Monday, February 27, 2017

Off the Bookshelf: 3-MINUTE J.R.R. TOLKEIN, by Gary Raymond

Cool concept book.

The subtitle is: "An unauthorized biography of the world's most revered fantasy writer."

How can you get the biography of a man who has had such an impact on fantasy writing and movie-making, in 3 minutes? Easy -- when the pieces are small, so each bite takes 3 minutes at a time to take in.

3 chapters: Life. Works. Influence.
Each chapter is broken down into small pieces that only take up a few paragraphs of text, accompanied by lots of photographs, maps, artwork, links to other sections in the book.

I recommend just paging through the book the first time through. Enjoy the pictures and the captions and references to other areas, other books, quotes from people. Then go through it again, studying the sections that catch your attention. Then sit down and read through leisurely, pulling it all together.

A lovely tribute to a great, influential man, and a small peek into his life and mind and the things that shaped him -- and shaped one of the most incredible worlds and works of fantasy of our time.

Saturday, February 25, 2017


April release from Uncial Press.

That day in Divine's, though, I cast my five-year-old caution aside and was ready to raise myself up for a closer look at the Wishing Ball. I was still attached to Mrs. Silvestri, like a kite on a string.

Angela walked in just as my feet got about three inches off the floor. She smiled at me, winked, and gestured down at the floor with a flick of her fingers. I settled back down and she came around the counter, pulled out a four-step ladder, and put it next to the counter on the end, giving me a more ordinary path up to the Wishing Ball. Right that moment, I knew this pretty blond lady who smiled at me like we had an enormous secret--and who didn't shout in astonishment at what she saw--was going to be a very good friend. Mrs. Silvestri introduced me to Angela while I climbed up, my gaze on her the whole time, and that was when Angela told me it was called the Wishing Ball.

Angela was, is, and likely always will be, one of those ageless women, with long, oval face and sculpted cheekbones. She has an incredible, thick, long fall of hair in a dozen shades of gold, with hints of strawberry in it, and big eyes that are usually blue--different shades, depending on her mood--but can sometimes seem gray and sometimes hint at green. The day I met her, she wore her usual handkerchief print blue dress with draping sleeves and no waist, what some might call a granny dress or hippie dress. Since it was August, she wore sandals.

"Do you know what a wish is, Lanie?" Angela asked me, once I was settled on the counter, with my legs hanging off the edge, braced on one arm and gazing into the Wishing Ball.

"It's something you want really bad lots, only it's kind of hard to get." I saw her reflection next to mine in the dark rainbow swirling surface of the ball, and tore my gaze away from it long enough to meet her incredible blue eyes. "And sometimes it's something you want really bad lots for other people, because they need it a whole lots more than you."

"Really? Like what?" Her smile softened and turned thoughtful, and she glanced at Mrs. Silvestri, who was standing behind me with one hand resting on my back. Like she thought I might fall off the counter?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The War Room


Been kind of crazy-busy lately.

All of a sudden I have several books on deadlines. Scrambling to get one project done so I have room and time for other projects, trying to get some billable work done to ... pay bills! Preparing for my first-ever cruise (need it!).

I FINALLY have the titles and general ideas for the last 4 Quarry Hall books. It's important to know where I'm going because I want to have some rising action and a major story arch going through all of them, leading up to the resolution of a few background storylines/problems that have been building through the whole series. Funny thing is, I didn't really know the problems were there -- well, some of them -- when I proposed the series to the lovely folks at Desert Breeze Publishing. I love it when characters and situations just insert themselves into the story, demanding to be heard. When you create a place and people and they become real enough they sort of take over, and sometimes the story seems to write itself.

But all good things must come to an end ...

Book 12: TRIS
Matt Cameron's cousin finally has her day in the sun. Readers met Tris in the first book that launched the series, JOAN. Matt raised his twin cousins, Tris and Rocky, after both sets of parents were killed. You'll learn more about their parents, and follow Tris as she goes through her own trial by fire.

Darcy returns as old enemies focus on her, thinking she has some long-missing, dangerous information. An old enemy of her father -- and Vincent, George, and McAllistair -- tries to get at Darcy, and do some damage to the rescue mission and Quarry Hall at the same time.

