Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Camping in the Boonies

Oh, every year, I look forward to heading to the hills. My husband and I love, love, love to camp in the boonies, where we are alone with nature (and our dogs). The only sounds to be heard are those of the breeze blowing through the trees, the water rushing over boulders in the river, and an occasional chipmunk scampering up a tree. Well, there's also the sound of our little dog Rascal begging for the ball to be thrown again and again. He equates camping with an endless round of playing fetch. My husband and I equate camping to peaceful rejuvenation. No internet. No cell phones. No technology, except for our Kindles. We each have our own hammock, from which we strive to read as many books as possible.

So, if you need me, I'll be in the mountains for a while. ;)

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

#IWSG: Spring Fever = Writing Fever (or not?)

Oh, spring is in the air; flowers are blooming; gardens are growing; birds are chirping; and writers are holed up in their offices writing, revising, and plotting their next stories. Or are they?


Today is the first Wednesday of the month, which means it is time for The Insecure Writer's Support Group. If you've not heard of it before, check out the complete details by clicking here.

The purpose of the group is "to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"

This month's topic is: Does springtime inspire you to write more or not?

My answer: Generally, the inherent "new possibilities" of springtime inspire me. Those daffodils that were dormant all winter, and could have chosen to die, push through the tough dirt and rise and grow and stretch for the sun, and then when they are ready, they bloom in their full glory. I find that incredibly inspiring. I choose to believe, that I too can push through the tough "dirt" and rise and grow and ultimately bloom. So, yes, springtime inspires me to write more.

What is your answer?

Spirit Quote

seaon of rebirth

Rachel Carson Quote: “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

Monday, April 23, 2018

Book Review + Giveaway: Ecosystem by Joshua David Bellin

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review Joshua David Bellin's newest book, Ecosystem. I've been a fan of his for years, and his latest fictional adventure does not disappoint! Scroll on down for my review and for a chance to win this terrific book.

by Joshua David Bellin
published April 22, 2018

Description from the publisher:

Seventeen-year-old Sarah is a Sensor, gifted with the ability to survive within the sentient Ecosystem that swept away human civilization centuries ago. While the remnants of humankind huddle in small villages of stone, Sarah uses her psychic connection to the Ecosystem to travel freely in the wild in search of food, water, and fuel. Sarah doesn’t fear the Ecosystem—but she hates it for killing her mother when Sarah was a child. When she hunts, she hunts not only for her people’s sustenance but for revenge.

Then Miriam, an apprentice Sensor, is lost in the Ecosystem, and Sarah sets out to rescue her. Joining Sarah is Miriam’s beloved, Isaac, a boy who claims to possess knowledge of the Ecosystem that will help their people survive. The harrowing journey to find the missing apprentice takes Sarah and Isaac into the Ecosystem’s deadliest places. And it takes Sarah into the unexplored territory of her own heart, where she discovers feelings that threaten to tear her—and her society—apart.

A thrilling fantasy adventure from the author of Freefall and the Survival Colony series, Ecosystem is the first book in a YA trilogy that includes The Devouring Land (2019) and House of Earth, House of Stone (2020).

About the author:

Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). A college teacher by day, he is the author of three science fiction novels for teens and adults: the two-part Survival Colony series (Survival Colony 9 and Scavenger of Souls) and the deep-space adventure Freefall. His new book, the YA fantasy Ecosystem, released on April 22, 2018 (Earth Day). Josh loves to read, watch movies, and spend time in Nature with his kids. Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.

