Red Lettering

Stories will not be written easily. A story without a heart is dead, and the only place it will get a heart is from the author.

July Recap: Realm Makers, Questions, and a New Name

Warning: expect many words and a few pictures, with minimal editing done on either. This is going to be a long post. It’s going to get personal. Bear with me. (Or don’t. I’m not going to force you to read my blog post if you don’t want to.)

Sunday, July 22nd, as the clock inched closer to eleven, we pulled back into our driveway in the darkness. My sister Caitlin, my sister Faith, and I had just traveled nearly ten hours back home from St. Louis, back home from Realm Makers. The last hour of the drive, I finally realized that I was, in fact, exhausted. That need for rest expressed itself in shivers and a feeling of frigidity that denied the warmth of the summer night.

In the previous fourteen days, I had changed my social media branding entirely from one name to another. I finally checked off the last piece of writing advice that you’re told so very often: attend a conference. I had met friends who mean the world to me, in spite of their distance from my house, and met an author who was (and still is) one of the most influential people in my writing journey. I traveled farther than ever before; drove farther than ever before; juggled before an audience for the first time (it was the aforementioned friends, but it counts!). I learned I would be published for the first time. And the time finally came for me to address the questions that had been circulating quietly in my head for the last year and a half.



For as long as I’ve been looking for writing advice, I’ve seen the same pieces given over and over again: show don’t tell. Keep reading. Keep writing – just finish the novel! Go to a writers conference.

For years it was implausible at best, though every year I knew people who were going to conferences. First, the Florida Christian Writers Conference; then Realm Makers, a bizarre little niche market conference which was exactly what I wrote. Last year at the end of July, I applied for a job at a local Chick-fil-A, because next time Realm Makers came around, I was going to be there.



When I registered for Realm Makers, I waffled back and forth over whether to use my real name, or the name by which I’m known: Athelas Hale. I’ve been using Athelas since 2011: it’s been a part of my writing identity since the day I began to write publicly, and all of my connections have been made under that pseudonym. To go to Realm Makers, a professional writing setting, would be to set that name in stone. Though it could be changed at a later date, it would be more easier to do it earlier, rather than later.

I decided to stick with it. I set it to be the display name on my name-tag and ordered business cards. They arrived with time to spare. All was well.

July 12th, less than a week before the day we would leave for Realm Makers, I was talking to my friend Jessi and she brought up the very uncomfortable question: “I wonder if the word athelas is copyrighted.”

I had become so comfortable with it as a name that I never thought to look it up.

July 12th, less than a week before the day we would leave, I scrambled to order new business cards because, as it turned out, it was time for me to switch over to my real name. The Tolkien Estate had made the decision for me.

Re-ordering also allowed me to fix some color issues that appeared during printing.

Hi. I’m Kira Thomas. It’s nice to meet you.

Remarkably, my new business cards arrived on time. Vistaprint, y’all – A+ printing and shipping time.

Six o’ clock Wednesday morning rolled around, and we pulled out, raindrops collecting on our windshields, our hearts full of anticipation and nerves.



“Juggler Extraordinaire,” my name tag read. Because, first of all, this is a spec fic writers conference – did they really expect anyone to put a simple “writer” or “editor” in the title section? Anyone there could safely assume that I’m a writer, and juggling is without question one of my more interesting and extraordinary skills.

But both important, and more understated: the last few years have been tough for me when it comes to writing. I’ve had good months and bad months; but mostly bad. Frustration built up, and at one point last year I told a friend, “I feel kind of like I’ve reached the point in my writing journey where I know so much about writing, that I can’t write anymore.”

Eventually, it led back to that old familiar question: am I supposed to be writing at all?

When I put my information into the Realm Makers registration page, I was no longer comfortable calling myself a writer.

Was I at Realm Makers to learn the craft, to meet new people, to see old friends? Yeah.

I was also there to find an answer to this question.

Opening day, they made the statement (and I don’t remember now who was speaking): “You are here for a reason, and you have questions. We can’t answer those questions for you, but we are here to help you find the answers.”

Soon after we got our schedules, I circled all of the classes I would be taking. The M&Ms were just there for decoration.

Thursday evening, we sat in on the Flash Critique Session. Weeks earlier, I had submitted a 300-word short story as part of the competition. Each of the ten submitted stories were read aloud by Scott Minor (except the first, which was read by a plucky volunteer because no one could find Scott), and then a panel of judges gave their critiques, both the good and the bad.

Seven stories were read and critiqued. I agreed with some of the critiques; I disagreed with some. I recognized the names of many of the authors, and appreciated many of their stories in various ways.

Eight stories were read, and I began to wonder if they were going to read mine. Was it not chosen as one of the ten? Did they hate it? Did it stray too far from their theme?

Nine stories were read. The night was growing late.

“The Dragon in the Wood,” Scott Minor said, in that Alfred Wilberwale voice of his, “by Athelas Hale.”

“You broke all the rules,” the first gentleman on the panel said when my story was read, “but you did it really well.”

I went to bed exhausted and happy that night, ready for the next day.

I attended Sharon Hinck’s continuing session class: “Faith-Infused and Faith-Fueled Writing.” The first morning, she told us that she would share some of her personal story, but not yet. We are writers, and we know better than to dump a lot of backstory at the beginning. The backstory would come on Saturday, after her two sessions on Friday.

She taught on what our reasons behind writing should be; how we ought to write; who we write for, and whether our writing matters (hint: it does). She spoke on tools of the trade, and how to effectively communicate a message without turning our novels into poorly-done sermons. For the first time, I heard an instructor tell us to double- and triple-check our theology when writing, because it’s never only fiction. When it was applicable, she told us miniature stories of her experience, and how other people have reacted to her books, until her foreshadowing and hints turned into a full-blown origin story during the last session.

But the last session happened on Saturday, and we’re not there yet.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early, and lead rapidly into one of the conference moments I was most anticipating: meeting Bryan Davis. I’ve told before how he’s influenced me as a writer, so I won’t add more words to this already wordy post to rehash that. Suffice to say, after ten years, I was ready to meet him in person.

We walked in, and nearly strolled right past his table because we expected him to be somewhere else. Not my proudest moment.

Introductions happened. We shook hands. I had nothing to say, so I awkwardly hovered around the table, and about twenty minutes later, everyone moved into another room to hear him speak.

