Sunday Book Review: Women in Practical Armor and 50 Shades of Slay

A regular feature to my blog, Sunday Book Review, is simply a review of the book (or books) I read during the previous week on Sunday. While on Goodreads and Amazon, I give books a star rating, I don’t do stars here. I just say what I liked and didn’t like. You will notice that some will be independent titles, some will be mass market books, others will be classics. I write a review on whatever I read that week. I get most of my books from conventions from the author or bookstores, but as per FCC regs, I do mention if I received a book for free.

This week both books are anthologies, but that is the only thing they had in common.

30238242Women in Practical Armor is an anthology from Evil Girlfriend Media of short stories about seasoned women warriors. Full discloser:  I help fund this anthology on Kickstarter and I did receive an early review copy which is the version I am basing this review on.

Here is what I didn’t like: As with all anthologies there were stories I liked better than others, but in this case all the stories were well written. My only problem with is anthology was the order of the stories.

I first picked up this book when I received my ARC, but the first story Attrition had a depressing tone, so I put the book down. I didn’t feel like reading the rest. (Judith Tarr’s prose is lovely, but the tone of the story was not an opener. It would have been better between two action-packed stories or as the ender.)

Then I received my real copy, and since the real copy would be a great gift for a certain friend of mine (which is why I funded the Kickstarted in the first place!) I figured I better finished my ARC.

What I liked: I loved the cover artwork. It is always interesting to see how different authors approached the theme.

And now that I finished the anthology, I can say I DID enjoy the stories. The playful prose of The Family Business by Kristy Griffen Green sang like the smith’s hammer she opened her story with. It was just delightful.

I think my favorites were Stone Worken by Crystal Lynn Hilbert and The Ravens and The Swans by Amy Griswold. The reason I loved these two stories specifically is the characters. Hilbert’s depiction of sister-kings. And Griswold’s elf queen (She is not the protagonist, she does have the protagonist’s life in her hands) is just cool and collected.

This is a great anthology for lovers of epic fantasy.

Fifty Shades of Slay41bzkftcftl-_sx331_bo1204203200_

My husband picked up Fifty Shades of Slay at Crypticon from the publisher.

I liked this anthology as a whole, but I didn’t like every story. Most of the stories ended just as they were about to get scary. The writing was decent, but some styles felt a little amateurish and rushed. (Since this is horror thought the author might have been going for that.)

What I didn’t like: I am not interested in rape/incest horror stories and there are a few of those in this anthology.

However, there is a standout in this category that I did think was exceptional in its writing style. Child of Hate by Jay Helmstutler is the story of two insane people who have a baby/thing. The father abuses the mother, they both abuse the baby. They mistreat until it grows big enough to fight back.

I also have to admit I am not crazy about the book design. They change fonts and font size for every author. For me that was distracting.

There were plenty of stories that I thought were okay. Veronica Smith’s Sunday Morning was supposed to be a thriller with mistaken identity, but felt very Lifetime movie or NRA propaganda.

I enjoyed The Confessional by Lisa Vasquez. It felt like an old Tales from the Crypt episode with its overt morals. Unfortunately the main character was no more than a caricature of vanity.

On to a few that I really liked:

While I saw the ending to Veronica Smith’s The Cat Lady, it was still a great story with rising tension throughout the narrative. The feeling is comparable to Ray Bradbury’s The Veldt.

I felt deeply unsettled during the harrowing narration of  a 13 year old girl Tom Breen’s Mom’s New Boyfriend.

My recommendation is if you like the many types of horror including slasher, body horror, paranormal, ghost stories, psychological, and intelligent cats, check out this anthology. You will probably have favorites and some you won’t like, but that’s the nature of the beast.

Sunday Book Review: Doomed and Ariel

As a regular feature to my blog, Sunday Book Review, is simply a review of the book (or books) I read during the previous week on Sunday. While on Goodreads and Amazon, I give books a star rating, I don’t do stars here. I just say what I liked and didn’t like. You will notice that some will be independent titles, some will be mass market books, others will be classics. I write a review on whatever I read that week. I get most of my books from conventions from the author or bookstores, but as per FCC regs, I do mention if I received a book for free.

