Home of Castle 8, Welsan's Story, and the weekly Visual Dare (and whatever else strikes my brain)
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Don't know what I'm talking about? Then you probably didn't stop by my blog over the last week, when Lillie McFerrin, Angie Richmond, Daniel Swensen and I were tweeting the beflergins out of our Blog Hop Contest. Tons of people visited our blogs and read the guidelines and looked at the photo prompt, but in the end it was an even thirty people who were brave enough to go out on a limb and give their 300-words-or-less "story snapshot" of the writing prompt.
For the next week, Lillie, Angie, Daniel and I have the daunting task of narrowing those thirty down to five winners --- and it ain't gonna be easy. There is a LOT of raw talent out there!
While we agonize over the worthy winners, I encourage you to check out the Blog Hop Page and follow the links to the various entries and see which ones you like best. Not only will you have spent your time on a good deal of quality reading, but I am willing to bet that (a) you will be astonished at the variety of creative responses that sprang from one bizarre photograph (we certainly are!); and (b) you will find some amazing blogs that you must follow.
And you must follow them - of course! Because anyone cool enough to put their skills "out there" for all to see are never without roots and backstories and deeper waters.
Go out and do a little wading. I dare ya'.
And just for the record - this is not the only blog hop that you will find here. I've decided that when I hit 100 followers on my blog I will do some kind of writerly competitive awesomeness as well.
So go - read, follow, and put on your writer's thinking cap.
And above all ---- write.
Monday, January 30, 2012
A Providential Kindle Swap
My, am I off my game.
Monday snuck up on me. Evil, evil Monday. Boo.
Usually I have several blog posts lined up, and have them set to auto-update at midnight EST on any given day - on Monday through Thursday at least. But this week the autoposting completely slipped by me.
A large part of this is that I've been distracted in a good way - with a thorough rereading of my earlier works-in-progress, that I honestly haven't looked at since I put them in mothballs in autumn of 2010. It was about that time that I was encouraged by some writer friends to branch out into a different genre, and not limit myself to one kind of writing, or one category of tale-weaving. That challenge led to an interesting cascade of decisions and thinking, resulting in my current project of which I've been dropping such hints and summaries: Castle 8.
But then a funny thing happened. My father and I both have Kindles, you see, and every once in a while we do what we call a "Kindle swap." This is not a sneaky way to snap up purchased tomes, by the way - purchased books on Kindle, as a general rule, do not transfer from one Kindle to the next. When we plug our Kindles into the computer one after the other, and transfer the files, the only things we are going for are those books which are free anyway. Common domain books. We are both such nerds, we are interested in swapping out titles like Sun Tzu's The Art of War or Boswell's Life of Johnson.
We did another such "Kindle swap" late last fall, and were rewarded with lots of lovely nerdy titles to lose ourselves in, equally trading out Dr Faustus for The Complete Sherlock Holmes, The Man From Snowy River for The Story of the Volsungs, Maximilian in Mexico for The Dispatch Riders, and G K Chesterton's What I Saw in America.
Lots of great nerdy stuff. Ya'll should come over for story-time at OUR house.
What I had forgotten was that, lumped in with all these forgotten tomes, were several PDF files of my working manuscripts. Partly as a back-up measure, partly because I've been meaning to reread them anyway, I had taken each of my WIPs and converted them to 22 pt font (Times New Roman) and then to PDF format, so I could read my own works as a "real" book on the Kindle. I like doing this because honestly, there are a TON of errors I never see in my own work until it is a totally different format. The more formal the presentation, the more quickly I spot my own shortcomings.
Only I hadn't looked at most of these WIPs in over a year. I forgot they were even there; and then I made the Kindle swap with my dad over this past Thanksgiving.
The upshot is that, as he sifted through all the oddball titles I had given him (no stranger than the ones he'd given me, I assure you), he realized he had several raw manuscripts on hand as well. I had already asked him to read through Castle 8, so he did that. He surprised me by saying he really enjoyed it, that he thought I had something that was more than just publishable, it was good.
