Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Dreaded One returns to Updating

After a move and a bunch of other boring real-life stuff, I have returned to my poor website with some updates.  No reviews yet, but some of those will be forthcoming.  I’ll be trying to clean up the site and figure out the wordpress software again, I’m a bit slow at that.

I’m working on several writing projects, novels as well as some short stories.  Thanks, Merc for pointing  out “Chosen Sister” is on Good Reads.  I also have a forth coming story this summer in Sorcerous Signals, which I’ll post again about in a couple of months when its up.  Currently, while it’s old news, now, I’ll make up for not posting by mentioning that “Once A Thief” is still available in Arcane Whispers 2, and I’m really fond of the art on the anthology.  Merc is in this one too.

Mini-reviews

I’ve been reading a lot.  I call it research.  I have to know what’s going on in my field, right?  This gives me an excuse to work through my huge stack of former library books I bought at the book sale, plus a bunch of current library books.  Sweet research, how I love thee.  However, I’m much to lazy to do a full review of all of them, so I’m doing a stack of mini-reviews.
“Wild Boy” by Thomas Fall
Genre: Historical fiction set in the U.S. during the 1870s
One sentence synopsis: Roberto, half-Mexican, half-Native American tries to figure out where he fits in between cultures on the southern Texas border while lusting after catching the killer mustang stallion Diablo.
This reader’s take:  Killer wild horse, angry American soldiers, angry Comanche warriors, and a boy with a lot of grit, what’s not to love?  Who cares if it was published back inn 1965?  The 1800s haven’t changed any and this one reads easy and well.
Bottom line: major win for the action adventure reader with a few things to actually think about tossed in
“What the Birds See” by Sonya Hartnett
Genre: YA literary, although no young adults are involved, this one should’a been sold as an adult book
One sentence synopsis: Nine-year-old Adrian is a neglected child with a depressed girl for one friend and a sell-out for another, who spirals deeper and deeper into wanting someone to need him until *gasp* all ends in tragedy.
This reader’s take: Someone wanted to be poetic and very very literary by writing the most stupidly depressing book imaginable.  The dead bird on the cover should have warned me.  The flap talking about kidnapped and dead children should have warned me.  I stupidly read it.  I still I want my wasted hours refunded.
Bottom line: Major fail, can we re-institute book burning for this one?
“The View from Saturday” by E.L. Konigsburg
Genre: MG literary
One sentence synopsis: The tale of four sixth graders, their teacher, and the complex human relationships behind their unprecedented rise to win the Academic Bowl in New York State against eight graders.
This reader’s take:  This is what a literary kid’s book should be like.  Humor, pathos, inner and outer struggles, all five POV characters (that’s right five, who says MG can only have one?) are full of depth and give us a new view of the situation.
Bottom line: Major win, which it did… the Newberry award.  Obviously those people have some sense.
“Shiva’s Fire” by Susane Fisher Staples
Genre:  MG/YA fantasy
One sentence synopsis: Parvati has always been different, surrounded by omens that make her rural Indian village people regard her with suspicion and awe, but her true gift and calling lies in dancing.
This reader’s take:  The fantasy elements are very subtle, so much so I couldn’t tell if we were dealing with just people’s beliefs or real magic at first.  The Indian setting and Hindu religion are so well woven in, it feels as if it could be just a cultural book until it unfolds farther.  Very lovely.
Bottom line: Not this author’s best (that won a Newberry) but certainly well worth reading.
“Storm Rising” by Marilyn Singer
Genre: YA paranormal romance
One sentence synopsis: Storm meets the alluring but troubling Jocelyn who seems to want to collect him as one of her “strays”, something he uselessly resists a while before caving.
