Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Dina von Lowenkraft

A Quick Friday Round-up

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Folks, things continue to be very challenging around here, but I thought I’d try to catch you all up on what’s been going on with me over the past few days.

First, I just played a concert with the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Community Band on the clarinet. I was fortunate enough to have solo clarinet parts on two pieces (Gordon Jacob’s William Byrd Suite and Gioachino Rossini’s La Cambiale di Matrimonio), and my former clarinet teacher, Tim Bell — who’s been retired for several years now, but looks as youthful and energetic as ever — told me he thought I played well, which was very nice to hear.

The reason I am mentioning this concert, though, is because it was the final concert for Professor Mark Eichner, who’s been the Director of Bands at UW-Parkside for many years. Professor Eichner was my faculty advisor when I finished up my Bachelor’s degree at Parkside many moons ago, and also helped me rough out some musical compositions (Parkside did not have a composition teacher at that time, so Prof. Eichner was gracious enough to help me on an independent study basis); I couldn’t have had a better one.

The Community Band played as well as we ever have in order to salute Prof. Eichner and send him into retirement on a good note. (Pardon the pun.)

Best of all, Prof. Eichner received three standing ovations after the concert was over . . . no musician could’ve had a better send-off.

Next, I wanted to let you all know that author Dina von Lowenkraft has put up a blog for the most recent Blog Hop (called “4×4” or “Four Questions for the Writer”) . . . please go check that out when you have time. (She had tagged me, as did Katharine Eliska Kimbriel; I discussed my own answers here.)

I am also happy to report that I read Eric Brown and Jason Cordova’s new novella KAIJU APOCALYPSE (which I discussed here) and actually reviewed it on Amazon. I enjoyed it; it’s a very quick read with a lot of action, very well-paced.

Other than that, though, it’s highly unlikely I’ll be reviewing anything over at Shiny Book Review (SBR) this weekend due to my cousin’s passing. But I should be back at it next week, so do stay tuned.

Aside from that, what’s going on with my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers? Over the past week-plus, the Brewers have lost six of the last eight; before that, they’d started the season 20-7. Their record now stands at 22-13.

This is maddening mostly because the Brewers are not hitting very well. The starting pitchers have been really good to excellent with one exception (Matt Garza, I’m looking squarely at you), and the relievers have mostly been lights-out.

Still, I’m hoping the Brewers’ bats will get it together.

Before I go, it’s time for my weekly shameless plug: if you’re interested in buying something I wrote, or something my husband Michael wrote, please go to the “about Barb” page; there are links there that will get you to Amazon so you can purchase them to your heart’s content.

Enjoy your weekend, folks. (As for me, I intend to think about my cousin Jacki and reflect on her life, which was one well-lived.)

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?

Book Buyers, Rejoice: 4 Acclaimed TTB Titles Just 99 Cents for Next Two Days

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Folks, I haven’t done a great deal of cross-promotion of other people’s work on my blog.  But I actually worked on three of the four e-books that Twilight Times Books is offering in a special promotional deal for just ninety-nine cents over the next two days/forty-eight hours at Amazon, which is one reason I’m very glad to let you know all about them.

The first book on this promotional list is Dora Machado’s THE CURSE GIVER.  Machado’s book is a dark, lush, and evocative tale of star-crossed lovers who must join forces no matter how high the odds against them;  the best part of THE CURSE GIVER is the lively storytelling, full of characters you’ll love (Lusielle the remedy-mixer — or herb healer, if you’d rather, though I like Machado’s term better; Bren the cursed aristocrat working against time), characters you’ll loathe (Lusielle’s odious husband, a number of the toadies at the various courts), and characters you’ll reluctantly like (Bren’s master of spies, a priestess who may or may not be on Bren’s side despite being the estranged wife of Bren’s spymaster).

I edited this novel, and can tell you without a doubt that once this novel hooks you, you will be up long past your bedtime wondering, “What happened to all those hours?  And hey, this is an interesting book . . . I wonder how it ends?”

Then, of course, you’ll just keep turning the pages.  (Guaranteed.)

The next book on the list is Natalie Roers’ YA literary fantasy LUCID.  This is a book about the power of lucid dreaming as used by a kid named Travis; Travis is disfigured, so he thinks no one will ever love him, and of course as he’s up against adolescence, he’s a bundle of nerves and hormones.  Travis’s object of affection is a girl named Corrine, and in the real world, Travis has no confidence to talk with her.  But in the otherworld created by Travis’s lucid dreams, anything can happen . . . perhaps even a romance?

I edited this novel, too, and felt it an interesting young adult coming of age tale with a lot of true-to-life realism in it despite (or perhaps because of) the lucid dreaming made real aspect.   The romantic interactions between Travis and Corrine are sweet and age-appropriate, and the dialogue between them works well.  Tweens and teens should love this one.

The third book I worked on (this time as a proofreader) is Aaron Paul Lazar’s DON”T LET THE WIND CATCH YOU.  This is a YA mystery in Lazar’s “Gus Tregarde” series that’s set in 1965.  Most of the plot revolves around a strange house in the woods that Gus’s mother doesn’t want Gus going anywhere near, along with Gus’s mother’s strange antipathy toward a lone, cranky hermit.  That and an unquiet Indian spirit (note that no one, but no one, said “Native American” back in 1965) helps to complicate Gus’s summer rather nicely.

Lazar does a particularly good job at summoning up the ambiance of a 1965 summer — how much Gus can do, is expected to do, what songs he’s listening to, his first hint of adolescent hormones, and his love for serial mystery fiction all helps to ground the reader in a firm place and time.  In addition, Gus is a very likeable guy that you just can’t help but root for . . . all in all, this is an excellent addition for any library, but most particularly for young adults nine and up and for the slightly older reluctant 12-16 year old male reader crowd as well.

Then comes the only book on the list I haven’t had anything to do with whatsoever — Dina von Lowenkraft’s DRAGON FIRE.  All I can give you there is the summation as listed on the Twilight Times Books Web site:

Some choices are hard to live with.
But some choices will kill you.

When seventeen-year-old Anna first meets Rakan in her hometown north of the Arctic Circle, she is attracted to his pulsing energy. Unaware that he is a shape-shifting dragon, Anna is drawn into a murderous cycle of revenge that pits Rakan and his clan against her best friend June.

Torn between his forbidden relationship with Anna, punishable by death, and restoring his family’s honor by killing June, Rakan must decide what is right. And what is worth living – or dying – for.

DRAGON FIRE sounds quite interesting, and for ninety-nine cents as an e-book, it’s as much a steal as the other three.

Anyway, these promotional prices are also good at Barnes and Noble and at most other e-book sites, but do not apply at the Twilight Times Books site itself (which is why I haven’t linked there in order to keep anyone from getting completely confused).  Links have been given to the Amazon (US) listing for ease of reference.

I believe all four of these e-books should be available in the UK and elsewhere via  And as this special price deal will only last for another 45 hours, Central Daylight Time, what are you waiting for?

Go grab them right now!

UPDATE: Just received confirmation via publisher Lida Quillen that these books are available now via but aren’t available at the promotional price at Smashwords.  (Sorry about my previous assumption; you know what they say about those.)

Here are the direct links to the places that are offering this promotion through the end of tomorrow evening if the above four links do not work for you: