Friday, 5 February 2016

#fridayflash: Character Observations

There’s a cute guy sitting at the table opposite. He has dirty blond hair and a five o’ clock shadow. I’d like to see if his eyes are blue, but he’s looking down at his laptop and I don’t want to stare. Okay, maybe I do want to stare, but that would be grossly inappropriate and frankly very rude. 
He'd already been sitting there before I came in to this Starbucks outlet. I took this table because it was empty; I’m not quite sure if I intentionally sat opposite him so I could look. My motives aren’t always that clear to me. Actually, the table beside him was empty too when I came in, but it had an empty cup on it, leftovers from its last occupant. Was that really a deterrent? Probably not, but I had no overriding need to move the cup just to sit at the table next to him when there was a perfectly clean one diagonally across. 
Then again, it might have been subconscious, because I like looking at people - just not talking to them - and I’m sitting facing the door. Well, between two doors - one directly opposite me, and one to my right. There is a wall behind me, with a rack of tumblers and mugs for sale. I read Dune: You shouldn't sit with your back to the door, if you value your life. I am surmising this guy hasn’t read it - or maybe he doesn’t care. He’s probably just not paranoid and doesn’t have any enemies, though I'm sure this line of thinking has appeared in more than one fiction series. Then again, I am probably reading too many epic fantasy stories, with too much bloodshed and war. In real life, I sit with my back to the door when I'm feeling particularly anti-social and don’t want to know who’s coming in. Stab me in the back for all I care. Those are the times I usually have my kindle out as well, to make sure that no eye-contact is made. 
His plain white shirt enhances his broad shoulders. It's rare to see plain white shirts nowadays. You always get the shirts with statements (either cute or offensive), big brand names emblazoned across the chest or those with some fancy design. White is nice. Crisp. Sexy. 
He has two rings on his left hand; on the middle and the ring finger, worst luck. I see that clearly enough because when he’s not busy typing, he either leans his cheek on his left hand or covers his chin with it, rubbing at his stubble as he thinks. There are two cups on his table but only one of him, so he’s either been here long enough to drink that much or his wife has gone off to do something and will come back for him later. Probably the latter. 
I think his eyes are dark, though. Oh well.

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I was supposed to do a character observation piece for an online writing course by FutureLearn. It was supposed to be less than 200 words, so I cut out a chunk of the piece above for the course and then fleshed out the remainder just for fun.
And yes, there was a real guy sitting at the table diagonally across from where we were having our Write-In at Starbucks, Tanjung Tokong on Monday. I apologise for being distracted from working on my A to Z posts to write this digression instead. #sorrynotsorry

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

#bookreview: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen

Gentleman Jole and the Red QueenGentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review comes with a warning: it isn't quite the "clean" fiction I normally go for, partly because I didn't know what I was getting into. This book talks about sex, bisexuality, affairs, threesomes, umm... and stuff like that. Now that's out of the way...

I jumped into Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen ("Gentleman", because the title is so long) on the basis of having read two of the Sharing Knife books (Legacy and Horizon) as well as a friend saying "Oh I used to love her Vorkosigan saga when I was growing up!" So I pretty well knew that I was jumping into the tail end of a series. (And there was wiki, though I didn't use it until after I'd finished reading this book.)

The lovely thing about Gentleman is that it doesn't require you to have read all the books to follow what's going on. It's quite a self-contained story on its own. Bujold is a seasoned writer - she drops hints and reminders of what has happened before in such a way that you don't feel you've missed anything from not reading those earlier books, but at the same time, you have the urge to pick it up because it sounds so darned interesting. (By the sound of it, though, some of these are new to followers of the series. Hm.)

Gentleman isn't exactly the military sci-fi story that the blurb leads you to expect. Instead, it's rather more space opera, following the budding romance between Cordelia Vorkosigan, the widowed Vicereine of Sergyar, and Oliver Jole, Admiral of the Sergyar Fleet. It's charming and a little slow-paced, and you come to the end of it feeling like nothing much has really happened (really, nothing much really did) but it's still a complete story about... relationships, I guess.

It takes its time to meander into the past, reminiscing about what has been, bringing up old stories - sometimes recasting them in a new light? - as well as introducing new stories of the past. Yet the present and the future is very much a cause for concern as well: Cordelia and Oliver have to work through their... decisions very carefully, considering both the impact on their lives in the present as well as their implications for the future; triggering, as the blurb says, Miles Vorkosigan to travel all the way from Barrayar (with his family as cover) to find out what was really going on in Sergyar. Not that a family visit from her son wouldn't have been welcomed by Cordelia.

Other diversions appear, giving an impression of things happening, yet not. Gentleman is really a romance told over a backdrop of digressions which include cultural problems with the Cetagandans, Betan views on love, sex and marriage, Bayarran prudishness, Jole's love of sailing, the incredible yet-to-be-documented biodiversity of Sergyar, exploding radials, frozen embryos, boot polo, and construction problems.

Note: I received an ARC from review via Edelweiss.

View all my reviews

Monday, 1 February 2016

Coexist Cover Reveal!

Hey everybody, I finally get to show the world my awesome awesome awesome cover!


Jane Hays has been told all her life that it’s dangerous to be out in the forest past sundown. At fifteen, she’s quite sure that it’s all old wives’ tales... yet, why does her village bar the gates every night? Why do they even have gates? When she is caught in an unexpected rainstorm on her way home, Jane ignores all the warnings and seeks shelter in a cottage in the middle of the forest. Soon, she is caught up in a world of magic and beauty – and in the storm of the Fairy Queen’s wrath.

The Fairy Queen is out for blood. There have been intruders - human intruders - in her domain and she will stop at nothing to find them and kill them. After all, it is only fair. She is only seeking retribution for the death that humans leave in their wake.

But Jane isn’t all that she seems to be. And the events of the night aren’t as innocent as they appear.

A tale of magic, fairy creatures and family, Coexist is a novella for the young and the young at heart. 

Coexist

Available for pre-order on: Amazon | Smashwords.
Coexist releases on March 31, 2016.

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Things have been moving along much faster than I expected. The cover has been revealed in all its glory (wheeee) and buy links (pre-order, rather) are available!

I'm working on finalising things for the upcoming book tour from April 1 - 7, which means doing things like writing guest posts, sending out ARCs for review, working on tour notes, picking out excerpts, wondering what I should giveaway... oh and of course - freaking out.

Also, announcement!
Because Coexist started off as an A to Z project, I'll be giving out discount coupons to A to Z bloggers during the month of April. There will also be a giveaway to win a copy of the book and a $10 Amazon giftcard, so look out for that! :D

P/S you can still sign up to host Coexist on your blog

Friday, 29 January 2016

#fridayflash: Bunny Ring

It was the bunny ring on the middle finger of her left hand that caught his attention.

"Your boyfriend proposed to you with that?" He couldn't help laughing as he asked the question.

She looked up from her writing. "Who?"

He gestured helplessly at her hand. "The ring. Did your boyfriend propose to you with that ring? It's awesome."

She looked down at her hand with a confused frown, her eyebrows beetling together. Suddenly they - her eyebrows - seemed to jump up in startlement, or at least in mock clarity. "This thing, you mean?" she asked, pulling the ring off and offering it to him.

"Yeah, that one." He picked it up and turned it over, inspecting it from various angles.

"I bought that for myself. Birthday present. Um. Yeah. Thought it was cute."

He handed the ring back to her and then held out his hand. "Jake, by the way."

"Oh. Great." She shook it and blinked. "Meg."

She was still looking at him five seconds later, so he ventured a question. "What are you writing?"

"Oh." She looked down at her notebook and blushed. "Um. A novel."

"Great. I... I guess I shouldn't disturb you then. Good luck."

"Thanks. Uh, nice to meet you, I guess." She watched as he picked up his cup and walked out the door. Then she bent her head again and continued writing. It was only twenty minutes later when she closed her notebook that she saw the tissue paper with a sketch of a bunny and a number on it.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

#bookreview: Shearwater Part One by @creativindie

Shearwater Part One (an Ocean Depths Mermaid Romance)Shearwater Part One by Derek Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Clara loses both her parents in a tragic accident, she is sent to live in Ireland with a grandfather she never knew she had. Struggling to cope with loss and a totally new school system, she distracts herself by trying to find out more about her mother and why she left this little vacation town. But Branna Daly's secrets may be more dangerous than Clara suspects. They're reaching out to her from beyond the grave and Clara must find out what they are, if she is in danger, and if yes, and who from?

