Thursday, September 29, 2011

Afterlight: End of the Word by J. Corsentino

Afterlight: End of the World (Part 1 Time of the Fairies)

Author J. Corsentino
ISBN: 978-0-578-08548-7
Size: 98 pages
Genre: Full color fantasy art novel

Time of the Faeries: Afterlight is a four-part graphic novel series that explore the origins of the Faeries, the evolution of Angels and Vampires from a common Fae ancestor, and their own unique adaptations to the modern world. It follows the alliances and tensions that develop between these three species as they struggle to protect human civilization or shape it to their will. The Afterlight follows several lines of cause and effect, revealing possible versions of the Apocalypse at the hands of all three species.

In the first book, Afterlight, End of the World, we begin at the end with the Angel Apocalypse: a dying Earth, ravaged by war, now hosts only a few scattered pockets of humanity. These last survivors are being hunted to extinction by starving Angels, their energy consumed so that the Angels might live. Below ground, a small band of shape-shifting male faeries called the Phelans struggle to protect the last collection of human life in Los Angeles and a mysterious young girl who may hold the key to their survival. Above ground, as the winged forces amass to complete their genocide, a lone Angel named Halyon struggles to understand what went wrong, and why her race now hunts the very people they were charged to protect.

*****************************************************************

One of the things that is so amazing about this series of books is the absolutely fascinating artwork that is included in these graphic novels.  I had the opportunity to take a look at some of the renderings and I was simply amazed by what I saw.  Take a look at some of the images from these novels.









What is Time of the Faeries?
Time of the Faeries is an epic re-imagining of the faerie mythology, bringing gritty reality into fantasy. Currently, it is in the form of several books, and lots and lots of beautiful artwork based on photography and Photoshop.

Time of the Faeries, over the years, has developed into a massive storyline, taking us into a post-apocalyptic future and a not-so-idyllic past.

What is The Afterlight series?
The Afterlight Visual Novel Series combines digital art and narrative to create an epic four part tale, delving into the evolution of the new mythology.

What made you write Time of the Faeries: Afterlight?
Time of the Faeries grew quickly and spans 10,000 years of the past, present, and the future. As the story matures, I realized that it’s too big to be told in just one art form, one image at a time. Instead, it began to take the form of a novel series grounded in artwork. The Afterlight series is actually only the first series in the entire mythology already planned and drafted.

Where are the faeries?
The first book, Afterlight: End of the World, begins with the apocalyptic end, with angels hunting the last humans in existence. There are no faeries mentioned outright in the book! I started the story with this bleak future to show what the world would look like without faeries. Once the faeries arrive, then the fun can commence!

Why did you choose to make the angels the bad guys?
Someone had to be the bad guys, and many people will be mad that I chose the angels to be bloodthirsty killers. In the mythology, they represent the dogma of unchanging religion and the narrow mindset of “don’t rock the boat.”

What are your future plans for the series?
We are focusing on completing the four-part Afterlight series. The first, Afterlight: End of the World, is published and released. We anticipate that the second in the series, Afterlight: Last Gleaming, will be published Winter 2011.

How do you create your compositions?
My artwork is based on a collaboration with the people who model for me. First, we find a person with the “spark” or characteristics that we are looking for. We invite them to do a photoshoot with us, dress them up, then spend a few hours shooting and building a character. Finally, it’s time for me to sit at a computer for hours and days building the magick and background using Photoshop as my artistic tool. It is an intense process for me and the models.

Who are your favorite artists and authors?
I am a Sci-Fi movie fan. My heroes are J. Michael Stracynski, Joss Whedon, Ron Moore and Brian Fuller and other film storytellers. Visually, I am still inspired by Luis Royo and Brom, sexy and moody art.

Do you believe in faeries?
I do believe in faeries! I believe in the faeries of today, the modern, urban faeries, the people we meet at important juncture in our lives that sets us on a new path, the conversations at 3 a.m. that starts us reflecting, the serene girl out of the corner of our eyes with that something special about her…Yes, yes I do believe in faeries. Come play in my universe and you will too!

Tell us about yourself and what draws you to fantasy.
I've been a photographer for over ten years now, but got into fantasy photography about eight years ago. With a group of friends, I used to run around Long Island, NY taking photos and having fun. At one particular photoshoot, we shot a dozen faeries, creating individual wings and costumes for everyone. From that single photoshoot, I was inspired to create more fantasy art. Years later, Time of the Faeries evolved.

Me personally, I’m a media geek, more drawn to Science Fiction than fantasy, the more epic, the better. District 9 has really inspired me to take a deeper look at my concept of a street faerie. My walls, shelves, and table tops are lined with Transformers figures and always have. I’m a fan. I guess that’s why I create art, because I enjoy this stuff!

What do you hope people will take away from your mythology?
On a trip to Tiajuana, Mexico, I got lost and found myself in the red light district, streets ined with young girls prostituting themselves. Their desolate poses as they stand there, waiting, struck me so deeply that I created the idea of the street faeries, creatures of magick lost in our urban lifestyle. What I hope people will draw from Time of the Faeries is that magick is there in our world, even in the grittiest of places. But at the end of the day, it's about people doing the work, not relying on fantasy or magick. --- It's about people working as people to evolve and create and better themselves and the world around them.

About the Author
Joseph Corsentino is a storyteller at heart who chooses photography as his medium. He took his passion for Science Fiction and Fantasy to Los Angeles where he began Time of the Faeries, an epic retelling of the faerie mythology. His stunning, ethereal, and realistic faeries, angels, and vampires can be seen in private collections and magazines all over the world. His first book, published by Imaginosis Publishing, is a prologue into the Time of the Faeries universe. Joseph is currently completing the four-part Afterlight graphic novel series and making appearances at conventions such as Dragon*con.




Some Career Highlights
2007 Time of the Faeries published by Imaginosis Publishing
2007-2011 Artist Guest and Artist Guest of Honor at Faerieworlds Festival
2009-2011 Artist Guest and Artist Guest of Honor at Faeriecon
2008 Artist Guest of Honor at I-Con New York
2008-2009 Artist Guest of Honor at Xanadu Las Vegas
2010 Best Photography Dragon*con Artshow

Official Website: http://www.timeofthefaeries.com/
Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/timeofthefaeries
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/timeofthefaerie
Online Store: http://www.timeofthefaeries.com/store
Amazon.com: http://ow.ly/5WzGZ



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guest Post: Rhiannon Paille

Curling Up By The Fire would like to welcome Rhiannon Paille, author of Flame of Surrender, the first book in her new The Ferryman and the Flame series, due to be released November 1st, 2011.  With a PhD in Metaphysical Science, a PhD in Parapsychology, as well as several years studying Druidism and becoming a Reiki Grand Master, Rhiannon has many experiences with which to share with her readers.  With a passion for the paranormal, she has turned her interest into writing and now shares that passion with the world.  She is here with us today to discuss ghosts, one of my absolute favourite topics, and the truth behind them.  Before we get to her post, here is a synopsis of her soon-to-be-released novel:

The boy who follows death meets the girl who could cause the apocalypse.


Krishani thinks he’s doomed until he meets Kaliel, the one girl on the island of Avristar who isn’t afraid of him. She’s unlike the other girls, she swims with merfolk, talks to trees and blooms flowers with her touch. What he doesn’t know is that she’s a flame, one of nine individually hand crafted weapons, hidden in the body of a seemingly harmless girl.

Nobody has fallen in love with a flame until now. She becomes Krishani’s refuge from the dreams of death and the weather abilities he can’t control. Striking down thousand year old trees with lightning isn’t something he tries to do, it just happens. When the Ferryman dies, Krishani knows that he’s the next and that a lifetime of following death is his destiny.

And Kaliel can’t come with him. The Valtanyana are hunting the flames, the safest place for her is Avristar. Krishani can’t bear to leave her, and one innocent mistake grants the Valtanyana access to their mystical island. They’re coming for Kaliel, and they won’t stop until every last living creature on Avristar is dead. She has to choose, hide, face them, or awaken the flame and potentially destroy herself.

The Truth About Ghosts
by Rhiannon Paille


This is amusing since I just finished reading Shade and Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready (loved them btw) and so talking about ghosts is interesting.

There are a lot of theories surrounding ghosts, and we all watch the ghost hunter shows and paranormal shows thinking we’re going to prove those theories.

Jeri got it right, well except for the stuff she added to make it cool.

When someone dies unexpectedly, as in, not through natural causes, their spirit, soul, or ghost, emerges from their body. It’s a lot like an Out of Body Experience (OBE) to begin with. Most people who are in comas have these OBE’s. When the body actually passes, it becomes permanent.

People who have passed unexpectedly are stuck in limbo. They’re in this overlapping dimension where they can’t sense anyone else, they can only go where they’ve been when they were alive, and they need to be absolved before they can pass on.

The idea of the light is the right idea. Once a ghost has gone into the light they’re really “gone” In Flame of Surrender I called that place “The Great Hall” but other authors have called it Heaven, or elsewhere. Needless to say, it’s all the same place, the place where the soul waits for the next life.

Why reincarnation? Well Einstein said energy can only be created, not destroyed. That means, if the soul is energy, it could never be destroyed, only recycled. And then if you look at the way even water is recycled naturally, the seasons, trees, it’s all recyclable, the whole universe is like that, everything keeps getting reused.

Same thing with people, people are recycled. We’re just kind enough to call it reincarnation.

As far as the notion of ghosts sticking around forever, sometimes, if they can’t be absolved. It’s rare that they would stay forever, usually it’s a year and then they’re forced to go. Otherwise they become more like a poltergeist or a “shade” as Jeri explained in her books and then they’re scary. They end up being able to throw things, flick switches, make footsteps, white noise, the whole deal. Poltergeists aren’t nice.

There are other phenomenon when it comes to ghosts too such as possessions and walk ins where a ghost will share space inside a living body. That’s always interesting. My stance on it is that in the case of a possession, the original host is no longer in control of the body, the ghost is. In the case of a walk in, they ghost and the original host work symbiotically. In cases where the ghost is dormant, the original host is in control until the ghost awakens inside the body. And then sometimes it can be a constant battle of who’s in charge and who isn’t.

And this is where we get multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia. Well at least sometimes.

The only thing that’s untrue when it comes to ghosts is that they can be contacted all the time, and they’re just a stone’s throw away even if they’re on the other side. This is a belief common held by mediums who um, make money off of people who want to hear from their dead loved ones. Most mediums read imprints of the deceased, and an imprint only records from the time of birth to the time of going into the light (approx 1 year after death) All other information, things the person wouldn’t have known, or new births or marriages that happened after death, the imprint wouldn’t know. You can tell a fraud really quickly if you know what to look for.

Thankfully mediumship is actually one of the things I don’t do. It’s too emotional when I DO bring someone in and I often break the freak out scale. So I try not to go there because the energy is also volatile and harder to control. It’s a personal preference.

In my books I write a lot about the soul passing on, reincarnation, possession, walk ins and such. I even include the atheist opinion that the soul ceases to exist after death. It does if it gets taken by a Vulture in my books. ;)

And there's a bio around here somewhere . . .
Rhi was never a normal girl. She tried, but she couldn’t get rid of the visions, the voices in her head, and the hallucinations. When she was on the edge of crazy someone pulled her back and explained it all. She wasn’t insane. She was psychic, really psychic, too psychic. Her life was an urban fantasy wrapped in a paranormal romance and served with a side of horror. To escape her everyday weirdness she began writing fantasy. She frequents twitter and facebook, but if you really want to get to know her you should visit her site: http://www.rhiannonpaille.com


Her book FLAME OF SURRENDER (The Ferryman and The Flame #1) Comes out November 1st, 2011. Check it out here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11841693-flame-of-surrender
Friday, September 23, 2011

Review: Phantom Lives: Collier by Elizabeth Loraine

Phantom Lives: Collier
by Elizabeth Loraine
Release Date: August 18, 2011
2011 Arrais, Inc.
E-book Edition; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-1466248229 (Softcover, September 2, 2011)
ASIN: B005I57M6C
Genre: Fiction / Paranormal
Source: Review Copy from Mystical Book Blog Tours

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
Abigail Black, an heiress from Memphis is on the run from her abusive boyfriend, Dallas. In the process she finds out that there she is being pulled towards something, and someone, that she thought only existed in her dreams.

Another page turning adventure from Elizabeth Loraine. Phantom Lives intertwines the modern world with the post Civil War world of Collier, a plantation Abigail had dreamt about her entire life. Now she is about to find out why. Another fantasy world of spirits and immortals is built in a way which fans of Ms Loraine’s will again thoroughly enjoy. Find out who Abigail was in the past and how it changes everything.

My Thoughts
Phantom Lives: Collier was an interesting paranormal tale, one with a bit of a gothic feel to it as the main character Abigail dealt with recurring dreams, secrets, paranormal visitations, and a burgeoning ability that left her wondering what was really going on in her world.  I really enjoy novels that have their primary setting in old plantation homes as well as castles, manors, and anything along those lines, so this novel caught my attention pretty much due to its setting.   With ghosts, secrets to be uncovered, magical gateways, other worlds, and burgeoning magical abilities in the main characters, there was a lot in this novel that was intriguing and fun to read.

As a main character, Abigail defininitely had a lot to offer.  Being chased by an abusive boyfriend, Abbi heads south and to her surprise, discovers a dilapidated plantation right from her dreams, and decides to buy it on the spot.  Using money from an inheritance, Abbi sets about restoring the mansion, and along the way meets a slew of characters who help her along her restoration path.  But Abbi is in for an even greater surprise as she discovers the mansion has a mind of its own and sets about discovering its secrets and its past, realizing there is a connection to her own past.  I found these scenes of self-discovery really interesting as the jump from past to present were done seamlessly and I had no trouble figuring out what century I was reading about.  Time travel is something I enjoy, but this was something a little different as the house was showing Abbi what it looked like in the past in order to help her restore it to its glory.  I am wondering as I write this if the house will play a great role in events in future novels as there was so much emphasis on it.  I was actually quite impressed with the jumps back in time, as well as to other worlds, and enjoyed how they were done.  I actually would like to learn more about some of the other worlds that were visited as they sound quite fascinating.

While Abbi was a fun and engaging character, there were times when her constant optimism did wear on my nerves and I would have liked to see broader emotions from her.  I don't really feel like she developed as a main character, but basically stayed the throughout the novel, even as she developed her powers and grew more confident.  I prefer my characters to be less two-dimensional and somewhat more flawed in nature.  Bill had a bit more fight in him, as some of the arguments with the 'ghosts' attest to, but it makes the events seems more real in light of events.  While I can see general acceptance occurring, there must have been some skepticism and doubt in some of the characters and not always this blind obedience and trust.  Arguments are bound to happen to people who are dealing with new events and circumstances; it's just a normal thing.  While there was some discord, I don't think there was enough to really get across the big changes that were happening in these characters' lives.

I did enjoy the plot quite a bit, and thought the novel was well-written, with a lot of interesting dialogue, but I was a little disappointed in the ending as I felt it was rushed after all the build-up and didn't really live up to the expectations.  While I do understand this is only the first novel in a planned series, there were also a lot of unanswered questions, and while this can be a good thing as it makes the reader want to come back for home, there are some things that should have been resolved more succintly.  The final events surrounding Dallas and his minions was a bit of a let-down in my opinion, and I don't really feel like I got enough information about his role in everything.  Perhaps more will be explained in the second book.

Verdict
Phantom Lives: Collier definitely had a lot to offer and I found many parts to be intriguing and fun to read.  There were a couple twists and turns that I wasn't expecting, and with secrets to be revealed, this is always an attention-getting writing device that intrigues me.  While I would have liked to have seen an ending that was more consice and with more of a climax, the creativity and imagination in this novel, as well as a host of interesting characters, make this one worth taking a look.

Guest Post: Joseph Devon on Writing Horror

Curling Up By The Fire would like to welcome Joseph Devon, author of Probability Angels and Persistent Illusions, who is here with us today to discuss three rules for writing effective horror.  I thought it seemed appropriate to discuss horror and the writing of horror as a lead-in to one of my favourite months of the year, October.   For me, I love to be scared.  And I'm not talking about what I casually call the "slash and gash" genre, but the truly psychologically scared where I can't put the book down and when I do, I'm afraid to turn off the light.  I tend to agree with David Taylor, who wrote in his article "No Bones About It: How to Write Today's Horror Part II: What Today's Readers Want", "...the true glory of literature lies in its ability to hold an audience spellbound with the power of narrative, which is our oldest and most prevalent way of understanding the world."  To me, I want the suspense, and I want the surprise twist at the end that I didn't see coming.  Suspense, good characterization, vivid setting, narrative blending, surprise ending, and plot all comprise the elements of a good horror novel (Taylor, 2009) And if I need to sleep with a night light because of what I read, more power to the author who wrote such a powerful novel and please, please, please, KEEP WRITING!!!


Three Rules for Writing Effective Horror

by Joseph Devon


1) Strike early; strike hard.
There's one moment in your book where you can get away with some cliches, where you can play a little fast and loose with the rules. That moment is the very beginning. Your audience has yet to meet your characters, they have yet to judge your world, and they don't know what flavor of scares they're going to get. It's then, early on, when you can lay some very effective groundwork for your baddies. A quick kill, a terrified victim, some grisly details about your killer’s MO, things like this will be swallowed greedily by your audience and will have a huge impact on the scare-level you can produce later on. If you make the point early enough that your baddies are *bad*, that notion will cling to them whenever they appear throughout your book. Think of the first shark attack in Jaws, or the opening of “It” where a fanged clown carries one boy into a drain pipe. Compared to the actions of those monsters later on, these scenes are nothing. But those scenes stick and those down payments of fear early on, pay off throughout the entire book.

2) If your baddies are going to be scary, they have to be effective.
You can’t scare people with baddies who constantly *almost* cause damage or, even worse, constantly kill two-dimensional characters. Please don’t make up cannon-fodder characters that have no depth and are only there to get slaughtered. Please. It isn’t effective. It isn’t scary. The only thing it is is overdone. Though I have a feeling that it’s more flip-side to this statement that most authors struggle with. Because if you aren’t going to have cannon fodder, then you have to have one of your real characters get killed or hurt at some point. Someone who you’ve emotionally invested in. Someone who you’ve sweat over. Someone that you’re too attached to to kill (or at the very least maim). And that can be difficult. It’s a lot easier to swat away peripheral characters than to mar one of your major creations, but please do it. A baddie who does nothing but plow through nobodies and doesn’t impact the lives of your major characters is not a very scary baddie. And a hero who goes through an entire story without getting a scratch on them isn’t much of a hero.

If you want your audience to gasp when your bad guy jumps out of the shadows, don’t make him impotent.

3) Give your readers some credit.
Your readers’ imaginations are bringing your characters, your setting, your dialogue, *everything* you’re writing to life. You can trust them to bring your horror to life as well. Yet, one of the biggest mistakes I see authors making is that they overwrite their scary scenes. The word “blood” appears twelve times per sentence and things are spraying and cracking and oozing all over the place. It’s not needed. In fact, this is the one area you can not only trust your readers, you can let them do most of your work. The fact is, with the first two rules in place, your reader will fill in an astonishing number of blanks. People’s brains love to take scary thoughts and run with them because human beings are programmed to panic and terrify themselves. You can get away with a small number of descriptive words, a bare whiff of blood, and a POV that hardly focuses on the action, and your reader will scare themselves silly. Now, I’m not saying you can be bland or do zero work and expect results. I’m just suggesting that horror writers move back the other way on the Blood Bath to Subtlety scale and show some restraint with their gory scenes. You’ll get more with less.









Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: Awaking by Madeline Freeman

Awaking (The Naturals, Book 1)
by Madeline Freeman
Release Date: August 12, 2011
2011 CreateSpace
E-book Edition; 294 Pages
ISBN: 978-1463738914
ASIN: B005GSESJA
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Source: Review Copy from Bewitching Book Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Morgan Abbey’s life is about to change.

Just weeks before her senior year is set to begin, a mysterious stranger approaches Morgan with information that has far-reaching ramifications. First, the psychic ability she believes she has just been pretending to have since middle school might actually be real.

