Sunday, 16 November 2014

Book Review: The Peculiar

The Peculiar (The Peculiar, #1)The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann

 Don't get yourself noticed and you won't get yourself hanged.

In the faery slums of Bath, Bartholomew Kettle and his sister Hettie live by these words. Bartholomew and Hettie are changelings--Peculiars--and neither faeries nor humans want anything to do with them.

One day a mysterious lady in a plum-colored dress comes gliding down Old Crow Alley. Bartholomew watches her through his window. Who is she? What does she want? And when Bartholomew witnesses the lady whisking away, in a whirling ring of feathers, the boy who lives across the alley--Bartholomew forgets the rules and gets himself noticed.

First he's noticed by the lady in plum herself, then by something darkly magical and mysterious, by Jack Box and the Raggedy Man, by the powerful Mr. Lickerish . . . and by Arthur Jelliby, a young man trying to slip through the world unnoticed, too, and who, against all odds, offers Bartholomew friendship and a way to belong.

Part murder mystery, part gothic fantasy, part steampunk adventure, The Peculiar is Stefan Bachmann's riveting, inventive, and unforgettable debut novel.

 

I loved the world created by Bachmann, it is so rich, vivid, and imaginative. You could really feel how the faery and Victorian worlds came together in a clockworky, steampunky way. I also enjoyed the characters and the mystery surrounding them. Mr Jelliby was so much fun, and Bartholomew was so passionate.

However, I found the book dragged a bit and was slow to get into some of the action. There also seemed to be a lot of running around sometimes. There was enough intrigue and peril, though to keep the ready happy. There was a nice set up for book 2, which promises to be exciting.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Anyone Else Doing Nano?

Mid-October. Time to start getting nervous about what to write for Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) this year.

This will be my sixth year. In fact, Prophecy, the novel I am currently editing in order to publish in next few months, originally started as a Nano novel several years ago.

My whole family now loves and participates in Nano. My husband is teaching high school creative writing and his whole class does Nano. I have several friends who also participate. It is a fun, supportive, inner editor squashing month for us.

But, this year, I don't have any idea of what to write. Nothing. Not even a character or a setting or a genre. I am hoping for inspiration to hit me in the next two weeks. Anytime now, I keep thinking, I'm open to ideas and suggestions. Maybe I'll dream up something good, overhear a conversation, or simply be struck by some great idea.

How about you guys? Anyone else doing Nano this year? Do you know what you're writing about you're writing? Have you got it all planned out? I'd love to connect with other Wrimos.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Book Review: Gone Girl

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn


On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife's head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media--as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents--the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter--but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn't do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?


I could hardly put this book down. I loved all of the twists and turns, along with how warped and flawed the characters are. Flynn's writing is engaging and fast paced -- she did an amazing job of making the reader simultaneously love and hate the totally dysfunctional characters. Their psychoses were brought to life in an engaging and realistic way. And the ending, it was great. As I got closer to the end, I started to worry that it would spoil the book, but it didn't, it perfectly topped off a great mystery.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Cover Reveal of Prophesy

I'm so excited to share the cover of my upcoming novel, Prophecy, Book 1 in the Antigone, The True Story series.
Prophecy is a young adult mythological fantasy with a bit of romance that tells the story of Antigone's life (daughter of the infamous Oedipus from Greek mythology) from her point of view. It's a novel where honour and scandal collide and the truth of history is definitely strange than the fiction of myth.

My plan was, originally, to publish Prophecy this fall, but due to health issues, it will not be quite ready. My goal now is now to have the book out this winter or early next year at the latest.

You can click on the tab up top to read the first chapter.

I can't forget to mention that the cover was designed by the wonderfully talented, creative, and patient people at Deranged Doctor Design.

If you would like to be the first to hear about updates, you can subscribe to my newsletter here.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Book Review: Smashwords Book Marketing Guide

Smashwords Book Marketing GuideSmashwords Book Marketing Guide by Mark Coker

Summary:
This free marketing primer provides authors actionable advice on how to market their books on Smashwords. It starts with an overview of how Smashwords helps promote your book, and then provides a series simple do-it-yourself marketing tips. The book is useful to all authors, even those who don't yet publish on Smashwords. Updated October 23, 2009.

