Monday, September 30, 2013

Off the Bookshelf: UNMASKING THE MYSTERY OF POINT OF VIEW, by Angela Hunt

Book 3 in Writing Lessons from the Front by Dr. Angela Hunt deals with the conundrums of POV, shorthand for Point of View.

Essentially -- what "camera" are we looking through during the narration of the story? Is the "camera" sitting on someone's shoulder, hovering around the room, or looking through the narrator's eyes as he or she participates in the story and relates all thoughts and feelings?

How do you choose with POV to use? How do you know what works best? How do you STAY in the correct POV? What's the difference between 1st person, 3rd person, 2nd person, 3rd person omniscient, or Deep POV? Check out this short, practical book, follow the good doctor's advice, and you'll be on your way.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Off the Bookshelf: DIVINE SUMMONS, Windrider Saga #1, by Rebecca Minor

It's always cool to look up -- and then download and read -- a book by someone you've recently met, in person, talked to, gotten to know. I met Rebecca Minor at the first Realm Makers Conference in St. Louis. Not only has she put together the Faith and Fantasy Alliance (which I still have to remember to join!) but she knows how to throw one incredible "party" for spec fic writers.

Should have guessed from her incredible, intricate elf costume at the banquet that her book would be the same way -- elves, swords, quests, danger, dragons, prophecies, half-bloods, snarky comments. She's got it all!

Vinyanel Ecleriast is an elf warrior with a major attitude. That can be good when your kingdom and your king are threatened by nasty lizardy enemies called the Dragonkin -- not to be confused with real dragons, because at least some turn out to be the good guys. This is only the first book, so I don't know the final score on that one. Vinyanel has already lost most of his fellow-soldiers in the effort to get a power chalice out of enemy hands and to the king. Then he runs into a prophetess with a 'tude of her own, and a problem with heights, which doesn't work out so good when they have to escape certain death on the back of a dragon!

And that's just the first few pages. This is a fast read, and even though some of the prose took on a lavender tinge in spots ... it's fun! Can't wait to see what kind of trouble Vinyanel and his friends/allies/reluctantly accepted mentors face in the next book.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Off the Bookshelf: The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction

Edited by Tara L. Masih.
Printed by -- of course -- Rose Metal Press.

I never heard of this book until the intrepid publishers of Splickety magazine spoke at the Realm Makers conference in August (and if you get a chance, read Splickety and go to Realm Makers -- you won't regret a second of it!). What is Splickety? Well, it's .... drumroll ... a magazine of flash fiction.

What's flash? Usually around 1,000 words, although some places want shorter pieces. And sometimes flash fiction can be as short as a few sentences. Ouch. I can't trim my work down that far. Or at least, I haven't tried yet. Because, confession time here, I'm having fun learning to write flash fiction. Trying to tell a coherent story in essentially two single-spaced pages. It's a challenge that I highly recommend for anyone who wants to improve their writing.

The Field Guide contains essays on the history of flash fiction, the concepts of flash fiction, theories, writing prompts, and exercises. And more important, examples of what the many contributors consider excellent flash fiction to read and think about and learn from. If you want to try writing flash -- or all the other different labels used for the form since it first began -- read this book. You'll get ideas, you'll have those wonderful "Ah ha!" moments, and something that's been sticking in your head might just un-stick. Well worth the time of reading and thinking, and well worth the investment. Even if you don't write flash fiction, this is a writing book worth reading, just because it will impact how you look at your writing, no matter the genre, subject matter, or length.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Off the Bookshelf: THE SERPENT'S SHADOW

Today we finish up the Kane Chronicles, by Rick Riordin.

I admit it, until this series, most of what I knew about Egyptian mythology came from Stargate SG-1. This has been an education -- and in a most pleasant way. Wow, you thought soap operas were convoluted and the guy you trusted yesterday is stabbing you in the back today. The Egyptian pantheon, which goes on and on and on, makes the soaps seem wimpy and simplistic!

The Kanes are still trying to stop the destruction of the world by Apophis, the god of chaos. They do a lot of running around, trying to convince hopeful allies they're not the bad guys, and trying to rescue friends. Their biggest problem is that they're still learning the rules of magic, learning to use their powers -- while they're expected to teach others how to use magic. A big hangup for both of them is that the Egyptian gods have a tendency to -- ahem -- borrow human bodies. (No, not like in Stargate) How do they work with these powerful beings who don't think like humans, without getting taken over completely? And what do they do when their romantic interests are "borrowed," maybe even permanently?

I was glad to see that in the process of using sympathetic magic to try to destroy Apophis, Sadie stops to use it to help an old friend who took the fall in a big way for them in the previous book. I really liked Bes, and was glad to see him get "re-booted" and jump back into the battle.

All in all a satisfying end to the series, with maybe some hints that more adventures await the Kanes, because they aren't the only magicians out there, and the Egyptian gods aren't the only deities messing with the world. There are references to something strange going on, on the other side of the river in New York. What would happen if Percy Jackson and his crew met up with the Kane siblings and the residents of Brooklyn House? Could be interesting!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Off the Bookshelf: THRONE OF FIRE

THRONE OF FIRE is the 2nd book in the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan -- otherwise known as the author of the Percy Jackson books. Major fun, no matter which pantheon you're totally renovating.

The Kane siblings, Carter and Sadie, are in major trouble. Their father is stuck in the underworld, since he's the current incarnation of Osiris, the god of the dead. They're new to their powers as magicians -- the Egyptian priest/god-battling variety -- and it seems to be up to them and other descendants of ancient pharaohs to learn their powers and come up with a plan in time to stop Apophis, the serpent god of chaos, from destroying the world. You'd think the other magicians of the Egyptian variety would be helping them, but noooooo ... Carter and Sadie hacked off everybody in the whole planet when, during their first adventure and without knowing what was going on -- or even what was happening to them -- they temporarily "hosted" 2 Egyptian gods. Seems that's against the rules and condemns them automatically to death. Give them a break -- they're just kids! But really smart, talented, survive-against-all-odds kids.

In this second adventure, Carter and Sadie, with much bickering and wry humor and frustration, have to figure out how to bring Ra, the sun god, back in time to battle Apophis when he breaks out of his centuries-old prison. (Seems Ra was the only one who could keep the troublemaker under control before.) That's the easy part. But I'm not going to tell you what else happens because you GOTTA read this book. It's fun! I love how Riordan revises the ancient myths and gives modern personalities to the gods of different cultures. Now that he's renovated the Greco-Roman and Egyptian mythologies, I wonder who he'll turn to next ... Norse mythology? Hmm, Marvel has already done that with Thor, but that'd be cool whatever he does. Mayan? Native American?

I'm reading the third book in the series, THE SERPENT'S SHADOW, and that should be my book report next week. Stay tuned!