I’ve been following him for ten years, so I know nearly all the stories he tells when he speaks. So it was with this speech, but I listened because, even though I know all the stories, sometimes it’s good to hear them again.

He spoke about his own writing journey, from the first book he tried to write, to the rejection notices, to his marketing efforts in the early days of his writing career. Then he told his Autarkeia story, and about some of the responses he’s received from his books. In his story, you can clearly see how God took care of Mr. Davis when he followed the call to write.

And he talked about how speculative fiction matters.

Soon after he left was the final session of Sharon Hinck’s class, where her origin story unfolded. She told us the story of how God called her to write to begin with, how God called her to write after medical issues got in the way, and how God is using her now. “Good theology includes you being valuable, even when you don’t produce,” she told us.

You are building on the foundation of the authors who have come before you, she said, and directed us to think of the most influential books in our lives. The ones that teach us things; the ones that change our direction, or solidify a truth that we needed to know.  

Even though I was listening to her story, my notes from that session don’t cover what she spoke on. Instead, they ramble about what I already knew: that stories are valuable, and speculative fiction can and has changed lives. I’ve known it for so long, and been so familiar with the stories of the authors who have experienced miracles and promptings, that I’ve begun to take it for granted.

From then on, the conference wound down quickly with one presentation after another until it was time for the closing keynote. Mary Weber stood before us all and told a room full of writers: “Writing is not your calling.”

Your calling is to love God, love your family, and love others. 

Sometimes the two intersect, but you weren’t made to write stories and die.

You were made to love people – and if you love people through the writing of your stories, that’s okay, too.

And then she reminded us that our heritage, created in the image of a Creative God, born again as His adopted children, is to be unstoppable creators.

The conclusion from the critique session came in: guys, I’m going to be published in Havok, January of 2019.

And the conference proper ended that night, with only the post-conference workshop to follow.


My cosplay was Masayi Sairu, from Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s “Golden Daughter“.

To provide a dramatic pause for the continuing narrative, now is the time to insert everything else that happened in the conference before we get around to The Answer.

We walked into the hotel, checked in, and began to look for the stairs to find our room. Before we were a minute into our search, familiar faces came around the corner, and we all but ran into some of my favorite people, headed by the fabulous Katie Grace. There was squealing. There was hugging. There was sentiment.

Then we had to hurry to find our rooms.

The conference was full of faces that are dear to me. My Camp Cabin and my people: Jessi Roberts, Jaye L. Knight, Kara Swanson, Jeneca Zody, Stephanie Warner, Rosalie Valentine, Tricia Mingerink, Savannah Grace, Ashley Townsend. There were some people who I’ve been acquainted with for years, and even a reader of this blog (it was fantastic to see you! I know we only said a few words to each other, but I’m glad you were there!).

I met new people, and accidentally ran into people I’ve followed on Pinterest for years (Meaghan Ward, and Elizabeth Lewis). I met and discussed story ideas with Captain America during the costume banquet (I kid you not: when my sister and I went to stand in line for desert, we found Captain America… at the end of the line). Upon seeing some promo material for this book, I tried to track down the author all day. We finally ran into each other, and I found myself the happy owner of a new book to take home to my little sisters. We discussed aspects of salvation with a friend, and I’m scheduled to duel Lisa Mangum any time now because she hates the ending of the Lord of the Rings.

Carla Hoch’s classes were exactly as fantastic as I expected them to be. I came home from Sharon Hinck’s class with a whole list of all the obstacles we as a class could come up with, and at least three possible solutions for every one of them.

One night, my sister looked at me and quietly observed: “You look happy.”

And I was.



I realized how exhausted I was when, the day after we got home, I started sobbing over something definitely not-sob-worthy, and for the next week, I was tired and cold on most days. I’m still tired.

I came home with my question still swirling in my head, and fully prepared for it to swirl for a good long while. But I also came home with the assurance of something I had known so well, I had all but forgotten: there is value in stories, and – more importantly – God Himself places value in the stories that His people tell.

That assurance makes me feel a whole lot better.

For years, I’ve been of the belief that God calls us to act in love and to serve him wherever we go, however it seems reasonable to us, as we are educated by the Bible. We’ll probably make mistakes and errors in judgement, but in the end, God has this all worked out. We don’t see a lot of prayer and fasting before action with the disciples: we see them say, “God said to preach the word, how about we head twenty miles south to that town over yonder?” They lived what they knew of God’s character.

Maybe God didn’t call me to be a writer. The question will probably stick around for a good long while. Maybe I don’t have to be called to be an author… to be a person who writes.

But for now, I’ve made the decision that I’m going to operate as though He has, under the knowledge that it is good to create stories that give hope to people and glorify his name. When He’s ready for me to stop, He’ll let me know.

For whatever reason, the first year that we were able to make it, the theme of the conference was this: love God, love people, and be honest in your writing. For whatever reason, what I gained from this conference was not new information. It was a constant, steady call to remember what I’ve learned in the past– to call to my attention the personal stories where God has taken writers, picked them up from whatever they were doing before and told them to write. 


I started this blog because, as a young girl, I was very confident in my abilities as a writer. I still am: I know how to identify good writing when I see it, so I can usually self-diagnose whether a piece is good or bad.

But I started this blog to teach others what I know and, right now I feel all taught-out. I know both too much, and too little, to continue teaching.

As of tonight, I don’t know what this blog is going to be. I guess we’ll see together, if you’re interested.



Dear critique panelist:

I have eight semicolons in this blog post. You are absolutely right. I need to use them less.

Writing Prompt: 07-27-2018

Origin: “My World Shall Not Be Shaken” by Tobias Ryen Amundsen. Standard disclaimer, I don’t know the artist nor the other works, go adventuring on the internet at your own peril and whatnot. Click the picture above to view the original on DeviantArt.

Feeling inspired? Write something from this prompt! You can leave a response in the comments, or move the prompt to your blog and leave a link in the comments! (As always, if you move the picture over, remember to credit the artist!)

Not feeling inspired? Are you a writer, or what? Go write your story anyway.

Cheers until next time!

Penprints Flash Fiction Dash: To the Stars Who Listen

Hello, my friends! I’m coming to you today live and in person (and ahead of my deadline for once!), participating in The Penprints Flash Fiction Dash.

