Ranger of Kings by C. J. R. Isely

Ranger of Kings (William of Alamore Series Book 1) by [C. J. R. Isely]

Ranger of Kings is the debut novel of C. J. R. Isely and is the first book in the “William of Alamore” series.

About the Book

Will, a common village boy, has always dreamed of becoming a knight. When he is suddenly, and unexpectedly, called to train as a squire in the castle of Alamore, he cannot believe it is real. He faces the challenge with the great determination to succeed, but soon finds out there is more to becoming a knight than he ever imagined.

Even at the beginning level as a squire, Will is suddenly thrust into action, danger, and battles he isn’t ready for but meets with determination and perseverance. He makes friends among the squires and finds that one of his friends has a knack for finding trouble.

Then one night, Will discovers something disturbing about his father, and the more he learns the more danger Will faces. Not only is Will suddenly thrust into a war, but is faced with mysteries about his father, about the Ranger, and about what lies beneath the castle of Alamore.

My Review

C. J. R. Isely is a talented writer. She has woven a tale filled with mystery and intrigue, action, danger, and adventure.

I was drawn into the story from the very first page and stayed up late several nights turning the pages because I just couldn’t put the book down.

C. J. R. Isely created delightful characters, each with his very own personality, character qualities, and unique voice. I found it to be fun to read the interactions between Will and his two closest friends. Their courage was inspiring and their banter made me laugh.

It was also quite clear that C. J. R. Isely possesses a lot of horse knowledge, as horses play a major role in this story as well. Each horse was also unique, and it was clear that C. J. R. knows what it takes to properly care for horses, how to ride horses, and how to train horses.

There were some small technical mistakes scattered throughout the books as far as wording is concerned, which I always find to be a distraction. However, in this book, as I was fully engaged in the action, mystery, and battles, they were more easily overlooked and less of a distraction.

Another thing I really liked about the story is that C. J. R. Isely gave me a satisfying ending. Though Ranger of Kings is the first book in a series, Ms. Isely wrapped up the ending with just enough resolution and a change that gave the story the feel of an ending even though I know there is more to come.

I really enjoyed Ranger of Kings by C. J. R. Isely and highly recommend it to those who enjoy action, adventure, mystery, danger, and fantasy. There are a few profane words within the story, but they are few and far between. There are also some bloody descriptions of those who were in battle, but I didn’t feel that they were gory or overdone. I would recommend this book for YA and adult readers, and, possibly, some middle grade readers.

I look forward to the next book in the “William of Alamore” series.

I give this book 5 stars.

Flash Fiction Friday: Miscalculated Rescue

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Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

Miscalculated Rescue

by Kelly F. Barr

Sir Tobias the Dragonheart rode through the woods upon his ebony warhorse. He followed the path to Redmont Castle. King Redmont’s soldiers had stormed the gates of Clayborne Castle a week before and had captured Princess Octavia. King Redmont now held the princess in a tower high above the Redmont castle walls, and Sir Tobias determined to rescue her.

Sir Fendril the Butcher and Sir Tancred the Hawk rode behind Sir Tobias. When Redmont Castle came into sight, Sir Tobias slowed his horse. Just inside the wooded boundary, he raised a hand, motioning the others to halt. He studied the layout of the castle, quickly spotting the tower that surely held Princess Octavia.

“I will hasten to the tower and use my grappling hook to gain access to the window. You two keep watch. Do your best to stop anyone from entering the tower room while I attempt to rescue the princess. Sir Tancred, use your hawk call to warn me of any impending danger.”

Both men nodded, and the three separated to take their places.

Sir Tobias undid the rope from his waist. He began to swing the rope in a circle over his head, letting more rope out with each rotation. When the rope appeared long enough to reach the window ledge, he gave a quick lasso-type throw, and sure enough, the hook landed, caught, and upon Sir Tobias’s tug, it held.

He paused to see if anyone had heard the clink of the hook landing and scraping into the window ledge. After a couple minutes of silence, he began his climb up the wall toward the tower. He climbed and climbed until his hands ached and his legs and arms burned. Finally, he reached the window ledge and heaved himself over its edge.

He landed on the stone floor with a clink of chain mail against stone. He heaved deep breaths in and out. The scent of lavender and roses floated on the air in the room. He looked up and noticed he was surrounded by Princess Octavia and twelve other women. How was he supposed to rescue the princess and ride off into the sunset now?

“Sir Tobias! You’ve come to save us.”

Sir Tobias rose to his feet. “Mi’lady, I have come to rescue you. I had no idea there were other women here. Who are all these ladies?”

