23 book reviewed in a minute

I was reviewing the last book I read, and I thought, “You know, I should put that on my blog.”

Then I thought about the 23 books I’ve read this year and how I ought to review them on my blog, too. But who has time to read 23 book reviews?

So, I present to you, with apologies to Rinkworks, 23 BOOKS REVIEWED IN A MINUTE! That means very, very, very short reviews of each.

Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Beginnings by Lydia Sherrier

Lily: I’m a wizard.
Sebastian: I’m a witch.

They solve PROBLEMS with MAGIC.


The Firethorn Crown by Lea Doue

Twelve princesses are cursed to DANCE EVERY NIGHT until LILY agrees to MARRY her BLACKMAILER.


Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Revelations by Lydia Sherrier

Lily: Sebastian, are you keeping secrets?
Sebastian: Yes. Lily, are you keeping secrets?
Lily: Yes.



Fire Water by Domino Finn (book 5 of Black Magic Outlaw)

Cisco goes to the ELEMENTAL PLANE and there learns an INTERESTING FACT.


Dragonfriend by Marc Secchia

A girl named HUALIAMA is TOO TOUGH TO DIE because DRAGONS. Also GRANDION has secrets TOO.


Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Allies, by Lydia Sherrier

Lily and Sebastian don’t TRUST EACH OTHER because they’re a WIZARD and a WITCH with TERRIBLE HOME LIVES.


A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones

VIVIAN SMITH is FAMOUS for RUINING ALL OF TIME. See: nuclear war in WWII.


Spellsmith and Carver, by H.L. Burke

Auric: I hate my crazy dad.
Jericho: I love your crazy dad.
Auric: I hate you now, too.

CRAZY DAD runs away into the FEYLANDS.

Auric: I take it back.


Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Legends, by Lydia Sherrier

Lily and Sebastian go to ENGLAND because of MORGAN LAFEY.


Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall

A bunch of KIDS go to MARS to escape ALIENS but find aliens ANYWAY.


Cities of Gold by Douglas Preston

A couple of guys try to retrace the path CORONADO took from Mexico up through New Mexico. The desert SUCKED back then and it STILL SUCKS.


Coiled, by H.L. Burke

Brothers: One of us turns into a snake when somebody looks at him. The other turns into a snake when nobody is looking.

Sisters: One of us has healing powers but gets uglier when she uses them. The other gets more beautiful the more cruel she is.

Now they have to GET MARRIED.


Excalibur by Tim Marquitz

Captain: We can fly this alien ship even though it was designed by BUGS

BUGS start KIDNAPPING PEOPLE

Captain: Let’s rescue these people.

BUGS HATCH OUT OF THEM

THE END


Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Anna is a WEREWOLF OMEGA which means she can CALM DOWN OTHER WOLVES. So when a WEREWOLF starts hearing VOICES she can CALM HIM except the voices are caused by an EVIL WITCH.


The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Valancy has a WEIRD NAME and a BORING LIFE. Then she finds out she has A YEAR TO LIVE. So she IS RUDE TO HER RELATIVES and GETS MARRIED.


The Tethered World by Heather L.L. FitzGerald

HOMESCHOOLERS go to a FANTASY WORLD that is really the GARDEN OF EDEN with ELVES.


Dragon Lyric by Bethany A. Jennings

Dragon: Wives are beautiful. And delicious.


Fabled, by Kara Jaynes

A girl can’t go to ARCHERY SCHOOL so she runs away and FIGHTS FAIRYTALES INSTEAD.


The Midnight Queen, by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Sophie is studying MAGICK even though it’s IMPROPER.

Gray: I am disgraced and accused of murder. Shall I teach you magick?

Sophie’s father: I have a plot to kill the king and pin it on Gray.

Sophie and Gray GO ON THE RUN.


 

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Fantasy angels

There’s a saying that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I was pondering that today as I was playing with story ideas.

As I finish the final Malevolent book, I find that I have a clean slate. I can write anything! Any new book I want! Any new series I can dream up! So I started jotting down ideas.

