Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

January Mini-Reviews: What I Liked, What I Didn’t, and What Brought All the Feels

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Yes, it is officially the new year, a new month, and we’re back to the routine of raving and flailing over our latest reads!

In November and December, I made time to focus on something that was not writing or preparing for holidays, and polished off a few things that had been on my TBR for most of fall.

There was excitement, disappointment, and some confusion in the whole experience.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer:

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This was a bit of a wash for me. It was the first time in quite a while I’d tried a Marissa Meyer (since I got to about page 25 in Cinder and was just completely, “What the blazing apricots is going on?!”). I noticed Renegades was rather thick, and got a bit apprehensive, as long books and I do not really go together. I ended up DNF-ing. By page 175, there just wasn’t enough going on that didn’t feel cliche or recycled. This novel could’ve taken the established superhero vs. supervillain genre and really shaken it up, but there were no new thoughts or ideas that I could find.

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer:

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Yes, another Marissa Meyer! I actually didn’t realize that when I ordered it from the library. Nor did I know it was a graphic novel — and I don’t read graphic novels. SIGH. The moral of the story is: Library catalogs need to have their materials marked more clearly, and: Readers should do as much research as possible on a title before they request it.

Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr:

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Okay, this was just odd. I liked the way it was set in ancient Greece (historically, not mythologically), and how the author split the narration into prose and poetry to show different POVs. And this is a MG novel, so I figured it would be pretty easy and fun.

Wow, was I wrong. Nothing happens for most of part one. The book draaaaags on, explaining wilderness survival in ridiculous amounts of detail, and I can’t see your average 5th-grader being interested in that. Then, when a significant plot advancement finally does occur, the rest of the book turns into an ancient version of The Hunger Games. Huh?!?! So, Dragonfly Song gets a no from me.

This Savage Song by VE Schwab:

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For most of 2017, I’ve been hearing lots and lots about VE Schwab. Well, maybe I started with the wrong series, but after not finishing This Savage Song, I’m (weepingly) not very impressed. A few months ago, I accidentally read Our Dark Duet first — I didn’t know it was the sequel. Anyway, now informed of my mistake, I obtained This Savage Song with high hopes.

Gah. I found the writing to be endless repetition of the same descriptions of Kate and August; stressing that Verity City was infested with monsters (which were rarely seen before page 200); and that Kate wanted to be a bada** gangster like her father (but whyyyyyy?!?!) and August was a monster who wanted to act like a human (but whyyyyyyyy?!?!). I didn’t feel the author provided enough details on the characters’ motivations or ambitions. And there was so little information on what actually triggered the new territories forming, the monster apocalypse, and why society was still set on taking selfies at high school after literal soul-sucking blackness had invaded.

So, I’m a bit sad.

Also, why is this cover so much better than the one I got?!

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All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater:

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This was the first book I bought in months. I was very excited for it, and I even made myself wait to start it until I’d finished my library books. All the Crooked Saints is very interesting, unique, and it’s not that I didn’t like it or wouldn’t recommend it. Buuuut. It doesn’t read like a Stiefvater novel. Yes, her trademark lyrical prose and humor are very there. However, I had a really tough time getting going with it. I actually had to read it twice to figure out what was really going on under the surface of the premise. And it took me until about halfway through that second reading before something clicked for me that it didn’t previously, and then some of the motivations made SO much sense.

I also realized something: That, for me, it’s much better to concentrate on Stiefvater works told in the first person. The way she wrote The Raven Cycle and All the Crooked Saints is very far removed from how immersed in the main characters’ heads/feelings she was with The Wolves of Mercy Falls and The Scorpio Races. Her standing-back-and-acting-as-1930s-radio-show-host style of narration in this new release makes connecting with her characters a LOT harder (at least for this reader).

Plus, this title relied heavily on the magical realism element, much more than The Raven Cycle (which is saying something, as it featured prominently in that series). Magical realism and I, it’s becoming apparent, are doomed to never co-exist. I just have the bloody hardest time figuring it out, and it gets really distracting to me from the actual story. Maybe this is why I had such a struggle with All The Crooked Saints overall.

