Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Mini Book Reviews: Moribito 1 and 2 by Nahoko Uehashi

I have never seen the anime Seirei no Moribito (Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit), but I randomly picked up the first novel several years ago. I loved how unique it was, but I only got around to the second one this week. I actually liked the second one, Guardian of the Darkness, even better. If you are interested in Japanese folklore, manga and/or anime, or strong heroines, then read on.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (Moribito #1) by Nahoko Uehashi

Spectacular, isn't it? 
Covers and blurbs are from

Balsa was a wanderer and warrior for hire. Then she rescued a boy flung into a raging river -- and at that moment, her destiny changed. Now Balsa must protect the boy -- the Prince Chagum -- on his quest to deliver the great egg of the water spirit to its source in the sea. As they travel across the land of Yogo and discover the truth about the spirit, they find themselves hunted by two deadly enemies: the egg-eating monster Rarunga . . . and the prince's own father. 

I don't remember when my love of Japanese culture and history developed (I just know I was really little, and that it was probably brought on by a book of Japanese folktales). I read every book on samurai and ninja that my childhood librarians could find, and then I went on to books about Japan itself and its fascinating history. Next came the (inevitable) calligraphy, kanji, and manga.

So with all that as a preface, I was poised to love Moribito. But there's a lot more to like about this novel than the setting.

Let's start with Balsa. She's thirty years old, a wandering warrior and spear-for-hire. Not only is she a (believably) proficient fighter, she's also a humble, kind woman with a lot of heart. Her backstory may be tragic, but she hasn't let it hold her down. Just read this description:
“Balsa seemed invincible, endowed with powers no other warrior could match, but in her profile he could glimpse the shadow of a young girl, hurt and buffeted by a cruel and hopeless fate. If he had never experienced what it was like to be at the mercy of fate himself, he would not have noticed, but now he could see it with unbearable, heartrending clarity.” 
― Nahoko UehashiMoribito: Guardian of the Spirit
In Guardian of the Spirit, Balsa's travels find her in the island kingdom of Yogo. She saves the crown prince from a "freak"accident, which gets Balsa involved in something much bigger than she realized. Prince Chagum has a secret: he carries the great egg of the Water Spirit, which he must deliver to the northern sea. This has made him the target of an egg-eating monster and his own father. Chagum's mother rightly suspects the king, and she hires Balsa to protect the young prince. On the way, Balsa and Chagum develop a delightful relationship, a cross between mentor-student and siblings. Naturally, there is a lot of action, as a lone warrior woman attracts both interest and suspicion, and Balsa truly enjoys a fight.

The writing is lovely, but narrative heavy. The pacing and storytelling also differ from a typical Western novel. Its not a challenging read, but there are thought-provoking explorations of everything from gender roles to philosophical and religious differences in cultures. Also, this is one of the better translated novels I've read (applause for translator Cathy Hirano), and there are superb illustrations by Yuko Shimizu.

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars. In short, Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is a breath of fresh air in the fantasy genre, with a unique heroine and an action-packed story that will appeal to guys, girls, teens, and adults.

Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness (Moribito #2) by Nahoko Uehashi

"Conflict seems to follow those who learn to fight. If I could, I would spare you a life of bloodshed. But I have no choice."
― Nahoko UehashiMoribito: Guardian of the Darkness

Blurb and cover from
Balsa returns to her native Kanbal to clear the name of Jiguro, her dear mentor, who saved her life when she was six years old. But what should be a visit of truth and reconciliation becomes a fight for her life when she learns that Jiguro had been a member of King Rogsam's personal bodyguard. After Jiguro fled Kanbal with her, Rogsam sent the other bodyguards after them one by one--Jiguro's best friends, whom he had to kill to protect Balsa. Now, with the help of two Kanbalese children, Balsa must unwind the conspiracy surrounding Jiguro and the mystery of the Guardians of the Dark. 
If anything, Uehashi's strengths as a worldbuilder are even stronger with the second Moribito installment. The layers to her fantasy landscape keep peeling back for even more fascinating elements to be revealed. Oh, and there is a lot more food description in this one. It made me hungry.
Guardian of the Darkness takes up where Guardian of the Spirit left off, as Balsa
heads home to clear her beloved mentor's name. On the way, she saves another child (a pair of children, actually) from a fearsome cave spirit. This good deed ends up causing Balsa heaps of trouble, as she realizes that the events of her childhood were farm more nuanced and sinister that she imagined. Despite her best efforts, Balsa finds herself dragged into plots and intrigue, and a fight for her life and that of her nation.

Again, there is a lot of narrative, and the story has a rapid clip. However, the real reason to read this is Balsa herself. Her history is explored a little more, as well as her feelings and motivations. She is an incredible heroine that you can both empathize with and root for. And she is so very cool.

As a side note, the treatment of Jiguro (Balsa's mentor), his family, and the collateral damage his leaving caused, were all very well done.

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars. Another strong entry with great action, an awesome lead, and an exciting fantasy landscape.

And here's my biggest complaint:  the eight other books in the series have never been translated into English! Just another reason I should learn Japanese, I guess . . .*
But don't let that disappointing fact stop you from reading these two novels! They work just find as stand alone works.

Here's a challenge for you: off the top of your head, can you name any Japanese MG or YA novel that has been translated for English speakers? If you can, tell me in the comments so I can go find it. Have you read Moribito, or seen the anime?

*I wish I was one of those people that languages clicked with. Alas, that is not the case. My language abilities are embarrassing at best . . . really bad for a writer, you know?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Character Spotlight: Melora From "Knight of the Blue Surcoat"

So, just in case you didn't know, I have a novel coming out Summer 2016. Knight of the Blue Surcoat is historical fantasy, and you can find a brief description here.
I am planning a series of posts to introduce the novel to everyone, and what better way to do that than by character interviews?

