Monday, March 20, 2017

The Making of Shadowed Eden - Guest Post by Katie Clark



I have something fun for you guys today! Remember that book I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, Shadowed Eden? Well, today I have the author, Katie Clark, herself sharing with us her inspiration for the story! I, for one, absolutely love getting an inside peek at how each novel is made. It’s fascinating how one spark of an idea turns into a whole world, characters, an entire story we love. And how we all get ideas differently!


So, without further ado, I shall hand the reins over to Katie herself!


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The Making of Shadowed Eden


Have you ever been lost in a story? So lost that you can’t think of anything else? Ever loved the characters so much that you started imagining new twists and turns for them to live through?


Okay, confession time. This is how the seeds of Shadowed Eden, my YA supernatural novel, began. While doing my daily walk on the treadmill I began watching the TV show Lost on Netflix. I fell in love, but not with the characters many people loved.


A couple seasons into the show we were introduced to a teen girl named Alex. Her dad wasn’t really her dad, but she didn’t know that yet. And her dad was definitely wrong in his views and beliefs. This went beyond the normal “teens hate their parents” stuff. Alex’s dad really was wrong, and she had to do something about it.


Alex stuck in my head. I began imagining scenarios for her, just to see how she would resolve them. I wanted to know more, more, more about her! It wasn’t long before I had created an entire character profile for this girl who wasn’t even that important to the TV show.


Shadowed Eden grew out of that character profile (as well as some awesome brainstorming sessions with my brother, who is a fellow Lost enthusiast). I wrote the book quickly, and my love for the show morphed into a love for this new story. This different story.


Now it’s your turn! Ever loved a show so much you truly found yourself “Lost” in it?


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I can definitely relate to this! Actually, most of my stories ideas come from watching TV. *cough, cough, cough* But hey, as writers, when we’re spending hours on Netflix we can call it “working”. #TheWritersLife


Thanks so  much for agreeing to visit Musings of an Elf, Katie! I loved seeing how Shadowed Eden came to be!


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Want to know more about Shadowed Eden?


High school senior, Avery Miles, is attending one last mission trip with the church youth before she moves across country to attend college in the fall. The trip through Iraq takes a wrong turn when the sandstorm of the century hits the area and blows the group’s entourage off course. After the dust settles, they find themselves in an unimaginable and inexplicable garden oasis. Along with an abundant supply of luscious fruit and crystal clear springs, the mysterious garden is home to poisonous snakes, hidden sink holes, and a lingering confusion that no one can shake—not to mention the natives, who are almost unearthly.

As the days progress, the group begins to realize they have a very real problem—no matter which way they trek, they can’t seem to leave. Avery puts the clues together and begins to suspect their location is much more than a simple garden oasis, but just as a rescue plan forms, Avery discovers her father is working with a more sinister presence, one that wants to keep them trapped permanently.


*Watch the book trailer for Shadowed Eden on YouTube here!*
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGl3i7ZhJLs

 

What others have said about Shadowed Eden!


"A truly original premise, Shadowed Eden, is an exciting supernatural adventure filled with danger, redemption, and a cast of teenaged characters that I grew to love. I enjoyed Clark's story and look forward to seeing what she comes up with next." ~Jill Williamson, Christy Award-winning author of By Darkness Hid and To Darkness Fled


"Shadowed Eden is a unique and intriguing tale that will keep the reader turning pages, and the suspense doesn't stop until its surprising end! I highly recommend it." ~Melanie Dickerson, Carol Award-winning author of The Merchant's Daughter

 


KATIE CLARK started reading fantastical stories in grade school and her love for books never died.

Today she reads in all genres; her only requirement is an awesome story! She writes young adult speculative fiction, including her YA supernatural, Shadowed Eden. You can connect with her at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.


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Now let’s hear your thoughts, O Readers! Who else has written entire books off of inspiration from TV shows? (I know we’re not alone here.) Do you ever get these ideas that just eat away and eat away at your until you put them to paper? And have you read Shadowed Eden?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Musings of an Elf’s 6th Birthday!



