Tag Archives: alternate history

January Writing Roundup!

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My life has been a whirlwind since I last took note of my writing progress. The holidays happened so I fell quite behind. Yet even in early January, I was optimistic about a rebound. It didn’t happen. The reason is a good one though. I have been promoted to the Director of Marketing at Bearport Publishing! I’m super excited AND super busy! So alas with a big sigh, I’ve only managed to write one additional chapter. I have smaller goals for the next month while I continue to transition to my new job role. Hopefully in a couple of months, I’ll be ready to return to my regular writing pace.

Goals for the next 4 weeks:

–Write one chapter a week to complete The Elephant Hotel by 2/28
–Work on a short story submission

Book Review: Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood

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Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood is the one of the most satisfying sequels I’ve read lately.  Before I tell you why I think so, we’ll take a moment to recap and acquaint ourselves with the basic plot.  Oh yeah, and if you haven’t read the first book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles, Born Wicked, I suggest not reading any further until you do!

In the opening pages, we discover little time has passed since Cate Cahill sacrificed her own dreams to protect her sisters, Maura and Tess, by joining the Sisterhood.  Cate isn’t sure she is the foretold witch the Sisterhood believes her to be but she makes an effort to embrace her new life anyway.  Meanwhile, terrified of the prophecy, the Brotherhood enacts new laws denying women the right to read, to attend school, or to work outside the home.  The changes wrought by these laws and the arrest of a friend and fellow witch prompt Cate to realize that her sisters are safer within the Sisterhood than outside of it.  She requests they join her but the sisters’ happy reunion is short-lived  when it becomes evident that Maura yearns to be the prophesied one and lead the Sisterhood to victory, regardless of the cost. With the Brotherhood’s quest to find the prophesied witch intensifying and the Sisterhood splintering over how best to react, Cate will have to rise up as a leader and decide who is worth trusting as the future begins to unfold and more of the prophecy is revealed.

Born Wicked introduced this amazing alternate world, but Star Cursed is where Spotswood’s world-building really comes alive, adding to the mystery surrounding the Sisterhood as well as revealing tantalizing new details about the prophecy.   These new elements build texture to the overall mythology and story arc.  Character development is also paramount as we learn more about Maura and Tess.  Their characters grow.  Tess matures.   Maura, well Maura, doesn’t really mature so much as develops in a new direction.  But through it all, we gain insights into their personalities and dreams.  The author makes it easy to identify with the characters and understand why their relationships are transforming in certain directions.  Their dynamic as sisters  is the cornerstone of this installment, driving pivotal moments both for individual characters and the larger community.  Old resentments and secrets continue to divide the sisters despite the prophecy’s dark prediction that one sister will murder another before the turn of the century. It is as though they cannot stop themselves from racing toward their respective destinies regardless of what it means for themselves or each other.

As in first book, Star Cursed has a healthy does of romance and Finn, the boy Cate was forced to set aside when she joined the Sisterhood, reappears but I’ll let you readers discover how their relationship evolves.  All I will say is Spotswood does an amazing job of weaving romance into the fold without sacrificing any essentials.

Deep breath.

I need a minute to rant about the Brotherhood.

After spending the entire novel angry at this fictional organization, I want to freely admit that I abhor them.  Irrational I know, but isn’t it a great feat when an author can provoke a visceral response from the reader?  I, for one, was deeply affected.  Part of why it is so easy to despise these men centers not on their fictional beliefs/actions or the historical link to the notorious witch trials or past women’s rights battles.  Simply, I was disturbed because making the leap to similar transgressions in the modern era isn’t difficult. At all. Today, there are still countries where women are denied these basic freedoms.   Even here in the US, women have access to an education, the ability to work and support themselves but continue to fight for others. The consistent and continued fight to be able to make decisions for our own bodies is just one but there are many more.  The politics in this book will keep you thinking long after you’ve read the last page.

Darker and more foreboding than its predecessor, Star Cursed is well-developed and fast-paced.  It is an amazing second novel with enough unexpected twists and turns to delight any reader.  I can’t wait to see how it all ends!

Go out and buy it from your local brick and mortar or hop over to an online retailer today!

Online retailers:

 Amazon

Barnes & Noble

 iBooks

Writing Update Plus Insignia

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This is it! The basic Insignia for Cardinal Airships!

***Cardinal Airships is the commercial dirigible company that The Fly Tower‘s heroine, Captain Bettyna Marin, owns and operates.

The designer (also my boyfriend) finished the insignia concept last week.  Now he just has to add the treatments.  Eventually, there will be three versions:  weathered, metallic, and 3D/raised texture.  Can’t wait to see the finished products! 🙂

As for the novel itself, I have been making some real progress.  I’m almost done with the second round of complete edits.  I also have a couple of minor POV chapters finished.  Very on track for my end of June deadline though I’ll probably need the month of July for some additional cleanup before I start sending query letters to potential agents.

Also, I sent off the first five pages to a freelance editor for a sample hard edit (content plus copy-edit).  My plan/hope is to have the first few chapters hard edited since most agents/publishers tend to buy off the first 3-5 chapters.  (Or at least they used to.)

I still have a long journey ahead of me but I feel really good about the progress.

Smugglers, Dirigibles, and Valentines, O My!

