30 April 2012

Reading Monday: Action and Erotica

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I read The Hunger Games a long time ago, last year I believe, and didn't know that this is a trilogy.  My daughter begged me to buy them for the Kindle and as a teacher, I could not refuse.  I was pleasantly surprised at not only the action sequences and complexity of the characters; but also at the depth of thought from the heroine.  Katniss Everdeen is in a post apocolyptic world which televises and promotes the deadly game of "last teenager standing takes all.  Katniss is a victor, along with her fellow district partner Peeta Mellark, in The Hunger Games.  

Katniss and Peeta are now the faces of rebellion in the districts, making them enemies against the Capitol.  She realizes, very early in the novel, that victory in the Hunger Games was much bigger than just security for her family.  Katniss and Peeta traipse from district to district in the Victory Tour but are leery of the Capitol's intentions.  Catching Fire is not fast-paced like The Hunger Games but you get a better picture of Panem, The Districts and the characters.  I (and my daughter Ayanna) highly recommend it!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

The final novel in the trilogy was a wonderful read.  It begins with Katniss and Peeta living in the Victory Village of District 12. Victors of the Hunger Games are safe from all future games.  However in a sadistic twist, the Capitol will require all victors to participate in the Quarter Quell, held every 25 years.  Will Katniss be the final victor of all victors or will she defy the Capitol?  

I was quite emotional with this book because it reminded of the quote, "Am I my brother's keeper?"  Are we responsible for our fellow man?  I (and Ayanna) highly recommend this novel.

50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James

This is a novel that is erotic, tantalizing and romantic.  The protagonist, Anastasia Steele, is a very young and naive young woman who is unprepared for the erotic and often sadistic pleasures of Christian Grey.  

This is strictly for those 21 and older.  I do not recommend this for anyone who has an aversion to bondage, dominants, sadism and masochism.  The first 60 pages are slow but that is understandable as we get to know the various characters and their relationships in the novel.  

I am currently on Chapter 7 and am enjoying the book, although this is not a genre I normally read.  Anastasia is a character who loves adventures in books.  She is shy and has low self-esteem.  Christian is an individual who is always in control and manipulates those around him to get what he wants.  I see him as cold and calculating man, while Anastasia is a googly-eyed innocent with no real idea as to what the world of BDSM encompasses.  

Happy reading!

26 April 2012

Voices in my head

I've been bitching rather a lot about my inability to write lately.  It's back.  And this is where the delusional part comes in.

What kind of weirdball nuts are we writer-types anyway when the RETURN of the voices in your head indicate that things are back on track?  There are at least 6 characters babbling at me in my daily showers now (yeah, I think in the shower, that's my excuse for staying in there so long if my roommates ask...), and while it's getting a wee bit cacophonous, I seriously don't mind one bit.  A few of them are old friends, making a visit to impart some new insight they had while they were away; at least one is new and I have NO CLUE what to do with her yet, but whatever, that'll come eventually I suppose; a couple are REALLY old and they seem to have moved on with their lives in the interim so I guess they'll need a new setting (I left off with them in grad school, but one of them seems to have a kid now - where'd THAT come from???).

I'm not schizo, I know I'm not... these are all perfectly normal, I've talked to enough other writers that I know full well that having characters take on lives of their own happens all the time and it means things are generally going well, though it's a little hard sometimes on a control freak like I can be to discover that they just won't BEHAVE.  Kind of like my cats, actually.

I wonder if THEY have voices in their heads too.  How else can you explain the midnight (okay, so last night it was at 2 AM) crazies?  Seriously, I give the cat a treat and the next thing I know he's a wide-eyed, ears-back ball of fluffy rampage rocketing around the room.  Really, Durwen?  Did you have to knock ALL the movies off the bed?  I was going to watch one.  Fenny would never do that.  (Who's Fenny?)  Oh, Fenny's Claire's cat.  (Who's Claire?)  Oh, she's one of the voices in my head...

24 April 2012

We will never forget, but I don't want to understand

Last Monday I changed the mode on my alarm clock from "radio" to "bird chitter".

During the course of the morning I unfollowed on Facebook every source that used to update me on breaking news.

When I walked to work, I deliberately looked away from the newspaper stands outside of the shops I passed.

All of these actions were grounded in the same basic motivation: enough is enough.

Though in reality, it isn't enough. It's just getting started.

It seems we've become a country of reluctant news junkies here in Norway. It's been nine months, but the memories of the horrors of the events on the 22nd of July last year are as strong as ever. We've been through stages of shock, sorrow and anger, and now it is - perhaps - the time for comprehension. At least I think that is the reason why even those of us who rather would close our eyes to the whole thing still feel obliged to pay some attention to the circus that started last week: the trial.

It's absurd, of course, to even try to comprehend the - in lack of a better word - evil that lies behind the killing of 77 people in two coordinated attacks. One bomb. Several hundred gun shots.

I'm not sure, though, that it is beneficial to comprehend too much. It lies in our nature, perhaps, to try to figure things out, to understand, to explain. But in reality, I don't want to have to spend my time or energy on this man. I don't even want to hate him - what purpose would that serve? Reading about what he says or has written makes me feel ill. His picture too. That face I don't even want to know, but which has been etched in so that I will never forget the pudgy, pale, wax-like skin; the narrow, close-set eyes; the much-talked-about post-surgery nose.  The other day I made the mistake of watching a video clip of him to hear his voice - and I found myself thinking it was feminine and cold and disgusting. Objectively speaking, I am sure he looks and sounds no worse than the next guy, but I cannot be objective. And it bothers me, immensely, that I don't want to be. I want to feel physically ill from looking at him or hearing his voice, and consequently, I am letting him affect me more than he deserves.

The focus on him - the terrorist whose name I don't even want to say or write - annoys me. Obviously it's difficult to avoid, the attack having been a one-man-job. I get how this character fascinates people. The combination of a delusional self-image and extremist political ideas, plus the will and ability to go through with his [insert ten minutes worth of thoughts to try to come up with an adjective that accurately describes this. "Gruesome", "cold-blooded" or "morbid" didn't quite do the trick] plan. As a mental case, he is doubtlessly interesting. But I'm not a psychiatrist. I'm a regular person wondering whether it's really necessary to spend so much time, ink and words on a man who already hurt us all so much.

Ironically, here I am spending both time, words and the electronic equivalent of ink on him.

In reality, though, what ought to be the focus isn't him, or his wacked ideology. Rather, his actions should be. He will be prosecuted for what he did, not what he believes in. It seems the media forgot this detail.

I have faith in the system. I trust that the court will pass a fair judgment, under the available laws. I trust that this will mean that he will never again set his foot outside a prison as a free man. And that will be that. Until then, I don't need the details. I don't want to spend more time than necessary on this. I don't want to give him that.

23 April 2012

ABNA Books Make Good!

So I have a one-track mind right now—tomorrow they announce this year's Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards semi-finalists. I made the list last year (different book) but am NERVOUS about tomorrow. BUT... I thought a good way to channel that was to share a list of published books that are former ABNA entrants. Some of these were written by good friends, some by people I don't actually know, but know someone I know, so all are at least 2nd degree friends. There are a TON more, but this list is pretty large already. I'm not going to make an attempt to order them by genre or anything, or this would take all day... just listing them in the order I either thought of them, or was reminded of them...