The challenge was to write a flash fiction beneath 1000 words from a prompt; I was allowed to stick as close to, or stray as far away from, the source material as I desired. This is the one I was given:



I strayed a bit.

And pushed way beyond the boundaries of what’s considered good, traditional writing.

But it was required, as stated in the rules, “You must have unfettered fun.”

I did so.


Note: There are some important formatting differences which don’t show up in the WordPress blog reader, so you have to click and view it on-site.

to the stars who listen
w/c 906
Athelas Hale

DEC 18, 3002 :: 22:47

This is Marcus Neeman of the Kentake. I don’t know why I came out of cryo early, but the ship won’t come out of auto to show me how long we’ve been in space. Please advise.

DEC 19, 3002 :: 02:33

The ship is still on low power, and life support is only on in this compartment. Should I suit up and see if I can find out where we are? The displays aren’t on, and I’m in 12b. We could be only days from earth for all I know.

DEC 20, 3002 :: 07:05

The ship rejected my credentials, and the captain keeps his keycard with him. I would have to take him out of cryo to get it.

I don’t know how long it takes signals to travel long distance in space. Not this long. Please respond.

DEC 21, 3002 :: 13:24

I put on my suit and went into the other sections of the ship to try and get the computers to power up. I got food and water, so I’m okay. You don’t need to worry about me. Please answer.

DEC 22: 3002 :: 23:22

Is anyone out there?

DEC 23, 3002 :: 14:18

I want to wake up someone else, but if there’s still decades between here and the colony planet, they’ll have to die out here, too. I’m not gonna be that guy. If you’re getting this, please answer. Even if you can’t put me back under, maybe just turn on voice comms with earth, so I can have a conversation with you. All these sleeping people are no good for company.

DEC 24, 3002 :: 02:53

I don’t think my sleep schedule is consistent. I’m always exhausted, but I can’t sleep, though I sure as

DEC 25, 3002 :: 04:47

Sorry I sent an unfinished sentence yesterday. I didn’t think there was anyone to care.

When I was a kid, my momma used to say, “Marc, you git in there and git your room cleaned.” That doesn’t have anything to do with anything.

I just kinda miss my mom.

DEC 26, 3002 :: 14:29

I kind of wanna write my name on the wall, but I don’t have anything sharp on hand. Why aren’t you answering? There’s gotta be someone receiving these messages. Is anyone out there?

DEC 27, 3002 :: 05:36

My name is Marcus Newman, and I am 27 years old. Or – I was when I left earth. I don’t know how many years have passed since. I can only hope that someone is still running a program to catch these messages. Maybe you only check it once every month or something.

I am not married.

I don’t know how to put myself back into cryo.

Please help me.

DEC 28

DEC 29

DEC 30, 3002 :: 14:45

I suited up again today and went out into the low power compartments. Looked at the stars through the viewport.

It was cold. I could feel it even through the suit. Maybe it was my imagination.

Man, the stars are bright this high up, but I don’t see the planet. Sure, it could be on the other side of the ship. Could be just out of sight.

But now I’m just broadcasting to the stars.

I really want to come home.

DEC 31


JAN 2, 3003 :: 15:53


:: 17:12

My middle name is Justin, in case you were curious.


I really don’t want to die of old age out here. Please come in.

JAN 3, 3003: 02:07

The stars are listening, and it isn’t half as romantic a thought as my little sister would have thought when we were kids.

I didn’t think I would be this scared to die, but the prospect of spending the rest of my life alone and dying of old age isn’t a kind thought.

It’s about as chilling as those bloody stars, and I can’t seem to get warm.

JAN 4, 3003 :: 16:42

I found an antique Bing Crosby record in the personal items. But did they think to bring a record player? No. No, of course not.

JAN 5, 3003 :: 14:31

Can’t write. Haands shaking ttoo bad. Tomorrow.

JAN 6, 3003

JAN 7, 3003 : 02:02

I didn’t plan on starting a space diary. Sorry abut that, guys. But seriously.

My favorite joke: what’s brown and sticky?

You have to respond to hear the answer.

JAN 8, 3003 :: 19:17

It’s a stick. Tthe answer is a stickk, okay?

JAN 9, 3003 :: 10:59


JAN 10, 3003: 15:47

Ship, come in. This is the Etoile. Are you the Kentake? My word, we finally found you.


JAN 11, 3003 :: 15:50

What year is it? Are you in France? Can you contact the Burns Flat spaceport? Please don’t disappear on me. Stay here.


JAN 11, 3003 :: 15:52

Are you stable? We’ve locked into your position and are coming to get you. Sit tight. You’re safe now.


JAN 11, 3003 :: 15:53

How long have we been up here?


JAN 12, 3003 :: 15:58

It’s January 12, 3003.


Jan 12, 3003 :: 16:11

Kentake, are you still with us?


Jan 12, 3003 :: 16:18


Jan 12, 3003 :: 16:19

We’re not the first colonists in space anymore, are we?


Jan 13, 3003 :: 16:20

Everyone thought you were lost for good decades ago. Sit tight, soldier. You’re going home.

The Ink Loft Flash Fiction Challenge #3

(I’ll greet y’all once I scrape the dust off my blog and am able to see you. I’m sure you guys are around here somewhere.)

Happy Friday, readers! Today I’m participating in Rachelle O’Neil’s third Flash Fiction Challenge. The challenge is to write a flash fiction story below 1,000 words. I received my prompt from Rachelle at The Ink Loft, and prompted T over at To Be a Sennachie.

My prompt:

It’s New Year’s Eve. You’re running from something. And suddenly an angel appears. What happens? 1000 words. Have fun!

This prompt was difficult for me, as I have trouble beginning stories where you’re just dropped in on the action. Also, after throwing angels around casually in my first story when I was but a wee lass… I have some trouble using them in stories. I try to be particular with how I use angelic or supernatural events; I hope I did decently in this.


Vano’s feet pounded on the metal walkway beneath him. The coppery scent of blood stung his nostrils—some of it his, some of it theirs, painting his knuckles red.

The sky above him exploded with color.

Vano jerked. He skidded, stumbling, and hit the railing. In the blackness of the night sky, another volley of fireworks went off. Vano froze, straining his ears to hear any movement behind him as the echoes died away.

