Archives

Book Review: Creatures: A Novel

Hello my lovelies! Today I thought I’d talk to you about Creatures: A Novel by Crissy Van Meter. It’s the first physical book I’ve read in a while. I’ve read on my Nook, and physical magazines… but books? For enjoyment? Not so much.

On that last trip to Barnes & Noble, I found a couple of tables with “Buy 2 Get 1 Free!” Normally, I just walk on by. I enjoy reading on my Nook. It’s convenient. I can adjust the font size. But there is nothing quite like holding a book in your hands and smelling the pages as you read.

I picked up this one in particular because of the little sea creatures on the cover, and the setting being close to the sea (an island, so. Yah). The voice captured me, drew me in and held me even through the parts I hate.

And yes, there are things in this book I normally skip right out of. Drugs—especially parents using a lot of drugs. Van Meter handles it in a variety of ways. Time flows like the ocean, back and forward. The academic questions and answers regarding whales that explore Evangeline’s relationship with her dead father, who looms just as surely as the dead whale out on the beach. The innovation in the way the story is told, including an insert of the very far future (and only one! I wanted more!), is beautifully done. It comes organically from the story– which we all know means that Van Meter put a lot of effort into it. It was worth it.

Overall, the character’s voice drew me in and kept me, even past the time where I knew the subject matter wasn’t what I normally read. I was engrossed. I was rooting for Evangeline. Creatures is the perfect example of why it’s so important to find the right voice for our stories. Because that voice will carry even the most reluctant reader through.

Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels

By India Holton

For Social Media fix, I’ve been going to Redditt lately. I started when I realized that all the articles/stories I was reading on Facebook started over on the other platform. One of the things I discovered, much to my delight, is all of the different types of readers and writers over there. (I don’t know what it’s called—community? Thread?) And people who love books tend to share the love with other people.

I am finding that I love, love LOVE lighthearted  Fantasy-Romance mashups currently. It started with Gail Carringer and Rie Sheridan Rose. (Go check out their books. I’ll still be here when you come back!)

I’m here to share with you one of the books I found through Redditt: The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton.

This story is a mad-cap romp. Celia is awaiting being called up to the high tea table with the lady pirates. Ned is… a many named, mysterious figure who has been contracted to kidnap, maim, kill or harass Celia. At least one. Possibly all three. And then there’s her dreadfully evil father, who writes (badly) and wants to subjugate women.

This has a lot of hilariously mangled literary references, and the writing sometimes delivers a heart-wrenching comment just as the laughter has escaped. I will admit that I might have enjoyed it more if I had read the Bronte sisters. But, Alas, I have not. I have read enough of Austen and others that I see the nods to comedy of manners, with a side eye to the skimming of the romance.  The pacing felt a bit off for me—too rushed and then too slow, until at the very end it settled back down again.

It’s a perfect book to settle down at the beach, or curl up in the air conditioning with a nice cuppa (iced) tea.

Momcation

I haven’t been by myself in a house for an extended amount of time in… Years. I always have my son (15) or my dad (95) around or coming back. It’s wonderful. I love my family. But….

I used to love living by myself too. I’ve always kept myself occupied– readings writing, television. I’m not one that gets bored and stays bored. The quiet is a friend of mine- it allows a moment of reflection, a deep sigh.

Thanks to Caltrans and my Best friend I just had that. A glorious Sunday through Thursday morning where I stayed in a house all by my lonesome. Caltrans closed the freeway that I need to get to work. (Not a work vacation, alas). My BF is travelling, and offered her house. I have to tell you….

It. Was. Glorious.

I wrote and sent out cards. I didn’t cook ANYTHING. Frozen all the way. And after work, I went to the real happiest place on earth, Barnes and Noble, and bought many wonderful magazines. One was brand new to me, called Oh, Reader and I read every single article in it. Which has inspired me– to do magazine reviews. Share what I’m loving. Maybe a few book reviews in there too.

The fact is that I miss blogging. I miss sharing the things I love, and boy do I love books and magazines!

I love my family. Of course I do.

But I missed myself, and didn’t even realize what had been missing in my life was ME.

Guest Author Nicole Givens Kurtz

Nicole is one of my favorite authors. The Cybil stories are addictive and have more energy than the first cup of coffee in the morning.

 

 

Introduce yourself and tell us a little about why you’re visiting the blog today.

A: I’m Nicole Givens Kurtz and I’m visiting today to discuss my upcoming release, Cozened: A Cybil Lewis Novel.

What inspires your stories?

A: Strong women inspire me. Life inspires my stories. “Strong female” is a very conscious effort on my part. I went this route because I’m a woman, but moreover, I wanted to depict women doing in fantastical stories what we do in real life. We’re strong, talented, and multi-faceted in our abilities. So why wouldn’t we be all those things in fantastical stories? We would! Cybil is the most independent character, because she had come to rely on very few people. It makes her a challenging character to write, but it also allows for deeper exploration too. Far too often in speculative fiction, it’s the male saving the universe, or the white character saving the day. I wanted to see the women, but moreover women of color doing the saving, solving the case, and being awesome. Because we can and we do.

 

Who is your favorite character in the book? Why?

A: Jane is my favorite character because without her, Cybil would most likely be dead. Jane is the grounding that Cybil needs. The calm, realistic voice that speaks up and notes the things that Cybil may miss due to her rushing in where angels fear to tread personality.

Nicole, you’ve been writing for quite a while now.  What are some things that you’ve learned on this journey from aspiring writer to writer with multiple titles under your belt?

A: Learn the industry, and be fearless. Many times I failed to listen to my instinct, but instead let fear and in some cases, intimidation, cause me to miss opportunities. There are so many avenues for success, but you have to learn those roads before you travel. I leapt right in and found myself in some scary places, publishing wise. My advice is to talk to those in the industry, trust but verify, and be fearless in your belief in your craft and where it can take you.

 

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

A: I’m currently working on a short story in the Lawless Lands Weird Western Anthology and my novella, Akuba: The Devourer will be released in 2017.

 

Read on for an excerpt of Cozened.

cozened_coverart-300x450

Something about seeing someone smeared over Freedom Square with its historic quotations and long dead implications made me shudder. It wasn’t right.

The shiny moonlight revealed glistening drops that led off from the man’s body on to the impenetrable trees that dotted the pavement along the square. A reminder of a time when the United States wasn’t a jigsaw puzzle of territories, the vegetation had part of continuing Thomas Jefferson’s law to keep D.C. beautiful.

Now, no one even flew their vehicles this close to the ground unless landing.

“What the heck?” Without even realizing it, I’d drifted over to the violation scene once more for closer inspection. My eyes squinted as they tried to focus on the substance.

“Stop!” A regulator resembling a brick wall with a tan jumped in front of me just as I reached the liquid trail’s beginning a few feet from the cautionary beam. Between the beam and the brute, they’d managed to keep all citizens out of the violation scene. Beneath his uniform, muscles bulged against the fabric, threatening to rend the material.

“You’re not authorized to be here!” The monstrous regulator’s deep voice sounded like it had been modified from an audio file. Lips firmly pressed together and trunk-sized arms crossed over his chest, I knew immediately that my usual sweet-talking charm wasn’t going to melt his ice.

“Well, Regulator Tom said…” The lie formed on my tongue and slid off like a snake.

“I said what?” Daniel quipped from behind me.

I groaned. I needed to see those stains closer.

“She’s leaving, Ron.” Daniel frowned at my actions, no doubt. He grabbed my arm and directed me over to a somewhat secluded spot several paces away.    “Are you trying to get me fired?” he asked heatedly once we were out of earshot.

“You invited me here!” I removed his hand from my arm. I turned slightly away from him. His fingers brushed my arm in a half-hearted attempt to reclaim it.

“If the captain finds you here…”

“I know. So why wake me up just to jerk my chain?” I didn’t want to argue with him. Daniel’s arguments could go on for eternity, even if I’d died midway through the debate.

“No, but go home. I’ll let you know when I get more.”

I didn’t quite know how to respond to that and retain my dignity, so I stood with my arms crossed and my face fixed at pissed.

“I needed you to ID him, all right? You keep telling me you don’t know who he is, though the look on your face tells me you do. Since you won’t make the identification, I’ve got to put you back with the citizens.”

With his hand on my shoulder, he moved me toward the crowd of hungry spectators. Perhaps it was more guiding than dragging. I seemed to gravitate to my wauto. I didn’t tell him or anyone about the inky dark spots. No doubt the regulators’ vioTechs would locate and misinterpret them. This wasn’t my case and I wasn’t getting paid. Home sounded better and better.

I paused before getting into the pilot’s seat. Behind the caution beam, doctors removed chunks of the body into a body bag and hauled it away on a levitating dolly. Flashes from digital cameras lit up the early morning sky. The cool air seemed to suck all the strength out of me.

Death.

No matter how often I saw it, regardless of what form it took, it made me reflect on just why I did this kind of work. The loss of human life always unnerved me. Well okay, not always. When someone is trying to silence you truly permanently, then no, I don’t weep for the bastard who eats the other end of my laser gun.

Yet, this accident dropped a sharp stab into my emotional soft spots, the ones I usually keep covered with my own internal Kevlar vest.

As I sank into my wauto’s leather seat, images of him swirled across my vision like contact lenses—suctioned on, refusing to let go until the tears washed them out. I didn’t cry, not then. I wanted to, but I couldn’t.

The body no longer resembled a human being, but a battered hunk of meat.

Once he had been handsome, healthy, and one hell of a lover.

His name had been Carlos Rodriguez.

 

 

NICOLE GIVENS KURTZ is the published author of the futuristic thriller series, Cybil Lewis. She also writes horror and dark fantasy. Her novels have been named as finalists in the Fresh Voices in Science FictionEPPIE in Science Fiction, and Dream Realm Awards in science fiction. Nicole’s short stories have earned an Honorable Mention in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest, and have appeared in numerous anthologies and publications.

Broadening Horizons: Book Review of Reunited, A Cybil Lewis Story By Nicole Givens Kurtz

So I picked up something to read that I never in a million years would have imagined that I would love.

Reunited-Book Cover-1

Re-United, by Nicole Givens Kurtz. I know! I read a Sci-Fi title! Can you believe it? I haven’t read Sci Fi in too long, mainly because the titles that I picked up way back in the past seemed to sacrifice both character and plot for hard science. Or, you know, they’re all “The future sucks, we’re all going to die!”

But this story had everything that I love… Great story line, kick a** heroine and accessible story telling. I was caught up, and stayed captured for the duration. It’s great read, which means Kurtz doesn’t bounce you out of the story just to tell you how something whizbangcool works.

In a lot of ways, this reminded me of the urban fantasies that I love: Kim Harrison, Anne Bishop… only, you know… more mechanical and less magical. But here’s the thing… It reminded me that I actually started out loving Science Fiction. When I was a teeny bopper all those years ago, I’d check out Heinlein, Card, Herbert… (Never any Asimov, although I don’t know why. )

Oh. And I loved, loved loved the Crystal Singer Series by McCaffrey, though I didn’t read her Pern series until recently (I know, go figure).

Re-United caught that enthusiasm for the future and made it bubble again. Since then, I have checked out  a couple of SciFi titles…

And on pay day, I’m going to have a new Cybil story on my reader.

Changing Voice

Picture this: Your favorite author writes a series that you love. You love his/her work. Then a new book, a new series comes out.

And you hate it.

As a reader I hate it when that happens. Beth Bernobich finished one series, then her next book was actually a collection of interconnected stories. She went from fantasy to steampunk. I like both genres… but I hated the second one. Did not care for it. At. All. The voice was too different from the one I fell in love with.

Sometimes a series can shift and change underneath you. I loved L.E. Modesitt’s Imager series. The last two… not so much. But the very last one… nope. The voice was the same, but the story fell flat. The voice was…stagnant.

As a reader, we can identify these things and bemoan the horrors! But as authors, we need to take careful notes. Some authors can skip through genres, or even different tones in the same genre (fantasy and romance are famous for that) and do it successfully. Others not so much. Some can write in the same tone over and over and still achieve the stretching that keeps writing fresh.

Because as writers, we do have to stretch. We need to reach with our writing, either in scope, genre or voice. Even if they never see the light of day, we need to keep honing our skills. Patrick Rothfuss wrote what ended up being the best non-story story I’ve ever read (The Slow Regard of Silent Things). While set in the world that his series is in, it is completely different. Rothfuss has taken a lot of flack for it, but here’s the thing. I think he probably would have written it regardless of whether or not it was published. Many mocked him for the “apology” that he prefaced his work with. I say this: he merely let rabid fans know that this was not what they were waiting for. It had meaning, but it was substantially different.

So what’s the answer? I don’t have it… but I know this much. The story I’m starting on now might have light and fluffy parts to it. But at it’s core it’s something different than what I’ve been writing lately. If  it’s published, cool. If not, at least I will have strengthened those writing muscles.

Till next time, my lovelies!

Avast! Ye Airships!

Coming February 26, 2015  the anthology that I love love love! Avast, Ye Airships!, Edited by Rie Sheridan Rose.

AvastYeAirships

I love even more that I actually did make it in!

Why the vote of no confidence in myself?

Steampunk is a genre that I came to a few years ago. Rie, actually, is the one who suggested Gail Carringer to me, and it was love at first read. But it’s not especially in my wheelhouse, writing wise. I’ve never attempted anything other than traditional fantasy or paranormal/urban fantasy. And on the last, I just finished the first complete manuscript.

So. We have a sub-genre that I love, but am wholly intimidated by. How does a poor writer deal with that?

Wellll………….

One of the things I have been really wanting to do was a tribute to The Secret Garden by Frances Hogson Burnett. Not a straight retelling, but more of a nod to a story that meant so much to me growing up. Since receiving my first copy (coughcough) years ago, I have never been without it. It speaks to me.

I know you’re going to love it!

And that cover! Swoon!

I will try to get my fellow pirates to come over and play with us, too!

Say it with me now… “Ahoy, ye mateys!”

Argh! I couldn’t resist *big grin*

Talk to you soon, my lovelies!

Meanderings

This weekend has been a bookish weekend. Elizabeth Haydon returned to her Symphony Series after 8 years, and I missed it! Thankfully, only had 2 books to catch up on 🙂 And yes, I’m on the second one.

Other than that, it’s been writerly bookish stuff. Writing a short bio for the anthology I’ll be in next month (much more on that soon, promise!) as well as doing my edits. I hate edits. The Boy says “Editing makes Mommy mean!” All I can say is… Out of the mouth of babes…. I don’t know why this happens every time. It’s not like I hate what’s being said, or that I’m offended. All of the edits make the story much better.

But editing makes Mommy mean. I’m going to have to work on that.Also need to start thinking of my next project. I have one  that is kind of a serial/ series but need to find out what’s going on with part 1 first. And of course, my poor Goblin Queen. Need to do something with her soon.

Met with my lovely and talented assistant for my Author Facebook Page. We will be having contests there pretty soon, so go take a look. Hit Like. You know you want to!  The first contest will be a $10 Starbucks Card, to be done at 50 Likes on the FB page. It should be up and running on Monday.

Why a Starbucks card? Well… In Clickety Clackety, the first short story in The Golden Apple and Other Stories, coffee plays a part in it. Specifically Irish Creme Coffee, but Starbucks doesn’t carry that hehehehe.  So you are free to get your favorite beverage of choice 🙂

I’ll be over on the MMP Blog tomorrow, too. Come by for a visit! You can also check out all the other fabulous authors we have there.

I’ll do a cover reveal over here tomorrow. The anthology is going to be great!

Release Date

golden_apple_72dpi(1)

So I’ve been a little absent lately. First, I was writing madly…. then in edits (which turn me into mean mommy apparently LOL).

But it’s done! I have a release date of 12/5/14 and I absolutely love the cover. Isn’t it great? And Mocha Memoirs Press gave me the absolute bestest editor ever. I can say that with authority, because she has read just about everything I write. Rie makes me such a better writer, and hung in there, believing in me, when I didn’t even believe in myself.

And now I have my second title coming out.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!

This started out as one short story. Cinder’s Ella, a funky little fairy tale. It was a wee bit short tho…. And no matter how, I just couldn’t make it heftier by much. I kept running round and round on a collection of very personal fairy tales. They mean something to me, each of the three. And the two interludes. So I broached the subject with my publisher (the wonderful MMP!) and she loved the idea.

And now it comes out on the 5th! That’s Friday!

Yay!

I’ll write more tomorrow. But tonight, I just had to share…..

Jumping up and down, squealing with delight…….

The Secret Garden

One of the books that had the most profound impact on my life was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. A Little Princess comes in a close second, but for me… It’s always been Mary Lenox.

I’m not sure why Mary’s story struck such a cord with me. An unloved child, being shuttled far away from all she knows after the death of almost everyone. Mother, father, aya… all of them. I came from a rock solid family with lots of siblings. Although sometimes, I felt invisible.

But mostly, I just wanted a place of my own. A place to get away from everyone else. I thought it was highly unfair that Mary had to share the garden, and Dickon, with her cousin. Because a girl needs a room, or garden, of ones own. If it had been mine, I am sure, i would have guarded it jealously.

Or maybe not.

I have a brown thumb.

Still, I re-read that book on a regular basis. When I moved out, I realized that my copy got mislaid somewhere… so I went and bought another one. I’ve always wanted to write a tribute to that book, just something that gave it a little nod. Garden, a short interlude in my collection (coming out in December! Woohoo!) is more a nod to Willie Wonka than The Secret Garden.

So now… well, now… I’m gonna bend that garden. I’m going to stretch it, warp the weave, and hopefully come up with something that is completely me as well as being a nod toward something I love so much.

How do you handle paying tribute to a story that means so much to you, but still keep it in your voice? As your own story?