Review of Finding Meara by Lara Schiffbauer

Once again, I finished Lara’s book a while ago and am just catching up on some overdue reviews.

The Amazon blurb:

FindingMearaCoverTo keep her safe, twenty-six-year-old Hazel Michelli’s parents never told her she was adopted, or that her birthplace was in an alternative land where magic and monsters exist. She found out the truth the day a ferocious winged creature stole her from her Denver apartment and delivered her to Lucian, the sadistic Lifeforce magician who happens to be Hazel’s biological father.

“Dysfunctional family” takes on new meaning when she learns Lucian must sacrifice a daughter to maintain immortality and take over the Realm. When Hazel’s younger half-sister disappears just days before the Rite, Lucian moves Hazel to the top of the sacrificial short list.

Afraid, yet compelled to protect her four-year-old half-sister, Hazel races between both worlds, searching for Meara while being hunted by Lucian. Their lives, and the future of the Realm, leave her no room for failure.

My thoughts:

At the outset of the novel, Hazel (love the name, by the way, unusual and old-fashioned, but made quirky by the character) only knows that she’s lucky, so dependably lucky that she makes a comfortable living by gambling. Then something huge and hulking bursts through the door of her apartment, calls her “Meara,” grabs Hazel, and leaps off the balcony, spreading its wings to fly her to a place she never suspected existed.

The action doesn’t relent as Hazel is taken prisoner by someone named Lucian, escapes (with the help of a talking bird and a flaming cat), finds her way back to Colorado, and reluctantly enlists her friend’s help.  When an insect-like monster attacks them on the road, it is both a validation of Hazel’s bizarre story and a warning: Lucian isn’t finished with her yet.

Though unwilling to involve her parents in this strange series of events, Hazel has questions only they can answer.  Those answers change Hazel’s life forever and send her on a worlds-spanning adventure, teaching her that her luck is only the tip of her magical iceberg, and that family is worth killing for, and dying for, if it comes to that.

The author weaves a great story, with just enough quirk to please the trope-weary reader.  She moves between Boulder, Denver, and the Realm deftly, and has created a unique and charming world that both recalls childhood favourites, and provides enough romance and danger to satisfy the New Adult audience.

I also appreciate that despite the romantic potentials (small spoiler alert!), Hazel remains happily independent at the end of the novel.  The denouement felt a little rushed, but was satisfying nonetheless.

Am eagerly awaiting Lara’s next novel 🙂

My rating:

4 out of 5 stars.  Really, I wanted to give her 4.5, but I had to give her some room to grow as an author 🙂

About the Author:

Lara Schiffbauer was born and raised in the Western United States. As a child she got in Lara Schiffbauertrouble at school for talking too much and daydreaming. She believed in Santa Claus until she was in the third grade, and thought she saw angels at the Catholic school she attended.

Unwilling to lose the magic of childhood, as a teenager she spent her years reading novels that let her live in fantasy worlds where she could vicariously experience the romance and adventure sadly lacking in her everyday life. Piers Anthony, Victoria Holt, and David Eddings were some of her favorite authors.

Many years later, after obtaining a Masters of Social Work degree and growing a family, Lara decided to recapture some of the magic found in creativity. In 2010, her horror flash fiction story “The Copier” was published in the anthology Daily Bites of Flesh 2011: 365 Days of Flash Fiction. In 2011, her erotic horror story “Phantom Deposit” was published in the anthology Steamy Screams, and in February 2012 her urban fantasy short story “Bear Hug” was published online at Hogglepot. She then turned to writing novels, and her first contemporary fantasy novel, Finding Meara, was released in March, 2013.

Lara loves connecting with others! Besides spending time on Twitter and Facebook, Lara also has accounts on Pinterest and Goodreads. All social media links can be found at her website, www.laraschiffbauer.com.

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Six questions with Lara Schiffbauer

Lara SchiffbauerLara Schiffbauer is a writer, licensed clinical social worker, mother of two, wife of one, and a stubborn optimist. She loves Star Wars, Lego people, science, everyday magic, and to laugh.  You can connect with Lara through Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, or on her website. Her debut novel, Finding Meara, will be available in March, 2013.

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Welcome to Writerly Goodness, Lara!  Thank you for taking the time to answer these few questions for my readers.  I have to say that since we met through Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Challenge last year that I’ve been following your progress with Finding Meara with rapt attention 🙂  As I approach the end of revisions on my own work in progress, the decisions you’ve made are informing my process and plans moving forward.

Without further ado:

WG: When did you begin to write and what was the moment you knew that writing was the path you wanted/needed to pursue?

LAS: I’d like to first say think you so much for having me over today! The Platform Challenge was a wonderful opportunity to get to meet so many lovely writer-types—like you! I’m honored you find my path to publication informative and inspiring!

I enjoyed writing my whole life, but I didn’t think about writing for other people’s enjoyment until five years ago. I hadn’t been creative in any way for about ten years, and wanted to regain the spark. My children were toddlers, and I work full-time, so a return to writing fit the best. Since I’m a goal-oriented kind of person, I decided to not just write, but write with the goal of getting it read by people other than my family.

WG: What was the idea that became Finding Meara and how long have you been working on the novel?

LAS: I’ve worked with children in a social worker/therapist role for over ten years. The seed for Finding Meara rose out of the need to have some justice for abused and mistreated children. The story evolved into an urban fantasy about a young woman who, in a case of mistaken identity, ends up in a magical world where she must rescue her newfound half-sister before their sadistic father can sacrifice either in his quest for immortality and unrestrained power. As her world is turned inside out, she is forced to put other’s needs before her own, and discovers herself in the process. I’ve been working on it for about two years.

WG: I’m a process geek and I love to hear about how other writers approach their craft.  Can you give us some insight in to how you do that thing you do 🙂 ?

LAS: Lots of trial and error! I have learned that if I want to write with any speed, I have to know where the characters are going. With Finding Meara, I’d plot out a few chapters at a time, which allowed flexibility as well. I started another book, Age of Stars, which I plotted out completely. By doing that, I realized that I didn’t like the story and will be re-plotting it, once I get the first draft of the next book in the Adven Realm adventures done.  So, no pantsing for me, but any hybrid of outlining seems to work all right.

WG: I remember that you tried the traditional publishing route. What was your experience with querying and why did you choose to self-publish?

LAS: It didn’t take me long to change my mind. I pitched Finding Meara to Lou Anders of Pyr Books at the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference in April 2012 and sent out eight-ish query letters over the summer, before deciding (around August 2012) that Finding Meara is a unique enough animal that traditional publishing probably wouldn’t want it. I love the story and want other people to have access to it, in case they might love it too, and so decided to self-publish.

WG: What platform(s) did you choose and why?

LAS: Interesting question! My platforms fall into two categories: those I have had and used for a while and those I’ve created due to releasing Finding Meara.

I’ve been blogging for a little over two years, and use Facebook to connect to writer friends. I enjoy Pinterest personally, but do have some boards for the three books I’ve got going on it. I like Twitter, but lately I’m lucky to get on a couple of times a week.

In January I created a Facebook Author Page, a Goodreads Author Page and my website, which has links to all my social media spots. I just recently opened a Wattpad account because I am releasing two chapters of Finding Meara a week there until its release.

I’m not one of those people who have created a social media empire, with hundreds of followers on any given platform. I do sincerely appreciate every person who has ever decided to follow along with my journey, and have been absolutely blessed by getting to meet and become friends with some amazing, supportive people. I’ll take those types of relationships over numbers any day!

I chose to create a Facebook Author page because it provides an opportunity to interact with the international community. E-reader use in other countries is on the rise and I’m hoping through Facebook I’ll have a way to develop the writer/reader relationship. I opened a Goodreads page and a Wattpad page because they offer a way to interact with readers. So much social media seems to be directed toward other writers, and while writers read, there are tons of readers in the world who don’t go hang around the writer water-cooler.

WG: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with regard to Finding Meara?Finding Meara Cover

LAS: As I mentioned above, I have a Finding Meara Sneak Peek going on at Wattpad leading up to the release. I wish I could give a firm date of release, but I’m still tweaking for an exact date. It will be in March, though, and if anyone wants up to date information regarding the release, I would encourage them to follow me on Facebook or my blog, as I will post the date as soon as I know. On release weekend, Finding Meara will cost a full $0.00, so if you like the story on Wattpad you will be able to finish it for free. There will also be a giveaway on Goodreads post-release.

Thank you so much, Melanie, for offering me this opportunity to share my story!

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Lara, thank you for being so generous with your time and experience.

If you have any questions for Lara, please write them in the comments, and as always, I encourage you to like, share, comment, and follow (the blog equivalent of the writer’s think, do, create, be!).

Have a good one, my writerly peeps!  Until next time! *waves*