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Last month, I reviewed Heather Hiestand’s novella, Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas, the first title in her Steampunk Smugglers series.  If you read my review, then you know I wasn’t overly impressed.  However, I decided to give Hiestand another chance. Why? Because despite the obvious flaws in the first story, it definitely had an interesting premise and some solid world-building. So with Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, I choose to indulge with Captain Fenna’s Dirigible Valentine. And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised with this one. 

Background: Three years ago, Terrwyn Fenna was arrested during a smuggling raid and consigned to London’s corrupt Newgate Prison. During her imprisonment, she was subjected to significant torment and sexual exploitation– abuse that ultimately resulted in pregnancy.   With a little bit of luck (and lots of help), she managed to escape just prior to giving birth. 

Flash forward two months later: Terrwyn lives in hiding outside of London, desperately trying to maintain a low profile.  Unfortunately, her safe haven is compromised when she encounters a few officers from the British Air Force. She flees and avoids getting recaptured by securing command of a new airship and resumes the family smuggling business. All of her focus centers on rebuilding her air pirate reputation and keeping her daughter safe. As you can imagine, her harrowing experiences in prison have left her uninterested in men. That is until she finds herself increasing drawn to Ian Cavil, one of her crewmen.

Ian is no stranger to imprisonment himself. In fact, he has only recently escaped his enslavement aboard a military airship run by the Blockaders, a government group that kidnaps unsuspecting men and forces them into military service. Smuggling life proves to be advantageous for the duo until Terrwyn is discovered by an old enemy. The ensuring drama draws both Terrwyn and Ian back into the clutches of those who would enslave them, and they must work together to maintain their freedom.

Captain Fenna’s Dirigible Valentine is far better than the author’s first attempt.  The plot has a clearer focus and more streamlined storyline.  The sequel’s longer length probably has the added benefit of allowing the plots to resolve themselves more naturally rather than forcing a happy ending. My big complaint with this book centers on the lack of real depth given to the main character regarding her heinous abuse in prison.  Hiestand never really explores the long-lasting emotional trauma except in a way that feels too one-dimensional for such a strong topic. It’s as though she wanted her character to be flawed but didn’t want to really touch on the dark aspects of sexual abuse.  That said Terrwyn is a likeable, more fully fleshed out character than the first installment’s heroine so I give the author credit for imaging a stronger main character this time around.

A bit of warning: this story isn’t very Valentine-y or overly romantic despite the name (or its romantic side plot for that matter).  However, I recommend Captain Fenna’s Valentine Dirigible if you want a quick, fast-paced read filled with airships, mechanicals, automatons and adventure.  Even though it is the series’ second title, there is enough background information present to make reading the first title unnecessary. 

Find it at any of your favorite online retailers:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

iTunes

Smashwords

Holiday Book Review–Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas

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I’ve always had an undeniable penchant for the Christmas season. Even now, the holiday is still my favorite but I have to admit that my excitement varies from year to year.  To help counter any Scrooge-like feelings (or even just some ennui over the whole thing), I like to immerse myself in watching Christmas movies, shows, and reading holiday-themed books.

Earlier this year, I stumbled across Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas, a short Steampunk novella, by Heather Hiestand. It had great reviews and combined two of my favorite things–Christmas and Steampunk. Since the holidays were already over, I added it to my Amazon wish list eager to dive into the story once December rolled around.

So one day after setting up the Christmas tree, I downloaded the book, curled up in my favorite chair with a steaming cup of peppermint hot cocoa and got started.

The novella centers on Linet Fenna who grew up happy and carefree as the daughter of a famous air pirate and the entire family resided on the airship, the Christmas.  That is until three years’ prior when her family is betrayed by one of their closest friends.  Now her father is dead, her sister is missing, and the family airship has been destroyed. Or so she thought until one Christmas Eve reveals a surprising turn of events when the Christmas’ ladder dangles itself enticingly outside her bedroom window, inviting her to retake her destiny as an air pirate.  Surprised and hopeful that her sister has somehow managed to secure command of the family vessel, she is disheartened to find the son of her father’s betrayer acting as Captain along with a motley crew.  Yet the Captain may not be the foe that Linet believes him to be, and she must trust him in order to find her sister.

The story is a fast-paced adventure with hints of romance and danger that drew me in immediately.  I was captivated by the world that Heather Hiestand created, and really hoped to learn more about the authoritarian state of the Empire and the Prime Minister’s automen who maintain his iron-control of the populace.  As this book is part of Steampunk Smugglers series, I hope to get a better view of this intriguing world in another work.

Yet, despite the strong plot appeal, the execution failed in a number of aspects. Namely, the tone changed remarkably throughout the book, starting out like a lighthearted fantasy tale and then turning toward some pretty dark themes once her sister’s storyline is introduced. While this isn’t necessarily a problem in a longer work, the shorter length of this novella really worked against the author here. There just wasn’t enough time to really develop any of the storylines (or characters) so in the end the major plot points felt rather rushed and the resolutions felt hollow and too easy.  To compound matters, some of the dialogue felt awkward and pulled me out of the story on a number of occasions.

Overall, this wasn’t the most engaging Steampunk novella I’ve ever read, but it was entertaining and I’d suggest giving it a read around the holidays.  I’m going to give another one of Heather Hiestand’s books a try…. possibly the Steampunk Smuggler’s Valentine-themed novella, Captain Fenna’s Dirigible Valentine.

This ebook is available at Amazon, B&N, and iBookstore:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Itunes