ETJ Writes

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Author Interview/Book Review – E.S. Barrison, “The Mist Keeper’s Apprentice”

Hello Friends!

Today I’m so excited to be sharing an exclusive interview with dark fantasy author E.S. Barrison, as well as my review of Barrison’s debut novel The Mist Keeper’s Apprentice.

I first stumbled across Barrison on Tumblr, during an event focused on character backstories, and almost instantly fell in love with Brent, one of her main characters. Since then, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with this talented fellow author, and I’ve eagerly followed along on her journey to publication, looking excitedly forward to the day when I would be able to read her work in full.

Following is the interview, and then my review of the novel below that. (I will note that, as this is an adult fantasy book, there is rather a bit of language sprinkled throughout, as well as allusions to sensitive topics, so younger readers (teens) are advised to read with caution.)


The Mist Keeper's ApprenticeThe Mist Keeper’s Apprentice by E. S. Barrison
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I definitely enjoyed reading this book. It’s always exciting to follow along on a debut author’s journey, and I’ve eagerly soaked up the excerpts and illustrations Barrison has been generous enough to share as part of her pre-publication process.

Funnily enough, while I initially fell for Brent from the snippets posted on tumblr, when I actually started reading, I found I really connected with Rho. She’s quite intriguing, and has both an inner and outer strength that is perfectly tempered with her gentle and kind character. Rho was really the highlight of this novel for me, and she is a wonderful complement to Brent, who is determined to give up on himself from the very first chapter.

The prose was easy reading, which sucked me right into the world of the book, and I was never bored at any point. The novel moves along at quite a fast clip, allowing some down time here and there, but never lingering in any one place for too long, moving the reader along with the characters through each next adventure (some rather more bizarre than others!)

I did find the worldbuilding to be a bit confusing at first, but the more I read, the more was revealed, until I felt—for a time—that I also lived in Rosada, and understand this strange, and yet oddly familiar, world. There are a lot of characters and places, but the only ones I really struggled to remember were the Council—and I think that’s because of how sinister most of them seemed, blending together as a sort of faceless “bad.”

And speaking of the Council—while the Order were ostensibly the “villains” of the novel, lurking in the background, and pulling the shady strings of Brent and Rho’s lives, I found the Council—with their contradictory and obsfucatory ways—to be just as, if not more, unsettling. I felt terribly for Brent through much of the book, running from one bad situation headlong into another, all the while surrounded by people who professed a desire to help him, and never quite sure who to trust.

Brent’s powers were pretty cool, his abilities regarding stories something I think any storyteller can relate to, and the way the novel ended—wow! I’m highly intrigued about where his path will take him next.

Overall, I had quite the entertaining time reading this novel, and I think other fans of fantasy will have a wonderful lark indeed in this strange little world Barrison has created.


View all my goodreads reviews

So there you have it, my review of “The Mist Keeper’s Apprentice.” But don’t just take my word for it, pick up a copy for yourself, and be swept away by the mists of adventure!

You can find E.S. Barrison here:
headshot

 

And her debut novel can be purchased through Amazon (among other major online book retailers).

Happy Reading,
~ETJ

⚡THORUNN⚡ IS HERE!

Announcing Esther T. Jones’ Sophomore Novel:

⚡THORUNN⚡

I’m so thrilled and excited to announce that my second book (and debut Young Adult Science Fiction novel) Thorunn is now available both as a paperback and an eBook from Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.

The novel can also be purchased directly from this website.


This thrilling story is set in the far future, with a shady government, a vibrant alien culture, and fantastically imaginative tech. ⚡Thorunn⚡ follows the stories of Kenton Wishings – whose entire family was brutally murdered – and Laine Riven – a rebellious teen spirited away to the mysterious planet by his at-wits-end parents. Their paths clash amidst tragedy and betrayal, and despite how hard they try, neither teen will escape unscathed.

Time is running out as frix season closes in, and their only shot at victory hinges on outrunning the seasoned bounty hunters, savage creatures, and unpredictably violent weather trying to kill them every step of the way. . .

“The world Jones produced is absolutely brilliant . . . from start to finish, I wanted to know more!”

– S.V. Filice, author of “The Summoning (Moral Bloodlines, #1).”

Enjoy following Kenton and Laine’s epic adventures, whether in print or digital media, and be sure to join the mailing list to receive updates about exciting new content, contests, giveaways, and more.

