Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Blades of Acktar: Deliver (Plus Author Interview)

Today—April 25, 2017—is a wonderful day for the book universe. Today, the fourth and final book in the Blades of Acktar series is released to the world! And today, I have provided my review of this marvelous creation, Deliver, and an exclusive author interview with Tricia Mingerink.

First off, I suppose I should warn you that The Blades of Acktar is my top favorite book series, so I will be doing my best to convince you to read the books and love them as I have ever since I found this series in January 2016. Because once you read them, you will love them. :) After all, who couldn't resist this amazing Christian fantasy series filled with action, assassins, a country torn with war, love, betrayal, an evil king, hostages, and heroes? Here is the link to my review of the previous book in this series, Defy. Now, let the fun begin! *trumpets sound as confetti erupts*

To start, here is Deliver's delightful cover and the book synopsis.

Can something broken ever heal?

Martyn is broken. After torturing his best friend, he doesn't belong anywhere in Acktar. No matter how far he runs, he can't lose his guilt.

Leith is broken. While healing from the torture he received at Nalgar Castle, he struggles to find his new role. But can a Blade ever outrun his past?

The country is broken. Bitterness divides town against town, neighbor against neighbor. What will it take to deliver Acktar from itself?

They face their hardest battle yet.
Do you want to read it yet? Because first you have to finish reading this post, then you have to go buy the books, then you have to read the rest of the series first. So you have a lot ahead of you. :) But first let's finish this post.

Here is my review of Deliver:
Deliver is a grand finale to the Blades of Acktar series. Filled with action from front to back, it doesn't let you down. Putting the book aside was like trying to hold your breath for an exceedingly long time. While I felt that the plot was slightly similar to some of the previous books in the series, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

As with all the other books in the series, the characters were impossible not to fall in love with. They are realistic and you easily find your heart attached. You are broken-hearted when they are hurting, ecstatic when they are elated, and whole-heartedly relate to all their emotions.

I also appreciated how the characters still have struggles and flaws that are realistic. After book three, everything isn't settled, and Deliver takes care of this in a well-done manner. Friendships are restored, trust is given, family is reunited, and all the characters at last find their place in the world.

I'm not even sure how to write a review that gives this book justice. I enjoyed every page, every scene, every character, every situation. I'm sad only to see the series come to a close. :) I can't wait to read more of Tricia Mingerink's writing!
I'm sure you want to read the series now. :) I have no doubt in my mind. Below, you will now discover the promised exclusive author interview.

Hi Tricia! Thank you for joining us here on the blog today and allowing me to ask you a few questions. I'm so excited for the release of Deliver!

1. To start off, I'm curious about the history of The Blades of Acktar. How long ago did you get the idea for it, and how? Was it your first major writing project? Did you know right away that it was going to become a series? What were your original goals in writing?

I got the idea for The Blades of Acktar in March of 2014. I started writing Dare almost immediately after getting the idea. I had the idea for the first three books in the series that first month, though some of the details changed from that first idea to the final version on paper. This wasn't near my first major writing project. I've been writing since I learned to write. But this series was the first one that I knew right away was publishable, and I wrote them with publication in mind. 

2. Along those lines of "in the beginning," how did you decide to self-publish? How is that working for you?

While I was writing Dare, I already began researching publishing options. After writing the first three books in the series and researching options for a year, I decided to self-publish. I knew a number of fellow Christian fantasy writers who were also self-published, and they helped steer me in the right direction. I enjoy it, and right now, I don't see myself changing how I publish my books.

3. Now I'd like to ask you about some of your favorites. :) Who are your top favorite characters in The Blades of Acktar? Also, do you have a favorite book that you've written, and why?

Going for the hard questions, aren't you! I adore all of them in their own special ways. While Leith is my favorite character over all (ssshh...don't tell the others), Martyn and Brandi are my favorites to write because they are so snarky. Of the books, I have to admit that Defy is my favorite. Probably because it was such an easy book to write.

Haha, yep. The hard questions are the best! Here's another.
4. What have been some of your struggles in the writing process, and how did you overcome them?