Shearwater Part One loses a star for a stupid, obvious reason: It's only part one

Derek Murphy plunges you into Clara Clark's world - a world that navigates loss, uncertainty, mystery and wonder - and just as you're hoping he'll take you further into the wonder, you look at the bottom of your kindle, see remaining time of 2 minutes, completion of like 99% and think "darnit... if I turn the page, this story is going to end and I'M GOING TO HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE NEXT PART!!"

Which you do, but at least you knew that before going in because the title blatantly states "Part One". Anyway.

To be honest, Shearwater is a classic coming-of-age story. Part of me totally enjoyed it, even whilst my writer-brain was going "and this will happen, and there- see, I knew it". If you're looking for an exceptionally new storyline, you won't get it. There's an element of predictability to the story, so readers will either love it (because they love YA anyway) or hate it (because it's the same ol' same ol'). Murphy plays with tropes and cliches - the budding love triangle, the mysterious bad boy that the girl can't resist, strange new powers she can't control, girl does stupid things she knows she shouldn't, girl gets saved, oh, and let's remake a mythical creature into something new and play around with mythology... an evil part of me says that it's almost Twilight minus annoying Bella.

But whilst I thought of Twilight as an extremely fascinating trainwreck, I'm curious to know where Murphy will take Clara in Part Two and what wonderful discovery - and dangers - awaits our lovely protagonist.

Note: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

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Shearwater launched yesterday (or today, depending on where you are in the time-continuum *waves from the future*) and is available for $0.99 on Amazon. All earnings during launch week will be donated for ocean conservancy and to protect marine wildlife (Derek says that here!) so I'd say that's a pretty good use for your money.

And if you're short of money, it will be free on Jan 28th...

There's also a mermaid giveaway happening!

Friday, 22 January 2016

#fridayflash: Mumma Bear

Mumma Bear had no energy left. There was no more fight in her, not like there had been the week before, the month before, the year before that. She was tired and she would fight no more.

“It is not my battle,” she said, her face hard like flint.

“It used to be,” they murmured.

“Mayhap. But no longer.” Before her lay the ruins of her hands - and her heart. There was nothing left but a cold wind that whistled through the brokenness and was gone. “I cannot carry on.”

They left her then, alone in the emptiness of her soul. All she could see was what could have been, but was not. The cubs she had been fighting for - were they ever hers? No, but she had taken them in anyway, because her heart had been big enough then, large enough, strong enough, for her dreams had sustained her.

No more. She was empty now, and she had to look elsewhere for filling.

“Why did I trust you?” she asked the wind. “You were warm then, kind. It seemed like you would lead us somewhere, somewhere safe. You danced before us, offering us hope, as if you could bring us through. And then you left. Not remembering your promise.” She sighed, looking up at the sky. “But you did not promise. You never did. I just thought you had.”

She stood to her feet, great lumbering useless feet, stared at her clumsy claws. She sheathed them, her great Mumma claws, knowing for certain now that they were blunt - had always been blunt. Mumma Bear adjusted her skirts and then she was just a girl again; a young, tired girl with lightless eyes.

She picked up the pack she’d prepared, something to tide her over until her next stop. “Well, that’s it then. It’s time to move on.”

Still, she couldn’t help but linger a little while, trying to hold on to her passion a little longer. “You and I, we would have changed the world,” she said a trifle bitterly to no one in particular. “Except that you would not lead so I could not follow.”

The ruins were silent except for the occasional rattling of a stone from under her feet or the snapping of a twig as she stumbled along the path. Once in a while, she thought she heard the bleating of a sheep, and her heart quickened, but just as swiftly, the cold wind blew, and her face stiffened again.

When she reached the end of the valley, she turned back to face it. “It is just as well, you see. I was never meant to be Mumma Bear. You will have to find someone else to be that for you. Someone you can’t con.... or maybe I mean someone that you can.” She shook her head. “But now this means I am free - free to look ahead to where my dreams take me. Where my heart can be one again.”