Showing posts with label Fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fiction. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

CHOP IT UP: Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

So let’s summarize this three star read.  

Brown Girl in the Ring takes on a futuristic urban Toronto where the rich and wealthy have fled the inner city to keep away from the dangerous and troubled others.  This moves leaves the violent and murderous power over the city, in all their recklessly and unsympathetic glory.  To the determinant of the remaining downtrodden and disenfranchised innocents, they are stuck in the ugly walls and rules of the new Toronto.  

In enters Ti-Jeanne, a young mother grappling with newfound motherhood and living with a hyper-shamanistic grandmother.  Said shamanistic grandmother has roots deep in Caribbean traditions, including the kind geared toward wielding magic spells.  And it's Ti-Jeanne's grandmother who drills her on the importance of carrying on their family's cultural and magical traditions, as well as suffocating Ti-Jeanne with her overprotective and overburden concerns.

Unfortunately, despite showing innate abilities to communicate with Caribbean gods and goddess, Ti-Jeanne is reluctant to take part in her grandmother's beliefs.  Until Ti-Jeanne’s baby’s father comes seeking her help.  He works for a crime boss who shuttles drugs and harvests human organs for the rich and, having been caught sniffing some of the supplies, must now bring his boss a human heart fit for a politician looking for a transplant.  Though he's not a murderer, it's either the life of the transplant victim or his own. 

Suddenly Ti-Jeanne is forced to confront her family’s roots in servicing gods and goddesses to keep him, her baby, and her family protected from the organized evil knocking at their door.  And her family's connections to this evil runs much deeper than water.  It's all blood.

So first, what I did enjoy took place in the "inactive" areas of the book. Or the beginning’s relationship-heavy slices.

I loved the time Hopkinson’s spent in laying out Ti-Jeanne and her struggles as a character. Her being a mother was an issue. Her coming to terms with her walk-out mother was another. And, as well, she had issues with her baby’s father, Tony, who was back in her life. Hopkinson took care to spend time revisiting their past relationship as lovers. She also spent time going into its downfall due to Tony’s drug addiction. The issue of Ti-Jeanne not informing Tony how her baby was theirs complicated matters. And Tony himself was well-drawn, as he fought with loving Ti-Jeanne while working for a crime boss. And it's this boss who had him by the balls every step he took. So, needless to say, their drama had my undivided attention.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Recent Thriftbooks Book Haul

I haven’t done a book haul in a hot minute.  I haven’t actually WRITTEN a blog post in an extra hot minute.  So I said, “what the hee-hah”.  I’ll combine the two forces (go Captain Planet), and see what the hell I can get out of the experience.  Mainly, I’m looking for my mojo for writing blog posts back.  I miss it.  And, considering in July I paid for another year of ownership of my domain name, I’ve got to get something here back in order...

(Already it feels good pounding on the keys.) 

So I’m going to share my recent purchases from Thriftbooks.  I have a few criticisms with the site–as a consumer.  Yet, I still use it because the books are in fairly good condition.  Also they're cheap and you get free shipping on orders $10 and over, which takes some of the guilt of purchasing books you'll take forever to even read away.  So they–essentially–have your ass over a barrel.  Anyway, I was inspired by these picks for a few different reasons, and I’ll share those reasons as I move along in the post.  And as always, for those of you who are familiar with the books, drop me a comment concerning your thoughts (though try not to spoil them) on each.  I always love hearing from other readers.

So one overarching reason I purchased at least three of the books is because I checked them out from my public library–though I never found myself in the mood to read them.  Or, in the case of Moon Called, I started reading the book a day before J. D. Robb’s latest release [Leverage in Death] came out.  Which, essentially, halted the whole process because everything stops with a new In Death release.  And I mean EVERYTHING, bih.

Nonetheless, here goes…

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Library Reserves Came Through. Too Soon, Though?

So what do you do when you’ve put together this amazing monthly TBR (video and all) to keep you reading, while you wait on your library reserves to come in?  And what do you do when the catch is that the waiting time was shorter than you anticipated?  Talk about my inexperience with the whole reserving books thing.  

