For this week's Friday 5, here are five more books I've read and enjoyed (told you I had a lot of books to catch up on!) All fantasy this time. Links go to Goodreads.
The Magic Mines of Asharim by Pauline M. Ross
Another stand-alone installment in the Brightmoon Annals. The Magic Mines of Asharim follows Allandra, on the run after a terrible, tragic magical accident, as she takes refuge as a worker at the mine at Asharim, where instead of ore, the product being mined is magic. Then her fate catches up with her again; on the run once more, she finds herself with the opportunity and power to restore an Empire.
As with all of Ms. Ross's books, Magic Mines is filled with fascinating world-building, well-rounded (if not always entirely likeable) characters, and an original magic system. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy intelligent, original fantasy for adults with a good dose of romance. Full review
Ishtar's Blade by Lisa Blackwood
A young woman raised to be guardian to a king returns home to the side of her childhood friend and love, now the gryphon king. Treachery and danger are afoot, and Iltani must fully embrace her destiny as the "Avenging blade of the Goddess Ishtar." Enjoyable fantasy romance; I generally don't care for romances with humans who shift into animals (even mythical animals), but in this case it worked pretty well for me. An entertaining read.
Fate Fallen (Gallows #3) by Sharon Stevenson
More curmudgeonly urban-fantasy fun with demon hunter Shaun Gallows, his twin sister (and fellow demon hunter) Sarah, Shaun's human psychic girlfriend, evil fairies, dead fairies, dead evil fairies, and possibly the end of the world. Sometimes I had trouble following what was happening, but the characters are so great and it's all so much fun I didn't mind.
A Demon in the Desert by Ashe Armstrong
Move over, Clint Eastwood, there's a new gunslinger in town, and he's an orc. Yes, a gunslinging orc; what more do I need to say? Well, I'll say this too - Grimluk is a great character. A true gentleman, good with children, but completely badass when facing down bandits, zombies, corrupted officials, and demons. Oh, and dragons. This book takes all the familiar fantasy characters - orcs, elves, halfings (a hobbit by any other name) and plops them down in a world inspired by the Old West. A fun, exciting story, and I'm eagerly looking forward to the next installment.
Into Exile by Derek Alan Siddoway
**I was provided with a free review copy of this book.
In the Teutevar Saga, the medieval Europe of myth and fantasy is picked up and set down in a landscape inspired by the American west, filled with towering mountains, boundless grasslands, and nomadic peoples, some friendly, some not quite so much. Into Exile is a prequel to the series, showing how 2-year-old Revan, his widowed mother the Valkyrie Guinevere, and her spearmaiden, friend, and fellow Valkyrie Regenlief went into exile after the destruction of their home. It's a fairly short book, a novella, but filled with adventure, danger, suspense, and awe-inspiring landscapes. A highlight for me was the two lead female characters. Guinevere and Regenlief are strong women, determined to deliver Revan to safety away from the clutches of the traitorous White Knight. The characters feel like real women instead of men in disguise as they face incredible danger and hardships and fighting off countless enemies and their own fear and discouragement, risking everything for Revan's safety. If you've read other books in the Teutevar Saga, Into Exile gives some exciting and important back story, and if you haven't, it's a great introduction to the series. Full review
Another Friday Five, another Reading Roundup of five more books I've read and recommend. (All links go to Goodreads.)
Hunter, by Robert Bidinotto
If you're fed up with a society where bad guys get excuses made for them while their victims are forgotten, blamed, or made out to be worse than the bad guys, this book is a wonderfully satisfying read. The message isn't real subtle (even if you agree with it), and the attraction between the main characters wasn't very convincing at first, though it did develop to the point where I was really rooting for Annie and Dylan to work things out. But the ending peril and confrontation is a can't-put-down nailbiter which kept me up way too late one night. Full review here
Pride's Children: Purgatory (Pride's Children, Book 1) by Alicia Butcher Earhardt
In the tradition of celebrity potboilers like Jackie Collins's novels, but much more gentle and cerebral. Pride's Children: Purgatory follows a novelist, Kary, living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, who is retiring and private almost to the point of being neurotic; Andrew, a charismatic Irish actor just hitting the big time; and Bianca, "America's Sweetheart", whose pretty face hides her ruthless ambition. I found this a lovely, engaging book. Full review here
Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues, by various authors
I bought this for the Carol Berg story in it, "Seeds," which was awesome, and I enjoyed a lot of the other stories as well. A few didn't grab me so much, and a couple ended with cliffhangers or, at the least, inconclusive non-endings, so I wasn't wild about that. On the whole, though, a fun collection of fantasy stories about rogues, renegades, thieves, and assassins. Full review here
The Bonehunters, by Steven Erickson
Book 6 in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. I mostly buy and read indie now, but the Malazan series is one of the few exceptions. Not an easy read, but definitely worthwhile if you like deep, thought-provoking fantasy with incredible characters and worldbuilding and an ethos where honor, nobility (not of birth but of character), selflessness, compassion, sacrifice, and love matter.