With writing Deliver, I struggled with the pressure of writing a book while knowing I had fans anxious and waiting for the book. It was a lot harder to write than the first three books where I had no one waiting for them. It took a lot of prayer to get my mind back in the right place and just concentrate on writing for God.

5. Do you have any writing tips/advice that you could pass on to aspiring authors like myself?

Don't worry about pushing yourself into publication before you're ready. Take the time to write and enjoy where you are now. Once you are published, things change. Some of those things are really good, and I wouldn't trade them for the world, but publication also brings pressure and worries that you don't have when you're unpublished. Wait until you're ready to handle them, and enjoy the journey until then.

6. Lastly, what's next? Now that The Blades of Acktar has come to a close, do you have plans for your next novel or series?

I have a few ideas, and the rest of this year will be taken up with a lot of first draft writing. I can't go into too many details since I don't know exactly what will be next, but it will probably be something more fully in the fantasy genre, it will still have Christian themes, and it still will have lots of fun and adventure that you've come to expect from me. 

Thank you so much for your time, Tricia! It means the world to me and I'm sure my readers enjoyed this—I know I did! :)
Now that you, my friends, are thoroughly interested in the series and can't wait for your ordered copies of the books to arrive, let me invite you to a party in honor of Deliver's release. It's a Facebook party on April 28. Be sure to stop by for live character chats and more!

Note: All the Kindle versions of the series are on a major sale right now in celebration of Deliver's release. You can easily locate them on Amazon. HERE is the link to buy signed paperback copies of the series. HERE is the link to buy paperbacks on Amazon.

I suppose I shouldn't keep you any longer since you'll want to go read the books. I hope you enjoyed my excitement and the interview. Let me know how you like the series! :)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Springtime Photos

Today I wanted to share a few of the most recent photos I've taken with you since your votes said that pictures were among your top favorites of my posts. The flower pictures were all taken at a friend's house on the day before Easter. As much as I wish it was still winter, spring is beautiful! Enjoy.

I like the setting on my Fujifilm where it makes everything black & white except a certain color.

You might want to view this one in full screen—I love how it came out!

Isn't this little one so cute?

Oops, how'd that one sneak in there? My kitty!
All photos are © Bethany R. and are not to be used without her permission.

What is spring looking like at your house this year?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April Challenge

Hello again! Today I wanted to share a challenge with you that was issued at the beginning of this month by one of my blog readers.

Picture taken from the internet.
Libby shared her challenge on Andi's Blog, so please visit THIS LINK to get more information and to "enter." I found her idea to be very interesting and useful. It's actually something I've been planning on doing myself for some time now. While it is mostly geared toward a younger generation, the majority of it is also very applicable to people of all ages. Here are some of the details from the original challenge, which Libby is calling "Four Letters in Four Weeks."*

"I want you to write four letters. What you do with them is up to you, but I want you to write them. . . .
The first letter is to the future. Between the 2nd and 9th of April, write about things you hope for. Your dreams, your hopes, your regrets, and the things you want to grow on and fix. Write to next year, or write for you to read in ten years. . . .

The second letter is to the past. Between the 9th and the 16th of April write to yourself. Tell what you have changed. Write from your heart. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Write it out. Tell yourself how you wouldn’t believe what you are going through now. . . .

The third letter is to your parents, starting April 16th- 23rd. Do you have a grudge? Do you feel hurt? Do you wish they would change the way they train you? Tell them. Do it with respect. Accept that God has put you where you belong, and they are there because that is where they need to be. Do you feel you never thank them enough? Do it now. Thank them for everything. Tell them you love them. Express what you feel. Again, you don’t have to give the letters to them, but you should live by them. . . .

