Renee Writes

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Author Spotlight: Clara’s Return by Suzanna J. Linton


Welcome to another Friday Author Spotlight! This week I have Suzanna J. Linton with the second book in her Stories of Lorst series, Clara’s Return. Clara, the main character of the book, has agreed to an interview, which I’ll be sharing later, but first let’s learn more about the author.

Suzanna J. Linton grew up in the swamps of the South Carolina Lowcountry, where she was fed a steady diet of books, tall tales, and catfish. She started writing poetry from an early age before transitioning to fiction. While in high school, she was introduced to the Dragonriders of Pern Series by Anne McCaffrey, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Animorphs. From those Suzanna gained a deep desire to write about tough women heroes.

In 2002, she attended the summer program at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts of Humanities and graduated from Francis Marion University in 2007. She has three books published and her latest novel is Clara’s Return. Suzanna continues to live in South Carolina with her husband, their two dogs, and a cat. They don’t own the cat; the cat owns them.

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About the Book

Clara, lost and disillusioned from the civil war, hopes to discover answers about her lineage and abilities in the quiet village of Bluebell, where she once lived before being sold into slavery. However, as she and the Captain of the Royal Guard make their journey, a new threat to the kingdom arises in the form of a traitor.

Patiently brewing since the fall of the sorceror-king Marduk, there are careful plans now coming to fruition. Riots break out, a giant is sighted, and double agents quietly take their places. King Emmerich’s struggles with his new role and his ever-present nightmares leave him feeling inadequate to the task. What he needs most is Clara.

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Keep reading for an interview with Clara from Clara’s Return:

Where were you born, and what was it like growing up there?

I was born in a small village called Bluebell in the Larkspur Mountains. I lived there with my parents until my mother sold me into slavery. I was, I think, in my ninth or tenth year. I don’t remember a lot about the village. What I do remember was nice.

Did you have a close relationship with your family?

I was very close to my Da. He drank too much but he loved me. He told me funny stories. My mother… Why are you even asking about this? It’s not important.

What is the happiest memory from your childhood?

Going to services at our local temple. There was a very beautiful statue of the Mother there.

If you could compare yourself to someone from another novel, who would it be? What are your similarities and differences?

*stares at author*
*author nudges Clara*
All right! I suppose I’m similar to this person called Lessa from the Dragonriders of Pern series. My author thinks we have similar personalities. But I’m not like that woman because I’m not crazy enough to ride a dragon.

Who is your enemy?

My enemy is anyone who threatens Emmerich. Currently, it’s a man named Remus. But that’s also a little more complicated and I really don’t want to talk about it.

Tell us a little about your world, and where you fit in?

I don’t fit in it. I’m a Seer. People either are in awe of me or they fear me. I serve in King Emmerich’s Court but I’ve left there for a quest of my own. In my world, I live in a kingdom called Lorst. We are at odds with our neighbors to the east, the kingdom of Tier. We have the sea to our west, mountains to the north, and plains that become deserts to the south.

What are your goals?

I would like to understand myself, my gifts. I want to know where I came from. I want to know why I am what I am.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about life?

That it doesn’t kill you to trust someone.

What is the strangest situation you’ve ever found yourself in?

I found myself cowering in a cave while a giant walked by. Is that strange enough?

That’s definitely strange. What is the greatest obstacle you have ever had to face?

A sorcerer-king named Marduk. He had no conscience and he was insane. That makes for a very large obstacle.

Where is the best place to visit in your world?

The Larkspur Mountains are the best. They are not stifling hot like Bertrand in the summer, which lies on a plain. There are beautiful flowers and the mountains themselves are lovely. And there are few things like watching it snow there and listening to the silence.

If you could meet someone from another novel, who would it be?

There’s a novel in our world about a man who defeats a giant sea monster. I wouldn’t mind meeting him. But you mean in my author’s world, don’t you? I suppose I would like to meet a woman named Mercy Thompson. She fixes these things called “cars” and I would like to know how to do that. It looks like magic but it isn’t really.

Do you have a secret you’ve never told anyone? Would you tell us?

Yes. *pauses* No.

What do you own that would be hardest to part with?

The first novel I ever read on my own. I stole it from Castle Dwervin before we left and I carry it with me wherever I go.

What was the most exciting adventure you’ve ever been on?

