Review of D.G. Valdron’s The Mermaid’s Tale

About the book:

themermaidstaleIn a city of majesty and brutality, of warring races and fragile alliances, a sacred mermaid has been brutally murdered. An abomination, a soulless Arukh is summoned to hunt the killer. As the world around the Arukh drifts into war and madness, her search for justice leads her on a journey to discover redemption and even beauty in the midst of chaos.

Published by Five Rivers Publishing.

My thoughts:

The Mermaid’s Tale is a fable of personhood wrapped in a murder mystery framed by a fantasy setting, peopled by familiar races that are presented in subtly original ways.

Valdron’s protagonist has no name. Most Arukh (orcs) don’t. The few that have been so graced have earned their names by distinguishing themselves from their mad and murderous brethren. Each race has its own name for the Arukh, but all of them translate to either abomination, or abortion.

The Arukh are the sterile offspring of vampires and goblins and considered to be soulless. They are housed in lodges and governed by trolls, dwarves, or vampires and are largely used as expendable troops in warfare, which the various races engage in frequently with one another.

Something horrible has happened, though. A mermaid, one of a race considered sacred, has been brutally murdered. The selk call upon the Arukh to investigate and find the killer. It is implied that this particular Arukh is known for her skill in this area, but not why.

As she investigates, the trail of the killer leads the Arukh to each of the races in turn and the world is eventually fleshed out very cleverly in the form of told tales and legends. The mystery is what first draws readers in, but the world and its stories are what compel readers to continue turning pages.

Valdron’s world is a young one of unmitigated violence and the Arukh’s life is one of degradation. She fails repeatedly in her quest and makes many wrong assumptions, but for all that, the story itself is one of hope and redemption and the climax and denouement are both satisfying and bittersweet.

Readers will be left wanting more (moar!) of Valdron’s world and more of his surprisingly complex protagonist.

I lurved The Mermaid’s Tale.

My rating:

Five out of five stars. I did say lurve, didn’t I?

About the author:DGValdron

Den Valdron, is a reclusive writer, originally from New Brunswick, currently living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Over the years, he has published in print and online a variety of short stories of speculative fiction, and articles on obscure pop culture topics.

Like many writers, his previous occupations have included mechanic, carpenter, schoolteacher, journalist and ditch-digger. He is currently an aboriginal rights lawyer.

He loves B-movies and tries to be nice to people. The Mermaid’s Tale is his first published novel.

You can connect with Den on Facebook.

Review of DIYMFA by Gabriela Pereira: What it should have been but never was

What Amazon says:

DIYMFACoverGet the Knowledge Without the College!

You are a writer. You dream of sharing your words with the world, and you’re willing to put in the hard work to achieve success. You may have even considered earning your MFA, but for whatever reason–tuition costs, the time commitment, or other responsibilities–you’ve never been able to do it. Or maybe you’ve been looking for a self-guided approach so you don’t have to go back to school.

This book is for you.

DIY MFA is the do-it-yourself alternative to a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. By combining the three main components of a traditional MFA–writing, reading, and community–it teaches you how to craft compelling stories, engage your readers, and publish your work.

Inside you’ll learn how to:

  • Set customized goals for writing and learning.
  • Generate ideas on demand.
  • Outline your book from beginning to end.
  • Breathe life into your characters.
  • Master point of view, voice, dialogue, and more.
  • Read with a “writer’s eye” to emulate the techniques of others.
  • Network like a pro, get the most out of writing workshops, and submit your work successfully.

Writing belongs to everyone–not only those who earn a degree. With DIY MFA, you can take charge of your writing, produce high-quality work, get published, and build a writing career.

My thoughts:

Gabriela Pereira was compelled to create DIYMFA, the website, community, course, podcast, and now book, after her disappointing experience with her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program.

Like Gabriela, I went the route of the Master’s degree, believing that I needed the validation. It was the lie I believed, and it almost ended my writing career before it began.

DIYMFA is what the MFA program should be (or should aspire to be) but never was.

Most MFA programs centre on critique—without teaching the students what it takes to offer and receive constructive feedback—and coaching/mentorship by someone who may or may not even understand their own creative process, let alone be able to articulate it, or guide their mentee to their process and best mode of creative expression without imposing some ideal of “how things should be done.”

Admittedly, MFA programs have matured and improved, but rather than focus what should be a review of an amazing guide to the writing life on an indictment of the graduate institution, I’m going to, in grand rhetorical style, return to the matter at hand (see? Academia has ruined me—ruined!).

Gabriela divides her guide into three sections: write with focus; read with purpose; and build your community.

In the first, she offers a brief, but engaging, examination of all the essential points of craft that writers must master. There is no one way to reach the destination, but a multitude of paths from which writers can choose based on their personal goals and aptitudes. Self-knowledge and self-confidence are the foundations upon which craft is built.

While the reading with purpose section is shorter than the other two, it is no less important. Gabriela emphasizes a balanced approach throughout DIYMFA. All three aspects, writing, reading, and community, are essential to creative development.

Learning to read and analyze the text, not like an academic, but like a writer, is what this second section is all about. We have to learn about craft first and begin to apply it before we can learn to recognize it in the writing of others and extract lessons from that purposeful reading that we can take back to the page.

Finally, in this brave new world of social media, how do we tackle the task of finding our audiences, reaching out to them, and building a community of writerly friends, readers, and fans?

In all aspects of DIYMFA, Gabriela has studied and learned from the best in the industry, and she unpacks these lessons in an accessible and engaging way.

One of the things I enjoyed most about DIYMFA is that Gabriela draws on her statistics background and mathematical bent to offer charts, matrices, and unique visualizations that will help readers and learners find a way into the material she presents.

And, as a self-confessed word nerd, she exercises her talent for acronyms and initialisms, creating fun mnemonics to encapsulate concepts and principles for her writerly audience.

Having sung the praises of DIYMFA as an alternative to a traditional MFA program, I must point out that Gabriela never disparages academia, in fact, traditional programs are pointed out as viable options for the aspiring writer.

What if that writer has economic, domestic, or temporal limitations, though? It is for those writers-in-progress that DIYMFA has been crafted.

DIYMFA earns my highest recommendation.

My rating:

FIVE STARS!

About the author:GabrielaPereira

Gabriela Pereira is the Instigator of DIYMFA.com, the do-it-yourself alternative to a Masters degree in writing. While undercover as an MFA student, she invented a slew of writing tools of her own and developed a new, more effective way for writers to learn their craft. She dubbed it DIY MFA and now her mission is to share it with the world. Teaching at conferences and online, Gabriela has helped hundreds of writers get the MFA experience without going to school. She also hosts DIY MFA Radio, where she recreates the MFA speaker series in podcast form.

Before becoming a writer, Gabriela has done lots of wild and nerdy things like: playing violin at Carnegie Hall, singing madrigals in full Renaissance garb, designing toys for kids ages toddler to tween, and taking applied topology and number theory “just for kicks.” Despite her varied interests, Gabriela’s main passions have always been teaching and design. Now at DIY MFA she can bring these two elements together. Her favorite thing to do is come up with new dastardly plans and innovative resources for writers.

When she’s not teaching or developing new courses, Gabriela loves to write middle grade and teen fiction, with short stories for “grown-ups” thrown in for good measure. A New Yorker born and raised, she lives in NYC with Lawyer-Hubby, Little Man, Lady Bug, and Office Cat.

Review of Jane Ann McLachlan’s The Salarian Desert Game

SalarianDesertGame

What Amazon says:

What if someone you love gambled on her life?

Games are serious business on Salaria, and the stakes are high. When Kia’s older sister, in a desperate bid to erase their family debt, loses the game and forfeits her freedom, Kia is determined to rescue her.

Disguised as a Salarian, Kia becomes Idaro in order to move freely in this dangerous new culture. When she arrives on Salaria, she learns it’s a world where a few key players control the board, and the pawns are ready to revolt. Kia joins the conflict, risking everything to save her sister. As if she doesn’t already have enough to handle, Agatha, the maddeningly calm and unpredictable Select who lives life both by-the-book and off-the-cuff shows up to help, along with handsome Norio, a strong-willed desert girl with her own agenda, and a group of Salarian teens earning their rite of passage in the treacherous desert game.

What can an interpreter and former thief possibly do in the midst of all this to keep the people she loves alive?

Edge’s video intro, by Jane Ann McLachlan:

 

 

 

My thoughts:

In my review of Jane Ann’s first Kia and Agatha novel, The Occasional Diamond Thief, I said that Kia learns the truth about herself by learning the truth about others.

This trend continues in The Salarian Desert Game.

Kia, not long returned from her adventures on Malem, is translating at The Salarian Night Games, a form of high stakes gambling, in which losers agree to indentured servitude in the Salarian crystal mines until their debt is paid.

Her sister plays, and loses, and Kia, though prevented by doing anything in the moment but protesting because of her role as translator, determines to travel to Salaria and free her sister.

As she is preparing to depart, she is summoned by the OUB, the interplanetary religious authority. Yes, she must go to Salaria, but as translator for the Select Agatha, and she is forbidden from attempting to save her sister. The mission is all. It was foreseen in a vision and cannot be denied or abandoned.

Worse, Kia will not only have to travel in disguise, but the OUB asks her to surgically erase her identity and assume that of Idaro, a half-Salarian girl who died years earlier.

When Agatha and Kia, sorry Idaro, arrive on Salaria, they are separated and everything falls apart. Alone, Idaro visits her estranged grandmother, Matriarch Ryo, and tries to figure out what she can do to find and help Agatha and get back on her mission to save her sister.