This reader’s take: In my state they’d call this relationship statutory rape and emotionally abusive.  It’s Twilight in reverse, as stalker girl with magic powers wins her man… er… boy.
Bottom Line: Major fail, where’s the brain bleach?
“Spotting the Leopard” by Anna Myers
Genre: MG novel
One sentence synopsis: H.J. is wrapped up in his sister’s battle with her parent trying to go to college, his uncle’s marital and business problems, and most of all “Lucky” a leopard who escapes his miserable existence in zoo captivity and everyone is trying to hunt down.
This reader’s take: The leopard dies, need I say more?  Honestly, I’ve had it up to here with “Old Yeller” stories about noble but doomed animals and the poor saps who love them.  Not to mention it’s trying the literary thing really hard and failing.  If we must have this sort of book, stick to “Old Yeller”, nothing new here.
Bottom line: Yawn, but not worth book burning or target practice or anything.
“Flight of the White Wolf” by Mel Ellis
Genre: YA novel
One sentence synopsis:  When Russ’s pet wolf accidentally kills a prize dog and runs off, everyone is out to shoot it, and Russ has to try to help the wolf escape to national park where he can fend for himself.
This reader’s take: Sort of like “Hatchet” meets “Call of the Wild”, and well done too.  This is what an animal story should be like.  While the fact that Russ’s parents hardly blink at him leading a wolf past posses of armed and angry men and skipping half a year of school while doing it is a bit far fetched, it did nothing to ruin a fine action/wilderness survival novel with a very appealing wolf character.
Bottom line: another great action adventure book that even makes you think now and then
“The Forgotten Beasts of Eld” by Patricia A. McKillip
Genre: YA fantasy
One sentence synopsis: Emotionless wizard Sybel is brought into politics when a stranger dumps the future heir of the local realm on her doorstep, and Sybel ventures first into love and then into hate, discovering both what it means to feel and who she is in the process.
This reader’s take:  Someone put a sticker on the spine that said “fairy tale” which was exactly what this was, especially in narrative tone.  After I adjusted to it and accepted it as a classic fairy tale, I had a good time.  While the MC can be annoying in places the forgotten beasts of he title more than made up for it by being very cool.
Bottom line: Well worth a read if you like classic fairy tales or fantasy.
“The Story Teller’s Daughter” by Cameron Dokey
Genre: YA fantasy
One sentence synopsis: Shahrazad, socially outcaste daughter of the Grand Vizier fights to break the curse put on the sultan by his executed and traitorous wife without getting beheaded by him.
This reader’s take: I was skeptical… another Shahrazad retelling, and it starts really grandiosely and navel-gazing as well, but after the pathetic prologue it turned out decent.  While it mostly tosses out the actual Arabian Nights tale, it has a well developed world-building, magic, and internal logic.  Most importantly the stories interwoven by Shahrazad are always relevant to the plot and characters and keep the flavor of the original Arabian tales while being entirely new.
Bottom Line: Isn’t going to win any awards, but definitely readable enough for a YA fairytale retelling.
“The Crystal Garden” by Vicki Grove
Genre: MG novel
One sentence synopsis: Eliza is forced to move to a hick town when her mother follower her loser boyfriend there and struggles to chose between the sweet but geeky girl next door and the popular girls in junior high who seem to be inviting her to join them.
This reader’s take: Put every cliche possible together, and while well written, this one tended to make me yawn.  Gosh, a small town is a nice place to live?  Wow, geeks can be good and faithful friends?  Oh my, the popular girls are just using her?  I’m shocked.  Maybe it’ll be new to the 12 year-olds, but all the cliches killed me by the end of it despite well-developed characters.
Bottom Line: If your kid is into these books about outcast girl vs popular girls, go ahead and hand it to her, it’s decently well-written, but there’s nothing new here.

