Friday, April 17, 2015

Good Books to Read

Odd and the Frost GiantsRead anything notable lately? Here's a couple books for fans of Norse mythology and the apocalypse. (Can someone really be a fan of the apocalypse?)

Odd and the Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman is a charming tale about a young boy who teams up with Thor, Odin, and Loki to save Asgard from the frost giants. Odd's father, a master wood carver, dies while on a raid. An accident leaves Odd lame, forced to hobble about with a crutch. Odd's mother remarries, but no one has time for a crippled boy. One year, when spring is unusually late, Odd leaves home for his father's cabin in the wood and there comes across a strange trio of beasts: a bear, a one-eyed eagle, and a fox. Odd uses his wood chopping skills to save the bear. He later learns that the animals are Thor, Odin, and Loki. A frost giant has captured Asgard, turned the gods into animals, and exiled them. Eternally confident, Odd offers to help.

From the Amazon page:
In this inventive, short, yet perfectly formed novel inspired by traditional Norse mythology, Neil Gaiman takes readers on a wild and magical trip to the land of giants and gods and back.

In a village in ancient Norway lives a boy named Odd, and he's had some very bad luck: His father perished in a Viking expedition; a tree fell on and shattered his leg; the endless freezing winter is making villagers dangerously grumpy.

Out in the forest Odd encounters a bear, a fox, and an eagle—three creatures with a strange story to tell.

Now Odd is forced on a stranger journey than he had imagined—a journey to save Asgard, city of the gods, from the Frost Giants who have invaded it.

It's going to take a very special kind of twelve-year-old boy to outwit the Frost Giants, restore peace to the city of gods, and end the long winter.

Someone cheerful and infuriating and clever . . .

Someone just like Odd.
Gaiman tells the story of Odd and the Frost Giants with his usual mix of humor and pathos. Odd uses his wits and ingenuity to prove himself a more clever trickster than Loki. Highly recommended to fantasy readers and anyone with an interest in Norse mythology.

The Girl at the End of the World The Girl at the End of the World, by Richard Levesque is a very compelling story of a young girl's struggle to survive and find trust in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. Scarlett is an average teenager with an average set of problems until she attends a baseball game with her father and his new wife and kids. A neighboring spectator dies horribly. Fungus-like stalks explode out of his face. The contagion kills within hours and spreads via airborne spores. Scarlett is certain she's going to die and locks herself in her room, hoping to shield her mother and sister from harm. Scarlett's world comes crashing down. Everyone is dying, except Scarlett. By some freak of genetics, she is immune. Scarlett gathers supplies and heads out into a very different world. There must be other survivors she reasons, but can she trust them?

From the Amazon page:
Her fight begins the day the world ends.

Scarlett Fisher is an average California teenager. She likes hanging out with her friends and talking on the phone. She does all right at school, and she's made the best of her parents' divorce. But in one way, she's special: on her fifteenth birthday, a fast-moving plague wipes out everyone she’s ever known, yet somehow it passes her by.

Her family dead, alone in a corpse-strewn metropolis, she has no choice but to survive. She needs food, shelter, a safe place to sleep. She discovers that an ordinary girl is capable of extraordinary things, and that she's more resilient than she imagined. Even so, she wishes more than anything that she could just find another survivor.

Unfortunately for Scarlett, not everyone who survived the plague is looking for companionship. And she’s about to find out just how difficult survival really is.
Levesque paints a terrifying picture of a world gone mad, where life and death survival is a constant concern and the rules of society no longer seem to apply. I don't read many apocalyptic stories so I can't say how this one compares to similar stories, but this compelling tale is hard to put down.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Celebrate The Small Things - 10 April #CTST

It's Friday and time to Celebrate The Small Things (or big things) that happened this week.

I finished the galley edits for On the Altar—another novelette/novella and my first attempt at a contemporary thriller. I signed off on the cover last week so it's all in the hands of the publisher. The publisher's site lists April 21 as the release date. One of my goals for the year is to release five new titles so here's one down, four to go.

Here's the blurb:
When the president’s daughter, Helen, is abducted, special counsel Aaron Atreus offers his friend all the support he can. When the kidnapper demands Aaron’s daughter, Effie, deliver a ransom payment, the crisis becomes deeply personal for Aaron’s family. What’s the kidnapper’s game? Why insist on Effie? There’s no way Aaron will allow his only daughter to walk into such a dangerous situation.

Desperation puts friends at odds, and questions of duty and loyalty threaten to tear Aaron’s family apart. While the policy-makers fight among themselves, the kidnapper waits for the pieces in his sinister game to move into place.

Keep writing and keep hoping. What are you celebrating this week?

Want to join in the fun that is Celebrate The Small Things, sign up here. Thanks to the very talented Lexa Cain for hosting this hop.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Post #11

It's the first Wednesday of the month again. Time for another IWSG post.

Oh no. It's April. That means a quarter of the year is gone and I haven't completed any new projects. I have worked on them. I'm making progress, but there not done. At least I'm keeping up with my reading challenge on Goodreads. Write faster. Write faster. It's not that simple. I continue to get bogged down in various stretches of narrative, struggling to figure out interesting ways to move the story forward while working in bits of action, thought, and description. I've been happy with the final result but not so much with the pace.

Taking part in the A to Z Challenge? This is my first year. I'm part of the team at Untethered Realms. You can check out my contributions for K and U as the month progresses.

Until next month, keep writing.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Celebrate The Small Things - 27 March #CTST

It's Friday and time to Celebrate The Small Things (or big things) that happened this week.

Spring is coming, I think. We drove through some flurries last night coming home from the book store, but nothing stuck.

A friend introduced me to OverDrive a couple weeks ago. OverDrive is an app available for various devices that manages checking out ebooks and audiobooks from your library. I finally have a use for my smart phone, a reason to keep it charged.

Keep writing and keep hoping. What are you celebrating this week?

Want to join in the fun that is Celebrate The Small Things, sign up here. Thanks to the very talented Lexa Cain for hosting this hop.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Good Books to Read

The BackworldsRead anything notable lately? I finished a few titles this month that might interest space opera and ghost story readers. The Backworlds by M. Pax is a fast-paced, short novel that introduces this space opera series. Betrayed by his father, his girlfriend, and community, Craze is cast into exile, forced to make his fortune on his own. His father has taught him a few skills, but Craze never intended to set up a business on another planet and he's going to have to earn a lot more chips before he can hope to buy what he needs to start his own tavern. A few chance encounters and a back alley deal with stolen goods seems to put the fortune he needs within reach. Well, maybe and maybe he'll be lucky to get out alive.

From the Amazon page:
In the far future, humanity settles the stars, bioengineering its descendants to survive in a harsh universe. This is the first book in the science fiction series, The Backworlds. Try it for free. A galactic adventure.

After the war with the Foreworlders, Backworlders scatter across the remaining planets. Competition is fierce, and pickings are scant. Scant enough that Craze’s father decides to improve his fortunes by destroying his son. He tells his only boy their moon isn’t big enough for them both and gives Craze a ticket for the next transport leaving the space dock.

Treated worse than a stranger, like the scuzzbag of the galaxy, Craze is forced to flee his home. Cut off from everyone he knows with little money and no knowledge of the worlds beyond his, he must find a way to forge a new life and make sure his father regrets this day.
I don't read much space opera so I can't compare it against other books in the genre but I enjoyed it and I suspect any lover of adventure tales will find something to like. The characters are varied and well-drawn, the planetary settings fascinating. The story of friendship and shady business dealings in some rather unsavory places drew me in and held my interest. The ending of course is a set up for the next adventure, but I'm looking forward to another ride with Craze and his new friends. He can probably trust them.

Broken VoicesAndrew Taylor's Broken Voices is ghost story of the slow-paced, pleasantly creepy variety. Set on the eve of World War I at a cathedral school during the Christmas holiday, it follows two boys who are forced to remain at the school during the break. Neither wants to be there and one of them may be facing expulsion, which leads him to follow a desperate and ill-fated attempt at redemption. The story moves slowly as it builds up the setting. If you like historical fiction about boarding schools in the early twentieth century, there's a lot for you to delve into here.