I just happened to stop by the library to get some blog posts drafts done, when I realized the books I placed on reserve Tuesday were in (didn’t exactly receive that email notification I, ahem, signed for).  What’s a guy to do?  Stick to the TBR and take breaks between planned reading?
Anyway, per my recent rash of Anna Pigeon obsessed posts, I finally got a copy of Barr’s latest Pigeon book, Boar Island (Anna Pigeon #19).  After this, I’ll be done with Anna Pigeon for another two years.  At least I believe Barr's next book is due in 2018.  Anyway, not exactly impressed with the turn out of Pigeon’s 18th adventure, Destroyer Angel, I have to admit that I’m kind of ready to finish this up and go on hiatus.  The last few books in the series were hit-or-miss.  And the worse yet was book #16, Burn.  I haven’t been hearing a lot of good reviews on Boar Island; some reviewers citing there is less Anna and too much returning characters from her previous adventure.  One reviewer even suggested readers skip to the last 50 pages and call it a day.  We’ll see.  Knowing this book will involve a few characters from the previous book, I have to say I’m not exactly excited to revisit them either.  You know how it is, when the star of the show isn’t present.
And finally another China Bayles book.  Haven’t read her since mid-May, when I finished book #6 in the series, Love Lies Bleeding.  Literally been waiting around for a copy of book #7, Chile Death.  And now it’s in my hands.  Rented, but present.  Looks like China will be attending an annual chili cook-off in her home of Pecan Springs, Texas.  Evidently a cook-off judge dies from an allergic reaction to peanuts.  But who puts peanuts in a pot of chili?  Somebody who knew exactly what he or she were doing.  That’s who!
Anyway, here’s to more fun summer reads.

Do you reserve library books often?  And when they come in, do you drop what you're reading to get into your reserves?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Public Library Used Bookstore Hustle

While reading may be a little slow this week (spending over a week with a book that’s good, but can’t quite intercede the distractions that make up life), I’ve decided to stop over-browsing my public library’s used bookstore and actually buy something.  These two books (and many more left abandoned) have been in my hands throughout each of my visits there.  And both for good reason.

Friday, April 22, 2016

7 Mysteries/Series I Own But Haven’t Licked

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way first: the mystery genre is king of the serializing format.  Book after book.  Release after release.  Year after year.  We follow the misjudgments, drawbacks, and achievements of whatever leading star protagonist we’ve grown attached to.  Attached enough to carry us through book one to book... [insert your number here]. 

Some series are short-lived, and some are decades long.  Some series entries are strong, and some are weak.  In many cases, the author runs out of ideas and begins phoning in his or her stories.  But a few has consistent, formula-driven quality.  Whereas others hit-or-miss after about the fifth or tenth book.  Then there’s cases where an author loses some of his or her audience completely.  Whether it’s by pulling the trigger on loaded opinions, expressed through characters.  Or increasing the vulgarity behind plotted sex and/or crime.  Or–the worse offense–implanting shock factor techniques instead of fleshing out a plausible story.  You refer whatever occasion you've left an author's work for.  
Whether you chose to keep reading a series depends on your level of commitment to author and star.  And “commitment” is the operative theme of this post.
Recently–with so many books coming in–I struggled with what to read.  (Don’t you hate when you have plenty at your fingertips, yet feel you can’t define your mood enough to find which book will serve?)  I scanned my shelves and new-books pile reasoning with myself why this title may work versus this one.  I knew one of them needed to quell my reading thirst, especially with a thunderstorm coming into town.  Candles, books, the pattering rain and roiling thunder; a cozy reading session in manifested!
While I eventually found a book to read (Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon #4, Firestorm), I gaped at the number of mystery/thriller series I’ve abandoned to the shelves over the years.  Some are seven years within their abandonment.  And a few of the unreads I’m a little ashamed–given my love of the genre–to admit I've left to collect dust.  But where did all these books come from?  Who recommended them?  How old was I when I bought them?  And why did I abandon them in the hopes of retreating to them later, at a more desperate date in the future?
That’s what I want to ask and explore in this post.  For those who’ve read any of these books/series, please provide me validity for my issues at hand.  Or express how important it is to keep going.

1.  Robert B. Parker’s Family Honor
First in Parker’s Sunny Randall private-eye series, Family Honor has all the ingredients of the genre I love.  You know, a female detective doing her thing piecing together a murder conspiracy.  Yet, the unfortunate draw is I never finished the book.  It’s been years since I picked it up, so I can’t pinpoint why I bailed on Sunny’s debut more than halfway through.  But I have an idea, stirred by how certain memory imprints emerges after visual cues.  See while Parker is one of the kings of this genre, he left me unfulfilled.  But why?  Parker's the master of dialogue, right?  Well, it's his tool to swiftly get his scenes, narrative, and plot points in motion.  But maybe it was too much for me, whisking through Family Honor at top speed.  So while I can’t really compare the two, Family Honor read like a better written and somber Stephanie Plumb novel.  So fast-paced I never anchored to Sunny Randall herself.  Still, I’ve held on to the book for another attempt.  Though years later at this point.

