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A Pre-publication Review: Creeping Shadow: Rise of Isaac Book 1, by Caroline Peckham

Building on some of the best traditions of British children’s and young-adult writing, the story caught my imagination from the first pages and held it throughout the book.

Creeping Shadows:Rise of Isaac Book 1

Creeping Shadow is a young-adult fantasy by indie writer Caroline Peckham. Building on some of the best traditions of British children’s and young-adult writing, the story caught my imagination from the first pages and held it throughout the book.

It is truly difficult to find new ways to address themes and memes in young-adult writing. Some of my appreciation of Creeping Shadow almost certainly stemmed from the fact it was ‘familiar’: the opening events and settings, which have elements reminiscent of the introduction to Narnia, or to Susan Cooper’s Over Sea, Under Stone, began the story in a way that leads the reader to expect certain things to unfold, the way ‘Once upon a time…’ opens a classic fairy tale. And the reader is not disappointed!

Wizards appear; a quest is demanded; travel between multiple worlds is required. The challenge required of the young protagonists in this first book of the series, however, is modern, owing more to The Hunger Games and to some extent to the Harry Potter series than to C.S. Lewis, firmly siting the book in the modern young-adult universe.

The copy I read was an ARC – publication does not occur until December – and had a remarkably small number of production errors. The story is well-plotted and characters sufficiently complex in most cases to avoid being stereotypes, although roles are usually almost instantly identifiable. Creeping Shadow has the honour of being the first book I ever read on my iPhone, mostly because I really wanted to finish it and my phone is almost always with me, so I could read anywhere. Strongly recommended!

This is an independent review of an ARC. The opinions stated here are mine alone.

Open Mike Night

In a couple of weeks we’re doing an evening session, a salon – basically an open mike night for the writers who write here.

Our revered and celebrated local bookstore/restaurant/cinema opens its restaurant/bar area to writers on Monday mornings.  It’s just a quiet place to write, with internet access, coffee and tea, and focus.  No instruction, no conversation.

I’ve just started attending this fall.  Sometimes people record on the chalkboard what they are working on – business writing, theses, novels, short stories, memoirs, blog entries.  I use the time to work on Empire’s Hostage. It’s highly productive: there are no distractions, and unlike working at the university library I can leave my laptop and phone on the table when I go to the washroom, or to move my car to avoid a parking ticket.

In a couple of weeks we’re doing an evening session, a salon – basically an open mike night for the writers who write here.  I’m both looking forward to it and apprehensive.  Two of the writers who come on Monday mornings – regulars – have both been nominated for prestigious national writing awards.  And I’m going to read an excerpt from my genre fiction?

But yes, I am.  While I’m in awe of writers who are writing work worthy of major book awards, I’m not one of them. I write to tell a simple story to entertain – and I hope to some extent challenge – young adults (or maybe anyone over the age of twelve) and to explore landscapes, both physical and of the mind.  I do it the best I can, and that’s what I’ll read.  And because I know this city, and the attitudes of those for whom this bookstore is an important part of their lives, there won’t be judgement, or negativity.  We’ll appreciate each others writing, regardless of genre, or publishing contract, or experience. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Editorial Services Contest – Two Days Left! (And please re-blog!)

I was gently reminded that:

  1.  I should have posted this on a weekend to reach the most possible people – so the giveaway contest has been extended slightly…and…
  2. I should have asked people to re-blog more “forcefully” (not my words!)…so…please do…:-)

Here’s the original post:

I am a lucky indie writer.  My young-adult adventure novel, Empire’s Daughter, was accepted for publication by a small press, which meant it received the entire professional editorial process, edited for story, continuity, copy-edited, etc., by two very talented editors.  Sadly the press went out of business – it’s a tough world – before Empire’s Daughter was published, but I benefited enormously and learned a LOT through the months of editing and re-writing. So when I published Empire’s Daughter through Smashwords and Amazon, it was polished to a high standard and has sold well.

This is not an opportunity many new writers get, and it’s one I’d like to pay forward.  So here’s my offer:  I will provide editorial services free of charge to one indie author in each of the following editorial capacities:

  1.  Story review – a read-through of the manuscript, suggestions for expansion/contraction of the story, voice, character development;
  2. Copy-editing – a detailed read of a finished manuscript for typos, grammar and spelling, name change errors, and the like.

Here’s how the give-away works.  First, go into this blog site and read some of my work – there is fiction, non-fiction, verse and a short story to look at.  If you don’t like my writing, then you probably shouldn’t enter. (You can, of course, it’s up to you!)  Then, either in the comments below or by e-mail to marianlthorpe at gmail.com, let me know the following:

Your name, the name and genre of your work, and whether you want a story review or a copy-edit.  All entries received in the next week will be literally put into a hat (by category) and one name for each pulled out by my husband.

