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Cookie Break

Writer, stationery addict & occasional cat pillow. Adorer of all things cute. Tea and pasta fanatic.

Attention, everyone!

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Happy Monday, everyone!

I’m only popping in briefly to let you know that Cookie Break has now moved to a shiny new, self-hosted server! If you were subscribed to the blog before you should automatically be redirected to the website; however, if you had Cookie Break bookmarked then your link might no longer be working.

This also means that, if you commented on this blog after last week Thursday morning, I won’t have received your comment. I didn’t post any new updates in that time or ask for the usual bi-weekly writing prompt for the same reason. I wasn’t sure if the website would be ready for today but it is, so please move on over with me! 🙂

Click the picture to be taken to my new online home:

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This is the last update I’ll post here, so leave comments at your own peril 🙂

I’ll see you all there,

~Sarina

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Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha #1)

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“Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.”

nano-reward-3What I thought:

After I devoured Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom last year I just had to read this trilogy, too ❤ So I treated myself and made Shadow and Bone my first read of the year ^-^

I knew that the more powerful Grisha were said to live long lives, and Darklings were the most powerful of them all. But I felt the wrongness of it and I remembered Eva’s words: He’s not natural. None of them are.

I instantly loved Alina. She’s a young woman who gets thrown into a destiny she couldn’t want less, with a power she can’t control and doesn’t want to possess, against odds she can’t hope to survive. I can’t tell if I loved her for her, or because she reminded me of my girl Rachael.

Because I read the duology first I came to Shadow and Bone with a different view point – the places, the people, the events that play such a big, vital part in Shadow and Bone I’d already heard of. Because of this I felt like I was coming back to a world I already loved, despite not having seen these places in the duology. The familiarity was there, and it was wonderful.

“You’re shaking,” he said.

“I’m not used to people trying to kill me.”

“Really? I hardly notice any more.”

Two things stood out above all others for me. One is the Russian mythology that plays a big part in this trilogy. I’ve actually done a bit of digging and love how Bardugo has adepted Russian folklore to fit her world! The world building is excellent, but then I already knew that 😉 The second highlight is Alina, and how she copes with her situation. She’s far away from familiarity when she arrives at the Little Palace, and doesn’t know who she can trust. Her own power is a mystery to her, and I loved seeing how she coped as the story went on.

I also love Genya. End of story ❤

If you’re looking for a fantastic fantasy trilogy, or if you loved Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, then I urge you to read Shadow and Bone!

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Have you read Shadow and Bone, or would you like to? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

I don’t review books professionally. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Goodreads listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.

For all other book reviews, please take a look here.

World Building in Fantasy Fiction – Your World’s History

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I don’t know about you, but the word ‘history’ always reminds me of high school where the same stuff was repeated every year, and where one sentence spanned most of one page in text books.

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Don’t worry, your world’s history doesn’t need to be a nightmare and conjure memories of boredom and sleep overtaking you! In fact, your world’s history is the reason your world is what it is when your story starts. It’s kinda important.

It’s an intricate, detailed, and sometimes complicated thing. I don’t want to overwhelm you with information; rather I’d like to give you the starting points to help you make your world as believable as possible without losing its magic. And to make the whole thing a little less daunting, I bet you that I can break it down in as few as six hundred words! (Not including this intro, of course)

Your World’s History

Your world’s history encompasses everything, and it’s the reason plotting this specific aspect is so daunting. Just take a look at our own history – the many wars, the natural disasters, the countless civilisations which preceded ours! Where the hell are you supposed to start? How much do you need? When do you stop?

You’ll be relieved to hear that you don’t necessarily need all that, unless your story calls for it. How far back you want to go is entirely up to you. You can plot your world’s history all the way back when dinosaur-equivalents roamed your lands, or you can start at a time that’s relevant to your plot. The latter is what matters, but I won’t stop you if you want to go all out!

Because this step is a wee bit overwhelming, it can help to draw a timeline or make a list of important events throughout, well, history. Start at the beginning of your story, and work backwards. For example, imagine your main character is the last of her race. Why is that? Why has an entire people all but gone extinct? Was there a war? Did natural causes kill everyone? In many stories, dwarves have long since become an extinct race, or elves were driven out of their homeland. What happened to cause this?

Think about the landscape, too. Perhaps a city has disappeared, a great rift has torn a country in two, or a once fertile country has turned barren. Wars and widespread natural calamities tend to leave scars!

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There are a few simple questions you can ask yourself to break this down into small, doable chunks.

What are the large events (such as war/famine/genocide/natural disasters) that affect your world and characters?

What caused these events?

How long ago did they happen?

How do they affect your world and characters today? Why?

