Monthly Archives: March 2017

Book Review: Night in the Waking City (an Elemental World short story)

Elizabeth Hunter re-released her novella A Very Proper Monster yesterday. It  had previously been paired with a Grace Draven short (which you should read…), but now it’s out in the world alone and with a brand new cover.

Cover of A Very Proper Monster

I reviewed A Very Proper Monster when it came out before, but this edition has a new short story in it that gives us a new glimpse of Josie and Tom.

The short was genuinely fantastic. I enjoyed Tom and Josie the first time around, and this look at them, with bonus Tenzin and Ben, was just the best.

The Blurb

Tom and Josie travel to New York City to meet with allies and publishers, but a chance encounter sends Josie into a rage, leaving Tom to look for unexpected allies in the city that never sleeps. Can a young human and an ancient vampire find his ailing mate before Josie does something she’ll regret?

The Review

This story was both laugh out loud funny (honestly-I was laughing loudly enough sitting alone at the bar last night that people gave me side-eye) and sweetly (but not too sweetly) poignant. Not many authors have the chops to pull off heart-string tugging and funny bone whacking in the same short story.

Josie is a delight-she’s eccentric, passionate, and not quite like other vampires. Honestly, she’s what I want to be when I grow up and have enough money to be eccentric instead of merely odd.

I also want the ability to find offensive authors and have a “chat” with them about the abuses they’ve perpetrated on the English language.

(And I want to hang out with Tenzin and discuss romance novels.)

The Quotes (I couldn’t pick just one…this story is so quotable!)

 “He does write in a genre,” [Josie] said. “It’s a genre called ‘predictable sexist shite.’ Trust me, he’s hardly the first writer to publish in it.”

New York City skyline at night with quote

Typical. She gives a man perfectly valid writing feedback, and he threatens her.

And the best for last (and not something I worry about over muchly…ha!)

“Just tell me. Are you going to kill me?”
“I don’t know. Are you going to keep abusing adverbs?”

The Verdict

If you haven’t already read A Very Proper Monster, you’re going to want to do that immediately – and especially now that you get this fantastic short story with it. Run, don’t walk, to Amazon and download your copy today.

Three Things Thursday: (Lack of) Self Care Edition

In my further attempts to keep it real. Very little fake-booking here!

  1. I have discovered an inverse correlation between my ability to take care of myself and my stress levels. This is unfortunate because I think that if self-care increased with stress levels, stress levels might be manageable. Instead, I stop exercising, stop eating, stop meditating, stop sleeping, and catastrophize everything. For some reason, this doesn’t help.
  2. This is bad enough with regular, every day stress, but when you have super-mega-ultra stress, it’s worse. I become paralyzed from stress and end up with aural migraines (which are currently occurring at an almost daily rate) and random nausea and results of nausea (at least 3x/week).
  3. Things I know: I should eat regularly, do the things I’m procrastinating (I swear I’ll do it, Cat!), stick to a schedule, write every day, make time to exercise, go to sleep by 11, get up early, and meditate daily. Things I have done today: had two and a half very large cups of coffee, applied for several jobs, not showered, gotten dressed, or eaten even though it is after noon (or filled out any forms that I know I should do). I’ve also spent a fair amount of time staring off into space, paralyzed with anxiety.

Once I’m in the cycle, it’s hard to break out of it…I tell myself that “once xx happens,” all will be well, but depending on a future hypothetical to make a tolerable present is so far not working.

 

Writerly Wednesday: when I’m not writing fiction…

I’ve spent the last few days balancing my personal projects (writing some new things, editing some existing things, and trying to figure out how to coerce strangers to buy my things) with applying for freelance jobs.

I did a freelance editing job for a screenplay pitch last month for a former colleague who is co-writing a screenplay in Sweden, and have done several academic editing/proofreading jobs. If you want to pay someone to edit your papers for content and formatting, I’m your person. I’m familiar with MLA, APA, AMA, and Chicago Manual of Style.

My rates are reasonable, my skills are first rate, and my turnaround time is (almost) whatever you need it to be.

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I’m hard at work on Raj’s novella and should have that wrapped up in a couple of weeks. Chapters for that will continue to go out in the monthly newsletter, so if you haven’t already, sign up now!

Oh, Raj…

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I have openings for book reviews over the next couple months, but they’re filling quickly. Hit me up if you want me to review your book!

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My current writing process is all over the place. Between prepping The Cardinal Gate for publication and then moving directly into cramming The Waning Moon’s editing into a very short period of time, I feel like I’ve been pretty consistently busy for the last two months. I’ve been doing a little less work this week than the last, but am ready to kick it up a notch or three again starting next week.

BAM! says tiny Emeril

What that means for me is that I hole up in the office (currently I’m writing on the couch, surrounded by cats) sans phone and turn off the wifi on my computer. I work in 25 minute bursts (with five-minute breaks). No email, no Facebook, no silly phone procrastination games except during breaks.

Clowns to the left of me

Jokers to the right…

 

This week, though? All about marketing, education, recharging, resting, and looking for money. (You’d think with all Portland’s rainbows, I’d be able to find at least one pot of gold.)

 

 

Book Review: Etched in Bone

I have been reading this series – The Others – since early 2015 (the first book was published in 2013 and I picked up the first three when #3 was released). This is the fifth in the series, and there will be at least one more (“Lake Silence” is scheduled for a 2018 release).

I have loved this series. I pre-ordered “Etched in Bone” as soon as it was available for pre-order. I scheduled this review. And then a few days ago, I got this text:

I’ll admit to feeling trepidatious when I started reading. As I have probably mentioned before (here and here, for starters), I have very little patience for sexual assault in my books. It’s disheartening to go back over books I’d rated highly and see how much non-consensual sexual content there is.

For a while, before Cat & I got too depressed, we were tracking the incidences of sexual assault (including mate rape, which just stop!) in romance novels. Urban fantasy and PNR (paranormal romance) have an exponentially higher rate of sexual assault than any other romance genre.

The above information will definitely color my review. Going forward, any book that has sexual assault that doesn’t drive the storyline (and I am extremely particular about what I will allow for “storyline driving”) will automatically get a 3-star rating. It’s no longer me deducting one sexual assault star from an otherwise 5-star book. This is crap and needs to stop.

The Blurb

After a human uprising was brutally put down by the Elders—a primitive and lethal form of the Others—the few cities left under human control are far-flung. And the people within them now know to fear the no-man’s-land beyond their borders—and the darkness…

As some communities struggle to rebuild, Lakeside Courtyard has emerged relatively unscathed, though Simon Wolfgard, its wolf shifter leader, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn must work with the human pack to maintain the fragile peace. But all their efforts are threatened when Lieutenant Montgomery’s shady brother arrives, looking for a free ride and easy pickings.

With the humans on guard against one of their own, tensions rise, drawing the attention of the Elders, who are curious about the effect such an insignificant predator can have on a pack. But Meg knows the dangers, for she has seen in the cards how it will all end—with her standing beside a grave.

The Cover

I love the covers for this series.

The Review

spoilers below…

I love the main characters in this story – the are well-crafted and well-developed and the way they grow and change with the series is fantastic. Meg Corbyn, the main character, has grown up so much over the series. She’s still skittish (as would you be, had you been a virtual slave pimped out so people could cut you up and get prophecies), but is developing into a strong young woman who is getting much better at asking for help and channeling her gift through her prophecy cards instead of through cuts in her skin.

Twyla Montgomery is my favorite human character and this book really showcased her strength. Having to watch her three adult children screw things up so badly (at least 2/3 of them) and to stand firm so that they have to stand on their own two feet (or not) had to have been painful (especially since there are grandchildren involved).

Simon and Tess are my favorite non-humans, and I kinda want to be Tess when I grow up. (Mostly for the hair, but a little bit for the “harvesting of human lives with her brain” thing she’s got going on.)

The bad guy – Cyrus James (Jimmy, or “that Cyrus”) – is bad. He is lazy, petty, manipulative, and cruel. The way he treats his younger sister (who was adopted, as we are reminded frequently by him) is abhorrent. He is physically, mentally, and verbally abusive to her, to his own wife, and to his children. There is no doubt what-so-ever that he is a bad, bad man. Also not in doubt? That his son Clarence is fixing to grow up just like daddy.

This is well-established by the way they treat people they perceive as weaker and less-powerful. Their lack of perception is showcased by who they perceive to be weaker and less-powerful (small doesn’t mean weak, especially when you’re dealing with Others).

At no point did I say to myself, “Hey, self! That Cyrus seems kinda bad, but I’m conflicted as to whether or not he deserves the kind of punishment that the Others mete out.”

Nor did I say, “I wonder if that shoplifting kid who is mean to his sister and who wears child-sized brass knuckles before beating up (or at least attempting to) smaller children is growing up just like daddy?”

The characters of both Cyrus and Clarence were carefully built and they both made me very uncomfortable with their slimy, greedy, stupid cruelty. (Anne Bishop’s character crafting is amazing. It’s a testament to her skills as a writer that she can cause me to have a visceral reaction to Cyrus with just a few strokes of her pen…errr…keyboard. Which is why what follows is even more upsetting and unnecessary.)

And then it was revealed that Clarence was offering his younger sister money to kiss his friend’s bums and had been offered money for young Frances to do more than that. As if the exposition that Clarence was considering “trying to pimp his younger sister” (direct quote from the book) wasn’t enough, later, in an effort to provide a distraction for his father, Clarence pulled down the pants of another little girl (Sarah), held her, and yelled out “Show ’em your bald pussy, bitch!”

Neither of the items mentioned in the previous paragraph were necessary. Clarence was already well on the road to Reprehensible Town, and making the child a sexual predator (which is never really addressed, other than Monty asking his sister-in-law – the mother of Clarence and Frances – if she knew Clarence was starting to pimp his sister and finding out that she was) is not only unnecessary, but lazy and gross. The fact that Sarah’s public assault is mentioned again only in passing (therapy was recommended, but Clarence wasn’t sent to sex-offender juvie, just “boys ranch in the woods” juvie) is even worse. If you’re going to make a child a sex offender, then it needs to be addressed because that is some serious shit and not just a kid going down a dark path.

To me, that was almost worse than the way That Cyrus behaved. It is well-established that he sees everyone, but particularly women, as objects to be used. He steals or coerces food from his sister and leaves barely enough for his children and wife. His mother’s purpose is to be manipulated by either him or his children so that she can also be a source of food and money (Twyla is not having it, though. I love me some Twyla). He helps some guy sneak into Lakeside for money without caring what exactly that man wants (answer: to either retrieve or render useless something that’s his and is beyond his reach). (Further answer: that “thing” is his ex-, a person, and I’m pretty sure we all know what’s meant by “…if I can’t take it with me, I’m going to make sure it’s of no use to anyone.”)

That Cyrus facilitates other crimes as well, and then uses his own son as a distraction when he (that Cyrus) actually does his own crime. (Such initiative!)

This crime (SPOILER) is the kidnapping, physical assault, and sexual assault of Meg. (Forced sexual contact is still assault, even if the penis doesn’t go in the vagina.)

I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with the correlation between the cutting visions and sexual arousal, because it equates pain and pleasure in a non-consensual way, ensures that sexual pleasure for the blood prophets is morally questionable, and takes sexual agency away from the cassandra sangues.

There was absolutely no reason for that Cyrus to sexually violate Meg. He was already bad. That was established. She was already in a world of hurt – kidnapped, locked in a trunk where she received various bumps, bruises, and accidental cuts, and then cut and forced to prophesy against her will by someone who was unskilled and didn’t know how to properly administer the cuts.

Sexual assault wasn’t necessary to establish either her dire straights or his reprehensible character.

The Verdict

This was a very good story marred by laziness. The story-line was well crafted, the characters well developed, the world is still fascinating, and the overall series moved forward with this character-heavy novel.

BUT.

Authors, if you can’t think of a better way for men to be awful and women to be hurt, please let me know. (A short list follows to get you started.)

The only thing worse than sexual assault to hurt a woman is sexual assault to hurt “her man.” And by worse, I mean awful and lazy on the author’s part.

I’m tired of wading through sexual assault in books. Urban fantasy and PNR are my favorite genres to read and to write, and it’s awful that they’re the rapiest genres.

AUTHORS OF THE WORLD – get it together. There is a 99.8% chance that the assault you wrote into your book was completely unnecessary.

READERS/REVIEWERS OF THE WORLD – pay attention to this and start calling authors on it.

Yes, rape and sexual assault are realities.

One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. That’s 17.7 million women.

IN addition, 3% of American men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime – that’s 2.78 million men. (https://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims).

That doesn’t mean you have to assault your characters every time you want to establish a bad guy or a hurt woman. THIS IS FANTASY! (And a woman killing her rapist doesn’t make it okay. She can also kill the man who was pulling out her toenails, tying her up and giving her cardboard cuts and pouring lemon juice on her, or making her listen to that “Friday” song on repeat which is how my ex- used to torture me every Friday morning.)

The End

Read the series. It’s magnificent (particularly book 3, which was fan-fucking-tastic). But don’t let rape and sexual assault slide by when you’re reading. Note it. Call it out. And stop writing it.

The Disclaimer

(I bought this book with my own money.)

 

Monday Miscellany

So much stuff stirring around in my brain right now. SO MUCH. That means bullet points for you!

  • Every time I start to exercise regularly–and I mean every fucking time–I get sick. I have head congestion and a runny nose, which makes it impossible to run because I like to breathe. Breathing while running is hard enough when I feel great. JFC, universe!! Do you want me to be fat and lazy? Because that would be easier for me, and if that’s what my destiny is, I can go ahead and give in.
  • I’m going to do some gentle, non-inversiony yoga today. The purpose is to remind my muscles that we do like to move a bit and keep the habit of carving time out of my day to exercise.
  • BUT SERIOUSLY! WTF‽‽‽ This is monumentally unfair.
  • Other important things: I desperately need a job. If you want to pay me money, let me know. I’ll do anything! (Although, I’d prefer to edit or write or proofread. I’ve done a little bit of those things freelance, and would enjoy doing more.) However, if you need someone to do the weird stuff, I can do that, too.

  • After finishing up the edits (and cutting 25,000 words) on The Waning Moon, I decided to reward myself with a little gaming. I’m not much of a gamer (anymore), but there are a few things I like. It’d been a while since I’d played on my PC (I don’t even use the PC for anything–it just sits around getting dusty and storing old photos of the Bean), and it was a PITA to get everything set up. BUT, finally Saturday evening post Bean bedtime, I was in and playing Dragon Age: Inquisition. I’ve killed some stuff, which is a nice break from writing all day where I also have been killing.

  • The Bean and I have been making bread every weekend he’s here. He’s becoming such a great helper (and I’m almost sincere about that now!) and really enjoys kitchen stuff.

 

  • He’ll be five in less than two weeks, and I’m not sure I’m ready. It’s fun watching him grow up and become his own person, but he’s almost too big for me to pick up (I need him to ‘jump’ when I pick him up), and carry, and hold–although we do our best. He’s been extra cuddly lately, and I’m taking advantage of that as much as possible. I know there will come a day when he doesn’t want me to hold him anymore.

  • This week’s focus is getting the crap stuff having to do with The Waning Moon done–synopsis and blurb. It took 130,000 words to tell the story originally–how am I expected to break that down to a couple pages, much less a couple paragraphs? Once I talk about coffee and tacos, I’m out of space!
  • The first newsletter went out last week with an exclusive peek at one of my favorite amusing bits from The Waning Moon, as well as the first chapter of Raj’s story. Sign up now to learn more about our favorite vampire!
  • If you’ve read The Cardinal Gate and are so inclined, I’d be delighted and grateful if you’d review on Amazon and/or Goodreads.
  • Of course, if you haven’t read The Cardinal Gate, I’d be even more delighted and grateful if you did! (It’s available on Amazon in paperback, ebook, and Kindle Unlimited.)

 

That’s about enough miscellany for today. Have a great week!