Fantasia Divinity’s 8th Issue Available For Purchase

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Cover of Issue 8. Used with permission of Fantasia Divinity Magazine.

“Honey, the unknown is just another chance for your next great adventure.”

It’s here! The 8th Issue of Fantasia Divinity Magazine, including my story, Unknown Adventures, is now available for purchase on Amazon!

In honor of my first release, I thought I would tell you all a little bit about the inspiration for this piece.

Unknown Adventures started as a simple story about a young girl visiting her father’s grave site.  I wrote up to certain point and left left it be for a while,  because no matter what I did, it just didn’t feel complete.  A month or so later, I was scrolling through pictures on Pexels.com , my go-to site for free photos. This is where it be came a chicken versus the egg situation. I don’t know if the idea came first or if the picture did, but I saw this photo  and the ending finally fell int place. To find out more, you’ll just have to read for yourself.

The story will remain on my blog until March 31st, 2017. Buy the full issue HERE to help support my fellow authors and the wonderful Fantasia Divinity publication.

I’m Being Published!

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Cover of Fantasia Divinity Issue 8! Used with permission from Fantasia Divinity Magazine.

This week, I have some exciting news to share that I’ve been keeping under wraps for a while until things are finalized.

I’m being published!

One of my flash fictions, Unknown Adventures, is being included in the eighth issue of Fantasia Divinity Magazine along with seven other pieces from talented authors. It will be released by the end of March!

Unknown Adventures will remain on my blog until March 31st, and then it will come down in an effort encourage all my awesome followers to support the magazine and my fellow authors.

I will create another post with the official links to read the issue and purchase it on Amazon in the coming week. In the meantime, read past issues HERE and buy their issues and anthologies HERE.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my writing journey thus far, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here!

How to Find The Best Beta for You

 

So far in this series, we’ve talked about the difference between Beta Readers (Betas) and Critique Partners (CPs), how to find  the best CP for you, and how to be a good CP. We’re going to continue that Trend this week by talking about some of the qualities of a good Beta, and where to find them. This content is inspired by three of my favorite youtubers, who have countless videos on this subject, Jenna, Kim and Vivian Reis. if you haven’t checked them out, do it. They rock.   

 

Things to Know

  1. Create a diverse environment: In talking about the qualities of a good CP, I mentioned that you’re probably going to want someone who has similar interests in terms of what they like to write. Mostly because they are going to be looking at your manuscript several times. With Betas, You almost want to do the opposite. Of course, you can still find people who have similar reading interests, but don’t restrict yourself to them. Open up the opportunity to a wide, varying audience. Recruit people of all ages, walks of life, those who love your genre, those who don’t… Toss a net into the ocean and see what you catch.  There are a few reasons this can be helpful:

Intended Audience vs. New Audience

Intended Audience New Audience
  • Familiar with the genre and will likely catch smaller details pertaining to that particular subset that the other readers might not.
  • Might have preconceived notions about the genre that allow certain things to make sense it in ways that they wouldn’t to be average reader (i.e. the stipulations of magic or time travel).  Someone familiar with the genres may be able to fill in the blanks based on other source material in that genre, even if it isn’t clearly stated in your work.
  • Unfamiliar with the genre, so if they agree to beta, you know your book might have a wider audience than intended.
  • Go in without expectations or bias, allowing them less opportunity to view your book from a pre established point of view. They will be able to point out bigger plot holes that may not catch the eye of the experienced genre-reader..  

 

  1. Ask questions and set requirements: At first glance, this probably seems counterintuitive to my last point. However, you still have to make sure that you don’t end up with an audience that is not even close to the one you hope your book will reach. If you’re writing a post apocalyptic angel story meant for those 17 & over, but all of your applicants  say that they hate post-apocalyptic and they’re underage, that’s probably not going to be to great set of betas for you. Toss in a few  willing to read the book even if they usually don’t like postapocalyptic to see if your audience is wider than you think, but   make sure to look at their reasons for wanting to beta  in the first place Before you accept or disregard anyone.

