Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Nuttall

Monday Reading — Time for a New Book (or Four)

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Folks, I have been remiss about letting you know about a few books that are out that I’ve either had something to do with, or that I have reviewed. I even managed to find cover photos this time. (Yay, me!)

So, without further ado:

citadels front cover blog size THE CITADELS OF DARKOVER is out in e-book and trade paperback. I have a short story in this called “Citadel of Fear,” and I hope you’ll enjoy it. I also was interviewed by the editor, Deborah J. Ross, at her blog; I did the interview in February (I think), and it went up in April. But I missed it at the time and only saw a link to it on Twitter a few days ago.

 

Cursed_med_smallI was one of two editors on Chris Nuttall’s newest novel, CURSED, which is out in e-book form now. CURSED is the seventeenth book in Chris’s long-running Schooled in Magic series, and I’ve been fortunate enough to edit all but two of those books. His heroine, Emily, is a young woman originally from Kansas who’s been transported to another world entirely (Chris calls it the Nameless World). But during a recent battle against a crazed monarch, Emily nearly died…and woke up without access to her hard-won magical powers. Now she must get them back, and has to cope with a host of unexpected challenges. (Further editor sayeth not.)

 

Bro coverKayelle Allen has a new entry in her long-running Sempervians saga called BRO. It’s a fun story about two brothers who meet at an odd time; one (Senth) had no idea he had a brother, while the other (Khyff) has had the wrong idea about his long-missing brother for quite a few years. Neither is in an ideal situation, though both are making the best of things…will they manage to find common ground before it’s too late?

I was fortunate to edit Kayelle’s story, and know it’s excellent. It is also available via Kindle Unlimited, so if you have that, you should give it a try forthwith.

 

sons-of-the-lionFinally, I reviewed Jason Cordova’s newest novel, SONS OF THE LION, and as usual Amazon is playing silly buggers with the review. In case Amazon kicks it out (or just eats it), here it is:

SONS OF THE LION is a very well-written book filled with characters I adored and cheered for. The action works. The military ethos and care is profound. The distaste for child slavery and the uplifting of one exceptional child saved from the slavers into the merc company was perhaps my favorite thing overall.

So, you may be asking me, why didn’t I give it five stars if I liked it so much?

It’s the ending. I didn’t like that at all. And as I don’t want to spoil things, I will just say this: as an editor myself, I would’ve chosen a different route. I am unsure if the writer was boxed in by other issues in the Four Horseman Universe (I’ve read all the books to date, but the writer may be aware of things coming that I am not; surely the publisher, Chris Kennedy is). But I was very pleased with everything up to three chapters from the end.

Even with that — something that threw me out of the reader’s trance with great force — I thought this an exceptionally well-written book that did everything and then some that it was supposed to do. Military SF fans will love it. Four Horseman Universe fans will, too — that should go without saying — but anyone who loves military adventure (even if they don’t usually read SF) should appreciate it as well.

Four very solid stars. Recommended (despite its jarring and frustrating ending).

Barb Caffrey

I was happy to review SONS OF THE LION, though I had to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about how I felt about that ending without revealing spoilers. That proved to be difficult.

But do I think you should read it anyway if you enjoy military adventure, military SF, or have read any of the other novels or anthologies in Chris Kennedy’s wildly popular Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse universe? Yes, I do.

Why? The writing is stellar. The characterization is great. And while I hated the ending — let’s get real here — everything until three chapters from the end was exactly what I wanted. (Am I going to make up alternate endings like some of the folks signing petitions asking for a different ending to Game of Thrones on TV? No. But would I like to if I had enough energy? Hmmm…have to ponder.)

So, there you have it. Some books to whet your interest that you may not have known about, and I hope at least one of them will be to your liking. Have at!

Redemption, Tonya Harding, and Chris Nuttall’s newest novel, THE FAMILY SHAME

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Redemption. It’s one of the strongest words in the English language, or at least it should be. It means to be saved from sin, evil, or error. Or to save yourself from the past consequences of bad or immoral actions…or, perhaps, it means this:

Living. Learning. And improving yourself, because you can’t live with the person you used to be.

My friend Chris Nuttall wrote a book recently based around this theme called THE FAMILY SHAME, set in his Zero Enigma universe. (I was one of his editors, so I got to see the book early and often.) In it, young Isabella Rubén has lost everything she once had, all because she trusted the wrong person. She’s only twelve, but the person she trusted plotted treason against the powers-that-be, and Isabella knew about it — and didn’t say anything to her father, or anyone else. Worse yet, she actively collaborated with this person to commit treason, mostly because she saw it as her only reasonable way to obtain political power due to what amounts to her family’s benign neglect of her talents (she’s a female magician and her particular family can only be led by male magicians).

the-family-shame-cover-revised

See, Isabella, in any other family, probably wouldn’t have done this. Every other family in the city of Shallot (where she’s from) picks their leader from everyone, male and female alike, based on a combination of magical and political ability. But her family, the Rubéns, don’t.

But she did it. She feels terrible about it, but she did it, and she can’t take that combination of deliberate non-action (in not telling her father or any of her teachers) plus actively aiding and abetting the treasonous older “friend” along the way.

And she is paying the price, as she has been exiled to Kirkhaven, an old, ramshackle estate about as far away from Shallot as you can get by horse. She’s also been told not to send letters to her father, mother, or brother, as she’s now “the family shame.”

So, not only has she lost everything — family, friends, wealth, schooling, political standing (which she did care about, even though she was only twelve as she was quite precocious in some ways) — she now has to deal with this ramshackle manor. Two adult magicians live there, Morag Rubén and Ira Rubén. (No, they’re not married to each other.) Morag is a cook, while Ira is a type of experimenter who admits he wants to find ways to make Dark-inflected spells work for good. And both of them, too, are exiles…

Did they want young Isabella around? The answer is a resounding “no.” But there she is, and now she has to figure out how to deal with them (not easy), how she’s going to continue her schooling independently (definitely not easy), and how she’s going to deal with the loneliness of this deserted, remote place (almost impossible). All while wrestling with the problems that brought her to this place, which she knows she created and cannot change.

When she manages to befriend a boy around her own age, Callam, her life starts to improve a little. But she has to keep the friendship secret, as she’s not supposed to leave the grounds, nor is he supposed to be on the grounds himself. (It’s a very innocent friendship, as is befitting for their respective ages.)

It’s getting to know Callam that helps to slowly but surely make Isabella realize just how badly she behaved before, and avow that she will find a way to do better.

I don’t want to give away the plot, so I’ll stop there with a plot summary. But I’ve given you this much because I wanted you to think about just how hard it’s going to be for Isabella to redeem herself in the eyes of society — and worse, how hard it’s going to be for Isabella, herself, to redeem herself in her own eyes.

Redemption, you see, is hard. People judge you by your past actions, and no matter what you do, no matter what you say, no matter how much you might apologize, and no matter how much you’ve actually changed, there are still going to be some people who will hate you, and not give the new version of you — the better version, the one tested in the fire — the time of day.

We see that in contemporary life every day.

One of the most current examples is that of figure skater Tonya Harding, who’s now nearly forty-eight years old. But when she was only twenty-four — in 1994 — she somehow failed to stop an attack on fellow figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, then not quite twenty-five. Kerrigan was hit on the knee by thugs sent by Harding’s then-husband, and one of those thugs was Harding’s bodyguard. Harding, herself, was sentenced to probation, given community service, and ended up being banned for life by the United States Figure Skating Association.

What Harding did back then was awful. That she had a rotten childhood (she truly did), that she came from abject poverty (she did), that her husband was mean and abusive to her as far as the public could discern, and that figure skating was her one gift (she was the first American woman to land a triple axel in competition, and was known for her athleticism, her jumps, and her footwork passages) may ameliorate things slightly, but the fact remains that she could’ve apparently done something to keep Kerrigan from being harmed. (I must say “apparently” because the facts are not completely in evidence. What we know is that Harding took a plea deal.)

But did she deserve to be ostracized the rest of her life for this?

Is the assumption going to be that Harding can’t learn, can’t find a way to be a good person, and that it’s supposedly OK for her to never use her one, true gift ever again, even to teach young kids how to skate?

See, that’s the quandary my friend Chris’s protagonist Isabella is in, too. Isabella is a gifted magician, but she misused her magic and hurt people. She knows it was wrong. She has apologized (as Harding, back in 1994, 1995, and 1996, apologized multiple times to the best of my recollection). But she was ostracized, cast out, exiled.

Isabella does find redemption, or at least finds a way toward redemption.

I would like to think that Harding also has found some sort of redemption, too. (Being on TV’s Dancing with the Stars surely has given her an athletic outlet, and may help pay for her son’s education down the line for all I know.)

But what’s sad about the quest for redemption, and what’s sad in both cases I’ve discussed here, is that some people will never forgive you no matter what good you might do. And no matter how much you might’ve changed. And no matter how much you might want them to forgive you…they just won’t, and you have to learn to live with it.

That Harding still has people, even to this day, leave feces (yes, actual feces) on her doorstep or rude messages on her phone or random people on the street swearing a blue streak at her, twenty-four years later, illustrates just how hard it is to seek redemption, even if you do it privately and out of the public eye.

You pay a heavy price, when you do something wrong, bad, or something that society judges immoral or flat-out evil.

But you still have to learn to live with yourself and your talents, and use them to the best of your ability. Which is what I think Harding is trying to do, as the older, presumably wiser version of herself…and it assuredly is what the young Isabella Rubén is trying to do in THE FAMILY SHAME.

I’m proud to have edited Chris’s new novel, and I hope you will find it a fun read, as well as an instructive one.

And personally? I think redemption is definitely possible. I just wish people would learn to see others for who they are today, not for how they hurt them yesterday, or how bad they behaved the day before that (or twenty-four years ago). Don’t forget it, no, as that’s revisionist history and unnecessary. But do forgive, if you can, at least as far as to say, “If I lived that person’s life, I can’t say for certain I wouldn’t have done the same things.”

That is the best way to be a decent human being, bar none.

Right Under the Wire, Barb Does the #SinCBlogHop!

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Folks, lately I’ve been getting tagged — informally or otherwise — by a number of wonderful writers in the hopes that people who otherwise have never heard of me, or my writing, might be interested enough to take a gander at my comic YA urban fantasy/mystery/romance novel, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE.

In this case, I was informally tagged by author Dora Machado, author of THE CURSE GIVER (a great fantasy/mystery in its own right). She told me about the Sisters in Crime Blog Hop (which is abbreviated as it’s shown above: #SinCBlogHop, presumably for Twitter purposes), and that she planned to do it if she could find the time . . . but that whether she did it or not, she felt I definitely should.

After our discussion, I went to the Sisters in Crime page that explains the blog hop, and decided for extra grins and giggles that I’d answer all of the questions — not just some.

So ready or not, here we go!

Question One: Which authors have inspired you?

Oh, that’s easy. The ones who have actively helped and inspired my work include Michael B. Caffrey, my late husband, my mentors Rosemary Edghill, Stephanie Osborn, and Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, and friend and writing buddy Jason Cordova.

Or do you mean the writers I loved to read when I was growing up, who inspired me to tell my own stories? Those include Andre Norton, Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Elizabeth Moon, and Lois McMaster Bujold.

Those are just some of the many wonderful writers who’ve inspired me in one form or another along the way.

Question Two: Which male authors write great female characters? Which female authors write great male characters?

The female author question is easier for me to answer, because it contains most of the same people I listed above: Andre Norton. Lois McMaster Bujold. Rosemary Edghill. Katharine Eliska Kimbriel. Stephanie Osborn. And Elizabeth Moon. All of them have written outstanding male characters as well as wonderful female characters.

Male authors writing female characters. Hm. Well, in military science fiction, the biggest example of that is David Weber, who has sold a boatload of books in his Honor Harrington series. (So he must be doing something right.)

However, another of my writer-friends, Christopher Nuttall, is also very, very good at writing female characters. His fantasy novels, in particular, are centered around strong, talented young women with heart and spirit, and are a joy to read. (Check out SCHOOLED IN MAGIC or BOOKWORM if you don’t believe me.)

Finally, Michael Z. Williamson has written a number of novels from a female perspective, and he gets the issues right. (For example, in FREEHOLD, his female character Kendra must find a brassiere with excellent support once she goes to the Freehold of Grainne, as Grainne has higher gravity than Earth and thus poses more of a challenge for a busty woman. Not every male author would think about that, much less understand what the problem was; kudos to “Mad Mike” for getting it right.)

Question Three: If someone said “Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men,” how would you respond?

Oh, boy.

First, I’d bite back an expletive of some sort. (I’m sure of this.)

Then I’d say, “Wow. You’re really missing out on a lot, then.” And I’d point to Rosemary Edghill’s work (again), this time to her three novels included in the BELL, BOOK, AND MURDER omnibus. Or maybe to her short-story collection FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT.

Or perhaps I’d ask this person if he’s read any of Sarah A. Hoyt’s work, as I’m definitely a SF&F genre writer. Most of her stories have some elements of mystery in there, and there’s a ton of action — guys who love shoot ’em up thrill-rides should be ecstatic with A FEW GOOD MEN or DARKSHIP THIEVES.

I mean, seriously. There are so many wonderful writers, why must anyone stay with only male authors? Must gender always win out? Can’t we see words for what they are, irrespective of the author’s gender?

Question Four: What’s the best part of the writing process for you? What’s the most challenging?

The best part of the writing process is actually writing. When I have a story and am fully involved in it, the world is a better place — or at least it seems that way while I’m writing.

The most challenging part is coming up with ways to market my writing after the book is done and out. (No, this isn’t part of the writing process, and it’s just as well it’s not. But it’s still so very difficult that I felt I’d mention it anyway. I can see why big-name authors hire publicists.)

Question Five: Do you listen to music while writing? What’s on your playlist?

Yes, I listen to music while writing. It helps me attain “alpha state,” or whatever/wherever it is that I go when I’m writing.

What’s on my playlist? Usually a little Alice in Chains, a little Nirvana, a little Soundgarden . . . and a whole lot of Stabbing Westward. (What can I say? I like 1990s rock. A lot.)

Question Six: What books are on your nightstand right now?

(Note that this doesn’t count all the half-finished e-books on the figurative pile, or we’d be here all night.)

Question Seven: If you were to mentor a new writer, what would you tell her about the writing business?

I’d tell her that publishing is a very difficult and frustrating business, but not to give up. She needs to believe in herself and what she’s doing, and keep doing it as long as it takes . . . push until it gives, and then some.

Because the name of the game in publishing — and in life itself — is persistence. So do not give up.

Don’t ever give up.

This concludes my first-ever Sisters in Crime Blog Hop! And I do hope you enjoyed it! (Normally, I’d tag someone else — as that’s what a blog hop is all about — but as it’s the 30th already, please go check out some of the work of the fine authors I’ve mentioned above instead!)