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YA Fantasy

What are my top Young Adult Fantasy picks for 2022?

Fantasy Romance Recommendations

What are my top Romantic Fantasy picks for 2022?

Children's Book Recommendations

What are my top Children's Books picks for 2022?

Other Recommendations

What other books made my top picks for 2022?

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Top Young Adult Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal Romance: Sworn Shift by AJ Skelly

Oh, my heart! I loved the previous stories in this series, but Sworn Shift just took things to the next level! I absolutely LOVE how Skelly toys with the set tropes shifter romances have, and she makes things so much better!
Fated mates? Well, not quite as you expected. Every moment of this high stakes enemies-to-lovers story kept me riveted. I don't usually binge books, but I couldn't put this one down. My whole family made fun of me running around with my iPad in hand, unable to get my nose out of this book.

If you enjoy shifter romances, then you have to read this series. Each book is amazingly crafted and totally puts the common tropes on their heads. There is so much to love about this series!

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Where did the idea for Sworn Shift come from? 

The idea for Sworn Shift developed at the same time that First Shift and Rogue Shift did--I actually wrote all three of them concurrently for the most part.  It was fun to write the three books more or less together, since a lot of the events of each book coincide with events in the others.  It's a tight timeline for the books, and ideas kept populating as I was writing First Shift, so, of course, I had to write them down.  Sworn Shift was born.


What was your proudest moment for Sworn Shift? 

I think that moment I finished writing it is probably the proudest moment.  There is such a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment in finishing writing a book.  Of course, there's miles more to go in edits and such, but the satisfaction of knowing you've completed a project is amazing.  Then, when USA Today Bestselling authors come back and tell you that one of your books is on their top reads list of 2022, that's a pretty proud moment, too! LOL 


What inspires you to write? 

I write because I love it.  Characters often pop into my head, and demand to be written down.


What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for Sworn Shift? 

I didn't do a ton of research before writing Sworn Shift, but I did enjoy looking up different Latin phrases and the meanings behind things for Bowen's tattoo.  Some of that research led to the creation of the Lacessere—which is the focal point of Pack Shift, book four in The Wolves of Rock Falls series. 


Which character did you have the most fun writing? 

I think I had equal amounts of fun writing both Bowen and Raven.  Each of them is so different but complement each other so well.  Raven has this very innocent, sort of over-thinking personality, while Bowen has a lot of those classic "bad boy" vibes that turn into a sort of twist in the book.  They were a really fun pairing to put together.  They were also the first pair of enemies-to-lovers that I wrote.


What is the one takeaway from Sworn Shift you hope stays with your reader? 

Honestly, I just hope readers enjoy it.  I hope the characters linger and that the world of Rock Falls is one readers want to revisit. 


What’s next for you and your writing? 

Now that Pack Shift is out in the world, The Wolves of Rock Falls series is complete.  There is a new world in the making that will be coming to readers everywhere in 2023.  Making Magik is a Magik Prep Academy anthology that releases with Quill & Flame Publishing House in January.  Magik Prep Academy is a fabulous magical world where mythology, magic, and monsters all mix together.  And there's kissing.  Because I love a good kissing book. 😉 In March of 2023, Of Flame & Frost is releasing (still with Quill & Flame Publishing House), which is the first full-length Magik Prep Academy novel.  It takes place at Magik Prep, but there's time travel, enemies-to-lovers, tons of mythological creatures, danger, adventure, and a dragon shifter.  Because apparently shifters are my "type." 😉 Finally, there IS a spin of series coming late in 2023.  Lost Shift, the first book in The Wolves of Arcadia Bay (series length still to be determined) will release in October.  We'll still catch a glimpse of our favorite wolf pack in Rock Falls, but the focus of the series will be on the pack from Arcadia Bay.


What book(s) would you consider the perfect Christmas gift? 

Is it cheating to recommend your own books? LOL I am properly biased, but I do love the whole Wolves of Rock Falls series, and it does make a perfect Christmas gift for anyone who loves paranormal romance.  Other books I'd highly recommend: Calculated by Nova McBee, Wishes by Brittany Eden, and I read an early copy of Fortified by V. Romas Burton that releases in February, and I've loved everything I've read by CJ Redwine--I'd recommend all of them! 


Is there a cause that’s important to you?

I love the heart behind World Vision.  They work on providing animals for third world families—and something as simple as providing a pair of chickens can have such a significant impact that it reaches to an entire village.  They also provide emergency relief, coats, education, clean water, and a host of other things to families who need them most.  My daughter even sold jewelry this year so she could raise money.  We sent chickens this year!

