A new review of Empire’s Daughter

Here’s a lovely review of Empire’s Daughter, on The Writing Alien’s new blog on writing and writers.

https://thewritingalien.com/this-months-featured/

“…a knack for world-building that I have found in very few others.”

Storytellers, by Bjørn Larssen: A Release-Day Review

Set against Iceland’s harsh but beautiful landscape in the late 19th and  early 20thStorytellers-cover century, Bjørn Larssen’s debut novel Storytellers explores the multi-generational effect of the evasions, embellishments and outright lies told in a small village. The book begins slowly, almost lyrically, pulling the reader into what seems like situation borrowed from folktale: a reclusive blacksmith, Gunnar, rescues an injured stranger, Sigurd. In exchange for his care, Sigurd offers Gunnar a lot of money, and a story.

But as Sigurd’s story progresses, and the book moves between the past and the present, darker elements begin to appear. Gunnar’s reclusiveness hides his own secrets, and the unresolved stories of his past. As other characters are introduced and their lives interweave, it becomes clear that at the heart of this small village there are things untold, things left out of the stories, purposely re-imagined. Both individual and collective histories – and memories – cannot be trusted.

The book was reminiscent of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, in both theme and mood. Both books deal with the unreliability of memory; both are largely melancholy books. And perhaps there is allegory in them both, too. Storytellers is a book to be read when there is time for contemplation, maybe of an evening with a glass of wine. It isn’t always the easiest read, but it’s not a book I’m going to forget easily, either.

Now, for details:

Cover: definitely pulled me in. Some may see a disconnect between the cover font and the mood of the story, but I did not.

Production (e-book): Excellent. If there were any errors, I didn’t catch them.

Writing: Very good. English is not the author’s first language, but I wouldn’t have known.

Story Structure: you need to be paying attention as it jumps between times and characters…but this is a book that needs attention paying to it, not a light beach read.

I’ll post this review to Amazon & Goodreads, where I will assign a star rating. But I am no longer rating books on my blog, just giving you my opinion. I recommend Storytellers to readers willing to give time and thought and focus to a book, and who are comfortable with being challenged by what they read.

 

Local Support!

I was very pleased when our local arts council asked to interview me for their website.

Writers need support.  Yes, we work alone, in silence or not, depending on our individual preferences, and much of our thinking and plotting and creating is done in solitude, too.  But we need colleagues to talk to, and when we get to publication, we need a different sort of support: publicity.  So I was very pleased when our local arts council asked to interview me for their website.  Here’s the link:

https://guelpharts.ca/marian-thorpe-launches-the-empire-s-hostage

Thanks again to the Guelph Arts Council!

The (Successful) Book Launch

I crossed my fingers, ordered nibbles for twenty-five people, and hoped for the best.

Friday – yesterday, the day after my book launch for Empire’s Hostage – I was an exhausted wreck.  Partly dueme reading ebar cropped to only four hours sleep (more on that later); partly due to the adrenaline-overload aftermath.  The launch was beyond-my-expectations successful.  The room was full, the applause after the readings generous, and I sold a lot of books.

So how did this happen?  I put posters up in all the cafes downtown, and did lots of Twitter and Facebook promotions, which were generously retweeted and shared by a lot of people and organizations in our town. The local arts council put the event on their calendar, and did their share of advertising. The bookstore in whose upstairs bar the event was being held did their share with an in-store display and advertising on their website. And then I crossed my fingers, ordered nibbles for twenty-five people, and hoped for the best.

I had asked a couple of my writing friends, one a poet with a newly-published book, one an established writer of genre fiction, to read that night as well.  That broadened the appeal a bit, I hope, and provided some new exposure for both of them, as well. Anyhow…it all worked.  I could have ordered a lot more food; the beer and wine flowed nicely at the bar, people stayed for the whole evening.  I signed my name on title pages many times. It felt like a good night.