The Tree Soldier by Janet Oakley: This historical romance is set in a CCC camp in the Pacific Northwest and is an award winner for best self published book.
Hard Copy  Kindle  (Free today!) 

One mistake can ruin a life. One mistake can transform it. A government forestry camp set deep in the mountainous forests of the Pacific Northwest might not seem the likely place to find redemption, but in 1935, Park Hardesty hopes for just that. Blaming himself for the fiery accident that caused his brother's disfigurement and the death of the bootlegging woman he loved, planting trees, building bridges and mentoring tough, homesick New Jersey boys brings him both penitence and the renewal of his own self-worth. When he wins the love of Kate Alford, a local naturalist who envisions joining the Forest Service, which allows only men, he also captures the ire of a camp officer who refuses to let her go. Just when he is ready to seek his brother's forgiveness, he is falsely accused of rape. Every aspect of his life he has tried to rebuild is put in jeopardy. In the end, the only way he can defend himself is to tell the truth about his brother, but he risks being kicked out of the camp. Worse, he could lose Kate's love forever

Shattered Seeds: Sofia's Story by Clu Gallagher:
Hard cover  Kindle

If heirloom seeds are shattered before planting, they will never grow. In the 20th Century biographical fiction, SHATTERED SEEDS: “SOFIA’S STORY” CLU Gallagher draws a unique comparison to the seeds of humanity. Sofia is a German woman whose life had been destroyed by war. Now, she is eighty-nine years old and facing death, worried about how she should dispose of the one article in her vast estate she values most, a tattered old quilt, a legacy from her grandmother. She is haunted by a decision she’d made to her beloved Oma to make Germany proud of her, a task that proved difficult after she’d run away from the evils of her Nazi husband and had denounced all connection to Germany. Beginning anew in America and in a world that despised Germans, she overcame her tragic past by becoming a published author and utilized her wealth to establish a chain of adoption centers. The story opens with Janene McDeenon (An-Ly Tai) traveling to Pittsburgh for a meeting with Sofia. Janene is writing an article for a women’s magazine on “Adoption", but is hoping to find information about her own adoption in the process. The two women form a bond that transcends time and distance as they both explore the answers to the mysteries of their heritage. Before the meeting with Janene, Sofia had willed that the last remaining relic of her shattered German family (her Oma's quilt) be buried with her. After the meeting, Janene gains a new appreciation for the loss she’d suffered when war in South Vietnam had taken away her heritage. Clu Gallagher has given the readers a compelling account of war in the 20th Century and its lasting effects on those who had endured it. It is difficult to believe that the story is fiction.

The Silk Weaver's Daughter by Elizabeth Kales

The year is 1685 and when King Louis XIV of France, threatens death to all Huguenots, a silk weaver and his family flee the country only to discover that nowhere is life without danger. Pierre and Jacques Garneau are cousins, brought up together by their grandfather in a small Huguenot village. At a family reunion, Jacques warns the devout Pierre that he must soon make the decision to revoke his religion or risk death. Pierre decides that, with Jacques' help, he will try to get his family to England. But Pierre's beautiful daughter, Louise and Jacques' son, Marc are in love, and they have their own ideas of what their future will hold. Set in this turbulent time in French history, how will the choices each family member makes, weave the tapestry of their lives? "The Silk Weaver's Daughter" is partially based on the author's twenty years of Family History research, as well as her travels to France and England investigating her Huguenot Heritage.

The Night Watchman Express by Alison DeLuca
Each night, thirteen-year-old Miriam hears the eerie whistle of the Night Watchman Express. The sound of the train gives her visions of an underground factory and a terrifying laboratory... Miriam has only her guardians' son for company, and she and Simon dislike each other from the start. But they must find a way to trust each other, or they will end up on the sinister Night Watchman Express. Full of danger, suspense, betrayal, and a hint of romance, this steampunk adventure is for readers of all ages.

The Last Good Knight by Connie Jasperson

Swashbucklers, pirates, sword fighting courageous Knights and Fair maidens abound in The Last Good Knight. In the tradition of a Wilbur Smith and Michael Crichton's Medieval block buster Timeline. Action abounds, it this historical fiction account. From slaying dragons, to rescuing the King's Whore, to secret missions for good King Henri, no job is too big or too small for the Great Knight, Sir Julian Lackland. But what happens when the only one still willing to take on the bad jobs is too old to be doing them? How does a hero retire from the business of saving people? Here begins the tale of the life and adventures of the peoples Champion. Invincible on both the field of battle and the bedroom, Lackland is a man of intense passion, the highest honor, and deepest loyalties. A mercenary, a bold warrior and a brilliant tactician, he is at times reckless beyond comprehension, and often suicidal; throwing himself into both battle and love with his entire being. His heart is forever given to one woman, but she will never give up the sword, not even for him and her choices leave Lackland with no choices whatsoever. Despite the lack of resolution in his personal life, he somehow endures; his innate sense of the ridiculous, wry wit and humor concealing the fragile man that is Julian Lackland. From his days as a mercenary to his years as the arms-master of Waldeyn, obsession and honor rule his life; these two things both make him and break him. But for all that Julian is the invincible Great Knight, he eventually becomes the Lost Knight. An incident occurs that changes everything and begins his descent into madness. Two great loves form the framework of his life anchoring his sanity and making a love triangle unlike any other. Yet, even in the depths of madness Lackland remains the very soul of knightly courtesy and true nobility; seeking that which was lost, and as always, making the world a safer place.

The Prospect of my Arrival by Dwight Okita, 2008 Finalist

"Prospect's strong, innocent voice carries the novel as it ranges from touching to satirical in its exploration of the nature of humanity." -- Publishers Weekly, referring to the novel as it appeared in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards A human embryo is allowed to preview the world before deciding whether to be born. The embryo, named Prospect, is given a starter kit of human knowledge, and his consciousness is inserted into a synthetic twenty-year-old body. To help him make up his mind, he will meet a range of people. Among them, a greeting card writer who excels at sympathy cards, and Prospect's very own inscrutable parents. Trish Mesmer is the scientist charged with counseling Prospect, though she has more hidden agendas than a centipede has legs. At the same time, Trevor Grueling grows increasingly committed to derailing the bio-experiment all together. This cautionary tale is served up with equal helpings of whimsy and dread, with just a dash of hope. In the 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, the book was selected by Penguin editors as one of the top ten books out of five thousand. To learn more about the author's work, and to view the author's unique book trailer, please visit dwightland.homestead.com.

Losing Beauty by Johanna Copeland Garth
Paperback  Kindle
Persey is Alone
Experience has taught her that solitude is best. At any rate, it’s better than hearing everyone’s worst secrets. Daniel Hartnett is a lawyer who has it all. But no one really has it all. Daniel’s never experienced surprise, anticipation or what it feels like to fall in love. When Daniel meets Persey he discovers the first girl who is immune to his special talent. The only problem is someone else discovered Persey first and is hell-bent on claiming her as his own. Haden is the king of the Underworld with a plan to make Persey his immortal queen. What Haden doesn’t plan on is Persey’s ability to compel secrets and how far the people who love Persey will go to protect her from the darkness that threatens to destroy her soul.