Melora, King Arthur's daughter, is the the main character in Knight of the Blue Surcoat (or KotBS), so it's only right that we start with her. I'm so excited about this, and I hope you end up loving her as much as I do! (All pictures are either in the public domain, or my own, and were inspirations for Melora)

J. W. Waterhouse (public domain) Source

Who is Melora?

Melora is the sixteen-year-old daughter and only living child of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, of Britain. Though her parents rule a large territory, it is in the section known as Cymru (or Wales) that Melora spends most of her time. The Red Hall, one of Arthur's residences, is where the action in Knight of the Blue Surcoat begins.

Melora's older brother (Amhar) died in a hunting accident when she was younger, leaving her terrified of horses and tearing a major rift in her family. As Arthur's heir, she has many suitors and admirers, but she has no idea if any of them are sincere, or if they only want her kingdom. And she really isn't ready to get married yet. The pressure is on as Melora tries to be her brother, a future queen, and herself, but all at the same time.

A quiet, studious girl, Melora loves to read classic works (her unconventional parents made certain that she could), play her harp, and spar with her father and rambunctious cousins.

Britomart (from the Faerie Queene, named after Britomartis)

Melora's Family:

Amhar was the center of young Melora's world. He was her teacher, confident, playmate, and best friend. Melora measures herself against him and his accomplishments, but she is also comforted by her treasured memories of him. Nevertheless, his violent death still deeply affects Melora and their parents.

Her cousins, the Orkney brothers, are her closest companions and friends. Sir Gawain, in particular, has filled a bit of the hole that Amhar left, though he is wild, brash, and significantly older than Melora.

Though Gawain is important to Melora, no one holds more sway over her than her father, the legendary King Arthur. He is her hero and her role model, and she resents herself for not being the heir he needs to carry on his legacy. Though they are close, they rarely speak about Amhar, and Melora constantly wonders if Arthur compares his two children like she does.

Though Melora is close to her father and cousins, she is finding it harder and harder to relate to her mother, the beautiful Guinevere. Guinevere is elegant, poised, gracious - which gives her little in common with Melora. Naturally, Melora loves her mother, but she feels inadequate and awkward in the Queen's presence, and they both have trouble opening up and sharing their feelings.
Britomart again

Merlin, Sir Mador and Prince Orlando:

Merlin is Arthur's confidant, friend, and closest adviser. He is also a skilled mage and wise man. Melora is intimidated by him, but she knows that he only seeks the best for the royal family. However, he sometimes takes this too far. Merlin seems to think anything is justified if it's good for the kingdom (and his definition of good).

As Arthur's heir, Melora has many suitors, even at her young age. However, the chief suitor (and only really important one) is the Spanish knight, Sir Mador. Eloquent and dashing, Mador frightens Melora with both his dogged pursuit and his polish. Still, she's flattered by his attentions, and he isn't a fool or a fop, so she's reluctant to discourage him.

Orlando is newly arrived at The Red Hall. He's from Thessaly (Ancient region of Greece), and the youngest of three (so he's the spare). Unlike most of the younger men, he has zero interest in finding a wife. He's much more concerned with proving himself as worthy as his older brothers. His interests include studying philosophy, eating, and horses. Melora finds him bold, rude, and alarming, especially when he rides a giant horse into the hall itself. (Bad. Breeding.)

Melora and the Witchwood

Outside of The Red Hall is a massive forest. Though most of it is normal trees and average dangerous, the forest also straddles the border of The Otherworld - the realm of spirits and the Faye. As nights grow long and dark in The Red Hall, King Arthur sends restless, hot-blooded knights into the forest to seek "a wonder," some strange occurrence to regale the company with at feasts. Melora wants to enter the forest, but she's not a knight, and she's far too valuable for such a risky enterprise. Still, she chafes at home, surrounded by so many expectations, and she wishes she could prove herself (as Amhar certainly would have) as worthy to serve her king as any of the knights.

Public Domain. Found here

A note on the names and setting:

The Knight of the Blue Surcoat is a novelization of a Irish-Arthurian ballad. All of the main characters' names come from this ballad and Arthurian lore, but I've basically anglicized them, or used a more standardized spelling. The Red Hall (my equivalent of Camelot) is in early medieval Wales, and the rest of the books locations are also based on real world, early medieval locales.
A quick cartoon sketch of Melora (that I did a few minutes ago . . .)

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Freestyle Writing Challenge - Accepted!

So I had all these grand ideas about posting on my upcoming novel, Knight of the Blue Surcoat, or doing a few book reviews. But work happened. It's been so busy, with all the last minute summer traffic. And all those people puts me in psycho-cleaning mode. I'm not like this at home, but at work, I'm basically Levi . . .(especially after I've been stuck in the kitchen on a music night! Dishes, dishes everywhere)


All this aside, I did get tagged by the wonderful E. Rawls for the very cool "Freestyle Writing Challenge"

You can find her prompt and answers here

But before we begin, here are the rules of the Challenge:

  • Open a blank document. 
  • Set a stop watch or mobile phone timer to 5 or 10 minutes. 
  • Your topic is at the foot of this post. DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH YOUR TIMER! 
  • Once you start writing, do not stop until the alarm sounds! 
  • Do not cheat by going back and correcting spelling and grammar using spell check. (The challenge is only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought-flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write with correct spelling and grammar.) 
  • You may or may not pay attention to punctuation or capitals. 
  • At the end of your post, write down “No. of words = ____” to give an idea of how much you can write within the timeframe. 
  • Copy and paste the entire passage on your blog post with a new topic for your nominees, and copy / paste these rules along with your nomination (at least 5 bloggers). 

The writing prompt from E. Rawls:
You are going to live under the sea now. You have left your “land dwelling” life and world behind. Where are you? What is your underwater dwelling like? Are there other humanoid races, such as mermaids or something else, in this undersea realm?

And here was my reply. It was totally random, so apologies ;P
No spell check!! NO LOOKING AT THE RANDOM STUFF YOU TYPED. This was hard.

There is a palace made completely from shells. It looks a bit like a Gothic cathedral, all jagged edges and dark shadows, with glimpses of color and mother of pearl. I seem to have found myself with gills, so I decide to explore the palace. The worst thing that can happen is being kicked out, right?
At the steps (which are made out of bone-white coral), I'm met by two sober faced guards. Their faces and bodies look human, but they have gills and webbed fingers, and their hair is long and, seaweed green. They wear no clothing, but their bodies are covered in rippling golden scales of varying shades and thicknesses. Naturally, I wonder if it would itch to be scaly.I wait for the guards to address me, but they just watch me with their dark, unblinking eyes. After they stare long enough to make me twitchy, I walk past them and into the palace. When no one comes after me, I decide to take a look around.The floors are sand, so white that it could have been powdered sugar, and it squishes under my bare feet. The walls soar up hundreds of feet overhead, and I can make out balconies of coral, and glowing lights that may or may not be jellyfish.The walls beside me are pearly, and the lights are some sort of fluorescent algae, which gives everything a greenish glow. Two clown fish swim past my face, which is startling: I'm still not accustomed to being able to breathe.The palace is eerily silent, but I hear a distant singing, so I head toward it. My first thought is sirens, and I wonder if living underwater will somehow make me immune to their song. Or maybe they won't be interested in me, since I'm not a sailor. Regardless, I've always wanted to see one.I decide to swim down the hall, as there's no one else around. On my way, I see other doorways, and several suspiciously human bones. There are so many fish, in every color of the spectrum, and it's tempting to chase off after them. But where there are fish, there might be sharks, and I'd honestly prefer to risk the sirens . . .

Word count: 375 words in 8 minutes (yeah, I wrote over, realized my timer was at 8, and decided to compromise) I am slow when writing from a prompt, I guess. Normally my fingers are like lightning (at least, according to my dad. It drives him crazy when I'm writing around him)

So, I am going to go rogue and not tag anyone. Instead, if you are reading this post, consider yourself eligible for the paragraph below:

"You are in a forest. What does it look like, and what just made that sound in the bushes? Is it a scary forest, or a kind one? What kind of trees are around you, and are there any other plants. What is going to happen to you in this forest?"

Uhm, yeah, that's the first thing off the top of my head. I love forests (really, really, love). Work thy descriptive powers, my friends. If you dare.

image credit

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

TTT: Top Ten Authors I Will Buy Every Book From (Even If It's Just a Cookbook)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. If you'd like to participate, there are details here.

This was interesting, considering that most of my absolute favorite authors are deceased. So unless they truly become ghost writers,* I've bought everything they'll ever write. I tend to hesitate before I fork out my scant spending money on unknown books. Even if I love an author, I may not like everything they've ever written (i.e. Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series), or I might prefer their Adult to their YA, or vice versa. So this was actually hard for me! But I finally managed to narrow it down. A little.

So, in no particular order:

The Top 10 Authors I Would Even Buy a Cookbook** From:

1. Robin McKinley

Anyone who's read this blog probably knows how much I love Robin McKinley. If it has her name on it, I will shove money over faster than you can blink.

2. Chris Bradford

I haven't read his bodyguard series (yet), but I love his Young Samurai series so much that I will read those bodyguard ones and anything else he decides to write. Like McKinley, he lives in the UK, so that means I have to obtain English editions, grrrr . . .

3. Neil Gaiman

Another one that is probably obvious. I discovered Gaiman when I was a younger teenager, and fell in love with his witty, beautiful writing. He is one of my few actual insta-buys.

4. Megan Whalen Turner

So far, she only has The Queen's Thief series, but I've obtained every one as soon as they were out, and I would instantly buy any other book she wrote

5. Intisar Khanani

One of my most recent discoveries - I have purchased everything she has out there, and I am anxiously awaiting Sunbolt's sequel.

6. Marissa Meyer

The Lunar Chronicles. Each one is an instant purchase for me, and I cannot wait to read whatever Meyer does next!

7. Matthew Pearl

Historical fiction that really makes you feel like you're there. And he can make just about anything exciting.

8. D. M. Cornish

An Australian author who also illustrated his awesome Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy. If he ever publishes anything else, I'll be in line to get it.

9. Markus Zusak

The second Australian - and I'm going on the assumption that everyone knows who he is. The Book Thief  was beautiful and stirring (and Death the narrator-so perfect), but I also love I Am the Messenger. I eagerly await anything more from this guy.

10. Garth Nix

The final Australian - and another author who I have sung the praises of all over the place. Despite the fact that I am less than thrilled by his MG stuff, his YA is A++.

*Corny jokes

**Or how about a cookbook that they all contribute to? Or cookbooks from their invented worlds? That would be epic.

So, do you have any authors who are insta-buys, or are you reluctant to so easily part from your hard earned cash?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Adult Books Versus Childrens Books and Where I Fall in the Divide

Adult Fiction Versus Childrens Fiction

Image copyright here

If you don't know, I am twenty-six and I work at a bookstore/coffeeshop/cafe. I am also an author, and I read a lot. I have trouble not reading - just leave a piece of paper with writing on it anywhere near me and I'd have to use massive amounts of willpower to refrain from reading it. I'm a compulsive reader, and if something interests me, I'll give it a try.

Until a few years ago, when I was taking a course on writing for children, I never really looked at the "age designation" of a book. I just glanced at the cover, flipped it over and read the blurb, and then read a few pages to see if it was the kind of thing I might like. That course assigned me the task of finding books that were marketed specifically to certain age groups. I had to read them, dissect a few, and basically sum up what the course was teaching me: there really are books written for distinct age groups, such as middle graders or working adults. 

It also showed me that I hadn't ever examined this idea in relation to myself.