I’ve been reading a lot.  I call it research.  I have to know what’s going on in my field, right?  This gives me an excuse to work through my huge stack of former library books I bought at the book sale, plus a bunch of current library books.  Sweet research, how I love thee.  However, I’m much to lazy to do a full review of all of them, so I’m doing a stack of mini-reviews.

“Wild Boy” by Thomas Fall

Genre: Historical fiction set in the U.S. during the 1870s

One sentence synopsis: Roberto, half-Mexican, half-Native American tries to figure out where he fits in between cultures on the southern Texas border while lusting after catching the killer mustang stallion Diablo.

This reader’s take:  Killer wild horse, angry American soldiers, angry Comanche warriors, and a boy with a lot of grit, what’s not to love?  Who cares if it was published back inn 1965?  The 1800s haven’t changed any and this one reads easy and well.

Bottom line: major win for the action adventure reader with a few things to actually think about tossed in

“What the Birds See” by Sonya Hartnett

Genre: YA literary, although no young adults are involved, this one should’a been sold as an adult book

One sentence synopsis: Nine-year-old Adrian is a neglected child with a depressed girl for one friend and a sell-out for another, who spirals deeper and deeper into wanting someone to need him until *gasp* all ends in tragedy.

This reader’s take: Someone wanted to be poetic and very very literary by writing the most stupidly depressing book imaginable.  The dead bird on the cover should have warned me.  The flap talking about kidnapped and dead children should have warned me.  I stupidly read it.  I still I want my wasted hours refunded.

Bottom line: Major fail, can we re-institute book burning for this one?

“The View from Saturday” by E.L. Konigsburg

Genre: MG literary

One sentence synopsis: The tale of four sixth graders, their teacher, and the complex human relationships behind their unprecedented rise to win the Academic Bowl in New York State against eight graders.

This reader’s take:  This is what a literary kid’s book should be like.  Humor, pathos, inner and outer struggles, all five POV characters (that’s right five, who says MG can only have one?) are full of depth and give us a new view of the situation.

Bottom line: Major win, which it did… the Newberry award.  Obviously those people have some sense.

“Shiva’s Fire” by Susanne Fisher Staples

Genre:  MG/YA fantasy

One sentence synopsis: Parvati has always been different, surrounded by omens that make her rural Indian village people regard her with suspicion and awe, but her true gift and calling lies in dancing.

This reader’s take:  The fantasy elements are very subtle, so much so I couldn’t tell if we were dealing with just people’s beliefs or real magic at first.  The Indian setting and Hindu religion are so well woven in, it feels as if it could be just a cultural book until it unfolds farther.  Very lovely.

Bottom line: Not this author’s best (that won a Newberry) but certainly well worth reading.

“Storm Rising” by Marilyn Singer

Genre: YA paranormal romance

One sentence synopsis: Storm meets the alluring but troubling Jocelyn who seems to want to collect him as one of her “strays”, something he uselessly resists a while before caving.

This reader’s take: In my state they’d call this relationship statutory rape and emotionally abusive.  It’s Twilight in reverse, as stalker girl with magic powers wins her man… er… boy.

Bottom Line: Major fail, where’s the brain bleach?

“Spotting the Leopard” by Anna Myers

Genre: MG novel

One sentence synopsis: H.J. is wrapped up in his sister’s battle with her parent trying to go to college, his uncle’s marital and business problems, and most of all “Lucky” a leopard who escapes his miserable existence in zoo captivity and everyone is trying to hunt down.

This reader’s take: The leopard dies, need I say more?  Honestly, I’ve had it up to here with “Old Yeller” stories about noble but doomed animals and the poor saps who love them.  Not to mention it’s trying the literary thing really hard and failing.  If we must have this sort of book, stick to “Old Yeller”, nothing new here.

Bottom line: Yawn, but not worth book burning or target practice or anything.

“Flight of the White Wolf” by Mel Ellis

Genre: YA novel

One sentence synopsis:  When Russ’s pet wolf accidentally kills a prize dog and runs off, everyone is out to shoot it, and Russ has to try to help the wolf escape to national park where he can fend for himself.

This reader’s take: Sort of like “Hatchet” meets “Call of the Wild”, and well done too.  This is what an animal story should be like.  While the fact that Russ’s parents hardly blink at him leading a wolf past posses of armed and angry men and skipping half a year of school while doing it is a bit far fetched, it did nothing to ruin a fine action/wilderness survival novel with a very appealing wolf character.

Bottom line: another great action adventure book that even makes you think now and then

“The Forgotten Beasts of Eld” by Patricia A. McKillip

Genre: YA fantasy

One sentence synopsis: Emotionless wizard Sybel is brought into politics when a stranger dumps the future heir of the local realm on her doorstep, and Sybel ventures first into love and then into hate, discovering both what it means to feel and who she is in the process.

This reader’s take:  Someone put a sticker on the spine that said “fairy tale” which was exactly what this was, especially in narrative tone.  After I adjusted to it and accepted it as a classic fairy tale, I had a good time.  While the MC can be annoying in places the forgotten beasts of he title more than made up for it by being very cool.

Bottom line: Well worth a read if you like classic fairy tales or fantasy.

“The Storyteller’s Daughter” by Cameron Dokey

Genre: YA fantasy

One sentence synopsis: Shahrazad, socially outcaste daughter of the Grand Vizier fights to break the curse put on the sultan by his executed and traitorous wife without getting beheaded by him.

This reader’s take: I was skeptical… another Shahrazad retelling, and it starts really grandiosely and navel-gazing as well, but after the pathetic prologue it turned out decent.  While it mostly tosses out the actual Arabian Nights tale, it has a well developed world-building, magic, and internal logic.  Most importantly the stories interwoven by Shahrazad are always relevant to the plot and characters and keep the flavor of the original Arabian tales while being entirely new.