Dead Eye: Pennies for the Ferryman by Jim Bernheimer

My name is Mike Ross. I'm a Ferryman. I help people with ghost problems, or ghosts with people problems. Funny thing, no one ever helps me with my problems. Civil War ghosts bent on killing me, Skinwalkers who just want my body, and a vindictive spirit linked both to my bloodline and my destiny... It turns out the dead still hold a good deal of influence over the world, and they don't want to give it up. I'm in way over my head. Fortunately, I'm too stubborn to quit.

The Lollipop Club by J Darroll Hall

In The Lollipop Club, the Halland family has been lucky, the family (AJ and Tess) are car dealers taking a break from that business. Now running a home based business and have become bored with it. AJ seeks a new challenge, a new business venture. His vivacious wife of twenty-five years is also bored even though they have a raucous sex life and seeks her own new adventures. A swinging lifestyle on her birthday soon opens their marriage to multiple sex partners. Both are soon seduced by the lifestyle as Tess befriends several exotic bi-sexual dancers pulling her into the dark world of sex for money and the strip club business. AJ Halland the husband has other ideas, now that his new car business has failed. Why be a stripper when you can own the club. AJ set's out on a course to do just that with an old acquaintance and former customer and quickly takes over his own strip club. Gus Lawson is a oddball who fits in no where, a mystery man who stalks the strip clubs of a small Midwest town. Wherever he goes stripper are found dead. Now a new guy is taking over his favorite stalking ground and Lawson finds his wife appealing and now Lawson wants both the club and the hot wife, and will do whatever it takes. He knows he can dispose of the wife later at any time her freshness fades. In Washington an old lover of AJ's from the late 70's, is now married to a powerful senator with three daughter. Victoria Markland's life will change forever, when one of her daughters die's while in the dark world of stripping. The FBI is called in to put a lid on the senator’s problem, at the expense of finding the daughter's killer if in fact she did not overdose by her own hand. Now the lives of all these characters will converge in a small Midwest town in this explosive erotic thriller. Can AJ find the real reason his girls are turning up dead as he and Tess delve deeper into this dark seedy world. It turns into a life and death race to find the killer and save his own wife. Will his years of addiction finally catch up before he can? Tess and AJ play right into Lawson's hand as more women die.The race in on!

Brother, Betrayed by Danielle Raver
"One brother will betray the others with such treachery that it will change the destiny of Miscia forever." The three princes hear this prophecy, and they will discover how far it will drive them to explore love, loyalty, and their own souls. The princes are bound by loyalty to each other and their kingdom. When conflict comes to their land, their ascension into power is darkened by betrayal. Oman, eldest and Anteria's promised king, leads his brothers on their journey through Arnith. Fasime, driven by passion, seeks a life of romance and adventure. Syah, born the ailing youngest brother of these two outgoing princes, endeavours to overcome his bleak destiny through pursuit of knowledge and magic... a quest that may reveal unknown power within his own soul. A tale woven with deception, war, sacrifice, and magic, BROTHER, BETRAYED takes readers to a troubled kingdom surrounded by barbarians, magical races, and forbidden boundaries.

Land of Nod, The Artifact by Gary Hoover
Hard cover  Kindle
Jeff Browning is a teenage boy who, following the mysterious disappearance of his father (a brilliant physicist), finds a portal in his father's office that transports him to another dimension. The dimension is populated by fantastic and dangerous creatures and also an advanced society of humans. That society, while very different from those on earth, is oddly similar, in some ways, to the society in which Jeff grew up. As Jeff looks for clues regarding what may have happened to his father, he is accused by some of being a spy while thought by others to be a prophesized figure . . . who may be the key to victory in a developing war.

Black Numbers by Dean Lappi
In a land where magic is based on advanced mathematics, Sid is something special, for his awakening sexuality and genius-level understanding of mathematics combines to create a power beyond anything ever seen in the world. Sid’s journey propels him into the center of a 1000-year-struggle with an outcome obscured by a darkness known as Black Numbers.

Ednor Scardens by Kathleen Barker
When the boob fairy makes an early visit in sixth grade, eleven-year-old Kate Fitzgerald is unprepared for the repercussions. Her puppy-love relationship with classmate Gabe Kelsey quickly blossoms. But her carefree days in Catholic school darken with the arrival of Father John O'Conner, a predatory priest with a hidden past. Life becomes even more tangled when Kate falls hard for Gabe's darkly handsome older brother, Michael. The Kelsey boys couldn't be more different: one is shy and self-effacing; the other is tall, athletic, and confident. As the brothers battle for Kate’s affections, how will she choose without tearing their family apart? When she silently witnesses a frightening scene between Gabe and Fr. O'Conner, Kate is unaware that she is O'Conner's intended next victim. With her mother distracted by the strain of providing for her daughter, and a grandmother uncannily tuned in to her feelings, Kate struggles to navigate the unwanted attention from older boys and men, while trying to sort through the questionable counsel of her too-worldly best friend, Anita. Comical adventures lend relief to Kate’s dark struggles, especially when friends share their refreshingly naive observations about growing up. The tragic death of a classmate brings the group face-to-face with mortality, shattering their facade of invincibility.

Children of the Elementi by Ceri Clark
The powerful Elementi Empire spanned over a thousand years, its kings and queens loved and revered by their people and their elemental powers feared by their enemies. One fateful night almost a century ago, the Empire was destroyed by treachery and Magi illusion. All five heirs were thought to be lost... until now. On present day Earth, Jake has an ordinary life, school, bullies, parties... until he stumbles on an ancient crystal and discovers his adoption and a royal past. As Jake touches the pendant, the Magi Emperor in Eleria is alerted that not all the Elementi were killed all those years ago. The Emperor summons an evil fire demon and sends him across the dimensional barrier to hunt and kill the last of the Elementi. Can Jake learn to control his growing elemental powers and reunite the other lost children in time?

A Beautiful Chill by Stephen Swartz
Born and raised in Iceland, taken to Toronto by her mother, Iris discovers a talent in art and an escape from a world she hates. At a college in Kansas, she meets Eric, the new professor. Their dalliance one snowy weekend sparks an obsession in him, while she returns to her modeling and painting - until an awkward reunion forces them to become a couple. Eric is different; he actually cares about her. He wants her to be the proper woman she was meant to be, but all she knows is how to be outrageous. As they struggle to compromise, the battle of wits escalates until the only solution is betrayal. Cleaning up the consequences will test their desire not just for happiness but even their will to survive.

Joe Peace by Kerry Dunn
Paperback  Kindle
Twenty years ago, Joe Peace was an ace homicide investigator for the Austin Police Department, until his penchant for cocaine and a disastrous affair with his partner Cassie buries him at the bottom of the APD's burnout brigade. In Austin, Texas, the psychotic founder of the most powerful drug cartel convinces Joe the cash is greener on the other side of the fence, and Joe becomes a player in the drug scene, buys a mansion, and collects beautiful coeds like butterflies, but the party ends when new details of Cassie's death surface, opening wounds long scarred over. Other crews muscle in on Joe's operation, and he's trapped in the twilight between the cops-who want to take him down-and the kingpins of the street-who want to take him out. JOE PEACE is a gallows-humored tale of revenge and redemption with noir-like dialogue and slippery morals, along with action, suspense, and soul.

Emaline and the Mutants by Rachel Tsoumbakos
At first, no one noticed the changes. A few more dead bodies, a rise in dog attacks. Then people started to mutate... Emeline Hart is left to survive in the world with only her brother by her side. The small community they have joined is their only shelter from a world that has morphed beyond recognition after an AIDS 'cure' goes horribly wrong. Together they help rid the world of vampires, werewolves and trolls, the shells of people left after the world mutated en masse. Then her brother goes missing, presumed dead. Emeline and the Mutants brings together all the elements of fantasy, science fiction and post-apocalyptic fear to create a novel that will have you perched on the edge of your seat!

Bring Me One of Everything by Leslie Hall Pinder
Paperback  Kindle
Everything is a novel which weaves real-life facts and fiction into an eloquent tale of suspense and intrigue. The title of the book is based on what the management of the Smithsonian is said to have demanded when sending ethnographers to native villages to gather artifacts for its collection: "Bring me one of everything." The novel is several layered stories centered around a troubled writer, Alicia Purcell, who has been commissioned to create the libretto for an opera about an anthropologist named Austin Hart. He earned fame in the 1950s for cutting down and bringing back to museums the largest remaining stand of totem poles in the world. They belonged to the Haida tribes who inhabit the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia. Hart's subsequent suicide creates the mystery Alicia attempts to solve as she consults present-day tribe members, Hart's friends and family, and his personal journals. Added to the complications of her search are Alicia's imperious though ailing mother, a cast-off lover, a narcissistic composer, and her own demons of disaffection. But an overarching question dogs her and the reader: why she is so obsessed with Austin Hart and this quest?

Greyhound by Steffan Piper
Paperback  Kindle
12-year-old Sebastien Ranes is taking a trip. He doesn't exactly understand why, but he accepts it. His mother often seems too emotionally detached to care for him. Her latest boyfriend Dick takes cruel pleasure in mimicking the boy’s stuttering, and wants to live his life without "somebody else's kid" getting in the way. So it's no surprise when they pack his bags to send him away. It is a surprise when they send him alone. Ushered from his Stockton, California home, Sebastien must fend for himself and travel two thousand miles across the country to live with his grandmother and sister in Pennsylvania. Along the way, he learns that sometimes caring, guidance and understanding can come from some unlikely people. Marcus is a man who has been neglected more by society than his family. As a young black ex-con, he is not the epitome of the person most would pick as a chaperone for their child's cross country trip. Yet rather than be held apart by their differences, Marcus and Sebastien are drawn together by the things that make us all alike. As both guide and protector, Marcus imparts his own style of wisdom while showing Sebastien that, despite the darker side of the human condition, people can and do care for one another. Greyhound is the story of the journey taken by a young boy into manhood, and by the reader into his world. Like every trip, there are many stops along the way. But this journey differs in the way young Sebastien arrives at his destination.

Russell Wiley is Out to Lunch by Richard Hine (only $1.99 this month!)
Paperback  Kindle
Russell Wiley is in deep trouble. A media executive for the failing Daily Business Chronicle, his career is teetering on the brink of collapse, and his sexless marriage is fast approaching its expiration date. With his professional and personal lives floundering, it’s no wonder Russell is distracted, unhappy, and losing faith in himself. Making matters worse are his scheming boss, a hot-shot new consultant determined to see Russell ousted, and the beguiling colleague whose mere presence has a disconcerting effect on Russell’s starved libido. Disaster seems imminent…and that’s before he makes a careless mistake that could cost the paper millions. Russell realizes he must take drastic action if he is going to salvage his career, his love life, and what little remains of his self-respect. Sardonic, edgy, and true to life, this gripping novel offers an insider’s view into a newspaper's inner sanctum and the people who oil the wheels of the "old media" machine.

The Bum Magnet by KL Brady
Paperback  Kindle
[note:  this is one Karla self-published, but reviews and awards earned her attention for a traditional publisher]
Sassy and successful real estate agent Charisse Tyson has it all—the stately, three-story colonial, a dream job, and a 7-Series BMW. After two decades of tumultuous relationships with cheating men, she’s ready to overhaul her life and make some lasting changes. Charisse swears off dating and sex until she feels ready for a healthy relationship—but unfortunately stunningly sexy, charming Dwayne, a client of Charisse’s, comes along and her plans change. But can she learn from her past mistakes and learn to trust men—and herself?

The Odds by Amy Kinzer
Odds of dying in a plane crash: 1 in 20,000.
Odds of dying in a motor vehicle accident: 1 in 256.
Odds of living a normal life for Ethan Sorenson: impossible.
Fifteen-year-old Ethan Sorenson lives life on the periphery… and it’s not intentional. A scholarship student at the prestigious Evergreen Preparatory Academy in Seattle, all Ethan wants is to fit in with his prep-school classmates. But Ethan’s divorced mother – a senior actuary at Northwest Life Insurance who calculates insurance risks – is convinced he is going to die. The most mundane moments pose a risk of death according to Ethan’s mother. Life is even worse for Ethan’s four-year-old brother who still wears clothes with snaps and rides in a stroller. When Ethan befriends the school’s star baseball player he gets a chance to break into Evergreen’s elite social circle. He sneaks out at night, he goes to parties attended by his love interest, and his new friend teaches him to drive. But then his crush starts dating someone else and his mom calls the cops when she finds his bed empty in the middle of the night. Desperate to escape his mother’s strange rules, Ethan kidnaps his brother and goes to Oregon on a search for his dad. But Ethan’s father’s not in Oregon. Instead he uncovers a family secret that explains his mother’s odd behavior, finds out the truth about the disappearance of a childhood neighbor, and gets a chance to repair his family before it’s too late.

Prince of Bryanae by Jeffrey Getzin
Paperback  Kindle
After over a century of valiant service, the elven soldier Willow has buried her past so deeply that even she has forgotten it. But it hasn't forgotten her. Now old enemies have found her and have kidnapped the Prince of Bryanae before her very eyes! Considered by most of Bryanae to be a traitor and coward, Willow must confront her fears and plunge headlong into the heart of the enemy empire to rescue the Prince and return him safely home. An army of fierce warriors stands in her way, led by the mad and seemingly immortal Warlord. Willow must use every resource at her disposal if she is to save the Prince, even if that means relying on the headstrong and lovesick Private Tamlevar, the inscrutable winged mage Suel, or the dashing but devious Captain Snyde. Willow has been honing her combat and weaponry skills for over 150 years. Now it is time to put that practice to good use. The fates of four races and two kingdoms hang in the balance.

Catcher Caught by Sarah Collins
Paperback  Kindle
From Publishers Weekly A few months after doctors tell him he has only a year to live, a precocious 15-year-old from a small town in Virginia has an intense reaction to “The Catcher in the Rye.” Deriving inspiration from Salinger’s narrative, Daniel Landon questions peoples’ intentions and authority (asking himself, “What would Holden do?”), all while experiencing moments of pure pleasure (especially with his new girlfriend). Daniel makes bold choices in what he believes to be his final year, but also sympathizes with how his hippie parents have struggled with the news of his illness. Not “rule followers themselves,” they decide, without consulting Daniel, that he should forgo chemo and use herbal remedies instead. He does as he’s told and, as a result, is confined to their small houseboat most of the time, reading, doing homework, and pondering teenage stuff (“Parents should never discount the social pull of being physically present at school”) and non-teenage stuff (“I know she’s going to fall apart when I die because our sleeping together was the first time”). Despite the countless references to Holden and Catcher, the narrator’s engaging voice and his quirky family make this a poignant story for young adults and for adults who have forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager. --This text refers to the manuscript reviewed as a part of the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.

Last Kiss in Tiananmen Square by Lisa Zhang Wharton
Paperback  Kindle
"Last Kiss in Tiananmen Square" is a novel based on the 1989 Tiananmen Square Pro-democracy movement. The novel follows a young woman, Baiyun, a junior in college, trying to reconcile her upbringing while in the midst of the rising political movement in Beijing, China. Baiyun grew up in a strange and cold household: her mother, Meiling, brought her many young lovers to their home while Baiyun was a small child. Often, Baiyun could hear her sad father, drunk and listening by the door. In order to cope with her dysfunctional family, Baiyun worked as hard as she could, eventually getting herself in the prestigious Beijing University. But even away from her parent's madness, she was unable to escape her haunting memories. A distraction was right outside her dorm room window. Baiyun joined the Pro-democracy movement to vent her frustrations. While protesting, she met the man of her dreams, Dagong, a handsome and charismatic factory technician who was orphaned at birth and lost his only relative during the Cultural Revolution. But even Dagong couldn't fully take Baiyun away: his face reminded her of one of her mother's lovers, both attracting her and drawing her back. Eventually Baiyun and Dagong were bonded by their troubled pasts. Amidst the backdrop of the escalating unrest on the streets, they faced violence and were eventually made to question their true loyalties, especially after Baiyun had discovered that Dagong was married with a son. "Last Kiss in Tiananmen Square" is a coming-of age story set against the historic and devastating era in Chinese history.With the cultural significance and family bonds of "The Kite Runner", this book explores the way in which one's past is never forgotten.

Requiem for the Widowmaker by Blackie Noir
Nadine Kozok was a child of five when she killed her first man. The man? Her father.

Twenty-five years later, Long Beach PD patrol-officer Nadine Kozok has taken another life. Knife wielding carjacker Chuey Medina, cop-killer twice over, gave his all in a vicious attempt to make Nadine his third badge wearing victim. Bloodied but unbowed, Nadine survived the battle. Chuey didn’t.  The doctors hadn’t finished tying-off Nadine’s sutures before she had achieved celebrity status due to the TV news video of her violent encounter.  Fame had its rewards. A gold-shield. . . Detective Nadine Kozok. The title was almost enough to ward off her demons. Demons left by Medina. Older demons, relics of a more terrifying confrontation. Twenty-five years and still those phantasms drifted in, like fine sand, filling the cracks and crevices of Nadine’s nightmares.  The Widowmaker didn’t have nightmares. He was a nightmare. Long Beach’s primo vigilante-killer was out there, murdering with impunity. Once, he’d left notes with the bodies. He no longer left the notes . . . just the bodies. Five years, thirteen bodies.  Nadine’s traumatic and violent childhood, specifically the night that had left her orphaned, is taken as a morbid credential by her superiors, they assign her to the foundering Widowmaker task-force.  Following the Widowmaker’s bloody footprints over an ever widening gyre of homeless enclaves, industrial badlands, crank-fueled strip-joints, and dirtwater trailer-parks; Nadine finds her present path intertwining with her past. Her salvation, along with the possibility of her destruction, lies in her violent history. She is taking a jolting, uncompromising, noir trip to the darkside of devotion, where truth gives testimony to the strength of sacrifice, trust must serve as her sword, and victory constitutes a paean to the power of unconditional love.

Van Diemen at 17 by Jeania Kimbrough (Moonbeam Children's Book Award Winner)
On the edge of adulthood, idealistic Kara Jagger has high hopes for a year-long high school exchange in the land of "Aus," where she seeks personal growth and adventure on an island over eight thousand miles from home. Everything she wants comes easily to Kara until she arrives in Tasmania, where she feels stuck in a situation that draws her down. Her exchange program assigns a counselor, Ben, to help her get back on track, but her emotions and misadventures only become more tangled as their romantic attraction ignites. Set in mid-eighties Australia, Van Diemen at 17 is a novel about dealing with the unexpected, moving forward, and bittersweet love. "A true page turner! Few works of fiction portray realistic exchange students, and even fewer place these characters at the epicenter of a human drama. Kara is a compelling character facing a range of both ordinary and extraordinary issues as she attempts to live with a family of strangers and adjust to the demands of a new school in Tasmania. Although Kara's exchange story is atypical, her story is a realistic portrayal of the kinds of situations and personal reactions to them that do crop up every year for a few students. The sympathetic rendering of a conflicted young woman is heartfelt and will resonate with anyone who has struggled to make sense of life in another culture." -- Bettina Hansel, Ph.D., Author of Exchange Student Survival Kit, 2nd Edition

In addition to those listed here, I've previously reviewed ABNA entrants Megan Bostic's Never Eighteen, Gae Polisner's Pull of Gravity and Harry Dolan's Bad Things Happen.(Very Bad Men review here)

18 April 2012

Writing Wednesday: Traffic


Every morning we drive to work and every afternoon we drive home.  We have seen tractor trailers jack-knifed and turned on their sides.  We have seen the NYPD pull over speeders.  We have seen emergency medical technicians saving lives.  We have seen bumper to bumper traffic with rubbernecking as its cause.

We did not see the vehicle on our left, coming towards us at 60 miles per hour.  Traffic everywhere.  Boxed in like a caged mouse.  Montage sequences of a wakeful, unreal nightmare. You were gone.

Never did I think that I would have to make this commute without you.

Image acquired from Wikimedia Commons.

Drabble- a story told in exactly 100 words.

16 April 2012

Books I've Read Since My Last Post

I've noticed a slight trend toward people being a bit shocked at the number of titles I manage to cram into these posts. So I though, hey, why not just do my Reading Monday of what I've read in a specified timeframe - namely, since my previous post (which was a Writing Wednesday, if you'll recall). Being me, I will still pull in other books in the series if there ARE other books, even if I read them previously, but oh well. That's just how I roll... So without further ado, I present to you: 12 days' worth of reading.

