Just One Damned Thing After Another

I got this book because of the title. And it completely delivers.

It is by no means literature, but it a rip-roaring, time-travelling, laugh-out-loud adventure. I enjoyed the heck out of it even while pretty depressed- so that’s saying something.

Unfortunately, it is part of a long series so now I’m committed to something big. But even as a stand alone, the story was good. Plus the protagonist is awesome. She’s funny, tough, and smart.

I’m not going to tell you anything else because each chapter had me gasp and go: ‘no way!’ And I want you to have that experience too.

Recommendations Please!

Okay people, I haven’t written a book review in a LONG time. This is not because I have stopped reading. It is because I haven’t read anything worth reviewing. I don’t often abandon a book in the middle, I usually tough it out to the end- you know, just in case it magically gets better. I have already jumped ship twice this month.

Our library is STILL closed so I have to know what I want and order it, or buy it on kindle. There is no browsing or scoping out the ‘popular reads’ shelf.

Unfortunately the deals on kindle are deals for a reason. I have come across some good ones but most are so bad I’m annoyed I spent 99c on it!

I like accurate historical fiction and fantasy mostly, bonus points if the book is a bit of both. I also read the ‘heavier’ literature that speaks about the human condition. I love anything that exposes me to other cultures or times.

Help a girl out and comment with your recommendations! I’m getting desperate here!

Return of the Library

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As you may have picked up from A)knowing me or B)reading between the lines of my posts I am actually doing really well in the panic attack/anxiety department. I have been doing so much hard work and it is finally paying off! I have been out to restaurants several times now- including during busy times. I am also starting to drive myself to shopping and hangouts. It is spectacularly freeing. I love that I know now that I CAN do it if I keep pushing through. That being said, I am still struggling with doctors appointments as the wait is often quite long and I can feel the panic seeping in after 15 minutes or so. But on the whole, things are definitely moving in the right direction.

So yesterday I went to the Library. Alone. It was AMAZING. Just being there was so soothing and so many new books have come out since my last visit. It took me FOREVER to narrow my choices down to just two. It felt like old times browsing the shelves just waiting for something to jump out instead of grabbing the closest thing and fleeing.

I am reading “The Testaments” by Margret Atwood. It is absolutely absorbing. I read the first half this morning and am dying for bed-time to read the other half!

The reason that motivated me to go to the Library at all was my utter lack of ability to write anything. My novels are all languishing in a baby induced stupor. I can’t explain it. I’m happy, I’m able to get lots done, but sit me in front of a computer and my mind goes blank. It’s like this little bean is getting all of my creative energy- which I guess is a good thing. I’ve decided that since writing eludes me, I will spend this time reading all those things I will have no time for in a few short months. I’m talking some of the classics and more modern works of literature. I want to build my vocabulary and solidify my style before I go back to writing.

The kindle is great, and I have lived through it for more then a year, but I must gush about the FEEL of paper sliding between your fingers with each page turn. I love the weight of a hardcover in your lap. But mostly I love just how much is available FOR FREE at the Library. I am so excited we are friends again.

A Shadow of Magic

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I’ve done it. I have actually sent my novel out into the world. It is utterly terrifying. I am well aware that I will probably only receive many kindly-worded rejection letters. But the idea that I have taken this thing from conception to completion is so satisfying. I can do it. I can work hard enough to produce something (I think) worth reading.

Now I am turning to the next project. This one returns us to the real world. Well, the Victorian world. I decided I have entirely too much random Victoriana in my brain to not set a story there.

I am embarking on this project with confidence. I know there will be days of tears and frustration, but there will be days like today when it all comes together. These are the days that keep me going. When my fingers fly over the keys and page after page spool out.

I can’t wait until I can tell people ‘I’m a writer’ without being embarrassed. When I can point to something on the shelf and say: ‘I wrote that’.

Draft 1

So I finally found a good friend to read the draft of my novel. Asked her to just look at the continuity and character development. And, you know, if it’s even worth putting more time into it.

She gave me a resounding yes! I got a bit of feedback and now I can button it up a bit more.

The problem is while I was waiting I started work on my new book, ‘Lydia’. I am obsessed with her. She makes me want to come to the computer everyday.

So my work ethic says go back to the first (and still un-named) book and finish the damn thing. But my heart says ‘take me on an adventure Lydia!’

