Kingsguard: Freya Snow Book IX: A Mini-Review

Kingsguard is another solid addition to the Snowverse and its cast of diverse, original characters.

Both Freya and L.C. Mawson’s writing have matured in Kingsguard, the latest installment Kingsguardin the Snowverse series.  The writing is more direct and the plot structure clearer than in some earlier instalments, although it is still a complex and convoluted universe the author has created.

In Kingsguard, an earlier episode in Freya’s life is central to the story: an episode the series reader will remember but of which Freya has very edited memories.  This adds an element of almost amusement and anticipation for the reader:  when will Freya realize?

Kingsguard is another solid addition to the Snowverse and its cast of diverse, original characters.

Penny White and The Temptation of Dragons, by Chrys Cymri: A Review

With a mother from Northamptonshire, a voracious reader of anything fantasy since childhood, an upbringing in the Church of England, and a definite fan of both single-malts and Doctor Who, the book was, for me, a perfect storm of reference points.

What do these have in common? Single-malt whisky, Doctor Who, dragons,temptation-dragons Northamptonshire, the Church of England. While this might sound like a round of Only Connect, the actual answer is that they are all integral aspects of Chrys Cymri’s delightful book Penny White and The Temptation of Dragons.

Penny White is the vicar of a small parish in Northamptonshire. One night she finds herself at a vehicular accident, giving last rites to a….dragon?  This act of compassion is Penny’s introduction to the parallel world of fantastic creatures that exists alongside our own, a world where St George is the dragon, not the knight. Asked to take on a significant position liaising between our world and this other one, with a gryphon as her assistant, Penny accepts, to find herself not only caught up in a murder inquiry, but attracted to the ultimate bad boy, the James Dean of dragons.

Chrys Cymri writes with a deft, light hand, a fine sense of pacing, and an ear for comedy. I found myself laughing out loud many times while reading The Temptation of Dragons.  But behind the light-hearted fantasy is a story about frailty, love and forgiveness. Penny has her own tragedies; she may be too dependent on her single-malt, and she’s lonely. Her gryphon companion has his demons, too.  They need to work past their differences, not only to be an effective team, but to find the commonalities that bond them.

I may have been just about the ideal reader for The Temptation of Dragons. With a mother from Northamptonshire, a voracious reader of anything fantasy since childhood, an upbringing in the Church of England, and a definite fan of both single-malts and Doctor Who, the book was, for me, a perfect storm of reference points.  But I doubt all those are pre-requisites to appreciating Chrys Cymri’s writing. Five well-deserved stars!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

The Power of Illustration

Duy Trinh is capturing the setting and feel of the story with great skill.

I’m working on a little stand-alone ‘chapbook’ of my short story, In an Absent Dream. It will be illustrated with black & white drawings by the artist Duy Trinh, who is capturing the setting and feel of the story with great skill.  Publication date is still to be announced, but here’s a preview of one of the illustrations, with the passage from the short story that inspired it.

duy-1

“It’s just this world, these streets, these fields…but it’s overlain with roads and paths and occasionally buildings that don’t exist in the world under the sun. It’s like they hover over (or under) the solidity of the everyday world, taking shape and substance only when someone – me – enters them.”

“In An Absent Dream” is published in the small collection Spinnings available as an ebook ….or you can wait for the chapbook to have a hauntingly illustrated paperback!

 

Shivers up my Spine

Got 10 minutes or so? Click on the link and listen!

You’re a writer. You write something – a short story, say; you think it’s good. Other people read it; you read it out loud at a couple of open mic nights. People like it.

But hearing it read by someone else, someone who is a really really good reader, is a whole new experience.bssh

Bob Daun at Bob’s Short Story Hour reads my short story A Spider’s Spinning so well, it sent shivers up my spine. (Which it is supposed to do – it’s a scary story – but I didn’t expect to have that reaction, given I’d written it.)

Got 10 minutes or so? Click on the link above and listen, while you’re cooking dinner or folding laundry or just sitting back with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Not just to my story, but to the music and other readings on this episode. You won’t be disappointed.

The Faerie of Central Park, by Bruce Graw: A Review

The Faerie of Central Park is a gentle, amusing story, a romance in the old meaning of the term.

Dave is a first year student at Columbia University in New York city, unsure and adrift –faerie-central-park until the day an injured faerie lands on the windshield of his car. Thinking it is a high-quality doll he can use to impress a girl, he takes it home – only to find that it is an honest-to-goodness live faerie.

Tilly, the faerie, is the genius loci of Central Park, keeping its natural rhythms in place, taking care of the Land. She desperately needs to return – but Men are the age-old enemies of the Fey, so how can she trust Dave?

The Faerie of Central Park is a gentle, amusing story, a romance in the old meaning of the term. The story begins light-heartedly, describing Tilly’s actions in Central Park and Dave’s at university. Even after they meet, the story continues in a fairly predictable ‘human meets non-human and get to know each other’ vein, but well written and enjoyable.

The story bogged down for me in the middle, with too much description and repetition of situations that did not differ enough from each other to warrant inclusion. But it picked up again in the last third of the book as the story approached its climax and then came to an almost-satisfying conclusion.