Dan's Lame Novel, by Dan Rinnert
If you've ever wondered what goes through a writer's head while they're working on a book, this is it. A lot of them might not admit it, but probably most writers (me included) deal with at least some of this stuff with each book - trying to come up with names, characters who won't do anything, trying to keep track of time in the story and how long it's been since we let our character eat or sleep, weird subplots that try to insert themselves (though I've never had anything quite as weird as carniverous alien fairies), how to end the darned thing. A short read, well-written, good for a couple of hours of funny entertainment.
To get caught up on Reading Roundup posts, I'll do five books at a time for the Friday 5 feature. Although today I'm actually featuring six books, to take care of a couple of series. (Links go to Goodreads.) I'm not posting every book I read on these features, just the ones I especially enjoyed and am happy to recommend.
Hunted (Flash Gold Chronicles #2)
Peacemaker (Flash Gold Chronicles #3)
Claimed (Flash Gold Chronicles #4)
Liberty (Flash Gold Chronicles #5)
by Lindsay Buroker
The rest of the volumes in the Flash Gold steampunk series, set in an alternate version of the Yukon Gold Rush. Great characters, sinister bad guys, cool magic/steampunk technology, fun Kali/Cedar interaction, adventure, and blossoming romance. Quick but fun and satisfying reads.
Dust and Light (The Sanctuary Duet #1)
Ash and Silver (The Sanctuary Duet #2)
by Carol Berg
I adore Carol Berg's books, and the Lighthouse duology (Flesh and Spirit/Breath and Bone) are two of my favorite books ever, so I was delighted when I found out about these new novels set in the same world. I was a little disappointed that Valen, the rebellious ne'er-do-well drug-addicted but good-hearted protagonist of the Lighthouse books, wouldn't be in the new books (except in passing references to the infamous Cartamandua recondeur, or renegade), but the new characters and story made up for it. Lucian is another one of Ms. Berg's patented tortured young men; he's just lost his whole family, except his much-loved younger sister, in a terrible fire in the midst of a devastating civil war, and now his career as a magical portraitist for the Registry, the ruling body over the pureblood sorcerers, is being seriously sabotaged for reasons he can't begin to understand and that turn out to be extremely perilous not just to his career but to his sanity and even his survival.
Already familiar with the world, I slipped back into it in all its richly detailed, terrible glory. We get more information on the civil war that forms the backdrop of Flesh and Spirit/Breath and Bone and a look at what life is like for a non-renegade sorcerer. Lucian is a well-fleshed-out character who grows from his sheltered upbringing and upstanding, law-abiding character (except for an incident when he was severely chastised and disciplined for a brief love affair with an "ordinary" (non-magical) woman) to realizing how unfair, brutal, and ultimately corrupt sorcerous society and the Registry are. I enjoyed the other characters as well, especially Bastien, Lucian's new boss, the city coroner and cemetary manager.
Ash and Silver picks up with Lucien, now known as Greenshank, as a knight-in-training in the top-secret Knights of the Ashes, discovering his badass side as he trains to protect Navronne from evil. He finds himself the focus of two plots, one involving the disputed throne of Navronne (the object of the terrible civil war being fought the last several years), the other having to do with damage to the parallel world of the Danae and the fate of a massacred city. There's a lot going on, but it's all lots of fun, and as always beautifully written, and Lucien/Greenshank grows into a really unforgettable character. (full reviews: Dust and Light | Ash and Silver
It's been a while since I did a Friday 5, so here's one: Where the magic happens, or, pictures from my writing room.
