The Nicest Review: Guest Post

I recently received the following review of Minstrel’s Call in an email. It brought a smile to my heart and tears to my eyes. And, as I was given permission to share it, I thought I would here. One of the most difficult tasks for me as an author is to do any sort of raving about my own books. Don’t get me wrong, I love my books. They are exactly the sort of thing I want to read. But telling anyone that always feels like bragging or like it’s something that I’m not supposed to do… so when I get a review like this… it’s the sort of thing I can live on for years. I am grateful for you, dear Readers. And so humbled. Writing this series and sharing it with you has been one of my favorite things ever. I am honored by any who have taken the time to read these books, and touched by the words of encouragement and support from those who have loved these books. As I continue to write new stories, I do not in any way “move on,” or “leave the Minstrel’s Song behind.” They are my dream come true. Any new books I write are merely an extension of that same dream.

For those who have read the series and loved it, thank you. From the depths of my soul, thank you. You are more than readers, you are family.


Minstrel’s Call:

Minstrel's Call CoverNote:  I cannot possibly write a review that is worthy of this great story or that can adequately capture the beautiful writing, and perhaps more importantly, capture the “I LOVE THESE PEOPLE” descriptions of the Heroes and Heroines that permeate this book and ALL of the books in this Series.

Not in any particular order, I offer the following thoughts for prospective readers who may wonder if they should “commit” to reading this marvelous series of books entitled “The Minstrel’s Song” Series.  My comments are restricted to the Final Chapter entitled “Minstrel’s Call” but these comments are the building crescendo of thoughts that have grown and developed since first reading Book One of this Series called “King’s Warrior”.  

I cannot tell you plot lines…..or re-tell the story for you…..but I can tell you………..

I absolutely LOVE how the characters are ALWAYS AT THEIR BEST………there is no pettiness……no immaturity……..no wasting my time on trying to make our Heroes and Heroines…….human……or gross………or…….small.  Brant, Kiernan, Oraeyn, Dylanna, Kamarie, Leila, Jemson, Devrin, Tellemyack, Graldon, Kitry, Justan (the list goes on and on and on) are all Heroic……all the time………and they are believable……..they are what we aspire to………..and their BEAUTY…..is ALWAYS…..reflected in their courage…..their honor…….their decency………their self-sacrifice…….their work ethic…………all the while…………..LOVING BEING…..courageous, honorable, decent, sacrificing, hard-working……….without any inkling of a desire to be anything LESS than what they are…….and what they willingly embrace as………what is expected of them.  Thus they are very normal…….and very human…….and inspire the reader to adopt the absolute normalcy of that exact same code.  Time and Time Again while reading “Minstrel’s Call” tears would flow….not because of sadness…..but because of beauty.  An example of this is when Kiernan Kane reminds Brant, not only of who he is……but who he has always been..and who he has always been training to be:

”When at length he spoke, his tone was gentle, but his expression was filled with steel.  “High King, I tell you now that you already possess all that you require in order to defeat your enemies.  You have been gathering your weapons since you were but a child.  You have the Oath of the Aethalons running through your blood;  its power has come to your aid in the past and it will sustain you further in the future. You have the character bestowed upon you by Cruithaor Elchiyl, integrity and honor that you have strengthened throughout your life with diligence and discipline.  You have true friends and allies, each of whom will expend his last breath to fight for you.  And you have the Hand of Yorien; although you do not yet truly understand its power, I am confident that you will before this is all over”.  As the Minstrel spoke, it was as though scales fell from Brant’s eyes, allowing him to see clearly.

Wouldn’t we all love to have a friend who we regard more highly than ourselves……..say such things about us?  Wouldn’t we love to be worthy of such a description?   We have seen everything Kiernan describes about Brant for ourselves and we do not doubt Brant’s Quality…..but we understand why Brant does.   Our Great Hero has been defeated and his confidence shattered……….but not one time is he diminished in the readers eye…….or in the eyes of his friends…….but he feels diminished within himself………and the GREATEST HERO for mankind………gently…….but adamantly………….raises him up……..to see himself again……..as he has always striven to be and as he has always wanted to be…….and quite honestly as he has always been.  Brant’s character (quality of) raises everyone he comes in contact with.  Perfect examples of this is the Hero Worship that both Oraeyn (his young friend and brother-in-law) and Jemson (his young nephew) unashamedly bring to Brant.  We see this same kind of “inspiration to be the best” throughout virtually every character that is on our side in this great fight.   

