Twice Upon a Midsummer Night

[Epic announcer voice] In a world where I view reading time as one of my all-too-infrequent reprieves from a life lived in front of a screen [/End epic announcer voice], books on my Kindle app tend to languish unread indefinitely. So while I did at one point or another grab an e-copy of a certain retelling of Shakespeare’s classic “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with gears on it, I had yet to get around to reading it before I recently found myself on the editing team for the novel’s second edition.

(Yeah, I’m totes an assistant editor with Xchyler Publishing now, didn’t you know? :D)

“Oh, you helped edit the book?” says some guy lurking in the back. “Bah. Biased opinions.”

Not so, sir! …Madam? *peers past the blog stage lights* I can’t quite tell. No matter. I’m perfectly capable of disliking a piece of writing, whether I’m entitled to a piece of the profits or not. So be assured that my review to follow is as honest as I ever am in public.

“And just how honest is that?”

You’ll never know.

The Book: “A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk” (second edition!) by Scott E. Tarbet

Genre: Steampunk (surprise!)

Blurb: Pauline Spiegel, a master artificer like her mother before her, wants just one thing: to wed the love of her life, Alexander MacIntyre, a lowly undersecretary of the Royal Household. However, a long-term pact between her parents, and a noble House, stands between her and her happily ever after.

When a priceless mechanoid of unfathomable power is stolen, Pauline finds herself entangled in skullduggery and international intrigue, upon which the fate of nations rest.

Only with the help of her friends, and a brilliant scientist with a swarm of micromechanical insects, can Pauline survive the dark forces determined to destroy her. But will her betrothed and his rag-tag band of semi-mechanical soldiers reveal Alexander’s secrets as well?

Immerse yourself in this Steampunk retelling of Shakespeare’s classic, replete with the newfound wizardry of alternative Victorian technology, mistaken identities, love triangles, and deadly peril, set against the backdrop of a world bracing itself for war, and Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

 

My Thoughts: On the whole, I much enjoyed the story. The plot was rather politics-heavy, for my tastes, so I’d have preferred that a number of the characters’ sermons about international policy and the course of history and whatnot wrap up sooner than they did. Nonetheless, it was a breath-bating adventure. Even going in with the assumption that all would end well enough (the novel is based upon one of Shakespeare’s comedies, after all, not a tragedy), my heart thumped fretfully over the thought of the good guys coming to grievous harm. That “rag-tag band of semi-mechanical soldiers” amused me no end, silly fellows that they were. And I will admit to developing something of a crush on the antagonist’s formidable second-in-command, somewhere along the way. (#TeamShaka)

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Come for the clockwork, stay for the puckish shenanigans, say I!

And now, marvel at the book’s revamped cover.

AMNS Cover, Redesigned

The Strange Island of… (STEEL & BONE Blog Tour)

Mere days from its official release on Saturday, the blog tour for Xchyler Publishing’s “Steel & Bone: Nine Steampunk Adventures is already underway!

Steel and Bone, cover and blurb

Behind every story in this collection was the prompt/theme/inspiration, “The Strange Island of…” That, combined with a story I’d been carrying around inside me for years but just couldn’t figure out how to get down on paper, resulted in my first-ever steampunk fairytale, “A Mind Prone to Wander”.

We’ll get to go into more detail about my story on Friday, when one of the main cast sits down for a Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell character interview. (Stay tuned.) But for now, pull out your dapper fob watches, because it’s time for my 5-Second Impressions! …or however many clockwork ticks it takes to read five words – no more, no less – on the other eight stories in the anthology.

Steel and Bone, my review

The Clockwork Seer” by Katherine Cowley =

An inventive, senses-bending vignette.

Sindisiwe” by Scott E. Tarbet =

Cinderella retelling? I’m for that!

Stand and Deliver” by TC Phillips =

Loved the humor. Particularly Mathew’s.

Island Walker” by C. R. Simper =

Engaging characters, and ooh, shipwrecks!

Curio Cay” by Sarah E. Seeley =

Dinosaurs least monstrous island inhabitants!

The Mysterious Island of Chester Morrison” by Kin Law =

Lol, MC is AU me.

Revolutionary” by John M. Olson =

Shady stuff, Captain! Run now!

The Steel Inside” by Gail B. Williams =

Secrets. Suspense. A top story.

How ‘bout that lineup, guys? ^o^
How ‘bout that lineup, guys? ^o^

Steel and Bone, available on Amazon

If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to get in your pre-order of the “Steel & Bone” Kindle e-book today, and/or spring for the paperback on Saturday (Book Bomb day!), that these stories may be yours to read and treasure. And that could be the least of the goodies you get if you enter the tour-wide “Steel & Bone” Rafflecopter giveaway!

Steel and Bone, prizes

We’re talking free e-books (including my soon-to-launch addition to the Wilderhark Tales, “The Sky-Child and Other Stories”!), t-shirts, keychains… swag for days, people. For days. So come one, come all, come win stuff. I hope to see you around on the tour, at the Book Bomb, and/or below in the comments.

Which strange steampunk island of steel and bone are you most excited to explore?

Go West, Steampunks!

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Xchyler Publishing’s first collection of Steampunked classics mined inspiration from the literary treasures of Europe. Now another lineup of authorial talent is back for book two, this time looking across the Atlantic to find their muse.

Mechanized Masterpieces 2: An American Anthology” launches this weekend, and its blog tour is in full swing. Welcome to my stop, featuring both my review of the anthology and a fun Q&A with one of its authors, M. Irish Gardner!

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Meet an MMAA Author!

M. Irish Gardner

A day-dreamer at heart, M. Irish Gardner has dabbled in imaginary worlds from Day One and developed an incurable addiction when she finally began recording her ideas. Her bachelor’s degree in recreation management does nothing for her writing, but she sure knows how to play. She lives in Arizona with her husband, two daughters, and all the characters in her head. Gardner’s first published work, “Reformation,” appeared in A Dash of Madness: A Thriller Anthology.

Facebook | Amazon | Goodreads

Share how you came up with the concept for your story? 

This is actually the first time I’ve started a story without a full concept in mind. I found Emily Dickinson’s poem, “A Charm Invests a Face”, and decided to create a story around that. Cyborgs are popular in steampunk. And everyone loves a good gypsy character, so I rolled with it.

Any other published works? 

My only other work is “Reformation” in A Dash of Madness, released June 2013.

What is your preferred writing genre?

I have found that every story I write must have some element of romance in it!

And preferred reading genre?

I love stories that incorporate romance, adventure, suspense, and fantasy, all in one neat little (or big) bundle!

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What are your top 3 favorite books?

The Count of Monte Cristo, Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter series

Do you have any particular writing habits?

I like to use alliteration, if that’s what you mean. I also tend to mix up idioms…

Do you have a playlist that you created while writing your story?

Nope. I’ve learned that my words sound much better than they actually are when music is playing. I have to work in silence so I really “hear” the words.

Panster or plotter?

Short stories – pantser. Full-novels – plotter.

Advice for writers?

Read, then practice. Read, then practice. And don’t give up.

What’s up next for you?

I have a non-fiction piece I’m just wrapping up. It’s about a woman who became very ill while pregnant with her second child and spent three months in the hospital. When she left, she was a triple amputee and blind. She’s been wanting to write her story for six long years, so I was really happy that she asked me to help her. I’m hoping her book will be released in 2015, but we still haven’t finalized a publisher.

Who would you cast for your main characters and why?

Romain Duris

I actually don’t have a solid image in my head for my heroine, but my hero is totally Romain Duris. I was searching online for “French actors” to get an idea of what my character would look like, and as soon as I saw him, I said, “YEP! That’s him!” 😀 I’ve attached the picture I used for inspiration while writing. I think it would inspire anyone…

Author Favorite Things:

– Quote = “Falling flat on your face is still moving forward.”

– TV show = Oh, too hard to choose! I love The Musketeers, Firefly, Vikings, Alaska: The Last Frontier, Chuck, Dexter, Lost, Sherlock, Downton Abbey, New Girl, and many more. Maybe I should watch less and write more!

– Comic book character = I’ve always had a thing for Batman.

– Movie = The Last of the Mohicans

– Candy bar = Three Musketeers

– Junk food = I’m a total sucker for Starbucks hot chocolate and their slow roasted ham and Swiss!

– Place you visited = I was blown away by the Washington coast last summer, but I think Havasu Falls, AZ still beats them all!

– Restaurant = I love good comfort food, so I have many Italian, Mexican, and American favorite places to eat. I had fantastic Indian food last spring in California, though!

– Island = No man is a…?

Thanks, Ms. Gardner! And now, onto…

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I had the pleasure of reading this book well in advance of its publication – and a genuine pleasure it was. The assembled authors rose to the creative challenge of turning classic works of American prose and poetry into steam-powered stories to stand on their own.

Of course, sometimes the nostalgia of a familiar premise worked in a tale’s favor; my enthusiasm for the recent TV adaptation of the Sleepy Hollow legend and fond feelings for the cozy cast of Louisa May Alcott’s best-known work further enhanced my enjoyment of Jay Barnson’s “The Van Tassel Legacy” and Neve Talbot’s “West End”, respectively. The fact that I’m a sucker for a charming con game made D. Lee Jortner’s “Payoff for Air-Pirate Pete” and M. K. Wiseman’s “The Silver Scam” a pair of easy wins for me. And if you like your adventure accompanied by automatons with personality, “A Princess of Jasoom” by J. Aurel Guay is the perfect anthology opener.

Whether you’re a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or Emily Dickenson, the sea beasts of Herman Melville and Jules Vernes or the sled dogs of Jack London, or just a reader who likes a good book with a bit of clockwork flavor, this second volume of Mechanized Masterpieces has the makings of a classic in its own right.

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Preorder now, join the Release Party on Facebook this Saturday, and don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Tour Schedule:

February 22 – A Princess of Jasoom by J. Aurel Guay

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February 23 – Winged Hope by Megan Oliphant

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February 23 – The Van Tassel Legacy by Jay Barnson

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http://coffeehobby.blogspot.com/

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February 24 – Invested Charm by M. Irish Gardner

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February 25 – Payoff for Air Pirate Pete by D. Lee Jortner

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http://coffeehobby.blogspot.com/

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February 26 – Rise of the House of Usher by J.R. Potter

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February 26 – The Silver Scams by M. K. Wiseman

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February 27 – Nautilus Redux by Scott E. Tarbet

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February 27 – Mr. Thornton by Scott William Taylor

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http://thebookbeacon.com

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February 28 – West End by Neve Talbot

http://ellelainey.wordpress.com

http://fictionalrendezvousbookblog.blogspot.com/

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A Review Miraculously Free of Bell Puns

Be proud of me. I thought of two such puns without hardly trying. But seriously, folks…

The Book: “The Toll of Another Bell”, edited by McKenna Gardner.

Genre: Fantasy short story anthology.

Blurb: A collection of out-of-this-world short stories that ring true in mortal hearts.

The Toll of Another Bell

“Breath” by Jodi L. Milner: The Guardian of Souls realizes her life is incomplete and sacrifices everything to find what’s missing.

“Awareness” by Timothy Vincent: To achieve the status of Magi, Jyn must pass his father’s ultimate test.

“Phoenix” by Elise Stephens: Orion loses his wife on their wedding day and uses dark magic to seek her in the afterlife.

“Life Under Research Conditions” by Thaxson Patterson II: Can a bioweapon possess a soul and make choices to save humanity?

“The Year of No Foals” by Scott E. Tarbet: A miraculous colt and a mysterious old man bring healing to a family ripped apart by tragedy.

“Naoki No Yokai” by F.M. Longo: Yokai have overrun a local village, and it’s up to Saga Naoki to discover the reason why.

“Jilted River” by Ginger Mann: An Appalachian fairy tale attracts visitors to a state park, but then they start to disappear.

“Tower Gods” by J.R. Potter: A thirteen-year-old boy with an oxygen mask befits the role of hero in Watcher Benson’s eyes.

“Reality As We Know It” by Danielle E. Shipley: Where otherworldly magic fails, is Row’s friendship enough to mend Singer’s grieving heart?

“60 Seconds to Midnight” by TC Phillips: Fleeing an ancient evil, a young woman from amongst the stars finds unlikely refuge on Earth.

My Thoughts: As one would hope of a fantasy-themed collection, “Toll” displays a vast diversity of imagination. But more than only stories to tickle your flights of fancy, these are, on the whole, stories to make you feel. Stories where the pain of what’s lost is but one turn away from the finding of something more.

Some highlights for me as a reader included Jodi L. Milner’s elemental myth “Breath”; the humor winking from F.M. Longo’s tale of spies and samurai, “Naoki no Yokai”; and “Phoenix”, Elise Stephens’ modern retelling of the Orpheus/Eurydice tragedy, the prose holding my heart like a melancholy song. There’s more powerful music to be discovered when a family goes up against a siren in Ginger Mann’s “Jilted River”, and a meticulous balance of fatal magic awaits in Timothy Vincent’s “Awareness”. Readers whose tastes lean in a more Sci-Fi direction may find particular enjoyment in Thaxson Patterson II’s out-of-this-world creations in “Life Under Research Conditions”, or young Kip’s larger-than-life summer adventure in J.R. Potter’s “Tower Gods”.

If I had to choose a favorite story from the collection (excluding the title attached to my own name, of course), I think that honor would go to “The Year of No Foals” by Scott E. Tarbet, a homey, futuristic yarn that reads like it could have happened yesterday or a generation ago. The blend of ordinary and extraordinary is magic and left me smiling. And I strongly advise that all comers stick around for the book’s world-hopping, mind-bending, heart-pounding adventure of a finale, “60 Seconds to Midnight” … though maybe not right before bedtime, lest TC Phillips’ horrific Daimons hunt you down in your dreams.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Xchyler Publishing delivers another worthy anthology in “The Toll of Another Bell”. Yeah, you should read it! Preorder the Kindle e-book now, and it will deliver to you just as soon as it launches. January 31st, y’all! – same day as the online Release Party. Be there and play for free stuff! Anyone who had a chance to make it out for the Xchyler release party for “Legends and Lore: An Anthology of Mythic Proportions”* knows it’ll be a good time. (:

*Speaking of “Legends and Lore”: Read it? Loved it (or didn’t)? Don’t let Amazon’s customers miss out on your thoughts – share them in a review! All its authors will thank you. ^_^

“Shades and Shadows” plus Journal Giveaway Winners!

Posting two pieces of business, today: A new book review (meaning a new review of a book that is also new), and the giveaway prize announcement we’ve all be waiting for (“we all” being… me plus some other people, I can only hope)! Jumping right into the action…

The Book: “Shades and Shadows: A Paranormal Anthology” edited by Terri Wagner and Jessica Shen, through Xchyler Publishing.

Genre: Paranormal Anthology.

Blurb: (Goodreads description)

In the dead of night, you sense something . . . other . . . beyond your sight, out there in the darkness. You feel a breath upon your neck, cold and clammy, fecund with mold and decay. Your hair stands on end from no random chill. The air is still. No one is there.

Travel with nine talented writers into their paranormal world, but don’t disregard that inkling that niggles somewhere in the pit of your stomach to leave the light on, to shun that dark room, and to pull the covers over your head.

Whatever you do, don’t look under the bed.

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(Amazon summary)

The Music Man (Eric White): Peter Hold must face his personal bogeyman and right a terrible wrong . . . and find the key to laying his childhood demon to rest.

China Doll (Ginger C. Mann): Kris discovers deep secrets about her family as she pays the price to repair her beloved china doll.

Split Ends (Scott William Taylor): Frank and Bets open up a whole new realm of possibility when they test the boundaries of their platonic friendship.

Child of the Underworld (Marian Rosarum): Lara escapes her mother’s bleak realm but must decide which she more craves: food for her belly or love for her soul.

Cost of Custody (R.M. Ridley): Jonathan Alvey helps estranged parents create magic to rescue their daughter from a terrible fate.

Tombstone (Scott E. Tarbet): A stubborn old farmer defies the oilmen, his family, and the odds to save his homestead from the ravages of progress.

Ghost Townies (E. Branden Hart): The ghost apocalypse send Dean and Jimbo on the run, armed with only their flashlights, their wits, and dumb luck.

Crossroads (Neve Talbot): Rob Daniels must choose the direction of his life. Can his dead brother keep him on the straight and narrow?

The Death of Dr. Marcus Wells (J. Aurel Guay): Tormented by his tragic past, this young medical resident finds the inner strength to save London from a rash of gruesome murders.

My Thoughts: I received an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review. (A fair trade, said I.) A reader who tends to favor novel-length works over short stories, I always wonder when cracking open a new anthology whether I’ll find anything among the collection that appeals to me, and how the book’s hits and misses will stack up against one another by the end. In the case of “Shades and Shadows”, my overall impression is: The hits win.

Pretty much all of the stories managed to elicit the ol’ “feels” in one part of me or another. While, as expected, some pieces didn’t grab me as others did, especial favorites included Scott E. Tarbet’s “Tombstone” (loved the old farmer’s narrative voice), R.M. Ridley’s “Cost of Custody” (a P.I. adventure that had my adrenaline going), and Neve Talbot’s “Crossroads” (which I started out thinking I’d dislike, due to the protagonist’s attitude about his family, but ended up absolutely sucked in).

Tossing in a couple more shout-outs, “Ghost Townies” was good for its intended chuckle, and just when I was thinking “The Music Man” wasn’t going to do it for me, the story cruised on past my expectations and went to a place that had me going, “Now we’re talkin’!” Meanwhile, “The Death of Dr. Marcus Wells” read like it could have been the pilot for a cool, uncanny drama on TV.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): All told, I’d say it’s worth the read, particularly if you’re craving a ghost story to be enjoyed in a few quick bites.

The anthology’s launch party is coming to Facebook on Thursday – aka, through no coincidence, Halloween. I intend to join in the celebration, congratulate the authors on their projects’ release, maybe try my luck at winning a prize or two… We’d all love to see you over there, so drop by if you get the chance!

And speaking of prizes, it’s time to announce the winners of my “Inspired” Journal Giveaway!” Listed in the order of which of the seven journals they won (1 gets Journal #One, 2 gets Journal #2, etc.), the winners are:

1 = Marissa Halvorson!

2 = Kim Matura!

3 = Laure Estep!

4 = Miranda McNeff!

5 = Aisazia!

6 = Kimberly Kay!

7 = Tyler-Rose Counts!

Huzzah to all of you! I’ll be in touch to make sure I get your shipping information so you can each receive your journal and signed “Inspired” bookmark. Thanks for playing along, and try not to explode with impatience – only a few more months ‘til the novel’s release!