children's fiction, Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

Top 10 Tuesday: Upcoming Summer Reads

Image result for dawn of the clans

For me, this will be a different sort of list. Partly because I recently destroyed my TBR (yup, you read that right — more on that in a minute); also because I’m kind of cheating on how I’m counting this top 10. Confused yet? All right, I’ll get to the explanations…

First, I officially decided to demolish my TBR on Goodreads. Purely because it was stressing me out. The most complex TBR method I’ve ever had before joining Goodreads was to simply write down on a scrap piece of paper a title and author of a pending or recent release that sounded fun. Usually that ensured that I requested it from the library, read it, and it was mission accomplished. And then…I joined Goodreads. And it was almost becoming an obsession — searching for what my community was reading and reviewing, frantically clicking the “want to read” button (even if I wasn’t honestly interested in the particular work).

So, I took the radical route — I erased everything from my GR “to read” page, made a physical note of certain titles that I’m truly anticipating, and totally started over. So, here’s what I realistically plan to read before September.

1-5: Finish the Dawn of the Clans series

Image result for dawn of the clans 2      Image result for dawn of the clans 3    Image result for dawn of the clans 3

White Fang owns all of these, so I no longer have the excuse of “But they don’t have the full set in the library yet” that I was using for a while. Ages ago (probably about 8 months), I read the first in this Warriors prequel, and got no further. At the time, there were too many other things clamoring for my attention. Now that’s less the case, so I’m going back to book 2, and taking it from there.

6: Chivalry’s Children

Image result for chivalry's children

Part of my resolution to read more indie authors (after all, this is my territory, so showing support for others in the same boat is important) includes awaiting the July release of Chivalry’s Children by Alexis P. Johnson.

7: The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart

Image result for dragon with a chocolate heart

I haven’t come across such a fun-sounding MG fantasy read in a while. My library system has it, but I have to wait for it, and lately I am not being so patient with the waiting. Hopefully it will come in soon…

8: The Songweaver’s Vow

Image result for the songweaver's vow

Another self-published author, and this sounds like a very interesting twist on Norse mythology, of which I have not read very much.

9: Apprentice Cat

Image result for apprentice cat book

White Fang owns this one as well, and when it first arrived in our home (Christmas), I intended to read it and never did. It’s about a cat studying to be the magical companion to a human wizard. How could I not want to read this?

10: A Dog’s Purpose

Image result for a dog's purpose

This was a gift to White Fang (see, I am apparently ravaging his bookshelves), and usually I don’t read books told from the point of view of animals (Warriors being the exception), but lately I’m not finding a lot of books told from a human POV that are really doing it for me. Hence, I’ll give this one a go.

What are you looking forward to reading this summer? Do you have trouble keeping on top of your TBR, or are you attacking it with a purposeful vengence?

 

 

community, Encouragement, reading, writing

How to Name Your Characters

Image result for fantasy art

This is definitely an issue for writers. When you create characters, you go through the same process that expecting parents do — you want to give your “child” a name that you like, but that also fits in with your family, society, culture and the time period you’re all alive in. And it’s important to get these details right, because it helps your reader relate to the characters — and we all want that to happen, right?

So, here are some tips on how to find great names for your fictional babies:

Consider the time period your character was born in. Not the year you’re setting your story in, but when the person was born — this is mega-essential because most people are given names that reflect what’s going on at the time of their birth, not when you’re actually describing the plot. For example, The Order of the Twelve Tribes (my series) is set in present day, but most of the characters are between 15 and 45 years old, and their names take that into account. A middle-aged man or woman in 2017 would have a name that was popular in the 1960s, and their adolescent children would (most likely) have names that were big on parents’ radar at the start of the 21st century.

Image result for fantasy art

Be sure to decide on your character’s ethnic/cultural background, and remember that when naming. Maybe your story’s set in modern America, but if your people are immigrants or belong to certain religions, their families may have wanted to pay homage to that by selecting a name from “the old country” or a religious tradition.

Fantasy/sci-fi names don’t have to sound “fantastical” or “alien.” Lots of readers struggle with this, especially in sci-fi or high fantasy novels. It can really trip up the flow of reading if you have to stop and sound out a name every other paragraph. If you’re writing about an alien race, how about mixing similar words from foreign languages — example, French and Spanish, or Latin and Italian — but not including too many syllables, to come up with names that sound unique and part of that culture, but that your readers can also pronounce. (Marie Lu’s The Young Elites and Veronica Roth’s Carve the Mark are good examples of this technique.)

Image result for fantasy art

It’s more than okay to use names that aren’t exactly “in fashion” at the moment. When I was researching this subject for my own characters, I discovered that people really seem to like using popular names over and over.

And I’ve found there’s this trend in recent fiction recently, where it’s apparently mandatory to call every heroine a variation of Isabelle, or every hero a version of Alexander. Okay, not every single book/series, but is anybody else thinking this as they read? And quite frankly, it ticked me off, because I really like both of these names and was already planning to include them in my own work. Anyway, after having established several of my characters with classic/common names, I decided to try to “diversify” more with the rest.

Image result for fantasy art

Visit websites and conduct up-to-date research. Nameberry (Google it) is extremely helpful, not just for name origins and meanings, but explaining the history of the name’s use, whether it’s so intensely popular that it could take a break from the cultural public eye, and even offers alternatives. And the site also has lists of popular baby names given in the UK, Ireland, France, etc.

And remember — don’t stress about it. If you feel like you’re about to have a nervous breakdown over getting your characters the “perfect” names, then you’re trying too hard. Trust me, it doesn’t have to be “perfect,” it just has to fit your story, the background, and your fictional friend’s “feel”.

And don’t forget, taste in names is like taste in salad dressing — it’s very subjective, and no matter how marvelous you think your narrator’s name is, there will always be somebody who goes, “Ehhh, I wish she was called Bernadette.”

Image result for fantasy art

British pop culture, Fantasy fiction, reading

Discworld Appreciation Day

Image result for discworld

There are so, so many things I could say about my love for this series. Recently I’ve made a concerted effort to start collecting my favorites, because with the passing of the author, I’ve begun to feel the need to own as much as I can of the genius and beautiful words that came from his pen.

Two years ago in March, when I found out Sir Terry Pratchett had been carried away by his depiction of Death, on the back of Binky (come on, let us have that image), I cried for three hours straight. And then I started re-reading everything of his I’d already read, and reading what I hadn’t before (which wasn’t much), and feeling this little ache inside.

Image result for terry pratchett death

The literary world had lost something spectacular, something magneificent. And while we do have so many of his published treasures to continue to adore, the loss in my own life took a bit more getting used to. When I was a young writer, I felt lost, not sure where to go with my intentions for pursuing a career in authoring fantasy. There was so much that had already been done, and wasn’t inspiring to me anymore. Then I stumbled on a copy of a Discworld paperback that had been left in our rental house (of the time).

It was The Fifth Elephant, and while it meant that, being so deep into the series (canon-wise, it’s around book 20), I had a lot of catching up to do and there were things I didn’t yet understand (like character traits and Pratchett’s love of footnotes), there was no stopping me afterwards. It was just what I needed to pull me out of that slump, and for the last 15 years, I’ve been happily catching up.

Image result for discworld binky

With each foray into the magical multi-verse of Discworld, my love for the characters and their stories have only deepened. Although I hardly read the series in order (gasp! I know, a cardinal sin of booklovers), rather in whichever order I could get my hands on them (due to what was available in the library that week), I was able to put together the bits and pieces of backstory and connections and things you could expect to see in almost every installment.

My favorite sub-series are the ones involving Death (aka the Grim Reaper of Discworld) and the Watch. Before starting to read Terry Pratchett, one of my main phobias was skeletons. (Having to take an anatomy class in college was *torture*.) A major thing about becoming attached to a character portrayed as a tall skeleton in a long black cloak meant that I no longer have that phobia. It’s a pretty cool development.

Image result for discworld      Image result for discworld

And, yes, I have owned a cat named Binky (supposedly after Death’s horse — I’m always letting myself believe that). And really, how could I, the Cat Whisperer, *not* have a soft spot for a Grim Reaper that loves cats?

Image result for discworld

At the moment, I’m finishing a re-read of The Fifth Elephant. Just this morning, I came across a part I’d forgotten, that contains a significance that had previously escaped me, and…well… Let’s just say my Vulcan side experienced an extremely illogical moment of emotion.

Image result for discworld the fifth elephant

Although I recently changed my TBR for the summer, it does have me wondering how quickly I can get my hands on more Discworld re-releases.

This series will never stop amazing me with the wit, the humor, the beauty and poignancy in its honesty. Basically, I will remain in awe of the craft Sir Terry so compassionately shared with us. If my characters ever feel half as real to my readers as Death, or Sam Vimes, as Susan Sto-Helit or the Archchancellor of Unseen University have felt to me, then I will consider it the highest honor.

Image result for discworld

 

 

blogging, books, Fantasy fiction, reading, writing, Young Adult fiction

Featuring Indie Authors

Featured Image -- 19869

Yeah, I kind of have to mention myself, since I am a self-published author. But, while including myself in this list, I want to take today to focus on those of us who work really hard to produce good quality fiction for the public to consume, often while holding down a day job or going to school, raising a family, living a non-writing life at the same time. And most of us do our own editing and marketing as well, and trust me, this is no easy task, either. Anyway, my point today is — just because we don’t have a team of editors/designers/advertisers paid big bucks behind us doesn’t mean our work isn’t worth reading. And I’m going to spotlight some of the indie authors I’ve read that prove this.

Image result for where the woods grow wild

This author is American but currently resides in Spain, and he’s a teacher, and managed, on top of all this busy real-life stuff, to create a very well-thought-out and interesting world and premise. The editing is superb — in looks alone, this novel is professional in every way. The writing is thorough, the content is appropriate for teen readers as well as adults, and for fans of Narnia, Middle Earth, and Wonderland, Where the Woods Grow Wild feels like a fun romp across all of them. Nate Philbrick is now putting up a new novel on Wattpad.

You can visit him at: https://youwritefiction.wordpress.com/

Image result for the assassin's daughter

The Assassin’s Daughter is another prime example of an indie author taking great care and effort with her manuscript. The finished product is beautifully clean on the page, and the writing and character development shows the time and passion she poured into creating this fictional world and growing close to her narrators. The world in this novel feels familiar, yet has its own twists and is a unique, fitting setting to the story. Jameson C. Smith has plans for a sequel as well.

You can find her at: https://www.jamesoncsmith.com/

Image result for beast of tales end

The first in the Beaumont and Beasley series, The Beast of Talesend is a great amount of fun, with a really clever sense of humor and a twist on the idea of fairytales and magic being real or not. Kyle Shultz has plans for more books set in this world, and he’s currently working on an audio version of the first release.

You can visit him at: http://kylerobertshultz.com/

I’d also like to try releases by Ichabod Temperance (https://www.amazon.com/Ichabod-Temperance/e/B00J71862M/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1), Alexis P. Johnson (http://www.phoenicianrises.com/), and Nadine Brandes (http://nadinebrandes.com/). All of these authors maintain a social media presence, they’re very approachable and won’t bite, and their work sounds very interesting, refreshing, just fun, or all of the above.

And now, because, I’m sorry, but it is my blog, here’s a moment of shameless self-promotion:

IMG_0392

Not to toot my own horn too much, but Masters and Beginners, the first in my YA fantasy series The Order of the Twelve Tribes is receiving very good support/acclaim on Goodreads, and for this I am intensely grateful and humbled. If you’d like to purchase a copy, please contact me (details can be found under my header or in the sidebar). I have a paperback for sale, as well as a digital edition, and there are still the limited edition mini-subscription boxes available.

Okay, I won’t ramble on about myself too much. Do check out all these other authors, and support their art!

Fantasy fiction, history, reading, Science fiction

My Official Title is Book Dragon

Image result for how to train your dragon toothless

Once upon a time, people who liked to read a lot were called “book worms,” and the notion formed around this phrase that habitual readers were extremely shy and introverted, of course wore very thick glasses, never were seen anywhere without a book in hand, and were naturally clumsy and socially awkward and should be made fun of. The misconception that we aren’t too fond of the real world — or even worse, can’t deal with it — hence we hide in fictional tales, became rather popular.

It was a bare-faced insult to the readers of this Earth.

Sometime last year, I noticed a discussion going around the blogisphere, a sort of petition to re-name book “worms.” To something that suited our true selves much better. The possibility I subscribed to was “book dragon.”

This is really quite accurate. Dragons are fierce, not easily intimidated creatures who stand up for themselves. Certainly not the shrinking, bumbling worm of pop culture misnomers. And indeed, those of us who not only find solace in a good novel, but truly, see the way to the future in it, are fiery about our passion, and we shall defend our views with that fire.

Also, we like to hoard what we see as treasure (i.e. books, bookmarks, book-related merchandise), and often are somewhat solitary (so the introvert thing is slightly true — but it’s still not a bad thing).

Image result for book dragons

The other thing about dragons (along with the flying, which, unfortunately, some of us may not master) is that they’re very smart. They know a lot, they remember a lot, they observe and take in details. In many of the very old stories, dragons are considered wise. And often people feared them. But I have a feeling it was less because of the potential fire hazard, and more from the fact the dragon had all the knowledge.

The saying “knowledge is power” goes back a ways. Lots of people honestly believe in it.

So, shouldn’t those of us who read and learn new things on a regular basis be, well, feared?

Okay, I’ll settle for respected.

Image result for book dragons

But seriously, where did this idea come from that we’re tiny, literally spineless animals, unable to be bold and courageous? Why has it perpetuated throughout the modern age, to associate reading with something boring, a waste of time, only for chumps? When every important cultural movement has always been started by people reading something — the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, the theories of Dr. Maria Montessori, Green Eggs and Ham.

Look at all the fantastic and amazing technology that exists in today’s civilization because of people reading books by Jules Verne, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov. Consider how many TV shows and movies that you, average human, enjoy that may never have been made if the writers and directors weren’t inspired by reading, everything from the Grimm Brothers’ accounts of folklore to graphic novels based on ancient mythology.

Image result for book dragons

So, the next time you pass by a single figure sitting at a cafe table, armed only with their vanilla latte and the latest civil rights struggles memoir or astrophysics-for-dummies release, and carelessly toss out a, “What a nerd” remark — watch out.

Today’s nerds will be tomorrow’s teachers, inventors, architects, filmmakers, scientists, researchers, designers, neurodiversity advocates. We don’t read to escape the world we live in — we read to give us ideas on how to make it better.

So, watch out — we’re coming.

Image result for book dragons

blogging, books, Encouragement, reading

Reading Slumps

Image result for cute animals reading

What’s a reading slump? Only the most terrible thing in the world, ever, for a bookdragon. And yet, they are inevitable. Every now and again, you’ll realize that you just don’t feel like reading anything.

Your usual styles/authors/subjects just aren’t sparking interest. You feel terribly bored, or let down by a genre, or you simply crave something different, yet every new book you take a look at feels destined to fall flat.

Now that I’ve struck terror into the very depth of your souls…

Here are some ideas on how to get through a reading slump.

Image result for cute animals reading

Don’t push yourself too much. If you feel like you should be reading, there’s simply no need to feel that way. A major reason I’ve decided not to do ARCS is because I don’t want to be on a deadline and not inspired to read the work in question. Even as an author, someone who relies on volunteer reviewers getting a critique out in a timely manner, I still totally support bloggers who choose to limit the number of ARCS they include in their schedule.

Try something outside of your usual loves. If you tend to gravitate towards contemporaries, pick up a historical fiction. Not sure if steampunk is your thing? Give it a go. Never read a James Patterson or a Kristin Hannah? It’s what the library is for.

It’s actually okay not to read anything for a bit. Yes, you heard that right. If you go for a few days, or even a few weeks, without finishing that novel on your shelf that you started last year, truly, the world will not end, I promise.

Attempt a re-read. Not sure anymore what happened in book 5 of Harry Potter? Book 3 of Percy Jackson? Do you have Me Before You or A Monster Calls marked as “read it” on your Goodreads account, but you’re honestly not sure if you’re just thinking of the film versions now?

Related image

Now, what about this dreaded prospect?: You’re a book blogger, so putting new content on your site kind of makes it necessary that you read new stuff. Well, in the event of a reading slump, I have you covered there, too.

Find a related topic to discuss. Like a trend in publishing that bugs you — like if there are dystopias everywhere, or road trip novels, but you’d really prefer to see an uptake in pirate stories or new sorts of mythological/legend re-tellings.

If you like to do tags, catch up on a few of those. Or join a weekly theme that doesn’t rely on recently completing a new read. Top 10 Tuesdays are usually good for this, because the theme often relates to books you’ve already finished.

Consider reviewing a book you read a long time ago that you decided not to review before. Maybe because it was a novel outside of your usual genre, or was it a biography, or a collection of poetry? There’s no rule about the type of reading we “have” to be reviewing.

Image result for cute animals reading

The most important thing to do is: don’t panic. It really is all right — and probably natural — to hit a reading slump. And it happens for all kinds of reasons — whether your life is busy, or the latest publishing trends just aren’t your thing, or even looking at a towering TBR makes you go, “Meh.”

One day, this will be over. I promise.

Image result for cute animals reading

Autism, family, Parenting, reading, writing

The Indistinct Howls and Grumbling Edition

6833d-hoffmann_2

Seriously, this is what you people most want to read about? Well, I guess I asked for it when I included it as an option in the latest Twitter poll… But, sigh… And, well, I suppose this post is off to a good start.

Here’s what I’ve been grumbling about lately:

Muffin has been bingeing Dreamworks movies, particularly How to Train Your Dragon and the Ice Age series. He is presently obsessed with dragons. (I can hear some of you applauding his good taste.) I love dragons, too, and Ice Age. But every once in a while, it would be really nice for him to stop interchanging the discs at a nearly frantic pace, and watch something else for a little bit, maybe…

My writer’s playlist has run dry, feels hackneyed, and my ears are tired of it. Not that I’m never going to listen to any of these songs again. It’s just that, right now, I want something different, and I’m rather finnicky when it comes to selecting stuff like music…

I can’t seem to finish my tea while it’s still hot. It used to be mostly because of children, but nowadays it appears to have become its own thing. Groan…

ad180-colorfulanddarkabstractartworkhd252892529

Work is progressing on Volume 2. Some of that results in lots of mumblings and complaints to self and the occasional howl…

I’m practically stalking my Goodreads page, hoping for amazing stats on Volume 1. It is being well-received, and there are some impending reviews which I know are going to be good. More than 170 people have entered my Goodreads giveaway (which ends Wednesday), and for a debut author, this is truly incredible. I guess I’m a little worried about this planing off, though, and that definitely results in howling…

I’ve hit a reading slump. I’ve knocked everything new off my TBR, except for Dawn of the Clans, which I don’t feel like starting right now. None of the new releases this spring are grabbing my attention, and this is generating a vaguely unsettling feeling…

The season finale of Riverdale was last week. This is now one of the only TV shows I regularly watch. Honestly, I don’t mind having to wait for the new season, I’m not 12. But the realization hit me that by October, by the time all the new episodes will be premiering, a whole lot will most likely be different in my life…

01d96-img-wallpapers-candle-light_water-priyadarsh-sarwade-77691

Muffin will be starting preschool by the fall, if not before. While this is all good, because he’ll be able to receive all his services in one place, and I’ll certainly have more time to write, or even think about going back to teaching dance, it still means a big upheaval in our daily lives. That creates howling for a bunch of reasons…

As I think about the future, the fact that White Fang will be in high school in September is also not far from my mind. WHAT. HOW. DID. THIS. HAPPEN. I swear he was Muffin’s age just last month. Okay, it was more than 10 years ago. I am old. More than that, I just… How did he become so much his own person, who has this mind and personality and life that I’m learning about as we go — rather than being the expert on my small child? Because he grew up and discovered who he is and what he’s into, that’s why — and isn’t that what I tried so hard for over a decade to achieve? Insert wolf impression here…

My husband finally started reading Volume 1. Yes, it is among the great ironic moments of my life that some of the last people to read my first release are my immediate family. But the reason this is so momentuous for me is because my husband does not read fantasy or speculative fiction at all. (He once picked up a Frank Peretti novel circa 1995, and never finished it.) I’ve had to explain to him what a TARDIS is, that “faery” is a correct spelling, and the significance of Shroedinger’s Cat. He is so not a geek. Anyway, the fact that he got through the Prologue of Volume 1 and said, “This is really good!”, has intense personal meaning.

A-owwwwwwwwww…

ef0c5-cutecatwallpaperhd

There are also some big personal things happening for a few people I know, and this gets to me, because I want to be able to help, and in some instances, I just can’t. Either I don’t live close enough, or it’s not my place to step in, and there’s really not much I can do other than stand back and watch developments unfold. I am a do-er, I like to participate in situations resolving, and know that it’s all going well. Especially when it concerns people I care about. So this is a tough bit.

A-owwwwwww…

Anyone have time to post a glowing review of Volume 1 to make me feel better?

497