Why yes, my Monday post is a day late. But that was on purpose becaaause…


TODAY IS MY 6 YEAR BLOGOVERSARY!!!


Yep! On March 14th, 2011, I published the first post here on Musings of an Elf, and thus my blogging obsession began.


It’s a bit surreal to realize I’ve been blogging for 6 full years. THAT’S A LONG TIME. But it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. Honestly, in my head, this blog is still a little baby blog and I’m an amateur blogger. And yet, on the other hand, I can’t imagine a time I wasn’t blogging. Blogging is such an integral part of my life now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


This year I had hoped to actually do something special for my blogoversary since I never have before. Which is shameful! Buuuut I didn’t even remember my anniversary was coming up until the beginning of March, and my brain has been so scattered, I didn’t feel equipped, or in the right mentality, to come up with something fun. ONE OF THESE DAYS, GUYS. I’ve been meaning to do a giveaway or party or something on my blogging anniversary since my first one AND I STILL HAVEN’T. I’ve just got a lot going on in life right now occupying my mind (all good things, do not fear) and was scared to commit to a giveaway or something. So, as I tell myself every year, maybe next year… This year you’ll just have to put up with some reminiscing. *cackles*



I first decided to start a blog when I was getting very serious about writing. I’ve been writing since I was 9, but I didn’t really get serious about it until my first NaNoWriMo in 2010. After that amazing experience, I knew for a fact writing was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. And thus I jumped into actually learning the craft (which is something I had failed to do before…let’s not talk about my early novels), poking around writing blogs, and actually, *gasp* WRITING. As I saw other writers blogging and talking about the importance of having a platform if one wants to be published, it occurred to me: Hey, I should make a blog!


And thus Musings of an Elf was born.


This blog has come a long, long way since that March day I finally took the plunge and created it. I’ve grown a lot in the past 6 years—in life, in writing, in blogging (thank goodness). In those first couple of years, there was a whole lotta random nonsense posted on this here blog. (Okay, I still totally post random nonsense, but at least it’s a biiit higher quality random nonsense…? Maybe? Perhaps? Anybody?? Ahem.) I also posted extremely irregularly, with loooong amounts of time between posts. It wasn’t until 2013 was about to roll around that I up and made a New Year’s resolution to post every single week, and I’ve stuck to that schedule since. I think a blogging schedule is very important, annnd it’s the only way I’ll ever get around to posting. I gotta have that accountability. *grins*


Once I started posting weekly, I think my content grew in quality as I got the hang of things. I also became way more open about my writing, something I normally hid in the deep recesses of my laptop from all eyes but my own. I mean, if I was building a platform of readers I prooobably needed to actually, ya know, talk about my writing. Originally, this blog was kinda meant to be an ALL THE THINGS blog. Just about life and randomness and anything on my mind. But, slowly but surely, it became a full on writing blog. And that’s when I found my niche. I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. This blog was meant to gain readership, so of course its main focus should be on my writing! Duh, Christine. #Blonde


I think by 2014 I was really finding the type of things I liked to blog about, and the blog grew a lot as well. I had developed the habit of writing a post for every Monday, and settling into the types of posts that suited me and the blog.


Though, I don’t think I really found my niche until just a couple of years ago. And I’m still learning. I don’t think I’ll ever stop. But that’s the thing about writing, you never “make it”. It’s a continuous quest for improvement. But I think that’s a pretty exciting realization. The journey is the fun part, and writing is forever an adventurous journey.



My favorite part about the writing/blogging journey is the community. YOU GUYS. I would have probably given up on this blogging endeavor a long time ago if not for the continuous support and encouragement of all my dear blogging buddies. This circle of bloggers I’ve joined is full of the nicest, most fun, creative, encouraging people I’ve ever known.


