Friday, November 30, 2007

Debut Award News and Sundry Shout-Outs

The Border's 2007 Original Voices Awards includes several names that have come up on Fantasy Debut, and one that probably should have come up..

Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind made the Fiction list. Melissa Marr's Wicked, Lovely made the Young Adult list.

Things have been going well for both Rothfuss and Marr. I have already mentioned other awards for them in a previous post. Embarrassingly, I have not read either book. I keep meaning to pick up Wicked, Lovely and I'm really, really going to try to get it this weekend. I think I'll bring my camera to the bookstore and try to get some Bookshelf Action Shots of recent debuts.

Marr has a list of recent reviews and recognition for her novel here.

Elsewhere, I have recently shared the following posts on my Other Debut Coverage sidebar:

Over at Of Science Fiction, TexasBoyBlue has "finally" finished another award-winning novel, Acacia, by David Anthony Durham.

Adian has finished reading The Book of Joby by Mark J. Ferrari, and he loved it.

Over at Bookgasm, Mark Rose liked The Sword-Edged Blonde, but thought the title was ridiculous.

Darque Reviews has reviewed the second book in the Jaz Parks series, Another One Bites the Dust. Because of the rapidity in which Orbit is releasing these novels, Jennifer Rardin is already a debut graduate!

And I just saw this at the Swivet. UK debut Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips has been "optioned" to be developed as a TV series. I'm not a publishing person, so I can only guess at what the verb "to option" means, but I'm assuming that this is one day going to be on TV.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Guest Post - Janet Lorimer

Janet Lorimer is the author of MASTER OF SHADOWS. Although this is her first adult fantasy novel, she has been writing for children for years, and is also a freelance author. When I asked her if she wanted to do a guest post, she thought of this article, which ought to be useful to anyone who writes fiction.


By Janet Lorimer

The thriller grabbed my interest on the first page, and I settled back for a good chilling tale. Then, not two-dozen pages into the book, the author shattered the mood with a line that left me howling with laughter. Here’s the line. See how you respond.

“…her eyes shot over to him, then clung briefly like two dark hooks before they abruptly let go.”

I know my laughter is not the reaction the author wanted his readers to have. And to be honest, there was a time when I might not have noticed the humor in that sentence, when I might have been guilty of making a similar gaffe. Luckily I came across an article entitled “The Eyes Have It” by Francis L. Fugate (Writer’s Digest, May 1982) that changed my ‘eyesight’ forever.

The author, a copy editor, noted that writers have more trouble with characters’ eyes than with any other part of human anatomy. The tense mood is easily shattered when a line such as the following pops up: “Their eyes clashed and Martha uttered a shriek.”

Fugate included other examples, such as these Victorian gems: “Henrietta dropped her eyes into the fireplace and they evaporated into far-away nostalgia,” and “She picked up her eyes from the deck and cast them far out to sea.”

The trouble seems to stem from what writers want their characters’ eyes – mere organs of sight – to do. It’s tempting to assign mystical qualities to the eyes, and easy to make the mistake of attaching figurative action to these literal orbs. There’s only so much action we can ask of our eyes. They can open and close, narrow and widen, even roll and perhaps twinkle.

Fugate advised writers to double-check every reference to a character’s eyes with a jaundiced eye. I took his advice, wincing every time I found myself guilty of ‘literary detached retina,” and I started paying close attention to keeping my characters’ eyes in their sockets!

By the way, if you’re wondering what happened after the lady’s eyes ‘hooked’ our hero, his eyes “…followed her as she made her way to the car.” I hope his eyes don’t get in the car with her. She’s on her way to jail.


Thanks for letting me post this, Janet! It was a hoot!

By the way, Janet is sending me a copy of MASTER OF SHADOWS, so I expect I'll be writing more about it in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Into This Mind by Lisa Nevin

I finished INTO THIS MIND by Lisa Nevin late last night. I went back and reviewed my first post on this story because I knew that I had quite a few critiques.

The story is about a youngish woman who can walk into memories left behind by others. The woman, whose name is Jena, has always had an intense desire to explore a certain expanse of parkland that was closed to the public. When it finally opens up, Jena is there on the first day. While following her wayward cat, she stumbles upon an abandoned ballroom. She goes into explore and walks into the memory of the young married woman named May. Over the course of repeated visits, Jena and her friend, Katri, discover an unsolved murder mystery.

In my last post, I mentioned stilted dialog and present tense. Well, the present tense did not change, of course, but I noticed that Nevin's writing improved the further I got along into the story. I noticed this a little over halfway through. It never reached the point where it could compare with the likes of Mark J. Ferrari or David Anthony Durham, but there was a definite improvement.

By the end of the book, my only complaint was that she tended to have conversations go off into what I will call "chocolate tangents". These sort of tangents could have been used more sparingly, in my opinion. When we talk, we tend to wander off topic quite a bit. However, in our reading we pretty much expect the characters to stay on-topic. There was one scene toward the end where Jena discovered something pretty profound concerning her ability to walk in someone's memory. Jena found it overwhelming and tries to avoid crying by counting blue sheep. Granted, Jena is kind of a wacky character, but as a reader I would have appreciated a moment or two to reflect on the revelation before being dragged back into wackiness.

This and the rather rocky opening were the two biggest problems I had with the book. Since Nevin showed such improvement with her writing, I wish she had gone back and shored up her opening with her newfound skills. Otherwise, her writing was grammar-perfect, with an easy-to-read style and a distinctive voice.

There's no question that the story kept my attention. There was only one brief point where the plot slowed down. Nevin stuck strictly to her plot. There was no needless backstory. The present tense became utterly unnoticeable after the first few pages. Nevin shows a lot of potential in her ability to dole out little facts in the mystery bit by bit. The story had a few surprises and it ended fairly satisfyingly, although I can't say that Jena was ever in any true danger. One can imagine Jena becoming a sort of psychic investigator in future books. However this book stands alone.

All in all, it was an enjoyable little fantasy mystery.

Off Into Eight Hours of Blog Oblivion

My place of business has gotten very security conscious since a security breech a while back, and we have been told to cease using web-based email accounts, such as Gmail, which I use. Therefore, I will no longer be able to see or respond to your emails or blog comments until I get home. I used to check on my blog during lunch time, but I'm not going to do that anymore because they are also increasing surveillance of web-based activities. In fact, I think I'll be bringing a book to read during lunch. It will help me read debuts quicker, anyway.

Which proves that there is a silver lining in every cloud! You just have to look for a while before finding it!

When I return tonight, I'll put up my final review of Lisa Nevin's Into This Mind.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Guest Post - Jim Melvin

I first became aware of Jim before I started Fantasy Debut, at the Absolute Write Water Cooler (although he probably does not remember me from those days). He later initiated contact with me shortly after I started Fantasy Debut. We have been in sporadic contact ever since, and I recently asked him to write a guest post. Jim has always behaved with class and professionalism. I was interested in hearing Jim's story because I knew from various interviews that his writing this series was his lifelong dream and I was curious to hear how it came about.

Here is his bio and guest post.