My review of Ecosystem:

If you’re a huge fan of Joshua David Bellin, like I am, be warned that his newest book, Ecosystem, utilizes a significantly different narrative voice than the ones found in his previous novels, in large part because his previous books were science fiction and Ecosystem is more in the fantasy realm. Consequently, I recommend you cleanse your palate, clear your mind, and control your phobias before jumping into the jungle underbrush of Ecosystem. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Ecosystem by Joshua David Bellin is an exciting escapade that delves into the notion of rules being rules because they’ve been passed down from generation to generation and teens pushing beyond their societal boundaries because they believe there’s a better way, which conjures in my mind notions of both The Giver by Lois Lowry and The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

Once I settled into the narrative voice of Ecosystem, I really enjoyed the storytelling and word choices. Instead of calling plants commonplace names such as primrose and wisteria, Bellin gave them menacing names like poisonrose and histeria. Instead of sycamore tree, it was sickenmore tree. As much as I love going camping every summer in my beloved state of Idaho, I would not want to take a day trip through Bellin’s Ecosystem! Yikes. Everything, it appeared, was out to kill the humans in Bellin’s fictional forest.

Bellin paints detailed imagery throughout the story, for example:

“I stand amid trees many hundreds of years old, their branches trailing lattices of moss, their bark carved into antic shapes like deeply wrinkled faces. Ferns with spatulate leaves form beds between tree-trunks, while a few downed giants wave earth-brown roots to the sky.”

Even though Bellin’s writing is beautiful, the reader (and characters within the story) must remember, “The Ecosystem is a parade of horrors, and anyone who forgets that is asking for her own death.”

Ha. I love a good horror story.

From the book:

“I slice the monster from blunt head to a third of the way down its back. It has no throat to make a sound, but its body buckles in agony, the viscous liquid that passes for its blood spraying me as it writhes across the floor. Not dead, though. Urthwyrms can suffer far more damage than that and live. Cut them in two, and you’ve only doubled your enemy’s strength.”

A few other favorite lines from the book:

“The words I might have offered him stick like thorns in my throat.”

“The forest didn’t need to lift a finger to kill me. All it had to do was sit back and watch me kill myself.”

“They told me I was too bold . . . That is what the timid call the brave.”

While Ecosystem by Joshua David Bellin is great romp through the forest following Sarah’s compelling quest, the story also takes a fascinating look at relationships, responsibilities, and expectations between people, nature, and society. 

Ecosystem is the first in a new series by Bellin. It reads as a standalone book, with the major plot threads tied up at the end, but Bellin left a few unanswered questions to tease my curiosity into wanting to read the next book as soon as possible.

I recommend Ecosystem to anyone who loves a great adventure story, anyone who loves the outdoors, and anyone who loves to hate monsters.

(By the way, as much as I love a scary story, I’m glad I read this in the comfort of my home instead of while camping in the boonies, where there are creepy crawlers and twisted trees and swampy marshes.)


Read what others think of this new book and read an excerpt by checking out the Ecosystem Blog Tour.

Enter for a chance to win a copy of Ecosystem:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Book Review: Some Very Messy Medieval Magic by C. Lee McKenzie

Some Very Messy Medieval Magic
by C. Lee McKenzie 

available for pre-order now from Amazon
publish date: May 15, 2018

Description from the publisher:
Pete and his friend Weasel thought they'd closed the Time Lock. But a young page from medieval times, Peter of Bramwell, goes missing. His absence during a critical moment will forever alter history unless he's found.

There's only one solution - fledgling wizard Pete must take the page's place. Accompanied by Weasel and Fanon, Pete's alligator familiar, they travel to 1173 England.

But what if the page remains lost - will Pete know what to do when the critical moment arrives? Toss in a grumpy Fanon, the duke's curious niece, a talking horse, and the Circle of Stones and Pete realizes he's in over his young wizard head yet again.

About the author:
In my other life--the one before I began writing for teens and younger readers--I was a teacher and administrator at California State University, San Jose. My field of Linguistics and Inter-cultural Communication has carried me to a lot of places in the world to explore different cultures and languages. I can say, “Where’s the toilet?” and “I’m lost!” in at least five languages and two dialects. Go ahead. Pat me on the back.

My idea of a perfect day is one or all of the following: starting a new novel, finishing writing a blockbuster novel, hiking on a misty morning trail in the Santa Cruz Mountains, saying Namaste after a great yoga practice, sipping a cappuccino topped at a bustling café, reading in front of a fire with snow outside, swimming in an ocean someplace.

I've just set out my perfect life. Day after day after day.

My review of the book:

Some Very Messy Medieval Magic by C. Lee McKenzie is a well-written whimsical romp, following novice-wizard Pete and his best friend Weasel through medieval England as they struggle to save lives and protect the timeline to ensure they return to the future they hold dear.

I really enjoyed this middle-grade adventure! While it is the third book in a series, and I had not read the previous books, I was able to follow the plot and character arcs seamlessly because McKenzie did a terrific job of weaving backstory details throughout the book. For example, at the very beginning it’s explained, “Wraith, who wasn’t really a bad guy, just a menace of a teacher, had followed Pete and Weasel back from their last time trip.”

The story started off immediately with quirky character names, hinting that this would be a fun read. Names like Dr. Dread Wraith, Weasel, Stiltencranz, and more. Plus, there was the fact that instead of a stereotypical cat as a magical sidekick, Pete had an alligator for his guide.

Some of my favorite lines from the story include:

“With hands the size of baseball mitts, the man gripped Pete by the shoulders.”

“In this century he was a wimp who couldn’t ride a horse or do anything a page should know how to do. In his own century he was a so-so wizard with a straight C-minus average in school. He needed to learn some of the right skills to get him through both centuries.”

“Mellie stretched out her long legs and sped down the road. She tried to outdistance the creatures clawing at them and darting at their heads with sharp beaks and claws, but she’d no sooner go round a bend and start down an empty piece of road than more horrors clutched at them.”

“The trip back through nearly a thousand years took about as much time as one hop of a swamp toad.”


I recommend this book to fans of middle-grade fiction. Some Very Messy Medieval Magic by C. Lee McKenzie is an addicting adventure with quirky characters and magical mysteries.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Teen Bookfest by the Bay 2018

I was honored to be invited back to the incredible Teen Bookfest by the Bay last month in Corpus Christi, Texas. The organizers of this event do an absolutely fabulous job of spoiling the attending authors and running an exciting event for readers. Below are a few pictures from the fun weekend in February 2018. 

For more information about the annual event visit: http://www.teenbookfestbythebay.org/

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

#IWSG: Celebrating Goals

The first Wednesday of the month means it's time for another installment of The Insecure Writer's Support Group! YAY for writers!


This month's question:
"How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal and/or finish a story?"

My answer in pictures:

Friday, February 16, 2018

School Visit - Corpus Christi

On February 16, 2018, I spoke with the spunky students of W.B. Ray High School in Corpus Christi, Texas, thanks to their wonderful librarian, Analisa Lawhon! We talked about online safety, the latest online rages, and what it's like to be an author. 

I continue to be impressed with the young people around the country.

If you're interested in having me visit your school or organization, feel free to email me at margokelly1 @ outlook . com  (without the spaces) for more information.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

School Visit - Portland, Texas

The fabulous librarian, Michelle Costilla, invited me to spend the day with the students of Gregory-Portland Junior High School in Portland, Texas, on February 15, 2018. We had a full day of six different presentations, talking about online safety and my book, Who R U Really?. All of the students were terrific and so much fun to be around.

If you're interested in having me visit your school or organization, feel free to email me at margokelly1 @ outlook . com  (without the spaces) for more information.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

School Visit - San Antonio

On February 14, 2018, I had the pleasure of visiting Sippel Elementary School in San Antonio, Texas. What a pleasure! We had a great discussion about online safety, being an author, and reading great books. I had trouble choosing only a couple of pictures - - - so scroll on down for your viewing pleasure! 

If you're interested in having me visit your school or organization, feel free to email me at margokelly1 @ outlook . com  (without the spaces) for more information.