I LOVE the mystery that surrounds Kiernan Kane…….and even though much is revealed…….it is revealed in mysterious ways.  The Dragons play such a critical role in letting us get a glimpse of who Kiernan Kane is.  The Dragons are the “keepers of history” and they have LONG MEMORIES and they are no less heroic or likeable or meaningful to the story as any of the names mentioned above.  Anybody who has read the full series knows that Brant “tolerates” Kiernan Kane and if the author was honest (and she is) it would be obvious that Brant is mostly annoyed by Kiernan Kane and believes him to be careless as well as useless……at least in the matters that are important to Brant.  However, we the reader, are not so blind to the Great Things that Kiernan does without any fanfare…..and so much of what he does seems to be easily forgotten by even his closest friends.  However……….the Dragons observe the same things…….and they do not forget……and their reverence for Kiernan may be annoying to Brant……but it is intriguing to the reader.  One of my favorite sections in the book is the conversation that happens between King Tellemyack (King of the Dragons) and High King Brant when Tellemyack says….

“High King Brant, I believe the time has come to explain to you why the dragons regard the Minstrel as we do.”

I personally could care less if Brant is interested…….but I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR (4) BOOKS to read what follows and the Author does not disappoint.  The Dragons and the Myth Folk do not obey………they do not acknowledge……..they do not fear…………they LOVE Kiernan Kane………..and for good reason.  It is truly a BEAUTIFUL MOMENT in the Story for many reasons……..the reverence we have for the Dragons (King Tellemyack bows to no earthly king and we don’t expect him to)……….the opening of Brant’s Heart…………and the WORTHINESS of the Minstrel.  As Brant inspires those around him………..Kiernan LIFTS everyone in his care……….and without any fanfare.  The Allegory is SUPERB and brings tears to my heart every time I read this……and I have read it quite a few times.

I am a HUGE FAN of stories where children and adults interact………..on an Adult Level.  I think of “Captain’s Courageous” or “Second Hand Lions” where the young boy is thrust into the world of grown men……..and the boy is expected to reach towards the adult level with zero expectation that the adults will lower themselves to the children’s level.  I don’t know if this is how life is meant to be……but I always find this beautiful.  The Author does a Fantastic Job of “lifting the lives of young people” through their necessary involvement with the adults.  There is a powerful interaction between Kitry and Brant where Kitry says:

“What is it about Kiernan that irritates you so?  Why do you hate him?”  

The exchange between the girl Kitry……..and our Hero Brant who is fully 70 years older than Kitry………..measures up and surpasses any exchange that I LOVE in the two stories noted above.  You have to read it!

In “Minstrel’s Call” Oraeyn and Jemson are no longer boys longing to be men.  They have become the very men that Brant has inspired in them……and they have become their own.  They both carry great responsibility and yet they are Servant Leaders.  They Love their men……and their people.  Many leaders would think that their people need to think highly of them……but the Author has a different and better worldview that requires that the Kings think highly of their people.  It may in fact be the number one requirement and we see this over and over again in Oraeyn and Jemson.

“Is it morning already?  Oraeyn sat up in his bunk, his thoughts groggy.  “No sire!  It’s the storm!”  The tumult of the wind and waves broke through the barrier of slumber.  Oraeyn stood and cast around for his boots, finding them at last in the corner where they had tumbled in the rocking of the ship.  “Thank you, lad.  Get yourself some breakfast, and when you are finished, bring me whatever the cook can spare,”  Oraeyn ordered with a wink.

A small, insignificant moment of time in this great quest…..but I LOVE how it reflects on Oraeyn.  