Book 14: FAITH
Some of Matt and Joan's issues finally get resolved, along with clues that a major nemesis has found Joan and Nikki and could be closing in for the kill. There might just be a wedding on the horizon, at long last.

Joan's "wicked stepmother" reveals some of her own dark past as several stories and lives at Quarry Hall come to a close, and the leadership changes.

Hope that's whet your interest, and you'll stick around through the end. It's gonna be a bumpy ride!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Off the Bookshelf: A GENTLEMAN OF MEANS, by Shelley Adina

Hurrah! Another book in the Lady of Devices series.

Honestly? The first full-length steampunk books I managed to read from cover to cover were Shelley Adina's. I took piles of them out of the library to see what the hey-ya was up with this new and popular genre, and I just couldn't get through them. Then I found Lady Claire, one tough chick and her determination to be an engineer even if it wasn't ladylike and ... *sigh*


This latest adventure has Claire and Andrew preparing for their wedding. Alice is under a death threat for not only resisting the unjust demands of the Venetian government, but escaping, rescuing a prisoner, and rescuing her airship from being unjustly impounded. Then there's Gloria, the American heiress and former schoolmate, who has turned from a spoiled airhead into someone with brains and ethics and an iron spine -- she vanished while Claire and Andrew and Alice were rescuing Ian from certain doom. GENTLEMAN OF MEANS wraps up several storylines, as well as commiserating with Claire as she tries to adjust to the fact that her dreams aren't shaping up quite like she imagined they would. Success and graduation and inventive brilliance haven't guaranteed her the respect of her peers or a chance to prove what she can do. She leaps at the chance to run off and rescue Gloria, but doing what she knows is right might just separate her from Andrew forever, as well as insulting various powerful friends and patrons. What's a lady to do?

Another fun romp. And I'm so glad I have a couple of new Devices books piled up for reading. When I get a chance. Never enough time to read!!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Taste the Book: SANCTUARY

April release from Desert Breeze Publishing.

Ess gripped the rail in front of her and tried not to grind her teeth as understanding crashed through her. Athena had been one of her mother's dearest friends, and it hadn't escaped her that they looked enough alike with their dark hair and wide cheekbones and dark eyes, to be mistaken for relatives, perhaps even mother and daughter. The irony of knowing that they thought alike and kept secrets, even from their allies, slapped her hard right this moment. She muffled a groan.

"You already thought of that problem, didn't you?"

"We did. I'm glad to see we are on the same page."

"The problem is figuring out who else is available to turn me over to higher authorities. Who has the power to--"

Ess caught her breath and pressed her lips flat as the answer burst into her mind. It was the perfect opportunity, the perfect tool, the perfect opening. Even more important, it would give her a chance to vent her ire at those who had helped her grandparents keep her in the dark about her heritage. She still found it a little disturbing that her grandparents -- actually, her family line for generations, on both side -- were leaders of a group of people descended from time travelers. Even more strange, they were engaged in a battle with another group of descendants of time travelers, which had lasted for centuries, trying to influence or corrupt or protect the fate of Humanity. The last seven years, entirely cut off from her heritage and friends and those who should have been supporting and training her, could have been avoided if she had been able to trust three specific gentlemen. They had, after all, been entrusted with her welfare while her grandparents were out of the country. If she had known who they were and what they could do, she never would have struck out on her own.

"All we need is a good excuse for running to them," Ess murmured, and turned to look out over the ocean again. "Some reason for a self-reliant, independent young woman to suddenly need advice and shelter and go running to the other side of the country."

Monday, February 13, 2017

Off the Bookshelf: MAGORA, THE GALLERY OF WONDERS, by Marc Remus

Holly O'Flanigan wants to be an artist, but everyone tells her she has no talent. She is also forced to live with nasty relatives who make her sleep in the attic and do all the cleaning. Then her grandfather, the only relative who loves her, dies in a mysterious fire. Holly receives some mysterious items and before she knows it, she and her friends and some nosy busybodies have fallen through one of her grandfather's paintings into a magical world called Magora.

In Magora, painting is magic. Magical paintings provide doorways to other worlds, where the people of Magora, living under siege, obtain everything they need to survive. Prophecy says a very talented painter, a Gindar, will one day appear to defeat the enemy and save Magora. If you guessed that this savior is supposed to be Holly ...

