Deus volt; Deus mittit me.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

ELIAS OF ELDERBERRY Review

Today I'm reviewing a book by my good friend Theresa Sneed called ELIAS OF ELDERBERRY.

This is an allegory of life; before, during, and after this existence, in my opinion. Instead of pre-Earth humans awaiting a long-anticipated turn to go down and get their fleshy envelope, we have fairies taking on human form. We have the wizards of a special family caught up in an epic battle between good and evil in a bid to save humanity from the clutches of Sirusas, who will stop at nothing to possess the power he craves. He's already got their big brother locked away. Those wizards are having to learn the ropes (just as we are in this book) because of spells which have caused them to forget all to save their lives until they were ready to defend themselves.

The story? A strange boy at Elias' school hands him a scroll which turns out to be very powerful and magical. He's all set to ask for his own baby dragon and a spate of other wacky wishes, when he gets zapped to a magical castle, only to find out he has not only a brother, but three or four, plus a grandfather older than dinosaurs and a whole bunch of new fairy friends. Not only that, but he's inherited his own powers...and a very powerful enemy.

I enjoyed this take on the whole life-on-earth spectrum. The action sizzled and the story sparkled. Great twists!

At times the book got a little confusing as the main characters tried to navigate through the pitfalls of their learning process. I'm sure those characters would agree that they spent most of their time being utterly discombobulated. And the ending was rather abrupt--quite the cliffhanger. Also I was confused about the lack of curiosity about family members (I thought they once mentioned a sister but never heard another peep about her. We never heard much at all about their parents either. I thought that tidbit sort of wretched. I personally would have asked immediately about my mother, father, and siblings as soon as I knew I had some sort of family, and not stopped asking until they'd told me everything about them.)

There were zero nasty words.
Zilch on the sexy scale.
Some sword pokes and explosions.
A teacup of death.
A smidgeon of rebirth.
Lovely magical fu.
Sweet gadget fu.
Dastardly villain fu.
And a possible prodigal son.

ELIAS OF ELDERBERRY is a romp. You can purchase it here.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Porch Debacle

Yeah, it was almost this bad.
 Yesterday I cleaned off the front porch. Now to you that might be a normal thing to do. Heck, you can probably eat directly off your porch. But for me, the junk took on sentience and was lying in wait to eat an unsuspecting visitor. I could sense the latent vengence growing.

Then it started raining on all that crap and I figured if I didn't want it to be complete muck, I'd have to deal with it. The thing is, The Hubs gets angry when I straighten up the shed or the walk-in or the porch. He says he has everything just where he wants it, although he often grouses about not being able to find things. In my head I'm always grumbling, "Look down, look down. You're standing in your...crud."

So I snapped. I took my mental health in hand and just did it. Luckily there were no domestic dispute calls to the cops. In fact The Man was pretty much okay with it after I timidly queried him. No kidding. I nearly fainted. (He's really not an ogre. He just likes his stuff a certain way...that I don't.)

The other problem (besides questionable insect life and the occasional four foot rattlesnake or pack rat) is that the temperature is distinctly oven-like, if you have steam incorporated. Maybe more like a sauna. We're talking the inside of an underwater volcano here. So doing anything outdoors for any length of time necessitates a gallon of ice cream, a half hour cold (relative since water here never gets below about 80 degrees) shower, and a three hour nap.

The Christmas lights were a huge part of the mountain. I don't usually deal with them since the year I neatly wound them up and stowed them in a bin. Apparently I broke a light or two, rendering the strings inert. Of course that breakage couldn't have happened between May when we took the lights down and October when I packed them nicely away.

Another ingredient of Mt. St. Murphy was The Hubs' empty box collection. Now at times those boxes come in handy. But when they've been rained on for several months, the boxes get all Stachybotrus-y and shredded, rendering them useless. He gets upset at me when I put them in the shed, since they get in the way of his tool collection spread felicitously all over the floor. I guess I'll just have to "use them up."

Various tools, rusty nails, and sharp bits of duct work metal provide foot mines for the uninformed barefooted and very intrepid person. (He's re-doing our roof and also installing new ductwork for our new cooler he put in. He's a very Very handy guy. I'm quite lucky to have him. Until he's done with that, though, we keep cans in our hall for those lovely impromptu roof hole fountains.)

And lastly the camping gear, baking in the grueling sun. Ah yes. One always wants to find out that their tent has been baked full of large holes, during a downpour of Noah-like proportions when they are far from home and everything in their backpack is sitting under one of those downspouts. We wonder why nobody wants to share a tent with us.

At any rate, the front porch is pristine, now. The junk is accessible and readily available. And I shall now go hang the laundry. And make plans for making the back porch livable again. There might even be a yard back there we can use for something other than to hold our gracefully-used-but-at-this-moment-non-functioning-nor-ever-will-run-again-if-we're-being-totally-honest station wagon and collection of old Christmas tree stumps.