Bonus content in the form of a series of backstory vignettes focusing on Kenton’s best friend Bo can be found on Wattpad here: The Many Misadventures of Bo, and official ⚡Thorunn⚡ swag (mugs, cups, stickers, & T-shirts) is available to purchase via NEXT-GXN on Redbubble.

A special thanks goes out to the author’s wonderful brother, professional artist Don Jones, who was also the novel’s alpha reader, illustrator, and cover designer. (And what a stunning cover it is!)

Additionally, you’re personally invited to the ⚡️THORUNN⚡️ Virtual Book Launch Party taking place on Instagram Live & Twitter starting at 1:00 PM. Talk directly to moi, the author, and get a chance to win some of the swag mentioned above – don’t miss it!

Currently, I’m working on a few stand-alone novels as well as a multi-book series set in a distant and mysterious era, and I can hardly wait to share these next books with you all!

Keep up with me on instagram and twitter, and happy reading!

Esther T. Jones

Official ⚡️THORUNN⚡️ Spotify Playlist

Here it is, friends, the official ⚡️THORUNN⚡️ Spotify playlist, all 85 mins of it!

I listened to these songs quite a bit while drafting, revising, and putting the finishing touches on my novel, and it’s carefully curated (if listening from the desktop, or premium on the app) to give y’all the perfect ⚡️THORUNN⚡️ listening experience. A good bit of these songs could apply to either Laine or Kenton, (though some are specific to each – kudos to you if you can accurately guess which!) but some also center around other characters – both friend and foe – and around themes from the novel: family, loss, forgiveness, hope.

The playlist starts off rather melancholy (given what happens to Kenton’s family in the beginning of the book), and bounces back and forth between anger and grief – with some encouragement slipped in between here and there – before leading to a defiant, hopeful ending. I’ve included some relevant lyrics from each song and there’s a mix of styles and genres from a wide variety of artists, though it does trend in the alt/rock direction. Music from the 70’s all the way to recent years has made the list, and there’s even a South African song gracing this collection!

⚡️THORUNN⚡️ releases May 20, 2020, everywhere books are sold, and I would be utterly delighted if y’all gave this playlist a listen while reading. It’ll definitely enhance your experience, and give you a peek into my state of mind while writing.

See y’all at the virtual booklaunch party on my Insta Live, Wednesday, starting at 1:00 pm EST!


1. Fix You – Coldplay

2. Umama – Sjava  

English Translation:

3. O-oh Child – The Five Stairsteps

4. Wolves – Down Like Silver


5. Drifting – Adelitas Way

6. Gone Away –  Five Finger Death Punch

7. Nothing Makes Sense Anymore – Mike Shinoda

8. Faint – Linkin Park

9. Talking to the Moon – Bruno Mars

10. Still Here – Digital Daggers

11. Speak to Me – Amy Lee

12. Running From My Shadow – Mike Shinoda

13. Somewhere I Belong – Linkin Park

14. Waiting for the End – Linkin Park

15. Legends Never Die – League of Legends

16. Paint it, Black – Ciara

17. Robot Boy – Linkin Park

18. Dear Agony – Breaking Ben

19. Soldier – Fleurie

20. Gallows – Katie Garfield

21. Here I Am – Tommee Profitt

22. Love Hurts – Incubus

Can you tell I’m a Linkin Park fan?😉


Happy Reading!

~ETJ

THORUNN by Esther T Jones

THORUNN, a tale of trust, doing all in your power to look out for those you love, and trusting your sense of self above all else to do the right thing

THORUNN by Esther T Jones

Hello Friends!

Just popping in quickly to share this lovely ARC review for Thorunn. So excited for the rest of y’all to be able to get your hands on the novel in less than two weeks!

Until then, Happy Reading!

~ETJ

How to Get Free Books!

(If you cannot afford to buy)

Hello Friends!

In these trying times, escaping to a different world via a great book is what many of us are craving right now. Unfortunately, it’s also leading some people to start pirating books, which hurts struggling authors (which is the vast majority of them) and is generally just not kind.

Therefore, I would like to take this time to remind readers that there are some wonderful ways to get free books that still support the authors (taken from a post I wrote on tumblr some time ago):


  • The Library – if the library doesn’t have the book you want, ask them to buy it. I’ve never actually had to do this because the interlibrary loan system works so extraordinarily well, but if by chance the book is not on file, they can buy it for you. This benefits both the author and the library! (Side note: for indie books this works best when there’s a paperback in addition to an ebook available, and the book can be purchased outside of amazon.)
  • Digital Libraries – slightly different in that these only stock ebooks, but services like HOOPLA, OVERDRIVE, & LIBBY are free reading apps that work in partnership with local libraries to give and maintain free access to thousands of books. The more you use any library services, the better the chances of those services sticking around.