Two hundred yards beneath him, the city sprawled: homes and businesses clustered like rats on a cold night. Bright banners stretched across roads, proclaiming: “Happy New Year!”

Even from up here, Vano could make out the neighborhoods where his people lived: they were quiet and solemn. Their year started in the springtime, and they would celebrate it right, subjects in a pagan land or not.

Something moved on the other end of the walkway. Vano’s breath kicked in his lungs, and he lurched into a run again. Decades-old layers of oil and dust on the walkway made it slick beneath his feet, beads of water from the recent rain clinging to the metal.

A gun went off. The air moved beside his face, and above him, another set of fireworks painted the night blue.

I’m going to die,” he gasped. He leaned over the edge of the railing. Below, another walkway ran parallel. “Help me.”

He swiped his slick hands against his trousers, fingers brushing against his tassels. If he lived, he would have to wash the red out tomorrow.

The man behind him fired again, footsteps pounding. Vano grabbed the railing and took a breath, muscles tensing.

Happy New Year!” Someone below him screamed.

Vano launched himself over the edge and let himself fall.

He hit the walkway beneath, smashed his arm into the railing and skidded. For a second he lay flat, feeling the bruises already begin to develop.

Then, silhouetted against the blackness of the sky, a blacker figure leaned over the railing above him. A crime lord who wanted to start the new year right—namely, without Vano Fischel alive. He had been in the wrong place at the wrong time; seen the wrong thing.

He accidentally found himself in possession of multiple names that the authorities had sought for years.

Vano rolled onto his stomach and pushed upright. He glanced over the railing, but there was nothing beneath him—nothing but a straight fall to someone’s roof.

Vano started running again.

A hundred steps later, he swung around the curve onto the stairs that led to another layer, hand gripping the railing. The stairs were steep, but the elevator took too long to summon to the top. The handrail here was more uneven and ragged, the metal rusted and sharp at every turn of the stairs.

His tassel caught on the rough metal, jerking him to a halt. Vano grabbed it, able to see from the lights below where his hand left grime and blood on the white and blue stripes. It didn’t move when he pulled, caught in the ragged edge where one piece of metal met another.

Vano released it and jerked with his body. Something clicked, and his clip broke. The tassel fell away from his clothing, the end tangled in the metal and swaying in the wind.

The sky lit up. Vano left the tassel and kept on running. At the end of these stairs were buildings, but they were quiet. There would be no hiding among crowds here.

He stumbled down the steps, street lights below growing nearer, lighting up his vision. He couldn’t see the man after him, but there could be half a dozen in the city after him—they could come out of anywhere.

Then his feet touched dirt. Vano forced himself into a sprint, leaving the stairs behind.

His lungs stalled.

Vano swerved into the space between two buildings, stumbling over rubbish cluttering the area, and then sank to the ground.

He choked on air for a moment before managing to suck in a breath. It wasn’t safe to stop; if he was found, he would die here.

But he couldn’t run if he couldn’t breathe.

Vano pressed himself against the slick wall, whole body shaking as he forced air in and out, counting breaths. One. Two. Thirty. Eighty. One-hundred-fifty. The fire gradually left his lungs, leaving him to feel pain spreading throughout his body.

He needed to get out of here. He wasn’t safe.

A light flashed in the alley. Vano’s breathing stopped again, and he spun toward the source.

The world froze, his brain unable to process what he was seeing.

Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you.”

Vano sat on the edge of his bed, shoving clothing into his bag. Mira stood on the other side of the room, staring at him with her innocent eyes wide open; their mother hovered in the doorway.

Mira leaned forward. “How do you know it was an angel?”

I… know.”

What did it look like?”

He opened his mouth, and then closed it again. The words didn’t come. The images barely came—he couldn’t explain what he had seen. Not even to himself.

Vano, it’s been years since God has sent a prophet,” his mother finally said, voice low.

Vano stilled. He knew: not since their country was conquered, not since they were removed from their homeland.

You don’t look like a prophet,” Mira said.

Vano laughed. He laughed because his lungs hurt, and his body was half bruises. He was down to three tassels, his trousers torn where he had skidded on the walkway. His knuckles were bruised and stained with blood.

His mother’s voice was barely able to be heard. “What will you say?”

Vano drew the drawstring on his bag and stood. The action hurt; every part of him hurt. “Repent,” he said. Just saying the words sent a thrill through him. “There comes a man who will take away your sins.”

Disclaimer: As with C.S. Lewis, I do not tell an allegory here: I tell a, “Suppose, in another world, things were to happen differently.” 

Happy New Year, kids. Go: proclaim the good news. And write on.

Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World Blog Tour


Eddie Hertz is smart, real smart. He has to be. What other twelve-year- old patrols the streets of Nirvana alone, hoping to foil the schemes of the evil Mephisto? Since Eddie is small for his age, he trusts in his Batman-style gadgets belt and acrobatic skills as well as lots of experience, like knowing how to swing across dark alleys without being seen.

Eddie has a dream, to become like Damocles, Nirvana’s great superhero. To make that dream come true, Eddie invented a device that is supposed to give him superpowers, but using it on himself is dangerous, maybe even fatal. He doesn’t have the nerve to try it.

When Mephisto unleashes an earthquake machine on the city, Eddie gets a surprising teammate — his quirky eight-year- old sister, Samantha, who comes up with an unexpected way to help Eddie in the frantic battle to prevent the biggest earthquake of all.

Since Damocles has lost his ability to help in physical form, Eddie and Samantha are the only hope for Nirvana and the world.

Amazon Goodreads 

The only way I know to track when I first read a Bryan Davis book is to measure from the time I first started writing. Therefore, I must have been seven years old when I first picked up Raising Dragons.

The only way I know to mark time this way is because, as a Very Young Person, my very first story was a shameless rip-off of the Dragons in Our Midst series. Sure, it was set in a different era; it had different characters; but the gist of it was 100% plagiarized from the pages of Bryan Davis (with probably a healthy dose of whatever else I was reading those days, but none of it was strong enough that I can identify it now).

It wasn’t because I sat down and decided, “I want to write this same story.”

It was because it was the best story that I knew at the time.

Though I’ve never yet met Bryan Davis in person, I grew up with him as a large part of my household. I and all my brothers and sisters read his books as they came out. I was a part of his fan forum while it was still around (I met some of my best friends in the world there). We watched his Youtube videos and articles, learning from his writing instruction. I can’t write “he dropped his eyes”, “he caught her just before she hit the ground,” or “he stepped in, opening the door” anymore. It’s been years since most of his writing pet peeves even crossed my pen.

