I love pirates, guys. I really do. I haven't gotten around to tackling them myself, but I love reading about them. And I love supporting small, local, and indie authors. So pirate adventure comedy by a local author? I snatched this thing up so fast. The fact that I got to meet the author in person--in pirate garb, no less--made it all the better. (He seems super nice, for the record.)

So read on for my review of Of Pirates and Werewolves by Isaiah T. Silkwood.

A captain’s mission to prove his mettle turns out to be a man’s trial to earn his first mate’s confidence in this entertaining and fanciful tale of pirates and the supernatural.

Shipwrecked on the island of Gealach—an isle lost in the mist of mythology and mystery—Captain Fish-Eye finds himself pushed to his limits. He must prove to Wokey the Shrimp, his first mate in a crew of one, and more importantly to himself, that he has what it takes to be a true pirate captain.

This won’t be as easy as a walk off the gangplank with the bloodthirsty crew of the Harsh One and their slaughtering captain hot on Fish-Eye’s wake. Things only get worse when Fish-Eye and Shrimp encounter a castaway tormented with the idea that he is a werewolf.

Naught be as it seems on the island of Gealach.

Review: Like I mentioned, I was excited for this book. It sounded so fun, and was right from the first page. You've got your typical pirate-y feel to the world, the sense of grand high-seas adventure, but instead of the suave roguish cast you get it with a clueless captain and his dim but optimistic first mate. Racing against a ruthless villain to a fabled, mystical treasure--and guided by a possibly delusional castaway--I found myself rooting for Fish-Eye and his ragtag crew. They were a joy to read, truly funny and lovable. Along with the fascinating lore of the mysterious island Gealach, they're certainly the strong point of this story.

The weak point here is, unfortunately, the writing itself. I found it flat, and was really wanting more punch to both the action and the humor. It was easy to look past and see and appreciate what the author was aiming for, but the execution didn't quite reach the potential. To top this off, the plot itself was simple but intriguing, with what at first seemed like unrelated threads tying together to lead up to what should have been an exciting climax. However, the story never quite got there, and cut off abruptly with a promise to continue in book two. I have a big problem with this approach, as there was never that satisfying payoff moment of high action, surprise, or even partial resolution to carry me over into the next installment. While I'd love to find out the ultimate fate of Fish-Eye, Shrimp, and the others, the disappointment does sting, and combined with the unexceptional writing makes me hesitant to continue.

If you want to take a chance on a fun cast, interesting worldbuilding, and a lackluster ending that, for all I know, may pay off in book two, I can say Of Pirates and Werewolves was enough to give me a nice little escape after the kiddo was put to bed.

Buy Of Pirates and Werewolves

Looking for something new to read and short on money? Check out my monthly featured aspiring authors and their free-to-read works!

We're kicking this new project off with the fantastic RaeLynn, author of Into Olympus--so all you Greek mythology nerds rejoice. I know you're out there.

The rules of the Greek gods and goddesses states that every god must pass their power on at some point; and now, it would be transferred to two teenagers: Emily and Alex. Suddenly, the two are forced into a relationship they don't want to be in. Soon, Emily finds out about this sick past. Fueled by anger, she vows to rewrite history.

I knew RaeLynn already but there were definitely some questions I wanted to ask about Into Olympus and her writing in general, and I wanted to make sure you guys could get to know her too. So check out some inside info on the book and author, and read a sample below!

  1. Tell me a little about your writing journey. How long have you been writing, and how did you get started?

"I started writing in 2016 for fun, I got started because my teacher was always pushing us to try new skills and she said I'm amazing at writing so here we are."

Why fantasy specifically? Is it something you write often, or is this your first venture into the genre?

"I love to make my own worlds. From a small scribble on a scrap paper to a fleshed-out world. All of my works have fantasy elements, from a new world to a magical fairy."

What are your goals for your writing?

"I love writing, and it's my stress reliever from the real world, which is why I write fantasy. I don't think I could do it full time, and I'd hate to ruin my passion because of my work. However, publishing is a goal of mine."

What inspired Into Olympus?

"Into Olympus was a 3am thought, I wrote it down and left it. When I started planning I thought it would only be a small short story, that was until I saw how I could put my twist on it."

Who is your favorite character in the book and why? Tell me a little about them.

"I personally love Chad (Poseidon). I love his carefree yet serious attitude. He is a jerk at first but I promise he will get better, after all a past makes a person."

For fun, since your book uses Greek mythology, who's your favorite Greek god?

"I love Hera, even though Zeus cheated on her millions of times, she still is an amazing goddess."

“Every god and goddess change when their time is up, but for the first time in history, they all change on the same day,” the reporter said, going down the vast hall of gods and goddesses. “The event is the first of its kind. Let’s review the rules, every god and goddess already chose which teen as a small child, and now they can meet with their god and goddess!” The reporter stopped in her steps. “Back to you, Chris!” she says as the camera goes back to the main set. “That is insane, Jenna! I hope these teens will fit their roles!” The male reporter says, looking into the camera from his chair. “Why don’t we talk to some teens that think they are the chosen!” He says as he stands and starts walking to the doors where a girl is waiting. “Welcome love, why do you think you are the next goddess?” He asks the girl. “I love every season, the earth and the heavens,” she says while taking the mic. “ I also won’t let anyone get in my way.” The girl smiles and gives the mic back. “Some teens are getting quite aggressive about the matter, and parents are worried about these new events. Teens are posting social media votes asking if they will be the next god or goddess.”

Read Into Olympus for free, and follow and support RaeLynn on Wattpad and Twitter!

Wizards, witches, mages, sorcerers, magicians--whatever you call them, there's nothing more synonymous with fantasy than people who use magic. But despite it seeming like a catch-all solution for any plot issue, writing magic can be complicated. If plugged in however seems convenient in the moment, magic becomes a confusing hindrance rather than a fun and thrilling piece of your world.

In comes the magic system: the set of rules that defines magic within your story. By developing your magic system ahead of time you not only avoid inconsistent usage throughout the story, but create an interesting piece of worldbuilding that pulls a reader in.

So where do you start? Magic systems can be broken into four basic questions--the who, what, where, and how--and answering them will give you a solid starting point.

The Who

This is an easy question to start with: who can use magic? But there are a lot of pieces to dig into. Start by asking yourself some of these to flesh that idea out:

- Who can use magic? Is it accessible to anybody or only a select group of people?

- If only some people can use it, what defines who those people are? Genetics? A higher power? Some kind of tool they must possess?

- Can certain people use only certain types of magic? What determines what types they can use?

- What role do these people play in your world? Are they revered or looked down on? Do they live by the same rules as everyone else, or do they have their own? Do they hide or live in the open? This is a great way to tie your magic system into the culture(s) of your world.

There are endless ways to answer these questions, and every combination will give you the basis of an exciting system to work with. Even one tweak can set you up for an entirely different dynamic to play with--for example, in both Arcatraissa and The Ruin of Snow, magic is genetic. However, any of the fae of Arcatraissa can inherit magic, while in the world of The Ruin of Snow only females can inherit it. While males can carry the gene and pass it on, they can't practice magic themselves. This sets up magic in The Ruin of Snow to play a very different role in their society and give witches a very different life than in Arcatraissa, even to the point of some witches considering themselves superior to men.

The What

This question is, again, a pretty basic one that needs defined early on: what can magic do? I find it best to decide on a base to build off of--such as the four elements (water, wind, fire, and earth), your classic old-school witchcraft, or a piece of mythology that ties into my concept for the story. From there I can flesh out the details. Try considering questions like:

- Can magic be used in everyday life, and if so, for what?

- Is magic split into multiple schools or types, such as different types of elemental magic, or dark and light magic? What is the difference between each type?

- Can magic be used for taboo things like to kill or control people, or does it have natural boundaries? (Note that this part of worldbuilding isn't about society or law, but about what magic can do, even if illegally.)

- What can't magic do? What is simply beyond its reach, no matter how skilled the user?

I personally like to make lists here. I'll brainstorm all the possible things magic could be used for, and what limitations come with it. Then I can rule out ideas I don't like or that don't work with the story, and begin to tweak and refine the rules for what ideas are left. Which leads straight into...

The How

Now that we have a solid base for our magic system, it's time to get into the details. The how--how magic is used or performed--will bring your magic system to the next, realistic-feeling level and give you clear rules for when you're writing. Try considering things like:

- How does a magic-user "switch on" their magic? With intent? Magic words? What distinguishes between magical and non-magical behaviors?

- Does magic need to be channeled through something, and if so, what? Does the magic-user have to speak, use a wand, or touch their target? Are tools used to perform certain spells?

- Are there specific, established spells that must be learned and used, or does the magic-user improvise? How are these spells performed, if they exist?

- Can magic be used accidentally and if so, what triggers it?

- What is the cost of magic? Is it simply tiring, or does it take a toll on the user's health or sanity? How high is the price for each spell or usage?

As you can see in almost any fantasy book you pick up, the how of your magic system gives you a long list of things to play with in your story. If magic in Harry Potter was channeled through speaking, huge pieces of the story--Ollivander, the Elder Wand--would be very different, if not gone completely. Don't be afraid to work the how of your system into your plot and let it give your characters both advantages and disadvantages.

The Where

Though you can get away without exploring the where of your system--where magic comes from--it can give your world invaluable depth and realism. Whether you take a scientific, religious, or even mysterious and unknown approach to this question, it just makes sense for your world to have at least considered the origin of magic. Try considering:

- What are your world's beliefs? Are there any religions that tie into their beliefs about magic?

- What role does science play in your world? What may scientists have discovered about the origin of magic?

- Are there any legends that may be used to explain it? Gods, heroes, curses, or something else that created the first magic-users? Are these considered fiction or truth? Regardless of what people think, is there a seed of truth to them?

- Do different people or societies believe different origin stories about magic? Does this cause conflict within the world or your story?

It can be fun to explore these questions, and can be a great excuse to dig into real-world mythology for inspiration--as well as to help develop religions or cultures of your world. Don't shy away from creating your world's own mythology and legends, it can be daunting but fun once you get into it, and makes your world feel more real and developed. After all, every world has its own stories, even fictional ones. I favored the mythology route in The Ruin of Snow, with the most common belief being that witches are granted their power by the dark goddess Nalcai--in fact, an alternative name for witches is Daughters of Nalcai.

Remember, a magic system is important and has to be consistent and defined--at the very least in your own mind--but that doesn't mean it can't be fun to build. Get creative, think of what you've read before and how you can flip it on its head, and make your system your own. It's a big task to take on but if you dive in you'll find it taking on a life of its own (or at least I always seem to, and I hope it's the same for you.)

© 2018 Lacy Sheridan | Author

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