The Agency - Y. S. Lee

This was a recommendation from one of my students, and I'm quite glad I sought it out - I absolutely devoured the first two in this trilogy this week (waiting for the 3rd to come out in paperback). The premise is intriguing - an all-female secret detective agency in Victorian London - and the main character, Mary Quinn, is likable, fallible, and great fun to follow around. In the first book, we meet the 12-year-old Mary, who has been convicted of theft and sentenced to death (yeah, they could be a bit harsh back then). Fortunately for her (and us, since there wouldn't be a story otherwise), she is rescued by a few women dedicated to the education of disadvantaged girls, and the orphaned (and condemned) housebreaker takes her mother's maiden name and heads off to school instead of the gallows. The narrative picks up five years later, and we follow her on her first few assignments for the Agency (as companion/spy in a wealthy household, and as a boy {yep, boy} working on a construction site). The third apparently sends her in to the royal family itself - can't wait!

The Legend of Eli Monpress - Rachel Aaron

I'd had this trilogy on my wishlist for a while, so imagine my glee when it appeared in an omnibus edition - it's three for the price of two! About a thousand pages worth of slightly screwball fantasy will keep even me busy for a few days. Monpress is both a wizard and a brilliant thief (accompanied by a master swordfighter and a demonseed {oh, go read it to find out}), who seems bound and determined to cause as much mischief as humanly possible, even while depending on friendly spirits to help him out. That's where Spiritualist Miranda Lyonette comes in (she's the other main POV character, though there are sections in many others' as well) - she's been sent to try and catch him, or at the very least to stop him from stealing a dangerous wizardly artifact. Of course, on her way to tell the king that, she discovers that Eli has, erm, well, stolen the king... The second book concerns the strange goings on in the duchy of Gaol (I'm still trying to figure out whether that's actually pronounced "jail", like the old British spelling), while the third finds Eli and his crew having a well-earned rest when a character from the previous book pops up and asks for their help finding her missing father. The characters in these are perhaps not as deep as I normally prefer, but I can deal with that because Eli is supposed to be an enigma, and it looks like the forthcoming 4th volume explains rather a lot about our swordmaster, so okay. They're fun. Good enough for me!

Let's Pretend This Never Happened - Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess)

Whoa, you say. Hold on. That's not released till tomorrow. Dude, I work in a bookstore, I get ARCs. Best. Perq. EVER. Meanwhile, this book is so freakin' funny that I made a total arse of myself in Starbucks laughing like a loon (I was in there for a few hours while my car was getting fixed and I read the whole thing). If you haven't read her blog, for pete's sake go do that. She makes me feel a LOT better about my dad, for starters (case in point: my dad goes out to stalk raccoons with a bow and arrow, my mother, sister and I go haul his furious self back inside {in his defense, the damn things were getting into our trash cans}, and nobody dies. Her dad, on the other hand, kills a mama raccoon, realizes she had babies, and brings them home and puts them in the bathtub. And then her mother sews them jams {you know, those long shorts that were popular in the 80s}. Errrrrm... *facepalm* And that's probably the most normal part of the book. 'Cause yes, that is indeed a taxidermied mouse dressed as Hamlet and holding a similarly mousey Yorrick skull standing proudly on the cover.) . Also, hands down absolutely the best table of contents since Percy Jackson. Showed it to a coworker Sunday and her immediate reaction was, "I must own this." So all y'all go buy it tomorrow, m'kay?

Trylle - Amanda Hocking

When the ARC of the first one (Switched) landed in our break room, I snagged it more out of curiosity than anything else - I'd heard about this self-published chick who'd sold a bunch of ebooks and gotten picked up by a print publisher and thought I'd check it out. It's not bad, actually - I mean, it probably could've used one more rewrite-and-polish cycle, and she doesn't really hit her stride until the second one (Torn, which is the one I actually read this week), but after umpteen zillion vampires, werewolves, angels, and mermaids, trolls are kinda refreshing, y'know? There's the ubiquitous love triangle (or, well, kind of a square, but - ugh, no spoilers) and conflicted loyalties, and I could do with a bigger dose of worldbuilding, but you know what, I'm planning on picking up the third one when it comes out next week, so there. And lest you be swayed by that other massive "but it sold tons of ebooks so let's print it!" hot mess that's in the news (but shall not be named...), I'll just say I cracked that open, cracked UP, and will add that based on the couple of paragraphs I manged to scan before I threw it across the desk, this trilogy beats that one by at least an order of magnitude.

H.I.V.E. - Mark Walden

are currently six of these available stateside, and it's the 6th that I flew through this week. Otto Malpense, our antihero, is still trying to stay clear of the malevolent AI Overlord, while still keeping up with his studies and his friends back at H.I.V.E. (that's the Higher Institute of Villainous Evil, for those of you who missed the first five). Meanwhile, headmaster Nero is dealing with all kinds of betrayal and mess with the members of G.L.O.V.E. (Global League - ah, you get the point), and, oh yes, the POTUS (yes, yes, acronym city, that one's still President of the United States, though) gets dragged into it when Overlord takes over a supposedly secure facility and threatens to execute all kinds of VIP hostages if they don't deliver Otto to him ASAP (okay, okay, I'll stop). (Amusing aside which y'all should get - the designer of said facility is {or rather, was} one Jason Drake. Mmm-hmm.) This installment is both lighter and darker than most of the previous ones, and one character is the main focus of both - but I'm not telling... Oh, and these guys have even better gadgets than Alex Rider (he's further down this list)!

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place - Maryrose Wood

This series starts with the cliché "Were you raised by wolves?" and turns it on its head by presenting three children who actually WERE. The third volume came out recently (and that's the one I read this week); the children, who are becoming more and more civilized thanks to the attentions of their governess, 15-year-old Penelope Lumley, have been studying birds. Imagine their surprise when they find an ostrich running around the grounds of Ashton Place (which, being in England, is not the sort of place one expects to find large African flightless birds). The ostrich turns out to be the property of one Admiral Faucet ("that's faw-say, my good man!"), who arrives shortly thereafter with the mother of their guardian, Lord Ashton. (With me so far? Good.) When the children, Miss Lumley and Admiral Faucet set out on an expedition into the woods to recapture the ostrich, will the Incorrigibles revert to their wolfish origins? (Hey, I'm not telling.)

Alex Rider - Anthony Horowitz

I read the final entry in this series this week, and I have to say it's a fitting, though definitely not happy, conclusion to the story. For anyone who's somehow missed this, it's pretty much THE go-to boy read - a teenage British spy who pops around the globe on secret missions, so cue lots of adventures and explosions (Horowitz is a successful screenwriter as well - I was pretty surprised the first time I saw his name pop up in the credits of one of my favourite Poirot shows!). The set-up is rather unusual in this one in that we don't see Alex himself at all for the first section - instead we see a prisoner (someone from a previous installment), a criminal consortium (the Scorpia of the title), but not our main character. He does eventually make it onstage, only to be (no surprise) shot at and sucked into another escapade, this time taking place in the sands and cities of Egypt. A rewarding read for series fans, but do read these in order if you haven't started yet (Stormbreaker is the first one).

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

This one doesn't come out till June. MUAHAHAHA! The set-up is straight from the headlines - woman goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary, husband doesn't seem quite... quite, and suspicion abounds from all directions. The first section is told in alternating perspectives, first Nick (the husband) in present-day, then Amy (the wife) in diary flashbacks. Then you get to the second section and ALL bets are off. If I say more than that it'd spoil things, and that's something I definitely don't want to do because it's so very well done. The characters are frighteningly real, and the little tidbits that seem like mere colour early on may turn out to be major clues after all. Flynn has two previous novels which I'm planning to pick up when I get a little extra money, 'cause this lady can write AND plot (and plot and plot and PLOT).

