Caroline doesn’t know what to do with herself after her much-older husband dies. Her life revolved around him, and now that he’s gone, she’s adrift. So she decides to move to Redemption, Texas, a small town that takes Caroline in as she gets ready to open her bookstore. She’s ready to start a new life in Redemption, but she’s not expecting to fall in love again.
Jackson comes to Redemption after an ugly custody battle with his famous ex-wife. He just wants peace and quiet—and maybe to start songwriting again, if he’s lucky. He’s not interested in love—look what happened last time—he just wants to make his new business venture a priority. Then he meets Caroline and wonders if maybe his life needs a little bit more than all work.
Jackson is a good place to start reading a new author. I’m from Texas, and the author does an excellent job in capturing the nuances of the culture and bringing the setting to life. I love the idea of Enchanted Canyon and look forward to reading more!
Emily March is a bestselling author. Jackson is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Today I am happy to be a part of the blog tour for Wicked Saints, by Emily A. Duncan, which hits stores today! I have a quick interview with the author, then a review of Wicked Saints, which you should definitely go read if you enjoy dark, atmospheric books with complex mythology and magic systems.
Q: Tell me a little bit about Wicked Saints.
A: Tired monastery girl who can talk to the gods! Anxious morally dubious blood mage boy! Exhausted traumatized prince! An assassination plan! A holy war! Eldritch gods! Lots and lots of blood!
Q: Where did your inspiration come for writing Wicked Saints?
A: Video games and metal music! Specifically, Skyrim in regards to the video games, but it was also fueled by my deep love for metal.
Q: What is your absolute favorite, read over-and-over again, book?
A: I mean, I’m very vocal about how much I love the Grisha trilogy, but to answer this slightly differently, the book I’ve reread the most is Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.
Nadya is a cleric who can commune with all the gods—unheard of—living in a remote monastery. Kalyazin has been at war with Tranavia for a long time, but the war has never touched the monastery. Until it does, in the form of Tranavian soldiers led by Serefin, High Prince and blood mage. As her friends die around her, Nadya escapes into the wilderness.
She meets Malachiasz, a defector with dark secrets that Nadya isn’t sure she can trust. But Nadya’s powers may be the only thing standing in the way of destruction, so she heads to the seat of Tranavian power, desperate to find a way to stop it. Serefin, used to drinking and fighting, has been called home by his father, but Serefin finds the king in the midst of a horrifying scheme to gain immortality and ultimate power.
Nadya, Serefin, and Malachiasz will have to trust each other if they have any hope of stopping the coming darkness.
Wicked Saints is dark and atmospheric, with a creepy and cold setting reminiscent of Russia. The magic systems are dark and bloody, and there aren’t a lot of happy feelings in this book. I was fascinated from the first page, although I wouldn’t recommend reading it if you’re depressed at the time. Treachery, hatred, lies, deceit…all run through the pages of this novel like blood, until you can’t see what’s coming next.
Emily A. Duncan is a youth services librarian. Wicked Saints is her new novel, the first in the Something Dark and Holy series.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
This week was fairly productive, considering it was the first week of grad school (Eep!). I did a tiny bit of writing—1,000 words or so—in The Fall, plus outlining 10 scenes in it as well. Having an outline made the writing flow pretty well. Something I know, yet I still started writing this story with no outline. Smart move, there.
I did a little outlining in the Witches revision, also. I’m sort of feeling my way with that, since I’ve revised the story several times, and this is more of a re-write than a revision, but I’m using the current draft as a guideline. We’ll see how that works out. My voice and style have changed significantly since I originally plotted the story.
Yesterday I attended a local authors’ event with a friend. It’s part of the library’s Year of the Book promotion. Each author had a table, and they each spoke for 10 minutes.
My friend and I went because we both love Rachel Caine’s work. (I’ve read The Morganville Vampires series, the Weather Warden series, the Outcast Season spin-offs, and her re-telling of Romeo and Juliet. I’ve been wanting to read her The Great Library series as well.)
Somehow, by sheer luck, we arrived about 15 minutes before Rachel’s talk, just in time to hear Sarah MacTavish. (I feel like I’ve heard of her, but can’t swear to it. I read SO MUCH that authors sometimes get a little bit mixed up in my mind sometimes.) I enjoyed her talk, and the short chat I had with her afterwards, and bought her book, Firebrand. Young adult fiction about the Civil War from an author who carries her supply of books in an R2D2 suitcase? I’m sold! I’m looking forward to the read, just as soon as I wrangle enough time from my schedule for it.