So while this battle plays out here is another excerpt from ‘Draft 1’ as it is fondly known. Here we have Mary (a main character) and her brother-in-law Markus (a minor character) having a night out before the meat of the story begins.

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‘With excuses to her mother of official, royal business, and a hurried gathering of coins from her rooms, Mary and Markus bundled into the carriage minutes later. They swayed up the street talking and joking in the way they had developed over her short courtship with his brother. The carriage was open, and the night was gathering chill and clear. As the horizon darkened the taverns they drove by began to fill and become louder. On the third or fourth pass up the high street they settled on one that seemed particularly lively, agreeing that even if there was no music there was sure to be a good brawl at least.

              They entered with heads down and headed for the back corner of the room. Mary’s heart was beating fast, thrilling in the sense of adventure. Markus pulled her down into a small, inconspicuous table near the back. She turned her face to the room for the first time and took in the smoky, crowded tavern. She could see groups of men sweaty and dirty from hard labour shoveling bowls of stew into their mouths, pausing only to throw back some ale. A few tables were full of travelling families, looking warily around them and huddling children into the backs of booths against the wall. The children looked eager to be a part of this grown-up world and watched in awe as several men began a heated argument over dice. The dice argument in question was quickly settled when a much larger man strode over and grabbed both men by the collars, he shook them and yelled something fierce, spittle flying. Upon release both men cowered back into their booth and whispered together heads bowed, shooting glances at the man now returning to his group. The large man seemed to also be part of a group of travelers who looked like players fallen on hard times. The women of that group looked bored and hungry, watching the other men in the tavern eat, possibly assessing their chances of joining them.

              Mary was startled by someone coming to briskly clear some empty mugs and bowls from the table. The man gave the table a quick wipe with a filthy rag and asked if they would be eating. Markus ordered them two bowls and two mugs of ale. The man nodded and held out his hand while shouting over his shoulder for some young boys playing under foot to clear out. Markus counted out the coin to the man, adding a liberal tip with a wink to Mary. On feeling the weight in his hand, the man returned his attention with a smile and a bow to Markus. He hurried off with new purpose as Markus chuckled.

              “I think with coin like that the man would find us some musicians if we asked” he said conspiratorially.

              “I couldn’t possibly dance until I’ve eaten anyway” Mary said quietly, not wanting to attract any attention.

              Markus was craning his neck looking about the room, searching for something. Mary assumed a pretty girl to fill the evening with and chuckled. She breathed in the heavy sent of smoke and ale, sweat and meat, the place was dense with people and stimulus. She could feel her mind unwinding for the first time in weeks, lost in a sea of sensation there was no room for worry. This was ruined when behind her she could hear a group in deep discussion about the harvest now coming in.

              “A sad amount. Those fields a’ bin sowed same as the rest but nothin’ came up.” A man’s voice said sadly.

              A woman chimed in “We ain’t got enough for a winter, oh-no. Is surely a-comin, you ken feel it. Whats poor folks like us supposed to do?”

              “Sames all over Edna. Every village we pass through the same” a different man said.

              “Them poor young mothers. Me ‘eart aches for the babes tha’ will be lost if there’s a winter.” Edna tisked.

              “A crime. A true crime. Is the Northerners tha’ is making the Wizard angry. Us allowin’ them and their heathen ways.”

              “Tha’s the truth.” The first man grunts. Mary can hear him slam his tankard down. “Good prince William will take care of em’”

              “Psh. Good prince William a’been at em’ for years and was come of it eh?” Edna scoffs.

              To Mary’s disquiet there was a rumble of agreeing murmurs all around. She felt her stomach turn at the next line, “Mayhap we should seek the Wizard direct-like.” Mary’s face frozen in fear, straining to hear but the group has begun to whisper closely. They are right to be secret, doubting the King’s decisions was treason.

              Her eyes make contact with Markus and she knows he has also heard. “Don’t worry Mary. The thoughts of peasants mean nothing.”

              But Mary understood the thoughts of peasants could upset an empire. Deep in worry their food and drink arrived. The man had combed back his hair and found a clean towel somewhere to tuck into his belt.

              “Will there be anything else good sir, and madam?” he says with an elaborate bow and cat like grin. Markus leans toward him, whispers in his ear and slides another coin into his waiting palm. The man smiles even more broadly as he fingers the edge of the coin and then hurries away.

