Saturday, December 3, 2016

Taste the Book: SU-MA


 Starting today, a new feature: 

TASTE THE BOOK

Whenever a new book comes out, the whole month will feature samples, bits and pieces from the pages to whet your appetite. 

Today starts the taste tests for SU-MA, Quarry Hall Book Ten, from Desert Breeze Publishing: 


"What is it?" Su-Ma stepped around him, to see what had caught his attention on the table. Just kitchen items. Mismatched plates, stock pots, dutch ovens. She was about to make a joke about someone having cleaned out a restaurant kitchen, but George reached out a visibly trembling hand and slowly wrapped his fingers around the handle of an electric teakettle. There were a number of electric appliances, such as three waffle irons, four Foreman grills, an electric skillet just like the one her grandmother had loved -- more than she ever loved Su-Ma -- and two blenders. She wondered what about the teakettle bothered him.

"This is -- no, it isn't the one -- but it's just like the one." George closed his eyes and made a visible effort to let go, but his fingers wouldn't quite unclench enough.

Shuddering, trying not to, Su-Ma inserted her fingers between his and the kettle handle, releasing his hand. She glanced around. No one seemed to notice. Sliding her arm around his waist and grasping his arm pressed between them, she led George away. There was nowhere to sit, unless she took him inside to the food court. If he collapsed on her, would she be able to get him inside?

"I'm okay," George said, his voice just raspy enough she couldn't believe him. He patted her hand. "Snow would laugh. He'd call me a crazy old soft-hearted weakling."

"Snow is dead," she insisted with more sharpness than she intended.

"The old man is dead," he crooned, his voice cracking but managing to hit half the notes of the song they had sung in church two weeks ago. "Long live the new creature."

"George--"

"I'm okay, honey." He squeezed her hand and hauled himself straight with a shudder. "Did Anne ever tell you what I did to her?"

"What Snow did to her, not you," she insisted. They stepped under the shade of the produce awning and wove their way between shoppers, aiming for the doors to get them indoors.

"You're a good girl. Maybe a little stupid, being so loyal." A cracked chuckle escaped when his words wrung a squeak from her.

"You're punishing yourself, and you shouldn't. You're not Snow. God killed him."

"Shadow killed Snow," he muttered, his mouth flattening, eyes half-lidded, and his voice going cold, just for those few seconds. Just long enough for Su-Ma to glimpse the evil man he had been.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The War Room

November 30.

National Novel Writing Month is officially over as of midnight.

WHEW! So glad I made it. I crossed the 50K goal mark about 2 weeks ago, and last week I registered my work-in-progress book, "Growing Up Neighborlee Book 2" as a winner. Which is a good thing because my life got really complicated and hectic the last few days.

Then this morning I decided that 13K words of "Growing 2" didn't belong. OUCH! Surgery, even if it's in the 1st draft of a book, is painful! Well, I decided the subject matter and how the heroine handled the problem, and the timing of how the problem unfolded .... well, it needs to be handled later in her lifetime, later in her storyline/character development arch. Like 3 books further down the line.

Anyway, GROWING UP NEIGHBORLEE, the 1st book in the series featuring the life and adventures of Lanie Zephyr, Neighborlee's resident comedienne, will come out from Uncial Press April 2017. We don't have a release date for Book 2, the one I'm working on right now, but I would hazard a guess on it coming out in April 2018. So in 2019, start looking for the LIVING PROOF books, some of which have already been rough drafted, featuring Lanie and her semi-pseudo-superhero friends in action, and dovetailing into the timeline of Neighborlee, Ohio books that have already been published. Yeah, didn't know you'd be time traveling with these stories, did you?

TOMORROW, Thursday, December 1:
A New Book!
SU-MA
Quarry Hall Book Ten
From Desert Breeze Publishing.

Still suffering from the death of her companion dog, Su-Ma's mental state affects her body, confining her to a wheelchair. Looking at life from doorknob level changes her perspective. Despite self-doubts, she accepts a touchy, crucial assignment.

Haley is being used to infiltrate Arc. Su-Ma must mentor her and keep her from betraying them all. They play "God's 2X4" for each other, and work past old hurts and pride. Su-Ma lands in the unaccustomed role of counselor when Haley discovers the depths of the betrayal and manipulation, setting her up to destroy Quarry Hall from within.

As the enemy's plan unfolds, Su-Ma regains her spiritual, then physical feet. She surprises herself when she stands up against attack, defending her home and family. Encouraged, she takes her first steps on a new path in life.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: HEARTLESS,by Marissa Meyer

Everybody knows Marissa Meyer for her Lunar Chronicles. I first heard about them -- at least where the title and the concept of the stories stuck in my head -- at the Realm Makers conference when Kathy Tyers (Firebird series) gave the opening lines of CINDER as an example of a great hook, to pull readers into the story and the story world.