This week the two books I read couldn’t be more different. My husband is on a Chuck Palahnuik kick right now, and the second book I picked up on a recommendation to relax my brain.

Doomed by Chuck Palahnuik Published by Anchor House, July 2014

51g4k83vm2bl-_sx323_bo1204203200_What in the Hell did I just read? Maybe it’s horror? Maybe its satire? On the book, a reviewer from the Guardian calls it a morality tale.  When I finished it, my husband asked if the book was good. I answered it was strange.

I can’t say whether it was good or bad. I will say, I feel like I should do a writing exercise and analyze Palahnuik’s style. The Basic Premise: A gritty and dark telling of God versus the Devil told via the experiences of the chosen one: Madison Spencer.

What did I like? The novel follows a dead girl named Madison through Palahnuiks slick, visceral sometimes shockingly funny storytelling style. Palahnuik’s descriptions of her life before death, her parents and no religion except that of the celebrity culture are filled with satire.

What didn’t I like? The novel follows a dead girl named Madison through Palahnuik’s slick, visceral sometimes shockingly funny storytelling style. Madison doesn’t really have her own voice she is speaking with Palahnuik’s voice. She would alternatively used vile descriptors or kiddy phrases. But so we don’t forget that she is actually a thirteen year old girl, she repeats “Yes, I know X word.”

If you want to read something different or just want a morality tale with a razor’s edge of wit than this book is for you.

514vfhamfol-_sx331_bo1204203200_Ariel by Fia Essen, 2015

I am not big into “chick-lit”, but Fia Essen’s books are always a cool refreshing glass of water on a hot day.

Ariel, the title character, broke up with her boyfriend and is struggling financially. I enjoyed the fact that the romance is the subplot while the rest of Ariel’s life: work, family, friends are actually the main plot. There is a bit of mysterious element to Ariel which I enjoyed.  With the help of the Muse Agency, she is on a path of self discovery and the ability to love again. But what is the Muse Agency? Why are they so secretive? How do they know so much?

I described Essen’s first book Change of Pace as a beach read, Ariel is also a beach read, but now there is more confidence and strength in Essen’s prose. “There had been a time when I could sprint across rough terrain in stilettos without faltering, but those days were long gone. Few occasions now called for fancy footwear. I was out of practice and my toes were wildly objecting to being squished into such cruelly narrow vessels.”

Essen, Fia (2015-03-30). Ariel (p. 24). Summer Solstice. Kindle Edition.

So if you are looking for a fun beach read, give Ariel a shot.

Update: I believe Change of Pace might be out of print. I looked for it on Amazon for the link and it is no longer listed. 

Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you think!

Reading at Queen Anne Books Thursday

417d5Gdv+HL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Beyond the Hedge Anthology Reading!

Thursday, August 11th @ 7pm

Queen Anne Books
1811 Queen Anne Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98109

I will be reading from my short story, Charge of Nynlothe. Besides me, Alissa Berger, B.J. Neblett and Matthew Buscemi will also be reading


Want to know more?  Come to the reading! 


Sunday Book Review: Famished, The Farm & The Dragon Tax

While I have posted reviews in the past as I have read books, I am going to start posting reviews of the book (or books) I read during the previous week on Sunday as a regular feature to my blog.  While on Goodreads and Amazon, I give books a star rating, I don’t do stars here. I just say what I liked and didn’t like. You will notice that some will be independent titles, some will be mass market books, others will be classics. I write a review on whatever I read that week. I get most of my books from conventions from the author or bookstores, but I do mention if I received a book for free. I only read books in hardcopy.

51kxfeqvtzl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Famished: The Farm

(Adult Horror)

Great story. I enjoyed the pull between the characters. There is the ghoul who is just waking up to who/what he is. And the friction between the ghouls who live the old ways and the ghouls who want something more. There was a bit of misdirection in the plot and the ending was an action-packed blood bath.

