‘my rock and my refuge’ book tour: interview with author Rachel Kovaciny.

Hey, everyone! Today, I’m thrilled to present an interview with Rachel, a dear friend and a gifted writer. I reviewed her newest book My Rock and My Refuge a couple days ago, so if you’re wondering what all the hype is about, go check out my review! And now, let’s get right into the interview.

Describe My Rock and My Refuge in five words.

Human beings don’t thrive alone.

What first inspired you to write My Rock and My Refuge?

Um. Well, I came up with the basic idea for it about the time I wrote Cloaked. I knew I wanted to do a series, and I kind of mapped out which six fairy tales I thought I could retell as westerns — and that was back in 2016. So the first germination, I don’t directly remember. I do know my idea from the start was to retell Beauty and the Beast with a heroine who wasn’t a starry-eyed teenager. And it all built from there.

What was the hardest part about writing My Rock and My Refuge? The easiest?

The length has been a new challenge — the second round of revisions bumped it up to 125,000 words, which is far and away the longest thing I’ve ever written. The whole writing and publishing process has just been so much longer because, even though the final version is only around 103,000 words, that’s twice as long as any of the previous books I’ve published, and so every step takes twice as long.

The easiest part was getting to know the characters while writing the first draft. I didn’t have one single stinker who didn’t want to open up, this time. Usually, I have at least one who just will not talk to me and share their motives or plans or desires, but everyone in this was really amenable!

What elements of Beauty and the Beast are included in My Rock and My Refuge?

BATB is tricky to retell, I found, because it doesn’t have as many recognizable outward elements as a lot of fairy tales. Like, there’s a rose and a painting of Beast before his transformation, and a beautiful person and a not-beautiful person. Not like Cinderella with her glass slipper and her fairy godmother and her beautiful ball gown and the coach, etc. I really had to dig into the story itself to find the core themes and story arcs, and go with those.

So, yes, there’s a rose that gets taken without permission. The ‘beast’ lives in a castle-like house. We do see a painting of him from before his scars. The main character is a beautiful woman. Instead of a magic mirror that lets her see her family, we have telegrams and letters. Also, the original version of BATB has lots of siblings for Beauty — sisters who are snide and selfish, and brothers who are just absolutely wonderful. They try to take their sister’s place as the Beast’s captive, they try to stop her from returning to him later — they’re super. So I gave my Beauty, Marta, a wonderful brother, Jakob, who goes on her journey with her, protects her when he can, guides and comforts her… but also causes a few problems. They have vain sisters back home, too.

But what I really leaned into was the themes of Beauty and the Beast, which I see as being 1) It’s not good to live alone — people need companionship, and 2) When you love someone, they become lovable, not the other way around. And I tried to work those into the story arcs for both Marta and Arthur — both of them have been really lonely, and both of them are not especially lovable in some ways, but when they start to love each other, then they each become more lovable.

Is there any special significance to the names of your main characters—Arthur Wendell and Marta Beckmann?

Of course there is! Arthur means “bear.” Wendell also means “bear.” Not only does Arthur’s backstory involve a significant encounter with a bear, but he even compares himself to a bear hiding in a cave, at one point.

Marta comes from the Bible account of Mary and Martha, two sisters who were friends with Jesus. Martha is described as an incredibly hardworking and hospitable woman who works and works to make a meal for Jesus and his disciples. Marta here has that same drive to serve and help and make and do. And she also needs to learn that she can’t and should not do everything — that listening to God and relying on him more than on herself is more important.

Beckmann means baker in German. The Beckmann family have been bakers for a long time, so that made sense to me for a family name. And it looks distinctly German, so I like that it tells you their ethnicity right away.

Can you share a few of your favorite, non-spoilery quotes to whet our appetite?

Try these for size:

We found ourselves surrounded by buildings that all leaned drunkenly to one side. Paint peeled from their wooden walls, and the roofs bowed and twisted at unnatural angles. The windows in those buildings had no glass, making me think of empty eye sockets. I shivered.


“We maybe all should have scars we can see, if they would help us remember the times when we have been hurt but He did not allow us to be destroyed. The scars can remind us of escaping too, can they not? Even the ones no one else is seeing.”


When he had closed the door behind himself, I groaned. This would not do. I should not be noticing how nice my employer looked when he walked. I should not be saying things to make him smile. Between us, there could be a small comfortableness, only that. No friendship. Certainly nothing beyond friendship. I must watch myself.


I closed my eyes. This, I thought, is how any woman would like to be kissed. As if she is a treasure that a man does not want to let go of.


Big Ben had the strangest response of them all: he placed one hand on my head and said, “Bless you for reminding us to be human, Marta Beckmann.” Then he turned away before I could pretend I had not seen the tears in his eyes.

Who’s your favorite secondary character?

Jakob, Marta’s brother. He’s a brick. But he’s also funny. And kind. And loyal. And protective. He’s how I’d want to be if I was an older brother instead of an older sister.

Which character do you relate to the most?

I see myself the most in Mrs. Craig. She’s sensible and hard-working, she’s kind and welcoming, and she sticks with her friends no matter what.

What music did you listen to while drafting My Rock and My Refuge?

Mostly, I listened to the soundtrack for Quigley Down Under by Basil Poledouris. That really seemed to hit this book’s cozy, hopeful, but also serious vibe really well. The first draft and the two rewrites were probably 99% that soundtrack. During polishing, though, I went more for Bobby Darin and Dean Martin because they keep me energized.

What’s coming next in the Once Upon a Western series?

Directly next, probably a short story follow-up to MRAMR. The next book, though, will be called Steadfast and is a retelling of the Steadfast Tin Soldier that is going to be… gritty. And dark. And somewhat violent — we’ll get an actual shoot-out or two, and definitely some brawling. So that will be very different!

What is something you hope readers take away from My Rock and My Refuge?

That isolation doesn’t help. Avoiding people, hiding from people — it never leads to good and healthy things. Did I write this book during the aftermath of a pandemic in which many people became afraid of being around other people? Yes, I did. Am I a very shy introvert who often has trouble wanting to be around people? Yes, I am. Do I write my books to preach to myself sometimes? No, not sometimes — always.

Also, pray first. That’s a huge thing I taught myself with this book. I even got myself a ring with that inscribed on it that I wear every day now because I am so bad about remembering to pray before I jump in and try to fix things myself.

Any writing and/or self-publishing advice to share?

Learn how to persevere. Writing for publication is a long haul. If you give up whenever you’re discouraged, then you’re going to have a lot of problems. Get stubborn and don’t let yourself give up.

Thanks so much for allowing me to interview you, Rachel!

Where to find ‘My Rock and My Refuge‘ + Rachel Kovaciny online

Purchase My Rock and My Refuge

Add My Rock and My Refuge on Goodreads

Book tour + giveaway!

Author website

Author newsletter sign-up (free novella!)



Amazon author page

Main blog

Book blog

Do you enjoy fairytale retellings? Did those beautiful quotes inspire you to read My Rock and My Refuge? Do let me know your thoughts about Rachel’s answers!


book review: My Rock and My Refuge by Rachel Kovaciny.

Beauty and the Beast… re-imagined

Marta knows she shouldn’t feel this way toward Mr. Wendell. She needs to keep her job as his servant, especially because her family back in Germany depends on the money she and her brother Jakob send home. Marta’s new feelings can’t be as important as helping her family save their bakery, can they?

Marta doesn’t want to believe the rumors that Mr. Wendell profited from another’s tragedy to gain his wealth. Although his face bears terrible scars, she sees past them to his kind and generous heart. Still, she wonders why he never leaves his big house high in the Colorado mountains. Does he hide himself away because of his disfigured face, or because he has a guilty conscience?