1. My writing room is a spare bedroom in our house. I share the space with storage bins full of Legos, the elliptical trainer, boxes of Christmas decorations, and other assorted stuff that we don't really have anywhere else to put. (With one kid married and permanently out of the house, we could put some of it in his room, which we intend to repurpose as a guest room.) Anyway, I have two walls of this room staked out for my own stuff. I have an 8-foot-long folding table that serves as my main writing table. It also serves as my scrapbook table, so from these pictures you can see that my laptop and manuscripts have to share with all my scrapbook junk. It's kind of good because that way I have to put away one project before I can work on the other thing instead of just having all my stuff out all the time.
2. I do have a sewing machine, though I don't actually use it very much, mostly just mending and decorative stitching on scrapbook pages. I did make my younger son a Homestuck costume for Halloween last year (in one day!) that I guess turned out pretty good. Thank goodness for cosplayers who post their patterns online. I also have four paper trimmers (you can see three of them in this picture). I don't know why I have four paper trimmers, I just do.
3. This desk was used by both of my boys when they were in grade school. It's too small for an adult to sit at, but it has lots of shelf space and drawers (one of those drawers is full of nothing but unopened packages of index cards) and I can fit my file drawers into the chair space. When we got the younger one a new desk I glommed on to this old one before my husband could even suggest we get rid of it. Oh, and there's my Kuroneko plushie from Trigun up on top, keeping an eye on me to make sure I stay on task.
4. Of course, since the desk belonged to grade-school boys, it has stickers all over it. Mostly Pokemon, and something called Duel Masters that was kind of a Yu-Gi-Oh ripoff but mostly what they did was send out junk mail with lots of stickers in it. It gives me kind of a happy nostalgic feeling to look at these.
5. My laptop, the first one I've ever owned, which made it possible for me to move all of my writing operations into this room instead of typing on my desktop in a room at the other end of the house which serves as the family computer room and doing manuscript revision in this room and then hauling the pages back to the other end of the house to type in the changes. Now I just use my desktop for formatting and uploading. And you can see my lucky rainbow unicorn Pusheen patch. My (then-future) daughter-in-law sent it to me for Mother's Day last year. It makes me happy :-D
I missed the Friday 5 last week because I couldn't think of anything. This week, as I've been working on edits on To the Gap (Daughter of the Wildings book 4), I noticed five (possibly) interesting things readers will learn about in the book:
1. What happens if you don't mind your manners in Lainie's kitchen.
2. How Silas gets the nickname "Shark".
3. How to make a mage ring.
4. Silas's "first time".
5. Cows can swim.
Still working hard to get the book ready for release. We had a pre-wedding event to go to last week out of town, and the wedding is late next week, if all goes according to plan. But I'm finding that with plenty of rest and carefully limiting any other demands on my energy, I'm not falling too far behind. Stay tuned for details as the release date draws near; to make sure you don't miss the announcement, sign up for my email alerts. (Don't worry; I won't spam you or share your info with anyone else.)
For this week's Friday 5, here are five of my must-have writing tools beyond the obvious (computer, printer, paper).
1. Liquid Story Binder (writing software) http://www.blackobelisksoftware.com/
Kinda old now, but full of useful features and amazingly flexible. I can go from brainstorming and outlining to writing to revision and spellchecking all in one program. Scrivener is the really popular writing program now, and it has a lot of features in common with LSB, but I found it a little too regimented. This image shows a working layout from The Lost Book of Anggird, with a timeline, the Builder I wrote in (Builders are a tool that collects a lot of files into one larger file with a "table of content" on the side that lets you add, delete, and move smaller individual files around), and a listing all the files in that project.
2. Index cards.
I'll confess, I kind of have a fetish for index cards. One of my desk drawers is crammed full of unopened packs in both 3 x 5 and 4 x 6 sizes. I use these for outlining, putting each scene idea on a card, then I can see where the blanks are that need to be filled in and also rearrange them as needed. I also use them for revision. I make a scene for each card (as described here: http://www.kyrahalland.com/blog/daughter-of-the-wildings-revision-progress) with a one-sentence summary of the scene, notes on the purpose of the scene, the situation or conflict it addresses, what changes in the scene to move the story forward, and what revisions I need to make in the scene.
I use a ton of post-its, or sticky notes. I put them on my revision index cards to give myself an idea of how much work each scene needs (I'm almost never right) (also see the post linked above). I also use them to mark the place in my manuscript where I left off editing, and also to leave notes to myself in the manuscript of things I think of that need to be changed later on. For example, in the crossing the river scene in To the Gap (upcoming book 4), I put a sticky note saying "Mrs B rides across fully clothed". Cryptic, but I know what it means, and when I get to that part I'll know I meant to change that. (rides across fully clothed, as opposed to swimming across the river in her underwear like everyone else has to do, if you're wondering.)
I use this on days when I'm having trouble focusing, set for 15 minutes at a time. Or if I have other chores I need to get done, I set it for 30 minutes at a time, then go work on other stuff for a bit. Or if my work hours have been slipping, I set it for the number of hours I need to work that day to make sure I get them all in.
5. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1st edition.
My parents gave me this for Christmas (or maybe my birthday? they're close together) when I was in, hm, 5th or 6th grade, and I still have it. This is the original edition, with an extensive section in the back on word origins, which is great for coming up with fantasy words. It's huge and heavy, and since it's over 40 years old its eleventy-gazillion entries don't include the latest slang and buzzwords (but since I write other-world fantasy I don't need those anyway), but it's my authoritative go-to for spelling, definitions, and usage (the extensive usage notes have been a lifesaver more than once). An oldie but goodie, and I have no plans to quit using it.
It's time again for the Friday 5! This week, five-sentence (more or less) snippets from the fifth chapter of five of my books.
In Urdaisunia, Rashali has been elected to take her village's thanks to a Sazar nobleman who did them a favor:
Rashali looked across the road at Moon Bend, which she had never left in all her life. She had never traveled to Tigun’s native village on the Tabra to meet his parents, or even to the next village downriver. Zir, the great city, was very far away, four days’ walk or more.
And may she be damned to Araskagan’s darkest pits if she ever chased after a Sazar in order to grovel to him.
“You have to go, Rashali,” a woman said. “He’ll be angry if he thinks we’re ungrateful.”
From Chosen of Azara, Juzeva, traveling through the desert in search of a mysterious Source, has an unwelcome encounter:
Hours later, when the sun was sinking low in the sky, she rounded a bend in a narrow gap between two hills and found her path blocked by a red-gold cat the size of a horse. She froze as the animal looked at her through gold eyes and growled softly in its throat.
She fought back a panicked urge to flee. If she tried to run away, the beast would easily chase her down, and she couldn’t climb up the steep, rocky hillsides to escape from it. But if she held still, maybe it would lose interest in her.
The huge cat growled again, then let out a loud roar.
In The Lost Book of Anggird, Professor Rossony is anxiously waiting for a decision vital to his research:
“Sir Baril!” Professor Rossony called out as he caught up with the Lord Regent just outside the doors of the Lectorium.
The white-haired, aristocratic-looking Regent stepped aside so that they wouldn’t block the doorway. “Your application is still under consideration, Rossony,” he said with an air of impatience, as though they had had this conversation too many times already. “You do understand that this is a decision which cannot be reached in haste.”
“Of course, Sir Baril. But —”
“Be assured, Professor Rossony, we will inform you of our decision the moment we make it. Good day.”
In Sarya's Song, Sarya is undergoing a Penance lashing from a Master who has taken a dislike to her:
Sarya counted the strokes, wincing with each sharp smack of the leather thongs on her back. This whipping was harder than the other one had been, just within the bounds of what was permitted. After the fifth lash, she started to stand up, then a sixth stroke came down hard across her back. Pain ripped from her shoulder to her waist, and a warm wetness began spreading from where the lash had struck her.
She stumbled to her feet and spun to face Master Uldo. “Damn you, that was six! And you drew blood!”
From Beneath the Canyons, Silas and Lainie are investigating the strange ore that Carden's miners are digging up:
Mr. Vendine took a bandana out of one of his duster pockets, folded it and covered her hand with it, then dropped a few of the black lumps into her palm.
Icy pain shot up through her arm, seizing her heart and her lungs in freezing agony. Dark terror wrapped around her mind, cutting off sight, hearing, and even thought. Cold ran through her veins, spreading through her arms, her back and legs, her belly and loins. It was like the night terrors, only a hundred times – a thousand times – worse.
For this week's Friday 5, here are five fun and/or useful links from my Cool Web Stuff bookmarks folder (as always, remember that websites come and go; proceed with caution):
1. Paletton: http://paletton.com Color scheme designer. Fiddle around with different color schemes. Great for art projects, scrapbooking, web design; it even gives you the hex codes for the colors.
2. LOLTrek: http://granades.com/2007/05/02/loltrek/ The "Tribbles" episode of Star Trek in lolspeak.
3. Rinkworks: http://www.rinkworks.com/ About as old-school as you can get on the web, but still lots of fun. Book In A Minute, text-based games, puzzles, the Fantasy Novelist's Exam, fantasy name generator, horror stories from tech support, everything you need to kill an hour or three.
4. Wordle: http://www.wordle.net/ Create word cloud graphics.
5. Madglibs: http://www.madglibs.com/index.php Online mad libs games.
Have fun out there!
[blog note: at the moment, a number of my blog post categories aren't working right. I hope to have this fixed soon.]
For this Friday: Five fantasy books/series (well-known and not so well-known) that influenced me. (links go to Goodreads, to first books in series. Covers shown are the editions I own.)
1. The Prydain Chronicles, by Lloyd Alexander. The first epic fantasy series I ever read (that I can recall, anyway). A great starter series for kids, and also entertaining for adults. The struggle between good and evil, the colorful characters, the adventure, and the love story between Taran and Eilonwy (even as a child, eight or nine years old, I loved love stories) all caught my imagination and made me want more.
2. The Earthsea Trilogy, by Ursula K. LeGuin. My parents gave me a nice boxed set of this when I was 11 or 12, for my birthday or Christmas (they're close together). Magic and adventure on the oceans and islands of Earthsea with Ged, one of the greatest fantasy characters of all times. Ged was one of my book crushes when I was a tween (of course, I'm far too old for that sort of thing now *coughcough*). This introduced me to the idea of the wizard dedicated to that life (and to the concept of schools of magic), and contributed to my thinking that it wasn't fair that wizards didn't get to fall in love and if they did they could never do anything about it. Naturally, I was intrigued by what could have been the romance between Ged and Tenar. The relationship is finally continued in the 4th Earthsea book, Tehanu, but I had a lot of problems with that book, especially feeling like Ms. LeGuin changed her characters almost to where they were unrecognizable to suit the political/philosophical points she wanted to make in the book. So, for me, Earthsea stops with book 3 and I let my imagination take it from there. (I actually have three different sets of this series. The cover shown here is from that original boxed set. Down at the bottom you can see another cover that I have, and one I definitely do NOT have. Or want.)
3. The Riddle-Master Trilogy, by Patricia McKillip. Gorgeous prose and dripping with magic in a world where riddles hold the keys to ancient, lost knowledge, no one thinks there's anything strange about rulers who are hundreds of years old, ghosts and spirits walk the earth, and magic isn't a discipline, it's the fabric of which the world is made. Morgon, the farmer-prince, is another of the greatest fantasy characters ever (and another of my teenage book crushes), and the relationship between him and his betrothed Raederle is another great love story. (The cover on my original copy of book 1 is hideous. Get the very nice omnibus edition instead.)
4. Crispan Magicker, by Mark M. Lowenthal. I'll say it right now, yet another of my teenage book crushes. There are a lot of problems with this book, but the character of Crispan makes up for them. He's a wizard dedicated to the Order, naive and honorable, who has to go after his teacher Vladur who has become corrupted and put a stop to his evil plans. Along the way he is tested and tried and stretched, required to become a military commander and take lives, and ultimately has to risk losing everything that matters to him in order to protect the world. Really an awesome character. This book again brought up the themes of wizards dedicated to the practice, and to a formal order, and also risking losing everything you have and everything you are in order to do the right things. And again, why don't wizards get to fall in love and do something about it? There's a tantalizing hint about "a woman by an unknown sea", and Crispan clearly has a lot of adventures ahead of him, but no sequel was ever published. Which makes me sad. Long out of print, which also makes me sad, but used copies are available. I would love to see Mr. Lowenthal (also a prominent figure in intelligence and national security circles) get the rights back, republish independently, and write some sequels.
5. The Apprentice, by Deborah Bickmore. Yes! Fantasy with a real romance in it! Jaimah, the young apprentice/servant of the powerful sorceress Shayna, is drawn to and terrified by Corwyn, Shayna's mysterious and powerful new apprentice. When it comes to a showdown between Corwyn and Shayna over a powerful, dangerous spell, which wizard will destroy Jaimah and which one will save her? The kind of book I love to write (and love to read if I can find them), where the fantasy and the romance are in equal balance. This book was out of print for a long time, but now Ms. Bickmore has indie-published it in Kindle and paperback editions, hooray!
Addendum: As you'd expect with a book that's been around for more than 45 years, A Wizard of Earthsea has been through a lot of covers, good, bad, and indifferent. Here are two that stand out:
Guess which one I like better?
I haven't posted all week because I've been working really hard on To the Gap amidst a number of distractions and other things I've needed to pay attention to, but now it's time again for the Friday 5! This week: five things I do besides write. There are actually a lot more than five things I do besides write, but most of them are boring, like doing laundry and cooking dinner and exercising. So here are five of the more interesting things I do (this was actually going to be a whole series of blog posts, but I decided they're not really THAT interesting):
1. Play Pokemon. Okay, so I already did a whole blog post about this. But I wanted to mention it again, mainly so I can post this picture that I took of my Pokemon Y character in front of the Pokemon League in my pink and black sparkly bolero dress. I seriously want this dress IRL. I've since started on Pokemon Omega Ruby, and I don't think you can change outfits in it :(
2. Secretary in the children's program at my church. No, I don't sit in an office and answer phone calls, thank goodness. I don't even answer the phone at home unless it's someone I really feel like talking to. And I don't get paid; it's volunteer. Though I didn't actually *volunteer*; they asked me to do it. Basically, I'm in charge of handling paperwork and supplies and being organized. Which is kind of funny, because me being organized is in direct opposition to the natural order of the universe. If I ever get my act together and really get organized, it'll mean the end of the space-time continuum as we know it. But someone's got to do it, so it might as well be me. I enjoy it; I love being with the kids and enjoying how cute and smart and spiritual they are, but I don't have to actually wrangle them like the teachers do. This picture is from the beginning of the year, when I was redoing the teachers' binders with the lesson manuals and picture kits. I had to get this all cleaned up so my husband could do the taxes on this end of the table, but the other end is still covered with stuff I cleaned out of the supply closet and am trying to "organize".
3. Scrapbooking. I've been doing this for about sixteen years now. I'd never really been a visually creative person, so it's fun to have a chance to use those creative muscles. I even combined my two creative endeavors in a scrapbook page about my books:
Since I started publishing, I don't scrapbook as much as I used to. This is mainly because my scrapbooking table also serves as my writing table. Which means when I switch from one to the other I have to clean up after myself :P (I don't actually sew with the sewing machine, except for some mending once in a while. I mostly use it for decorative stitching on scrapbook pages.)
4. Watch anime. I started with watching Pokemon with my boys when they were little, and moved on to Sailor Moon, and went from there. Here's my current DVD collection:
I've watched a lot more than this (and I haven't gotten around to watching everything I own yet). I've watched Monster, which was good but shied away from being as mind-blowingly weird as it could have been, and FLCL (the first time I watched it, I had a nightmare that night about being a Rod Stewart groupie. Which was really strange because Rod Stewart just isn't on my radar at all. So if you go to watch FLCL, be warned), and Fruits Basket, which is cute, and Bleach up until about episode 5734 when the same battle had been going on for the last 300 episodes (seriously, let's move the plot along already!) and a bunch of others, mostly when they used to have anime on Cartoon Network late at night.
Sometimes I even make scrapbook pages about anime!
One of these times I still mean to tell the story of how Sailor Moon got me back into writing.
5. Feed my cats. I must have the world's most high-maintenance cats. Seriously. Here's a picture of Themselves in a rare moment when they aren't eating:
And now that I've told you what I do when I'm not writing, it's time to go write again. I should finish the second major revision of To the Gap today, then it's on to the fine-tuning and final editing stages. Still looking at a release date in July.
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