooks in progress. www.waterspell.net

Amazon advertising and BookBub being completely new to me, I’ll need to discover how they may or may not fit into the budget. But at least I’ve got a little ready cash to spend on a new promotional push. The 2020 Pandemic Year not only gave me time and opportunity to pursue audiobooks and to write Book 4, it saved me money. I went nowhere and cooked meals at home. Everything I didn’t spend on travel and restaurants is now earmarked for book promotion.

I hope to Drisha this plan of mine will get these four books in front of the readers who will most enjoy them. At this point, it’s readership I want—not fortune so much, just a tiny bit of fame to validate the years I’ve spent obsessing over this story of mine.

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“Literary Fantasy” Defined

Book 1 The WarlockThis is the best definition of “literary fantasy” I’ve come across. The definer, Emily Temple, also lists and briefly describes recommended books in the genre. Of course, I must add the Waterspell series to the list, as it closely fits her definition:

“For the purposes of this list, I am using it [the term ‘literary fantasy’] to mean works of fantasy that prioritize sentence-level craft and/or complex thematic structures, and/or that play with expectations and fantasy tropes, and/or that focus on characters and interiority as primary goals of the work. I don’t just mean ‘well-written fantasy’ or ‘literary novels that have magic in them,’ though both kinds of books can be found here. What I mean is books that relate to and pull from the conventions of both genres: fantasy and literary fiction. This means there might be dragons, and there might be a hero’s journey, and there might be some lyrical descriptions, and there might be some family conflict. There is also some crossover with SF and literary SF, of course.”
—Emily Temple

Find Temple’s list on Literary Hub at “10 Works of Literary Fantasy You Should Read.”

 

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Tolkien and Lewis

Middle-Earth and Narnia: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Invented Modern Fantasy

I found this presentation by Professor Harry Lee Poe (Union University) so enjoyable, I watched it twice. The second time through, I took notes, some of which I’ll share here. Any fan of Tolkien or Lewis will do well, however, to pay the $12 registration fee for unlimited access to the full lecture. Prof. Poe provided an enlightening overview of how Tolkien and Lewis related to one another in developing modern fantasy. Their works spawned an entire field of storytelling.

Among Poe’s points:

  • The Lord of the Rings is a three-volume book. It’s not a trilogy.
  • The Ring of the Nibelungen was Tolkien’s inspiration.
  • Lewis served as “the great encourager,” urging Tolkien to write his stories of Middle-Earth. Lewis gave Tolkien the idea for “the wound that would not heal” as well as the basic structure of the “journey story” — there and back again.

“In the journey story,” Poe said, “the hero risks all, ventures all, travels to the end of the world to do the great deed, and having accomplished the great deed on this fabulous quest, having fought all the foes, he returns a changed person.” (Sound familiar?)

For Watching & Reading …

I’m behind on my movie-viewing. Prof. Poe mentioned these films, only one of which I’ve seen:

He also mentioned the Scottish author George MacDonald, whom Wikipedia describes as a pioneering figure in the field of modern fantasy literature and the mentor of fellow writer Lewis Carroll. Clearly, I need to spend some time with MacDonald’s books, and catch up on all the movies I missed while I was absorbed in my own fantasy worlds.

My thanks to Professor Poe for his valuable overview of Where Middle-Earth Met Narnia.

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