And you must be an author without a book contract.  Those of you with contracts will have access to these services – as I did – so please leave this free opportunity to those who need it.  Clearly, I can’t check this, so you are on your honour on this aspect.

Oh, and the work has to be in English.  I speak execrable French and read it to some extent, but not well enough for this…and that’s the end of my multi-lingual abilities.

 

Cut Glass: A Novella by Susanne Valenti

Valenti has created a believable dystopian world and is more fully realizing that world in each installment of the Cage of Lies series and related works.

In my earlier review of Chained, the first book in Susanne Valenti’s dystopian series Cage of Lies, I wrote “I found I had questions about the functioning of the society outside of the city from which Maya and her companions flee which were not answered in the narrative.”  Cut Glass, which is a novella set in the same dystopian world and which includes some of the characters introduced in Chained, helps to answer some of those questions. This addition of a novella giving background to both characters and their setting reminds me of the way Marion Zimmer Bradley created the complex world of Darkover through both novels and short stories.

Cut Glass is a stand-alone novella; it is not necessary to have read Chained (or its sequel Linked) to appreciate the story, which involves the emotional and sexual coming-of-age of the protagonist, Crystal.  No spoilers, but the attitudes and reactions of teens living challenging lives rang true for me, as someone who worked with troubled teens for many years.  Valenti has created a believable dystopian world and is more fully realizing that world in each installment of the Cage of Lies series and related works. ☼☼☼

This is an independent review of an ARC.  The opinions stated here are mine alone.

Editorial Services Giveaway

A contest for editorial services free of charge….

I am a lucky indie writer.  My young-adult adventure novel, Empire’s Daughter, was accepted for publication by a small press, which meant it received the entire professional editorial process, edited for story, continuity, copy-edited, etc., by two very talented editors.  Sadly the press went out of business – it’s a tough world – before Empire’s Daughter was published, but I benefited enormously and learned a LOT through the months of editing and re-writing. So when I published Empire’s Daughter through Smashwords and Amazon, it was polished to a high standard and has sold well.

This is not an opportunity many new writers get, and it’s one I’d like to pay forward.  So here’s my offer:  I will provide editorial services free of charge to one indie author in each of the following editorial capacities:

  1.  Story review – a read-through of the manuscript, suggestions for expansion/contraction of the story, voice, character development;
  2. Copy-editing – a detailed read of a finished manuscript for typos, grammar and spelling, name change errors, and the like.

Here’s how the give-away works.  First, go into this blog site and read some of my work – there is fiction, non-fiction, verse and a short story to look at.  If you don’t like my writing, then you probably shouldn’t enter. (You can, of course, it’s up to you!)  Then, either in the comments below or by e-mail to marianlthorpe at gmail.com, let me know the following:

Your name, the name and genre of your work, and whether you want a story review or a copy-edit.  All entries received in the next week will be literally put into a hat (by category) and one name for each pulled out by my husband.

And you must be an author without a book contract.  Those of you with contracts will have access to these services – as I did – so please leave this free opportunity to those who need it.  Clearly, I can’t check this, so you are on your honour on this aspect.

Oh, and the work has to be in English.  I speak execrable French and read it to some extent, but not well enough for this…and that’s the end of my multi-lingual abilities.

Feel free to re-blog!

Inkitt’s Nevermore Contest: Please Vote

Votes for my short story The Spiders’ Spinning, entered in Inkitt’s Nevermore Contest (best horror short story) would be appreciated!

Votes for my short story The Spiders’ Spinning, entered in Inkitt’s Nevermore Contest (best horror short story) would be appreciated!  Here’s the link:

http://www.inkitt.com/stories/33886

thanks!

Two Verses

These two poems reflect just a little of the awe and joy watching birds has given me over the last forty years.

Lucifer, and, Terns at Hong Kong Harbour
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These two poems reflect just a little of the awe and joy watching birds has given me over the last forty years.

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Lucifer (Sterna paradisaea)

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Arctic Terns live almost entirely in light for their entire lives. They fly 30,000 km each year, from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back. Their return – south or north – heralds the light, and spring.

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Land freezes;

Dawn and dusk reach to each other;

Birds flee, or huddle, silent.

Sunset and blood stain the snow:

Ice grows.

Where the world spirals and all northings meet;

And the sun is always or never,

The tern circles, once, twice, three times

Memory and stars beckon.

Light will fail here;

Sunset and blood stain the snow

Before the final dark, before

Ice and silence triumph.

The tern circles, once, twice, three times

And not again; south sings in its bones

And blood; stars set and rise.

Sunrise spirals and stretches; light prevails.