Local History

The environment we grow up in shapes us a great deal. Where did your main characters grow up? Focus on past events that have made the town/city/small collection of huts what it is. Has war ravaged the country for years? Has your main character grown up with stories of a local hero? Is the town, or the whole country, known for any large scale events like an invasion, or a natural catastrophe like a volcano erupting? Perhaps your main character’s people are peaceful and live secluded in a forest, but were driven out by deforestation. What have past events done to the people living there? What have they done to your main character?

The same list of questions I’ve suggested above can help you sort through this one, too!

But we’re getting more into character development and personal history now, so let’s move on.

Give It Time

Your world and its history will develop as you write and build your story, same as your characters do. Having some of it, maybe even most of it, figured out before you write that first word is brilliant, but don’t panic or feel like you haven’t prepared enough if you have less than that. Sometimes we start a new story and we know everything long before Chapter One is typed, and sometimes we know the bare bones of our newest book baby. It’s a long process, and takes time. Your world’s history is no exception.

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So relax, and enjoy yourself! Your history will come to you eventually if it doesn’t before you name your MCs, and it will likely do so because you’re writing. You don’t need to have everything figured out before you start – knowing that something huge happened at some point in the past is an excellent start!

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All gifs from giphy.com

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.

#FictFBFeb17 Days 4-10

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Happy Friday, friends!

I hoped to have better (edit related) news for you by today but it’s still going slowly. Since I’m doing my editing course at the same time, the day job is still a thing and no one’s found a way for my house to clean itself yet I’m trying to remember to take breaks where needed and not burn out. If you have a full time job, successful writing career, a happy husband, and children to raise without your house falling into terrible disrepair, I salute you and bow to you. (at the same time!)

But there’s one thing I can give you, and that’s the first full week of Fictional Flashback February! #FictFBFeb17 is a hashtag created by my sister and awesome writing buddy Faith Rivens, and it’s a wonderful way for us to introduce our characters on Instagram and Twitter to you! (and it’s definitely not too late to join in if you want to give it a go!)

Both of my chosen babies this month come from my WIP Darkened Light. Enjoy 🙂

Day 4Fix

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day-4-naavah-ora

Day 5Fair

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Day 6Fade

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Day 7 Finally

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Day 8Freedom

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Day 9 Fear

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Day 10Friendship

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For all previous updates on my books’ progress, click me!

For all of my musings, click me.

For Cookie Break’s front page, take a look here.

Review: Touch by Briana Morgan

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“The Seeker has grown up in a world where deliberate physical contact is a crime, and for most of her life, it hasn’t bothered her. But when some of her classmates are arrested for touching, she decides to try the most forbidden of things and touch another person. When she discovers the power of touching, and how it changes her and those around her, will the Seeker be content to return to a life without it?”

www-11012017-2What I thought:

I’ve never been hugged before. I don’t know anyone who has.

And so begins this wonderful play about the basic human need to be touched.

The Seeker lives in a future where all touch is outlawed. Hugs are sold illegally on the street like a modern day drug, and past users, like the Seekers mother, are watched closely by probation officers. The Seeker is a young woman who wonders what it would be like to have her hand held, to be embraced by her mother, or to be kissed, and writes down her thoughts in her diary, but when her mother finds out she’s furious.

The Seeker’s desire to know tops her fear of being imprisoned, and she decides to brave the unthinkable and pay a dealer for a hug.

What follows is the moving story set in a world where a basic human right and need has been taken away, and one girl’s refusal to accept it. It’s a short story (I read the whole thing in thirty minutes) but its message is strong and the story and characters develop beautifully.

If you’re looking for a quick, poignant read then I can’t recommend Touch enough! I really enjoyed my first dive into plays and would love to see it on stage if given the chance.

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Have you read Touch, or would you like to? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

I don’t review books professionally. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Goodreads listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.

For all other book reviews, please take a look here.

WWW Wednesday 8th February 2017

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This meme is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. A similar meme, This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Why not join in? Just answer the following three questions in a post and then put a link to that post in the comments over at Taking on a World of Words.

WWW Wednesday

This meme will be categorised together with my book reviews. All links will get you to the book’s Goodreads listing, as always 🙂

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What I’m currently reading

08022017-2Ashael Rising

I’m very nearly done with this now and should finish it on Thursday. It’s the only ARC I’ve got at the moment so I’ll be able to return to my tbr pile after this!

I’ve really enjoyed it, and should get my review written early next week. Since I only post one review a week here it’ll be a while before it’ll go live but it’ll be on Goodreads right away 🙂

Blurb:

Ashael is a hunter-gatherer woman, apprenticed to Bhearra, the healer and spiritual leader of their tribe.

