Ruminations: Altered (Dianne Lynn Gardner)

ImageI suppose it’s fair to preface this by saying that I’m not always a YA reader.  I tend to focus my reading away from YA, mainly because I just prefer the struggles and stories of older characters.  Perhaps this is because I’ve lived my own “coming-of-age” stories already and as a result, I often don’t find that topic that appealing.  My motives when I read versus what I write often conflict in that way.  But that’s my opinion and I think that, most likely, most others will vary, particularly as YA has matured and changed a lot, for good and bad, from what it was when I was a teenager.

What I am a sucker for, YA, adult, or otherwise, is dystopian novels.  I’ve always been fascinated by apocalypse or massive societal change in any fiction. When I was a child, the idea that someone could walk through a city in which there were no people amazed me.  (See the film The Quiet Earth for a perfect example of what I mean.)

Dianne Lynn Gardner’s Altered is different from the pattern that I’ve grown used to seeing or reading in YA dystopia of late.  There’s not much of a romance subplot.  The main female character, Abree, isn’t defined by her relationship to a love interest.  This doesn’t feel influenced much, if at all, by Hunger Games or zombie fiction.  (There are no zombies at all, actually.)

For all of that, this is a true YA story, written in a language and a voice suited to younger readers.  Gardner’s work is not adult fiction masquerading under a “young adult” tag.  Although older readers will enjoy the work, it is good to note that its primary audience–and one that will likely relate best to it–seems to be preteen and teen readers.  That does not, however, means that this is a simple story.  Not at all.

 Altered  begins with a premise that seems rooted in a fear that’s become more prevalent in the modern world: food contamination.  We live in an era where things that were once considered safe have become potential dangers to us.  A few years ago, I wouldn’t thought of pre-packaged salad as potentially life-threatening, for instance.  Now, it feels sometimes that the media is constantly alerting the public to some new problem with the food supply.  Gardner takes this problem one step forward: what if the supply was being contaminated on purpose?  What if this contaminant could be used as a form of mind control?

When you think about it, this is a terrifying idea.  How can you retain freedom when everything that sustains you is a tool meant to keep you captive?

This is the problem that the young antagonists must struggle with as the secret is revealed.  A shifting storyline moves the focus between the United States and Mexico, between children and parents, between those who have given up and those who will never give in.  Woven into these narratives as well is a surprising twist: Mesoamerican mythology.

As a fantasy author, Gardner’s other works have a European flair in their mythos.  Altered brings in a new world dynamic to reveal a method of escape to the desperate citizens of her current world.  Stories of rainbow serpents and Ant people serve as parables to guide Abree, her young protagonist, on her journey to resist the government that would see her family torn apart.  There is much more to the world that Gardner creates, I think, than just one short novel can express and one hopes that the author will retain this delicate balance between modern politics and old gods and continue on with the tale that she has begun.

To find out more about Gardner’s work, you can visit her website.


DISCLAIMER: I was offered a free copy of this book as review.  I had, however, already purchased the book at that time.

 

The Writing Process Blog Tour

I was tagged by the ever-incredible Stephanie Lile to talk a little about my writing process.  Stephanie is a writer, teacher, exhibit developer, researcher, art lover and museum educator. She has written for magazines such as ColumbiaCalliope, Bacopa,Soundings ReviewThe Morgan Horse, and ColumbiaKids. Her nonfiction book History Lab To Go! is an award-winning museum publication. Stephanie has launched a small studio that is the percolator for her publishing projects, as well as home to the KBL Family Collection of amazing WWII imagery. Currently, she is working on publication of her novel The Tail Gunner, about a ghost soldier of WWII who cannot rest until he’s completed his final mission, and his granddaughter Sylvie is just the one to help make that possible.  I was lucky enough to read Tail Gunner and am still desperately hoping there’s a sequel in the works!

You can read Stephanie’s responses to the Writing Process questions here.

Here are my responses to the tour:

1. What am I working on?

I have a couple things in the hopper right now in my writing life.  The first is the re-release of my first novel, The Universal Mirror, from Rara Avis Publishing. With a new cover design and new edits (huge thanks to editor Cindy Koepp and artist Dianne Gardner), this book is taking a slightly different shape and I really look forward to seeing the response.

The second thing is an urban fantasy novel in the first draft stages.  This novel, dubbed The Unwilling, is basically what would happen if you mixed Lord of the Rings and the Godfather, then threw it into 1932.  It’s the story of a teenage girl named Daisy whose father abandons her and her younger sister during a major Depression.  Daisy’s sister is kidnapped by the elves and Daisy must travel on a quest to find the item that can save her.  That’s really a very short version of a much bigger story.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

My work, whether it be urban or epic, tends to be rooted in some era of real-world history.  I weave in things that I uncover in my research, mythologizing them and thinking of other fantastical elements around them.  Like many other authors, I do write what I know as well–I just tend to take it and throw a fantasy spin on it.

3. Why do I write what I do?

That’s a hard question.  I often write to understand.  Things that make me angry, things that make me sad…I often take and build characters out of ideas or people that I find distasteful as a way of trying to figure out how the world works.  Sometimes I do it for positive reasons and other times, it’s out of a search for some sort of emotional catharsis.  I don’t always succeed and when I do, I think that it would be hard for anyone who doesn’t know me very, very well to find the personal genesis of some of the ideas in my work.  That’s not a bad thing in my opinion–everyone needs to have a little mystery.

4. How does my writing process work?

Every day I try to write something.  I learned years back that the word count goal didn’t really work for me.  As much as I’d like to write thousands of words a day, the reality with my busy life is that some days, getting 20 words on a page is a battle.  Other days, I can hit 2000.  So I try to get something on the page and celebrate that.  I do often set chapter goals for myself of a chapter per week.  (Bear in mind, I write short chapters.)  Deadlines really work for me–if I don’t set them and hold myself accountable, I just don’t finish projects.

Another thing that I do to keep motivated is go on regular writing “dates” with my husband, J.B. Whiting.  He’s also a speculative fiction writer and the two of us visit our local coffeeshop to write and edit together.  We also often set aside time at the end of the day to cuddle and scribble in our respective notebooks.  We do sometimes switch off on household chores, giving one or the other of us a break so that we can have a bit more time to work.  Ideas are frequently tossed between the two of us so I’ve found that I’m having fewer problems with writer’s block than ever before.  I’m rather spoiled that way, I admit.

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

Next week the Writing Process Blog Tour continues to branch out with two more fantastic writers!

R.S. Hunter fell in love with science fiction when he watched Star Wars with his grandmother as a child. From then on science fiction and fantasy had their hooks in him. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies like Abaculus III, Growing Dread: Biopunk Visions, and In Situ. The Exile’s Violin, the first novel in his Tethys Chronicles series, will be reprinted by PDMI Publishing in 2014. The second book in the series,Terraviathan, is also forthcoming. He lives in Portland, OR with his wife and can be found on Twitter (@rshunter88). 

When D.E. Atwood was in second grade, she finally grew tall enough to see the shelf above the mysteries in the bookmobile. She discovered a rich landscape of alternate worlds, magic, and space and has never looked back from the genres of fantasy and science fiction. When she was twelve, she declared that she was going to be a writer, and share the stories that she saw happening all around her. She wanted to create characters that others would care about,  and that would touch their lives, like the books that she read had touched her own life.

 

Today she has combined her interests, creating genre stories about the people who live next door, bringing magic into the world around us. Her first novel, If We Shadows, was published by Harmony Ink Press this spring.

 

Character Interview: Abbi from Deception Peak

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A portrait of Abbi by author-artist Dianne Lynn Gardner

Today, I’m pleased to be interviewing Abbi, a character from Dianne Lynn Gardner’s epic series, The Ian’s Realm Saga.  The first book in the series, Deception Peak, has just been re-released by Rara Avis and is now available from Amazon and other retailers.

A little about the book: The first book of the Saga, Deception Peak is a young adult adventure fantasy about a teenager, Ian Wilson, who follows his father through a portal that magically appears on their computer screen. They travel into a deceptively beautiful Realm, where horses run free, the wind sings prophetic melodies, and their computer avatars come to life. But when the two are separated, Ian is abducted by a tribe of dragon worshipers and is forced to find his courage. As he struggles for his freedom and embarks on a perilous search to find his father, Ian meets the true peacekeepers of the Realm. It’s then that he learns there is a greater purpose for being in there. 

Now that you’ve read about the novel, let’s hear from Abbi!

Gwen: Okay, Abbi, here’s my first question: How did you meet Ian? What were your first thoughts upon meeting him?

Abbi: I met Ian in my freshman class. We were in math together and I was amazed at his skills.
He never spoke much, kept to himself, but whenever he was called on he just rattled off the answers like he was some kind of computer or something. Then he’d just act all nonchalant. The boys laughed at him though and I felt sorry for him.
He’s really good looking and he has the sweetest smile.

I could tell the laughing irritated him but he never did anything, not until Johnny Cramer came along when we were sophomores. John was new to the neighborhood but boy he got a following really quick. He’s full of himself, that dude.

Gwen: So what did you think about when you saw the Realm for the first time? Did that change what you’d thought about Ian?

Abbi: Well, it blew me away when I saw those lights and Ian and his dad disappeared. But I didn’t know it was the Realm, you know. I thought something horrific happened to them. But when Ian clammed up about it not only did it raise my curiosity, but it got me mad because I usually can persuade Ian to talk about things he doesn’t tell anyone else. Then when his dad popped in from the portal I was like…WOW! Once Alex started explaining things I was hooked. It bugged me to no end that Ian didn’t want me there. It hurt. I thought I was his friend.

I guess he was just being his normal self though. It takes Ian a while to adjust to things. I knew things would be okay between us when he helped me back on my horse. But the Realm? uh uh. No…not my cup of tea, not with a dragon.

Gwen: Wait–what do you mean, dragons? Dec

Abbi: That was the rumor going around. That little talking man – who was mind blowing enough -mentioned a dragon and I was out of there. Then when I realized Ian and his dad went back in I’m terrified. I’m really worried about them.

I keep checking their house but no one’s been home and the door is locked. The computer is still on, I can see the stars on the screensaver when I look in the window. I don’t know what to do. I’d hate to report them as missing and get the police involved.

Gwen: What are you going to do now? Do you think Ian and his dad will return?

Abbi: All I can do is hope. That’s it. I’ve been checking their mail. I suppose at some point I’ll have to tell someone. I’m going to give it another week. If there’s no sign of either of them by then, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll tell mom and dad…I’m scared for them and I miss Ian, I reallly do. I hope he’s okay.

Want to find out how Abbi’s story ends?  What happens to Ian and his father in the Realm?  Check out the links below to find out more!

Visit Dianne Lynn Gardner @ Facebook

@ Twitter

@ the series blog

Enter an awesome giveaway for the series here!

 

Excerpt: The Dragon Shield

Today, A Few Words is pleased to present an excerpt from the book The Dragon Shield by author Dianne Lynn Gardner.  Read on to find out more about this wonderful YA novel. 

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“And you say that when you got to the mountain, he was tied. But the scouts saw him run free. Why is that?” He turned to his son, flames in his eyes. “Why, Ian? Why did you let him go if you knew he had power over the dragon?”

What am I going to say? The kid cried and I felt sorry for him, because that’s what happened. “Dad…”

The air was unbearably stiff.

“Man,” Ian beat his fist on the table and stood. “Stop it, Dad. This isn’t right.”

Continue reading

Ruminations: Dark Expectations

blog tour banner2I recently received an advance review copy of Dark Expectations, the second book in the Soul Sisters series by Janiera Eldridge.  As part of the Dark Expectations blog tour, I’d like to offer up a few thoughts about the story for those who enjoy a good paranormal romance read.  I’m trying to avoid spoilers so I may be vague but feel free to chat about it in the comments.

My first thoughts on reading Dark Expectations were colored by the fact that I don’t have much experience in reading paranormal romance.  To be quite honest, I wanted to read this story mostly for the cover.  The women on it actually look like women that I’ve known and it’s refreshing to see a novel full of diverse characters who play a number of complex roles in their universe.  This is one of the aspects of Dark Expectations that really stood out for me–I see too few books (particularly those set in modern cities) that actually reflect the world I live in in terms of who is represented in it.

The focus of this series is the relationships between different creatures in the supernatural world.  I haven’t read the first novel in the series–while I wouldn’t say that I had trouble catching up, I feel as if I ought to go back and do so.  There were a lot of nuances in the plot that I think I missed, yet it was very easy to understand what had happened in the previous book.  In fact, one of the interesting aspects of this story was that it places a character (Ani) in a situation of leadership for which she doesn’t feel ready.  I find power shifts fascinating to read about and I think that not only does Dark Expectations start the story out with one, but it lays the foundation to continue exploring what is ultimately somewhat interrupted in future endeavors by Eldridge.

This book would appeal to readers of the Twilight series though I think that its heroines, particularly Dana (my favorite character), are much stronger than Bella in that story.  In fact, that’s one of the many ways in which this story turns my own expectations on their head.  Women have power in this universe–they hold many of the cards–and from my limited exposure to paranormal romance, I feel that this is much too rare in the genre.  Watching the ways in which Dana and Ani manipulate the situations in which they are placed is a lot of fun.  These are not women that will lie down and let men walk all over them.  One of the things that impresses me most about Ani is the trait recognized by the author as both her strength and her weakness–the ability to walk away.  I look forward to seeing how this unfolds in the next book because of the ending of Expectations.  (And I really can say no more than that because I don’t want to ruin it.)

All in all, this is a very interesting take on vampires and werewolves.  And I have a feeling many more secrets lie ahead in the Soul Sisters universe!

Obligatory Disclaimer:

I received this book as part of a tour from the author in return for an honest review.  The copy that I received was an ARC and I do not comment on grammar, typos, or quote directly from the work for this reason.  (If you want to see the final work, there’s always “Look Inside” on Amazon.)

Dark Expectations 7The Details:

Title: Dark Expectations (Book 2 in the Soul Sisters Trilogy)

Author: Janiera Eldridge

Release Day: October 31, 2012

SynopsisWith Ani taking her place as queen, there are some enemies lurking she could never imagine! There’s a secret compound in California that wants to know the secrets to making a vampire or werewolf. When they kidnap Ani during a trip back to California they might actually get what they want. Her sister Dana, her lover Diego and other vampires do everything they can to get her back. If they don’t succeed, they face being controlled completely by the human race forever! Dark Expectations is the exciting sequel to Soul Sisters that’s full of adventure, danger and what it means to be queen!

Buy Links:

Amazon (In Paperback & Kindle)

Goodreads

Coming soon to other online book retailers in late January!

9016_1048197421837_1732740364_91005_7263899_nAuthor BioJaniera enjoys feeding her book addiction when she not writing. She is also a book blogger at Beauty and Books where she mixes being a book nerd with keeping things chic. When not reading or writing she is freelance writing in the entertainment industry.When trying to relax she likes a huge yard sale on a Saturday morning, rainy days to read by and nacho cheese is her kryptonite. Soul Sisters is her debut novel.

Connect With the author:

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Reading Aloud: A Few Tips for Authors

During my book tour last September, quite a few people asked me after my readings if I had any tips on how to read aloud.  There really isn’t a right way or a wrong way to do this but I decided to share some things that worked for me over at the blog of Dianne Gardner.

Visit Ian’s Realm and More for my take on reading aloud to an audience.

Spotlight: The Exile’s Violin by R.S. Hunter [steampunk]

It’s no real secret to those who know me that I’ve been easing my way into steampunk over the past few months as I work on a novel that’s something of a foray into the genre.

One book I recently enjoyed was The Exile’s Violin by R.S. Hunter.  As a gamer as well as fantasy author, I appreciate good worldbuilding.  I love stories where the author has put an intense amount of thought into how things work and what the cultures are like within their universe, as well as considered things like character and plot.  Exile is one of those novels where I read it and instantly thought “I really want to play in a game set on Tethys.”  While I wouldn’t want to live on the planet for sure, I think it’d be fun to escape there from time to time.

So a little about the book itself:

Why hire mercenaries to kill an innocent family just to obtain one little key? That question haunts Jacquie Renairre for six years as she hunts down the people responsible for murdering her parents.

Not even accepting an assignment to investigate a conspiracy that aims to start a war can keep her from searching for the key. Armed with her father’s guns and socialite Clay Baneport, she continues her quest for answers abroad.

With the world edging closer to disaster, Jacquie is running out of time to figure out how the war, the key, and ancient legend are intertwined. The fate of the world hinges on her ability to unravel both mysteries before it’s too late.

You can find it on Amazon in e-book format right now.

I myself am also going to pick it up in paperback when it’s out–that cover (not to mention the contents) is one I definitely want on my shelf.  (Though I’m undoubtedly prejudiced as the art is done by the ever-awesome Enggar Adirasa.  Does that name sound familiar?  :)  )

The Next Big Thing: The Unwilling

A photograph by Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

I’ve been tagged for “The Next Big Thing,” a series of posts about the projects that authors are working on.  A big thanks to the ever-amazing Peter Giglio, Scott Bradley, and R.S. Hunter for the tags.

This was actually a really hard meme for me to complete.  I’m working on a number of projects right now.  Closest to my heart at the moment is Efimera but to write about that project truly merits a different kind of post than this.  The Jealousy Glass, next novel in the Artifacts of Empire series, comes out this Saturday so I decided that writing about that wouldn’t be as interesting, perhaps, as talking about my far future project.  So that’s where this comes from.

1) What is the working title of your next book?

The book that I’m currently working on has the working title The Unwilling.  There’s a specific reference that I pulled the title from (bonus points to anyone who can figure it out!).

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

As a fantasy reader, I’ve noticed that a lot of the tropes with which we’re so familiar come from Tolkien.  I’m intrigued by the stereotypes that seem to have drifted into the common understanding of what cultures and creatures are and wanted to play with that a little myself.  My Artifacts of Empire series is fairly minimal from a fantastic point of view.  While there are magic and certain magical creatures exist, much of that world’s magic was burnt out and you’re never going to see an elf or dwarf walking around Cercia.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

I suspect it will be hard to classify but I’d say dark historical urban crime fantasy with a strong hint of horror.

Let’s just call it… fiction.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

This is a tough one and admittedly, I’m bad with naming my characters so I expect that the ones I list here will probably have their names changed by the time The Unwilling is ready to go.  I also don’t always cast people in my head–this story is definitely one of those where I haven’t done (until now).

Liach, a male elven “soldier,” would most definitely be portrayed by Sasha Roiz.  Roiz has done a lot of things but I’ll always remember him best as Sam Adama from Caprica, one of my favorite TV shows.  (And yes, I’m also a huge BSG fan.)  Roiz has a certain clarity and sharpness in his facial expression that would suit this character well.  He could stand to work on the pointy ears but we’ll forgive him that.

Photo by Dorothea Lange. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Daisy, who is the central figure as of this writing, would likely best be portrayed physically by Romola Garai a little older than she appeared in I Capture the Castle.  (Though her emotional and spiritual journey would better be summed up by Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone.)  Another candidate for casting would be the elven leader Iryamil—she’s Kate Winslet from her Mildred Pierce days, all the way.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Oh, the dreaded logline!  Perhaps… “How can you live forever if there’s nothing left to live for?”

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I haven’t yet decided which way I’ll go with the book though I’m inclined not to self-publish at this stage of the game.  My other novels have been published by a small press and I found that to be a positive experience.  I’ll cheerfully admit, however, that I already have a cover artist/illustrator in mind if he’ll take the job (and of course, if I end up having a say in the matter).

At this point, I’m not represented by an agent but I’m very interested in speaking to one about this or my collaborative project.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It is still in progress.  I anticipate I’ll have a first draft finished by the end of next year or the beginning of 2014.  I have other projects going that also require my attention and this novel is complex in terms of scope and plotline.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

This is The Lord of the Rings meets The Godfather meets The Hellbound Heart.  Which means, of course, that it will feel and act like none of these.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My research on the economic depressions experienced worldwide in the 1930s, my fascination with bizarre facets of history and my curiosity about genre reliance on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

I also give some credit for my attempting to try something like this on my workshopping adventures with R.S. Hunter.  His worldbuilding and outlining abilities are a thing of beauty–I’m incredibly jealous of the way that he develops all of his worlds.  (You can see a great example of this in his Tethys steampunk novels, the first being The Exile’s Violin.)

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Two words: bad elves.

Now, the thing about this meme is that you’re supposed to tag other authors.  So here are a few I read/follow that I’d love to see do it (and I hope that none of you mind the tag):  Matthew Arnold Stern, Melissa Goodman, Michael Turner, M.S. Fowle, and Jack Lewis Baillot.

Gwen Whiting:

This is a really excellent post on how to begin short stories. I think it’s good advice to follow for just about any kind of writing.

Originally posted on Fantasy Author's Handbook:

I generally don’t like this kind of negative approach: lists of what not to do. I prefer to encourage you to do things, not discourage you from doing things, but back to the subject of short stories, I can’t help but point out some very common pitfalls that I’ve seen over and over again for years—decades, actually. So here goes, in no particular order, half a dozen things you should never do in the first page of a short story:

Too Many Ideas in a Sentence

Especially in the first sentence of your story, limit each sentence to one idea.

Example of what not to do:

I woke up that morning wondering when I would stop having visions of the future when all of a sudden a flying saucer landed on my front lawn.

Is this a story about a guy with precognitive abilities, or UFOs, or both? It could…

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