Monday, March 2, 2015

Off the Bookshelf: FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX by RL LaFevers

I love the Theodosia series by RL LaFevers -- brilliant little girl who sees Egyptian-related magic things, knows how to counter the evil influences and assorted supernatural things running amok in the museum her parents work for -- so I've been tempted for some time by the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series.

The first book, FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX, was on sale on Kindle, so this was a good time.

Charming book. Fun illustrations. Somewhat reminiscent of Roald Dahl, launching with the story of a boy being ignored by the adults in his life, then tossed about to suit their schedules and conveniences, until he lands in the custody of an aunt he didn't know he had ... and then his adventures begin!

The Fludds are mapmakers from ancient times, and at one point in their history they are charged with documenting and protecting and understanding the fantastical, mythical beasts of the world. Hence the phoenix of the title. Despite believing himself unsuited for adventure, and lacking any of the necessary training that should have started years before, Nathaniel does admirably in the face of danger. Plucky hero, destined for greatness.

My only complaint is that this book was waaaaaay too short. I devoured it in no time at all and wanted more. Fortunately, there are three more books. I hope LaFevers will be writing more books about Nathaniel -- oh, and if she's listening, more Theodosia books, too? Please?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

SPOTLIGHT: Sunsinger Chronicles #9, GEMAR

Today's Spotlight is on the 9th book in the YA science fiction series, Sunsinger Chronicles: GEMAR.


The adventures of Bain Kern and the Free Trader ship, Sunsinger, are part of the Commonwealth Universe science fiction novels from Writers Exchange.

It's Bain's birthday, and Lin and Branda have given him the day off to
do whatever he wants on the planet Gemar, while they prepare a big birthday feast. Bain goes to the Gemar History Museum and meets up with Rhiann K'veer, daughter of Leap Captain K'veer. He joins Rhiann, her mother and sister for lunch -- and is injured saving Rhiann's life when a ship attacks the spaceport and the restaurant sitting on the top floor.

Captain K'veer is killed, and the situation immediately poses a grave problem for the Commonwealth: the help of Leaper ships is vital to commerce and exploration, but the law is that if a Leaper is injured or killed, the entire universe where it happened will be boycotted by the Leaper fleet. Lin and Bain and the fledgling Scout Corps become involved in the investigation, determining who was really commanding the ship -- where the ship is now -- and why the attack happened at all.

Along the way, Bain and Rhiann learn some interesting details about the Hoveni, the ancient race of shapeshifters who formerly inhabited Gemar. Some odd things that happen might just indicate that shapeshifters are still alive, and living in hiding among Humans ...

** Note: events in "Gemar" are mentioned in the Hoveni novel, "Hoven Quest."

Monday, February 23, 2015

Off the Bookshelf: NO QUEST FOR THE WICKED, by Shanna Swendson

The 6th book in the Enchanted Inc. series.

Loved it. Major fun. More frustration on poor Katie Chandler's part, but at least she got to spend the entire day with the love of her life, Owen Palmer.

Poor Owen -- his heroics at the end of the previous book burned out his magical powers. That kinda-sorta saved him from being considered magical Public Enemy Number 1 by most of the magical world. But of course you know some people will never be reassured. Especially when the "quest" of the title is to get custody of the most powerful magical item Merlin created. So powerful he realized no one should have it, but he wasn't able to destroy it. Supposedly the item has been lost ... until now. Being magically immune now, Owen and Katie are the perfect choice to hunt for the item and put it somewhere it can't influence the power-hungry of the world. Destroying it would be nice, but there's no Mount Doom available to destroy this particular "one ring to rule them all" problem.

Maybe.

Another lovely romp by Swendson. I raced through it in two days, and wished it would have lasted long. If you haven't picked up this series yet, DO start with book one and devour your way through to the end. Well worth the effort ... which is really no effort at all.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

SPOTLIGHT: Sunsinger Chronicles #8, ARAMAR

Today's Spotlight is on the 8th book in the YA science fiction series, Sunsinger Chronicles: ARAMAR.


The adventures of Bain Kern and the Free Trader ship, Sunsinger, are part of the Commonwealth Universe science fiction novels from Writers Exchange.

Lin and Bain are invited to the world of Aramar, a lost colony from the
Downfall Era, which survived and thrived through the centuries. The people of Aramar have been independent, but now they stand on the verge of a major decision: join the Conclave, or the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth's ambassadors to Aramar are old friends of Lin's, and they want to ask a very large, important favor of Sunsinger and its crew. Civil war could break out on Aramar at any moment. The ambassadors need a sure means of escape -- and other very important people on Aramar could be depending on Lin, Bain and Ganfer for their very lives.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Letters to Kel: ORGANIZATION, PREPARATION -- THE LIFE YOU SAVE COULD BE YOUR OWN

An apology to those who were terrified by that howl that reverberated across the northern/northeastern US last week. That was not the Polar Vortex settling down around Ohio and spreading eastward. 'Twas ME.

What happened? Disaster. Tragedy. Frustration. Messed up organization -- or an unreasonable facsimile.