There have been many people instrumental in making me the writer I am today. Out of all the authors I follow, Bryan Davis has had the largest part in that.

That is why I am here, writing this blog post, supporting this new Middle Grade book about a twelve-year-old superhero. I know this author. I know his stories, his themes, even his weak points. His stories are worth reading. I’m not unbiased, because I’ve come by this knowledge from years of growing up with them, learning from them, and being inspired by them.

By all means, take my endorsement with a grain of salt; you’d be right to do so. The book might not live up to your expectations. It might not be your genre, or your age group.

But I certainly would encourage you to find out.



In celebration of the release, Bryan Davis is offering 2 major giveaways: a simple, user-familiar Rafflecopter giveaway, and a Grand Prize.

You can enter the first giveaway hereEnter to win a copy of your choice of any Bryan Davis book, plus a Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World T-Shirt and bookmark.

The grand prize giveaway will require a little bit of extra participation from you guys. Scattered throughout every post on this blog tour, there is a number. This is a secret number, which you must hunt for, capture, and add up. Most will probably be indicated in some way – bold, or colored differently than the rest of the text. The sum of all the numbers is the Grand Prize key. Add up all the numbers and insert them into the Rafflecopter giveaway here. You can win all the prizes from the first giveaway, plus a complete Bryan Davis series of your choice, OR a $50 Amazon gift card. 

Please note that the giveaway key must be correct for you to enter. You can’t find the complete sum of all the numbers until Saturday, but the giveaway will be open for long enough. Don’t worry. Just be patient.

Happy hunting, kids.

About the Author

Bryan Davis is the author of several bestselling series, including Dragons in Our Midst and the Reapers Trilogy, speculative fiction for youth and adults. Bryan and his wife, Susie, work together as an author/editor team to create his imaginative tales.

Website Book Purchase SiteFacebook PageBlog

Visit the other blogs on the tour!

Wednesday, September 20th

Tour Kickoff @ The Author’s Chair
Book Spotlight @ Backing Books
Book review and YOU WRITE: About Bryan Davis @ Zerina Blossom’s Books
Book Spotlight and Review @ The Spooky Bookshelf
Book Spotlight and Author Interview @ Scattered Scribblings
Book Review and Character Interview @ Light and Shadows

Thursday, September 21st

Book Spotlight and YOU WRITE: About Bryan Davis @ Red Lettering (You are here!)
Spotlight and Author Interview @
The Reader Addict
Spotlight and YOU WRITE: About Bryan Davis @ target verified
Book Review and Character Interview @ Hidden Doorways
Book Review @ Ashley Bogner
Book Review @ The Page Dreamer

Friday, September 22nd

Book Spotlight and Character Interview @ Story of Fire
Book Review @ Inkwell
Book Spotlight and Character Interview @ Liv K. Fisher
Book Review @ writinganyone
Spotlight and YOU WRITE: About Superheroes @ Dreams and Dragons
Author Interview and YOU WRITE: About Bryan Davis @ March to a Different Drum
Book Spotlight @ Author Jaye L. Knight

Saturday, September 23rd

Author Interview @ Jessi L. Roberts, author
Book Spotlight and Character Interview @ Book Lovers Life
Book Review and Character Interview @ Verbosity Reviews
Book Spotlight, Author Interview and YOU WRITE: Superheroes @ Creature of Graphite
Character Interview @ Wanderer’s Pen
Book Spotlight and Author Interview @ Adventure Awaits


Exiles Release Tour: Character Interview, Giveaway, and Review!


    Exiled after their defeat in Samara, the Resistance struggles to find allies in their quest to restore King Balen to his throne and put an end to the emperor’s tyranny. When the crete people refuse to lend their aid, Balen leads a group to Dorland to reason with them and win their support. However, enemies prove to be everywhere, and they find themselves in a fight to keep Dorland from becoming Daican’s latest conquest.

     Back in Landale, the arrival of a new enemy forces Trask and Anne to tread more carefully than ever. Tensions are rising, and the enemy is determined to test Anne’s loyalty and root out the location of Trask and the Resistance once and for all. 

     Feeling trapped within the walls of Valcré, Prince Daniel must contend with an ever-eroding relationship with his father. As their clashes escalate, the situation becomes potentially life threatening when his loyalty is called into question. His sister seems bent on branding him a traitor and actively seeking to condemn him to the fate of those put to death in their father’s new arena. Daniel is certain his father would never execute his only son and heir but, with other forces at work, it might not be that simple.  

     One small misstep could prove fatal for all.

Available now on Amazon!
Add to Goodreads


Happy Friday, readers! On this particular Friday, I’m posting, not a Writing Prompt as I usually post (there’s no need to dispute that “usually” there, readers). Today, I have the honor of participating in the release blitz of Jaye L. Knight’s fourth book in the Ilyon Chronicles.

I’ve followed this series from pretty close to the beginning, and participated in most of the blog tours (I missed the first one; it was the blog tour of Resistance that first introduced me to the series back in May of 2014), but this year is the first one where I had the immense pleasure of conducting, not an author interview, but a character interview instead.

If any of you have read any of my reviews of the previous books in the series, you know without having to be told who I requested to interview.

Hello, Trask, and welcome to Red Lettering! It’s truly a great honor to have you here. It isn’t often we have a man of such rank and character as you. *bows* I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to come here, and I assure you that your answers will never reach the ears of your enemies. 

Trask: *grins* Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself? What is your life like right now?

Trask: I’m not sure what to say about myself. Anne could probably tell you a thing or two. She thinks I’m impulsive. She’s probably right, though I consider it more a passion to see things get done. Life is rather chaotic right now. We’re doing well at camp, but there’s a lot to consider to make sure it all runs smoothly and we remain safe. A lot goes into taking care of that many people. I always have a lot on my mind.

When you were a child, did you ever think your life would be like this? What did you think it would be like?

Trask: Not at all. I figured I’d grow up, marry Anne, have a bunch of kids, and sometime far down the road take over as baron for my father.

In times of war, we all have heroes – they’re the people who inspire us to get up in the morning at the crack of dawn to face the song of the sword and the blood of free men. They inspire us to strive for their example and give us something to fight for. Recent or legendary, who are your heroes?

