Tuesday, February 13, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Love and Entropy: A Hollywood Lights Novella / Katie Rose Guest Pryal

TITLE: Love and Entropy: A Hollywood Lights Novella 
AUTHOR: Katie Rose Guest Pryal
PUBLISHER: Blue Crow Books
PURCHASE LINK: Amazon


GENRE

Women's Fiction

REVIEW

LOVE AND ENTROPY is the prequel novella to ENTANGLEMENT, Katie Rose Guest Pryal’s novel about two young women searching for new beginnings in 1990s LA. I read Entanglement a little while back and really enjoyed the story of Daphne, a charismatic fashionista with a dark past, and Greta, an awkward physics nerd, so I was excited to read the story of how the two became best friends in the first place.

In LOVE AND ENTROPY, both Daphne and Greta are students at a top-notch school. But whereas Daphne is a social butterfly with a frat-boy boyfriend, Greta is an isolated geek who’s more comfortable with numbers than people. Yet when Daphne meets Greta, she feels an instant friend connection. And when Daphne’s boyfriend suggests setting Greta up with a frat brother, Daphne sees it as an opportunity to help Greta come out of her shell. But it turns out that Daphne’s boyfriend has ulterior motives – one that could shatter the budding friendship before it begins.

I loved that LOVE AND ENTROPY tells the story of a strong female friendship. There’s no pitting women against women, no stereotypical mean girls or anything. Just two young women who support each other (that’s part of what I loved about ENTANGLEMENT too). In a way, LOVE AND ENTROPY is a romance – two dissimilar people meet, experience a mutual (friend) attraction, hit some rough patches, but deal with them and have a happily ever after. A friend-romance, if you will. It’s quick, delightful read, full of fun and feels.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katie is a novelist, freelance journalist, and erstwhile law professor in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is the author of the Hollywood Lights Series, which includes ENTANGLEMENT, LOVE AND ENTROPY, CHASING CHAOS, and HOW TO STAY all from BLUE CROW BOOKS. With Raven Books, she is the author of LIFE OF THE MIND INTERRUPTED: Essays on Mental Health and Disability in Higher Education (2017).

As a journalist, Katie contributes to QUARTZ, THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, THE (late, lamented) TOAST, DAME MAGAZINE and other national venues. She earned her master’s degree in creative writing from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, where she attended on a fellowship. Katie has published many books on writing, including HOW WRITING WORKS with Oxford University Press. A professor of writing for more than a decade, she now teaches creative writing through Duke University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and works as a writing coach and developmental editor when she’s not writing her next book.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Farpoint Schedule!

Hey everyone! I'm heading to Farpoint this weekend! I missed last year's convention because I was in Peru... it'll be good to be back :-D. Below is my panel schedule.

Friday

10PM
Book Fair


Saturday

2PM
Artists and the Never-Ending Cycle of Social Media

3PM
Creating Memorable Characters

4PM
Crazy 8 Press Panel

7PM
Lady Versions: Representation, Gender-Bending, and Backlash

Friday, January 26, 2018

Kraken Friends Sale & Interview with author Claudie Arseneault

Guess what? The Kraken Collective, an alliance of indie authors of LGBTQIAP+ fcition, along with several of their author buddiens (including myself) is currently running a sale on several of their titles as part of the Kraken Friends Sale! And as part of the event, we've created a personality quiz so you can see which queer sci-fi/fantasy hero you are. 

One of the participating authors is Claudie Arseneault, an asexual and aromantic-spectrum writer hailing from the very-French Québec City. Claudie is best known for the Aromantic and Asexual Characters Database and for her body of work, which features several ace and aro characters. She has written both science-fiction (Viral Airwaves) and fantasy (the City of Spires trilogy) and edited an anthology of amazing solarpunk dragon stories (Wings of Renewal).

I had the pleasure of interviewing Claudie about her writing background and her book, City of Strife. Check it out:


 

Hi Claudie! Can you tell us about your background as an author? What got you into writing?

Dungeon and dragons roleplaying on internet forums, then direct messages. I was always fairly good at writing, but that’s how I started storytelling. I built my own worlds, created characters, lead players through storylines. And I loved it. I loved provoking joy and sadness and frustration as they navigated my plans, I loved finding the right words to convey what I wanted, I loved all the background preparations and plotting… it was really fulfilling.

I loved, also, that I got to play and work in the Forgotten Realms, an universe I had spent so many hours in as a reader in my youth (I only started DnD at 17). Eventually I had one-on-one RP sessions with a boy from the UK, and I had built a massive storyline for him—an entire world that fit into a single city, Iriaebor—the very first roots of Isandor.