CINDER, SCARLET, CRESS and the other books in the Lunar Chronicles retell classic faerie tales in an SF setting. For instance, CINDER is the story of Cinderella, but the heroine is a cyborg and the glass slipper is her mechanical foot ... go read it for yourself. I'm still waiting to read the first 3 books in the Lunar Chronicles. Yeah, I keep saying I'm not going to buy more new books until I've made a massive dent -- more like a crater -- in my to-be-read pile/bookshelves.

So why HEARTLESS? The Cuyahoga County Public Library regularly brings in authors to speak about their books and sign autographs -- and oh, yeah, get copies of their brand new books. So less than a week after this book was released, I was sitting in a jam-packed auditorium with a copy in my hands, listening to Meyers talk about the Lunar Chronicles, about HEARTLESS, about her writing process, and writing in general. Pretty cool.

HEARTLESS is a pre-history of ALICE IN WONDERLAND, where the Queen of Hearts is still a young girl, the daughter of nobility, whose dream is to have her own bakery, rather than become queen of the land of Hearts. You really can't blame her, after you've met the king. He is no prize. Cath is a great baker, and she is never so happy as when she's in the kitchen, covered in flour or dreaming up recipes. Unfortunately, her parents are determined she make a good match.

Hearts is a magical kingdom, populated by Humans as well as magical talking animals, just like in Lewis  Carroll's books, with playing cards and the Cheshire Cat, food that is somewhat dangerous to eat, and plants that invade Cath's bedroom as a result of her dreams. Which is convenient when she dreams up lemons and key limes, to go in her baking. Plus there's the Jabberwock. There is also warfare going on, in the neighboring kingdom of Chess, between the red and white queendoms. Cath gets tangled up with and thoroughly messed over by some spies who come through the Looking Glass from Chess to Hearts to obtain something to save the White Queen.

There were times I found it hard to keep reading because I liked Cath a lot, and if you've read the books and seen any of the movies, you know what the Queen of Hearts is like. So HOW did Cath get this way? Well, duh, look at the title. If you're looking for a happy ending and for true love to triumph ... *sigh* ... you should still read this intriguing, imaginative book that had me muttering a few times, "Wish I'd thought of that."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The War Room

I'm coming around the final bend in National Novel Writing Month!

Past 80K words with "Growing Up Neighborlee," the 2nd book. In fact, I could stop at any time -- at least, with reporting my words written each day, for the ongoing tally on the NaNoWriMo site. I could upload the manuscript for the official count and be declared a winner.

But doggone, I'm so close to finishing the book. Just 3 key episodes left to write in the life of Lanie Zephyr as she grows up and learns what it means to be a semi-pseudo-superhero, as well as a guardian of the weird little town of Neighborlee, Ohio. Some heartbreak -- well, not heartbreak, but more on the lines of heart confusion -- from a college romance that goes south. Then the loss of a good friend. The entrance of a new member of the cast into the story -- very necessary, since this person has shown up in Neighborlee stories that are already published, but which take place chronologically after the events of "Growing Up Neighborlee." So I write all over the timeline -- sue me! (after you buy the books, please?) I didn't realize I needed to write these stories of Lanie and her friends growing up and discovering their talents and duties until after other books had been written. Then the book is capped by a story that is already written, and will answer the question a lot of people who have read other Neighborlee stories will be asking. At least, I hope they'll be asking: How did Lanie go from track and basketball coach and yearbook editor and sports reporter to life at doorknob level -- in a wheelchair? Well, that's what happens when you have the ability to kinda-sort fly, it's Senior Prank Night, the kids in Neighborlee try very stupid, risky stunts, and your semi-pseudo-superhero powers DON'T include invulnerability.

Just saying.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? A couple years, I made it my goal to get my shopping done before Thanksgiving and Black Friday, because I just did not want to mess with the traffic and crowds and insanity and general nastiness that ensues. This year, I might order a few things online .... today! But shopping just doesn't do it for me. I guess some people treat it like a marathon or a treasure hunt and love the challenge. Nuh uh. Not me. I plan on taking it easy on Friday and staying off the streets. Or at least as much as I can, considering that my office is across the street from a shopping center that has been doing major renovations, and should be hopping very early in the morning -- or even the afternoon before. I mean, there is a WalMart within line of sight of my office. I wonder if the 5 Guys burger place will be open on Black Friday. It's directly across the street from me, and I've been watching it being built and set up for weeks now ....

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2016

From the Bookshelf: GAME OF THRONES, by George R.R. Martin

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. The book has been around for years, the series has been around for years, millions of people are anxiously waiting for the next book, there's a hit HBO series -- and I'm only reading it NOW for the first time?

Well, I've been busy.

Found an excuse. I'm working on a big sprawling ancient civilization fantasy series, putting everything together, designing different countries and prophecies and maps and such, and I'm trying to think ahead about pitching the whole idea to my agent and to various publishers. I came up with the brilliant idea: It's like Game of Thrones!