My only negative comment is that it followed many vampire narratives that I have read before, so once the ending started I wasn’t surprised. Still it was a great fast-paced read.

If you like books where monsters take center stage with no human interpreter, this is the book for you!

(This book was given to me for free in exchange of an honest review.)


The Dragon Tax 

511ionaod9l-_sx311_bo1204203200_(New Adult Fantasy)
This novella is a quick  read in an epic fantasy setting. If you like Robert Bevan or Peter Beagle, you will like Madison Keller’s work.

Without spoilers, the relationship between Sybil the dragon slayer (tax collector), Riastel the dragon, and the king who wants to tax the dragon plays out at the center of this novel. There is plenty of danger and fun surprises. There is a bit of tounge in cheek attitude to the writing which adds to the light tone.

My only negative comment is why do good guys say things like “I’d rather die…” to bad guys.   I saw the set up and shook my head with the thought “DON’T SAY THAT!” But the book picked up directly afterwards and the climax was awesome.

Great fantasy romp!

(This book was also given to me for free in exchange of an honest review.)

Question Time: What’s It Like to Work with Editors

Over the course of my career, the most common question is:

Does it hurt when they change (or cut up) your baby? 

By baby, the person asking mean my novels.  Since people call it my baby, I’ll use the same analogy. I’ve heard it said it takes a village to raise a child. And it takes at least a few people to turn my great super fab-u-rific idea into a book people actually want to read, that connects the readers emotions.
Still, I never have liked the metaphor that my story is my baby. (Get real, my dogs are my babies)

A better metaphor is that my stories are swords.

Swords must be sharpened, tempered and honed and with them, I want to stab at your emotional wellbeing. I want the reader to cry with Abby. I want the reader to go on an uplifting adventure with Ellie. That is what an editor does. They sharpen. They hone. They polish.

Wait, it sounds like working with an editor is hard?

Editing is hard, but it is worth it, because the end product is ultimately my vision.  Not my fab-u-rific idea.
As many of my readers know, I’ve had two books published by 48Fourteen and I’ve self published. Being an author takes a special mix of megalomania, tenacity, and self-doubt.
So lets quickly look at the megalomania and tenacity.  I write for me. I write what I want to read. I want to explore my super cool fun ideas.  I need to believe in myself. I need to believe that  must be tenacious enough that I am willing to rewrite my super cool words six or seven times to get it right. I do the work when it stops being fun. I need to be willing to laugh in the face of rejection.

Now to counteract all that, I also must know my limitations or it will never be a book. A piece of my vision isn’t about me. It’s about the book: I want to create books that people want to pick up. That they are excited to read. And while I think I have at least a few neat ideas, and am a decent book designer due to my background in art, I can’t do it all alone.

Working with an editor is hard, but is an essential step in book creation.

Can’t an editor make me change my baby?

Maybe. Do you have a backbone?
There is a myth that an editor can carve up your story willy-nilly until you won’t even recognize it. No they can’t. Read a freaking contract. Most are not allowed to make major changes to your work without your approval.
When an editor suggests major changes, ask yourself: Why is the editor suggesting X? Does X solve an underlying issue. Does X agree with my vision of the novel?

But what happens if I disagree with my editor?

I’d say its your book. You must make the call. You have choices. Always. I’ve never gotten in so deep that my only option was to walk away from a book contact. However if that is your choice, then walk.  After all, why would you want someone to publish your book if they don’t believe in it?

So you’ve gotten lucky?


On Saying: No…

When it was suggested for Other Systems that I completely change Harden’s character – aka drop his age and make him a love interest. Or rewrite the book with a love interest for Abby. NOTE: Other Systems’ editor did not suggest this, the acquisitions editor did. I was freaking out inside, but I said no. Harden’s a mentor. And realistically Abby didn’t need a love interest in this book. I couldn’t make this change, because I wasn’t being true to the heart of this novel.
(FYI: This was the first time it happened and on my debut novel, so I worried that I might lose my contract or I was being a diva. I didn’t lose my contract. Of course, I made other changes so I guess I wasn’t really being a diva either.)