“Apparently, King Redmont and his son have been capturing women and keeping them here for their own carnal pleasures.” Princess Octavia shivered.

Rage rose within Sir Tobias like a tornado. “They haven’t laid a hand upon you, have they?”

She shook her head. “Not yet. The prince wants to save me for himself. Claims he will make me his wife.”

She reached out and gripped Sir Tobias’s arm. “You have to get us all out of here. Some of these women have already been used and are ashamed. The rest cling to one another in fear every time we hear the key in the door lock.”

Sir Tobias began pacing back and forth. How could he rescue thirteen maidens with the help of just two knights and three horses? He moved to the window, looked down and spotted Sir Fendril with his bow, an arrow nocked and ready.

“Fendril!” Sir Tobias called down, and the knight looked up. “We need a wagon. Raid their barns and stables, and be quick about it.”

Fendril nodded and pressed his horse into a gallop around the left side of the castle.

Sir Tobias turned back to Princess Octavia. “How many come to take the ladies?”

“It is always three—one to lead the women, and two to follow.”

Tobias nodded. Those odds weren’t bad. He’d probably survive such a battle, but he still hoped to avoid a confrontation, if possible. Any battle would draw more unwanted attention.

Finally, the pounding of horses’ hooves and the rattling of wagon wheels reached Tobias’s ears. He peered out the window and took a deep breath. Fendril had succeeded in securing a wagon. Now the problem was how to get thirteen women down from the tower without getting caught.

Princess Octavia touched his shoulder and he turned toward her. “We can do it.”

He raised an eyebrow at her.

“We can make it down the side of the castle, if you can secure a rope around our waists to keep us from falling in case we lose our grip or footing.”

Sir Tobias frowned and his brow creased. The princess nodded at him. He looked around at the other women, who all nodded their agreement.

“Okay. Let’s give it a try. You will have to move as quickly as possible if we’re going to get all of you out of here undetected.”

The smallest woman stepped forward. “I will go first.”

Tobias quickly fastened a rope around her waist and clipped it to the grappling rope. The little woman climbed upon the window ledge, turned her back to the ground, placed her feet upon the edge of the ledge, held the rope in her hands, and began her backward descent.

When only the princess and one other woman remained, Sir Tancred released his hawk call and a chill ran through Tobias. Without wasting a minute, he tied a rope around both women’s waists and clipped them to the rope around his own waist. “The three of us must descend together.”

Tobias was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the two women adjusted to move as one with him. On the ground, he unclipped all of them and the women ran to climb into the wagon. As Tobias grasped his grappling rope to try to wrench it free, three heads appeared in the tower window. They began shouting.

Tobias released several curses under his breath as he let go his grappling rope and leaped upon his horse’s back. Fendril, his horse already hitched to the wagon, pushed the horse to gallop toward the road. Tobias and Tancred followed the wagon while watching over their shoulders for any trouble from behind.

As they raced through the gates of Clayborne Castle, Tobias shouted for the gatekeepers to shut and bar the gates quickly. The wagon and two horses came to a halt and curious Clayborne residents surrounded the wagon, staring at the women who clung to one another.

Princess Octavia stood up in the wagon and shouted, “Get back. Please. Haven’t you ever seen a group of women before?”

Sir Tobias grinned, dismounted his horse and strode to the back of the wagon. “Ladies, please follow me.” He helped the women down from the wagon, and Fendril and Tancred joined the group. Tobias led, and the rest followed him into the castle.

King Clayborne entered the large foyer and welcomed them, then sent the twelve women with several of the castle handmaids to be taken to rooms and settled for the night. Then he wrapped Princess Octavia in a warm embrace.

“Octavia, I’m so glad you are home. Are you … unscathed?”

“Yes Father.”

“Wonderful. Join me in the dining hall, won’t you?”

Octavia flashed a look toward Tobias, then turned back to her father. “Give me a few minutes?”

Her father chuckled. “Of course.”

As her father walked toward the dining hall, Octavia turned toward Tobias.

“Thank you for coming to my rescue, and for taking on the job of rescuing so many more.” She smiled up at him.

“Of course, Mi’lady. No woman should be treated as farm stock.”

Octavia grinned at the big man, stood on her tiptoes, and kissed his cheek.

Heat crept into Tobias’s face. He looked around to see if anyone was near enough to have seen the princess giving him affection.

Octavia giggled and grasped one of his large hands in her delicate one. “Come on. Escort me to the dining hall. I’m sure my father has an offer you can’t refuse.”

Tobias raised an eyebrow.

She looked into his brown eyes. “Don’t play innocent with me. You do want to marry me, don’t you?”