Yeah, well, I can't say that, and know what what I've picked up about the books and TV series is true, until I've read at least one book, right? Not honestly. Not without shooting myself in the foot if I'm wrong.

WOW. The copy I got from the library was 700 pages. To get the thing read in time for another book report, some nights I had to read more than 100 pages. But once I got into it, it was enthralling. And grim. And bloody. And sometimes I just wanted to reach through the pages and slap some sense into some people. And slap more than sense into other people. And then the author goes and he KILLS Sean Bean -- sorry, he kills one of the main point-of-view characters, who is played by Sean Bean in the HBO series. Seriously? Please tell me it's a lie, and they put someone else's head on the pike, someone who only looked like Lord Stark, that he's languishing in a dungeon somewhere, and it's all a nasty trick to discourage the rebel forces.

Whew! I don't know when I'll be able to pick up the next book in the series, but I know I gotta. Despite the grimness and the cruelty and the filth and desperation and good people turning utterly nasty for survival and stupid simpering girls who betray their families and woman who have to send their sons into battle and all the wretched politics (I loathe politics) and the scheming and lying and ... yeah, it's addicting.

Have I mentioned what the book/series is about? This fantasy world has years-long seasons. The long summer is ending, winter is coming, and legendary creatures who thrive in the cold are stirring in the north. The heroic king has grown fat and too concerned with his pleasure and comfort, so he turns to his war buddy to support him, because his own family is against him -- in fact, the queen's family has been scheming from the beginning to steal the throne out from underneath him. Well, our hero, Lord Stark, would rather stay in the north, where he knows he can do some good, because he knows winter is coming, but he has to obey the king. His family is splintered, half staying in the north, half going south with the king, and rebels are raised up and psychotics are given too much power and good people trust the wrong people and ... Wow.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The War Room

Crazy busy!
Which is good. Most of the time.

I crossed the 50K words mark in "Growing Up Neighborlee" book 2, working title "Dorm Rats," which is my National Novel Writing Month project. In fact, I crossed it on Monday, which means if I keep up the pace I'm at, I'll have over 100K words by the end of the month.

Hmm, maybe not. But close!

The title refers to the main character, Lanie Zephyr's, adventures in college. Specifically, with the psychology and sociology professors are given -- or, as the case may be, they finagle and even steal -- permission to run an experiment on all the incoming freshmen. Specifically, playing with their dormitory assignments. What happens when all the geeks and freaks and creative types end up on one floor, and then a magical object that taps into their power of belief is inserted into the mix?

Well, I'm still finding out. Yesterday's writing had a Robbie the Robot toy come to life. Who knows what might happen in today's 3 or 4K words?

What else is happening?

Well.... I just finished the 2nd draft of "Jennifer," the 11th Quarry Hall book. It's due January 1, and I'm really hoping to get it done and sent to my publisher, Desert Breeze Publishing, before December 1. So I can get started on some new projects. I'm working on a big, sprawling series of fantasy books set in an ancient land, a combination of Babylon and Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, those sort of cultures. It's going to be huge, and I need to do a lot more research and planning, creating maps, deciding on different mythology, different political structures, social customs, how long the days are, how long the months are, etc. It's kind of fun, but it's a lot of work! Which can be fun -- and a good excuse for reading other people's books and buying books and playing with map software. Just to look ahead, the working title for the entire series is TAPESTRY: Servants of the Unseen. A cast of thousands, and across several continents and multiple generations.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: SABOTAGED CHRISTMAS, by Carole Brown

Life is way too hectic nowadays.
That's a complaint and an excuse.
This book, by a friend and fellow member of ACFW Ohio, has been on my to-be-read bookshelf, then on the table next to my bed, and in my to-be-read list on Goodreads -- and even marked as "currently reading" -- for far too long.

Aaahhhhh! The glorious feeling when you snag a couple solid hours to just lie back and read straight through, instead of just nibbling at the book, a scene here, a scene there, in between chores and obligations and activities.

SABOTAGED CHRISTMAS is set in Carole's fictional, charming, small town of Appleton, WV. Our heroine is Toni DeLuca, a young woman who has inherited her father's construction business, and learns she has inherited a whole lot more. The only problem is that it's all wrapped up in secrets and schemes and old grudges, and people blaming Toni and her father for things they never did, making untrue accusations, and resorting to sabotage and intimidation to stop her from doing something she doesn't even know she's supposed to do.

Confused? Just imagine how Toni feels. Add to the mix college professor Perrin Douglas, who has come to Appleton with his pre-teen son, Blake, to get some writing done and get some peace from the ghosts and guilt of his past. When he reluctantly gets involved in Toni's problems, neither one of them is sure what they're feeling, what's smart, or who to trust.

I've had the privilege to hear Carole talk about further books planned in this series, and I suggest you plan on taking a trip to Appleton on of these days.