Warriors: Legends of the Clans by Erin Hunter

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Well, it’s probably no shock that I LOVED this. It delivered ALL THE FEELS. Legends of the Clans is a companion novella to the canon series. These short stories expanded on some of the characters that we didn’t know very much about, and tied in to the canon beautifully. I had a massive, stupid grin on my face one page, and then tears were streaming from my eyes the next. 10/10 for ripping out my heart once again, Erin Hunter. (Seriously, keep it up!)

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family, Parenting, reading, Young Adult fiction

Why Adults Should Absolutely Read YA

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Well, nothing like going in, guns blazing, with a hot topic discussion post at the start of the year!

First, how are you all? Did you survive the holidays? Thinking about emerging from the turkey dinner stupor to face the world? Still hiding under piles of discarded wrapping paper with bows and tinsel stuck in your hair?

Well, however you find yourself, I shall welcome you back! Let’s get right to it, then!

A few weeks ago, I read part of a rather irksome/disturbing thread on social media; the jist is that there are a lot of people over the age of 21 who strongly feel that anyone who is old enough to legally drink, get married, join the military, and live on their own should not be reading Young Adult fiction.

Excuse me?? Number one, when were the Reading Police established?! Number two, what is wrong with teachers, parents, pediatricians, school counselors and adolescent therapists knowing what our kids are reading?

And even more, what about those authors who write what our kids will be reading? How can they possibly know what their audience is interested in, or lacking, if they don’t connect with 12-17-year-olds?

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Years ago, parents could just let their kids pick up a novel from the YA/juvenile section in the bookstore or library, and be pretty confident that the content would be acceptable for their age. There were plenty of authors that tackled tough subjects like death, disease, drug use, sex before marriage with tact and in a way of presenting facts and both sides of the debate.

Nowadays teen readers are apparently told to go get stoned, get physically intimate, drive too fast, skip school, turn the air blue with their language. Don’t any of these authors have kids themselves?! Would they really want their own precious darlings behaving this way?

As a parent and a YA author myself, I take this responsibility very seriously. I’m not at all naive — I’m totally aware that nowadays many adults consider kids knowing all kinds of sexual lifestyles, swear words, and various political views to not be a bad thing. Well, I — an informed adult — disagree. It’s one thing to be well-educated; it’s another to instill harmful perspectives on young minds that are still forming their views and ambitions.

Warning: The Invisible Moth is officially jumping on her soapbox.

Encouraging teenagers to wait to have sex because they are too special to give their body to just anyone is showing we love them and believe in them to become solid, confident, well-adjusted future wives and husbands. Telling them the consequences of unprotected sex reinforces that we want them to remain healthy and emotionally whole. 

Warning them against using drugs and too much alcohol helps them develop self-care habits that could last a lifetime. Discipline and high self-esteem will provide our future doctors, teachers, parents, leaders with the power to change society, for the better, for generations to come. Showing them that a clean path can also be fun sets them on course for a productive, respect-filled life. 

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Okay, stepping off the soapbox.

Now, here’s why the idea of anyone “grown-up” reading YA is silly is just: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

1.) YA fiction is simply FUN. Since most children/adolescents aren’t past the point of wanting to believe — at least a little — in mythical creatures or flying cars or that you can access another world through your closet, the possibilities in a YA book are endless. 

What adult in the 21st century (with reality being so damn hard most of the time) wants to only read about fictional characters whining that they can’t get a date? Who cares?! Get out of your own grumpy head and go read about storming the castle and saving the endangered race of beautiful talking unicorns! Dream about being a hero! Don’t lose that passion!

2.) YA fiction provides an escape. Yes, most of us know very well that animals don’t really speak human, hypogriffs aren’t legal pets, and we’ll probably never get to live in a magical library. So?? Let us pretend for a few hours!

Children who regularly use their imagination often grow into big people who invent new technology, new medicines, the prototypes for hovercars, more effective academic systems, tools and inventions that make our lives better. LET US IMAGINE.