In the old Spacetime series, the Big Bad was a fallen angel named Inferna. She was flat and mustache-twirly. “Mwahaha, it’s good to be bad!” By the end, I couldn’t take her seriously. It’s one reason I scrapped it all and started over. She was a good enough villain when I was 18, but not now that I’m older.

Since we’re reworking everything in the Spacetime universe, I’m pondering if I can do the fallen angel thing a different way. For one thing, these are mortal angels. People with wings and divine powers. But they die if you stab them enough times. (With a wooden stake? Hm. It would be fun to put a bunch of rules on them.)

One of the things an angelus can accomplish is becoming a world ascendant. Through some process my worldbuilding hasn’t yet covered, a mortal angelus can become an immortal world ascendant, that is, the caretaker of a planet. They’re in charge of keeping it life-supporting, managing gravity and other physical forces, and most of all, overseeing what magic is used, and how much. They also watch out for invading races from other worlds who might be out from under the eye of their own ascendant.

Let’s jump on a rabbit trail for a minute. In World of Warcraft, the blood elves are only called that because the source of their magic got corrupted. So they somehow managed to procure a Naaru (the WoW version of angels), and sucked magic out of it to get holy magic for their paladins. In game, it was one of those awful mixed-emotions moments when you find this out.

Anyway, over the course of the story, the Naaru gets so much power drained that it becomes a void creature that you have to fight. It’s a raid boss, actually.

So, while thinking about this, I wondered what might happen to one of these world ascendant angels if they were corrupted. Would they abandon their world? Would they destroy it? What might happen to the people living on a world with a corrupt ascendant? And would there be any way for my heroes to kill the angel/redeem it?

Talk about a fun story arc.

Anyway, playing with this idea of a corrupted world and a fallen ascendant, would redemption even be possible for a creature like that? In real life, the rules for real angels are different than for humans. Jesus died for man, not angels, offering them redemption.

But what about a fantasy world? What if this ascendant was ruined against its will (like blood elves draining all the holy magic from a Naaru until all that’s left is void)? Would it be fated to die? Would the heroes be fated to kill it? Is absolute corruption reversible?

In a world where time travel is possible, fate becomes a fluid thing. Pasts and futures can be changed. Effects can come before cause.

What do you think? Would a being corrupted by the deeds of others be barred from salvation?

Book Lover’s Blog Hop

Book Lovers Blog Hop

Today I’m hosting a spot on the Book Lover’s Blog Hop. Each day in August, we hop around and answer questions about our favorite book. Our question today is:

Which book do you wish had a sequel?

Leslie Conzatti

Leslie Conzatti www.upstreamwriter.blogspot.com

This is going to be super-obscure, but the book I wish had a sequel is the second book in the Mediochre Q. Seth series by Callum P. Cameron, called “Black and White and Shades of Mediochre.” I discovered the first book, “The Good, The Bad, and the Mediochre”, purely by chance, and thoroughly enjoyed the hodgepodge of paranormal/supernatural creatures, the lively characters, and the compelling plot, so I went ahead and got the second book. Well, come to find out, his publisher went bankrupt before he could release the third book (or perhaps just after, I’m not sure) so, sadly, it is a series that will remain unfinished for the foreseeable future. And I wish it were not so!


BelindaBekkers

Belinda Bekkers www.belindabekkers.com

I’ve always wanted to know what happened to Nick Carraway. Wishes sometimes come true. An unpublished manuscript for the Great Gatsby was discovered and Harper Collins is going to publish it…eventually.


Laurie Lucking Author Headshot

Laurie Lucking www.landsuncharted.com

I would’ve loved a sequel to Redeemer, the last book in Katie Clark’s Enslaved series. While the ending was satisfying in many ways and tied up a lot of loose ends, it also sent the protagonist, Hana, off on a new adventure with the guy she ended up with (I won’t spoil the love triangle by saying who!). Basically, I was just so drawn into Clark’s world and characters that I wanted to spend more time with them and to get a chance to see more of what their new lives looked like after the major conflict ended.


vljauthorpic

V.L. Jennings www.virginialorijennings.com

The Harry Potter series should have had a sequel, because seriously! We all want to know what these kids grew up to actually be after such an amazing childhood! Did they continue to have adventures? How did their kids deal with having “famous” parents? The “peak” at the end of the series wasn’t enough in my opinion. As for the “play” that was published here recently, I just can’t bring myself to read it as I’m just too afraid. Has anyone else read it? What did you think?


