Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

Read More, or, How to Stay Sane in a Global Pandemic

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Folks, I wrote a week ago or so about the mass hysteria over the corona virus. Since then, more information has come out, and it appears the only thing that can mitigate the damage from this previously unknown virus is “social distancing” — in other words, trying to stay away from people who aren’t members of your nuclear family (or are exceptionally good friends you’ve seen in the past week or two).

Social distancing doesn’t necessarily mean isolation, mind. You can still talk with your friends, even those who you haven’t seen in the past week or two, by phone or by using an internet app like FaceTime or Skype. And if you do go out with someone you’ve seen recently, you can probably walk next to them as per usual; still, to be safe, we’re told to keep six feet apart in public if at all possible.

The hope by doing this is that it’ll give the virus a chance to die out. But no one knows if it’ll work.

But this post is about how to stay sane during this difficult time. And I intend to tell you what helps me the most: Reading books.

In fact, I splurged and bought Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s newest Liaden Universe book, ACCEPTING THE LANCE. And I enjoyed it immensely. There’s a lot in that book that seems to apply right now — people who’ve been upended by life, having to re-establish themselves, having to learn how to go on in drastically altered circumstances. And the new consensus that comes out of the chaos is a much better one than the previous; it allows for people of great diversity to find ways to talk to one another, and to find ways to help everyone become their best selves.

Yes, it’s only a book. A bit of entertainment, if you will. But there’s a lot of truth in it.

That said, here are some other books I absolutely adore, and believe may help you if you are a SF&F reader (or just want to broaden your horizons).

NIGHT CALLS, KINDRED RITES, SPIRAL PATH — Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

This is the Night Calls trilogy, and it is exceptionally good. Alfreda “Allie” Sorensson is a smart young lady in a frontier version of America that includes magic. And she has a good deal of it. But she’s a practical soul, is Allie, and she knows being strong in anything can scare people. How she finds her own balance and equilibrium during a number of harrowing tests is well worth reading, again and again.

The stories of Stavin Kel’Aniston, starting with ALL THAT GLITTERS — Loren K. Jones

Stavin is my favorite of Loren’s many characters (thus far). He is quite short, feels he’s not attractive or smart or worth anything…then he takes up a dare, meets a dragon, and the dragon is impressed. (Note that Stavin was far too smart to try to kill the dragon.) He’s much more intelligent than he thinks he is, but Stavin is also a young man with a young man’s faults. Who he meets, the challenges he faces, who he loves, and what happens to him are well worth reading about. And you’ll love his wife, Sharindis (or Shari); she knows just what to say to bring him down a peg or two, whenever needed.

Mind, if you want to read something else by Loren, I’m all for it; I’d just start with Stavin, as he’s so much fun.

Finally, I also recommend the stories by Chris Nuttall. He has several great universes going on, but my favorites are his Schooled in Magic universe (featuring Emily, a young lady from Kansas who must learn her magic quickly or she won’t survive) and his Zero universe (where most people have magic, some have a ton — but the people who may have the most power of all are, paradoxically, the Zeros who have none as they’re the only ones who can forge truly awesome weaponry).

So, to find these stories, go to Amazon and look first at Katharine’s page. Then at Loren’s. And finally, at Chris’s…you can’t go wrong, and it may help you deal with this crisis to be reminded that resilience and pluck come in all shapes and sizes.

Thoughts on Comfort Books

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Folks, over the past several weeks, I have been struggling with a wide variety of things.

To wit…does my writing matter? Does what I’m doing as a person matter? Are my perceptions accurate, and will I be able to turn them into some decent-to-better quality writing in the not-so-distant future?

I don’t know if these questions would’ve hit me quite so profoundly without the ongoing housing crisis, mind. (That remains unresolved, by the way. I probably will be writing about that again…but not today, yes?) But they have…and in a big way.