While Marta tries to push away her questions, others are determined to find answers. Their efforts lead to a fresh tragedy that threatens Marta’s hope of finding happiness with Mr. Wendell. Will Marta fail her family and her new friends, or will God bless her efforts to build a happy future for them all?

I remember reading an early draft of My Rock and My Refuge in the summer of 2021 (before it even had a proper title). I read the whole thing in one day and when I was finished, I told my mom “All of the Once Upon a Western books have had heart. But this book has a soul.” Now, over a year later, I’m thrilled to celebrate the release of such a special book—first with this review and, in a couple days, an interview with Rachel herself.

My Rock and My Refuge is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and it was a lot of fun seeing all the different ways Rachel incorporated aspects of the fairytale. The stolen rose, the magical mirror, [Disney] Belle’s love of reading (which is uniquely subverted in this retelling), a painting of the Beast, helpful servants, a curse (of sorts), and so on.

Additionally, My Rock and My Refuge contains elements of Jane Eyre. What those elements might be, you’ll just have to read the book to find out. (But there are no wives locked in attics, manipulative heroes, or St. Johns. So…not to worry! XD)

On that note, Marta Beckmann, the main character of My Rock and My Refuge, reminds me of an older Jane Eyre. But she’s also her own forthright person. Although Marta is usually right in her observations of people and situations, she’s not perfect—I absolutely loved how she realizes that she needs to depend on God at all times (instead of herself).

…too often, I relied on myself and my abilities for help, and only asked our Lord for guidance or assistance if I could not solve something myself. That was the wrong order.

When I’m feeling discouraged or downhearted, I gravitate toward movies, shows, and books that have a more overt Christian message. My Rock and My Refuge contains a few theology-heavy conversations (and Marta’s internal monologue is filled with references to her faith and her Lord). I can see why all of that would come across as preachy to some people, but sometimes that kind of thing is just what I need, personally. So I don’t mind the focus on morals and attending church and correcting one’s behavior and thoughts to match up with God’s will.

But anyway! Back to the characters…

Arthur Wendell is the ‘Beast’ in this retelling, but he’s far from beastly. A little gruff at first, even rude. But he’s a good man at heart, something that quickly becomes clear. No, he doesn’t give Marta his library. But he gives her something even better—the means of learning how to read the books in his library. Wendell is deeply loyal to the people he cares for, and that soon includes Marta. Their romance is straightforward and sensible…but also swoon-worthy.

Speaking of swoon-worthy, Marta’s brother Jakob is a sweetheart. Stubborn, but a sweetheart. I agree with another reviewer who said that Jakob should get his own spin-off. I also liked Dan McLeod (Arthur’s friend), Mrs. Craig (Arthur’s housekeeper), Peter Craig (Chip? XD), the miners who buy Marta’s bread, the Lings (friends of Marta’s), and so on. One thing I appreciate about My Rock and My Refuge is that there’s plenty of conflict without anyone being nasty. (Well, with the exception of a few very minor, very racist characters.)

And last but not least, there’s Alex McLeod. He’s the ‘Gaston’ of My Rock and My Refuge (but not a villain). I have the biggest soft spot for Alex. He’s not-so-secretly my favorite character, bringing good days to his mother and buying Marta’s bread and going through the pain of suddenly being an only child instead of the youngest child. I think I’m probably in the minority when it comes to liking Alex, but that’s okay. 😉

My Rock and My Refuge is a Western, a romance, and a fairytale, all wrapped into one beautiful story. It’s like a loaf of good bread: warm, wholesome, and strengthening to the heart (see Psalm 104:15b). I think you’ll love it! I know I do. ❤

Where to find ‘My Rock and My Refuge‘ + Rachel Kovaciny online

Purchase My Rock and My Refuge

Add My Rock and My Refuge on Goodreads

Book tour + giveaway!

Author website

Author newsletter sign-up (free novella!)