My purchases for the day:
It’s been quite a while since I purchased physical copies of fiction. The bottom two books I bought at the event, the top three at B & N beforehand. I was so excited when I got home, but I had serious reader’s indecision: What to read first?
Answer: Firstlife, by Gena Showalter, because I’m hoping to get approved to review the second book in the series, and because I’ve been interested in this one for a while. Isn’t the cover gorgeous?
Confession: I read the entire thing last night. Loved it! The concept is so unique, and the characters compelled me from the first page. You should definitely read this!
A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed A Drop in the Ocean, by Jenni Ogden. This novel deals with many things: love, family, medical ethics, and dealing with neurological conditions. It is emotional and moving, gripping and yet freeing at the same time. Today I have an interview with the author.
1) What was the catalyst for you to start writing fiction? (Even with the subject matter of A Drop in the Ocean, that seems like such a large step from neuropsychology.)
I loved my career as a university teacher, researcher, and supervisor of clinical psychology students, and a big part of this was always writing. Of course, it was nonfiction writing, from research articles to writing case studies of dysfunctional families for my clinical students to use as practice scenarios. My specialist area, clinical neuropsychology, gave me the excuse to delve into the lives of patients with various brain disorders (similar to those Oliver Sacks wrote about), and I wrote two books of case studies, a textbook, Fractured Minds and a book for the general reader, Trouble In Mind: Stories from a Neuropsychologist’s Casebook. These are not fiction of course but they did allow me to practice writing in a way that would draw the reader into the lives of my “patients.” When readers say some of the stories in my textbook made them cry, I feel happy! But I had to leave the university and go and live on a remote island before I could truly concentrate on the dream I’d harbored for years, writing fiction.
2) Who is your favorite author and why? (Do you love being scared by Stephen King, inspired by Maya Angelou, loved by Nicholas Sparks, entertained by Jane Austen?)
I have so many authors whose writing I love, but I don’t often re-read books as there are too many new books to read. I think I will read many again as I get older and can’t afford to buy more books! But authors I really love are Sebastian Faulks, Rumer Godden, Anna Quindlen, Chris Cleave, Ann Hood. Richard North Patterson is by far my favourite thriller writer.
3) What is your absolute favorite, read over-and-over again, book? (Mine is “Gone with Wind,” which I’ve read about 25 times, because the story and the characters are so real to me.)
One book I have read a few times is Wuthering Heights. I first read this in school and it hasn’t lost its pull on me. I know the ‘Bronte’ area reasonably well as my husband’s family come from around there (there are over a hundred of them who were “buried” by Patrick Bronte and lie in the Haworth Church graveyard!) But my favorite novel is Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. I often read bits of this again, just to get the feel of his words. Also China Court and In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden are two of the most beautiful novels I have ever read, and these too I often browse for inspiration.
4) Where is your dream place to write? (Personally, I have visions of white sand and waves, although I live nowhere near the ocean. That seems like it might be much more within reach for you.)
I do most of my writing in my study five minutes walk from one of the most beautiful beaches on earth. White sand, clear blue sea and usually only me on it when I take a break and go for a walk or run or swim! Much of my reading is done lying under my big tree on the beach, or sitting on “Jenni’s Lookout” looking over the sea. My study has big windows that look over a rural scene with no buildings in view. In the NZ winter I write from our small apartment there in the Far North Queensland tropics, with a lagoon pool two meters from me and a beach 10 minutes walk away.
5) What is your absolute favorite part about writing fiction? (The imaginary people is definitely mine.)
As a psychologist, discovering the deep parts of my characters’ personalities are probably my favorite part, but I also love writing about settings, partly because they are often places I know well or at least have been to, and have loved. I also enjoy the research that goes into getting facts right and giving the story authenticity. And I really do like revision, and having the time to mess about with word choice, knowing I have the bones in place.
6) Do you have any advice for someone faced with the prospect of living with a brain disorder? (I have a strong family history of Alzheimer’s, and I had a stroke three years ago due to a dissection in the vertebral artery. You might say this is a topic close to my heart.)
