Anyone who has read my reviews for a while knows that I’m a huge Daniel Barnett fan. I was thrilled to hear that his latest book, Poor Things, might fall into the YA spectrum. Barnett’s writing is pure poetry, and this one is his goriest, grittiest yet. I’d say it rests rather precariously on the young adult line, and it would certainly appeal to adult horrorphiles, because this author never pulls any punches and his hits can be brutal. Poor Things is bloody and frightening, with language not meant for virgin ears. Parents, if you think your little miracle isn’t ready for something along the lines of Stephen King’s scariest tales, this isn’t their book.
For more mature teens: dive in. Poor Things is also beautiful and touching, a poignant coming of age story.
Main character Joel has it coming from the first pages, as the bullying, arrogantly jocular older brother to a wimpy, pimply, book-reading nerd. You’ll know immediately if you can’t handle Poor Things, because Joel loses everything (including that little brother) in a violent car crash before you can even blink. The change in him is swift and soul deep, and we experience this story through his new life as a crippled nobody in a tiny mining town.
This life changing event, this one tragic moment, serves to destroy and create. It’s a common theme with Barnett—tear it all down, build it all back up—and something worth pondering for any young reader, especially in those days before the brain has developed enough to understand consequences. Physically incapacitated by his broken body, Joel’s mind speeds ahead: “Adolescence is an earthquake, one that feels like it will never end while you’re living it, and eventually there comes a choice. You can crawl under your desk and hide, or you can stand up on top of that shaking desk and dance.”
He isn’t the only character I fell in love with, not by far. The heavy metal loving tomboy with a white-blonde buzzcut, Ash, is one of the strongest female supporting characters I’ve met in a long time. She’s cool, she’s smart, she’s tough, and she’s best friends with the biggest dork outcast in school. Ash is all soft underneath, and yes, though Joel is paralyzed from the waist down, there is the possibility of romance. It’s hard to say who is the hero of Poor Things, because throughout most of the book, Ash saves Joel’s derriere again and again. Without her, he could never have…sniff…well, you’ll cry at the end, too.
The town of Honaw itself has enough personality to be thought of as another character–an odd and mildly disturbing one from the beginning. Or, rather, the thing which lies beneath Honaw engineers that creep factor. Okay, that’s it! I can’t say any more or I’ll give it away. Yet, bells and whistles aside, this is a classic monster tale. No monster I’ve ever imagined, however. Only Daniel Barnett could imagine such a strange, sad, dangerous beast from the depths of time, and only this guy could make me love that thing by the end.
This review was written for YA Books Central. Check it out HERE to find out more about the book and the author.
Mountaintop. Humanity’s last stand, after near obliteration from the Threat Below, by which Jason Latshaw’s epic book is titled. The humbled hundred or so inhabitants of Mountaintop, called the Kith, rely on legend mixed with history of the Apriori, their ancestors who once ruled the earth. The Kith are walled into their home in the sky by fear and the persistent Cloudline that obscures vision of Down Below. Their world is meager and desperate, their society stratified and rigid. In the first few pages, a hard line is drawn between main character Icelyn, the prissy, intelligent Cognate daughter of the Kith’s leader, and Adorane, her Veritas best friend and possible brave, brawny love interest. Segregation and prejudice are accepted here as the way for a fragile existence to survive.
Not thrive. Imagine the peak of a mountain at the top of the world, after civilization has fled a deadly, mysterious plague and the planet has probably been flooded by rising oceans. The air is thin. Scrubby trees are more like bushes. Acorn cakes are a staple. Later in the book, Icelyn finds a comb Down Below and she marvels at it. Has she never brushed her hair? You’ll be amazed when you find out what ultrabears and ultralions are. Yes, Mountaintop is the kind of place that, should humanity survive, what’s the point? It’s clear this place is only half of the story. Almost immediately, Icelyn and Adorane wander beyond a rotting, three-hundred-year-old barrier between the apparent safety of Mountaintop and the rumored certain death of Down Below, and there is no doubt about where our heroine and her beau will end up.