  • Free Amazon Books – Go to the kindle store on amazon, type in “free kindle books,” and thousands of results pop up. All you need are an amazon account and a kindle app (free to download for iOs, Android, PC, & Mac), and you’re good to go. Yes, a lot of the free books will be romances, but many other genre authors who are part of KDP select will put their books on freebie deals for a few days every now and then. Twitter is also a great way to find these freebies, just browse the #freeEbook hashtag.

  • Become a Book Reviewer – All of us have thoughts and opinions about literature, and reviews are coveted by both the traditional and indie published book industry alike. Popular book bloggers and booktube channels are often contacted by authors and publishing houses and are sent free books (usually ARCs) in exchange for honest reviews.
      • Smaller book reviewers can participate in blog tours (search twitter/instagram to find these) for new releases, both indie and trad, and/or sign up for a NETGALLEY (or similar website) account. Netgalley, BookSprout & BookFunnel are all sites that send readers free ARCs in exchange for reviews.

These are the best ways I personally know of to get free books and still directly support authors, whether it be by review or having a library purchase their books, and they help everybody in the book world.

(Let’s be honest, most of us have a mile long TBR, and so while some of the above methods require waiting, we have lots of books to read in the meantime. And if you do run out, there’s always AO3.)

That being said, happy reading, my friends! Let’s stick to imaginary piracy only, inside the pages of a good book, and practice kindness in our real daily lives.

~ETJ

All images sourced from unsplash or pexels

Thorunn Giveaway & Pre-Order Announcement!

Hello Friends!

Today is a very exciting day! For the last few years, I’ve been feverishly working on finishing my sophomore novel – my debut Young Adult Science Fiction novel to be exact – and I’m so pleased to announce that Thorunn (releasing May 20th, 2020) – is currently available for pre-order!

Many thrilling adventures await within the action packed pages of the novel, enhanced by cool futuristic tech, mysterious shape-shifting aliens, and heart-stopping (literally!) escapades, all underscored by themes of loss and forgiveness, hope and heartbreak, and greed and sacrifice.

The shadow of the Hexagon looms large over Laine, Kenton, and Bo, and they have no idea whether they’ll escape alive. . .

Me and BookYou can pre-order paperback copies through Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, or your favourite local indie book store, (paperbacks will be available through Amazon for US costumers shortly), and ebook copies through Amazon, Apple Books, and other major online e-retailers. Additionally, Thorunn will be added to the Overdrive and Hoopla catalogues, so don’t forget to check out those sources as well.

Speaking of libraries, I’m inviting you to be a part of my street team, and help make Thorunn a smashing success in its debut year!

Even if you plan to purchase a copy, one of the best ways you can help out is to request a copy from your local library. That way the novel can be enjoyed by hundreds of teens who might not be not able to purchase a copy themselves. (It also makes the libraries very happy that their services are being used to further the love of reading.)

Another thing you can do right now is to head over to Goodreads, and add Thorunn to your “want to read” shelf. Don’t forget to go back and leave a review once you’ve finished reading the novel! (And if possible, a review on Amazon would be highly appreciated from me.)

The last bit of exciting news today is that I’m hosting a giveaway! Two special winners will receive a signed paperback ARC, and five lucky people can get their hands on an exclusive eARC before the book releases in May!

To enter, simply follow me on Twitter (@etjwrites), retweet my pinned tweet, and tag me and two friends telling me how much you’d love to win a copy! This giveaway will be open until the end of March. Winners will be notified publicly and by DM.

I am planning a launch party, and the details of that will be announced very soon, so be sure to subscribe to the ETJ Writes Newsletter to be informed of when and where that will take place.

In the meantime, you can whet your appetite by checking out some sneak peeks of the novel over on Wattpad (and hurry, once the book comes out, many of those chapters will disappear!) or dive into Bo’s backstory, and his time as a kit living in the Hinnom Forest after the terrible events of chapter one.

I’m inexpressibly excited to go on this book launch journey with you all, so check that pre-order box, mark your calendars for May 20th, and get ready to join the fight to save Thorunn!

Happy Reading!
~ETJ⚡

THORUNN

How to Turn any Kindle eBook into an Audiobook with this Simple iPhone Hack

Hello Friends!