* * *

Jim Melvin is author of The Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book-epic fantasy. Book One (The Pit) was released in September 2007 by Rain Publishing, followed by Book Two (Moon Goddess) in October, Book Three (Eve of War) in November. Book Four (World on Fire) will be released in December, Book Five (Sun God) in January and Book Six (Death-Know) in February. The series is available for purchase at or The first shipments to Amazon have sold out, but more are on the way. Jim, 50, is married with five daughters and currently lives in Clemson, S.C. He welcomes personal emails at

Though I wrote The Death Wizard Chronicles in three years, the six-book series was almost thirty years in the making. I was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but I moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., when I was 5 years old and was raised on an island that jutted into Tampa Bay. I was lucky to grow up on a street on the waterfront that had about ten other boys my age, and we hung out morning, noon, and night. We played all the usual sports that young boys love: football, baseball, basketball, “kill the carrier,” etc. But we also, as a group, were obsessed with fantastical games that contained magic, monsters, and super heroes. We played games based off popular TV shows of that era (the late 1960s) such as Lost in Space and The Man from Uncle.

When I was a boy, I had white-blond hair, but I became a big fan of Robert Vaughn, who played Napoleon Solo in The Man from Uncle. Vaughn, of course, has brown hair, and one summer I convinced my mom to dye my hair brown. Being a smart mom, she chose to use cheap hair dye, and within a couple of days my hair changed colors and I spent the rest of the summer with green hair. That wouldn’t seem so unusual today, but back then I was the talk of the island. Anyway, my love and fascination for magic and monsters stayed with me into adulthood.

When I was a junior in high school, I boldly decided that I wanted to become a best-selling novelist, and I went around telling everyone I knew that I was going to make $75-million. Keep in mind this was the mid-1970s, so that’s probably around $300-million, if you figure in thirty years of inflation.

I wrote my first novel when I was 20 years old. It was a Stephen King-like horror novel entitled Sarah’s Curse. An agent who was a family friend shopped it around, and though it received some nice responses, it never found a publisher. But I wasn’t overly concerned because I believed my second novel would be the one to hit it big. In the meantime, I started my career as a journalist at the St. Petersburg Times in Florida. For me, the rat race officially began. Soon I was working 50-hour weeks and raising a family – and there never was a second book. Twenty-five years later, I was fortunate enough to be able to semi-retire. In September 2004, I wrote the first word of Book One of The Death Wizard Chronicles. Seven-hundred-thousand words later, I’m in the final revision process of Book Six.

Life has an unusual sense of humor, and for a quarter-century my dreams were put on hold. That said, those 25 years ended up serving a valuable purpose. As a reporter and editor, I learned the craft of writing and met a lot of interesting people, significantly expanding my worldview and talents. When I finally began writing my epic fantasy series, I realized that work and family weren’t to blame for all those lost years. Instead, I wasn’t simply had not been ready as a writer. Finally, it all jelled. This is my time.

I describe my series as a cross between J.R.R. Tolkien and Stephen King – Tolkien because it contains many aspects of epic fantasy, King because it’s pretty darn scary and rough. The Death Wizard Chronicles is a classic tale of good versus evil, with lots of action, monsters, and magic. It also contains a very compelling love story. But what separates my series from most others is that I am an active student of Eastern philosophy, which fuels my world view. The concept of karma and the art of meditation play key roles in the symbolic aspects of my work. While deep in meditation, Buddhist monks have had recorded heart rates of less than 10 beats per minute. My main character takes this to the extreme. In an original twist never before seen in this genre, the Death Wizard is able to enter the realm of death during a “temporary suicide.” Through intense concentrative meditation, he stops his heartbeat briefly and feeds on death energy, which provides him with an array of magical powers.

My first wife and I divorced about 15 years ago, and I then remarried. My second wife is a Western-convert Buddhist in the Theravada tradition, and she introduced me to Buddhism. The philosophical aspects of Eastern philosophy really rang true for me and helped to further shape the person I have become. My series contains an ancient language that is directly translated from Pali, a dialect closely related to Sanskrit but not extinct as a spoken language. When translated to English, it is beautiful and erotic.

A wise man once said:
“In the end
these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?”

I live life this way. Or at least I try.

* * *

Thank you, Jim!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Policy Updates and Sleepless Rambles

I'm up way too late, but I can't sleep, so I may as well blog. My husband and I have been watching Lord of the Rings. No wonder I can't sleep.

I have over a hundred blog entries on Google Reader that I need to catch up on. The only thing I did blog-related over the weekend was answer comments.

I also came to a decision. I've been getting a lot of requests to check out POD books lately. I don't think I can cover them. This blog has a narrow focus on purpose: I have very limited free time. I have a disabled child and it takes me over a week to read a single book. If it is a very long book, it takes me even longer. When my life takes an unexpected turn, as it has in recent weeks, my reading time becomes embarrassingly long. In fact, this blog has come to be more about debut news than reviews. I hope to turn this around as I get caught up by the beginning of the year. However, in order to get caught up, I need to focus.

Therefore, I will no longer attempt to cover POD books. I will limit my coverage to major publisher debuts and certain well-vetted small presses. I have already adjusted my What I Do Here post to reflect this policy.

In order to be helpful to POD authors, I looked for other places online that specifically covers POD. The leader of the pack appears to be The Podler. The Podler reviews lots of types of books and has an annual award, the IPOD. I swiped these links off the Podler's sidebar. They are all members of The De Facto Pod Review Ring.

I will add all of these links in a POD section on my sidebar. If you decide to start a POD blog, let me know and I'll add your blog to the sidebar as well.

This in no way reflects on the POD book that I am currently reading. I intend to finish that book this week. It will be my first and last POD review.

In other news, I've expanded my attempts to find recently-announced authors who are willing to guest blog. I find that a lot of them are! I have two guest blogs upcoming this week, both small press authors. I will post one on Tuesday and the other on Thursday.

Now to try to get some sleep!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I'll be somewhat scarce for most of the weekend, since it is Thanksgiving here in the United States. I'm going to try to catch up on my reading, but I admit to reading a novel just for pleasure right now. It's Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear. I love these books. I love a book that can take me back to time, and Winspear has succeeded with this with her very first volume, Maisie Dobbs.

It will probably be a reading weekend, and I hope to get some reviews ready by next week. Till then, happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I have not done a blogrolling post in a while, so here it goes. The following blogs have added Fantasy Debut to their blogrolls. Here's a shout-out as a way of saying thanks! (This list does not include author blogs, which I have shouted-out separately.)

Mir runs a fabulous blog called Mirathon, and she always sends lots of traffic my way. Mir is funny and smart and I'm sure her readership will continue to grow.

Carole McDonnell also reviews books, and her review blog is called Dark Parables. I also get a lot of traffic from this blog, every single day. Thanks, Carole!

The Torque Control is the "critical of the British Science Fiction Association." I love the title of this blog.

Capricious Musings is a blog on "reading, writing and geekiness". Sounds right up my alley!

Books Under the Bridge is a SFF review blog run by Billy Goat and Mister Troll.

Over at Darque Reviews, Kimberly reviews lots of dark fantasy. She has a great graphic, too. I really need to work on getting a graphic for Fantasy Debut.

Pat's Fantasy Hotlist is probably known to most bloggers, but those of you who don't know of him should probably take note. His blog is on my "Special Thanks" blogroll for a reason. He's the man in the know!

The Bookie Monster has a new home, but since he has his own domain, it's a seamless transfer for the user.

I don't know if I've mentioned John at Grasping for the Wind, but he runs a very popular blog and has shouted Fantasy Debut more than once.

Of Science Fiction is currently at NaNo, according to his blog. He appears to do both movie and book reviews.

Thanks, everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Amazon's Kindle

I noticed that Amazon's Kindle has gotten 2 1/2 stars on its own review system. Personally, I balk at the 399 price tag. I mean -- wow. That's quite an investment. The thing sounds rather cool -- no more waiting for books to ship -- but I have other things that I'd much rather spend 399 on. We need a new lawn mower, for instance. 399 would buy about half of a fairly nice used lawn mower. And way, way before I get something like Kindle, I'd buy a new computer. But way, way before I buy a new computer, I'd buy a new sofa. You get the idea.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday Evening Ramble

I thought I'd have a debut to announce, but it didn't turn out to be a debut at all, so I guess I get the night off! Not really . . .

Got some new gizmos up on the sidebar. I added the "Other Debut Coverage" a few weeks ago and I've sent a steady stream of Google Reader links to it ever since. I love it. It is very cool. I suppose I should make it look more like the rest of the blog, but I kind of like the way it stands out as it is. I'll try to leave a comment on your blog when I add one of your posts, but I won't promise anything. It's so easy! I just click the mouse and bam! It's on my sidebar!

At the urging of Carole, I added a link to my profile, which points to my other blogs, which in turn includes (gasp!) a writing blog. I also blog on technology under my alter-ego "Technigirl" and to my knowledge, my only reader is my husband, who nags me whenever I neglect to put up a post.

And most exciting, I now have a form that you can use to notify me of a debut! (Yes I know, I need to get a life if I consider that exciting.) But really, this will help with my announcement research. I've actually had authors send me emails asking me "Will you review my book?" and neglect to give me the title, publisher, release date -- anything!

I am also going to work on a list of all debuts that I've announced so far, and I'll update it as I go along. It will be cool to see the list at the end of the year.

I suppose, while I'm here, I may as well catch up on some author goings-on. This time, I'm going to go way back in time . . .

Yay! Phaedra Weldon has a website! Back when I first blogged on her debut, Wraith, she had no web presence that I could find. Now she has a website (including an excerpt), a LiveJournal and a MySpace. Apparently, her next novel is called Spectre, and she's expecting the copy-edited manuscript in the mail any day now.

David Bilsborough (The Wanderer's Tale) still does not appear to have a web presence, so I guess we'll skip him. Maybe someone "in the know" can let me know what's going on with him.

Alexis Glynn Latner has a blog that I never noticed before. It is entirely possible that it was there all along. Another one for my feed reader . . .

That's it for today. I'll try to check up on some more of my early debut authors over the next few weeks. But for now, I just have one more about a more recent author . . .

Carole McDonnell had her very first book signing, and has posted a review. It appears to have been some sort of joint book signing and it sounds like it was a lot of fun.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Guest Post! Reading Reviews by Laura Benedict

I've always felt badly that I cannot give all debuts equal exposure, and I don't tend to read darker fantasies or horror. At the time Laura's novel, ISABELLA MOON, came out I was rather swamped in books, and was unable to read it. Maria and I did a Spotlight Review of her book, but when she thanked me so kindly, I knew I wanted to do something else for her. Then it occurred to me -- why not ask her to do a guest post? Why on earth would I want to limit guest posts and interviews to authors that I've featured? She was happy to do a guest post and asked me for a subject. Since I knew that her reviews were rather mixed -- indeed, our Spotlight was mixed as well -- I asked her what it was like to be on the other side of a review. Here is her response.

Reading Reviews
by Laura Benedict

I swore to myself that I wouldn’t read a single review of my debut novel ISABELLA MOON when they came out. I’ve reviewed books myself on a freelance basis for a Michigan newspaper for over ten years, I’m married to a writer, and I have many writer friends, so I’m deeply aware of how affecting reviews—both positive and negative—can be. But any writer who says he or she doesn’t read reviews of their books is probably fibbing. It’s a sore, sore temptation to listen in on what folks are saying about your baby, even when you suspect that someone out there is going to claim it’s ugly as sin.

The early word was not great. Two out of the Big Four—Kirkus, PW, Library Journal, and Booklist—were stinkers. They weren’t just bad. They were cruel. And I mean cruel, as in, “who did I piss off to get this kind of treatment?” cruel. As a writer, that was my first, defensive reaction. They couldn’t have possibly read the same book I wrote! The other two were better, but equivocal. I knew I should’ve been grateful: not everyone gets her first book reviewed by the Big Four. I found myself saying stiff-upper-lip things like: “Well, I wanted to run with the big dogs. Guess I’m off the porch, now!”

Fortunately, newspapers and the Blogosphere had nicer things to say, and ISABELLA MOON did not, in fact, sink beneath the weight of that pair of initial smack-downs.

ISABELLA MOON is a complicated book, I confess. Not everyone is interested in a crime/gothic/supernatural thriller/frankly sexual/romance of a book. (Actually, I say “romance” with tongue firmly in cheek. One of my favorite review quotes reports that ISABELLA MOON includes “…various neurotic young women with some pretty twisted views on romance.” I love that, because it’s true!) But my opinion of ISABELLA MOON isn’t relevant. Once it left my desk, copy-edited and complete, it was out of my control.

A reviewer is like any other reader. He (for the sake of simplicity—I get all bollixed up in the he/she thing) takes a look at the book’s jacket and develops an initial impression. Occasionally, that impression may change in the first forty pages and must be revised, but, often as not, the reviewer/reader has a vague expectation of how the book will unfold. Is it a literary book? Well, the language better be good—poetry, almost. Is it a thriller? So, thrill me, and be relatively predictable, but not too predictable! Is it—and this part annoys the heck out of me—destined for women? Then it can be violent, but it better not be too violent, and it damn well better have a resolute, if not happy, ending! And so on….My point is simply that reviewers, like readers, have expectations and will evaluate a book on how well, or poorly, the writer meets those expectations. Woe betide the writer whose book doesn’t resemble the straw man the reviewer/reader has already planted in his mind.

Expectations are not necessarily a bad thing. Categories make it easier for us to find things, to make sense of our world. Predictability is comforting. I like my Crest toothpaste to taste somewhat like Crest toothpaste even if I buy the Crest that Whitens, Brightens, and sings the Star Spangled Banner when I brush!

As writers, we must write what The Muse (or God, or The Universe, what-have-you) sends us to write. If we try to force our own paltry wills on it, the work will not ring true for any reader. But when a book reaches the hands of a reader, that reader’s expectations and experiences are suddenly all brought to bear on the book itself. When that happens, the book becomes a Whole Other Thing. It becomes the reader’s property, a part of the reader’s world, a projection of the reader’s imagination. The writer has zero control here.

Some writers will complain that a reviewer didn’t “get” their book. This only means that the reviewer didn’t “get” the same thing that the writer “got” from his own book. Writers are not particularly reliable about their own work. J.K. Rowling didn’t “get” that Dumbledore was gay until she saw a script for the sixth film. And I believe her.

For the writer, reading reviews is a futile exercise. For me, it has been downright destructive. A few negative reviews temporarily wrecked my confidence in my work—mostly because I’m a hypersensitive wimp. Conversely, I have been unreasonably cheered by good reviews. But they all have nothing to do with me as a writer, as a person. Reviews are simply opinions. If I try to fool myself into believing that reading reviews will make me a better writer (and, early on in my reviewing career, I imagined that’s what I was doing for the writer—silly me!) I’ll drive myself nuts. Seriously, if I want professional criticism, I know some damned good teachers who can help me improve—people I can trust whose job it is to make me a better writer because I’m paying them to do it.

A very smart editor told me that his house’s research has shown that, when a reader goes to to read reviews, he reads many of them, both positive and negative and makes what he thinks is a balanced decision. It’s information-gathering. This sounds right to me. I know that’s how I approach new things I might want to try. I sample others’ opinions, then make my decision.

When I review, I try to find something nice to say about a book, even if I didn’t much care for it. I was also writing fiction all those years that I was reviewing, and so frequently imagined myself on the other side of the newspaper. Even if I feel very let down by the writer—I’m not surprised enough, the language isn’t beautiful enough, the characters aren’t alive enough—I try to find something that the writer did do well. Writers are human beings, after all. And a writer has a heck of a lot of himself wound into a book. Even if he’s a jerk. There is such a thing as being damned by faint praise, and I think reviewers need to exercise that option more often. It’s more civilized than outright excoriation and does no disservice to the consumer of the review.

But that’s just my opinion, which, like a belly-button, everyone has.

It's me again! Laura now has a blog at Thanks so much, Laura! I'll leave this as the top post until Sunday night, when I'll have some more debuts to announce.

Friday, November 16, 2007

INTO THIS MIND -- Opening Chapters

I've never reviewed a POD book before, mostly because I don't hear about many of them, and because I have not yet been intrigued by the blurb. Until now.

I am still reading Auralia's Colors, but for reasons I'd rather not get into online, I'm going to try to read INTO THIS MIND by Lisa Nevin over the weekend. It's a short book and so far, it looks like it will be a quick read.

But first, I wanted to share some interesting things that I've noted about this book, the author's website and the publisher. I will place links to everything that I found. The author knows that I am doing this, and she says that she thinks I will be honest in my observations.

First of all, Preditors and Editors lists this publisher, Unlimited Publishing as "Not Recommended". I do not know if P&E had given it this designation at the time the author approached the publisher. The author's book page on the website states, "This is a limited advance release, not yet available from bookstores. It is available exclusively at this location, for a limited time only!" This makes it seem like the novel is only available in ARC form, yet there are links at the bottom of the page to Lulu, where one can order a copy for 14.99.

Traditionally, reviewers do not have to pay for ARCs. Therefore, I decided to try to get an ARC from the publisher. However, my efforts only elicited a PDF file. I regularly get unsolicited books from publishers like Tor and Bantam and because of my situation at home, it would take me months to read a book at the computer. In the end, the author rushed me a copy when I asked her for one. (She also sent scads of bookmarks!)

Curiosity drove me onward, so I looked at the author's website. After following a link deeper in the site, I found a list of fourteen independent bookstores that stock her book. She's also managed to schedule a number of book signings. Since I know it could not have been easy to get bookstores to stock a POD book, I became curiouser. I scrolled down and found an About the Cover Painting heading, so I read it. There, I discovered that the author had used a painting by her sister for her cover art.

Obviously, the author has done quite a lot of work in getting her novel out there.

After all this research, I emailed the author and asked her to have a copy sent to me. You already know that story.

And now, for the review.

The book itself is a narrow volume of 199 pages. The cover has the painting mentioned above, and on the front it doesn't look bad. However, on the back I wish the publisher had faded the image behind the text, as it is quite difficult to read. However, that's my only complaint with the book itself. The pages are crisp and thick, and the text highly readable. Unlike certain low-quality paperbacks I've read recently, the ink left no smudge marks on my fingers.

The story so far is about a young woman who explores an abandoned house and apparently slips back in time to the night of a ball. There, she watches as the newlywed May, her brother August and her sister April have a tense but unknown situation brewing, where May's husband Jeffrey is apparently at its center. Just when we are getting caught up in this story from the past, Jena, the point of view character, is yanked back to the present.

The book itself is not without its flaws, but despite them it is still highly readable. I'll go ahead and get what I perceive as flaws over with. One is that it is written in present tense. I don't believe I've ever read a novel in the present tense before, and I'm damned well-read. I went to my bookshelf and took out some of my more literary titles -- ones with unusual points of view -- to see if any of them were present tense. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce? Past Tense. Candide by Voltaire? Past tense. Moby Dick by Melville? Past tense. Allegory of the Cave by Plato (actually a dialog)? Past tense.

The closest my bookshelf comes to present tense are plays. Does anyone know of a present-tense novel, classic or otherwise?

Anyway, it actually didn't turn out to be too off-putting. And it turned out to be an advantage when she would have otherwise had to use the awkward past participle tense for relating dialog that had taken place previously. Still, I think that if she had used past tense, she would have had a much more solid book.

My other quibble is dialog. Her characters tend to speechify. It's not really bad -- I wouldn't have been able to read it if it were -- but simply somewhat stilted. I read once that a character should not say more than three sentences together unless he has a very good reason. A patient editor might have been able to help her here.

It is written in first person with a chatty, often humorous style. I had several laugh-out-loud moments. While the character walked through the abandoned house, I almost felt like I was in a role-playing game, listening to a game master describe the house, room by room. She even gave the dimensions of several rooms. This was unnecessary, in my opinion. However, it didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the story.

Nevin's biggest strength is her ability to build up suspense. She's doling out the mystery bit by bit, and when I thought I reached a good stopping point to go ahead and write this review, I decided to read just a bit more. This is always a good thing. Her characters are likable and I got a kick out of the "Calendar family". I was especially concerned for May, who apparently invades Jena's consciousness whenever Jena enters the house. I'm afraid that something terrible is going to happen to May (or, I suppose, has already happened) or her family.

So far, INTO THIS MIND is turning out to be an entertaining fantasy mystery.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Spotlight Review - THE STEAM MAGNATE by Dana Copithorne

One of the guest reviewers over at The Fantasy and SciFi Lovin' Book Review posted a fabulous review that also let me know of what sounds like another excellent small press, Aio Publishing. The novel is THE STEAM MAGNATE by Dana Copithorne. I've not yet announced this book, so here is the blurb:

Departing from formulaic themes involving quests, magicians, and mythical animals, this fantasy novel follows a character with powers more ordinary than most uber-wizards. Having inherited the steam-power legacy and the mysterious ability to funnel the assets of others into his own coffers through the mere use of ink and paper, Eson is hated by some and feared by others. While recovering from a disastrous relationship with a woman of his own magical kind, he meets a young woman who isn’t who she claims to be, and Eson must now defend himself against challenges far too close to home. Set in a world that is a tempting concoction of fairy-tale charm and everyday existence, this work explores the inequities of social class and the realities living among the less fortunate.

Here's a little sample of S.M.D.'s raving review:

To put it simply, this work is stunning. Copithorne's prose is superb. It's fluid, powerful, and gripping. I found myself dragged right into the world and unable to escape. This is prose to look up to, in my opinion. This is also not your typical story. While it flirts with the lines of science fiction and fantasy, it isn't a story of adventure, but a story of characters. The focus is on Kyra, Eson, and Jado (a character I didn't mention in the summary), and how they are affected and influenced by everything that goes on. Taken into account that this is a highly literary work, The Steam Magnate never ceases to be beautiful in its creation.

Here is the rest of the review. I will research this book and put up an announcement in the next few days.

Great Writing Article

I just read a fantastic post by Janet Lorimer, the author of Master of Shadows, which I just announced last week. I know that a lot of my readers are aspiring authors, so I thought I'd share. It's called Don't Throw Anything Away. It's at the Fiction Beyond the Ordinary Juno author's blog.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

AURALIA'S COLORS - Opening Chapters

I'm about fifty pages into Auralia's Colors and I must admit that I'm having a tough time. After a very strong opening where two thieves found a small baby girl inside a monster footprint, the opening chapters lose a lot of steam. The point of view is omnipresent, and at an extreme distance. We watch Auralia grow into a child over the course of about eight to ten very engaging pages. During this period, Auralia names herself in such a way that you believe that it is her given name. Since she was discovered as a baby, how could she know her given name? It's a mystery, and I like mysteries.