Jebraun Clifford

Jebraun Clifford www.jebraunclifford.com

I always wanted to have a sequel to ‘Walking Up a Rainbow’ by Theodore Taylor. My original book is dog-eared and torn; I’ve read it so much! But it ends. Just ends. Sure, the heroine meets one of her goals. But. What about the rest? Come on, Theodore! Don’t leave us hanging!


SkyeHegyes

Skye Hegyes www.skyehegyes.com

Last year, one of my favorite books that I read was Uprooted by Naomi Novik, and I loved the book. Loved. Adored. Dreamed about. It was pure amazement among pages. I can’t say enough good things without spoiling them, so I’ll keep quiet. Let’s just say, though, that part of me really hopes for a sequel that is just as amazing as the first. Although, I’ll also be the first to say I’ll burn it if it’s not as amazing at the original.


Jo Linsdell

Jo Linsdell www.JoLinsdell.com

So many books I could list here. Geekerella by Ashley Poston needs a sequel to tell the story of Sage. It also needs a spin off series for Starfield (I fell in love with this and it truly needs it’s own book). I can also never get enough of the Shepherd series by Ethan Cross. There is still so much more that can be done with both brothers, but also the other characters from the Shepherd organisation.


Karina Fabian headshot Aug 2013

Karina Fabian http://fabianspace.com

“A Wind in the Door” by Madeleine L’Engle. Charles Wallace was my favorite character and she left him at tiny, awkward 15! I actually started writing because of the stories I dreamed up about him growing up. My dream would be to get permission from her estate to write the sequel. I have the whole plot figured out: in involves tesseracts, withinning and Patagonia. Plus, a tragic first love and a beautiful lifelong love.


kessie-newpic-small

Kessie Carroll (you are here)

There’s this little book called Rainbird by Rabia Gale that I wish had a sequel. She’s busy writing other books now, but I felt like that book ended on kind of a cliffhanger. I wanted to see what happened when the star dragon showed up and started wrecking the world, man.

Above, Skye mentioned Uprooted by Naomi Novik. That was such a good book, but the ending was so very unsatisfying. If she could write a sequel that had an ACTUAL ROMANCE *shakes the author*, I would totally be down with that. The characters are more mature now and it might work better.


 

Thanks so much for visiting the blog hop!

14 things I learned from urban fantasy

Urban fantasy is fantasy/fairy tales that takes place in modern day, but especially in an urban setting. Buffy, Grimm, and Supernatural are all examples of urban fantasy in TV shows. In books, big hitters are the Dresden Files, Mercy Thompson, and the Iron Druid series. I love the genre and hope to write in it properly. Since my list of fairytale tropes was so fun to write, I thought I’d do one for one of my other favorite genres.

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  1. There are fairytale monsters out there. Sometimes the world knows about them. Mostly it doesn’t. The uninformed populace are easier to eat.
  2. Magic exists. Most people don’t know about it, but a few people find out they can use it, mostly when they blow something up accidentally.
  3. If you have magic, 90% of the time it will be fire-based. This is why there are so many “gas explosions” in the news.
  4. Most magical creatures dislike being burned. This is why if you have magic, fire magic is the best. Flamethrowers for the win.
  5. Werewolves can be good. Hot, even. But a lot of the time, they’ll eat your face.
  6. Vampires can be good. Hot, even. But a lot of the time, they’ll drink your blood.
  7. Zombies can be good. Hot, even. But a lot of the time, they’ll eat your brain.
  8. Fairies and elves can be good. Hot, even. But a lot of the time, they’ll make you a deal you can’t refuse and keep you a slave forever.
  9. Angels can be good. Hot, even. But a lot of the time, they’ll cost you your soul/immortality/magic power.
  10. Demons can be good. Hot, even. But a lot of the time, they’ll eat your soul, your body, your emotions, your friends, your relatives, and your dog.
  11. Any kind of magic involving spirits and the dead is usually a Bad Thing. Except when it’s not.
  12. Fairytale logic sometimes holds true (favors repaid, strange bargains kept, strange instructions followed).
  13. Night clubs are where monsters hang out and eat hot girls, usually in the inevitable alley outside.
  14. Most magic systems are pretty basic–the elements are shaped by the will. If it was good enough for Dresden, it’s good enough for you.