What is your 2022 Christmas wish? 

I wish for peace.  It seems so cliche, but there's a lot going on in the world right now.  Lots of war, lots of economic hardship.  I wish I could fix it all, but I can't.  But I can write books—and stories often provide relief and escape for at least a little while.  Stories can provide hope, and hope is often the most valuable thing of all. 

Christmas Interview with AJ Skelly

YA Urban Academy Fantasy: Immortal Voices series by Jo Holloway

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Without a doubt, this is the best young adult series I've ever read. When I was in my teens, I hated the genre because so many books classified as YA felt like I was being talked down to. Important issues were glossed over and "fun" or "entertainment" seemed to be valued higher than the things I found most important, like our human impact on the environment, and how to find your place when everything you know tells you you don't belong.

Holloway doesn't only make pertinent points about many important topics, she also uses her books to teach. This series is filled with passionate examples of how we can make an impact, each and every one of us. As individuals, it is true the amount of work that needs to be done is daunting and we can absolutely feel overwhelmed and helpless. But through her main character, Cara, Holloway beautifully illustrates how that is, in fact, not true. Even small changes, effected by many can make a lasting impact.

Want to know what you can do? Want to inspire someone else to find their wings and take flight? What are you waiting for? This action-packed adventure is a brilliant place to start shifting mindsets and embrace possibilities!

Other things I love about this series:

💖 Favourite bookish couple of all time
💖 Found family theme
💖 A powerful and honest portrayal on loss and grief
💖 Fabulous world building
💖 Representation: LGBTQ and Native American
💖 The power of passion
💖 How to find one's purpose
💖 A unique take on martyrdom
💖 Honest exploration of mental health and wellbeing
💖 Unexpected twists
💖 Absolutely no loose ends
💖 Best ending ever!

Christmas Interview
with Jo Holloway

YA representation: Wind and Silk by Alice Ivinya

This is without a doubt the best fantasy short story I have ever read. The world building is flawless, which is incredibly hard for fantasy shorts, and yet Ivinya pulls it off with flair. The story itself is engrossing and I was invested from the moment I started reading it. It was powerfully emotive and moved me deeply.

Where did the idea for the Immortal Voices series come from?

The word "pyxis" appears in Cassandra Clare's books as a box to contain a demon and that sparked an idea. The word is actually the name for an ancient Greek pottery vessel, which you also see represented in both the main series and in On Wings And Ash. I wanted to flip that around so the pyxis was a living being, and so I created the Pyx who would inhabit them. Instead of demons, this partnership between species fit into my admittedly idealistic world ambitions, and it lent itself beautifully to the message I wanted to write about.

What was your proudest moment for the Immortal Voices series?

Probably finishing the first draft of the first book, actually. I never thought I'd be able to do that and it felt like a huge achievement even though I know I've learned so much since then and my writing has improved a lot. A close second was when I wrote the climax of book 5, because I had actually written a draft version of it before I finished book 1 and I was amazed that it was all finally coming together the way I had envisioned.

What inspires you to write?

With The Immortal Voices series, I wanted to show that every individual has something to contribute, but it might mean accepting help to best compliment your own talents. And also, I wanted to shed a spotlight on the looming climate crisis, how it will impact not only us, but our entire related ecosystem. Both themes unfold over the course of the series.

What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for the Immortal Voices series?I did a lot of research into natural poisons for book 2. I hope that one didn't land me on any watch lists!

Which character did you have the most fun writing?

That is so hard to answer because they're all my babies. I loved Cara's growth so she felt the most personal, even though personality-wise, Rhys is probably the closest to me. But I would have to say that Wes is the one I still think about the most. I just love that kid.

What is the one takeaway from the Immortal Voices series you hope stays with your reader?I have actually seen reviews that mention this, and it warms my heart every time that my message reached them. It's the idea that we can all do something, even if we feel small and powerless, and a lot of small somethings can add up to a big change if we all do our part.

What’s next for you and your writing?

I'm not saying never to writing more books in The Immortal Voices world, but my current project is something a little different. I'm writing a series called The Cursed Globe, which is a mix of Shakespeare and fairy tale retellings. Each book will be a standalone featuring one couple, a world (or 2), one famous play and one well known fairy tale, all mashed up and retold. The first one is a gender-swapped Beauty and the Beast, with a Hamlet inspired revenge plot. The Cursed Globe is also the universe where I've set several recent short stories that can be found in charity anthologies like Once Upon A Name and Wicked Wishes.