My Thoughts:
This is a great free and easy to read book about marketing your book written by Smashwords founder, Mark Coker. I have yet to publish my book, but am doing so soon, so am doing research to help with the marketing. Coker's book has lots of great tips, all of them free, about how to market your book.

The first half of the book gives a bit of a history of self publishing and outlines what Smashwords does, how books are distributed. I have seen a lot of complaints that this book is just a big advertizement for Smashwords, but I enjoyed learning more about what they do -- and it is a free book put out by Smashwords. Also, don't read that part of the book if you don't like it.

Next, Coker explains about book marketing and social media, how hyperlinks work, building a platform, and how authors can help each other. This was a useful overview, especially for someone like me who is diving right in and trying to understand how it all works.

Finally, there are 41 free marketing tips. You can pick and choose what to do and what will work for you. Some are easy, like updating your email signature, and some are more involved like, publish more than one book. This is a great check list of things to do, compiled in an easy list with clear instructions on how to do them and why they are a good idea.

Overall, I got a lot out of this book -- and it gets the juices going for how to market, something I'm not familiar with at all. I appreciate Coker putting this book out and especially that it is free. I didn't always agree with his advice, but it gave me a place to start and lots to think about.

If you are interested in downloading a copy of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, click on the link.

For those of you who have self published or are in the process, what books and resources have been helpful for you? Which would you recommend?

Monday, 22 September 2014

I'm Getting There...

In the spring, I was so determined to blog regularly again, to finish editing my book, and to get it published by the middle of October. Well, here we are, the middle of September, and I am struggling with all of those things.

There has been a lot going on. Stress levels have been high because my husband is a school teacher and he went on strike in June and only went back on Friday, which amounts to over 5 weeks of being on the picket line (if you don't count the summer). The kids, of course, have also been off school this whole time. It has certainly changed the dynamics around the house -- everyone off for 3 1/2 months. Then there are the financial worries that come with being on strike.

I am grateful that the strike is over now. However, there was a lot of stress during this time and it has triggered some nasty mental health issue for me. I have been in full fledged self sabotage mode. I have done some editing, but it has been difficult. I have done some research on self publishing, but not as much as I wanted. I have hired someone to design my book cover, but we have hit some snags.
One of the things that makes reading forums, blogs, and other people's stories is that they are both inspiring and frustrating. I see so many people who are able, successfully, to put out a book every 3 to 4 months. Wow. I've been working on my Antigone series for 3 to 4 years. I love to read about people making a living publishing their books and are having a great time doing it. However, I am also intimidated by them and their productivity.

I find I need to stand back and look at the bigger picture and give myself some credit. I have, for the most part, written what will become a young adult trilogy and just need to finish editing it. Over the last few months, under very stressful circumstances and with mental health problems, I have done some editing, researching, and have taken concrete steps to get my book published.

I need to realize that the way I write is the best way for me. It would seem that sometimes I need these lulls in productivity. I like to call them time to percolate. I am one of those people who needs time to take things in and sort them out in my head, and that's okay. I need to realize that the speed at which I publish my book is perfect for me, to learn from other people's experiences, but to stop comparing myself to them.

And I need to remember that baby steps rock. They really do. Doing something every day (or most days, or some days), no matter how small, towards finishing my book is a step in the right direction. Doing anything with 3 kids at home, a husband on strike, and while dealing with major health issues is amazing. It's important to remember the value of those teeny, tiny baby steps.




Monday, 1 September 2014

Book Review: The Breaker's Code by Conner Kressley

The Breaker's Code (Fixed Points #1) by Conner Kressley


SUMMARY
Where were you when the world ended?

Three weeks shy of her seventeenth birthday, Cresta Karr wakes to find her world is falling apart. The necklace her father left her is mysteriously missing, a black sedan is stalking her and her friends, and her house is minutes away from exploding. To top it off, she finds out that Owen, the enigmatic, if slightly off-kilter guy of her dreams, is both not interested in going out with her and a superspy sent by a clandestine organization to keep tabs on her.