If only our junker looked this pretty.
I'm really not a red-neck. Really. I mean, I do like banjos and practical jokes, but I'm not poor white trash. Yeah. Sticking with that.

















Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Free Willy



The summer of 2014 is dying an early death. Although I get very little writing done when my kids are home, I morn its passing. Summer is for regeneration. It's for restarting the engines and making a fresh start.

I feel our school district has robbed my children of precious moments. We no longer have enough time to go on a family trip because the schools want to show our kids more R-rated movies and other trash. Do I sound angry? I am. It would be different if the school had an outstanding program to offer. But they don't. In fact my son has moved to another school in search of a better program. I hope his search will be rewarded with more than an extra hour of driving every day for his mother.

Summer is for working hard at your first life guard gig or mowing lawns or growing things. It's for reading piles and piles of library books. It's for wandering down a mist-shrouded beach to watch the dolphin pod as it works its way up the coast. It's for lying back in the tall grass and watching clouds sail across the sky. It's for that moment when you reach the peak and you can finally shrug out of your pack and gaze into the wind and out across the ranks of tree-clad mountains. It's for smelling the grass as you raise your bat in your first ballgame.

I'm not one of these moms who doesn't care about my children's future. But I have seen up close what this district has to offer. And it doesn't cut it. I feel as if our children are being wrenched from us to be loaded into stock trucks instead of being taught vital information they'll need in colleges and universities. They won't be good for anything but flipping burgers when they get out of todays schools. They certainly won't be fit to solve their own problems or use their imaginations in useful ways.

Give our children back their summer. And stop trying to shove them into holding bins to be babysat instead of teaching them.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Glorious Lexicography



I plunk my ever-widening derrière into the seat at my desk and pound away at the keys on a nearly daily basis. I fill with verbiage letters to friends, three blogs, a couple of networking sites, and, thus far, nineteen books in varying forms of pajama-undress. Often I concoct scenes while hanging the laundry or driving somewhere.

Now and then I have a chance to contemplate what I do. At times discouragement looms on the horizon as I obsess over how many people aren't reading what I have to say. Why is it a single dad writing about dating woes or a style maven talking about the right purse with the right outfit get thousands of readers and I with my wild variety have only a dedicated few? Why do I have such a backlog of orphaned books waiting for publishing parents?

I shrug. Perhaps I'm doing it wrong. Perhaps I should be offering style tips (laughable as I'm the poster child for frump) or helpful relationship hints (also laughable since I'm still trying to forge a way through the marital ice myself) or non-stop blog hops and raffles. Maybe I should spend more of my time courting those 'parents' who will love my babies as I do.

Or not. At best they'll have to share the trip. This chair is where I live. This is where I stand, mental pith helmet firmly strapped to my head, hiking boots laced securely, as I gaze out over the vast escarpment, past rank on rank of whispering trees to the purpling mountains beyond. If you want, you can join me on Mars or a tour of the smoke vents at the bottom of the Marianas trench. We can go barrel racing or shoot aliens in deep space. My latest book will involve synesthesia.

Welcome to my world. Now get your SCUBA gear and your snowshoes and let's go.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

GIFT OF THE PHOENIX Review



I read THE HOBBIT by J R R Tolkein in the fourth grade and DUNE by Frank Herbert shortly thereafter. I won't say GIFT OF THE PHOENIX by Donna Cook stands in the vanguard with the hobbits, elves, and fremen, but it's definitely in the same battalion.

The action was gripping, the story fabulous, the characters well-developed and likable (except for the villain, of course, who was utterly chilling). I enjoyed how she worked the magical sequences. They were believable, if not doable.

Prince Marcellus, Corren (an apprentice wizard), and Nicolai (a farmer) have something secret in common--a father and mother. The secrets don't stop there, cropping up at every turn, filling the book full of lovely twists and speed bumps. It's the job of The Three, along with two remarkable women, to stop The Crafty One from killing the phoenix and stealing its magic. The book is a mad dash to the finish line of the world with at least one brother knowing he was doomed to die. Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water faeries combine to make this a fascinating tale.

There were a couple of incredibly silly bits which I can't refrain from snickering over, just because they are so very ridiculous. Donna had people shooting their quivers. Anybody who has ever heard anything about archery or seen a bow shot, let alone anyone who has shot one, knows that you shoot arrows which you carry around with you in your quiver. Even if you are shooting a crossbow, you know those are called bolts or quarrels, not quivers. She mentions them twice, so I know it wasn't a typo.
The other silliness was that she called the sword hilt a helm. Sorry, Donna, a helm is a metal hat you wear on your head to keep your brains intact. You meant a hilt. Just keep that in mind for the sequel I'm waiting for.