Amazon author page

Main blog

Book blog

Have you read My Rock and My Refuge yet? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!


new HAVOK story: “tiger, tiger”

Although I don’t celebrate Halloween, I was still honored when my story Tiger, Tiger was selected to be released today, of all days. The Havok team must have thought it appropriately creepy and spooky!

Tiger, Tiger is the story of a young man burdened with fire-based powers over which he has no control. Will he end up hurting an innocent? Or will the innocent reach out to him instead? The story’s vibe is X-Men meets Agents of SHIELD’s Ghost Rider—read it here! (Free today only.)

As for the title…I thought the opening lines of William Blake’s poem were wonderfully (frightfully?) applicable to my main character.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright, 

In the forests of the night; 

What immortal hand or eye, 

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies. 

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

If you read Tiger, Tiger, I’d love to hear what you think of it—and whether or not you agree that the poem is applicable. 😉 Let me know in the comments!


three TV shows I’ve been enjoying lately.

October is almost over, and I’ve been pretty busy with new work hours, reading good books, and working on my relationship with God. And watching some fun TV shows, as the title of this blog post indicates. I’ve already talked about one of the following shows here on the blog, but I’m always down to fangirl over my favorites. So let’s jump right in!


I’m currently rewatching The Mentalist with my mom, and it’s been a neat experience. The first time I watched the show, I was really impatient and only watched the episodes that focused on the Red John arc. This much more in-depth and leisurely watch-through has been great. I missed so much! My favorite ‘new’ part of the show is the three episode story arc in Season 5 featuring evil businessman Tommy Volker (Henry Ian Cusick). It was cool seeing Cusick in a different role (I previously fell in love with him on Lost), and the arc had lots of great tension throughout.


My friend Charity has recommended Smallville to me on one or two occasions, and one sick day I found it on Prime Video and binge-watched the first several episodes. It’s so much fun! Very corny at times (not unlike the state in which it’s set, heehee), but loads of fun. Having watched The Flash, I’m used to the ‘superhero/villain of the week’ format—though I am looking forward to Smallville branching out and getting into some more involved storylines. I don’t have a clear favorite character yet, but Lex is definitely the most interesting. I really like Jonathan as well. ❤


I’ve only seen the first episode, and I do see the flaws (and the at-times problematic worldview). But I genuinely enjoyed that first episode (I was surprised, but pleased). A friend at church invited me over to her house, which is where I watched it, and we’re planning a sleepover next week to take in the next several episodes as well. The visuals are beautiful, I’m willing to give the characters a chance to win me over, and I’m looking forward to seeing Joseph Mawle in later episodes. (He was great as Odysseus in Troy: Fall of a City.)

Have you seen any or all of these shows? Thoughts? What have you been watching lately? Let me know in the comments!


my favorite heroes of 19th century literature.

Having recently read both The Count of Monte Cristo and A Tale of Two Cities, I felt inspired to chat about the heroes of both books—and several others, as it turned out. So without further ado, here’s my list of favorite heroes from books written between 1800 and 1899!

Dan Kean / Little Men & Jo’s Boys (1871 & 1886)

Dan is my favorite fictional character of all time. I’ve discussed him at length in this blog post, but suffice to say that his protectiveness toward those weaker than himself has always endeared him to me. Dan may not seem the most outwardly heroic character at first glance, but he saves many lives and follows his own complicated (though upright) moral compass and…I just love him a lot.

Edmond Dantès / The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)

The Count of Monte Cristo was a wild roller coaster ride of a book. I started out loving and pitying Edmond. When he transformed into the vengeful Count, I drew back from him—he became a borderline villain and, while I still was enjoying the story, I couldn’t like the character anymore. But then…Edmond Dantès came back to himself and I still can’t get over how amazing the transformation was. I’m forever a fan of the book because of the stunning Edmond→Count→Edmond journey.

Sydney Carton / A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

On my latest re-read of A Tale of Two Cities, I noticed more of the book’s flaws. Some of the characters are quite thinly drawn, a fact not helped by all the time jumps. (So. Many. Time jumps.) Some chapters are downright boring. (I skipped them. No regrets.) I even saw more flaws in Sydney himself this time around—I used to give him a pass in the ‘The Fellow of No Delicacy’ chapter, when he says that there’s no chance for him to better himself. But that isn’t really true. He could still have taken the high road and worked hard and made something of himself, despite his broken heart.

But despite all of that, I forgave all the flaws of both the book and Sydney by the time I reached the last few chapters. Because Sydney does change. He does redeem himself. (And I truly believe God redeemed him, which is the most important character change of all.) Sydney’s actions and words toward the seamstress are enough to make me love him forever. And I do—I really do.

Colonel Brandon / Sense & Sensibility (1811)

I admit that my love for Colonel Brandon is at least half due to Alan Rickman’s excellent portrayal of him in the 1995 movie. But the original Colonel Brandon is still a great character in his own right: kind and thoughtful and honorable. (Even if he should have told Elinor and Marianne what he knew about Willoughby.)

If you’re also a fan of Colonel Brandon, I highly recommend Colonel Brandon’s Diary by Amanda Grange. She does a wonderful job of bringing even more depth to the character. ❤

Sherlock Holmes / A Scandal in Bohemia (1891) and on

It’s Sherlock Holmes! What more do I have to say?

Jean Valjean / Les Misérables (1862)

Valjean is undoubtedly selfless. To some people, he may seem too perfect. But when you read the book, you see Valjean’s inner struggles against temptation and wrongdoing. (This is also brought out in the musical, though not as strongly.) I find Valjean both relatable and inspiring and I love how Hugh Jackman portrayed him in the 2012 movie. (Although my favorite Valjean is probably still Colm Wilkinson.)

Honorable mention: Edward Rochester / Jane Eyre (1847)

To be honest, I don’t really love Mr. Rochester. I’ll defend him forever. I’ll even swoon a little over Timothy Dalton’s portrayal of the character. I just don’t have a deep-seated love (or even…liking, half the time) for Mr. Rochester. But he’s an icon of 19th century literature and I do feel a connection to him, despite everything, so honorable mention it is!

Did you spot any favorite characters on this list? Who would you have included? Should I do a ‘favorite heroes of 20th century literature’ post? Let me know in the comments!


cover reveal: TITAN by Brian McBride.

Another exciting cover reveal for you all! This one is for Titan, sequel to Mammoth by Brian McBride. I was a beta reader for Titan, and let me tell you—it’s one exciting, cinematic read. But before I share the synopsis, pre-order details, and all that, take a good look at this stunning cover:

I really, really, really love it. The skull shape, the Indiana Jones (and Lost!) vibes. The beautiful art. I’m such a fan!

Here’s what Titan is about:

In the wake of Apocalypse Island, the Jailbirds find themselves reeling from their loss as winter storms buffet the coast of Mammoth. A failed attempt to expose Orion Clark as the villain he is goes awry, and the Jailbirds are left defeated and desperate once more.

When news breaks of their father’s untimely death, Lydia inherits a mysterious family heirloom while Orion lets Reid in on the family business. A hidden letter from Tommy’s dead father turns up in the Highland home, and the Jailbirds embark on their most dangerous adventure yet. Sailing across the stormy Pacific with Reid and Orion in hot pursuit, they set a course for Peru where deadly revelations and rumors of an ancient curse await them. As a web of secrets that span centuries begins to unravel, everything the Jailbirds thought they knew about themselves is called into question.

A city plagued by a decades long war between the rich and the poor… A rainforest that harbors family secrets and deadly curses… A quest for a legend that just may be more fact than fiction… Adventure comes at a cost, and everyone will pay the price.