But I am not a night person.  I start falling asleep about 8:30 most nights, and struggle to stay awake till 10 pm. The first thing I’d done when arriving to set up at 6:30 was order a coffee.  It was quite a large coffee, and I drank it all.  So I was very awake for the whole evening…and the late evening….and the early morning…. Even the pint of beer I’d had after my reading didn’t help. I finally fell asleep about 2 am, and slept till 6 am.  Yesterday felt like the day after an overnight flight. I managed to send thank-you emails and twitters and facebook posts. I organized breakfast for my overnight guests (even baking muffins); I remembered our appointment with our lawyer to sign our wills.  I went grocery shopping (and didn’t forget anything).  And then I crashed. The day is a blur from early afternoon onward.

Would I do it again?  Definitely!  But next time (perhaps when Empire’s Exile comes out) I won’t drink a large coffee at 6:30 pm.  Mid-afternoon might be better….

Here’s the link to the books on Amazon.  The e-books are free through Sunday the 28th.

(The less-than-wonderful photo is a friend’s phone shot.)

Book Launch Night! and some freebies.

How do you spend the day prior to a book launch?  I practiced the excerpt I’m reading one more time. I packed bags with books and cash, raffle tickets, tape, pens, business cards, bookmarks, a receipt book.  That took maybe an hour.  Otherwise…

This evening is the official launch of Empire’s Hostage, Book II of the Empire’s Legacy spinesseries.  It’s being held in a bar downtown, one that is part of an independent bookstore/cinema/restaurant complex that hosts many cultural events, from book launches to indie bands to art shows to indie filmmakers. I’ve invited a couple of other writers to share the stage with me, a poet and a novelist. (I figured that way their friends would come too!)

So how do you spend the day prior to a book launch?  I practiced the excerpt I’m reading one more time. I packed bags with books and cash, raffle tickets, tape, pens, business cards, bookmarks, a receipt book.  That took maybe an hour.  Otherwise…

I went grocery shopping. I did laundry, and made beds. I cleaned bathrooms and bedrooms and the kitchen. I made cookies. Because I have family coming for the launch, and staying overnight, and needing dinner and breakfast. I’m not complaining….but I am curious.  Were I a male writer, would I be doing all this?  Share your thoughts!

And in honour of the official launch, the Kindle editions of both Empire’s Daughter and Empire’s Hostage are free on Amazon until Sunday, August 27th.  Grab them both while you can!

Meanwhile, I still have to figure out what to wear…

 

 

 

 

Catching Up

“Retirement” still seems to involve twelve-hour days.

Posts have been few and far between recently….my apologies.  Here’s why.  I’ve just finished printing and framing twelve new versions of graphic prints, to be included in atepsave1 cutout351 display of eighteen of my works that I’m hanging next Wednesday.  I also completed Empire’s Hostage, Book II of the Empire’s Legacy Series, this week, prepped the files for printing, and sent them off – just waiting now to get the first proof edition. cover ebook under 2MB smaller This was also the last week of the on-line university course I’ve been taking, on the landscape archaeology of Britain…and then there’s been the community newsletter, the community herb garden, retirement parties to attend, books to edit, the kitchen cabinets to prep for painting (next week!), and all those little things – like grocery shopping and meal prep and time with friends – in-between.

“Retirement” still seems to involve twelve-hour days – I’m usually started on the day’s work a bit after 7 a.m…..and it generally continues on to about 7 p.m.  I’m still fairly reliant on my on-line calendar to remind me what’s next to be done. The huge difference is that I’m doing exactly what I want to, most of the time, and an hour-long bike ride to pick up my library books and a liter of paint is multi-tasking – exercise and errands in one – but it’s FUN.  And if I feel like taking a day (or more) off, there’s no-one to tell me I can’t, or shouldn’t…hence our week in Cape Cod and the White Mountains at the beginning of the month, a fairly last-minute decision. (But if we were ever going to see Bicknell’s Thrush, it had to be done. I’m pleased to say we were successful.)

