Author Interview: Jennifer Ellision

Author Interview

Meet Jennifer Ellision.

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Bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Ellision writes about daring young women in magical worlds. She survives on a steady diet of books, podcasts, and her favorite magical tropes. Jennifer frequently wakes up early to work before she has to “people” and can often be found squirreled away in her office, getting some writing done–or in her local library, agonizing over revisions.

If all else fails, look under the covers.

She’s probably hiding out with a good young adult fantasy series.

Social media links

The Interview.

Hi Jennifer! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.
Thanks for having me! I suppose I should talk about the writerly stuff first: I write YA fantasy led by strong female characters. I have a complete series about Elemental magic (Threats of Sky and Sea), a Lady Pirates series in-progress, and the first book of my Fairy Tale Lies, Spies, and Assassins series will be published in the Kingdom of Glass and Ashes multi-author collection of Cinderella retellings on December 18th.
As far as the non-writerly stuff goes, I have a vizsla puppy that I am completely obsessed with… enough to make him his own Instagram account. ^_^; And I drink way too much orange soda.

“Fierce, lady led fantasy.” What are the key characteristics to a strong heroine?
I think fierceness comes in many shapes and sizes. Some of my heroines are skilled with weapons and have sharp tongues to match. Others come into abilities they never dreamt of. But what they all have in common is that they break out of the roles society or people with more power try to slot them into. They decide for themselves who they’re going to be.
What is an average day like for a cunning, lady pirate?
Is it too cheesy to say ~anything but average?~ On a day when the main character of the Lady Pirates series, Grace, isn’t chasing magical treasures and revenge, as quartermaster, her duties included keeping inventory of the ship’s coin and assets. As first mate, she has a hand in overseeing navigation and administering punishment for those who flout the rules laid out in the ship’s articles.
Do you have any secondary characters that may have fought for control over any of your novels to become the lead character?

Hmmm, Aleta from the Threats of Sky and Sea series probably came closest to wresting control from me! I grew to really love her character and her friendship with the main character, Bree. Her journey parallels Bree’s; neither are who they believe themselves to be at the start of the series.
“She survives on a steady diet of books, podcasts, and her favorite magical tropes.” What are these favorite magical tropes your bio mentions?
Ooo probably #1 is a spin on “The Chosen One.” She’s the only person who can defeat the Big Bad! Secondly, the trope of suddenly discovering powers in the teenage years—which informs me is known as the “Puberty Superpower.” You can all blame the 90s sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch for that one.
I’m going to ask the dreaded question… who is your favorite author? *gasps* I know it is difficult so I’ll tack on – what is your favorite book or book series? Yes, yes. I’m horrible, ha!
The most evil question in the world! But I can answer. Growing up, Tamora Pierce’s books shaped the kind of books I love to read and write. For that, she and her Song of the Lioness Quartet will always top my list of favorites. I’m forever grateful to her.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?
My next release is called Striking Midnight, the first book in my new Fairy Tale Lies, Spies, and Assassins series. It’s a Cinderella retelling where the Cinderella character is an assassin and it will be released in the multi-author collection of YA Cinderella retellings, Kingdom of Glass and Ashes on December 18th. I can’t wait for you all to read it. You can find it here:

Thanks again for having me!


Stephanie Churchill’s Guest Post on Strong Heroines

Guest Post

Meet Stephanie Churchill.

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I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and after attending college in Iowa, moved to Washington, D.C. to work as an antitrust paralegal.  When my husband and I got married, I moved to the Minneapolis metro area and found work as a corporate paralegal.  While I enjoyed reading, writing was never anything that even crossed my mind.  I enjoyed reading, but writing?  That’s what authors did, and I wasn’t an author.

One day while on my lunch break, I visited the neighboring Barnes & Noble and happened upon a book by author Sharon Kay Penman.  I’d never heard of her before, but it looked interested, and I bought the book.  Immediately I become a rabid fan of her work.

In 2007, when Facebook was very quickly becoming “a thing”, I discovered that Ms. Penman had fan club and that she happened to interact there frequently.  As a result of a casual comment she made about how writers generally don’t get detailed feedback from readers, I wrote her an embarrassingly long review of her latest book, Lionheart.  As a result of that review, she asked me what would become the most life-changing question: “Have you ever thought about writing?”  And The Scribe’s Daughter was born.

When I’m not writing or taxiing my two children to school or other activities, I’m likely walking Cozmo, our dog, or reading.  The rest of my time is spent trying to survive the murderous intentions of Minnesota’s weather.

 Author Links:




Guest Post – The Art of Creating a Strong, Balanced Heroine

My family and I have been watching Supergirl on Netflix recently.  It’s fun watching young Kara Danvers, the heroine, navigate her life as an administrative assistant to the most powerful woman in media while at the same time being an alien with superpowers.  Whether she or the viewers know it, she wrestles with philosophy and ethics, with power and weakness, pride and humility.  Her very character (not in the literary sense, but the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual) is tested in each episode, and with every decision she makes, she is shaped into a better version of herself.  She is a strong, balanced heroine.

But is there an art to creating this kind of heroine?  Yes, writing is an art form itself, but is there a special secret behind creating a heroine that is both strong and balanced?

Before tackling this question, I had to ask myself what exactly a heroine is in the first place.  A quick online search revealed many definitions:

A woman admired or idealized for her courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
The chief female character in a book, play, or movie, who is typically identified with good qualities, and with whom the reader is expected to sympathize.
A woman of superhuman qualities and often semidivine origin, in particular one whose dealings with the gods were the subject of ancient Greek myths and legends.

I think we understand these things inherently, without being told the definition.  However, one notable characteristic not mentioned in any of these definitions, is imperfection.  Any superhero is strong.  It just goes with the territory.  But what about the balanced part?  I think that imperfection, more than anything else, is the key to making a heroine both strong and balanced.

Why does a heroine need imperfection?  Because a heroine is only useful to us beyond being merely a focus of entertainment if she is relatable.  If a heroine is too perfect, it’s too easy to put her up on a pedestal, out of reach, assured that you could never be like that, because… well… she is perfect, and you are not.  But if that heroine fails… Oh, right!  I see myself there!  She failed, but she still did something great.  She overcame something, learned, and grew.  Maybe I can too!

When I set out to write about Kassia, I honestly wasn’t thinking to myself, “Self, how will you go about the task of writing a strong, balanced heroine?”  It wasn’t even remotely on my radar.  What I did do, however, was reach way down inside myself to search for those broken bits and pieces each of us carries within ourselves.  I combined those flaws with elements of the personality of the girl taking shape on the page.  As she adventured through the story I had created for her, her inner dialogue about those broken bits motivated her to act and react to what was happening to her.  And yes, sometimes that inner dialogue was dark, traumatized, and insecure.  Sometimes those insecurities caused her to be selfish and churlish, to make mistakes and impact others negatively.  As the author, sometimes I intended these moments to make the reader uncomfortable, other times frustrated.  But in the end, these dark moments in Kassia’s journey always painted a picture of progress, because progress and growth most often come through pain.

When we first meet Kassia, she doesn’t appear to be much of a heroine.  She is edgy, snarky, and a bit reckless.  She tends to “shoot from the hip” as she goes about her daily life.  But then tragedy strikes.

Mark Twain was quoted as saying, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”  A heroine does not have to be fearless.  In fact, a heroine feels the fear but doesn’t let it stop her.  “If you’re going through hell, keep going,” said Winston Churchill.  Kassia certainly goes through hell in my novel.  And to quote pop psychologist John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.”

Just like an ingot that’s purified and made stronger through the hammer and the fire, Kassia is made stronger through trauma and hardship.  Her personal demons force her to dig deeper, and in the digging, she finds out that she has steel in her spine.  What she thought would crush her made her better, stronger.  Her fears propel her rather than defeat her, so that by the end of the book, she is no longer the Kassia she was at the beginning of the story.  She has developed and changed into someone the reader can admire, for her courage in continuing when everything seemed hopeless, and in the strength she recognized in herself, to be a different person she was before.  She becomes a heroine with both strength and balance.

Perhaps the art in creating a strong and balanced heroine is in weighing out just the right amount of admirable qualities without making her too good to be true, while simultaneously not going too far the other direction and creating an admirable villain instead.  Art and texture is found in the imperfections, both in life and in literature.


Want more of Stephanie Ling ?

Check out my review soon of her novel The Scribe’s Daughter.


Cynthia Robert’s Behind the Title Guest Post

Guest Post
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Meet Cynthia Roberts
My love of reading romance fiction goes back to those early years when I was raising a young family. It wasn’t until much later in life I actually took up the pen to write my first historical romance, Wind Warrior .  I really don’t fit into one specific niche.  Once a story starts to flow, it’s only then I know what genre/sub-genre it will fit under.  My favorites so far have been contemporary, historical, and suspense romances.
I have only one regret, and that is not getting to this point in my career much sooner, rather than later.  Life has a way of setting up road blocks, which for me, was supposed to work out that way.  Because of those detours, I have become a more passionate and expressive writer, allowing me to create the kind of raw human emotion I want my readership to feel.
It is my hope you walk away with not just an entertaining read, but the importance in knowing, “Without imagination & dreams, we lose the excitement of wonderful possibilities.
Author Links
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Guest Post –Behind the Title, Creation of a Love Story

Creating romantic fiction has been a p

assion of mine, ever since I w

as old enough to understand the connection between the sexes.  I think I was twelve, when I wrote my first love story and like most young minds; I truly thought it was a masterpiece.
There’s another masterful connection that has been going on now for centuries, and that, is the one between music and literature.  There is a full alphabet of songs that have been written retelling a work of literature as far back as the 18th century.
“If I Die Young” by The Band Perry was based on a poem, Lady of Shallot.  “Love Story” by Taylor Swift is loosely based on Romeo & Juliet.  The artist Sting’s “Mo

on Over Bourbon Street” was based on an Anne Rice Novel, Interview With A Vampire.
More interesting though, the anatomy of a song has also within its lyrics a pretty fascinating back story as well.  For more than five decades, authors have been creating fictional pieces and bringing readers deep inside the lyrics.  I grew up listening to my mom’s collection of romantic ballads from the 40s, 50s, and 60s.  Those lyrics have forever been embossed into my brain, I still sing along whenever I hear them.  Lyrics like those back then told a story, and they were so strong, and emotional, their affect were everlasting.
I have a library of love songs on iTunes I listen to religiously, while I write, as a source of inspiration and a tool that gets me in the mood and mindset I need to be in.  It is from this list, I began to formulate a series of ideas, followed by cryptic notes on paper, and finally the creation of my Love Song Standards Series.  I made a list of the

songs I connected with personally, whittling it down to thirty-five.  That number was quite overwhelming and I thought virtually impossible to create that many scenarios.  So, I chipped away at the songs and their lyrics, until I decided on a top ten.
I had made a commitment to myself to finish one book a month throughout 2016, writing a chapter every day, leaving me ample time to polish and edit each one.  I knew from the on-start, what I wanted my covers to look like.  They had to

resemble each other in a way that would tie them together, but strong enough for them to stand on their own.  My designer Covers by Ramona did an exceptional job tying all my ideas together.
After Book 6, Chances Are, was completed, my brain was fried.  I took a short reprieve and switched it up a bit with a Romantic Suspense, A Pawn for Malice.  Happily, the first two books of my series received a 5-Star Readers Favorite Award, which ended my promotion efforts.  I was forced to take an extended break due to personal issues that had set me back both physically and emotionally.  My focus now is to both promote my series and finish the final four titles All The Way, It’s Impossible, Sincerely, and Unforgettable.

If you’re a lover of contemporary romance, please do check out my Love Song Standards Series.  I know you’ll be pleasantly pleased.  Buy links and descriptions are available on my website at  If you subscribe to my mailing list, we can stay in touch as to when the other titles are completed PLUS you’ll receive a complimentary copy of Book 1, Unchained Melody.  All that I ask is for you to please, please share an honest review at the online retailer you use most. It will help me dramatically towards promoting my book and the series.
Hugs from me to you.

Perfect Character, Guest Post by J.M. Richardson

Guest Post, Misc.

13975376_1086235261466733_931556592892057057_o.jpgMeet J.M. Richardson.

J.M. Richardson is an American author of action, suspense, and political fiction. His works include The Twenty-Nine Series, as well as the James Beauregard novels, The Apocalypse Mechanism and The Barataria Key.

Richardson was born and raised in southeast Louisiana, near New Orleans. As a young man, he was fascinated with history, but particularly that of his own state of Louisiana, New Orleans, and its culture and lore. He attended Louisiana State University, where he parlayed that fascination into an education degree, and began teaching US and world history in public schools. Soon after, he married and moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where he continued to teach, and does to this day.