8. What book(s) would you consider the perfect Christmas gift?

It's so hard to choose books for other people! For that reason, I'd start with book-adjacent gifts like our Twice Upon A Name 2023 Reading Planner. That way, your bookworm friends or family can fill it with all the books they love all year. For younger readers, I'd go for a favorite from my own childhood like The Chronicles of Narnia, which has that wintery bonus. For older readers, I'd probably pick an anthology in the genre they like so they'll have an assortment of stories to enjoy. And of course, it's always fun to give a signed copy of my books to someone I know will like it.

Is there a cause that’s important to you?

For anyone who has read The Immortal Voices: Green & Gold, the answer is obviously environmentalism. The feeling of inevitability as we crash into the coming climate disasters was a main driving force for me to write these books. I was watching the world become more nationalist and individualist and screaming inside that none of it was going to matter soon. I still hope we as humanity can find a way to a sense of global community, or we'll all have to be fine with letting displaced people suffer due to our actions, and I'm not okay with that.

10. What is your 2022 Christmas wish?

To be honest, I've had a tough couple years and I am just hoping that things are starting to turn around, so wishing for health and happiness is no small thing. Then I can get back to writing and maybe helping others.

Where did the idea for Wind and Silk come from?

I am a little obsessed with both K-dramas and C-dramas and have longed to write something of my own in an East Asian inspired fantasy world. I also wanted to show how people who are written off by society are sometimes the strongest and bravest of us all.


What was your proudest moment for Wind and Silk?

I love how much it has touched people's hearts. I wasn't quite expecting some of the responses I've had to it, especially from other people with perceived disabilities.


What inspires you to write?

Everything. Books, films, nature, music, but often the ideas are all there in my head clamouring to be let out and I can't write quick enough!

Christmas interview with Alice Ivinya

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What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for Wind and Silk?

The most important tradition in a Chinese wedding is the tea ceremony where the bride and groom serve tea to the in-laws and parents while bowing or kneeling. The type of tea chosen is very personal and is normally chosen with a lot of thought as to the preferences of the in-laws. The tea is meant to represent purity, faithfulness/ steadfastness and fertility. In my book, I don't have a traditional tea ceremony since it is set in a fantasy world. However, I adapted the idea to have the main character serving tea to her husband to represent the power dynamics which were strongly not in her favor.


Which character did you have the most fun writing?

I think her grumpy husband with his few words and emotion-filled stares was the most fun!


What is the one takeaway from Wind and Silk you hope stays with your reader?

I hope it is a clear message to never give up, no matter what you are facing. You are stronger than you think!


What’s next for you and your writing?

At the moment, I am just editing my first draft of Crown of Glass, though I haven't written the ending yet! I'm still mulling over it! I love this story so much and I can't WAIT for it to be released in April! 8.


What book(s) would you consider the perfect Christmas gift?

A Soul as Cold as Frost by Jennifer Kropf is a perfect Christmassy book!


Is there a cause that’s important to you?

So many! I think the causes that are most close to my heart are those involving protecting vulnerable children and aiming for every one of them to feel loved. 10. What is your 2022 Christmas wish? I have been very fortunate in many ways in 2022. My wish is for us to have a special Christmas with extended family where we take nothing for granted!

Short historical Fantasy story: The Scarlet Thread by Elena Shelest

The Scarlet Thread is an unforgettable short story set in historical Ukraine. I really love Shelest's Cossack-inspired fantasy tales, but this one is definitely her very best so far. It's an intense, powerful and uplifting piece and I was completely invested in it throughout.

This was a short story in the Ukraine charity anthology, Feathers of Hope which I believe has already been unpublished (it was a limited edition), however I hope the author re-publishes this story solo because it's utterly amazing and deserves to be shared more widely.

Where did the idea for The Scarlet Thread come from?

Embroidery plays a big role in the Ukrainian culture. Every region had their unique thread colors and patterns that were used on the tablecloths, curtains, shirts, and so on. Some believed that an embroidered shirt could protect a person. Even now Ukrainian soldiers wear them to the frontlines. Such concept fit very well with the fantasy genre I write in.


What was your proudest moment for The Scarlet Thread?

First of all, I am grateful that this story was accepted into the Feathers of Hope anthology to be published alongside great authors and help collect funds for Ukrainian refugees. The suffering in my home country had been on the forefront in my mind this year. 


What inspires you to write? 

This year all my inspirations can from the Ukrainian folklore, myths, and history. I loved studying both more in depth.


What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for The Scarlet Thread?