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Terns at Hong Kong Harbour

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Spare black on white, swift to frothing wake

in pewter waters; silver sweep of wing

bright counterpoint to lightning’s rake

rending the heavy hanging cloud; hovering,

holding; plunging to take the shining glide,

the curve and scale, beating upward against

the drag of wave, watching for the gleaming slide

of fish, awareness stretched and tensed and held

to dancing, diving grace.

Upcoming Sequel to Chained by Susanne Valenti: Linked

In support of a fellow indie young-adult writer, here’s information on Susanne Valenti’s upcoming sequel to Chained.Linked cover

In a world she never knew existed, Maya is coming to terms with how much her life has changed. Danger lurks around every corner, nothing is as she expects and she’s never felt so alive. But the choices she makes could change everything and jeopardise the things she cherishes most. There is so much to learn and so much to love but her heart is pulling her back. The Guardians are hiding in the shadow cast by their Wall, concealing the truth from the people inside. It’s a shadow that darkens her happiness and she can’t stop fighting until the truth comes to light. It would be easier to walk away but Maya has never run from anything and she’s not about to start now.

The Amazon link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B015NDMX3U/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_uk-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738
Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/SusanneValenti
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Valenti.Susanne

A Review of Chained by Susanne Valenti

A fast-paced, well-plotted young-adult dystopian novel by first-time author Susanne Valenti.

Chained, by Susanne Valenti

A fast-paced, well-plotted young-adult dystopian novel by first-time author Susanne Valenti, Chained is concerned with the familiar theme of teenage protagonists challenging the structures and tenets of their society in a post-apocalyptic world. While this theme is the basis for most dystopian novels, the characters of and the story told in Chained are original enough to keep readers interested. Before I write anything else, let me say this: Chained is worthy of a read if young adult dystopian fiction is a genre of choice. Fans of the Divergent series, The Hunger Games series, and similar works should enjoy this book and look forward to the sequel.

Now, for a few niggles.

The society against which Maya, the heroine, and her companions rebel is imagined and described in enough detail to give the reader a sense of how this world works. The society into which she escapes is less well realized, perhaps because it reflects, more or less, current Western society, and therefore is supposed to be already familiar to the reader. I found I had questions about the functioning of the society outside of the city from which Maya and her companions flee which were not answered in the narrative.

Maya’s thoughts and reactions to situations were not always made clear, and at times she appeared to observe what was happening to her and narrate rather than respond. In one or two cases – especially after a scene in which she is brutally assaulted – her reactions did not to me ring true. Overall, though, this does not impede the action of the narrative, and should not be a barrier to enjoying the the story.

A few production issues were mildly irritating, and perhaps the manuscript could have benefited from one final copy-edit. The author’s use of ‘alright’ rather than ‘all right’; the contraction of ‘going to’ to ‘gunna’ rather than the more familiar ‘gonna’; inconsistent capitalization of City in “Harbour City”, and an unconventional use of quotation marks in multi-paragraph dialogue were all distractions for me, pulling my focus away from the writing – which overall is effective – when they occurred.

But these are niggles only. Let me repeat that Chained, overall, is a well-told story, and I will be reading the sequel when it comes out. My overall rating for Chained? 3 ½ stars out of 5.

Chained by Susanne Valenti is available as an e-book from Amazon.

This is an independent review of a purchased book. The review was not sought by the author nor written for any benefit. The opinions stated here are mine alone.

Two Sonnets

Nassagaweya Township is where I live. Still mostly rural, it is dominated by rock and swamp and small fields, and was first settled in the early-to-mid 1800s. The lives and labour of those first settlers, who cleared huge tracts of hardwood and white pine, dragged enormous boulders to build boundary walls, and quarried limestone for rock and lime, were in part behind these two sonnets.

Nassagaweya 1: Winter Deer

Dividing wood and tangled swamp the road

Cuts survey-straight, a line drawn cleanly on

The map, unlike the trail that six deer followed

Through brush and cattail, three pairs of doe and fawn.

Their path ran crooked, keeping to high ground

Between the clumps of osier, brilliant red

Against the morning’s snow. A final bound

Brings the first doe to the road: the others, led

By her, follow, and in silent file cross

This barren space, alert, deliberate,

Unhurried; not admitting any loss

Of path or cover, valiance animate.

No survey stake or draftsman’s pen rules here:

Red osier, swamp, and wood belong to deer.

Nassagaweya 2: Rock and Water

Rock and water underlie this township,

But neither deeply; it’s rarely more than

A few feet to the rock, and every dip

Of land’s a swamp. A challenge to a man,

To try to farm this, but his chance to make

A life is here. So fields are cleared and streams

Diverted; roads are built. But rock can break

Both ploughshares and spirit: too many dreams

Of harvest awake to springtime flood

And summer drought; the skin of soil above

The limestone now like rock itself; now mud.

His sons say there’s not enough here, to love

Or prosper on: they answer other calls

As trees surround the crumbling boulder walls.