And the fourth letter is to God, April 23rd - 30th. Pray. On paper. Tell Him everything. . . . Ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit and for Him to speak to you. Then go and read the Bible. Write out what you think about what you had read. Keep reading. Keep searching, Keep praying. Dedicate at least an hour to this letter. Thank God for everything you have overlooked, and for how far He has grown you. Ask Him to help you face whatever He has planned for you. . . ."
And there you have it. Isn't it a great idea? Thank you, Libby, for sharing your challenge and now allowing me to share it with others. I've so far been blessed by doing this. It is a wonderful way for me, a writer, to totally open up and "confess" things that I didn't even know about myself and to let God speak to me through these letters. Please consider joining myself, Libby, and others around the nation in this. Thanks, and may you be blessed! :)
* Libby is actually hosting a giveaway for two books if you do this challenge. To enter the giveaway, you have to follow more specific guidelines and comment on Andi's Blog. Follow the link I posted up top to get there if you wish to do this.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Writing Accomplishment!

I know this isn't much compared to many of my writer friends out there, but I wished to celebrate this moment with you. A few days ago, I reached the most words I've ever written in a story! While it is only 21,200 words that I passed, it is still a great accomplishment for me, and I'm still going strong!

It was about a year ago that I started the historical fiction story that held my record until a few days ago. That was A Pirate's Tale, the biggest writing project I'd attempted. Several months after starting it, however, I began to see how cliche it was and how many plot holes there were. So I stopped.

That was when I began my current work, Dragon Chronicles, that I'm leaning toward calling the Arkinland Chronicles. It's a very new experience for me to be writing this for several reasons.
  1. It's the first fantasy I've written.
  2. It's the first major story I've written with a male main character.
  3. It's one of my first attempts writing in first person.
Despite all the "firsts," I think it's coming along well and I hope to continue strong. My biggest writing issue in the past has been having too many ideas and not enough perseverance to push through the difficulties in the writing process. So I would greatly appreciate all your prayers as I continue to embark on this journey! Thank you for sharing with me in this exciting moment!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

March Highlights 2017

Yet another month in 2017 has come and gone. So much has occurred this March, so bear with me as I try to summarize. :)

Within the first few days of March, my mom began getting her dental work done, and while it will take several months yet to complete it, she is no longer in as bad of pain as she had been. Thank you for all the prayers!

Besides this, March started off with a friend coming to stay and watch our house while we took a trip to Shaver Lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The first day of the trip, however, my family and I spent in Bakersfield for the Christian Youth Film Society's 23rd Film Festival. This organization is the one that hosted the camp I attended last November and that has inspired me to begin my own movie-making journey with my youth group, some other friends, and family. It was a very formal event with a dinner and then the evening showing of the short movies that had entered the contest. I enjoyed my time and especially was glad to get to see some of my friends that I hadn't seen since the camp. Additionally, the couple who opened their home to us that night were involved in the festival and movie industry. (One was a judge of the movies, a producer, and an author!) Both were very sweet, and I loved spending time with them.

The following morning we headed up the mountain to Shaver, where we found several inches of snow that had fallen the previous day. It's a running joke with us and our friends up there that whenever my family comes—it snows. :) We spent the next few days sledding, cross-country skiing, and (in my case) catching up on some schoolwork.

Life slowed down a bit after the Shaver Lake trip, but was still busy as usual with youth groups, school, and other day-to-day events—not to mention the difficulties that daylight savings brings! During this time, I was also introduced to a book series, the Ranger's Apprentice, which I have really been enjoying. My church also had a breakfast last Sunday that was very fun, and I was thrilled to have one of my friends from another church visit with his family. Also, now that my family is all official HAM radio operators we have been building an antennae with one of the teachers of our class who also attends our church. In addition, one day this month my grandparents came down for a much-enjoyed visit. I've also gone on several fun horseback rides this month now that the ground is drying up a bit.

This last week has also been filled with birthdays every-other day. Literally! Last Sunday, Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday had a combined five birthdays of people I know, one of which was my sister. So, happy birthday to Samuel, Abigail, Cheyene, Nichole, and Ruben! I hope you all had wonderfully special days.

For my sister's birthday, my family returned to Hume Lake for the youth pastor's retreat. It was so different than when I went earlier in the year with my youth group and the campus was swarming with high schoolers! This time, there were very few people, no snow, and no structured "activities" per se. As a family we hiked, explored, took pictures, helped work on building the summer camp set, relaxed, played games, and did a hidden-transmitter hunt. I was excited to get lots of reading done as well. Of course, I have to mention that we played Apples to Apples—probably one of my favorite games. :) The weather went from clear and sunny to foggy, cloudy, rainy, and finally hail as we were leaving and visiting Sequoia National Park and the General Grant tree.

To top off my month, I was able to go to a friend's birthday party. I had a wonderful time hanging out with everyone there and I was glad to get to know some more people better. It was a party I won't soon forget! (All for good reasons. :D) Thanks for inviting me, Samuel!

March was a very successful month in terms of books. I'd recommend all of them. My total number of books? Nine. Total pages? 2,633. Not bad if I do say so myself. :)
  1. Out of Time: A Time to Die, Nadine Brandes (389 pages)
  2. Circle C Milestones: Courageous Love, Susan K. Marlow (186 pages)
  3. A Seven Wonders Novel: Shadow of Colossus, T. L. Higley (384 pages)
  4. Left to Die, Ivy Rose (116 pages)
  5. Martin Generations: Martin Hospitality, Abigayle Claire (386 pages)
  6. Circle C Adventures: Andrea Carter and the Long Ride Home (expanded edition), Susan K. Marlow (195 pages)
  7. Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan, John Flanagan (249 pages)
  8. Ranger's Apprentice: The Burning Bridge, John Flanagan (262 pages)
  9. Ilyon Chronicles: Samara's Peril, Jaye L. Knight (464 pages)
Every single book on this list was wonderful! However, I would like to specifically mention a few.

I have been waiting for months to read A Time to Die, and it did not disappoint me. It was a different style than I'm used to, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the plot.

Courageous Love is likely my second favorite book out of the Circle C Milestones series, and while some spots broke my heart (and there was certainly a major aspect to it that I wasn't expecting), it was a wonderful book!

Abigayle Claire did a delightful job on her new novel, Martin Hospitality, and I had a hard time putting down the book! It was well written and I found myself in love with the characters and plot.

Thank you so much to Alex and Samuel for encouraging me to read the Ranger's Apprentice series and for loaning me the books! I'm loving it so far!

And last but not least, I have to mention Samara's Peril. How could I not? It was just as wonderful as the previous books in the series and I love the new twists!

Again, another slow month in terms of writing. I got less than 1000 words done on my Dragon Chronicles, but did accomplish some writing on other projects. I would have certainly liked to write more, but hopefully April will prove to be more profiting with Camp NaNo and such. (Any other campers out there?)

With all of the trips this month, I've had plenty of opportunity to get some cool photos. I'll limit them all to a few.

This is where we stayed at Shaver Lake.
The flags hanging over the ice skating rink at Hume Lake.
My sister at Hume Lake.
At Hume Lake.
The Bakersfield orchards.
This is where we skied at Tamarack Ridge.
Hume Lake
Some of the giant Sequoia trees.
On a ride. :)
~Great Quotes~
"It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see." -Winston Churchill

 "Church isn't a museum for good people, it's a hospital for the broken." -Jefferson Bethke

"Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they're big, flashing signs that something needs to change" -Gretchen Rubin

~Blog Posts~
To visit any of my posts in March that you might have missed, here are the links:

February Highlights 2017
"Tu" v. "Usted"
Dear Readers . . . .

I also got several more followers in March, so I'm really excited about that. Welcome and thank you for joining my little community!

Another thing I wanted to point out is the poll that I ran for a week toward the end of this month. I asked what sorts of posts I did that were your favorites, and the order of which you said you enjoyed them are as follows:
  1. Life Updates
  2. A tie between Photos and Writing
  3. A tie between Reading, Books, and God
  4. Blog Tags
  5. Writing Challenges
Thank you to everyone who voted. I appreciate your feedback!

Unfortunately I haven't found much time in March to read many other blog posts, but I'd like to let you know about a cool challenge that was posted on Andi's Blog by Libby to help grow your spiritual walk. Also, since the beginning of the year I've found and enjoyed reading multiple new blogs. Give the authors a hearty welcome to the blogosphere! You know who you are. ;)

Alas, we have come to the end of this post. I hope you enjoyed hearing about my month. Now it's your turn—tell me about yours!