I would not be nearly as far along with my writing if not for all of you. I’m blown away every. single. time. when one of you shows enthusiasm and interest in one of my stories. Each and every comment I receive gives me a thrill. I adore reading your brilliant posts and getting to interact with each of you. You all push me to keep going. Sometimes (most of the time…) this writing journey is uphill and tiring and just downright discouraging. But you guys are like a fresh spring of water on that uphill hike, refreshing and refueling me to keep moving forward. Before I started blogging and befriended all my amazing writing/blogging friends, writing was just a hobby. Now it’s my life, and I have all of you to thank for that.


THANK YOU for reading Musings of an Elf.


THANK YOU for putting up with my rambles and nonsense.


THANK YOU for showing interest in my novels and supporting me through this hard journey.


THANK YOU for being YOU. You’re all amazing, talented, beautiful people, and I wish I could give each and every one of you a ginormous hug.


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I love you guys! *passes around cake* Here’s to many more years of blogging to come!

Monday, March 6, 2017

{Book Review} Shadowed Eden (Beguiled #1) by Katie Clark


Avery Miles is ready to spread her wings and prove her worth on a church mission trip to Iraq, but when their entourage gets blown off course in a desert dust storm, the group is lost in an inexplicable garden oasis. Along with the luscious fruits and crystal springs, Avery and her friends find poisonous snakes, deadly sink holes, and a group of natives that are almost unearthly—but that's not their biggest problem. No matter which way they trek, they can't seem to leave.

To keep the group safe, Avery steps up and takes charge, but it isn't long before she realizes things aren't as they seem. She isn't the only one seeing the mysterious boy named Rae, and she's pretty sure her father is sabotaging her rescue efforts. Gathering her courage, Avery must decide what's most important to her—finally winning her father's approval, or getting out of the jungle for good.


Amazon | GoodReads | Author's Website


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I’ve honestly never read a book like this before. I’m usually more a speculative person myself, but I do love survival stories. So when I saw this was a survival story with a touch of the supernatural, well, call me intrigued!

 

THE RUNDOWN


Avery has just arrived in Iraq on a mission trip with a group of other teens. She’s hoping to use this trip as a way to prove to her father that she can handle herself in the real world. Well, she gets a bit more than she bargained for. A sandstorm throws the group’s bus off into a desert just outside a mysterious jungle. On the one hand, this jungle provides food and water, which is good since the group is left stranded with a broken bus. On the other hand, the jungle doesn’t seem to play by the rules of the universe. People who enter it lose entire days of their lives, unearthly people roam within, and no matter how far away you walk from it, you always appear back.


Avery and her group do their best to survive the hot desert and peculiar jungle, all the while trying to find a way to get back to civilization. But as more and more dangers cross their path, and Avery’s father shows keen interest of the jungle, Avery can’t help but solve the mysteries within.



At first I was a little bored, but I think that was my own fault. I expected a more action-y book for some reason. But this story really isn’t about the action, it’s about the mystery. Once I got that in my brain, I started enjoying it much more. It pulls you along with one strange occurrence after the next. I couldn’t help but turn the pages, desperately wanting to see what happens at the end. The pace is pretty fast. It doesn’t take long at all to get through. Small and quick chapters, which I like.


My favorite bit of it was the survival. I don’t know why I’m so fascinated by stories about a small group being stranded somewhere and having to learn to survive, but I just love it! And that’s exactly what this book was. You could feel the misery of the desert sun and the chill of the night. The characters did their best to ration the food they had on the bus and instead eat the fruit of the jungle, but, after a while, their appetites longed for something other than fruit. They had to trek back and forth for water, and make shelters, all while in danger of the mysterious jungle. All fun things! (Because, ya know, watching people suffer in fiction is fun…? #BookWormProbs)


To add to the hardships of survival and the mystery of the jungle, Avery struggles with her own inner problems—like having to learn to work with her ex-boyfriend.

 

CHARACTERS


Each character has a good backstory that slowly becomes unveiled over the course of the story. We have four characters who are the main focus—Avery, Luca, June, and Benny. The story itself goes back and forth between the point of view of Avery and her ex-boyfriend Luca, giving a deep understanding of each of them and their rocky past.