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3.) Parents and teens reading together is valuable. In recent years, too many high-schoolers don’t communicate or bond with their elders. Yes, this is a problem, trust me. Concurrently reading the same book or series with your 14-year-old is important. Find a subject that interests you both, and take it from there.

White Fang and I have both read and discussed Harry Potter, Warriors, The Illuminae Files, and Beaumont and Beasley, among others. This activity also gives you a great starting point for discussing tough issues, and encouraging your kids to do their research and develop their own points of view.

4.) Not all of us with a certain date on our birth certificates enjoy reading stuff aimed at that age group. I flatout find most murder mysteries/romances/spy thrillers downright formulaic and dull. Yes, I know that I’m somewhat of a square peg in a round hole in this instance. But it’s a fact, and it’s not changing anytime soon.

While I don’t necessarily want to read about being in high school, either, there are plenty more fantasy and speculative fiction choices among the YA sections than the adult. Plus lots of fantasy YA authors still take care to keep their language and explicit content to a minimum, whereas for adults, apparently ALL the barriers have come down. That just isn’t my thing.

5.) If you don’t have a long attention span or not much free time to read, novels aimed at juveniles are usually less than 400 pages long. This is a big deal for me, since my spare time is certainly limited, and if I can make it to the end of the paragraph without losing my place, then, wow, it’s an awesome evening!

Also, since I currently carry all my library books literally on my back, there is just no way in Hades I’m attempting to haul the latest 650-page New York Times bestsellers. No way, sir.

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6.) Whether it’s my personality, my mindset, worldview or whatever, I simply relate better to characters in YA. If you present me with an adult character who’s narrating about whether they can squeeze in an extra 10 minutes at the gym, or if they interpreted the fine print in their car lease properly, I will be either falling asleep or using the book as a footstool.

Whereas, show me the elf who’s hoping to return the enchanted sword to its sacred mountain before the kraken’s released, and I’m on the edge of my seat. Any night I spend reading Warriors will result in big stupid grins and lots of tears on my face. Finding out a secret about a beloved Clan cat will resonate with me for months.

7.) Reading about characters who aren’t jaded yet, full of hope and plans and enthusiasm, makes you want to have that again. Remember when you were in kindergarten, and making an extra blanket into a cape was the most natural thing? When you looked to the skies with an unending sense of wanting more?

Go for that, whether you’re 25, or 30, or 40.

Save the unicorns! Rescue the flying cats! Storm the castle!

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Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

How I Choose My TBR

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It’s a very simple system, really. It helps keep my stress down, by making sure my TBR doesn’t get too long or too unrealistic.

While I love to read, I am also a picky reader, so having a well-crafted TBR also helps to avoid disappointment (most of the time).

And, of course, spare time does not always exist in abundance in my life, so being prepared ahead of actually being in the library or on Barnes and Noble.com is quite handy.

I keep a list on Goodreads (come on, who doesn’t?), which works sooooo much better than my old method (which was scribbling down a newly-released title on a random grocery list and praying I don’t lose it).

Now, here’s how I decide what actually goes on that list:

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Criteria 1: It’s by an author I already know I like. Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Erin Hunter, Maggie Stiefvater, Holly Black, Charles De Lint, JK Rowling — these are all names that will make me sit up and take notice in a newsletter or article. Sadly, some of these folks are no longer with us or aren’t releasing new material lately. And the back catalogs of others I have ploughed right through. Still, it’s good to have a go-to (or several).

Criteria 2: It’s by an author that comes highly recommended (by everyone I know). After seeing the same authors constantly named in the same raving reviews, I feel compelled to give them a try. In some cases, this has not panned out. In others, it’s been a huge success. In others still, I have yet to get to said titles. (What?! Sometimes the library has a long wait list!)

Criteria 3: White Fang may be interested in it. Yes, it goes on my TBR, even though he’ll be reading it. Why? Because otherwise I will very promptly forget that he mentioned that series or author or genre. Yup, mum of the year award for short-term memory does not go to me!