Trask: I consider everyone who has faced hardship and stood strong in their faith as a hero. I’ve faced hardship, but I know there are others who’ve had it even worse. One specific person I consider a hero is William Altair. He stood strong in his faith even though it cost him everything.

Where do you want to be in ten years?

Trask: Well, I’d like for life to look more like I imagined it as a child. I hope to be married to Anne and have some kids. And I hope to be back in Landale Village and out of hiding.

What is one skill you’ve tried to master, but never could?

Trask: This might come as a surprise, but I’m not actually the best archer. I was always far better with a sword. I leave the archery to people like Jace and Kyrin.

Thank you for your time, sir. I wish you many blessings, and peace for the future of your country. Be safe out there.

Trask: Thank you.

About the Author

Jaye L. Knight is an award-winning author, homeschool graduate, and shameless tea addict with a passion for Christian fantasy. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope. She has been penning stories since the age of eight and resides in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

You can connect with Jaye on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Etsy.



Share in the excitement of the release and enter to win a themed giveaway pack! Prizes include an autographed copy of Exiles, a pewter dragon necklace by treasurecast, and a sword letter opener! (Giveaway is open to US residents only. Cannot be shipped internationally.)




New to the Ilyon Chronicles? Now is the perfect time to be introduced. From August 11th – 14th, the first Kindle three books in the series are on sale. You can find them over on Amazon.



To start you off with the right mindset, you might as well know straightaway that if this book had a theme song, it would be this one.

There we go. That taken care of, we’re on to the review.

Jaye’s characters are both her strength, and her weakness. She’s building on a foundation of fabulous characters that she set up in the ResistanceAnd building. And building. She must have added eight new characters in this novel;  most of them necessary for a brief moment, but none of them necessarily needing to be involved as much as they were, which left the novel feeling cluttered. I loved the characters; I knew their stories were remarkable; I wanted to follow along and see where they went. With all that extra activity going on, I didn’t feel like the author gave enough time to the real main characters.

I loved the focus on Daniel and Daican in this one. That plotline was masterfully done. Uncluttered by extra anything, I looked forward to reading about those two the most. After reading the first book, I said I hoped that she would do more with Daican’s family and their issues, and she delivered beautifully in this novel.

I was pleased to find a greater focus on Trask and Anne in this novel, though a little bit disappointed that events over in their section were traumatic, and therefore, Trask wasn’t feeling like his usual fabulous self. (You may pause right here to listen to some dramatic, suspenseful music.)

This novel followed a more typical, 3-Act Structure than the last, so it made for more familiar reading; I never had a moment where I felt disoriented because of the way it was set up.

The plot began with a wedding, and proceeded slowly from there. About a quarter of the way into the novel, I set the book down, looked at my sister, and said, “Someone better get murdered soon.” Luckily, someone got murdered, and from there it picked up the pace.

Going into the novel, you should know that it is filled to the brim and overflowing with romance. Amidst wars, battles, murders, evil kings and fantastic tree-cities, everyone was falling in love. Realistic? Maybe not, but not necessarily impossible. If romance isn’t your thing, you should go into this braced for a storm.

The story followed three major plotlines, and at the same time set up for the remaining books in the series. My favorite was Daniel’s plot, which is curious because I’ve had no interest in him in the previous books. Jaye L. Knight took her time in bringing the tension up throughout the novel, but when she got it there, it stayed that way for the rest of the novel.

My one major complaint about the plot was that this novel picks up a year after the previous. Characters have developed – majorly, in some cases – and situations have changed since then. I was disappointed that we missed that; I feel there was a lot of storytelling material and important development that we weren’t able to see.

I was glad to see some of the Roman-inspired setting coming back into play in this novel, since one of the plotlines was set solely in the capital.

The characters travel through several countries, so we get a glimpse of the land of the Cretes and the Giants. The Crete culture was interesting (and terrifying – a whole city built in giant trees, high above the ground? I have no fear of heights, but that would be a long fall), and she put an interesting spin on the Giants. It’s not often you see homesteading giants just hanging out, being peace-loving and hard-working.

A character is kissed against her will. A character witnesses two unmarried people stepping out of a bedroom. A couple of people are kidnapped and as they’re being hauled off toward the villain’s lair, one of the kidnappers approaches a woman, though nothing comes of it.

I read the novel in one day. Though there were a few times I put it down, I always came back within a few minutes (or after eating) to continue the story. Jaye L. Knight writes with such potential: her plots, her characters, her settings. I believe the greatest benefit to her writing would be to tighten it all, taking less time to get to her next plot points, and focusing more specifically on a core group of characters. I recommend this novel for a calm day. Have a cup of tea and a few cookies, nestle yourself in the corner of your couch with a blanket, and listen to the rain pattering against your windowpane. And read this book.

Check out the other blogs on the release tour! 

Thursday, August 10

Friday, August 11

Saturday, August 12

Sunday, August 13

Monday, August 14

Tuesday, August 15

A Friendly Letter from the Future

Dear Virginia Cooke,

I’m writing this from the future: from the year of our Lord 2017. I’m not much older than this century, so by the time I write this, your body will be long sown in the earth and watered with tears. I have not been alive in your lifetime.

But you are a writer, ma’am, and in late 1936 or early 1937, you were writing an audio drama that has long since gone off the air. You know it’s hard to write sometimes. It’s hard to write a sweeping story that covers 178 episodes and spans three continents. Even as a professional, it’s hard to find time and harder still to find inspiration. It’s difficult to come up with logical characters, linear plots, good villains. Sometimes it may seem too hard.

I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it.

I know your story is worth it because, eighty years later, your story is worth it to me.

One of the defining moments of my childhood was listening to your audio drama. I remember lying in the dark at ten, eleven, maybe twelve o’ clock at night – long after I was supposed to go to sleep, with the rest of the household asleep and the house silent and dark. If anyone else had been awake, they probably would have been able to hear the voices coming from my headphones, for I’m sure I had it at an unreasonable volume. I traveled to New York, to China, to Africa there.

