Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Chris Nuttall

The Zero Curse — Chris Nuttall’s Excellent Middle-Grade Sequel

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Folks, yesterday I talked about two books that I felt had beaten sequel-itis — that is, the fate of books that don’t live up to its potential after a great first book. And after I talked about Jason Cordova’s DEVASTATOR and Kayelle Allen’s BRINGER OF CHAOS: FORGED IN FIRE, one of my other good friends pointed out yet another book that beats sequel-itis, hands-down.

That book is Chris Nuttall’s THE ZERO CURSE. It takes the wonderful character of Caitlyn Aguirre (also known as Cat) from THE ZERO BLESSING and gives her new challenges, while upping the previous stakes in the process. And the fact that Cat is just twelve years old, and isn’t an idiot savant, isn’t even necessarily a genius — just a reasonably normal smart kid with an unusual ability for her world, that of having no magic at all — makes things all the more poignant.

Chris’s work just keeps getting better and better. And these particular stories are close to my heart for many reasons, most particularly because I got to see them early (as I am one of Chris’s editors), and enjoyed seeing them come to fruition.

Why? Well, I flat-out love Cat. She’s a self-sufficient girl to root for, being without magic in a magical world. And first, she has to figure out how to make her way without having any magic, while finding a way to make her lack a blessing, in THE ZERO BLESSING…before Chris ups the game entirely in THE ZERO CURSE, where Cat starts to realize that the other side of a blessing is a curse, so must start to figure out how to minimize the ways her unusual status as a “Zero” (that is, without magic) can be exploited by evildoers.

Zero Cursed Cover FOR WEB

Once you read about Cat, along with her odious sister Alana and her slightly nicer sister Bella, you’ll never forget her, her world, the school she goes to (Jude’s), her friend and fellow forger (kind of like a magical blacksmith) Akin Ruben, and her best friend, Rose, you’ll never forget it. (Cat’s great-aunt Stregharia in particular is a major piece of work, and you’ll enjoy booing and hissing whenever she shows up, guaranteed.)

So Chris’s book also beats sequel-itis, and is a great book to read on a cold day. (Or any day!) And I, for one, can’t wait until I read the third book in the Zero series, which even I haven’t seen yet. (But I will. Even if I have to find a way to tickle Chris until he says “uncle” to do it.)

Tell me about more books that beat sequel-itis in the comments! (I love hearing from y’all.)


Written by Barb Caffrey

January 6, 2018 at 12:05 pm

Catching Up

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Folks, I know I’ve not blogged very much in the past week or two. I’ve been working on a big project, and now that it’s out I can talk about it.

That project is Chris Nuttall’s newest novel in his Schooled in Magic series, INFINITE REGRESS. In it, his heroine, Emily, must deal with a new headmaster, romantic complications with her long-term boyfriend Caleb, her own, burgeoning magic, and some hints of a long dormant, malevolent power underneath her school, Whitehall.

Now, if you’re unaware of this series, you’re in for a treat. Emily, you see, is an American girl who was brought to a magical realm by a necromancer. She won free of the necromancer, made an alliance with an enigmatic sorcerer, Void, and ever since has run into a variety of circumstances that have tested her, her power, and her other abilities at every turn. Because of her practical knowledge, garnered from our Earth, she’s become a wealthy woman; she’s even been named a Baroness by another kingdom, Zangaria, though for the moment she’s set that duty down. (She never plans to go back there, in fact, but that’s for another book.) Emily is smart, resourceful, and would seem to have all the advantages…if you didn’t know she’s also autistic, and must deal with things in a slightly different way than others.

I edited INFINITE REGRESS, and am happy to recommend it to all lovers of fantasy.

Aside from that, I’ve done a little bit of writing and a whole lot of thinking about CHANGING FACES, which is still — still! — in progress. (Here I finally have people talking about my books, and waiting for one, and I am still fighting it out with same. Par for the course, I suppose.)

As far as everything else — the living situation is exactly the same as last reported. (No improvement, but no worse, either.) I don’t know what will happen there, and that unsettled feeling doesn’t help much when it comes to writing. (I can put it aside more easily as an editor, for whatever reason.) Much of this story isn’t mine to tell, so all I can say is this…I’m still trying, I still hope for better, and I haven’t given up.

But yes, it’s frustrating, not knowing where I’m going to be from day to day.

Anyway, that’s about all I can say right now. Do look for a new blog over the weekend, where I’ll be talking about Christine Amsden’s newest, KAITLIN’S TALE (yes, I edited that, too — why did you ask?), and will have a bit from the author herself about why she wrote it.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 25, 2016 at 3:34 pm

My New Guest Blog Is Up at Chris Nuttall’s Blog

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Folks, I am happy to report that Chris Nuttall accepted a guest blog from me about editing. I called it “Adventures in Editing: Going over A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, 12 Years Later.”And it’s up now over at Chris’s busy blog, the Chrishanger.

Why did I write this, exactly? Well, back in May, I wrote about the struggles I had in going over my final edit of A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE. I ended up adding some scenes, pruning back others…I actually did more than my editor asked for in certain respects, because I felt my book deserved more.

And because ELFY was originally one book, I needed to write a brand-new first chapter, too, plus I added a “What Has Gone Before.”

I didn’t talk about all of that at Chris’s blog, mind. I thought his readership might be more interested in why I did what I did, and what the difference is between what I call a full-on edit (otherwise known as a full line-edit plus a conceptual edit plus a consistency read) and editorial changes.

Here’s a bit of that blog where I discuss exactly what the differences are between a full-on edit and editorial changes:

When you are dealing with editorial changes, you move more quickly through your manuscript – at least, I do – and you aren’t as concerned with the intrinsic wholeness. You have to believe in your editor, and trust that he or she knows your writing well enough that you won’t be steered off-course…and you have to trust that you will make the right changes in the right ways.

But in a full-on edit, you are looking at everything. Word choice, even if no one else has mentioned it. Whether you should add something at the beginning, because you now have two books where you once had only one. Whether you need additional scenes to clarify things, and if so, what?

And when you’re done with your edit, you go back and make whatever changes are necessary.

In other words, I analyzed my manuscript as if it were written by someone else. I saw where it had weaknesses, as well as strengths. I tried to shore up those weaknesses. And I looked for ways to be consistent, without messing with my earlier style whatsoever – as, over time, I’ve become a slightly different writer.

In addition, I added a short and funny excerpt from Chapter 2, which is a scene I decided to add after I was done with my final edit. (The only place this excerpt appears besides Chris’s blog is at the Twilight Times Books site in my sample chapters; this is at the beginning of chapter 2.)

But that’s not the only reason to read my newest guest blog,

Please do go and take a look at this guest blog, as I put in four tips at self-editing that may help you out a little.

And while I believe every writer needs an editor besides himself/herself, you can help your editor out a great deal if you at least try to go back over your manuscript and attempt to read it as if it were written by someone else.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 24, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Book Discussion: “Schooled in Magic,” “Kindred Rites,” and More

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What makes a book interesting enough that you want to pick it up immediately and start reading? Or, for those of you who exclusively read e-books, what makes you willing to sit down and read the sample pages?

While no one’s quite sure of the answers to the above questions, one thing’s for certain: Books aren’t written in a vacuum, and it’s hard for them to gain traction if no one knows about them.

Even if you’re an author with a following, as is the case with Christopher G. “Chris” Nuttall, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, and Rosemary Edghill, it’s unclear what makes someone decide to read one of your books as opposed to another. Sure, there’s genre preference and all — some people just enjoy reading, say, fantasy-romances, and if your book falls into that category, you’re more likely to be read. But a book that’s so good that people are willing to fall all over themselves recommending it is rare . . . unless you’re a regular book reviewer, as I am.

Then, perhaps, it’s not so rare.

At any rate, Chris Nuttall’s newest novel is SCHOOLED IN MAGIC, the first in a series about Emily, a girl from our Earth who’s transported to another world and finds she can do magic . . . but only if she can get away from the necromancer who transported her there, first.

I’ve read SCHOOLED IN MAGIC and found it to be an interesting take on the old “fish out of water” tale . . . what Emily does in this brand-new world is often life-affirming, but she can’t help but make mistake after mistake due to being unfamiliar with this world and its environs. (Note that this new world is never named; it’s simply “the world.” That’s done for a reason, as the people of this world are decidedly backward by Earthly standards, being roughly at a feudal level.)

A sample chapter is available here for your perusal . . . if you like what you see, please follow the links from that page (there are many) and get yourself your own copy (’cause I’m not sharing mine).

I recently reviewed two of Rosemary Edghill’s books over at Shiny Book Review, IDEALITY: VENGEANCE OF MASKS and FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT. The former is a dark fantasy with elements of SF and horror (tough to quantify, very interesting to read, and extremely thought provoking), while the latter is a series of short stories about Ms. Edghill’s popular character Bast, a Wiccan detective who has only her wits and her faith to help her solve crimes. Bast is extremely intelligent, makes many witty asides, and can be exceedingly trenchant in her opinions . . . which is one of the reasons I enjoy reading about her so much.

FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT is one of those books that you just can’t stop thinking about once you’ve finished reading it. While the one-liners are great and well worth the price of admission, it’s Bast’s mind, thoughts and opinions that call me back again and again. Bast is moral, ethical, and principled, and while she mostly walks apart from others due to her Wiccan faith being profoundly misunderstood (even by other NeoPagans), she’s someone many people would want to befriend if they ever met someone like her outside of a story.

Best of all, if you enjoy these stories, there are three excellent novels about Bast available in BELL, BOOK AND MURDER. These, too, are well worth reading, and are books I return to again and again as I ponder various thoughts and wonder just how Bast managed to come up with the answers this time . . .

Finally, what can I say about the incomparable Katharine Eliska Kimbriel that I haven’t said before? Her work in both hard science fiction with her Chronicles of Nuala series and now in dark fantasy/frontier fantasy with her Night Calls series is outstanding; best of all, she’s currently working on the third book of the latter series even as I write this.

Her most recent release is KINDRED RITES, book two in the Night Calls series; I reviewed it over at SBR back in January. It features Alfreda “Allie” Sorensson. Allie is now thirteen, a burgeoning magician with unusually strong powers, and is studying with her Aunt Marta as she must learn self-control. Fortunately, Allie is a good-hearted young lady who has no wish to coerce others; she only wishes to live her life unmolested, and help others as need be.

In other hands, Allie could easily have turned into a Mary Sue-type of character. Instead, Ms. Kimbriel wisely shows Allie struggling with the things any young girl struggles with — boys. How other girls treat boys. Puberty (or at least the fact of it, as inexorable as the sun coming up in the morning). Learning her craft, which includes birthing babies, digging for herbs in foul weather, and many other unpleasant things . . . and dealing with the effects of magical “hangovers” when too much magic is expended, no doubt. (This is more sketched than shown, but is there nonetheless.)

And, of course, because Allie is so powerful, other people want to steal her away before she can fully come into her own, magical birthright.

In other words, there’s many practical elements to both of Allie’s stories, NIGHT CALLS and KINDRED RITES, plus many speculative elements, and both add immeasurably to the richness of these tales. Allie’s innate goodness is refreshing, while her natural curiosity and wisdom also appeal . . . in short, if you’re looking for YA fantasy done right, look no further than Katharine Eliska Kimbriel.

So there you have it — three fine works of fiction by three disparate writers, all different, each with something interesting and special to offer. I consider all of them “comfort books” for different reasons, and enjoyed them all immensely.

Your next assignment, Dear Reader, is to figure out which one you want to devour first . . . then have at.

And the Next Big Thing Chain Continues with Jason Cordova

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Folks, yesterday Chris Nuttall responded to the “Next Big Thing” blog chain, which I referred to in yesterday’s really brief blog post.

Today, I found out that Jason Cordova also responded and has posted his responses for the “Next Big Thing” here.

In brief, Chris discussed his new book SCHOOLED IN MAGIC, which I edited, while Jason discussed his work-in-progress WRAITHKIN.  Both of these books should interest anyone who enjoys SF&F, albeit in different ways.

Chris’s book is a young adult coming of age story and also a bit of a “fish out of water” epic as it’s about Emily, a teenager from our world who ends up in a wholly other place and finds out she can do magic.  (The main twist Chris has is that Emily is definitely not coming back, so she has to come to some sort of accommodations with her new culture, her new abilities, and new life as quickly as is humanly possible.)  Emily is appalled by the way most people live in this new world as the main society seems to be a type of medieval feudalism, and does her best to implement as many modern advances as possible.  This helps to keep the reader both interested and engaged, as most of the time, a character’s frustrations with a new world just doesn’t get any airplay at all.  (Many characters immediately “go native” instead.)  And of course Emily makes a few quite understandable mistakes along the way, too . . . .

At any rate, SCHOOLED IN MAGIC is a fun book with some unexpected depth and a great main character.  I enjoyed reading — and editing — it immensely.

Jason’s WRAITHKIN is a much darker story that deals with the whole issue of genetics and he freely admits it was inspired by the movie Gattaca.  However, Jason’s book also has aliens, a parliamentary monarchy and a civil war in the making and is described as both military science fiction (milSF) and a love story.

I don’t know as much about Jason’s story as I do about Chris’s for two reasons: one, Jason hasn’t finished it yet.  And two, I haven’t edited it.

But I do know Jason’s writing and at least a bit about how he tends to come up with plots.  (In effect, it’s the Lois McMaster Bujold method, which roughly stated amounts to, “Find out what’s the worst possible thing you can do to this guy.  Then do it.”)  Which is why I’ve told him I can’t wait to read WRAITHKIN, just to see what he’s come up with this time.

Neither of these books are available right now for two different reasons.  Chris wants to see if he can interest a publisher in his newest novel, while Jason is still in the process of finishing his newest novel up.

But both Jason and Chris have other books and stories available for your reading pleasure, so do go to Jason’s site and Chris’s blog and check out what they have to offer.  You might just be pleasantly surprised.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 15, 2012 at 12:32 am

The Next Big Thing Continues With Chris Nuttall

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Folks, Chris Nuttall has kindly followed up with the Next Big Thing blog chain; his post is available here.

As I said before, Chris has a number of novels available right now through that range from military science fiction to any variety of fantasy.  His most recent fantasy novel is THE ROYAL SORCERESS, which I discussed a few days ago in my own “Next Big Thing” post.

So do, please, read his post over at his blog.  Then go check out his work over at Amazon, OK?

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 13, 2012 at 3:32 pm

The Next Big Thing Starts . . . Now

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Have any of you heard of the Next Big Thing blog chain?

This Next Big Thing author chain has been going around for a while, but I only was tagged recently by Kate Paulk (hi, Kate!).   Kate has a number of excellent novels out from the Naked Reader that range from the deadly serious to the wildly funny including IMPALER, KNIGHT IN TARNISHED ARMOR, and ConSensual (the third book in her Vampire Con series) — so if you haven’t read her books yet, you’ve really missed out.**

(In other words, her books would make great Xmas and/or holiday presents, as would the works of the other authors on this list.)

Anyway, here are the rules:

  1. Give credit to the person who tagged you
  2. Post the rules for this blog hop
  3. Answer these 10 questions about your current work
  4. Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can go over and meet them.

But I’m going to tag six even though I don’t have a link for the last . . . but we’ll get to that.

The first, obviously, is Jason Cordova, whose full length novel is CORRUPTOR from Twilight Times Books.  Jason and I both write for Shiny Book Review (he runs it; I write) and are in the process of writing a steampunk fantasy together.  (Slowly, yes.  But we’re getting there.)  He also has a number of short stories available in a number of genres, which he has links to from his blog site.

The second is Christopher Nuttall.  Chris has a number of books that he’s self-published along with a book called THE ROYAL SORCERESS from Elsewhen Press.  He’s an extremely prolific writer with a wide range of stories available including a great deal of military science fiction, so do check him out.

The third is Jeffrey Getzin, whose full length novel is PRINCE OF BRYANAE.  Jeff does not have a blog site, but his author’s Web site is available here.  (I’ll let him know that I have tagged him.)

The fourth is Florence Byham Weinberg, whose forthcoming novel, ANSELM: A METAMORPHOSIS, is a literary fantasy set in the 1960s and will be available sometime in 2013 from Twilight Times Books.  She also has a number of books available (also from Twilight Times Books) that might best be described as “historical mysteries” and/or “historical literary fiction.”  Ms. Weinberg does not seem to have a blog site, but she does have an author’s Web site, which is available here.  (I’ll let Ms. Weinberg know I’ve tagged her.  It’s possible that both she and Jeff Getzin may wish to respond via my blog; if that happens, I’ll be glad to give both guest blog rights for the day so they can answer the questions any way they see fit.)

The fifth is author Rosemary Edghill, who has many books in print in just about any genre you’d care to name.  Her most recent books are VENGEANCE OF MASKS (which was reviewed at SBR), DEAD RECKONING (with Mercedes Lackey; reviewed at SBR) and ARCANUM 101 (also with Ms. Lackey; again, reviewed at SBR).

Note that Ms. Edghill is a busy working writer, so I have no idea if she’ll be able to take part in the Next Big Thing . . . but no one had tagged her as of yet, which is why I now have.  (Maybe I should grin, duck and run away now?  Though with the cane, it’s more like “grin, bend my head a bit and hobble away slowly,” if you want to know the truth.)

The sixth is my niece, author Jennifer Lunde.  Jenni does not have either a Web site or a blog to the best of my knowledge.  But she does have a book available, PULSE, and is working on another book in that same universe at the present time.  Providing Jenni wishes to answer these questions, I’ll be happy to have her “guest blog” for me.  (PULSE was reviewed by Jason Cordova over at SBR.)

Now, on to the ten questions!

What is the working title of your book?  ELFY.

Where did the idea come from for your book?  I had a very strange dream back in September of 2002 after reading a book about stereotypical Elves.  The dream went something like this: “No, it’s not like that!”

This is how my three-feet-tall character Bruno the Elfy showed up.  Within a few weeks, I’d written over ten thousand words — the most I’d ever written in such a short time — figured out that in Bruno’s worldview, the word “Elves” is a swear word (you never want to call the Elfs the wrong name, either, as they definitely will charcoal you).  And that his race, the Elfys, were mostly a bunch of rhyming fuddy-duddies, which is one reason why he wanted out . . . but of course he didn’t expect to be on Earth among mostly non-magic users.

I wrote it down as fast as I could, discussing it as much as possible with my husband Michael (his assistance was invaluable), and went from cliffhanger to cliffhanger to cliffhanger.

Most importantly, I had fun.

(Yes, I’m very proud of this book.)

What genre does your book fall under?  Urban fantasy.  Specifically, humorous urban fantasy/romance with more than a bit of mystery, some ghosts, some Shakespearean allusions and plenty of alternate universes.

(Yes, “urban fantasy” fits.  But it’s so . . . normal a description, and “humorous urban fantasy” barely scratches the surface, too.)

Should I call it cross-genre urban fantasy, then, and save steps?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie version?  Well, as great as I think Peter Dinklage is as an actor, he’s too old to play Bruno and is also too tall.  (Probably the first time in his career he’ll have been told that, but there it is.)  And Bruno’s love interest Sarah, who’s taller than most Elfys but is certainly under 4’4″, would also be difficult to cast.  (Much less the ghost characters.  Much less . . . ah, Hell.)

There are a few characters, though, that I probably could cast.  Reverend Samuel Andrews would be very well played by Laurence Fishburne (that is, if Mr. Fishburne could handle wearing a bit of padding as Rev. Samuel isn’t exactly svelte.)  Rev. Samuel’s wife, Rebecca, certainly is a part that Kerry Washington would do well in despite her being relatively short as she projects as much taller than she is on her hit ABC show, Scandal.  But I’m unsure who’d do a good job with their daughter, Mikayla or with Mikayla’s basketball star boyfriend, Jason.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  Bruno the Elfy has been lied to his whole life until he’s sent to our Earth, where he must first find love, then gather allies in order to defeat a Dark Elf and return to the Elfy Realm in triumph.  (Read one of my first blogs, “What Elfy is  About” to learn more, as a one-sentence synopsis is painfully inadequate for a 240,000 word novel.)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  Neither.   ELFY is forthcoming from Twilight Times Books in 2013.

How long did it take you to write your book?  Originally, ELFY took a year, or thereabouts.  Then came the first edit.  Then came my husband’s untimely passing.  Then, much later, came the second edit, which actually inserted something into the story to account for text messaging.

Now, if you asked me how long the work on AN ELFY ABROAD, the direct sequel to ELFY, has been taking — um, try eight years and counting.  But some of that is because life has interfered for a while before I get back to the writing . . . and I always do end up going back, because I just have to write this story.

What other books would you compare this to within your genre?  Um, none.  This is one of the problems I had in finding a publisher in the first place — ELFY is lengthy and funny, but it’s not much like anything else.  (No, not even much like Terry Pratchett.  Or Piers Anthony.  Or the late, great Douglas Adams.  Though all are great writers who’ve written a goodly amount of humorous SF&F.)

Who or what inspired you to write this book?  Well, originally it was because of that strange dream I had, as I said before.  But without my late husband Michael’s help, editing, encouragement, and willingness to brainstorm at all hours of the day or night, ELFY would be a far different — and far lesser — book.

Also, without the fact that I finally, finally found the love of my life in my mid-30s, I doubt that I’d have been able to write an authentic love story, much less one quite like this.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Um, it’s funny.  Really, really funny.  A send-up of many big, fat fantasies while still being authentically itself, ELFY is a humorous fantasy/mystery/romance with Shakesperean allusions and alternate universes.

And Bruno’s character just might get to you, too.  He’s been abandoned on Earth, what he knows as “the Human Realm,” and he’s been told his whole life that he’s not worth anything.  His parents are dead.  He knows our language only because his mentor interceded for him (something we don’t find out for a few chapters), and he gets captured right away by some pretty bad people — the parents of his eventual love-interest (and nearly instantaneous friend), Sarah.

One of my friends, William Katzell, told me that ELFY is best summed up as:

ELFY is a coming of age story about Bruno, who’s been kept in the dark about who and what he is (and could be) for all his life.  Trials, tribulations, romance and adulation abound as the anti-hero becomes the hero – and gets the girl.”

I suppose if I were really feeling up to snuff, I could tell you a little bit about my sequel to ELFY, AN ELFY ABROAD (currently in progress), or the ELFY prequel KEISHA’S VOW that’s set in 1954 (ghost characters are alive, while still-living elderly folks are much younger as you might imagine), or my non-Elfyverse New Age Christian fantasy romance CHANGING FACES . . . but as this has already gone on for a while as it is, let’s not and save steps.

(Though you may be interested in Stephanie Osborn’s Next Big Thing blog post, where she discusses all of her current WIPs — all four of them.  She’s definitely an overachiever in more ways than one, which I mean with all due respect as she’s a very classy lady.)

So that’s it for the Next Big Thing . . . tune in tomorrow and we’ll see if any of the writers I’ve tagged wish to take part.  (I hope at least one will, otherwise my part in this blog-hop will be a bit of a miss.)


** Kate Paulk also tagged me from the Mad Genius blog siteThanks again, Kate!

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 11, 2012 at 1:12 am