Titan on Goodreads

Mammoth on Goodreads

Brian’s Instagram

Brian’s author website

Have you read Mammoth? Are you planning to read Titan? What’s your favorite adventure novel? Let me know in the comments!


cover reveal for MY ROCK AND MY REFUGE by Rachel Kovaciny!

Today, I’m so pleased to be sharing the beautiful cover for Rachel Kovaciny’s soon-to-be-released novel My Rock and My Refuge. MRAMR is a non-magical Beauty and the Beast retelling set in the Old West, book four in the Once Upon a Western series. Rachel has been working on this book for over a year; it’s extremely exciting to finally have a cover!

So without further ado…BEHOLD:

Isn’t it beautiful??? The pink roses are my favorite design element, but I also love the mountains and the mansion and, oh, basically everything. About a year ago, I read an early draft of My Rock and My Refuge, and this cover captures the feel of the book so well: cozy and serious and homey and mysterious.

If you like…

  • Strong and capable heroines
  • Brooding, mysterious, kind heroes
  • Cottagecore vibes
  • Faith-filled themes
  • Fairytale retellings
  • Westerns
  • Happily ever afters

…then you will probably love My Rock and My Refuge. ❤ It release November 8th, so mark your calendars!

Handy links

My Rock and My Refuge on Goodreads

Rachel’s author website

Rachel’s Bookstagram

What do you think of the cover? Are you excited for MRAMR? Have you added it to your Goodreads shelves yet? Do let me know in the comments!


ranking Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth movies (extended editions, naturally).

This blog post is a contribution to A Tolkien Blog Party 2022 hosted by The Edge of the Precipice.

I may have some quibbles with how Peter Jackson chose to portray Tolkien’s stories and characters (more on that later), but the fact remains that Jackson got many, many more things right than he got wrong. I truly love both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy! But…I do love some of those films more than the others, so today I’ll be ranking all six from least-favorite to most-favorite. There will be fangirling, a few critiques, and maybe a controversial ranking or two. Let’s go!

6. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

What I like: The usual suspects—Martin Freeman’s Bilbo, everything with Smaug, the beautiful visuals. The spider fight in Mirkwood is also good stuff, particularly the bit where Bilbo goes crazy over the ring. Excellent work from our beloved Martin Freeman. I also enjoy the soundtrack! The new leitmotifs for Kili + Tauriel and Laketown are great.

What I don’t like: It’s boring? Really boring? Your mileage may vary, of course, but there are only a handful of scenes in The Desolation of Smaug that really capture my attention. Beorn, Mirkwood, Gandalf investigating the return of Sauron…sadly, I’m bored more often than not. Oh, and don’t get me started on the orc attack in Laketwon. *yawns*

Ultimately: One of these films had to be in last place. There’s still a lot about Desolation that I like, but at the end of the day I’m not a fan of its too-long sequences (river chase, sneaking around Laketown, orc attack) and downer ending.

5. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

What I like: All of the Shire scenes are pitch-perfect, no question about it. And casting was not one of the faults of the Hobbit trilogy. I know I’ve already mentioned Martin Freeman’s Bilbo, but he bears mentioning again! Rarely have I seen an actor and a character so well suited for each other. The opening bit with him and Gandalf and “good morning” is cinematic gold.

(Oh, and the soundtrack is also splendid, as always.)

What I don’t like: Radagast. 😛 And the whole Goblin-town sequence is (again) boring.

Ultimately: An Unexpected Journey is perhaps the coziest of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth films. I’ll always be happy to rewatch it, even if I do skip over Radagast’s scenes. (I just do. not. like. him.)

4. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

What I like: Rohan, Théoden & family, Gandalf’s return, Andy Serkis’ brilliant performance, Helm’s Deep, “Look for my coming,” THE MUSIC, the flashback scene w/ Boromir, the last march of the Ents, Merry and Pippin.

