Dragons and fairies – interview with Ralene Burke

Today I’m interviewing Ralene Burke, author of the fantasy novel Bellanok. I just finished reading it, and it was a fun, gentle romp through a fantasyland with a heaping helping of faith. Here’s the interview!

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 1.  Welcome to the blog, Ralene! Thanks for joining us! First, tell us about your book. What genre/age group is it for? And what’s the story about?
Bellanok is a contemporary fantasy geared toward readers in their 20s. Although, I’ve heard from readers of all ages, including YA readers, who have enjoyed the story. Here’s the blurb:
A haven for myths and legends . . . until evil discovers a way in.

With evil darkening the mountains to the north, the fairy queen, Fauna, must journey from the island realm of Bellanok to the modern world to find the man the Creator appointed to save their kingdom. A man she has been dreaming of her whole life.

Brian is a down-on-his-luck pastor on the verge of giving up on God. He’s tired and frustrated–a failure. No sooner does he make a decision that jeopardizes his career than an unusual blonde woman shows up and tries to convince him he is some kind of savior.

Fauna must open Brian’s eyes to a different reality, and Brian needs to embrace the haven’s secrets. If neither of them succeeds, Bellanok will succumb to evil and the world will lose all trace of innocence.

2. What made you want to write this particular story?
It all started with a prayer. I was asking God for guidance on where to go after finishing edits on a WIP. The first chapter of Bellanok popped into my head. After a couple of days with that chapter demanding to be written, I sat down and cranked it out. That seemed to alleviate the urgency while I finished the current WIP, but the story was still building in the back of my mind. Once I had time, I was able to start cranking out the story.

3. What was your favorite part to write?
Any part with Roman in it? Seriously, Roman was my favorite character to write—mostly because he’s just so different from me. But he says many things that I wish I had the guts to say. Ha!

4. What was the hardest part to write?
I can’t tell you that without revealing a major plot point in the story. I will say, bring out the tissues! The second hardest part to write was the end. For several scenes in the final battles, Fauna and Brian are in separate places with different dangers around them.

5. This book was originally written in serial format. What are the pros and cons of writing that way?
Ah, yes, the serial project was an interesting experience. I had fun with it and would totally try to do it again (though I would change a few things).
Pros: The serial format allowed me to keep putting my name/story out in front of readers with each release, thus helping to build a following more quickly.
The serial forced me to think on my feet and make a cohesive story without being able to go back and change things. So it was a great exercise for stretching my writing muscles.
Cons: Ideally, each part of the serial would have released about 6-8 weeks apart. Due to life, that didn’t happen. So while the serial format did help to build a following, it wasn’t as effective as it should have been.
I don’t like not being able to go back to previous parts and change details or plot lines. Of course, that could be solved by writing the whole thing first—but that would have taken too long!

6. The theme of Bellanok is a journey back into faith. Why is this important to you?
It’s important to me because much of Brian’s journey is mine as well. I’ve always been a believer, but it wasn’t until my 20s that I reached a time when my faith was challenged, where I felt that I just couldn’t connect with God.
While it didn’t take me journeying to a mystical island to save unicorns to find that connection, God did have to bring me to my knees before I was able to see the problems.
I think many people go through the same kind of challenges—each unique to the person—but with the same struggles and desperation. Bellanok helps readers to sort through the coinciding emotions and thoughts while escaping with Brian to fight the battle and save the world.

Thank you for joining us on the blog today, Ralene! Best of luck with Bellanok and all future books!

Check out Bellanok on Amazon!

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RALENE BURKE BIO:
Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a freelance editor’s sword, or a social media wand, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to help everyone SHINE BEYOND! She has worked for a variety of groups, including Realm Makers, The Christian PEN, Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, and as an editor for several freelance clients. Her first novel, Bellanok, is available on Amazon!
When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . .
You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.

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Thankful for birthdays

Thanksgiving is this week, and I’m so thankful to be here, now, than last month, packing to move and cleaning like crazy.

The two youngest have their birthdays this week. Of course, cupcakes were in order, and we had them right after dinner.

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After a capital burger dinner, daddy lights up three cupcake candles.

 

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Blowing out the candles!

 

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Fat baby who turns 1 this week!

So many good things have happened that I’m thankful for. We’ve moved to a beautiful city. We have more room. My hubby is getting lots of hours, and he likes his co-workers. (That’s a big one.) I’m just thankful that we can go into the holidays without worrying about where we’re going to live. God has taken such good care of us.