But Latshaw keeps his readers guessing right along with the sheltered, pampered Icelyn. The mystery is compelling, even darn right frightening, and each revelation along the way is worth it, not rushed or predictable. In fact, every time I thought I’d figured it out—what the Threatbelows are, or how humanity met its fate, or even who Icelyn herself is—I was surprised by Latshaw’s imagination. He speaks through his vivid characters, some that I adored and others I’d like to choke, and the action happens in their choices, dialogue, and thoughts. Whether the cowardly Kith leader is squirming, the devoted and fearless Eveshone is rescuing Icelyn again, or the constantly shifting morals of Torrain are playing out, this world is revealed by those living in it.
My favorite part, however, is that Latshaw isn’t afraid to delve deeper than his own story. Though fantastical and unique, his world bears enough resemblance to ours to stoke fear and tickle conscience. Gun violence in Mountaintop mirrors the debate over our right to bear arms, especially when these fictitious leaders are using guns to proliferate fear and violence as a means to control the population. One of them has found an ancient text and quotes Jenny Holzer, “Fear is the most elegant weapon. Your hands are never messy. Threatening bodily harm is crude. Work instead on minds & beliefs, play insecurities like a piano.” Latshaw is good at turning a phrase to grab attention, and we find essential truths in gentle statements as well: “So much of life is lived looking away from each other, afraid to face a person as they really are, deflecting feelings and ignoring vital moments.” Or, not so gentle: “They live in a world of magic, but take it all as a matter of course. They didn’t realize it, but they were Gods.” This last is spoken of the extinct Apriori, when Icelyn sees their cellphones and flat screens in a memory. Gods who invented their own demise? Nervous laugher from the crowd…
The Threat Below would be equally enjoyed by both genders, with a strong, admirable heroine (feminine and regal, with very little whining) and plenty of action and violence (gruesome, though not gratuitous). Latshaw’s writing is top-notch, and teens ready to move onto more adult literature should be able to handle the language and the length of this book. Adults will love it just as much, because there are many layers of understanding in The Threat Below, sort of like a Disney movie that is fun for kids but only truly understood by their parents. Not that this book is an easy fairytale read, and don’t be looking for a sweet ending tied up in a pretty package. The journey is worth it, though, and you’ll love every step. Latshaw delivers beauty and hope in a way you’d never expect.
This review was written for YA Books Central. Check it out HERE to find out more about the book and the author.
Today, I enjoyed an interview with Nancy Gaskins, on her BlogTalkRadio channel, Author Universe. Originally, this was a selfish endeavor to promote my new book, Catchpenny. I did just that, and got in a plug for myself and my husband’s band, Her Last Boyfriend. I even learned something new about my own book, which was that I don’t believe it would be appreciated by young adults only (as I had been marketing it). A good love story is a good story for anyone, regardless of gender, race, age, or sexual orientation. It was a great interview, check it out HERE.
But I digress. At the end of the interview, Nancy highlighted some of my marketing strategies, addressing her audience of regular followers who were looking for tips and insight into authorpreneurship. She described my book cover design and explained why she thought it was eye-catching. Then, she mentioned the sneak peak of The Tramp that I put at the end of Catchpenny, as a smart marketing decision.
And I had an ah-ha! moment.
Could sharing some of my own tips, tricks, insight, and pitfalls (oh yes, many pitfalls) actually help other beginning or aspiring authors? If so, I am happy to share.
So, I’ve started a new column on this blog, “Happy 2 Share!”
I’ll do what I can to help. In the spirit of the column, please help me in return by sharing any post you like on your social media outlets. And if you’d like to see a post on any topic in particular, please email me or share a comment below.
Big thank you to Sara F. Hathaway, author of Day After Disaster, for her guest post today! Read what Hathaway says about creating memorable, consistent characters…
Characters are key to a great novel and developing them can expand your mind to new places. Readers appreciate being able to feel the emotions and understand the feelings of each character not just your main character. Make sure that all your characters have their own stories and motivations. Some of your characters may come straight out of your life and some may be completely fictional but either way you have to bring them to life and keep their profile consistent throughout the story.