To maintain her cover, though, Idaro must join the Salarian Desert Games, a coming of age ceremony which pits fifteen year old girls against the desert of Salaria and its poisonous denizens. It’s survival of the fittest, and Idaro must survive more than the desert’s snakes and scorpions and the distrust and schemes of her fellow candidates.

The scope of this novel is on a grand societal scale, addressing racism, slavery, misandrogy (Salaria is a Matriarchy), terrorism, and the other consequences these institutionalized practices.

In discovering this alien world, Kia, and the reader, must reflect on the evils of our societies, reflected in the mirror of the novel.

When she first emerges from the surgery that will change her into Idaro, Kia hardly recognizes herself. By the end of the novel, she’s not only learned who Idaro is, but who Kia is, and how far she’s willing to go to save those she loves.

Once again, Jane Ann has written an amazing novel.

My highest recommendation.

My rating:

Five out of five stars!

About the Author:Jane Ann McLachlan

J.A. McLachlan was born in Toronto, Canada. She is the author of a short story collection, CONNECTIONS, published by Pandora Press and two College textbooks on Professional Ethics, published by Pearson-Prentice Hall. But science fiction is her first love, a genre she has been reading all her life, and Walls of Wind is her first published Science Fiction novel. Her new science fiction novel is The Occasional Diamond Thief. She is represented by Carrie Pestritto at Prospect Agency.

Robert J. Sawyer reviewed The Walls of Wind and had this to say:
“Look out, C. J. Cherryh! Step aside, Hal Clement! There’s a new master of truly alien SF, and her name is J. A. McLachlan. THE WALLS OF WIND is doubtless THE debut novel of the year.”
— Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning science fiction author

You can learn more about J. A. McLachlan and her books on her website at: http://www.janeannmclachlan.com

Connect with Jane Ann on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janeann.mclachlan

What others are saying about her:

“In ways SF readers can favorably compare with icons of the genre, such as Ursula K. Le Guin, James Tiptree Jr. and Robert J. Sawyer, WALLS OF WIND boldly weaves anthropology, psychology, drama, future history, even meteorology, into a tapestry of viewpoints and epiphanies that propel McLachlan’s characters toward a necessary and illuminating change in their collective relationship. … If you read no other “alien” authors this year, don’t miss WALLS OF WIND.”
– Bookreporter

Read the full review:
http://www.bookreporter.com/reviews/walls-of-wind-a-science-fiction-novel

“I loved it from the first page and couldn’t put it down!!”
Domenico Maniscalco

“The writing is excellent and never gets in the way of the story (which is very important to me); The characters are well drawn and believable.”
Peter Barron

“I loved the writing style of the author; her characters are diverse and very real.” Steve

Review of Walls of Wind by Jane Ann McLachlan

I actually started reading this novel in parts, as it came out earlier this year, before I received the advanced reader copy (ARC) of The Occassional Diamond Thief this past fall. The ARC took precedence, however, and as I generally don’t review anything I haven’t finished and enjoyed, this review had to wait a bit.

Yes, this is another bit of catch up 😉

The Walls of Wind

What Amazon says:

What if males and females were completely different species from each other?
WALLS OF WIND explores this question and its ramifications on a world in which males and females are two equally intelligent sentient species: Ghen and Bria. They are interdependent and reproductively symbiotic, although physically, emotionally and mentally they have little in common. Or so they believe, until their city-state is threatened by increasing internal conflict and a terrifying external predator that has invaded the forests just beyond their walls. A handful of Ghen and Bria struggle desperately to find a solution before their civilization is destroyed.

WALLS OF WIND combines anthropological speculation with the tragedy, suspense and triumph of individual characters who struggle to overcome external threats as well as their own internal fears and prejudices.

My thoughts:

When I started reading The Walls of Wind, I was immediately reminded of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness, which presented an alien race with distinct gender and reproductive attributes.

McLachlan goes further, technically eliminating gender, but biologically linking two species. The unique circumstances of this biology define McLachlan’s world of Wind and form the heart of her story.

Bria and Ghen are very different, and very aware of their differences. One of the walls on Wind that must be broken down is the prejudice that exists between these two quintessentially linked species.

This is where McLachlan’s novel became reminiscent of Sherri S. Tepper for me. Tepper often explores the stratification of human society as it encounters alien worlds and species, or the post-apocalyptic changes that humanity undergoes, usually in terms of divisions along gender lines.

The dynamics between the Bria and the Ghen struck me as similar, but because the two species are effectively gender neutral, McLachlan is able to offer the reader a fresh perspective on the old challenges of equality and compassion.

A terrible secret is another of the walls of Wind that must first be revealed, and then addressed by the Bria and Ghen who have conspired—for the betterment of their peoples—to keep it hidden for generations.