That said, I have found a lot of comfort reading and re-reading my favorite books and authors. Some of the books I’ve read over the past couple of weeks include Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s Night Calls series, Lois McMaster Bujold’s THE CURSE OF CHALION and PALADIN OF SOULS, Patricia C. Wrede’s CAUGHT IN CRYSTAL and Enchanted Forest chronicles…and, of course, my go-to standby, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s wonderful Liaden Universe (TM), most particularly the stories featuring Daav yos’Phelium and Aelliana Caylon.

What reading these stories tends to do for me is twofold. One, it takes me away from my immediate problems and reminds me that others, too, have faced adversity (even if fantastical and unusual — then again, I like that sort of thing, as you might’ve guessed). And two, these stories are life-affirming, they often make me laugh, and they always make me feel better after I’ve read them.

In short, these comfort books remind me of why I started writing, oh, yea many moons ago…I wanted to tell stories like that, that made people laugh, and maybe gave them an hour’s ease from life’s burdens…and if I did my job superbly well, maybe someone would find my stories life-affirming, too.

I can’t be certain I’ve done that as of yet. But I’d like to think that in the not-so-distant future, I may well yet attain just that…ah, well.

Anyway, what are your favorite comfort books, and why? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments section.

——–

Edited to add: Mind, there are so many great storytellers out there, and I’m only naming a fraction of the people I’ve read over the past few weeks that I’ve enjoyed…so if your name isn’t on this list (yet), please don’t despair. (No need for that.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 1, 2016 at 3:51 am

#MFRWAuthor RT Day is Tomorrow…and Other Stuff

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Folks, tomorrow is Marketing for Romance Writers’ monthly ReTweet event. As I’m a member of MarketingforRomanceWriters.org (which you can find on Twitter as @MFRW_ORG), I’ve signed up to take part in something called a “Thunderclap,” which causes many Tweets and Facebook messages to go out at once as I understand it. (I’ve never taken part in a Thunderclap before, so that’s all I can tell you regarding this particular promotion.)

MFRW Author's Blog

Mind, I always support #MFRWAuthor RT Day — the hashtag works out to “Marketing for Romance Writers Author” and of course “RT” means ReTweet — because I find the Marketing for Romance Writers group to be quite beneficial. They help you to understand marketing, for one (as I’m sure you’d expect, considering their name and all), as they are fellow writers who’ve all walked — or who are now walking — the same path you are. MarketingforRomanceWriters.org tends to help indie or small press authors the most, as we need the most help because we don’t have major publishers behind us. But it’s a group that will help any writer if he or she is willing to acknowledge what they do in return…do check them out (they have both a website and a blog as well as a Yahoo Group), as they are an invaluable resource.

Aside from that, I’ve been editing, doing a spot of writing, and editing some more, as per usual.

I do have some semi-bad news to report as my newest short story was rejected by the Writers of the Future contest. I call this “semi-bad” only because I am happy I wrote the story; while I’d have appreciated it if WOTF had loved it the way I do, it’s OK that they didn’t. (You wouldn’t believe how many thousands of stories they get during each quarter.)

Aside from that, Jason Cordova has been mentioned as a possible choice for the John W. Campbell Award. I know Jason quite well, as I’ve worked with him over at Shiny Book Review for years (yes, I intend to write a review this week; why did you ask?), and I’ve read most of his output. His first novel, CORRUPTOR, came out in 2010, but didn’t sell enough to be considered a first, qualifying pro story — which means he’s still eligible to win the Campbell Award.

“But Barb,” you say. “Aren’t you eligible, too? AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE came out last April, so you should qualify…right?”

Well, therein lies a tale. I sold my first story, a co-written affair with my late husband Michael, to the BEDLAM’S EDGE anthology back in 2004 (edited by Mercedes Lackey and the inestimable Rosemary Edghill). That was definitely a qualifying pro sale under the rules, albeit a qualifying half-sale (as Michael receives credit for the other half, which made perfect sense to me at the time and still does).

My second pro-qualifying sale, I believe, was made last year after I sold a story to STARS OF DARKOVER (edited by Deborah J. Ross and Elisabeth Waters). (I say “I believe” because I can’t remember when SFWA raised their rates for a pro-qualifying story from .05/word to .06/word. Under the new SFWA guidelines, this story would not count.)

And that’s it as far as pro-qualifying sales go. Everything else I’ve written to date, including AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, leaves me eligible for the Writers of the Future Contest, meaning I’m largely unknown. (Something I’ve said all along, mind.) But because of my one, early half-sale, I believe I am ineligible for the John W. Campbell Award.

Even if I were eligible, I’d be astonished if anyone nominated me.

Why? I’m not known. (Neither is my late husband Michael, despite my efforts to the contrary — and his while he was still here.)

Anyway, Jason’s much better-known than I am. He also has more short stories and novels (some co-written with Eric S. Brown) to his credit than I do, and has more on the way. He definitely deserves to be considered for the Campbell Award as he remains eligible, and I’d love to see him win it.

EDITED TO ADD: My friend Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s novel SPIRAL PATH is eligible for the World Fantasy Award, the Andre Norton Award, the Nebula, the Hugo Award for Best Novel, and even the Newbery Medal. I reviewed SPIRAL PATH at SBR last September; I’d anxiously awaited it for over a year, and I was not disappointed. So please, do not forget about her and her excellent work…you could not ask for a better writer. (Or a better person, though awards do not measure that, usually.)

Back to my original post, already in progress…

Aside from that, to answer a few questions — Yes, my hand is better. (Thank goodness.) And yes, I’m definitely looking forward to Spring Training. (Go, Brewers, Go!)

If you have any questions for me, go ahead and ask in the comments…I’ll do my best to answer, as always.

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!)

 

New, Wide-Ranging Author Interview (Mine) is Up at the MFRW Authors’ Blog!

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Folks, I’m very pleased to report that I have a new interview up over at MFRW Authors’ busy and well-read blog that was posted earlier today.

I hope you will all check out this interview, as it’s the most wide-ranging one I’ve done to date . . . some of the questions asked were about why I wrote AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (Barnes and Noble link is here), whether or not I think love scenes in romances are a good idea (I definitely do, but when you write young adult novels, you have to be careful and I said so), and much, much more.

My most important part of the interview, though, touched on the people who have been the most important and influential in my life. My late husband, Michael, who died nearly ten years ago, but whose presence is still felt. (I’d go much more into this, but the anniversary of Michael’s passing is in two days and I have a special blog post planned for that occasion.) My late best friend, Jeff Wilson, who died nearly three years ago, but again . . . I remember what he said, and why, and it helps. And my three living writing mentors — Rosemary Edghill, Stephanie Osborn, and Katharine Eliska Kimbriel — who are all wonderful writers and editors, and I’ve learned so very much from them . . . any mistakes I continue to make are, of course, my own.

But I could’ve listed even more people. For example:

  • I’ve written book reviews for Jason Cordova over at Shiny Book Review since 2010. Jason gave me some good advice back then to keep sending my novel out; he liked it, he gave me a quote for the novel then known as ELFY, and I appreciated that. His career is starting to take off due to a series of popular Kaiju novels, and it couldn’t happen to a better person.
  • Early on, Kate Paulk was invaluable in discussing the art and craft of writing (besides, her impressions on the oddities of contemporary American life were not to be missed).
  • Author Dave Freer, a wonderful funny fantasist, had some good advice for me back in the day, too.
  • Ditto for Eric Flint, who gave a talk Michael and I attended back in Chicago of 2002 (a Baen Barfly gathering) that helped Michael and I figure out how to write together. (Without the two of us hearing that talk, my career would’ve turned out to be rather short-lived, methinks.)
  • And I had numerous friends and allies over at Ye Olde Baen’s Bar website (which still exists, but I’m mostly absent due to other concerns), such as the late author Ric Locke and author Loren K. Jones — of course, I’m still in sporadic communication with Loren, though Real Life (TM) has interfered in many ways.
  • And, of course, there’s my publisher, Lida Quillen of Twilight Times Books, and my fellow authors at TTB who’ve been so supportive and helpful — Aaron Lazar, Maria DeVivo, Dina von Lowenkraft, Scott Eder and Heather McLaren among them . . .
  • And the very kind folks at Marketing for Romance Writers (MFRW.org on Twitter, for short), who have in a very short time impressed upon me the need for two things in the writing business: patience and persistence. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who has written a romance or has any romance whatsoever in their books should check out Marketing For Romance Writers post-haste.

Anyway, it does take a village to make an author. But it also takes a lot of dedication, hard work, and energy on the part of said author in order to write, re-write, listen to your mentors, write some more, listen some more, listen to your editor(s), re-write, etc.

Without my husband Michael’s expertise and encouragement, without the pair of us hearing Eric Flint early on, and without Rosemary Edghill’s support, I wouldn’t have dared to finish the novel I then knew as ELFY, much less continued to keep after it after Michael died. Without Jeff Wilson’s faith in me, I don’t think I’d have been as likely to keep going. And without Stephanie Osborn reading and loving ELFY back in 2012, I’d not have finally found Lida Quillen at Twilight Times Books . . . without Katharine Kimbriel and all that she’s taught me about writing and editing (much less life in general), I doubt I’d be quite as sanguine about the whole Writer’s Life (TM) thing.

Because make no mistake about it: I am not well-known. My book has not yet found its audience.

But I believe that it will.

And because I believe that it will, I will keep doing whatever I can to get the word out that AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE exists. And that the people who believed in me most — Michael, Jeff, Rosemary, Stephanie, and Katharine — were and are right to believe in me.

New Book Review is up at SBR for Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s Worthy “Spiral Path”

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Folks, as most of you know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, the past few weeks have been incredibly challenging. I had surgery two weeks ago, and while I’m slowly recovering, many things went by the wayside.

Including book reviews. Edits. Writing of any sort. And as of yet, I haven’t been medically cleared to resume performing on my musical instruments, either . . .

It’s because of this that I was sorely in need of constructive diversion. And as I’d been sent an ARC of the inestimable Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s third book in her ongoing Night Calls series several months ago, I did my best to first re-read the previous two books in this series (NIGHT CALLS and KINDRED RITES respectively), then read her newest, SPIRAL PATH, several times for good measure.

Along the way, the ARCs kept getting updated. Cover art was added. And the book was released earlier this week.

So even though I have other reviews pending at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always) that have been in the queue nearly as long as SPIRAL PATH, I didn’t hesitate to review Ms. Kimbriel’s newest book this evening. (Or, considering it’s 4:38 AM as I write this, maybe I should say “this morning” instead.)

Because it’s late (or early, depending on your mindset), I can’t recall right now if I’ve mentioned that I find Ms. Kimbriel’s books — all of them, but most particularly the Night Calls series — to be “comfort books.” That is, books that make you feel better about yourself, and about life in general; books that, no matter how terrible you feel, always help to cheer you up.

So I freely admit that I’ve read and re-read Ms. Kimbriel’s books many times since I first was introduced to her work in late 2012 with FIRES OF NUALA (reviewed in March of 2013 at SBR). Everything she writes is well-researched, has depth and purpose and feels like a real place with real and vital people doing really vital things . . . and it’s just as well that e-books don’t fray with age and use, or my advance reader copies of Ms. Kimbriel’s stories would’ve all frayed into disintegration by now.

Anyway, while I slowly take up my life again, and all of my various responsibilities, I’m very glad I was able to make some time to review SPIRAL PATH this evening/morning.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading my review as much as I enjoyed writing it, and that you’ll check out all of Ms. Kimbriel’s work without delay. (She’s having a sale right now on her first book in the Night Calls series, the not-so-coincidentally named NIGHT CALLS, if you’re interested . . . I know I picked up a spare copy, just to loan to other people later on, as I am not giving up my treasured ARCs for anything.)

———–

P.S. I wonder, sometimes, whether my late husband Michael got a chance to read any of Ms. Kimbriel’s work “the first time around” (that is, when her first five books were put out in the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s). I like to think so, because she’s exactly the type of author he’d have adored — and for much the same reasons as I do.

Blog-hop Madness Coming Soon . . . and Other Things

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Folks, the inestimable writer Katharine Eliska Kimbriel has tagged me in a blog-hop called “Four Questions for the Writer.”

Then, so did another of my writer-friends, Dina von Lowenkraft — she of DRAGON FIRE fame — which is why I’m letting you all know that I will be doing this particular blog-hop.

Just not today.

Nope. Instead, I’m going to whet your appetite a little bit and give you a link to Ms. Kimbriel’s current blog post (so you’ll know what the four questions are), and when Ms. von Lowenkraft gets her questions up (which should be soon; I didn’t see it yet, but that may be more about me and my inadequate Web searching abilities than anything else), I’ll be glad to get a link to that as well.

I plan to answer these questions on Sunday . . . by then, I may have some idea of just which writers I’ll be tagging in return, so there should be plenty of blog-hopping fun to go around.

As for everything else, I’m glad the Milwaukee Brewers continue to win baseball games. They’re playing well as a team, and are bouncing back from tough losses (like Tuesday night’s twelve-inning contest, which the Brewers ended up losing, 2-1). Wednesday night’s starter Kyle Lohse looked extremely impressive in seven innings worth of work, giving up only one earned run and striking out five (he did, however, walk an uncharacteristically high four batters, but the walks didn’t hurt him).

And really, every starter with the exception of Matt Garza (who’s going on Friday night against his old team, the Chicago Cubs) has looked very good. The team ERA for Milwaukee’s pitching staff is a sparkling 2.52, and that’s despite the terrible inning Wei Chung-Wang pitched in Pittsburgh (where he gave up six runs in an inning’s worth of work).

It’s mostly because of the Brewers’ outstanding pitching staff that they currently maintain the best record in Major League Baseball at 16-6.

Finally, it’s time for a quick report on what Racine native Vinny Rottino is doing these days. As I discussed a few months ago, Rottino is currently playing in South Korea with the Nexen Heroes, and he’s actually made some baseball history over there.

See, it seems that they’d never had an all-American battery over there (for non-baseball fans, a “battery” is a catcher-pitcher combination). Until April 11, 2014, that is, when Rottino caught Andy Van Hekken — Rottino and Van Hekken were the first all-American battery in the 32-year history of the Korean Baseball Organization.

Here’s how Yonhapnews.com described it (from their English language website):

The 34-year-old, who has caught 305 games in the minors and three in the majors, didn’t look too out of place behind the plate, as the Heroes defeated the Tigers 5-2. Van Hekken tossed seven shutout innings with six hits and four strikeouts to improve to 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA.

Rottino did give up a couple of steals and threw the ball into the left field when trying to nab Kim Sun-bin stealing third.

Kim sprinted home, but Rottino caught left fielder Moon U-ram’s throw and tagged out the runner at home.

Batting ninth, Rottino went 2-for-3 at the plate, and You Jae-sin pinch-ran for him in the seventh.

All I can say is “congratulations” for a job well done — even if I’m a few weeks late off the draw. (Well, better late than never, right?)

New Interview, Book Review Up at SBR Over the Weekend

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Over the weekend, I put up two new things over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always). One is an interview with the incomparable Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, while the other is a book review for Vera Nazarian’s COBWEB FOREST, the third book in Ms. Nazarian’s Cobweb Bride series.

Now, you might be wondering why it is that I did two such labor-intensive things on the weekend. (Well, you’re probably not wondering that, for all I know. But take my word for it: Reviews take effort, and interviews also take effort, plus a goodly amount of pre-planning on the part of both me, the interviewer, and whoever the interviewee is, in this case Ms. Kimbriel.) Why not do them earlier in the week?

Well, like most people, I have all sorts of things going on during the week that tend to preclude me from doing things that take several hours apiece, no matter how much I might enjoy doing them. And as I tend to review romances on Saturday over at SBR for our Romance Saturday promotion, that’s why Ms. Nazarian’s book was reviewed then.

Note I’m not talking much about why my interview with Ms. Kimbriel went up on Sunday . . . that’s mostly because I ran out of time on Friday, and I also thought of a few last-minute questions late Thursday evening. Ms. Kimbriel answered them very quickly, bless her, but I was still in the process of figuring things out on Friday evening, so the interview did not get done until Sunday.

I don’t do a whole lot on Sunday at SBR, mostly because Jason Cordova tends to review on that day, Monday, Tuesday, and/or Wednesday. But he and I can arrange for me to review — or in this case, interview — on other days, and that’s what we did here.

I hope you enjoy both my interview with Ms. Kimbriel, as she had a great deal of insight to offer about writing, editing, and the whole publication process as she’s part of Book View Cafe, an author’s consortium that does well by its writers and editors, and the review of Ms. Nazarian’s COBWEB FOREST.

Now, as for my plans for this week’s blog posts? Some of it depends on what happens in the world, but I can say I do plan to do a Milwaukee Brewers pre-season report — what I’ve seen from the various Spring Training games that have been televised, what I’ve noticed among a few high-profile (and not-so-high-profile) players — later this week. So do stay tuned for that.

As far as reviews over at SBR, I hope to review three things: Stephen R. Donaldson’s THE LAST DARK, the concluding book of the entire Thomas Covenant series, is the main book of the three, with the other two being Grant Hallman’s well-received debut novel IRON STAR (a work of military science fiction that’s perfect for readers of Michael Z. Williamson or Ric Locke) and his prequel to IRON STAR, the novella UPFALL. Figure THE LAST DARK for Saturday, while if all goes well I should be able to review UPFALL, at least, on Friday — and perhaps IRON STAR as well. (Have I mentioned that I’m a big fan of IRON STAR yet?)

Now, speaking of “Mad Mike” Williamson, I do have a special treat in store in a few, short weeks, as his debut novel FREEHOLD has been re-released by his publisher, Baen Books, in hard cover. Because of that auspicious event — something that was a long time in coming — I’ve decided to review FREEHOLD over at SBR. I read FREEHOLD years ago but never reviewed it anywhere, partly because it came out in 2005 — and because of my husband Michael’s passing the year before, I really didn’t pay much attention to anything that happened then. (I think I actually read FREEHOLD in 2007, but don’t quote me.)

So is the world ready for me to review FREEHOLD?

I don’t know, but we’re all about to find out . . . :insert evil chuckle here:

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.

Just Reviewed Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s “Kindred Rites” at SBR

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Folks, if you’re looking for an excellent young adult dark fantasy to read — one steeped in authenticity, that’s set in the 19th Century and is part of a subset of alternate histories now being called “frontier fiction” — you owe it to yourself to check out Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s KINDRED RITES, which I reviewed tonight over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always).

Note that I enjoyed this book so much, I’ve reviewed it before the e-book edition is officially out.  I found it to be one of the best, life-affirming fantasy novels I’ve ever read. Alfreda “Allie” Sorensson is the best type of heroine — she depends on her wits as much as her magic, she’s caring and compassionate yet is also no-nonsense in her approach to life — and kids of all ages should love this novel.

KINDRED RITES is an excellent book to read on a cold, winter’s night . . . or any night. So go discover this impressive book for yourself just as soon as the e-book edition is available for sale, OK?

Best of all, I’ve been reliably informed by Ms. Kimbriel that book three in Allie’s series (now being called the “Night Calls” series after the first book of Allie’s tale, NIGHT CALLS) is underway.

I can’t wait.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 17, 2014 at 7:07 pm