When I created Day After Disaster, I did it over a very long period of time so maintaining the same characters throughout the story was a challenge. To tackle this obstacle I kept a notebook that has notes not just on my characters but on timeline of events, camp layouts, supply lists, etc. so that the flow of the story is never broken.
Here’s some character details that you will want to have written down and refer to often:
Physical characteristics – age, height, hair and eye color, build, etc.
Background – where were they born, how was their childhood, what motivated them to get where they are today?
Family tree – who are their parents, siblings, etc. and where are they now? How was their relationship with these people?
Main personality traits – how do they react to situations, what do they know, were they formally educated, etc.
You should lay out all the details for each character. Even if you never use any of the information in your book you should still consider these factors. They are key to bringing out who the person really is and why they react the way they do.
*Helpful hint – a great place to go to find new character information is any type of forum on the internet where individuals are asked to introduce themselves. You will gain knowledge about people from many walks of life. Of course you need to change names and personal information but there is a never ending supply of character details all over the internet. You can combine details and create vibrant characters of your own.
Sara F. Hathaway is the author of the book, Day After Disaster. Sara grew up in the country where she developed a profound interest in the natural world around her. After graduating from The California State University of Sacramento with a Bachelor’s degree in business management, she returned to her passion for a rural existence. She has extensively researched and practiced survival techniques and utilized forgotten life-sustaining methods of the generations past. She currently lives with her husband and two sons in California where she is at work on the sequel to her first novel and helping other authors skyrocket their careers to the next level. For more information and a free copy of “The Go-Bag Essentials” featuring everything you need to have to leave your home in a disaster visit: www.authorsarafhathaway.com
Day After Disaster is an apocalyptic, adventure novel, featuring a dynamic young woman, mother and wife, Erika, who is thrust into a world turned upside down by a series of natural disasters. Finding herself alone in a city mutilated by this disastrous situation, she must save herself. Once free of the city confines, she desperately tries to navigate through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to get back home to her family. Not knowing if they are alive or dead she must call on all of her survival instincts to plot a course through this broken environment.
Luke is one of those guys who is dangerous to fall in love with. I always do, invariably. But, I’ve known too many Luke’s too often in my life and he’s the kind of guy that breaks hearts as easily as snuffing out cigarettes. He’s a little lost and a little wounded, made even more alluring by a pretty face, careless hair, and a cool demeanor. He’s cool enough in the beginning as to be the kind of dick you might want to slap in a bar after you’ve just found him with another woman. But that’s okay with me, because since King of Fools is written in Luke’s point of view, I get to be the dick. That’s one of the things I love most about this book—being able to step into the shoes of my favorite kind of guy to love and hate. And the plot thickens from there…
You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but Luke has experienced an accident that brought him too close to death to ever be the same. Mentally, possibly physically, definitely spiritually. You see, something followed him back from the beyond. Something cold, vaguely needy and slightly terrifying, and from the beginning I’m not sure whether I should be turned on or repulsed by that something. Luke isn’t sure either. In fact, he’s trying very hard to ignore it and pretend that he wasn’t in an accident at all. Luke’s accident is only touched on delicately at first. The author does give us the juicy details later in the book, and they are worth waiting for. Having been in a death defying accident myself, and perhaps crossed over to the beyond for a brief moment like Luke, I love the way that BL Pride handles this life (or death) experience. She nailed it. But we aren’t fully initiated until close to the end.