The quest I’m on now is currently my most exciting adventure. If I make it through it, I may go on another one.

What do you regret most in your life?

I regret–Well, I’m tempted to say I regret not acting on the vision that warned me I was about to be sold into slavery. However, if I hadn’t been, then I probably would have continued living in Bluebell and never met Emmerich again. I don’t have anything else I may want to regret. Regret is useless.

Author Spotlight: The Rite of Wands by Mackenzie Flohr


Welcome to another Friday Author Spotlight! Today I have Mackenzie Flohr with her book The Rite of Wands, the first book in her series of the same title. Later I will share an interview I did with Mackenzie, so keep reading.

Mackenzie Flohr grew up in the heartland of America, chasing leprechauns and rainbows and dreaming of angels. Her parents nurtured a love of fantasy and make-believe by introducing her at a very young age to the artistic and cultural opportunities that the city of Cleveland had to offer.

From the time she could hold a pencil, Mackenzie was already creating pictorial interpretations of classic stories, and by the age of nine, she and a childhood friend were authors and reviewers of their own picture books.

While following her love of adventure, Mackenzie found a second home, the Beck Center for the Arts Children’s and Teen Theater School. It was there that a world of wonder was only a script and a performance away.

Yet it wasn’t until she was on a trip to Indiana, viewing a Lord of the Rings exhibit, that the innermost desire of her heart became clear to her. She wanted to write a fantasy of her own, one that could inspire imagination in others and lead them into a magical world of their own making. She hopes The Rite of Wands will do just that.

Wherever we live and wherever we come from is our individual heartland. Anything is possible and everything can happen. Pure imagination is in all of us—we only need to discover it, and sometimes story telling helps.

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About the Book

One boy…one Rite… And a world of deadly secrets that could change the course of history—forever.

And so begins the tale of Mierta McKinnon. When a horrible fate reveals itself during his Rite of Wands ceremony, he must find a way to change not only his destiny but also the land of Iverna’s.

Forbidden from revealing the future he foresees to anyone, he is granted a wand and his magical powers, but still must master the realm of magic in order to save himself and those he loves.

But Mierta is not the only one with secrets…especially when it’s impossible to know who to trust.

Get it today on Amazon!

Keep reading for an interview with the author:

Where are you from?

I’m originally from the Cleveland, OH area, but now reside in Hartland, Michigan.

Does your area have a good writing community?

I am part of a fantastic writing community called the After Hours Group. They meet once a month to share writing and critique each other’s work. They have been extremely helpful to me.

What genres do you write?

Fantasy, Scifi and Horror

What is the oddest thing you’ve ever researched for one of your books?

Slugs. Slugs that go to your brain!

If you could choose an author to be your mentor, who would it be?

If he was still alive, definitely it would be J.R.R. Tolkien. I’d want to know more about how he creates his languages.

Do you feel the support of family and friends is helpful to you as an author?

Absolutely! Being an indie author, I depend on the word of mouth from my friends and family to tell others about my book, help me gain sales, and to read and review my book. Without them, I would be destined to remain an unknown in the writing world.

What book or series do you enjoy reading over and over again?

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

Do you prefer ebooks, print or both?

I like both, but there’s something special about being able to hold a book physically in your hands.

What made you decide to self-publish?

I wanted more control over my series rights.

Are you a pantser or outliner?

I’m honestly a bit of both. I did work from an outline, but I found the character Mierta had to be written on the spur of the moment. That actually made writing the book challenging and fun because I never knew where he was going to take the story!

What was the hardest part about writing your latest book?

Honestly, it was figuring out how and when to specifically start the story. I’ve lost count how many re-writes I’ve done!

Author Spotlight: Do You Believe in Legend? By Ani H. Manjikian

Welcome to another Friday Author Spotlight! This week I have Ani H. Manjikian with her science fiction novel, Do You Believe in Legend? The character, Joanna C. Mason, from the book will be joining us later, but first…

Born and raised in Southern California, the diagnosis of hydrocephalus at birth should have killed Ani, or worse, left her blank to the world. Her strength of spirit, parents’ love, and a miracle all combined to overcome that prognosis within nine months. From this almost impossible beginning, she has developed into all-around person with the technical knowledge and analytical mind of a programmer, creative and detailed orientation of a writer, and aesthetic instincts of a photographer.