Of course, one of the byproducts of being homeschooled was the fact that I wasn't in a specific "grade" or "age group." I read what I wanted outside of school reading lists. If I wanted to read Homer's Iliad when I was eleven, there was no one around to tell me it was more of a high school thing. If I preferred a dry textbook on the mechanics of writing to a fun book on writing that was aimed for younger kids, no one noticed. This same thing happened when I "hung out" with other people. If I wanted to go sit with the grandparents, I did. If I wanted to play with younger children, I did that too. I didn't have a designated friend group, and I really didn't hang out with many people my age. And I was always completely fine with this. In fact, I've always enjoyed independence (maybe too much!).

Which leads me back to that reading thing. Some of you might have read Ruth Graham's buzzed about Slate article from last year. This one. It was around the release of The Fault in Our Stars movie, and she was bemoaning how adults were no longer embarrassed to be reading "books that were written for children." Honestly, that article (and all the spleen-filled or rational ones that popped up refuting it or affirming it) just made me laugh. I agreed with Graham about The Fault in Our Stars. I even found myself nodding along to some of her points. And it still didn't make a whit of difference when I sifted through pages of books that looked interesting on Goodreads.

I just don't care if a book was written for my demographic (working, single, female, mid-twenties) or not! 

This led me to the question: Why do I read? At first glance, it's like asking why you breathe, or eat, or sleep, or anything else natural. But I know it isn't that way for everyone.

So I came up with 5 really basic reasons:

1. I read to learn more about the world and the people who live/have lived in it and the times they lived in.

2. I read for the sheer pleasure of a good story: the anticipation and excitement of the beginning, the emotional connection to the characters, the breath-holding panic that it isn't going to turn out right, and the satisfying warmth at the beautiful, perfect ending.

3. I read to relax or unwind, to forgo worries, tasks and daily concerns at far less cost than a trip to the spa or a vacation.

4. I read to challenge my brain. Whether it's tricky plots or new ideas, or intricate examinations of the truth or substance of a thing, working out your brain is just as important as working your body.

5. I read to write. So many authors, from Stephen King to Margaret Atwood, recommend reading as one of the first and best things to do if you want to write. Which sort of builds on reason #4, above.

So, keeping all those reasons in mind, what does this have to do with the Adult books versus Children's books debate?

Not much.

If a book fulfills any one of those reasons, I will consider it worth a look. Whether it was written by Dr. Seuss or James Joyce makes no difference to me when I pick it up.

Granted, I judge books on a different scale. I won't fault Mo Willems because his hilarious and fun Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! didn't explore the themes of childhood like Peter Pan, which in its turn, didn't explore adolescence like Hatchet, which doesn't quite capture the struggle for existence like The Call of the Wild. Because books are written for different ages and maturity levels, and tastes. But I don't think that means that you should be embarrassed to read a book because you aren't the target audience. I think it goes a lot deeper than that.

And adult novels? I'm not really sure if I'm the kind of adult they had in mind . . .

While I can't really relate to YA or MG protagonists, I almost always cannot relate to Adult protagonists.

In the advance review program I'm currently participating in, it is all adult literature, and predominantly fiction. I turn to the nonfiction for a breath of fresh air (I love Adult Nonfiction!).
When I pick up the second (twentieth) adult novel, it contains many (or all) of these things I cannot relate to:

Protagonists who:

  • Are really, really, wealthy. And that's really all there is to them.
  • Have lives consisting of drugs, parties, and waking up in strange places - and that's the book's plot.
  • Are trying to decide if they really love their spouse/significant other, or that random person they met through "serendipity"at [insert event here]
  • Are businessmen who deal with lots of important assets and can't find time for their families, and are therefore depressed and considering drastic options
  • Are extremely foul mouthed, irresponsible, beautiful, talented, and magically retain their jobs
  • Randomly super-attractive people who show up at just the perfect moment
  • Are college students who party, do drugs, and can't figure out who they are, who still . . . keep their jobs, finish their classes, and manage to be admired by their friends/picked up by the best looking person in the room. Really?
  • Are incredibly gifted and tragic young people who are squandering their gifts left and right, who have parent-issues and spiral into artistic demises.
  • Have oodles of affairs. With everyone in the book. Why? I have no idea.
  • Are so confused that they go through life in a haze, hoping random events or people will give them meaning. Ends with them deciding it was all worth it, and me being really confused as to the point of this exercise in complete futility.

I don't know about you, but I can relate to these people far less  than I relate to the average second grader.
But that isn't my main point. I can't really relate to Harry Potter either. And someone can probably relate to one or some of the things above - but not me.

I don't read novels based on how much I think they might resemble or can impact my life. I don't read books just because the protagonist is like me. I know me-I'm far more interested in reading about different kinds of people, or things I don't know and haven't experienced.

If it's a good book, it's worth reading. And I'm not going to get into good vs. bad books, because that wasn't the point of this post. I'm also not questioning the fact that not all books are appropriate for all people (I wouldn't hand a nine-year-old The Road or The Goldfinch, etc.)

PersonallyI don't care if a book was written for middle-aged parents, retired teachers, or preteens. You can't judge a book's worth on its intended audience. This insults the readers and the authors.

Are there mediocre (and even bad) books? Yes. But I doubt that had anything to do with their target audience. Ultimately, I think that if you refuse to read a book based on who it was written for, you could be missing out on something brilliant, and that's sad.

The power of a good story is universal. And I think that is something we can all agree on.

So what makes you read one book over another? Have you ever put a book back because you realized it was written for a different audience than you first supposed? Do labels like YA, Middle Grade, or Adult Fiction help you or hinder you in your search for good books?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Extra! Extra! Read All About It! My Book Will Be In Print, 2016!

So, peoples of the internet, I hinted a few weeks ago that I had big writing news, and here it is:

My debut novel, Knight of the Blue Surcoat, is scheduled to be published with Neverland Publishing in Summer 2016. This is really early on (ink fresh on the contract and all that), but it is a huge deal to me and a major life goal!

Neverland is a small, independent house out of Florida, specializing in print (paperback) editions and ebooks. Indie, of course, means that there is no machine behind things, and I'll have to do a lot of promoting and marketing myself. And that is fine with me! I have a book, and the book is getting published, I will shout it from the mountaintops if I must. (See what a life goal can do to an introvert?)

So details, details. I haven't mentioned Surcoat (I haven't mentioned a lot of my books) on the blog, but today I aim to change that. Starting right now, you can expect a weekly post about Knight of the Blue Surcoat, the characters, and why I think you might like it. I'll start with a blurb:

Knight of the Blue Surcoat by R. L. Hendrian 

 Being King Arthur’s daughter isn't easy, but being his only heir is a nightmare. Sixteen-year old Melora has struggled with her role ever since her older brother was trampled to death in a hunting accident. Her father raised her to be a warrior queen, but Melora is too valuable to be allowed to test herself beyond the castle walls. She is trapped, surrounded by suitors who want her kingdom, and suffocated by her parents’ love. She wants to escape, but how can she leave when even the sight of a horse makes her paralyzed with fear?
Prince Orlando is expendable. His arrogant brothers and distant father were thrilled for him (and his prize stallion) to leave tiny Thessaly. Orlando heard tales of Arthur’s court, where men are measured by their worth. He came to prove himself; he didn’t plan on Melora. Her fear of horses is a challenge Orlando is willing to take, but befriending the princess earns him powerful enemies, including the wizard Merlin and Melora's many suitors.
When Merlin curses Orlando to eternal imprisonment in the Celtic Otherworld, only Melora can save him and break the curse. But first, she’ll have to get on a horse. Melora travels from British shores to the coast of India on a madcap quest to find the keys to unlocking Orlando’s prison. Melora must overcome warriors, outsmart kings, and face her deepest fears if she wants to get Orlando out alive. Even if she can break the curse, will there be anything of Orlando left to save?
So, there you have it, my debut novel, and I'm SO EXCITED!!!

Granted, the publication process is a long one, so I'll be bursting at the seams for about a year. Assuming all goes well, I should have an exact release date by next Spring. Having seen a bit of the process from the inside, I know just how much time this all can take, but I wanted to spread the word now.

This announcement also serves as a call for future readers. If you love fantasy or King Arthur and are interested in reading review copies, I am starting a list. If you are a blogger or reviewer who thinks they'd like an (eventual) ARC, comment here, and I'll put you on a list for later contact.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: The 10 Authors I've Read the Most

Image Credit: The Broke and the Bookish
No matter which way you worded it, this title was awkward :)

So it's Tuesday, and I had to consult all-knowing Goodreads to have any idea which authors I'd read the most books from (see, such a clunky sentence!)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. If you'd like to participate, there are details here.

Looking at this list, I realized that I haven't completed any major series since I was a teenager. (I am working my way through the Aubrey-Maturin series, but I intersperse them with other books).

Top 10 Authors I've Read the Most Books From (still sounds off)

1. Shakespeare (37 plays/complete works)

All of the plays, all of the sonnets. And many repeats. Shakespeare is easily my most read author. And I don't care if he's technically a playwright ;)

2. C. S. Lewis (23+)

Counting fiction, nonfiction, philosophy, and academic papers, C. S. Lewis is second only to Shakespeare in the number of works I've read by him. The Chronicles of Narnia are only 7 of those, and I actually prefer Lewis' nonfiction (excepting Till We Have Faces, which is brilliant)

3. Lloyd Alexander (22)

With a whopping twenty-two novels, Lloyd Alexander is my most read novelist. I did not know this until today.

4. Walter Farley (15+)

I can remember at least fifteen distinct Farley novels that I've read. The funny thing is, I was thirteen-ish when I last read anything of his!

5. Robin McKinley (15)

Quote is from Pegasus

She's one of my all-time favorites, and I've read almost everything she's written. I follow her blog. And I'd really like to read Pegasus II, if she finishes it. I first read The Hero and the Crown at 12, and I wanted to be Aerin.

6. Garth Nix (14)

French edition = incredible artwork

Again, I haven't read everything, but I've read most of his books. We've all seem my blowing the Abhorsen horn (maybe that should be, "ringing its bells")

7. Patricia C. Wrede (14)

Another author that I really enjoy, but I haven't completed her whole catalog.

8. Gail Carson Levine (11)

Ella Enchanted got me hooked on her writing, but The Two Princesses of Bamarre is my favorite (and it's one of my all-time favorite books). 

9. Eoin Colfer (11)
PERFECTION - This art is by germanmissiles (who is the artist and copyright holder)

I love Artemis Fowl, but I've also read Colfer's other MG novels. His sense of humor is priceless, and their some of my favorite recommendations for boys who don't really want to read.

10. Four Way Tie: Charles Dickens (9), Sherwood Smith (9), Diana Wynne Jones (9), and Neil Gaiman (9)

Yes, I know there are five of them. I just liked the gif.

This is a funny group. Neil Gaiman will soon move up, as I only have a couple of his books that I haven't read. (And if you count Sandman comics, I've read a lot more than 9 Gaiman titles). I decided to ignore the double digit volumes of manga or comic books, because that would be tedious and take forever. Traditional print books only ;)


Manga I've read the most volumes of: Claymore, by Norihiro Yagi (23 volumes). 
Most read comic book author: Ed Brubaker

So who are your top read authors? Did they surprise you? Do you binge read an author's entire collection, or do you work them in around other books?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Attack of the Liebster Award 2015 PART II

This is part II of the Liebster post I started yesterday. At the end, I pass on my
questions to 11 tagged bloggers.

These questions were provided by Paein and Ms4Tune. You can check out their great blog here. Thanks guys!

And now it's time for Paein and Ms4Tune's wonderful questions:

1. If you had to live the life of one character from a book, which character/life would you pick, and why?

This question caused me unnecessary agony. So I will make it much easier on myself by saying Morgan Le Faye. King Arthur is a childhood+ obsession of mine, and I have always been desperate to change how things went down. As King Arthur's fairy powered half sister, I feel like I could create magical mayhem to keep Lancelot and Guinevere apart, probably meddle constructively in King Arthur's business, and hopefully prevent the fall of Camelot (as long as I could remember my previous life as me). If I couldn't remember being me, then I want to be a random side elf from The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. All of the trees, none of the defined character arcs.

2. Would you like to be an author? If so, what would you like to write?

I am an author, ;). I love fantasy/alternate history best, but I dabble in historical fiction and nonfiction as well. I don't write for specific ages, but the bulk of my fiction probably falls into the YA and Adult categories.

3. How do you organize your bookshelves?

Barely? If I am ambitious, it is by both genre and author. Usually it starts that way and then becomes a mess of whatever fits.

4. If you could choose a book penpal to swap books with, what country would you like them to be from and why?

Anywhere is fine with me. However, I'd really like a penpal from Japan, Korea, or India. I have always been fascinated by Asian countries (I'd like to visit!), history, food, and cultures.

5. What mythological creature would you like to be if you could?

AN ELF. If they count. If I have to be a creature, I suppose I'd want to be a kitsune or a phooka, something clever and dangerous.

6. If you were tasked to re-write a book, what would it be and why?

Hmmm, hard question. Probably Twenty Years After, by Alexander Dumas. I always found it depressing, boring, and not nearly as good as The Three Musketeers. They deserved better. Or maybe Madame Bovary (Incredibly boring book. All I took from it was that you should never get into debt, which I have learned better in other places. I would have added ninjas, or pirates).

7. Choose a character. Who is it? If you could give them something you think they need/want, what would it be?

SO HARD! I will just go with the first thing I thought of: I would give Tom Imura (Rot & Ruin Series by Jonathan Maberry) a second chance at life. But not as a zombie. That, or I'd show both Arthur and Guinevere where their actions lead in the hopes that they'd make different choices.

8. Book before film or film before book?

Finally, an easy question. BOOK! Even if it ruins the movie. I will always pick the book.

9. If you could turn any book into a film (a perfectly true to the book film) which would you choose?

10. IF your favorite character was an animal, what would they be and why?

Darn it, now I have to pick a character! Which is impossible. So I'll throw out a few of them (preferably ones that work best as animals): Faramir (LOTR) would be a Timberwolf, a quiet survivor, wise, solitary but loyal to the pack. Gen (The Thief) is a fox - clever, crafty, quick-witted, and really hard to catch. Tom Imura (Rot & Ruin) would be a panther: strong, swift, wise, quiet and deadly, awesome . . . Aerin (The Hero and the Crown) would be falcon: sharp, distinct, a hunter, introverted. Sabriel (Sabriel) would be a cat. I'm not sure why. Thranduil would be a dragon: Aloof, loves treasure, superiority complex, but wise and dangerous. And I'll just stop there, because my favorite characters could fill a dictionary.

11. If you could change something about your society, what would it be?

I'll try to be brief: I think our general society [as a whole] is morally bankrupt in many ways, self-absorbed, shallow, and self-righteous. So I would want us to all realize how big the world is, how many people are hurting and need help, and have the guts and the resources to do something about it. And everyone can do something.

IF I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin        5
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

 Emily Dickinson, 1924, Complete Poems, Part I: Life, VI

Well, they really ended with a philosophical whammy there. In lieu of writing a blog post answer to just question eleven, I kept it simple. Thanks a bunch for these thought-provoking questions!


Hooray! It's the part where I get to be the Master of Questions:

  1. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what? If not, why?
  2. Do you have a certain type of character that you always love/root for? (I. e., the orphan hero, the bad boy/girl with a heart of gold, the loveable rogue). Why do you like them?
  3. Has your taste in books changed much in the past ten years? Do you find that you like a certain type of book now better than you did then?
  4. What literary trope or cliche do you hate the most? Which one really doesn’t bother you?
  5. Name one book that you love that no one else seems to have read. Include a picture and a link so the rest of us can check it out.
  6. Do you prefer contemporary novels or historical fiction? Why?
  7. If you write (stories, novels, poetry, anything other than blog posts), do you write with the hope to publish, or just for fun?
  8. Why did you start your blog? What keeps you posting?
  9. If the internet disappeared overnight, how would you feel? Do you think life would be better or worse, and why?
  10. If you could have tea (or coffee) and a chat with any author living or dead, who would you pick? What would you want to ask them?
  11. What do you like best about your writing or your blog? Why?

That was fun! Now, for nominations. This is hard, because most of the blogs I follow/enjoy have either been nominated for 100+ tags or don't do tags. So I looked through all the blogs I follow by various means, and selected some who haven't done a Liebster post this year (yet). If I tag you and you hate tags, don't feel any pressure. If not, my 11 questions are ones that I'd really like to know your answers to!

11.Stephanie Don't Be Afraid of The Dork

Friday, August 7, 2015

Liebster Award Challenge 2015 PART I

The fabulous Sara Letourneau and the equally fabulous Paein and Ms4Tune nominated me for the Liebster Award Challenge! I decided to answer all the questions in two consecutive posts. I'll include my nominations and questions in the second part. Thanks so much for nominating me!

If you want to see Sara's questions and answers, click here. For Paein and Ms4Tunes, here. What's a Liebster? There is a really good write up here. Basically, you give other bloggers shout outs (and post ideas!), and it's a fun challenge, win-win, right? Here are the rules for this particular Liebster Award Challenge:
  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Answer the 11 questions that the blogger gives you.
  3. Nominate 11 blogs that you think are deserving of the award.
  4. Let the bloggers know you nominated them.
  5. Give them 11 questions to answer.

Since Sara tagged me first, I'll start with hers :) Sara gave us (her nominees) these 11 questions (and it should be really fun reading other people's answers, which I fully intend to do).


  1. Why do you blog?

I love to write, and I love to geek out about books. Unfortunately, I rarely meet people who have read the same books! The online community, on the other hand, has read just about everything. Blogging also forces me to write, and to consider my “audience.” Since I am a novelist, this is good practice, and it tells me a lot about myself and the people who read/comment. Even if no one reads a post, it’s still valuable practice.

  1. What was the last good book you read? Why did you enjoy it?

The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson! Beautiful prose, fascinating magic system, epic story, good characters, and a heist: basically the recipe for a Rebekah favorite. Bonus: a strong, flawed and unique female lead, and an equally flawed, strong and fun male lead, who had an Obi-Wan and Luke relationship, as opposed to a romantic one. Kelsier and Vin stole my heart (among other things - they are thieves).

  1. In your opinion, are film adaptations of novels as good as the original? Not as good? Or better? Why?

SO MUCH WORSE. With some very notable exceptions, such as The Princess Bride, movies always seem to sap what I loved from a story, while adding nonsense. And I go see them, almost every time, which makes it like some sort of loop. I feel like miniseries and TV shows have done much better, as they have the time to develop characters properly. How much I love/hate a movie is also directly dependent on how much I love/hated a book. I am going to set myself up for tomato-ing here by declaring that I liked the movie of Inkheart better than the book. But that is an incredibly rare exception.

  1. What is the kindest or most compassionate thing someone has done for you?

Hard question, Sara! I know a lot of wonderful, giving people. The one that first popped out to me may seem silly: I was probably about twelve, awkward, prickly, introverted, and really standoffish, but there was a Sunday School teacher/retired Public school teacher, Mrs. Grush, who battered down my don't-mess-with-me exterior with exceptional patience and kindness. She believed in me 100%, and encouraged me to keep writing and drawing and reading, and she became my friend. She was one of my only friends at the time, and she really helped me believe in myself/my gifts.

  1. Do you use bookmarks while reading? What are you currently using for a bookmark(s)?

Yes. I read 5+ books at a time and I like to know where I am (so I don’t waste time looking). Currently, I am using 2 actual bookmarks, 3 receipts, and 4 random pieces of paper.

  1. What is your favorite book cover design of all time? Why? Share a picture/image of it, if it’s possible.

These questions are hard, in a good way. I am basically reliving my past 26 years trying to make sure my answers are accurate (and forgive me if I cheat a little). My favorite illustrated book of all time is the Book of Kells. Though I've never been to Dublin, the images and illustrations from this have influenced me artistically for over a decade. Seeing the real thing is on my bucket list. My favorite classic book covers is this 1978 special edition of The Lord of the Rings. This is one of my favorite/most influential novels, and I think this cover captures some of what I love about it. From the Tree of Gondor and the stars, to the wings and the ring, it is beautiful, mysterious, and it looks like the epic saga LOTR is.
Copyright Harper Collins 1978
Polish. Copyright 2016, Modernista
Also Polish. Copyright Egmont, 2013
My favorite contemporary covers are the alternate international covers for The Lunar Chronicles. While the U. S. editions are pretty enough, the international ones are gorgeous! For example:
Russian. Copyright ACT, 2015

  1. Have you ever read about a real place on Earth in a book (fiction or nonfiction) and wanted to visit it afterwards? If so, which place?

All. The. Time. Basically, if I read a book set in a real place, I want to go there. I am the walking definition of Fernweh. This has been a constant of my life. I first started checking out library books on everywhere as a kid (6 years old, mind you), in lieu of being able to go there.

  1. What is your favorite season? Why?

Finally, an easy question. Autumn/Fall is obviously the best season. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.
I could write a book about how much I love fall, but I’ll try to restrain myself. From that smoky, crunchy leaf smell, to the crisp air, profusion of apples, and the vivid, fiery colors of leaves, fall could last all year and I wouldn’t be sorry. Bonfires, Halloween costumes, LEAF PILES, death to allergies, harvest, Thanksgiving, PIE, world on fire. Seriously, Michigan autumn looks like fairyland. And then there is that bittersweet melancholy, or nostalgia to it, you know? Spring is young, summer is prime, winter is death or sleep (or just peaceful), but fall is age, wisdom, wistfulness for youth without the finality of winter.
You really had to ask me, didn't you . . .

  1. Do you have a “hidden talent”? By that, I mean a talent that you haven’t had a chance to share with others online or in your blog yet. What is that talent?

Weeeell, I’m sort of a “Jack of all trades, master of none,” type. I pick up hobbies like dogs pick up fleas. I get proficient, and then, I get distracted. I wish I could say I was one of those awesome people who have a black belt in ninjitsu, or can do the crow yoga pose, but that would be embellishing the truth (a lot). Sooo, well, I can produce complete meals from almost-empty fridges and pantries. If you can eat it, I can probably make it edible. Is that a talent, or more of a survival skill?

  1. Are you picky about the writing utensils you use? Do you prefer pens or pencils? Any specific brand or style?

Not really. When desperate, I have written whole chapters with crayons or runny markers. In a perfect world, I would have endless supplies of gel pens in all the colors of the wind. Gel pens are my favorite.

  1. What is one thing you’re grateful for today?

My family. I have a lot of siblings, and parents who love me. I have a precious little niece with super-chubby cheeks, and I know both sets of grandparents. I have lots of cousins and aunts and uncles, and I like them too. So even if I lost my job, or the world ended, or my computer crashes for the twentieth time in thirty days, I have all of those beautiful people in my life right now and they all need to know that I am grateful for them.

Thanks again Sara! Stay tuned for Attack of the Liebster, Part II, coming soon. I'll include all of the lovely people I tagged, and play master of questions, as well.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Beautiful People August Edition: Friendship!

Thanks again to Paper Fury and Further Up and Further In for hosting Beautiful People for Writers. It's a monthly meme that helps you get to know your characters (and get a peek at other WIPs) If you're interested and wonder what the meme entails, click here.
This month's theme is friendship. I'll be focusing on my current project (same as the last few posts) The Last Coffee Shop. I have a group of three friends who are important to the story, though only one is the main character, Madeleine (Mads) Capot. Her best friends, Krillia (Krill) and Alan Dekker III (an alien and a human, respectively) aren't present for most of the novel's action, but they are very important to Mads' character and the plot arc.

Image Copyright Marvel Studios

<---How I picture Krill (but much less fierce looking, and more modestly dressed!) Also, she has four arms, and she's around 6ft tall. Her ears are long and pointy. In other words, she sort of looks like a violet-skinned humanoid dragonfly! Her age translates to about twenty-three in human years.

Alan, on the other hand, is average height and build, and he's twenty-six (a little bit younger than Mads). I picture him looking a bit like a tawny-haired youngish Kenneth Branagh ------>

So now, for the questions:

1. How long have they known each other, and how close are they?

Mads and Alan are best friends from childhood. They have a rather complicated history (Alan's father was in love with Mads' mother, and so he despises Mads), but have remained friends for years, despite the fact that they have basically nothing in common. Mads views Alan as a brother, but she is (uncomfortably) starting to suspect that he doesn't feel quite the same.

Mads gave Krill sanctuary (she was on the run from her past), and then gave her a job. Krill is Mads' only real female friend, and they are also like night and day, but they are more like sisters than friends.

2. What's their earliest memory of being best friends?

Alan: Mads' earliest memory of Alan is meeting a little boy in the street, and then defending him from bullies with her eventually-notorious right hook. They were inseparable ever since.

Krill: Mads remembers meeting Krill because it happened when she was an older teenager. Krill was running from a restrictive culture and an arranged marriage.It was friends-at-first-sight.

3. Do they fight? How long do they typically fight for?

Alan: They don't fight, they bicker. Since they grew up together they know each other's weaknesses and pet peeves (which they sometimes capitalize on). Alan is easy-going, so he can't stay angry with Mads for long. Mads, on the other hand, can hold a grudge like a champion. She's frequently irritated with Alan's shenanigans.

Krill: Not really. They disagree a lot, but not to the point of animosity. And as they're both adults, they handle disagreements in a pretty mature fashion. Neither of them can stay mad at each other (actually, Krill is one of the only people Mads can't stay mad at).

4. Are their personalities similar or do they compliment each other?

All three of them are very different. Mads is the sober, loyal, responsible anchor. Alan is the fun-loving, free spirit who gets by on charm and a good heart. Krill is the life of the party and the peacemaker, and the best person to go out dancing with.

5. Who is the leader of their friendship (if anyone)?

It depends on the situation. Mads holds them together and gets them out of trouble, but Krill gets them to have fun, and Alan gets them into trouble.

6. Do they have any secrets from each other?

Mads: Not until the events of the book! By the end, she has more than she wants.

Krill: Mads knows the extent of her troubled past, but she's never felt comfortable telling the whole truth to Alan.

Alan: Though he's had a lot of friends and girlfriends, he appreciates Mads unfiltered honesty. If he's honest with himself, he's more than half in love with her (and he's kind of narcissistic, so the idea of any girl not attracted to him is appealing).

7. How well do they know each other and each other's quirks and habits?

Too well! (Questions 1-3 sort of answer this too).

8. What kinds of things do they like to do together?

Both Mads and Krill work (Alan is the post-apocalyptic version of a trust-fund kid, and his father is grooming him to take over his place as head of Dekker Industries). If they aren't working, they like to hang out and do nothing in particular. Krill likes to go clubbing, but Mads cannot be induced into a club, so they don't really go out together.

9. Describe each character's fashion style (use pictures if you like!) How are their styles different/similar?

Springs Village (the city under a climate bubble where everything is carefully regulated to be like [in their best estimation] pre-apocalypse alternate-Earth), the hometown of Mads in The Last Coffee Shop, is supposed to be just like the previous world. So they wear clothes that are similar to our Earth's, but a bunch of time periods slightly mixed, with sci-fi/spacey influences. Mads, Alan, and Krill have very different styles, so I'll attach some pics for reference :)

Krill, off work
Mads is like 90's grunge meets bohemian meets hipster, but more authentic, less intentional. Give this girl much darker skin and cropped dreadlocks, and she's got the perfect look - - - - - -  - ->

<------Krill. She'd work in heels, if she wasn't so conscious of her height!

Alan, on the other hand, wears very classy clothes in shades of brown or warm colors, something like the photo below:

10. How would their lives be different without each other?

Alan: Mads keeps him grounded and humbles him a little, they've also supported each other for years. She has supported his desire to be his own man (apart from his father). And Krill has been a female friend he can hang out with, someone he likes as a sister, and good fun.

Krill: If Mads hadn't reached out and helped Krill get back on her feet after her traumatic run from her terrifying fiance, Krill would have had a totally different life.

Mads: Without Alan and Krill, she'd be an overworked workaholic without much of a life or friends (her grandmother is more like her child!). Alan has always supported her and convinced her to have fun. Krill brings out whole other sides of her. Mads would tell you that without Krill and her (Mads) work (which includes running the shop, and managing/maintaining the intricate complex where they are able to grow the preserved coffee beans, tend bees, and keep other relics from the pre-apocalypse world alive), she's nothing at all.

So there you have it. Thanks for reading! This was a fun BP, and I can't wait to check out all the other links. 

I plan on Liebster posts tomorrow, and then awesome writing news for the weekend. What are your weekend plans?