We played so much—up to five times a week, hours at a time, over a handful of years. But DnD sessions focus on the player character, and with time I grew frustrated that we didn’t have any of the cool scenes that happened out of his sight. So I wrote them down. That, too, was fun. The next year, I was participating in NaNoWriMo with a novel-length idea. That was in 2008, and I am still writing to this day.

What was the first idea you had for City of Strife, and how did the story grow from there?

So I’ve already mentioned this was part of a DnD setting. Long after I had stopped playing that particular game, I would RP these characters with other friends, in a wide variety of universes (Avatar AU, Steampunk AU, Sci-fi AU, three different fantasy AU… name it, we tried it). Through these, I explored multiple different storylines with my cast, from the darkest to the fluffiest, from teenagers to full-grown adults, and also had the opportunity to explore gender and sexuality, too.

City of Spires happened because in the end, these characters had no ‘canon’, I was struggling with writing Viral Airwaves, and wanted something familiar and low stress. I did not mean to publish it necessarily. I just wanted to write down a more official version, to play with them again, to have funwith writing. So I cobbled together some of my favourite storylines from our RPs, linking arcs from totally different universes, trying out new ones, and Isandor was born!

For those curious, here are some examples of changes and resemblances.
  • Arathiel was always part of House Brasten and always gone for decades, after being in a magical trap, but this Well and its impact on his senses are unique to this story.
  • Nevian was always a grumpy stickler for rules, but most of the storylines were of him as an adult who had not escaped Avenazar until much later. We did one with Teenage Nevian where he did, and had a support group to boot, and I never looked back.
  • Hasryan’s storyline with Brune is always the same, but his support group changes depending on the AU, and City of Strife is the only one he meets Camilla.
  • Sora is entirely new! She is loosely based on another character, but very loosely.
  • I usually started Larryn’s story before he lost his foster father and had him built the Shelter. I decided to skip ahead to the already slightly more responsible Larryn, and to build from there.

Anyway, if you’re curious about this, it’s the kind of thing I’m happy to discuss with patrons!

Can you tell us a bit about your character Nevian?

I like to call Nevian my Stubborn Son. Determination and resilience are key characteristics for him. Nevian is the kind of person who works relentlessly, no matter what that means for his health or social life, because it’s the only way he sees to get what he wants. And for most of his life, that was fairly true, so he’s also grown convinced that he’s always right and Logic ™ will never fail him. He can be quite overbearing with that, and he doesn’t bother to be nice if he thinks it’s safe to speak his mind.

Although only 18, Nevian likes to act like a grown adult—and he’s been through enough that he’s lost a lot of innoncence. He’s extremely confident in himself but dislikes receiving help, making him very bad at asking for it or working with others. It just has never worked out for him before, so why would it now?

What’s your favorite Nevian moment in the story?

Oh, that’s such a difficult one. There are a lot of tiny lines I love from Nevian, subtle instances where he demonstrates both lack of tact, stubbornness, and a tendency to be quite literal. Like when he gets told by a child she can do something “faster than he can say ‘magic’” so of course, he says “Magic” and considers the matter closed. Or when another tries to drag him outside, and he negotiates his coming along in exchange of two weeks of being left alone so he can study his magic. Nevian’s very driven, but often only towards one specific goal: magic.

In general, scenes in the second book are my favourites, because Nevian can slowly let his guard down and befriend people. He gets to grow in a positive manner. There is also a scene coming in the next book (the third one, City of Exile) where he is absolutely lovesick, and this puzzles him greatly, and he’s not sure how to deal with himself because he’s never experienced romantic love before. It’s not something I ever wrote with this character, and it leads to a scene where an aromantic character gives him a book about asexuality and aromanticism and tells him he maybe should look it up. It was so important for me to give Nevian tools for his questioning that fit with him—a book, personal space, time to analyze. Those scenes will be incredibly important.

If Nevian were to suddenly hop through a dimensional portal and wind up in our 2018 world, how would he react?

He would freak out at everything, and then he would get incredibly excited at technology and try to figure out the magic that makes it work. In most modern/SF AUs I’ve had Nevian in, he was a space person, and loved astronomy in all its forms.

I think if you took the City of Strife Nevian and flung him into modern world, though, he would fall in love with programming. It definitely would take him time to adapt, however. Nevian is hard-working and stubborn, but he is not flexible by nature, and the brutal change would leave him reeling for quite a while.

What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?

Dialogue, without question. This is also usually how I build scenes—around dialogues. It’s the source of inspiration for me, the thing from which everything else flows, and I love writing banter.