In this article I cover how I seriously got into audiobooks, and the solution I discovered to get my phone to read aloud to me.

[Watch Video or Jump to step-by-step solution.]

You may recall that in my “Top 5 Books I Read in 2019” I mentioned that I struggled to read traditionally published books during college and for a few years afterward. Part of that, for me, was the work of having to commit to a new world, new characters, and plots. Once I’ve gotten into a series, I’m fine, it’s the getting started that’s the issue. (As opposed, to say, fanfiction, where I’m already attached to the worlds and characters I’m reading about.)

But early last year I was bound and determined to read more than one original work a year, so I set my Goodreads reading goal to 50 books, hopped on Twitter, and downloaded a varied selection of books to the Kindle app on my phone.

At first I was reluctant to try audiobooks. I’ve always been able to read much faster than I can listen, and I always felt I would be wasting time by listening to books instead of sitting down for a dedicated hour or three. But during college and after, I found that that dedicated hour or three was constantly being filled up by other things – writing, music, work, so I thought “What could it hurt? I might as well listen to a book and get two things done at once, even if it’s slower than reading it would be. I’m not reading anything at all, otherwise.”

As it happened, in late 2018, I’d stumbled across the Kingfountain series by Jeff Wheeler, whose books in the KindleUnlimited program all have the whispersync audiobook feature (meaning that one can listen to the audio recording without having to have audible).

The Kingfountain series was for me the perfect introduction into the world of audiobooks. I was forced to slow down and really absorb every word, as I couldn’t go back and re-listen to a certain phrase or paragraph if my hands were busy and I’d missed it. I started to deeply, in a way I hadn’t before, appreciate the care that other authors put into crafting every word, every emotional phrase. And I couldn’t get enough. I was suddenly reading 2-5-10! books. I would listen in the car, while doing dishes or laundry, or working out, or mundane work on the computer, gardening (practicing scales sometimes even!) – you name it, if I could listen and keep my hands occupied at the same time, I had a book on.

But I ran into a problem. That problem was that not every novel has an audiobook accompaniment. There were all these books on my Kindle that were piling up and I wasn’t listening to them. I knew that Kindles have a text-to-speech option, but I didn’t have a Kindle, only the Kindle app, which doesn’t have that feature (if amazon ever adds it, I’ll be thrilled, and update this article). I tried several different third-party apps, but nothing worked well.

Still determined, I experimented with the VoiceOver option from the Accessibility settings on my phone. That was a bit disastrous. But I was on the right path. And that right path led me to the solution, also located in the Accessibility section of Settings. I tried it on the book I was struggling to find time to read about the middle of 2019, and I never looked back.

And, dear readers, here is the “hack” I discovered.

(This solution is for iPhone, but I imagine Android and other smart phones have similar capabilities.)

I enabled Speak Screen. This setting allows you to use a simple finger gesture to activate the iPhone’s internal text-to-speech feature to read webpages and other detected text content. (Unfortunately it doesn’t work on PDFs, at least not yet.) It does take a little fiddling to get it to work correctly on the Kindle app, but once it gets going, it works like a charm.

Part 1 – Setup
(These steps only have to be done once, but can be adjusted as needed.)

Step 1. Locate Speak Screen from Settings>Accessibility>Spoken Content. (This might vary slightly depending on which version of IOS your phone is running.)

AccessibilitySpoken Content Speak Screen

Step 2. Toggle it on. (I would avoid turning on the other settings, as they can be a bit frustrating, but feel free to experiment with what works best for you.)

Speaking RateStep 3. Set the speaking rate. (I find the middle works best for me. Too fast is difficult to comprehend, too slow strands us firmly in the uncanny valley.)

Step 4. Select a voice. (There are a lot of voices, but I prefer to go with a female British voice. It’s very soothing, the inflection is usually correct, and it reminds me of listening to audiobooks as a child.)

Step 5. (Optional) As you have Speak Screen read aloud, you might notice it butchering some simple words, or struggling with fantasy novels’ pronunciations.

PronounciationTeutaOne that I’ve noticed is that it thinks “No.” (with a period at the end) is the substitute for “number” and so reads it that way. Consider adding in some alternate pronunciations if this bugs you – just make sure you tap on “Languages” and set it to your preferred reading voice.

Step 6. Open up your Kindle app.

Step 7. Make sure to tap on the page, and select the “Aa” from the top of the page to bring up the Kindle app options menu.

Step 8. Make sure that “Continuous Scrolling” (if the book you are reading supports it) is turned off.