The Zanthar are invaders from another world who extend their own lives by stealing the life-force of everything around them. They were last seen on KalaDene 200 years ago. They have returned, looking for The Vessel, a being prophesied to hold the life-force of the land.

Iwan is a slave to the Zanthar, descendant of the folk that were taken as slaves the last time the Zanthar visited this world. He is sent out as a spy, while his mother is held hostage to ensure his compliance.

When Iwan and Ashael meet and she invites him to stay in Oak Cam, neither of them realise that she is the one the Zanthar seek. The fate of KalaDene and all of its people rests on Ashael’s shoulders.

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What I recently finished reading

nano-reward-4Siege and Storm

I really liked Siege and Storm. I’d agree that it wasn’t as good as the first book, but I still flew through it and I love the Russian mythology weaving into it. I’m excited to read the final title in the series now and see how everything’s going to play out.

Blurb:

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

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What I think I’ll read next

nano-reward-5Ruin and Rising

This is still my next read… It’s taken me a while to get through my ARC since I read two books parallel to each other for a while, but it won’t be long now! I’m hoping to start it on Friday, maybe even Thursday. I’m really looking forward to it now!

Blurb:

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

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Have you read any of these and would like to chat about it? I look forward to hearing from you if you do – just leave a comment below and we can get this book club started!

A-Z Name Prompts – H

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Happy Monday, everyone!

It’s time for another writing prompt, chosen by you! 🙂 This week, the winner is…

Thank you to everyone who voted 🙂 As always, if the prompt speaks to you feel free to borrow it. If you publish your interpretation please link back here so I can be nosy ^-^

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Hosea

(m.; salvation)

My dear Hosea,

before you set fire to this letter please read it first. Pretending this isn’t happening won’t make it go away. Your father and I didn’t raise you to be an idiot.

I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you in person. Your father and I didn’t anticipate things would escalate this soon. I really hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but since my letter has been delivered to you it must mean I’m dead.

We have done everything we could to prepare you for this. I know you won’t feel ready, but you have to be. I hope you can find some reassurance in the knowledge that there isn’t a person alive now who’d embrace what I’m about to tell you and feel up to the task.

We’re not from Earth, Hosea, but we are Earth’s salvation. Go to London. My contact will find you. I know you’ve been preoccupied with New York recently, and there’s a reason for this, but please, don’t go anywhere near America. Go to London, and speak to my contact. She’ll explain everything, I promise.

I’m sorry I can’t explain more in this letter. It’s too dangerous to have all our secrets spelled out on paper, so you can go ahead and burn the letter now.

I wish this could have gone differently. Your mother wished for me to train and lead you in this; I hope she won’t be too cross that I failed before we could save everyone.

Give my love to Lily.

Forever yours,

Aunt Emely

Hosea crumbled the letter into a ball and threw it at the wall. What a load of fucked up rubbish! If he was so important, why had neither his Dad nor Emely ever mentioned it before? The letter had to be her final joke – and one hell of a tasteless one at that!

Hosea rummaged through his drawer until he found his passport. He packed it away together with his wallet in a backpack he threw over one shoulder.

He was eighteen years old, not eight. He was too old to do as his aunty said, final wish or no.

Hosea locked the door to his apartment, and called a taxi to the airport. There was a flight to New York in two hours.

He’d definitely make it.

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For all other writing prompts, check here.

For CookieBreak’s homepage, click me.

All writing belongs to the author, Sarina Langer

Progress Update & FictFBFeb17 Days 1-3

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It’s been a while since I’ve last done a proper progress update, so I figured it’s about time I update you on how things are going! 🙂

Darkened Light is still resting. I’ll start the edit as soon as Wardens of Archos is with my beta readers – which, you may remember, I thought would happen some time this month. Due to the heavy amount of editing Wardens of Archos needs (it’s never a good sign when you write the first draft and keep thinking ‘It’s fine, I’ll fix it in the edit’) I’ve had to push that date back, but still hope to have a beta version ready for you in late March/early April 🙂 It’s a bit later than I wanted it to be, but I don’t want to rush things. If my edit takes longer, it takes longer. No pressure.

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But what’s taking so long? Well, I’m rewriting a lot of chapters from a different POV. I’ve added another POV altogether, so now you’ll get chapters from Rachael, Cale, Kiana, Kaida, Reeve, and Arnost Lis 😉 Rachael continues to take most of them, but I’d like to think that the others add a lot of additional value, too.

