A Dream Come True

Can you imagine how that feels?

For thirty-eight years–since I came here for university in 1978–I have frequented the aisles of an independent bookstore in my city, starting at its original location and moving with it to its purpose-built new home, which included a cafe, and after a few years, a cinema. I’m not exaggerating when I say it has been, and is, a cultural hub here, and is in part responsible for the fact that we have a small but healthy downtown, one filled with cafes and interesting stores, music venues and concerts, art shows, and summer markets. It’s been a labour of love from one family, into the second generation now.

I used to look at all eclectic books…and dream that one day a title of mine would join them. Delivered to them today, soon Empire’s Daughter will grace the Young Adult fiction shelves. I am excited, awed, honoured. Of all the places it can be bought, this is the one that matters to me. This is the one that validates me as a writer. This is the dream come true.  Can you imagine how that feels?

Throne of Lies, by Sara Secora: A Review

If you’re a fan of Disney’s princess films, you’ll like this book.

On long-haul flights, I occasionally watch animated films, usually from Disney/Pixar, enjoying their satisfying simplicity; they’re a pleasurable, escapist way to pass a couple of hours. Throne of Lies, from new author Sara Secora, falls squarely into this category. If you’re a fan of Disney’s princess films, you’ll like this book.

Princess Amethysta Serelle of Northwind is the heir to the throne….but she doesn’t want to be. Betrothed to a man she dislikes, bored and irritated by the restrictions on her life, and puzzled by the odd and frightening things that happen when strong emotion grips her, she attempts to escape the expectations of her parents. Her journey of self-discovery is both aided and frustrated by her newest personal guard, the disturbingly handsome commoner, Soren.

Throne of Lies is a charming fairy-tale incorporating many of the aspects of classic, Disneyfied fairy-tale, but with a modern twist. Fingers are pricked on thorns, apples are eaten, shoes are tried on…but these are all peripheral to the story, background reminders of the genre. Nor is it the cautionary fairy-tale of the Brothers Grimm: there is nothing terribly dark here, although one scene does not flinch from the realities of what can happen to a young girl alone. But not all apparent monsters are what they seem, either.

The ARC I read had the usual number of production errors, which is to be expected from a pre-publication version. There were also a few grammatical errors, odd changes of tense within sentences, and non-traditional uses of words that affected flow and comprehension. The story, I felt, was a bit slow to get going; there are some early scenes that are too detailed or drawn out without substantially adding to either the world-building or the plot; this might discourage some readers.

I would have recommended this book for readers eleven and up, but two scenes in the book suggest that thirteen and up is a better age recommendation. My personal rating is 3 1/2 stars; this will be 4 stars on Goodreads and Amazon.

Arboretum Press presents….

July 30, 2016: Arboretum Press is pleased to announce the publication of

Empire’s Daughter, Book I of the Empire’s Legacy Series

by Marian L Thorpe

Empire’s Daughter, by Marian L Thorpe  

Empires cover 3

In a world reminiscent of northern Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, this historical fantasy, meant for young and new adults, explores the meaning of loyalty and love in a rapidly changing society. Seventeen-year-old Lena must decide between her love for her partner Maya or her loyalty to her village, her people and her land.

…a lovely novel….” 

Mezzalily’s Teen Book Reviews

…easily one of the most intriguing books I’ve read all year…(an) indie-published gem….”

Writerlea Book Reviews

…this book is just something special….It was absolutely fantastic!”

Cover to Cover

…expertly done world-building….”

Creating Worlds with Words

 $13.95 CA + s&h

ARBORETUM PRESS ACCEPTS PAYPAL, MONEY ORDERS, OR PERSONAL CHEQUES WRITTEN ON CANADIAN BANKS. ALL PRICING IS IN CANADIAN DOLLARS AND INCLUDES TAXES. PLEASE CONTACT US AT ARBORETUMPRESS@GMAIL.COM FOR DETAILS, CURRENT CURRENCY CONVERSIONS, AND SHIPPING COSTS.

Empire’s Daughter paperback now available from Amazon!

Empires_Daughter_Cover_for_Kindle

Since Amazon moves pretty quickly, if you live in the US or the UK, you can order the paperback of Empire’s Daughter from Amazon:

Amazon.com 

Amazon.co.uk

Canada?  Not so quickly.  I’ll let you know when it can be ordered from Amazon.ca….or when you can order it in Canada directly from me.

Cover Reveal!

 

 

I’m excited to announce that the paperback version of Empire’s Daughter will be available in August.  I’ll post ordering options as they become available, but here’s a quick look at the new cover, front and back, designed by Anthony O’Brien.

 

Empires cover 3

Collision Course

Fluttering against the glass windows was a young kestrel. Pursuing a house sparrow, it had flown in the open door of the patio.

Skestrelometimes two parts of a life can collide unexpectedly. At my Monday morning writer’s group, which meets in the upstairs restaurant/bar of an independent bookstore, we had propped the patio doors open to let in the summer breezes. We’d all been working about an hour – this is a place for silent writing, not discussion or sharing – when I heard a high-pitched, rapid cry from the bar area. My writer’s brain disengaged, my birder’s brain engaged – that was the cry of a bird in fear of its life.

I and another writer ran for the bar area. Fluttering against the glass windows was a young kestrel. Pursuing a house sparrow, it had flown in the open door of the patio. The house sparrow was somewhere in the room, but our priority was the kestrel.

A sweater was found and thrown over the terrified bird. The other writer – herself experienced in bird banding – carefully carried it out onto the patio and let it go. I searched the room for the sparrow, but it was hiding somewhere.