And She Was - Alison Gaylin

Sometimes, when I'm feeling full of myself, I'll boast about my photographic memory. It doesn't hold a candle to Brenna Spector's, though - she can quite literally remember every detail of every day of her life starting the day after her older sister vanished. Not surprisingly, she's an investigator, using her amazing skill (or perhaps that should be curse) to recall the smallest details of cases even over a decade after they happened. When several cases from her past appear to be linking up, she ends up investigating both a small girl's disappearance, the vanishing of a woman who seemed to have a strange obsession with the case, and even, somehow, a tie to her long-gone sister as well. Add in a flamboyant (yet straight) tech-geek assistant who dresses like a refugee from Jersey Shore, a moody teenage daughter, and an ex-husband with whom she only really communicates via IM, and you have a fascinating portrait of a damaged woman trying to do the best she can. Sequel's due out next year, and the teaser seems to indicate that it will involve her missing sister. Looking forward to it!

The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart

The fourth volume is finally here! It's been a long time coming (I think I got the first three autographed about two years ago), and it's a prequel, focusing not on the four kids we've come to know and love but on Mr. Benedict himself as a too-smart-for-his-age (okay, okay, he's eidetic too...) boy. His Holmes-like deductive skills are showcased from the very first chapter, where we find him being escorted to a new orphanage. The obligatory gang of bullies gives him a hard time, and the new director is exceedingly determined to be the most frugal man alive after the previous one squandered nearly all of the Rothschild endowment (yeah, those Rothschilds). Oh, and there's supposedly a secret treasure hidden on the grounds... Me being the kind of person I am, I unfortunately figured out that part of the mystery almost instantly, but the story's good enough to pull you through even so. As I said to the author when I met him (very briefly) at that signing, "Thank you for making smart cool again." If for no other reason than that, I'll be recommending this series for a long time to come.

The False Prince - Jennifer A. Nielsen

Shades of Prince and the Pauper here, but the stakes are far higher. Sage, a teenage orphan, is hand-picked by the nobleman Conner as a candidate to impersonate the lost prince of Carthya in an attempt to avoid a civil war after the rest of the royal family is killed. He's not the only one, though - and it's clear that only one will survive, as how could Conner leave the rest around to blab about the plot? Enough to make anyone, even a habitual thief and smartarse like Sage, sit up, pay attention, and keep his mouth shut. Sage is a fantastic character, and the plot races along in this first of a planned trilogy (short chapters, too). The boys have two weeks to learn to act like a prince - and it's truly winner-takes-all. And when the endgame plays out... well, sign me up for the next two! Damned publishing schedules, bet it'll be next year before the next one. *grumble*

Hmmm. This list feels short. I must be forgetting something, so if I remember, I'll add it!

12 April 2012

From nothing to cats and then something and then rabbits

I can't think of anything to blog about.

No, really.



You thought I'd say "zilch", now, didn't you? Ha!

Seriously, though. Nothing. Except maybe a picture of this cat I found:

(the picture. I found the picture. Not the cat.)

((haha. Imagine me finding this "cat". In Norway. And I'm all "cat! :D " and it's all "food :D :D :D", and then you wouldn't have a blog post at all))

(((not that this post would have been that much of a loss)))

I suppose I could write about... Nah. No, that's just stupid.

No, I said it was stupid!

I'm not gonna.... Because it's stupid!

Well, okay, but you're gonna think it's stupid.

I thought maybe I could say something about things that currently concern me.

I know that isn't necessarily stupid, but wait till you hear...

Oh, no, it's nothing like that. Not work or life or some such serious topic.

Haha, no, not yawning albino lions either.

No, it's... Nah, it's stupid.

Fine. It's trampolines. You know, for jumping on.

Well, I said it was stupid!

It's just that I see this trampoline from my window at work. Or rather, I see some kids jumping, and I'm assuming there is a trampoline under them (or they have some serious plyometric skills!). This trampoline, or rather, the garden it's in, looks like heaven to me. Where freedom rules. In addition to the kids and the trampoline there is frequently a white dog (or lion) running about there, looking like the happiest creature alive. I picture that there must also be butterflies, daisies and popsicles there, and the sun is always shining.

Yeah, I know. It's kinda stupid. Though I guess you could see my idealization of that garden as a product of my displeasure in "such serious topics". Not that I am all that displeased in work. My class today was okay, and the meeting thereafter useful. Grading of papers I could do without, but all in all I can't complain. As for life in general? Shouldn't complain there either. I have ups and downs, but my ups are mostly worth the downs, and the downs are nowhere near how far down they could be. If that made sense.

But it's not blog material. Rabbit:

11 April 2012

Longer Than Expected

You really don't even need to ask. If the question is something about how long the editing took/will take, this is always the answer. Longer than Expected.

It's possible this error has to do with a gross overestimation of my efficiency. And I really do confess to delusions about my own abilities. I'm an optimist and I just always assume everything will be easier than it is. And for the record, people like me get more done because once started, you are sort of committed, where people with realistic expectations know a lot of things will just be time sucks. (yes, I used suck as a noun)

But I think the reality is forgetting. EVERY. TIME. Just how darn much work it takes to clean something up.

Let me tell you about my winter.

2012 began about three days into a ‘final’ polish for LEGACY (the book I intended to (and did) enter in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest). I intended this to take about three weeks—heck, it was just a read, after all. Two things:

1) It took six weeks

2) It ISN’T done. Oh, done enough for the contest, but a major strand occurred to me, so before I’d consider submitting it elsewhere, I have another layer of editing to do (a subplot that ties the other stuff together more strongly)—it should be noted the next revision will be numbered 12, I believe.

Part of the reason three weeks became six is in the MIDDLE of that, I had to start another revision of BEGONIA BRIBE—this book will be the death of me, just FYI. My editor had some things that I just hadn’t accomplished when I turned it in in September.

1) The pacing was wrong—body too late.

2) The gardening themed book was low on… you guessed it… gardening.

The first three chapters had to be done by Jan 31 (the reason for the LEGACY delay should be apparent), but then finishing LEGACY and getting BACK to BEGONIA BRIBE… finishing took to the end of February—not THIS should have been relatively quick, too, but the moving around of the beginning had HUGE ripple effects through the first 2/3 of the book. THANKFULLY, when I finished, my fabulous friend Stacy had time to make sure it wasn’t gibberish.

And then in March I began editing CHRYSANTHEMUM CAMPAIGN, and here we get the more focused view of why these things take so much longer than expected.


I finished writing my first draft of this December 29 and let it sit for two months (this is good—a couple months equals fresh eyes). Then in March I read it, making what I couldn’t keep myself from marking…

[see, ideally I would just read first, for the big picture stuff that needs changing. But this is beyond my ability]

Because of the marking up, this piece took three weeks—making the smaller edits, and marking the where and the what for bigger edits. That round has a lot of marks like, [look up heirloom fall flowers and describe garden]…

And then I wrote some of the needed scenes and did some of the research, but DOH!