Coming from my dad, that is high praise. He always reserves his judgements till he has sifted all the information, and then his praise is always in exact proportion to the merit of the situation. So for him to say that he truly enjoyed what I had done - I was thrilled.
Then he found my other manuscripts - the ones that had been "in storage" for well over a year.
Suddenly my days were punctuated by lots of text messages with exclamations and questions, and comments about how he - my dad, mind you - could not put the books down. The other books are all part of one big sprawling series, and it's a fantasy series to boot. My dad is generally not a fantasy reader, but by the messages he was sending me you would never guess that.
His response was so unexpected (for me) that I spent the weekend reading through the books again as well, trying to see them from his eyes. It's odd how just knowing someone else is reading your work will make it seem new all over again (and show you yet OTHER errors that you've never seen before).
Now ~ I know he's my dad, and I know what people say about taking the praise (or criticism) of family members too close to heart when setting out on the road to publication. But my dad has always been my most meticulous copy-editor, the one who would always tell me when I was wasting my time with shallow plotlines or bad writing. He once famously ripped a piece of my writing for including too many "limpid clear pools and azure blue sky" --- and with good reason. It was a horrible bit of work, and he honored me by saying so. That's why I've always valued his opinion on my writing: because I know he will always tell me the truth.
So now I've received an emphatic double thumbs-up from him on this other series, which has had a chance to marinate in the back of my head for over a year, and whose lines I can read through more objectively than my purported "current project" Castle 8. Certain things that I thought were horrible and ought to be eliminated (entire chapters, in some places) now don't seem quite so grotesque. Other things I was proud of I could now cut out without thinking, and I see how it would elevate the overall composition of the book.
Which makes me wonder: which project do I put forward first for publication? The one that I've been sinking myself into for a solid year now, which works well but still needs several layers of spit-polish and beta readers; or the one that's been in my head since I was twelve, and has been collecting dust for sixteen months?
That is what caused me to spend large chunks of my weekend reading my own PDF files. It's also why my blogging posts fell by the wayside.
[But o look....I think out loud with a keyboard in front of me, and voila! ~ a blog post. That hopefully didn't turn your brain to applesauce.]
This is going to take some considering. Knowing which WIP to float by the agents first is a big first step - especially for me, since Castle 8 and the "mothballs project" are in two totally different genres, and would need to be queried, marketed, etc very differently, and probably to very different kinds of agent.
Again - this requires some thought.
No quick answers on this one, I'm sure. I don't expect any.
But I do know this: I am very grateful for PDF conversions and Kindle swaps - whatever the consequences.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
6SS: Sneaking Finn
In keeping with last week's post, I have put up another six sentences from my current work-in-progress, Castle 8:
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Agent Tweets #5: Boredom and Bungling Blogs
The more you say your novel is like your life, the less excited I am. We aren't objective about our own lives
Why This Matters:I can totally see what someone might find this offensive, if it were embedded in a responding email or critique. We know the microcosm of our own lives. We are intricately acquainted with the miracles and pitfalls, large and small. Of course our own experiences are an enormous legacy in our own lives - we've lived through them.
But think about it: an agent or editor owes you nothing in the way of compliments. You want them to like your work, even love it? You've got to sell it on its tangible allurements. Saying that it mirrors your own life - when they don't know you from Adam's housecat - isn't going to grab their attention, even if you have lived the most amazing incredible fantastic death-defying OMG-You-Won't-Believe-What-Happened love-conquers-all kind of life.
Also, the original point still stands: We are not objective about our own lives. We've lived it, so of course what we've been through matters most to us. We are essentially self-centered critters, after all.
What To Do: Look at your own work from an outsider's point of view, and write your hook and summary from there. Can't look at it from an outsider's POV? Get a literature-savvy friend to help. My writer's group is constantly doing rough-draft hook-and-summary blurbs for one another, so that the creator of the work can see what it is that draws a reader in. Using that as a springboard, you can then work on selling your work because it has x and y and z, and not because it's based on the All Fantabulous Me.
Authors, proofread your blogs. It looks suspicious (at best) when your sub is great & your blog is littered with errors.
However: one of the main reasons for a writer to begin a blog - especially if they intend to showcase their work - is to set up an internet presence. It is a presence, moreover, that most agents or publishers will expect, or at least ask about, when you finally make it into that Inner Circle of Consideration. When that happens, the blog becomes part of your resume.
Of course you still want to be "the real you" on your blog. Who doesn't? Freshness and realism is a large part of the appeal of having a blog, especially if you intend to establish a professional reputation through your writing. But think of it this way: If you go in for a job interview, wouldn't you want to know whether your pants were unzipped, or your blouse was misbuttoned, or you had ickiness hanging out of your nose?
You would never want to show up to an interview that way. Even if it's for the initiation into a ninja-nun-biker-gang. I don't care how casual, formal, freaky or docile the dress code is - you'd still stop in the bathroom on the way to the interview and check to make sure everything is zipped, hooked, buttoned, wiped, aligned, or artfully askew in the right gangsta way before you walked in for your interview (or initiation/hazing ordeal).
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
He's been away since Christmas, ever since the ambulance took him away in a delirium, sirens wailing, leaving two small boys and their distraught mommy behind.
Three weeks passed in an ongoing cascade of fever, blood clots, a leg amputation - barring him from his family, threatening to sever him from his soul. Every precious hour lay under siege, while ICU added the sterile yet well-meaning imperative: no children may visit where death treads so near.
Then the fever turns - the amputation is healing - he is moved to a real room, with a window and a television, a smiling nurse and half the number of drips and IVs. Two red-haired boys stumble into the room, clamber to reach his bed first, their round faces suffused with joy as they bring dawning hope in their outstretched arms.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Today's Post: In keeping with my friends over at Surly Muse and Dasia Has a Blog, I have succumbed to the 20 Question Blog Meme and have opened my flip-top brains (as it were) to let you peek inside. (I am very sorry if this is a traumatic experience.)
So here we go....
Ahhh! Too many choices. Anyone from my NoInklings Tribe would be awesome, although at the moment I should probably tip the hat toward Surly Muse or Dasia Has a Blog, as it is their fault I'm unleashing all this drivel on an unsuspecting public.
I want to listen to it on repeat loop before every major writing spree...and then do the actual writing in silence.
If not me - who? If not now - when?
- my dad
I've always envisioned Winona Ryder as the actress for my part, since we're both short brunettes with big eyes, and born within a year of each other. As for the other roles....I have no idea. That will be the largely fictionalized aspect that Hollywood would no doubt dream up. :)
weregild. I fell in love with that word ever since my Beowulf professor lectured at length about weregild, the ancient Celtic idea of the "blood payment", and all the cultural consequences and expectations that entailed. According to Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913), weregild (or wergild) is defined as: "The price of a man's head; a compensation paid for a man killed, partly to the king for the loss of a subject, partly to the lord of the vassal, and partly to the next of kin. It was paid by the murderer."
Honorable mentions: schwa, covenant, trebuchet, denouement, iamb, shall, clew
Lord of the Rings is the only book I've found besides Beowulf that mentions the concept
weregild in its appropriate context. Ironically, it is Isildur who pronouncedThe One Ring
Diversify, maybe? Trying to change up the teacherish posts with more me-ish posts, especially ones that exhibit more of my writing. I'm working on this. (Promise. )
Monday, January 23, 2012
Blog Hop Contest!
I am teaming up with Lillie McFerrin, Angie Richmond and Daniel Swensen for a fantabulous blog hop, to celebrate our magnificent community of blog followers and writing cohorts!
What's a blog hop? So glad you asked.
Here's the scoop:
Winners will be announced February 7th.
Copy and paste the linky code below with your entry. Spread the word! We look forward to reading your take on this amazing photo!
<!-- end InLinkz script -->
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Six Sentence Sunday
For my first ever foray into Six Sentence Sunday - I hereby present you with the opening six sentences of my work-in-progress, Castle 8, which I previewed for everyone the other day:
Six years after the second end of the world, Finn Swackhammer’s alarm went off at dark-thirty and woke him out of a sound sleep.
The actual time did not matter. In the Underground, time no longer meant anything. Ever since the world first ended nine hundred years earlier, the people had lived in constant darkness, and “dark-thirty” was just a way to say the alarm had gone off at its appointed interval. Finn’s alarm reminded him it was time to ride the rails, and the cannibals were waiting for him.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Jane Austen's Fight Club
Friday, January 20, 2012
Thanks to Lillie McFerrin's marvelous Five Sentence Fiction challenge - this week, writer's choice - I've decided to take the plunge with the following writing prompt:
Only three words were uttered - nothing more. I could not have anticipated the response it elicited. How was I to know the bruise was so raw, lingering just beneath the surface, still throbbing from an injury I never saw delivered?
"Company policy requires...."
Bile hardened her features and sharpened her tongue, as she unleashed a tsunami of resentment on me.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Nose in the Air
Agent Tweet: "There's no editor to muck things up." I disagree with this. I speak from experience, having read self published stuff that needs an editor.
Why This Matters: Oh my, how this hits home with me - especially now, that I'm getting feedback from my first real battery of beta readers - you know, the ones who don't owe you any compliments, and haven't sat at your Inner Circle Writer's Meetings and listened to you drone about your wonderful vision for your tale, and who you want to star in the movie when Hollywood inevitably comes knocking at your door. Getting solid feedback on your WIP (work in progress) is a huge part of the journey toward getting published; and the more hard-core the feedback, the more you realize that you can't go down that editing road alone.
But even beta readers are not editors. Unless you hit on a very savvy beta reader who happens to be an editor in real life (which I figure is the publishing world's version of winnning the lottery), you're not going to get the real, bare-knuckles, literary fistfight you need from a beta reader. And your manuscript certainly won't achieve it's highest level of greatness from purely your own edits.
An excellent example of this is, I think, The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. You're probably already familiar with the teenager-turned-bestselling-author who created the four volume series about dragonrider Eragon. I know quite a few people who are entirely enamored with this series - very savvy, well-read, creative people whom I love and admire. But on this one point - the literary worth of the Inheritance Cycle - we do not see eye to eye.
If you've read the entire Inheritance Cycle - congratulations. You are to be commended for doing what I could not. You have endured a long, wandering, detail-obsessed, superfluous tale whose verbosity would have made Charles Dickens cower. (Incidentally, I am very much a Charles Dickens fan. Just sayin'.) For my part, I could not get halfway through the first book. I just couldn't. I felt as though I was trying to read tar, or eat taffy that has the annoying habit of never dissolving in your mouth.
Please do not misunderstand me. At rock bottom, I do think Paolini is a very talented young man - but a talent unleashed a little too soon, and with too little mastery of his inherent skills. His original book, Eragon, was self-published - and I think it shows, loud and clear. He gave too free a reign to his natural gifts, while his inherent weaknesses were never strengthened. Though he did eventually find a publisher, Eragon was left largely in it's original form, thereby dooming the remaining three volumes to only build on - and thus magnify - the structural weaknesses of the first book. (I've had readers tell me they were able to skip entire chapters of book four without ever once losing the thread of the main action. The only other book of which I've heard such a disheartening assessment was Moby Dick.) The truly brilliant work that the Inheritance Cycle could have been never happened - because the tale went straight from a seventeen-year-old brain to a public audience, without a professional edit to bring discipline and precision to his overall work.
Which, of course, brings us back to the original Agent Tweet - that an editor really is NOT there to "muck up" your story. They are there to help. Since an editor is not emotionally tangled up in the tale (which we, as authors of our own stories, inevitably are), they have the objectivity to see structural issues in your tale that you cannot see - things that obscure the overall message of your book, that dim its brightness, or undermine its emotional punch.
Even if you do self-publish, you still want to enlist the help of a reputable editor, such as Sirra Edits - and she is by no means the only capable editor available to self-pubbed authors today. Check out the web, find someone willing to take on your novel and give it the spit-polish it deserves. Making your novel the absolute best it can be is, after all, the only way to stand out in an increasingly-chaotic publishing crowd.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Castle 8 Confessions
I am such a coward.
No - really I am. Or at least I feel that am - especially when it comes to my writing.
You wouldn't guess it by looking at this blog. It's stuffed full of posts, ranging from the informative to the downright silly. I started this blog back in late September with a very specific end in mind: to somehow pave a way - or at least part of the way - toward my future writing career. Build a platform. Get my name out there. And so on.
I knew it would happen gradually. These things do take time, after all. And I should add that I've had a marvelous time building up this blog, and have no intention of slowing down. However - while I love posting all these helpful tips and anecdotes on writing (next Agent Tweets episode coming up tomorrow, by the way), it is supremely easy for me to hide behind my teacherishness and serve up little mini-lessons by the dozen.
The big omission? Anything pertaining to my OWN writing.
Now, please know - I am not changing horses in midstream, nor intend to fill this blog with my own delusions of adequacy. As Daniel Swensen so perfectly said it in his blog post yesterday - blogging is really about others, not yourself.
But part of that involves giving of yourself. In a writer's community, that means going out on a limb with those skills you profess to have.
So, after a bit of quiet and good-natured heckling from friends (you know who you are), I've decided to branch out a bit more with the writing blurbs. I've decided to at least occasionally participate in Six Sentence Sunday, in which writers are encouraged to share a six sentence blurb from the more riveting corners of their work-in-progress. I've also decided to join in the fun with Lillie McFerrin on her blog, with her weekly 5 Sentence Fiction challenges.
For the moment, however - as a token of good faith that I will not permanently use this blog as an extension of my composition and history classrooms - I hereby put forth the following summary of my current work-in-progress. Consider this a down payment of literary transparency to come. :-)
The Underground has been quarantined for centuries, running on the impersonal laws and mechanical system of a “big brother” tyranny that dissolved long ago. Crippled by earthquakes, mired in darkness, victimized by gangs, the Underground is on a path to self-destruction. But the Swackhammer brothers – math genius Greg, illiterate poet Errol, cannibal safe-cracker Finn and the illegally-born March – know there is something more beyond the Underground, that life hasn’t always been this way.
Severed from all history, literature, music and culture for so many generations, no one in the Underground has the least idea how to save, let alone rebuild, their world. The Swackhammers are thrown headlong into that mystery, as they scramble to escape the Underground and recover what was lost – at whatever cost to themselves.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Guest Post: People Are Complicated!
Second of all... your readers will never entirely be on the same page as you. Hopefully the same story and characters but someone is going to hate your favorite character and love the dumb pushover character and have a strange fascination with the one that makes you gag. Give them the important things - which doesn’t necessarily require a full body description - and let them form their own opinions. Write what interests YOU about the character... but don’t feel like you have to explain everything. We’re not dumb. Okay, some of us might be but let’s just generalize for the sake of my blog post.
Oh no! Wait!! What about the reeeeeeeeeally important chars? Like the main ones? The ones that you dream about day and night and never get any rest because they’re always bothering you and asking you stupid questions - oh your’s don’t do that? *Awkward*
Julian was a character that made his debut appearance during my Nanowrimo novel this year. Julian was boring. I know - people are never boring. But he broke, shattered and absolutely pulverized this rule. He made me cringe to think about. So I broke one of the Seven Deadly Sins of writing.
McKenzie Barham is a fun-sized, book-obsessed redhead who plans on taking over the world with her writing group (the Y5), becoming a multi-billionaire, and then (with the Y5) building a cabin in the mountains with a Beauty and the Beast library. At the moment, however, she is slightly distracted by finishing high-school and surviving Ms. Angela’s humanities classes. ;) She can be found on Twitter as @Love_Kenzie or at her blog: The Other Side of Sorrow.
Monday, January 16, 2012
Fog and Water
Shortly after New Year's my hometown experienced some unseasonably warm, humid weather for January (even for Georgia). It poured rivers all day, with hardly a letup. Late in the afternoon, I made a quick run to the store, and by the time I finished the world had grown dark outside.
As I approached the exit doors I blinked my eyes, and did a double take. I thought I was seeing an odd reflection back through the sliding glass doors - but no; the world really had changed that drastically in only half an hour. What had been a damp, clear, break-between-the-clouds world when I went in had been replaced by the thickest, densest, most ghostly fog I had ever seen. Standing on the sidewalk, I could not even see the opposite side of the street.
The drive home that night was interesting, to say the least. Though I was only five miles from home, it was a winding, corkscrew five miles - alongside vast acres of rolling pastureland, down into marshy hollows, round hairpin curves and over one lane bridges. I traced the route from memory, because I could not see anything except the encroaching fog, and the eerie wells of light that punctured the mist above me. More unsettling was to see the full moon rising in a clear night sky, high above the fog embankment. Beyond the highest trees, painted like a colored wash above the goblin-gray sea of restless fog, was a band of starry sky with the moon at its heart, hung like an enormous pearl on a satin ribbon. Below, every mist-bound tree cut an imposing figure, marching out of the vagueness with the dark, stern presence of a giant at large. The last bands of sunset cut through the topmost coils of vapor, picking out the bare crowns of oak trees like the many-pronged horns of a mystical creature.
I drove about ten miles an hour all the way home, alternately watching the shrouded road before me and gaping at the glory-streaked netherworld pressing around me - above and below, near and beyond. I was full of wonder at the sight; and yet one persistent thought kept running through my mind: This is why people believe in fairies.
It is small wonder why, in every high school and college literature class, teachers burden their students with lectures on symbolism and motifs. There is, after all, good reason for impressing something such as, say, the water symbol on students of western literature. In nearly every classic tome water generally represents, on the surface at least, memory. This is why we can study Galadriel's mirror from Lord of the Rings, the great river (the Mississippi) at the heart of Huck Finn, or that disastrous sheet of ice in Ethan Frome and pull from each a family resemblance, so to speak, in what those scenes communicate. Individually, the water symbol adds extra layers of peculiar meaning to the plot at large. Yet despite the disparate nature of their respective tales, Lord of the Rings, Huck Finn and Ethan Frome all contain in the water symbol the impress of memory. Events long gone that cannot be recovered, for good or ill - that is the common truth that resonates with the reader.
Fog is another such symbol. Mystery, of course, is the essence of its nature, its allure, and its danger. It is a living shroud for the natural world, a ghostly harbinger of death and portents, that rises and abates when least expected. It confuses the most level-headed guides, makes familiar terrain as foreign as a distant planet, and brings doubt where certainty once prevailed. Symbolically and in reality, fog is about obscuring the truth, covering with doubt, and taking what we thought we knew and transforming it into the unknowable and threatening.
I know several writers who eschew using "traditional" symbolism. It was quite the fad for a while to take the established symbols and motifs from classic literature and turn them all on their ear. In some circles, it is still fashionable.
Yet I maintain that we should not shy away from established symbols in our writing. True, we don't want to be cliche --- that is the fear of every writer, I think, whether published or no. But if we dismiss all of the most basic symbols that appeal to our innate senses as humans, then we risk losing that subtle anchorage every writer needs in order to give texture and familiarity to their work. Appealing to the familiar and sympathetic in your readers goes beyond merely crafting believable characters with identifiable problems; it extends even to the ordinary symbols that, like fog, chase them through their days and twist the details of familiar life into new complexities, thus layering substance with urgency, and drawing your reader yet farther into your world.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
You Must Use the Force!
This is a song by the zany group known as Moosebutter, but the video itself was arranged by Corey Vidal (the adorably geeky squirt pretending to be four people at once throughout the video). Video courtesy of YouTube, as usual.
Also: It's a pretty darn awesome tribute to John Williams. Just sayin'.
Doesn't this make your inner Star Wars geek happy?
If it doesn't, you need a dance with Ewoks. Or a chess game with a Wookie. Or something.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Book Review: The Sauder Diaries
First of all let me say this: I am not usually one for giving book reviews. For one thing, I made the decision early on that I would not review a new book on my website unless I felt that I could unreservedly give it five stars. Of all the popular fiction that I've read - or attempted to read - lately, this is the first book of which I could pay such a compliment.
Hence: This is my first book review.
Once I joined Twitter in September, I quickly saw that it was a gold mine of links to new fiction, debut novels, new authors, and the rest. I clicked through all of them, and made a list of books whose premise appealed to me, and then cross-referenced them on Amazon and Goodreads. I read summaries, reviews, etc and narrowed down the list even more.
I finally took a chance on The Sauder Diaries: By Any Other Name by Michel R Vaillancourt. I was skeptical, even so. I had tried steampunk before, and hadn't found anything that really grabbed me.
All that changed when I downloaded The Sauder Diaries to my Kindle and devoured it over Christmas - as in, stayed-up-till-4am-and-lost-precious-sleep-because-the-book-wouldn't-let-me-go, kind of devouring.
Michel's pirate-infused steampunk world is rooted in the historical fabric of Victorian Europe, in which the Crimean War ended with a stalemate and not a victory. Airships and clockwork mechanisms are the technology of the future, mad scientists and engine-driven dragons run rampant, and Russia stands tall as the supermenace overshadowing the world.
Living amidst this vivid, turbulent clockwork world is Hans Sauder, a gentleman's son and German expat. While en route to University to study engineering, his airship is waylaid by the nefarious pirate ship The Bloody Rose. Confronted with a choice to either join the crew or be tossed overboard into the most volatile wilds of Europe, Hans reluctantly steps into the role of a pirate. As he is given the kind of education no university could have prepared him for, Hans finds himself at the center of a paradoxical world, where the Captain conducts piracy with a gentleman's keen business sense, the most lethal crew members are the women, and the dark underbelly of a "peaceful" Europe is exposed at every turn.
No shallow, cardboard characters populate this story; every pirate - from Italian Ethiope beauty Arietta to the deadly Captain-Gunner Annika, to the seemingly indestructible Blauchuk - is a multilayered soul with peculiar backhistories that feed the plot throughout, and drop ample hints for the series to come. Meticulous attention is given to the ethnicities and cultural backgrounds of the time, resulting in dynamic, believable characters who walk straight into your imagination and take it over, as easily as they ambushed Hans.
Being a history teacher myself, I am notoriously picky when it comes to the books I read. The Sauder Diaries defied my skepticsm at every turn - and won the duel, hands down. Romance, warfare, intrigue, humor, and espionage were all interwoven with careful attention. Historical and mechanical detail nails down every scene with credible realism.
There are a few passages where meticulous detail is given to the workings of the ship's machinery, but the action never stops cold while the exposition takes place. The movement of the characters among the innards of the Bloody Rose give ready movement and clarity to the mechanisms. While the detail is extraordinary, it is never off-putting for those who might not be history buffs, or possess a mechanical mind.
If I had known at the outset what a remarkable book this would be, I would have gladly paid more than the current asking price. I look forward to the promised sequel with school-girlish impatience.
How do I find the book? Who is Michel Vaillancourt?
I'm so glad you asked. Here are all the pertinent details:
Michel R Vaillancourt:
Find him on Twitter
Find him on Goodreads
Find his book on Amazon
Find his book at Barnes & Noble
Find him on Facebook
Find him on his official website