Other than those bits, I found the book absolutely readable and difficult to put down. Bring on the next one, Donna. If you'd like to purchase this book, you can get it here. and here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bouncing Noggins



This week (and for the last long while) I've been working through editing re-writes for SUNRISE OVER SCIPIO. The process has been a little like my baby being flogged mercilessly, then painted puce, stuffed into an orange velvet jumpsuit and chartreuse crocs, and sent out on the street to flip signs. Okay so it's an exaggeration. I'm not really that babyish. Really. But bidding a fond farewell to a few of those bits wasn't pleasant.

As I see sentence after sentence go to the guillotine, I'm reminded of my previous folly. My editor told me mine was one of the best books she'd read all year. For a while it didn't seem like she was going to change much at all. Silly author. It's difficult to remember that when the manuscript is full of mark-outs and bids for re-writing. At first this week I was more than a little discouraged. I'd already gone through my own exhaustive hatchet job, then that of my writing group and Beta readers. Who was I kidding?

 I have gone through and done all the chopping, rearranging, and re-purposing my editor has asked for, however.

Most of those revisions are painless and I can see they'll make for a better story. Some? Not so much. My one happiness is that I have the original manuscript in my hot little fist and I can pour over it to my heart's content. Probably as I read, I'll agree with La Editorix.

My daughter is reading another of my books I'm getting ready to send. She laughed until her eyes bugged out about a phrase I wrote (something about gustatory sensations) I'll be chopping that one in a few minutes. She also said the author she illustrates for has said he had maybe one paragraph in all his books that remained untouched. That statement made me feel much better. He's done many books, most of which I love.

The problem is this: When do you bow to the slippery slide our country's children are on and when do you hold firm in a desperate attempt to keep some kind of vocabulary intact? I think it won't be too long before we're back to the grunting/pointing stage. I'm reminded of a comedy spot I saw on Youtube recently by John Branyan. It's called something like Shakespeare's Three Little Pigs. Check it out.

And now back to my previously scheduled chopping block. Thank you, editor mine. I shall get back to it now.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Swan

This is part of a short story I wrote a while back called THE SWAN.

Anna watched, disconsolate in her seat against the wall, as the dancing couples passed by. Envious of their youth, their figures, and the handsome men on their arms, she took in the whirl of colorful gowns and the flash of gems. The air was redolent of orchids and aftershave and the delicious scents of chocolate cake and champagne.

The men in their tuxedos offset their partners' brilliance perfectly. Hers was, as usual, AWOL, leaving her partner-less. They glided past her in waltz formation, dipping and swaying with the lilting strains of the orchestra. She found herself utterly envious that their lives still held the promise of love and adventure.

Hers could not offer such. She contemplated her life as if looking at the false front of a drama set. The garishly painted set represented her early years, impressing a stream of less-than-stellar boys. As they got older, fewer men could be captivated by the glitz and paint of the false front.

Until there was only Jack.

They'd seemed to fall together as two felled trees, leaning precariously in mutual need. While her friends spoke of aching love and surpassing passion, Anna knew her marriage to be much quieter--more like a tree standing on a hillside, cutting the spring breezes.

Now? Jack didn't care to socialize. He'd much rather stay at home with a book, his dogs at his knee as twilight fell in the library. And all that was left to Anna was the tawdry back of the false front with its bared, rusty nails and pealing paint.

Now no one looked at her with a glint in his eye. She had run to fat, and wrinkles replaced pimples. Even the cheap black dye couldn't disguise the tufts of silver. She watched her reflection in the back-lit window, mourning the lithe figure of her youth. Look at those arms, she thought sadly. They're as big as my thighs once were.

As the dancers whirled past, a potent longing rose up in her, choking. Cloying. She had let those valuable hours of her youth slip away like quicksilver, unappreciated. For what purpose? She felt alone and valueless. Unneeded. Unremarkable. Fit only for the dim spaces against the wall with the other ferns.

She felt a hand on her shoulder. She glanced upwards.

Jack!

Bowing, he whispered, "Dance with me, Sweetheart." Somehow he'd been practicing, for with a flourish, Jack expertly drew her through the couples and out onto the dance floor. She clapped her amazed mouth shut as he squired her through a whole series of expertly executed dance steps.

By the time her breath caught up with her, and several dances later, he had retrieved a couple of drinks and some secluded seats for them both. She blinked at him, wondering at the metamorphosis of her once staid husband. His prowess on the dance floor had been negligent and uninspiring. Here he stood in a tuxedo, cutting a dashing figure as if he'd crawled out of a decades-long cocoon to emerge a glittering butterfly.

He launched into a gleeful explanation about how long he'd been planning this most stunning surprise--the lessons, the tux, the planning. "I can't have my Sweet Girl thinking she's lost her shine, can I? After all, you mean everything to me."

© 2014 by H. Linn Murphy