I had a book due March 1, the 7th Tabor Heights Year Two book. I thought I was doing so great -- way ahead of schedule, giving me the rest of February to devote to a book I have had in storage for years and plan to revise and turn in to another one of my publishers. Part of the responsibility of authors at Desert Breeze is to insert the cover page and copyright information and about-the-author info before we turn in the book. I copied and pasted all that information from the previous Tabor book, and as I glanced through the list of titles, I realized a BIG mistake. I was turning in "Truck Stop Angel" ... and the book due March 1 was/is "The Teddy Bear Dancer."

NOT a good scenario, on the 12th of February.

Fortunately, "Teddy Bear" is one of those books I've had in my files for years, revised and polished -- and submitted for sale -- multiple times before turning it into a Tabor Heights book. It didn't need much work at all to make it ready to turn in. WHEW! The up side to this disaster is that I now have both my Tabor Heights books DONE for the year. I can concentrate on the Quarry Hall books under contract for the year, and do more work on books for the Commonwealth and my new series coming out, Wildvine.

But I wouldn't have had a "rescue" in this disaster if I hadn't planned ahead, if I didn't do what a lot of writers advocate -- Write the book, put it aside, work on something else, come back to it and revise, put it aside, work on something else, come back to it, etc.

Always have several projects in various stages of roughing, revising, and polishing. Never focus solely on ONE project from start to finish. You might turn around one day and realize that you thought you were on schedule for one deadline, but another book was actually due.

When I have a series planned, I take time to rough draft the whole series -- when I got my contract for Year Two of Tabor Heights, I made sure I rough drafted all 8 books. This let me know what was going to happen, so I could make reference to what else was going on in town, or foreshadow what would happen from one book to the next, when I went back and started making revisions. This is a very helpful thing -- it avoids the tragedy of writing yourself into a corner and contradicting yourself because you said one thing in Book 1, but by the time you got to Book 4, the event or the people involved or the props ... weren't there anymore!

Always look ahead. Always plan ahead. Take projects in small bites. Work ahead. NEVER fall for the line that, "Deadline pressure makes me so creative and productive!" Nuh uh. The only thing deadline pressure guarantees is gray hair, stress-related trouble, and no rescue in sight when you mess up. Plan ahead. The writing life you save WILL be your own.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Off the Bookshelf: MUCH ADO ABOUT MAGIC, by Shanna Swendson

Fantasy and laughter and characters whose stories never end -- some of my favorite things.

Shanna Swendson's Enchanted, Inc., series holds a special place in my heart. The day I got my Nook -- one of the first batch sent out by B&N -- the first book in the series was the first book I bought. I had picked up a bookmark for the series at a writers conference and I loved the whole concept: magic in clear view in New York, but only a few people who aren't magical can see everything ....

Our heroine/narrator, Katie Chandler, is an immune -- magic does not affect her. Despite all the illusion spells cast by the magical community to hide their presence -- and their ears, wings, and other magical attributes -- she sees it all. That makes her very valuable to the magical version of Microsoft, developing and overseeing all magic through the world. So she gets hired .... and I fell in love with the series and character and situation from the first chapter.

MUCH ADO ABOUT MAGIC is the 5th book in the series. It's been a while since I checked for a new book because, hey, when you keep looking for something and it isn't there, you kind of get discouraged. MAN, was the wait worth it!! Yes, I bought books 6 and 7 at the same time because Swendson delivers, consistently. I devoured MUCH ADO in about a day and a half (hey, I had to deal with all that snow hitting Northeast Ohio ...) Lots of fun! Essentially, Katie and her boyfriend, Owen, probably the most powerful wizard in the world after Merlin -- and yeah, he's in the story too -- are up against a new corporation competing with theirs, selling spells people can use to hurt others, and then selling spells to protect against the first ones, and manipulating situations to make Katie's bosses look like slackers. Then things get really nasty when the smear campaign gets personal: Framing Owen to make him magical Public Enemy Number 1.

Lots of fun, lots of cheering for the good guys, laughter, and booing at the bad buys. You really need to start with the first book, but I guarantee you'll zip right through all of them and then you'll be like me, restraining yourself from writing to the author and begging her to WRITE FASTER! We want MORE!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

SPOTLIGHT: Sunsinger Chronicles #7, LEAP SHIPS

Today's Spotlight is on the 7th book in the YA science fiction series, Sunsinger Chronicles: LEAP SHIPS.


The adventures of Bain Kern and the Free Trader ship, Sunsinger, are part of the Commonwealth Universe science fiction novels from Writers Exchange.

Lin and Bain are doing some exploration, trying to find new areas of
space on the other side of Knaught Points, when they meet up with visitors to the Commonwealth: Leapers.

Centuries ago, during the Downfall Era, Khybors fled First Civ because they were endangered by people who considered them less than Human and wanted to make them a slave class, or destroy them altogether. Now, their descendants, the crews of Leap Ships, have returned to the universe of their ancestors to see what has happened over the centuries -- and see if it is safe to return to their ancestral home.