Her writing career started when a friend in Cyprus made her promise to stop throwing away her writings because she thought they weren’t good enough. After returning to the States, she set out to finish a single horse story and get it published. However, the book, like the writer, needed time to mature.

While perfecting her craft, Ani graduated from San Francisco State with a BA in Industrial Arts and worked several jobs from retail sales to human resources project management. Her innate ability to learn new computer programs with minimal instruction and need to be creative led to her current long-term stint as a web designer and developer.

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About the Book

“Legend isn’t about people. It’s about pursuing a dream or higher ideal. About believing in something impossible and transforming the belief into reality through faith and hard work. The future is a legend written and unwritten.”

Jo Mason believes that creativity, spontaneity, and faith exist as definable words, but not actionable items. Negative consequences always follow the rare positive outcomes. It seems her destiny is surviving a chaotic world she can’t control. Hearing her own voice where she shouldn’t have leaves her wondering about her place in time.

Jeff has always been a part of her life, offering encouragements, wise words when she needed them, and many other things she can never completely thank him for. She knows he replaced her cousin who died saving his life. When she questions why he didn’t get to stay with his family, Jeff replies that without fixing the timeline everything she knows would be different.

When Jeff’s twin brother Randy falls into her lap, both literally and figuratively, Jo hopes he can give her a better answer. There is only one slight problem… He doesn’t remember anything about himself or his life and what he does, doesn’t help.

Together, the three of them learn that life isn’t about who or what you know, but who and what you care for.

Get it today on Amazon!

Keep reading for an interview with Joanna C. Mason from Do You Believe in Legend?:

Where were you born, and what was it like growing up there?

I was born in Southern California. Spent the first five years of my life in the high desert before my father assumed command of USMB Los Angeles, located at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains when I was five.

We had the typical pets as kids, dogs mostly. Then when moved on base and I was surrounded by horses, it was pure heaven. Living on a military base isn’t much different for a kid than living in a regular neighborhood. Just a little more security and having to check in with an adult when there’s an alert. Nothing ever came of those, so no one close to me died. (That would happen later in life as I moved up the ranks and made different career choices.)

USMBLA will always been my home. Sure I’ve gone off and served at other bases, but I always manage to make it back here. Though, there was one point in my life where I didn’t think I was going to, but then I wasn’t myself at the time. Will I spend the rest of my career here? Yeah, most likely. Because of the shadow in my head, I have a cap on my promotions, so I’ll end up retiring as a Captain and the CO of USMBLA when the time comes.

Did you have a close relationship with your family?

Yep, though it was a little strained for about nine years when I needed to prove myself after almost being killed by a horse. There’s my twin brother Jim, who’s is as calm and thoughtful as I am hot-headed. Bill, the quiet giant, is next. TJ, a perfectionist engineer. Michael and Tyrell, the other set of twins in the family. John, the youngest, who can make computers dance. Four stepbrothers, an uncle and aunt, stepfather, nephew, cousin, and son round out the close family.

Who is your enemy? What makes you enemies?

The Nolan clan. One of their relatives got in an argument with mine. Guns were drawn and shots fired. Neither man suffered a life threatening injury, yet someone found Charles Nolan dead in his room the next morning. Because of this, my relative received command of a cavalry unit that later became the United States Mounted Band (USMB).

It didn’t help that I was part of a peer group that held back Casper Nolan after he failed a simulation. Nor that I received the base he wanted because of I had seventy-two more hours experience than he did.

Until we solve the mystery of Charles Nolan’s death, my family is going to remain a target of the Nolans.

What are your goals? What would you like to achieve?

Finding enough ways to help the human race survive the crazy stupidity of the times we live in. I wish people would just realize that despite our differences in beliefs and the color of skin, we all bleed red. We also need to take better care of ourselves and the planet we live on. Not sure what’s it’s going to take to get those messages through to people’s thick skulls before it’s too late.

Of course, I have to be respectful of the USMB’s strict non-interference regs, so I can’t bend people to my peaceful will. I have to lead by example. And that’s hard sometimes, especially when I have my own doubts about humanity’s future.

What is your greatest fear? How did you overcome it?

For nine years, it was a paralyzing fear of horses. Got it after a rogue stallion almost killed me. It was really hard to deal with because I grew up with the noble creatures and loved everything about them. As the commanding officer of a large mounted base, they are part of my life.