Eleven things I learned from fairy tales

I decided to go on a fairy tale binge recently, so I picked up the Red Fairy Book. Such a delightful bunch of stories! And some of them have an oddly deep look at human psychology. So, here’s what I learned:

  • Towers. Useful for locking up cursed/doomed/otherwise troublesome princesses. Very rarely do princes get locked in towers.
  • Evil is ugly. An ugly person is nearly always evil. Sometimes good can appear ugly, but never for very long.
  • Good is beautiful. A beautiful person is always good. Sometimes evil can appear beautiful, but never for very long. There’s an interesting dichotomy about clothes here, too. A suffering princess dressed in rags can be given beautiful clothes when her goodness wins the day. But it was always her inner moral goodness that made her beautiful in the first place.
  • Princesses. These girls have all the problems. They get cursed, they make bad choices, they get curious about that one locked door in the castle that Dad told them never to open … yeah. They always land in the moral problems.
  • fairytale-art-fairytale-painting
    Painted by Amanda Clark
  • Princes. These guys have a different set of problems. Their challenges are almost always physical. They have to slay trolls, overcome puzzles, outwit evil enchanters, and find how to sneak into the towers where the princesses are locked up. There was one very interesting story about a very good prince who was a hunchback who was locked in a tower. Over a series of adventures, he is healed and made to look as beautiful as he was on the inside. This was the one exception to the Evil is Ugly example I’ve found so far.
  • Trolls. These guys always have multiple heads. They also carry a flask of some kind that instantly heals you. So if you have to fight a troll and you’re grievously injured, just find his flask and rub some of his oil on you. Corollary: sometimes the flask grants super strength instead, when you need to lift a truly enormous sword in order to fight the troll.
  • Horses. Whenever they appear, they’re almost always magical. Often they talk or have amazing super powers of travel. If a horse says something to you, he’s always right. Do what he says.
  • Other animals. If an animal begs for you to spare its life and it’ll repay you later, DO IT. If they give weird advice, like pick an acorn from yonder tree and whack the trunk three times with a willow twig, DO IT. If they say not to share your food with the prince, DO IT.
  • Fairies. Fairies are basically angels. They come to test mortals and see how good they are. If the mortal passes the test, they’re rewarded with all kinds of gifts, curses lifted, ugliness removed, etc. If they fail, they have toads come out of their mouth for the rest of their life.
  • Witches. They can turn into things. Inanimate objects. Animals. They’re always evil and scheming, kind of the antithesis of a fairy. Bad fairies and witches are about the same.
  • Wicked stepmothers. The main antagonist of fairytales. These are women who marry a dude who had kids from his previous marriage. The stepmother proceeds to abuse her step-children to the point of actively trying to murder them. See: Graciosa and Percinet. (I think, in the metaphorical sense, Graciosa IS murdered at the end.)

So that’s what I learned from my fairy tale binge. I kind of want to write some fairy tale adapts now. 😀

When we jam non-fiction into our fiction

My post Shouting into the Void a few weeks ago got a bunch of interesting responses. I’ve been processing them ever since. To sum up:

I observed that in Christian fiction, God is silent. All the other monsters, gods, and mythical creatures talk, though, whether it’s Medusa, a dwarf, or Percy Jackson’s deity problems.

This actually flies in the face of the Bible itself, where God scoffs at the other gods, who are fake and made of stone and don’t talk.

But we’re writing fiction, right? If we want to have God or a talking lion or a couple of ravens that give prophetic dreams, we can write it. We’re writing FICTION.

Ah, but that’s where things get sticky. It’s all fiction until it’s non-fiction.

Let me explain.