What I don’t like: I’m not going to talk about this at great length, but Faramir’s character (or lack thereof) in The Two Towers consistently rubs me the wrong way. Not a fan. I also think that TTT is the slowest-paced and least uplifting installment in the LOTR trilogy. (Which I suppose isn’t suprising, as it’s the middle section and so much still has to be resolved.)

I also don’t care for the subplot with Aragorn’s ‘death.’ It doesn’t add much (if anything) to the overall story, so it feels like a waste of time.

Ultimately: There really is a lot to love about The Two Towers (especially Théoden’s character arc!!!), but even Sam’s speech at the end can’t lift the forboding, gloomy vibes.

3. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

What I like: It’s the cast and characters that really elevate this movie. Bilbo, Thorin, Gandalf, Bard, Thranduil, Kili, Fili and the list goes on. I love them! The relationships between these characters, the drama, Thorin’s downward spiral and subsequent redemption, Bilbo’s return home, that final scene, ‘The Last Goodbye’…it’s all so good. Not as epic as The Return of the King, no doubt, but very, very good in its own right.

What I don’t like: The titular battle drags on and on and, if you watch the extended (R-rated) edition, it ends up being extremely gory. Ugh.

Ultimately: On a different day, I might have ranked The Two Towers above The Battle of the Five Armies. But I really do love Armies this much. It’s bittersweet and beautiful and I want to rewatch it right now.

2. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

What I like: Where to begin??? I’m getting choked up just thinking of certain scenes and lines from this glorious film. But I’ll try to write out a list of my absolute favorite things. They are…

Minas Tirith, Faramir and Pippin’s friendship, Frodo not giving up, the music (always have to mention that), the ride of the Rohirrim (!!!!!!!!!), the 1.5 scenes devoted to Éowyn and Faramir’s romance, Gandalf and Pippin discussing the afterlife, Gandalf and Pippin’s friendship in general, everything after the ring is destroyed, and I could keep going.

What I don’t like: Frodo and Sam’s fight on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol. Nope, nope, nope.

Ultimately: The Return of the King is a masterpiece, deep and detailed and wonderful in every sense of the word. The very best send-off possible for both the characters and the fans. I doubt it will ever be surpassed, as epic finales go.

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

What I like: Pretty much everything. No lie.

What I don’t like: I’m sure there’s something, but…what?

Ultimately: The Fellowship of the Ring has three things going for it that no other Middle-earth film has—the entire fellowship travelling and fighting and sightseeing together, (almost) all of Boromir’s scenes, and Howard Shore’s indescribable ‘The Breaking of the Fellowship.’ I absolutely love this film, and it could never have been anywhere on this list but here.

Are you shocked, absolutely shocked that I placed The Battle of the Five Armies higher than The Two Towers? How would you rank these six films? Do let me know in the comments!


new HAVOK story: “water for gold”

We interrupt this week of Tolkien-themed activities for a very special announcement…

I have a new story out on Havok Publishing’s website today, and you can read it here! Water for Gold is very special to me because it’s a bona fide, true-blue Western. Marshal Ben has to escort outlaw Jack Chase across the desert to Fort Smith. But Ben also wants to know where Chase hid some stolen gold, so he hatches a plan to find the cache en route. No fantasy or sci-fi elements, just a straight-up tale of the Old West. Honestly, I wasn’t sure Havok would accept it, as they’re more well-known for their speculative fiction. But they did, and I’m so happy!

Also, I had fun with the casting.

James Garner as Ben / Bruce Dern as Chase

Water for Gold is free for anyone to read today only—after that, you’ll need to buy a Havok membership to access it. And if you do read Water for Gold, I hope you enjoy it just as much as I enjoyed writing it! (If not more so, hehe.)


P.S. Happy Tolkien Day, everyone! And happy birthday to Frodo and Bilbo as well!

a Tolkien Blog Party 2022 tag.

The annual Tolkien Blog Party (hosted by Rachel @ The Edge of the Precipice) is running for the duration of this week, and it’s been a LOT of fun so far. As always, Rachel has provided a tag for the party participants to fill out. Here are my answers!

