Underrated Books

My awesome friend E. L. Bates just included SEVENTH SON on a list that also has books by Susan Cooper and Lloyd Alexander on it. Pardon me if I’m strutting around with a bit of a swelled head right now. Great book recommendations here – check it out! (Incidentally, if I was writing a list like this, E. L. Bates’ books would definitely be on it. Take a look.)

StarDance Press

I saw this theme floating around today, and I was intrigued. The stated limit is “books with under 2,000 ratings on Goodreads,” and I cheated a little by including one with 2,039 ratings. I was pleased to see how many of my favorite books were not as underrated as I always suspected–Emily of Deep Valley, for example, had too many ratings to make it onto the list, as did several of Lloyd Alexander’s books. I still managed to find ten, though, and probably could have kept going did not supper interrupt!

Seaward, Susan Cooper. I love The Dark is Rising series, but this book of hers is little known, and deserves better. It is haunting and mysterious, hope-filled with a hint of terror behind it, and it’s the sort of book that stays with you for days afterward. Lovely, lovely writing. More people should read it.

The Rope Trick

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New Release – Hills And Valleys (Ambeth Chronicles #3)

Drumroll…. The great Helen Jones has published her third book! I’m off to Amazon to get my copy.

Helen Glynn Jones


Yay! I’ve been a bit busy these past few weeks working on the final edit and formatting for Hills and Valleys, the third book in my Ambeth series. And now I can happily say…. drum roll… it’s published!

Available on Amazon and part of KDP Select (so you can read for free as a Kindle Unlimited member), Hills And Valleys continues Alma’s story:

‘Sometimes things call to us until we can no longer ignore them. And Ambeth is calling you, Alma.’

After the events of the Harvest Fair, Alma is finished with Ambeth – they can find the missing Cup and Crown without her. But Ambeth is not finished with her. First the mystery of her dead father comes back to haunt her, then the Dark reach out, hoping to trap her once more.

And then there’s the strange power she seems to have…

If you’ve been reading along…

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Travel Reads


IMG_20160303_092225Greetings from Frankfurt Airport. I’m on my way back from a Blitzvisit to the Fatherland for a family birthday.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I suffer from a condition called Büchermangelangst, a phobia of a lack of books. It’s chronic and incurable, and can only be alleviated by carrying an adequate supply of reading material. So I bought myself a couple of new ones; one of them is a murder mystery set at the Frankfurt airport. Should be good motivation to get out of here.

See you soon!


Oak and Mist – Download Free For a Limited Time!

Shout-out of a new writer friend’s book freebie! I just read Oak and Mist, and it’s great. Go get yourself a copy!

Helen Glynn Jones

Oak And Mist final cover

Oak and Mist, the first book in my Ambeth series, is free on Amazon from now until February 25th (e-book version only).

‘The end of everything? Great, no pressure then.’

Alma Bevan didn’t mean to go on a quest. But when she disappears between two trees at her local park and reappears in Ambeth, she finds they’ve been expecting her.

So now she has to find a lost sword or the consequences for humanity will be dire. With no idea where to look, despite help from her new friend Caleb, things become even more complicated when a handsome Prince of the Dark takes an interest in her.

All this plus homework too?

Well reviewed on both Goodreads and Amazon, Oak and Mist is the first book in The Ambeth Chronicles. So go on, download a copy today! myBook.to/oakandmist

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From the Shadows … Here!

So I didn’t get CHECKMATE published before Christmas – but here’s the next best thing: My good friend E. L. Bates is putting out her SciFi novel FROM THE SHADOWS today! I love that book in so many ways – and I don’t just say that because Louise is my friend. This story made me laugh, cry, cheer, fall in love with the characters… It’s so very worth reading. Get yourself a copy!

StarDance Press

fts_5_picmonkeyed Whisked from her troubled, solitary life to a spaceship centuries in the future, widowed folk musician Riss Waldon must first figure out how she got there, and then if it’s possible to get home. Before long, she is visiting strange and deadly planets and meeting new alien races, and forming friendships with the crew. Even as they strive to discover a way for her to return, she wonders if it possible to step out of the shadows of her past life and stay here. But when the well-being of the entire crew rests on her shoulders, she isn’t sure she’s up to the task. What if she fails them? All she can do is try …

It is book release day! My second novel, and in some ways this is even more exciting than the first one. Certainly less nerve-wracking.

From the Shadows started as a fun “what-if” … what…

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Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp-Participant-2015-Web-BannerCamp NaNoWriMo is upon us again! In case you don’t know, Camp Nano is the “light” version of November’s NaNoWriMo, world’s greatest yearly online writing event. During November, crazy writers all over the globe pledge themselves to writing a 50,000 word novel in one month, from Nov. 1st to 30th. If you’re not up for that level of insanity, or, conversely, if you’ve done NaNoWriMo and it has you gasping for more but you can’t stand the wait until November, there are a couple of easier events happening in April and July.

During Camp Nano, you can pick your own style of project. It can be anything from 10,000 to 100,000 words long, and, unlike the November Nano, can be fiction, non-fiction, novels, short stories, memoirs, poetry, or what-have-you – actually, it doesn’t even have to be a complete “writing” project; it can be editing or continuing a previous piece of work.

During the last couple of years, I’ve used Camp Nano to provide me with the motivation to finish grad school papers. But this April, being fresh out of grad school deadlines staring me in the face, I really got into the spirit of things. The great Kate M. Colby started a “cabin” (small message board with about a dozen participants) and invited other writers to join; so I jumped in – and we had some awesome pillow fights, mutual-support session, and marshmallow roasts, and wrote a whole bunch of words together. And in the process, I made some new writerly friends*, which is really what NaNoWriMo is all about.