Christians aren’t the only ones who launch into sermons in the middle of their books. Eoin Colfer waxes eloquent about the plight of the environment in Every. Single. Artemis Fowl book. Eventually you just start skimming when you see the rant coming. Heinlein spends the majority of a chapter in the Rolling Stones praising that worm in the mud that we all evolved from.

We’ve all encountered this. There’s nothing like reading along, enjoying a good story, when suddenly the author wallops you with their political views. Even if you happen to agree with them, it’s still annoying. If you don’t agree with them, sometimes you put that book down and move on to a different author.

The intrusion of non-fiction into the fictive dream is annoying and unnecessary. It’s the author saying, “My story’s not strong enough to show you the truth of my message, so I’m going to lecture you directly.”

Christians do this with God. As soon as He’s mentioned, we’ve stepped out of fiction into non-fiction. It’s not a story anymore–it’s apologetics. And often it’s poorly-written apologetics. If the author had stuck to fiction and used illustrations and different kinds of characters (even–GASP–gods) to prove their point, it would be a stronger story.

The sad thing is, usually they’re telling a redemption story. We LOVE redemption stories. Don’t we all wish that Loki would join Thor and fight for the good guys? As a kid, I wanted Catwoman to join Batman SO BADLY.

 

Internet-Catwoman
Mother of Cats by Michael Matsumoto

 

The good vampire and the good werewolf fill our TV shows and movies. The story of a bad person or creature who changed their ways and now fight on the side of Good: we eat it up. We love redemption, whether it’s self-improvement or one person saving another from certain death.

But this is where Christians stumble. I’ve complained before about authors who mess up the Hero’s Journey formula. Instead of the hero going on his quest and becoming a man, the hero is enfeebled by having to be saved over and over by the Jesus figure. It’s poor storytelling. It’s apologetics intruding into the fiction.

So, while we have all the elements of grand myth, we spoil it with too much non-fiction.

Sneak peek at Malicious

Ah, the Puzzle Box trilogy. It was supposed to be published, all three books, in one year. And then I got pregnant. Here we are, two years later, with the final book almost ready to launch. I’m aiming for November, since I’m still deep in revisions before I hand it off to my poor editor.

It’s a YA paranormal romance trilogy that I wrote after reading way too many paranormal romances. I was tired of the girl never having any inkling that vampires or werewolves existed until her new, alluring boyfriend flashed a fang. I mean, really? How can a girl exist in this world without ever having seen a vampire on TV?

warrior-angel-high-fantasy

So Libby, my heroine, is what they call genre-savvy. She plays videogames and reads fantasy books. She pegs Mal as a vampire straight off, even though he’s a different kind of monster. (White skin – check. Super speed – check. Unusual strength – check. Never seems to eat food – check.) Later on, when she finds out that he’s a lich, she knows what that is because of videogame knowledge. Same for other monsters like revenants, ghouls, zombies, and so on. Mal is always astonished at her knowledge. And all she does is play videogames.

Mal is a lich. That means that he’s only sort of undead. His soul has been removed and stored in a container called a phylactery. He still has his mind and spirit, but the human part, with all positive emotions, are in his soul. Without it, he’s a creature of negative emotions: anger, hate, loathing, all that jazz. It also gives him massive death magic powers. But Mal never wanted to be a lich, and is desperately seeking a way to return his soul. So he keeps specially-bred bees that collect life magic from flowers and store it in their honey. By eating their honey, he can simulate human life, which keeps his death magic in check.

And then there’s the Necromancer, who is intent on turning Mal into a proper evil monster who can follow in his footsteps.

Book 1 is on sale right now at all retailers. If you’ve already read the first two books, here’s a sneak peek at the beginning of book 3, after the devastation that was the ending of book 2.

Continue reading “Sneak peek at Malicious”

Shouting into the void

Controversial topic ahead. About religion. You have been warned.

Okay, so, I’ve been reading some fantasy from Christian authors. I used to read Christian fantasy all the time as a teen, simply because that’s all I knew how to find. Our library didn’t have a lot in the way of juvenile science fiction and fantasy in the early 90s. (Boy, it sure does now!)