Bottom Line: Isn’t going to win any awards, but definitely readable enough for a YA fairytale retelling.

“The Crystal Garden” by Vicki Grove

Genre: MG novel

One sentence synopsis: Eliza is forced to move to a hick town when her mother follower her loser boyfriend there and struggles to chose between the sweet but geeky girl next door and the popular girls in junior high who seem to be inviting her to join them.

This reader’s take: Put every cliche possible together, and while well written, this one tended to make me yawn.  Gosh, a small town is a nice place to live?  Wow, geeks can be good and faithful friends?  Oh my, the popular girls are just using her?  I’m shocked.  Maybe it’ll be new to the 12 year-olds, but all the cliches killed me by the end of it despite well-developed characters.

Bottom Line: If your kid is into these books about outcast girl vs popular girls, go ahead and hand it to her, it’s decently well-written, but there’s nothing new here.

Chosen Sister now on fictionwise

Chosen Sister Cover Chosen Sister is now available on fictionwise as well as straight from the publisher.  I’m excited to see it’s avialable now in multi-formats to fit most e-book readers.  Also, for a limited time it’ll be on sale as a new release, so check it out.  

Now if only I had an e-book reader… I really want a kindle or something.  They seems really fun and convient.

“Once a Thief” to be in an anthology

My short story “Once a Thief” from the Aug-Oct 2008 issue of Sorcerous Signals (from WolfSinger Publications) has been chosen for the year end anthology.  I’m looking forward to my second short story coming out in print!  While I believe very strongly that web-zines and e-books are the way of the future, I’m still a bit sentimental about old fashioned  print.  Even better, my friends Merc and Marva also have stories in the anthology.  I can’t wait for it to come out!  I’m going to need to send a copies to all my relatives.  Yes, I’m one of those sorts of people.

Still, with such wonderful news, I’m inspired to send out more short stories and novel queries for my other work.  Not even rejection can get me down today.

Review: Slave Girl

 

Slave Girl

Book: Slave Girl

Author: Betsy Hayes

Genre: Mid-grade Historical Fiction

Copyright: 1973

My grade:  A

Summary: The story follows a girl named Clowslip who is sold from the plantation of her birth to Colonel Sprague to watch his three young children while his wife is away.  There she meets her new fellow slaves who have a range of opinions on what it means to be a slave and who with the master all have different ideas about what path she should follow.  Cowslip struggles to discover her own sense of self and identity in the midst of this chaos.

What I learned: Despite the older writing style involving a bit too much introspection for the current narrative tastes of mid-grade fiction this was a strong book.  I thought from glancing at this that I’d like it and I did very much.  The historical setting was well researched, providing clear details, using period language, and established the historical setting well.  However, it never took a back seat to the story itself.  This was very much a story of searching for personal identity and remained so.

The book was very centered on its theme and used simple literary devises to support it throughout the book.  Cowslip’s bandana given to her by the woman who raised her is used nicely in several places as a symbol of identity, self-realization, and change.  One of the major secondary characters, a man named Job, is a man who once was free and was kidnapped by slave traders who burnt his papers and sold him back into slavery.  

Also, the religious beliefs of the character, a mix of Christianity and hoodoo were well presented.  I wonder if this, however, is one of the reasons this book lies forgotten in the library stack.  We are reminded how the masters used the bible to justify the enslavement of black people, and while some characters argue against it, it isn’t shown with any more rightness than the hoodoo.  While many characters are skeptical, Cowslip remains strong in her belief in aspects of both religions.  I see this more as part of her journey to find her personal and cultural identity than any statement in either set of beliefs.  Characters are show on both sides of the debate, and I feel I learned a lot of what makes a successful literary minded mid-grade novel.

My time was well spent with this one.  I’ll be keeping it.

Friends of the Library Book Sale

I love books.  I especially love getting lots of books for very little money, and the end of the library book sale for any region offers this nice.  Benton County, where I live now, has a progressive list of prices that goes down each day of the three day event.  On the final day, yesterday, books are $5 a box.

Here I sit now, eyeing my three boxes of books.  Two of them are purely children’s books.  I went originally to the sale to look for books I know I want, because I have a growing collection of kid’s books I love and appreciate.  However, I just couldn’t resist coming back on the final day to stock up on any and all random kid’s books that looked like they had a shadow of potential.  

On the theory that reading what you write will inspire and improve your writing, I’m going to be working through them.  Also, considering I want to get into the regular habit of blogging, I’m going to review them.  

Since all these are old books, some practically ancient, I feel no obligation to be polite, like I might with new books of up and coming authors.  I tend to only review books I love.  I expect the library discards are going to have some wretched ones.  I plan to say so.  I can learn as much from bad kid’s lit as from good kid’s lit.

The Dreaded Writer’s Block and Writing Garbage

 

Once the flashing lights of a novel coming out and the thrill of seeing my first (and beautiful cover) have passed, I’ve found myself dissatisfied with everything I try to write next.  Fortunately, taking some time off to go hiking in nature has re-energized me and reminded by that it’s perfectly acceptable to write garbage when drafting.

I often struggle with wanting to tell a good story.  Sadly, good stories don’t jump out of my brain fully formed.  I tend to need several drafts to hash out plot, characterization, setting, and all the juicy stuff that makes a novel so much fun to read.  When I put pressure on myself to produce these things on the spot, I freeze up.  

Ever since I sold “Chosen Sister” my work in progress “Paladin Honor” has been stalled.  First it was a necessity of the line edits and revisions taking up my time.  Then it was Nanowrimo (which granted got me the as yet unedited “Miranda Makes Her First Million”) and after that the holidays.  When I tried to return to everything in January, somehow I’d forgotten along the way that I was writing a rough draft.  I’d open the novel, look at a few lines and draw a blank.

Thankfully, last week ended the month long bout of Writer’s Block, and I’m happily writing garbage to finish up the draft of my novel.  After it’s done, I’ll go back and gut the novel with a vengeance to finally make it the good book it deserves to be.

A fascinating article on e-books

My publisher sent me a link to this great article on e-books.  Being the author of an e-book, I’m quite interested in the future of the industry.  I was fascinated at the challenges to the market and the history presented in the article.  I hope we can all encourage the publishing of more material as e-books, because I think it can only encourage more people to read and write in the long run.  

Yes, I like hard-copy books as much as the next person.  Curling up with an e-book reader or a laptop just isn’t quite the same.  Yet, like most people, I do the majority of my reading on screen doing exactly that–curling up with the laptop.  Between blogs, e-mail, critques, writing, and catching up on my favorite websites and online magazines, I’m quite used to reading and having fun doing digitally.  When I need copies of older books, obscure French epic poetry and the like, I’m perfectly happy to find them online.  Despite my love of paperback, I’m also following the general trend and opening up my fiction enjoyment in other medium.

I really enjoyed this article’s thorough disecting of the common complaints and issues around e-books.  Electronic forms of novels only add to our flexibility as readers.  For example,  one of my very busy readers read my novel on her blackberry.  I’m encouraged by the growing interest in other ways of getting our daily doses of fiction.

Chosen Sister Available

CoverMy book is now up on the Wild Child Publishing website.

I’d like to give a big thank you to the wonderful group of people who helped me get this book all the way from conception to publication.  This is this boring credit stuff I usually skim, but after all the wonderful people who helped me,  I know now why people do this.   I don’t care, I’m thanking everyone who helped me with this novel.

First, I want to thank my sister Julie for being the inspiration of this story.  I wrote it for her during Nanowrimo 2006.  Also, thanks the folks at Imaginaries who introduced me to Nanowrimo in the first place.

A big thanks to my brother JP and cousin Caroline for reading early drafts, to the people in Tina’s Nanowrimo queue, especially Angela (Momzilla), Hilary, Judy, and Ester (Eblgorton) who gave me a whole book crit.  Also my brother Leo who did a late line edit with me and my mother for some wonderful final revision ideas.

I also want to thank Marva, Shana, Shelb, and Katie (Megora) for some serious query and marketing help at various key points in pushing me and supporting me in getting into the submission game.  I wouldn’t have started putting myself out there without you.

I want to also thank Marci at Wild Child Publishing for her ever helpful attitude and Stephanie, my brilliant editor.

Finally, I wouldn’t be any good promoting myself without Laurie (Aspiration) who first poked us into starting the Toasted Scimitar and got me into blogging, Wulfie who put this wonderful website together, and Merwriter my publicity coordinator.

I’ve lots of other wonderful people at Critique Circle who’ve been a great help, but I think I’ve rambled enough and covered everyone in regards to this particular novel.  Thanks again to everyone!