              Mary gingerly sips her small beer, stomach in knots, watching Markus dig in with gusto. A prostitute who had been watching the exchange was sidling closer, eyeing Mary to determine the relationship. Mary cocked her finger at the girl and then pointedly looked away, within moments the girl was at Markus’ side cooing into his ear. Mary watched the room as the girl plied her trade. She wondered how many of these simple faces hid similar thoughts to those she had overheard. How many were frustrated with her husband, how many were whispering of the dark wizard behind closed doors. Suddenly the room seemed hostile, the adventure turned fearful. She felt all eyes upon her, expecting her to perform some miracle.

Her stomach boiled, the room closed in. Markus’ face began to pull away and become cloudy. Mary began to stumble toward the door, the contents of her stomach threatening to erupt. Her heart pounded in her ears, her breathing ragged. She could hear Markus shouting, but he seemed miles away. She reached the cool air and dragged it deep into her lungs.

              “Mary! Mary! What is it?” Markus was calling to her, helping her to sit against the wall. People bustled by, unbothered by the sight of a fainting woman. “Mary, sweet girl, what is wrong?” Markus called while shaking her shoulders.

              “Nothing dear brother. It is nothing.” She managed.

              Inside she could hear musicians tuning up to the cheers of the crowd.

              “Please don’t let me ruin your evening Markus. I will return home.”

              “Ah dear Mary! How could I call myself a gentleman?” he gently chastised.

              She chuckled. “Dear brother, I shall guard your secret”

              He laughed, helping her to her feet. He steered her toward her carriage as Mary felt her heart begin to return to its steady rhythm.

              “If you are sure sis?” he began, but she stopped him with a wave as she stepped into the carriage.

              “Good night dear brother, make sure that coin was not spent in vain.”

              Mary waved as the carriage pulled away, the movement of air soothing her fevered face. She slumped back and let her eyes fall closed. The dark wizard, the demon of every children’s story. As a grown woman the fear of being stolen away was gone, but the knowledge that all the legends were true was like a weight. The power to grant any wish, to fulfill any desire, but always at a terrible price. Tales of cities fallen to his whim filled the history books, of women taken and never seen again, of boys bound to several lifetimes of servitude. His tower rose in the west, a mecca for some, and a place of deep evil for others. She had never glimpsed its black walls, but the stories said it perched on the edge of the raging sea. His moods could calm any breeze or sink any fleet.

              She feared for her husband. If the peasants turned, his fate would not be promising. Hand fluttering over her belly she breathed slowly and deeply as the healer had shown her. In and out, releasing the things she could not control. Her mind began to slowly calm, the workings re-engaging, planning. She must send word to William.’

Return from the Depths

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My brain absolutely astounds me. I can be so down one day I can’t leave the couch, and then the next perfectly functional. It is bizarre. If I could figure out how to manually flip this switch I would probably win the Nobel Prize or something.

Since resurfacing into the land of the living I have been making up for lost time. Running the errands that had been put off, doing the chores that needed to get done. Things are going well.

I’m also pretty stoked to have finally crested the 70,000 word mark on my novel. That’s a lot of words people. Many, many hours have gone into this and I’m starting to get a little bit terrified its been a colossal waste of time. Will anyone actually read this thing? Will they like it??

I just keep telling myself I’m writing it because it’s a story I need to tell. If I only tell myself so be it.

The Astonishing Color of After

I just finished this book- or should I say: I just devoured this book.

Emily XR Pan masterfully created a story in which it is unclear if magic or mental illness is at play. The teenaged protagonist must cope with the loss of her mother to suicide after a long and painful battle with depression. She is convinced her mother has taken the form of a red bird who is trying to tell her something. Her search takes her to Taiwan to learn about her mother’s heritage.

While in Taiwan strange and wonderful things begin happening all around Leigh. While it seems as though she may be coming unhinged there are some tantalizing physical clues that argue she is not.

Of course, there is a love story woven throughout the book, but it has its own magic and is not an afterthought.

Leigh is beautifully developed and has her own teenaged complexities. You find yourself rooting for her very early in the story.

I will warn that the book speaks very frankly about severe depression and suicide which could be triggering. The story is told from the point of view of a child with a parent suffering. This dynamic was very interesting.

I got my copy on Kindle