Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Cover Reveal: The Physician

I am so pleased with the cover - Belinda Pepper did an excellent job again as per usual. In the Physician's glasses you can see Leon to the right and Abigail to the left (you'll find out who the pigeon is in the book). Around the Physician's bowler hat twists a Nightmare... you'll find more about them too. The book is set to release on the 17th of October - the countdown begins!

The Books That Taught Us About Sex

From Persephone Magazine:


A comprehensive list from the Persephone Magazine Staff.
Selena: Danielle Steele. Lots and lots of it the summer between fifth and sixth grade. There was some Stephen King in there, too, but I don’t remember his books having any sex in them. Am I getting old, or was there no sex in Stephen King? Also Wifey andForever by Judy Blume.
Regarding Stephen King, Slay Belle reminded us that a juvenile gang bang features prominently in It. Actually, having group sex with the lone female in their group saves them from the monster. Seriously. That’s the plot point.
Zahra: I accidentally stumbled onto a V.C. Andrews novel that someone left on my teacher’s shelf. I was scarred for life.
April: I’d heard that Lady Chatterley’s Lover had some pretty steamy scenes in it. Being a curious pre-teen, I pulled my mom’s copy off the shelf. I got so bored trying to find the dirty parts! Not long after that, I got my hands on a copy of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying. The concept of “the zipless fuck” went way over my head at the time, but it made complete sense to me as an adult. Lady Chatterley’s Lover is still soooo boring. I tried again when I got older, still didn’t make it to the smutty parts.
Slay Belle: I seriously can’t remember the first literary sex encounter, but I do have a couple that are very prominent in my memory. I picked up one of my mother’s novels one day and opened to a random passage. The book was set in the South during slavery, and the “master” was having a “love affair” with one of his slaves, and I think they were arguing about him leaving his wife. He’s so overcome with “love” for her that he “takes her forcefully” (rapes) her and she’s “dry when he starts” but becomes wet because she gives in.
I didn’t understand any of it and was very confused by the whole passage.
(Read the full article here)

The first book I ever read that mentioned sex was 'The Woman Who Rides Like a Man' by Tamora Pierce. It was the third book in the Song of the Lioness Quartet, but I read it first - I'd found it in the bookshelf in my classroom and it had a horse on the cover. I loved horses at the time (I was 12), so naturally the book appealed.
At some stage in the book, Alanna takes Jonathan back into her tent and he spends the night. I remember being highly scandalised at the time. When I re-read it in highschool, though, it was incredibly tame with none of the graphic descriptions I remembered at all.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Excerpt: Unreliable Histories by Rob Gregson

Chapter One 

"Myrah!"

The sound of her name being called brought the world rushing in upon her. Her mind had been somewhere else entirely, quite minding its own business, and it evidently rather resented being yanked back to the present without so much as a polite cough of forewarning. For a few moments, it refused to register much else beyond the fact that someone was calling for her from higher up the hill and that the afternoon sky was much greyer and cloudier than she would have wished. Whatever place it was she now occupied, she had the distinct impression that it was much more solid and inconveniently real than the realm her imagination had lately been wandering.

"Myrah!"

It really wasn't fair. She'd wanted some time to lose herself - to get away from all the thinking and working and all that other nonsense that reality seemed intent on demanding of her. Just a few short hours away from the ordinary business of being, that's all she'd wanted, and yet here she was being summoned back to a world of relationships, work and obligations barely an hour after starting out.

"Hey Myrah! It's me."

The approaching figure's logic was unimpeachable, she'd give him that. He was loping down the slope towards her with a big daft grin on his face and waving one of his hands as though it were something sticky and unpleasant that he was trying to shake loose. The other was down by his thigh, trying to stop his poniard from rattling from its scabbard.

Myrah smiled and gave a small wave. She'd rather have been alone just at the moment but if her peace had to be disrupted by anyone, then it might just as well be Al. He was big and friendly and harmless - a bit transparent in his affections, perhaps, but she wouldn't hold that against him. Besides, Dave adored him - a fact which he now demonstrated by dashing across the tussocks from somewhere out to the right, throwing himself at his neck and bowling the young man over on to the ground, all the better to crouch astride him and give him a licking that he'd never forget.

"Ah! Your dog's got me!" cried the mighty Alaethar.

"He's not my dog," observed Myrah. She was only a few paces away from them now and it was evident that for all his redoubtable size and strength, her friend was not about to free himself from his eager canine assailant. Too good natured to risk hurting the creature, he merely wriggled and twisted, trying in vain to escape the frothy strings of drool that were slowly descending upon him.

"Your uncle's dog, then. But get him off me. Ugh! It's going in my mouth!"

"I know," sympathised Myrah, "but he likes you. Look at his little face."

Little was not, in truth, the most accurate of descriptions. A hunting dog, bred for guarding encampments in some of the wilder zones of the territory, he was both swift and powerful, perfectly capable of bringing down some of the middle-sized ruminants that inhabited the plains below them. Thankfully, however, the only evidence she had ever seen of this prodigious hunting instinct was his unerring ability to put Al on his back, which he did with a certain entertaining regularity.

"Daevior," shouted Al crossly, doing all he could to inject a note of authority into his tone. "Get off, you silly creature."

Authority is perhaps a characteristic most comfortably demonstrated while seated upon a gilded throne or while declaiming theatrically to a busy throng from a public balcony, a castle wall or the oaken deck of a mighty warship. There are, it may be supposed, many such scenarios in which a man may assert his capability and power but lying in damp, muddy grass beneath a large, slobbering dog is not generally held to be one of them. Certainly, this appeared to be Dave's reading of the situation and he expressed his opinion by attempting to push his enormous tongue into Al's left nostril.

"Myrah!" wailed Al. "Help!"

Myrah grinned. She made a short clicking noise with her cheek and, obediently, Dave came to heel.

"Nice to see you, Al," she said. "What brings you out here?"

The man rose slowly to his knees, making a pointed show of gathering up the little miscellany of objects that had fallen from his pockets and pouches.

"Oh, you know," he said. "Just out walking. Trying to make the most of my day off."

"Well, we've not been out long. You can come along with us if you like."

Al's face positively gleamed. Some of that might have been the dog spit of course but, still, he was unmistakeably pleased. He rose to his feet looking almost endearingly happy.

"Dave wouldn't mind, would you boy?" She tickled her companion who signalled his assent with a vigorous wag of his tail.

"I'd love to. Thank you indeed." Now rather better composed, Al had resumed his habit of trying to sound all posh and chivalrous, which was something he always did whenever he felt at all self-conscious.

"Well, we're just heading... sort of north, I suppose." She gestured vaguely in the direction of the low ridge ahead. "It looked a bit brighter there. That alright with you?"

"That would be lovely." He paused. "Although... I've just come from that way and it's pretty hard going. All that rain's turned the side of the hill into a bog."

"Oh hell. Has it?" One look at the stains on Al's canvas trousers provided all the confirmation she needed. A thin and crazed veneer of dark mud came to just above the knee on both legs and, rising beyond that, a grubby tide mark that reached half way up his thighs. It wasn't as though Myrah couldn't manage such a journey but she didn't fancy all the chasing and scrubbing and the dark looks of recrimination that would inevitably follow when she got Dave home and had to give him a bath.

"We could take the North West Track," suggested Al, hopefully.

Myrah raised an eyebrow at him. It wasn't forbidden, exactly, but it took one disconcertingly close to the plains below. "You want to?" she asked.

"Yeah, why not? It would be an adventure."

Al was always in a hurry to immerse himself in some sort of escapade but maybe he was right this time. Tomorrow, Myrah knew, they'd both be back at her uncle's warehouse, helping the next team of fame-hungry hopefuls to make ready for challenging voyages of exhilaration and derring-do, preparing the charts, lists and equipment that would enable other people to make their names and fortunes. In short, tomorrow would be as woefully charmless and as predictable as ever but, today at least, they had the promise of a little excitement. So like the man said, why not?

"Ah, what the hell. It'll be drier if nothing else."

For the second time that day, Al grinned from ear to ear.

Synopsis:
Young cartographer Myrah discovers that someone has been changing history. More worryingly, the more she investigates the more it looks like that ‘someone’ was her.

When she comes into possession of a strange magical artefact, Myrah and her only-slightly-intrepid friends find themselves becoming the target of a bunch of unreasonably angry warlocks. To evade them, she can seek refuge with her uncle – a director of the great corporation that now controls half the civilised world – although given his unquenchable thirst for profit and conquest, he's probably an even greater threat than the wizards. Ideally, she’d like to escape the whole terrible mess, and if she can avert a war in the process, then so much the better.

Behind her lies a history she never knew she had. Ahead of her await demons, assassins and some deeply embarrassing relatives...

A comic fantasy, Unreliable Histories is guaranteed free from lovelorn vampires, arcane prophesies and ancient-but-recently-awoken evils.  It features no werewolves, no Chosen Ones and hardly any murderous demons at all. Instead, it seeks to answer some important but seldom-asked questions. Questions such as:
Who keeps the torches burning in all those long-deserted subterranean lairs?
And why does women's armour always look so suspiciously like fetish-wear?

Unreliable Histories is the first novel in a two part series.

Author biography:
Rob Gregson spent much of his youth reading fantasy novels, immersing himself in role playing games and generally doing everything possible to avoid life in the real world. In his defence, we're talking about the late 1980s - a time when ridiculous hair, hateful pop music and soaring unemployment were all very popular - so it wasn't altogether a bad decision. However, had he abandoned the realms of elves and wizardry at an earlier age, he might have developed one or two useful life skills and he would almost certainly have found it easier to get a girlfriend.

Since that time, he and reality have developed a grudging tolerance of one another, although their relationship still goes through the occasional bad patch and his first two novels - Unreliable Histories and The Endless Land - are evidence of that.

Rob lives in Lancashire (UK) and is married with two children, although he has absolutely no idea why anyone should find that interesting.

Links:




Twitter: @robgregsonwords

The Point of Female Characters in 'The Maze Runner'

Disclaimer: I haven't read the book The Maze Runner as yet, so this review is going to be focused on the movie. There are also some spoilers.

A few nights ago, my family and several friends went to see The Maze Runner for my sister's birthday. It was an early screening. We were pretty excited. And hey, the trailers looked cool and mysterious. I was a little dubious about the role Theresa would play, but I thought that it could be interesting to see how her situation as the only girl in a group of guys was handled. At the start of the movie, I was pretty much on the edge of my seat. But as the movie continued and Theresa had still to make an appearance, I was tapping my fingers and looking at my watch. By the time she showed up, she said about five lines, looked scared and shared meaningful glances with Thomas. By the end of the movie, whilst I had many, MANY criticisms about the plot and execution, my main criticism was that there was no point to Theresa's character at all - even though she shared a hefty amount of screen time with Thomas in the trailer, that did not translate into the movie. 
Here, as far as I could tell, was the point of Theresa:

1. To be The Girl:
As I've mentioned before, it would be very obvious if there were no girl characters in a movie at all. But if you insert a 2D female character who doesn't do a whole lot, then we're meant to be satisfied with that because hey, at least there's a girl, right? At least there was some effort to appeal to (roughly) 50% of the audience.


2. To Say Thomas' Name:
The first thing Theresa says when she appears in the glade is 'Thomas' before falling unconscious again. Rather than leading to curiosity about her and wondering how she remembers his name, this instead serves to illustrate to all the other members of the group that Thomas is somehow 'different' and 'special'. Later Theresa has forgotten how she even knew his name, so there's no need to develop her character or delve deeper into her psyche.

3. To Validate Thomas' Memories:
Thomas has been having some weird dreams since he turned up in the glade with no memories. But it's not until Theresa turns up that he realises he's not alone and someone else has weird memories too. Once again, however, Theresa's memories aren't dissected or gone into (after all, she is not the hero of the story). Instead, by validating Thomas, she helps him develop as a character.

4. To be the Babysitter:
In the final showdown, the guys all go off and attack monsters, and Theresa protects Chuck, the youngest member of the group. Girl's can't fight, after all, and are known for their nurturing, mothering ways.

5. To bring Serum:
Not to give to much away here, but in the Maze there are massive, insect-like robot creatures who sting people. Their stings have a terminal effect and there is no cure. But when Theresa is sent up into the glade, she finds two syringes of serum in her pocket. And as Alby, the leader, has just been stung, it's fortunate she came along with those syringes, right?
At least, that's what we're supposed to believe. We're supposed to watch this scene and think, thank goodness Theresa's here! She's brought medicine! Hurray! But the thing is, that medicine could just as easily been sent up with Thomas a few days ago so hardly makes her integral to the plot.

6. To Be the Comic Relief:
When Theresa finally regains consciousness after her arrival in the glade, she hides at the top of the tower and throws rocks at the boys down below (where she got the rocks from is not revealed). Chuck says with reverence, "Girls are awesome." and the audience chuckles. But the thing is, Theresa is throwing those rocks because she is afraid. And, on reflection, isn't that fair enough? Don't tell me a group of teenage boys who have been isolated together for three years aren't sexually curious. But the issue of sex isn't even brought up. Instead, we laugh at Theresa's fear and the implications behind this fear aren't acknowledged. Indeed, there is no sexual interest in her whatsoever, apart from a few meaningful glances she and Thomas share. So what should have been a huge, complex issue is instead a small part of the overall narrative and is brushed off as a joke. 



As a character, Theresa was hardly essential to the story and, despite the myriad of questions that pop up in relation to her, none of them are answered. For instance, who is she? Why was she the last? Why are there no more girls? Why is Thomas so much more important than she is even though they both share very similar back stories?

Wouldn't this story have been far more interesting - or at least different to all the other hero narratives - if Theresa and Thomas had shared the narrative. Even if she had been the only girl, delving into that more could have allowed some interesting discussion. As it stands, however, she didn't do much, say much or achieve much. Thomas could have been the last one and it wouldn't have changed the overall narrative one iota.

The only other female character is the director. She could potentially be a lot more interesting than Theresa, but doesn't have much screen time (although she does talk a lot). The point of her, as far as I could make out, was to:

1. Be the bad guy:
Every narrative needs a bad guy, so why not be progressive and make it a woman? 

2. Explain the Maze:
Somebody had to, after all, and as bad guys like nothing more than to explain their evil plans, it would make sense for her to do it. Too bad her explanation was full of plot holes.

And that's about it. Whilst the director had less screen time than Theresa, I have a theory that she might actually have had more lines. One day, if I'm ever at a loss for better things to do, I'll re-watch this movie and count.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Excerpt: The Coming Woman by Karen J. Hicks

Displaying The Coming Woman cover.jpg

Chapter 1

The early spring drizzle on Great Jones Street doesn’t deter newsboys from hawking the April 2, 1870 headlines up and down the thoroughfare between the beer gardens and dance halls of the Bowery and the opulent emporiums of Broadway.

“Petticoat Politician Victoria C. Woodhull to run for President!”

“Indian raids in Wyoming!”

“Sergeant Patrick Gass of Lewis and Clark expedition dies at ninety-eight!”

The heavy, mahogany front door at No. 17 flies open. Victoria Woodhull, lithe and fair at thirty, skips lightly down the steps of the elegant four-story brownstone. Her bobbed and curled brown hair bounces gently against her high forehead. A diamond ring glitters on her right thumb.

“Queen of Finance takes on Government!” yells a newsboy.

Victoria smiles as she hails him. He hands her a New York Herald.

“So Mrs. Woodhull is to run for President, is she?” she asks. “What do you think of that?”

“No offense or nuthin’ to you as a woman, Ma’am, but it’s plum crazy.” The boy looks down and shuffles his feet.

Another newsboy waves and calls out, “Mornin’, Mrs. Woodhull! You’re stirrin’ things up for sure today!” He runs on yelling: “Bewitching Broker in dash to the White House!”

The mortified boy on the steps turns as red as the fresh rose pinned to the black velvet band at Victoria’s throat. She pats his cheek; her laughter is soft and melodic.

“Don’t be embarrassed, son. I’m sure you won’t be the only one of your opinion. And I shouldn’t have tricked you. Here’s an extra penny to apologize.”

“Thank you, Ma’am!” The boy scoots away, calling out: “Asa Brainard pitches fifteenth straight win for Cincinnati Red Stockings! New York Knickerbockers can’t stop ‘em!”

Victoria skips back up the steps, flipping through the newspaper. Glancing up as she opens the door, she spies tall, scarecrow-looking Stephen Pearl Andrews skirting puddles, hurrying toward her. His bony nose, bushy gray hair, and grizzled beard glisten with droplets of rain. His calf-length black coat flaps wildly in the breeze. Victoria grins and goes to meet him, blue eyes sparkling like sunlit waves. She takes his arm and Andrews’ wildness softens at her touch. He pats her hand.

“So did the Herald print your announcement?” he asks.

“The entire thing! And Ashley Cole wrote the perfect headline and introduction!”

“You are on your way to your destiny, la mia stella.”

Inside the house, Victoria walks past tall vases of fragrant flowers and a staircase that curls upward to the second floor. She stops at a marble statue of the famous Greek orator Demosthenes—classic tunic, laced sandals, laurel wreath on his head.

“Demosthenes’ promise to me as a child—that I would live in a mansion in a city surrounded by ships and rule my people—It’s all coming true! How do you say thank you in Greek, Pearl?”

“Efharisto.”

“Efharisto, Demosthenes! I will fight for freedom for our people as you did for the Greeks.” She pecks Andrews on the cheek. “Demosthenes’ prophecy has driven my entire life, Pearl, but you are his corporeal representation and have given me the courage to act on it. So thank you, too.”

“Yes, yes. Let’s look at this announcement now.”

Victoria opens the Herald to page eight, and Andrews reads the headline aloud.

“’The Coming Woman, Victoria C. Woodhull, to race for the White House: What she will and what she won't do . . . New ideas on government.’” He beams proudly. “Victoria, a Golden Age is upon us, and you are going to lead it!”

“Come, Pearl, we must tell the family!” She takes Andrews’ arm and hurries down the hallway, a spring in her step. Andrews reluctantly allows himself to be dragged along. The cacophony of voices increases as they near the kitchen, and Andrews slows his stride even more. Victoria chuckles. “Come now, you’re not going to the gallows.”

“I think I would rather,” Andrews mutters.

They enter the kitchen, where Victoria’s mother Roxanna Claflin, a short, stern woman with tightly curled gray hair, sits at the foot of the table, carping with a heavy German accent. She glares at Andrews through round, wire-rimmed glasses. Victoria’s quarrelsome father Buck, whose sharp features are made more ominous by a black patch over his left eye, is at the table’s head. The long, wooden benches along each side hold over a dozen sisters, husbands, and children.

Victoria’s youngest sister Tennessee looks up excitedly. Tennie is twenty-five, shorter than Victoria, and fashionably plump. Her dark hair is an unruly mop of short, tousled curls, and her eyes resemble deep wells of melted chocolate.

“Did they print it?” she asks.

“Every word!” Victoria says.

Colonel James Blood, Victoria’s dark and dashing Civil War hero husband, walks over and kisses his wife. She kisses him back, and then hugs her daughter Zulu Maud. The girl’s eyes light up with adoration, looking like a sunny, summer sky. Victoria tries to hug her son Byron as well, but he jerks away, spilling his milk. Byron is physically large for his fifteen years, but mentally he is still a five-year-old. He grins a toothless grin as Zulu Maud sops up the milk. The family begins to bicker.

“My god, people!” Tennie yells, clapping for attention. “Shut up for five minutes and let Victoria read the paper! History is being made here.”

“Well, whoop-dee-do and hullabaloo. Who gives a hoot.” Victoria’s sister Utica stands. Wobbles. She’s only twenty-nine years old, but alcohol and drugs have stolen her beauty and zest. She staggers out.

Roxanna pushes back from the table, her face blotched with anger. She glares at the Colonel. “It’s you, Mr. Hellbound Blood!” She turns her fury on Andrews next. “And you and your passel of Free-lovers! You’ve led my baby onto this path that will destroy her and all of us along with her!”

“Oh for heaven’s sakes,” sister Polly snaps. “Victoria is not going to the White House. What party will support her? We’re just poor people from Ohio.”

“Mr. Lincoln was a poor boy from Illinois,” Pearl counters. “And look what a fine president he turned out to be.”

“Yeah, he was so fine someone shot him,” Polly says.

“That’s what I mean! You want someone to shoot you, Victoria?” Roxanna rushes out, wailing hysterically in German.

“My god, Sis, you better read before somebody else has a hissy fit.”

“I can’t. Not with Mama so upset.”

She hands the paper to Tennie, who skims the page.

“My god, look at the end! ’Victory for Victoria in 1872!’ Whatta brick ol’ Ashley is!”

“Miss Claflin, it’s unladylike to use such slang,” Pearl scolds. “But a fine prediction nonetheless. You must tell your friend I applaud him. I couldn’t have written a better introduction to Victoria’s announcement.”

“At least not in so few words,” Tennie teases. She hands the paper to Colonel Blood.

“Ashley probably should have left out this part about Victoria winning if women are allowed to vote. The male zeitgeist will bury a suffrage amendment for sure now,” Blood says.

“I agree,” Andrews says. “I’m sure he meant it as a vote of confidence, but politicos are threatened by anyone with an intelligent thought and the courage to voice it. Especially if that person is a woman.”

“Well, they’re just going to have to get used to it,” Victoria says. “I’m going to pursue this to the end and with the Spirits’ blessing I will win.”




Synopsis:

At a time when Hillary Clinton is considering another run for the presidency, it might be helpful to consider the first woman who ran for president—and at a time when women were prohibited from voting!

The Coming Woman, by Karen J. Hicks, is a novel based on the life of feminist Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for U.S. President, 50 years before women could even vote!

Running for President wasn’t Victoria’s only first as a woman. She was also the first to own a successful Wall Street firm, the first to publish a successful national newspaper, and the first to head the two-million-member Spiritualist Association.

She was the first woman to enter the Senate Judiciary Committee chambers to petition for woman's suffrage, her argument changing the entire focus of the suffragist movement by pointing out that the 14th and 15th Amendments already gave women the vote.

In her campaign for the Presidency, Victoria Woodhull boldly addressed many of the issues we still face today: equal pay for equal work; freedom in love; corporate greed and political corruption fueled by powerful lobbyists; and the increasing disparity between the rich and the poor, to name only a few. Her outspoken and common-sense ideas may shed a new perspective on the parallel conundrums of today’s world.

This bold, beautiful, and sexually progressive woman dared to take on society and religion. To make an example of the hypocrisy in what Mark Twain dubbed The Gilded Age, she exposed the extramarital affairs of the most popular religious figure of the day (Henry Ward Beecher). This led to her persecution and imprisonment and the longest, most infamous trial of the 19th century. But it did not stop her fight for equality.

Victoria’s epic story, set in the late 1800s, comes to life in a modern, fictional style, while staying true to the actual words and views of the many well-known characters.

The Coming Woman was published by Sartoris Literary Group in August 2014 and is available for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Genre: Women’s Fiction / Historical


Praise for The Coming Woman:

"If you have a heart, if you have a soul, Karen Hicks' The Coming Woman will make you fall in love with Victoria Woodhull." - Kinky Friedman, author & Governor of the Heart of Texas

"What kind of confidence would it take for a woman to buck the old boy's club of politics in 1872? More than 140 years pre-Hillary, there was Victoria Woodhull. This book takes you back with a breathtaking, present-tense bird's eye view into a time when women's liberation was primarily confined to one woman's very capable, independent mind. I couldn't put it down." - Ruth Buzzi, Golden Globe Award winner and Television Hall of Fame inductee

"The Coming Woman is a great read and a long overdue biography written beautifully by Ms. Hicks. Victoria Woodhull comes alive in each and every paragraph; a vital strength and spirit in Woodhull propels her to run for president of the United States when women weren’t even allowed to vote! What a woman, what a book! An inspiring must read for every woman and any adventurous men! Thank you, Ms. Hicks for finally telling her colorful story." - Jennifer Lee Pryor, author of Tarnished Angel: A Memoir and President, Indigo, Inc.

About the Author:
Karen J. Hicks is retired and lives in Henderson, Nevada. She recently published her second novel, The Coming Woman, based on the life of the infamous feminist Victoria C. Woodhull, who was the first woman to run for U.S. President. Her first book was a self-help book titled The Tao of a Uncluttered Life. Karen served as in-house editor for author Steve Allen and has written several screenplays, as well as poetry, short stories, and essays. To learn more, go to http://www.karenjhicks.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheComingWoman

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22921576-the-coming-woman

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

By Sherman Alexie, Winner of the National Book Award

Junior was born with water on the brain, is prone to seizures and has a bigger head and skinner body than most people. He’s beaten up regularly and only has one friend. Now, in order to escape the life set out for him, he’s going to the rich white school miles and miles away. He’s more of a target than ever before, in fact, he’s a traitor. His  story is a beautiful, shining look at life, at love and coping through all the bad stuff that besets us.
This was a fantastic book.

On the back there is an author recommendation from Neil Gaiman and he says, ‘I have no doubt that in a year or so it’ll be winning awards and being banned.’

One can only hope – any banned book is usually a life-changing one. And this definitely was.

Alexie’s writing style is conversational, abrupt, joking and real, with hidden depths that become apparent the further you read. Junior is a cartoonist so the book is peppered with ironically funny cartoons, depicting people he knows and how he feels.

So many bad things happen in Junior’s life, and at one stage three bad things happen in about as many pages. It was gut-wrenchingly, heart-stoppingly, stomach-churningly sad (and any number of other bodily descriptions). Despite this, however, there is a vein of hope running throughout the body of the narrative (do you see what I did there?). Junior can see a better life for himself and he’s determined to achieve it, despite all the hardships in his way.

Many books about disadvantaged minorities follow similar patterns to this book – a young person is beset by the limitations and difficulties of their culture and home-life, but have the courage to struggle on and rise above it. A lot of these narratives can also be incredibly insensitive, racist and make white culture seem like the saviour as opposed to the oppressor. This book doesn’t try to see the bright side or make excuses or present Junior as some angel child who is out to save his people. Instead, it looks at the things white culture would rather not know about and discusses the social, economic and  cultural life on a reservation in a frank and real way.

Life on the rez isn't explained or excused, instead things just are the way they are. And that’s what I really liked about this book. That it told the truth. That it was honest.

Favourite Quotes (there were so many, I had to limit myself):

We were supposed to be happy with our limitations. But there was no way Penelope and I were going to sit still. Nope, we both wanted to fly.

I draw because words are too unpredictable. I draw because words are too limited. If you speak and write in English, or Spanish, or Chinese, or any other language, then only a certain percentage of human beings will get your meaning. But when you draw a picture, then every man, woman, and child in the world can look at it and say, “That’s a flower.”


She was in pain and I loved her, sort of loved her, I guess, so I kind of had to love her pain, too.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

2014: A Story a Week

Love and War
"Good evening, Miss Henshawe," Nathaniel bowed low over my hand. 
"Mr Evens," I murmured and executed a perfect curtsy.
He took my arm in his and together we strolled along the edge of the dance hall. All about us was laughter and merriment, wine flowing freely and skirts swishing scandalously high as young girls danced with their partners and older men and women watched from the sidelines.
Nathaniel and I did not fit here, our expressions were too grim and neither of us laughed. I managed a smile, but he did not return it. We walked the length of the hall and stopped in a dark corner, the only person nearby was a woman with sherry-red cheeks and an empty glass in her hand. She snored loudly, as if assuring us we were at perfect liberty to talk.
Nathaniel turned to me. "You don't have to give it to me, Clara. Indeed, perhaps you had better take more time to think it over."
"Nonsense, I said I'd help you." I licked my lips and tried to clear the worried frown from my brow. I wondered what we looked like to the dancing throng at our heels. I wondered if they even noticed us. I opened my fan and fluttered it below my chin, the breeze cool on my face, as I did so I took the microchip from my purse. I hoped I looked like a flirtatious young lady full of simpering, air-headed thoughts. I held out my hand.
"Clara, please think this through," Nathaniel pleaded, but I reached forward and took his hand, the microchip going from my hand into his.
Nathaniel closed his eyes. "Oh, Clara." He opened his eyes and smiled sadly at me. "I was sure you would not find it."
"My father would not suspect me. It was unutterably simple."
"You poor fool." Nathaniel drew me close in his arms and kissed my forehead. I felt my heart speed up at his touch. "You have saved my life this night. I do not deserve it."
"If he should ever find out..." I looked up into his dear face. "Nate, he'll punish me severely, but you he'll have executed."
"He will not discover us." Nathaniel drew me closer, although said nothing more to make my worry subside.
"When will you deliver it?" I asked.
"After the dance is over." He turned to survey the hall. "This music grates at my ears, it will be a relief to leave."
"Why do we not take a turn about the gardens?" I suggested. "It is cooler outside and quieter too."
Nathaniel smiled at me, although there was no warmth in it. I shivered. "Certainly, Miss Henshawe. A turn about the gardens would be most pleasant."
I flicked my fan closed and again put my arm through his. He led me back through the dance hall and through the wide open doors at its entrance. The gardens outside were scattered with LED lights, threaded through the trees and lining the garden paths. I breathed deeply and felt better almost at once now we were no longer in the stuffy dance hall. The artificial horizon of the garden seemed to stretch into the distance, although if I squinted I could make out the slight distortion of pixels where the garden dome ended. 
Nathaniel led me along the garden path and I brushed my hand against the camellia bushes as we passed.
"I can't thank you enough," Nathaniel's words were raw. He looked at me with eyes so filled with emotion I felt as if I was only seeing him properly for the first time. "You've saved my life. I am sorry..."
He looked away as if overcome and I pressed his arm tenderly, my heart beating faster. We had spoken of love, Nate and I, but quickly, fleetingly. It was still so new, so wondrous. I would have died for him. And, indeed, I had betrayed my father to save him. The guilt I felt at my betrayal was nothing compared to the joy and relief I felt that his life was now safe.
We continued walking in silence. Finally Nathaniel stopped. He held my hands and turned to me, "Miss Henshawe - Carla - I... I there is something I must confess."
"Yes?" I waited for him to speak words of undying love, to propose marriage, to proclaim his adoration of me.
He dropped my hands and stepped back. "It was not the microchip that would ensure my safety, it was you."
"What do you mean?" I felt cold.
"They want you." His voice was miserable. "To spy on your father."
"Spy on my father?" I echoed. "But the microchip... that was to buy your safety."
"No." Nathaniel shook his head. "That was to buy your allegiance. They have security footage of you taking the chip. I've seen it. They'll turn it over to your father should you betray them."
I drew myself straighter. "Then let them. My father may punish me, yes, but I am not afraid."
"Your father will punish you, but he will execute me." Nathaniel's voice was dull. "You said so yourself. They will have had an agent in the dance hall. And that agent would have recorded you giving me the microchip, no matter how subtle we were, they will have evidence that it passed between us."
"That is why you tried to dissuade me," I gasped. "Oh, Nathaniel, what have you got us into?"
"I'm sorry, my love." He brushed his hair from his face. "But there is a war on and your father is a General. Whether you like it or not, you are a pawn in this game and so am I."
"Can we not run? Make an escape?" I looked about the garden in desperation. I was not familiar with the layout of this particular airship, but there would be escape pods somewhere.
Nathaniel shook his head. "Where to? We are valuable assets to them now. We either spy for them or run and get terminated the minute a camera picks up our signal or our thumbprints are recorded at a hotel. Don't you see, Clara, there is nowhere to run too."
"But spy for them?" I could hardly speak the word. "My father, the war... if we are ever discovered..."
"But we will have each other, my darling. Is that not enough for you?"
I looked up into his face and it was like seeing a strangers. No, I realised, it was not.

Monday, 25 August 2014

What if You Got to Write the Next Wonder Woman?

From BITCH magazine, interview with Amanda Deibert and Cat Staggs on their creation of a one-off story of an iconic DC superhero:


Wonder Woman is such an icon and especially for young women and girls growing up. Do both of you have personal connections to Wonder Woman?
STAGGS: I got into it through the Lynda Carter television show and Saturday morning Super Friends and then comics came in after that. My mother was the comic influence in my household, she grew up reading Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman when she was a kid, so they were shoved under my face from a very early age.

DEIBERT: For me growing up, pop culture characters were used to help train me. There were princesses and Wonder Woman to learn my table manners or anything else my family wanted to instill in me. It was always those kinds of things that were used as role models and examples. While the princesses were fine, it was more interesting to me to want to be more like Wonder Woman because she’s strong and she’s powerful and empowered. Not that there’s anything wrong with a princess and in a way Wonder Woman is a princess. She was always a part of being a role model to look up to growing up, which was really cool. I felt like because I had dark hair and blue eyes that she looked like me, so I was like Wonder Woman, in my little kid logic.

You mentioned watching Lynda Carter on television—how does the issue that you created together show the evolution of Wonder Woman from its origins to present day. How do you think Wonder Woman has evolved and how does your work fit into that canon?
DEIBERT: I think what’s amazing about Wonder Woman is that she’s been around since the ‘40s and is still really current and totally relevant in pop culture and has always been through her many incarnations. I think that speaks so much to what an amazing character she is because each generation has adapted her into representing womankind for that generation. And that’s always worked since she’s such an amazing character and has been so true to her ideals. I think in our story, it’s a modern day Wonder Woman and then it plays into Wonder Woman as an icon, as a role model. It’s very much Wonder Woman fighting and defending the community but also defending the ideal of what she means to each generation of kids coming along which I think is really amazing. All the different incarnations, of course there are different ones that you might connect with more, but there’s enough that there’s something for everybody with her.

Wonder Woman’s identity is so tied up in feminist politics. Looking back to the iconic Ms.cover, does feminism and having a feminist identity play into your issue and work on Wonder Woman?
DEIBERT I would say yes. The message in our particular story is definitely one about equality. It’s definitely about being true to yourself and not worrying about what other people or society thinks about you which I think has an underlying message that certainly applies to women and an inequality that still exists today. She is an iconic character for a reason and I think that anyone who works with her or around her is going to be influenced by that. Always.

(Read the full interview here)

Interview with Jeffery G. Roberts, Author of 'The Healer'

A big thank you to Jeffery G. Roberts for agreeing to an interview with me! In this interview, he discusses his inspirations, his current work as well as his childhood ambition of being a horse. Please enjoy! ~ Rachael

1. What are you writing at the moment?
I just finished an alternative history short story,"When Stars Wept", and I'm working on novel # 8, "The Horror on the HMS Cottingly".

2. What is your favorite genre to write in?
I try to diversify, to gain experience and hone my craft. Science fiction is what I love most, but I've written horror, fantasy, fantasy/comedy, and 1 attempt at a romance short story, "Karma's Rendezvous", which I think turned out quite well.

3. Who inspires you most as an author?
Probably Ray Bradbury and Douglas Adams. And of course, my Dad, who wrote for radio after WW II; a show called "Duffy's Tavern".

4. What is your history? Have you always been a writer?
I was born in New York City, raised on Long Island, then on to S. Florida. I attended Northern Arizona University, where I received a B.Sc. degree in writing, then a Master's in American history. To supplement my income, I've done a plethora of odd jobs. Probably not much different than most writers.

5. What is your favorite thing about self-publishing?
Speed. I use Booklocker.com. With the new P.O.D. form of publishing, I don't have to wait 5 months for an elitist in New York or LA to tell me my work isn't exactly what their agency is looking for. (It never is!) Then, when I think of how many times "Gone With The Wind", "The Shining", or "Harry Potter" were rejected, I feel much better that I can self-publish, and it's available world-wide in about a month. Aren't literary agents supposed to recognize talent? Isn't that their job? Oh well - another myth busted.

6. How did you discover self-publishing?
By having subscribed to Booklocker.com's newsletter, and that's how I took the publishing plunge with them. Very pleased, too.

7. What do you do to promote your book?
That's the only drawback to self-publishing vs. traditional publishing - you have to promote your work yourself. I use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and I subscribe to a few book promotion services to help spread the word of my work. I also periodically put my book cover, blurb, and a purchase link, on my Facebook page. And once a month I put it on about 50-60 book promotion pages on Facebook. Also word of mouth, family & friends, etc. I've only scratched the surface, as THE HEALER was just published in January, 2014. Yes, there are firms you can pay $6000, who will cover the Earth with your book, like Sherwin-Williams paint. But who's got that kind of money hidden in the cushions of their couch? I know I'm still looking!

8. Have you ever had a bad review? What's the best thing to do when you get one?
So far, aside from rejections, which every writer gets, I've gotten a 3-Star review, though the reviewer liked my book. But I've also had a 5-Star review, as well. What to do when you get a bad one? Go in your bathroom, put your face in a pillow, and scream obscenities in 4 different languages. Then find the biggest piece of chocolate cream pie and a glass of cold milk. Works for me!

9. Where are your books available?
At Booklocker.com, Amazon,com, Barnes and Noble, I-Tunes, Kobo, and any retail bookstore with an online presence. Just make sure it's Jeffrey G.  Roberts, "The Healer".

10. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
My Mom liked to recall a story about how my Dad once went on a business trip. I was about five. And he told me I was now the man of the house until he got back. And I burst into tears! When asked why, I told him I didn't want to be the man of the house - I wanted to be a horse! Luckily, I have no recollection of this bizarre incident. This is a good thing. But as I got older, and had given up the dream of changing species, I believe I wanted to be a test pilot. Never happened, but I did solo in 1968; and my Mom, Dad, my dog, and I, had many happy times flying all over the country in my Dad's plane. He was a great influence on me, as he was a decorated Spitfire ace in the R.A.F. during the Battle of Britain.

'The Healer' Synopsis:

What happens when a 22nd century doctor on sabbatical to Mars, suddenly finds himself - through terrorism - 168 years and 150 million miles from his loved ones? He is now on a violent & primitive world - ours! How will he survive in modern day Anchorage, Alaska? Moreover, how will he heal the sick using 2181 medical technology, without risking exposure of his true identity? But while he dreams of someday returning to his own time, and family, he has no choice; for he is - THE HEALER.


Author Bio:

I was born 2/24/49 in New York City. I act 12, so it averages out to an age that's more respectable for me. I was raised in New York and S. Florida. I attended Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff, AZ. I currently reside in Tucson, Arizona. I guess you could consider me an ambivert; part introvert, with just a teensy bit of extroversion. I'm definitely a type "B" person. Enya and Ray Lynch are 2 of my favorite musical artists. Writers are readers, and I'm no exception; I have about 500 books on all different subjects and genres. I've always been a student of the weird, the unexplainable, and the mysterious. I live in a state famous for UFO sightings. If they ever come for me, I have a strategy: I'm going to tell them I gave at the office last year. Maybe they'll leave me alone. I love studying the future, as well as the past. It's the present I don't care for! What can I say - I'm a Pisces.

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The Troy Game Book Three – Darkwitch Rising

By Sara Douglass


Wow.

That was my reaction upon finishing this book. In my reviewof the second, I mentioned that the books are labyrinthine like the Game itself. That you’re constantly figuring out what’s happening and you can’t believe a lot of what characters tell you. This book was so full of twists and turns and startling revelations that I finished it in a matter of days. It was incredible.

Cromwell has died and Charles II is back on the throne of England. In this new world, Cornelia, Brutus, Genvissa and Coel are back, and Asterion too. Cornelia is destined to become Asterion’s whore and Genvissa is held in Asterion’s clutches and has changed from the confident and snakeish woman she once was, into a creature who may just be willing to assist Cornelia in her pursuit of becoming Mistress of the Labryinth.

Brutus and Coel have been reborn as Charles II and his friend Louis De Silva. These two men have at last put to bed the hurts of the past and are now committed to aiding Cornelia and everything she stands for.

There are so many exciting things that happen in this book that its hard not to blurt them out. Perhaps most exciting of all is that Cornelia finally becomes her own person. She stops allowing Brutus and the Game to dominate and manipulate her. Instead, she does what is right for her and right for the land. This leads her to many decisions which would once have seemed inconceivable, but made perfect and logical sense as the narrative progressed.

Asterion too develops as a character and it is in this book that we first begin to see him as an actual person as opposed to an malevolent monster intent on destroying the world. In this book, we begin to realise why he carries such hatred within him and what it is that truly drives him to commit such atrocities. Like Genvissa, it becomes apparent that nobody is irredeemable.

In this book, Genvissa also completely transforms from the self-satisfied and confidant woman she once was. She pays for the hurt she caused the land and, for want of a better phrase, becomes one of the ‘good guys’.

In this book too we are introduced to the Realm of Faerie and the Lord of the Faerie. There was some allusion to this in the second book, but in this the third it is much more apparent and important.

The narrative is becoming increasingly complex, however, so I shall have to read the fourth and final book soon before I forget everything that’s happened.

This has definitely been my favourite book of the series so far and I cannot wait for the next one. They didn’t have the fourth book at my local book shop, so I’m going to have to have to either buy it online and wait days for it to show up, or get it instantly on iBooks. Except then I won't have the complete set in physical form... which would irk my sense of neatness and order very much.

Favourite Quote:
"We all wish," she said softly, "and yet all wishes ever achieve is to expose our sorrows."

Friday, 22 August 2014

Divergent: The Movie

I finally watched Divergent the other day. I thought the book was average, mostly because I kept finding all these holes in the dystopian society Roth created (for instance, the factionless would have kids. So what happens to them? Do they get adopted into the factions? Or perhaps the factionless are neutered? In which case, WHY ISN'T THIS MENTIONED? IT'S KIND OF A BIG DEAL.)

The movie was pretty good actually (even if Tris (played by Shailene Woodley) was so obviously wearing make-up despite being Abegnation, the faction that despises vanity.) It sticks very closely to the story for the most part, so if they continue on with the series, I think I'll just watch the movies. Because, two words: Theo James.



From The Dissolve:

Divergent takes place in that favorite setting of storytellers looking to make allegorical statements about How We Live Now: a dystopian near-future. Laid out, as these things must be, via opening voiceover narration, Divergent’s world is built on the ruins of Chicago, which no longer borders Lake Michigan, but rather a vast swampland separated from the city by a towering wall, erected by someone, at some point in the past, to keep out something. It’s never clear what threat exists on the other side of the wall; what is explained, over and over, is that this future society is built on a system of factions in which all citizens must dedicate themselves one of five established values/lifestyles: Abnegation, dedicated to selflessness; Erudite, dedicated to acquiring knowledge; Dauntless, dedicated to bravery; Amity, dedicated to kindness; and Candor, dedicated to honesty. Anyone not conforming to one of the five become the untouchable caste of this society—the cleverly named “factionless”—living without purpose or protection.

Divergent’s heroine, Tris (Shailene Woodley), lives in fear of becoming factionless when she learns, via mandatory testing that determines optimal faction placement, that she is Divergent, displaying qualities of multiple factions. Warned by her tester that this is rare and extremely dangerous, Tris is pushed to hide her condition and just conform to a faction, any faction. She chooses Dauntless, the soldier class, whose members spend their days performing feats of bravery, wearing cool black clothes, getting tattooed, and running everywhere they go. She keeps her Divergence secret throughout her physical training—which involves lots of hand-to-hand combat, weaponry, and jumping or dangling from great heights—but it becomes harder to hide when she has to enter chemically induced “fear landscapes,” which her condition lets her manipulate. Her unusual aptitude catches the attention of her aloof yet hunky trainer, Four (Theo James), who becomes her protector (and love interest) when it becomes apparent that Divergents are being targeted by another faction for the threat they pose to a brewing inter-faction war.


(read the full article by Genevieve Koski here)