There were a lot fascinating facts I uncovered about the embroidery in Ukraine. There is a whole documentary on it about how people had to hide their embroidered shirts during Soviet times when cultural identity was punished. Some even went to jail for it. Unfortunately, Russia never stopped trying to erase our nationality, but through all of it, Ukraine is even more united and connected to its roots. 


Which character did you have the most fun writing?

Probably Andriy. It seems a general trend is to write male lead characters as brooding, somewhat rude, and with a dark past. Even though Andriy does have things he has to work through, he has a good and noble heart. If only my main character could trust him enough to heal.


What is the one takeaway from The Scarlet Thread you hope stays with your reader?

Hope. That no matter how dire the situation is or how hopeless it looks, things will get better if only we endure. I really needed it this year as we all watched in horror how Ukraine was getting bombed. It is still a hard situation, but hope is giving us all strength.


What’s next for you and your writing?

I published a lot of short stories and novellas in different anthologies over the last two years. My plan is to put them all together into a separate publication.


What book(s) would you consider the perfect Christmas gift? 

Books are very personal gifts, like buying clothes, so it depends on the person. But one great gift I can think of that would be great for a lot of people is the Enchanted Coloring and Self-reflection journal. A great way to start a new year.


Is there a cause that’s important to you?

Yes. Helping to ensure the safety and recovery of Ukrainian children affected by the war. My heart breaks for their stolen childhood. Voices of Children Ukraine is a great local organization to donate to. 


What is your 2022 Christmas wish?

I don't want to sound repetitive, but there is nothing more I want than the sooner victory and restoration for Ukraine.

Christmas Interview with Elena Shelest

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I love this book so much, I'm not entirely sure where to start with my gushing! Maybe it should be with the fact this is the only fantasy novel I've read with a Jewish main character! Why is this yet another of those elements that has fallen short in terms of representation in this genre?! Talia's mother stole the show! The concept of a Jewish "Mom-Zilla" is quite brilliant! She added so much to the story and the dynamics of the characters' interactions.

Add to that the awesome portal fantasy and land of Fae. Yes, this dark representation of the "overworld" spiced up with some pretty awesome and nasty beasts from folklore and very well represented with some interesting considerations of colour was simply amazing! I was completely immersed and terrified of what danger lurked around the next page.

Then we have Talia, the needle phobic art-school dropout who works as a tattoo artist. It makes for some pretty hilarious moments! And her flaws are very real and so well portrayed, that who she becomes by the end of the book is simply beautiful. I was rooting for her all along and definitely enjoyed every moment of her sloughing off her insecurities to come into her own and take the world by storm. She's stubborn and determined but also naive and anxious, which made for a great mix of emotions. Rener did a fantastic job of portraying this character, making her believable and utterly lovable.

New Adult and Adult Fantasy with steam (and some romance)


Christmas Interview with Rachel Rener

Where did the idea for "Inked "come from?

I was writing the 4th book of The Lightning Conjurer series at the height of the pandemic, when my depression was high and my spirits were low. That book has multiple points of view, and every time I came to one of Eileen’s chapters, I would get this big, goofy smile on my face. She’s funny, loud, outrageous, says whatever comes to mind…just such an uplifting bundle of love and humor and joy. So when I was thinking about the magic system for my new series, which I wanted to make ink- and blood-based, I knew I wanted a character similar to Eileen to be at the forefront. Add in one interdimensional filing cabinet, a sexually-repressed incubus, and one slightly unhinged Jewish mother and – voila – INKED was born.


What was your proudest moment for "Inked"?

Being able to write my own heritage into it, for one. You don’t see Jewish characters in fantasy books, especially in the role of the main character. Being able to unpack the concept of bodily autonomy, as well, while exploring themes around consent – up to and including an incubi’s right to bodily autonomy – was particularly important to me.

What inspires you to write?

I have a brain that needs constant challenge and excitement. And I genuinely enjoy making other people happy. Writing fantasy books is a great way to do both.


What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for Inked?
I actually went and got a tattoo as part of my research! That was so much fun. I also learned a lot about all sorts of fringe folklore, from glaistigs to fachans to boggarts. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of all was learning about actual “gold blood,” a.k.a. rh-null blood, the rarest blood phenotype in the world.


Which character did you have the most fun writing?

It’s a toss-up between Biscuit, Zayn’s almond addicted familiar, or Dee Dee, Talia’s outrageous and totally inappropriate mother.


What is the one takeaway from Inked you hope stays with your reader?
Heroes don’t have to be powerful chosen ones, or even have their lives all figured out. Heroes can be messy and emotional and complex and flawed, and still be courageous people with hearts of gold.