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Criteria 4: It’s likely to show up in my local library. Not that this is a strict rule, but it is a pretty regular guideline. Since the ratty old wallpaper peeling off my living room walls is not made of dollar bills, I need to save my money for things other than buying books. Hence, if I can’t get it for free, it will either be waaaaay down the TBR, or not turn up on it for a few years.

Criteria 5: It’s not coming out until next year, but it does sound really good, and I don’t want it to slip my mind. Take Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince and Nadine Brandes’ Fawkes as Exhibit A. The former has been sitting on my list for about 3 months, and finally it’ll hit stores sometime in January. The latter won’t even be out until sometime in 2018 (it’s so far away I can’t even remember without Googling it), but I will kick myself if the fact of its very existence just slips out of my brain.

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Autism, Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

Tantalizing Tidbits

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This is a new way of saying I have more sharing to do about my plans for the upcoming year. (By the way, if anyone can tell me just WHERE 2017 WENT IN SUCH A HURRY, it would be appreciated.)

So, remember when I said that there are going to be 4 volumes in the “canon” series for Order of the Twelve Tribes, followed by a “field guide” of sorts, and then a companion novel, i.e. most likely a prequel, and then I may attempt to write something else (or run away to New Zealand)? Well, here’s what happened with that:

I had originally decided to make a draft of Volume 3 my NaNo project. Then I scrapped that idea and wanted to try writing a contemporary for NaNo. Then I found out that I am not set up to write a straightforward contemporary, and proceeded to die a little bit. And two things kind of smashed together…

At approximately 5 a.m. one day in early November, I had an idea for a spinoff story (from the Twelve Tribes world), that had nothing to do with anything else I’d already developed. But it was too good to pass up. So I started developing it further — and as I was telling White Fang about it, he decided he wanted to join in.

So, we’ve put together a character/plot arc for a brand new, standalone sequel (that I anticipate starting on after the holidays). My goal is to release it sometime next summer.

This new character will be introduced in the “canon,” so I’ve given you a ton of stuff to look forward to!

Now the goal for the prequel is: It will become part of the field guide. I hope to answer all of your questions that any of you had that would’ve been addressed in a prequel (help a writer out, fill the comments with them!), as well as have fun with a few little notions that crossed my mind while planning out the canon.

Still more to do the happy dance of anticipation about!

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The other part of the smash was this: In about a 24-hour period, I went from nearly scrapping my entire NaNo project (yes, 35K words at that point), to figuring out how to 98% rewrite it.

This, obviously, will take time to explore and expand and make, well, not rough draft-y. But I love my new concept, and am excited to work on it.

Most likely I’ll get it ready for release after I finish writing/planning for publication the Twelve Tribes series (as I already have enough on my plate regarding the completion of my magnum opus).

The working title is “How To Be A Savage,” and it’s about… (drum roll, please) …

Autistic superheroes.

Yes, actual people on the spectrum who are also superheroes. They won’t be your standard fare along the lines of Superman, Batman, the Green Arrow, or Wonder Woman, either. They won’t wear those ridiculous spandex suits. They won’t be so foolish as to think no one will ever not recognize them if they wear a mask that only covers their eyes. They’ll have trouble creating and executing highly-sophisticated weapons or tech. Their chosen missions and reasons for fighting those battles may not make sense to anyone but them.

I am enthused.

Are you enthused?!

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Anyway… So, those are my writing plans as they stand at present.

Finish Volumes 3 and 4. (Okay, start and finish, in this case.)

Complete the field guide, along with its prequel-ish (and some sequel-ish) excerpts.

Work up White Fang’s character arc/plot arc more fully.

WRITE ABOUT AUTISTIC SUPERHEROES.

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I am also not planning on committing to anything else under the sun in 2018. I mean, that I wasn’t already expecting to do, like clean my house and feed my children and cat.

My Goodreads challenge for next year will probably be a very easy 25. I won’t be starting a newsletter or a Wattpad account.

My blog will stay pretty much as is — reviews, discussions, announcements, lots of cat pictures.