Avery: She is our main main character, as the story mostly revolves around her. At first, I wasn’t super wild about Avery. She was a little bit too stubborn and never opened up to people. But as her backstory came to light, all her actions began to make sense. I became sympathetic and understanding of why she was who she was. I appreciated the realism of her character, as well as her growth through the story.


Luca: Luca was one of my favorites! Where Avery took on a take-charge attitude to prove herself, I believe Luca took charge just because he genuinely wanted to help everyone, and no one else was stepping up. Not only was he keeping the group together and making sure they always had enough food and water, he never hesitated to help Avery when she was desperate to solve the mystery of the jungle. He was strong and brave and a total sweetie. I love ‘im!


June: She was my other favorite. Her calm, sweet demeanor was a breath of fresh air amidst the group of stubborn teenagers. She had a rather surprising character arc, some things I didn’t expect of her, but it just made her all the more human. I loved how she was so nice but not utterly perfect. A very well rounded character!


Benny: At first Benny really, really got on my nerves, and I feared was just there to serve as the comic relief. But he surprised me at how deep his character turned out to be. Honestly, he was probably the most realistic of all of them. I feel like we all know a “Benny”. He’s kind of that annoying pest of the group, but once you realize what their home life is like, you understand why they’re so needy. I actually ended up totally loving Benny.


There was a gaggle of other characters, but these four are the main ones the story revolves around.


The author did a good job of making realistic characters, though I didn’t connect with them quite as deeply as I would have liked. I don’t think it was that they weren’t deep though, I think I just didn’t get enough of their backstories or dug deep into their emotions. We do get the gist of their lives back home and why there’s tension between Avery and Luca, etc., etc. but it was always quick mentions here and there, never dwelled on. The emotions, as well, were there but brushed over a little too quickly a lot of the time. Sometimes I felt as if the story went a little too fast, more focusing on the actions of the characters than their inner feelings. Every scene just seemed a smidge rushed to me. Buuut I’m pretty picky with pacing, so this could very well be a me thing. XD



One thing that surprised me was the lack of God. This is a Christian book, and revolves around a mission trip and spiritual warfare, and yet…God wasn’t there much at all. Sometimes it would mention a character praying or something, but we never really just see the characters leaning on God. A character even got saved near the end, and all we’re given is a couple of quick sentences saying they prayed. No real deep talks or much emotion or anything like that. It just kinda surprised me. It definitely had some good messages and characters arcs, but I would have liked to see God way more present. Especially in the climax. Some of the events didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, because the characters hadn’t shown any deep interest in God before then. But now I’m getting into spoiler territory so I shall hush.

 

CONTENT CAUTIONS


Really…hardly anything! There was definitely some dangerous happenings and injuries, but nothing was ever described in deep detail.


As I said though, this was a spiritual warfare book, with mentions of angels and demons. It gets a little deep, especially with the demon thing, so I’d keep that in mind for younger readers.


No language or inappropriate content at all. There was some romance, but very, very lowkey.

 

CONCLUSION


Overall, I enjoyed reading this, but wasn’t utterly wowed. The characters were realistic, but I would have liked to see more of their backstory and emotions. The plot could have maybe been a bit more action-packed. BUT it did keep me utterly intrigued. Every time I picked it up to read, I didn’t want to have to stop. And I definitely loved the survival aspect of it!


As I said at the beginning, it was nothing like anything I’ve ever read. I quite enjoyed stepping out of my usual genres and giving something fresh and new a try. The premise of a youth group being stranded in a supernatural jungle was spectacular, and I may just have to try more books like this sometime!


If you enjoy survival stories full of mystery and/or spiritual warfare tales, I’d definitely recommend this one!



Have you read Shadowed Eden? Am I the only one utterly enthralled by survival stories? What do you think about spiritual warfare books? I personally find them fascinating! Tell me your thoughts!


And stayed tuned, because in a couple of weeks Katie Clark herself will be here at Musings of an Elf sharing how this story came about. It’s gonna be fun!


NOTE: I received a free ebook copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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