I recall one scene with the characters alone in the jungles of Africa. There was fire on the beach and crocodiles in the water, and their plane line had been cut; their only way out drifted across the water away from them. Heedless of the danger and of his companion’s fear, one of your characters jumped in and swam after it through the black-as-pitch waters. Bullets ricocheted through the water around him, with crocodiles barely stopped by those bullets. I listened to those tense few moments with a thrill going through my whole body and realizing, ah, yes, this is what heroes look like. 

Back in 1936, did you think that there would be a little girl, rigid as a board with excitement and thrill, listening to your stories in 2007?

I can’t imagine that you did.

I’m listening to your stories again this year. In fact, I’m basing a major project off of them. As I listen, as I’m older, I can see some of the flaws I missed back then. The characters aren’t always consistent. The plot doesn’t always follow a logical course of events. The dialogue is sometimes stilted. Your stories are far from perfect, Virginia Cooke, and the format is such that few people would listen to them and enjoy them today. There is no music, minimal sound effects, and the acting sometimes leaves things to be desired.

And yet.

If it weren’t for your stories, I wouldn’t think of heroes the way I do now. I wouldn’t think of police and criminals the way I do now. I wouldn’t write the way I do now, nor view stories the way I do now. I certainly wouldn’t use some of the phrases I do now. You, with your imperfect story written half a century before I was born, have changed me.

I guess you know by this point that I’m not really writing this to you alone. Even if you did struggle with writer’s block back in the 1930s, I wouldn’t know, nor could I send this back to encourage you. So I say these same things to my writers of today.

In eighty years, do you know where your story will be? Will it be changing the life of another little girl, crouched on her bed at 11:43 with a flashlight illuminating the words of your story, and the words of your story illuminating the world’s darkness?

It’s hard to write a sweeping story. Logical characters. Linear plot. Well-done villain. You know that and I know that. You know what else you know?

It doesn’t have to be perfect, love. You know this, too. It just has to be written, and you never know how far your story will go. Maybe eighty years later, it will still be changing lives.

I, Athelas Hale, write this in July, the year of our Lord 2017. Thank you, Virginia Cooke, for your stories.

“Courage. Honor. Silence.”


Rooglewood Press Fairy Tale Contest 2017

  • Happy June, my friends! Springtime is beginning to wane and ever-impatient summer is pushing at the barrier between. Along with summer comes many things, like mosquitoes, watermelons, and exciting writing contests.

It was back in 2015 when last Rooglewood Press last unveiled a cover reveal and drove the internet to excitement with their previous “Five Something Something Contest”, Five Magic Spindles Now the time has come for it to happen again, one last time. Some of you may be familiar with their previous contests: this one, and this one, and this one.

The books? Five retellings of well-known fairy tales by five different authors.

The challenge? To be one of those authors.

Rooglewood Press invites you to join the adventure of the Five Poisoned Apples creative writing contest!
Cover model/photographer Wynter Clark.
Cover design by Julia Popova

Writing Prompt: 10/28/2016

Origin: “Riversong,” by the Von Trapp Children, “The von Trapp Children Volume II” (Lyrics below)

Feeling inspired? Write something from this prompt! Actually, I’m aware that this video might be a tad difficult to write one thing from, so I’m posting this particular writing prompt more as a general inspiration. But if you do write something, I would love to see it! You can leave a response in the comments, or move the prompt to your blog, and leave a link in the comments! 


Shule aroon [“walk, my love”] away to waters by the sea;
It’s a churning yearning river!

You can cast your burdens there upon the glass;
Just a skip of a polished pebble.

Dreamers, lovers, listen sweetly:
Let the waters wash away your tears.

Poets, teachers, listen keenly:
Wonder not, your course is led by God.

Sing and dance!
Do a reel to the tune of a babbling tale.
Do you heal to the tune of a babbling tale?

Let your heart be glad.
Let the song of the river take you away!
Let the song of the river take 
you away!

Don’t let the sun set on hearts of stone.
Turn to the river of life.

Wisdom and nature are true to God.
Be it river or tree set you free!
Go with a heart full of grace.

Come now, sing and dance.
Do a reel to the tune of a babbling tale.
Do you heal to the tune of a babbling tale?

Let your heart be glad.
Let the song of the river take you away!

Dance to the tune; sing to the moon;
aye shule aroon; oh, shule aroon.
Let the river take you!


Dear Female Warriors

Dear Female Warriors l

Dear Female Warriors (and eavesdropping authors),

Occasionally, there comes a time where women must become warriors. Those times are few and far between (and usually come up because your author is borderline feminist), but without a doubt, they do occur. As you sit in your armor (which has been properly constructed to guard your internal organs, not to look cool—right?), in the midst of your war camp reading this letter, you have apparently come upon such a time: you, a woman, must become a warrior. Possibly no one else stepped up and became a warrior at this time; perhaps you are the Chosen One who is destined to save the world; perhaps you are in a unique political situation which forces you to be the one to take the reins and lead your country to victory. Perhaps you live in a world where female soldiers are the norm (in which case, you’re likely not in the midst of your war camp wearing medieval-style armor), or you’ve been drafted into the military; perhaps you’re simply a young lady who ran away from home and joined the army.

Whatever your reasons, you’re the heroine, so you’ve probably made the right choice for your situation. If you haven’t made the right choice, you’ll surely figure it out later. I won’t ask for your reasons; the point of this letter is to slightly increase your chance of survival until you either have won the war, or regretted your choice and returned home to be reunited with your estranged parents.

First off—your clothing choices. We covered most of the problems in another post a few years ago, so this will be brief.

Remember that you are a female: you’re most likely smaller and weaker than most men. Consider carefully what kind of armor you’ll wear, and remember that on the battlefield, sometimes lighter is more practical for you. Remember (and remind your authors) that research is vital when picking what armor you will wear. What you know about the weight or flexibility of medieval armor may be incorrect.

If you do decide to wear armor, remember: your armor is meant to protect your vital organs, not make you look nice. I promise, no one is going to be admiring you in battle; to quote Father Christmas, “battles are ugly affairs”. Everyone is fighting for their lives, attacking, counterattacking, being thrown from place to place and focused only on the person they happen to be fighting right at that moment. People just don’t have time to be admiring your fancy armor. What the do have time for is noticing that you’re not wearing vital protection over your important internal organs. If you have the funding, by all means, get your armor custom-made so that it fits you better; but get it made well. 