I’m going to drop the pace for a few weeks, though: it is, after all, summer.  There are outdoor concerts to attend (weather permitting, in  changeable and stormy Ontario this year), books to read….and cupboards to paint. I need a break before I start writing Empire’s Exile, Book III, plus there are a few other projects that have been on the back burner…and in the fall I start a new university course that will help with the background for Exile.  I will, of course, keep everyone updated on the release and promotions for Empire’s Hostage, but also, I hope, some other posts…I miss it!

To my Canadian readers, have a safe and fun Canada Day weekend, remembering that Canada 150 is also Turtle Island 15,000. We have a lot to celebrate, some things not to, and a lot of work to do.  Happy July 4th to my US readers: stay safe:  Nolite te bastardes carborundorum; and to the rest of the world, whatever season it is, enjoy!

 

 

 

The Cult of Unicorns, by Chrys Cymri: A Review

When dead bodies and unicorns begin to appear in the English midlands, Penny White, Church of England vicar , has work to do. 

When characters from a story begin to inhabit your dreams, you know the story has Cult of Unicornsreally taken hold of your imagination.  In my case, it was a snail shark, a creature of Chrys Cymri’s mythical, magical land of Lloegyr, a mere thin-space transport away from our own world, that began to crawl through my nightly fantasies.

When dead bodies and unicorns begin to appear in the English midlands, Penny White, Church of England vicar and official Church liaison with Lloegyr, has work to do.  With the help of Peter, the local detective, her brother, the devil-may-care dragon Raven, and her gryphon companion, Penny must navigate the glamour of unicorns and the deep pockets of a multi-national corporation to find the truth.  Interspersed with realistic examples of the difficulties of running a parish in an increasingly secular world and glimpses into Penny’s personal struggles, The Cult of Unicorns is a satisfying read set in an easily-believable world just a little skewed from ours (or is it?)

An appreciation of Doctor Who and good whiskey likely add to the reader’s delight in Penny’s world (I qualify for both) but aren’t necessary.  But you do need to accept a beer-loving snail shark named Clyde that loves the Teletubbies and can sing…and clearly my subconscious was quite happy to suspend that piece of disbelief, because Clyde comes to visit every so often, sliding his way into otherwise normal dreams.  He’s delightful…as is The Cult of Unicorns.  Five stars.

Enhanced: Book 6 in the Freya Snow series: A Review

The most accomplished and polished book of the series.

Enhanced, the sixth book of the Snowverse series by L.C. Mawson, is the most enhancedaccomplished and polished book of the series. Freya Snow, the magical, autistic, bi-sexual protagonist, has grown up; no longer a frightened and unsure teen, she’s a competent, capable woman no longer afraid to ask for help. And she falls in love for the first time.

Freya is still young, so she’s still growing into her powers, and still determining her place in the magical universe. Her self-understanding and her willingness to accept responsibility have matured along with her (or are those parts of the definition of maturity?). But she’s still making mistakes, of course, or there wouldn’t be much of a story!

I found this book to be tighter in terms of story structure and pacing than some of the earlier books, more focused and with some needed reminders of previous occurrences that influence the events in Enhanced. Freya’s central conflict regarding her Dark and Light bloodlines is furthered without dominating the story.

The author has created a complex and evolving world in the Snowverse, and I definitely recommend reading the books from the beginning to fully appreciate the character and conflict development. Five stars for Enhanced.

Introducing Geoffrey Saign

Wyshea Shadows is an epic fantasy with three main women characters whose lives are intertwined with war, mystery, a common enemy, and love.

In today’s blog, I’m chatting with award-winning  author Geoffrey Saign, whose newest book, Wyshea Shadows, is the first in his new series, Divided Draghons. Geoff is, as well as a writer, a biologist, teacher and sailor…I’m not sure how he finds time to write! His first novel, WhipEye, won the International Book Award; Readers’ Favorite Children’s Fantasy; Outstanding Children’s Fiction in IAN Book of the Year Award; Top Choice, LitPick.com; a Bronze in the eLit awards; and Notable Indie—Best Indie Book, Shelf Unbound. His second novel in the WhipEye Chronicles, Gorgon, was selected as a Finalist, Midwest Book Award; Outstanding Children’s Fiction in IAN Book of the Year Award—third place in Book of the Year, and Top Choice, LitPick.com.wyshea-shadows

Geoff, tell us a bit about yourself. 

I love to bake/cook healthy food, hike, swim out to the center of lakes, snorkel, am a black belt in kung fu, and sail big boats, around 42’, to islands and beaches to swim. I don’t watch TV, but I love movies—stories. I spent 11/2 years traveling in the South Pacific, and it taught me that beauty is everywhere and you don’t have to go anywhere to find it—as long as nature is present. I teach in special education to very bright young adult students, which is both gratifying and worthwhile.

What is the premise of Wyshea Shadows?

Wyshea Shadows is an epic fantasy with three main women characters whose lives are intertwined with war, mystery, a common enemy, and love. As a thriller, it also has enough elements of romance, world building, and mystery that it probably is one of my best books. The wyshea are able to be around animals without scaring them—kind of like our world on the Galapagos Islands, and have a special relationship with nature. There are also elements of old mythology, like precursors to unicorns, wood sprites, and faeries that are only hinted at. The stories build dramatically, and the intertwining of characters is some of the best writing I have done. Each book (two others are written and will be released this year) has a very climactic ending, which always brings emotion out of me even after reading it 100 times. This is because the characters have so much at stake in the story, including protecting those they love. Nature and wildlife have major roles in all my writing.

Wow, that’s complex. How do you conceive your plot ideas?

Usually I think of one line, one situation. In WhipEye I imagined a boy walking into a pet store to talk to an animal. That became an 80,000 word award-winning fantasy novel. In Wyshea Shadows, I envisioned divided races, with good and evil in all the races, and the antagonist an evil that used individual weaknesses of greed and power to his advantage. Once I have a beginning, the rest seems to develop organically.

 Are any of your characters based on real people?

I have a character in WhipEye that reminds me of special needs young adults. All characters probably have bits and pieces of people I know. In WhipEye, the main character is grieving, and is in love with nature. I drew upon myself for both of those attributes at the time (I experienced a loss of not being able to be outside due to a difficult health problem for years, and when I got better, I grieved that loss.)

 Given how you describe Wyshea Shadows, you must have needed to do a fair bit of research!  Tell us about that. 

I usually have to research wildlife, nature elements, and also some of the weapons to understand limits and abilities. The world building is solid, and the magic in this world is concrete and explainable in a scientific kind of way. That doesn’t mean it’s based on science, but there is cohesion in understanding the underlying principles of energy in this world.

 

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I write about 1/3-1/2 of the book, or at least the first few chapters, and then I might do a quick, one line outline for successive chapters to see where I’m going. It changes depending on the book and what type of story it is.

Given everything you do, how do you find time to write?

I write almost every day. Three hours or more in the evening after my education job, weekends 8 hour/day. There are breaks, friends, socializing, family, and play time. But I’m pushing 3 series now, plus 2 thrillers that I will come out with this winter, so 2017 will be a big year for me.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write, or a specific mood you try to create with music?

The mood is in my head. I don’t mind listening to birds outside, or children playing, but music is distracting when I’m writing. Every writer is different in this aspect. I write at home, at my desk, and it’s comfortable and cozy.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I just finished 4 new books less than 2 months ago; Bubblegum Mike, Book 1, the YA epic fantasy, Wyshea Shadows, Divided Draghons, Book 1, the 3rd WhipEye Chronicles book, Drasine, and a stress reduction book (I teach that in my school)—so I’m taking a little break with marketing and rewriting an adult thriller. In the next 3-4 months I plan on finishing the 2nd Bubblegum Mike Book and 2nd Divided Draghons book, two thrillers, another young children’s book, and a nonfiction book. It’s a lot to do in one year. I also have some school visits in Minnesota and Chicago. It’s all very exciting!

And exhausting, I would think!  Links to Geoff’s social media and book sites are below. 

 

https://twitter.com/geoffreysaign?lang=en

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33259256-wyshea-shadows?from_search=true

https://www.facebook.com/geoffrey.saign

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01NCQ0X8P/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1