As soon as Luke arrives in the Farthest Islands, however— a place legendary for the sheer number of hauntings reported and ghostly creatures observed there—I knew that the something that is “always with him” is going to make some kind of move. The thing that followed him back from the beyond and this haunted place have to be related. But this is the beauty of BL Pride’s imagination and the journey she weaves the reader through. Her tales are unique, her stories so finely layered, that I can never tell what the heck she’s up to. And the journey is possibly more beautiful than the desire to know. I don’t like to rush through her books—even though I always finish them in a few days, since I can’t put them down—because her language is so expressive, her emotional landscape so lush, that I enjoy every word. Imagine seductive mixed with haunted, with a side of beautiful horror and you’ve got what BL Pride is best at.
You will find some answers by the end of King of Fools, but at the same time glimpse the iceberg lurking beneath the surface with all its crystalline, relentless power. You will feel satisfied, but left wanting more and sort of scared by what might come next. Kind of like Luke, poor thing. There is something undeniably attractive about seeing the girl who stole his soul twist it too, like rubbernecking at a car crash on the highway, but the aloof cool guy weighs heavy on my heart by the end of this book. I feel his frustration, I know his desire, and I admit I would call myself Queen of Fools in his place, because I probably would’ve done much the same. Oh, Luke. I can’t wait to see what he does next, or more to the point, how he reacts when the next thing—the next ungodly heavenly, ugly gorgeous thing—is thrown at him.
Check out BL Pride’s website www.blpride.com to learn more about their work and follow their blog. Subscribe to receive a free short story and stay up to date with new releases and special offers.
It’s quite hard to write something unambiguous about B. L. Pride. She was born in Maribor, Slovenia, went to a particular high school, chose a university that seemed more or less interesting, and now she does completely different things. She’s a teacher and a frelancer. She’s got two different men and four children. She’s full of opposites but has one great passion – books. Confusing? She’s actually an avatar of two best friends and a symbol of their lives’ project.
When the author Barbara Pristovnik finished her first novel that was originally written in Slovene, she never dreamed of sharing her lunacy with the rest of the planet, but the other half of the team Lea Dežman put her foot down and decided to translate it into English. Two absolute beginners were swirled into the overwhelming world of self-publishing and took their Sunday coffee dates to a completely different level. Addiction is the result and at the same time it is merely the beginning. Slovene became secondary, and The Farthest Island series began emerging in English, and a new world was created.
The thing that I like about this group is that it’s organized and professional; rules and guidelines are specific and clearly stated. For example, review “swapping” is not allowed. Reviewing at least four books a year by a fellow RRBC member is required, and there are so many members that you are sure to find something up your alley. Honest reviews are encouraged, with the understanding that one should simply not review a book that won’t receive a generally positive review. No foul language or slamming is allowed, and after reading some of the hateful reviews on Goodreads…whew! Thank goodness for a safe haven.
I joined RRBC when I was in the midst of publishing my first two books, three months apart. So, I’ve been too busy to interact as much as I’d have liked. One thing they do that I’m really interested in is their “Pay it Forward” week, when one author is spotlighted and other members drop all their own marketing efforts for the whole week to support that author. Now that I am nearing the end (for now) of my own marketing campaign and so ready to just write, I’m definitiely going to get involved in that.
Like many writers, I experience a certain degree of social anxiety in most human group encounters. That’s why I hide behind the page. The idea of throwing a book launch party for my first book that I wrangled for over a year just heightened the discomfort factor. I didn’t want to do it, I really didn’t. But everyone told me I HAD to do it, I would be shooting myself in the foot if I didn’t, and I was basically a pussy for not throwing some kind of local, in-person book event.
I took what I thought was the easy way out…
I organized a group “cultural event” with a friend of mine: art, live music, literature. It was billed as a one-night pop-up art show. As an artist turned author, it didn’t seem like such a stretch. I was actually launching two books within three months of each other and I had used my own artwork for the covers of both. The show was called “MAKE,” because it was all about how the artistic process happens. We showed sketchbooks, first drafts, videos of art making, and several artists performed live demos on the spot.