“Jemson stared up at the sky.  “It is not an easy thing that has been asked.  Even though Brant assured me that the  Enemy would not spread his forces too thin, I have to believe that the other kings are in some way being attacked or prevented from sending their sixth.  I know it would seem an unreasonable request to me, were I in their shoes.  Perhaps the ships are attacked even as they are on their way to us.”

When I read this, I wrote in the margins………..”Jemson is a MAN”.  One of those moments where he could have let his own fear and frustration cause him to “fault others” for not coming to his aid, but instead he chooses to believe the best about his allies and realizes that just as things are difficult for him right now……..it may also be the same for these other countries and warriors.  

I want to share one more passage which is just one among hundreds………that causes me to read this book and as soon as I am finished…go right back to the beginning and start anew.  I thoroughly enjoy being among these very special friends.  Please read this book for yourself and be inspired as I have been.  The Minstrel’s Song Series is a worthy match for Tolkien………but there is no match for “Minstrel’s Call”…….in my humble opinion:

By the time night fell, the Plain of Battle had grown crowded.  The sight of Aom-igh’s knights lifted everyone’s spirits.  Brant was grateful for their arrival, but he dreaded the dire events that would soon follow.  He had not chosen this war.  He had never chosen any of his battlefields, but he knew how the final landscape would appear:  men who were full of life, strength, and courage—who had families that loved them, who Brant himself knew well, and those he had never met–would soon lie dead on this ground.  Perhaps he would join them.  He had ever loved the training and competition of combat.  He loved building a heart and soul in himself–in his men, in his people who loved justice, honor, truth, courage, compassion–and the commitment to live and die for those values.  These were the things he had been fighting for his entire life.  These beautiful, precious facets of his people, that resided within all mankind, would never be stolen from them.  He gazed around at the men readying their weapons, bolstering their courage.  Each and everyone of these brave souls standing with him would rather die fighting for virtue and beauty than surrender to a life without either.

In the movie “Master and Commander” captain Jack Aubrey is describing an interaction he had with Admiral Nelson who told him that “he did not need a coat because zeal for king and country kept him warm”.  Aubrey said that if it were any other man you would dismiss the comment as “pitiful stuff” but with Admiral Nelson, it made your heart glow”.

“Minstrel’s Call” does the same!

Out of (5) Stars…………..I would give this (6)!

 

~ jenelle

The Pros and Cons of Writing Short Stories

The submission period for the next Fellowship of Fantasy anthology just opened, and I wasn’t going to submit anything. Mostly because I’m in the middle of writing Turrim 3 and I am hoping to have the rough draft finished by the first of June.

However, the theme is “fairy tales.”

And then I had an idea. A somewhat ridiculous idea… for an original fairy tale about a character who just can’t quite catch a break… with lots of humor and hopefully some relatable moments.

“The word limit is 3,000 – 10,ooo words, and I could use a break from Turrim 3, I’ve been working steadily on it for 5 weeks, now, and this won’t take long!”

There are a lot of ups and downs when it comes to writing short stories.

Pros:

They are short.

That means everything is shorter. Drafting is shorter, editing doesn’t take as long, you can go from idea to polished story in an incredibly short amount of time.

For example: I sat down on Thursday and wrote out the entire story in a single day. It’s the most I’ve written in a single day in a long time, clocking in at just under 5,000 words, but from start to finish, the rough draft was done. I spent Saturday revising and coming up with a second draft.

It still needs some polishing and word-smithing, but while those bits can be time-consuming due to their painstaking nature, it still won’t take me more than a day or two to complete.

And, VOILA! An entire story is complete in a short amount of time.

Because they are short, you can demonstrate your writing style and author’s voice to your audience in a short amount of time. Reading a short story can be a nice way to make readers interested in reading your longer works. This is nice, because one of the down-sides to being an author is that there are not many ways to easily “display” your work to your audience in non-time-consuming ways. A musician can play you an entire song in under 5 minutes (most under 3). An artist can show you an entire painting that will take you 30 seconds to look at and appreciate. But a novelist… ah! There’s the rub. Because even a relatively short novel can take a reader several hours to complete. That’s not an insignificant time commitment. So a short story can be a very helpful tool to overcome this difficulty.