Your long hair is an accident waiting to happen. You are not an indestructible Warrior Elven Princess*, and your hair will not fly out majestically behind you. Instead, it will get tangled; it will get caught; it will be grabbed by your opponent. As a woman soldier, you need to consider this, even when you aren’t on the battlefield. If you are the one leading the battle, expect assassins; if you have no political power—did I mention you’re the heroine?—expect assassins anyway. Either keep your hair tightly put up, or cut it off.

Skirts are most likely not the best choice for battle gear. That said, as a female soldier in what is most likely a Young Adult novel, you might be under the misconception that skirts get in the way, or that you can’t move in them. Madame, you are wrong. For ages, people—men, even— have worn robes, skirts, or kilts, even into battle. In formal clothing, you may have trouble with overly large or overly tight skirts, but simple skirts are unlikely to restrict your mobility too much as you go about day-to-day life.

If you’ve decided to become a warrior, you’ve surely trained. You’ve spent hours learning to fight, strengthening yourself, forcing your body to become a weapon. Now, you’re probably ready to fight. But you’re still female. 

Where I come from, typical males are not only taller than typical females; they also naturally stronger and weigh more. This may be different depending on your race and location, but it will be the case for most humanoids. You may have trained hard. You may be strong. You may have even trained hard enough to be the best fighter anyone has seen this side of Pluto.

But the moment you meet a male foe who has the same amount of training and dedication as you, you have met someone who is not your equal—you’ve met a fighter greater than you. Always look for unconventional ways of fighting that will turn the fight to your advantage; don’t allow yourself to get locked into a combat that depends on your size and strength. If you’re a high-profile political lady who is leading your armies into battle, consider investing in a bodyguard to help you with the aforementioned assassins. There is no shame in recognizing your limits and finding ways to compensate for them (so you can stop giving me your typical warrior-female glare and snappish, “Thank you, I think I can manage”).

Another undeniable limit that you’ll need to be aware of is your emotional state. Whether or not females feel emotions more strongly than males is a question that can be disagreed on and debated for ages; what is not in question is that females feel emotions differently than males. And in many females, that makes it very difficult to fight in a war (not to say that men are wired to go around violently ending each other, either; no human (and therefore, I assume no other sentient creatures, since I have seen no data suggesting otherwise) was intended to fight in a war, and it deeply effects and changes any person who must do it).

Female warrior, you are about to go through the most grueling, emotionally and physically challenging thing you have ever gone through. You will be tested on every level. You will break and break again in the dead of the night when the trauma of what you’re going through is going to come back to you, keeping you awake though every exhausted bone in your body begs for rest. You will see comrades and friends slain before you; you will slay your opponents. Your body will be unbalanced, allowing your emotions to run through you more fiercely. You will forget what it means to be okay. 



It’s true that some people handle stress and trauma better than others. You’re probably one of those people (congratulations! There are some benefits to having an author who doesn’t want to write hard PTSD). But you were not designed for war, and on top of everything else, your emotions are going to try to kill you, too. Isn’t being a woman fun?  (Sorry, males—I can’t write from experience for you, but I’m sure you have a great time with your emotions, too.)

You’re going to need to learn to balance your emotions, especially if you are one of the leaders of the army. You need to think rationally. You’ll need to learn how to recognize when your emotions are beginning to get out of control, and learn how to rein them back in. Learn to put off the emotional breakdown until after the immediate crisis is over. Recognize that your emotions are far out of control, insist on your author telling this unwanted part of your story, and then do your best to get them under control. When it comes down to it, you either must learn to recognize and control your emotions, or you will break.

Warriors, have you ever wondered why so many people seem to have romantic subplots in the midst of their end-of-the-world scenarios? It’s because emotions run high in times of deep stress, and people forget to be concerned about how awkward it is. Therefore, I stress to you here my last and most important point: Say no to mixed-gender divisions. 

On top of everything else, the very last thing that you need is a romantic subplot. Your emotions are out of control; so are the emotions of everyone else in your division. If you managed to be placed in a division with honorable men and an honorable system set up, that helps—but only with about half of the problem. Men and women like each other. They really like to impress each other. With a war going on and everything going wrong, you dearly need your people to not be attempting to impress one another with feats of bravery. You dearly need your people to not be competing for anyone’s affections. Because emotions are at peak strength, if you place men and women together under harsh circumstances, fighting side-by-side, living in close proximity to one another when they’re not on the field, couples will form; competitions will follow. Your units will cease to work together.

Aside from the potential disastrous romances that form in a mixed-gender unit, there are other problems. Notably, the difference in the physical capabilities of men and women will endanger the unit; part of training is to teach your groups to work together, at the same pace. Having both men and women in your group will cause men to be faster at some tasks, and women faster at others, putting the whole group in danger.

Another issue is that honorable men do not allow women to die. Several days ago, while conversing with a friend of mine, the subject of men and women fighting together came up. My friend said that part of the reason that’s a bad idea is because honorable men do not allow women to die; he stated that, if two men are fighting together, one can allow the other to die if they both see it’s the best thing for the cause for which they fight. However, an honorable man can’t allow a woman comrade to die. If you set up a group with men and women fighting side by side, when it comes down to actual combat, the men will be more focused on the women around them: their focus will be on keeping the women safe rather than advancing the cause for which you fight.

Distracted soldiers are dead soldiers.

Warrior female, if you must go to war, do everything in your power to be assigned to a female-only division. If you are in leadership position, set up your military so that men and women are separated into different divisions; not only will you bypass the problem of incidents from dishonorable men in your military (because there are always dishonorable men in every military), you’ll most likely increase the success rate of your army. If you are only a common soldier with no rank, insist that your commanders look at this situation. However, in spite of the fact that your commanders probably want to win the war, they’ll almost certainly ignore your request, because they’re military commanders (in their defense, completely rearranging an entire army is quite a hassle right as you’re going into a war).

Though a good deal of these suggestions won’t apply to those of you who have made the decision to go into battle disguised as a man, I hope that this letter will be of some assistance to the rest of you. Be safe. Win your war. Make it home to your estranged parents.


Athelas Hale
(Writer and President of the AfPoCR)


*If you are an indestructible Warrior Elven Princess, why did you just spend time to read this article when you can ignore all the advice herein, and not only succeed in all of your battles, but look fabulous whilst doing so?

(For my little sister who came over while I was writing and wanted me to put a smiley face in: 🙂 )

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