“M-m-marry!” Tobias spluttered.

“Oh come now. You’ve been vying for my attention for over a year now. You’ve already won my heart. You might as well accept the rest of me.”

This time, when she raised upon her toes, she placed her soft lips against his. His heart thumped in his chest, making it clear there was no turning back now.

Thursday’s Thoughts, Questions, and Comments About Writing

Today, I’d like to ask you to participate in a brief survey in regard to writer’s groups.

Please put your answers to the following questions in the comments section below.

  1. Are you part of a writer’s group or critique group?
  2. Does your group meet in person or strictly online?
  3. If you’re not part of a writer’s group, would you like to be?
  4. How do you benefit from participating in a writer’s group?

Next week, I will post results of this survey, as well as my own opinions and experiences with writer’s groups.

Timeless Tuesday — History Related to My Novel — Orphanages in St. Louis, Missouri in the 1800s

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Missouri Baptist Children’s Home, St. Louis, Missouri taken from (https://www.mbch.org/content/who-we-are/our-history/4)

St. Joseph’s Home for Boys (1835-1988) is a former Roman Catholic orphan asylum administered by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. (This photo and information taken from Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/Saint-Josephs-Home-for-Boys-1835-1988-St-Louis-MO-435351459833507/

Above are a drawing of an orphanage that was first opened on April 1, 1886 in St. Louis, Missouri and a photo of St. Joseph’s Home for Boys.

There was also St. Vincent Home for Children which was founded in 1850 following a cholera epidemic and a fire that left many children orphaned in St. Louis, Missouri. Because many Diocesan orphanages were already crowded at the time, an appeal was made to the German Catholic community. The German Catholic community responded by constructing the St. Vincent Home for Children in 1850. Five sisters of St. Joseph Carondelet took charge of the new home in 1851 and the first orphan arrived on July 25, 1851.

(I was unable to find out if there is any connection between St. Vincent Home for Children and the St. Joseph Home for Boys, which was also run by Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.)

I share this information with you because my main character ended up in a Boy’s Home in St. Louis, Missouri when he was 14 years old, and he remained there until he was 18 years old, when he went out on his own. The Boy’s Home isn’t mentioned in my story in great detail, or even more than two or three times, but it is a part of my main character’s back story. I imagine the Boy’s Home, where my main character lived for four years, to be similar to either St. Joseph Boy’s Home or St. Vincent Home for Children. I do specify in my story, that when my character was there, it as a Boy’s Home run by Catholic Sisters.

Both the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home and the St. Vincent Home for Children are still in existence in Missouri today.

Crystal Shadows: Gripping New Blood by R. J. Parker

Crystal Shadows: Gripping New Blood Kindle Edition

About the Book:

Crystal Shadows: Gripping New Blood by R. J. Parker is a middle grade fantasy story.  Sarah Field lives alone with her father, until she and her friends make a shocking discovery in Sarah’s attic — her grandfather, whom she thought was dead! He reveals an amulet — the Tellum Deos. He wants to know if Sarah can give it life so that they can use it to fight the powers of darkness.

My Review:

R. J. Parker did an excellent job creating interesting middle grade characters. Sarah and her friends are fun to read about, even though sometimes the things they say are quite random and don’t seem to fit what is going on in the story. Their curiosity helps them to discover Sarah’s grandfather, but also gets them into some interesting predicaments. The four friends have a close relationship.

Sarah also has a close relationship with her father, until she and her friends discover her grandfather. This causes her father to come a bit unhinged and creates stress, tension, and conflict between Sarah and her father.

The characters and the story line kept me turning pages. I kept waiting to see what the powers of darkness were going to unleash and what Sarah and her friends might have to fight against.

There were some disappointing things in the book: first, R. J. Parker used a lot of pronouns, especially when characters spoke, and sometimes the pronouns were mixed up or it was confusing as to which character the pronoun was being used for; second, the powers of darkness only unleashed one problem near the end of the book, but Sarah and her friends never used the Tellum Deos against it and the ending didn’t feel complete and didn’t offer a resolution to any part of the story. Therefore, it seems like this may be the first book of a series, though that isn’t mentioned anywhere; and finally, there are one or two characters introduced as “Sarah’s friends” at the end of the book that were never part of the story up until that point.

Despite these disappointments, I must say that I enjoyed the story and it kept me turning pages. I finished this book in just four days. The characters are definitely what kept me turning pages, even though the story line was also intriguing. I don’t think most adults would enjoy this story, but I would highly recommend it for middle grade children and even some YA. I hope that R. J. Parker does write, at least, a sequel to this book. I would like to read more about Sarah and her friends and actually see them use the Tellum Deos against the powers of darkness.

