Tag: literature

Community

Holly Lisle is looking for readers and writers to build a community that fosters the growth of new writers.  The readers will have the opportunity to help writers they support to grow and learn, the writers will gain support and assistance where they need it.  Holly does wonderful things for other writers, and this is a fantastic new idea of hers that is still in beta development.  If you’re interested, check it out here.

The Girl with the Windup Heart (Steampunk Chronicles) by Kady Cross

The Girl with the Windup Heart, by Kady Cross (Harlequin Teen)
The Girl with the Windup Heart, by Kady Cross (Harlequin Teen)

Kady Cross is the best-selling author of the Steampunk Chronicles, a series set in London in the late 1890s. She combines magic and technology with the urban English culture to produce an intriguing and well-detailed world. The Girl with the Windup Heart is the final installment in the series.

Mila was a childlike part-automaton girl when she first came to live at Jack Dandy’s house. Now she’s developed a fierce personality and desires and interests of her own. When Jack refuses to see her as she is—a woman in love with him–her heart is broken and she runs away to create a life for herself. She ends up in the West End, amidst the flamboyant characters of a dazzling circus. But danger straight out of Jack Dandy’s past haunts her even there, and she will need Jack’s help if she is to survive.

Griffin King is hot on the trail of London’s latest serial killer, but he never expected his search for the murderer to lead him where it does: to the Aether, and the lair of his nemesis, The Machinist. Soon Griffin is trapped and being tortured for control of the Aether itself. If he breaks, everyone will suffer, especially Finley Jane and their ragtag group of friends.

The world of the Steampunk Chronicles is the most fascinating aspect of this series, filled with magic and technology that has never existed in our world, but set in the English culture that is ruled by manners and class-consciousness. Ms Cross’s characters are distinctive and intriguing, without being unbelievable or unrealistic, despite their unique backgrounds and abilities. The camaraderie between the group offers a solid support against the dangers of their world and the powers of their enemies, both human and other. The Girl with the Windup Heart is well-written and flows between wildly different settings with ease and grace.

(Galley provided by Harlequin Teen via NetGalley)

Out of curiosity, I always check out Goodreads to see what other people think of a book. I may not agree with their opinions, but they have a right to them. However, this time….I found one of the first reviews was overwhelmingly negative, with the reviewer not liking the world, the writing, the relationships, the characters, basically everything about this series. Nothing positive to say whatsoever. Now, this is the ONLY book of this series I’ve read. I enjoyed it. But you can bet that if I had disliked the first book in a series as much as the reviewer claims to, I would not have read farther. So tell me why, at the end of this scathing review, does the reviewer make it clear that he/she has read EVERY SINGLE BOOK in the series? Just a question: if you hated something this much, why did you continue reading it?

The Girl with the Windup Heart, by Kady Cross (Harlequin Teen)
The Girl with the Windup Heart, by Kady Cross (Harlequin Teen)

The (Changing) Habits of Readers

Okay, I admit it.  I love to read fiction.  Especially fantasy.  Bonus enjoyability points if it’s YA fantasy.  I’ve read predominantly fantasy for years now, with a few forays out into mysteries, forensic thrillers, and humor (Stephanie Plum, anyone?).  I normally read several books at a time, with one “main” book that I pick up whenever I have a spare moment.  Normally, these are all fiction.

But lately, my TBR pile has moved into uncharted territory for me:  non-fiction.  Exclusively non-fiction.  What?  That’s what I thought, too.  Now, instead of the latest fantasy gem to catch my eye, I’m reading–and eagerly awaiting reading–books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Pandora’s Seed, and The First Human.  Granted, The First Human is reading for my anthropology class, but I’m really enjoying it and am finding it quite interesting.  Pandora’s Seed also started off as reading for my evolution and ecology class–last semester–but it’s pretty interesting as well, and ties into my latest personal research into environmental issues.  The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food are both about topics that I find very relevant of late, as I focus more on my health and eating healthier in general.  Both gave me a lot of–excuse the pun–food for thought, and gave me more focus on how I spend my food dollars, and the statement I want to make with them.

I’ve also been doing more spirit-based reading, including The Blessed Life, by Pastor Robert Morris (pastor at my church, Gateway Church, and a phenomenally gifted speaker).  Up next are the Divine Revelation books, and some more spirit-based reading.

Basically, I’ve found that my reading habits have changed lately, more closely tying in to the personal growth areas I’m working on.  Instead of reading for sheer entertainment, now I seem to be drawn to books that will help me grow.

Does anyone else find that their reading habits change over time, or in certain situations?

