Today’s Book Blurb: Okay, I gotta read this one

For anyone at all familiar with Russian folklore, you get me. I need to get my canary mitts on this book. It sounds amazing.

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“A former Soviet rocket scientist, Elena Irinovna now cleans office buildings–until she crosses paths with Ilya Muromyets. A remnant of Russia’s glorious and fabled past, Ilya is an eight-hundred-year-old hero turned heroin addict, dreaming of a death that never comes.”

– Nine Layers of Sky by Liz Williams

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Today’s Book Blurb: A unicorn and dinosaur walk into a plot

This one was submitted as a review request. We don’t do children’s books, but I couldn’t resist passing along the book description.

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“Azaria, a unicorn colt, is intrigued when the young, clairvoyant dinosaur, Darius, foresees a terrifying change to their world.”

– The Legacy (The Shadow of the Unicorn #1) by Suzanne de Montigny

[Pitch Slap] Readers read words, not minds

Another pitch slap article.

One of the best bits of fortune cookie-style writing advice I’ve ever gotten has been this: Readers read words, not minds. 

When a reader picks up a book, they’re reading the words, the paragraphs, the chapters. It no longer matters what the author meant, or wanted to imply, or included in the 50-page compendium of world-building notes. The words on the page are all.

Here’s the thing: Writers read with their minds, readers read with their eyes. The writer already knows what’s happening, what it all means, why the characters do what they do, all before ever sitting down to look through what they’ve written. It all makes sense, not because the words-on-the-page explain it, but because the writer’s brain knows all.

All this leads me to our latest 50-word story summary sent in earlier this month by author B Hughes-Millman for some feedback.

Title: Purgatory’s Angel
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Once a mighty archangel, Jaime is on earth hunting those who kill the innocent in their sleep. Then she meets the handsome demon in a dream she can’t remember. When she wakes, he’s still alive, but he must have died or she wouldn’t have woken.

I think you know where I’m going with this. Here are some off-the-cuff thoughts as I read:

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I suspect none of these oddball questions I asked even occurred to the author. But the reader doesn’t have the advantage of seeing around the corner. The reader doesn’t have the author’s mental footnotes and annotations. More clarity is needed.

Wait, don’t you want to get your readers curious? Make them ask questions? Continue reading

Defining Dystopia. Hint: It’s not about love triangles.

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I’m about halfway through reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale with Tash from The Bookie Monster, and it has dawned with me that over the last few years, I’ve slowly lost sight of what the dystopian genre is all about.

The Handmaid’s Tale takes North Korean oppression, mixes in the gender-driven segregation of fundamental Islam, and frames it all in the language of Christianity. In no place in the text can you take a step back and scoff, this can never happen. It might. The story makes you believe it might.

This is the chilling power of the genre – it says, This could be the world. Our world. Tomorrow. The dystopian genre is a cautionary tale. It’s a warning. It’s the uneasiness of premonition. It is the Greek seer Cassandra, blessed by the gods to see the future and cursed to never be believed.

Reading The Handmaid’s Tale, it occurred to me that the mushrooming teen dystopian genre has been selling oppression lite. To win itself a shiny “dystopian” label, the ubiquitous YA book checks the box  marked “oppressive society” and perform a token wave to its character’s rejection of the status quo. These worlds don’t need to be realistic or thoughtful or threatening (and perhaps that’s why Divergent’s world pissed me offSeveral times.) They just need to involve oppression. The weirder the better. Continue reading

[Book Review] When the main character moonlights as a story framing device

[Book Review] When the main character moonlights as a story framing device

Devil’s Daughter by Hope Schenk-de Michele, Paul Marquez, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

If there’s one thing you need to know, it’s this: Devil’s Daughter reads closer to Christian fiction than Urban Fantasy. While the story takes some liberties with the religious mythology, it stays true to its themes of redemption and love, what it means to be a good person, the danger of good intentions and shortcuts, the power of choice. You know, the works.

With that out of the way, back to the story:

“Lucinda is as old as humanity itself, yet perpetually young, beautiful, and endowed with supernatural powers. She lives a double life human and immortal.

In her human guise, she manages Lucinda’s Pawnshop & Antiquary, the doors of which can open to any street anywhere in the world at any time. Mortals who have arrived at a moral or spiritual crossroads are drawn into the mysterious shop. If they acquire one of its cursed artifacts, they may find themselves drafted into Lucifer s service.

Born out of a betrayal of trust between the first woman, Eve, and father Lucifer, Lucinda has worked covertly and subtly for millennia to be true to her mother’s love by subverting her father’s schemes.”

After reading that blurb, you’ll be forgiven for thinking this story is all about Lucinda’s struggle against Lucifer and quest to figure out where she stands, all culminating in a grand standoff during which she singlehandedly saves the world.

That’s what I thought too, so let me stop you right there. Continue reading

[Book Review] A pep talk and hug from Patricia C. Wrede

Wrede on Writing: Tips, Hints, and Opinions on Writing by Patricia C. Wrede

“What matters is that when you are finished, you have a good story, however you managed to get there.” (Wrede on Writing)

You know this author. You know her because of all the awesome:.

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And now she has a book out that distills over thirty  years of writing wisdom into 246 pages covering basics from what it means to get an idea for a novel to the eternal question that plagues writers around the country – should you have a dedicated writing office, or write on all and any available and relatively flat surface up to and including relatives and large animals? In small, short vignettes, the book covers a miscellany of writer-relevant topics in a ‘there’s no one right way to write’ kind of way.

The book is set up in three sections: the bare-bone basics of writing (outlining, what point of view is, tense, narration, the works), the more advanced basics (using flashbacks, writing conflict, ending the darn book, beginning it…), and the practical, financial and operational basics of being an author.  Continue reading