Happy Book Birthday, RULES FOR THIEVES

My critique partner, Alexandra Ott’s, debut novel is out today, MG Fantasy RULES FOR THIEVES! Eee, exciting. Look at that glossy cover! (And did I mention I had a hand in choosing the title? 😉 )

Twelve-year-old Alli Rosco is smart, resourceful, and totally incapable of keeping her mouth shut. Some of these traits have served her well during her nine years in Azeland’s orphanage, and others have proved more troublesome…but now that she’s escaped to try her luck on the streets, she has bigger problems than extra chores to contend with. Surviving would be hard enough, but after a run-in with one of the city’s Protectors, she’s marked by a curse that’s slowly working its way to her heart. There is a cure, but the cost is astronomical—and seems well out of her reach.

Enter Beck, a boy with a gift for theft and a touch of magic, who seems almost too good to be true. He tells Alli that the legendary Thieves Guild, long thought to be a myth, is real. Even better, Beck is a member and thinks she could be, too. All she has to do is pass the trial that the King of Thieves will assign to her. Join the Guild, collect her yearly reward and buy a cure. Plus, Alli hopes the Guild will be the home—the family—that Alli has always wanted. But when their trial goes wrong, innocent lives are put in danger, and Alli has to decide how much she can sacrifice in order to survive.

Give it some book love, woo! *throws confetti into air*

Publisher: Aladdin/S&S
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Genre: Fantasy
Ages: 8-12
Pages: 320
ISBN-13: 9781481472746
ISBN-10:  1481472747

Amazon Barnes & Noble Alexandra Ott’s website

Review of Image and Likeness

Image and Likeness: Short Reads Reflecting the Theology of the Body, with a foreword by Damon Owens

If St. John Paul II ever summarized his Theology of the Body, it may have been when he said, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” But how does this sincere gift look when lived out by human beings with all their failings? What happens to our humanity when we withhold that sincere gift? What does life require of us when we give most deeply? Full Quiver Publishing brings you this moving collection of poetry and prose, featuring some of today’s brightest Catholic literary voices.

I was gifted an ebook copy of IMAGE AND LIKENESS: LITERARY REFLECTIONS ON THE THEOLOGY OF THE BODY quite a while ago (it launched on 27/10/16 and I have been sadly remiss in keeping to my word) and, to be honest, I finished reading it about a month ago. But I’m so behind on my blog schedule, with all of these half-written pieces, particularly of reviews, that I never got around to sharing it.

There’s something incredibly wholesome about this collection of prose and poetry. Don’t get me wrong: at times, it touches on dark and heavy topics, pertinent for this age we live in, but each piece finished in a way that left me feeling satisfied, even for the short pieces. Yes, the pieces centre around the Theology of the Body—integral to what makes this collection so unique and pleasing to me—but that is not their only or engrossing focus. Some might argue of overly-religious undertones to the idea, but it’s not the feeling you get when you read the pieces themselves. If you’re looking for those kind of tones, you’ll find them here, but if you’re looking for interesting pieces of fiction and poetry and reflection, you’ll also find them here. Just like any other piece of writing, with its themes and ideas.

My personal favourites were No Turning Back by Leslie Lynch, Movements by Michelle Buckman, Nice by Gerard D. Webster.

I definitely recommend this collection of poetry and prose if you’re looking for something different, contemplative with all great, short plots.

You can get IMAGE AND LIKENESS from good retailers, Amazon.com, or straight from Full Quiver Publishing, available in both paperback and Kindle formats.

UMBRAE Blog Tour

Today on the blog, I’m welcoming author Debbie Manber Kupfer with her new novel UMBRAE, the third book in the P.A.W.S. series. You can follow the rest of the March blog tour through the banner below:

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Step into the Shadows of Umbrae …

Miri’s world at P.A.W.S. in St. Louis is falling apart. First, Danny is accused of stealing her opapa’s charm. But before he can defend himself, he mysteriously disappears. Miri seeks Josh for help and advice, but he too has gone missing.

Then Lilith has a vision – Miri dragged away by wolves. Miri needs answers, answers that she feels sure are hidden in the blank pages of the book of Argentum.

With the help of Lilith, she travels to the ancient city of Safed. There, with the aid of a mystical rabbi and an outspoken werecat, her omama’s story is slowly revealed. And Miri uncovers something else, a world hidden deep beneath our own – the labyrinth of shadows also known as Umbrae.

Available in Kindle or Paperback

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Now, onto my interview with the author!

Interview with Debbie Manber Kupfer

Give us a short summary of what UMBRAE brings to your world in P.A.W.S..

In Argentum (P.A.W.S. 2) Miri receives a mysterious book from an old crone in New York. But the pages are blank. In Umbrae we follow Miri to Israel to the ancient city of Safed where she meets a mystical rabbi and an opinionated werecat and starts to uncover the story hidden in the pages of the book of Argentum. The story of her omama, Celia and a place hidden in the shadows – Umbrae.

How did the P.A.W.S. story come to be?

Back in 2012 I had a sudden flash. I clearly saw a young girl receive a silver cat charm from her grandmother just before her grandmother died and I knew it was important. Over the next few days the story of P.A.W.S. emerged in my head and I started taking notes. This was in October. I had heard about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and decided to give it go. During November I wrote frantically each day until by the end of the month I had the first draft of P.A.W.S.

What did you find the most difficult aspect of writing UMBRAE?

Keeping my timeline and my ever-growing character list straight. I don’t write linearly, yet Umbrae is essentially historical fiction, based around the years of the Second World War. Everything had to be matched up and crossed-referenced.

What inspires you to write?

Anything and everything. I’m an avid people watcher. I often take walks to local cafes and like to observe and listen. Often times people and snippets of conversations end up in my stories.

What is your favourite part of writing?

The ability to let go, to escape. When the story is flowing it’s a wondrous thing. I’m a discovery writer. I only have the vaguest idea of the directions my story is leading and often times my characters lead me off into the most delicious paths.

When did you realise you were interested in being a writer?

When I was about 8 years old. I used to keep notebooks with novels I was writing all based around our school playground. But although I continued writing stories and poems through the years I only got serious about writing in 2012 after I came out of cancer treatment. Dealing with cancer made me realize my own mortality and that if I truly wanted to write a novel I needed to do it and stop procrastinating.

What do you like most about the world in your P.A.W.S. Saga? Why?

Well I like that it’s supposed to be hidden in our world. That most of the places I mention are real places. I imagine readers searching Forest Park for the entrance to P.A.W.S. and I smile.

Why did you decide to self-publish the P.A.W.S. series?

I didn’t at first. I started off traditionally published with a small press. Then when my contract expired I decided not to renew it. Today I self-publish with Createspace/KDP and love the control I have over the process. The ability to set my own publication dates, prices, and choose my own covers. I’m not saying I’d never go back to traditional, but for now I’m happy being indie.

What would be your one piece of advice for authors working on a sequel?

Make yourself a timeline and character list and add to it whenever you add a new character or event. It is easy to just go with the flow when you are writing book 1 or a standalone story but for series you need to make sure it all matches up.

What’s next on your writing journey?

Londinium (P.A.W.S. 4) will hopefully by ready in late 2017. I’ve written the first draft and am just beginning the editing stage. In it (as you might expect from the name) Miri will be visiting the P.A.W.S. Institute of London.

Apart from that I’m also currently working with a local artist to draw pictures for a children’s story I’ve written, Cecilia’s Tale, and hopefully will be sharing this with the world some time in the next few months.

Thanks!

About the author:

debssmallI grew up in the UK in the East London suburb of Barking. I’ve lived in Israel, New York and North Carolina and somehow ended up in St. Louis, where I work as a writer and freelance puzzle constructor of word puzzles and logic problems. I live with her husband, two children and a very opinionated feline. I believes that with enough tea and dark chocolate you can achieve anything!

 

For the Love of Libraries

In which libraries are awesome and gorgeous, and one must always love them, whatever their shape or size.

Aussie Writers

To celebrate V-Day, here at Aussie Owned, we’re dedicating the month to love. And how can we talk about things we love without giving libraries a mention?

Most book worms can track their love of reading (or writing!) back to these houses of art. Growing up, Heather used to BEG to go to the library, so her Mum caught on pretty quick and this became her good-behaviour treat.

Heather’s local library was a standard, small space, with mostly donated books and little government funding. The shelves were a definite safety hazard, the books were falling apart, and the whole place had that funky kind of smell that hangs around a constantly damp place.

And she loved it anyway.

Rebecca grew up with much the same in way of her local library, but she never had to beg to go there. Her mother was quite happy to take her and her two sisters…

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Find Me Series Book 4 Cover Reveal

Today on the blog I’m hosting the cover reveal of book 4 of the Find Me series by Trish Marie Dawson, part of the series rebrand by Elizabeth Mackey Graphic Design:

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I wanted him to stop talking. To just close his mouth and forget everything he was going to say so I didn’t have to hear the words. He could tuck it away into the back of his mind, I knew he could, because I’d done that with so many things already. But, as if playing a cruel joke on me, he wouldn’t shut up. It’s like he couldn’t.

At one point, I tuned him out, because it began to replay in my mind. I didn’t need his account of my first feverish night in his care, and the sordid tale of my abduction and torture through raging fits of insanity, because I was the one who had lived through the real thing. I was the one who had gone wild. Turned savage, like a caged animal freed after a lifetime of abuse and neglect. I was the one who wandered off into the woods, running away from the ghosts of the dead and the living. Running until I collapsed not far from Jin’s doorstep. He took me in, nursed me back to health, and shared his wisdom, though he didn’t realize it. He’d become a friend.

I felt myself fall backwards, hitting the snow-covered rail with my lower back, and I wondered, for just a moment, if I could fly. Would it be so terrible to die? To let go of the anger, the hate, to accept the pain as it was, a never-ending storm of doubt and grief. I could do it, I thought. To be with my kids again, wherever they were, I could do anything.

But the drawl of Jin’s calming voice pulled me forward, back to the cabin porch we stood shivering on. Back to the frozen pines, and the secrets hidden in the rings of their cores. Away from the jar and its contents. I couldn’t be angry at him, not for repeating my own words, so I did all I could. I let some of it go, some of that grief and pain that so desperately wanted to ruin the good that was left in me. I passed it on to the breeze, and let it drift down the valley with the fading sun. Because I didn’t want to carry it any more.

For the first time since the night he found me in the woods, I let Jin hold me. The two of us couldn’t change what had happened, and we couldn’t prevent the next storm from coming, but our hearts were still beating. We were alive. As we held each other under the first twinkling stars of the early evening, I reminded myself that life hurt because it was worth living; the best things in life were always worth fighting for. Through all the pain and loss, there was also love and friendship. And despite what I’d been through, I still had a family somewhere out there, searching for me. I refused to lose them too.

– © Trish Marie Dawson, Where Hope is Lost, Book 4 of the Find Me Series

THE FIND ME SERIES

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About the author

I was born and mostly raised in San Diego, California where I live nowTMDPromoPic with my family and pets. I began writing short stories and poetry in high school after an obsession with Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’. After over fifteen years of crazy dreams and an overactive imagination, I began my first book ‘I Hope You Find Me’ in December of 2011. I didn’t realize then that my first Fantasy series had been born.

When I’m not writing or researching or editing or formatting, I’m home-schooling my amazing daughter and mildly autistic son, reading whatever I can get my hands on, or enjoying the Southern California sun. As a strict Vegetarian, I hold a special place in my heart for animal rights and dash into the backyard weekly to rescue lizards and mice from our three rescue dogs. They all share the house with River, the rescue cat, who is part dog and part old man. I hate roaches due to an unfortunate childhood incident, like, LOATHE COMPLETELY, though I often fantasize about seeing one in Steampunk gear and I have an unhealthy obsession with a certain bow & arrow wielding zombie hunter. Don’t judge me – every girl has dreams

NaNo No, Part 2: A Resurgence?

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The further the skyship ascended into the stratosphere, the more Cathy was made to regret (that) she hadn’t tied her hair above her head/up. The rain danced/? off the sails with ?/ thrummed/? against the deck. She drew her/a shawl/? closer against/around her neck.

Because that airship in Stardust is gorgeous. 🙂 And a snippet of editing.

Yesterday, I started talking about National Novel Writing Month and its impact on my life – which, in summary, has been substantial, from spurring me to start my first proper novel (as opposed to a ‘novel’ I wrote when I was thirteen that was half the length it ought to have been, industry-standard) to helping me edit and put together what I think has been more significant and elegant writing (but who really knows?).

As I said, it’s November now, and we are seven days into it.  Whilst many if not most of my writer friends are (or have done, in the case of Cait G Drews ) already deep in their plans and their novels and their progress, if I had planned to write for NaNo, I would be seven days behind.

As it is, I have not considered it.

I might have done, might have said to myself what is necessary for me to write a novel or a project this November? Instead, however, it didn’t even cross my mind that I might. Why? Because – as I related in the previous installment – two out of my three NaNo achievements were made during July’s CampNaNo. Ultimately, I’ve made myself associate November with study (in this year’s case: towards my Master’s degree) and July with being able to spread my wings creatively, so to speak, and write.

Nevertheless, with everyone around me gearing into writing mode, it does feel a bit strange not to be writing. Perhaps, even to the point of trying to inspire myself to ‘celebrate’ NaNo in some way, using it to my advantage somehow. With its goal-orientated system of even the smallest encouragement, how could it not be useful to a slow writer and procrastinator like myself?

I think setting myself a task over the course of November would be useful to my editing, to my writing in general, so that it doesn’t seep from my fingers. A paragraph or a page edited a day, instead of my ambitious (on average, my chapters are 2500 words long) goal of a chapter a day. That I only rarely complete.

But I don’t think it’s advantageous. Not to me. I can’t fault that some people with greater workloads than me can deal with university, or work, or a busy home-life, and still pump out 2000 words a day or something similar, but I can’t. I tried. Even when I was a first year, and I did have the social and mental ability and disregard for my studies to stay awake until 3am, I didn’t have the drive then. Now, I have the drive and the want to work and succeed, but I’ve lost the want to stay up after 12 midnight, not least because it’s not good for my mental health the following day.

I admire those who have the ability to make those distinctions and sacrifices for their writing (as well as keeping a healthy reading and blogging schedule, too). It’s not me. I can’t do it. And I have to bow to the fact that, for me, it’s not possible. Maybe next November, yes (not July, as I will be in the middle of my dissertation then), but not this November.

I won’t be setting myself any goals – no matter how I want to – simply because I know I cannot consistently keep to them with my life as changing and in-flux as it currently is.

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On the other hand, that doesn’t mean I don’t still hold those who do NaNo in the highest respect. Go them! To write a deal of a novel alone in a month is an achievement that we must not dismiss.

I will just keep thinking to myself – maybe next year. Maybe.

NaNo No

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It won’t have escaped your notice that it’s November and the writing community, Twitter, blogs, Facebook even, are abuzz with tales of National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo).

Now, I am no stranger to NaNo; my favourite of my novels was born during NaNo in 2010 when I was 15, where I won NaNo, but then spent an additional three months trying to end the 50,000 words into 80,000.

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<It might partly have been to do with the fact that I handwrote the entire first draft, and so spent a deal of my time after November copying it onto Word.>

Later that year, I presented for my English Language GCSE on NaNo and my teacher and I were pleased with my resulting mark.

After that, my other forays into NaNo were in July, as I had entered a state of education where I could not afford to spend my November with a head of scenes and characters. In fact, there is indeed a version of NaNoWriMo called CampNaNo. It is essentially the same set up, though writers are encouraged to produce their own wordcount goals. Even so, I stuck to 50,000, as that was NaNo to me.

In 2013, I spent the two weeks I was volunteering in Uganda handwriting in a sandy notebook the sequel of the novel written for my first NaNo. But it felt disjointed, and, though again I completed NaNo’s wordcount goal, I was left with a lot more to type up of a novel that I didn’t love. The characters were bland and the plot felt samey, and, although this was a character’s side I needed to tell, I wasn’t invested in her as I had been my other heroine.

For those of you who know them: I still found Zara a whiny teenager as I had in Aidelle’s story. Although Aidelle was blunt, she at least had class. Literally.

The next time I did NaNo was the following year, yes the July again, with the absence of a notebook and a new plot on my mind. It was my first year as an undergraduate student, and I was free from exams, at least for where it mattered in July. I had already scrabbled at some ideas for short stories, but none were forming as I’d hoped, and coming to birth as knowing I was a Steampunk (and it was that aesthetic that the past two NaNo novels had tried to emulate), I was really beginning to grow a new idea in my head. One of true dirigibles and Vesuvian tribes and a linguist hunting for her beloved. Perhaps it sounds familiar…

I left her for at least a year, I did, and I kept leaving her. But I have been making slow progress through the third draft of H and editing updates continue (see the main photo above).

I haven’t done NaNo since then, though not for want of trying. As it is with my literary status (minor published, unagented, student), I’m not sure I want to spend my time on new ideas, particularly as writing a larger novel in general hasn’t been coming to me, when I ought to be editing, polishing, and submitting what I already have.

Well, I have written rather a lot – it’s funny to think how much I am still affected by those novels I have not worked on for a bit. I did mention they were dear to me. However, I have yet to talk about NaNo as it stands this year, the original topic of this blog, and it’s getting late. Look out for part two tomorrow, where I consider how I can utilise National Novel Writing Month this year.

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It’s been a while since I’ve worked on either of those favourite novels, but you can still read about the Time, Stopped trilogy over on my Novels page of this blog. 🙂