There are love stories that play out through the novel, the generational stories of several families, transgressive acts by various characters that challenged species roles and capabilities, scientific discoveries, and adventures.

At every turn, the centre around which McLachlan’s story turns is the encounter with the other, whether between Bria and Ghen, Ghen and the fearsome Broghen, or Bria and Ghen society and the unknown communities of Bria and Ghen discovered elsewhere on Wind.

There is something for every reader in these pages. The novel is tremendously rewarding, and though tragic, ultimately hopeful.

My rating:

Five out of five stars. Yup. I’m a new fan. Jane Ann is amazing.

About the author:Jane Ann McLachlan

J.A. McLachlan was born in Toronto, Canada. She is the author of a short story collection, CONNECTIONS, published by Pandora Press and two College textbooks on Professional Ethics, published by Pearson-Prentice Hall. But science fiction is her first love, a genre she has been reading all her life, and The Walls of Wind is her first published Science Fiction novel. She is represented by Carrie Pestritto at Prospect Agency.

Robert J. Sawyer reviewed The Walls of Wind and had this to say:
“Look out, C. J. Cherryh! Step aside, Hal Clement! There’s a new master of truly alien SF, and her name is J.A. McLachlan. THE WALLS OF WIND is doubtless THE debut novel of the year.”
— Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning science fiction author

You can learn more about J.A. McLachlan and her books on her website at: http://www.janeannmclachlan.com

Connect with Jane Ann on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janeann.mclachlan

Review of The Occasional Diamond Thief by Jane Ann McLachlan

What Amazon says:

On his deathbed, Kia’s father discloses a secret to her alone: a magnificent and unique diamond he has been hiding for years. Fearing he stole it, she too keeps it secret. She learns it comes from the distant colonized planet of Malem, where her father caught the illness that eventually killed him. Now she is even more convinced he stole it, as it is illegal for any off-worlder to possess a Malemese diamond. When 16-yr-old Kia is training to be a translator, she is co-opted by a series of events into travelling as a translator to Malem. Using her skill in languages – and another skill she picked up after her father’s death, the skill of picking locks – she unravels the secret of the mysterious gem and learns what she must do to set things right: return the diamond to its original owner. But how will she find out who that is when no one can know that she, an off-worlder, has a Malemese diamond? And how can she bear to part with this last link to her father?
Kia is quirky, with an ironic sense of humour and a loner. Her sidekick, Agatha, is hopeless in languages and naive to the point of idiocy in Kia’s opinion, but possesses the wisdom and compassion Kia needs.

The Occasional Diamond Thief

My thoughts:

The Occasional Diamond Thief is a fabulous adventure, but it also offers thoughts and feels for readers of all ages.

In The Occasional Diamond Thief, McLachlan’s protagonist, Kia, learns the truth about herself by learning the truth about others.

Kia is the youngest of three children. Her father, a space ship’s captain and merchant, returns from a trip to another planet with the illness that eventually kills him. He is secretive and haunted, but Kia wants his love and approval.

She believes her facility with languages will accomplish this and so learns the difficult Malemese. Unfortunately, hearing the language worsens her father’s condition.

Kia is also at odds with her mother, who is strictly religious and seems to resent Kia’s connection to her husband through the language of Malem. In an attempt to protect both spouse and child, Kia’s mother forbids the speaking of Malemese in the house.

When her father dies, Kia is with him, and he commends to her an incredible diamond. Determined to solve the mystery of the gem, but escape her mother’s oppressive grief, Kia applies to become a translator. Independence is a challenge, and Kia must turn to thievery to support her life as a student.

She gets caught, and as a consequence is sent to Malem as a language teacher for the Select who assisted her in the theft. Once there, Kia must solve the mystery of the diamond, risking her life and that of the Select, uncovering a conspiracy that has its roots in the highest levels of Malemese society.

Kia believes her mother harsh, but learns that she was only trying to protect the ones she loved. Kia believes her father is a thief, but learns that it was his compassion that placed the diamond in his custody. Kia believes the Select and her order, the O.U.B. are attempting to manipulate her, but discovers that they are only trying to make it possible for Kia to right old wrongs. Kia believes the Malemese people to be cold and barbaric, but experiences their capacity to love first hand and fights to free them from a fearful legacy.

McLachlan has created a simple, but compelling universe that doesn’t strain credibility and serves as the perfect backdrop for Kia’s journey. She even weaves in a sweet love interest that proves to have his own secrets. Woven into the overall plot are mystery and thriller elements that will keep readers turning pages.

McLachlan’s novel is reminiscent of Madeline L’engle and Ursula K. LeGuin’s young adult fiction.

My highest recommendation.

My rating:

5 out of 5 stars.

Jane Ann McLachlanAbout the author:

Jane Ann McLachlan is the author of a short story collection, CONNECTIONS, published by Pandora Press, and two textbooks on Professional Ethics, published by Pearson-Prentice Hall. She has a Science Fiction novel, Walls of Wind, on Amazon under her pen name, J.A. McLachlan, and a second science fiction novel, The Occasional Diamond Thief, coming out on Dec. 2, 2014. She is a professor at Conestoga College in Kitchener, and lives with her husband and daughter in Waterloo, Ontario. Her goal is to write and publish the kind of stories you hate to finish reading.

http://www.janeannmclachlan.com/

Review of Ursa Unearthed by JL Madore

Ursa Unearthed

What Amazon says:

Mika’s life has never been normal, but it’s hers.
After being told by the Great Spirit that her destiny is to stand up for the Earth Mother’s children and “save the great species from extinction,” she buries herself in an investigative journalism career hunting down poachers and exposing illegal trade in wildlife exotics. A survivor by nature, she would rather fight injustice than maneuver the hassles and heartache of relationships.
When danger suddenly finds her unprepared, Mika’s perception of her life is shattered and she’s hurled into a realm of magic and murder she does not understand. Seduced by Bruin, the powerful warrior who saves her life, Mika is catapulted into a world where Were-creatures and Scourge assassins threaten not only her life but her heart as well.
With the boundary between worlds crumbling, Mika realizes that committing to save the great species of Weres will draw her deeper into a reality more terrifying to her than anything she’s faced before.
Trusting in love.


 

My thoughts:

I read and reviewed Blaze Ignites a year or so ago, because Jenny and I had worked together in a critique group and I was itching to find out what the finished product was like. When Jenny offered me a review copy of Ursa Unearthed, the second novel in her Scourge Survivor Series, I again jumped at the chance.

I love to see my writer friends grow and mature in their craft.

I’m happy to say I lurved Ursa Unearthed.

Jenny writes in a bare (dare I say, naked) style. Not a word is wasted. Action and hot sex propel the reader through the book. I actually finished reading it the week before last. At my reading rate, I burned through it.

My critical eye caught a few, very minor, editing gaffes, but by and large, my only critical comment on the story itself is that Mika’s “lie,” the thing that prevents her from committing to Bruin until things become so dire she has no choice, is not well developed at the outset. I occasionally found myself irritated with Jenny’s protagonist for her failure to get over her bad self, spank that inner moppet, put on her big girl panties, and deal.

Developing her trauma would have given this reader something to hang that irritation on. There would be a reason beyond being transported into a world of magic and danger to prevent her from accepting her altered circumstances.

Given that Mika is Native North American, has a spiritual connection with the Earth Mother, which grants her supernatural insights, and her main support, her grandfather, accompanies her to Haven, Mika shouldn’t have been so resistant.

Having said that, I think Ursa Unearthed is a fabulous book. The characters are otherwise well-drawn and Jenny has a knack for making you care about them.

And yes, you read that correctly earlier, there is lots of hot sex in the novel and Jenny writes this well, too. You’ll tingle in all the wrong naughty right places 😉

The story is standalone, but readers of Blaze Ignites will recognize many familiar faces in the cast. They don’t detract from Mika and Bruin’s character arcs, though. The spotlight remains where it should, on Mika and her bear.

My rating:

Four out of five stars.


 

About the author:JL Madore

JL Madore didn’t find writing so much as it found her. Waking each morning with a vivid cast of characters tangled in chaos in her head, it seemed essential to capture them on the page. With Blaze Ignites and Ursa Unearthed published and receiving rave reviews, she’s turning her attention to Watcher Untethered, an unpublished paranormal/erotic romance manuscript which just won 4th place in the Toronto Romance Writers – The Catherine. Aside from spinning tales of elves, weres, demons and fallen angels, she’s also Vice President of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region, a 300 member writing organization just outside of Toronto. http://www.jlmadore.ca/

Book review of Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris

Once again, this is a bit overdue. I finished reading the first of Roz’s NYN series last month, but my crazy life has run away with me again. I’ve had to pick and choose what I’m posting about.

First, a word about what’s coming up next weekend and how you can take part

Next weekend, on May 3, 2014, the Google Plus community @M2the5th will be holding its second online writing workshop with Roz. We’ll be starting out on Twitter with a Tweet chat and then moving to a Google Plus video call.

I posted previously on starting out with Tweet chats, for those who need a primer.

I’m not an expert with Google Plus video calls yet, but if you have a laptop with a camera and mic built in, or a desktop with an inexpensive camera and mic (I have a combo unit from Microsoft that works wonderfully) and a GooglePlus account, you can join in the fun.

All you have to do in Google Plus to prepare is download the hangout application, which doesn’t take long (depending on your connection speed). I like Google Plus for this kind of thing, because it’s user friendly and fairly intuitive. You don’t have to jump through a bunch of technical hoops to get started.