2.  Joanne Fluke’s Chocolate Chip Murder
This is an unread debut stuffed inside my shelf for years (I’m thinking 2009).  Chocolate Chip Murder is first in Fluke’s Hannah Swensen cozy mystery series.  An obvious cozy mystery series themed around sweets and baked goods.  Yet, no matter how insanely popular this series is, I’ve yet to crack open my copy of the first book.  I have no explanation why, but I think it has a lot to do with its formatting.  Silly, I know.  But the print is so small and the book is so thick, with the extra short story and recipes.  So every time I pick it up I feel like it’s a high fantasy novel-level read, camouflaged as a cozy.  Weird, I know.  I’m a walking contradiction sometimes.  Big book.  Little book.  Big words.  Little words.  More details.  Less details.  It goes on.  Or maybe I'm just never in the mood.
3.  Greg Iles’ The Quiet Game
Eh.  So we know I don’t really sprint for leading male protagonist to serve my crime fiction.  On the occasion, maybe.  The Quiet Game came into my possession through the influence of a volunteer working my public library’s used bookstore.  At first she pushed me a copy of Greg Iles’ book, 24 Hours.  You know, as she raved about how amazing it was.  Sold by her enthusiasm, I took 24 Hours as she slipped me a copy of The Quiet Game to boot.  They were a dollar, so I didn’t really fuss.  And, fact is, once I cracked open the copy of 24 Hours, I read it in one sitting.  That’s how glued I was.  The book was a thrill ride you’d hate to put down.  Unfortunately, the same uhmph hasn’t quite caught up with The Quiet Game.  I can blame the thickness of the book.  I could say those 400+ pages to wallow through with Penn Cage (I’m sure he’s a great protagonist) in lead holds me back.  A number of excuses will do.  Yet at the end of the day, I’ve held on to my copy all the same.  One day.  Just one day I’ll get to it.  Who knows.  Maybe I’ll get hooked and engorge myself on the entire series.
4.  Frankie Y. Bailey’s Death’s Favorite Child
I've got an idea why I haven’t read this book after five years.  Why?  Because it’s not first in the Lizzie Stuart series.  I later learned A Dead Man’s Honor is the proper debut of this sleuth’s adventures.  Naturally drawn to a series with an African American female lead and writer; Death's Favorite Child is an easy necessary regardless of its position.  It just sucks I haven’t went back to correct my mistake by ordering the first book in the series.  You know.  OCD fully functioning and all.

5.  Eleanor Tayler Bland’s Whispers in the Dark
My most pitiful and shameful confession arrives with my stalling Bland’s Marti MacAlister series with book nine.  I was on a roll with MacAlister through 2012-2013.  Then I got to the ninth book.  Here, Bland took my favorite black female cop through the city and into the islands for two different plot lines.  One plot focused on MacAlister's profession, the other on a friend’s personal life.  There was just something about this book that drought'ed my thirst.  Well, my thirst for this specific chapter in the series.  So my resounding solution is to forget about this entry and move on to the next.  There aren’t enough Marti MacAlisters or Eleanor Taylor Blands out there for either to be forgotten.  And I still got five more books in the series to go.  Count me in still!
6.  Patricia Cornwell’s Southern Cross
Cornwell started writing this new third-person series before she took her famed forensic pathologist, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, out of the first person narrative and into third.  The changes in POV were experimental you could say.  But when that switch reached Scarpetta, it brought a string of books most dedicated readers cringed over.  Well, the same cringe can kind of apply for Cornwell’s Andy Brazil series–the original guinea pig of her expanding her writing chops.  As show above, Southern Cross is second in the Andy Brazil series.  (Somehow I made it through the maze of the first book, Hornet’s Nest.)  There’s only so much I say about Southern Cross.  Besides how crazy and directionless it felt.  For whatever reason, I feel almost obligated to take all three of the Andy Brazil books down.  “Down” as in swallow, but not "eject."  Nonetheless, I only got a quarter through Southern Cross when I realized it was a going to be a difficult test of my patience.  Something about digital fish swimming over a computer monitor's screen froze me out of the game.  I haven’t been back since the summer of 2011.
7.  Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs
No explanation needed.  Only bask in my shame as I unveil the biggest misstep in my crime fiction reading career.  That’s right.  The first Temperance Brennan novel has sat unread on my shelf for close to six years now.  A hot ass mess indeed.  I pick it up year after year, but can never seem to get pass the first chapter.  So I set it aside and save it for the following year.  It’s pitiful.  It’s a shame.  You’d think I'd glutton my way through a series revolving around a female forensics anthropologist.  But I haven’t.  Those are the sad facts.

Well that’s it, guys.  My list of shameful owned but unreads mysteries/series is complete.  Give a guy a round of applause for admitting some of these faults!