The only thing that can top finding the perfect line is that moment in plotting when everything clicks together. Sometimes you’re stuck on how to fit storylines together, or how to build a satisfying storyarc, and you get this idea that kind of solves several problems at once while supporting your themes and fitting right into the rest of the plot, making everything better and stronger? The moment when you get those ideas and make them fit are so exciting, like having the perfect piece of puzzle take shape right in front of your eyes. I love that.

How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?

I write books over several years, but that’s usually because I have a rotation between projects? I tend to work on something for one to three months at a time, usually going through a draft or a round of revisions, then send it to betas/editors/let it rest and switch to another project. Then I’ll come back to it ~2 months later, put in another 1-2 months, send it back again… and the cycle goes on.

Usually I need a first draft (aka the messy bits where I tell myself a story and keep deviating from plan and powering through to the end), a second draft (aka I read the thing after a while and tried to fix everything terribly wrong with it before outside eyes see it), a third draft (aka let’s now fix everything I missed but that betas and SRs found, then line-edit the heck out of it), and a final version that goes after copyedits. Add in marketing and other business-related things, and if you string the months back to back, it makes around a year of work? Usually it is spread out over a little more than two years, and some novels need more drafts than others.

What is it about the fantasy genre that appeals to you?

The endless possibilities, I think, and how frequent alternate worlds are. I don’t tend to write in Earth settings much, and fantasy frees me from that. It’s like having a playground where you can make your own rules, and not even follow those of physics!

Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns?

All the time. I sometimes see people say that when they plan, they feel like the story doesn’t hold any surprises for them anymore, and it used to confuse me because that… isn’t my writer life at all. I deviate from my plans all the time, and always it’s to go in new and more interesting directions. Then there’s all the unexpected precious lines of narration or dialogue that pop up and shine. Even with Isandor and characters I’ve known for 10 years, I still get surprises. Stories evolve with you, after all.

Thanks for stopping by!

City of Strife is the first installment of the City of Spires trilogy, a multi-layered political fantasy led by an all QUILTBAG cast. Fans of complex storylines crisscrossing one another, elves and magic, and strong friendships and found families will find everything they need within these pages.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Isandor, City of Spires.

A hundred and thirty years have passed since Arathiel last set foot in his home city. Isandor hasn’t changed—bickering merchant families still vie for power through eccentric shows of wealth—but he has. His family is long dead, a magical trap has dulled his senses, and he returns seeking a sense of belonging now long lost.

Arathiel hides in the Lower City, piecing together a new life among in a shelter dedicated to the homeless and the poor, befriending an uncommon trio: the Shelter’s rageful owner, Larryn, his dark elven friend Hasryan, and Cal the cheese-loving halfling. When Hasryan is accused of Isandor’s most infamous assassination of the last decade, what little peace Arathiel has managed to find for himself is shattered. Hasryan is innocent… he thinks. In order to save him, Arathiel may have to shatter the shreds of home he’d managed to build for himself.

Arathiel could appeal to the Dathirii—a noble elven family who knew him before he disappeared—but he would have to stop hiding, and they have battles of their own to fight. The idealistic Lord Dathirii is waging a battle of honour and justice against the cruel Myrian Empire, objecting to their slavery, their magics, and inhumane treatment of their apprentices. One he could win, if only he could convince Isandor’s rulers to stop courting Myrian’s favours for profit.

In the ripples that follow Diel’s opposition, friendships shatter and alliances crumble. Arathiel, the Dathirii, and everyone in Isandor fights to preserve their homes, even if the struggle changes them irrevocably.

Main LGBTQIAP rep: Aromantic, asexual, gay, bisexual.

Support rep:
More aromantic, asexual, bisexual, gay, in addition to lesbian, transgender, nonbinary. Overall cast includes several characters of colour.

Trigger warnings: Abuse (physical, emotional, mind control — seriously, if depictions of abuse trigger you, please be very careful when approaching this novel/avoid it.), torture, homelessness, child abandonment, police brutality, racism, family death, memory loss, death by fire (mention) and hanging.








Wednesday, January 10, 2018

COVER REVEAL: Magic at Midnight: A YA Fairy Tale Anthology

Hey everyone! I'm thrilled to reveal the cover for Snowy Wings Publishing's first collective anthology, Magic at Midnight! It's a collection of YA fairy tale retellings featuring 14 Snowy Wings authors, including myself, plus a guest author, and edited by members Lyssa Chiavari and Amy McNulty. We'll all be reinterpreting different fairy tales, including Rapunzel, The Little Mermaid, Tam-Lin, Sleeping Beauty...

As for me, I claimed The Nightingale. It's been one of my favorites since I was a kid, though it's lesser known (and lesser done) than some. The story is about a plain brown nightingale whose songs enchant a Chinese emperor (the story was written by Hans Christian Andersen). One day, the emperor is gifted a beautiful, jeweled mechanical nightingale and forgets about the plain bird. But when the emperor falls ill and seeks the comfort of the mechanical nightingale's music, the machine breaks. The live nightingale returns to comfort him. 

This story has so many elements I love... the tension between the "real" and the mechanical, and, of course, music. For my retelling, I automatically thought, "well, what if the nightingale were an opera singer instead of a bird?" And then I did a little background research and found out that Andersen wrote the story as an ode to opera singer Jenny Lind (yes, that Jenny Lind who was so poorly portrayed in The Greatest Showman), who was known as the Swedish Nightingale. Which made things extra cool.

My version will take place on an alien planet... with a teen empress as the main character, a charming young tenor as the nightingale, and an AI singer as the mechanical bird. Except this isn't going to go the way you think... One of the most fun parts about retellings is getting to flip the established story on its head (like how Once Upon A Time made Peter Pan into a villain and had Red Riding Hood as a shapeshifter who transforms into the Wolf). I've been wanting to write this story for ages, so when Lyssa proposed the Snowy Wings anthology, I was like, "I have just the thing!"

Anyway, this was supposed to be a cover reveal post! Thanks for bearing with me... and now, here's the cover, which was designed by KimG Design (www.kimg-design.com, @kimgdesign on Instagram, @who_is_kimy on Twitter). Isn't it gorgeous???

37799951

Once upon a time is eternal…

Turn the pages and fall into the enchanting worlds of beloved, age-old fairy tales made new again in this fifteen-story collection from Snowy Wings Publishing.

A girl with long, long hair is trapped in an attic, ensnared by promises of immortality, the radio her only companion. An android wants to believe in her life, that the feelings she has are real—and that she might be just as beautiful as her famous stepsister. A gamer must save her true love from the mysterious, dark entity that has ensnared him in their MMORPG. A modern teen is lured to the fantastical Land of the Dolls, and only her own cunning can help her escape. These are just a few of the bewitching tales found within Magic at Midnight

From sci-fi to fantasy, contemporary to historical, paranormal and more, there’s a fairy tale retelling in this collection for every reader. Featuring stories from bestselling and award-winning YA authors as well as emerging voices, this anthology will take you to distant worlds and back again—all just familiar enough to make you feel at home.

COMING MAY 29! 


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

COVER REVEAL: Cinders Dance / Alicia Gaile

Today I'm helping reveal the cover for the second book in the Faery Trials series, Cinders Dance by Alicia Gaile! The cover was designed by Olivia Pro Design. Are you ready to see the cover? Check it out below!

 
Resigned to a lifetime in Faerie to protect the people he loves, Jack Sorley faces monsters of every shape and size. Shifters, goblins, and a living nightmare with a grudge lurk in the Ash Court plotting to corrupt him into serving their own schemes and designs. But when his friends lead a rescue mission that goes terribly wrong, Jack must journey deep into the courts of Faerie to lift a terrible curse. Meanwhile, viral footage leaked from Sheriff Doyle’s party reveals to the public that faeries are real. Armed with nothing but children’s stories, a new group of ‘fairy experts’ spread misconceptions and false information that puts everyone at risk. Between those who think faeries are harmless and the people scared enough to launch a preemptive attack, it’s only a matter of time before disaster strikes. Hailed as heroes by some and traitors by others, the Sorleys must come out of hiding if they want to protect the human race from itself. As the war in Faerie intensifies between the Solitary Fae and the Gentry, mankind faces annihilation if the wrong faction wins. Can Jack convince Queen Credeilia she still has a reason to fight before she hands over her crown at midnight during the Vernal Feriae Ball and tips the balance of power out of control for all time?
Title: Cinders Dance (Book Two of The Faery Trials Series)
Author: Alicia Gaile
Release Date: March 13, 2018
Publisher: Snowy Wings Publishing

Cinders Dance is available for preorder now! You can also add it on Goodreads here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Water Into Wine / Joyce Chng

TITLE: Water Into Wine
AUTHOR: Joyce Chng
PUBLISHER: Annorlunda Books
PURCHASE LINK: Amazon




GENRE
Science Fiction

REVIEW
Water Into Wine tells the story of Xin, who cultivates an inherited vineyard in the shadow of an interplanetary war. Though the violence is never far, Xin tries to focus on cultivating a life and taking care of their family. It's a story of survival and self-discovery set against a sci-fi backdrop. Narrated in Xin's contemplative voice and written in spare, poetic prose, Water Into Wine is a haunting and atmospheric novella, so mesmerizing that I wound up reading the whole thing in a single day.

Xin is a complex character whose emotions and experiences feel as real on the page as picking up someone's diary. Though the story's set in the far future and on a distant planet, Xin's Southeast Asian roots and culture continue to play an important role in their life... from everyday things like food and names to matters of greater spiritual significance. Language, holidays, and beliefs from Xin's ancestors are all alive and well in their life. It's a wonderful and immersive take on sci-fi, and I was utterly drawn in from the beginning.

This is one of those books that's hard to review because there's so much to it, and I feel like my descriptive abilities aren't up to doing it justice. Every attempt to talk about what I liked and such feels like I'm reducing it to some simplified version. So I'll leave it here and settle for saying that this is a gorgeously written and hypnotic book, and that I highly recommend it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in Singapore but a global citizen, Joyce Chng writes mainly science fiction and YA. She likes steampunk and tales of transformation/transfiguration. Her fiction has appeared in Crossed Genres, The Apex Book of World SF II, We See A Different Frontier, Cranky Ladies of History, and Accessing The Future. Her YA science fiction trilogy is published by Singapore publisher, Math Paper Press. She can be found at A Wolf’s Tale (awolfstale.wordpress.com).

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Archangel Errant (Earthbound Angels, #3) / Elizabeth Corrigan

Title: Archangel Errant (Earthbound Angels, #3)
Author: Elizabeth Corrigan
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Purchase link: Amazon

GENRE
Urban Fantasy

REVIEW
Full disclosure: Elizabeth and I share a publisher (Red Adept Publishing, which published my Jane Colt trilogy). I bought this book on Kindle with my own dang money, and neither Elizabeth nor Red Adept asked me to leave this review, which reflects my opinion as a reader.

I've been a fan of the Earthbound Angels series since Book 1 (Oracle of Philadelphia), which introduced us to a world of angels and demons in the modern-day world. Now, in Book 3, we get a glimpse of this world's version of Heaven.

Before I go on, I just want to say that this series is very much A SERIES, as in it only really makes sense if you start from the beginning and read in order (no, you can't just pick up Book 3 and jump right in... you gotta read the set up!). So if you haven't read Oracle of Philadelphia (Book 1) or Raising Chaos (Book 2) yet, get outta here and go check 'em out! Because the rest of this review will probably spoil their plots.

In Archangel Errant, the archangel Gabriel has returned to Heaven after spending two thousand years on Earth, doing what good he can in the mortal world. So has the Bedlam who, after millennia spent as a chaos demon for rebelling against Heaven, has regained angel status (but is still quite chaotic). The rest of Heaven is not happy about this, so when a mysterious attack traps the angels in their own nightmares, he's the prime suspect. But Gabriel believes in Bedlam's innocence (in this matter, anyway) and sets out to wake the angels and find the real culprit.

Archangel Errant is an imaginative retelling of Biblical mythology (I'm atheist, so it's all mythology to me) that depicts the angels as being as flawed and fallible as the humans they're meant to preside over. Which makes them really interesting to read about. Retelling Biblical stories from an alternate angle has become an important element of all the Earthbound Angels books, and Archangel Errant delves into that once more. It also expands the Earthbound Angels world by going deeper into the world of the angels (so far, we've had a good look at Hell and at how the angels have interacted with Earth, but this is our first real foray into their realm).

My favorite part of the book, though, was getting to know the archangel Michael, who up until now has been portrayed as something of a sanctimonious jerk. Archangel Errant has several chapters from his POV as he seeks the Oracle (Carrie/Khet/Cassia/Cama... she's gone by many names by this point), who he's always seen as an abomination because her powers were granted by Lucifer. Because the last two books were told from the POV of the Oracle and her best friend (Bedlam), all we saw was how jerk-ish Michael could be. Now, we get to know what's going on in his head, offering a completely different perspective on his actions. It's a fascinating character development, and it opens the door for much more interesting character interactions to come (according to the author, there are several more sequels planned to this saga).

With its imaginative storytelling and expansive world-building, Archanel Errant is a fantastic addition to the Earthbound Angels saga, and I can't wait to read on when Book 4 comes out! (But don't worry, there's no cliffhanger!)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elizabeth Corrigan has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. When she’s not hard at work on her next novel, Elizabeth enjoys singing, reading teen vampire novels, and making Sims of her characters.


She drinks more Diet Coke than is probably optimal for the human body and is pathologically afraid of bees. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a purple Smart Car.