Friday, March 25, 2022

Book Review: Whispers of Stone by Allegra Pescatore

                         A white man with dark brown hair and a beard stands in front of a fence with trees and a palace behind. He has a small, white dragon on his shoulder. He wears a long dark jacket and trousers. In one hand he holds a satchel at his side and the other holds a golden circuit. The author's name is in white across the top and the bottom has the title written in gold.

Note: I received a copy of this book in order to review it.
There will be brief mentions of rape (a slight spoiler), racism, and ableism.

Picking up directly after Where Shadows Lie, our protagonists find themselves in various states of danger. Elenor's father is dead, and she is accused of his murder; it doesn't help that her mother is missing and her scheming aunt has arrived in the kingdom. Gabriel has aligned himself with Elenor while trying to control his unlocked magical potential. Fedrik has an ability that just might doom the world... even with Fayrian's help. Daemon keeps ticking off the wrong beings. And a golden god seeks vengeance for the death of another.

I loved the first book, so I was a bit skeptical going into this one as sequels can often disappoint. There are more books to the universe than I thought, and I only found out about them in this book. The book is split in two due to length (the next book arrives this summer). Despite my concerns going in, they proved unfounded. The series is in a universe with other books (but can stand alone). While much is left unresolved in this book, it doesn't leave me feeling like I'm on a ledge waiting for rescue.

The characters feel genuine. Elenor anguishes over her past decisions and deals with the impact of an illness flare (which can affect her ability to make decisions). Fedrik is lost and dealing with the fury his new Gift gives him. Fayrian is still a smartass, but she also has a small sense of hope underneath. There are a lot of tough emotions in this novel but also tiny sparks of strength and joy.

There are a few minor characters with various disabilities. Phoebi is a grandmother with cerebral palsy. Mari is an amputee who had her hands cut off for being part of the rebellion. Suela has no eyes. I'd say Alehan has PTSD, but it isn't confirmed.

Schemes and plans are amped up in this installment. Elenor must find a way to get out of her aunt's terrible trap. Each god has plans (and pawns) that continue to move forward. I could feel the clock ticking, and I'm excited to see what the author does going forward because there are a lot of threads to tie together.

The world still feels like a real place. Readers are given more details on the complex (and somewhat unique) magic system. Places come alive with just the right amount of detail. The lore is evolving with each book. Supplemental materials (including a recap of the first book) exist in the back of the novel to assist readers with remembering characters and events.

Ableism and racism are vaguely present in this world. I counted one instance of each. 

Spoilers: At one point in the book, Elenor has sex with someone she doesn't want due to blackmail. I consider this a type of rape, though the person she beds isn't the one blackmailing her. She is given a tea to make sure an unwanted pregnancy doesn't occur.

There was a novelette after the book that details the time Gabriel spent caring for victims of an epidemic during his last year in school. The doctors go through burnout, there aren't enough beds or medications for everyone, and certain patients are immediately given palliative care because they aren't considered worthy of saving. Yes, it's very reminiscent to the pandemic we just went through, but the illness and the devastation it caused parts of the world were already present in the book before COVID-19 came about. Even so, it might be hard to read for some people.

I definitely recommend this book and have high expectations for the next one!

Friday, March 18, 2022

A Conversation with Author, Joel Champion

A black and white photograph of Joel holding his book. He is wearing a shirt that says "ask me about my book" with "published author" underneath. He has short, dark hair and dark, prominent eyebrows. He is smiling, and his eyes appear closed..

By Val Vera
Interviewer, Handy Uncapped Pen

The journey begins in the wondrous and ancient land of Mythokor as an evil force, known as the Shroud, scours the realm to rebuild an ancient weapon of power. However, can an unlikely hero from humble beginnings defeat the diabolical Shroud and save his home? The adventures of kings, heroes, villains, knaves, a mysterious princess and the Wolf Jumper begin here!

Intrigued? Yeah, I was too. So much so I had a little Q&A with Joel Champion, Author of "The Chronicles of Legend: The Wolf Jumper Arises".

Handy Uncapped Pen: What inspired the idea for the book?

Joel Champion: I think a lot of what I consume inspired me to write, particularly this story, but I’ve had this idea of the land of Mythokor and the Wolf Jumper narrative in my head since 2016 (I think). The development process was super long, but the writing and publishing process took around three years. But a lot of different things inspired me: like the idea of building and creating my own world to write and “play in” rather than writing for other franchises and their stories. I believe being independent gave me great freedom to be flexible with characters, history, names, and the narrative itself. Sometimes, I would listen to music and soundtracks that would put images of epic battles of sword and sorcery in my imagination, and I hoped to create a story that would inspire others as well as myself when reading because I believe it’s important for me to write and create independently since most stories nowadays aren’t what I prefer.