It was a difficult decision for me to come to a star rating for this book. But, based on how well it kept my attention, how quickly I read through it, and how much I liked the characters, I have decided to give it four stars.

 

Special Saturday Post: The Falcon and the Stag by C.J.R. Isley

The Falcon and The Stag: A Tale of Alamore by [C. J. R. Isely]

The Falcon and the Stag by C.J.R. Isley is a short story that introduces her “William of Alamore” series. It is a story of kingdoms and knights, and two brothers, the oldest who had been prepared to take the throne, and the youngest who wanted it.

This short story is filled with tension, suspense, conspiracy, and sibling rivalry. C.J.R. Isley does a fine job introducing the characters and showing their personalities and character, drawing the reader into the story and encouraging them to choose sides.

C.J.R. Isley captures and holds the reader’s attention from the first to last page, writing strong dialogue and tense scenes of confrontation and sword-fighting. C.J.R. even manages to throw in an unexpected twist or two.

This story is acceptable for young adults and adults. It may also be acceptable for middle grade readers, though there is some violence — nothing too graphic.

This short story is well worth the read, but be warned — after reading it, you’ll want to pick up the first book in the series, Ranger of Kings, which is exactly what I plan to do.

I give The Falcon and the Stag by C.J.R. Isley 5 stars.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Love of a Shepherd

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Photo by Douglas Bagg on Unsplash

 

The Love of a Shepherd

by Kelly F. Barr

A knock at the door startled Stella. She wasn’t expecting anyone. She laid her book on the table next to her and rose from her blue wing-back chair. She stepped from the living room into the short hallway that led to her front door. She peeked through the long narrow side window.

Surprised to find a tall man with jet black hair, piercing blue eyes, and a five o’clock shadow standing on her porch, she paused. As she considered whether or not to open the door, the man turned to look toward the front pasture and ran a hand through the dark waves crowning his head, then knocked louder.

Curious, she opened the door a few inches. “May I help you?”

A look of relief washed over the man’s face, and he said, “Oh, thank goodness someone’s home. One of your sheep has it’s head stuck between a couple of the wires in your fence down by the road. It is bleating quite loudly. I wasn’t sure if sheep bite or not, so I thought I’d better let someone know.”

“I’m sure it will be fine. I’m sure if it got its head through the fence one way, it can get it back the other way.”

“No, ma’am. I don’t think so. I’m not even sure how it got its head through in the first place. The wires don’t look far enough apart for its head to fit. Won’t you please check on it? I’d hate for it to get hurt.”

Stella couldn’t help but smile. “Well, thank you for letting me know. I’ll be right out to check on the sheep. You can just climb back into your car and drive on outta here.”

The man looked at her and hesitated for a minute. Then he turned and left the porch.

Stella waited until she heard a car start, then she stepped out onto her porch and looked down her long gravel drive. There was a silver convertible Ford Mustang at the end of the lane. She started to walk down the driveway. The closer she got to the pasture, the more she slowed her pace. That Mustang wasn’t moving.

Was this man up to something or was he just really that concerned over her sheep? She decided to enter the pasture’s gate and walk through the pasture to the sheep. That way, if this guy was up to something, the fence would be separating them.

As she approached the pasture’s fence line near the road, she could hear the distressed bleat of a sheep. The other sheep seemed uneasy and walked around one another, bleating from time to time as well.

When Stella reached the fence, sure enough, there was Lulabelle, the oldest ewe of her flock with her head stuck between two wires in the fence. Stella spoke to Lulabelle before getting too close to avoid startling the old sheep even more. “Oh Lulabelle, what have you done? Calm down. Everything’s going to be all right now. I’m here. I’ll get you out of there.” She continued talking to the sheep as she placed a hand on its back and moved to the fence. Stella was able to pull the wires apart, but had to untangle a wire from Lulabelle’s wool. As soon as Stella extracted the wire from the wool, Lulabelle pulled her head free. The old ewe ran to the flock letting out a much happier bleat.

Stella noticed that the wire she had taken out of the old ewe’s wool had come loose from the fencepost. That is what had enabled Lulabelle to get her head through. However, when she had tried to pull her head back out, the end of the wire had tangled in her wool and drawn tighter, creating a trap.

Stella grabbed the loose wire, moved it to its proper place, and began winding it tightly around the fencepost to prevent this from happening again.

“That sheep seems genuinely happy to be free.”