I can’t fault the writing: author Bruce Graw constructs sentences and paragraphs with skill. The characters are as developed as one would expect in a light urban fantasy, with the characters of Tilly and Dave the most developed, as is appropriate. The e-book was extremely well edited, without the common errors that spell-check misses. Only the actual story-telling wobbled, in the too-long and too-repetitious middle section, and an ending that left me with one fairly large niggle, which I won’t describe so as to avoid spoilers.

Overall, three-and-a-half stars for a enjoyable urban fantasy, suitable for both young adults and older.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Community

Yesterday I saw a glimpse the other side of it, the heart and soul and sweat and generosity, of time and talent and spirit, that makes the festival.

Yesterday I read at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, in the tiny Ontario hamlet of Eden Mills. I was reading because the two pieces I had submitted to the Fringe contest, for not-yet-widely-published authors, had been chosen by the jury. Four poems in the first submission, and a short story in the second.

eden-mills-wall

I’ve been going to this festival on and off for the last twenty-five years. Eden Mills, a hamlet of many 19th century limestone and clapboard houses, spans the Eramosa River. Readings are done outdoors, mostly, in back yards running down to the river; in a sculpture garden, on the grounds of the old mill, in a re-purposed chapel. It’s been a way to spend a lovely September afternoon, listening to people read, eating ice cream, browsing the books in the publishers’ way.

Yesterday I saw a glimpse the other side of it, the heart and soul and sweat and generosity, of time and talent and spirit, that makes the festival. The Fringe readers were treated no differently from anyone else reading: we were invited to the authors’ lounge, (which had taken over the ground floor of a resident’s house) where there was coffee and breakfast pastries available when we got there, then lunch, and later wine and nibbles. Conversations were open and welcoming; I talked to Steven Burrows, another birder and author of birding mysteries (we talked about birding, not writing), and then I talked to the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada, George Elliott Clarke, about the surreality of beginning a writing career in my fifties. (His take on it? It’s a good time; fewer distractions).

I read in a natural half-ampitheatre with the river behind me and people ranged in lawn chairs, on blankets, on the grass, on the hill in front of me. My readings both went well – I was sure I was going to stumble over the line “No survey stake or draughtsmen’s pen rules here” (try saying that!) in one of my poems, but I didn’t.

In between the readings, I mostly worked the table of Vocamus Press, the Guelph-based small press that also promotes and publicizes the work of other Guelph writers. This too is hard work, lots of chatting to people (many aspiring writers), selling a few books, handing out cards for the book promotion Vocamus is doing in October. I was a poor backup for Luke, the founder, whose natural salesmanship is far better than mine.

At the end of the day, in the middle of a conversation about literary theory and criticism with a young poet, after a glass of well-earned wine at the lounge, we took ourselves to the village hall for the dinner for all the authors and publishers. Salads, rolls, butter chicken and rice for the first course – and wine on the table, replenished when we’d emptied a bottle – but it was the desserts that were the crowning touch. Because residents of Eden Mills take it on to bake pies – goodness knows how many – for this annual event. How many pies do you need to feed more than fifty hungry writers, plus publishers, volunteers, and organizers? However many it is, they did it. And they were goooood.

There are two – or maybe three – intertwined communities here: the community of Eden Mills, which welcomes, organizes, hosts, bakes, provides food, opens homes, washes dishes (and puts up with writers taking over the village once a year): the supportive, involved people who don’t live, perhaps, in the village, but who are nonetheless integral parts of the Festival, whether it’s organizing the Fringe, arranging the buses, selling books on the Publishers’ Way, and doing a thousand other things I’m not aware of. And then there are the writers themselves, who were again most welcoming, generous, and open, with their time and their thoughts. I was proud to be, in a small way, part of these communities on Sunday.

Thank you, Eden Mills Writers’ Festival!

Another Dream Come True

I imagined reading my own work at this festival…but it was never going to happen. Except it is.

On the banks of the Eramosa River, in the tiny village of Eden Mills, Ontario, the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival is held every year, as it has been for over twenty-five years.  One of Canada’s premier writer’s festivals, it attracts huge crowds and very well known Canadian writers, reading their works in a variety of picturesque outdoor settings (if the weather cooperates, that is; indoors if it doesn’t. Usually it does.).

I’ve gone, on and off, for the last twenty years.  And, of course, I imagined reading my own work at this festival…but it was never going to happen.  Except it is. This year, I entered work in two categories – prose and poetry – in their Fringe contest, open to ‘not-yet-yet-widely-published’ authors.  I really didn’t think I had a chance…but on the weekend, I got the call, telling me I’d been selected in not one but both categories. I was (nearly) speechless. The official invitation – not only to read, but to attend the author’s party the night before, and the Festival dinner after the readings – is hanging on my bulletin board. I’ll probably frame it.

So I’ve got some reading practice to get in over the next month, to get the flow of the poems right, to figure out what part of the short story I can read in ten minutes, the time allowed.  Good problems to have.