Turns out Cresta is the subject of a 500 year old prophecy, and if Owen and the other “Breakers” can't find a way to circumvent the future before the sun comes up on her birthday, Cresta is destined to bring about the end of the world -- something she'd rather not have on her college applications. That is, of course, if the gun-toting cult members piling onto her front porch don't get to her first.

The countdown is on. Secrets will be revealed, relationships will be tested, prophecies will be fulfilled, and fate will fight free will in a battle so intense that it won't end until the world itself does.

Happy birthday, Cresta.

REVIEW
I bought this book as part of a larger box set collection, but am reviewing each book individually.

Cresta lives in a small town and is frustrated from having to move there from Chicago after her father died. She has two friends, Casper and Owen. As it turns out, Cresta is part of a larger prophesy, as well as an ancient and paranormal sect in society.

I had some issues with this book, the first of which was the editing. There were many typing mistakes, and while I don't want to sound picky, these pull the reader out of the story and really are a big deal. I can forgive a few, but this book was riddled with them.

The concept of the book was fun and I like the themes about fate versus free will, and it was this that kept me reading. However, I wanted Cresta to be a bit stronger in the end. Maybe she will get there in the next books. I felt like she was floundering around and being fed a lot of solutions at times. The romance between her and Owen was fine, if forced at times.

Simon, her non paranormal friend, was probably my favourite character. I liked how goofy and loyal he was, kind of like a big puppy.

I am always sensitive when there are adoption issues in a book, and the one's in Breaker's Code were actually handled fairly well. It showed people being insensitive, which they can be, but ultimately, Cresta's parents are her parents, the one's who raised her. I hope that doesn't change in the next book.

This could be the beginning of an interesting series, but I hope the author gets some help with the editing. The book is pretty fast paced and I like how it began, talking about it being two days before Cresta's house blew up, then the day before, then the day of.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Saving the Cat


Normally saving the cat is a literary device where a character, early on in the novel, saves the cat so that we bond with that character.

But, how can saving a cat play havoc with novel editing?
Ozzy, our cat

I've been on a real push to finish editing my novel Prophesy (book 1 of the Antigone series -- yes, I finally decided on a name). A few weeks ago, I even had some time to myself when my husband took the kids to go visit their grandparents for a few days.

However, the cat (an older male cat named Ozzy, short for Osiris) had different ideas. One morning, I heard him meowing loudly from the back yard, so I went to investigate. I saw him balancing precariously on the branch of a tree, with one of his back legs stuck between two fence boards. Without thinking, I ran up to him, wrapped one arm around him, then tried to ease his leg out from the fence.

This did not go well.

Ozzy proceeded to scratch my arm to ribbons. I didn't want to drop him, so I stood there and took it, trying to talk soothingly to him through my pain and calm him down. When he stopped, I decided to grit my teeth and try a little more force to get his leg out. His leg didn't seem to be broken and he didn't look like he was in too much pain and I had to get him out of the fence.

This did not work. At all. Ozzy actually bit me several times on both hands. At one point, I had to pry his teeth out from my hand. There was blood everywhere. I was stuck. He was stuck.

I tried to perch the cat back in the tree so I could get a towel to wrap him in and something to pry the fence apart. Nope. Ozzy was not cooperating.

With nothing else left to do, I screamed for help at the top of my lungs. Surely someone nearby had to be home or walking by or something. Before long, one of my neighbours from across the ally came running into the yard and quickly took in the situation. She asked if she could go into my house to get a towel and a crowbar and I said absolutely and told her where they were.

We wrapped the cat up in the towel and my neighbour pried off the fence board. Ozzy jumped away, like nothing had ever happened, not even limping.

My neighbour and I looked at each other. I was covered in blood and my hands and arms were already starting to swell up. "You'd better go get a tetanus shot," she said, then disappeared. I wanted to thank her, but I'm not even sure which house she was from.

I went in to get cleaned up when a delivery guy knocked at the door. I answered, looking like hell, covered in blood. He dropped the parcels, said I didn't have to sign for them after all, then ran off.

Next I called the doctor. Yes, she could squeeze me in that day.

After giving me the tetanus shot, she also gave me antibiotics as my wrists were swelling up so badly I could barely drive. Then she advised me to make sure the cat's vaccinations were up to date. All I could think of was Why, it's not like I bit the cat back.

Then, I went home and collapsed.

By the time my husband and kids got home later that day, my hands looked kind of like latex gloves that had been blown up. I could lift nothing. Typing was out the question. I decided to watch movies.

All in all, it took about two weeks for my hands to heal (oh, and my arms turned green from bruising up, so I even looked like the hulk).

So, this is a long story to say that I am behind in my editing, blogging, etc. However, I am back in full swing now, working to catch up. Not being able to use the computer also gave me time to think about what I want to do about some issues in my novel that were nagging at me.

I also used this time to read more about self publishing. Wow, I am excited about this!!! It makes my heart race even to read about the process of self publishing. Has anyone else gone this route? Or can recommend some good indie authors to read? I would love recommendations of books, blogs, or forums to read. (If you are looking for a good indie middle grade/young adult read, check out my review for Double Cross in my previous post).

Thanks for bearing with me through this long story, but I couldn't resist telling it as one of the adventures on the road to writing my novel.

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Monday, 18 August 2014

Short Story Review: Double Cross

Double Cross: An Eye of Odin Prequel #1Double Cross: An Eye of Odin Prequel #1 by Dennis Staginnus

SUMMARY
In the first of The Eye of Odin short prequels, the fifteen-year-old witch-for-hire finds herself atop the Athenian Acropolis, exchanging money for an ancient Spartan helmet said to contain extraordinary powers.


But when the exchange ends in a double-cross, it exposes a conspiracy that could reignite a two thousand-year-old war between Athens and Sparta. Keeping the peace will rest upon the shoulders of the scrappy, young witch.


REVIEW
Double Cross is the exciting first prequel the the upcoming middle grade Eye of Odin series by Dennis Staginnus. I have to say right off that I love myth, especially Greek myth, and Double Cross delivers a good dose.

The story starts fast and tense, grabbing the reader right away, only getting more intense at the story continues.

I am also a sucker for strong female heroines. Sarah is spirited, quick thinking, willing to fight to the end in order to do what she thinks is right, and she's magical. All in all, a great combination. Her background is subtly developed, making me want to know more about her.

The setting of this story is modern day Greece, but the world in which it is set includes Folklore, a world that is only seen by a select few and which includes myth and history from different cultures. Staginnus has obviously done his research on the mythology and has created an interesting world with great potential.

Overall, I think this is a book that will appeal to both boys and girls who like older middle grade books, and has a grittiness that will even appeal to teen audience (which, I think, makes this book stand out in the middle grade genre, assuming the rest of the series lives up to the standard set here). Some of the language, violence, and intensity might be a bit much for sensitive audiences.
 
Double Cross is the first in a series of three short story prequels to Eye of Odin and is free. You can go to Dennis Staginnus' web site (click here) to find out how to download it.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

A Different Approach

Now that I've set a timeline to self publish Antigone, I've been working like crazy editing and learning all of the things I need to know to self publish. I even decided to get my cover designed and, after much research, am going with Deranged Doctor Design (DDD). Their covers look phenomenal and original and, it would appear from their web site, that they have a great sense of humour.

But, in the process of telling DDD about my book so they could make their design, I realized how unwieldy the story had become. Kind of epic, actually. And epic is not quite what I was looking for in a first novel for a young adult audience. I think that putting the plots of all three of Sophocles' Oedipus plays plus my own retelling and drama into one book is just too much. I'm over 108,000 thousand words and the average novel these days is 65,000. I didn't realize how long it had gotten and how much actually happens. A lot, to say the least.

The solution: break up the novel into three parts, with each part being based on one of the plays. There are natural breaks in the novel and enough material to easily make three novels. I'm hoping this will make the work, as a whole, more approachable.

I'm excited about the change because I will be able to really concentrate on each part as I publish it, giving each of them more time and energy.

It feels like the right decision and I'm learning to trust my gut feelings on these things.

The first installment will come out this fall, hopefully in October. It shouldn't be too long between installments because the whole thing is written, and will only have to be edited to fit the new format.

Now, to figure out a title for each book...