The voice startled Stella and the wire end slipped in her hand and cut a small slice in her index finger. It began to bleed. She looked up at the man, now standing outside the fence, the car door of his convertible Mustang open behind him. “You still here? I thought I said you should go.”

“I’m sorry. I just wanted to see the sheep freed. I don’t know much about sheep.” He looked at her through squinted eyes as the sun shone down on him.

Stella finished fastening the wire, then pulling a handkerchief from her pocket, wrapped her finger to stop the bleeding. She moved toward the stranger. She paused about four feet inside the fence.

“Sheep are stupid animals. That’s why, in the old days, there were shepherds who worked moving the flocks from grazing site to grazing site. The sheep came to know the shepherd’s voice and learned they could trust the shepherd. The shepherd not only herded the sheep to provide food, he protected the sheep from predators, and he loved the sheep. He made sure each and every sheep in his flock had a name, and he knew each one by name.”

“I heard you call the one that was stuck, Lulabelle. You named all your sheep too, didn’t you?”

“That’s right.”

“But how can you tell them apart? They all look the same to me.”

“When you raise sheep, you have to spend a lot of time with them. Sheep still need shepherds today, and when you spend time with them and love them, it’s easy to tell them apart. Thanks for letting me know about Lulabelle.”

“You’re welcome, and thank you for the sheep lesson.”

Stella smiled and nodded to the stranger, then walked up through the pasture toward her house, the sheep following her as she went.

Thursday’s Thoughts, Questions, and Comments About Writing

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Today I have chosen to address the topic of “head hopping”. Some of you may ask, “What is head hopping?”

Head hopping is when a writer jumps from one head to another (switches from one character’s POV to another) without warning. (POV is Point of View). This can be quite confusing to your reader. It can also jolt your reader right out of your story. It is simply that the writer tells or shows us what is going on inside their main character’s head, then in the next sentence, next paragraph, or next scene tells or shows us what is going on in another character’s head without warning.

For instance: Robert took Janie’s hand as they strolled along the beach. When his fingers entwined hers, an electrical current shot through his fingers and up his arm. He wondered if she felt it too. Janie nearly pulled her fingers from Robert’s at the strength of the jolt his touch sent through her. She studied his face for a clue that he had felt it too.

Notice that in the first three sentences, Robert is the character reaching out to take Janie’s hand and feeling an electrical current shoot through his fingers. Then he wonders if she felt it too. In the next two sentences, Janie is the character considering pulling her fingers from Robert’s because of the jolt she felt at his touch. Then she studies his face to look for a sign that he might have felt something as well.

Do you see how we jumped from Robert’s head (POV) to Janie’s head (POV) in the same paragraph, just a few sentences apart? If Robert is the main character and we are inside his head in this paragraph or scene, we should be shown his thoughts and feelings. However, Janie is probably a second main character as she is most likely Robert’s love interest. But Robert cannot know what she thinks or feels unless she talks about her thoughts or feelings or exhibits a physical reaction.

Some of you may not see a problem with the example paragraph. Maybe it doesn’t confuse you or pull you from the story. However, for most readers, reading an entire book written this way gets tiresome and confusing. This kind of writing doesn’t allow your reader to get deep into one character’s head–thoughts and feelings–to fully be drawn in and engaged with the story.

Does this mean you can only have one point of view character in a story to avoid confusing your reader or pulling them out of your story? Certainly not. You just have to learn, and put into practice, how to move smoothly from one character’s head to another’s to avoid the confusion and the possibility of pulling the reader out of the story.

How do you avoid this problem? Be aware of whose point of view you are writing in –which character’s thoughts and feelings is your reader experiencing? While telling and showing your main character’s thoughts and feelings, remain in that character’s head, sharing these things until a scene or chapter comes to an end. The best and smoothest ways to change to another character’s thoughts and feelings is to wait to begin a new scene, then add a page break (use a symbol such as an asterisk three to five times in the center of the page with a page space before and after it), or wait until you begin a new chapter. These two places make a natural place to change your character’s POV, and by placing the page break and symbol or changing the chapter, your reader will know something is going to change and will be ready for it–expecting it. This will prevent confusing and jolting your reader out of the story.

One more thing I want to point out is that a character’s actions and physical reactions can be written in the same paragraph or scene as the main character’s as long as the main character is with the character who is acting or physically reacting. The main character can see the other character’s actions and physical reactions as long as they are with that other character. The problem with thoughts and feelings is that your main character is not a mind reader and cannot possibly know what the other character is thinking or feeling.

I hope you find this article helpful along your writing journey. If you have any questions, comments or thoughts you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments section below. I will always respond.