Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Books of Note: January Reads

Well! My first reviews of the year, and this month has been an awesome reading month for me. These are only a few of the good books I read and I even managed to set a personal record in reading fourteen books this month! That was just what I wanted to do too =) So without further ado, some of my favorite reads of the year so far:


A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he's . . . Dodger.

Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London's sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He's not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl--not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England.

From Dodger's encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.

Beloved and bestselling author Sir Terry Pratchett combines high comedy with deep wisdom in this tale of an unexpected coming-of-age and one remarkable boy's rise in a complex and fascinating world

Review

Thoughts on the Overall Book: This is actually the first of Terry Pratchett's books that I have read, but now I'm definitely interesting in reading more and I understand why he is such a popular author. "Dodger" was an awesome book, but truthfully, you can write any book about Victorian London that focuses on the streets and I'll read it. This one though definitely delivered, and the story, characters and everything else just came together in an awesome story.

Cover--Yea or Nay: Eh, it's okay, but truthfully doesn't have all that much to do with the story and the boy on it is way too young to be Dodger who was 17 in the story. You can tell it's a Victorian story though.

Characters: Okay, Dodger was awesome. I loved how he was your typical street urchin with loose morals mainly because of want of survival, but at the same time was a kind hearted boy and really cared for people and did his best to help those in need, even if he wouldn't admit it. He's just the kind of character I like to read about. I also liked Simplicity. She was very sweet, yet at the same time was not naive or silly and she did what she had to do when she had to do it and I liked her and Dodger's relationship. The whole cast was amazing truthfully and so well written that even the characters you saw only a few times you ended up liking. I liked Solomon, the old Jew who Dodger stayed with and was pretty much like an uncle to him, and I also really liked how several well known historical figures showed up and played a part in the story. Among them was Charles Dickens! I don't know a whole lot about Dickens in real life, but I loved the way the author portrayed him in this book and I can totally see him being like that too. Dodger also had a run in with the infamous Sweeney Todd which I thought was cool as well.

Writing Style: This is where this book really won me over. I was not into the first page before I fell in love with Terry Pratchett's writing style. He has a very classic style that is very identifiably English. It reminded me a little of Brian Jacques whose style I had always loved, except with more subtle, dry British humor which is always welcome in my book (pardon the pun). He is definitely a very accomplished and seasoned author, and the feel of the book was very Victorian London. Very authentic feel right down to the mannerisms, the accents and the street slang.

Problems/What bothered me: I really don't think I have anything to complain about with this one.

Conclusion: 5 stars definitely. I really enjoyed this book, and I think it could have a sequel. I don't know if one is planned or not, but the way the story left off, I can see there being more of Dodger's adventures.

Recommended Audience: Any fans of Dickens or those who like Victorian stories would enjoy this. Also people who liked Stefan Pertrucha's "Ripper" would probably like this as well. 15 and up, boy or girl read.




Jack is making his way back to civilization after barely surviving his adventure in the Yukon. That episode tested his body, his mind, and even his grip on his humanity--but it was nothing compared to what he is about to face. Illustrations.
Review

Thoughts on the Overall Book: Like with the first one, this was a very interesting, different story. I actually think I liked this one better over all. It wasn't quite as odd as the first one but it was not in any way less well written. And hurray for 'real' werewolves! You don't know how happy I am to see a book with real werewolves in it that's not some blasted YA paranormal romance! Add a sea adventure with that, and you have a very unique and awesome story.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I love the cover and the illustrations in the book, the cover looks like an old fashioned adventure novel. The book is beautiful without it's dust jacket too, though unfortunately I read a library copy. Greg Ruth did an awesome job with the pictures.

Characters: I continue to really like Jack as a protagonist. (I really want to read some of the real Jack London's books!) He's a good action hero and really does remind me of the kind of heroes you see in old fashioned adventure novels. I also liked Sabine; she's the kind of female character I like to read about, quiet, yet capable, and frankly, I couldn't even picture her with the possibility of having an attitude. There werewolves were appropriately frightening, and volatile. Ghost was a very good villain. He was brutal, and you knew he would hurt you if you did something wrong, but at the same time, he wasn't a mindless killer and he was conniving. I'm not a fan of villains who are just out for blood and have no minds. I found him a very interesting character. I also came to really like Louis, even if I wasn't quite always sure about him.

Writing Style: As with the first book this was a major selling point for me. If not written right, this kind of book just wouldn't be very good, but the style these authors use is amazing, and vivid and really lovely. The action is written well, but not in the movieish way action-adventure novels usually are. This book didn't have as much inner thinking from Jack as the first one since he had more people to talk to, but it still had all the same description and visionary that I loved from the first one.

Problems/What bothered me: The only thing I can really complain about with this one was using Death as a name. I don't know why, but it just always seems kind of comical to me, so that's personal preference. Ghost was fine, but his brother using Death as he pirate name? Presumptuous much.

Conclusion: 4 stars, I really liked it, and I hope that the authors continue this series. I really can't begin to think what will come next as these books always leave me guessing, but I'm willing to go along for the ride.

Recommended Audience: Older teens due to violent content. There's no lack of blood and gore, and I like it that way, it makes for a more realistic and frightening story, especially with werewolves. A guy read--this is definitely not a werewolf book for Twilight fans.




A tale of twelve princesses doomed to dance until dawn…

Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above.

Captivating from start to finish, Jessica Day George’s take on the Grimms’ tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses demonstrates yet again her mastery at spinning something entirely fresh out of a story you thought you knew

Review

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I have always been a fan of fairy tale re-tellings, and some I have read have been good and others not so much, but this one was fantastic! I'm not quite as familiar with the Twelve Dancing Princesses as some of the others, but I dearly loved this version of the story, mainly for the characters, and that was the huge deal maker with me and this book, but besides that, the story and writing were very good as well.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I'm a little divided. I almost think it looks more like a 1700s historical fiction book than a fairy tale but I don't mind it either, though I don't think the girls looks exactly how I pictured Rose.

Characters: As I said earlier, it was the characters that made me fall in love with this book. Galen, hands down, was my favorite, and I simply ADORED him. He represented my idea of a perfect hero for this genre of book. He was a gentleman, he was sweet, but he also got the job done, and he was neither too good at what he did to seem god-like nor was he too incompetent. He also knits which I think even made him more endearing. I personally believe that a man who knits is one you can trust. He was just perfect. Rose was the kind of heroine I like to read about too. Strong but without an attitude, capable of taking care of herself and her sister yet not unwilling to let Galen help her. Actually, she needed someone to help her, and it was a testament to her character that that didn't bother her. Her sisters, likewise were lovely characters, I especially liked Poppy and little Pansy and Petunia who were adorable. I liked how Rose cared for them, and then later Galen pretty much adopted them all as his sisters as well. I also found I liked King Gregor. He wasn't a major character, but he was one you could sympathize with. And Walter was a cool kind of 'threshold guardian" for Galen. I liked how he was kind of a mysterious character.

Now for the baddies: The King Under Stone was pretty chilling, and though not horribly frightening, he was frightening enough to feel the need for the girls to be rid of his spell and also to know that he was capable of all he threatened. Angier was also a good villain. He actually reminded me of Cardinal Richelieu. Your typical corrupt Catholic power of the time period. He was a fun character to hate.

Writing Style: Jessica Day George has a lovely simple, yet visual writing style. She puts you there with the characters so that you feel what they are feeling, and she describes things very well which is always important in fantasy books. I could clearly picture Under Stone's realm. I also liked how this book was set in a world that mirrored ours, which gave it a fantasy flair, but yet kept it a bit real as well. Westfalin is Germany obviously, as you will be able to tell from names and other things, and I love that. It's also set in a time period that I would guess to be around the turn of the 19th century.

Problems/What bothered me: I can truthfully say that I had no problems with this book.

Conclusion: 5 stars. I loved it, it was a very nice story and I think just what I needed and felt like reading at the time. Definitely a new favorite.

Recommended Audience: Girl read, any age--some parts might be a little frightening, but they are no worse than a lot of Disney movies. 



Crispin Guest, returning home after a late night, sees a body hurtling from the uppermost reaches of the London Bridge.  Guest's attempted rescue fails, however, and the man—an armourer with a shop on the bridge—is dead.  While whispers in the street claim that it was a suicide, Guest—known in certain London circles as The Tracker for his skill in solving puzzles—is unconvinced.  What Guest uncovers is that the armourer had promised Sir Thomas Saunfayl, a friend from Guest's former life, that he would provide him something that would make him unbeatable in battle, something for which he'd paid a small fortune. Sir Thomas believes that the item was in fact the Spear of Longinus - the spear that pierced the side of Christ on the cross—which is believed to make those who possess it invincible.   Complicating matters is another old friend, Geoffrey Chaucer, who suddenly comes to London and is anxious to help Guest find the missing spear, about which he seems to know a bit too much.  With various forces anxious to find the spear, the life of Sir Thomas in danger and perhaps the very safety of England hangs in the balance, Guest and his apprentice Jack Tucker must navigate some very perilous waters if they are to survive.

Review

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I think this is one of those series that gets better as it goes along, or at least in my opinion. Now I'm trying to decide whether I like this one or "Troubled Bones" better. They were both very good. I did really like the mix up mystery in this one where everyone was doing something else and all had another agenda and I was really kept guessing right to the end when you find out what really happened isn't what it looked like at all. That's the kind of mystery stories I like best, not the ones you can guess half way thorough.

Cover--Yea or Nay: As usual, I like the cover, but this one I particularly like the warm colors to it and London Bridge in the background.

Characters: You got to see a couple new characters in this one, and I again was happy to see Geoffrey Chaucer for a second time. I also felt really sorry for Sir Thomas and thought it was interesting to address what PTSD might have been like back in the medieval days (which I did too in one of my books!) and I thought it perfectly plausible for them to imagine they had been cursed or something because there was nothing to explain how a man could be gallant and charging in front one day and a complete wreck the next. My favorite new additions though were the two new sheriffs, Staundon and More. They were the two most useless human beings ever, I think and were sooo annoying, but at the same time hilarious, though I had to feel sorry for Crispin for having to deal with them. All I can say is he is a far more patient person than I. Those two were just like young school boys out for a lark all the time, I;d love to see what they did if Crispin didn't help them.

Writing Style: Same as usual, quick, snappy, and with the typical well-done research on the period.

Problems/What bothered me: Besides the few moments I wanted to smack Crispin for not listening to Jack like he never does and always gets in trouble for, I didn't have any major complaints.

Conclusion: 4 stars really enjoyed it. The whole last part totally surprised me, but I would love to congratulate Jeri Westerson on her fight scene because it was very well done!

Recommended Audience: Mystery/historical mystery fans would enjoy. Older readers due to a little bit of content but nothing unreadable. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tour Stop and Interview with Author Makayla Yokley



Today we have a tour stop and interview from author Makayla Yokley, who's talking about her new steampunk fantasy novel, The Ruby Curse









Heroes come in all shapes and sizes... though they're not usually escaped convicts. Seventeen-year-old Violet Seymour is the only person to ever escape the highest maximum security prison in the steam-and-clockwork powered nation of Arcova. She is also a link in an ancient bloodline of heroes. When mages start going missing, Violet is the only person who can find them.








So, first off, when did you know you were a writer?

I don’t think I ever really “became” a writer. Writing has been something I did automatically, like breathing, since before I can even remember. Even back in elementary school I was the kid who was coming up with all these stories and writing them down in a notebook.

As I got older I started identifying this compulsion with a career, but even now it still doesn’t feel like that’s what this is. I do this for fun and because I can’t imagine filling my day with anything else. Sometimes I look at people who don’t write and can’t figure out how they manage to keep themselves entertained for a whole day. I do have other hobbies, but none of them are as satisfying as sitting down in front of a computer and spinning a tale about people whose lives are so extraordinary that it’s hard not to be enthralled.

Being identified as a writer is something other people do to describe me, I think, but for me it’s just something fun. Opening up my Word program and typing out these stories is entertaining and never really registers as “writing”.

How did you come up with the idea for The Ruby Curse?

The Ruby Curse actually came out of a Tolkein-esque fantasy that I tried to do and failed. I wasn’t able to get deep enough into the world no matter how much I tried to redo it, but the plot and some of the characters I liked. Once I started learning what steampunk was (having heard the word in an online interview with an agent whose name I don’t remember anymore), I realized I could recycle the plot and a few of the characters (Ethan and Aurora) and let them play in this new world. Everything started working out better and it was much easier to get into this new world.

Violet was the true basis for The Ruby Curse though. In a story that played on the concept of the quintessential fairy tale “heroes”, I wanted an anti-hero to take center stage. Someone who has done quite a few terrible things herself; someone you wouldn’t expect to be a hero. Not only did that make the story more fun, but it gave me some interesting ways to play with the common themes within fairytales; something that plays a big part in the series as a whole. Like, for example, what if the hero wasn’t interested in saving anyone else and was only interested in achieving things to her own end? What if the hero lost all faith in humanity and had been forced to grow up much faster than everyone else, leaving her somewhat bitter about the way things were? Was this someone who would only do what heroes usually do (namely save people or help solve a conflict) if her interests and the interests of those around her happen to overlap?

It was this kind of thought process that truly birthed The Ruby Curse. Something that started out as an experiment in a new genre has evolved into something else almost entirely. It’s a living, breathing thing that I have no real control over. I can give it ideas, suggest it move in a different direction, but ultimately I’m just someone who types. 

Are you the kind of writer who follows a certain schedule or do you just scribble things down whenever you get the chance?

I definitely just sit down and write whenever I can. Sometimes whenever it works out that I can sit down and write it tends to be at the same times every day. I don’t like calling it a schedule because it’s subject to so much change, but I guess sometimes it kind of works out to be a schedule.

Usually, if I’m able to work the coffee bar at work, I have time to write in-between customers. There are some days when I’m working the coffee bar that I hardly get more than three or four customers in the whole two hour span that I work, and during that time I’m usually scribbling something down in a notebook I brought with me or something.

I almost always write when I come home from school and work though. I come home, make something to eat, and when I’m done eating I start trying to type. Things are slow at first, very little usually getting done until after four thirty or five unless I’m really in the zone or in a good part.

On that note, there are sometimes days when I don’t write at all. I hate those days, they kind of feel unproductive (and for good reason!) and somewhat wasted. For some reason, though, if I have long dry spells I can usually come back and write a whole bunch without even realizing it. I guess it’s sort of like experiencing a drought and then being drenched in the storm, beginning the rainy season.

Do you plan out the whole book before you start writing or do you just write and see what comes?

Write and see what comes, without a doubt. Sometimes I try to plan out a book before I write it but somehow that kills the romance of a new idea. I like to let everything come to me naturally and let it evolve along with how things are already progressing. Sometimes I write myself into a corner and sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised with what comes out of nothing. Sometimes it even fixes a problem I might’ve been having before, giving the story a new layer of dimension that I think would’ve been lost if I tried to plan it out beforehand.

No, the planning starts after the first draft. That’s when I’ve been introduced to the plot, what works and what doesn’t, and what works but needs to be adjusted or improved on. That’s when I start doing scene/setting cards, something I learned about in Kurt Hickman’s book Revising Fiction: Making Sense of the Madness. For setting cards, you decide all the basic stuff: whose in the scene, what scene it is, where it takes place, how it moves the plot forward or moves a character forward… that sort of stuff. For setting cards you look at each setting and decide what kind of atmosphere you want from it. After that it’s mostly just using the senses: taste, touch, smell, sound, sight, ect, and finding ways to make the description create the atmosphere you wanted. Then I do character archs on Excel, taking each major scene and finding a way to move the character along their arch. I find this a good way to keep the character growth from feeling forced or fake. You can see how each character reacts in the scene, even if you don’t see it in the narrative, and how that makes them into a person who is better or worse from where they started. 


What do you do when you’re not writing? Have any other hobbies?

I like to paint and do crafts. I’m a huge DIY kind of person, finding that if I want something that either doesn’t exist or is too expensive to buy, I try and make it myself. Clothes and sewing stuff doesn’t usually go well unless I can hand-sew it, but stuff that I can paint or glue together usually comes out looking fine.

I also like to play video games, but I’m by no means a gamer. I have no actual skill unless I’ve played the game a hundred times before. No, I’m not a gamer, but playing games relaxes me for some reason and helps me turn off my brain for a little while. Sometimes it’s that turning off of my brain that helps me with a problem I’m having in my work. Like, for example, when I’m playing my Sims 3 game I’m able to write without much of a problem. I’ve been told because it takes away a “sense of urgency” and that makes just about as much sense as anything else, so why not believe that?

What do you like most about Steampunk?

The creative freedom. In steampunk, while there are some set rules about what is and what isn’t steampunk, it’s mostly left to speculation (which is why it’s under the umbrella of “Speculative Fiction”) and allows the people who are interested in it to twist it to meet their ends.

In my series I was able to use it to create a sense of excess among the upper classes. They don’t have to do much for themselves because of how much technology has evolved and made its way into the “average” home. People don’t need to plant flowers anymore if they can afford robotic flowers, they don’t need to hire many servants because robots can run an average household— things like that.

Steampunk also gave me a way to fill in the gap that the real Victorian Era lacked from a medical standpoint. People who work in the mines, for example, sometimes lose their limbs. With steam power and the medical achievements it’s created, those with lost limbs are able to have them replaced with robotic prosthetics, which are crude looking at best. While this new technology offers new ways for medicine to help people, it comes with a price. The more a person has replaced with technology, the more it starts to destroy their sanity.

Admit it, all writers are quirky! Do you have any quirks when you write, like favorite music or snacks?

For some reason, when I’m having an especially hard time writing, I listen to Disney music. Songs from movies like The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, ect. are able to help me around whatever problem I might be having.


Who are your favorite authors?

Laurell K. Hamilton without a doubt. I especially love her “Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter” series. F. Scott Fitzgerald and “Great Gatsby”, Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, J.K. Rowling… man, I have so many it’s hard to keep track!

So what comes next for you? Tell us a little about your works in progress.

Right now I’m working on the second book “Briar Light” which will feature the same characters and progress the story that gets set up in “The Ruby Curse”. We learn some new stuff about our characters’ backgrounds, meet new characters, learn secrets about some minor characters from “the Ruby Curse”, and all that good stuff! 

I’ve also got a few side projects that are so far in their incubation stage that they aren’t even worth mentioning at this point.

In your opinion, what is the most important thing in a good book?

Characters are definitely a key point in what makes a good book. These are the people you’re going to be following throughout the story, the ones you’re supposed to empathize with and the ones who are supposed to be able to move you to tears. I like characters who are deep, who have believable motivations and who I can feel good about having become for as long as it took to read the novel.


What is the best advice you could give to young, aspiring writers?

Don’t quit. I can’t tell you how many times I threatened to quit but never could. Don’t even think about quitting because its nothing but a slow poison in your veins. When you sit down to write, believe that you can do it and you will.

Edit! Edit! Edit! Editing was always the bane of my existence, so I tried to write the first draft perfectly so I wouldn’t have to. Not only did this not work, it never will no matter who you are. F. Scott Fitzgerald rewrote The Great Gatsby seventeen times before publishing. Now, that might be a bit much, but it shows that even the classics who we all know and love had to edit their work repeatedly because the original draft wasn’t good enough. Don’t skip this important step!

Join a writer’s group and/or a critique group. Joining my writer’s group was one of the best decisions I ever made. I’ve been improving ever since and have met a wonderful bunch of people who only want to encourage each other and see each other succeed. That’s the kind of environment that a writer needs, as solitary as the work can get. Don’t box yourself up in a room and expect genius. You need the experience of being around people who know exactly what you’re going through. 

~~~~

About the Author

Makayla Yokley is a college student who lives in Kansas with her somewhat evil cat named Cujo. She likes to write fiction of all genres. Currently she is majoring in Liberal Arts.

Links



Buy a copy of “The Ruby Curse” at:




Excerpt

Clearfall, Ethan’s village, was Heaven. The earth breathed light, pouring it out from every tree and blade of grass that flowed against the gentle breeze. From over the horizon the sun touched the day with its golden fingers, sliding them between the clouds overhead as if through strands of hair. Skinny, white trunked trees stood above the fields of wheat, grass, and flowers; their leafy arms stretched wide to welcome the warmth.

Dainty little blue and white flowers peeked out from behind the blades of grass like shy children in awe of the world around them; and a sparrow offered a single term in the distance. Being here was just like being lost in an ethereal dream, walking a spiritual path with eyes closed. I felt free here, the shackles of city life shaken away and wings unfolding from a cocoon. I was filled with an unfamiliar sense of peace and happiness just by breathing the fresh air and feeling it pour through me, rejuvenating every cell and drop of blood beneath my skin. It was euphoric.

 “You don’t need those.” Ethan said, tapping the side of his face in an indication that he meant my goggles. He must’ve seen that I had lifted one side to get a look at my surroundings without having even a single detail filtered through a blue-tinted lens. Question was, how long had he been watching me?


Makayla will award a free digital copy of The Ruby Curse via Smashwords to one commenter at every stop so make sure you comment for a chance to win!

Follow the rest of the tour here: 
http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2012/12/virtual-book-tour-ruby-curse-by-makayla.html?zx=e1fbc98b4c1d4a4f

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Blurb and Excerpt for "Uneasy Lies the Crown" by N. Gemini Sasson


I'm excited to host a Blurb Blitz Tour Stop today to get the word out about historical fiction writer, N. Gemini Sasson's new book, Uneasy Lies the Crown , a historical novel about the Welsh king and freedom fighter, Owain Glyndowr.

For centuries, the bards have sung of King Arthur’s return, but is this reluctant warrior prince the answer to those prophecies?


In the year 1399, Welsh nobleman Owain Glyndwr is living out a peaceful gentleman’s life in the Dee Valley of Wales with his wife Margaret and their eleven children. But when Henry of Bolingbroke, the Duke of Lancaster, usurps the throne of England from his cousin Richard II, that tranquility is forever shattered. What starts as a feud with a neighboring English lord over a strip of land evolves into something greater—a fight for the very independence of Wales.

Leading his crude army of Welshmen against armor-clad columns of English, Owain wins key victories over his enemies. After a harrowing encounter on the misty slopes of Cadair Idris, the English knight Harry Hotspur offers Owain a pact he cannot resist.

Peace, however, comes with a price. As tragedies mount, Owain questions whether he can find the strength within himself not only to challenge the most powerful monarch of his time, but to fulfill the prophecies and lead his people to freedom without destroying those around him.


And now an excerpt from the novel!

Lord Reginald de Grey of Ruthin leered at his discovery. Swarming around him was a full corps of fifteen huntsmen, lesser lords eager to impress. One rushed in and rammed a spear into the deer, although it was a task that need not have been done.

“Aha! My gratitude, good men, for bringing down my prize,” Grey proclaimed.

“Your prize?” Owain started forward. “These are my lands you’re on. And well you know it. You are beyond your bounds. Parliament has upheld my claims on Croesau.”

“Richard’s parliament.” Grey clucked his tongue in admonishment. “’Tis a hard task to wield influence from a dungeon.”

Owain’s arms were locked stiffly at his side, though they had the strength to heave the dripping, dog-shredded carcass at Grey’s head. “Take it. Take the hide and the meat and the bloody set of antlers. But don’t come back. This land is not yours.”

“I’ll come as often as I please. These are my lands now, everything you see. The Welsh sympathizer is not long to wear the crown and Bolingbroke owes me a good turn.” One hand upon his hip, he flexed the gloved fingers of his other hand and nodded with satisfaction. “This hunting ground will do, littered though it is with Welsh beggars. Incidentally, I took liberty to evict some troublesome peasants of yours in the next valley.”

Owain sprang forward. “You have no right!”

“Yes, yes... hmmm. We shall see who has rights. Anyway, they were a little, shall we say, obstinate. A torched roof is very convincing. It has a tendency to make people into believers.”


About the Author




N. Gemini Sasson is the author of six historical novels set in 14th and 15th century Scotland, England and Wales, including The Bruce Trilogy and Isabeau, A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer (2011 IPPY Silver Medalist in Historical Fiction). Her latest release is Uneasy Lies the Crown, A Novel of Owain Glyndwr. Long after writing about Robert the Bruce and Queen Isabella, Sasson learned she is a descendant of both.


Where you can find N. Gemini Sasson and purchase a copy of Uneasy Lies the Crown :







Smashwords – 







N. Gemini will be awarding a $20 Amazon gift certificate to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Comment and leave your email to enter!

Friday, January 18, 2013

By Blood or Bond Giveaway Up!

Hi everyone! Well, my tour for "By Blood or By Bond" is finished, and I want to again thank the awesome people, fellow readers and writers, who hosted my stops. If you missed any, you can still check them out by clicking the tour button on the right of the page -->

Again, please comment, I'm still taking entries for the Backstories giveaway until the end of the month because of the lack of people who entered, so get your name in! Also, By Blood or By Bond is still only 2.99 as a e-book and $15.00 as a paperback until the end of the month, and if you buy it, shoot me an email telling me what copy you bought and you'll get awesome coupons =)

As another announcement, the Goodreads Giveaway for a copy of "By Blood or By Bond" is up and the winner in Amanda Hall! Congratulations, your book will be in the mail tomorrow =)

In way of my writing life right now, I am very excited to say that I've been working quite hard and diligently on the first book in my steampunk mystery series, with Anthony Maxwell. Remember, if you scroll down the page, you can find the link to follow Anthony of facebook. Feel free to ask him anything, he loves to talk with people. I'll likely be posting more about him later, so keep an eye out for more excerpts and all that good stuff.

That's all for now! I hope everyone has a good weekend!

Slainte, Hazel

Sunday, January 13, 2013

That Time of Year Again: ABNA

Well, it's the time of year for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and to my great surprise, I realize this is my fourth year and fourth novel entering. And out of that I have been a quarter finalist once, which was very exciting...until I got the the reviews from *coughbloodycough* Publisher's Weekly. This year, I have entered "On a Foreign Field" which I am personally very happy with. I am only hoping to do better than last year.

On another note, I would really like to take a minute to thank all the people who have read "On a Foreign Field" and participated in the book tour for it, and have reviewed it. Your words really inspire me and make me very happy to know that my books are enjoyed =) As a thank you, "On a Foreign Field" will only be $2.99 as an ebook and $12.00 as a paperback for the duration I am in the contest. If I get kicked out, it goes back to $4.99. It's available either on Smashwords of Amazon, I'm just too lazy tonight to put up the links.

Also, I am excited to say I got my first "real" review for "By Blood or By Bond" Read it here: http://667bakerstreet.blogspot.com/2013/01/by-blood-or-by-bond-review-hazel-west.html

I'll keep you all updated on my progress!

Slainte, Hazel

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Poem-- "Stand By You"

Here's another poem I scribbled out tonight, after sketching a little bit. The picture was actually supposed Marcus and Esca from "Eagle of the Ninth" but the poem is kind of more about Reeve and Wallace's relationship in my own novel "On a Foreign Field". So, it's a little confused, but the picture inspired the poem, and well, I like to put pictures with my poems :-) I hope you enjoy both anyway.







Stand By You


I swore to you, now long ago
That I would stand by you;
Whether war or strife should rend our life,
It’s only what a brother would do.
With sword in had, we’re back to back,
In shield wall, side by side,
And all the fear or hurt I have
From you I’ll never hide.
If ever one should hurt you
I’ll repay the same to him;
I know you’d do the same for me
To protect my life and limb.
Whether brothers by blood or bond
It matters little to me,
Though others might say it’s not the way
They don’t understand loyalty.
Though in truth we should be enemies
We are the truest friends:
Brothers in spirit, comrades in arms
Fighting ‘till this war ends.
From opposite sides of the war, we are
But it’s a promise that I’ll keep—
That I will stand beside you, brother
Through light of day or night so deep.
It’s one thing to be called a traitor,
Another to be called a friend.
I know I wouldn’t care at all for the former
If I had the latter to the end.
And now the drums beat once again
And we’re marching off to war,
Our deaths we leave in the hands of the fates,
We have a cause worth fighting for.
But mark these words, dear brother,
Whatever else I do,
Come weal or woe, come friend or foe,
I will stand by you.



Slainte, Hazel

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Abusive Authors--Don't be One!

Okay, before you get after me, let me make myself clear. By 'abusive authors' I don't mean those authors who are always having their characters get beat up, tortured, wounded etc. Yeah, I would be calling the kettle black, but hey, I write adventure and realistic historical fiction. It has to happen, and you have to put your character in peril so that the reader will be scared they might not make it.

No, I mean authors who bend characters into someone they are not. Sometimes it really feels malicious to me. It's like they have their poor characters chained in their attic and they torture them until they promise to be who the author wants and not who they really are. Beaten, abused characters. It makes me want to give them a hug just like a little homeless puppy. And I'm not naming names for authors I think are guilty of character abuse, because I still have my honor as an author myself, but it does exist, my fellow readers and writers. Have you ever been in love with a series of books and then one just seemed very off-color? Or something happens that you did not in a MILLION YEARS see coming? Most likely it's because of character abuse.

As an author, let me tell you how hard it is to shape a character. They really have a mind of their own, and you would have to torture them before they would bend to your will. The best way to get your characters to have their own character is let them come to you, don't force them to your will. Trust me, they will be there for you eventually, it might just take some longer than others.

I always think it's terribly sad to see characters you know would be good people, or do more if only their author let them. Chances are, if you are trying too hard to write your characters, then you need to step back and wait for your characters to come to you. Here are some ways to avoid being an abusive author:

Pick up one of your favorite books with a character you really love in it. Read your favorite parts and ask yourself why you love it so much. If it's a series, think about how the character has changed over the series. Not all series characters change, some characters are static like Sherlock Holmes. Other characters do change due to events that shape their lives. But are these changes for the best, or do they seem random and out of the blue. It can work backwards the same way too. If a character has gone through a traumatic event at the end of one book and are totally fine in the next one, this can be out of character as well. With your own characters, try to put yourself into their shoes. If you were your character, judging from what you know about them, how would you react to the situation they are in?

If you don't know your character well enough yet, or are new to writing in general, try some free writing and put your character in different situations. Don't overthink what they would do, but let the story and dialogue flow. If it still doesn't seem right, try several different times. I know for myself, especially in my older writing, I would write random scenes from my stories before I would complete the book, but a lot of times I would either end up discarding or majorly changing the scene to fit the characters better once I know them on a more personal level.

Just like with your friends and acquaintances, you will get to know your characters better and better the more time you spend with them. This is one reason why I don't suggest anyone plunging into a book without a little forethought of the matter. The concept of 'writer's block' is really a lack of direction and indecision within a story. Chances are, if you are experiencing the dreaded 'writer's block' you are lacking one of both of these: A story direction, or Character Familiarity. With your friends, you know them pretty well, especially if you have known them for a long time. People change with age, characters can too, they are human after all! But these are minor changes that naturally happen. If you are planning on a big change then there needs to be a darn good reason for it. Nothing less than the loss of a loved one, or some other traumatic experience. And usually, the problems this causes the character should be resolved at some point, or at least put in a position to where your character can deal with them. Your character can't just go randomly postal because the store didn't have his favorite pop-tart flavor. Not unless, A. that is his character, or B. it is the result of something bigger in his life.

A bit of a note on Villains: Some villains can turn good, BUT it cannot happen out of the blue and without good reason. To set up a story line where a villain will turn good in the end, you'll want to make sure they have a sympathetic backstory that the reader can identify with. You can also not make the villain you want to turn good a disgraceful nasty person no one cares about. If you do, you'll only make readers mad if you turn him/her good in the end. As a reader, I am going to say upfront that if there's a terribly nasty villain, I want to see him/her get theirs in a satisfying way. Baddies who can turn good though, should have morals. Sure, they can want to kill the hero, they can even torture him and his friends, but you should probably steer clear of his killing women and children (unless it's a terrible accident which could actually lead to his turning good) or doing other nasty unforgivable things.

So, please my fellow writers, don't be an abusive author, let your characters live the lives they were meant to!

Slainte, Hazel