So if you want to take part, forward your name to either Lori Sailiata, or Amy Pabalan in the Twitter chat. One of them will be wrangling the hangout crowd and sending out invitations to join. Once you’ve received your invitation, simply accept, and your video feed should show up in the filmstrip section at the bottom of the hangout window.

Roz reports that she’s had to use Chrome as her browser for the best result, but I’m using Firefox and I haven’t had any difficulties yet. *seeks wood upon which to knock*

The review

What Amazon says:

Nail Your NovelNail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence

‘This book should be used as a text in writing courses’

‘There are shedloads of books on how to write novels, and a lot of them are longer and considerably less useful’

‘I wish I’d had this book a long time ago’

‘The author has a proven track record as a writer of fiction, as opposed to writers of “how to write” books’

Are you writing a novel? Do you want to make sure you finish? Will you get lost and fizzle out? Will you spend more time reading about how to write than actually getting the words down?

Most books on novel-writing will make you read hundreds of pages about character arcs, inciting incidents, heroes’ journeys. It’s great to know that – but while you’re reading about it you’re not writing your book.

And what these books don’t tell you is how to use this learning and get the job done.

Nail Your Novel is a writing buddy – and mentor – in a book.

In 10 easy steps it will tell you:
*how to shape your big idea and make a novel out of it
*how to do your research and how to use it
*how to organise your time.
*how to plot and build characters
*when you’re going to hit problems and what to do about them
*how to write on the days you don’t feel inspired
*how to reread what you’ve written and polish it.

Along the way, Thumbnail Notes give tutorials about storytelling and storycraft – strictly when you need them. The author has written nearly a dozen novels that have made it into print – and this is how she did it.

You don’t even need to read the whole book before you get started. You read a section, then do as it says. And, once you’re finally satisfied, Nail Your Novel will tell you how to sell it to publishers and agents.

You’ve dreamed of writing a novel. Don’t procrastinate with another theory book. Don’t launch in, get stuck and throw your hard work in a drawer. Nail your novel.

My thoughts:

I’ve been reading writing craft books for years. In fact, one could say that I’m a writing craft book junkie. Yes, the support group will be starting shortly.

My approach in reading these books is to adopt those parts of the writer’s process that make sense to me and my ever-evolving process. I cherry pick, experiment, and incorporate as appropriate.

I would characterize Roz’s approach as organic, that is, her plotting activities arise naturally from the journaling, research, and gestation that most writers will normally engage in as a preparation to actual writing.

Her version of plotting will appeal to the avid pantser and her “gamification,” albeit non-technological, of structuring and plot-fixing activities will motivate even the most spreadsheet-phobic of writers. Having said that, plotting-oriented, or technophile writers will also find lots of tips and tricks to adapt for their use.

The techniques in Nail Your Novel can be used not only from the inception of your novel, but the writer can also engage in the process at later stages of novel writing. Having entered into Roz’s methodology with already drafted novels, I’m working through her beat sheet activity, adapting it to my own use as I prepare for future revision.

Roz even has activities to prepare the writer for querying or self-publication, whichever path the author chooses to pursue.

I’ve also felt validated in several instances as bits and pieces of my existing process appear in slightly different forms throughout Nail Your Novel.

For all the excellent content, Nail Your Novel is also a relatively quick read, well-organized, and easy to understand. Roz gets right to the heart of the matter and encourages reading writers to get their hands dirty, metaphorically speaking.

Her writing style embodies what she asks writers to strive for: clear, informative, and entertaining. Roz doesn’t waste a word.

Roz’s book receives my highest recommendation. It’s on my virtual writer’s shelf beside Ursula K. LeGuin’s, Jane Yolen’s, Donald Maass’s, and K.M. Weiland’s craft writing books and I’m sure I’ll be referring to it often.

My rating:

5 out of 5 stars.

About the author:Roz Morris

Roz Morris has nearly two decades of experience writing novels and helping floundering authors find their way. She is a senior book doctor for a major literary consultancy in London, writes fiction under her own name and has ghostwritten bestselling fiction for high-profile writers with major publishers, including Random House, Puffin, and Mammoth.

Review of Lifeform Three by Roz Morris

I subscribe to Roz Morris’s newsletter, and when she announced that her second novel, Lifeform Three, was about to be published, and that she would pass along free ebooks for honest reviews, I jumped on the opportunity.

I am a slow reader these days, but Lifeform Three has carried me along fairly briskly, and I have to say I loved it. LOVED.

What Amazon says

Lifeform Three‘Beautifully written; meaningful; top-drawer storytelling in the tradition of Atwood and Bradbury’ League of Extraordinary Authors

Misty woods; abandoned towns; secrets in the landscape; a forbidden life by night; the scent of bygone days; a past that lies below the surface; and a door in a dream that seems to hold the answers.