Essentially, there’s a lot of development going on across all areas. Hopefully this means that my next edit (printed out, red pen in hand (and my familiar nibbling on said pen, if my last paper edit taught me anything)) will be a lot smoother, but I don’t want to jinx it 😛

I don’t know why I’ve gotten it stuck in my head that I need to release Book 2 around the same time as Book 1 last year, but I’m trying not to stress over it. It’s not realistic to get it done before May 23rd and I’m reminding myself that that’s okay. I’ve learned a lot since Rise of the Sparrows and all that is flowing into Wardens of Archos, so it only makes sense that it takes longer.

breathe

~ #FictFBFeb17 ~

The talented Faith and my sister in spirit – who blogs over at aliasfaithrivens (visit her blog if you haven’t already!) – has created her own Twitter and Instagram tag called Fictional Flashback February, and it’s a wonderful way for our characters to introduce themselves to you! This month I’m focusing on Doran and Naavah Ora from Darkened Light. They are two very different characters and I’m really excited to show them off! ❤

Here are the first three days of the tag:

Day 1 Introduce your character

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day1-naavah-ora

Day 2 First

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day-2-naavah-ora

Day 3Fire

day-3-doran

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If you’re a writer at any stage in your WIP, I urge you to join us on Twitter, or Instagram, or both! It really is a wonderful tag ❤ More next week!


All gifs from giphy.com

For all previous updates on my books’ progress, click me!

For all of my musings, click me.

For Cookie Break’s front page, take a look here.

Celebrating The Launch of Ashael Rising by Shona Kinsella

blog-tour-shona-kinsella-ashael-rising-launch

You might remember Shona Kinsella from when she stopped by for an interview last year July (and I applaud you if you do!). Back then she talked about her WIP Ashael Rising – and now it’s time to celebrate the release of the very same!

So what do I have for you today? Why, I’ve got a mini-interview, I’ve got the cover and the blurb for you, and a few of my favourite lines! And of course all important links, so you can follow Shona all over social media and buy her book baby ^-^

blog-tour-shona-kinsella-portrait

What inspired Ashael Rising?

A dream! I don’t remember all the details now but I had a dream around 9 years ago about warrior fairies that were at war with evil magicians. None of that made it into the book but the final image of the dream, flying over a desolate land where almost everything was dead, stuck with me all these years. That image formed the seed that became Ashael Rising.

Can you summarise your entire plot in one, brief sentence?

An apprentice medicine-woman must find out the truth of who she is in order to defend her people from soul-sucking invaders.

Who is your favourite character, and why?

I know I’m probably meant to say Ashael but in truth, it’s probably Bhearra. She’s funny and wise and steady. I would like to be like her.

What do you hope your readers will take away from Ashael Rising?

A desire to read the next book ;). More seriously, I hope that readers enjoy the book and fall in love with the characters the way that I did. And maybe think about life in a Cam…

What can we look forward to from you in the future?

I’m currently working on an anthology of stories by Unbound authors where the stories all centre around a library in one way or another. I’ll be contributing to and editing the book.

I’m also finishing up a novella called The Longest Night that I started in November. It’s about a tribe who live in the arctic of their world and the plight they face when the sun does not rise after mid-winter.

As soon as I’m finished with that I’ll be starting on the sequel to Ashael Rising.

blog-tour-shona-kinsella-cover

Blurb

Ashael is a hunter-gatherer woman, apprenticed to Bhearra, the healer and spiritual leader of their tribe.

The Zanthar are invaders from another world who extend their own lives by stealing the life-force of everything around them. They were last seen on KalaDene 200 years ago. They have returned, looking for The Vessel, a being prophesied to hold the life-force of the land.

Iwan is a slave to the Zanthar, descendant of the folk that were taken as slaves the last time the Zanthar visited this world. He is sent out as a spy, while his mother is held hostage to ensure his compliance.

When Iwan and Ashael meet and she invites him to stay in Oak Cam, neither of them realise that she is the one the Zanthar seek. The fate of KalaDene and all of its people rests on Ashael’s shoulders.

Miniview

Ashael Rising features two prominent POVs – Ashael, the heroine, and Iwan, a slave forced to spy on her people for his Master who craves world domination. Naturally. Ashael’s people are trusting and peace-loving, and so when Iwan comes to them and asks to stay with them for a while, they happily host the young stranger. Only, there are three problems: Iwan’s master is spying on him, Iwan begins to feel at home in the friendly village, and he falls in love with Ashael. Meanwhile, a mysterious power is beginning to stir in Ashael – and it’s this power Iwan’s master wants to destroy, before it destroys him.

There was something about the young man who had arrived a few days ago. He was full of secrets but also pain. She sensed a good man at his core, in the space beyond pretence.

Ashael Rising is out in three days on FEBRUARY 6TH! Mark it in your calenders and add it to Goodreads 😀

Until then, you can also catch up with Shona on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog.

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