That is a hard thing to deal with. Coping is a little different for everyone, but often finding out all you can about the disorder and the likely prognosis helps, gives back some control, and stops those anxieties that come with “guessing.” For almost everyone, having a close support team of friends, family and health professionals who you feel comfortable with is very important. Often getting involved with research if that is a possibility can be rewarding, and gives the individual something ‘bigger’ to think about, and often comes with better treatment of the condition as well. Keeping on with or gradually returning to activities one enjoys and keeping social contacts alive is very important for resilience and happiness, and for making the very best of the future, however long or short that may be.
7) Tell me a little bit about A Drop in the Ocean. (What was your inspiration for writing it, and what is the message you wanted to convey with it?)
The story opens as Boston neuroscientist and dedicated introvert, 49 year old Anna Fergusson, discovers the funding for her long-time research lab has been terminated. Fran, her only friend, sees an advert offering a cabin for rent on a tiny tropical island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Anna decides to take it up. It will give her breathing space and she can pen a memoir about running a lab while she decides what to do with the rest of her life. But Turtle Island, alive with sea birds and nesting Green turtles, is not the retreat she expected. Here she finds love: for the eccentric islanders who become her family; for Tom, the younger laid-back turtle whisperer; and for the four women on the island. Then she joins the turtle research team and falls in love with the turtles whose ancient mothering instincts move her to tears. But Tom has a secret, and Anna’s estranged mother in far away Shetland needs her, and as Anna’s life-changing year draws to a close her dream for a new life is threatened by a darkness that challenges everything she has come to believe about the power of love.
It is a quiet story but with deep themes about marine turtle conservation, Huntington’s disease and medical ethics, belonging—and the ripples that can flow from the family we choose to the family that chooses us, and the hardest lesson of all, that love is about letting go.
My inspiration for the story was my love of this environment. I was a turtle tagger myself on an island rather like Turtle Island when our children were young, and coral cays are magical places. Many of the things that happen in the novel around the turtles and birds come from my own experiences, but Anna, who is a neuroscientist, as was I, is totally different from me! No-one would call me a dedicated introvert, and I have 4 children and 5 grandchildren, unlike Anna who was single and lonely for the first 49 years of her life.
Thank you, Ms. Ogden for taking the time out of your schedule to answer a few questions. (I’m a bit jealous of your description of your study and its proximity to the beach.) Check out the novel A Drop in the Ocean for a great read!
Two weeks ago, I reviewed Love Sick, by Cory Martin. Today I have a lovely interview with the author, who was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions. Love Sick is a great read for anyone who has ever struggled with an illness, dating, or trying to find themselves. The author is open about her struggles, and this honesty shines through on every page. You can pick up a copy here.
(I was interested in reading Love Sick because I’ve been through health issues, too. I had a major stroke almost three years ago. Learning to live with a new reality is challenging, at best. If you’re interested, you can read about that here and here.)
Who is your favorite author and why? (Do you love being scared by Stephen King, inspired by Maya Angelou, loved by Nicholas Sparks, entertained by Jane Austen?)
You know what’s funny is I literally just looked at my bookshelves to find an answer, like I was just going to pluck one out of thin air so I could look smart, but the truth is I don’t have a favorite author. I have plenty of authors who I admire and whose books I adore, but there’s not one that I return to over and over. If I went through the books on my shelves I could probably give you a reason why I like, love or admire each and every author. But let me just give you a sampling…I love Erica Jong for her fearlessness and portrayal of women, and Curtis Sittenfeld for her well crafted character based stories, and Jeannette Walls for writing a memoir that felt like a piece of literary fiction and Jenny Lawson for making me laugh out loud on an airplane and Dave Eggers for taking his writing and parlaying that into a publishing company and an amazing non-profit (If you don’t know about his 826 program you should check it out.) and Tom Wolfe because he is such a part of history, and Fitzgerald and Austen and Hemingway and so many others. I guess I am a fan of writers in general and anyone who can persevere and not only finish writing a book but then put themselves and their art out there to be judged by all has my support.
What is your absolute favorite, read over-and-over again, book? (Mine is “Gone with Wind,” which I’ve read about 25 times, because the story and the characters are so real to me.)
The one book that has stuck with me forever is “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin. I have only read it a few times, but the way it made me feel the first time I read it has been imprinted on my soul. It’s the kind of book that makes you want to go out and change your life or do something grand and against the norm when you finish reading it.