He began The Apocalypse Mechanism in 2006, but with no luck in picking up an agent or publisher, he wrote a different story, The Twenty-Nine. In 2011, the novel was published by Winter Goose Publishing. Soon after, Winter Goose picked up The Apocalypse Mechanism. There are now four novels in two series, the most recent being The Barataria Key.

Richardson also enjoys playing guitar, cooking, golf, brewing craft beer, and blogging. He resides with his family in the Fort Worth area.

Social Media, Amazon, and Website

Guest Post – Perfect Character

I bet you’ve had a book like this. You got excited about it. All your friends had suggested this one. They built it up to be the next great American novel, or if nothing else, a guilty pleasure. Judging by the buzz on Goodreads, this will end up being a series on Showtime in no time, airing right after The Affair. The best part about it is you can say you read it back when it was just a novel. You get to tell people, with honest bragging rights, that the book was better than the show. You sit down to read it, a glass of wine in your hand, and maybe your dog snuggled up next to you. It starts out great, and as you finger page after page, you make some observations. You love the plot. It’s well-constructed, well written, and extremely complex. The author put a lot of effort into that. But something’s missing. You can’t seem to relate to the characters. They’re not realistic. They’re far too perfect to make any sense. If you’re like me, this might actually ruin the whole book, even with all of the other qualities in play.

Since I primarily write adventure/suspense fiction, I’ll give you a great example from my own genre. Did anyone read the blockbuster smash, The Da Vinci Code? I bet you did. The marketing was brilliant. It took off the way it did mainly because of the controversy. People were in uproar over what they deemed as blasphemy, and the more people boycotted it, the more other people wanted to read it, and I suspect that many of the protestors secretly crossed the picket line just to see for themselves what it was all about. I love the thought Dan Brown puts into his story. I love the amount of research. In my own novels, if I’m to make the content believable and accurate, before I can ever add fictional spin, I have to do the proper research, lest I look like an idiot when people actually Google what I wrote about.

I really liked Brown’s stories, but the one thing that did not sit well with me was Robert Langdon. He’s a brilliant professor; the ultimate history geek and guru of symbolism. He can interpret hidden messages in Renaissance paintings and decode complex ciphers developed by ancient cults. Yet, in his forty-something years of life on earth, the only character flaw he ever developed was claustrophobia? That’s it? He gets nervous in elevators? He fell down a well as a kid, and that was the only devastating thing that ever happened to him? Has he ever been dumped? Did he ever cheat on an exam? Drive drunk? Try an illegal drug? Come on, he’s that squeaky clean?

Maybe the author didn’t deem those things to be relevant to the story. I can see a writer skipping out on some aspects of a character’s past experiences. Perhaps no one needs to know about Langdon’s Scooby Doo undies as a kid.  I’m not looking for trivial details that bog down the story. However, I do want to see the character developed thoroughly. All I know about Robert Langdon is that he’s brilliant and finds himself in the middle of major world conspiracies. He always saves the day, and that’s fine. But I also want to know who hurt him in his world. Where are his demons? Where is his heartache. What are his vices? That, I can connect to. He’s real. He’s like me.

I’ve seen Dan Brown develop his antagonists in this way. Remember the guy that would flog himself in penance after he murdered people? That was interesting. But his heroes and heroines are completely likeable, and I don’t like that. Maybe Brown has no darkness of his own. I doubt that. I certainly have mine. I pass that right along to my main character and any other character I create. I want you to relate to their anguish. I want you to shake your head a little at the choices James Beauregard (The Apocalypse Mechanism; The Barataria Key) makes. He’s dark because I’m dark. In fact, in my first book about James, my editor and I had real conflict over just how dark he was. I wrote him as such a damaged jerkwad, that my publisher was afraid no one would like him enough to read the book. Dr. James Beauregard actually had to be toned down, and he’s still a jerkwad. But he’s real. He’s me. He’s you.

That’s the goal here. Literature is art. Just as a painting can draw you into its world, or a song can remind you of some lost love, literature is meant to evoke emotion. You read because you want to connect. It makes you feel. You find yourself sharing hurt, love, or simply whisked away to some fantasy world far away from your own troubles. As a writer, you owe it to your readers to make those characters real. The reader must relate in some way. They must feel. You’re not doing to do that with a perfect, cookie-cutter character.