AaContinuous Scrolling

This is because Speak Screen refuses to work in the Kindle app if this option is enabled.

Part 2 – Execution
(Just four more steps and your Kindle ebook will be an audiobook!)

Step 9. Set your volume to high and your brightness (if not plugged in) to as low as you can stand. This can be done from inside the app and with the volume control buttons on your phone, or by rapidly tapping home twice and swiping up to accessing your iPhone’s Control Centre.

Step 10. (This is where it gets a bit tricky!) Swipe down firmly with two fingers from the top of your iPhone. If not done correctly, this might swipe down the Notification Centre. Just slide it back up, and try again.

Step 11. (Vital!) Once the screen reader playback box appears, swipe to the page before and then back to the page you started out on. This will prompt the screen reader to keep reading once it reaches the end of the page. Otherwise, it will stop at the end of the page.

Step 12. Tap the arrow to hide the screen reader playback box. This will also help prompt the screen reader to keep reading.

Kindle Speak Screen PlaybackKindle Speak Screen 2Sometimes there is an issue where initially the screen reader will read from the previous or subsequent page. In this case, close the Kindle app, reopen it and repeat steps 10-12. This might have to be done one or two times to reset it correctly.

Step 13. DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR SCREEN. If you do, the screen reader will read to the end of the page, then stop, and you will have to repeat steps 10-12 again. In fact you will have to repeat those steps if the Speak Screen is disturbed in anyway (a phone call, going to another app, etc.) This is the purpose of setting the brightness and volume level before starting.

The brightness level is especially important here, because if your phone is at half/full brightness, unplugged, the phone will die rather quickly. On low brightness, it will last for a long time if not plugged in. I suggest having a car charger if listening on long car trips.

Speak screen also works for the Wattpad app (but you have to back in and out of the app for every chapter to avoid it reading the ads by mistake, so it can be a bit of a hassle), and for A03. On websites, you usually can turn the screen off or use other apps at the same time, because of the vertical non-stop scrolling. It’s just the page turning aspect of the Kindle app that forces the issue.

Yes, the Speak Screen output does take a bit of getting used to. There are no variances between voices for different characters, or for dialogue versus prose, but for a synthetic voice, it does a decent job. Good stories shine through, and badly written stories are immediately apparent.

And there you have it! How to get your iPhone to turn any Kindle book into an audiobook. I trust this will open far more reading possibilities for you all. It definitely has for me!

Happy listening!
ETJ

Thorunn – Cover Reveal!

Hello Friends!

I’m so thrilled to be able to finally present the cover for my next book, Thorunn!

Loss, hope, forgiveness, betrayal – these are the defining themes that run deeply through Thorunn’s core, wrapped up in the closely twined stories of Kenton & Laine.

I was blessed to again be able to work with the same fantastic cover artist as I did for my first novel, my wonderful sibling Don Jones, who is also my long-suffering sounding board. He did an amazing job of capturing the most important elements of Thorunn and representing them on not only the front, but the back cover as well! (Keep an eye out for the post announcing physical arcs; you’ll be treated to a 360° display of Thorunn.)

A little explanation on the image presented below. It features both Kenton – hooded and holding a very important device called a “quirn” – and Laine, with his signature leather jacket, and a Cloud 47 at his hip. The blue represents the deep blue of Thorunn’s sky – alien yet beautiful – as well as the peculiar energy given off by frix, an enigmatic type of electricity that is Thorunn’s most distinguishing trait.

So as to not spoil some key plot points, I’ll let you all decide the significance of what details I haven’t mentioned, and without further ado, I present the gorgeous cover of my debut Young Adult Science Fiction novel, Thorunn:

Thorunn Cover


Nine years ago, Skytown soldiers brutally murdered Kenton’s family. Now those same men aim to return and destroy Kenton’s hard-won, idyllic life amongst the peaceful shifter people of the Hinnom Forest.

Meanwhile, Laine Riven – dragged from Earth to Thorunn against his will – is stuck navigating an unfamiliar school, his jerk of an uncle, and the rising threat posed by the Outpost Terrorist.

When their paths clash amidst tragedy and betrayal, Kenton realises he and his best friend Bo may have rushed headlong into a situation too impossible to fix.

Time is running out as frix season closes in, and their only shot at victory hinges on outrunning the seasoned bounty hunters, savage creatures, and unpredictably violent weather trying to kill them every step of the way. . .

Coming May 2020

Keep an eye on this blog for pre-order and launch party updates!

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