At this point there are just too many Harry Potter parallels to go into. Maybe I'm too picky, or just jaded after having read too many "misunderstood, gifted child who is a tool of prophecy and gains entrance to a magical school where he/she trains to become a hero while facing bullies and nasty teachers" books.

However, the world-building is clever and some of the characters are fun and original, like Cookie, the troll, and the tree house -- meaning a tree that is a living house -- and the Ledesmas with their communal mind maintained by magical butterflies. If you're not as picky and jaded as me, you'll probably enjoy this, and the other books in the series that follow.

Saturday, February 11, 2017



Get your advance tastes here for GROWING UP NEIGHBORLEE, published by Uncial Press.

Every other Saturday through April, when the book is released, you'll get a piece of a scene. The weeks in between will feature scenes from another April release: SANCTUARY, part of the Guardians of the Time Stream series, from Desert Breeze Publishing.

I stood there for a few seconds, staring at the Wishing Ball, with my hand firmly tucked in Mrs. Silvestri's, just amazed. I wanted to get up there, and I was playing with the idea of using my trick to get up to the counter for a closer look, when Angela walked into the room.

My trick was something I had discovered quite by accident, just a few months before. I was momentarily unsupervised at the cottage while the houseparents were busy with the babies. I wanted a cookie and I didn't want to wait for someone to open the cupboard and get it for me, so I climbed up onto the table in the kitchen and walked across it to the counter. A logical progression for a nearly-five-year-old, right? The problem was the four-foot gap between the kitchen table and the counter. I didn't stop to think, I just took a couple steps back and made a running leap, like I had seen someone do on TV the night before.

My jump took me up to the top of the cupboards, and I hung there in the air, for a good ten seconds before drifting down to the shelf where the cookies sat out in plain view.

I could fly. Kinda-sorta fly. Not zipping through the air like a jet like a certain alien superhero. More like controlled gliding, or going straight up, hovering, and coming straight down. When I got older, that talent made it possible to get incredible photos. But again, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The thing is, for a nearly-five-year-old, I had no idea that I couldn't or shouldn't kinda-sorta fly or hover or whatever the formal label was for what I could do. I just figured it was another ability that was part of growing up, like tying my shoes, counting past one hundred, telling time, and reading. By this time, I had already figured out that learning a new trick before one of the adults showed me how to do it earned some uncomfortable attention. I didn't get in trouble for learning to read and tie my shoes faster than normal, but the fuss and extra attention made me uncomfortable.

Explain to me why it's so unusual to learn how to read by leaning over the shoulder of the person reading to us before bed, and picking out the words on the page and following along? Just pay attention, and it's easy to learn dozens of necessary tricks to get along in the world. Of course, being less than five years old, I didn't have that reasoning worked out in my head, I just did what worked. Explaining what I hadn't verbalized was next to impossible.

By the time I walked into Divine's, I had figured out that it was smart to keep new tricks hidden until I saw other kids near my age doing the same thing. So, I kept my hovering to myself, and practiced at night, when everybody was asleep, or when I was alone on the playground behind the cottage.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Off the Bookshelf: THE TETHERED WORLD, by Heather Fitzgerald

Sadie and her siblings have a problem -- Mom and Dad have disappeared. They're not going to get much help from the local authorities because Mom and Dad aren't ... normal, boring parents. Mom is the world expert on the weird and wonderful and mythical, such as Yetis and Bigfoot and other quasi-mythical creatures.

As Sadie, Brady, Brock, and Sophie find out quickly, Mom is an expert because Bigfoot and the other strange creatures such as gnomes, leprechauns, dwarves, trolls and ogres are real. Not just real, but their mother's family are hereditary guardians of a magical world hidden beneath the world.

And oh, yeah, Mom and Dad have probably been kidnapped by some of the not-so-friendly denizens of this subterranean world. Guess who gets the job of going underground and finding and rescuing them? You got it -- Sadie and company.

What I really like about Sadie as the point-of-view character is that she isn't all, "Hurrah, we're going on a Lord of the Rings adventure!" Nope, that joy is left for her little sister, Sophie. Sadie is the one who is holding on by her fingernails, worrying about everyone and trying not to freak out and wishing she could go back home to her boring homeschooled life. She faces her dangers and responsibilities and admits when she's a pain to everyone around her. One tough chick in her own right.

Of course, the story doesn't end with the return to Earth's surface. There are more books in the Tethered World Chronicles. Which is a good thing, because this is a story I wish I had thought to write. Keep the good stuff coming!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Taste the Book: SANCTUARY


Get your advance tastes here for SANCTUARY, Book 2 of the Guardians of the Time Stream series published by Desert Breeze Publishing.

Every other Saturday through April, when the book is released, you'll get a piece of a scene. The weeks in between will feature scenes from another April release: GROWING UP NEIGHBORLEE, from Uncial Press.

San Francisco 1877

"What are you going to do first?" Ess Fremont asked.

She stood with Athena Latymer on the observation deck of the Golden Nile, looking out over San Francisco on one side and the ocean on the other.

"As I told your Mr. Fitch, we are going to clean house."

Ess snorted, the best she could do to keep from responding to "your Mr. Fitch." The idea of Allistair Fitch being at all attached to her emotionally was laughable. Granted, he was clever and a good leader and good-looking, but she didn't have time for such considerations. She had her heritage to reclaim.

"We are obviously not protected enough by splintering and separating the many divisions of the Originators," Athena continued. "It is only by the grace of God that the Golden Nile and the Blue Lotus Society have been shielded as well as they have. Perhaps keeping one hand from knowing what the other is doing has worked against us. We need to regroup. Close ranks. We will stay here until Stryker's life as Seth Judson, Pinkerton agent, has been thoroughly excavated and we have some idea of the depths of his treachery.” She gripped the rail and looked down over the countryside, the waves creating frothy white lines along the coast. "Then we go to the Sanctuary."

"To do what?"

Granted, the idea of Sanctuary conjured up all sorts of images of vast rooms filled with Originator records, and hundreds of people who could fill in the missing pieces of her life, and perhaps someone among all of them who could help her find out what happened to her grandparents. Still, going to Sanctuary equated with jumping feet-first into a dark pit with no idea of where the bottom lay or what waited for her in that darkness.

Ess hadn't survived seven years, effectively on her own, by taking ridiculous risks like that.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The War Room

February already?

Of course, I didn't get all my goals accomplished, but the really big, important ones, yes.

MUSIC IN THE NIGHT, the final book in the Guardians of the Time Stream series, has been rough drafted. It's a biggie, and I already have notes for scenes to add. Probably that will trim out or trim down scenes that follow, when characters are introduced earlier in the book and I don't have to take up space having people remember the first time they met that new character. *sigh* It's always something, right?

February is already shaping up to be busy. Books to edit for other people -- because that's how I make my living. Final drafts -- hopefully -- of several books I have promised to one of my publishers and a hopeful publisher. Research projects for several books I want to start writing in the coming months. Yeah, even with fantasy and science fiction, I need to do research.

Specifically, this series I'm creating out of a book that was rejected/returned by one of my publishers. They decided not to continue the series, so I'm revising the book, making it the second book in a new series instead of the third book in a series that shall hereafter remain unfinished, and I need to do a lot of reading. This rejected book features a lot of faerie tales that have been set on their heads. Like the Little Mermaid is now trying to get her tail back because the prince isn't such a great guy after all, or the Emperor's New Clothes now focuses on a merchant who's a clothes horse, and the princess in The Princess and the Pea is suffering from a magic location spell that makes her sick whenever she comes near peas. Yeah, that kind of twisting. It's gonna be fun!

Also, I'm gearing up to start rough drafting the next book -- #12 -- in the Quarry Hall series of women's fiction with a dash of danger and suspense. Our heroine this time is Tris, the orphaned cousin of Matt Cameron, who still needs to convince Joan to marry him. There are only 4 more books to go in the series, so I'll be wrapping up several storylines that have been spinning out in the background (including a wedding or two), resolving some relationships, and hopefully dealing with some bad guys who have been standing in the shadows and either throwing bombs at our heroes, or simply snickering in a most evil way.

Happy February, everybody!