The two other books that I have read over and over have more to do with me being a writer. They are Stephen King’s “On Writing” and Erica Jong’s “Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life”. If anyone reading this is a writer or aspiring writer, I highly recommend these books. They’re about the craft, yes, but they also make you feel less alone in your idiosyncrasies and habits that have to do with writing.
Where is your dream place to write? (Personally, I have visions of white sand and waves. Maybe a drink with an umbrella in it.)
Oh my gosh, I’ve had visions of white sand and waves too, but I know me and I would get way too lazy and comfortable there and would probably never write another word. But take me to some old flat in Europe with character and history, somewhere like Prague or Vienna and I think I might thrive. Whenever I travel I love to research the writers who were from that place, or who were ex-pats there and I try to visit the locations where they lived or wrote or got drunk on a daily basis. I have always been fascinated with the lives of writers, and to be where they once were inspires me.
How has writing changed your life? (If I’m doing “character research,” people-watching is much more socially acceptable.)
I don’t know if it’s necessarily changed my life because I’ve always been an introverted observer who loved writing, but I can definitely see now how it has affected the way I interact with the world. I think being a writer has taught me how to empathize with people. To be a writer and to be able to develop characters and write dialogue you have to really understand the way humans interact and work and think and feel, and I believe that because of this I have become a great listener and I have learned to sympathize with someone before jumping to conclusions or passing judgment.
How is your health these days? Do you feel like your body betrayed you? (One of the reasons I wanted to read your book was because I have had a major health issue myself. Almost 3 years ago, at the age of 36, I had a major stroke without warning and almost died. Overnight, my entire world changed, and it felt like my body had tried to kill me, literally, so I had to relearn how to trust it again.)
Wow. How scary. I can’t even imagine what that must’ve been like and all that you’ve probably had to go through and might still be going through as a result. That must’ve been so hard to learn to trust your body again. I hope you are doing much better and are as healthy as can be. Thank you for sharing that. Stories like yours and mine and so many others are the reason I wrote the book. I knew I couldn’t be the only woman struggling with an illness or betrayal of their body who was also trying to navigate life in the most normal way possible and I wanted to share my story in the hopes that it would at the very least make other women feel less alone.
My health these days is quite good and I feel very lucky. The one major thing I deal with is my cognition. I forget things or names of things quite frequently and there are so many mistakes in my writing these days that I swear I spend more time editing than I do writing, but this I can tolerate. However, and this is the thing that makes MS so hard to deal with, you can never predict what will happen next, so while I don’t feel like my body has betrayed me yet, I live in constant fear that one day I will wake up and it will have done so.
What is your advice for anyone interested in getting into yoga? (Because I’d like to, but I have limited time and resources. It seems like such a beneficial practice. And maybe my brain would stop talking to itself so much.)
Ah, yes, yoga is great for quieting the mind and getting your brain to stop talking to itself so much, but it definitely takes practice. My advice for anyone interested in getting into yoga is to not assume that it has to be perfect right from the get go. Try a class here and there, or just learn one or two poses you enjoy, or follow a video online or read a book (not to plug my own work, but I did write a book called Yoga for Beginners, which might be helpful). Also, know that it might take time for you to find a teacher or a type of yoga that you connect with and that’s fine. There are so many different types of yoga out there and you have to try them out to find out what works for your body. I think the problem now, especially in the US, is that yoga has become this big flashy thing you see on Instagram where yogis are tying themselves into knots or doing these poses that are displays of amazing feats of strength. And that’s great and I don’t want to take away from any of that, but the real yoga lies in being able to simply be in the moment. I practice yoga constantly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I get on my mat and move my body into the poses. The poses are just a way to help you get to the point where you can, as you said, get your brain to stop talking to itself so much. So truthfully if you can get into one pose, which might be Sukhasana, which is basically sitting Indian style like you did as a kid, and get your mind to quiet even if just for one second, you are doing yoga and that’s the best place to start.
Thank you, Cory, for taking the time to answer these questions. I purchased “Yoga for Beginners,” and I can’t wait to start reading it. I have some cognition problems, too, but they are sporadic–and without warning–which is quite frustrating. I still worry sometimes that something else will happen, so I understand your fear. I’m happy that you are doing so well, and I hope “Love Sick” does well. I recommend it to everyone.)