From the Amazon page:
Broken Voices is a 23,000-word novella, written especially for Kindle Singles. A chilling ghost story, it is set a hundred years ago in an East Anglian cathedral city. Two lonely schoolboys at the end of childhood are forced into an unwanted companionship. One of them is terrified of what the future holds.

Does music have its ghosts? Its victims? Something is stirring in the cathedral that both echoes an ancient tragedy and seems to offer a chance of future happiness. One thing is certain. Broken voices make false promises. And their lies may prove fatal.
Taylor does some great work at characterization with the two boys and the retired teacher living on the school grounds with whom the boys are staying. Even the teacher's cat has a distinct and prickly personality. The ghostly bits don't come to the fore until well-after the middle of the story. If you're looking for a quick scare, this isn't the story for you. What's interesting about this tale is the nature of the haunting. It's a piece of music that haunts the cathedral. People hear a measure or two but nothing more. It was composed centuries earlier to celebrate a new set of bells for the cathedral, but the new bells were never hung and the music never performed. There's a tragedy at the center of the music's story and tragedies sometimes repeat themselves.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Celebrate The Small Things - 13 March #CTST

It's Friday and time to Celebrate The Small Things (or big things) that happened this week.

Some of the snow is melting. It's still cold here but at least the marrow in your bones doesn't freeze when you step outside.

Tonight is the JOT Writers Conference, which is becoming a biannual event. A time to connect with other writer friends in person and hear some great speakers. And it's all free. Well, you have to pay for refreshments, but the discussions and parking are free.

A couple weeks ago I started listening to the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast. Lots of great interviews with writers and suggestions on tools and techniques. I learned about the Asana project management tool from RSP.

Keep writing and keep hoping. What are you celebrating this week?

Want to join in the fun that is Celebrate The Small Things, sign up here. Thanks to the very talented Lexa Cain for hosting this hop.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Word of the Week: Welsh Rabbit

Buck Rarebit (Welsh Rarebit with an egg).
Ever eaten Welsh rabbit or Welsh rarebit? Being an ignorant Yank, I assumed it's rabbit prepared in some distinctly Welsh way, likely with lots of consonants. Then I came across the alternate spelling Welsh rarebit, consulted a dictionary, and discovered there's no rabbit in Welsh rabbit. Bunnies have nothing to fear. In its simplest form, Welsh rabbit is melted cheese—typically Cheddar—over toast. Ale, milk, or other spices are often mixed with the cheese. There are several variations with colorful names. When topped with a fried egg, the dish is called buck rabbit. Add turkey and bacon to the recipe to create a Kentucky hot brown. Combine tomato soup into the mix to get a blushing bunny.

The first recorded reference to Welsh rabbit is from 1725. It's origin is unknown. Welsh rarebit is a corruption that first appeared in 1785. The term Welsh derives from Old English Wielisc—meaning foreign, not Anglo-Saxon, not free—which comes from the Germanic words Wealh and Walh—meaning non-Germanic foreigner, including Celts, Britons, and Latin speakers. Rabbit came into usage in the late fourteenth century to designate the young of the coney. Rabbit derives from Middle English rabet, which likely comes from Old North French Walloon robett, a diminutive of Middle Dutch robbe. Beyond that, rabbit's origin is unknown.

Some legends have developed to explain the origins of Welsh rabbit. One posits that toasted cheese is an irresistible dish to Welshmen. A C Merie Talys, a book of jokes printed in 1526, tells that God became weary of the Welshmen in heaven and asked St. Peter to do something about it. St. Peter announced outside the gates that toasted cheese was available. All the Welshmen ran outside. St. Peter then locked them out. Another unsubstantiated legend claims that Welsh peasants, not allowed to eat rabbits caught on the estates of the nobility, substituted cheese for rabbit meat.

Feeling hungry? Toast some bread and melt some Cheddar. Invite a bunny to join you.

Photo Attribution: “Welsh rarebit with an egg,” by Jiel Beaumadier (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.