Who first introduced you to Middle-earth?

My oldest brother. He bought all three LOTR films (extended editions, thankfully) and showed them to my family. Although it wasn’t until I watched the trilogy by myself a few weeks later that I became really obsessed, I’ll always have my brother to thank for opening my eyes to the wonders of Middle-earth.

Has your love of Middle-earth affected your life?

I have a whole shelf dedicated to Tolkien books and movies and merch, so…yeah. 😉 The books and movies and movie soundtracks are all so beautiful; my life is richer because of them.

Have you ever dressed up like a Tolkien character?

Nope. Maybe someday though!

What people in your real life would you want in your company if you had to take the ring to Mordor?

The first person I thought of was my pastor. Which might sound a little odd, but he’s a good archer and knows a lot about the outdoors, camping, edible plants, and all that. He’d also provide spiritual guidance and encouragement when the ring/the quest threatened to send us all plunging into despair. I see this as an absolute win.

As for the rest of our group, I can think of a few other people in my church who’d be good to bring along. But my pastor is my number one pick.

What Middle-earth location would you most like to visit?

Rivendell, for Elrond and the beauty and nostalgia and friendliness of it all. My second and third picks are easily Minas Tirith and Ithilien

Are there any secondary characters you think deserve more attention?

Éomer. Farmer Maggot. Beregond. Almost everyone from The Silmarillion.

Would you rather attend Faramir’s wedding or Samwise’s wedding?

I’M TORN. Probably Sam’s wedding, even though I love Faramir a lot more. If I saw Faramir, I’d probably end up wishing I was the one marrying him. XD Whereas at Sam’s wedding, I could focus on the delicious food and possibly have a chat with Frodo and/or Merry. Which would be wonderful.

How many books by J.R.R. Tolkien have you read?

The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, Letters from Father Christmas, and Leaf by Niggle (which is more a short story than a full book).

Are there any books about Middle-earth or Professor Tolkien (but not written by him) that you recommend?

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War was quite good. As was On the Shoulders of Hobbits.

List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotations from the Middle-earth books and/or movies.

...[the Ring] abandoned Gollum. Only to be picked up by the most unlikely person imaginable: Bilbo from the Shire! Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought. —LOTR, ‘The Shadow of the Past’

The dark figure streaming with fire raced towards them. The orcs yelled and poured over the stone gangways. Then Boromir raised his horn and blew. Loud the challenge rang and bellowed, like the shout of many throats under the cavernous roof. For a moment the orcs quailed and the fiery shadow halted. —LOTR, ‘The Bridge of Khazad-dûm’

“But it does not seem that I can trust anyone,” said Frodo.

Sam looked at him unhappily. “It all depends on what you want,” put in Merry. “You can trust us to stick with you through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there it is. We know most of what Gandalf has told you. We know a good deal about the ring. We are horribly afraid – but we are coming with you; or following you like hounds.” —LOTR, ‘A Conspiracy Unmasked’

“Look at me. You look at me.” —Bard, The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

“A great Shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land… —LOTR, ‘The Field of Cormallen’

“If ever beyond hope you return to the lands of the living and we re-tell our tales, sitting by a wall in the sun, laughing at old grief, you shall tell me then.” —LOTR, ‘The Forbidden Pool’ (especially because Tolkien also quoted this in one of his letters to Christopher, who was away fighting during WWII 😭)

And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise. —LOTR, ‘The Grey Havens’

There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. —LOTR, ‘The Land of Shadow’

And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns, in dark Mindolluin’s sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the north wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last. —LOTR, ‘The Siege of Gondor’

“I will take the Ring,’ he said, ‘though I do not know the way.—LOTR, ‘The Council of Elrond’

How were you introduced to Middle-earth? What are some of your favorite Tolkien quotes? Let me know in the comments!


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