Second Books are like Second Children

Do me a favour? Pay my second book some attention; it wants to be read.  And its older sibling is free right now, on Amazon, for the Kindle reader or app….so for a minimal price, you can have them both.  Think of it as a kindness. If I know other people are giving them their share of attention, I can focus on gestating the third baby!

I’m the third sibling of three…the baby.  My father was an amateur (and then professional, for a while) photographer.  There are hundreds of pictures of my sister, the oldest. (Remember this was 1948, when black & white film had to be hand-developed.) Hundreds. 

When my brother came along, six years later, there are fewer.  A couple of requisite baby shots, the christening, a few more.  But his presence clearly wasn’t as exciting, didn’t need to be recorded in the same way.

This is fairly typical, from what I’ve seen with the photos and video of my nieces and nephews, too.  The first baby gets a lot of attention; the rest…not as much. (There are even fewer photos of me.)

And that’s pretty much how I’ve been reacting to the publication of my second book, Empire’s Hostage. Yes, I’m pleased to see it in print. I’m doing my part to promote it.  But I lack the ‘look at what I produced!  It’s the best baby ever!’ excitement that first child/book engendered. Don’t get me wrong…I think it’s a fine book, a worthy sequel to the first. I’m proud to have written it. Some of the reviews have blown me away. But it’s the second child. I’m more realistic about its prospects and the work involved in getting in out into the world. And with the first still needing attention, and my mind already pregnant with the third, it’s going to fight for its share of my time. Do me a favour? Pay it some attention; it wants to be read.  And its older sibling is free right now, on Amazon, for the Kindle reader or app….so for a minimal price, you can have them both.  Think of it as a kindness. If I know other people are giving them their share of attention, I can focus on gestating the third baby!

Trident, A Snowverse Novel, by L.C. Mawson: A Release-Day Review

Trident follows Freya as she accompanies her friends Mel and Sarah to the underwater realm of Atlantis

I think I’ve lost track of how many Snowverse books there are now, but they keep gettingTrident better and better; more focused, the writing tighter, the characters more developed.  Trident, the latest in the series, follows Freya as she accompanies her friends Mel and Sarah to the underwater realm of Atlantis.  Mel is challenging the head of her Mer house for the right for Atlantean citizenship, and the quest she must undergo to gain that right needs all of Freya’s varied and multiple magical abilities to even give them a chance of succeeding.

Along with this fast-paced adventure, developments in both Freya’s personal life and in her existence in the Shadow Realm are entwined in the story, further framing Freya’s growth in her earthly life and in her life beyond Earth’s bounds. A fairly short novel at about 180 pages on my Kindle app, Trident kept me reading…I only put it down to watch the second-last episode of Doctor Who.  Speaking of which, I think there’s a bit of an homage to the Tenth Doctor in Trident – if not, then ‘great minds think alike’ (or write alike!).  Five stars.

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!

More Good News!

I’ve just learned that my local library has ordered Empire’s Daughter for its collection. That’s quite rewarding, really; it’s really nice to see the library supporting local authors.  So now it’s in three libraries – two public (the other one is my university’s library, as part of its Campus Author program) and one private (the library of the rec centre in the over-55 community in which I live.)

And I’ve finally worked out a thorny problem in the sequel, so it’s coming on a-pace!

 

 

 

Oracle (Freya Snow Book 4) by L.C. Mawson: A Review

…a fast-paced magical adventure.

The fourth installment in L.C. Mawson’s Freya Snow series continues the story begun in oracleHunt. Freya, now more aware of her magical heritage and powers (although not completely) accepts a work experience placement in London, only to discover that her employer has chosen her for her magical abilities, and her assignment is to track down a missing Oracle. The problem is, does this Oracle want to be found?

Switching between the Shadow Realm and everyday life, the story provides more explanation of Freya’s background and foreshadows one possible future. It also acts as an exploration of some of Freya’s deepest fears and the choices she needs to make. But I also found parts of this book had, for me, a deeper resonance as a metaphor for the difficulties and choices people on the autism spectrum disorder face. I hesitate to write this, because I am allistic (non-autistic), but my husband is autistic (Asperger’s diagnosis), and after thirty-eight years of living with him, I may have a few valid insights. When Freya (or her Shadow Realm counterpart, to be precise) is told this about her possible bond with another magical creature: “The only way the two of you can bond is if you form a real and lasting attachment to the Human world. We always knew you were too closed off to others for that ever to be likely….” it struck me as the truth about relationships many autistic people live with. It can be easier to invest in other sorts of relationships – with computers, games, or, as Freya does, as a bounty-hunter of evil magical creatures – than it is with other humans…especially when the powers you hold – whether it is Freya’s magic or the ability to envision and analyse and discard dozens of answers to a word-game problem in a few milliseconds (don’t play Tribond® with my husband) – separate you from allistics.

Even with that possible interpretation aside, this is a fast-paced magical adventure. It should not be read without having read the previous books, and perhaps the related short stories too: I have read all the books, but not the stories, and there were occasionally times when I found myself confused about past events, which could be due either to my poor memory or to something happening or revealed in a story I haven’t read. But overall the four books have provided a coherent narrative and a developing story. I’m giving this installment four stars.

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

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.

 

 

 

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?

The Silver Portal, by David J. Normoyle: A Review

Magic gone wrong, and five disparate young people from across the land become the weapons-bearers…

Five weapons of power. Magic gone wrong, and instead of five trained warriors bonding to WeaponsofPower-Final-Smallthe weapons, five disparate young people from across the land become the weapons-bearers. Magically linked to the weapons, each must learn its powers and its responsibilities, evade those who want to use them for ill, and find each other across a wide and dangerous land. David J. Normoyle’s book The Silver Portal, the first book in a planned series, introduces us to the five protagonists: street urchin Twig; would-be-adventurer Lukin; noble Suma; Mortlebee, outcast from his religious community, and rebellious Simeon. Each character stands as individuals; each has their own difficulties with their unexpected weapons. Struggles with trust, ethics, personal convictions and the expectations of upbringing are central to each character’s growth and development through the story, but not in a heavy-handed or preachy way. Instead, these dilemmas are an integral part of the story, handled for the most part deftly and naturally.

The writing is competent and fluid, and at the right level of difficulty for the young-adult target audience. Readers are introduced to the history, politics and magic of the world in a gradual manner, often learning along with the characters. Although in a couple of places I found myself wishing for a deeper understanding of the history, enough is given to flesh out the story and the motivations of characters.

I found the plot a bit rushed towards the end, given the fairly slow development of during most of the book. But as part of a series, the pacing may be less uneven when the book is read as an introduction to the world and the characters rather than a stand-alone story. Overall, 4 stars, for a worthy addition to young-adult fantasy.

Hollo: The Gatecaster’s Apprentice, by Devon Michael: A Review

…an artfully told, dark, and frightening coming-of-age tale with a twist.

“There was a pool of darkness in the midst of the light, where the wind had come in Hollo The Gatecaster's Apprentice fullaccompanied by a shadow, a shadow with shoulders and a head that stretched into the lighted space on the floor at the bottom of the stairs.”

Reminiscent of Neil Gaiman, of the darkest episodes of Doctor Who, of some of the madness of Tim Burton, Devon Michael’s Hollo: The Gatecaster’s Apprentice is an artfully told, dark, and frightening coming-of-age tale with a twist. Hollo, the title character and protagonist, is a puppet made of wood, but one that can think and feel and move autonomously, created by her ‘father’ Fredric. (This might remind you of Pinocchio, but it shouldn’t.)

When Hollo reaches her twelfth birthday, Fredric takes her out into the world, a place far more complex and menacing than her sheltered world of Fredric’s house and the metal-casters workshop next door. Here she first hears the name Bander-Clou, and the words ‘Zygotic Pneuma’. Just what is she? And who is her father, really?

Clock-work soldiers of metal and wood pursue her. Hollo befriends a human girl; statues come to life; elemental forces protect her. Hollo’s world is under siege, and she is caught in a larger story, one older than she but one to which she belongs, and one in which she has an integral part to play. Michaels writes fluidly and effectively, his words invoking horror, happiness, fear and joy, the pacing moving the plot along quickly, but not so quickly the world-building is overlooked. This is a well-realized and developed world, one that the author leads the reader into by hints and clues: the reader learns the world along with Hollo.

Characters are well-developed, especially Hollo, whose innocence at the beginning is lightly but effectively shown, but also the supporting cast, from the malapropistic statue ‘The Countess’ to the marvellously conceived Lightening Man. And they all have a role to play; none of these characters, some of whom would not be out of place in Alice Through the Looking-Glass, are superfluous to the story.

Hollo: The Gatecaster’s Apprentice earns a rare five stars from me. I didn’t want to put it down, and yet conversely I rationed myself as to how much I read on any day, so as to savour the book and anticipate where it was going: it was far too good to read in one gulp. One caveat: in the e-book version I read, there were a few production errors, and a few errors that slipped through editing. In several places ‘won’t’ was written as ‘wont’; the common error of ‘broach’ for ‘brooch’ appeared a few times, along with the newly-frequent (in my experience of 55 years of reading) confusion of ‘piqued’ with ‘peaked’. One’s interest is piqued (excited); one’s interest in something can ‘peak’ (reach a height). Both can be correct, but are often, these days, confused. BUT: sometimes, as I wrote here, the overall quality of a book or a movie outweighs a few production errors, and this is one of those few cases. Regardless of the (easily-corrected) errors, Hollo deserves five stars.

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