Cons:

They are short.

With short stories, I am always vividly aware of the fact that I have a lot fewer words with which to explain, describe, and weave. There is less time with which to captivate my reader. This is good, because it teaches economy of words. But it is also bad, because I tend to discover that I spent a lot of time repeating myself in the rough draft, desperate to make sure the reader “gets” what I’m driving at or trying to describe, or the subtle joke (that is now not so subtle because I tossed a neon sign above it).

Another problem with this is that short stories tend to leave the reader with a few questions. And readers rarely like that. Unanswered questions are generally seen as a “bad” thing, by readers and writers alike.

I disagree with this sentiment. A story that leaves you wondering, questioning, imagining… what is wrong with that? (The Giver is a wonderful example of this)

Now, some things need to be answered. You can’t leave the reader with too many unanswered questions, because that can become frustrating for the reader. Of course, you don’t want to leave ALL the ends loose (unless you’re a certain director who seems to have been given carte blanche by the world-wide audience at large when it comes to not answering questions or coming up with dissatisfying answers to questions *coughLOSTcough* *coughRey’sParentscough*)

And those are the pros and cons I can think of off the top of my head. I’m looking forward to sharing this new one with you… it’s very different, and not related to any of my other books/stories… but I hope it will make people laugh.

What about you, dear Reader? Do you enjoy reading short stories? Why or why not? Do you agree with my pros and cons? Why or why not? Can you think of other pros and cons to short stories? If you are an author, do you write short stories? Why or why not?

 

~ jenelle

Interview with Gemma: The City Beyond the Glass

loggia-2666270_640My InterFiction Badge stops glowing and I blink in the bright sunlight as I take in my surroundings. I am in a sort of covered patio, and from what I’ve seen in pictures, I guess I am in Italy. Looking through the pillars, I can see over the balcony to the silver sweep of the Grand Canal below. Other, equally grand palazzos line the canal and there is a great deal of boat traffic going to and fro.

In front of me is the character I have come to interview: Gemma Caloprini. In my t-shirt and jeans, I feel suddenly very under-dressed, particularly since Gemma is haughtily looking down her nose at me… an impressive feat considering that I am several inches taller than her. Red, wavy hair billows out from her head in a mess that looks as though someone gave it their best shot and then ran up the white flag. She fidgets and paces as she greets me with a nervous energy. I briefly consider advising her to take up knitting or rock-climbing… something to give that energy a constructive place to go.

I smile and lean against a pillar. Gemma’s haughty attitude making me feel rebellious. “Good morning, Gemma,” I say genially. “Thank you for speaking with me today. Can you start out by telling me a little bit about yourself?”

The nose lifts just a little higher. “I’m Gemma Caloprini. Our family is one of the oldest in Venice and we’ve been on the Grand Council for centuries. Although, to tell you the truth, we won’t be much longer. We’re all girls, you understand. Papa’s trying to find me a worthy husband, but it’s not easy. There aren’t many of the best families left to choose from.”

“I see.” I jot down her answer and glance around a bit more. Glass-paned doors close me off from a large room inside the palazzo. Inside them, Gemma’s maid is keeping an eye on the two of us. I can also see one of her sisters where she sits embroidering, and another is attempting to force music out of a spinet… the spinet appears to be winning the argument. “Can you tell me a little bit about your world?”

Gemma gives a rather brittle laugh and her eyes flicker toward the palazzo interior, where her maid sits watchfully. “If you’ve seen one palazzo, you’ve seen them all. For fresh air, I come out here. For exercise, I climb the stairs. For company, I talk to my sisters. It bores me witless,” she adds defiantly. “At least, growing up in the convent, they gave us work to do. Lacemaking, dancing-lessons, and of course prayer and fasting. I used to dream about the day Papa would come and take us away, but it turns out…” her voice is wistful now… “it turns out that home is just as much a prison as the convent. Don’t tell Papa I said that.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t,” I reply. “I’m sorry to hear that life is so confining for you.” I nibble on the eraser of my pencil thoughtfully. “If you could have just one wish, what would it be?”

“Oh, ciel.” Gemma’s eyes sparkle. “I often think, if I’d been a boy, I could go where I want and do what I want. But then I wouldn’t be me, would I? I’d be loud and smelly. Ugh. Maybe I’d like to be a—a plebeian, you know, just an ordinary person. But I suppose people of that kind don’t care about freedom to begin with.”

I preserve a tactful silence. Just long enough for Gemma to remember that she’s definitely not talking to a fellow patrician.

Her cheeks become ever so slightly pink. “I mean that as a patrician, naturally I was born to govern and command the world. Being shut up all day is particularly galling to people of our sort. I think I would be happiest married, actually. Married women have more freedom than the rest of us. Just so long as Papa chooses someone who’s not old, or vicious. That’s my wish.”

 I lean forward, intrigued. “What qualities would you consider to be ideal traits in a husband?”

“Noble blood, of course. It’s not just wise; it’s the law. But he had best be young, and good-looking, and–tractable. Easily led. Papa is not tractable at all. That’s the problem.”

“Hmmm,” I muse. I eye her a bit, trying to figure this strange character out. Her face is an open book, but it is almost like talking to two different people. In one instant she can strike me as being inexcusably arrogant, and yet, there is something unutterably sad about her, as well. I decide to try a different tack. “Forgive me if this seems too much like prying, but I overheard whispers about something called a ‘Glass Doge,’ who… or what… is that?”

I am not prepared for her reaction. Up till this moment, it’s been possible to read every emotion on Gemma’s face. Her body language has practically been shouting at me. Now, suddenly, it’s like a door has slammed as her face goes carefully blank.

“I haven’t a clue what you mean.”

I narrow my eyes and give her my best “I’m not buying it” face. “I’m interested in Venetian folklore,” you probe. “Surely as a member of one of the oldest families in Venice you’ve heard of such a tale? Or perhaps you learned something about it from the other girls at the convent.”

Her shoulders relax ever so slightly. But she still doesn’t admit to anything. “Nobody ever mentioned such a person. Are we done?”

“Almost,” I promise. “If you could travel to another world, but would have to leave everything you know behind forever, would you do it?”

Thoroughly rattled, Gemma narrows her eyes at me. “What are you saying? Are you trying to threaten me?”

“Threaten you? What are you talking about?” I can’t keep back the incredulous laugh that bubbles to my lips. “No, no, signorina. Not in the least. It’s an honest question.”

 Gemma gulps, then grabs the balcony rail and stares down at the canal for a moment before she replies. “Look at this city. Look at that fishmonger woman. I’ll never get to speak to her, you realise. Look at that street. I’ll never get to walk it, to see where it leads.  Look at that Turkish traveller in his gondola. He’ll see my house, but I’ll never see his. Jenelle, every day I look through the windows of this palazzo and watch another world go by, so close I can see it, hear it, smell it. Would I leave this house to be a part of that world? Even if I could never return?” She swallows again. “Yes, by all the angels in heaven. Tomorrow, if I could.”

I stare at my notes, wondering what else I should ask. “You say you are born to rule, but you also said your family would not be on the Grand Council much longer. Can you clarify that a bit for my readers?”

“Oh. I meant–if I had been born a man.” Gemma huffs a sigh. “You’re evidently a foreigner. Women don’t serve on the Grand Council of Venice.” She stops for a moment, eyeing me speculatively. “Where are you from?”

I look down at the street where she just pointed and stare thoughtfully at the fishmonger woman. Shouting at passers-by, I think that she probably feels as trapped in her life as Gemma does. Everyone is trapped, in some way, but I do not think Gemma would understand that, and my time is growing short. I pull myself out of my reverie. “Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. My final question would be this: how do you feel about your author? Is there anything you’d like to say to her?”

Gemma’s eyes grow wide, this time in genuine surprise. “My author? Do you mean Signor God?” She must not have heard the last word in my sentence. She gives a distinctly nervous laugh. “Believe me, I think about that all the time. Holy saints shield me from having to face him any time soon.”

