Thanks for reading, everyone. I hope you enjoy this one even more than the others!
Alonca's Quest is now live on Amazon, available for pre-order on Kindle. Hours of good entertainment for less than the cost of a chicken sandwich! Just follow the link, (click this right here) to have your copy delivered on the twenty-second of May. This way, you won't have to remember to go find it :).
Thanks for reading, everyone. I hope you enjoy this one even more than the others!
I am thrilled and proud and relieved to announce that the 'backward edit' is finished. And to celebrate, I am finally revealing the cover for Alonca's Quest! And while I'm at it, I'll reveal the release date of May 22, 2018. Thank you all for your encouragement during this process. It's been lovely to wake up and find happy emails from new readers! I'll be getting the preorder page ready soon, and of course I'll announce that, as well. Thanks again!
Hello, friends, this is just a quick note to let you know that I am nearly halfway through the final edit on Alonca's Quest, which is a backward edit to catch all the little things one doesn't usually see when reading a story from beginning to finish.
I take one chapter at a time and read it backward, sentence by sentence, so I don't get caught up in the story and miss something. It's a bit tedious, but worth the effort since it substantially improves the finished product.
After this will be formatting, and then it will go out to the Advance Review team and to my secret weapon, an editor fan who will tell me if I missed anything else...
So, as of now, it's looking like it will be released end of May or early June! It's exciting. I can't wait to get back to writing the fourth book and take a break from the technical aspects of publishing for a while. The fourth book is going to be the best ever, I think, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Thanks for reading, everyone! I appreciate your patience. I know AQ has been a long time coming.
Review of 'A Murder of Crones' by SW Fairbrother. After the review there's a wonderful little interview of SW where you can get some perspective on why she writes what she does and the process of it. She's insightful and pleasant to read.
This is book two in the London Bones series, an enjoyable read if you like slightly dark, gruesome tales. I usually don't like them, and I did like this, so maybe it’s not as dark and gruesome as I think. Dark or not, the world and main character were interesting enough to balance out the macabre for me.
Vivia is a hag, able to come back to life at will, and hers is a world filled with fairytale creatures, curses, murders, insane crones, and all things weird. Her quest to survive the full moon and make things right with her sister turns out to be more complicated than she ever could have expected, and I admit that I had a hard time following the twists a couple of times. I'm not sure that's a fault of the writing, however, because anyone who knows me knows that I am at nearly all times either tired or in the process of getting tired, lol. I can't remember any typos or awkward sentences, no editorial oopses. The whole book felt professional.
I chose to review this book because although I can't call it diverse in the traditional sense, I think Vivia is odd enough to qualify. I'm pretty sure I mentioned this in my review of book 1, as well. She's not a pretty hag. She has to remove warts regularly. She has a typical witch's face, long nose and chin to the point of looking inhuman. She stinks of death every time she comes back from the underworld and has to do a long, thorough scrub if she doesn't want to gross people out. She's ostracized by most, accepted by few. Even other inhuman creatures can feel uncomfortable around her.
Despite all this, Vivia endeavors to solve her riddle and help those she can. She loves those who have been horrible to her, with healthy boundaries. She works hard to pull herself from the lies and dysfunction of her childhood, to make a good life for herself and others.
Language: I think there were three bad words.
Sexual Content: None.
Violence: Yes, in the tradition of old fairytales. You know, cannibalism, witches putting curses on people, explosions…
Overall Plot/Message: There are some extraordinary twists in this story, turning what looked like a simple premise into a full on fantastical mystery. I'd say it's plot-driven, but at the same time the narration is first person and Vivia is a compelling character. So, we'll go with 'nice blend'. As for messages, there are some positive themes. We're encouraged not to judge by appearances, to do the hard thing when it's the right thing, to let go of the dysfunction we've been living in and strive for something better.Find 'A Murder of Crones' here.
Interview with SW Fairbrother, author of the London Bones series
RA: You've created a complex story in which we see a fantastical dark underside of the world we see in real life. It draws me in, but of all the strangeness in the London Bones books, the strangest thing to me is that you chose an ugly hag for your main character. Lots of heroines moan on about being unattractive and having poor self-image, but Vivia ACTUALLY IS difficult for most to look at. And never does she meet the boy who just-loves-her-the-way-she-is-and-thinks-she's-the-most-beautiful-creature-in-the-world. Why did you do that? Do you think it makes selling the books more difficult?
SWF: I love urban fantasy but I always find a lot of the heroines frustrating. They’re sassy and outwardly confident, yet inwardly insecure (despite their awesome fighting skills and stunning looks).
A lot of the story is often about the various love interests fighting over her. There’s nothing wrong with those stories – there’s a reason they’re so popular! But I wanted to see something different.
I wanted to see a heroine succeed despite her looks, and the more I thought about it, the more an ugly heroine appealed.
Whether we like it or not, people react differently to beautiful people and someone like Vivia is going to get a very different reaction from characters than even an ordinary person would.
I don’t think she likes being ugly, but she has accepted it. I suspect that if you got into a conversation with her about it, she’d have a lot of sharp things to say about our society’s unrealistic standards of beauty for women and girls.
I’ve always preferred the mystery side of urban fantasy anyway, so I concentrated on that and left the romance out. That said, I do have a little romance planned for Vivia in the next book. I quite like her and I think she is lonely, even if she would never admit it to herself. She deserves someone who loves her for who she is – warts and all – and it’s about time Vivia had something good happen to her.
However, like Vivia, the romance will be unconventional too, or at least it will be for the genre. There won’t be anyone fighting over her. It’ll just be small and sweet, and on the side of the main mystery.
I don’t think it’s made selling the books more difficult. If anything, I’ve had a very positive reaction from readers about how Vivia is depicted. People seem to really like it, and I’ve enjoyed writing something a little different.
The next book is about werebees (murder in the hive!) and I’m enjoying figuring out how a bee-like but still very human society would function. I do have a tendency to make the stories a little too complicated so I’m trying to streamline it, before sending it out into the wild. The Hive will be out sometime this year.
RA: Well, thank you from me and all of us who are tired of being told we're not successful if we don't have at least two boys after us! I didn't read YA lit or urban fantasy when I was a teen (if it even existed), I skipped right to epic fantasy, so I wasn't really exposed to the love triangle nonsense you mentioned (and yes, I understand why it's popular even if I believe it's very unhealthy. It speaks to desires and insecurities that we don't like to acknowledge) like so many women today. My eyes get to rolling when I read stories like that, makes it hard to keep my balance. Anyway, I love the choices you made with her character, and I agree that Vivia deserves happiness.
I'm glad to hear you've had a positive reaction to her character, and I'm not the only one who appreciates it! I look forward to getting back to the story and seeing what happens with this little romance you mentioned. I'm not a romance person myself, but I appreciate when it's a thread of a much bigger story and serves to add depth rather than taking over the plot.
It's funny to me that you mentioned your stories are a little too complicated because in my review, I note that I had a hard time keeping up. Still, I don't think it's a bad thing. I have a hard time keeping up with movies sometimes, too (drives my husband crazy), but that doesn't make me enjoy them less. I think my problem is that I'm in a perpetual state of distraction. Even meditation time is hard. Yeesh. So, back to complicated plots. Do you plot things out before you start writing, or are you what some call a 'pantser', just writing from the beginning and seeing where it takes you? You did say you have a romance 'planned', but that could mean a lot of things.
SWF: The books are definitely too complicated, I think. It has suited some people. I've had feedback from readers saying they really enjoyed all the twists and turns, but others struggle to follow what's going on.
A lot of the complications in the first book simply came from me not being an experienced enough writer at the time to know how to streamline all my ideas.
I'm not a pantser in the least. I plot everything in detail ahead of time, but also revise the plot as I go because characters are annoyingly stubborn about not wanting to be forced into story arcs they don't like.
The romance part has written itself though. That one is purely character-driven. I can't go into it in too much detail as some of it would count as spoilers for the main mystery but it involves Charon the boatman who Vivia has always had a bit of a crush on. We get to find out a little more about his back-story (just a scene or two) and he makes some pivotal decisions that help Vivia get back to normality in the real world. And they become a little closer on the way.
It's nice to have that bit feel easy because the story usually goes out into about a dozen different directions in my head. I also write very slowly, mostly because I fight every sentence and am brutal about deleting the ones that don't work. It does mean that instead of getting the story out in one big rush, I have to keep reminding myself where I've been and where I'm going.
It does mean that by the time I type 'The End', my first draft doesn't need much more than a bit of tidying and checking for typos.
RW: I'm excited! Can't wait to read The Hive. I'm learning to be a better plotter because I think it helps keep the writing process from stalling, along with making it easier to preserve continuity (which is something you're fantastic at unless I missed something). Since continuity errors are my biggest pet peeve and strangely pervasive, even in mainstream media, I appreciate your diligence. And I empathize with writing so slowly that I have to keep back tracking to remember things. Doesn't help that I'm generally forgetful, lol.
Well, I think this takes us to the end of our space. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts! I've really enjoyed getting a little insight into you and your story.
SW Fairbrother's webpage.
Find 'Murder of Crones' here.
Today I'm doing a little self congratulation, woohoo! I finally, finally have forty reviews of Kergulen on Amazon! I haven't tried very hard to get them, I admit, but that doesn't make me any less happy to reach the significant milestone! New aim, fifty, but I won't be trying very hard for that one either, lol. Still, if you have friends who might enjoy the book, feel free to tell them I'll send an e-copy if they're interested in reviewing!
Today I'm doing something I'm not sure I've done before, which is to post a review of a book I loved AND an interview with the author. My hope is to do more of this in the future, but I may not always be lucky enough to love books by indulgent authors like D. G. Driver. So, please take the time to read both the review and the interview. This is an author with a lot of experience and insight.
This is a story about a teenager, but unlike many teen leads, Juniper Sawfeather didn't drive me crazy. In some ways she does fill the typical teen role--she has a best friend, she can't seem to fit in, her parents drive her crazy--but not in an annoying way. Unlike most of the teens I've read, she has real goals like making the world better and a specific degree in college, and doesn't fill the pages obsessing over boys. I mean, she is interested in a boy, but I appreciated the way it was handled. Refreshing. Education is so important to her and to her family, but as a reader I didn't feel preached at. It's just part of their lives. A part they argue about, lol.
I got so involved in June's life for a chapter or two that I forgot it was a book about mermaids! I almost exclusively pick up books of fantasy, so I should have been expecting something, but I was caught up in her world and forgot all about it. June's parents are environmentalists and she comes into contact with the mermaids when she helps her dad rescue animals from an oil spill.
I chose to review this book on my blog because I believe it's a great example of diversity. June has a Native American heritage, which plays into the story quite a bit, but at the same time, the story isn't about the struggles of being a Native American. It's a part of her life, but not the focus of the story.
Sexual Content: None. There is a romantic interest, but it's all sweet and un-irritating and the guy is actually realistic and likeable. Yes, he likes her, but it's not that swooning-oh-I-would-do-anything-for-you-you're-the-center-of-my-universe-for-no-apparent-reason nonsense that I so often whine about.
Language: I can't remember any foul language at all. Sorry if I missed something.
Violence: Aside from an oil company sending out a leaky tanker and wreaking havoc on the ocean and everything in it, none.
Overall Plot/Message: The story feels completely character driven and yet has a solid plot and is full of message. Readers who are anti-environmental protection may not appreciate it, but I certainly did.
Find the book here. Find D. G. Driver's website here.
Interview with D. G. Driver, author of many books and stories including the one I've reviewed, 'Cry of the Sea'. Please take a few minutes to read what she has to share!
RA: Juniper's story is more about her mission to save the mermaids than it is about her Native American ancestry, but the history and stories of her people play a significant role in her life and in solving the mystery. My question is, where did you get the idea of linking Native American traditions, mermaids and environmentalism?
D. G. Driver: That's a great first question.
I originally came up with the concept for Cry of the Sea after the 10-year anniversary of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. It was all over the news, and it got my creative mind thinking, "What if mermaids were caught in an oil spill?" I knew I wanted a teen heroine for this book, but who would be on a beach during an oil spill to discover the mermaids and where would this beach be located?
Well, I've been a teacher all of my adult life. Just prior to writing the first draft of this novel, I'd been working with 3rd and 4th graders in California. Part of our curriculum each year was a lengthy unit on American Indian culture and history. We covered tribes from various regions around the country. My favorite nations were the ones of the Pacific Northwest. A lot of the mythology and legends from that region spoke to me. So, I decided that since the Exxon-Valdez spill affected the shores from Alaska down to Oregon, I would set this smaller fictional spill off the coast of Washington. I decided my heroine would have environmental activists parents to explain why she was at the beach. Then I decided her father would be American Indian, someone with roots in the region, a real connection to the land, who would care about it and the creatures living on it more than the average person. I never considered another person for the leading lady of my book than Juniper Sawfeather.
I wrote this book long before the We Need Diverse Voices movement began, but it was published around the same time. I didn't go into great depth about Juniper's heritage in book 1 of this series, choosing to focus more on the mission of saving the mermaids. There is a lot more about her family, background, and mythology in books 2 and 3 of the trilogy and in the short stories I published for two subsequent anthologies. You can learn more about all of those books at my website. www.dgdriver.com
RA: Thank you, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series. I already have my copy of 'Whisper of the Woods' *smiles*.
It's interesting to me that you chose Juniper's heritage because it added so much value to the story rather than for the sake of diversity or more Native Americans in fiction. I think there's a lesson there for all of us. Sometimes in books and movies I get the impression that the diversity is 'token', only there to check off the 'diverse box', but many of us understand that a story made up of different kinds of people can have strength that other stories can't. What would you say to writers who believe diversity would add to their stories, but are afraid of 'getting it wrong' and offending their readers?
D. G. Driver: Whew, this is a tough question.
It is extremely important to have more books featuring diverse characters available for young readers. That said, I think what is wanted is more stories where the main character "happens to be" diverse, where the plot isn't centered around someone's race or ability. I know as a teacher at a school that has a large population of special needs students, we are always on the lookout for more books featuring kids with special needs playing and experiencing childhood alongside their typically developing friends, rather than it being a book about "look how so-and-so gets through his difficult day."
Also, the #ownvoices movement is strong in publishing right now. Agents and editors are on the lookout for more books written by authors of color. I believe it is important for stories to be written from the unique point of view of a person's experience. #Ownvoices authors are more able to write the kind of stories that probe what it is like to be a certain race, or to have a certain disability, or to be from a certain culture, or to be LGBTQ. It's harder for an author like myself to write a diverse character authentically. It's important to do research, research, and more research. It's important to be careful. It's extremely important to avoid clichés or things you only know because of other books or movies. A lot of publishers are now using "sensitivity readers" to test out material.
I think white authors should continue to be bold and write books with diverse characters, but be aware that people are less forgiving now than they used to be. Focus on your story and why you're putting a diverse character into it. Then make that character as real as possible. When I wrote Cry of the Sea I wasn't trying to write about the contemporary American Indian teenage experience. That is not my story to tell. I wanted to write a fantasy novel and decided that my ideal main character would be American Indian. The fact that Juniper is American Indian then led me to discover more about her culture and mythology which helped shape the trilogy as a whole.
RA: I love your answers! That's a lot of good advice.
Well, I just want to ask one more question, and maybe it'll be a little easier than the last two. I wonder, were there any parts of the writing, publishing, and marketing process that were especially difficult for you? What did you do to get through them?
D. G. Driver: I have been a published author since 1995. I started with stories and articles in magazines, anthologies, and websites. While I've had quite a few book published, both as Donna Getzinger (all out of print now) and as D. G. Driver, I still haven't managed to achieve my big dream of having an agent and a New York publishing contract. I keep studying the craft, attending workshops and conferences, writing, and submitting, but I don't seem to write the big "hook" type books the biggies are looking for. This has been my biggest frustration as an author, and at times I battle with wanting to quit and feeling envy about the success of others. Usually, right when I'm feeling at my worst, I'll get a new review or sell a story, and then I'm ready to get going again. (Today, for example, I just found out that Whisper of the Woods won the 2018 New Apple Independent Book Awards, Young Adult Fantasy Official Selection.)
In 2013 I learned about Fire and Ice Young Adult Books (an imprint of Melange Books) through the Children's Book Insider Newsletter, which I receive quarterly. I checked out their existing line of books, read some first chapters, and double-checked that they were a traditional publisher (they pay for all publishing expenses, including editing, and provide royalties on sales) before submitting. I was thrilled when they accepted Cry of the Sea. I love working with this small press and have four books with them and my fifth coming out later this year. I think self-publishing gives an author more freedom to experiment with marketing and pricing than working with a small press, but I like not having any upfront costs. SCBWI considers my publisher to be 'Published and Listed', which is their form of validation and allows my books to be included in their special events. The only problem with being with a small press or going full indie is that it is difficult to convince schools and librarians to purchase your work. Getting reviews from Publisher's Weekly or School Library Journal are nearly impossible, and librarians base all their purchasing decisions on those reviews. This is rough when you write children's or young adult novels.
I've got plans right now to do a sixth book with Fire and Ice (if they accept it) which is nearly complete. I've started my first real effort in self-publishing this year with a series of original fairy tale ebook novellas. The first, The Royal Deal, was released in January. Then I plan to try something new: writing a book targeted to adult readers and see if maybe that will catch an agent's eye. We'll see what happens. A career in writing is about being creative, having ideas, and finding ways to share them.
RA: Wow, you have so much experience and knowledge to share! I'm taking notes, lol. Thanks so much for sharing! This has been a valuable experience for me!
Find the book here. Find D. G. Driver's website here.
First off, I'm going to speak about the whole series here because I read the books back to back and might not do a great job of separating them. I got The Palace Job for free on a special promotion, and I bought and read the next two as soon as I got the chance. Totally worth it. The series was so much fun that I have to recommend it even if there is crass, off-color humor throughout.
Imagine if 'Oceans 11' got a lot more diverse and was transported to a well-plotted fantasy universe. Like you might expect, the story is more about plot and humor than driven by character, but still the characters were anything but flat. Each acted according to his or her predisposition, and despite the number of them they never blended together. This is a fun, fast paced, outrageous story, kind of like the A Team with a magic system. I regularly struggled not to keep my husband up, chuckling as I stayed awake reading past my usual bed time.
Language/Sexual Content: I merged these categories because pretty much the only foul language was sexual humor, and just about the only sexual content is innuendo and coarse jesting. For example, there's a unicorn whose goal in life is to seduce virgins, but nothing is ever actually described. One character consistently distracts his opponents by claiming to have been spending 'quality time' with their mothers. Another is a love priestess and spends her days trying to help people find romance. If you're sensitive to that sort of thing, this isn't the book for you because there's a lot of it. Personally, I admit that some of it was funny and the rest of it was easy to gloss over. The only exception is in one part of one book where an evil Satyr came into the story and for a short bit the story got a dark, illicit feel to it, but fortunately that didn't last for long.
Violence: Lots of hand to hand combat. I'm trying to remember any really gruesome, explicit content, but I can't.
Overall Message/Plot: I'm going to say this is an overwhelmingly plot-centered story, and well done. It's wonderfully diverse, keeps you on your toes, and still manages to keep consistent, endearing characters. I'll reread it at some point.
Also, an aside worth mentioning: The author is a white guy. I only mention that because the main characters are shades of brown and when I read the book I assumed the author was a person of color. Why? Because I don't often find characters of color filling the leading roles in books not written by people of color, and if I do, it seems the authors are women like me who have somewhere along the way developed a vested interest in diverse stories. (Yes, I know there are exceptions, but they're exceptional enough to make note of.) I wish I had a good way of reaching Mr. Weekes because I would absolutely love to know what inspired him to write diverse characters, and to tell him how much it means to me that the pool of non-white heroes is growing. It's important for my son to grow up seeing his own skin reflected on powerful (if flawed) world-savers.
Find it here.
Review of Chalcedony: Book Two of the Everleaf Series
by Constance Burris
Chalcedony is the follow-up to Coal, which I read quite some time ago. I enjoyed the first book, but I thought this one was better for several reasons. I thought the writing was much better in this book all around, with few typos, a smooth style, and an engaging story.
In this book we spend a lot of time in the 'real' world, are introduce to new villains, and make some new friends. I enjoyed Coal's character much more this time, as he has matured somewhat, and I enjoyed the twists his story took.
Although this book is titled after Chalcedony, I didn't find her character especially compelling. She's not very likable to me, which I believe is intentional, but I don't really even like her as a villain. She's not really a villain, but neither is she a hero… but that's kind of a good thing, isn't it? She's caught up in everything around her and she's immature and selfish and too powerful for her own good and not as smart as she thinks she is. So, she's kind of like a real person, lol, albeit a real person with magic powers, red eyes, and pointy ears.
There's another character, Haline, who I enjoyed very much. I think I could read a book just about her and her adventures and be happy. She's a dwarf, but not a typical one, and her spunkiness appealed to me. Yeah, she might have been my favorite character. One problem with reading stories about teenagers is that sometimes they act too much like teenagers and they irritate me, but Haline was a nice relief from the drama. And again, Coal had grown up a bit, too.
Language: Infrequent minor swearing.
Sexual Content: None.
Violence: A bit of weirdness with a creepy villain, but nothing I would consider ridiculous or gratuitous.
Overall Message/Plot: The truth is, I didn't spend a lot of time analyzing the story. I read it for fun. In fact, I should admit that when I read this I wasn't looking for minor issues, so don't come after me if you find things I didn't notice. A few little things did jump out at me, but nothing that kept me from enjoying the story. There are some fun developments, some people learn to be less stupid… It's not one of those freakish stories where it all comes together and you wake your husband up because your mind is so blown that you can't shut up, but as far as I remember it all fit together and there were some cool twists that I didn't see coming. As in the first book, I didn't find the ending satisfying, but the truth is that it's part of a series and the next book will pick up where this one dropped off. At least it's not one of those annoying cliff hangers. I look forward to reading the next in the series, Jade: Book Three of the Everleaf Series.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Find the book here.
Hello, everyone, I'm gathering early reviews for Alonca's Quest! If you're interested, please email me or leave a comment so I can work out a pre-release copy for you. If you haven't reviewed the first two but you're interested, message me and we can work that out, too. When Alonca's Quest is ready, I will send you an e-copy of it in the hope that you would review it. I will always give away any book if it means a review, no problem, so if anyone you know wants to read mine, please let them know! Thank you!
I know I've posted more this week than I have in months, but a lot has been going on! Please say a prayer that this new cover will help me get onto promotional sites and gather a whole new group of new readers!
Hello! Thanks for visiting my blog! Around here you'll find posts about my books, my family, our intercultural experiences, and things interracial.