Regular readers know I don’t do inspirational pieces, or moralize…but maybe I will just a bit this time.  As I said, I’ve been going to this festival for over twenty years, and wishing I could read there.  In my earlier entry I talked about how seeing my book on the shelves of my local independent book store was a dream come true, a dream held for over thirty-five years.  I’m fifty-eight, readers, and while I postponed my writing dreams for far too long, caught up in life and work and travel, I never forgot them completely.  Two years ago I got a blunt and visceral reminder that life is short…and to stop dreaming and start working, or I was never going to be able to call myself a writer. Now I can. My dreams may seem modest to some of you, but I’ve never been one for the limelight. This is enough for me.

Whatever it is you’re dreaming of, don’t give up, but you’ve got to do more than dream.

 

 

 

ChiSeries, Covers, and Cash

It is a little intimidating for an indie writer to be reading alongside two established names in genre fiction…

This past Tuesday, I had the honour of reading at the ChiSeries here in Guelph. Some background; the ChiSeries (The Chiaroscuro Reading Series) is a national Canadian reading series put on in a number of cities, promoting genre writing. I was reading along with two award winning and/or major award nominee writers of science fiction and fantasy: A.M. Dellamonica and Kelly Robson.

Spinnings Final Cover
Available on Amazon

It is a little intimidating for an indie writer to be reading alongside two established names in genre fiction…and it’s even more so to be reading last. But it seemed to go ok….the applause for my reading (I read an abridged version of my short story In an Absent Dream, currently published in my e-chapbook Spinnings), was hearty and I think genuine, and Kelly had some kind words for me. It’s allergy season, so I was concerned my voice wouldn’t hold out, but it did, although I think it was a bit scratchy by the end.

Family members and writing group members came along to support me, which was truly appreciated. I’d also got the proof version of the paperback of Empire’s Daughter that day, so I brought it along, mostly for reactions to the cover (positive, I’m happy to say!) I’ll be posting the cover soon, once I have an actual launch date. I’m still working on finding all the errors and correcting the proof.

And I’m actually (and unusually) getting paid – an honorarium – for the reading, thanks to various levels of government that support the ChiSeries. My (and yours, if you’re Canadian) tax dollars, supporting genre writers. How very nice.

Brexit, birds and boxes

The disruption to my writing life from the move has settled down, and the opportunities are emerging.

The disruption to my writing life from the move has settled down, and the opportunities are emerging. My new city has a vibrant and supportive writers’ community, as I’ve said before; yesterday I went to my first ‘Genre Writers Group’ meeting in a downtown coffee shop. This is a brand new group, so it seems I made my move at a good time!

Six of us met at this first meeting, self-published and traditionally published, experienced and newbies and in-betweeners. We talked about plotting and planning vs free-flow writing; we talked about sales, and mostly we talked about publicity and marketing, exchanging ideas and opportunities. As a result of this, I sent an email yesterday afternoon and have been accepted to read at the next Chi Reading Series here. Put on by Chizine Publications, the Chiaroscuro Reading Series takes place in a number of Canadian cities every few months and focuses on fantasy, science fiction, and horror. I’m not sure what I’m reading yet – it will depend on the time given – but it’s a chance to network with other genre writers and to reach a larger audience. I’ll keep you posted!

I’m back to the Writing Room, the Monday morning quiet-space-and-coffee meeting, after an absence of six months. I made it back just in time to read at our spring open-mic night last week. I chose to read from Empire’s Hostage, which has been on the back burner as well for the last half-year, figuring it would give me the prod to get back into it. Which it did, and perhaps all the better for the hiatus – and perhaps too for the reactions and emotions stemming from the Brexit vote, which in some ways reflect the themes of the book: what is independence? Does a country stand better on its own, or as part of a larger unity? Where do concepts of love of country, love of leaders, duty, stand when allegiances shift?

In a different mode, I’m also writing a monthly birding column for our neighbourhood newsletter, and have been ‘coerced’ (not really) into the production team, which means I am learning desktop publishing software in my spare time. It’s a very different type of writing and editing, but it’s all writing.

I should get a review out in another week or so, and hope then to be back into a rhythm on those. I’ve started investigating paperback production for my books, and I’m looking into some creative writing courses, either at the university or at the local college, in the autumn. For the next two days, I’m giving my niece, who is heading off to university in Halifax in September to study journalism (another writer in the family!) a mini-vacation, exploring this city and environs, riding bikes, eating ice cream, hiking the river trails.

Somehow I think the boxes still languishing in the basement may never be unpacked…when will I have the time?

Spinnings is out today!

Publication date offer!

 

 

ED & S

With all pre-publication reviews on Goodreads rating Spinnings: Brief Fantasies in Prose and Verse at 5 stars, don’t miss its publication date offer:  buy it for the lowest price Amazon lets me offer (other than free) and download Book 1 of the Empire’s Legacy series, Empire’s Daughter, for free between March 25th and March 30th!

Links are here:

Spinnings

Amazon.com      Amazon.ca       Amazon.co.uk

Empire’s Daughter

Amazon.com     Amazon.ca     Amazon.co.uk