About half an hour later someone came in from the bar area to say the sparrow was fluttering against the front windows. It was a simple matter to drop my cotton shirt over it, and carry it carefully to the patio. It vocalized the same rapid, high-pitched distress call the whole time I held it, but flew away as soon as I freed it from the confining cloth.

The chances of this happening are minuscule. Kestrels eat primarily insects, although small birds are also part of their diet; my guess is this was an inexperienced and hungry young bird that thought a house sparrow was fair game.

And when both birds were free again, my writer’s brain re-engaged and I went on to write 600 words of Empire’s Hostage.

photo by Dominic Sherony (American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Finding Inspiration

Trying to maintain writing discipline while packing, arranging for (and checking on) tradespeople, and doing all the other things involved in moving house after twenty-two years, is, to put it mildly, difficult. I’ve done my best to keep up with my blogs (three of them now – one of which I started in the midst of all this, for some reason….) but work on Empire’s Hostage has been non-existent. That’s only in part due to the move, and in part due to, basically, writer’s block.

But this last week I’ve been reading – in small chunks, usually at lunch or when I really need a break from something – Malachy Tallach’s book 60 Degrees North: Around the World in Search of Home, a book I chose to read in part because, I thought, it might give me more insight into life ‘north of 60’, as we say here in Canada. I’ve been there, in Canada and the US, but not otherwise. As Empire’s Hostage takes place largely in what might be ‘north of 60’, in a land that more or less parallels northern Europe, it seemed a potentially useful book to read.

It was. Yes, I’ve learned some things that I may or may not use. But it was one passage – a descriptive one, not factual – that suddenly sparked a scene, a setting to begin the next section of Hostage, one accurate to the landscape and mood of the story. I can feel the relief, a lifting of the nagging tension that I wasn’t going to find a way forward. But now, of course, I have to find time to write….

Child of the Light, by D.M. Wiltshire: A Review

Falling squarely into the fantasy genre, Child of the Light is set in a well-realized world.

Child of the LightChild of the Light is the first book by indie author D.M. Wiltshire. Falling squarely into the fantasy genre, Child of the Light is set in a well-realized world, Gaitan, where north and south have been at war for generations. Cael, the prince of the north, is suffering from an agonizing illness that is beyond the knowledge of the Master Healer, Caldor. The answer may lie in the medical knowledge of the province of Morza, but in one searing moment on the night of the 200 Year Moon, Morza – and all her people – are destroyed by a flash of light: a judgment from the gods, or a celebration gone horribly wrong?

When Caldor and his friend Foe go to investigate, they find two things: the healer Naygu’s book, hidden, safe, and written in a language Caldor can’t read, and the footsteps of a child, leaving the devastated city. Could this only survivor hold the key to the book and the healing of Cael?

Child of the Light is competently plotted and written. The author has woven together familiar constructs from fantasy, but in a way that presents them, not as stereotypes, but as valid and necessary aspects of Gaitan. None of the fantasy aspects felt imposed: there are dragons, not because a fantasy series needs dragons, but because they are simply part of Morza’s culture. The pace is slower than many current fantasy books, but as a reviewer I prefer this to rushed and incompletely realized stories where action takes precedence over character development and world-building. I was still left with many questions about Gaitan and its history and culture, but not in a frustrating way: I am confident these questions will be answered in future volumes. The main characters, Caldor and Foe, and the child Liora, are well-rounded, characters who develop over the story.

This is the first of a planned series, and so while most conflicts and challenges specific to the central characters are brought to a conclusion, other threads of the story are not, and the book ends with a tantalizing hint of future developments.

Niggles? Not many. There are the occasional awkward (to me) sentence or paragraph transition, and a couple of times I thought chapter structures, in terms of how the action developed in that chapter, had some misplaced scenes. A production error in the paperback version I read had one chapter single-spaced where the rest are more widely spaced. Fairly minor issues that didn’t detract from the overall story.

I’m giving Child of the Light four stars. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes true fantasy, or is looking for a change from dystopian futures. The sequel, Children of Sirphan, is in process, and I look forward to following the series.

 

The author provided me with a copy of this book as part of a contest prize.  This is an honest and unbiased review.

Over the Dragonwall, by H.C. Strom & Dennis Montoya: A Review

For young readers of fantasy whose interest will be in the plot and characters.

At the borders of the land called Delvingdeep lies the Dragonwall, and what lies beyond the Dragonwall is the stuff of legend. When the young monk Oberon (Obi) confesses to his Sovereign that he dreams of crossing that wall, not for gold or riches but to see a dragon, to add to the body of knowledge his order maintains, he is sent to do exactly that.

Obi and a band of friends and new acquaintances, including a half-elven brother and sister, decide to take a short-cut, and – well, this is fantasy, and we all know what happens when short-cuts are taken in fantasy. Suffice it to say that the results of that short-cut, and the ensuing adventures across the Dragonwall, make up the rest of the story.

What came to mind as I finished the book was the quote attributed to Mother Theresa  “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” It sums up this book perfectly. It’s not a great book: the authors’ influences, from gaming to classic fantasy, are obvious – in some ways it’s a bit like fan fiction. The story is not complex. There are a number of production errors in the paperback copy I read. But it has clearly been written with great love, especially for the protagonist Obi.

I’d recommend Over the Dragonwall for young readers of fantasy whose interest will be in the plot and characters, and not in the literary quality of the writing. My review rubric gives Over the Dragonwall 2 1/2 stars, which is 3 stars on Amazon and Goodreads, and for what I believe is its target audience, I think that’s fair. Obi’s adventures will continue in a sequel, and I look forward to it; Obi has rather charmed himself into my heart.

The author provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.