These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: BROOD OF BONES by A.E. Marling

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I was wondering what my next entry in the Favourite Things Series would be when I came across a reminder on my Twitter feed, in the form of a ‘check out my book’ tweet. That tweet was by A.E. Marling, and referenced his book DREAM STORM SEA (which, however much I loved it, is not the book I will be sharing today).

The book I’ll be sharing today is one of A.E. Marling’s books, though. It’s the first of his that I read–and still my favourite so far–BROOD OF BONES. In BROOD OF BONES, the women of Morimound have all suddenly become pregnant, and no one knows why- or how. It’s left to a Somnolant (narcoleptic) enchantress, with the help of her trusted maid and her bodyguard–plus one rather wicked Lord Of The Feast–to find out why, and to what end.

Broof of bones

And isn’t the cover so GORGEOUS?!?

“A man can never tell how much a woman cares about him until she threatens his life”.

BROOD OF BONES features female lead Hiresha, who has the distinction not only of being one of my favourite book heroines, but of being one of the most convincing male-written females I’ve had the privilege to read. Her 27 dresses and her fascination with gems that borders on the obsessive-compulsive is delightful to read. Her interactions with her fellow characters are spiky and sharp, as is her personality. And although she grows and learns, Hiresha remains herself throughout the book, flaws, cracks and all.

As for the main male lead, Tethiel – well, you just have to read him. He’s delightful and hilarious and a perfect match for Hiresha. His flaws aren’t white-washed, but they’re things that make him, him. There’s a tendency in modern fiction to have an anti-hero type male lead, but oh! he loves puppies, and oh! he’d never kill anyone, and oh, I suppose he’s just misunderstood. Tethiel isn’t one of those. He’s a true anti-hero, with his own reasons and motives for doing things. His interactions with Hiresha are gloriously, frivolously fun.

The only slight annoyance I had with the book was the amount of times we were told about the outward signs of pregnancy, and how Hiresha could tell how far along the women were. I think I counted five or six times, and by the sixth time I was saying aloud: “All right, I get it!” But it was a VERY slight annoyance, and if I’d been reading in the way I used to read as a child (ie, speed reading) it’s entirely possible that I’d have missed a few of the references.

I’m going to be doing a re-read soon, but I want to make sure I have all of the books in paperback (my favourite format still 🙂 ) first. And I have yet to read the spin-off title, A GOWN OF SHADOW AND FLAME, so yay! goodness to look forward to!

Verdict? Buy it. This is one of the books that I’ve bought both an ebook and physical copy of.

At times gritty, at times endearing, and at all times fabulously entertaining, BROOD OF BONES is a book well worth your time, and a wonderful first book in its series (which is likewise fantastic). Do yourself a favour and check it out. It’s some of the best that self-publishing (or in fact any kind of publishing) has to offer.

Your Assistance Is Requested…

Quite a few of you out there on the internets, from the US to Sri Lanka and beyond, were lovely enough to preorder TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY.

Thank you!

Some of you even bought it after it was released.

You have my undying gratitude!1

Now I’m asking even more of you (yeah, I’m greedy like that). In the lead up to Christmas–in fact, in just over a week–I will be running a promotion on TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY concurrently with a preorder promotion on the 2nd novella in the series, FIRE IN THE BLOOD.

I’d love to have at least a couple reviews for TDOF on the Amazons (.au, .com, and/or .uk) by the time that happens.

2nd Shards_FireInTheBloodYou don’t have to have loved it (though of course I’ll love you better if you did 😀 ) and you don’t have to write The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy. A short, meaningful review is just as valid as the longest, most praise-laden one out there. I’ll appreciate every one of those words.

And as always, there is always a free copy of either novella for those book bloggers who are looking for the next blog post and want to read and review. Just contact me via the comments or my contact form.

Thanks, guys! And to all my American friends, Happy Thanksgiving!!

What A Glorious Feeling!

There’s a really horrible part of writing. It’s that part, about halfway through–or even 3/4 of the way through, or right at the end–when you’re convinced that everything you write is utter drivel and it feels like there’s no saving it. The plot is hopelessly holey, the dialogue is trite and stiff, and the surrounding prose is as uninspired at a piece of toast.

We all get it. Well. get it, and I’d hate to think I’m alone in my funk, misery–as they say–loving company. For me, this time, it hit like a sledgehammer right at the end of FIRE IN THE BLOOD. I didn’t even want to edit it. TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY was so quick and easy to write, and it felt like FITB was one drag after another–problems with characters, problems with plot-holes, etc. Most of ’em I fixed as I went, but it left me feeling raw and uncertain about the whole novella. Especially since I preset a publication date on FITB before it was finished (December 25th, in case you’re wondering).

That was then.

Now?

This is me now:

giphy

What makes the difference, you ask?

Well, mostly I think it’s mental. As in, I’m mental, inclined to worry, and unnecessarily complicate things by obsessing over them. Also, a little while ago I finished first edits of FITB (with two quicker rounds to go). Not only did I fix the remaining, tiny (much tinier than I remembered) plot-holes, but I found that the whole thing was about twenty times better than I remembered it being. The dialogue was everything I wanted it to be, the story progressed so much more smoothly than I remembered, and it was all in all a much better novella than I thought it was. So I polished it some more and then went and watched The Marriage Of Figaro on Youtube.

All that wasted worry! I could have spent that on something else!

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: Writing Music!

 

Mostly I talk about books and movies, stuff that inspires, delights, and makes me think. But I’ve hitherto neglected to mention in this series the music that inspires and delights me. So today I’m concentrating on my writing music–aka, music I listen to as I write my books–which is why you guys get a video (or three).

I listen to a few different artists as I write, with the most frequently listened-to being Lindsay Stirling, The Piano Guys, and Evanescence. I also like to listen to Nightwish, Within Temptation, and a range of movie soundtracks with wonderful music. Lately, I’ve also purchased a CD of New Orleans music with a dixie/jazz type of sound to it. Listening to music as I write can improve my productivity by up to 100%: I’m far more likely to write 3-6k on a day that I play music as I write, than on a day where I write in silence or with the TV in the back ground. Mind you, The A-Team is great to write to as well, but I do get distracted by the flamin’ awesomeness of Murdock sometimes…

Well, NaNoWriMo is still going, and I still have words to write, so it’s ciao for now! What are you guys listening to as you read/write?

A Night At The Opera…And Other Things

Photo by Prudence Upton

Photo by Prudence Upton

So I went to Melbourne for the long weekend. I went to see The Marriage Of Figaro, while the Hubby went to see Jeff Martin & The Tea Party. It was an eventful weekend, during which I managed to pull a muscle in my neck, sprain my ankle and wrist slightly at the opera, get uncomfortably sunburned….and then see the news, when stopping for lunch in a nearby Hungry Jacks (that’s Burger King for you Americans) that Paris had been attacked by terrorists. That led to a prolonged discussion through most of Sunday with the Hubby, about terrorism, muslims, Christians, and the state of the world. We disagree on quite a few things, and we both have slight difficulty in expressing our thoughts, so it proceeded in stops and starts as we collected our thoughts, came up with new arguments and insights, and went to church.

Since most of my thoughts regarding the situation are reasonably bleak and not at all fun (there are no winners in this kind of war), I’m instead going to concentrate upon the delightful, fun part of the visit.

That being the opera. It was three and a half hours of fun, zany story told in a delightful blending of voices that were as impressive as they were beautiful. Susanna is to marry Figaro. Figaro made a bad contract with Marcellina, who wants to marry Figaro and has the right to marry him. Count Almaviva is in lust with Susanna (and every other girl in the flamin’ castle). Countess Almaviva is in love with her husband, who needs repeated punching in the face with something hard and heavy. Cherubino is in (puppy) love with Countess Almaviva. Count Almaviva, in spite of chasing every woman in the castle (sensing a theme here?) is jealous of Countess Almaviva’s attention to Cherubino. Oh, and then there’s the little maid Barbarina, who is in love with Cherubino and also seems to be playing footsie with the Count.

Sounds confusing, yeah? Well, it wasn’t. Not really. It translates to the stage VERY well. I wasn’t confused for a moment and I loved every bit of it.

Basically, Susanna (the brains of the outfit) spends the opera trying to:

-Fix the count and the countess
-Avoid the count’s attentions
-Get the count’s permission to marry Figaro
-Marry Figaro before Marcellina can get to him
-Fix Cherubino’s romance/life

She is sometimes helped and sometimes hindered by Figaro, who she declares to have not enough wit, but who proves by the end of the opera to know a trick or two. Their romance left me feeling highly satisfied at the conclusion.

Things I loved:

-The subtitles. SUBTITLES, PEOPLE. THE LIVE OPERA HAD SUBTITLES. I can’t express how much that meant to me. I expected not to understand more than one in ten words (if that). Instead, I was able to enjoy not only the excellent singing and delightful acting, but the puns, insults, snark, and at times gorgeous lyrics. I’m never going to stop being excited over the fact that I could see a live Italian opera and enjoy it with perfect understanding.

Cherubino

Photo by Prudence Upton

-The music. I expected to recognise a few of the themes and leitmotifs. I did not expect to recognise one in every three or so. Apparently I’ve heard a heck of a lot more music from The Marriage of Figaro than I ever realised. Not only did I recognise a lot of it, but it was all gorgeous! I’ve always liked Mozart, but this was especially delightful. The orchestra was talented but understated, never overpowering the singers, and they blended beautifully.

-The acting. It’s hard to say the exact things that were so good, because there were just so many. It was tiny little things like the ‘stuff you!’ kind of curtsey Taryn Fiebig (Susanna) gives Shane Lowrencev (Count Almaviva) as she’s very politely putting him in his place. The cringe-inducing way that Count Almaviva manages to run his hands over every flamin’ female he comes into contact with (hint: he makes sure he ‘comes into contact’ with ALL OF THEM). Small and perfect touches all the way through.

-The plot. Oh heck, the plot! So delightfully mad! So wonderfully insane! I will never be sick of massive, elderly female characters who are intent upon marrying the young, handsome male lead. The ones who trade polite (and sometimes not so polite) insults with the heroine, whom the hero really loves and has chosen to marry. And who, upon learning that the male lead is in fact their son, immediately switch courses half way through and are in raptures at their new-found son.

-The lighting. Oh my. I don’t think I can say enough about how good it was. My program says that the lighting was ‘realised’ by David Parsons, and that the lighting designer was David Finn. These blokes need a medal. The lighting proceeded from early morning through to late morning; from thence to afternoon and then late afternoon; and eventually, through evening and even night. It was done elegantly and entirely believably: I could have sworn they had the windows open to the outside world, and that we were rapidly going through one summer’s day.

-The use of a woman as Cherubino. I don’t know if that’s what always happens with this opera, but I’d have to think it’d be a difficult part for a man to sing–even a really good tenor. Be that as it may, I found it a wonderful choice. It emphasised the boyishness of Cherubino, the slim, raw, youthfulness of the character. And Sian Pendry was wonderful in the part: she managed the boy dressing up as a girl bit amazingly well: you would have sworn it was a young boy swaggering in those skirts.

-I’m still squeeing over the fact that Cherubino sings Lizzy Bennett’s song! (Yeah, yeah, technically it’s Lizzy singing Cherubino’s song, but whatever). I’m delighted. It adds so much more meaning to a part of the BBC’s Pride & Prejudice than it already possessed. It’s a song of longing, of surprising and new love being discovered, of uncertainty and novelty. It’s perfect for that part of the movie and whoever chose it is a genius.

Things I didn’t like so much:

-It wasn’t as loud as I expected. I suppose I’m just used to having the telly turned up ridiculously loud when I’m watching G&S operettas (so I can sing at the top of my lungs), but although the opera was a pleasing loudness, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations of flamboyantly crashing loudness. I was just a smidge disappointed at that.

-Nope, that’s it. It was an awesome opera, and I now need to find a dvd version to show the Sis.

So that’s it. My night at the opera. Hopefully the first of very, very many. I highly recommend it.

Adventures In Real Life: The Opera

Well, it’s still NaNoWriMo, which means that this post will be short and sweet (Oi! I heard you! Yeah, you in the back row. The one who said ‘Aw Yiss!’).

As a kind of prelude to this post, I’d like to say that I’ve always had a kind of love/hate relationship with Opera–and by that I mean sometimes I love it and sometimes I hate it (after all, even an anthropomorphised institute can’t love someone).

Gilbert and Sullivan, I absolutely adore. Not just their sometimes cunning, sometimes laugh-out-loud humour, but their glorious, clever music. Stephen Sondheim, though not perhaps technically opera, I also love. And there are bits and pieces of the popular, well-known operas that I’ve heard and loved, though I’ve never actually seen or attended an opera; a real, overblown, gloriously loud opera.

I’m not so fond of the excessive amounts of vibrato that warble through real operas. I like a clear, clean soprano that has no need to disguise its shortcomings or ornament its beauty. Classic opera singers aren’t, therefore, among my favourite singers–which is also one of the reasons I’ve never sat down to a real opera. Another reason is that traditional operas seem to have an immense amount of maiming, slaughtering, incest, unfaithfulness and other unpleasantness. As Anna Russell says: “In an opera you can do anything you like, so long as you sing it!”

But now, love/hate relationship aside, I’m going to attend my first opera! Opera Australia are performing The Marriage of Figaro in Melbourne, where the Hubby and I are going for a long weekend as of tomorrow. I think the first thing that drew me in was the glorious costuming. I mean, look at ’em! They’re gorgeous! The crew that makes these makes them properly: no hidden zips and quick changes, and tries to buy only what would have been available at the time. This is the article I read about it–it’s fascinating! Apart from the costuming, I’ve heard a snippet or two of this opera on Classic FM and found it quite beautiful. The storyline, too, sounds absolutely hilarious!

So this is me! Going to my first opera! Tomorrow! I’ll have to find a suitably fantastic ensemble….

Shhhhh! Be Vewwy, Vewwy Quiet! It’s NaNoWriMo!

It’s NaNoWriMo (as if you haven’t already figured that out). And this being not only week two, but the first day of my week off from work, I’m at a little over 4000 words for the day of a proposed 6000.

So, no real blog post for you guys this week, except to share the meme me Ma made me. Ain’t she grand?!

I honestly don’t think I can ever love this meme enough. Enjoy. Sucker.

BA Baracus

Adventures In Reviewing: To Review Or Not To Review….

If there’s anything a writer understands, it’s another writer’s search for reviews. We need them. We need them to propel sales, we need them to garner interest around the book blogosphere, and if we ever hope to enter the hallowed halls of Bookbub-advertised authors, they are indispensable.

That being so, when someone suggested that I join a non-reciprocal review group on Goodreads (non-reciprocal meaning that authors strictly don’t review authors who have reviewed them), I thought it was a great idea. I mean, it was foolproof! No-one could be accused of the kind of I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine kind of review, and all the reviews would be fair and unbiased. And there would be, yanno, reviews.

So I joined a non-reciprocal review group, eager to see who I’d come into contact with, and ready to review the books of others. I knew there was a chance that people wouldn’t like my book and would rate it low (after all, that’s the chance we all take), but I was feeling good about the whole thing. I’d even been able to find a ‘clean’ round within the review group. No sex scenes to watch out for, and nothing I wouldn’t really like to read. I couldn’t go wrong!

Then I got my randomly-assigned read-to-review books, and had my first unpleasant moment. It hadn’t really occurred to me in the lead-up to signing up with the review group that I might end up with any really badly-written books. Unfortunately, I did. Oh boy, was it a doozy! No plot, dreadful writing, unbelievable and cardboard characters, and a level of political hackery that made the entire books seem like a fantasy manifesto of what politics should be like. That was reckoning without the grammatical errors, wrong and missing punctuation, and wrong homonyms. I read it through and took notes anyway, growing more and more anxious about having to review it. It wasn’t even up to a standard of three stars, and I hated to think that I was going to have to give another author less than three stars. Much to my joy, the next book was much better, and my third, although I was conflicted about it and found a little to criticise in it, was very well written.

My second unpleasant moment was when, having read three of the four assigned books in three days, the moderator of the group very sweetly and cleverly insinuated that both I and another member hadn’t really read the books. I was taken aback and more than a little sickened at the veiled accusation. Surely we were all readers as well as writers? In my mind, there is no lover of books who can’t read at least one book a day when in the mood. When I’m in the reading mood, I read anywhere from 1-3 books per day. I pointed out to the mod that two of the books had been very short, and tried to put the nastiness out of my mind. I already had the impression that this wasn’t the group for me, and that the unpleasantness of such a group made the possible profits not worthwhile. I was soon to be proved quite right.

In the end, I gave the dreadful book two stars (and thought it generous). Since it didn’t seem fair to give a fellow author’s book such a low rating without justifying it, I went into some detail with my review. After all, it had already been suggested that I hadn’t read the books, and I wanted to make sure that I couldn’t be accused of that again. Feeling sick and anxious about the whole thing, I uploaded the review to the required sites.

I woke up the next morning to find a message in my Goodread inbox. You can insert your choice of dum dum daaaaaah! music here. The author had seen my review, had taken exception to it, and was demanding that I start a dialogue with him about the thing he found most offensive about my review. It was also suggested, though not outright said, that I should be changing my review. To make a long, nasty story quite a bit shorter, I replied, indicating that I wouldn’t be changing my review, stating my reasons for giving the review I had given, and closing with a gentle reminder that it wasn’t professional to harass a reviewer for their review. The author sent back a shorter, nastier message, and contacted the moderator.

I then had the joy of receiving a message from the moderator that accused me of personally attacking the author in my review (amongst other things) and suggesting that I would be happier in another review group. By this time I was regretting that I’d ever taken the advice of joining a non-reciprocal review group. It was also at this point that I began to think that non-reciprocal reviews, earned in such a manner, weren’t exactly non-reciprocal. If every author going into this group was going into it with the attitude that they had to be kind and careful in their reviews, and expected the same in return regardless of the quality of the book, how was that different from reviewing the author who was reviewing you? They would feel constrained to review in a certain way, and with a certain amount of stars–thus making the review essentially reciprocal.
I had begun to feel exceedingly squicky about the whole thing: almost as if I’d bought and paid for reviews. And though a second message from the moderator indicated that they had spoken to the author about the inappropriateness of not contacting reviewers, I was still left with a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Fortunately, as with all things in life, every cloud has a silver lining and two lovely things have come out of the experience. I’ve met Loralee Evans, who was honest and truthful in her reviews, and who helped me out with invaluably sensible advice when I didn’t know what to do. (She’s also recently guest-posted for me: check it out!)
The other thing that made me exceedingly happy was meeting Dan Buri, whose book I was very conflicted about and rated 3 stars. He was a gentleman about it from start to finish, and never harassed or pressured me to change my review, though I know from experience that getting a lower-starred review isn’t at all pleasant. He was such a breath of fresh air after the nastiness with the other author.

Will I ever join another non-reciprocal review group? Heck no. It’s not my thing, and I hate the horrible feeling when I have to rate a book lower than I’d like to be rated myself. But the experience wasn’t all bad, and for those strong people who go into it with the determination of being truthful and accepting truth in return, it’s both useful and honourable.

In the end, as an author, it’s all up to you. To review, or not to review?

Women In Fiction: Guest Blog Post By Loralee Evans

I’m very excited to welcome Loralee Evans to my blog today! I met Loralee on Goodreads a few days ago, when she was kind enough both to read and review Spindle for me: and such a lovely review, too! She also helped me out with a spot of trouble I was having on GR with some very timely and sensible advice, and then compounded her kindness by agreeing to guest post on my blog. 
Loralee is a writer of historical LDS fiction and MG fantasy, which you can check out at her Amazon Author Page here, or on her website, here. I’ve also interspersed her blog post with book covers and links, so if you’re interested in a book, just click on the cover.

That’s it from me! Over to Loralee, who is talking about Strong, Independent Women in Fiction.

Women In Fiction: A Study

Loralee EvansI want to thank W. R. Gingell for letting me be a guest author on her blog.  We met recently on Goodreads, as I had recently read her book, Spindle, which I loved immensely!  One big reason why I enjoyed Spindle so much, is because I like books where female characters are portrayed as strong and independent people who can take care of themselves if need be.  They can be soft and caring, but at the same time, they can stand up for what they believe, and they don’t need men to define them as individuals.  They do what they do based on their own consciences.  They don’t need to act in reaction to a man.

I’ve had the fortune of reading many a well-written romance where the male and female complement each other and support each other, but still are independent people who have purpose and strength each on their own.  They’re great together, but they don’t need each other to have purpose as individuals.
Unfortunately, I’ve also had the misfortune of stumbling upon stories that are not that way at all.  I have little use for stories Bountifulwhere one character, almost always the female, seems to be completely dependent upon the male character to define her and give her purpose.  Not only is such a viewpoint unrealistic, it is downright dangerous to the impressionable minds of young people, girls in particular.  (Though the objectification of women is certainly damaging to boys’ thinking as well.)
Sadly, far too many authors and far too many movie makers are forgetting or perhaps deliberately ignoring the idea that female characters can be strong, brave, and moral in their own right, and act in reaction to their sense of right and wrong, rather than needing a romantic relationship with a man to motivate them or define them.

One dangerous, insidious idea that both movie makers and book writers have developed, is to introduce what appears to be a strong female character, but immediately upon her introduction, a male character falls for her.  He often harasses her sexually, which we the audience are expected to interpret as funny and flirty rather than what it actually is, (verbal abuse, and sexual harassment) simply because the male character is young, hot, and white; a free get out of jail card.  Thus, King's Heirhe can act how he wants, without the audience realizing anything is wrong.  The female, of course, sometimes after a half-hearted comment regarding his rudeness, falls for his sexual harassment, and from that point on, everything she does is in reaction to him.  Many people reading or watching such a combination of events are not even consciously aware of the dangerous ideas this is teaching to society.  But in reality, such thinking is very toxic and dangerous.  Especially to young impressionable people who can’t differentiate between reality and the forced, choreographed actions of movie makers and book writers who can, with their writing skills, minimize or completely take away the consequences of this type of dysfunctional behavior that would, in the real world, result in an abusive relationship.

As a mother of daughters and of sons, I want them to read books that portray the heroines and heroes as truly heroic.  As strong, independent characters who do their best to do what is right simply because it’s the right thing to do.  I don’t want to read about perfect characters, because no one is, and we can’t relate BIrthrightto perfect people.  But I want to see an honest effort.  I want my daughters to know they can, and should, have the strength to stand on their own two feet if need be.  I want them to look for the right men, the kind that know how to treat a girl like a person, rather than like property.  I want them to know that if a man treats them with any degree of disrespect, they have the right, in fact the obligation to walk away from him without a backward glance, without an explanation, and without another comment.  I want my sons to learn that being real men doesn’t mean controlling others, it means treating fellow human beings, male and female, with decency and respect.   I want them to learn that if a girl is not interested, she does not owe him an explanation.  I want them to know that real men take rejection with grace, and know how to accept personal responsibility.

Because of this, I try to find books, and to write books, that teach these things.  Because, let’s face it, we learn from what we read.  Even when we’re consciously aware that it’s fiction, what we take into our minds affects us for worse or for better.  I hope to be one of those who influence people for the better.

–Loralee
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