I love velociraptors

You know how in my previous post, I talked about trying to figure out how to adult awesomely? And how I failed at it?

Well, I sort of rediscovered how much I love the Jurassic Park velociraptors. All I did was look up t-shirts, and …

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This is me. Especially with my glasses on.

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Okay, so they’re not ALL raptors, but they’re all very cool. My hubby wants me to stream games with him, and I need something fun to wear on camera, right?

I have to also not suck at games, but one thing at a time.

How I fail at awesome adulting

A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to start playing games with my husband again. Videogames, board games, card games. We met and bonded over our shared love of games, but as the babies have kept coming, I haven’t got to play them much.

We started off with Tiny Epic Galaxies, which I enjoyed very much. But he has lots more games that I don’t know anything about.

As I have been thinking how far behind I am with new releases and games, I ran across these articles about awesome adulting. Or what happens when you’ve poured so much of yourself into your family that you have no individuality left. No likes or dislikes. No favorite places or hobbies. The articles are about how reclaiming that part of yourself can enrich your family, not subtract from it.

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Lion by Youchenghong

So I started thinking. When it comes to games, I haven’t let myself play much of anything in about seven years. I get a month of World of Warcraft now and then. I played some Stardew Valley with the kids. I play Pokemon sometimes. But that’s been it. Mostly I watch other people play games. I have no likes or dislikes, no opinions. Only fading memories of games that I used to enjoy.

When I told my husband this, he was overjoyed that I want to rediscover this. In particular, he was happy that I need him to help me. I hadn’t realized how that whole aspect of our relationship had been shut down. It’s kind of sad.

I did start running a little premade Dungeons and Dragons campaign for the kids, with premade characters. Right now they’re solving a murder mystery, and loving it. But I still want to play with my husband, too.

I wrote this much of the blog at the end of September. Then we got our notice that we had to move. Here I am, six weeks later, moved, and I still want to learn to adult awesomely. I’m trying to play games, trying to write, trying to draw, trying to do the things that not only give me joy, but enrich others, too. As Donna Otto says, my first ministry is to my husband. That means games.

I think that will be my goal for 2017. As we head into the end of 2016, it’s a good time to think about these things.

What about you? Do you adult awesomely? Or are you like me, and pretty much struggling to keep your head above water?

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Close to Heaven by AlviaAlcedo

Gone in 30 days

So I didn’t blog for most of October. A few astute friends knew that we were moving under short notice. Well, here’s the story:

We’ve lived in an apartment in Phoenix, Arizona for three years. Our lease came up for renewal in September. We signed a new one and went about our business.

Then the last week in September, we found a notice on our door. It went something like this.

“Your lease has been declined because you are over occupancy.” (I’d had a baby last year.) “You have until October 30th to GTFO. Have a nice day.”

After the initial panic died down, we sighed and figured it was a good thing. We had five kids in a two-bedroom apartment. We really did need to move up to a three-bedroom.

We started hunting. And we found that the housing situation in Phoenix is a joke. So many people want to live there, and they’re willing to pay anything to do it, that most apartments are either super expensive or have years-long waiting lists.

While my hubby has a good job, he doesn’t quite make as much as the apartments want. We hit this wall over and over. A realtor finally gave us a list of low-income apartments to try.

Talk about a low point. I looked them all up. With the exception of two (which had massive waiting lists), low income housing is packed into a single giant tenement building. Very little landscaping. Just a big ugly box to cram as many people into as possible.

I have five kids, all of whom like to play outside. Living in a place like that would be a prison sentence for all of us. Not to mention the waiting lists.

We despaired. I cried a lot. We prayed desperately. And suddenly a thought popped into Ryan’s head: why not try Tucson?

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Mount Lemmon panoramic from Wikimedia Commons

We started hunting apartments in Tucson. It’s not having quite as much of a boom as Phoenix is, and the income requirement wasn’t quite as high. We found a 3-bedroom pretty quickly, and with some mathematical shenanigans, managed to make the numbers work so they would let us in.

We drove down a couple of times, and each time we liked Tuscon better. Ryan has lived there a few times, and took us around to some of his old haunts. We also took the kids to a park with a man made lake and let them throw food to the ducks. The mountains are gorgeous. It was like balm to my soul to look at mountains and water again. I’m from CA and have missed both.

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Mount Lemon Sky Island Parkway from Wikimedia Commons

We began packing and cleaning and donating stuff we never use.