But this time, Kate is kind of busy, so we decided that it’s my turn to start the cabin. So the cabin is created, I’ve claimed my bunk, and I’m waiting for my friends to sign up. If you want to participate, go to campnanowrimo.org, make a profile (or pull up your old one if you’ve already got one); create a project (that’s important; the site won’t let me invite you unless you’ve got a project); and then either send me a mail through my contact form or leave a comment below with your Nano username, and I’ll send you an invite so you can join (space is limited!). You can also find me on the site under amo1967.

Incidentally, I’m not writing a full-blown 50K novel this July – I’ve got too much other summerish stuff on the go. So if you’re scared of the “No” in NaNoWriMo (NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth), don’t be. You can join our cabin and just be wimpy with me – write a couple of short stories, do some editing, stuff like that. It’ll be fun, I promise!

Life, the Universe, and Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ll share my marshmallows.

*for example, Kara Jorgensen, Zach Chopchinski, and Whitney of Wit & Travesty. And my great friend E. L. Bates was there too!

Write What You Know

I just read a quite interesting guest post on Kate M. Colby’s blog, by one Fia Essen. The topic of the post is “Write What You Know”. Essen talks about how her own experiences have inspired her to write about women quite like herself, in similar life circumstances, and how it made for good books (I haven’t read her books, so I’ll take her word for it; but the excerpt posted on Amazon looks not bad).

It’s a good post, and a good piece of advice – one that I have followed in my own writing. Seventh Son is, as you know, about a woman named Cat who looks into a blue pottery bowl and gets whirled off into a magical medieval world. And that, of course, is what… umm… happens to me on an… uh… regular basis? Right. Maybe that piece of advice does break down when you’re dealing with Fantasy. I’m quite sure Tolkien was not intimately acquainted with hobbits, and his personal experience with battling orcs was probably somewhat limited, too.

However, there’s still a lot of truth to this, even if you’re writing about magical faraway places. Because people are always people, and in order for readers to get into your story, your people have to be believable people. So Cat is, magical dimension-travel aside, pretty much me. Or at least she was in the first book. Seventh Son started from this basic premise: if I was suddenly thrown into another world (à la the Pevensie kids in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), how would I react? I’d freak out, that’s how. So that’s what Cat does. She has a fit. And then she tries to cope with the situation in the best way she knows how – by trying to be rational about it, and calling up all the bits and pieces of information she’s garnered in the course of her career as librarian and avid reader.

IMG_20150607_132347But there’s even more of me that’s in that book than Cat’s personality and voice. I gave Guy, the potter, my own pottery wheel, and my own pottery technique, the one I learned at the local art centre almost ten years ago. See, that’s it in the picture. My man built it for me for my birthday the year I finally learned to throw pots on the wheel (one item scratched off the bucket list). Guy, being a professional, has a metal wheelhead with concentric grooves cut into it – for my amateurish throwing a wooden one does the job. Also, he doesn’t have plastic ice cream buckets sitting on the bench for his water and clay slurry, of course; his are old pots or maybe tin buckets. But other than that, this is it. If you go to Chapter 14 in Seventh Son, you get the exact description of how to make pottery on a kick wheel like this one.

In Cat and Mouse, Cat learns to make sourdough bread, and ink made from black walnut husks. And yes, I’ve done both of those things; they work. You can pretty much follow the instructions in the book to get bread and/or ink. Also, most of the technologies, recipes and remedies in my stories are ones that could have been used in the European Middle Ages. The climate and landscape of Isachang, the land I tossed Cat into, is more or less Central Europe – because that’s the place I’m familiar with. So yes, I write what I know.

Not THE bowl – but one that came off my pottery wheel. And it IS blue.

I do make up the occasional fact, or plant, for that matter – for example, the spikeberry bush which is important in Cat and Mouse is my own invention. It kind of appeared in the pages of Seventh Son early on, just because I needed something to fill out the visuals of the scene when Cat arrives in the Wald of Ruph, and then it came in handy when I needed a plant that would have a particular medicinal effect for the climax of Cat and Mouse. But for the most part, everything in my stories is real, even for this world.

So, “Write What You Know” still holds true even for places and times far removed from  your own. Tolkien may not have been personally acquainted with any hobbits, but there is a great deal of him in the hobbits, from their love of a pipe smoking to their appreciation of creature comforts (no one who wasn’t a lover of good food could have written the Hobbiton parties like he did), not to mention how Bilbo feels about foolish and unnecessary adventuring to start with.

Life, the Universe, and Writing What You Know. One of these days Cat is going to make soap.

Indie Book Review: Seventh Son by A.M. Offenwanger

One excellent review of Seventh Son from the great Kate M. Colby!

Kate M. Colby

seventh sonSeventh Son by A.M. Offenwanger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Seventh Son by A.M. Offenwanger follows Catriona (Cat), a librarian in the midst of a (almost) quarter-life crisis, on a journey to a mysterious new world. While visiting a museum, Cat becomes captivated by a beautiful, turquoise pottery bowl. As she leans down to look at the bowl, Cat is suddenly whirled out of the museum and lands in the middle of a strange forest with no idea how it happened or where she is. As Cat encounters the locals and slowly learns about this new world, the mystery of her transportation there unfolds, and she must choose whether to stay with her new-found family or return to her own world.

Seventh Son wastes no time throwing Cat (and the reader) right into…

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