Indie Writer Elissa Riley


Silhouette BOOK COVER by Elissa Riley

I’m extremely pleased to introduce Elissa Riley and her independently published premiere novel, Silhouette. I received a copy of the novel in exchange for a review. First, I have to say that I really love the cover for this book. When I first saw it I found it intriguing and after reading Riley’s novel I think it is a perfect choice to introduce the story of a land called D’or, and two fun new characters in YA writing, Leira and Tristan.

After the unexpected death of her mother, Leira Sky goes to live with her Aunt Agatha in a mysterious manor. The giant house seems to take Leira back in time with it’s traditions, housekeepers and maids and one often forgets that the novel is taking place in present day. Aunt Agatha plays a bit of a wicked stepmother that most of the other story participants fight desperately to avoid.

Then one day, Leira meets the sexy and mysterious Tristan, son of the angry, reclusive lord of the house. Curious about this beautiful young man, Leira follows him one day and finds him in his greenhouse. And so begins their interesting adventures of love, travel to fantastic lands with pixies, tiny mushroom men, weather that changes with a person’s mood, and sinister minions of a dictatorial king. (rated PG/PG-13 – the book is definitely in the YA genre, but refreshingly avoids the need for teenagers to have sex. However, intense descriptions of nightmares or some of the monsters in D’or may push the rating to PG-13 for younger readers)

Readers of The Story Realm will know that I enjoy getting to know authors, not just reading their work. And I was not disappointed by Elissa Riley. She kindly took the time to answer a few questions for us about her writing process and her book. Enjoy!

A Short Chat with the Author

SR: What is your writing process like?

Riley: I knew I wanted to write a fantasy.  This is my favorite genre, not only to read, but to write as well, as it opens itself up to so many possibilities.  I could stretch the story as far as my imagination would take me.  Really, the possibilities were endless.
14137359I’m also a big fan of love stories.  The characters become more relatable and I find myself more emotionally invested in the story.
So, once I had my basic idea (girl meets boy, girl goes to a fantasy world), I drew up an outline.  I found this extremely helpful in keeping me on track while writing.  Then, little by little, I filled in the gaps.
Once I had a finished story, I set it aside and worked on something else.  Sometimes, when I’m so deep into a project, it’s hard to see the details anymore.  After some time, I revisited the story, reading it from start to finish before making any revisions.  Then I repeated this process until I was happy with the end result.

SR:How did this story come to you?

Riley: As I’ve found is the case with many authors, the idea for this story came to me in a dream.  In particular, the image of Leira arriving at a cold, grey, uninviting mansion (which later evolved into Woodbury Manor), only to find herself surrounded by the haunting characters who live there.

SR:Did you enjoy writing a novel enough to try it again?

Riley: I absolutely enjoyed writing this novel.  I found it very therapeutic.  And, while the idea of writing another novel seems slightly daunting (this novel took me roughly four years from conception to completion) I found it well worth the effort.  I currently have several new book ideas in the works that I am extremely excited about.

SR:The description of Bodhi and his home is very interesting.  How did that image come to you?

Riley: Bodhi’s ability to view and alter the future, along with the imagery of his house dripping like wet paint were inspired by the painting “The persistence of memory” by Salvador Dali (the painting depicts several clocks that appear to be melting).  In Silhouette, the concept of time is warped for Bodhi and the idea of a fixed cosmic order is questioned by his very existence.  Bodhi’s house and body are physical manifestations of this idea.

SR:Who is your favorite character in Silhouette?

Riley: I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I have a strong affinity for Leira, as I find her the most relatable.  But the character that was the most fun to write was Nevayah.  Her unapologetic cruelty is so vastly different from my own personality, that writing a character like her was strangely gratifying.

SR:What is your current favorite book?

Riley:This is always a tough question, as my favorites list seems to be ever-growing.  But one book that I always seem to come back to is Stardust by Neil Gaiman.  It’s a magical tale, with beautiful imagery.  Gaiman’s command of the written word is truly inspiring.

Thank you to Elissa Riley for sharing her novel and a glimpse of her process with us here at The Story Realm! If you are interested in reading more about Silhouette or Riley there are links above or here!                        Silhouette            Elissa Riley

Happy Reading and Happy Writing!

Super Fun High Fantasy


Kings or Pawns


JJ Sherwood

So I have had the immense pleasure of reading the first installment of JJ Sherwood’s Steps of Power series, Kings or Pawns. I received a copy of the novel from the author and Sherwood is currently on a blog tour, stopping by The Story Realm today! I was also privileged to receive an audio copy on Audible, narrated by Matthew Lloyd Davies.

For fans of high fantasy, this is a super fun new series. The elven city of Elvorium is under threat from a savage warlord, Saebellus and it seems that the famous General Jikun is the only hope to defeat him. Despite the threat the warlord poses, the city’s council members  continue to thwart Jikun for their own personal gain. Intertwined amidst the story of war and political intrigue is the story of Hairem, a prince made king, who finds love in a council member’s daughter. Sherwood draws this first installment to a close that both satisfies our desire for answers but also leaves us salivating for more.

Kings or Pawns is a well done and detailed picture of a brand new world inhabited by humans, elves, dwarves and all manners of magical creatures. Her skills at world building and interweaving plot lines and the lives of multiple characters to form one amazing story is brilliant. The portraits Sherwood sketches of so many new characters are at once endearing and frightening and exciting. Jikun becomes, by far, my favorite character. He is strong, commanding and brave, but also compassionate and flawed.

I was able to ask Sherwood a few questions about her inspirations and favorite pieces of her work.