Anyway, once I started reading adult fantasy/sci-fi, I stopped reading the Christian stuff. I especially got into urban fantasy, where gods and monsters ride motorcycles and eat greasy Chinese food on the weekends. In this brand of fantasy, if you need to interact with God, you do it very respectfully, usually through an angel. All the other gods and monsters dislike messing with Heaven, because God is the Big Boss.

the_angel_by_therafa-dagah2h
The angel, by The Rafa

So I’ve been reading some Christian fantasy, and I’ve run into something that bothers me. These characters pray all the time, and I do mean all the time. They attribute everything that happens to God’s will. When bad things happen, they spout platitudes about God’s mysterious ways.

But they’re shouting into a void. God never answers. There might be a coincidence now and then that is attributed to God, but God himself is absent.

After spending so much time in other branches of fantasy, where the gods not only intervene in daily affairs, they all bow to the high God, who also intervenes on behalf of his worshipers … this leaves me scratching my head. A lot of these books are written by non-Christians, as far as I know. So why are the Christians the ones the most distant from their own God? God talks to people all the time in the Bible. He’s talked to me quite clearly in my own life.

Even Cthulhu will answer if called to long enough and hard enough.

So why is God silent in Christian fantasy?

 

Making art again

So I’ve been trying to make art more often, now that I have a new tablet. The littlest ones are old enough to sit and watch videos while I draw, which means I actually get to focus on my doodles.

I recently discovered the joys of texture brushes. They make painting a lot of little things, like leaves, a lot more pleasant.

Or chains.
chained-tree

I thought it might be nice to try a matte painting tutorial. The one I found turned out to use a lot of stock photos that you have to buy first, and my attempts to Google comparative images was hit and miss. I gave up, but produced this.

matte-painting-1

However, I learned a few things, I tried my hand at speedpainting a mountain scene. It’s more a study in values and atmospheric perspective than anything–both things I need to study up on.

mountain-painting-practice

Here’s the painting I did today, using these cloud brushes for Photoshop. They’re kind of odd and blocky, but they stack well with themselves. It was also fun to paint a dragonish creature there in the foreground. I’m super rusty, though. I need to get back into the swing of art.

sunset-dragon

So there you have it. My super-productive week. :-p

Menacing lizards (little dragons?)

Today we were menaced by a collared lizard. It was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.

We had been out for a walk at about 8 AM. In Arizona. When it’s supposed to be (only) 109. (It was 116 yesterday, so I’d say 109 is an improvement.) Anyway, the heat has made the insect population explode. By extension, the lizard population has also exploded. They’re everywhere, lots of different kinds, all looking at you sarcastically as you walk by.

Great_Basin_Collared_Lizard_Close_Up_(19976768155)lizard-zoom1condescending-lizard

This lovely guy is a Great Basin Collared Lizard. Look at the condescension in his eye.

Anyway, we were walking along one of the nearby washes, which is full of brush and animal life. A good sized collared lizard ran away from us into the bushes as we walked along. Suddenly its mate popped out onto the sidewalk.

Great_Basin_Collared_Lizard_(14816245668)
Not my photo–it’s from WIkimedia Commons

He looked like this one. Only with more red. He flattened himself to make himself look bigger, and extended his throat dewlap thing, which I’d only seen iguanas do when afraid or scared. Then he started doing pushups.

Lizard Pushups

This is a display of aggression. He was warning us to leave his territory, he was top lizard, and we were unwanted predators.

I sat and laughed. I mean, getting menaced by a critter the size of my foot is pretty funny. His resolve faded as we walked closer, and he zipped into the bushes again. Poor lizard, I don’t mean to laugh at you, but you’re just so funny.

Now imagine if he was elephant-sized and doing an aggressive display to lurking humans. That right there is a dragon.

I think it would be fun if somebody wrote a story with an actual reptilian dragon that actually exhibited reptile behavior. Imagine the huge dragon basking on a rock in the early morning, watching his domain and hoping a female shows up. 😀 Who shows up to ruin his day? Some irritating dragonslayer. Cue the aggressive head-bobbing and pushups, man!

dragon_on_the_rock_by_antimad1-d6hpw24
Dragon on the rock by Antimad1