What’s next for you and your writing?
The last installment of the Gilded Blood series, which will be my most epic novel to date.


What book(s) would you consider the perfect Christmas gift?
The Deluxe Color Edition of Inked (and Jinxed!) is always such a wonderful and unique gift. I also just created a full-color special edition omnibus of The Lightning Conjurer series that will be signed and numbered by me!


Is there a cause that’s important to you?

Animal Welfare is at the top of my list, only because they have no voices of their own, and no one to speak for them. Talia gets some of her bleeding heart from me, I’m afraid.


What is your 2022 Christmas wish?
That the ending of the Gilded Blood series will be everything its readers could hope for and more. And also, a raven familiar would be nice.
Oh, yeah, and world peace.

Next comes the whole premise of magical ink that can make tattoos come to life. I mean really. AMAZING! There was so much situational humor packed into that aspect of the story, and then of course the intrigue as you keep reading and everything becomes so much more complex and intricate.Zayn is perfect. On the scale of bookboyfriends I've wanted, he scores top of the list. To avoid going completely ga-ga, I'm going to move on to the next point. (Psst. You really need this man in your life. He's really perfect. I'm not just saying that. Okay, okay, I'll shut it now 🤣)But what I love even more than all of the above is Rener's cultural references that flow so smoothly and come across with effortless ease. And my personal favourite, as a South African, kudos go to the reference of Tolkien's childhood spent in South Africa. That definitely took the cake for me. Made my day. You get it!What makes this book even more special to me is that I received it as a gift and actually have it on my shelf. So I'll be reading it again and enjoying all this amazingness once more!

Dark Fantasy Romance: Fight for Darkness by Susan Stradiotto and S. Johnson

I thoroughly enjoyed this twist on the good vs evil trope so common to fantasy. Stradiotto puts everything we know and think about the age-old war on its head and comes up with something entirely new, completely engaging and really intriguing. I love the worldbuilding and I was completely immersed in the characters. This is a dark book, but that was to be expected with the title and the theme. It's well done. Often I feel like I'll get depressed with books that are too dark, but Stradiotto balances it well. This is also a steamy book and I really liked how those scenes are written. They are good. I didn't feel weirded out at any point, which is another thing that has happened to me with some steamy books.

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Where did the idea for Fight for Darkness come from?

The idea for Fight for Darkness came from several places. I wanted a story where the characters had bad things they were both recovering from and to explore their battles to become whole again. Kane's fight with his berserker is resolved in Book 1, but the story isn't over for Kane and Malin. They've come to a place where they can see their way forward...and Malin will eventually get her comeuppance.


What was your proudest moment for Fight for Darkness?

Seeing people's reaction to this collision of dark moment stories. It's an exploration of the human spirit, and I'm delighted with how readers are reacting.


What inspires you to write?

My inspiration comes from many places, but my favorite stories are stories of character healing in some way. I get the best flow when I've been touched by a situation in someone I know and I'm able to explore goodness coming out of the dark moment. I suppose that means I'm inspired by hope.


What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for Fight for Darkness?

I learned more than I ever wanted to know about MMA fighting. If you're a mid-tier fighter, you can make up to $250k per fight. The top tiers make millions from ONE fight alone.


Which character did you have the most fun writing?

I always love the tough female, so Malin is probably my favorite. But "The Rage" is a fun one too. My co-author took it to the next level of what I had planned, but it manifested in a much better place as a result.


What is the one takeaway from Fight for Darkness you hope stays with your reader?

There's hope even in the darkest of moments.

What’s next for you and your writing?

We will continue on with Conri & Kiera's story and getting Malin the completion of her revenge arc and healing from her sister's death. I also have some contemporary romance coming in 2023.


What book(s) would you consider the perfect Christmas gift?

Well... Fight for Darkness, of course. However, the answer to this question always depends on the reader. For someone who loves romantic epic fantasy, my go to is always Kushiel's Dart.


Is there a cause that’s important to you?

I don't have a primary cause that I'd list as the most important. In the last couple of years, I've worked a lot on efforts to support global literacy and victims of the war in Ukraine.


What is your 2022 Christmas wish?

My 2022 Christmas wish for everyone is peace, joy, and health. As my kids are adulting now, my personal wish is time with my family.

What was co-writing like for you?

cowriting with Sophia was amazing! Or maybe I should say she saved my butt in Realm of Darkness by agreeing to be my cowriter. I'm a plotter to the extreme, so much that I often underwrite. Sophia, on the other hand is quite prolific. We didn't plan it from the beginning, but it worked out really well. Sometimes writing can be a lonely endeavor, but with both of us, it gives me a real-time sounding board and feedback when I have terrible ideas. We are currently working on Book 2 (and 3) in the trilogy where I plot, she's writing, and I'm revising. The real key to this working is communication, though. We work in the same documents so we can see the other's notes and comments along the way.

New Adult Urban / Portal Fantasy: Inked by Rachel Rener

Christmas Interview with Susan Stradiotto

Adult Epic Fantasy (no romance):
In Solitude's Shadow by David Green

Wow! I'm still reeling from the aftermath of this book! It's utterly amazing. This is epic fantasy at its very most incredible best.

Anyone who says epic fantasy has to be endless series of "doorstoppers" has finally been proven wrong! Green shows that one can, indeed, write EPIC without it taking the reader months to get through a single volume.

The world-building is flawless. The magic system is brilliantly done and really weaves together several schools of thought into something unique but that also makes so much sense. The politics and intrigue drive the plot forward in a relentless torrent and is very well thought out, nicely revealing the different cultures with their prejudices. I absolutely loved how one of the characters, in his hubris, misinterprets a prophecy because he can't see past his own bigotry.


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Christmas Interview with David Green

Where did the idea for Fight for Darkness come from?

For the idea of Fight for Darkness, see Susan’s answer. She came up with the idea, and I helped cowrite. As for the upcoming books in the series, Susan and I did a lot of brainstorming over chocolate martinis.

What was your proudest moment for Fight for Darkness?

There is a certain moment with a tongue, and when I wrote it, I even surprised myself. Ha ha ha.

What inspires you to write?

The voices in my head.

What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for Fight for Darkness?

I’ll defer to Susan. She researched, and I just followed the plot. LOL.

Which character did you have the most fun writing?

Our MMC, Kane, has some serious anger issues, and at one point, they appear horribly, enter the “Rage.” I had a lot of fun with the amount of angst and action.

What is the one takeaway from Fight for Darkness you hope stays with your reader?

You’re not in it alone. A lot of these characters are struggling with different emotional baggage and they’re taking on it alone, but when they work together and voice their problems, they find that they aren’t alone. Everyone is going through their issues.

What’s next for you and your writing?

In 2023, I have four books coming out. Three books will be the follow up books to Fight for Darkness, and then I have the first book of a mermaid duology debuting too called "Beneath the Surface." Oh, and all these books will come out in a three-month span, so send good vibes and energy drinks.

What book(s) would you consider the perfect Christmas gift?

If I can’t say my own books, then I’ll go with Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (my favorite book series of all time and what got me into reading).

Is there a cause that’s important to you?

I don’t have a specific cause that’s important to me, but I support the United Nations’ refugee programs, the Trevor Project, and various local humane societies.


What is your 2022 Christmas wish?

Well, the right things that don’t make me sound like an a-hole: peace on Earth, end of famines and droughts, climate action, etc. Selfishly, for people to read my books, so I move out my parents’ house. That’s their Christmas wish too, and it would be a miracle!

What was co-writing like for you?

Amaze-balls because Susan is hella talented and funny! I was lucky when she asked me to coauthor with her because she’s taught me a lot and helped me break into the industry. I cannot thank her enough! Personally, Susan keeps me on track by plotting and editing because I fly by the seam of my pants and don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. I love her!

Christmas Interview with S. Johnson

The characters are so compelling. I was invested in each one's part of the story and I love how Green tackles the difficulty of portraying the perspective of both the likeable characters and the villainous ones too. Green has clearly mastered the style of presenting information through multiple perspectives. It's a relief to finally find an author who doesn't just do this well, but absolutely brilliantly.Several times while reading, I was reminded of the sheer wonder I used to feel reading J.V. Jones' books. Green has the same ability with words and the sheer magnitude of epic world building with memorable characters. The prose in this book is masterful and compelling.


I highly recommend this to anyone who'd like to read epic fantasy but feels intimidated by the size of most of the books in this genre, or for those who long to read this kind of fantasy once more but don't have the time to re-read Wheel of Time or Lord of the Rings. Bite sized and brilliant.

Where did the idea for In Solitude’s Shadow come from?

The idea was something that had been in my mind for quite a long time regarding a force that were seemingly invading another nation for unknown reasons that became apparent over time, even from before I'd started writing! The rest of the story then came after I sat down to write this premise and created the core set of characters. Most of the stories thrust comes from the worst fears and biggest challenges these set of characters could face.


What was your proudest moment for In Solitude’s Shadow?

I would say the ending. This was my first book and is a fairly self-contained and tight narrative so to widen the scope in the finale was a test at the time due to my inexperience but readers seem to have responded to the climax well, so it makes me very happy!

What inspires you to write?

My son, mostly. I started writing shortly after he was born with the idea of having something to show him when he was older, even if it was one short story in an anthology. Since then, we were both diagnosed with autism, so while my initial inspiration is there, I also want to show him what people like us can achieve and that we're just as capable as anyone else.

What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for In Solitude’s Shadow?

That the Romans thought the Gauls had a "lack of breeding" as they didn't dilute their wine!


Which character did you have the most fun writing?

Probably the Locke scenes as he is the least emotionally affected in the story, and his sight is firmly on a goal in mind. His sheer bloody mindedness was refreshing. Though I enjoy writing all of the characters for many reasons, he was the most "fun".


What is the one takeaway from In Solitude’s Shadow you hope stays with your reader?

Division only makes us all weaker.

What’s next for you and your writing?

I'm currently writing book 3 of the series Solitude belongs to. It's called Beyond Sundered Seas and I'm about 2/3 of the way through. As soon as that is done (hopefully by the end of December) I will write book 4 (At Eternity's Gates) to finish off the series. Solitude's sequel, Path Of War, came out in July!


What book(s) would you consider the perfect Christmas gift?

I think illustrated versions of books are wonderful gifts. So those versions of Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit and the Silmarillion. They're quite beautiful books. The Royal Collector's Edition of the Count Of Monte Cristo is wonderful, as is their version of Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Is there a cause that’s important to you?

Support for children with autism is important for me due to my son. I'm lucky he wasn't like me and was identified and diagnosed very early in life, and getting him the support he needs to live his life to the fullest is so important. There are lots of charities and initiatives in support of this nowadays which is great.


What is your 2022 Christmas wish?

That an indie writer I know makes it huge in 2023! Any of my friends will do, and if it happens to all of them then all the better!

Adult Epic Fantasy (with steamy scenes):
The Onmyoji Gambit by Xander Cross

I love this series. The Atlas Dystopia Apocalyptica was already breathtaking in the first book, The Origin of the White Wind, and Xander Cross has developed further, meeting my expectations at every turn. This new book raised the stakes even more and has taken things to a whole new level.


I adore Hayate's arms-dealer character in this book. He was fun before, but the sophistication matched with viciousness takes the underlying personality and makes it so much more terrifying. I also enjoyed the supporting cast very much in this novel. They've really been fleshed out and have come to life in their own right. It's a fabulous read and I simply raced through it. Could not put it down!

Onmyoji Gambit.jpg

Christmas Interview
with Xander Cross

Where did the idea for The Onmyoji Gambit come from?

“The Onmyoji Gambit” was originally the second half of “The Dragon Game,” but turned into its own book. The warehouse scene and Hayate becoming an illicit arms merchant were inspired by the movie “Free Fire” and the song “I Am The Enemy” by All Good Things.


What was your proudest moment for The Onmyoji Gambit?

My proudest moment was finally getting it published. This one took a year longer than I expected it to. 

What inspires you to write?

I feel driven to write, I have no idea why. There are set amount of stories I need to get out before I expire. Call it fate or whatever, I have always known that this is what I’m here to do.


What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for The Onmyoji Gambit?

It’s funny, I didn’t find out anything new for this book. Instead, I got to expand the The Atlas Dystopia Apocalyptica mythos from what I already learned. So, at last we get to see what a dragon immersed in its element is capable of, and see a little more of the creature that has been stalking Hayate since Book One. 


Which character did you have the most fun writing?

I always have fun writing for Hayate. This time, I got to show instances of Youta’s burgeoning madness as the dragon solidifies his dictatorship over New Tokyo. The cracks are showing in Youta’s benevolent façade, and Hayate is seeing these red flags despite being powerless to change direction. I also really loved writing the scene where Hayate and his Shadow finally join forces. 

What is the one takeaway from The Onmyoji Gambit you hope stays with your reader?

I am demonstrating what happens during a revolution through the eyes of a formerly starry-eyed participant, who thought he was on the right side. He is slowly learning there is no moral side, just strong men pursuing their own agendas for power. 


What’s next for you and your writing?

1.     Currently, I am working on “Ping and the Phoenix” for the “Enchanted Flames” anthology.  Next, I want to prepare my paranormal romance novella, “Come by Night” for commercial release in early 2023. On top of that, I am working on Hayate’s next book, “The Dame & the Tsukimono-suji” and finally delving into my original trunked series, which is a bardic fairytale for grownups.  

