Voyagers Author Yvonne Ventresca’s “Pandemic” – A Great Read for This Trying Time

Currently the IWSG Anthologies blog is featuring posts from the winning authors in this year’s IWSG anthology VOYAGERS:  The Third Ghost.

This week’s post features Yvonne Ventresca, the author whose short story “The Third Ghost” won the top honour in the Voyagers anthology, giving the book its title and cover.  Yvonne is sharing the backstory to her award-winning young adult novel Pandemic., which was written before the current Covid-19 pandemic, but her research into the Spanish Flu crisis proved invaluable – and chilling.

https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/2020/10/yvonne-ventrescas-compelling-young.html

Princelings Revolution published #princelings #booklaunch

The chronicles of the Realms are concluded!

Yesterday, October 1st, 2020, the much-anticipated last book in Jemima Pett’s popular Princelings of the East series was released.

Jemima started writing it in the dim dark days of 2008, thanks to inspiration from some guinea pig friends. Today’s post has an extract and a Giveaway, so there’s a lot of reading!

In 2008 it was just a trilogy. But the characters wouldn’t accept their fate and demanded more. And so, the saga of the Realms wound its way from south to north, and even into Germany before returning to the east.

1. The Princelings of the East
2. The Princelings and the Pirates
3. The Princelings and the Lost City
4. The Traveler in Black and White
5. The Talent Seekers
6. Bravo Victor
7. Willoughby the Narrator
8. The Princelings of the North
9. Chronicles of Marsh
10. …..

Princelings Revolution

Jasmine’s birthday party ends in disaster. George seems to have lost a phial of highly dangerous liquid. And King Fred is battling politics, relatives and self-seeking dignitaries in his aim to give the people a better way of living.
But can Fred keep the promise he made to an engaging chap from another time when he was just a princeling? Or will all their hopes fail?

Jemima’s favourite quotes from the book

“Hector, in charge? Couldn’t lead a file of caterpillars, that one!”

The way Jasmine said it made Fred raise an eyebrow. It was exactly how Kira said it when she wanted to say something privately.

“The usual suspects are people we know. I reckon these are people we don’t know. And who don’t know us.”

“Oh.” George considered all the other uses he had found for it. This was not a good one. “It’s called duct tape,” he said.

About the series

Ten books take us from 2009 through to 2021, with a prequel at Book 4, explained from Lord Mariusz’s point of view. The feudal structure of the Realms, the changes wrought by new technology, largely promoted by Princeling George, Fred’s brother. The demise of paranormal creatures, thanks to George’s use of garlic in the fuel cells; the rise of an anti-monarchist group called the Causists, and the resilience of characters great and small, trying to keep their pleasant and friendly society together in the face of so-called freedom fighters. One simple book at a time creates a world of change that will be somewhat familiar to every reader on today’s uncertain planet.

Suitable for good readers 8 years and up, although some parental guidance may occasionally be needed. Generally listed as age 10 and up.
The first three books in the series are also available as Audiobooks:

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/The-Princelings-of-the-East-Audiobook/B084Q628TH

About the author

Jemima at Bloggers Bash 2018

Jemima Pett started writing stories when she was eight. By ten she was designing fantasy islands, complete with maps and railways timetables. There was no call for fantasy island designers then, so she took the science route through university and went into a business career, then retrained for environmental technology. Once in a policy research organisation she started writing again, reports, papers and briefings. She didn’t believe she could write fiction until her guinea pigs came along, and inspired her to write The Princelings of the East. Now she enjoys writing short stories and science fiction novels, and has been published by Third Flatiron Press, among others. She lives in Hampshire with Roscoe, Neville and Biggles, who all appear in Princelings Revolution.

Find Jemima at: Twitter Amazon Goodreads Facebook Website

add to goodreads button

Buy The Book

Amazon
Apple iTunes
B& N
Kobo
Smashwords

Enter the Giveaway!

Entries close at 11.59 23rd October, New York time. Open for entries in all countries and states where this type of raffle is legal. Some additional entry options may be added: please check back if this is important to you.

Follow this link to enter: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/af859da968/


Extract

The beginning

King Fred of Castle Marsh surveyed the pile of messages from other kings and lords. They were all urgent, self-important, and harassed. Everyone had trouble with newcomers spreading malicious gossip, stirring the local people into argument and fractiousness. And worse.Then the last one he’d picked up, from Alexandre Kurtz in the Rhineland. She apologised but said there was no chance of sending the replacement metal flying machine to them this side of Solstice. Fred’s stomach did a loop, distressed that this meant there was almost no chance of keeping their promise to a guy called Mariusz the following summer. Fred sank onto his elbows, head bowed, then rubbed his hands over his face, and pushed his chair back. What he needed was a break.

He came out onto the terrace at the end of the corridor from his office, and looked over the balcony. It was a fine day for December. The reeds were crackling in the marshes and a few people were out gathering them for firestuff and to patch roofs that had been damaged in the past week’s gales. A small party had gone out on a second wagon to the forest to gather what wood had fallen down. The first wagon had come back fully laden, with two stranded travellers as well as a stack of gleanings from the forest floor.

The murmuring in the room behind him comforted him. His team of cartopetrarchs, as they styled themselves, were working together well, putting together their latest observations and measurements. One of the ideas brought back from last year’s summer school was to record the differences in soils and rocks around the land, as well as the relationship of the places to each other. And they were still charting the positions of forests and mountains and rivers… “Yes, I really do want to map the world”, Fred thought, with a smile—then a sigh. If only he could spend all his time on it instead of having to run things as well.

BANG!

The whole castle shook.

Birds flew up, cawing raucously.

People rushed out of arched doors, pursued by a blast of thick black smoke and dust.

A few screams came from elsewhere in the castle, but they sounded more of fear than of pain, and a general hubbub of running feet on stone stairs and corridors started to echo through the building. Residents appeared at windows, leaning out and craning their necks to see what was going on.

Fred watched anxiously from the terrace balcony to see his brother George emerging, not from his usual laboratory door, but further along from the main blast area. He was dusting his head and coat down. It seemed to have turned him a fetching lilac colour instead of his customary ginger. He looked up at Fred and waved sheepishly, then signed ‘one of those things,’ as if no harm had been done.

Princelings Revolution © J M Pett 2020

Badge for the Princelings Revolution launch tour

Witcher Boxed Set – a review

Ever since I met Geralt of Rivia in the game, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt and posted about it in W is for Witcher, I have been exploring the origins of that world in the creations of Andrzej Sapkowski.

Most recently on this blog site, I posted a brief update in my 2020 Blogging from A to Z Challenge revisits – my best posts from the 2014 to 2019 Challenges. The post was a link back to my 2018 delve into the Witcher origins:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/04/27/w-for-witcher/

The extent of my interest/obsession with all things Witcher extended to a game review:

https://rolandclarke.com/2018/07/19/witcher-3-the-wild-hunt-a-review/

And a review of the first book in Geralt’s chronology – a collection of short stories which introducing Sapkowski’s character to a growing audience: The Last Wish:

https://rolandclarke.com/2018/05/24/the-last-wish-a-review/

Then the second collection of shorts – Sword of Destiny:

https://rolandclarke.com/2018/06/28/sword-of-destiny-a-review/

However, my journey didn’t end there as the Witcher world is growing – even before Netflix released the TV series over Christmas. In Witcher 3, there was an addictive card game called Gwent – well, addictive for some players like me. I even have a physical set of all the cards and a board.

Plus, the developers behind the video games, CD Projekt Red, have an ongoing online version of Gwent, which even includes international tournaments. I’m now addicted to online Gwent when I can find the time. I also completed CDPR’s Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, which also has Gwent at its heart.

But I digress as this post is ultimately a review of the next three books – part of Sapkowski’s awesome world-building. And my reading continues from here, so expect more.

The Witcher Boxed Set

(The Witcher #1-3)

by Andrzej Sapkowski


This special boxed set includes the first three novels in Andrzej Sapkowski’s New York Times bestselling epic fantasy saga — the books that introduced the world to THE WITCHER and inspired the hit Witcher video games.

“The universe of Sapkowski’s The Witcher is one of the most detailed and best-explored in modern fantasy.” —B&N

For over a century, humans, dwarves, gnomes, and elves have lived together in relative peace. But times have changed, the uneasy peace is over, and now the races are fighting once again. The only good elf, it seems, is a dead elf.

Geralt of Rivia, the cunning assassin known as The Witcher, has been waiting for the birth of a prophesied child. This child has the power to change the world – for good, or for evil.

As the threat of war hangs over the land and the child is hunted for her extraordinary powers, it will become Geralt’s responsibility to protect them all – and the Witcher never accepts defeat.

In Blood of Elves, The Time of Contempt, and Baptism of Fire, Sapkowski brings a fresh new voice to fantasy fiction, creating something wholly dark and exciting in this world of fairy tales and witchers.

Review 4.4 stars

I confess to being engrossed – probably obsessed – by Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher universe. It’s a fantasy world unlike the Norse/Anglo-Saxon/Celtic one I grew up absorbing. Trying to review the books out of their overall context is hard. They don’t read as standalone novels, although each one has a different style in how the tale is told and in emphasis, whether in who is the primary character or the overarching theme.

Each novel reads differently, sustaining the epic length of the saga. I admire Sapkowski’s ability to change styles – and applaud the translator. One crucial piece of advice: read the books in sequence and start not with Blood of Elves, but with The Last Wish https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40603587-the-last-wish  –– as past events are key to the unfolding saga.

Blood of Elves: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6043781-blood-of-elves

Geralt may be a Witcher, a hired monster slayer, but his challenge is now the Child of Destiny, the Princess Ciri who escaped the destruction of Cintra. There are monsters, but unlike the two earlier initial books of short stories, his concern is personal and more of the monsters are human. Politics and racial tensions are simmering. 

Ciri and those who care for her have become the focus, not just Geralt. Learning about the Witcher universe is a learning process – for us and Ciri – and the jigsaw shimmers into view…although not all at once.

Some readers expected more about Geralt, but the key to his destiny and others is now Ciri. So, other characters play crucial roles – like the sorceress Yennefer, Geralt’s on-off love.

A second war between the Empire of Nilfgaard and the Northern Realms is brewing – and it helps to know more of the background from the shorts. The reader is given some clues and hints, but explaining the intricacies, the twists, the deceptions of politics – and history – will take a few books. It’s complex as in real life.

Yes, there are ‘pages of dialogue’ and Sapkowski indulges in writing chunks of text, sometimes verging on the didactic. Yet, I was engrossed and never stopped read – and adding to my knowledge of a richly-painted and crafted world. Having met a few familiar characters from the shorts – and played Witcher games – I was keen to read more about the Child of Destiny, about whether this child of prophecy will save the world or herald its destruction. 

The Time of Contempt: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14781491-the-time-of-contempt

The story from Blood of Elves develops with increasing complexity as more players get involved – which means more POVs and threads. For those who want a Witcher slaying monsters, beware. Be prepared for political intrigue instead, when a coup threatens the Wizard’s Guild, war breaks out across the lands, and everyone knows what’s best for Ciri.

Including Geralt, but a serious injury leaves the Witcher fighting for his life, while Ciri, in whose hands the world’s fate rests, has vanished. The threads, twists, deceptions, double-crossings, intrigues, and intricacies are spreading – like a disease.

And yes, there are chunks of Sapkowski’s trademark sermonic yet instructive info-dumps. I welcomed them as I’m open to indulging in his world-building, but I recognise many aren’t. But then I’m an addict who even plays the Witcher games, so I dive down research rabbit holes with little prompting.

Anyway, this continuation builds on the previous book – in a more varied and engrossing style. There are distinct approaches to the storytelling, depending on the protagonist – and there are some more now. We get a chance to see events from various angles, depending on the character’s allegiances to one of the Northern Realms, the Nilfgaard Empire, the non-human Scoia’tael, or those caught up in the struggles. Some are poignant and tragic, like a King’s messenger called Aplegatt – one of my favourite chapters. Trying to remain neutral is hard, especially for Geralt.

“It’s incredible,’ the Witcher smiled hideously, ‘how much my neutrality outrages everybody.’”

The portrayal of the non-humans is not idealised either – be they dwarves, gnomes, elves, or dryads. They may wage a bloody struggle against humans, but I understand why they fight and for what since Sapkowski portrays their dilemma in detail.

The book has a cliff-hanger, but the author’s impudently clever explanation made me chuckle. And I had to read the next book.

Baptism of Fire: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18656031-baptism-of-fire

Onto Book 3 of this Witcher set and the weaving threads bring in new characters – ones I know from the Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt game and the Gwent card-game. As I read more and more, engrossed, I was wishing I’d bought the next two books.

Anyway, the plot layers are growing. Now that dark times have fallen upon the world, Geralt is helpless until he has recovered from his injuries – in Brokilon, home of the dryads. While war rages across all the lands, the future of magic is under threat and those sorcerers who survive are determined to protect it. It’s an impossible situation in which to find one girl – Ciri, the heiress to the throne of Cintra. She has vanished – until a rumour places her in the Nilfgaard court, preparing to marry the Emperor.

However, the reader knows differently, although Ciri is struggling to survive and too far from those like Geralt, who want to help her. Her story takes disturbing turns as she stumbles from one challenge to another, discovering innate skills. Her ‘adventures’ are told in a contrasting style to the events of those searching/pursuing her.

More characters are introduced with varying agendas and idiosyncrasies – distinct too…with a few forgivable tropes. However, most are complex and deceptive. Never trust first appearances. Geralt adds to his traveling companions at various crossroads, and I welcomed meeting Emiel Regis Rohellec Terzieff-Godefroy, having encountered Regis in the Witcher 3. Let’s just say Regis, the intellectual barber-surgeon of Dillingen is one of the best characters in all the books – comparable in a way to Borch Three Jackdaws alias Villentretenmerth from one of the earlier short stories.

There are the expected passages that some readers skip as didactic sermonising – or bad writing – and others like me relish as informative. There are other wonderful descriptive passages – as in the other books – but then I’m a sucker for purple prose if it captivates in its craft. Easily satisfied?

By the expected/foreshadowed climax/cliff-hanger, I was wondering where the Rats would end up and whether Geralt would find Ciri before chaos ensued. So, I spent my money and I’m now reading the final two books in the series – but those reviews must wait.

Having given up recently on another trilogy, as scenes felt repetitive – copy & pasted almost – this set of books was an engrossing read.

This isn’t my number one fantasy saga/series, but for all its faults, I rate it for what it adds to the genre. My favourite isn’t even any of the obvious ones. [See the When Women Were Warriors Series https://www.goodreads.com/series/46351-when-women-were-warriors]

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Diversity – four stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – four stars

Editing – four stars

Voyagers – a review

I’ve been celebrating since May 5th, 2020 when the IWSG Anthology Voyagers: The Third Ghost: The Third Ghostwas released to the world. Yet, back when the 2019 competition was announced, I hesitated about entering a story as I’d never written any Middle Grade fiction.

Eventually, I was gently persuaded to write something. But I was surprised to be among the 10 chosen authors in this anthology. Voyagers was inspirational to be involved with, and it proved a chance to meet and work with nine talented writers – and a great editor.

So, I may be tempted to create a 2020 submission. Anyway, here is my review, now I’ve read and enjoyed every phrase of this wonderful collection.

Voyagers: The Third Ghost

by

Yvonne Ventresca (Goodreads Author),

Sherry Ellis (Goodreads Author)

Bish Denham (Goodreads Author)

Charles Kowalski (Goodreads Author)

Katharina Gerlach (Goodreads Author)

Roland Clarke (Goodreads Author)

Rebecca M. Douglass (Goodreads Author)

Beth Anderson Schuck (Goodreads Author)

Louise MacBeath Barbour

L.T. Ward

Journey into the past…

Will the third ghost be found before fires take more lives? Can everyone be warned before Pompeii is buried again? What happens if a blizzard traps a family in East Germany? Will the Firebird help Soviet sisters outwit evil during WWII? And sneaking off to see the first aeroplane – what could go wrong?

Ten authors explore the past, sending their young protagonists on harrowing adventures. Featuring the talents of Yvonne Ventresca, Katharina Gerlach, Roland Clarke, Sherry Ellis, Rebecca M. Douglass, Bish Denham, Charles Kowalski, Louise MacBeath Barbour, Beth Anderson Schuck, and L.T. Ward.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a voyage of wonder into history. Get ready for an exciting ride!

Review 5 stars

Every one of these stories was different in style, historical period, use of plot elements, and varied appearances of the unexpected from folklore to time travel. Ten marvellous reads and not just for Middle Age readers as this finicky retiree can attest. This anthology kept me reading from cover to cover with minimal breaks.

1. The Third Ghost by Yvonne Ventresca

This poignant story set in 1981 kept me riveted through to the twist at the end, even though I sensed it coming – although, the foreshadowing was subtle and hidden. Yvonne Ventresca makes the costly tragedy of arson elicit our concerns for justice with powerful descriptions. The emotions pulled me through the journey, and her beautiful crafting of words had me in tears by the end of The Third Ghost.