Friday, February 19, 2016

#MarchMysteryMadness Challenge List

Goodreads Group: March Mystery Madness
~~~~~ The Food/Craft/Hobby Cozy~~~~~
1.       “It wasn’t the way that Hannah preferred to attract new clientele, but she had to admit that finding Ron’s body had been good for business.  The Cookie Jar was jam-packed with customers.  Some of them were even standing while they munched their cookies, and every one of them wanted her opinion on what happened to Ron LasSalle.”
Everybody has a craft–a hobby.  Whether it’s baking sugar cookies or crocheting Forget-Me-Not dollies.  Maybe even culturing herbs for organic dishes.  Or are you into nature photography and are a dedicated bibliophile?  Now imagine engaging with your day-to-day passions when a body suddenly crosses your path.  What would you do?  Do you have what it takes to balance your craft with solving murders?  Explore the possibilities by reading a cozy mystery with a food/craft/hobby theme.
~~~~~ The Get Christie Love Lead~~~~~
2.       “Finally, after all my procrastinating and avoiding Bessie’s calls, I was able to put the finishing touches on my report, explaining exactly how I had spent her money (I didn’t include the manicure), apologizing for what I hadn’t been able to find out, but pointing out that her involvement may have sparked the cops’ renewed interest in the case.  I included the name of the lawyer that Jake had given me as well as the contact for the program for Rayshawn.  I also warned her in strong language that Rayshawn had been on the verge of committing a serious felony and had some serious problems that had to be dealt with, and if she and Viola didn’t make sure he got help, I’d be forced to go to the authorities with information that would result in his arrest.”
Find and follow your inner Christie Love and Foxy Brown.  Read a mystery/crime fiction novel powered by an African (-American) female sleuth.  Or, from Tokyo to Seoul.  Shanghai to Kolkata.  Or even New York to Los Angles.  Read a mystery/crime fiction novel featuring a sleuth with an Eastern perspective on matters.  (In general, a book featuring a person of color taking lead.)
~~~~~ The Christie/Poe Complex~~~~~
3.      “I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.”
“Dogs are wise. They crawl away into a quiet corner and lick their wounds and do not rejoin the world until they are whole once more.”

Did you know Edgar Allan Poe did mystery and crime fiction before mystery and crime fiction were even a thing?  Let’s face it; he’s the godfather of the genre.  He’s the seed to this entire challenge.  Therefore, your challenge is simple: indulge in one or all three of Poe’s mystery shorts…
A.     The Murders in the Rue Morgue
B.     The Mystery of Marie Roget
C.     The Purloined Letter
Or how about the matriarch of mystery and crime fiction, Agatha Christie?

Friday, January 15, 2016

1Q84 | Aomame X Tengo | BOOK 1

Oh, boy.  Oh, joy.  Oh, what-the-Hell-I-like-this-book.
I decided to open 2016 going after my bigger books.  This includes omnibus editions containing a set of series entries of some sort.  Which is exactly where Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 lies.  Containing a total of three books, I recently wrapped up the first entry.  And have yet the precise words to describe the experience.  I don’t think there any concrete words.  Yet, not to suggest I didn’t enjoy the experience–because I did.  And a lot more than my previous–and introductory–reading of Murakami’s Dance Dance Dance.
I just don’t know exactly how to put the experience into words.  So perhaps a quick summary would get my thinking juices flowing.  Or one could hope.
So here’s what 1Q84 is about.  Which is only right for me to walk you through this summary alongside myself.  The little synopsis/premise I collected previous to picking the book (over a year ago) were kind of misty on its direction.  The book itself throws all these terms at you to describe your approaching experience.  Romance.  Mystery.  Fantasy.  All to name a few.  And it’s all those descriptions–in some gradient of each over another.  But I found those descriptions useless, for those grappling with engaging with the book.  To me, the book is a surreal reading experience.  One you have to take in without–I guess you could say–a concrete overture to rely on.  Funny how many Japanese writers put me in this frame of mind after venturing through their books.
The story alternates between two third-person narratives.  Of course they'll eventually float into the same literary space of Tokyo, 1984.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Gerritsen Playing with Fire (A Quick Look)

That’s two Tess Gerritsen books in one year!  Can I get an amen?  Well, of course.  Yet, the latest, Playing with Fire, doesn’t involve Gerritsen’s series regulars Rizzoli and Isle.  Nope.  Playing with a Fire is a stand-alone thriller.  To me it waggles between sometimes lukewarm in areas but immensely fascinating in others.  Either way it's a quick, thrilling dash between the past and present.  Done in classic, multi-layered Gerritsen style.
First, a summary of the book.
Playing with Fire is about a violinist named Julia Ansdell.  Julia had the misfortune of acquiring an old, handwritten piece of sheet music called The Incendio Waltz.  While traveling with her orchestra, she came across the piece in an antiques shop in Rome.  So during a routine practice session back home in America, she plays it (or attempts to considering its difficulty) before her three-year-old daughter.  During this practice session Julia blacks out, and wakes to find her daughter next to their just mutilated pet cat.  Horrified, Julia suspects her daughter is responsible for the killing–for whatever reason.  That suspicion leads the two into hospitals and therapy sessions for biological/psychological testing.  