What book(s) would you consider the perfect Christmas gift?

This one is difficult to answer because when gifting books, it is very important they go to the correct reader. However, I will shamelessly plug the “Enchanted Forests” anthology because there is something for everyone of all ages, and the money goes to The Rainforest Foundation. 


Is there a cause that’s important to you?

Environmental causes are very important to me. Humans are doing some very terrible things to this planet, impacting the ability of future generations and other life forms to survive. I really can’t understand a species that thinks nothing of bringing about its own extinction so a few rich guys can have that extra yacht this year. It defies sanity.

What is your 2022 Christmas wish?

1.     My 2022 Christmas wish is for a really positive and amazing 2023 for all of us. Fingers crossed!

Anchor 3

Sophie's New Song by Michelle Whitfield

Sophies New Song.jpg

Where did the idea for Sophie’s New Song come from?

Working as a child and teen psychotherapist, I

recognized a pattern in the clients I was seeing---

they often had an absent parent and sometimes

both of their parents weren’t in their lives. I noticed these children and their families struggled with how to talk about this topic and navigate it. Since I wasn’t able to find many resources to better understand and work with these families, I decided to create my own!

What was your proudest moment for Sophie’s New Song?

It’s difficult to pick a moment but it felt great as well as surreal when I finally finished the project and held the book in my hands for the first time. It’s also a wonderful feeling if I hear that the book has made a difference for a child or their parent/caregiver who is coping with these issues.


What inspires you to write?
For Sophie’s New Song, I love the idea of a child seeing themselves in the book, not feeling alone, and creating some hope for how to cope with this type of complicated loss.

What was the most interesting/random fact you discovered while researching for Sophie’s New Song?
There is a mockingbird in the story that keeps popping up. I chose the mockingbird over other birds because I learned it can incorporate all kinds of sounds from it’s environment. I didn’t realize they could imitate anything from a phone ringing to a creaky gate and thought this was a great way to think about how we sometimes need new thoughts and new ways of coping like the mockingbird’s “new song.”

Which character did you have the most fun writing?
I would have to say Cooper, Sophie’s dog, was the most fun to write. Cooper was always there for her, waiting to listen, but also persistent and he wouldn’t let her run away from her problem.


What is the one takeaway from Sophie’s New Song you hope stays with your reader?
That if you have an absent parent you are not alone in your experience. It’s okay to feel whatever you feel about that particular parent and it’s important to share your experience for you to stay connected to yourself and to others.

What’s next for you and your writing?
I’ve been creating a workbook for teens with absent parents that builds on a lot of the themes and coping strategies from Sophie’s New Song.

What book(s) would you consider the perfect Christmas gift?

1)The Nature Fix by Florence Williams is very interesting and fun to read, especially if you find solace in nature. I read this book a while ago but a lot of her insights and stories have stayed with me.
2) Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village by Maureen Johnson and Jay Cooper was a gift I received last Christmas- a very quick and funny read if you like mysteries!
3)Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan is a great middle grade fiction book with the theme of an absent or estranged parent.

Is there a cause that’s important to you?
Supporting suicide prevention efforts is important to me. As of July of this year, you can simply dial or text 988 in the United States to connect to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The previous Lifeline number, 1-800-273-8255, is still available too if you are in emotional distress or a suicide crisis.

What is your 2022 Christmas wish?
In general, I wish for more peace for everyone, meaning both inner peace as well as more peace on our planet.

Children's Books Recommendations:

This is a must-have for all children with an absent parent, particularly in the age range from 5 to 10 years.

Sophie's mother is absent. The book is brilliantly written so that the reason for that absence is not mentioned, allowing each reader to come to their own conclusions. This means children growing up with an absent parent can overlay their own experiences onto Sophie's story. I think it could be a really amazing tool to help children cope.

The author also has a really useful set of tips for adults at the end of the book to maximise the benefit this book can have for children struggling to deal with an absent parent.

Christmas Interview with
Michelle Whitfield

Anchor 4

Traditionally published
YA Urban Fantasy: Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay


Those of you who know me already know I'm a massive GGK fan, and once again, he's charmed me with yet another "entirely different" book. Ysabel is an urban fantasy/magical realism novel set in France of the late 80s/early 90s and it's brilliant. I loved every moment of this rather unexpected deep dive into Celtic mythology, French landscapes and Canadian humour. Anyone who can think up a character who listens to "Houses of the Holy" inside an ancient cathedral deserves recognition for it. Loved every minute of this and particularly loved the young adult slant, since most of the other books by GGk that I've read are adult fantasy.

My top reading recommendations of all time

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