2. The Ghosts of Pompeii by Sherry Ellis

The humour mixed with the historical morsels was entertaining. Bubba and Squirt are fun characters with wonderful banter – I loved the sticking-out tongues. The pizza thread is tasty too. The mix of elements from ghosts to time travel worked well and were neatly blended into this delicious treat.

3. The Blind Ship by Bish Denham

I related to this dark and emotional story as I grew up with abolitionist ancestors – so a conscience. Bish Denham has crafted a powerful and moving tale based on real historical events recorded by the twelve-year-old boy. Her youngster’s ability to see ‘Negros’ as humans and not slaves was rare but motivational. Tragically the terrors of slavery still exist. 

4. Dare, Double Dare by Louise MacBeath Barbour

Kids goading each other into an adventure provides a neat opening hook for this intriguing time travel tale. The story makes skilful use of 1600s Canada with its mix of French and Mi’kmaq culture, including language. These are neatly integrated, and a glimpse of history is included that few know about.

5. Return to Cahokia by L.T. Ward

In Return to Cahokia we are treated to heavenly magic with siblings creating weather – the Warm Weather Gods. L.T. Ward paints an atmospheric journey through her vibrant use of the sky, clouds, rain, wind, and sun. This story brings to life the rich Native American heritage of the Cahokia tribe blending mythology and archaeological fact.

6. Feathered Fire by Roland Clarke

Feathered Fire is my own creation so all I will add is it proved a worthwhile challenge merging history – heroic Soviet airwomen and tragic Ukrainian dilemmas during World War II – with the legends of the Zharptica (Firebird) a rich vein in Slavic folklore.

7. The Orchard by Beth Anderson Schuck

Beth Schuck has crafted an alluring story in The Orchard where nature flourishes in the face of disbelief. For me as a dedicated Green, I was captivated by Nels with her special connection to trees and other creatures. Dryads must be as real as portrayed here, even if most of us are blind to their blessings. A favourite among so many.


8. Simon Grey and the Yamamba by Charles Kowalski 

Although Japan with its extensive and deep culture are unfamiliar, Charles Kowalski brings his 1620s setting to life, balancing wonderful descriptions, living folklore – some scary – testing trials, and historical nuggets. Yet even this legendary monster echoes Western nightmares – the universality of folklore.

9. A World of Trouble by Rebecca Douglass

Back when aeroplanes were a once in a lifetime encounter, sneaking off to see one at a young age makes sense – sometimes. Throw in an impending disaster from floodwater, and you have Rebecca Douglass’s tension ramped A World of Trouble. The dilemma at its heart involves a realistic race against time.

10. Winter Days by Katharina Gerlach

Having seen the Iron Curtain between West and East Germany, I connected to this gripping tale of crossing that border and getting trapped on the wrong side. With her German roots, Katharina Gerlach has captured the family fears emanating from the greyness of the East and the father’s past. The use of ‘gray’ to colour everything is masterly as is the sense of cold becoming deep snow. However, humanity must shine through.

Title: Voyagers: The Third Ghost
Author(s):  Yvonne Ventresca, Sherry Ellis, Bish Denham, Charles Kowalski, Katharina Gerlach, Roland Clarke, Rebecca M. Douglass, Beth Anderson Schuck, Louise MacBeath Barbour, and L.T. Ward
Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press
Pages: 168
Series: No
Goodreads
Website

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

Good Reads for Challenging Times

After each of my fellow IWSG Anthology authors were In the Spotlight over the last few months, our spokesperson Louise Barbour has initiated a new series of weekly posts.

First up, today’s post on the IWSG Anthology blog carries Louise’s wise words during the Covid-19 crisis, and her thoughts on her love of reading. Plus, some of the favourite Middle Grade reads of us Anthology authors.

https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/2020/04/good-reads-for-challenging-times.html?showComment=1585755390768#c6927858523071100169

In The Spotlight: L.T Ward

Apologies, I didn’t post yesterday as I needed a day escaping from reality.

Anyway, another of my fellow Anthology authors is In the Spotlight as of yesterday. Meet L.T. Ward and learn about how the weather and an ancient site inspired her at the IWSG Anthology blog – and helped a budding actor move forward.

https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/2020/03/in-spotlight-lt-ward-author-of-return.html