Paftoo is a ‘bod’; made to serve. He is a groundsman on the last remaining countryside estate, once known as Harkaway Hall — now a theme park. Paftoo holds scattered memories of the old days, but they are regularly deleted to keep him productive.

When he starts to have dreams of the Lost Lands’ past and his cherished connection with Lifeform Three, Paftoo is propelled into a nocturnal battle to reclaim his memories, his former companions and his soul.

Includes an appendix of suggested questions for reading groups.

‘An extraordinary novel in the tradition of the great old school literary sci-fi’ – NYT bestselling author Joni Rodgers

My thoughts

Welcome to the Lost Lands of Harkaway Hall, intrepid guests! The Lost Lands is one of the last nature conservancies in the world. See life forms in their natural habitats. Like them, even name them if you wish. Our helpful bods will sing and dance for you when they’re not keeping the Lost Lands in pristine condition. Want a rainbow? Our bods will make it happen.

Roz Morris has created a wonderful fable with Lifeform Three. The protagonist is one of the aforementioned bods, or robots, but there’s something different about him.

While the other bods desire nothing more than to redo, or clean, racking up scores as if poovering (vacuuming animal waste from the lawns) was a video game, Paftoo has other likes, ones that he must keep secret.

Paftoo (all the redo bods are paf-number, and while it’s never stated in the novel, paf could be an initialism standing for personal automation form or something similar), does not shut down at night like the other redo bods. He dreams. He also has memories that fight their way back into Paftoo’s consciousness despite sharing.

Sharing is a form of bod maintenance and the other bods crave it like a drug while Paftoo fears sharing will rob him of what he holds most dear: his memories of riding a life form three, a horse, his horse, Storm.

Morris asks questions with her tale: what makes us different, unique? Does being unique mean that we can never truly be part of a community? What happens when our uniqueness is threatened? What happens if our memories are taken from us? Can enforced conformity change who we are?

There are other issues woven through the tapestry, as well: what happens if humanity’s waste of natural resources continues unchecked? What if nature becomes a commodity, a property to be bought and sold, tailored to the tastes of its users? It is said that history is written by the victors of battle, but what if those victors are corporate heads, rewriting history continually based on what will sell best?

Lifeform Three is a tasty novel, reminiscent (for me) of the works of Ursula K. le Guin, or Sherri S. Tepper.

My highest recommendation.

My rating

5 out of 5 stars.

About the authorRoz Morris

Roz Morris’s fiction has sold more than 4 million copies worldwide, although you won’t have seen her name on the covers as she ghostwrote for high-profile authors. She is now writing acclaimed fiction under her own name. She is a writer, journalist, fiction editor and the author of the Nail Your Novel series for writers. Her first novel under her real name was My Memories of a Future Life.

Book review of The Breeders by Katie Lynn French

I’d picked up The Breeders a couple of years ago when author Katie French and I were both involved in Author Salon.

She was one of the first people to leave the group and strike out on her own.

What Amazon says:

The Breeders

The Breeders

“When the Breeders come for ya, there ain’t no escape. They strap ya to a bed and all ya hear is the thud of your heart and the cries of your friends as they wheel ya down to hell. Then the doctors come. You squeeze your eyes shut and pray you can forget. But ya never do.”

Sixteen-year-old Riley Meemick is one of the world’s last free girls. When Riley was born, her mother escaped the Breeders, the group of doctors using cruel experiments to bolster the dwindling human race. Her parents do everything possible to keep her from their clutches—moving from one desolate farm after another to escape the Breeders’ long reach. The Breeders control everything- the local war lords, the remaining factories, the fuel. They have unchecked power in this lawless society. And they’re hunting Riley.

When the local Sheriff abducts the adult members of her family and hands her mother over to the Breeders, Riley and her eight-year-old brother, Ethan, hiding in a shelter, are left to starve. Then Clay arrives, the handsome gunslinger who seems determined to help to make up for past sins. The problem is Clay thinks Riley is a bender—a genderless mutation, neither male nor female. As Riley’s affection for Clay grows she wonders can she trust Clay with her secret and risk her freedom?

The three embark on a journey across the scarred remains of New Mexico—escaping the Riders who use human sacrifice to appease their Good Mother, various men scrambling for luck, and a deranged lone survivor of a plague. When Riley is forced into the Breeder’s hospital, she learns the horrible fate of her mother—a fate she’ll share unless she can find a way out.

My thoughts:

The novel opens in medias res, and the reader experiences first hand the dangerous world into which Riley has been born.

Her family’s farm is under attack and Riley must hide away in a storm cellar to avoid capture. The men responsible for the attack are armed and outnumber the farm’s defenders. If they get their hands on any of the women who could give birth to a healthy child, they’ll be sold to the Breeders.

Riley doesn’t really know who the Breeders are or what they’re capable of, but she believes the stories of her mother and auntie, and lives in constant fear for her safety and liberty.