I smile, deciding not to correct her assumption about my question. “Well, thank you very much for talking to me, signorina.”

My badge blinks and Venice fades away.

The City Beyond the Glass  is Suzannah Rowntree’s most recent release, and is now available in the Amazon Kindle Store.

When Suzannah Rowntree isn’t travelling the world to help out friends in need, she lives in a big house in rural Australia with her awesome parents and siblings, writing historical fantasy fiction informed by a covenantal Christian perspective on history.

If you like the fiction of CS Lewis, GK Chesterton, Stephen Lawhead, or ND Wilson, you’ll probably enjoy her stories too.

I don’t know about you, but I am very much looking forward to reading this book!

You can follow Suzannah and her authoring journey on social media in the following places:

WEBSITE
AMAZON
FACEBOOK
TWITTER
INSTAGRAM

~ jenelle

Adding to the Portfolio

Mythical Doorways releases today!

*Cue confetti and cupcakes and general enthusiasm!*

Awwww, Ten! Yeah… that about sums it up. I’m super excited about this new release. I made a shiny new banner to go on facebook last week so that I could show off all the books I’ve published/been published in as of today.

New FB Cover (1)

It’s really fun to see them all together like that. Makes me feel a little more like a “real” author, having an entire series out plus being in a couple of awesome anthologies. (Yes, actually, I do often struggle with feeling like I’m a “real” author… but that’s a post for another day).

Today is a day for celebration.

Mythical Doorways is FREE to pick up in ebook form and is available at your favorite digital store. I have only read one of the other stories, but it is super fun, and I’m excited to read the rest of them! This is a great group of authors, and I am so pleased to be included among them.

There is also a FACEBOOK PARTY to celebrate the release happening Thursday evening, 3.29.18 at 8pm CDT. I’m not presenting anything, since I’ll be on vacation, but I will hopefully be able to pop in here and there and say “hi!” And if you’ve been wanting to join the Fellowship of Fantasy: Indie Book Club I’ve been raving about, Mythical Doorways will be our book to read for April, so now is a fantastic time to join!

For those of you who have read the Minstrel’s Song series, my contribution to this anthology is called “Dragon Ward” (which, no, is not about a bunch of dragons in a mental hospital… though now I kind of want to write a story about THAT) and takes place in the same world as that of the Minstrel’s Song. It is set several hundred years before the opening of Second Son, in Llycaelon, though this story takes place before it was called that. For anyone who has read Yorien’s Hand, this is the more complete story of Gwyna and Keltarrka… and you’ll find that the story Yole tells the others has changed slightly from how it actually happened as it was passed down through the years… of course, Kiernan basically said as much after Yole enthusiastically relayed the tale… *grin*

“Gwyna and Keltarrka,” Yole interjected, his voice excited. “I know this story! Gwyna was the daughter of a candlemaker. One day, she was out tending her family’s bees when she met Keltarrka. His wing was hurt and he had fallen into the field and couldn’t fly away. For some reason, Gwyna wasn’t afraid. The story says she could see into his heart and saw that he meant her no harm. Either way, she tended his wing, despite the fact that his blood fell on her skin and burned her arms. She nursed the dragon back to health, and they formed a bond of friendship unlike any that ever existed before. When Keltarrka was healed, he offered Gwyna a ride on his back to thank her. It was then that they discovered the mystical link that tied their destinies together and allowed them to speak mind to mind. Gwyna became the first dragon ward, and others soon followed. None know why or how the link is formed, though a few of the older dragons think it had something to do with Gwyna getting burned by Keltarrka’s blood, but if that’s what happened nobody has ever been able to recreate it. There is no pattern, no heredity to it, all we know for certain is when it started and that the bond between dragon and ward is unbreakable.”

Kiernan waited, an amused expression on his face until Yole finished. “The dragons like to add a bit of dramatic flair to the legend,” he said, scratching his jaw just below his ear, “but the facts of the story are sound…”

When you read it, perhaps you’ll understand why Kiernan didn’t bother to correct Yole’s version…

I hope you enjoy this little “extra” tale from Tellurae Aquaous!

~ jenelle