The Agony of Sorting My Books

See Life, and all that for my last general update.

Well, it’s been some time. Again. And for much the same reasons I had already shared. Life crept up on me, and work crept up on me, and the future bludgeoned me with a frying pan while I was distracted by the other two.

Progress has been made, though. I know where I will be living, come fall, which is always reassuring. I will have a steadier income during the academic year than I had anticipated, so my savings have breathed a sigh of relief.

And I have begun the process of packing up all my worldly possessions to schlep across the Great State of Texas. (There really isn’t any word that encompasses the soul-crushing tedium of moving better than “schlep”.)

Now, please understand, I don’t actually own all that much in the way of furniture and such.

The bulk of it is books.

Books are heavy.

I had come to the conclusion late last year that the collective mass of my books was probably too great to be moved across Texas, and so I started sorting them then. The problem is that my stacks were labeled something like this:

TO KEEP — TO KEEP — TO KEEP — TO KEEP — TO KEEP — TO KEEP — TO KEEP — WHERE DID THIS COME FROM? BETTER KEEP IT.

I don’t have a problem. It’s not hoarding if it’s books. (I stand by this firmly, even though at last count, I had about 300 in my bedroom alone.)

But now I have to get to it in earnest. I can’t bring myself to throw away a book, so they’re all going to the shop at my local library, which adds some books to the library’s shelves and sells others incredibly cheap to give people a chance to grow libraries of their own. It’s a good system. I’m pleased to contribute to it. But it’s still painful to watch a box of my books disappear into their back room. It’s like saying goodbye to friends.

My old friends can make someone else happy, now. That’s my comfort as I part with them and hope I can whittle the collection down enough to fit into a single U-HAUL.

What book in your collection could  you never bear to lose?

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WriMo is Coming.

[Insert Dramatic Sean Bean Here.]

I’m doing it, friends. The plan is to have two complete drafts of two different books by the end of 2015.

I am working now on something very close to me, something that has been in the works for approximately four fifths of my life, now, if not a little longer. Agonizing to write, because it must be perfect. Not just solid, not just plot-hole-free, not just well edited and well structured, but perfect. (If I vanish abruptly and am never heard from again, you may assume that it sucked me in and didn’t let go and I have been subsumed into my own fiction. Rather a romantic concept, if only I could escape the fact that, in practical terms, this would probably involve a padded cell.)

November, however, will be set aside for The Mage. We’re getting there. I’m expecting this to be the halfway point of the Liminality series. In Book One, Lenny the Medium started things in motion. In Book Two, Jadwiga the Mora returned to the world of the living. Book Three, as the title may suggest, sees Kim the Mage come into her own at long last.

But, dear reader, the Shadows are closing in.

I’m expecting to have The Mage ready in late April or early May of 2016. It may interest you to know that my working title for Book Four is The Martyr.

I believe “Bwahaha” is the appropriate phrase.

Summertime releases!

As the academic year is winding down, my writing year is heating up.The two volumes that have been in the works for so long, creeping along at a snail’s pace, are finally ready and on their way.

versos poetry First, on May 31 (my birthday!), my poetic ethnography will be released.

What is a poetic ethnography, exactly? I realize I haven’t really explained that adequately. An ethnography is a written record of a culture – its values, daily habits, artifacts, rituals, beliefs, preferences, taboos, collective history, and the ways it has changed and is changing.

What is this poetic ethnography about? The Rio Grande Valley, where I moved a few years ago, and which I have been studying since. This place is very different from anywhere else I have ever lived. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s unique on the face of the planet. The culture here is a very specific, utterly unique blend of USA and Mexico. At the same time, it’s not so much a mix as a product, much as two chemical reagents do not combine and produce a blend of the two, but something different. Or perhaps a better analogy would be that of two parents producing a unique individual, rather than a halfway point between themselves.

Why is it poetic? Well, what better way to address one tiny element of something than with a tiny, elemental verse?

You can click on the cover on the left to be taken to the Amazon preorder page.

The Siren

the siren scifi book coverSecondly, The Siren will be coming on June 30. It’s been sitting in my “Works in Progress” page for far too long, which is a little misleading, because for a very long time, it wasn’t really progressing at all.

Well, it’s done, now, and it’s coming.

What’s it about?

“There was a dead body on Sandie’s back porch, and it was trying to get in.”

But this is no zombie; something stranger is hiding inside the rotting shell. What do you do when you meet an injured alien spirit that feeds on emotion and can play human feelings like a violin? Name it John Doe, give it a guitar, and move heaven and earth to help it get home, if Sandie has her way. She doesn’t realize that babysitting an alien could result in such a weird collision of music, emotion, and faith.
And Sandie must tread with care, because this thing has the power to manipulate minds, and even the creature itself doesn’t know what will happen when it finally heals.

Click on the image to go to the Amazon preorder page. (And please do preorder; I haven’t used that feature before, and I’m curious to see whether there are any particular differences.)

Up Next

The writing list groweth ever longer, but for the moment, I’m focusing on The Eye of the Crow and the next Liminality book, which will be called The Mage. I’m shooting for mid-2016 with the first, and late 2016 with the second.

Later, gators. I must get started!

Goodreads

I’ve decided I have a disproportionate love for Goodreads.

ALL THE BOOKS.

Andandandand you can ORGANIZE THEM. And keep track of the ones you want to read! And which ones you own! And rate them and review them and collect them!

This is so much better than the spiral notebook I was keeping.

(And I know that I’m totally late with this discovery, but shhhhhh, I love it anyway.)

My one gripe is the star system. There is no way to differentiate between “This was not a good book” and “I didn’t like this book.” They’re not the same thing, you know. Unfortunately, rating the books based on quality winds me up with recommendations for similar – which I don’t want. Rating the books based on my personal preference I feel unfairly slights some books. We can’t have that, now.

Anyway, I am toodling around on Goodreads and Shelfari. Go ahead and add me.

Review – The Sin Collector (Jessica Fortunato)

The Premise:

Liliana, Sin Collector, an immortal and invulnerable creature who seems to have made Last Rites into a supernatural power, is suddenly confronted with a creepy clan of angry humans who have figured out how to kill Liliana’s kind – the Castus. What started as a fun globe-hopping adventure with a cute guy she knew from childhood turns into a miasma of Sin Collector politics, a love triangle, and the Castus trying to kill everyone.

The Good:

I had never heard of a paranormal story with quite this brand of creature before. I love the idea of the Sin Collectors and what they do. In short, the Sin Collectors are born to perform what is essentially the Last Rites for the dying. They draw out the sins of the subject and take those sins upon themselves, allowing the subject to pass unburdened into the next life. It’s a fascinating mythos, and I wish it had been explored further.

The villains were pretty spiffy, as well. Seeing themselves as a holy order, the Castus are outraged that Collectors would dare absorb the sins of the truly evil and allow genuinely bad people a chance at salvation. Honestly, I can see that happening. Just look at some of the religious conflicts that go on in the world today. They all pretty much boil down to “We’re good people, and you’re not, and you’re only worse because you claim you’re good people, too.” Underneath the magic and the sorcery, the hatred of the Castus is very true.

The work is too short to allow for really deep character development, but I liked most of the characters and could feel a strongly-developed backstory even for minor characters. The world is well-fleshed out, and so are most of its inhabitants. Honestly, one of my favourites only barely got any screen time. I would have loved to see more of the mysterious Rebecca, a Collector so old she is actually beginning to show her age.

Liliana’s character also starts out very strong. She is exasperated with her life, tired of her job, deprived of a real purpose by modernity’s rejection of the supernatural, and she adds a lovely dose of snark and humour to her narration. Unfortunately, that leads me to

The Bad:

For a hundred-and-twenty-something immortal who has seen far more than her fair share of death, suffering, and evil, Liliana comes into her whole ordeal with a startlingly juvenile mindset. She has a tendency to storm off in a fit and slam doors when she gets upset. I had thought for a while that she might be psychologically frozen at twenty years, when some people do still act like that, but other Collectors were shown as wise and hyper-mature as a result of their age and experience. I would have liked to see more of that in Liliana.

 

***BEGIN SPOILERS***

While Liliana is portrayed as being very smart and worldly, some of her actions do not reflect that. For instance, when her childhood friend William, another Collector, reappears more after more than a hundred years of no contact, she leaves behind the entire life she has built and goes to Ireland with him. While I can understand her boredom and thirst for adventure, the impression I got is that she is willing to leave everything she has worked for primarily because William is hot.

When she begins to suspect William of being traitorous and possibly homicidal, she pushes her suspicions under the rug and has frantic end-of-the-world sex with him. The line is actually “LiLi this could be our last night on earth. Don’t you think we should enjoy it?” There is no mention of her regretting this decision when her suspicions are proven right. It really felt more like an excuse to insert sex, however tastefully described, than an attempt to move the plot forward.

And then, once the traitorous William has been disposed of, Liliana falls in love with her father-figure. Granted, this father figure is physically stuck at twenty years old, like all Collectors, and granted, Liliana has not seen him for some time; however, he is still more than four hundred years older than she is, and he raised her from a small child, and he did kidnap her in order to perform a magical ritual on her against her will.

In some ways, the hostility between William and Olexander (the father-figure) reminds me of the Edward-Jacob dynamic in Twilight, not least because the hostility apparently stems entirely from the two of them fighting over the girl.

***END SPOILERS***

 

Finally, the book could use a good copyedit. Nearly all of the dialogue is incorrectly capitalised and punctuated. Where there should be a comma and a lowercase, there is nearly always a period and a capital letter, and vice versa. Since the capitalisation and punctuation are consistent, I am more inclined to think that they are not merely typos. I am a strong proponent of using sentence fragments for emphasis, but in The Sin Collector, their frequency is distracting, and in several places, a sentence changes directions in mid-thought or is missing a necessary word.

 

In Conclusion:

I enjoyed the story. I found it well-paced and highly original, though I felt that the love triangle eventually overshadowed the element of suspense and danger that I liked so much. I hesitate to call Liliana a strong female lead, but as this is the first book in a trilogy, I feel she could easily evolve into a powerful woman. Anyone without my grammar-nazi tendencies could probably get past the syntax issues.

The Sin Collector was not exactly my cup of tea, but I will probably be looking for the next book in the series when it comes out in 2013, and I can see this developing a massive following.

Review – Eyes of the Seer / Rebirth of the Seer (Peter Dawes)

I’ll just pop these two into one post, shall I?

I’ll start with Eyes of the Seer, the first book in Peter Dawes’ Vampire Flynn Trilogy. (As I understand it, the trilogy has recently been expanded. While ‘series’ is not quite as poetic as ‘trilogy’, it is also the mark of a good business move. I’ll definitely keep buying for as long as these things keep coming out.)

Summary: I liked it.

Eyes is definitely character- rather than plot-driven. The protagonist, Flynn (Also known as Peter) is a sadistic, schizo, bloodthirsty vampire assassin who – unfortunately for his fun – has a higher calling that comes with extra-special seer powers. Vampire slayer powers. Awkward. The psychological exploration of a bisected mind is fascinating stuff, just unbelievable enough to make it appropriate for a vampire, just realistic enough to make it terrifying. The agony of the story is palpable, and each character brings a particular piquancy to the narrative. The story itself is fast-paced and engaging, with plenty of kinks (in multiple senses of the word) thrown in for spice.

The book only covers the first part of his journey, though, and as such, closes with little actual closure. It absolutely does not work as a stand-alone. Of course, it isn’t meant to.

The only thing that detracted, and only in a few instances, was the language. The bad-guy vampires are fond of flowery language and of nicknames for one another that all seem to include the word “dark.” It makes sense to encourage decadence and corruption if those things are what ensure your power, but it was just too frequent for my taste. I also noticed the word “loathe” used often as a noun, which threw me off.

The second book, Rebirth of the Seer, far outdid Eyes. 

The character development absolutely explodes into a fireworks display of nuance as Flynn begins to realize his calling and as a result is thrown headlong into conflict with vampires, other seers, sorcerers, and himself. Yes, himself. He’s schizo, remember? He’s getting better, but he’s still still got little shards of his own personality floating in the wreckage of self that his vampire maker left behind.

And his struggle is intensely real.

We also get a lot more development from other corners, especially Monica, his watcher, who is hot and badass and hot and sarcastic and hot… and hiding something. Following close on her hot and badass heels is a trio of Scooby Gang-esque ex-vampire slayers with a charmingly frat-society vibe. Unfortunately, they also happen to be a bit prejudiced where vampire-seers are concerned.

Rebirth is a lot more plot-driven than was Eyes, and the plot is vastly amped-up. The fight scenes (and there are a lot of them) were pulse-pounding (at least for those of us with a pulse), and the interaction is a lot sexier, for lack of a better word. Romance under fire. The plot focus also shifts from the “vampires are bad and nasty people” of Eyes to “let’s do something about that.” Things move quickly straight from the beginning, cycling through violence and romance as they build up to… another cliffhanger. Damn.

Long story short, I dig these books. I’m looking forward to the next in the series. Find out more about them at vampireflynn.crimsonmelodies.com