A series of unfortunate events leads to the death of her step-father, Arn, who protected the family from the ravages of desperate men.

French keeps the pacing fast and the action fresh, rarely letting up on the throttle. The sense of danger established in the opening scene never lets up, even after the denouement, preparing the reader for the sequel.

The romantic subplot is deftly handled and the author offers some refreshing twists that pit Riley’s conflicting needs against one another.

The only dissatisfying bit was one character’s changing allegiance. While French is careful to plant the seeds of dissention in the good doctor’s speech and actions, the indications that he disagrees with his rich and powerful employer aren’t enough to make his sudden departure and support of Riley convincing.

His weasel-like behaviour only makes me think that he will betray Riley, and I found myself disappointed that Riley didn’t give any indication she sees it coming.

The Breeders is an excellent first novel and I’ve already purchased French’s second book, The Believers.

This YA dystopian paints a picture of scientific advancement gone wrong and its unexpected consequences. In a future in which boy babies far outnumber the girls, a working uterus becomes a treasure beyond value and a commodity worth killing for.

The “haves” are those that control the breeding program. Everyone else is a “have not” living in a wild-west world of testosterone-fuelled posturing and perpetual gang wars where women and children become both the ultimate victims and the ultimate heroes.

My rating:

4 out of 5 stars.

Coming up on Writerly Goodness:

An update on my television addiction and whether the series I’ve started to watch have offered any gems of Writerly Goodness; an update on the Sudbury Writers’ Guild critique sessions and other SWG changes; more book reviews and author interviews; a discussion of what I learned from the facilitating virtual classes course I’m taking; a monthly next chapter update on the writing biz, and any other things apropos of nothing as they occur 😉

Review of Scott Overton’s Dead Air

This review is considerably overdue.  My apologies, Scott.

The Amazon blurb:

dead airWhen radio morning host Lee Garrett finds a death threat on his control console, he shrugs it off as a prank—until a series of minor harassments turns into a set of undeniable attempts on his life. The suspects are many—he’s made enemies—and the police are strangely uncooperative. The radio career he loved has turned sour, leaving behind a dwindling audience and the wreckage of his marriage. Then the friendship of a newly blind boy and the boy’s attentive (and attractive) teacher offer unexpected hope. Maybe he can make a fresh start. Maybe he can admit that he’s the source of a lot of his own problems. But when the deadliest assault yet claims an innocent victim, Garrett knows he has no choice—he has to find his persecutors and force a confrontation. The extraordinary outcome will test the limits of an ordinary man. In Dead Air career broadcaster Scott Overton creates the disturbing scenario of an ordinary man whose life is threatened by an unknown enemy.

My thoughts:

I wasn’t in love with the character of Lee Garrett. In fact, I didn’t like him much at all, but that’s exactly the way it had to be for Dead Air to be a successful thriller.

Lee Garrett has made enemies over the years, enough to fill a room with the usual suspects, and his wife left him, taking their two children.  She’s making a new life for herself while Garrett’s disillusioned and jaded and not a bit depressed.  He’s a bit of a schmuck, steeped in a good dose of self-sorrow.  Not an attractive package.

Garrett has his redeeming qualities, though.  The reasons he’s made all those enemies is because he generally tried to do the right thing and exposed their varied douchebaggery in the process.  He’s still in love with his wife, and the friends he has are the dependable kind that come through when the going gets tough.

Then he makes friends with Paul, a boy who recently lost his sight, and Candace, his CNIB counsellor.  As the relationship develops, Garrett learns a lot about himself, and how he is the author of his own misery.

He also makes a staunch ally by virtue of an act of kindness.  He even wins over the detective assigned to his case despite having been black-listed for ruining another officer’s career.

By the time Garrett exposes that act that haunts his life and underpins many of his poor decisions, I realized I liked Garrett, despite his not inconsiderable flaws.  I could even think of him as Lee 🙂

Dead Air is a novel about hard-won redemption and a fascinating character study as well as being a thriller with enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing until the end.

My rating:

4.5 stars out of 5

About the Author:Scott Overton colour high res

Scott Overton hosts a radio morning show on Rewind 103.9 in Sudbury, Ontario. As a broadcaster for more than thirty years (twenty-four of them as a morning man), he knows the world he writes about in Dead Air.

To most readers, morning radio is as much a part of their breakfast routine as a hot cup of coffee. On the air, Scott has become a friend to thousands as he entertains and informs. He brings those same instincts to his writing, with clear prose and honest feelings.

His short fiction has been published in On Spec, Neo-opsis, and anthologies such as Tesseracts Sixteen, Canadian Tales of the Fantastic, and In Poe’s Shadow. He’s also a regular contributor of theatre reviews for a local newspaper.

His other passions include scuba diving and a couple of classic cars.