SR: Ms. Sherwood, when did you start writing?

Sherwood: I began writing in kindergarten. I wrote something about a cat and an “orange, orange pumpkin” with crayons and was probably plagiarized from something my teacher read me, so I’d say the first story I actually wrote came a few years later—when I wrote about a duck trying to get into an apartment during the rain (riveting, I know) and for all I imagine that too could have been plagiarized. Such is the mind of a kid. After that, it was something about a unicorn in a forest and time travel… I was seven, at that point.

SR: What was your inspiration for Steps of Power?

Sherwood: Well, as I mentioned, I’ve been writing for ages—and the first bits of the Steps of Power series popped up at about seven—Evrae was the first character I created and over the last twenty years, the characters and world-building has only grown. But as I’ve been working on it for so long, my family began to doubt that I’d actually ever publish. My grandmother said to me, “I’ll be dead before I ever get to read anything”—and thus, Kings or Pawns was born. I was inspired to begin the journey here as it is one of the most diverse in sub-genres and holds a great staple of the world-building in the series.

SR: Who is your favorite character in the series and why?

Sherwood: This depends wholly on my mood, but on most days, it is Jikun fairly easily. He is brave but respects fear. He is as noble as he is flawed. His is as sarcastic as he is cynical. I’ve always fancied that sort of character, and so Jikun is my go-to for the first novel. On other days, it’s Alvena, but she’s just downright delightful on any day of the week!

I am so honored to have been privileged to read a piece by such a talented writer. For fans of fantasy and adventure, Kings or Pawns would be a fun read! JJ Sherwood has created an intensely enjoyable high fantasy series that I will definitely continue reading.

For more on Sherwood and her work visit her website, Steps of Power. You can also find other blogs on her tour!


What I did this summer….


In honor of the start of school, I figured a short composition on “what I did this summer” would be fitting. And my summer was truly glorious! I loved it. It was refreshing and life giving. There were some hard parts and some strange parts, but there were far more really, really good parts.

I mentioned a few posts ago that some health issues had kept me from being attentive with my blog. My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in April of this year. So the biggest “hard part” of my summer was her bilateral mastectomy. As you can imagine, there were so many feels that went along with this. Some of those being prompted by the fact that I had to have the genetic testing done myself.

For those of you who aspire to mutantdom- well, my sister has made it. She is a BRCA mutant. I’m not going to lie, when she told me, there was a part of me that only heard the word “mutant”. I keep asking her when she will begin to shape shift or teleport. She keeps reminding me she isn’t that kind of mutant. So, I made her this: BRCA mutant(You’re welcome XMEN fans who are as annoyed with Jean Grey as the rest of us. Oh, and before you are offended by this post, please remember, we laugh so that we don’t cry. )

Then we spent 4 weeks at a Young Life camp in Weaverville, NC. Although upon arrival at camp, I had a rough couple of weeks as I sorted out my “feels” from the week before – testing and surgery and all that jazz. But the rest…the rest was beyond explanation. My girls awoke, dressed…sometimes in clean clothes, and ran out the door, only to materialize for sustenance.

We woke in the mornings to clear blue skies and a herd of horses in the field next to our cabin. We watched literally hundreds of teenagers pour off buses, expectantly ready for the best week of their lives. We sat with them while they heard the gospel – the greatest love story about the most sacrificial rescue plan ever enacted. We lived for these weeks with other families who had come to Windy Gap just like us, to help lead high school kids to the cross. That was one of the awesome parts of my summer.

After our 4 weeks were completed at camp, we went camping…actual tent camping. We left Asheville and drove to Michigan. We were packed like sardines. We had 4 weeks worth of clothing and belongings from camp, plus allllllllllll our camping gear. Oh….and our dog, Charlie.  She’s a French Brittany and she is pretty amazing and if she could talk, I’m 100% sure she would sound just like Apple Jack from the new My Little Ponies. The night after my sister had her big surgery, I went back to my mother-in-law’s house where we were staying. While I was putting the girls to bed, Charlie ate an entire bottle of junior ibuprofen. Then I took her to the emergency vet where she stayed in the puppy ICU for 48 hours. THAT was one of the strange parts of my summer.

Since she was in the car with us, on the way to Michigan, you can surmise that, no, Charlie did not die. So add that to the feels I was disecting my first week of camp. Anyway, 11 hours and many, many bathroom stops later, we arrived at our destination. Charlie stayed with some family friends while the 5 of us went camping.

We camped for 6 days at 2 different destinations. We swam in Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix. We witnessed sun sets we will never forget. My husband and I sat up by the fire at night and talked, or didn’t talk.  We just sat and were still and it was wonderful. We had such special time with our girls. This is definitely a family vacation we will remember and talk about forever. That was the other really, really good part of my summer.

So, 6 weeks later, we are home. We are settling back in to our routines. School kicks off in a matter of days and my magical creatures are one year further in school. One year closer to going on their own family vacations. So, I will be remembering and savoring hiking a mountain with my girls, watching them dance in the waves of Lake Michigan, hearing their little night noises from inside the tent as we shared a drink by the fire, watching them run unburdened and carefree across Windy Gap, seeing them balance on a paddle board for the first time and all of us sitting in awe and wonder beneath the rolling oranges, pinks and purples of the most magnificent sunset.

In a nut shell, what did I do this summer? I made really magical memories. Oh, and I may or may not have decided that when the zombie apocalypse begins, my family will bug out to a pre-planned destination on Lake Michigan…where we will have tree cover and an endless supply of fresh water and fish.


(this message has been approved by a certified BRCA mutant)