Second, her mother, who disappeared abruptly and completely almost a decade ago, might still be alive.
Morgan finds herself in the drawn into a centuries-old struggle involving a group of people who quietly coexist alongside the common people of the world. This shadowy group believes it is time for them to reclaim their former positions of power—and they believe Morgan is the key.

But when the time comes, will Morgan be able to do what it takes to reunite with her mother and fulfill her destiny?

My Thoughts
Awaking, the first novel in The Naturals series, definitely has a lot of potential.  And while I did find it interesting and fun to read, the pacing was somewhat slow and I found it difficult to stay focused at times as the story had a tendency to meander. 

Out of all of the characters in the novel, I thought Corbin was the most interesting.  With a quirky personality and a friendliness to him that was engaging, I found myself drawn to his character as a reader and looked forward to the scenes in which he appeared.  There was something that was guileless about him and you always knew that he would be there to help save the day and while that may sound boring or uninteresting, I found it endearing.  Morgan, the principal character, sometimes rubbed me the wrong way as I found her to be imperious and cold.  She really didn't have a lot of time for other people in her life except for a rather select few, and pretty much snubbed everybody else and didn't give them much of a chance.  There were times when I wasn't too sure about her, but it's not the first book I've read where I've disliked the main character so I went with it.  Luckily, she began to grow on me towards the end.  As for the rest of the characters, the verdict is still out on them as there wasn't a lot of character development on their parts and I will wait and see what happens with them.  I do find it interesting how quickly one can go from liking a character to disliking a character however, as Kellen is definitely not on my favourites list at this point.  I find him a bit creepy and his aloofness and coolness can be somewhat irritating.

One of the things I did like in this novel was the lack of the 'love' relationship.  I have grown tired of novels where the characters fall in love immediately and the entire book is about their so-called relationship and how to deal with it.  Luckily, this novel was not about that, and although there is some romance, and looks to have some romantic entanglements in the future, there was not a lot of that happening here.  Sometimes it's nice to have the relationship play a secondary role in the events surrounding the characters.  Not that I object to romance, it's just the "love-at-first-sight" thing that really gets to me.  And what I thought would be a romantic entanglement turned out to be the opposite, which threw me completely off guard as I was not expecting it at all.  Love it when that happens!! 

Although the plot and the novel were well-written with a great writing style, I did feel that the action took a little too long to build and I found myself getting bored with some of the events that were going on in the characters' lives.  If the entire novel however, had picked up pace like it did in the last twenty-five percent, it would have been an amazing read as the ending caught me completely by surprise.  While there are definitely gaps in the storyline, and questions that need to be answered, I enjoyed the last part of the novel and was satisfied with how it ended.

Verdict
Awaking has set up a storyline that is interesting and fun, with some quirky characters and what looks to be some rather interesting future developments and entanglements between the characters.  While the novel itself showed a lot of promise, a slow-to-start pace and a meandering plotline did not always keep my interest as a reader and I had to focus at times in order to keep reading.  That being said however, there is great promise in this series, and definitely some great moments that I did enjoy, and I would like to see where Ms. Freeman takes the reader in the sequel.  With her great writing skill, she certainly has the talent to pull off a great second book to this series and I am looking forward to it.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Guest Post: Madeline Freeman and Giveaway

Curling Up By The Fire would like to welcome Madeline Freeman, author of Awaking (The Naturals, Book 1), which released August 12, 2011.  Awaking is Madeline's first published novel and features Morgan, Lucas, and Corbin as they try to discover the origins of the latent powers they each hold and what it means to them and to others who have been watching them for years.  Madeline is here to talk a bit about what it's like to be a perfectionist; when it can work to your advantage and when you need to let things go and relax.  A bit of a perfectionist myself, I found this post interesting and I've always wondered whether other perfectionists succeeded at "letting things go" or if it was always a constant struggle.   Here's a brief summary of the novel:

Morgan Abbey’s life is about to change.


Just weeks before her senior year is set to begin, a mysterious stranger approaches Morgan with information that has far-reaching ramifications. First, the psychic ability she believes she has just been pretending to have since middle school might actually be real.

Second, her mother, who disappeared abruptly and completely almost a decade ago, might still be alive.

Morgan finds herself in the drawn into a centuries-old struggle involving a group of people who quietly coexist alongside the common people of the world. This shadowy group believes it is time for them to reclaim their former positions of power—and they believe Morgan is the key.

But when the time comes, will Morgan be able to do what it takes to reunite with her mother and fulfill her destiny?

Striving for Perfection
by Madeline Freeman
 
I’ve always been a perfectionist. I remember clearly walking home from elementary school one day in tears because I got a B on something.


Yeah, I was that kid.

And it’s not even like the pressure came from my parents. As I walked home sobbing about the B, my mom walked beside me telling me to calm down, that a B was still a good grade. It was all me.

Perfection isn’t a bad thing. Especially not when it’s something easy, like using apostrophes or differentiating between there, their, and they’re. (Can you tell I’m an English teacher?) But perfection can be a hindrance when it holds a person back. If you’re late for a job interview because you want to look perfect, that can cost you the job. If you never turn in that writing assignment because you want it to be perfect, it can cost you your grade.

And if you never do anything with your writing because you want it to be perfect, it can cost your heart’s desire.

I’ve written a number of first drafts in my life. Now, to be honest, none of these are in a ready-to-publish condition. I’d always get done with a draft, reread it, decide it was crap, and move on to the next project. Apparently, in my mind, if it wasn’t perfect on the first try, it wasn’t worth my time.

Does anyone else see how ridiculous this is?

Perfection is a process. A person can’t expect for something to be absolutely perfect on the first try. I tell my students this all the time, especially when it comes to writing assignments. Authors go through multiple drafts before a book is published. Even amazing authors like Libba Bray and JK Rowling don’t get it right on the first try.

So why should I hold myself to a higher standard than that?

It’s a process, but I’m trying to break out of my perfectionism. I’m allowing myself grace. If I need to skip ahead and write a scene that will occur in the future (not the next scene in the book), I’m letting myself do that. If I need to go back and make a change, I’m telling myself it’s okay. It doesn’t have to be perfect on the first try.

Am I giving up on the ideal of perfect? Of course not. I think we should all strive for perfection in what we do—especially in what we love. But we can’t let it hold us back, either. Just because it’s not perfect now doesn’t mean it can’t be later. Perfection is a process. So is life.



****Giveaway****:  One lucky reader will win an e-book version of Awaking.   Leave a comment after this post with your email address in order to be entered.  Contest is open internationally.  Contest closes 3 October 2011.


Excerpt:

Morgan Abbey noticed him during a routine day of telling fortunes at the park. Her last customer of the day was just sitting down when she became aware of him, standing some fifty yards away from the shaded picnic table at which she sat, looking almost too cool in his dark blue jeans and black T-shirt, leaning up against the pole of a swing set and staring off into the distance.

Morgan’s first irrational thought was that he was a drug dealer. Her second was that, though he wasn’t looking in her direction, he was watching her.

But before there was time to do anything but register these ideas in her mind, her thoughts were interrupted by the perpetually whiny voice of Tasha Rush, one of Morgan’s classmates at Arthur B. Casey High. “Morgan, are you paying attention?”

“Of course,” Morgan said, fixing her gaze on Tasha’s face. “You were saying your sister’s annoying? And that summer school’s boring.”

Tasha looked mildly mollified by Morgan’s summary. She shifted on the bench, looking excited. “Okay, so…”

Morgan raised an eyebrow at her. “Anxious?”

She smiled. “I always get a little anxious before a reading; you know that. I get nervous, learning about the future.”

Morgan nodded. She picked up her cards and shuffled them with a practiced rhythm. They weren’t tarot cards, just a regular deck. She’d tried out tarot toward the end of middle school, but gave up when the boys who came for readings couldn’t stop giggling at the sight of the nude lovers. Every now and again, someone would comment about the cards, but mostly no one cared. In general, people just wanted to be told what they wanted to hear.

Morgan would oblige only occasionally.

She dealt out four cards: the nine of spades, the queen of diamonds, the ace of diamonds, and the six of spades. She made a face.

Each card had a meaning in itself—or at least that’s what the book Morgan had bought back in the sixth grade claimed. The queen of diamonds was the card that represented Tasha—the signifier that these cards were forTasha. If that card hadn’t shown up, Morgan would have re-dealt the cards. The nine of spades meant loss and worry. The ace of diamonds and the six of spades together foretold news of failure. Morgan took a few moments to clear her mind, to allow herself to make the connections that would tell her what this information might mean for her client.

When she looked up again, she snuck a glance over Tasha’s shoulder. The guy was still by the swing set. She turned her attention back to her customer. “So, bad news,” she said bracingly. “Summer school’s a waste of your time.”

Tasha smiled, rolling her eyes. “I know, right? I mean, do you know how much I’ve had to give up this summer because of stupid summer school? I’ve barely been to the beach. And look—” She held out her arms. “—not even a little tan.”

But Morgan just shook her head. “That’s not what I mean. I mean, it’s a waste. You’re not gonna pass.”

“But… but…” Tasha seemed unable to form a coherent sentence for a few moments. “But I’ve been to, like,every class! They can’t fail me!”

Morgan considered mentioning that grades weren’t based solely on attendance but changed her mind. She sighed and forced a smile. “Well, now that you know what path you’re on, maybe you can maybe change something.”

Tasha made a scathing noise in the back of her throat. “Not likely. It’s almost over.”

Morgan shrugged. “Then I don’t know what to tell you.”

Tasha pouted. “What am I gonna do, Morgan? Without this credit, I’m not gonna be a senior! My mom’s gonna kill me. She’s been such a complete witch about having to pay for this class. So obnoxious, you know?” Then Tasha looked up at Morgan, eyes wide, realizing her faux pas too late. “Wow, totally forgot who I was talking to. I’m sorry—”

“It’s okay,” Morgan said coolly. She sighed. It drove her crazy how people could speak so disparagingly about their mothers when she didn’t have one around…. Not anymore.

For a minute, Tasha just sat there, staring blankly at the cards on the table before her. Finally, with a sigh, she stood up. She eyed the payment she’d given at the beginning of the reading. Morgan never put the money away until a reading was over—her tacit money-back guarantee. For a moment, Morgan though Tasha might ask for a refund, but then she seemed to think better of it. She straightened and, with an awkward wave, muttered a farewell and walked away.

Morgan watched her briefly before taking the payment and placing it in her velvet drawstring purse. She wondered momentarily if she shouldn’t’ve told Tasha a different fortune. But, then again, that wasn’t really how Morgan operated.

She looked out into the park again, wondering vaguely if the guy in the black T-shirt was still there, but her search was halted by the appearance of her best friend and business partner, Clarissa Perry, Ris for short. Ris, who had been at a nearby table during Morgan’s readings, commented about the day’s turnout and mentioned something about not thinking word-of-mouth was the most efficient way to communicate when Morgan would be at the park giving readings. Morgan was only half paying attention.

“Hey, Ris, did you notice that guy over there?” Morgan said quietly as soon as she could get a word in edgewise.

“What guy?” Ris asked, voice too loud, turning her head in all directions.

Morgan groaned. “Dude, seriously? Could you be more obvious?” She moved a few inches to her right to look around Ris’s spiky blond hair toward the swing set. No one was there.

Ris grinned sheepishly and then shrugged. “Well, at least we know spy school’s out for me. But what guy?”

Morgan shrugged too. “He was just standing over by the… Never mind.”

“Was he hot?” Characteristic Ris question.

Morgan rolled her eyes. “Yes. Naked, too. And holding a sign that said, ‘Ris Perry, will you be my Princess Leia?’”

Ris closed her eyes and put her hand solemnly to her chest. “Han Solo has finally come for me.”

“Star Wars, huh?”

Morgan’s eyes snapped over to where the speaker stood and she immediately felt an unaccustomed heat in her cheeks. The guy who had been standing against the swing set now stood before her.

If Ris noticed anything off in Morgan’s reaction, she didn’t show it—which Morgan took to mean Ris hadn’t noticed anything. Ris was rarely adept at hiding her emotions.

“Can I help you?” Ris asked in her professional voice.

The guy appraised Ris, something of a smirk playing on his lips. Meanwhile, Morgan appraised him—his brown hair artfully tousled to look like he woke up that way, his stance casual but sure.

“Depends,” he said with a slight shrug. “What is it, exactly, that you girls do out here?”

“Morgan’s a psychic,” Ris replied promptly in a chipper voice that made Morgan groan inwardly. “She does readings. Cards and palm.”

“And what if I said I don’t believe in that kind of thing?” the guy asked.

Ris shrugged. “Then I’d ask you why you were here.”

The guy smiled, but it wasn’t an amused smile. To Morgan it looked more secretive. “I’m where I’m supposed to be.”

“Well, that’s kind of cryptic.”

Morgan spoke the words before she even realized she’d thought them. Ris glanced at her appreciatively.

The guy crossed his arms over his chest. “As the two of you seem to be,” he said. He glanced at Morgan. “How does one become a professional psychic, anyway?”

Before Morgan could think of how to explain herself, Ris was talking.

“It’s not something you become, it’s something you are,” Ris explained patiently. “She’s good, too.”

The guy didn’t look surprised by the information, only mildly interested. Eyes fixed on Morgan, he took a few steps closer.

“Is that right?” He looked from Morgan to Ris and back again. “Quite the entrepreneurs, aren’t you? Young business prodigies and all that?”

Irritation flared somewhere in the back of Morgan’s mind. He was teasing them. “What are you, like, a year older than us? Two maybe? At least we’re here for a legitimate reason. You waiting for some middle school boys to show up so you can push pot or pills or something on them?”

“Drug dealer? Really? That’s your best try?” He let out a short laugh—not derisive, amused. He glanced at Ris. “Maybe she’s not quite the psychic you think she is.”

Ris glared at him. “She’s not reading you now,” she said, as though explaining the obvious.

A second later, catlike, the guy was sitting across from Morgan at the picnic table. “Okay, then. Read me.”

Taken aback by the request, Morgan did the only thing she could think to do: she smirked, hoping the expression belied the nervousness she felt. The only people she ever gave readings to were people she knew—her classmates and other students at Arthur B. Casey High. The thought of reading this stranger was unsettling.

But she couldn’t let that show.

“Sorry, we’ve closed up shop for the day,” she said, jiggling her change purse in her hand. “We’re back Monday; you can leave your name with Ris and she’ll get you on the list—”

He put his hands out, palms up. “Why wait? What’s the saying—there’s no time like the present? What d’you charge for a palm reading?”

Ris opened her mouth to respond, but Morgan cut her off. “Why are you here?”

He shrugged. “Maybe I wanna know my future.” He placed his hand on the table in front of Morgan, palm up. “Care to fill me in?”

Morgan glanced at Ris, who waggled her eyebrows encouragingly. She then nodded at her friend and Ris backed away to the table she usually occupied during readings.

For a moment, Morgan felt anxiety bubble up somewhere in the vicinity of her lungs. What was she doing? Ris would say she was doing the same thing she always did, but Morgan knew this was something very different. Despite what Ris and others might think, Morgan relied on the background knowledge she carried into each reading. But for this guy—whose name she didn’t even know—she had no information.

“So, how does this work?” the guy asked.

Morgan flicked her eyes up to meet his. “Depends,” she said evenly, stalling for time. “What do you wanna know?”

"Depends,” he said, leaning over the tabletop toward her. “What do you want to know, Morgan?”

Morgan’s eyebrow’s pulled together and she offered a wry smile. “Now that’s not how this works.”

"You sure?” he asked, leaning in even closer, his voice barely above a whisper. “Because I already know so much about you, Morgan Abbey.”

Morgan was taken aback by the use of her surname, and before she could ask how he knew it, he was talking again.

“You’ve been running this little psychic business since sixth grade. Your classmates always tell you how rightyour predictions are.” He offered a smile and a soft chuckle as if this information amused him. Then his face turned serious. “Your mom went missing almost ten years ago. You were seven.”

It was like the wind was knocked out of her lungs. Morgan stared at the guy sitting across from her. His expression hadn’t changed; his hazel eyes continued to gaze intently into hers.

How could he know that? ABC was the logical answer—but Morgan was sure she’d never seen him at school. Perhaps he knew someone at ABC? Maybe this was an elaborate prank to get back at her for some reading someone didn’t like?

But what if it wasn’t?

“What do you know about her—about my mom?” Morgan asked, voice low to avoid Ris’s notice.

“Chelsea Sutter Abbey, born August seventeenth. Married Dylan Abbey at twenty-three and had you, her only child, at twenty-four.”

Morgan felt her heart pounding like a bass drum. “That’s nothing a Google search couldn’t tell you—”

“She’s alive.”

Morgan froze. “I know that.”

“No,” he said firmly. “You think that. You hope it. But I know it.”

“How do you—?”

“Suffice it to say I know it. I know things. I know things about your mom, and things about you.” He held her gaze for a moment longer and then stood up. “But that’s enough for now.”

Morgan stood, too. “Wait—you’re just leaving?”

He shrugged and nodded. “Yeah.”

“But—you can’t,” she hissed. She cast a furtive glance toward Ris, whose attention was on her cell phone. She turned back to the guy. “You can’t drop a bombshell like that and then leave. I don’t even know your name.”

A smile played on his lips. “Well, then. Until we meet again, consider me a man of mystery.” With a wag of his eyebrows, he turned and walked away.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Guest Post with Scott Nicholson and Giveaway

Curling Up by The Fire would like to welcome Scott Nicholson, author of Ghost Box: Six Supernatural Tales.  Scott is touring the bloggosphere this month with some great promotions and giveaways and if you get a chance to read some of his ghostly tales, I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.  For those of you who read The Red Church, you will be interested in the guest post today as Scott elaborates on the setting for the story and gives us some background information.  I enjoyed The Red Church tremendously and hoped to have the review posted earlier, but glitches in Blogger have left me high and dry this week.  Sorry about that folks!!


The Red Church: House of Legend

By Scott Nicholson
http://www.hauntedcomputer.com/

My first novel The Red Church was inspired by a little country church in our community. Built more than 150 years ago, it was moved once and is now largely unused, except for the occasional wedding or summer sermon. But a reputation for paranormal activity clings to the church, and it’s become the subject of many myths that I was able to use in the book.

I produced a short documentary video on the church, with opinions ranging from the regional priest’s “The only ghost there is the Holy Ghost” to a little old lady and former parishioner’s reflections of how everyone knew the church was haunted. The story that a disgraced preacher “hung hisself” there is not backed up by the historical record, but it makes a good story, anyway, and thus my novel was born.

But a legend by itself isn’t enough. Without interesting characters, a structure is just “wood and nails,” as one person put it (a line that appears in the book, too.) So I created Ronnie Day, a concoction of some of the things I remember going through at the age of 13–your body is exploding with strange hormones, you realize girls look different now, and, most importantly, that you can’t necessarily count on all the things adults have been telling you and you have to make your own sense of the world.

Ronnie’s mom is attending a local haunted church after a mysterious preacher returns to town. It’s put a strain on the family and is causing Ronnie to question his Baptist upbringing. Throw in the fact that people are dying in Whispering Pines, and the preachers is demanding sacrifices, and Ronnie has to grow up fast–and he can’t be sure if he’s praying in the right direction.

The actual church that inspired the legend sits on a peaceful knoll overlooking a river. The beautiful woodwork was crafted with obvious love by those people who are no longer here, many of whom reside in the graveyard outside, stone markers so worn their names are now lost.

The church itself is a little infamous, and some of the people in the valley are very protective of it, to the point they get upset if anyone publicizes its ghost stories. I can understand, since the church has been vandalized before, and local college kids like to play tricks there. Out of respect, I don’t share the formal name of the church, though it’s pretty easy to find.

I don’t believe those spirits rise from their graves in the misty moonlight. But as the little old lady said, “I always hurry on by there just in case.”

(The Red Church is one of six novels in Ghost Box from Scott Nicholson, for the low price of $9.99 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Scott Nicholson is giving away 15 percent of his ebook revenues in September! Details are at http://hauntedcomputer.blogspot.com/. His other books include The Skull Ring, Speed Dating with the Dead, Drummer Boy, and nine other novels, seven story collections, and six screenplays. Look for Liquid Fear and Chronic Fear from Amazon on Dec. 20. More at Haunted Computer.


Giveaway: $10 GC to Amazon

One lucky reader will win a $10 GC to Amazon.  All you need to do is leave a comment with your email address.  Open internationally.  Contest ends 30 September 2011.
Thursday, September 15, 2011

Interview with Elizabeth Loraine

Curling Up By The Fire would like to welcome Elizabeth Loraine, author of Phantom Lives: Collier.  Her new book of an intended new series was released on August 18th, 2011, and features Abigail Black, an heiress who learns she is a powerful Gatekeeper who must train and develop powers she never knew she had in order to keep herself and others alive to protect a cause much greater than she ever would have thought.  Elizabeth is here today to discuss her new novel as well as discuss her future plans.  


1) To start off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself? How did you become interested in writing fiction/paranormal novels? Is there another genre you would like to pursue?
I became interested in YA fantasy/paranormal writing because it’s what I like to read myself. I just thought I could bring something new because what I wanted wasn’t out there.


2) Can you tell us a little about your novel, Phantom Lives?
Phantom Lives is about a young woman who finds out that the dreams she has been having since she was a child are of a real place and real people from her past life.

3) What inspired you to write Phantom Lives? How much research was involved in the writing?
I had a recurring dream as a child and I am sure now that it was from a past life. Research is always something that is intricate in my books. I love to tie in real historical facts and places into my stories. I also research names and their meanings to match characters, especially when they are from other countries.

4) What was your greatest challenge while writing this novel?
I don’t really find that writing is a challenge. Writing is a pleasure for me. The challenge comes after the work is finished. Editing, marketing, etc.

5) In this novel, we are introduced to some very interesting and intriguing characters. Who was the most fun to write about? Which character presented the biggest challenge?
The ghosts and Immortals are the most fun. Abbi was the most challenging because she is the lead character, she has to carry the entire work.

6) What are 3 things that are 'must haves' when you write? Do you have any writing rituals?
I have to have my research although I am constantly stopping to look things up that are a new idea/character/location. My laptop and a note pad to write down ideas etc.

7) Can you share with us any projects that you are currently working on or plans for the future? What can fans expect next from you?
I am currently hard at work on book six of my YA vampire series Royal Blood Chronicles which will be out later this fall. Then I plan to expand a novella that I wrote last year called Lillian about a character idea by Bertena Varney a good friend of mine and then Book Two of Phantom Lives.

8) Favorite authors? Anne Rice, Clive Cussler, Steven Berry.

9) What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your ultimate luxury?
I love to cook and work in my gardens. My ultimate luxury is doing nothing!

10) Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?
I love them all. They are so supportive and loyal and I am so happy that they like my work.
 

Review: The Sixes by Kate White

The Sixes
by Kate White
Release Date: August 2nd, 2011
2011 Harper
Softcover Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-157662-1
Genre: Fiction / Suspense
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Summary
Phoebe Hall's Manhattan life is unexpectedly derailed off the fast track when her long-term boyfriend leaves her just as she is accused of plagiarizing her latest best-selling celebrity biography.  Looking for a quiet place to pick up the pieces, Phoebe jumps at the offer to teach in a sleepy Pennsylvania town at a small private college run by her former boarding school roommate and close friend, Glenda Johns.

But behind the campus's quite cafes and looming maple trees lie evil happenings.  The body of a coed washes up from the nearby river, and soon hidden secrets begin to surface among the students: rumors of past crimes and abuses wrought by a disturbing society know as The Sixes.

Determined to find answers and help Glenda, Phoebe embarks on a search for clues - a quest that soon raises dark memories of her boarding school days.  But with truth comes a deeply terrifying revelation:  the past can't be outrun...and starting over can be a crime punishable by death.

My Thoughts
The Sixes had a unique concept that I was eagerly anticipating, a group of girls empowering themselves and bringing fear to many others on campus, and I was looking forward to reading something that would be fearful and terrifying and could possibly happen on school campuses across the country.  Unfortunately I was somewhat disappointed with this novel, and while the novel did take some steps in the exploration of female empowerment and girl groups, I really felt it did not do them justice.  While there were some twists and turns as well as some interesting moments, I could not truly say that I was engaged throughout this novel.

The novel is entertaining and the writing is interesting, but the plot is predictable and formulaic.  I had no trouble figuring out what was coming next, nor did I have difficulty figuring out who was the murderer.  That is not to say there are not twists and turns in this novel as there was one twist that definitely caught me by surprise, and which I didn't see coming, and I really wished the entire novel had that moment of brilliancy as it would have been great.  There were many storylines woven around the central storyline, but the one involving the Sixes kind of got mired down amongst some of the other plotlines and was not fully developped.  I didn't find the group of girls to be particularly scary or fearsome, and some of their actions reminded me of children's pranks rather than actions of those of an organized, powerful group.  Spoons in a dishwasher?  Considering some of the other things that Phoebe managed to do, I find it interesting that she was scared of spoons in her dishwasher. 

One of the things I did like in this novel was the main character, Phoebe Hall.  I liked her determination and doggedness throughout everything and how she pursued all the leads and wouldn't quit.  My only concern was her lack of suspiciousness when those around her didn't want to call in the police to investigate when her house was broken into, and I couldn't quite figure out why.  I also had a problem with the fact the author gave us so little to work with when it came to her background; it was hard to figure out Phoebe's motivations and desires.  There were some use of flashbacks into Phoebe's boarding school days, but they were abrupt and inconsistent and I don't really feel like they were useful to the story.  It was this vagueness sometimes that really drove me crazy, and while some of the plotlines wrapped up nicely, some were left loosely hanging, some involving characters, and it really did bother me.  I found that sometimes events got so bogged down by details that character development was somewhat neglected, and other than Phoebe, I really didn't feel any connection with the other characters.  As a result, I felt detached from events; this became stronger towards the end and I felt myself losing interest in the novel and the outcome.

Verdict
The Sixes was a quick read, and I would recommend it as a good beach read if you are looking for something light.  While there was some suspense and build-up, I have to admit that I felt deceived by the fact that the focus on the novel did not necessarily end up being about the group the Sixes, and that is why I wanted to read the novel in the first place.  Unfortunately, the novel could not keep my full attention and I found the plotlines and characters to be rather shallow and one-dimensional.  I never felt like I understood Phoebe's motivations and desires, and although this may seem picky, I definitely didn't understand how a college could hire a person being accused of plagiarism.   Despite all of this, The Sixes is not that bad of a read, as long as you are not looking for something too insightful or indepth.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Guest Post: Elizabeth Loraine

Curling Up By The Fire would like to welcome Elizabeth Loraine, author of Phantom Lives: Collier, the first novel in a new series featuring Abigail Black, released August 18th, 2011.  She is here with us today to discuss some of the ways she gets inspiration for her novels and for her characters.  As an aspiring writer myself, I always find these posts to be rather intriguing and I love to hear how other writers get their original ideas and how they are developped.  Here is a blurb on the first novel in the series, Collier:

Abigail Black, an heiress from Memphis is on the run from her abusive boyfriend, Dallas. In the process she finds out that there she is being pulled towards something, and someone, that she thought only existed in her dreams.


Another page turning adventure from Elizabeth Loraine. Phantom Lives intertwines the modern world with the post Civil War world of Collier, a plantation Abigail had dreamt about her entire life. Now she is about to find out why. Another fantasy world of spirits and immortals is built in a way which fans of Ms Loraine’s will again thoroughly enjoy. Find out who Abigail was in the past and how it changes everything.



Where do my book ideas come from?

by Elizabeth Loraine

Many people ask me how and where I get ideas for my books, characters and locations. While there is no easy or on simple answer I can tell you how both of my series began.

Royal Blood Chronicles came about because of my insatiable love of vampires. I have been intrigued by them since I was old enough to watch television. The old B movies of the sixties and seventies and the soap opera Dark Shadows were so much fun.

The only thing that I thought was missing was the background stories. I wanted to know more about the history of these long lived creatures and I wanted them to more than undead creatures of the night. So my books give you that history along with a new race of vampire; royal blooded vampires.

The next thing I wanted was to create strong female lead characters that were not waiting to be saved, but instead were the hero. Once I have an idea I research locations, decide on names and then simply start to write. Katrina the Beginning was my first novel and when I started I had never written anything before at all, yet I finished that book and four others so far in that series.

Phantom Lives is my new paranormal fantasy adventure with another strong female lead. This series came about because of my own recurring dreams as a child. I decided that I could make a story out of that and so Phantom Lives was born.

I find ideas for fantasy stories all around me. Stories on the history channel that intrigue me, but I also see things from nature, crime and real life stories all of the time and think of a way to fill it with magic and twist and turn it into mystery and fun for the reader. The first reader of my endeavors of course is me, and I expect to be entertained. I often tell my sister that I am at a certain point of the story and I can’t wait to find out what happens. You see I don’t know a head of time, just like any other reader.

So what I would tell anyone taking on a writing project to start with an idea and just start writing. You can do research along the way if you need to. Write a little every day, it helps with the flow of the piece and take a break if you are stuck. Then read what you have written again from the beginning and start again.

Where do your ideas come from? Are you a plotter or a seat of your panser?


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Invitation for an E-ventful Book Party



LITTLE DID I KNOW is more than an insider’s view of life in the theater at its most joyous, it is a classic roman รก clef by Mitchell Maxwell (www.mitchellmaxwell.com), president, CCO and director of MCrew Media LLC, who has produced seven Broadway shows, more than 30 off-Broadway and regional productions, four national tours, three West End productions and six major motion pictures. He is the visionary producer behind the rollicking Broadway revival of Damn Yankees featuring the legendary Jerry Lewis – which was nominated for multiple Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical – and the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Dinner with Friends. He has produced the Broadway musicals Play On! Bells are Ringing (Tony-nominated for Best Revival of a Musical), Blues in the Night (Tony Nominated as Best Musical), Brooklyn, and the percussive theatrical wonder, Stomp! His productions have been nominated for – and won – almost every theatrical award including Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Obie and Ovation awards.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Review: The Legacy by Katherine Webb

The Legacy
by Katherine Webb
Release Date: August 30th, 2011
2011 HarperCollins Publishers
E-book Edition; 333 Pages
ASIN: B004PYDNFQ
ISBN: 978-0-062-07730-0
Genre: Fiction
Source: Review Copy from Publisher through NetGalley

3 / 5 Stars

Summary
When they were children, Erica Calcott and her sister, Beth, spent their summer holidays at Storton Manor. Now, following the death of their grandmother, they have returned to the grand, imposing house in Wiltshire, England. Unable to stem the tide of childhood memories that arise as she sorts through her grandmother’s belongings, Erica thinks back to the summer her cousin Henry vanished mysteriously from the estate, an event that tore their family to pieces. It is time, she believes, to lay the past to rest, bring her sister some peace, and finally solve the mystery of her cousin’s disappearance.


But sifting through remnants of a bygone time is bringing a secret family history to light—one that stretches back over a century, to a beautiful society heiress in Oklahoma, a haunting, savage land across the ocean. And as past and present converge, Erica and Beth must come to terms with two shocking acts of betrayal . . . and the heartbreaking legacy they left behind.

My Thoughts
What first intrigued me about The Legacy was the idea of dark, family secrets left hidden over many generations, a rambling old manor house where a childhood tragedy still had repercussions in the modern world, the allure of shadows and family ghosts and whispers that would be revealed in a slow, delightful and chilling tale.  Unfortunately, while the premise was enticing, it did not live up to expectations, and for me, I was somewhat disappointed in this tale that did not meet its promise of secrets and deep, dark truths.

The plot centered around two storylines, one focusing on Caroline and her life in the early 1900's and the other on Beth and Erica in the current year, jumping back and forth through time, as events unfolded.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the events in the current time period and really admired the dogged determination and courage that Erica displayed as she tried to keep her sister from sinking back into another depression, and trying to discover the truth behind the tragedy of her childhood, I did not find much connection between the two plotlines and really did not see the point in Caroline's storyline, other than it was compelling to read about the hardships that Caroline faced in her marriage and learning to adapt to life in the untamed west as a rancher's wife.  To be honest, I found myself losing admiration for Caroline rather quickly as the novel progressed and found her to be a rather weak and selfish character, despite her love for her husband Corin.  I grew rather frustrated with her and just wanted to shake her at times; she needed to get over her self-pity and pity-me attitude and at least try to make things better.  Maybe I am too judgmental, but I sometimes wondered what it was that Corin saw in his wife.

I really did enjoy Erica's character and personality and understood her desire to find out the truth at all costs.  She seemed to be the only one willing to face the facts and really try to discover what happened in the past and I liked her tenacity, even if she seemed selfish and immature at times.  The resulting twists and turns were rather fascinating, but as I already mentioned, I think they got bogged down by the trips in the past.  While I normally like the dual/multiple narratives, I felt they did more harm than good in this novel and by the end of the novel, I had lost interest in what was happening and just read to finish it.  As hard as I tried, I just didn't make the connectionm and it left me feeling detached from the events and from the characters.

Verdict
The Legacy definitely had some moments that were fascinating, with some interesting twists and turns, but unfortunately, the dual narrative did not quite work out the way I think the author intended and it left me feeling detached from the events and the characters as I just could not get the connection between the events, other than the lasting sense of regret.    Don't get me wrong, the trips to the past were really intriguing and I read them avidly, it's just that as a whole, I felt the dual plotlines just didn't mesh and the result left me feeling unsatisfied and frustrated with the ending.  Despite all of this, I feel there is great potential here, and I am looking forward to seeing further works from the author in the future.