Wednesday 22 February 2017

It's a Short Story Thing

While going through my word count totals during the last few years, I noticed something missing: short stories.

I'd written several novellas and a bunch of novels, but short stories seemed to be missing from my yearly totals. And I'm not sure why. I've always enjoyed reading and writing short stories. There's just something about this self-contained format that captivates me. 

When a short story is written right, it can pack quite the punch and stay with the reader long after the last word.

Many times, I've written some that led me to write novel-sized stories. Several have even led into a series or two. And since I like them so much, not writing any new ones just makes no sense.

Late last year, I did manage to write a few shorties. And while I was happy with how these three turned out, it wasn't enough.

So this year I decided to set a challenge for myself:

This goal is not an easy one to achieve, and I'm pretty sure there'll be some months where I totally fail to produce a story. I mean, if I'm writing a novel first draft, or am deep into a revision, it's going to be hard. But it's definitely something worth aiming for.

I miss writing shorter pieces, and I've been stumbling on so many inspirational pics lately that as soon as I look at them a new idea takes shape inside my mind. Not to mention that concentrating on smaller pieces will help me focus on something other (and more important) than the big mess my publishing life has become.

Well, now that my goal is out there, here's my current progress:
  • January: wrote the first draft of a fantasy-esque, fairy tale story about three very diffrent girls, told in three parts. (7,277w)
  • February: wrote the first draft of a horror-ish love story set in the underworld. (4,773w) 
As you can see, the first draft side of things is going pretty good. I've managed to write two short stories so far this year. But it's just as important to revise & finalise. As well as figuring out whether to sub them or not...

My main focus at the moment is to let my imagination run wild and keep spinning weird and wonderful tales.

To be honest, while I'm determined to try the one/month goal, I'll be happy with any/all the stories I manage to write. :)

Wish me luck!

Monday 20 February 2017

Scary Publishing Thought

The other day I posted this on Twitter:

Yep. This thought really hit me the other day. And it's kinda scary. 

I've currently got TEN books published, but--because they're all available at the one publisher--when Samhain Publishing closes at the end of this month, I will no longer have any published books in the wild.


It's going to be strange, that's for sure. But there's nothing I can do when the company is closing. At the moment I just want to concentrate on writing and starting again. 

Not entirely sure how I'm going to tackle that just yet...

Okay, while I'm here I might as well mention that if you're interested in any of my books, you can get them really cheap on their website:

None of the above books will be abailable to buy anywhere after February 2017. It's sad, but it's a fact. And since I'm not sure what I'll do with them yet, you won't be able to buy/read any of these for a while. Maybe ever. I don't know yet.

There's a lot to think about, that's for sure.

Anyway. Just wanted to share this.

Sunday 19 February 2017

THE WHITE ROAD by Sarah Lotz


My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book last week. I knew nothing about the story, but the blurb sounded interesting. So I decided to give it a go.

Simon Newman a bit of an adrenaline junkie. He's also chasing a different dream every other year, and doesn't keep in touch with his family. So when he decides to hire a complete stranger to take him to a hidden cave in Wales and the footage from the horrifying incident goes viral, he agrees to chase another incredible feat: Mount Everest.

But someone--or something--might be shadowing him...

Okay. I read this during the weekend, and although I found Part One totally gripping, I didn't enjoy the rest of the book. I just didn't care about Juliet, and I didn't enjoy the rest of Simon's story. I even found myself skimming ahead quite a bit because the Everest storyline just didn't grab me.

But let's go back to Part One because--even though the blurb totally gives this section away--the first 57 pages of this book are awesome! The fact that Simon heads into an underground cave where three kids died decades ago with a stranger he met online is tense enough. That Ed winds up being unhinged, but helps save Simon's life (not a spoiler, like I said, it's in the blurb) and loses his own is astounding. Plus the writing is so good. The claustrophobic surroundings are downright creepy, and atmospheric.

I couldn't put it down. It's just a shame that the rest of the book lost me. I didn't care about anything after that.

So, in The White Road, the author introduces an interesting, adventurous concept and even manages to grip the reader at the beginning. It's creepy, and whether inside an underground cave or above the world on a treacherous mountain, it totally captures the surroundings. I just didn't feel that it delivered as a whole.

For me, the first part was excellent, but IMO it wasn't enough to carry the whole book.

Friday 17 February 2017

THE X-FILES ORIGINS: Devil's Advocate by Jonathan Maberry


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm a huge fan of The X-Files, so after reading--and really enjoying--Mulder's book, I couldn't wait to read Scully's.

It's 1979 and Dana Scully is fifteen. Her family has just moved to the small town of Craiger, Maryland. And since they arrived, she's been having some really strange dreams. Stranger than usual. Scully is smart and analytical, but she's also painfully shy and her only friend is her older sister, Melissa.

Something strange is going on in this small town. A bunch of teenage kids are dying in car accidents, but when Dana starts having visions about the dead kids and whispers of murder start circulating around school, she starts to realise there's something much darker going on. And with the help of a cute classmate, she starts her own amateur investigation. She's determined to get to the bottom of what's going on, even if it means putting her trust in the one person who might offer a one-way ticket to danger...

Okay. This book wasn't what I expected for several reasons: the subject matter (occult murders focusing on angels and demons), and that Dana is apparently psychically sensitive.

While I liked this book, it was nowhere near as good as Agent of Chaos. Absolutely nowhere near it. This story just seemed to be lacking in several ways. Mostly because it felt somewhat forced into the X-Files mythos. In the end, all the strengths--the small-town conspiracy, the new-age shop, the psychic phenomena--end up also becoming the biggest weaknesses. I just didn't buy that what happens in this book turns Scully from possible believer to determined skeptic.

I also couldn't get attached to any of the main or secondary characters, especially Dana Scully herself. Her voice didn't feel right. It was repetitive, the mystery was predictable and the conclusion a bit blah. TBH, the only character that did intrigue me was her grandmother. She was creepy, in a good way.

Also, IMO, there were too many POVs. So many that I felt the story would've been better if it didn't include some of them. Especially the villain's POV. And did there really need to be that many mentions of how pretty Dana was? We get it. I know it. Don't need to be constantly reminded. O_o

Whereas taking a peek into Mulder's teenage years actually added depth to the overall X-Files story arc, Scully's kinda muddled everything. After seeing her go through something like this, it makes her future skepticism seem weird. Contradictory, even.

Devil's Advocate turned out to be just okay for me. It started out strong, but once I reached the last bit of the book and the pieces of the mystery started to come together, it fell flat. It was predictable and disappointing.

I just don't think it fits the overall world.

A huge thanks to Hachette Australia for sending me a copy! 

The X-Files Origins: Devil's Advocate, January 2017, ISBN 9780349002989, Atom

View all my reviews

Wednesday 15 February 2017

THE X-FILES ORIGINS: Agent of Chaos by Kami Garcia


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a huge fan of The X-Files, so when I found out there were two YA books coming out featuring Mulder and Scully, I was totally interested.

It's 1979 and Fox Mulder is seventeen. He's living with his father in Washington DC during his last year of high school. The two don't get along, but that's fine with Mulder because his father is always busy with his mysterious work. Mulder is really clever and meticulous, though he has a hard time putting his emotions into words. Plus he's totally obsessed with finding out what happened to his sister.

Samantha was abducted over five years ago and has never been found. And young Mulder happened to be there when she was taken, though he can't remember anything. No matter how many times his father tells him to let it go, the guilt won't let him. So when kids start disappearing under similar circumstances to his sister, he's determined to do what the police can't seem to do: crack the case and find the killer. Maybe it will also lead him to some answers about his sister. Or it could lead him to a lot more trouble than he can handle...

I absolutely LOVED this book! Not only did it totally capture Fox Mulder's voice--because I could see so many echoes of the man he becomes throughout the book--but it also reflected the time very well. Not just in the location and the people, but also how things were handled. Not to mention that the creepy snippets of just how much of Mulder's life was manipulated behind the scenes was perfectly done.

And the characters in this book are SO GOOD. I loved Gimble (a total D&D geek) and his father Major (a total conspiracy theory nut). It was clear to see how meeting these two certainly affected the believer that Mulder becomes in the future, as well as his involvement in conspiracy theories and aliens. I also thought Phoebe (a super smart & cool girl) was an excellent addition to the story. She's Mulder's oldest and closest friend, and also happens to be the one person capable of throwing his emotions totally off balance. And the interactions between all of these characters were so cool.

As callous as he turned out to be, I also thought the character X was intriguing. He added a depth to the story that seemed to echo from the future.

Agent of Chaos is an excellent book on so many levels. If you like YA stories with strong friendships, damaged characters and a mystery that'll make your head spin, this is definitely for you. If you enjoy a great story that'll hook you in from the beginning, this is definitely for you. And if you're an X-Files fan, then you're going to get a total kick out of SO MUCH that happens here.

I loved this book. So much.

The only problem is that now, I want to start watching the show again... :)

A huge thanks to Hachette Australia for sending me a copy of this awesome book!

The X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos, January 2017, ISBN 9780349002965, Atom

Saturday 11 February 2017

Here we go again

By now, you've probably already heard about Samhain Publishing closing at the end of this month.

I heard about it in a blanket email sent to authors yesterday. While I was working on the second round of edits for a book that was scheduled to be released by Samhain in April. That's right. I spent all week--and two whole weeks last month--busting my chops editing a book that I thought was going to be released in a few months...

And found out it wouldn't be happening in such a generic way. I really wish someone had given the authors and editors who were currently working on stuff a head's up.

Oh well. I'm getting used to people treating others without mutual respect. O_o

Anyway, the bottom line is that all of my Sierra Fox Stories UF series (5 books), the Recast SFR series (4 books), and the first Elsewhere UF book will no longer be available after February 28th.

So if you're interested in checking out any of my books, there's only a few weeks to do so. You can check them out HERE.

After they're removed from the Samhain website and third party online stores, they won't be available anywhere.

At this stage, I have no idea what I will do with the ten published and two unpublished books after I get my rights back. (Which according to the email, I'm supposed to get shortly after the closure.)

Maybe one day I'll decide to self-publish them. Maybe I won't. Right now, I just need some time to think about it. Wait a sec... why does that sound familiar? Oh yeah, maybe because I went through this already last year. :/

Well, there you have it. Not great news, because I'm super proud of all these books, but that's okay.

It's (now definitely) time to move on.

Tuesday 7 February 2017

DELIVER ME by Kate Jarvik Birch

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yikes! This is such a great book. It's disturbing, made me uncomfortable, but I loved the narrator.

Wynne and Odessa are part of the Union. A totalitarian regime that requires total and utter devotion. No one is allowed free thought or speech, or even has the ability to chose their future. Words like love, family and mother don't exist. Women and men are segregated and never meet. Well, unless you're chosen as a Carrier.

Becoming a Carrier is every girl's dream, what they're taught to aim for since they're little girls. Wynne and Odessa are different from the others because of their deep bond. They're closer than they're allowed to be and share the joint dream of becoming Carriers together.

Yet when Odessa is picked and Wynne isn't, the two friends are separated and things are never the same again...

Man, this book might be short but it sure packs a punch. The worldbuilding is so vivid that the heartless ways of the Union leaps off the page. This disturbing future turns women into either walking wombs, or works them to the bone. It makes workers and soldiers out of men too, but the focus here was on the women.

It was so sad to see what this horrid Union does to people. They're all prisoners, really. Slaves and prisoners taught from a young age that this is all there is. That to totally give yourself to the Union is all that matters. And that is just SO fucking WRONG.

I love books like these because in the middle of this nightmare, there's always a character who dares to want more. And in this story, it's Wynne. She's a hard worker, but her whole life is dominated by her strong friendship with Odessa. And when they're separated, she starts to uncover some terrible truths about what it really means to be a Carrier. And it's truly awful.

But in spite of how uncomfortable this world made me, I loved the story.

Oh, but don't go in expecting a romance. This is Wynne's story. About her ambitions, her friendship with Odessa, and uncovering some terrible things about the Union they're all expected to obey.

Great book!

Saturday 4 February 2017

HISTORY OF WOLVES by Emily Fridlund

Even a lone wolf wants to belong... 

Fourteen-year-old Linda lives with her parents in an ex-commune beside a lake in the beautiful, austere backwoods of northern Minnesota. The other girls at school call Linda 'Freak', or 'Commie'. Her parents mostly leave her to her own devices, whilst the other inhabitants have grown up and moved on. 

So when the perfect family - mother, father and their little boy, Paul - move into the cabin across the lake, Linda insinuates her way into the family's orbit. She begins to babysit Paul and feels welcomes, that she finally has a place to belong. 

Yet something isn't right. Drawn into secrets she doesn't understand, Linda must make a choice. But how can a girl with no real knowledge of the world understand what the consequences will be? 

I grabbed this book yesterday because I wanted to get a feel for it... and I couldn't put it down.

Madeline, Linda or Mattie--different people call her different names--is a teenage girl who lives with her parents in what used to be a hippie commune. She's lonely, doesn't fit in, and has a real problem voicing her real thoughts. She spends a lot of time in the woods, with her dogs, on the lake and watching people. 

When a young family moves in across the lake, she finds herself befriending them. She meets the young mother, Patra, and her little boy, Paul. While the father is away, Linda burrows her way into the family by becoming the boy's babysitter. The little kid is smart, yet odd and sometimes doesn't seem healthy. At the same time, Mattie closely observes the case of a new teacher being accused of sexual misconduct by a classmate. 

After tragedy strikes, Mattie starts to wonder how much responsibility she really holds in the awful events unfolding around her... 

What a story! Yikes. Talk about getting totally lost in the innocence of a young girl one second, and then feeling totally creeped out because of the disturbing nature of her thoughts. There are so many ups and downs in this book, and I couldn't help but wonder if she was intentionally lying or just couldn't remember the events right. Mattie comes across so severe that I started thinking she was a bit of a sociopath one minute, then started feeling sorry for her the next. She's an unloved girl, so desperate to belong that she'll do and say just about anything to fit in. Sometimes, even her silence is her way of expressing how much she wants others to really see her. 

Her family life is unconventional. She's disconnected from her parents, doesn't really get along with either of them, and often tries to make the reader believe it's them ignoring her. But it soon becomes obvious that no matter what her mother tries to do to engage her, Madeline just isn't interested. And I believe that this especially becomes apparent later in the book. It's just so amazing how much I cared about this story even though I didn't like the main character. That's quite the talent! 

Also, the story is told in a very odd, but awesome, way. It starts at a particular point so that you instantly know a certain character, not yet introduced, is already dead. And that grips you, keeps you glued to the mystery. It also time jumps, feels almost like her thoughts are so jumbled that she goes all over the place. BUT, that's the best way to tell this story. It just feels SO right! 

History of Wolves is an atmospheric story. It's also quite disturbing, and has a main character that's both unreliable and unlikeable. Yet, in spite--or because--of these two things, she's so compelling that I couldn't put the book down. It's also a beautifully written book. I loved how things aren't spelled out, so the reader needs to work through what's going on and come to their own conclusion--especially when dealing with the ending. 

This is such a unique story. One that stayed with me even after I finished. Loved it! 

History of Wolves, January 2017, ISBN 9781474602952, W&N

Thursday 2 February 2017

THE SERPENT KING by Jeff Zentner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book is incredible. Amazing. Fantastic. Awesome. And just so, HUMAN. I swear, it captures just about every emotion in the three narrators. And makes the reader go through ALL THE FEELINGS. Every single one of them.

Seriously. It does.

Three very different kids live in a small backwards town that has a lot of shitty people in it. Dill is the son of a Pentecostal minister who uses poison and snakes as a way of preaching his 'religion'. Except, this very 'religious' man is now in jail, and has left his wife and son alone with a lot of debt and a reputation that virtually makes Dill a pariah. Lydia is a smart, ambitious, stubborn teenager. She doesn't take shit from anyone, has her own very successful fashion blog, and dreams about getting out of the small town she hates. Travis is a gentle giant. A big guy who is super nice and loves to read fantasy because his real life situation is so awful.

But, my description barely touches the surface. There's so much more to this story about friendship, loss, love, and finding hope even after hitting rock bottom.

The story is told in the POVs of Dill, Lydia and Travis. Each voice is unique. Each voice hooked me in. And all three kids are amazing. They felt so real, and were such beautiful people even though their hardships were sometimes terrible and sad and dripping with despair.

I started this book in the morning and was done before going to bed because I couldn't put it down. It's SO GOOD. But so sad. This is the kind of story that burrows its way so deeply into your heart that you feel everything. There are some uncomfortable themes, but they're all dealt with so honestly.

I absolutely adored Dill, Lydia and Travis. Adored them.

This book made me happy, made me LOL, made me angry, made me dare to hope, and then broke me with sadness. It truly is an amazing book that I'll never forget.

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