Desperate, the tests seem necessary for both Julia and her daughter.  Yet when another practice sessions leads to another blackout, this time Julia awakens to a stab womb.  And standing over her is her child.  She concludes the common denominator of these violent-resulting blackouts are, somehow, the sheet music.  Julia’s argument is the sheet music has a way of triggering something savage in her daughter’s subconscious.  This, in turn, leads her to trace the composer's Venice origins.  However, she comes across a problem on her journey.  It appears an organization of political heads don't want the secrets of the piece revealed.  And they’ll pull murderous stops in keeping Julia from unveiling its atrocious origins.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Bein and His Wind

Tokyo is about to find itself in the grips of a stream of terrorist attacks driven by a religious zealot named Joko Daishi. Joko is dedicated to his beliefs, those of which circulating around how society needs purification through a baptism of fire. However, the unconcerned citizens of Tokyo are too wrapped up in their bustling lives to give a damn about his message. And not “giving a damn” may be the reason Joko found himself released from police custody after his last terrorist event (check out book two in the series, Year of the Demon). And while Tokyo’s police department may have turned somewhat of a blind eye to Joko’s terrorism, Detective Sergeant Mariko Oshiro has not. Unfortunately, there’s not much she can do.  Having thwarted Joko in the past, Mariko's petition for her Captain to detain and hold Joko eventually causes her her badge. (You know, because she’s a woman and can’t be vocal.  That type of bullshit.)

Without the support of the Tokyo Police Department, Mariko has to find other resources to stop Joko from destroying Tokyo.  What Mariko doesn't know is that she's already drawn the attention of an underground syndicate known as The Wind. The Wind once harbored and trained Joko Daishi and, in effect, is responsible for him. Regardless, they need Mariko’s help.  She carries an Inazuma blade, handed down to her by her deceased senshi.  Inazuma blades are centuries old and cursed; The Wind believes this is their means of stopping Joko.  So Mariko's choice becomes simple–yet highly complicated.  She can join The Wind to stop Joko Daishi, or go at it alone before her city is destroyed. And the longer she contemplates her choices, the more personal her decision becomes.

Wow. Now where do I really start with this one? First, this is book three (and I believe it’s the last) in Steve Bein’s Fated Blades series. As I've mentioned in previous posts about previous books, the series is part contemporary crime thriller and part historical fantasy. It switches time and space.  A lump of chapters are told in the today's world, viewed through Tokyo Detective Sergeant Mariko Oshiro.  Her chapters focuses on her role as the owner of one of the various cursed Inazuma blades crafted in ancient Japan, and how she uses the blade to stop terrorists. Meanwhile, the counter chapters follows the story of a young, crippled samurai named, Daigoro. During Japan's Azuchi-Momoyama period, Daigoro is the owner of the same Inazuma blade as Mariko. The majority of his narrative revolves around him using the sword as a means to protect his clan.  With a mother suffering from a nervous breakdown after the death of his father and brother, adjacent clans use political manoeuvres and intrigue in attempts to take what little honor and status Daigoro has.  Naturally, they want his blade as well. 

These two have carried the series since the first book. However, in the second book came a new character named Kaida.  

Kaida was a pearl diver who turned away from her family to become an assassin working for The Wind.  Unfortunately, the continuation of her story isn't in Disciple of the Wind. So I was a bit disappointed.  Clearly her portion was meant to give readers the history behind the origins of The Wind, origins that would've been beneficial to Disciple.  But for Disciple's length purposes, her story is available in a Kindle novella.  I'll probably get to it at a later date.

Despite all that, I'm happy to say that there is more Mariko in this entry. And more Mariko means far more action in the form of shoot-outs, sword fights, and a healthy dose of detection and crime boss confrontations. In Year of the Demon my biggest complaint was the lack of her presence, so I suppose it worked to cut out Kaida’s story. Nevertheless, that’s not to say that Daigoro’s portion isn't as strong, as it draws to its own conclusion within the series (his opponent is easily the most interesting and best). I love his bits in particularly because they're all about ancient Japanese political intrigue.  Careful navigation of politics operate better than a flat-out sword fight, if you want to save your family and save your ass from a beheading. But trust me, there are still plenty of sword fights and action in his story as well.

Now I still have to mention how–after three books–some of the characters in the series come across as slightly overblown. One example comes in how Mariko’s Captain was an unapologetically drawn bigot who did a lot of fist-waving and kowtow-demanding of Mariko...still.  It just got old with him shrieking at her, and no amount of head-bowing could save Mariko or my patience.  Also, I know I just said that I was happy to see more Mariko, but even she suffered from moments of overdrawn-ness.  She karate chopped and sprung her way through some scenes where she didn’t appear threatened or in immediate danger.  So yes, there were times when I wished she would chill out for a second on the Zero Woman act.  

There were also moments where action scenes were muffled and scrambled with disorienting choreography. A bad guy leaping from a hail storm of bullets manages to hide undetected behind the leg of a pool table inside of a bar, meanwhile Mariko and her partner are underneath that pool table unaware of him. And when they finally notice said bad guy, he jumps up and leaps out of the window.  You can only wonder if the bullets stopped raining over the place enough for him to take the risk. Or still, how and when did he get behind that pool table’s leg undetected?  Lots of scenes came across like this.  Those hazy, semi-teleporting characters and scene transitions that aren't quite clear.

All in all, I highly recommend the Fated Blade series. Especially for those interested in Japan, Japanese culture, crime fiction, and historical fantasies.  Additionally, if you're like me and have mostly given up on the urban fantasy genre, this may be your ticket back in.  Give this series a greenlight.  

Lastly, if this is the last book, I can say I'll miss the series.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Guest Post: Chad T. Douglas on Earthshine

Earthshine by Chad T. Douglas

Title: Earthshine
Author: Chad T. Douglas
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Length: 306 pages
Release Date: January 30, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1507540152

SYNOPSIS: Benni Dublanc is exemplary, which, in the year 2622 CE, is entirely ordinary. She’s young, she’s pretty, she’s in love, and she attends Academy Aeraea, a center of fashion, thought and modern style built on the pulse of the greatest city ever imagined—Genesia, Mars. Like all Genesians, Benni has never seen a blue sky, she can summon any and all knowledge into view with nothing more than a thought, makes her daily two-hundred kilometer commute in two minutes, and was sculpted into a model citizen beginning from the day she was born. Benni will never know famine, she will never know war, and after a horrific accident on the night of her twenty-second birthday, she will never be human again.

Earthshine: Why It Isn't Dystopia

I think that anyone who’s read anything since Orwell’s 1984 might be tempted into believing that it’s science fiction’s unofficial job to tell us why, as a species, we're going to fail, and why we're going to do a bang-up job of it particularly right before the end. 1984 is one of my favorite novels of all time, and though it cast a soul-crushingly grim forecast of humanity’s potential future, it was one of those books that needed to be written, because it was full of dangers that humankind doesn't need to forget about anytime soon, particularly in regard to the power we afford our governments and the people in charge of mass media and information.

Not all science fiction, or speculative fiction, draws an apparently ugly vision of days to come. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World demonstrated that a world of perfect comfort can be just as much a nightmare as one where Big Brother makes you disappear for getting out of line. There is no perfect future to speculate about, because perfection is irreconcilably subjective, and so ‘utopia’ and ‘dystopia’ are often two words that science fiction tells us both mean ‘doom’.

This is to say, prior to writing Earthshine, I'd already had a number of dystopian futures fully illustrated for me and I'd tucked them away in my head. The thing about the future is that it’s always changing, because the present is always changing. Orwell and Huxley wrote their dystopias for the world they currently lived in.

The particular world I live in now is very similar to the one I lived in when I began Earthshine. I was in college when I first sat down to try my hand at social fortunetelling, and that was only a few years ago. The news then, just as it often is now, was full of worries about housing market stagnation, crippling student debt, never-ending crises in the Middle East, oil prices, global warming, marriage inequality, unemployment, and it seemed like a school or a shopping mall became the victim of a mass shooting every other month or week. While the news reminded me of all these things on a daily basis, my own, immediate world was handing me several hard lessons to boot. Most prominently, I was accruing debt to further an education that held zero guarantees of success, and that public school and honor roll mentality I’d been raised on weren't necessarily going to get me anywhere in real-world America, 2012. Anyone would think an author with all these less-than-cheery revelations in mind would write about dystopia, but I didn’t.

Earthshine is a story about a city on Mars in 2622 CE, and it’s also a story about the place and time we live now. It’s about the human beings we are trying to become, and it’s about the human beings we tend to revert to out of habit. It’s a story about the things we ought to think about before we take our next big steps, and the things that could happen if we don't plan carefully enough. It’s about consequences, good and bad. What’s most important, though, is that Earthshine isn't about utopia or dystopia. Earthshine is a reflection on human dreams and human nature. It asks us to take responsibility for who we are and what we see in ourselves, and asks us not to divorce our species from the ability to be honest with itself. Simply put, it’s not a story about how a bad society is going to ruin us. It’s a story about how to avoid letting our own bad judgment and passive complacency ruin a good society.

Author Information & Links

Chad T. Douglas was born in Wilkesboro, North Carolina in 1989. In 2002, he moved to Florida with his family and in December 2009, as a sophomore attending the University of Florida, Douglas published A Pirate’s Charm, the first novel of the Lore trilogy. One year later, he released his second novel, East and Eight. Around that time, Douglas became a staff writer for the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Florida Museum of Natural History. When he wasn’t working on his novels, Douglas traveled with and wrote for the McGuire Center. Since 2010, he has visited Honduras,

Kenya, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and Mexico as a travel writer.

Douglas’s first novel, A Pirate's Charm, came to mind when he was a junior in high school. He began writing the Lore series for fun, and originally did not plan on publishing it. When he started college in 2008, he entered as an Architectural Design major, leaving the program in less than two weeks and immediately becoming an English major. One year later, in love with English and writing, Douglas began work on self-publishing the first installment of his historical fiction and fantasy trilogy. His first book signing took place at Books Inc, Gainesville, in February 2010, two months after publication. That same year, he published the second novel in the Lore trilogy, titled East and Eight. The third installment in the Lore trilogy, The Old World, was released in fall 2011. The Lore series has received honors in the 2011 New York Book Festival Book Contest, the 2012 Los Angeles Book Festival Book Contest, and the 78th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition.

Since 2009, Douglas has traveled to and appeared at book festivals in Florida, including the 1st, 2nd and 3rd annual UCF Book Festival in Orlando, the Ft. Myers Book Festival and the Miami International Book Festival. His first novel A Pirate’s Charm was a hit in two festivals in Georgia, including the AJC Decatur Book Festival and the Tybee Island Pirate Festival. In 2010, Douglas was the keynote speaker for the Marion County Library’s CREATE program. There, he signed books and shared personal stories of travel and self-publishing with 150 young writers who all received copies of A Pirate’s Charm courtesy of the library. In 2014, he made his first international appearance as an undiscovered American author at the Paris Book Fair at Salon du Livre. Douglas has since begun work on several new projects. His most recent novel, Earthshine (2015), is a work of science fiction.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Guest Post: Linda M. Crate | Blood & Magic


Title: Blood & Magic
Author: Linda M. Crate
Genre: Fantasy/Supernatural/Paranormal
Length: 500 pages
Release Date: March 20, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1508572961

Synopsis: A monster slayer is in for the adventure of her life.  Does she decide to follow her heart of does she kill the monster she loves to stay in favor with the counsel she serves?  Not to mention all these broken memories are confusing–are they things that really happened or is it all in her head?  Lucille Roddingale is in pursuit of the truth and she's not going to like everything that she finds in her journey.

Linda M. Crate On Her Characters

How did I come up with the characters? Well, that's an interesting question. I developed the characters from a roleplay I was having with my friend Rory. We were on a Marauder's Era HP based rp and had two characters a part vampire named Lorcan d'Eath and his human lover Petula Rosier.

These characters were crazy and had a really twisted, complicated history which I pretty much came up with but Rory helped me develop into something more substantial and helped iron out the details.

I wanted to find a way to immortalize the characters.

So I decided that I'd take them from their HP universe and throw them into a completely new world—one that had magic but was completely different from Rowling's world. I wanted not only to develop them and flesh them out more than our roleplays did but to turn them int slightly different alter egos altogether so they could thrive and survive in their own world which I later named Atriel.

I have always loved vampire and monster slayer novels and so it was only natural for me to turn my "Petty" into Lucille the monster slayer whose heart would soon belong to the part-vampire Florian. I've also had a fascination with part-vampires and vampires ever since I was a little girl. I once wrote a short story about a part-vampire named Charlotte who Florian closely resembles in some mannerisms but he's completely different in others.

Florian and Lucille will forever be my favorites because they were based off my two favorite characters. Although there are several differences—for instance Florian is a lot braver than Lorcan and Lucille is a lot more outspoken and fiery than Petula. Not to mention there was no Solomon in our story, but I threw him into the tale because I figured Lucille could use a father figure.

After all, Florian had Clorian, which I so named to amuse myself. Florry and Clorry I call them much to their annoyance.

I had actually intended Solomon to be a minor character, but he soon took on a mind of his own (as my characters often do), and decided he needed a larger role in the story along with his wife Deborah.

Evan just came to me. He's a combination of several people in my life that rubbed me the wrong way and people who were rude to my character Petula in the roleplay. He took shape on his own and quickly became quite a troubling, vexing character in his own right.

Veronique is one of my favorites, too. I figured that Evan needed a reason to be against half-breeds and having a half-sister who was a part-elf seemed the perfect idea. I have always loved the idea of half-breeds because I believe you cannot choose whom you fall in love with and why couldn't humans and other species breed? I also liked the conflict within her between darkness and light, wanting to do the right thing and not knowing how. She's not quite an anti-hero but she's not a villain, either. Just somewhere juxtaposed between the two.

Petula and Petro were two characters that really intrigued me when they popped into my mind because I always knew they were vampires. I wanted to know why Evan was a hypocrite and would employ people like that in his counsel and soon became apparent to me that he would use any means possible to carry out his aims. What his aims are, however, I will not say. I can't give away the entire story, after all. 

All the other characters just sprang up as I needed them or as they needed me to introduce them as they always remind me (my characters are quite forceful, I've noticed, some more so than others). 

I always wanted to experiment with the idea of an ensemble piece which is quite frankly what Blood & Magic is. A myriad of personalities and situations meshed together to describe what happened in Atriel. I really enjoyed the way it turned out and I'm quite glad that it got a chance to breathe life on its own.

I think it will always be one of my favorite stories and I really do hope that everyone enjoys not only the first novel but all the subsequent novels because these characters get into a lot of misadventures—but what could one expect from a part-vampire and part-fae? Especially ones as mischievous as Florian and his love?

On Her Protagonist, Lucille 

Well, I was going to leave her human, at first. Because I thought it would be cool to have a non-magical person that was actually powerful in a magical realm. However, I also realized that it put Lucille at a great disadvantage. She was fighting all these magical creatures that could easily overpower her with their magic and she needed an ability of some sort.

That's how the idea of making her a part-fae came into being. I thought that a love affair between her mother and a faerie noble would satisfy the why of how she was a faerie.

I didn't want her to be a part vampire like Florian because I figured one blood sucker in the relationship was more than enough and she definitely wasn't a dwarf and she vetoed being an elf. I did ask her. She wrinkled her nose. Clearly Lucille has a thing against elves. She hasn't told me why. I'm sure we'll find out as the Magic series progresses. 

However, I didn't want it to be contrived. Like, oh look, she has a magical ability and now she can take on everyone all at once! So I put limitations on the magic. You can't use more magic than you have the energy for or it will kill you, and disguising your looks to become "human" seriously stunts the amount of years you have in your life. 

Veronique is also a victim of losing years of her life because Evan made her appear as a human so his hypocrisy would not be revealed. 

The only reason Lucille can live as long as her part-vampire lover is because her father sacrificed his own life so that she might live. It's not a gift she asks for, but one he freely gives her because he feels guilty for abandoning her as a child. Her parents and younger half-brother were killed and still he let the counsel raise her. 

The very same counsel that made her feel trapped and the very counsel that betrayed her and killed her friend Mary.
The Writing Process 

People have asked me all my life how I write. I always find that an interesting question because I don't really have a process. I just turn on my music and have at it. Sometimes sad songs conjure up the most beautiful love scenes and angry music gives life to tragedy and the happy songs lead to battles. I'm not quite sure how it works, but I know music has always moved me and I love having an intimate relationship with words.

To me it's natural as breathing. It's just something I have to do, need to do. 

I didn't choose writing, it chose me. I'm glad it did. I always find it fascinating where my imagination takes me and all these characters that jump into my mind are always worth the journey I embark on when I start writing their stories. Sometimes I discover more about them but I always discover more about myself and I always strive to make sure there's truth because to me there has always been more honesty in fiction than nonfiction.

Characterization has always been important for me. Plot is important, but you can't have weak characters. To me that just collapses everything and it will be the one reason I walk away from a book. I usually struggle through even if I don't particularly like a book just to see what happens to the characters, but if I can't relate or don't like any of your characters there's just no reason for me to read it. So I try to to flesh out my characters and make them like people. Because if they're like your best friend or your mother or your uncle then maybe your interest will remain piqued through the entire novel.

Author Information & Links 

Linda M. Crate is a Pennsylvanian native born in Pittsburgh yet raised in the rural town of Conneautville.  She currently resides in Meadville.  Her poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print.  

Recently, her two chapbooks, A Mermaid Crashing into Dawn (Fowlpox Press - June 2013) and Less Than a Man (The Camel Saloon - January 2014) were published.

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