Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

The Finnbranch Readalong: Yearwood

Hey hey, Squiders! Only one day late, which, considering how this week has gone, is a freaking miracle.

So, Yearwood, book one of the Finnbranch trilogy. Did you guys read this? It’s so very ’80s fantasy it almost hurts.

We’ve discussed previously how you can see very obvious trends in epic fantasy from the “classic” fantasy of the ’50s and ’60s ala Tolkien to the modern character-driven fantasy of today. The ’80s fall somewhere in the middle, where the characters have begun to be more important than the plot, but generally not to the extent you find today.

Yearwood follows Finn, a teenage boy growing up in an isolated mountain community. His mother is married to the lord, but the lord is not his father, and, indeed, he’s never been given a real name, so his sisters have each made up their own for him. There are no other men in the community aside from his mother’s servant, the lord’s obsession on trying to figure out his father’s name having driven the community into decline.

If that sounds like a convoluted mess, you’re not wrong. The prose here is pretty dense, though it is in first person. Yet Finn is not actively telling his story, but telling it in retrospect, an adult telling the story of when he was young. Yearwood seems to be half of an origin story, with the other half continuing into the second book, Undersea.

Finn’s kind of a hard person to ride along with. He’s egotistical and sometimes cruel in that way that most teenagers get. He’s angry at his mother, who has never shown him any affection, and at his absent, unknown father. Even when he begins to learn how he was begat and who his father is, the anger stays with him.

There’s a weird mix up of mythology here. There are two crows which Finn arguably owns which he gives names meaning Thought and Memory, a clear connection to Odin, who likewise has crows named the same, but that seems to be the only Norse mythology here. The rest feels more Celtic, especially with several references to Dagda and the fact the Finn’s community is called Morrigan. There are also references to Selchie, which is another spelling of selkie, though the mythology doesn’t translate directly here. Still, it seems like the setting is supposed to be its own world rather than a version of our own. Not sure if that was the intention, however.

This is fantasy in the way legends and myths are—nothing is distinctly fantastical, merely accepted as how the world works, whether it’s giant death crows or walking stone kings.

So, tl;dr—this feels like a modern retelling of a legend, with the same sort of story structure and dense language. Yet it was oddly readable despite that. But I can see why more modern readers on Goodreads aren’t terribly fond of it.

Did you read this, squiders? What did you think?

We’ll read Undersea for next month and do a discussion on July 18.

Useful Link Round-up

Okay, Squiders, I want to be able to do the idea generation posts in a row, so for today, I’m going to share various links that I’ve been hoarding that other people might find interesting. Monday I’ll have a review/promo for you, and Thursday is, in theory, the first discussion post for the Finnbranch readalong (though I will need to read faster than I am because I forgot when in June I set the discussion for). And then we’ll head back into nonfic territory.

For Readers

Does anyone else just find themselves on random email lists they don’t remember signing up for? That’s the deal with me and BookRiot, which is a website about books, mostly speculative fiction. But I dig their newsletter, so I don’t really mind that it seemingly came out of nowhere.

I normally forget, but it’s never a bad idea to stop by sites like StoryBundle or Humble Bundle and see if you can get a ton of themed books for cheap. Normally they donate the money for a good cause.

For Writers–Writing

I don’t know about you guys, but I am terrible at conlanging and yet, since I write high fantasy, sometimes it is necessary. That’s why I’m super interested in Vulgar, which is a language generator. I haven’t given it a try yet, but you can do a demo on the website, and the full version is only $20.

For people who like to have an idea of story structure before they go into a novel, you might try Michael Hague’s Six Stage Plot Structure. It’s the one Siri and I used for City of Hope and Ruin. You can find a good overview over at Fiction University (which is a useful website if you are not already familiar with it.

For Writers–Learning

If you have enough time to fit in some learning, I recommend checking out sites like SkillShare and Udemy. I’ve taken a few classes (mostly marketing related, but also ones about how to use email lists) and recently signed up for one focused more on traditional publishing. You can buy memberships or classes flat out, but I like that you can see reviews and curriculum before you shell out money. There are probably more websites out there that provide a similar function, but I haven’t tried them.

(I’ve also considered making a course for one or both, but not sure what would be a good topic. If you know something I should go for, let me know!)

For Writers–Publishing

Since I’ve been putting together submission materials for my YA paranormal (all ready now! Just need a healthy dose of getting on with it), I recently wrote a synopsis for it. This blog post proved invaluable and took a lot of the guesswork out of the process.