Among other things, the ceiling in our bathroom fell in and had to be fixed. During intensive packing. Yeah, that was fun.

Then we rented the truck and started loading.

We had planned to load the truck in a day, drive to Tuscon, and unload in a day. In reality, it took us two days to load and two days to unload. It was just Ryan, me, and the kids. While the kids helped when they could, they’re simply not capable of hauling around boxes and furniture.

On the second day of loading the truck, we had planned to be packed and on the road by noon. The new place’s office closed at 5 PM, and we had to be there in time to get the keys.

Noon came and went. Then one. Then two. We worked harder and harder, and our stuff seemed to multiply. Why do we have so much junk, anyway?

At three, we decided that cleaning the apartment could wait until the next day or so. We hurled the last few things into the truck and high-tailed it out of there at 3:15.

It’s a two-hour drive from Phoenix to Tuscon. We screamed down there in the truck and car. Ryan had called the office and left a message to say that we were running late, and could they wait for us. So we came screeching into the parking lot at 5:30. Thank heavens, the manager was still in the office, though she was ready to leave. We got the keys. We got into our brand new apartment.

And it was too dark to unpack anything. For example, beds.

We bought a Papa John’s pizza to bake in our new oven for dinner. But we didn’t have any plates or forks to eat it with. I pulled it out of the oven with two shirts wrapped around my hands. I had a box cutter in my pocket from packing. It cut pizza all right. I also cut chunks from the cardboard plate beneath it to use as makeshift plates. We turned over a box to use as a table.

Then we (attempted) to sleep on the floor. It was a strange, uncomfortable night.

The next day, we were so tired from loading stuff the day before, as well as not sleeping, that we only managed to unload half the truck. We were assembling beds at 7 PM. That night we actually slept.

The next day Ryan went back to Phoenix to clean the old apartment, finish paperwork, and turn in the keys. I was faced with the daunting task of unloading the rest of the truck by myself.

I had been reading the Song of the Summer King books to the kids. That morning, I told them that we must become Nameless if we were going to finish the job–just like how Shard the griffin made the long flight over the sea on the advice of an albatross.


“Now this.” Windwalker looked forward again, and Shard watched him. “This long flight, my lord, comes at a price. You cannot think. You cannot think, ‘Oh, how tired I am.’”

Windwalker stretched his wings, then settled them into a glide again, and Shard imitated him. Stars rippled above and the moon bathed them and the top of the storm clouds in silver.

“You cannot think, ‘Oh, how far I have to go.’ You cannot think at all. For this long flight, you must give up yourself. To journey across the windward sea, you must let go of your name, and become part of the sky.”

“My name?”

“But it will come back to you. In time. Son of Tyr and Tor. You cannot truly forget, you who parted the storm, and named me. I don’t think you can forget.”

“You don’t think? But are you sure?” Shard had forgotten himself once, briefly, after almost drowning in the sea. Witless, he had climbed to safety on pure instinct, and woken to remember himself just before meeting Stigr for the first time.

“Trust you will remember. Too many thoughts will weaken you. You must be a bit of wind and sky, like me.” Windwalker stared ahead, unconcerned. Shard watched him, breathless fear crawling forward. “Remember only to follow me, brother of the sky. Remember only that.”

“You are wind,” Windwalker intoned. “You are feather and bone, and hunger, and thirst. And wind.”

Shard focused on his feathers, loosing a breath. I am wind. I am feather and bone.

I am wind. Feather and bone.

Wind. Feather. Bone.

Flight and blood and bone. Anything else is death.

Hunger, thirst and hunt.

Flight, feather and wind was life.

Blood. Feather.

And wind.


I had that stinking truck unloaded by noon. So it worked.

Then I had to unpack a mountain of boxes in order to make room for furniture. I’m a bit OCD–I like everything neatly in its place. The chaos of moving is torture for me.

Ryan completed everything on his end, and we unpacked for two days. I didn’t do anything else–I just unpacked for hours on end.

Once everything was done and arranged, I was so tired that all I could do was sit in a chair and stare. “It’s Nanowrimo!” the Internet exclaimed. “Also the election is nuts! Did you hear the latest?”

I sort of stared at the Internet without caring. We just came through our own personal apocalypse. I don’t have the energy to care about big scary things. I barely have the strength to cook dinner and sweep the floor.

So that’s where I vanished to for the entire month of October. Hopefully life and regular blogging will resume now.

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Mount Lemmon: butterfly trail via Wikimedia Commons