Wednesday, 15 November 2017

#bookreview: Doctor Who: Myths and Legends | Richard Dinnick

Doctor Who: Myths and LegendsDoctor Who: Myths and Legends by Richard Dinnick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you're looking for an analysis of how these myths and legends fit into the core Doctor Who world/fandom or something like that, you're looking in the wrong place. If you want a review of how much you'd like this collection of short stories even if you're not a hardcore fan, I guess that's where this review would fit. (Note: I have watched some Doctor Who as my siblings are fans, but I'm generally too lazy to follow a TV series. Don't kill me.)

Doctor Who: Myths and Legends is a collection of shorts, mostly based in/around Gallifrey, or at least various Time Lords, that makes for light sci-fi reading. This is probably harsh judgement, based off the fact that I've just finished reading Paula Guran's Swords Against Darkness, but it is what it is: light reading. The stories are short, in some cases, almost simplistic, and some feel as if they end too abruptly. Some background knowledge about the Doctor Who universe is encouraged; I'm guessing that a true fan would decipher what was going on in The Unwanted Gift of Prophecy better than I did.

However, the stories are based on myths (well-known examples include King Midas, Medusa, the Trojan Horse, and Pandora's box; others are a little more obscure), so anyone interested in retellings of myths would probably like these science-fiction spins to those classic tales. Doctor Who fans need not fret - Lord High President Rassilon makes multiple appearances, as does the Doctor, though not in every single story. You will also meet the Daleks and the Weeping Angels.

The stories I enjoyed particularly include The Mondas Touch, The Terrible Manussa, The Angels Of Vengeance, The Jeopardy Of Solar Proximity, and The Multi-Faceted War.

Note: I received an e-galley of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Monday, 13 November 2017

#musicmonday: Sinking - Jars of Clay



I was reminded that I haven't been posting Music Monday songs.

Here's a random.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Short + Sweet Theatre Penang: A Completely Biased Review

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll say right from the start that I have stakes in this.

Not very high stakes, but some stakes. So yes, I am biased, but I shall try to be as unbiased as possible.

Now that's out of the way, let's begin.

What to expect in general:
A mix of everything. There's drama, comedy, and confusion. (We'll get to the last in a bit.)


I haven't been to watch S+S in a while so I didn't know quite what to expect. There were eight short plays altogether - half in BM, half in English. It used to be mostly in English with maybe one play each in Mandarin/Hokkien and BM (or something like that), so whilst I'm maybe sad that there were no Chinese ones this round (despite my comprehension of that being near nil), I think that this turned out to be a pretty good mix.

Overall, the scripts were biased towards drama-type shows, with two (clear) comedies, and one... that I couldn't decide if it was trying to be comedic or serious... which leads to confusion. Out of the eight, I thought four were really good, two were okay... and I don't know what to think about the other two. My brain pretty much just went ? ???? ???!?!

Last general comment: Accents, OMG ACCENTS. I really love the Malaysian accent, I do. Except when it makes everything sound so awkward. Like. WHY YOU ALL SPEAK SO CINA. I know you all are Chinese but don't be so cina can ah. (Speaking about two of the English plays. The other two were okay. The BM ones were pretty fine except one, where the loghat was a bit strong so I couldn't follow everything.)

Right. I'm not going to give a rundown of each play, but I'll highlight the four I really liked, in all its biasedness.

Happy -- of course I liked this. I wrote this. Well, I wrote it in English and they translated it into BM, and I still think it's awesome. I usually hate everything I write the more I read it (hahahaha) so having watched this twice (Tuesday at full dress and Wednesday at opening night) means that they did really well!
(VOTE FOR MAH PLAAAAAYYY)





The Setup -- How can I not like this? It features Penang superstar names like Chen and Lucille Dass, so it can't go terribly wrong. Though, to be honest, Lucille wasn't quite stellar in this. I had questions about her weird overacting and blocking choices (though that's probably more a director thing rather than an actor thing).






Overheard at a Cafe in Taman Tun -- Of all the skits, this felt the most natural. It was also one of the most static, but the actors were strong enough to carry it through. A lot of listening, though.
(Note: LGBT themes if you're the squeamish sort.)






Death is Satu Permulaan -- Malay slapstick at its best. Just park your brain at the door and enjoy. The comedic timing was spot on.


Tickets are still available for shows on Thursday - Saturday, so do do do do dooooo go watch! And also come say hi. :D

Head to the FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE for more details.

Friday, 3 November 2017

#nanowrimo updates

I'm taking a break from #fridayflash in November (not that I was terribly consistent before) because I'll be posting writing updates from NaNoWrimo over at my Patreon page. (Or you can just see my graph on the sidebar.)

If you want sneak previews of the snazzy new novel I'm working on, head over to https://www.patreon.com/annatsp and become a patron! You'll only be charged once I publish the novel.

Friday, 27 October 2017

#fridayflash: Open skies

Clear blue skies. Not a good day for dying. Nadira focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Tiny beads of sweat collected around her neckline and she looked up at Riz. He'd stopped a few steps in front of her and was gazing out into the distance, his hands outstretched.

"What are you doing?" Nadira asked as she stopped beside him.

He dropped his arms and shrugged. "Waiting."

"For?"

"It's stupid, you know? The way we internalise things. Our perception is skewed from birth."

"What?"

"Okay, maybe not from birth. But from young, anyway."

"What do you -"

"It's nothing. Come, let's go."

"Riz..."

The air was still. Stifling. They'd hugged awkwardly when they met for lunch, rearranging limbs around each other. When had he grown so tall? He'd been an inch shorter than her the last time they met. When he'd suggested they take a ride after lunch, she'd said yes, because how could you deny a childhood friend you haven't seen in decades - at least a decade?

So here they were. Not that she knew where here was. Hot. Sunny. Dry. Sand. She could disappear into this desert and no one would find her for months.

"It's in our heads, as much as we try to deny it. As much as we say we're good enough, we're capable enough, we look at our work, our careers with hypercritical eyes and pick out all the problems, all the hiccups. And then we look at the Other and say it's good. Even when they're doing just about the same as us. Or worse. But they're failing with confidence and we're... we're performing with self-rejection."

"Riz?" Maybe she should have declined. After all, she hadn't met him for so long, she didn't know if he was safe, if he was sane. "Is something the matter? Why are we here?"

"Open skies. The heavens are open, but we install our own glass ceilings."

"I'm getting worried here."

His lips quirked upwards. "I'm not going to kill you. Or do anything to you. I'm just..." He slumped on the ground against his car. "I'm just so tired."

Nadira sat down beside him. After a while, she put her arms around his shoulders, pulling him close to her chest. "Rest. Tomorrow will be better."

Dust and sweat. Cigarettes and spice. Clear, blue, open skies. A day for living.

---

Prompts:



What I used: a boy has a crazy idea, ending up with him and friend in the desert.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

#bookreview: Dancing Dragon or Headless Chicken

Dancing Dragon or Headless Chicken: Unleashing The Leader In YouDancing Dragon or Headless Chicken: Unleashing The Leader In You by Robert J. Kirby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nonfiction books hardly ever make my to-read list, but this was given to me by a writer friend of mine (who happens to be his daughter) and the title was super catchy. So *shrug*

As leadership books go, I suppose this is useful. It's got all the things I've heard before in the millions of leadership seminars I've attended for work and church. Dancing Dragon or Headless Chicken focuses heavily on the self-awareness side of things, following the spiel of "you should lead yourself first to be able to lead others." There are the usual probing questions to answer and exercises to complete -- which puts this book in the category of much-more-useful-when-done-in-teams (instead of reading solo, like I did), so if you're looking for an introspective type workbook/discussion group type of leadership book, this would definitely ping your radar.

And because I'm a ridiculous person, I would have liked this book better if he'd worked more with this Dancing Dragon/Headless Chicken imagery throughout the book, rather than just the intro and the end. Because, you know, I'm running around like a headless chicken enough. I'd really like to see this Dancing Dragon in my head too.

View all my reviews

Note: Also updated the weightage system above to include non-fiction stuff.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

#bookreview: The Hush | Skye Melki-Wegner

The HushThe Hush by Skye Melki-Wegner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Chester Hays is a musician—a very good musician. But he hasn’t been (and doesn’t have the money to) audition at the Conservatorium. Which means he isn’t a Songshaper and he shouldn’t be able to connect to the Song or play Music—that special sort that was made of sorcery and secrets—but he can. And he doesn’t know how. Or how to stop it. Travelling from town to town in search of his missing father, Chester makes a terrible mistake out of pride—and suddenly he finds himself on the run from the authorities, hiding in a secret world that shouldn’t exist and doing things he shouldn’t be able and isn’t allowed to.

The Hush is brilliantly written. This magical steampunk world comes alive and sucks you into it like whirlwind. Revelation upon revelation is thrust at you, the rhythm of discovery and rest keeping you as off-balance as Chester, layered secrets seeping out the way magic itself seems to seep into the Hush. Behind it all is the thrum of danger; danger that leads to imprisonment, torture, and even death.

It is also a stark commentary on the real world, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, nobody cares about the disappearing poor, and second chances hardly ever exist—if you’re not from the right family or the right background. It’s also a story of the poor and the disenchanted rising up to make a change—hoping to improve their lives. It has echoes of Robin Hood, of strong women fighting against their tormentors, of self-sacrificing love, of betrayal and conspiracy.

All woven together in an enthralling melody that catches your ear and won’t let you go.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book for review via Edelweiss. All opinions are my own.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

#bookreview: Lawless by Janeen Ippolito @thequietpen

Lawless (The Ironfire Legacy, #1)Lawless by Janeen Ippolito
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To be honest, I went into Lawless a little warily. I had a rocky start with it--liking the snarkiness between Kesia and Zephryn, but stumbling a little to figure out what was going on. Fleetwings? Talents? Congruency? Scepters? What? But confusion soon cleared and then it was off on an adventure!

The dragon-human war has dragged for years with no resolution. On the dragon side, Kesia, convicted murderer, serves as a soldier for the Pinnacle in hopes of redemption; her fleetwing and tactical partner, deposed Prince Zephryn, too has little choice in his involvement. On the human side, Captain Shance Windkeeper has been conscripted into the war, hiding his distaste for it with alcohol and sex everytime he can. Unlikely partners, it would seem--and yet all three must work together to find the truth--and hopefully, stop the war.

I love the way Ippolito has created a dragon culture that's almost tangible and the world comes alive. It's also more interesting when the dragonshifters themselves constantly rediscover parts of their culture and lives that have been stolen away from them due to the war. But really, the best thing about Lawless is how fun it is. True, there's war and conspiracy, death and betrayal, but there's also the lighthearted side of life: Kesia muddling through confusing human social customs; Zilpath's gentle teasing; Shance constantly making a fool of himself for love; the banter between Kesia and Zephryn, Kesia and Shance.

However, it's not just a flighty read. Interweaved into this lightheartedness are broad themes of worth and redemption, strength and conviction, and faithfulness. Kesia struggles with her self-worth and is constantly fighting to redeem herself. Yet, as she remembers more about her forgotten past, and discovers more about what brought her to that place, she also learns that her past doesn't have to define her future, the actions of others don't necessarily demean her worth, and that who she is is strong enough.

Since this is book 1, obviously the story doesn't end yet. It reaches a sort of pause, and I have questions. But they can wait. Until book 2.

Note: I received an ARC from the publisher. This review is my own independent and fair evaluation.

View all my reviews

---

Get your copy on:
Amazon | Apple | Nook | Kobo

ORDER AN AUTOGRAPHED PAPERBACK HERE!

Author Bio 
Janeen Ippolito is two authors for the price of one! She creates writing resources and writes speculative fiction with monsters, misfits, and mushy stuff. She's also an experienced author coach, editor, teacher, and the Fearless Leader (president) of Uncommon Universes Press. In her spare time, she enjoys sword-fighting, reading, geeky TV, and brownie batter.

A lifelong misfit, she believes different is beautiful and that everyone has the ability to tell their story. Two of her goals are eating fried tarantulas and traveling to Antarctica. This extroverted writer loves getting connected, so find her on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and at her two websites: janeenippolito.com and writeinsideout.com




OH OH! BOOK RELEASE LAUNCH PARTY TODAY!



The Cipher Scavenger hunt is still ongoing, so make sure you check out all the starred posts! 

Sept. 21* - Laura A. Grace - Unicorn Quester - Author Interview 
Sept. 22* - Josh Hardt - Character Interview
Sept. 25 - Annie Douglass Lima - Realm Explorers
Sept. 26* - Anna Tan - Steampunk, Fantasy, and Cultures
Sept. 27* - Fanni Suto - Author Interview
Sept. 28 - Leanna Shields - Character Chat
Sept. 29 - Kessie Carroll - Book Spotlight
Sept. 30* - Bethany Jennings - Character MBTI
Oct. 1 - Melissa Sasina - Book Spotlight 
Oct. 2 - Alexander Preston - Book Review
Oct. 3* - Kyle Shultz - Character Interview 
Oct. 4* - Cathrine Bonham - FANtastic Interview
Oct. 5 - C. S. Johnson - Book Spotlight
Oct. 6 - Kara Swanson - Character Interview

Thursday, 28 September 2017

#Guestpost: Worldbuilding Cultures: Cultivating Sensitivity through Creativity by @Rebekah_Loper

Today, for the final post of what apparently became worldbuilding week, Rebekah Loper talks a little bit about cultures and sensitivity as part of her book launch tour.

Rebekah is a fellow A to Z blogger and Wrimo, who, coincidentally, introduced me to Realm Makers!

Worldbuilding Cultures: Cultivating Sensitivity through Creativity

Last summer, I read an article about fiction readers being more empathetic people than non-readers. There doesn’t seem to be a formal article or study about writers being more empathetic (though many writers are avid readers, so it wouldn’t be a surprise), but I would say that especially for writers of speculative fiction empathy is a necessary skill.

One of the methods I advocate in my book is to look at the world around you, especially climates similar to what you’re worldbuilding, and see what types of cultures developed from them. In this time, when terms like cultural appropriation and white-washing get tossed around frequently (and often justly), it is a fine line to walk.

When cultural inspiration is done inappropriately, it becomes something along the lines of plagiarism – taking something that wasn’t yours and claiming that it was, despite evidence to the contrary.

It’s one thing to take a single aspect of a culture, look at it from a new perspective, and re-build it for your world from there. It’s another matter entirely to take entire existing cultures (and cultural stereotypes) and transplant them into your story – especially for fantasy. Not only is it sloppy writing, but it’s disrespectful.

Culture has so many nuances to it, and especially so when you’re writing about a culture that isn’t yours. That doesn’t mean it’s an impossible task, however – it simply means you need more help than you do when you’re writing something that happens in your own backyard. It means learning how to put on someone else’s shoes, and walking a mile (or one hundred miles) in them, and knowing that it’s probably not ever going to be enough.

It all comes back to empathy – for your readers to be able to step inside another mind, another world, you have to know the nuances of your characters, and that means knowing their culture, whether it’s based on a real culture from our world or it’s one completely made up for your story.

Sometimes it means hours and hours of research and worldbuilding and revisions, and sometimes it means recognizing that you may not the best person to write the story. Most importantly, though, it means learning more about the world around you, whether it ends up in the story you write or not.

---

Rebekah Loper loves to create worlds – whether they are magical and fictional, or a productive farm in her suburban backyard where she makes futile attempts to curse Bermuda grass from all existence.

Rebekah lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband, dog, formerly feral cat, a flock of chickens, and an extensive tea collection. She blogs at rebekahloper.com, and is also a contributing blogger at Fantasy-Faction.com and The Rabid Rainbow Ferret Society (fictionalferrets.wordpress.com).

Blog | Newsletter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter


About the book:
Worldbuilding is the ultimate act of creation for speculative fiction writers, but how exactly do you worldbuild? You ask 'what if' and use each answer as a springboard to more questions and answers about your fictional world.

In The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, that ‘what if’ process is broken down into 26 themed chapters, covering topics ranging from architecture to zoology. Each chapter includes a corresponding set of guided exercises to help you find the ‘what if’ questions relevant to your story’s world.

Fair warning, though: worldbuilding is addictive. Once you get started, you might never put your pen down again.

Amazon | Apple | Nook | Google Play | Kobo

Get The A-Zs of Worldbuilding ebook for only 99 cents (USD) now through September 30! (Regularly $3.99)

Sign up for Rebekah’s newsletter by September 30 and get a 25% off coupon for The A-Zs of Worldbuilding paperback when you purchase it from RebekahLoper.com or CreateSpace!

---

Check out my review HERE!

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

#bookreview: The A-Zs of Worldbuilding by @Rebekah_Loper

The A-Zs of Worldbuilding: Building a Fictional World From Scratch (The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, #1)The A-Zs of Worldbuilding: Building a Fictional World From Scratch by Rebekah Loper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Covering everything from Architecture to Zoology, The A-Zs of Worldbuilding is a comprehensive workbook on how to build a fictional world from scratch. Evidently.

Each chapter provides some background on the chosen topic, giving examples of how that specific aspect may affect people or culture, both individually and as a whole. This is followed by exercises: questions about the topic, plus guidance on things to think about in answering those questions, which I found useful. A lot of times, I give up on workbooks because the questions are either too vague or too difficult to answer--and then everything goes all over the place. However, with the guided questions, Loper provides a structure that is both general (if you're experienced and just need a checklist) and focused (if you still need help figuring out what's going on).

Each chapter of the workbook, although interconnected, is mostly self-contained and can be focused on according to your individual needs. Reading & working through it with my own story world in mind, I found that some of the topics were super relevant (I should probably work a bit more on History, Queens [government], and Science [both tech levels and magic use]) but some were things I could easily decide to skim through for now (births, for one, since there's none in my story yet; time, for another, since I'm not messing about with that).

Overall, this workbook is a great resource when building your own science fiction or fantasy world. Obviously, what you get from it is going to be as much as the effort you personally put in, but so far it's been a great fodder for thought on how to fix and refine the world I'm building.

Note: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review as part of the launch tour.

View all my reviews

Rebekah Loper loves to create worlds – whether they are magical and fictional, or a productive farm in her suburban backyard where she makes futile attempts to curse Bermuda grass from all existence.

Rebekah lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband, dog, formerly feral cat, a flock of chickens, and an extensive tea collection. She blogs at rebekahloper.com, and is also a contributing blogger at Fantasy-Faction.com and The Rabid Rainbow Ferret Society (fictionalferrets.wordpress.com).

Blog | Newsletter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter


About the book:
Worldbuilding is the ultimate act of creation for speculative fiction writers, but how exactly do you worldbuild? You ask 'what if' and use each answer as a springboard to more questions and answers about your fictional world.

In The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, that ‘what if’ process is broken down into 26 themed chapters, covering topics ranging from architecture to zoology. Each chapter includes a corresponding set of guided exercises to help you find the ‘what if’ questions relevant to your story’s world.

Fair warning, though: worldbuilding is addictive. Once you get started, you might never put your pen down again.

Amazon | Apple | Nook | Google Play | Kobo

Get The A-Zs of Worldbuilding ebook for only 99 cents (USD) now through September 30! (Regularly $3.99)

Sign up for Rebekah’s newsletter by September 30 and get a 25% off coupon for The A-Zs of Worldbuilding paperback when you purchase it from RebekahLoper.com or CreateSpace!

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

#guestpost: Steampunk, Fantasy, and Cultures by @TheQuietPen


Today on the blog we welcome Janeen Ippolito from Uncommon Universes Press to talk about her new release Lawless and why on earth her steampunk has dragons!

Steampunk, Fantasy, and Cultures: Creating the World of The Ironfire Legacy

Some people write fantasy. Some people write steampunk.

And then some people, like me, say “why not both? Plus, you can have DRAGONS!”

When I began to write in Sekastra, the continent featured in The Ironfire Legacy, I actually started with what is now slated to be book three in the series. In this draft, I had a dragonshifter with the ability to shapeshift into any animal trying to escape captivity in a human steampunk city—and then things go horribly wrong (because they gotta). As I meandered through drafting and added more world-building details, I realized the dragonshifter was involved in this dragon-human war that had started decades earlier.

Come on, a dragon-human war? I had to go “back in time” and figure out more of that!

So I took a break from drafting and dug into some hardcore world-building, all reverse-engineering from those handful of scenes I had first drafted. I created the Scepters of Sekastra, four semi-autonomous city-states in different parts of the continent. I had to figure out where to put the dragonshifters, so I created the Cloudpeaks in the center and put the dragonshifters under the thumb of the totalitarian Pinnacle.

Since I’m a history buff, I wanted the Scepters to feature subtly different eras of ‘punk—Lacepunk (1700s Enlightenment period), Dieselpunk (1940s wartime), chromepunk (1920s with fast money), and then classic steampunk with all the trimmings. By giving the different Scepters different cultural preferences (Knowledge, Wealth, Pleasure, and Industry), I was able to explain the differences in fashion and technology. Basically, I could have my ‘punks cake and eat it too, as long as ultimately everything was grounded in steampunk, and I kept the differences subtle and organic.

Aha, but why the different preferences in each Scepter? Well, this is fantasy, so I wanted it to happen. 😉 But more than that, there might just be a missing fifth Scepter—the Scepter of Justice. And in the past, that Scepter of Justice might have had to make some drastic decisions to keep the peace on the continent. And unpopular decisions can sometimes lead to overthrow…

But for more information on that, you’ll have to read Lawless and the other upcoming books in The Ironfire Legacy!

---

The salvation of humans and dragons lies within a convicted murderer.

Dragonshifter Kesia Ironfire has one goal—to redeem her past by serving the cruel dragon Pinnacle as a soldier in the dragon-human war.

Then a rogue mission to spy on a new airship explodes into sickening green smoke. The same mysterious green smoke that was present the night of Kesia’s crime. When her dragon overlords deny any involvement, she and her tactical partner Zephryn Nightstalker try to investigate--and are sentenced to death.

Still searching for answers, Kesia and Zephryn flee to the human military capital, where Captain Shance Windkeeper has been furloughed after the destruction of his airship. Eager to discover what--and who--blew up his vessel, he agrees to help Kesia and Zephryn infiltrate High Command. In exchange, Kesia must pretend to be his betrothed so Shance can escape an arranged marriage. If only she knew what ‘betrothed’ and ‘arranged marriage’ meant.

But human social customs are the least of her worries. Dark secrets surface as Kesia delves deeper--secrets that challenge the facts of her crime and undermine the war itself.

A steampunk fantasy adventure with a side of quirky romance and snark.

Preorder on:
Amazon | Apple | Nook | Kobo

PREORDER AN AUTOGRAPHED PAPERBACK HERE!

Author Bio
Janeen Ippolito is two authors for the price of one! She creates writing resources and writes speculative fiction with monsters, misfits, and mushy stuff. She's also an experienced author coach, editor, teacher, and the Fearless Leader (president) of Uncommon Universes Press. In her spare time, she enjoys sword-fighting, reading, geeky TV, and brownie batter.

A lifelong misfit, she believes different is beautiful and that everyone has the ability to tell their story. Two of her goals are eating fried tarantulas and traveling to Antarctica. This extroverted writer loves getting connected, so find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and at her two websites: janeenippolito.com and writeinsideout.com



There's a Cipher Scavenger hunt going on with this blog tour, so make sure you check out all the starred posts! (p/s, your clue's down below.)

Sept. 21* - Laura A. Grace - Unicorn Quester - Author Interview
Sept. 22* - Josh Hardt - Character Interview
Sept. 25 - Annie Douglass Lima - Realm Explorers
Sept. 26* - Anna Tan - Steampunk, Fantasy, and Cultures
Sept. 27* - Fanni Suto - Author Interview
Sept. 28 - Leanna Shields - Character Chat
Sept. 29 - Kessie Carroll - Book Spotlight
Sept. 30* - Bethany Jennings - Character MBTI
Oct. 1 - Melissa Sasina - Book Spotlight
Oct. 2 - Alexander Preston - Book Review
Oct. 3* - Kyle Shultz - Character Interview
Oct. 4* - Cathrine Bonham - FANtastic Interview
Oct. 5 - C. S. Johnson - Book Spotlight
Oct. 6 - Kara Swanson - Character Interview


Saturday, 23 September 2017

Saturday #worship setlist



I struggle. I don't want to do this. It's tiring, exhausting, I don't get anything out of it.

Yet, the reminder again is that this isn't for me.

It is, yes. But not alone.

In the end, it is for the church.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Shadows

Walau sekalipun ku berjalan
She's standing 
between light and dark 
life and death 
truth and lies--
Yet she's pushing forward, 
striving, always striving, 
remembering that 
the enemy's gate is down 
Dalam lembah yang kelam
It's harder than it seems 
wavering between 
progress and regress 
entrance and egress
and sometimes--most times--
both look the same. 
It's inertia
paralysis
a stuttering
a stopping
a void
Ku tak takut kar’na Kau besertaku
But depression is depression even if you're functional 
because you're high functioning until you're not
Yea, though I walk
And when you break 
breakdown
into tiny pieces
your head says you must move
but your body says you can't
and your spirit says you should
you have the power of the Holy Spirit
but your flesh is stronger
so much stronger 
than your will
so you stray
Through the valley of the shadow of death
You are a dichotomy of the
heart that knows it's wandering
and the mind that holds on to Truth;
the soul that's lost and hurting
and the spirit--
     the spirit is at war with itself
I will fear no evil
And the enemy's gate is down
So you will crush them under your feet
once you find where your feet are
and how gravity works
and where the rock on which you stand stands
but only if you will let go
let go of all that binds you
in passion and in want
in desire and in lust
for the things you do not have
cannot have
maybe will never have
because that is how it is
and maybe you will find once you stop looking--
    although you know that that is not true
For Thou art with me
Between light and dark
life and death
She stands
Neither choosing one nor the other
Because all she sees is a shimmering grey
Nebulous
Formless
And sometimes it is enough
Just to trust.
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me

---


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

#bookreview: The Worthiest Kiss by Birsilah Bakar

The Worthiest KissThe Worthiest Kiss by Birsilah Bakar


In terms of imagination, The Worthiest Kiss makes for an enticing read. Despite promises on the back blurb, not all the stories were retellings of beloved fairy tales (or maybe some were not recognisable enough?) and not all of them had science fiction twists, but all fairy tale-ish, so yeah.

It starts off well with De-Cinderellalized, a sci-fi retelling of Cinderella where our titular character has been duped into working as a prostitute on the moon and needs to get to the castle for her one chance of freedom and ends with the hilarious The Lamest Super Power which isn't quite a fairy tale but is a battle between two superheroes, one with awesome powers and the other with... frankly, the weirdest power ever.
Other stories that appealed to me include The Worthiest Kiss (Snow White), Knock on Glass (The Little Mermaid), Pinocchio, and Bon Voyage (Peter Pan).

In terms of readability, The Worthiest Kiss is an absolute disaster. As in I'm-internally-editing-every-single-sentence kind of disaster. A disaster I probably should have clued in to if I'd actually read the back blurb properly, instead of going OMG BIRSILAH FINALLY HAS AN ENGLISH BOOK.

Language-wise, it's worse than the OTHER disaster I once reviewed (no linkies! But you can find it if you decide to search), though since these are all shorts, there are no continuity issues. Actually, the plotting may have been weak in places, but they're over so quickly anyway. (Also, the advantage of retelling fairy tales is that most of the back story/plot is assumed knowledge until you twist it.)

Some of the not-so-appealing stories are probably not so much due to assumed meh-ness, but more of an I'm-too-tired-to-figure-out-this-bit skimming. It's not to say that it's not understandable. It's pretty much Malaysian English with all our strange grammar quirks which work fine in speech but are incredibly confusing in writing, further complicated by shifting tenses. (Malay doesn't have past/present/future tense? You kind of just add another word if it needs to be indicated)

The only excuse I can possibly give is that this is an ESL writer working with a newish (I think?) English imprint of a Malay language publisher.

So yeah, while I think locals (or ESL persons) may like it (especially if they can close an eye to non-standard English), it's really not going to be a break-out bestseller. Not until it's fixed.

View all my reviews

Monday, 18 September 2017

#musicmonday: One Time | SafetySuit



I went into my library on Spotify for the first time since forever and discovered I'd saved this song. I have no idea why.

At any rate, it's pretty catchy and kind of fits my emo-ish mood.

I should really get round to compiling Nan's playlist.


Friday, 15 September 2017

#fridayflash: Snapshots

It's his favourite photograph: Daniella laughing in the rain and him splashing towards her with a yellow slicker. His sister Livvy had caught it from the front porch, whilst yelling that he'd catch his death of cold and shouldn't he have another so they'd be a matching pair? He'd snorted and told her to shut up as he approached the love of his life cautiously, as if she were a wild horse ready to shy away at any moment. Daniella hadn't shied. She'd dropped her button nose from its skyward direction to point directly at his chest. Her mouth had widened even further and his heart—oh his heart tumbled and was trampled beneath wild hooves—stopped for a beat, two, three. And then it raced as she grabbed his arm and they danced in the rain until she was shivering.

She's sitting by him now, face buried in her hands—all tense lines and taut muscles—and if Livvy were here, she’d have taken that shot.

"I'll be fine," he says. It's a grunt, a groan, and Daniella's head shoots up.

"Sunny…"

"I'll be fine."

"You've broken—"

"Nothing I haven't broken before."

"Not all at the same time!"

Sunny closes his eyes. She's right.

Back then, he'd held the slicker over their heads as they dashed back to the house—what for? They were both already soaking wet, but it was The Thing To Do—and Livvy had caught that too, Daniella's boisterous grin and his shyly smitten smile a study in contrasts. It's like something for an advert, except neither of their clothes are Insta-worthy. He's still astounded at how good they looked together, and if it weren't for his tattered shirt and ragged jeans, maybe it would be perfect.

Daniella shifts. "Livvy's on her way."

"No. She's not to come."

"She insists."

"She can't just give up that photography project—"

"You're her only brother! You can't expect—"

"—do you know how hard it is to get an—"

"—her to stay away when you might—"

"Art grant?"

"Die?"

The silence is too awful, too empty, between them.

#

The light is streaming in, golden and warm. Inviting. Like love, enveloping her frigid spaces, telling her to come. Come in. Come sit with me awhile. We'll curl up in the sun like cats; languidly. Daniella takes a step forward. The light strikes her face and she looks up. Out.

It isn't supposed to be warm today. It's supposed to be cold, dreary. There are rain clouds in the sky. They've been there all morning, but now it's noon and the sun has broken through. It strikes his face and she looks down.

How can the sun shine when it's dead?

#

Livvy's hands clench around her camera. Daniella's head is bowed over the coffin, her fingers splayed on the space over his chest. She's spent years documenting her brother's life in snapshots and this—an utter invasion of privacy, of grief, of pain—would be the crowning glory of her collection. But she can't. She drops her hands and steps into the room. Daniella turns and the look on her face makes Livvy's fingers itch. She won't.

Daniella flings her arms around her, the awkward bulk of the camera pressing between their ribs like the invasion it has always been. Neither had complained, yet Livvy carries her own guilt.

"I'm sorry," she whispers.

Daniella stares at her.

"What can I do to help?"

"You're his sister—"

"You're his widow." She can't stand around and accept condolences. She'd go crazy.

Her sister-in-law hesitates, her eyes flicking to the camera. "I don't want to—"

"I don't mind taking photos," Livvy interrupts, "if you don't mind the intrusion."

"I don't."

Daniella is standing again by his coffin and Livvy is backing away, fingers tense. There is light and symmetry and grief and beauty, so much beauty—a life made up of snapshots; moments in time preserved. Daniella's tears are the pain Livvy cannot express, so she takes another photograph in her endless quest to document what it means to live, love, and now, grieve.

---

Something from the recent-rejection pile.

Oh well.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

#bookreview: Alara's Call by @KristenStieffel

Alara's Call (The Prophet's Chronicle, #1)Alara's Call by Kristen Stieffel


I honestly don't know how to put a star on this. Maybe I won't. There are too many factors that I can't reconcile which swing the bar anywhere from a two- to a four-star. A three would be a logical compromise, but, well.

At its core, Alara's Call is a romance. Yes, it positions itself as adventure/fantasy, there is politicking and battle and a strong core of faith that runs through the whole novel, but in the end, it's really about Alara and Dorrell and their fight to be together.

If it had been based in the real world, instead of a completely made up one (which was beautifully done, actually), Alara's Call would definitely fall within the bounds of a Christian romance of the historical type, with the princess (or not-Princess, as she insists--she is a Curate following God's will) being sold by her father into an arranged marriage to the Prince of another country for Political Reasons, but resisting it on Faith Reasons because the Other Country is one that persecutes her Faith (and treats women badly, but that's another point).
[Anna's star rating: 3, for personal reasons; I'm okay-ish with romances, but Christian Romances kinda tend to rub me the wrong way, though the fantasy background aspect of it was a plus. Oh, it's also very clean. ;)]

The religion, worship of Telshi, is a thinly-veiled version of Christianity, even keeping the concept of the Trinity intact. Alara prays often and has the gift of seeing (visions of the future); there are several theological-type discussions, including quotations from their Holy Texts, which sound vaguely epistolary of the Pauline kind.
[Anna's star rating: 2; I mean, at least be original about it--either be in or out.]
If anything, I like the way this continuous quest for God's will threads its way through the novel, beginning from Alara's concern if obeying her father's treaty is Telshi's will though it seems to be contrary to everything she knows about her faith, up to the point where she's stepping out in faith to be Telshi's voice for the nations. In a way, there is something of an Esther-for-such-a-time-as-this vibe.
[Anna's star rating: 4; it's honest and genuine and very real.]

Stieffel seems to have very strong opinions on feminism and equality, which form the core of the political rifts in the book. Besides persecution of believers, one of the main reasons Alara believes that this alliance/marriage is not Telshi's will is the fact that Makut oppresses women and treats them like property, besides still having the Monarchy and Peerage system in place--both of which have been abolished in Glynrell. I'm not saying this is a bad thing--there's nothing preachy about the way it seeps into the story and plot. It's a rift between two cultures about women's agency and how women should be treated, including discussion about meritocracy and the right to lead, and dealt with well within the story's parameters and the world created.
However, the heavy-handed visions regarding the monarchy and its abolishment sometimes irks me for one reason: my own belief in the separation of Church (or any religion) and State.
[Anna's star rating: ??? Plus points for YAY good discussions, minus points for relying on religion for matters of state]

In conclusion, Alara's Call is quite an interesting read. It would probably have a stronger appeal to Christian and/or romance markets, so if that's your thing, this book's for you!
If you're looking for something more solidly fantasy, you'll get a bit of it, but probably not as much as you'd like (it's very low-fantasy; no actual magic, but there are magic-type "gifts" granted of a religious nature). Those looking for adventure and a bit of swashbuckle would probably be happy with the copious but awesome fight scenes, assuming you're okay with romance mixed in your adventure.

Note: I received a review copy of this from the publisher as part of the book launch tour.

View all my reviews

---

About Alara's Call
Tales are often told of heroes who fulfill ancient prophecies. Alara’s Call is the tale of a woman who gives new ones. 

Alara sees visions of other’s futures, but never her own.

A young clergywoman with a fiery passion for her Telshan faith, she has been assigned to a mission abroad but longs to lead a congregation in her homeland. Her father, the prime minister, jeopardizes her dream and her safety when he coerces her into what he calls a diplomatic mission.

But it’s a ruse.

The trip is meant to end with her marriage to the crown prince of a foreign nation, where members of Alara’s faith are persecuted and women oppressed. All for a trade agreement her father is desperate to enact.

But her mentor intervenes and takes Alara to Dorrel, the suitor she left behind. They believe they are safe, but foreign soldiers are under orders to bring Alara to the king’s palace…by any means necessary.

About the Author
Kristen Stieffel is a freelance editor and writer who specializes in speculative fiction. Although she edits projects in varied genres for both the general market and the Christian submarket, she is a novelist at heart. Member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and Christian Editor Connection, mentor with Word Weavers International, and on the planning committee for Realm Makers, Kristen stays busy doing what she loves most.

She is also the associate editor of Havok, a flash-fiction magazine focused on science fiction and fantasy.

Visit www.KristenStieffel.com to learn more about this many-faceted author.


Where to buy: http://www.love2readlove2writepublishing.com/books/alaras-call/

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Monday, 11 September 2017

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Saturday #Worship Setlist



Where I am surprisingly safe this week.

No new songs!

Also, fantastically spread across a wide selection.

Friday, 8 September 2017

#Fridayflash: Come Home

Extracts of Nan's diary, as pertains to Walker. 

1994
October
He's gone. I don't know where he is. No one knows where he is. Milly asked about him at the funeral: Where's Uncle Walker?
He's late. He's coming. 
He never showed. I lied. Only Walker would pull a stunt like this in the middle of a funeral. I'm so angry I could kill him.

November
It's been a month. The detectives can't find him. No clues. No bloody clues. He's just vanished. Poof.
Magic.
I don't believe in magic.
He just "walked out of his apartment" and nobody has a clue where he's gone. This is ridiculous.
I hope he's alright.

December
Milly wanted to know why Uncle Walker didn't show up for Christmas. I want to know why Walker hasn't shown up for months.
Maybe he's dead in a ditch somewhere.
Good riddance.
Lina doesn't know. I can't tell her.


1995
January
Maybe he's gone crazy and forgotten his name and address. If he's institutionalised, how will we find him? Will he grow old alone, forgotten in a home?
Lina's doing better. Time to break the news.

February
I can't deal with two crazy people in a family. Maybe he's dead so I won't have to deal with him.
Harry says I should let go. I try.
We're letting the detectives go. We can't afford it anymore. They said they'd leave it on the radar, let us know only if something pings.

March
I managed to catch Pip's show again. I miss him.
I miss Walker.
I wonder if they checked if anyone jumped off the bridge.

April
Six months. Six months and we don't know if he's dead or alive.
He's probably dead. I can't--
Milly turned four today. We had cake. Balloons.
She asked about Walker again. I don't know what to tell her.
I said he's on a long trip in a faraway land. I hope she'll forget about him soon.

May
Harry says Walker can't possibly be kidnapped because no one has asked for ransom. He also says Walker's probably not dead because the police would have asked us to identify his remains.
Unless they haven't found his remains.
Or his body's been eaten by wild animals and there's nothing left with which to identify him.
Or maybe they can't ask for ransom until the estate's settled, but we need Walker to settle the estate so--

June
I cannot not think about him but I cannot think about him. If I go crazy, it will be Walker's fault.
Maybe he was in a plane crash. Or a car crash. Train crash. Burning wreckage out in the desert. Somewhere.

July
What if he's homeless? And too ashamed to ask for help?
Why did he just walk out of his apartment?
Ned's death must have set off an episode.

October
I'm meeting Walker tomorrow. It's been a year. But he's back.
Finally back.
We'll meet the lawyer with Pip.
It'll be good to see Pip again.


---



Our Pip/Theo was injured, so we're starting fresh this week.

---

You know who you are, though I doubt you'll read this.
Come home.

---

EDIT for additional note: realised it's supposed to be cold in New York during the time the original scene takes place, so the months are probably off. Oh well. 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

#bookreview: Ex Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries, and Lore | Paula Guran (ed)

Ex Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries, and LoreEx Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries, and Lore by Paula Guran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As anthologies go, Ex Libris a mixed bag. It wasn't as dark as I expected it to be (hah), nor half as weird. In fact, it started off almost downright wholesome with Ellen Klages' In the House of the Seven Librarians, which I totally loved.

The libraries depicted in this book are often wonderful, magical places, some of which hold more magic than can be reasonably contained. In Libres (Elizabeth Bear) is a hilarious case in point, emphasising how dangerous it is (can be), where one browses at their own risk and carries a spool of thread to remember how to get out again. Ruthanna Emrys's Those Who Watch explores this further, though in a slightly darker way, with shifting statues and secret myths. Another notably dangerous library is shown in In The Stacks by Scott Lynch where reshelving books is a dangerous job, often involving magic and swords and resulting in trips to the infirmary.

Paula Guran is known for selecting darker, wilder stories and this anthology offers that too, mostly in the form of frightening librarians, such as the one in Special Collections (Norman Partridge). There are nice ones too, such as Miss Louisa Foster in Death and the Librarian (Esther M. Friesner) and Miss Adams in Ray Bradbury's Exchange. Some librarians and libraries are inexplicably linked, harking back to the lost library of Alexandria (The Midbury Lake Incident; Kristine Kathryn Rusch).

All in all, Ex Libris is a celebration of words, the power of words, and the people who try to keep them in order. It's a hefty book but one worth reading!

Note: I received a copy of this ebook via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Monday, 4 September 2017

#musicmonday: Lina's playlist



Chris asked us to come up with songs that our characters would listen to/like, so here's a playlist of songs from the 50's which Lina would likely like, or at least have heard. Often.

Question though: would Lina be a jazz or a rock kind of person?
Ned and Theo are undoubtedly more of the jazz type.

Lina never says, and she's pretentiously artsy and intellectual enough to appreciate jazz, with her cigarettes and wine (she mentions wanting to be a Negro blues singer, so that's a slight indication) but her penchant for smothering the day in speech makes me think she might secretly like a bit of Elvis. Just for the noise.



Friday, 25 August 2017

#fridayflash: Lina

She is
        Sharp lines and taut strings
        Focused on
        Theo, Theo, Theo
but Ned.

No, Ned is comfort. Ned is safety. Ned is the sudden silence in a world of cacophony and if only Theo could be that be comfortsilencesafetysimplicity --

Oh what is the secret behind Theo?

But maybe there is no secret. Maybe he is as empty, as broken, as loud, as crazy and Lina cannot see it. Lina cannot see past -- He wants. Fame. Fortune. Acknowledgement. He is consumed and she is drawn into his orbit; sucked in swallowed down engulfed --

-- no.

She draws herself up, pulls away. The Southern belle has her strength and her dignity and she may not have weight, but she has her power.

A tilt of the shoulders
        A twist of the fingers

Ned doesn't need seducing. Ned is just... there. Easy. Simple. A rock. An abstraction turning into facts. A lifeline. He pulls her out of deep waters, just by kindness. And she needs to escape because Theo, but Ned --

And maybe it's not wrong. Maybe this simplicity is what she wants and needs and craves but cannot get because Theo wants and Theo needs and Lina

cannot be anything other than what she is needed to be.
No matter how hard she tries. 

What you want.
                                  >
                                             >
                                                        >
                                                                   >
                                                                              >
                                                                                         >
                                                                                                    >
                                                                                                                >
What you will get.

But it's not her ascent.

it's her descent
into madness

---

Character work on Lina; Three Days of Rain by Richard Greenberg.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

#bookreview: Diadem of Death | BR Myers

Diadem of Death (Nefertari Hughes Mystery, #2)Diadem of Death by B.R. Myers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Terry's life has changed drastically. She's a superhero--or would be, if she'd let anyone else know outside her small circle of friends. But with great power...

Actually, Terry grows rather annoying in this one, all the nice girl-next-door traits from ASP of Ascension slowly being buried in her need to prove herself and her powers. If she had to pass the test to access the power again, I'm not sure how she'd do--something she finally begins to worry about when she's back on the digs in Egypt, messing things up. Terry overestimates herself, overestimates her powers, underestimates her friends, and all round makes herself disagreeable, except dear Maude is too nice so she has to find out the hard way--through another near-death experience.

ANYWAY, Terry and her friends are on the digs in Egypt, partly because Mr Hughes thinks Terry's the only one who can help them find and open Cleopatra's lost tomb, partially because the real Prince Kamal wants to thank them for finding the asp.

If the first book was about girls learning to stand up for themselves, this one would be about continuing to trust and depend on each other--and to learn when to ask for help (and that you can!) Also, that even if you have superpowers, authority figures and rules are there for a reason...

Diadem of Death is still a fun, quirky read, even if I wanted to stab Terry at times.

Note: I received a digital review copy of this book via NetGalley.

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Friday, 18 August 2017

#fridayflash: Nan on Walker

Look. The thing with Walker is. Is. Well, I don’t know.

He came back and… and I was angry. He was supposed to meet me at the airport—he didn’t, of course. What did you expect—and then he was rambling on and on and we were going to be late and…

And then he hugged me and everything was alright for a while because he was alive. He was there. He was real. It was just like the old days. The ones we grew out of. Or I grew out of at any rate. I don’t know whether Walker every grew up or grew out of anything.

The place—Ned and Theo’s place—it… Do you suppose their ghosts… but well, that’s the sort of fanciful thing Walker might believe in. When I first stepped in—all I wanted to do was leave. It was dank. Musty. Draped. Walker might say it’s a place where life has stopped abruptly. Only in more poetic words. Like a graveyard. Of dreams.

I didn’t want to sit. I didn’t want to stay. It’s the sort of thing I’d rather leave behind. But he was going on and on… rather like Lina, really. Like Lina, only old. So fervent. So alive. So… ridiculously alive.

Which I suppose is better than the alternative.

Maybe.

---

The thing with secrets is… they’re supposed to remain secret. What’s the point of dredging up all this mess? What’s the point of talking about all of this? Some things are better off not said, you know?

Only Walker never realises that. He wants to talk. He wants to fill the world with his words and with his… and Pip can’t…

Walker can’t leave the past. He must dig at it, he must prod, trying to find out the truth—but only the truth he decides he can accept. I don’t think he—we—either of us can handle the truth anyway. Whatever that may be. Not that we’ll know now. It’s… he wants to know and I don’t.

I… don’t.

---

Note: character work on Nan Janeway; Three Days of Rain by Richard Greenberg.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

#bookreview: Asp of Ascension | BR Myers

ASP of Ascension (Nefertari Hughes Mystery, #1)ASP of Ascension by B.R. Myers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The new school year doesn't seem promising. Terry's still dealing with the grief of losing her mother, struggling to get used to her crippled leg, plus trying to deal with fitting in at a new school in a new continent. It only gets worse when her father falls into a coma and his creepy colleague insists that she's the only one who can break the curse... by solving the mystery of the ancient Egyptian asp that went missing from the museum 50 years ago.

On the surface, ASP of Ascension is typical teenage girl fodder. There's the outcast girl--well, girls--who are awesomely kickass, the handsome basketball star who is paying attention to them, the jealous girlfriend who'll stop at nothing, and a real honest-to-goodness Prince (even if he's Egyptian). There's flirting and awkwardness and new love and...

...there's the mystery. The new Egyptian display includes what's rumoured to be Cleopatra's sarcophagus--the very same one Terry's mother died trying to find. Here's where Myers shows her twisty depths. Nothing is what it seems, and not everyone is who they're supposed to be. Everyone has secrets--but which ones are dangerous?

Overall, the novel is a fun read--light enough to keep you entertained, mysterious enough to keep you hooked, and with just the amount of teenage silliness to keep you charmed.

Note: I received a digital review copy of this book via NetGalley.

View all my reviews