On Saying: No, but what about…

In almost all my books, sometimes the editor suggests something and while I don’t agree with the suggestion, I realize the problem with the scene, then rewrite it my way and with my ideas. I have never gotten so much as harsh email for doing this.
In The Light Side of the Moon, I was told to cut the android scenes, because its a long, fairly slow paced novel and the acquisitions editor didn’t care about the android characters at all. When I rewrote the book, I did not cut them, instead I made her care. I made everyone care about them. And they are everyone’s favorite characters.

On Saying: Huh?

Finally, I have been flat out confused about what an editor is saying.
Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. During Other Systems, there was a few scenes I rewrote at least 3 times because I didn’t understand what my editor was saying. He kept repeating “Slow down this scene” in different ways. Finally I brought it to my writing group and people said, “It’s okay, but it needs more tension.” So I added more tension–which slowed down the scene and it was now deemed solid. Thank you writing group!
But honestly, most of the time, all I’m thinking is:  Damn how could I be so blind to that repetitive writing tick..OR how many different ways did I mean to spell that word. Opps!  
The Grove Cover_blogsizedSeriously in almost every chapter of The Grove which I sent to my editor, people were glancing at their phones and over their shoulders. (Especially over their shoulders!) I was too close to the story. I couldn’t see it.
My editor Denise DeSio did. She took my fairly awesome story, and honed it until it was sharp. That’s what I paid her for. I didn’t agree with everything she suggested. I don’t have to.
Then a proof reader was hired. She polished my sentences until they shined. These edits were all grammatical and spelling.

Does anyone else have any good stories or tips about working with editors? 

Review of Dark Day Dreams by James Hawthorne

41Otkv6WSkL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_So I was given a free copy of Dark Day Dreams for review purposes, and I am so happy I got the chance to read it.

Mixing a bit of social commentary and with with science fiction, James Hawthorne’s collections of short stories are a treat. Each of the stories are a bit different – though connected with Hawthorne’s straight forward writing style and elements of the fantastic and supernatural. Since I read the collection in one afternoon, it felt as if I was binge watching the Twilight Zone or Tales from the Dark Side (which I love, btw) Like those stories, these stories stick with you.

My favorite was Beast in Show which follows a beast in a career in show business. This line stuck out long after I read it: “A gang of long-haired street punks stood twenty feet away, wearing matching black t-shirts and Levi jackets advertising their favorite bands. They smoked, spat and stared at me. I chuckled under my breath and thought about how much fun it would be to show them what real anarchy looked like. You know, the kind where your limbs can no longer follow the orders your brain is sending down the line.

As one can gather from the title, the stories are dark, yet the collection makes one smile when reading it. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Limited Release for The Grove Ebook

I can’t believe it. How in the world is it already July 12th? It’s already time for my new cosmic horror novel, The Grove‘s ebook limited release.

Basically, people can buy the ebook on Amazon for 2.99 (and I still have review copies available to bloggers!) Otherwise, it won’t be available anywhere else until September 13, 2016.

The Grove Cover_blogsized.jpgSitka’s Quay appears to be like every other coastal tourist town on Highway 101, but lurking below its southern grove of ancient spruce are three sleeping primordial gods. For an eon, their bloodthirsty dreams have radiated into the ground and restore anyone who walks within the Grove. The Keeper, Dayla Fischer, must remain in control of her magical abilities or fall into sickening madness, but lives a relatively quiet life with her husband, Oliver, their cat and garden gnome roommates. 
That is, until the delusional, but charming Jonah Leifson comes to town with a plan to awaken the Three. Soon, children begin disappearing. With powerful suggestion spells and mind reading abilities, Jonah wins over other sorcerers, meth users, the police, and eventually even her husband. Though no one believes her and she doubts her own sanity, she must stop Jonah, before he wakes the Three and brings about the end of the world. 


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