Hopefully, my fame will continue to spread and people will flock to my art like — ha, ha, I have to — moths to a flame.

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There are also local opportunities most likely opening up for me in the new year. I’ve been invited to speak at different readers’ and writers’ groups in town, through my local library, and this is exciting, too.

How can you help this little moth’s grand ambitions? Well, you can spread the word about my publications, my blog, my Twitter and Goodreads existence.

I now have 3 books available for purchase, Masters and Beginners, Rulers and Mages, and Dreamings and Muses, my short story collection. All can be found on Barnes & Noble.com, at:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/masters-and-beginners-daley-downing/1126998956?ean=9781538033111

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dreamings-and-muses-daley-downing/1127168779?ean=9781538036631

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rulers-and-mages-daley-downing/1127527926?ean=9781538056752

It’s coming up to the holidays, so take advantage of those coupons and free shipping offers!

AND…I will be giving away a free e-copy of Rulers and Mages! Just mention in the comments if you’d like to enter, and I will ask my trusted Hat of Randomness to select the lucky winner!

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Fantasy fiction, Young Adult fiction

Rulers and Mages: Now on Sale!

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UPDATE: My keen-eyed illustrator noticed a problem with the cover. So we had to correct the proof, and that means printing will be delayed another 24 hours or so.

The link below should be working soon. I’ll let everyone know via Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and I’ll put a note on here, too, when the train to Purchase-dom has left the Printing-ton station. (Hey, it’s the best metaphor I could come up with at a moment’s notice.)

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rulers-and-mages-daley-downing/1127527926?ean=9781538056752

Hope you all had a great holiday, or a great weekend, and NaNo-lings, write on, we’re almost there!

 

Fantasy fiction, The Invisible Moth, Young Adult fiction

Volume 2: Title and Cover Reveal!

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Good morning! (Muffin saw me checking the media stock and said, “Pick me, pick me!” This is why we’re starting a post about Volume 2 with a photo of the child.)

Anyway, I made the announcement (a tweet) last night, that editing was complete, and the printing process is under way!! And I did promise you all a title and cover reveal, so…drum roll, please…

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For those of you astute beta-readers, you may notice my working title changed between the revisions stage and the finish-line-in-sight phase. I started with “Honor and Sacrifice,” and this title began giving me fits — it felt too cliche, too non-appropriate for the world, the atmosphere of the series, on and on. So, after spending a very productive (ahem, yes, it really was) morning digging through a Thesaurus, I decided on “Rulers and Mages”!

Also, if any of my betas notice certain changes to the story (if I’ve happened to alter something you really liked, sorry), yes, it was necessary. There were particular scenes that had caused me trouble in drafts 2, 3, and 4, so there are parts of the final product that won’t even resemble what I began with — but, hey, doesn’t that always happen? (Fellow writers, please back me up here…)

So, as promised, Volume 2 will be released no later than November 30th, and I’ll be sure to let everyone know when it’s available for sale!

This was an arduous process, as my final round of edits were initially waylaid by my whole family coming down with bronchitis in September, and I was nowhere near ready for the start of NaNo, so I’ve actually been working on both projects the last 3 weeks. Somehow, I have not yet lost my mind (no, really, I haven’t, it’s around here somewhere), and even more, I feel successful.

(Please tell me I’m successful…)

So, to everybody who celebrates Thanksgiving, happy Thanksgiving! I anticipate making my next post sometime around December 1st. Take care and stay safe during the holiday, moths!

reading, Young Adult fiction

The First Book Club Meeting!

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Good morning! Today is the day! We’re discussing Masters and Beginners (Volume 1 of The Order of the Twelve Tribes). As previously mentioned, all you have to do to participate is have read the book, and be willing to answer the following questions in the comments!

What were your favorite parts of the story?

Which characters were you drawn to the most, and why?

Did you identify any particular themes?

Who would you like to see cast as who in the movie version?

The Order is a secret organization stretching back about 3,000 years. What historical figures do you think could have belonged to the Order?

All right, that’s all from my end for now! Looking forward to seeing what you all share! Have a great day, moths!