But, as you can see, I didn’t even get any good shots of my own room (the last one pictured above). What those nice men who bought a book and CD are blocking is my research altar, with all my books, notes, red-pen-endowed manuscripts, composition notebooks, and family trees. Why did I not think to take pictures of my space? Well, as I said…I have social anxiety…
My favorite part of it was the Music/Manuscript Symbiosis table and HERE is the post I blogged about that book/book soundtrack experience:
However, I did produce my very first video–a skill I had been wanting to develop for years–for my friend in another room. She’s a glass artist and I thought the most interesting thing that people would want to see at the MAKE show was the process of herbblowing molten glass at 2,000 degrees! Since I was helping a friend, I made myself finish the piece at all costs (something I had blown off for myself time and time again). I knitted all her raw video together to make an engaging, seamless piece, and I’m proud of my work. Learning Adobe Premiere Pro has been this daunting task hanging over my head for years, and now I feel free to move past the basics with video. Finally.
In addition to all my pre-book research and pre-art sketches and actual artwork from my past life as an artist, I also had the unique opportunity to showcase the original music soundtrack for my book, produced by Her Last Boyfriend.
I cannot explain how much I love these people. My husband produced a concept album so aligned with my book that one could not exist with the other. His longtime bandmate, Gerard, had been collaborating with him remotely for almost a year and he flew down from New York for the show.
Gerard even brought his friend and fellow musician Tara Lynn down with him! Together, they performed my book in music, in a way that was so cathartic I can’t even explain. How would you feel if you wrote a book, it was put to music, and then you got to sit there and watch it be performed live? It was a climax to this promotional stint that was magical in a way that I am decidedly not. So basically, if I had not done this whole MAKE show event, this magic would not have been a part of my life.
Oh, but this was an expensive event for me. Let’s get down to brass tacks. It was such a big deal, you know? Not just me, but the live music and the artists, too. So I had to go large with it, right? I made these expensive press kits, because that’s what I was “supposed” to do. I spent at least $400 on them and I think many are still sitting in someone’s trunk. Then I had to rent the venue. Not only had to buy the books (CreateSpace) AND the CD’s (CD Baby) to sell, but also lost several months of writing in the process of planning. I even had T-shirts (Galloree)! Okay, I didn’t really need those, but it seemed like a good idea to model one…until they didn’t show up in time. And I spent lots of time on those. Hey, you can still get one on demand:
At the end of the day, I sold a handful of books and CD’s, and the take home was nowhere near the cost of the event. Let’s be brutally honest here. I probably spent about $800 on the whole thing, all said and done. I may have made $100 in sales. Maybe.
So…was it worth it? Well, would finding your next project that you never imagined would fall into your lap make it worth it? Would suddenly being asked to move all your artwork to another venue, to be the backdrop of a contemporary dance performance help soften the blow of being in the red? It’s all experience in the beginning, right? Live and learn, go with the flow?
My next literary project is on the DL, as per the new partner’s request. Bah! It’s out of this world, though, let me tell you. But that’s for another post.
The dance project I can share a hint of. Here’s book/CD/art display #2 for last weekend, at Orlando’s Center for Contemporary Dance right after I took it down from the MAKE show:
Video isn’t yet available, but I will post it when it is. In the strangest, mysteriously advantageous turn of events, I went to clean out the space the next day after the MAKE show and I met a woman I never would have met had we not both been waiting for over an hour in the Florida summer heat for someone to show up and unlock the door for us. When she finally showed up, that someone told us we had to “expedite the process” for her, because she had a show that day, and she never apologized for being over an hour late on a Saturday morning. Me and Emma (who I would soon acknowledge as a sort of artshow angel, and she I), well our mutual anger and disgust bonded us together in way that doesn’t happen on a normal, perfect day. We made lemons into lemonade.
And the prints that were the basis for the cover art of my second book, Catchpenny, shared space with a breathtaking performance of carnal physical beauty and expressive modern dance. Like I said, the video will come later, but here are the performers after the show. Emma is silhouetted off to the right, giving a speech.
So, was it worth it?
In ways that can’t be measured like Facebook analytics and in ways that weren’t logged on my new PayPal card reader, yes. I didn’t sell much, but I lost a heck of a lot of business cards. The success of this event must be measured in pregnant possibilities, exciting new connections, old friends, new friends, and…all in all…a damn good weekend. You can’t hide behind the page forever.
The first segment of my new serial novel, Catchpenny, is ready for launch! Wicked Lover, welcome to the world!
For a brief synopsis, go HERE. But right now I’d like to share a little snippet I haven’t yet…
In the safety of the limo, he lounged back onto the seat, his eyes smoldering as he watched me. I settled myself opposite, arranging the beads of my cocktail dress and fluffing my curls, not really sure what had just occurred between us. Maybe he was angry with me; he sure looked it. I said, as innocently as I could manage, “Are you afraid of heights?”
“Afraid of having to dive off a cliff to catch you, maybe.”
I snorted. “Right.”
“Reckless,” he sighed, shaking his head.
“Sorry? You’re not like any girl I’ve ever met, Meg. It’s a lot to take in, but there’s no reason to be sorry.”
I fumbled with my beads a little more, unsure of how to proceed. I felt the car start to roll and I looked up in reaction, to see a door in the ceiling just over Tristan’s head. I had an idea. “Hey, we can get a perfect view of the moon from in here. That’s a sunroof, right?”
He looked above his head and his expression cooled. “Actually, I’ve been wanting to try that ever since I first got in.”
“You mean, ejector seat?” I met his spreading grin and he nodded, then reached over to push a button by his armrest. The window in the ceiling slid open and Tristan grabbed my hand, pulling me over to crouch with him on the seat below the skylight.
“Ejector seat!” we yelled together, springing up through the open roof, him laughing and me cheering like a five-year-old. The sky spread over us like velvet lavender, a blanket of winking stars around the glowing lunar orb. It felt so close I wanted to reach up and touch it—moments like those were the closest I ever got to church.
We watched the sky together in silence. I slid my eyes in Tristan’s direction and saw his own closed, his face content. The air was getting cooler, twilight fading into night, and I shivered as Barney picked up speed. My hair started to whip around my face and I grabbed as much of it as I could in one hand to save the ringlets, gripping the roof with the other. I wondered if my “frizz eliminator” would hold up to such abuse, and I squeezed eyelids shut against the wind and frenzy of escaping curls. Strong fingers encircled my wrist, pulling it down and trapping it behind my waist. My eyes snapped open and his face was so close I could feel the tickle of his cheek against mine. My hair whirled around us like a tornado.
His voice was deep and urgent in my ear. “Don’t put your hair back.”
“It’ll be an afro in a minute.”
“I like it wild. I like you wild.”
I turned my face a fraction and my lips brushed against his. “Kiss me.”
He cupped my face with his hands, so large and warm I felt my cold cheeks blaze instantly, but so gentle he was barely touching me. He hesitated, holding my gaze as if he were about to say something first, his mouth close enough that I was breathing his breath. I couldn’t wait another second. I pushed my lips into his and slid my hands inside his jacket and around his waist. He answered me, caution forgotten along with the moon. Was that him who moaned in relief or me? I couldn’t tell, our mouths and limbs so entwined we seemed like one.
Both our knees gave way at once and I felt myself collapsing onto the seat below, then toppling to the floor. His arms were around my shoulders and under my thighs, catching our fall in an expert roll. He landed on top, hovering over me and devouring my neck while I locked my ankles around his back. His lips were as soft as his body was hard, and I felt an electric zing at every point where we connected. All thoughts of preserving my pristine Homecoming costume faded into the smell of his skin, the taste of his mouth, and the hills and valleys of his body. I let myself melt into the texture of him.
–excerpted from Wicked Lover, Part One of Catchpenny, by Sarah Wathen
Read the first part of this serial novel for $0.99 on Amazon HERE. Paperback also available on Amazon.
The title of this part of Catchpenny was inspired by the song, “Wicked Lover,” by Her Last Boyfriend. Check it out, on Spotify: