Whazzup, Writing-Wise

We interrupt my periodic reflections on walking around Germany to bring you – *drumroll* – actual authorial updates!

1) Anthologically Speaking

Guess who’s got another short story slated to appear in an anthology? *points to self* This gal! Coming to you from my word-bro Alexander Nader and his Hair Brained Press, it’s “Manifest Reality”, a horror antho of stories focusing on the twisted sh*t in our heads™.

(To my knowledge, that is not actually the book’s trademark, just how Alex once described it on Twitter.)

Word is the collection should drop around Valentine’s Day – because nothing says “crazy-commercialized day of lovers” like a psychotic tale or thirteen, amirite? Further details to come as time marches on. Stay tuned. (And if you’d like to nab an early copy for review, poke me or Alex. We probably won’t tell you “no” and run you out of town. No promises, though.)

2) Novel News

A large part of #NaNoWriMo2015 was a throwback to my first-ever NaNo, back in 2010. I spent the first half of this past November (yes, even while on a river cruise across Europe – insanity or bust) going through the last big edits on my next big publication. Ladies, gentlemen, and miscellaneous so-and-sos, I am thrilled to announce that my Outlaws of Avalon trilogy will make its debut this summer – beginning, of course, with Book One, “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”!

*Not the actual cover*
*Not the actual cover*

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

This is it, you guys! Of all the series I’ve ever written (heck, maybe even among all the series I’ve ever read), this one is dearest to my heart. And now the manuscript is all but complete, the cover art is underway, and the finished product is scheduled to launch this July.

Ballad ARC Request

If YOU are a reader who’s game to give a contemporary Robin Hood fantasy a whirl, I wanna hear about it! Click the pic above to go fill out the request form I figured out how to whip up (*victory dance*), and I’ll send an eARC your way.

“Rejoice, my fangirls-‘n’-boys!” Will Scarlet says, grinning ear to ear. “The wait for my official story draws to a close! Slowly. Excruciatingly so. Rejoice and die of impatience, basically.”

3) [Ever] On the Blog

I haven’t committed to blogging on a regular schedule since I fled to Europe. And you know what? I’m enjoying the freedom more than I thought I would. (Fun Deshipley fact: I don’t tend to enjoy things that lack structure. I’m a darling stick in the mud, like that.)

So for the indefinite future, I’mma keep doing as I’ve been for the last few months: Posting if and when I’ve got something I want to share. And we’ll see how that goes.

4) On Another Book-Related Note

Heeeeeey, people in and around Lake County, IL: One of my favorite childhood hangouts – Cook Memorial Public Library – is hosting a Local Author Open House. And I’m flying all the way back to the States to be there! (And, y’know, to reunite with my family for a bit.)

zLocalAuthorsOpenHouse

This will be my first time as a part of an event like this. I am excited and nervous and pessimistic and hopeful and ready to ROCK. IT. OUT. If you can make it, I’d love to see you there. If I feel like it afterwards, I’ll tell the Internet how it was. (See point 3. 😉 )

Aaaaaand that’s all she wrote for now. Anyone else got any good news to share? The comment section awaits you.

In Which Reader Me Sighs in Double Disappointment

You ever hear about a book and think, “Ooh, boy! Want, want, want! I’ll totally love it!” and then buy/read it and…well, it just didn’t do it for you? Yeah. I’ve been there. Twice lately.

Damselfly

Book the First: “Damselfly” by Jennie Bates Bozic.

Genre: YA Dystopian

Blurb: In 2065, the Lilliput Project created Lina – the first six-inch-tall winged girl – as the solution to a worldwide energy and food crisis. Isolated in a compound amidst the forests of Denmark, Lina has grown up aware of only one purpose: learn how to survive in a world filled with hawks, bumblebees, and loneliness. However, on the eve of her sixteenth birthday, she discovers that she’s not the only teenager her size. Six ‘Toms’ were created shortly after Lina, and now her creators need to prove to the world that tiny people are the next logical step in human evolution. In other words, they need to prove that reproduction is possible.

Um. No thanks. Lina’s already fallen in love with a boy she met online named Jack. Only he has no idea that thumbelina1847 could literally fit inside his heart.

When her creators threaten to hurt Jack unless she chooses a husband from among the ‘Toms’, Lina agrees to star in a reality TV series. Once the episodes begin to air, the secret of her size is out. Cut off from any contact with the outside world, Lina assumes Jack is no longer interested. After all, what guy would want to date a girl he can’t even kiss?

Slowly, very slowly, she befriends the six young men who see her as their only ticket to happiness. Perhaps she can make just one guy’s dream of love and companionship come true. But her creators have a few more twists in store for her that she never thought possible.

She’s not the only one playing to the cameras.

My Thoughts: With the premise of a tiny winged girl and a romantic reality show, I went in expecting something a little more like a lighthearted fairytale. Instead, the novel was more a tangled web of cover-ups, manipulation, and both the main character’s and my inability to be sure of what was going on and who to trust. Outside my preferences as it was, I can’t judge whether it was poorly done, but it certainly wasn’t pulled off in such a way that could overcome my inclination toward anxiety and disengagement when presented with that kind of plot.

What frustrated me most about the situation, I think, is that it felt like very little of what Lina did mattered; whether she cooperated or rebelled, powers outside of her held too much control for her decisions to make much of an impact. And while, for these reasons, I did sympathize with Lina, her voice didn’t particularly grab me and induce me to feel any special affection for her as a character.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): All told, it wasn’t the reading experience I’d hoped for. I expect, though, that it is largely a matter of personal taste, and other readers may enjoy it more.

Camelot Burning

Book the Second: “Camelot Burning (Metal & Lace #1)” by Kathryn Rose.

Genre: YA Steampunk Fantasy

Blurb: By day, Vivienne is Guinevere’s lady-in-waiting. By night, she’s Merlin’s secret apprentice, indulging in the new mechanical arts and science of alchemy. It’s a preferred distraction from Camelot’s gossipy nobility, roguish knights, and Lancelot’s athletic new squire, Marcus, who will follow in all knights’ footsteps by taking a rather inconvenient vow of chastity.

More than anything, Vivienne longs to escape Camelot for a future that wouldn’t include needlework or marriage to a boorish lord or dandy. But when King Arthur’s sorceress sister, Morgan le Fay, threatens Camelot, Vivienne must stay to help Merlin build a steam-powered weapon to defeat the dark magic machine Morgan will set upon the castle. Because if Camelot falls, Morgan would be that much closer to finding the elusive Holy Grail. Time is running out and Morgan draws near, and if Vivienne doesn’t have Merlin’s weapon ready soon, lives would pay the price, including that of Marcus, the only one fast enough to activate it on the battlefield.

My Thoughts: I really wanted to like this one, guys, but we just didn’t click.

As if often the case in the steampunk genre, the story relied heavily on creative visuals – goggles and corsets and gizmos like animatronic creatures and gun-sword hybrids. For those whose minds can easily envision such things, I expect it would have been a richer experience (despite the fact that, apart from the shiny trimmings and trappings, very little about this Camelot got described at all). Alas for me, visualization, particularly of unfamiliar concepts, is not my strong suit, leaving me to go through the story half-blind. And without the aesthetic to charm me, that story unfortunately fell flat.

I didn’t connect with the characters and their voices; didn’t feel I really got to know them as I’d like. Perhaps with my allergy to anything veering toward the technological, the mechanically-minded Vivienne was ill-suited to narrate the tale in the way that would best speak to me; I had a hard time following her stream of thought, and was generally confused to the point of boredom. I wonder if the story wouldn’t have been better told in 3rd person rather than 1st.

(Skimming the reviews on Goodreads marked with 2 or 3 stars – many of which, I note, also begin with various versions of “I really wanted to like this one, guys” – will further elaborate on a lot of problems I had with the storytelling. I am somewhat comforted to know it wasn’t all just me.)

All told, then, while I can’t help but be intrigued by the idea of a steampunk Arthurian tale, “Camelot Burning” and I weren’t a good match.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): I’d like nothing better than for someone else to read this and love it the way I’d hoped I would. If you think that someone could be you, give it a go.

Have any of you read either of these books and felt differently? Or perhaps you’ve had an experience similar to mine with another book lately? The comment section is open; do share.

And tell you what, friends: If you haven’t yet read these books but think you’d like to give them a try for free, tell me which one you want, and I’ll select one or two of you (depending on what kind of response I get) to win the copies I don’t feel the need to hang onto. You’ve got ‘til Saturday, September 6th. Battle it out!