For Writers–Marketing

Here’s a very interesting post on why it’s a bad thing to encourage your friends and family to buy your book when it first comes out. Good stuff to know. I recently found this blog through Siri and it’s been very interesting (also apparently I have done everything wrong). (Which I kind of knew.)

I also recently found this website called Hometown Reads that connects readers to local authors. I haven’t signed up yet but it looks like a cool idea, and my city is one that they’ve already developed, so woot.

Anyway, I hope you find some of these helpful! And let me know if you’ve found some place cool lately!

Reading Through the Ages

Evening, Squiders.

I don’t know about your library, but if it’s anything like mine, it has displays throughout of books to entice you to take home more than you can manage. One of these, right in front of the check-out machines, is the “Staff Picks” table, which is evil and alluring and full of interesting things I might not pick up otherwise. I have found many wonderful things on the Staff Picks table.

The current one is called Victorian Tales of Mystery and Detection, and, true to its name, is a collection of mysteries of the Sherlock Holmes sort of genre (including a Holmes story, The Blue Carbuncle, which I have previously read) ranging from 1845 (The Purloined Letter, Edgar Allen Poe) to 1904 (The Clue of the Silver Spoon, Robert Barr). (I’m currently in 1895.)

Lovely book, so far, except for one story that was so sexist that I immediately had to go on to the next one to rinse my palate.

(Actually, in general, the stories are pretty liberal on the gender equality issue, in some cases having their detective be female or the person who actually solves the case being a woman. Kudos, writers of another time. Actually, many of the writers included are women hiding behind pen names or initials, though some are out in the open.)

(Anyway.)

(As another aside, several stories seem to be parts of series, not unlike Sherlock Holmes, with reoccurring detective characters. I read an article the other day that was talking about a single person being chose to represent the whole, and this seems to fall into that. Of course there were other detective series–Sir Arthur couldn’t keep the whole thing running on his own–but you never hear about them.)

(ANYWAY.)

Some time ago a writer friend of mine made a comment about how you shouldn’t read any books that hadn’t been published in the last five years. I mean, the comment has merit–being up to date with what’s selling can help you target yourself for publication–but I don’t like it.

Part of that may be that I dislike the idea of writing to market, as unrealistic as that opinion may be. But the other part of it is that I enjoy older stories and, I would argue, looking at the differences in conventions between different eras has made me a more informed reader and writer.

Plus I like Victorian detective stories. You don’t see a lot like them in today’s markets, which seems to trend more toward thrillers or procedurals.

What do you think, Squiders? Is it worth it to read any book that sounds interesting, no matter when it was published? Is there some merit to only reading things that are new?

Introducing the Finnbranch Readalong

Howdy, Squiders! Let’s do a readalong, since it’s been a while. I’ve scoured my book shelves for series of the appropriate genres (which also aren’t massive) and have found Paul Hazel’s Finnbranch trilogy (Yearwood, Undersea, and Winterking) from the early ’80s. (I have a omnibus of all three from the later ’80s.)

I’ve never read it, but I’m pretty sure somebody bought this for me off my Amazon wishlist, so I must have had it recommended to me somewhere, or read something about it and thought it sounded like a good time.

Interestingly, it seems like while the trilogy was well-received back in the day, the reviews on Goodreads are all over the place. If nothing else, it should be an interesting look at how storytelling changes through generations, as I’ve previously noted somewhere in the archives that there’s a pretty obvious change in the fantasy genre in the ’80s. I wonder where this trilogy will fall on it?

Let’s do one book a month, since that seems to work the best for everyone who wants to read along being able to do so. So let’s read Yearwood by June 15th. And if you have any thoughts on this or potential future readalongs, please let me know, either in the comments or by contacting me directly.

Happy reading, squiders!

Guest Post: Realms of Edenocht by DS Johnson

Good morning, Squiders! Today I’ve got a guest post from DS Johnson, who currently has a tour going to promote her fantasy novel, Realms of Edenocht.

Realms of Edenocht cover

Shazmpt has been prepared his whole life to complete the prophecy; however until recently, he was unaware of his true identity as a powerful war wizard.

Hidden on an island in a time realm not his own, he must now search for ancient relics in order to stop the growing evil in the world. All he wanted was to hunt in his beloved forest, but is thrown into a world of sea serpents, dungeons, enchanted castles, miniature men, and air buffs.

Driven by duty and hindered by self-doubt, he is sent on a quest to unite the magical realms once more. He must learn to harness his good and evil powers, but will he survive the shadow…?

