Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for December 18th, 2013

Let’s Talk: Three New Titles from TTB

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Folks, it’s not every day I can come up with an alliterative title like the one above . . . nor would I wish to, excepting the fact that three new young adult titles by Heather McLaren, Dina von Lowencraft and Scott Eder have been released by Twilight Times Books (TTB for short).

The first, MYTHOS, is a debut urban fantasy by Illinois writer Heather McLaren (pictured at right).  David Conley goes to the Bahamas and falls in love with Faren Sands, all the while thinking she’s a normal, nonmagical woman.  However, she’s a mermaid from secretive Atlantis, which still exists. When she tells him who and what she is — and he gets over the shock — many, many consequences befall them.

MYTHOS features a great cover (as you see) and an interesting way to bring the myth of Atlantis to modern-day readers.  Further, it has the age-old conflict that two lovers must face once they truly know each other: Will they stay together despite it all, or will they end up apart?

I’ve had several e-mail discussions with Ms. McLaren, which has led me to discover that she — like me — believes in the power of persistence.  When I asked her what caused the plotline of MYTHOS to come to mind, she said this: “(I started) writing the outline for Mythos and Beyond Legend (due to) boredom in creative writing class during my tenth grade year.”  Further questioning elicited the response that MYTHOS has been in development in one fashion or another for twenty years.  (More power to her!)

I also asked what kept her going during this whole process.  She said, “It was a way to escape from stress. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to finish it.”

Isn’t that a sensible motivation?  (I think so, anyway.)

I look forward to reading more of Ms. McLaren’s work because I’m a sucker for updated tales of Atlantis, especially if they’re done well and sensitively.  And while so far all I’ve read is a sample chapter (available here), her book looks quite promising!

The next novel up is Belgian writer Dina von Lowenkraft’s debut novel, DRAGON FIRE.  (Ms. von Lowenkraft is pictured at left.)  This is a cross-cultural tale set in Norway about a dragon shapeshifter, Rakan, and the woman who loves him, Anna.  Both have been told various things about other cultures and other races that may or may not be true . . . will they be able to get past this long enough to express their feelings for one another?  And even if they do, will they be able to stay together with everything that stands against them?

An updated take on dragons that just so happens to have a clash of cultures inherent along with a romance?  And one that takes a few jabs at the whole Twilight phenomenon as well?

No wonder Publishers Weekly was intrigued.

More to the point, there’s a reason DRAGON FIRE is next on my reading list for pleasure reading (as alas, I cannot review it at SBR due to our conflict-of-interest policy).  I’m always intrigued by cross-cultural tales, especially when they deal with two young lovers who’ve been systematically lied to during most of their short lives.  (Sound familiar?  It should, considering that’s a big part of ELFY‘s premise.  Not that I’m the first person in the history of the world to have come up with that one, as it’s been around since time immemorial.)

BTW, A sample chapter of DRAGON FIRE is available here.

Finally, Florida writer Scott Eder’s debut novel KNIGHT OF FLAME is also available (he’s pictured at right).  I haven’t had a great deal of interaction with Mr. Eder (though I have had some on Facebook), which makes it a little more difficult to discuss what’s going on with his book — but I shall give it my best anyway!

KNIGHT OF FLAME stars Develor Quinteele, a normal-seeming guy from Tampa, Florida.  Unknown to most, he’s also known as the sixth Knight of Flame, and has an important task: he must keep the world safe from the Gray Lord, a horrible person who revels in the evil he does . . . and unfortunately has many descendants to help him carry out his horrific plans.

Develor’s control over his powers has never been the world’s best, and he’s turned to the easiest expedient possible — channeling his rage — in order to wield them.  But this backfires spectacularly after Develor is falsely accused after a tragedy.

Stripped of his powers, will Develor regain control of himself well enough to get the other Knights to restore his power before it’s too late?

A few sample chapters of KNIGHT OF FLAME are available here.  I read them, and was intrigued; there’s a swift writing style here and some excellent worldbuilding.  The evil characters are hissable, and the good ones conflicted . . . I can see why Library Journal enjoyed this novel (even if I can’t seem to come up with a link to back it up, Eder’s blog points out the positive review).

At any rate, here are the three newest authors in the Twilight Times Books stable . . . please check them out, and see if their work interests you.

But in case you still need more motivation to check out TTB, take a gander at Maria de Vivo‘s THE COAL ELF.  I edited this novel, and can tell you that Ms. de Vivo’s take on Santa Claus, Elves, and their comportment and demeanor is excellent.  Witty and sarcastic by turns, heroine Ember leaves the safety of home and hearth to become, of all things, a coal Elf — those who are entrusted with digging out the coal that ends up in the stockings of bad children everywhere.  And as you might expect, her job isn’t exactly coveted . . . especially when you consider that there’s never before been a female coal Elf of any sort.

Ember’s journey from rebellious teen Elf to a responsible, albeit still delightfully sarcastic, Elf fully in charge of herself is well worth the reading.

But don’t just take my word for it.  Read this sample chapter . . . then come back and tell me if you don’t think Ember’s story is just the antidote to all the sappy Christmas songs you’ve been hearing on the radio lately.

Now, let’s get to reading and enjoying some books, shall we?

Writing and Cross-Promotion

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Folks, I thought it might be interesting to write a blog about just what promotion is — and maybe a little bit about what it isn’t — while I also talk about a few of my favorite writers in the process.

Promotion tends to consist of a number of things.  It can be as easy as Tweeting something on Twitter (if you do that), or sharing something on Facebook.  It can be more complex, as when you write a guest blog for someone else . . . of course, the latter action is far, far more personal, and may grab a reader that much more easily.

Going to a convention, if you have something of your own to sell, is also a promotional experience.  And even if you don’t, if you’re out there networking, that’s still considered under the heading of promotion.

Now, what’s not considered promotion?  Going to unrelated websites and putting up a bunch of links to your work — spamming them, in short — as that’s completely unprofessional and extremely counterproductive, besides.  (You could even think of this as anti-motion rather than promotion.)

Another thing that would not be a good idea from a promotional standpoint is one I’ve only rarely seen — thank goodness, as it’s again highly unprofessional.  But here goes: when someone mentions inside a review that his work is better than the work that’s supposed to be under discussion, that’s just really bad form.  (More anti-motion at work.)

Promotion is many things, but it’s not supposed to be either unprofessional or “spammy.”  What you’re trying to do is get the word out, that’s all — which is why if you’re talking about your favorite authors, you could be said to have promoted them.

So if you have friends whose work you admire — and if they, too, are on Facebook, Twitter, or any number of other social media sites — you can help to promote them, providing you’re not being obnoxious about it.

It’s in that spirit that I wanted to let you know, again, about a few of my favorite authors.  In no particular order, here are some of the authors I’ve either enjoyed reading or have enjoyed working with during the past two years (trust me, there’s many more, but I decided to stop with six):

Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, NIGHT CALLS (reviewed at SBR on 9/21/2013).  Ms. Kimbriel, a noted author of hard science fiction, wrote a winning historical fantasy in NIGHT CALLS featuring levelheaded farmgirl Alfreda (or “Allie”), who must get a handle on her own magic in order to help her pioneering community, or die trying.

Stephanie Osborn, the Displaced Detective series (books 1 and 2 reviewed at SBR on 7/13/2012; book 3 reviewed at SBR on 7/19/2012).  Ms. Osborn’s Displaced Detective series featuring Sherlock Holmes as brought to the present day by hyperspatial physicist Skye Chadwick is a must-read for anyone who loves hard SF, Sherlock Holmes, or just plain good writing.

Dora Machado, THE CURSE GIVER.  I edited THE CURSE GIVER, and enjoyed every minute of it.  There’s Bren, who’s trying to save his people and has fallen under a curse, and Lusielle, the healer he initially saves, thinks he must kill (but fortunately refrains), and finally ends up falling in love with.  There’s a phenomenally complex plotline twisting through all this that needs to be read and enjoyed . . . all I can say is, don’t miss this complex, epic tale of revenge, romance and redemption.

Aaron Paul Lazar, THE SEACREST (reviewed at SBR on 12/14/2013). Lazar is noted for his mysteries, but THE SEACREST is a straight-up romance (albeit with a few mysterious touches) about Finn and his first love, Libby.  They first have a teenage romance, are riven from each other due to misinformation, then come together in a way that you need to read if you’re any kind of romance reader at all.  In short, if you enjoy Nicholas Sparks, you really owe it to yourself to give Aaron Paul Lazar a try.

Kate Paulk, IMPALER (reviewed at SBR on 4/17/2011).  Ms. Paulk has a gift for historical fantasy; while she is also good at writing funny fantasy (KNIGHTS IN TARNISHED ARMOR), IMPALER shows her full range as a novelist — it’s an exceptional read that combines equal measures of historicity and heart, and makes Vlad Tepes into a sympathetic character despite his flaws — or maybe even because of them.

And finally, I edited Florence Byham Weinberg’s ANSELM: A METAMORPHOSIS last year and was intrigued.  Here’s a story about a rather faithless, feckless young academic, Eric, transported into the much-older Father Anselm’s body.  The original Anselm was and remains an evil man who’s out only for his own pleasures, but Eric grows and changes, becoming far more spiritual and thoughtful in the process.

So there you have it — some SF mysteries, a romance, a couple of historical fantasies, and a literary fantasy.  All exceptionally well-crafted books.  All must-reads in their various ways.

All authors I keep an eye on, to see what they’re going to come up with next.

In that vein, please also go check out Jason Cordova’s novel of near-future suspense, CORRUPTOR . . . let’s hope he writes a sequel one of these years!

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 18, 2013 at 5:54 am

Posted in Books, Publishing, Writing