As I read it again and marked the newly edited version, I discovered such things as:

1) Later story needs a character that X, so must be introduced earlier

2) Story suggests Y will be important, but it’s never mentioned again.

See, first time through the book these continuity issues don’t get spotted because it has been too long since first read. So I HAVE to have this second full read that I had completely not accounted for in my planning.

Then the continuity scenes you just noted have to be written (this is where I am now, when I SHOULD have gotten the book to two lovely beta readers on April 1st)

Ideally I’d go through again to polish, but they know it hasn’t been polished—this is a read for feedback on plot, characters, continuity and pacing—not word/sentence level feedback.

I will do that smoothing next round… because after feedback I ALSO will need a three layered edit.

While I wait for feedback, I will do my next round of editing for KAHLOTUS DISPOSAL SITE. Should take me about a week.

How about you? How realistic are you about how long things will take?

[Book covers designed by Joris Ammerlaan]

06 April 2012

Friday Free For All: Hair

Hillary Clinton once stated, “I am undaunted in my quest to amuse myself by constantly changing my hair.” My hair is my curse, my blessing and my identity. It is the defining quality that can either increase my self-esteem or bring me to crushing lows on a bad day. Most individuals feel that this is shallow and in some way self-deprecating. However, I adamantly believe that hair can rejuvenate, define and empower an individual.
During my childhood, I had long, dark brown, curly hair. My mother, who is dark-complexioned with wavy, frizzy hair, often told me that I have “white girl hair for a Puerto Rican.” I took offense to this because I was different from everyone else in my family. It wasn’t until fifth grade that I cut it to shoulder length, which resembled many of my cousins' hairstyles. I found my long hair to be difficult to manage and maintain. I spent endless nights in uncomfortable rollers and endless hours blow-drying my hair to make it straight. It never lasted very long as my hair is prone to frizz up on the least humid of days. It was a relief to cut it short and keep it at a more manageable length. This triggered my journey into buying endless hair products and trying many hairstyles.
In junior high school, I discovered hair dye. My plain brown hair did not distinguish me amongst my peers since most were of Hispanic descent with dark, brunette hair. My first dye was red. I had always dreamed of being like Madonna and having red hair with possibly blond highlights. Back in the 1980s, the media played a huge role in determining the transformation and fate of my brunette locks.
Consequently, it wasn’t until my fifth or sixth hair dye that I realized how lethal they can be and how my decisions could inadvertently affect others. My younger brother, who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, was busy playing with his toys in my room. I had mixed the dye and set it on my dresser. Before applying any of the dye to my hair, my mother had called me to make her a cup of coffee. When I returned to my room, my little brother had a brownish-red liquid around his lips. I screamed and my mother entered my bedroom. She called an ambulance and fortunately for my little brother, his stomach was pumped of all its contents. We returned home and I vowed never to use a hair dye again.
Unfortunately,this vow was broken in less than three months. I was sitting in my seventh grade homeroom class when I heard snickering and giggling behind me. Three other girls (who shall remain nameless) were pointing and laughing at me. I rolled my eyes but the taunting continued. One of the young ladies then called out, “Shaharizan. Who does your hair? Crackheads? Because they missed your roots!” Many of my classmates found this comment to be hilarious. I was mortified as I ran to the bathroom to collect myself. At lunch, I sat by myself, although my friends tried to assuage my bruised ego.
Later that day, I stopped by the drug store and purchased more dye, which I used that evening. I chose the bathroom as it had a lock. My hair dye was inaccessible to my brother. The next morning, I blew my hair straight, applied lipstick and put on the best outfit I could find. When I walked into homeroom, there was confidence in my step and I stared at the young ladies who had mocked me the day before, challenging them. Not one word was uttered as I gingerly sat at my desk and flipped my hair over my shoulder. I knew that my hair was directly proportional to a raised self-esteem. This attribute would remain with me through various periods of my life.
(Yes, I have a shirt on, it's a tank top. :D )
Afterward, my hair became that single defining quality which I could control when all else was utter chaos. My first marriage ended badly. My self-esteem was at its lowest and I could not find a solution to supporting myself, raising two young children alone and finding housing. My aunt, who is also my role model in life, gave me money to “enjoy myself”. However, I decided to go shopping for clothing which would be appropriate for the workplace, cut my hair at a salon and color it at home. The very next day began the often disappointing but necessary job search from one establishment to another. My aunt saw that I was struggling and informed me of an opening as a school aide.
Providentially, I was able to style my hair in a very pleasing and sophisticated manner. I acquired an interview and was hired that same day. It is funny how things work out. I also met my second husband that day and have never been happier with anyone else. I have my aunt and my hair to thank for that blessing.
(I'm the one with the short red hair. :D )
Finally, last summer, I did something really drastic with my hair. I had it styled into a pixie haircut and dyed it blonde. I was tired of the reds and browns. I wanted a color that stated, “I am here. Look at me!” The cut and color had the effect I wanted but then it became evident that I was still not happy with my self-image. So, I decided to let it grow just a bit and my hair is now a deep auburn. I feel more comfortable as a redhead. Blondes remind me too much of the supermodels and recording artists that I will never become. Red seems a bit more realistic and puts me at ease. After all, we have to be comfortable in our skin and our hair.

So, does hair define you? I want to know. :D

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

05 April 2012

Dragon Shenanigans

Pinky's being 'Ellied'.

Er, I'm late. I know. But it's still Thursday, and I'm still delusional, so it's ok. I've had a mad day today, so it's fitting that it's my turn to post for 'Delusional Thursday'.

Pinky and Perky
Before I came here, I quickly cobbled together my limerick for the letter 'E' over on my other blog, because it's getting rather late in the day, and I don't want to fail the A-Z challenge, especially seeing as I haven't really blogged since February (and that's quite enough commas in one rambling sentence thank-you-very-much).

Also, I should mention that if you happen to notice a missing 'b' anywhere in the post, please forgive me. You see, the letter 'b' on my laptop is needing a much harder press than normal, owing to the fact that it is uggered. *shifty*.

Pinky's so fast, she moved before I could click!
Anyway... regarding my mad day. I spent much of it chasing dragons. No, seriously, I did. Ok, so they are bearded dragons, but still, dragons they are. Hubby obtained them two days ago (much to the astonishment of the kids - not to mention the cats). Today we decided to clean out the vivarium, so we had to remove the beardies (Pinky and Perky *coughs*) in order to do so. The dragons happily scampered all over the living room (or skidded more often than not as we have laminate flooring) for almost an hour. I kept having to scoop them up before they scurried into places where they might get stuck. Fast little uggers, they are. *nods*

Belle's a bit purrplexed...
I never thought I would have any other pet apart from my kitties. Hubby has been pestering for a snake or a tarantula for years, but I kept saying 'no'. Then the chance came to snap up these two beauties - complete with vivarium and all sorts of paraphernalia - for a bargain price. I was a bit iffy, but I figured they'd be better to live with than a snake or a giant spider (*shudders*). Despite my misgivings, I'm so happy I said 'yes', because I loves them, I do, I loves them!

 Still not sure how the cats are going to adjust though. *snort*