 

  1. Communicate, and be okay with change: This is something that Jenna and Kim mention in their Beta and CP videos, and it is undoubtedly the most important thing to look for in a beta. You’re going to go through a lot of people before you find a solid group that works for you and your book. Be ready to let go of those who don’t. If you ask them for feedback and all they give you are bland the statements like, “It was good,” or “I liked it,” explain  that you need more than that if they really want to help you. If they don’t comply, let them go. Also do this if you have a beta who only ever makes negative, snarky, rude comments that make you feel bad  about your writing,

 

Where To Look

 

  • Join a local writing group: Whether online or in real life, writing groups are great Places to find people to read your work. Not just because they’re writers, but to be a good writer you must also be an avid reader. They will likely read your work with an open mind and honest eye, not only looking out for writerly concerns such as grammar, but big picture things as well.  
  • Be active on social media: Advertise, advertise, advertise. Get the word out. Like with CPs, Twitter and Facebook are great places to find betas, as is Wattpad and any other online writing platform. Kim also made a google docs form which is how I signed up to beta her book Keeper just under a year ago (Wow!) it was super easy to fill out and helped her keep track of all the requests she received. I highly recommend this avenue in addition to posting everywhere online.  
  • Don’t use your friends and family as the first group of beta readers: Unless you have a super honest group of Family and friends they are probably not going to be the first people that you want see your book. Not because they won’t want to help you, but because they are already unintentionally biased toward liking your work because they like you. This does not mean that they can never read your work, but I recommend going through a couple of rounds of other betas before handing your manuscript off to those who know you best.

 

 

Resources:

Facebook Groups:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1662819743977604/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/OhanaNano/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/dailyflashwriting/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/fictionwritersgroup/

 

Twitter:

#CPConnect

#chance2connect

Being a Good Critique Partner

So far in this series, I’ve talked about the differences between Beta Readers (Betas) and Critique Partners (CPs) and how and where to find CPs. This week, I’m going to talk about what it takes to be a good CP. Some of these tips might cross over into my post about Betas when I talk about them in a few weeks.

 

  • Devise a Process: Every author/CP pair is going to work differently together. It’s important that the two of you talk about the kind of feedback that you as a CP feel qualified to give to make sure that it aligns with the type of feedback the author is looking for. You should also come up with some kind of schedule. Let the author know your timeframe and ask if they have a deadline. Some other questions to consider are:

 

    1. How far are you in the writing process?
    2. Is there anything in particular you want me to look for when going through this chapter/manuscript?
    3. How do you want to receive my feedback? (Google doc, Track changes on Word, FB chat, email, etc.)

Since you as a CP generally come into the process a lot earlier than Betas, deadlines might not be something that the author cares about yet. However, it is smart to ask those kinds of practical questions so that you are both on the same page with your expectations.

 

  • Be Thorough: Remember, you’re the first pair of eyes to see this author’s work, and you’re working with them so that they can become a better writer. Do not come back to them with comments like, “I loved this chapter!” This kind of surface feedback is not helpful to either of you. Honor their requests for certain types of feedback. If they don’t ask for anything specific, just write down your thoughts and reactions to scenes, characters, anything that surprises you or catches you off guard, etc. Act like you are going to review this book as a reader and let the author know what types of things you might include.
  • Be Honest: Please, please, please, do not say nice things to spare our feelings. If the main character is grating on your nerves to the point that you despise them, but you love the villain, that’s probably something that the author is going to want to know. Don’t hold back expressing yourself just because you’re trying to be nice. With that said:
  • Be Constructive: Just because you’re being honest does not mean you need to be mean about it. If you happen to hate the main character, don’t just say, “Laura sucks; she needs to go jump off of a cliff somewhere.” No. That is not helpful and unnecessarily rude. Instead, you could say: “I can’t connect to Laura because every time we see her she seems very shallow. Maybe you could include a few scenes where she’s taking care of her little sister. Show us that she really loves her and she has other sides to her  besides the one that she shows her friends.” This is advice the author can work with. You’ve still communicated that you don’t like this character, but now the author has some indication as to why, and you’ve offered them a way to change it.

 

  • And finally, probably the most important: Keep Communication Open: If at any point, for any reason, you decide that you can’t be a CP for this person anymore, please, for the love of all things writing, tell them. There is nothing worse as a writer  than sending out your manuscript  and not hearing from the recipient  for weeks. Even if you’re just busy, keep them informed so they know that you haven’t given up. Keep them updated as you read with anything you particularly like or could be improved throughout the manuscript. That way, while they’re waiting for the bulk of your comments, they can get an overall sense of what you think and be a little bit more prepared for what to expect.

Challenge of the Week: Were these tips helpful? Were there any tips I missed? Share in the comments!

How to Find The Best CP for You

Last week, I talked about the difference between Beta Readers (Betas) and Critique Partners (CPs) when it comes to the editing portion of the writing process. This week, we’re going talk about how to find those partners. Since CPs tend to come into the picture before Betas, we’re going to address them first.

Things to Know

  1. Decide what you want: Before you can create a partnership with anyone, whether for work or something else, the both of you have to come to an agreement about what you want out of that partnership. Are you looking for someone to brainstorm with? Are you looking for someone to help you flush out your characters? Are you looking for someone to proofread your entire novel before you send it out to betas? Are you simply looking for a friend to bounce ideas off of and chat with whenever you get stuck? Or are you looking for a mixture of a few of these things? This is important to decide because you should make sure that you and your critique partner are on the same page when it comes to your wants and needs as a writer.  This, however, does not mean that your CP has to be at the same stage of the writing process that you are.
  2. Find someone you can learn from: My critique partner Is currently drafting his second book, and editing his first, while I’m still writing my debut. But that’s actually one of the reasons I love talking to him. He and I have completely different writing styles, but he’s really good at coming up with ideas if I get stuck in a tough spot and helping me stay motivated when I’m having a rough writing day. Because he and I are complete polar opposites  in regards to how we write, I feel like we both learn a lot from each other. It’s not helpful in a good partner if you’re both at the exact same stage and level of writing because that means you have less to learn from the other person. Of course, it’s perfectly fine if you’re in the middle of writing your second draft when someone else is in the middle of writing their first,  or if you’re marketing something that’s already been published when your partner is just getting ready to hit the publish button. Just make sure, before you commit to anything. that the partnership is a mutually successful one on both ends. 
  3. Find someone with similar interests:  I kind of touched on this in my previous post, but because your CP is going to be looking at your manuscript multiple times, It’s going to be really hard for them to be helpful if they really don’t like zombie horror stories, and that happens to be exactly what kind of book you’re writing. That’s not to say that your fabulous writing  won’t convince them to give something a chance that they might have otherwise never picked up, but you have to make sure they are open top trying something new. Ask questions before you commit. Find out if there is any genre or content that they absolutely refuse to read. If that content happen to be in you’re book and it’s heavily featured, then they probably are not the right partner for you. It’s very hard to give someone good, solid, sound advice if you can’t find something to it enjoy about their writing.

Where To Look

 

  • Join a local writing group: This is something that I’ve heard a lot of people talk about having a lot of success with. If you can find a local running group to join, it’s a great place to look for critique partners. Those people usually have similar goals, and  it’s easy to have longer, more detailed conversations with someone if you are able to talk to them face-to-face.
  • Be active on social media: This is how I found my critique partners, and so far, it’s worked out really well. Join writing conversations and groups on Twitter and Facebook, or search for those types of things on your preferred social media platform. Like the local writing group, those people and usually have like-minded interests, but the added bonus is they don’t need to live near you in order to help you progress in your writing.
  • Research and reach out to large organizations: If you been in the writing community for some time, I’m sure you’ve heard of groups like Romance Writers of America or the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I recently found the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and I’m excited to start exploring their content. Not only do they have a mentoring program, but they have a job listing page and a calendar for the whole year detailing plenty of different conferences for writers from all walks of life to attend and meet with other writers, authors, publishers and editors. Some of these organizations require a fee to join, but in my opinion, the price is definitely worth the payoff.

Resources:

Facebook Groups:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/OhanaNano/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/dailyflashwriting/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/fictionwritersgroup/

Twitter:

#authorconfessions

#chance2connect

#WritersPatch

Associations:

Association of Writers and Writing Programs: https://www.awpwriter.org/

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America:  http://www.sfwa.org/

Romance Writers of America: https://www.rwa.org/  

Challenge of the Week: How do you find your Critique Partners?

Announcing A New Twitter Game: DreamWIP!

I have an exciting social media event coming up that I wanted to let y’all know about! Starting on March 1st 2017, I will be hosting a Twitter event that I like to call, #DreamWIP.  It will last all month. The first round of questions will be general brainstorming prompts encouraging authors to think about what they like and don’t like about books they’ve read. I designed it this way so that authors can use the knowledge they gain from answering those questions  as a springboard for brainstorming their own unique book. Depending on the popularity of it, I have at least three more months planned, focusing on some of  the other basic elements of storytelling: Characters, Plots, and Settings.

How did the idea come about?

The idea for this game came from a couple of things. First, I saw J.M. Sulliven’s post on her blog, in which she encouraged authors to run with crazy ideas and see where they took them. Her Twitter game #authorconfessions, came from a wild whim and since then has turned into something much bigger. Ever since I joined Twitter in March of last year, I’ve fallen in love with Twitter games as a way to socialize and befriend other like-minded writer folk. The day that I read that post, I decided that I wanted to design a Twitter game of my own. Figuring out what type of Twitter game… That was a whole other story.  

I started thinking about which parts of the writing process had already been addressed in other Twitter games I’d seen. I realized the most difficult part of coming up with a book idea for me isn’t once I get into it, it’s finding the right idea in the first place. That got me thinking about something one of my favorite authors and youtubers, Kim Chance, said in her videos about her current WIP. As much as she loves it now, it was such a crazy project that she was terrified to even try until her agent told her to just dive in and go for it. In other words: She had a massive case of writer’s block. This kind of writer’s block is something I continue to struggle with as I work on my  own WIP. I wanted to come up with a way to show writers (including me) they weren’t alone, and that  no idea was to small or outlandish, thus #DreamWIP was born.

What is it?

A twitter month-long game designed to help writers brainstorm their dream books  with each other and beat that pesky writer’s block!

How does it work?

On February 28 2017,  I will post an introduction post on Twitter, so we can all get to know each other. A post with all of the questions will be pinned at the top of my feed on March 1, 2017, and one question will be posted per day. To answer, just use the hashtag  #DreamWIP in your tweet, retweet the question with your answer, or reply to the post with your answer.

Who can join?

Anyone can join in at any point during the  month. Just go to my Twitter, look at the  pinned post in my feed, or scroll down to the current day’s question.

Rules

  1. This is designed as a brainstorming game. If you think another author’s idea is amazing, that’s great! Give it a like or a Retweet, but don’t steal it for yourself!
  1. Connect! The point of this game is to beat writer’s block and find other writer buddies you can brainstorm with in the future, so go say hi!
  1. These posts are meant to be used as a springboard. You can write as little or as much as you want. No idea is too big or small, and there’s no such thing as a bad one.
  1. Have fun!

I’m excited and I hope you are to!

Critique Partners v. Beta Readers

This week’s topic, and the series to follow it, is thanks to my friend Tanner Childs, and some of the information is inspired by Kim Chance’s Youtube video on the same topic. Beta Readers (Betas) and Critique Partners (CPs) are two groups of people who are essential to the author’s editing process. They typically come in to help us writerly folks polish our books, novella, etc. before we send it out to professional editors, agents, etc. They are basically the lovely guinea pigs that help us to better understand how our book is going to impact readers. Contrary to popular belief though, they’re not the same thing.

Kim makes a point in her video that Betas are typically non-writers who read your material as someone would if they were pulling it off of a shelf at a bookstore. They search for plot holes, point out flaws in storytelling, or tell you if characters behaving inconsistently, whether your world is vivid and easy to make sense of…  Any “big picture” things that your readers are likely to notice.

Critique Partners, according to Kim, do the same thing, but are also fellow writers, so they can catch things the average reader might miss. Grammar issues, awkward phrasing…. All the more nitty-gritty, techie fixes will catch their attention, in addition to the “big picture” issues. Kim also says that, as implied in the name, the two of you agree to form a partnership where you read each other’s works. Beta reading only goes on way, CPing is a two way street.

I think all of her points are very valid and important, but I also think there’s a little bit more to it than that, on both ends.  To simplify things I’m going to make two bulleted lists: one for CPs and one for Betas. Please remember that these are only my opinions, based on my experience being a Beta, and having my own great CPs in my friends Tanner & SGD Singh.

CPs

  • Fellow writers with whom you swap works
  • Generally come before Betas and read the roughest form of your manuscript/chapter
  • Can also be brainstorming partners and are usually around for the long haul of the writing process
  • Generally writers do not have as many CPs as they do Betas, depending on how well the relationship works out for both parties
  • CPs will generally see the work in multiple forms, more than once
  • A CP should be semi-knowledgeable/interested in your genre, especially if you intend to brainstorm together

Betas

  • May be writers but can also just be readers
  • Come after CPs and get the most polished/up-to-date version of your work before it’s sent to an editor
  • Usually are only there to give feedback on an already semi-polished product, and offer suggestions, rather than brainstorm like a CP would
  • Generally a writer will have multiple groups of Betas, and send their work out in rounds, after considering/incorporating feedback from the previous round to determine how feedback changes
  • Betas will likely see the work once or twice, in the  cleanest form possible
  • A Beta may be interested/knowledgeable in your genre but they don’t HAVE to be. I believe Jenna Moreci or Vivian Reis pointed this out on their Youtube channels, but it’s important that at least some of your Betas are NOT your ideal target audience, because it will give you a chance to figure out if your audience is bigger or smaller than you originally thought, which can help you fine tune your marketing later on.
  • And finally, another great point of Kim’s-  You need to be confident your Betas are going to give you sound, honest advice and not be afraid of hurting your feelings. I hate to break it to you, but you are going to get your feelings hurt during the process; taking criticism is HARD. The good part about doing it with people that you trust, but you also know won’t sugar-coat their thoughts, is that I guarantee the feedback will be ten times more helpful than “It was great!”As nice as that is, it won’t make your work editor, agent, or publisher ready.

Next week, we’ll talk about how to find CPs, and how to be a good one.
Challenge of the Week: Was this helpful to you?

Book Review Nine Tails: Episode 1: Of Fairies and Demons

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Used with permission from the author. (I adore this cover!)

Nine Tails: Episode 1: Of Fairies and Demons

by : J. Young-Ju Harris

Summary: Jason Park has ambitions to create comic books about heroes. Little does he know that he might soon become one himself. It starts when he stumbles into the middle of a kidnapping plot and discovers that the strange book he inherited from his grandfather has magical properties. He ends up coming to the aid of Sora, an exiled fairy princess from the Korean Spirit World. Together they must save Sora’s sister from the villains who kidnapped her.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to either of them, a shape shifting nine-tailed fox spirit is hot on Jason’s trail. She needs to recover the magical book for her employer in a bid to save her soul and become human. Deadly and wily, she will stop at nothing to get what she needs. (via Amazon)

I had the fortune to beta read one of this author’s earlier drafts of this episode, and He was so kind to ask me to write a review based on my thoughts. As I am reviewing, in some sense, an ARC copy, some of the things I say might be different from the final draft available on Amazon. If they are vastly different, I will follow up this review with an updated one. I can tell you across the board that this is an episode that you do not want to miss.

Pros:

Korean Mythology: Those of you  that have been following my blog for quite some time probably know by now that I love anything to do with mythology and magic.  Korean mythology was new to me at the start of reading this book, and it certainly left a lasting impression. It added a unique element to the story that made it feel familiar while still staying true to the author’s vision. As excited as I am whenever I find a book riffing on the more classic Greek and Roman  myths I learned about in school, it’s even more fascinating when authors bring in systems of magic I know very little about. I get a glimpse into a completely different culture, and It’s fun to guess which part of the story were most heavily influenced by different myths.

Multiple Stories in One: Something that I really admired about this author’s work is his ability to weave hair that multiple stories into one complete, cohesive narrative. There are plenty of unique characters and storylines, so each reader has the opportunity to find their own thread of events to relate to and engage with. And, despite the array of characters, Which is something I’m typically not a fan of in fantasy novels, nothing became so confusing or hard to keep track of throughout my reading of this novel that I wanted to put it down. Instead, the suspense kept me turning pages.

Cons:

Structure: This is more of a personal preference than a con about the story itself, but I feel it’s important to those looking to buy the book. This story is told in episodic structure. The episode wraps up nicely, providing a solution to one conflict while launching the reader into the next, but it does end on a large cliffhanger with the narrative hanging in the balance.

Overall: 4.5/5 Stars. Recommended for fans of mythology and episodic stories.

Recommendation: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: Book 1

By Rick Riordan

Summary:  Thor’s hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon–the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn’t just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can’t retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer’s return is the gods’ worst enemy, Loki–and the price he wants is very high. (via Amazon)

Book Review: Into Wonderland

IMG_0619.JPG

Taken by me using my Kindle copy

Into Wonderland 

By R.L. Weeks

Summary: Neverland was built on the Fountain of Youth and Peter was its King of Hearts. Now that Snow is in charge, Neverland has warped into Wonderland, leaving everyone trapped in a neverending nightmare of madness.

Gallisa, the White Queen, is confined to her palace, leaving everyone without hope.

Alice has spent years searching her world for a way into Wonderland after receiving a letter from her sister, Wendy. When she finally steps through the mirror, she gets a lot more than she bargained for. (via Amazon)

As with the other two books. R.L. Weeks was kind enough to send me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review (Read my first two reviews here and here). Unfortunately, this was my least favorite book of the three.

Pros:

New Characters: It kills me that this book was my least favorite, because every single time I open one of her books I am so excited to see the twists that Week’s comes up with for some of my favorite fairy tale characters, I love the ideas; they are so unlike anything I’ve ever come across in retellings before, yet still tinged with a familiar air, and full of easter eggs that make exploring each new chapter a fun adventure. 

Unexpected Twists: This is related to my point above, but I particularly loved Week’s take on the relationships between the London based characters. The book encompassed so many characters I hadn’t expected to see, enhanced by a creepy factor that was much closer to the Tim Burton atmosphere (which is my favorite Alice adaptation) than the Disney one I remember as a kid.

Cons:    

Pacing: I’m pretty sure I mentioned this before in one of my other reviews, but I just couldn’t let the speed of this book slide. It was so fast paced that I had a hard time bonding with any of the characters, and I felt like, in contrast with the last book, there was a lot more that could have been flushed out.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 stars.   Recommended for fans of the series. 

Recommendation: Splintered by: AG Howard

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence.

Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own. (via Goodreads)

Book Review: The Hidden Soul

The Hidden Soul

By: Reagan Colbert

Summary: “The iron scales of the breastplate clattered together as he pulled it over his shoulders. A sound he would hate until his dying day.”

The worst day of Marcus’ life was the day his father enlisted him in the Roman legions. Five years later, his commanders have big plans for his career, but Marcus fears becoming a Centurion. He has a soul, his friend, Justus, says. When he loses that soul, he will finally accept his fate as a soldier.

When he is assigned to an execution, Marcus must face his soul in a way he never has before. He wants to believe that he will become the hardened officer his father once was, but when he encounters a strange man claiming to be the Son of God, his soul is stirred once more, and he sets out to find answers.

From the rocky hill called Golgotha, to a mysteriously empty tomb, and a hidden group of disciples in Jerusalem, the days that follow will change his life forever. (via Amazon)

This is 19-year-old Raegan Colbert’s first work, a retelling of Jesus’s crucifixion from the point of view of a fictionalized Roman soldier chosen to carry out the sentence.

I’ll be honest, this is not my usual fare, but I was impressed that the author had already been published at such a young age, and my curiosity won over my skepticism.

I’m so glad it did.

Pros:

Well Paced: When I saw that this book was only 58 pages long, I thought I was going to get a jumbled story that didn’t feel like it had time to be fully fleshed-out. Fortunately, I was very, very wrong. It didn’t feel like 58 pages. The plot spanned over about 4 or 5 days, so if you calculate it out, the author spends about 10 pages devoted to a day. There was enough time to familiarize myself with the physical environment and time period, before the action began, while simultaneously moving the story forward.

Sophisticated Writing: I have not read a lot of books  by teen authors, and even less that focus on a main character of the opposite gender to that of the author. I applaud Ms. Colbert’s ability to pull me into the journey. Though it was clear this was a special tale to her, I never felt as if she had insert herself into the story, nor did she venture too far into the “preaching” style of writing, as some books with an emphasis on spiritual content can. The parts that did place more emphasis on biblical elements of the story, rather than the plot as a book itself, we’re not overdone and did not distract from my enjoyment of the tale.

Cons:

Character Development: It is repeatedly referenced that Marcus does not like his position as a member of the Roman legions, but had to become one because he wanted to uphold his family’s legacy. I wish we would have gotten a little more insight as to why he felt so much pressure to do so. He is a different person by the end of the book than the soldier we meet at the beginning, but I would have liked to understand a little more about his background, so that I could be further invested in his personal journey by the time the story resolves. On Amazon, it is listed as the first book in The Roman Soul Series, so perhaps, if the author continues on, we might get a clearer glimpse of how Marcus came to be the man he was at the start of the book. Currently,I feel the book could be read as a stand-alone and be complete.

Overall: 4/5 Stars. Recommended for those who enjoy fictional books with spiritual themes or classic Bible tales retold.
Recommendation: Unfortunately, I do not have a book that I can recommend to go along with this, because I don’t read a lot of fiction in this genre. However, I am always open to trying something new. If you have a suggestion for me, feel free to leave it in the comments.