However, we then switch to the point-of-view of Captain Ark-robin, who has a fascinating encounter with Auralia out in the forest. This only whets our appetite to get behind Auralia's eyeballs, but instead, we are plunged back in time many years, to where Queen Jaralaine put her plan into action make the kingdom the most envied kingdom of all. Part of this plan requires everyone outside the palace walls to dress only in drab blacks, greys and browns, and for the palace to stand out in stunning, colorful contrast. It almost sounds like a fairy tale and I like novels that have this sort of magic.

I do wish so much time had not been devoted right away to Queen Jaralaine. I think we needed some more time with the title character in order to develop a deeper attachment to the story. Queen Jaralaine comes off as completely insane. She is motivated purely by a selfish desire for more and better things, and she will rob a kingdom of its beauty to get it. Her husband the king is completely ruled by her. It was very difficult to get through this chapter.

An impatience to get back to Auralia is keeping me reading. I'm no stranger to tough reads. This novel's hook sounded very engaging so I'm not ready to give up on it. Hopefully I'll have a more positive post in a few days!

Monday, November 12, 2007

THE PENGUINS OF DOOM by Greg R. Fishbone

THE PENGUINS OF DOOM (From the Desk of Septina Nash) (USA, Canada) by Greg R. Fishbone is another comic middle-grade reader debut from the Class of 2K7. Here's the blurb, written by the main character:

Dear Reader, In order to make this book I had to escape from a mad scientist, adopt a trio of wild penguins, become an Olympic freestyle skateboarder, collect a whole bunch of empty yogurt containers, and find my missing tripletsister. In order to enjoy it, all you have to do is read every page. Thanks for doing your part! Sincerely, Septina Nash, Main Character

Here's another one:

Septina Nash is a 7th grade seventh child with purple hair and a knack for popping up in music videos. After her triplet-sister mysteriously disappears, Septina finds herself stalked by penguins, pursued by a mad scientist, and on the fast track to an Olympic medal in freestyle skateboarding. Along with her more reality-minded triplet-brother, Quinn, Septina hurdles from one adventure to the next: surviving for ten minutes in the world’s most dangerous truck stop, launching a polar expedition, and collecting an enormous amount of empty yogurt containers.

Is it any wonder why she can’t complete her math homework on time?

The author has lots of stuff online, including his 2K7 page, a LiveJournal blog, a Wikipedia entry and a MySpace. Oops, I'm sorry. It's Septina's MySpace. Greg's MySpace is here. Septina also has a website that doubles as a blog. Oh, he also has an Amapedia, which is a little corner of that I never knew existed. And we must not forget the book trailer!

I wonder how much time it takes keeping all these sites and blogs current? It's a good thing that he has Septina to help him out.

As far as reviews and interviews go, I found an interview at Debbi Michiko Florence's website, and a review at Wands and Worlds.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY by Jennifer Rardin

As part of my debut research, I typically go to the book page and click on the author link to make sure the author that I'm researching is really a debut. When I clicked on Jennifer Rardin's name, my eyebrows rose since four books were listed. A closer look at the pub dates explained the mystery: they all release by the end of the summer in 2008! Starting last month!

Yes, I'm about a month late in announcing ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY (US, UK, Canada), and it was Katie's review that alerted me to the fact that I missed it. However, I neglected to put it on my debut calendar, and it kept popping up on other book blogger posts, so by now I'm quite embarrassed.

I'm Jaz Parks. My boss is Vayl, born in Romania in 1744. Died there too, at the hand of his vampire wife, Liliana. But that's ancient history. For the moment Vayl works for the C.I.A. doing what he does best--assassination. And I help. You could say I'm an Assistant Assassin. But then I'd have to kick your ass.Our current assignment seemed easy. Get close to a Miami plastic surgeon named Assan, a charmer with ties to terrorism that run deeper than a buried body. Find out what he's meeting with that can help him and his comrades bring America to her knees. And then close his beady little eyes forever. Why is it that nothing's ever as easy as it seems?

The author has a gizmo that I thought I'd try here:

Cool! It worked. I gotta say that I love the cover. An ammo clip filled with pencils? Or are they tiny stakes? Whatever -- it's hilarious. And I don't even read vampire novels. Could I have found an exception?

On to business. The author's website is cleverly designed as a blog, but with extra pages. For the excerpt, just click on the "Browse Inside" button on the gizmo above. The reviews by my fellow bloggers that I referred to are at Graeme's and SciFiChick. I also found a review at Darque Reviews and Love Vampires. (I'm adding both of these blogs to my blogroll, since I've linked to them in the past.)


I just announced HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE by Jeaniene Frost last week, and her debut is already number 23 on the New York Times mass market paperback bestseller list! Check it out! (registration required)

Hat tip: Lit Agent X.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Long Overdue Author Catch-Up

Over the past month, several 2007 debut authors have made some additional sales via their agents. Courtesy of the Swivet, here they are:

Jennifer Lee Carrell's follow-up to INTERRED WITH THEIR BONES has been sold to Dutton. Also, has declared her debut to be a top book of 2007. Her book has sold to 25 countries.

Christopher Barzak, the author of ONE FOR SORROW, has sold THE LOVE WE SHARE WITHOUT KNOWING to Bantam Dell.

Patrick Rothfuss, whose THE NAME OF THE WIND came out before this blog started, has made six-figure foreign rights sales to publishers in Spain and and Japan. That's two separate six-figure deals, and his novel has already sold in thirteen other territories!

Sarah Rees Brennan, whose novel, DEMON'S LEXICON has not even been published yet, is making foreign rights sales as well. So far her foreign rights have been sold to publishers in China, Germany, France, Russia, and Japan. Never mind that her original sale was a "major deal". This young lady is one to watch.

In other news on author's blogs, David Anthony Durham's ACACIA was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the best books of the year in the speculative fiction category.

Similarly, Melissa Marr's WICKED, LOVELY is the number 2 choice of Amazon's Best Books of the Year in the Teen category. She also has her new cover on her blog. I'm no fan of tatoos, but I have to admit that the cover is, well, wicked. I am going to have to pick up WICKED, LOVELY soon, but I've been saying that for months!

Speaking of Amazon's lists, in the Science Fiction and Fantasy category, we have Brian Francis Slattery's SPACEMAN BLUES: A LOVE SONG coming in at number 5 and Patrick Rothfuss's THE NAME OF THE WIND at number 7. In the Debut Fiction list, Austin Grossman's SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE came in at number 9.

Back to the blogs. Jim Melvin's second book in THE DEATH WIZARD CHRONICLES came out on October 1 and is titled MOON GODDESS. Unless I'm mistaken, I believe his third book is out soon, since his books were being released every month. He also has done a radio interview, which is now online.

A whole squad of Juno authors have started a shared blog called, Fiction Beyond the Ordinary. Lisa Shearin has been blogging on her fourth Raine Beneres novel, THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS, and it is fascinating to watch. She's up against a deadline and you can read day by day as she struggles with plot threads, writer's block and characters doing unexpected things.

I've received a spurt of review copies in the last week, some of them as "surprises". (Honestly, I wonder what my mail carrier must think, since I suddenly now receive all this media mail.) One of them was for the sequel to REIFFEN'S CHOICE by S. C. Butler, which just came out in paperback last month, but released as a hardcover in September of 2006. The second book is called QUEEN FERRIS, and it came out in hardcover on October 30.

La Gringa of The Swivet also had Tor send me David Keck's two books, one another debut from last year called IN THE EYE OF HEAVEN. The second book is an advanced uncorrected proof, due out in Febuary and is called IN A TIME OF TREASON.

Finally, La Gringa (I know her secret identity!) also had Random House (WaterBook Press) send me AURALIA'S COLORS by Jeff Overstreet, which I am reading now.

Along with all these are review copies that I expected, which includes Lisa Nevin's INTO THIS MIND and Suzanne Selfor's TO CATCH A MERMAID. Plus, I'm expecting a friend's manuscript in the mail. And I'll have time to do my Christmas shopping . . . when?

But I've got to admit . . . I'm loving this. And this sort of post is my favorite to write. It took an hour and a half to research and write, but who's keeping track?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

More That Got Away

Today, I received To Catch a Mermaid by Suzanne Selfors in the mail, and I realized that I have not yet announced it. It came out on September first, and is aimed for ages 9-12. Here is the blurb:

Boom Broom thinks his life can't get any worse. Ever since his mother was swept away by a twister, his father has been locked in the attic, leaving twelve-year old Boom to care for his little sister Mertyle. Low on money, Boom brings home a feisty, seaweed-covered fish from the reject seafood bucket by the docks. But when the seaweed parts, Boom and Mertyle find that their supper is actually a foul-tempered merbaby.

Boom wants to use the creature to get rich, but Mertyle won't hear of it. She loves the mud-scented baby and wants to keep it for herself. But when strange things begin to happen, Boom is afraid they might be cursed! With the help of their Viking housekeeper, Halvor, and his secret society, Boom and his sister set off to find the home of the merfolk, in search of a cure. To Catch a Mermaid is a whimsical fantasy adventure reminiscent of Eva Ibbotson and Roald Dahl.

Among the links I found for this title was her Class of 2K7 page and reviews at The Washington Post and The Kitsap Sun. I also found an enthusiastic post by a member of her writer's group, and it has been nominated for a Cybil Award, which is an award where the public nominates their favorite children's books and a group of bloggers read them and pick the winners.

Carole McDonnell wrote to me of Cimmerian City by Rae Lindley. Amazon shows its release date as October 10th.

Greed can turn a good man’s heart to stone. This is especially true in the age of commerce and large corporations. No new pill can be taken without a laundry list of side effects that the patient may have to endure. But what if the side effects are more dangerous than the pills are helpful? What if the side effect causes the patient to be immune from standard dangers, such as firearms, the climate, etc., but causes them to change into otherworldly beings?

It is seen through the eyes of a young woman named Raven Blackheart. It is a future where corporations rule the world and political parties have been dismissed. An Earth that is recovering from a global war that has divided two races: Humans and Dracins, quick, tough skinned creatures that are children of the side effects from 20th century pharmaceuticals. Raven awakens in this world as a product of both races and nurtured by the vice president of the main corporation in the world as a symbol of the union of races. With her help, Vice President Tyler Deamond’s corporation can take both beings off Earth, which is quickly becoming a waste planet, and to a new terraformed planet. But, as Raven learns, nothing is as it seems, especially concerning humans.

The author appears to have been quite busy promoting her book, and I found scads of links, including a spotlight at Dark Parables (Carole's original shout-out), an interview at Conversations with Writers, the author's "Coffee Corner", a review of the original ebook at WildChild, another review at Love Vampires, a book trailer, SciFiChick's review, and a review at Leicester Review of Books.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Jennifer Estep Post Round-Up

Here's everything I've posted on Jennifer Estep, my first Debut Graduate:

What a ride!

A Second Interview With Jennifer Estep!

Way back in August, Jennifer Estep offered to do another interview when her second book, HOT MAMA was released. I was delighted to take her up on her offer, so here she is!

So, how is Karma Girl doing?

The book is doing well. Sales are good, and I’ve gotten lots of great reviews. But most important (at least to me) are the comments I’ve gotten from readers. I love getting positive feedback from readers. Knowing someone else has enjoyed the book really makes my day.

I found the change of character a great idea in Hot Mama (although I missed Carmen). Same world, very different character. Personally, I think is such a brilliant concept that it could safely be called a Master Plan. What gave you the idea to write each book about a different character?

Actually, it wasn’t my idea -- at first. I was pitching Karma Girl to an editor at a conference a couple of years ago. She asked me about the potential to develop the book into a series. I told her that I envisioned the series as a trilogy, with each book about Carmen and her coming to grips with her superpowers. That was my brilliant idea.

To which the editor responds: “Or each book could be about a different superhero, too, right?”

Well, duh. I wanted to smack my forehead for not coming up with that myself! So, I started thinking about what the editor said about making each book about a different character, and I realized I really wanted to write a book from Fiona aka Fiera’s point of view.

I loved writing her story, and I realized how writing about a different heroine every time really let me expand the world and keep the stories interesting and fresh. I hope readers will agree.

I think it's safe to say that Bigtime is going to be quite a successful franchise. Other writers -- especially in the mystery genre -- have kept their franchises going through dozens of books. Since each of your books feature a different character, you have the potential to keep yours alive endlessly. How many Bigtime books do you have in mind now?

I recently turned in Bigtime 4 -- aka NIGHTINGALE. I’m hoping my publisher will want to buy that book and continue the series. I’ve also done some preliminary work on Bigtime 5 -- aka FANGIRL. Right now, I have characters and stories in mind for books 6 and 7 as well, and the series could go well beyond that.

But, like everything else, it all comes down to sales. If the Bigtime books do well, there will probably be more of them. So, fingers crossed!

Recently on your blog, you announced a delay in the third book, Jinx. However, you more than made up for that bad news by announcing that your first two books would be re-released with new art just ahead of Jinx, with each book published back-to-back. How did this decision come about? How excited were you? Is the cover art going to be the same sort of theme as the first two books, or are they completely different? When can we expect a boxed set?

It was a good news-bad news situation. The bad news is that readers have to wait a few more months to read JINX, the third book. I really hate the delay for people who love the series.

But I’m also really excited about the mass market re-release for KARMA GIRL and HOT MAMA. I think re-releasing the first two books and then JINX (which will debut in mass market) in three consecutive month (July-August-September 2008) will really create some buzz for the series. Hopefully, people who didn’t try the books in trade paperback will pick up the mass market versions, and people who read the series the first time around will re-read the books and get hooked all over again.

The cover art for the re-releases of KARMA GIRL and HOT MAMA is going to be different. How different, I don’t know yet. I’m also getting a new cover for JINX. So far my covers have been excellent, and I’m excited to see what my publisher will come up with.

A box set would be awesome! But unless I become the next J.K. Rowling, unfortunately, I don’t think there will be a Bigtime box set anytime soon. But a girl can dream. :grin:

We want movies! Is there any interest in any Bigtime movies, yet? What about graphic novels?

So, do I. :wink: There’s no news on the movie or graphic novel front yet, but my fingers are always crossed!

And wow; you've written an urban fantasy! With a Druid! And magical terrorists! Can we expect to see that in print soon?

That book is an urban fantasy called LIVE & LET SPY. It’s about Abby Tome, a Druid who owns a bookstore who is forced to become a spy to help stop a group of magical terrorists. Abby doesn’t have a lot of magic, and she doesn’t think she’s a very good spy, but she’s stronger than she thinks she is. Think Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden suddenly thrown into the spy world.

I’m a huge James Bond fangirl, and I’ve always wanted to write a spy book. So, this was my chance. As for seeing it in print, I’ve turned the book into my agent, and have my fingers crossed about selling it. In the meantime, I’ve started work on the sequel, YOU ONLY SPY TWICE.

I’m also working on a third separate series about an assassin named Gin. Right now, that book has a working title of A SONG OF ICE & STONE. That one is also an urban fantasy, and it’s set in the South. It’s quite a bit darker than my other books and has a gritty, Southern gothic feel to it.

Do you have anything else that you'd like to add?

I just want to say thanks for having me back on the blog. Thanks to all the readers out there for letting me know how much they enjoyed KARMA GIRL. I hope that everyone likes HOT MAMA even more. Happy reading!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

HOT MAMA by Jennifer Estep

Today marks the release of my first debut graduate, HOT MAMA, by Jennifer Estep! Settling down to read HOT MAMA was like settling down to have a piece of book candy. (I didn't originate this term; I discovered it on Jennifer Estep's Blog.) You know it is going to be a fast read with lively, snappy dialog and laugh-out-loud humor. And HOT MAMA did not disappoint!

It begins with Carmen Cole's wedding to Sam Sloane, the uberdude in Karma Girl. Carmen is happy; her dreams have come true. Therefore, this book is not about her. It's about Fiera (AKA Fiona Fine), Carmen's flame-wielding Fearless Five partner in crimefighting. Fiera is not so happy, for she still misses her murdered sweetheart from the last novel.

It's probably not necessary to read Karma Girl in order to read HOT MAMA. Estep did a great job making this book self-contained. The events in Karma Girl contain necessary backstory, but Estep was quite generous in giving what you need as the story goes along.

Fiona doesn't tug on the heartstrings quite as well as Carmen did. Carmen was so very lovable with her cutesy tee-shirts and scruffy jeans. Fiona is a snappily-dressed opposite. However, her story is sad and she is lonely, so she engages the reader in a very different way. Johnny Bulluci, this novel's uberhunk, is a direct sort of guy, as you will find out in the opening chapters. When he sees something that he wants, he goes for it. And he wants Fiona Fine.

Complicating matters are two ubervillians and a rather ambiguous character named Johnny Angel, who is after revenge for the murder of his father, the previous Johnny Angel. I found the whole idea of generational superheroes quite original. The Fearless Five are out to stop a criminal duo, and the only thing standing in their way is Johnny Angel, who doesn't merely want them stopped; he wants them dead. Why? They are the ones who murdered his father.

Lulu Lo, the genius paraplegic, plays a much greater role in HOT MAMA. The romance between her and Henry is an important subplot and she is involved in all the battles, mostly in a support role.

The sex scenes in HOT MAMA are quite a bit hotter than it was in Karma Girl. In fact, they are way hot. In Karma Girl, the sex scenes were more funny than sexy. Not so, here; although some of the settings were a bit . . . er, unusual.

One thing that always got a chuckle from me was the amount of food that Fiona has to eat to keep up her fiery metabolism. You can almost read the wishful thinking that the author might have felt. If only we could eat like this all the time and stay a size two (or whatever size Fiona is).

In this novel, Estep addresses the fact that it is very easy to guess who all the costumed characters are. I'm interested to see if this gets resolved in future novels. It would make it more suspense-like to make them more of a mystery, but it would also take away some of the fun. I am also interested in Bella Bulluci, who is the subject of the next book, Jinx. I found her character quite appealing.

For some great teasers and a sample chapter, check out Jennifer Estep's website, which is always excellently put together and highly entertaining. I think it is very safe to say that if you enjoyed Karma Girl, you will enjoy HOT MAMA as well, and you will probably look forward to the next book.

Coming up tomorrow, an interview with Jennifer Estep!

The Ones that Got Away

Over the months, various debuts have unfortunately slipped through the cracks. I rely on publisher newsletters and other blogs to discover debuts, and occasionally the publishers, themselves. As a fall-back measure, I read Locus's Monitor for any debuts that I may have missed.

Monitor is a great way to get exposure for your books. Check out the side bar of their latest post for how to get your book listed. (Here's the short version -- you send your book, not a galley. They pick which books they feature. However, I've seen them list small press books, so if you go ahead and send a copy, you'll only be out some postage.)

Anyway, I've missed a few from September, so I thought I'd devote a post to them in order to get caught up. These are from September.

Master of Shadows by Janet Lorimer came out in September through Juno Books. Here's the blurb:

As a child, Ariel McPherson was warned about a ferocious creature that allegedly stalked the forest near her family's summer cottage during the full moon. But surely those were merely stories meant to warn a little girl of dangers that lurk in any wood? When her adult world collapses, Ariel takes refuge in the cottage. Forced to go on an errand of mercy during a night of the full moon, Ariel finds legend crashing into reality. She meets a mysterious stranger, Louvel, in the forest. He will not allow her to see his face, but still strangely captures her heart. Then Ariel's life is shattered by a mysterious death; secrets are revealed and suspicions raised. Ariel's search for answers endangers her own life. Louvel may possess powers that can protect and help her...or he may a beast more fearsome than any found in a fairy tale.
Janet Lorimer is a former children's book author, and this is her first adult novel. You can read more about the novel at the publisher website, which also has an excerpt.

Dark Maiden by Norma Lehr
also came out in September through Juno Books.
Sheila Miller's newborn baby is gone. His death certificate is stamped SIDS, but Sheila knows her Timmy did not die in his crib from natural causes - he was taken. But no one believes Sheila's tale of standing helpless while a mysterious veiled woman hovered over the crib. Karl, Sheila's rigid, insensitive husband, openly scoffs at the supernatural and is convinced Sheila is emotionally ill. Her Aunt Iris - a sensual, counter-culture writer and a continuum of the sixties who loves her niece dearly - can't accept the story even though she wishes with all her heart she could. At least Iris is a positive, supportive force in Sheila's life and gives her a needed refuge in her mountain cabin. But as a series of bizarre incidents destroy innocent people linked to Sheila, those closest to her - including Chad Olsen, a student of Eastern philosophy to whom Sheila is inexplicably drawn - listen when a Chinese legend historian reveals a terrifying story involving a white jade amulet and a ferocious fox-maiden, an entity determined to destroy Sheila.
Norma Lehr is also a former middle-grade novelist. As usual, Juno Books provides more details at the book's page, along with an excerpt.

Moving away from Juno Books, Lisa Nevin writes to me of her book, Into This Mind. The link is to the publisher's page and for now has limited distribution during a review period. Despite this, the author managed to get her novel on the shelves at bookstores in Ohio and Massachusetts.
Believing that the newly opened Betta Conservation Land holds many long-forgotten mysteries, Jena eagerly seeks to explore it. In the most unlikely of places, an abandoned ballroom, her intuition is validated as she enters the mind of a young woman named May. Ready to dismiss the experience as a daydream produced by her overactive imagination, Jena is stunned when her best friend, Katri, encourages her to return to the ruined building. Suspecting that Katri knows more than she's telling, Jena follows Katri's advice and finds herself once again inside May's mind. Through repeated visits, Jena discovers a terrible secret involving murder and intrigue. But can she stop it, or will it destroy her?
SFRevu and Ghostwriter have both reviewed it.

I may have more over the next few days as I did through my email archives and try to get caught up.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE by Jeaniene Frost

Jeaniene Frost (website plays Don't Fear the Reaper) has written a different sort of vampire thriller, this one about a half-vampire. It is called, unsurprisingly, Halfway to the Grave. It is billed as "A Night Huntress Novel".

Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father—the one responsible for ruining her mother's life. Then she's captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unholy partnership.

In exchange for finding her father, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. She's amazed she doesn't end up as his dinner—are there actually good vampires? Pretty soon Bones will have her convinced that being half-dead doesn't have to be all bad. But before she can enjoy her newfound status as kick-ass demon hunter, Cat and Bones are pursued by a group of killers. Now Cat will have to choose a side . . . and Bones is turning out to be as tempting as any man with a heartbeat.

According to the author's website, she already is under contract for five books in the Night Huntress series! She keeps a LiveJournal and has posted the first chapter on her website.

I found reviews at Darque Reviews, Night Owl Romance, and Dear Author.

Spotlight Review -- ISABELLA MOON

I'll be shining the spotlight review in several directions for ISABELLA MOON, because reviews appear to be rather mixed. Some reviewers loved it, others could not get through it at all.

First up is Maria, a reviewer at FantasyBookSpot. Maria has this to say:

The premise of Isabella Moon is very, very good. It’s dark, mysterious, and intriguing. Isabella Moon is a dead girl, one that can’t rest until justice is served. Or so I believe, since I’m only about halfway through. It hasn’t been said, but you just know she was murdered. Why else does the little girl haunt, Kate, the main protagonist?

This debut novel by Laura Benedict has a lot of strengths; she has great subplots—we already know that Kate has a mysterious and troubled past. She’s running from something or someone, trying to build a quiet, respectable life. She doesn’t need the ghost of a little girl beckoning her to a gravesite and causing her problems with a suspicious sheriff. Kate is a compassionate woman, but she has trouble trusting people, especially men. She’s a strong woman, but conflicted.

A couple of things keep me from zipping through this book. There’s a lot of backstory dropped in. It’s handled well—shown rather than told, but we know Kate survived it because we know it’s backstory. The mystery of Kate’s past has to come out; it’s part of the main story and a large part of why Kate is who she is today. Backstory is just difficult—how much to tell? How much does it stand on its own?

The other thing that distracts me is POV. Anyone who has read my reviews over at FBS knows this is a killer for me. In many cases it is a complete and utter show-stopper. Some people don’t like romance. Some people don’t like first person novels. I really, really do not like multiple POV. Two POVs, I can handle. Three, well, I’m likely to go and get hot chocolate, and I might or might not come back to the book. That doesn’t mean that author Benedict isn’t skillful at POV. In fact she might be too skillful—she builds each character such that they have their own story. This makes for a lot of depth, and I think there are a lot of people that will enjoy these tangled lives as they unravel. Each snippet of a different POV shows us more mystery, more relationships. For me, well, every time the POV changes, I’m likely to put the book down.

However, Amanda Bittle over at BlogCritics had the opposite impression. I plucked this snippet out of the middle of her review:
The story is told through the eyes of a number of Carystown residents (and one dangerous out-of-towner). Benedict narrates the personal experiences of Kate and Sheriff Delaney, as well as Kate’s friend Francie, Francie’s secret lover, Paxton, Kate’s estranged husband, Miles, and various other characters. Sometimes the narration takes place in the form of a memory: Kate’s, of living in South Carolina with Miles, back when her name was Mary-Katie.

I really like this aspect of the novel; it provides insight from different perspectives into character motivation. There’s also the effect of a narrator who’s certainly not omniscient, but who is privy to all sorts of delicious gossip. As the story moves forward, readers get the skinny on who’s sleeping with whom, who’s making dangerous drug deals, and who just might have something to do with Isabella Moon’s unsolved disappearance.

Over at the Romantic Times, they gave ISABELLA MOON 4 1/2 stars in their short review.

This debut thriller shines, boasting evocative writing and a well-integrated mix of ethereal supernatural phenomena and gritty violence. Benedict employs that literary novel trademark of a somewhat ambiguous ending, but it works for this lush gothic-tinged potboiler.
Maria also adds that this novel is more thriller than fantasy:
This book is a bit of thriller, a lot mystery and a tiny fraction of fantasy. Well, I guess that last part depends on whether or not you believe in ghosts.
There are other reviews at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Curled Up. Maria also found an article about the author in the author's hometown newspaper, The Southern.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

THE BOOK OF JOBY by Mark J. Ferrari

THE BOOK OF JOBY by Mark J. Ferrari is a wonderful debut. It is funny, touching, gripping, infuriating and unforgettable. Did I sneak an "infuriating" in there? I think all good books are occasionally infuriating, and this book is no exception.

It begins with a wager that has taken place before. Lucifer wants to wager all of creation on the downfall of a single man. God has a caveat: he gets to choose the man. Or rather, the boy.

The opening chapters -- even after the wager goes into effect -- are joyous. Joby appears to be defeating all of Lucifer's best-laid plans. He forms a Roundtable club, based on King Arthur's roundtable, and all the boys in the school -- even sixth-graders! -- want to be a part of it. One girl, named Laura, gets in first as the Roundtable's Damsel in Distress (because she broke her arm spying on them), then as a full-fledged knight (because she took on the school bully, who is a demon in disguise). Joby even starts to take an interest in religion.

Laura and Ben are Joby's best friends. However, his ties to them go far deeper than any of them suspect.

Things start getting tough for Joby after the breakup of his Roundtable at the hands of Lucifer's minions. Lucifer then sets his efforts to denying Joby the greatness that he seems destined for. He fills Joby's life with pointless endeavors and ensures that he fails at just about everything he tries. High school has it tumults, and the three-way friendship between Joby, Ben and Laura turns into a love triangle similar to Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere's.

I would be very surprised if Ferrari were not a fan of T. H. White's The Once and Future King. I've mentioned this novel before; it is one of my favorite of all time. In White's novel, the rivalry between Lancelot and Arthur never fully destroys their friendship. I see seeds of that in Ferrari's novel.

Joby grows up and seems doomed to mediocrity. Despite Lucifer's best efforts, he does manage to get a degree in English. Then, he goes to Taubolt, where he finds a haven even from Lucifer. There, Joby becomes a teacher. Taubolt is the reason that we don't spend the entire novel mired in misery. It is a magical place, and the reason for its magic is clearly explained by the end of the novel. It is Avalon, although it is never called by that name in the novel.

The rest of the novel takes place almost entirely in Taubolt and the surrounding wilderness. There, Joby eventually has his confrontation with Lucifer. None of it is in the least bit predictable. This book follows no formula that I can recall. One truly must keep reading to find out what happens next. I went to bed late on more than one occasion because I wanted to read "just a little bit more".

And now, the nitpicks. One is that some of the characters occasionally made mistakes that seemed to serve no purpose other than to advance the plot. I know that people make mistakes, but some of them were incomprehensible. At one point, an angel seemed terrified of following God's clearly worded instructions, resulting in a mistake that played right into Lucifer's plans. To be fair, the demons made plenty of mistakes as well, so maybe Ferrari was just trying to be balanced.

Lucifer's last gambit seemed a work of desperation. I don't think it should have come even close to working. I kept wincing and thinking to myself, "Surely Joby's not falling for this!" However, Joby did fall for it. Given Joby's trusting nature (especially where kids are concerned), I suppose that isn't really surprising, but it didn't make it any easier to read.

Despite the above, the book hardly left my hands through most of last weekend. My husband was quite the book widower.

I think Christians will enjoy it, although it could not pass for a Christian novel. Ferrari uses the Christian themes as the seed for his story, but it contains no proselytizing message. Indeed, Joby hardly breathes a prayer throughout the entire book. God is portrayed as warm, humorous and occasionally wrathful. The three angels, Gabriel, Michael and Raphael, each have distinct personalities (although I wish I could have seen more of Raphael) and the demons are a delightfully evil, bickering, backstabbing bunch.

On the whole it is an imaginative work, crafted with obvious love. The ending was great -- just the sort of ending that I like. It was pure magic from cover to cover. It will take you away, but it never leaves our world. It is the type of book that will leave you thinking. And, it will leave you wondering what on earth the author could possibly think of next. Highly recommended!