Bio:

A little about me, first I want to tell you a story, about a young girl who thought she was dumb. Yes, in the first, second, and third grades this little girl, was in the ‘Resource’ program or ‘Chapter 8’ as I have also heard it called. Even though she was then put in the regular class, she knew all too well by then she was not a smart child. All the way through high school this girl struggled. She graduated with a glorious 2.9. Yes, it was heart breaking for those little numbers to reflect the great struggle and all the efforts she had put forth.

She went on to start beauty school, figuring she wasn’t college material. Suddenly, she learned that she wasn’t dumb after all. She was what is called a kinesthetic learner or ‘hands on’ learner. She LOVED it. She went on to do very well, for many years. Until, life got complicated. She had five children, a husband, and a disabled mother who now required constant care. While contemplating how to earn a little bit of extra income, now that doing hair wasn’t an option, a thought came to her, ‘Write a book’ it said.

She replied by looking around and with her finger pointing at herself, she said, “Who me? I graduated high school with a 2.9 remember?”

The little thought came again, “Yes, you. Write a book.”

It so happened, that she had been telling her children nighttime stories for some time, so she did. It took five years to learn from the internet, a few writing classes, some great blogs, a lot of practice, one very good editor and the awesome support of her family. But she did it, and now I bring The Realms of Edenocht Series to you! Yes, that little girl was me, but no longer.

Contact Information

Website: www.dsjohnsonbooks.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/suzanne.johnson.12532

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/44211843-d-s-johnson

Guest Post on Writing Inspiration:

I shared a room with my younger sister growing up and she would make me tell her bed time stories every night until we fell asleep. Everything from pink unicorns to scary witches. When my parents divorced I lost my love for stories because I had to ‘grow up’. It wasn’t until many, many years later that I remembered I loved to tell stories. Now that I was a grown up and lived a long time without the child like imagination, I turned to things I knew about. My husband is a big gamer and he introduced me to the world of MMORPG’s. The vibrance of the characters and races, the fun worlds and story lines started to bring back the love of it all.

It took some time but I learned the craft of storytelling (showing) and now I try to bring in elements of our gaming, old forgotten legends and bits of history. I love watching documentaries and digging up forgotten tales. My writing is character driven so I like to use those close to me to take from their personalities, weakness, flaws and fears to give my characters life. I also like to people watch, so I observe their movements and how they interact with body language to add an extra element of depth to my characters.

I love to listen to soundtrack type music and letting the emotions of the music take me on a journey. I try to imagine my characters inside the same emotion I feel and how they might feel within the same music as it would apply to their situation in the book. Sometimes the scenes flow easily and others not so much but I always seem to have a deeper connection with them. I establish what their likes, dislikes, and such are at the beginning so that when something comes up I already know what they will or won’t do. Little by little my imagination takes shape and I surprise even myself.

~*~*~*~*~

If you’d like to pick up Realms of Edenocht, it’s available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Library Book Sale Finds: Mrs. McGinty’s Dead

Good afternoon, Squiders! Been a while since we’ve done one of these, hasn’t it? My archives tell me last June. In case you were wondering, I’m still working on the stack of books from the library book sales in summer 2015. (We didn’t go to any last summer, which is probably for the best. I think I still have over a dozen.)

You know, I picked up all these lovely science fiction and fantasy books, yet I keep reading the non-scifi/fantasy ones. (Okay, well, I have done seven of these–this is the eighth–and three were scifi/fantasy, so not always.) Admittedly, I just finished a 600-page fantasy novel (American Gods) which probably had a fairly major impact on the decision, which came down to “not fantasy, not huge.”

(And now I have Wintersong back from the library, so I’m back into another fat fantasy novel. Just a two-day mystery cleanser in the middle.)

On to it!

Title: Mrs. McGinty’s Dead
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Publication Year:
1951

Pros: Great mystery, excellent use of misdirection
Cons: Weak, uninteresting beginning, too many characters?

I think I’m out of mysteries from the book sales with this one, though I do have several mythology collections and a book by Edith Wharton, so I can procrastinate on the scifi/fantasy for a bit longer if I’d like.

This is a Poirot novel! I’ve never read one before. I am familiar with Hercule Poirot, of course, because my family watched Masterpiece Mystery on PBS religiously when I was younger. It’s a far cry from the Miss Marple books, as it is in Poirot’s viewpoint (though it does occasionally stray into others) and also has a bit of a weird structure to it.

The book opens with the wrap-up of the trial for the murder of Mrs. McGinty, a charwoman (or cleaning lady) who was seemingly done in because she kept her savings under her floorboards and everyone in town knew it. The case has been rather clean and obvious, and Poirot took no note of the murder at the time because he found it boring. However, the superintendent of the police for the case, having worked with Poirot on a previous case, comes to him and tells Poirot that though he gathered the evidence, he can’t help but think that they’ve convicted the wrong person. He has nothing concrete to go on except his experience as a police officer. Poirot agrees to look into as a favor to a friend.

I found the first couple of chapters pretty dull. The book opens with an older Poirot wandering about being sad about the fact that he can’t eat constantly. Even once the potential mystery is introduced, the book still takes a few chapters to actually get into the act of mystery solving. For a while there, I actually considered putting the book down, which you know I rarely do.

Fortunately, for both me and the book, the pace picked up and got quite interesting after that point. Mrs. Christie throws in a good half dozen potential culprits and expertly keeps your attention off the real one. If I have one complaint, it’s maybe that she had too many suspicious personages in the end, because I’m pretty sure it’s never explained why–oh. No, never mind, I just figured it out. Nothing to see here.

I went to a mystery panel at a writing conference once, and one of the panelist said that you couldn’t know who did it, as the author, until you were most of the way done, because otherwise you’d  subconsciously write in too many clues that would point readers to the killer too early. So you have to write the book as if they all did it, so there’s enough red herrings and clues for any number of people. This book feels like it was written like that.

Anyway! I enjoyed it. I read the whole thing in two days, which I haven’t done in a while. So I’d recommend it, if you like classic mysteries and/or Poirot and/or Agatha Christie and/or if you’re looking to get into reading mysteries, which I also highly recommend.

(I use them as a brain cleanser.)

Read Mrs. McGinty’s Dead? Thoughts on Agatha Christie or Poirot in general?

A Human Element by Donna Galanti

Happy Tuesday, Squiders! Today I’m pleased to introduce you to A Human Element by Donna Galanti, a paranormal suspense novel. Donna’s also giving away a $15 gift card, so stick around at the bottom and enter to win!

A Human Element cover
Evil comes in many forms…

One by one, Laura Armstrong’s friends and adoptive family members are being murdered, and despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. The savage killer haunts her dreams, tormenting her with the promise that she is next. Determined to find the killer, she follows her visions to the site of a crashed meteorite in her hometown. There, she meets Ben Fieldstone, who seeks answers about his parents’ death the night the meteorite struck. In a race to stop a madman, they unravel a frightening secret that binds them together. But the killer’s desire to destroy Laura face-to-face leads to a showdown that puts Laura and Ben’s emotional relationship and Laura’s pure spirit to the test. With the killer closing in, Laura discovers her destiny is linked to his, and she has two choices—redeem him or kill him.

Excerpt:

“I am not here to hurt you,” the man said when Ben shrunk into the rock. “I’m going to cut the ropes.”

In a few swift movements he slit the ropes binding Ben, who staggered back. The man caught him and held him up, then ripped off the duct tape.

“Who are you?” Ben’s body trembled from the rush of fear and a fierce headache pounded in his temple.

The man didn’t answer. He bent over one of the dead Samoans and pulled out a wallet. He looked inside and threw it at Ben. “It’s yours.” Then the man led him by the arm down the overgrown road where he handed Ben his clothes from the brush.

“Come on,” the man said. Ben looked back at the dead men sprawled face down. They oozed like two fat walruses sunning themselves in the moonlight. “Don’t worry about them. I’ll dump them later, somewhere they’ll never be found.”

In a daze, Ben followed his savior up the rough road, stumbling behind him in the dim moonlight.

“I’ll take you back to base and you’re on your own,” the man said once they reached his car, parked off the main road. “Don’t speak of this to anyone. Understand?”

Ben nodded and climbed in the car. He looked over at the stranger in black who had saved him. His mammoth biceps flexed as he drove, hunched over the wheel. Ben stared at him, and then a memory flickered. “Why are you following me? Why save me?”

“I’m an interested party. Leave it at that.”

“I can’t. I would have died up there for sure.”

The man didn’t respond.

“Thank you.”

The man looked at Ben. His green eyes glowed in the moonlight that filtered into the car.

“Someday you might not thank me. Someday you might not survive.”

Bio:

Donna Galanti is the author of the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy (Imajin Books)  and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem (http://project-middle-grade-mayhem.blogspot.com/search/label/Donna Galanti) . She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. Donna enjoys teaching at conferences on the writing craft and marketing and also presenting as a guest author at elementary and middle schools.

Visit her at www.elementtrilogy.com and www.donnagalanti.com.

Connect with Donna:

Website

Facebook

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Instagram:

Purchase books 1 and 2 in the Element Trilogy

Donna will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter to win a $15 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway