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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Excited about the new book

At this particular snapshot of time, I am really happy about the new book I'm working on with the working title of Finding Home, the fourth (or possible fifth, depending on whether or not the division of The Scarred King into two books stands) book in The Scarred King series, set in my son's universe.
I think I told you before, but I'm going to tell you again, that we started this years ago when Joshua Foreman handed me a name, Bomar, a picture, and the situation set on another planet where the hero had to kill his best friend in a fight on a bronze disc set over hot lava. I asked, "Why would anyone DO such a thing?" He shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't know, I was the writer. Then he gave me the list of aliens and their pictures. And I tried to figure out a world in which such a thing was logical. Along the way, I invented an alien I am inordinately fond of, for in all my decades of reading science fiction I have never seen a similar alien. Joshua let him stay in the universe. And I changed the hero's name from Bomar to Bowmark. About halfway through The Scarred King, my son said, "Oh, and all through the book Bowmark needs to be chased by a Warrior Woman. Oh, beat my head against the wall! Well, Josh got half his order. The Warrior Woman chases Bowmark through half the book.

So here is our present procedure: I think about the world of Talifar and the peoples in it until somebody's story becomes urgent to me. I tell Josh my idea, he gives the okay, and I take forever to write the novel because I am a slooow writer. I get the story critiqued, and the first draft goes from dreck to something at least readable, and then I hand the book back to Josh. He goes through the book and corrects my depictions of aliens. ("What? Did you forget that (   ) is like this?" Yeah, I did forget.) We argue over names a bit. He checks for continuity errors and tries to fix my mess of directions people have gone off to. He even made me a map but I keep forgetting to look at it, and I still can't tell left from right. He lengthens and intensifies the fights. Sometimes he adds a scene. Sometimes he adds a character. He reads the novel to his teenage son who has the intelligence to recognize my genius. Sometimes the teenage son has a suggestion.

Now the new novel, Finding Home. And now I'm going to say something I hesitate to say because I fear greatly taking God's Name in vain, which is not so much cursing as it is saying that God said, (something made up) that He never said. But at this moment this feels like something God laid on my heart. This is a story I have to tell. I don't know that the story will be publishable. I feel like the other novels are publishable, thought they have not yet been picked up by a house looking for YA sf adventure. This one, I just don't know. I also don't care because this is the story I must write. When I finish Finding Home, I think perhaps the next novel with be a Wizard's Apprentice story. And after that, one about the Ice Sailors?

This world Josh made with a handwavium anomaly that makes a variety of species crashland on the planet is so interesting that a hundred novels could be set within it. I like that the little bits of technology dug up are treated like magic, so that although the stories read like high fantasy, they really are science fiction. Oh-oh, I may have given away something there I wasn't supposed to.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rwandan business

Occasionally I see the Rwandan that is staying with us for a few weeks as he and my nephew buy supplies for finishing the Lighthouse, a student center/Bible school/mall for four local businesses/benevolences center/hotel/restaurant. The plan is that once the money makers are up and running, they will pay for all the nonmoney makers, and we will not need to support Come And See Rwanda other than in a fellowship and organize mission trips way. There is a website for Come And See Africa International that explains more about what we are doing there. Oh, and really cool, in the foyer a seven giant Rwandan baskets will hang with "Forgive" written in 490 languages on them.

After all the complaining I did after my cochlear implant a while back, I should announce that the last time I had my hearing checked, under ideal conditions, I now comprehend 85 percent of what I hear! Squeee! I still miss some phonemes, but this is so much better than the 11 percent I had before the implant.

Review of Through Many Dangers by Dana Rongione


If you are a fan of girl detective stories, you will probably like this book. One of the reasons that I enjoyed the book is that I learned something about pirate eye patches I had never heard before. And I discovered New Jersey has more geography than I expected. Several words were placed in a glossary at the back of the book to help readers that might not yet have an extensive vocabulary. I was a little puzzled by some of the choices of which words went into the glossary and which did not. 'Moderate' made the cut, but not meandering. Not a big deal. I also like the links at the end of the book for kids who just might want to look up more about things mentioned in the book. I think this would make a sweet gift for the middle grader girl in your life.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review of The Way of Kings and Words of Radience by Brandon Sanderson

THIS is what I read science fiction and fantasy for.
Five stars for the world and the ecology (and architecture and social custom and technology) that all cohere in a marvelous way. Five stars for the study of different ways men arrange themselves in government. Five stars for the invention of an entirely new class of magic creatures: the spren. (which in the second book are actually a very old idea, BUT that pieces of this old idea can break off, be seen, and achieve sentience still seem like a new idea to me) Five stars for some of most appealing heroes in an epic fantasy, especially Kaladin. Five stars for raising questions about how we choose our actions. In the first book, Kaladin always chooses the hard but right thing to do. In the second book, what the right thing to do becomes murkier, and he ends up making a choice based on a morality everyone else seems to be ignoring. You want to cheer. And yet another young man makes a choice that is nearly the opposite of what Kaladin chooses, and you want to cheer for that also. So.... how do you decide? Thank you, Brandon Sanderson for giving us so much to think about.
The books are long. It took me over a week to read the first book, and over a week for the second one. And I still hated reaching the end of each book. I am not happy that I am going to need to wait for the third book. Ah, but I'll get to reread the first books when the third one comes out.

Review of Message Stick by Laine Cunningham

I save my five stars for books that books that make me think so hard I can't sleep at night. I'm a sucker for all stories set in Australia any way, and this book also clearly delineates the inner life of a broad cast of characters with beautiful writing and devastating rage and sorrow. I had not known the particular bit of history, and cannot come up with an adequate response to that outrage. A beautiful book about an ugly situation. It does end with a note of hope.
I should warn those that hate spirituality in books, that the land-based religion of Aborigines is treated as a physical thing rather as well as a mental construct.

Review of Alpha Revelation by P.A. Baines

In a previous book, P. A. Baines explores the question of what happens when a computer achieves sentience. He revisits the question in this YA dystopian set on MARS. Although I think I would have come up with a different answer, his answer is interesting on many levels.
We follow a really likable young adult on the cusp of graduation and taking on of adult life who feels like he doesn't really belong to this cramped society. And then he finds out he feels like he doesn't belong because he really doesn't belong during a shattering revelation. And he has to cope with one revelation after another while danger around him grows. How is he going to save the people he loves?
I should warn you that there are at least two political views expressed within the novel that will either have you shouting, "Preach it, Brother!" or will have you spitting in anger. I'm of the Preach it! variety. One of the questions the character asks is why doesn't the Martian colony expand instead of living like they're in a space ship with no resources beyond their walls? Good question, and one I spent some time thinking about. I'm of the camp that thinks that in a world of limited pie, we should bake more pies. Some people think they should fight over the slices of pie. And some people think they should control the pie. I think the leaders of the colony picked option number three, with devastating consequences.
There is one thing that annoyed me. I seem to spend a lot of time b-, uh, griping about this. I can't stand God as a character chatting up other characters in a book. There is likely an amusing hypocrisy here in that I allow C. S. Lewis to do it, but I won't let stand the practice in 'Merican, Aussie, or Kiwi writers.
The ending surprised me, which doesn't happen often. I totally expected a different ending. It's good when a writer can surprise me. And it's good when a book can raise questions that make me think. And it's good when I can follow the adventures of a character I can like as much as I did Shor. I'm looking forward to Baines' next book.

Review of The Hall of Doors by Janice Clark

This is a perfect book for the target audience.
This is an easy to handle trilogy for middle grade girls. When I was a gradeschooler, I could not read enough sentimental stuff. I have since lost my taste for sentimentality, but then, I'm not the target audience. I thought the art, though not great, was adequate for the task. There is some decent invention (I especially liked the humpties) though the invention is not stellar. If there were typos, I did not find them. And the writing is clear. Although for me, the reading experience was a two and half to three star "meh", I went ahead and gave the book four stars because this would make a perfect gift for a little girl, especially one who has lost a beloved pet. I lost my first pet at the age of the main character and I still remember the pain. In fact, I think I hurt more than I did as an adult when I lost beloved people. I don't think I'm an awful person for that. When you're a kid, the experience is new. You have not yet had the experience of knowing the pain lasts for some time less than infinite, and you don't have the internal resources you have as an adult. When you've only been sentient for a few years, you are a great deal less about thinking, and great deal more about feeling. The author is good a guiding little girls through the thickets of emotion. The next two books in the trilogy do a good job of demonstrating coping skills while telling a good story. This book would make a lovely gift for the little girl in your life.