Those nine years were very difficult to deal with, filled with self-doubt and a need to prove myself, I drove my family away. A few close friends stuck with me and helped me the bad times. I wouldn’t have overcome my fear, except for a set a really weird circumstances.

My base had been getting horses meant for another base. I had signed the transfer paperwork to handle yet another one and went for a walk in the woods. Everything was fine until this horse appeared on the path. I stood my ground, but I was freaking inside. Turns out the horse wasn’t doing much better.

His name is Dreamer’s Hope. He’s the son of the stallion who almost killed me. His past includes some serve abuse. Together, we overcame our fear of each other’s species and learned to trust one another. That trust saved both our lives.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about life?

That it’s precious. I learned this after an undercover op went south and I ended up serving as a mindless, emotionless, and soulless operative who thought about death like normal human beings think about breathing. Not very proud of that time in my life. I’m very lucky and grateful that I’m back to being me.

Who has been the greatest influence in your life?

My stepfather, Jason.


He took over after my parents died in a car wreck when I was eleven. He has always been someone I could go to with any problem. Part of his insight comes from visiting a starship from the future. Me and my family have never been in any less danger from him knowing about certain events in our lives. Still it has given him a wisdom beyond his years.

I remember him taking me and Jim out a few weeks after my parents’ death. He pointed to the sky and asked, “What do you see when you look up into the night sky?”

“Stars,” my brother replied. “Doesn’t everyone?”

Jason’s emphatic “No” surprised both of us while the rest of his answer inspired our imaginations. That night, we learned that Jason didn’t view the stars as a cosmic night light. He looked upon them as a challenge and an insight into humanity’s future.

Have you ever been in love?

Love has always been tricky for me. It’s always been about career and family first, so most of my dates have been of the hi, how are you? kind. Some have even managed to make it to some sort of meal out. After I that I haven’t had much luck. My one serious relationship ended with an argument and the death of my boyfriend.

What kind of clothing do you prefer to wear?

Unfortunately, being in the USMB, I’m stuck in a uniform for most of my waking hours. When I can get away with it, I love a pair of warm, fuzzy slippers, comfortable, loose fitting shirt, and a nice soft pair of sweats.

What do you own that would be hardest to part with?

Dreamer’s Hope. I’m not sure I really own him as he is an independent thinking horse registered to the USMB. Still, he’s his grandfather’s grandson. Sweet-tempered, but competitive, Day Dreamer was my lifelong companion before colic killed him. DH has many of his traits and attitude, despite Casper’s crazy attempt to turn him into a killer like his father.

We both understand deep-rooted fear and have healed each other from it. The day he dies is going to be hard. So hard that I’m not sure I will be the same afterwards.

What was your greatest achievement?

Winning the 2014 International Championships. Started a year after the end of World War II as a means of keeping the peace, the annual championship series test the mettle of teams through a series of equestrian and non-equestrian events. To earn the honor takes six rounds of competition for a California base.

Our run was marred by Casper’s need for revenge, so we were fighting him as much as competing against the other teams.

What do you regret most in your life?

The lives I took during my career. Most were by my shadow’s hand. A majority of Its victims were others like it that had lost control. Nothing can, or will, ever excuse what it did to six family members whose only transgression was coming home a few minutes too early.

Making up for those deaths is impossible, I know. Still I’m not proud of them and wish circumstances could have been different. I’ll live with the regret for the rest of my life.

If you could change something about yourself, what would it be?

Nothing. Who I am is based on my experiences and knowledge. If I didn’t have them, I might not be the same person. Sure there are a few I want to forget, or relive a different way, but that’s just regret talking. I’m not sure I’d like the person I’d be without the lessons they taught me.

Would you ever or have you ever lied? How do you feel about lying?

Lying, unfortunately, is part of being an USMB officer. There are times I know more about a situation than everyone else, so I have to bend the truth. Either by choice to protect them or because I’m under orders.

Although our family discourages one another from telling half-truths and lies, we expect secrets. The higher in rank or more sensitive the position, the more they permeate our lives. Even living by this mantra, explosions of truth are often a surprise.

If you had one day left to live, what would you do with your last day?

Go horseback riding with my family. We’d be together on the powerful and noble creatures we all love. Is there any better way to die? I think not!

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