HUP: Is there anything you would have done differently during the publication process?

JC: Honestly I would’ve hoped to get a hybrid publisher or wish I could’ve had a bigger platform before publishing, and wish I could’ve tested certain things like getting a cover artist and editor before actually hiring them, for the process was long and took me nearly six months to complete! I also would’ve found an authoring coach and gotten the inside scoop on who to publish with before publishing on Amazon with KDP. It was really hard to do research on such a niche idea and process like self-publishing. I also would’ve done a lot of things differently, like making the book longer and testing its length with others.

HUP: Will there be a sequel, or what projects are you working on now?

JC: Regardless of the success of the first book in my “Chronicles of Legend” line, I want to revise and expand the first book to make it longer (more in depth) and fix certain things I found and believe need fixing, such as missing dialogue and added details. I’m currently writing the revisions and want to publish that very soon, hopefully this year, but maybe using a different platform or publisher! But I’m also working on more than ten different types of books I want to write throughout my life, jumping from narrative to narrative, keeping my writing and imagination fresh! Such as a sci-fi book, a superhero team book, a detective story, and a comedic trek story—I got a lot of plans to publish someday, one book at time for me! So long story short: yes, I hope to do a worthy sequel!

HUP: Are there any narratives in your book that discuss Disability?

JC: There isn’t really a mention of disabilities in my current book, but I’m planning on writing a book with autism and other disabilities being the focus on certain characters! And I guess I kinda based the Chronicles of Legend main character: Zyte, on myself a little but much braver and courageous like I want to be; the main love interest for him: Princess Shadus of the Dragon Nation of Vanlatha, was born human (spoilers) instead of being a dragon due to a rare magical genetic/subspecies within her family line, which I thought was very interesting!

HUP: As a Disabled Author, what is your perspective on Disability representation in literature?

JC: I haven’t really seen a lot of good representation of autistic people in literature, let alone pop culture like games and movies. They (games and movies) depict certain characters with disabilities as the bad guys and are being exploited, which I find very offensive to my kind of people and to myself. But I plan to change that with my own stories and bring a new perspective to the world, showing that we (as people with disabilities) have a voice too, which I take pride in. I’m blessed enough to speak out against the contemptuous people badmouthing disabled people and change the world with my life and stories.

Visit to order your copy of “The Chronicles of Legend: The Wolf Jumper Arises”.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Two Poems by Cameron Morse

The Boy Who Wouldn’t Share

Morning my fingers wake to discover their nails archeologically dug into the soft meat of my palm, fossilized, I don't want to sneak a peek at my future. The well-meaning Velcro strap given the slip while I slept. Some bodyguard. And my fingers all palsied up together like that don't bode well for their wrist: Speaking of which, I have to remind myself not to take some goblins personally. I know the artist is only looking for a vehicle for some inward ugliness, but did they really have to have to steal my car, my critical condition, to get the point across? Couldn't Edward, the frightful, have had thick, muscular wrists and still been hideous to his sister Claire? Am I really going to be so unattractive my own wife even is repulsed by me? I pry my hand out of my hand and ignore the temptation to stay in bed. I had an idea about this: The back deck broke its perfect silence of snow yesterday and passed through the night only a handful of crackling shells of ice. Encouraging a walk in the moonlight. Now there's a children’s book I like.

June is angry at December
for dropping the laundry basket.
It takes him too long
to get strapped in
to the splint before bed,
to straighten out his curly fingers.
It's sad, but there it is. June
remembers the man who dug the ditch,
not this drooling invalid.
December drags his left leg.
Raises the red head of a toy shovel
against the brown paper of a yard
waste bag with his one good
hand and spits sunflower
seeds into the leaves. Slips out
before dawn and pisses in the yard
despite the cold stares
of the stars. You can call it spite.
December loves an audience.
Cameron Morse is Senior Reviews editor at Harbor Review and the author of eight collections of poetry. His first collection, Fall Risk, won Glass Lyre Press’s 2018 Best Book Award. His latest is The Thing Is (Briar Creek Press, 2021). He holds an MFA from the University of Kansas City-Missouri and lives in Independence, Missouri, with his wife Lili and (soon, three) children. 
For more information, check out his Facebook page or website.    

Friday, March 4, 2022

Page Updates: Magazines, Etc. (for Us)


Barking Sycamores
The Perch
Exceptions Journal
Disabled and Inter-Abled Relationships
Pensive Stories

Hiatus or Possibly Defunct:

Doll Hospital Journal
Pen 2 Paper Contest
Hospital Drive
(probably defunct)
First-Person Presence (probably defunct)


Magnets and Ladders
Corporeal (Thank you, Grace Lapointe!)

Other Updates:

Updated the links for Monstering Magazine,  Zoeglossia, and Ability Magazine.