The Habits of Readers

What makes you want to read a book? For me, there’s one sure way to guarantee I’ll read a book: if it’s by an author I’ve read and enjoyed before. That’s a safe bet. But for a new (or new-to-me) author, what’s a good way to get me to pick up the book–and then make an even bigger investment of time and money–and buy it?

The cover of the book is one way. It’s hard to place too much importance on the book cover. Honestly, I can’t even tell you the number of book covers that have intrigued me enough to actually buy the book. Here are three book covers that intrigued me enough to buy the book:

Before I Wake, by Rachel Vincent
Before I Wake, by Rachel Vincent
Flirting with Forty, by Jane Porter
Flirting with Forty, by Jane Porter
Alice in Zombieland, by Gena Showalter
Alice in Zombieland, by Gena Showalter

There aren’t really any common elements between. They are all just really well-done covers. If it catches my eye on a bookshelf, at the very least I’ll pick it up, flip it over, and read the back cover copy.

Cover copy is another way to attract readers. Last week, I saw the blurb for Coleen Patrick’s new book Come Back to Me:

Whitney Denison can’t wait to start over.

 She thought she had everything under control, that her future would always include her best friend Katie… Until everything changed.

Now her life in Bloom is one big morning-after hangover, filled with regret, grief, and tiny pinpricks of reminders that she was once happy. A happy she ruined. A happy she can’t fix.

So, she is counting down the days until she leaves home for Colson University, cramming her summer with busywork she didn’t finish her senior year, and taking on new hobbies that involve glue and glitter, and dodging anyone who reminds her of her old life.

When she runs into the stranger who drove her home on graduation night, after she’d passed out next to a ditch, she feels herself sinking again. The key to surviving the summer in Bloom is unraveling whatever good memories she can from that night.

But in searching for answers, she’ll have to ask for help and that means turning to Evan, the stranger, and Kyle, Katie’s ex-boyfriend. Suddenly, life flips again, and Whitney finds herself on not only the precipice of happy but love, too, causing her to question whether she can trust her feelings, or if she is falling into her old patterns of extremes.

As she uncovers the truth about her memories, Whitney sees that life isn’t all or nothing, and that happy isn’t something to wait for, that instead, happy might just be a choice.

I was so intrigued by the description of the book, I clicked on the link and bought it immediately (Great read, btw!)  Again, there’s no list of ingredients for how to write great cover copy, but using active descriptions instead of boring passive-voice is a must, as is giving the reader just enough details to whet their appetite (and have them chasing the carrot).

A great title is also a way to get me to commit to a book.  Gena Showalter’s Alice in Zombieland is a fantastic example of this.  I would have bought this for the title alone (even without the great cover and fantastic cover copy).  As a writer, coming up with the perfect title is something I tend to obsess about, so I love to check out other authors’ titles, hoping to find something that will give my own Muse a nudge in the right direction.

What about you?  What gets you reading?

Re-thinking this whole writing thing

…okay, not really re-thinking. Let’s just say I’m going to try something new (or, actually, old). Confused yet? Let me explain. Have you heard of Holly Lisle? If you haven’t, well, you don’t know what you’re missing out on. Holly is a rarity: a mid-list author who actually makes a living with her writing. She’s smart, she’s a great writer, she knows what she’s doing, and, more importantly, she’s really big on paying it forward (she did start Forward Motion, after all). She spends a lot of her time helping her fellow writers out. To that end, she has created lots of helpful things, from the smaller workshops like How to Create a Language, How to Create a Character, How to Write Page-Turning Scenes…and she has also created huge, incredibly detailed classes Like How To Revise Your Novel and How To Think Sideways.

I was in the original HTTS class, as well as the original HTRYN class, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much difference these two classes made in my writing. The way Holly thinks, the way she breaks things down using plain language, worksheets, examples…well, it got me thinking in ways I’d never thought before (which was the point, right?). Since I don’t have much done on The Fall–in reality, I have only a handful of pages written, basically no pre-work, and haven’t touched it in weeks–I’ve decided that I’m going to take it through HTTS. I know the end result will be much closer to the story I have in my head, much more true to the vision I can see for the story. It will just be better. Yeah, it’ll be a lot of work and it will take me a while, but in the end, it’ll be worth it.

I’m a huge fan of Holly’s writing in general, and I know her courses can really get results–if you’re willing to do the work. I am. I haven’t been published, but I’ve gotten some partial manuscript requests because of her courses, and I want to give everything I can to The Fall. I’ve also decided to become one of Holly’s affiliates. I do believe whole-heartedly in her methods, her teaching, and her results, and if you have any interest in checking it out for yourself, go here. If you aren’t a writer, but you’d like to read a great book, you can check those out as well.

Aurora Sky: Vampire Hunter

Aurora Sky:  Vampire Hunter, by Nikki Jefford
Aurora Sky: Vampire Hunter, by Nikki Jefford

Nikki Jefford is “a third generation Alaskan who loves fictional bad boys and heroines who kick butt.”  Ms Jefford is the author of the Spellbound trilogy (Entangled, Duplicity).  Aurora Sky:  Vampire Hunter is her newest novel.  Full of action from the very first page, Aurora Sky is a book that will have the reader hanging onto every word, staying up late into the night to in out just what is going to happen next!

Aurora Sky has had all of Alaska she can take.  She just wants to finish her senior year, get on with her life, and never look back.  She’s had enough cold and snow to last a lifetime and she can’t wait to go to college anywhere else.  But all that changes with a car crash on an icy road.  Suddenly, getting out of Alaska is the last thing on her mind.

When she wakes up after the wreck, Aurora discovers she’s been saved by government agents because of her special blood type.  In return for a medical miracle, now she’s forced to become a vampire hunter.  Worse than the thought of having to kill monsters she never dreamed actually existed is the fact that she can’t leave Alaska.

Now, instead of worrying about college essays and making good grades, Aurora spends her free time training and thinking about a certain mysterious boy from school.  Her old best friend doesn’t talk to her anymore, so she makes friends with some vampire groupies in an effort to find out more about the undead scene…and finds out that the boy of her dreams is more than he seems.

‘A Natural History of Dragons,’ by Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie BrennanArtwork by Todd Lockwood
A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan
Artwork by Todd Lockwood

Marie Brennan is a former academic with a background in archaeology, anthropology, and folklore, which she now puts to rather cockeyed use in writing fantasy. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to many short stories and novellas, she is also the author of A Star Shall Fall and With Fate Conspire (both from Tor Books), as well as Warrior, Witch, Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, and Lies and Prophecy. You can find her online at SwanTower.com.

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . .
All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

Marie Brennan introduces an enchanting new world in A Natural History of Dragons.

‘A Natural History of Dragons’ brings the Victorian era to life with stunning details and such lifelike depictions that the reader will truly feel like they are on an expedition to study dragons. From the very beginning, when Isabella was just a child and fascinated with sparklings, the majesty and mystery of dragons shrouds every page. Though mystical, magical creatures to the reader, Ms Brennan brings them to startling life with each tiny detail revealed. The beautiful illustrations bring the entire world to life.

Zhagrit Mat, by Todd Lockwood
Zhagrit Mat, by Todd Lockwood

 

Isabella is no shrinking violet, and her rather madcap adventures grow from the natural curiosity of a child to mould her into the Darwin of dragons. Ms Brennan masterfully and evocatively tells this memoir-style tale of one girl’s love of dragons, and her willingness to sacrifice everything to study them.

Find ‘A Natural History of Dragons’ at these retailers:
Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Powells

(Galley provided by Tor Books via NetGalley)

P.S.  I really enjoyed this book.  I’ve always loved Victorian-era fiction, if done well, and this one is done extremely well.  I could totally relate to Isabella searching for sparklings behind the house, since I used to always be on the lookout for different animals and plants when I was a child. If there had been tiny dragons around, well, my joy would have been boundless.  I had the pleasure of meeting Ms Brennan several years ago at Conestoga Writers Conference, and really enjoyed her thoughts on the different panels.  She was nice enough to answer questions from aspiring writers, and her kindness made a huge impression on me.  I’ve read most of her books (Witch, Warrior, Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie), and loved them all.  If you’re looking to read something a little different, I highly recommend them.

Bribing Myself

So, despite loads of homework and reading for school, I managed to do mini-outlines for two more chapters in the werewolf story. Progress, although of the infinitesimal, snail-like variety. Three chapters down, 29 to go…but it will get done. And I promised my best friend/co-writer that I would convert ONE chapter of our zombie story to first-person this weekend. I’m also thinking about trying out Scrivener. Anybody out there used it or have any opinions or comments about it?

I also have this sitting on my desk, waiting to be read:

Personal bribery at its best...
Personal bribery at its best…

I know, I know. The Wheel of Time series has dragged on forever. I’ve heard all the complaints. Seen all the bad reviews for the series in general. I know. Also, I don’t care. I haven’t opened it yet. IF I get all the stuff done that I need to this weekend–homework, writing, revision, blogging, cleaning, re-decorating, planting–THEN I will start reading it. If not, well, it’ll have to wait. It’s been years since I started reading the series, I don’t think a few more days will hurt me.