Writer Wednesday – Terri-Lynne Smiles

1. Who are you? (A name would be good here…preferably the one you write under)
Terri-Lynne Smiles

2. What type of stuff do you write? (Besides shopping lists)
Cross-genre novels. Currently, The Rothston Series combines elements of science fiction and contemporary fantasy into a believable explanation for real world events. Next year when the series is finished, I have a number of other novels to be released, including a murder mystery without a murder, a futuristic thriller set on an isolated planet/colony, and a discovery story about a woman who finds herself wrongfully imprisoned. The commonality is that they all involve science in one form or another.

3. What do you want to pimp right now? (May it be your newest, your work-in-progress, your favorite or even your first)
The Rothston Series is what’s hot for me right now. The first book, Foreseen, introduces the college-age characters in an exciting romp into the world of adepts – people who can covertly change the decisions made by those around them. The second novel in the series, Choices, follows the two protagonists on a tense and sometimes terrifying trek around the globe as they flee for their lives. It leans slightly toward horror in some of their encounters but sets the stage for the final two installments of the series. Origins, the third book, will be out later this fall, with Common Ground concluding the series in 2015.

4. What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
I don’t have a favorite book (unless you count 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias), but I have several authors I enjoy for different reasons. I’ll spare your readers my long-winded explanations of the strengths and weaknesses of each and just stick to the list:

  • Edgar Alan Poe
  • Agatha Christie
  • Dean Koontz
  • Ray Bradbury
  • David Baldacci
  • J.K. Rowling

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
I was a healthcare lawyer for over 25 years before leaving to pursue writing full-time (meaning almost every waking moment). Writing is much more difficult and absorbing than law. I’m also an active volunteer for a number of charitable organizations and the Board Chair of the Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations.

6. What link can we find you at? (One or two please; don’t go overboard here!)
Main Website – www.terrilynnesmiles.com
Facebook – Author Page – https://www.facebook.com/TerriLynneSmiles
The Rothston Series on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Foreseen-The-Rothston-Series/

 

 

 

*****

On Reading…

Reading is important for everyone – writer or not. I can’t say that enough. I read about an hour or two a day but don’t stick to any particular genre – I find that too limiting in terms of voice and style. For example, in the past two months, I finished Veronica Roth’s light YA novel Divergent, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and John C. Brewer’s international thriller The Silla Project. I am three-quarters of the way through Michael Williams’ literary Trajan’s Arch and failed at reading Brandon Sanderson’s high fantasy Elantris. I have also started Malcolm Gladwell’s nonfiction Outliers, and am re-reading from cover-to-cover 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias. During this same period, I also read two unpublished manuscripts – one romance, one contemporary fantasy – and portions of two proposed how-to books. I used to give up on novels that didn’t rivet me to my seat, but now force myself to finish if I can because each book I read provides more insight into writing – either by positive or negative lesson. Nonfiction, on the other hand, enhances my understanding of the world, which then informs my writing. That means if I’m not getting anything out of a nonfiction book by the end of the first chapter, I’m unlikely to go further.

Anyone who writes fiction has heard over and over that reading is essential to writing. This is one of the few “truths” for authors. If you’re short on time, don’t abandon your reading. If you don’t have time to read, your writing will stagnate.

 

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Book Review – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (HP5)
JK Rowling
US version Hardback – 2003

There is something especially quaint (ahem) about checking a children’s book out of the library that is so big and heavy you almost need somebody to carry it for you. But alas, here is the longest of the HP novels. Especially when there’s very little content in the book to talk about (side note – this is the shortest movie of all 8, which is saying something since its the longest book at 870 pages [US version]).

For Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts, the book starts out with Harry and his useless cow-of-a-cousin Dudley walking down the street when Dementors attack them just around the block from Privet Drive. He’s whisked away by a group of magical people that he knows mostly from school to the super-secret hideout of the Order of the Phoenix – Sirius’s house – where he discovers that he’s been watched all summer long, and of course his friends know more than he does.

We get to learn a bit about the Order, courtesy of Fred and George (or is it George and Fred?)’s magic ears invention, a bit about the Black Family courtesy of Kreatcher, a particularly annoying house elf, and the Black Family Tapestry – complete with shrieking Mother of Sirius, and more than a bit about the Ministry of Magic and Albus Dumbledore courtesy of Harry’s visit to the ministry on the matter of having called forth a patronus to get rid of the dementors trying to kill his cousin.

He should have let Dudley die, just sayin’.
Also, the ministry is corrupt, but we already knew that.
Oh, and Harry *must* be lying because there’s no way that dementors are out and causing trouble because Don’t-Say-Voldemort can’t *possibly* be doing anything whatsoever. Excuse me while I roll my eyes.

The kids go back to Hogwarts just in time to find out that they’ll have to take their OWLs at the end of the year, and for all hell to break loose at the hands of one Dolores Umbridge. We have a lot of her being cross and Harry getting in trouble – to the point that he’s banned from Quiddich forever. After all, he’s just a little freak who makes up stories.

Hermione still goes on about her stupid SPEW campaign (seriously, NONE of my friends like the SPEW story lines).
Umbridge’s insistance that you can learn defense THEORY and never practice it and be able to save yourself is not what the students want to hear, and so Harry and his friends start their DA practices (Dumbledore’s Army, which is a stupid title, but right up the alley of what a young teenager would come up with) in the Room of Requirement, which Dobby points out to them.

Oh, and Harry starts having bad dreams that aren’t dreams but a super-special connection with Voldemort and he gets to see what’s happening as it happens. Which means he then gets to train with Snape, who he of course doesn’t trust, to close his brain off to those attacks.

Ron’s Dad gets attacked, we learn about Longbottom’s parents, and meet Luna Lovegood.

Oh, and we spend way too much freakin’ time at the Ministry of Magic where we learn all kinds of things and fight the powers of evil. Also, Harry’s godfather, who he’s barely just had in his life, dies. But we sort of expected that because nothing good ever happens to Harry.

And love. LOVE is the reason why Harry goes back to being abused at Privet drive once a year.

*sigh* I’m bored writing this review. Which is sort of telling because, you know, I was bored reading the book. For the most part, NOTHING HAPPENS, and even though stuff happens, there’s not that much that happens, and there are seventy bajillion words in this book that we have to suffer through for very little. You could almost skip the book and be happy with yourself.
Also, I don’t like comparing these to the movies, but I’m going to for a short sec – all the emphasis on “educational decrees” and all that crap and there are only like four of them in the whole book. As opposed to the movies which have them hand over fist. It’s really weird.
I was annoyed with Hagrid’s giant brother, but the more I read, the more I’m annoyed with a lot of Hagrid’s story lines anyway. He’s not a bumbling idiot, but the more Rowling wrote him, the more he became a caricature of himself. I love Hagrid in, say, the first three books, but I’m starting to think that giving him the same stuff time and time again is getting old.
While the room of prophecies is kind of cool, having to slough through descriptions of half the damn BUILDING for the Ministry got old, too. Yeah, some of them were neat (I did love the fountain), but really. I haven’t complained yet about Rowling having a copy editor and not a content editor, but I should. Because, seriously, there’s like three pages in this book about Harry getting in a phone booth and talking into the receiver.

Really, the only things that happen in this book are: 1. OWLs, 2. DA, 3. Oh, Look, Voldemort’s back (which we’ve known for five books now, thanks), 4. Cho is cute, 5. Sirius dies. There you go.

So, when I say “book 5” to my friends, you get a table full of full-grown women complaining about how much they hated this book and how stupid it was and whatever else. I can’t put my finger on why, but I agree with them for a few reasons. Boring, like I said, unnecessarily long, like I said, and seriously, you really could skip it and continue with the series no problem. And because of *that* I’m giving it a 2/5. This book could be 200 pages and you’d get everything out of it you need to. So skip it if you don’t care that much, and certainly the only reason you’d need to read it is if you’re hell-bent on reading the entire series.

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (HP4)

JK Rowling

Hardback

2000

My re-read of the series continues with book four.  Which I could not read in any comfortable position due to its sheer size.  I can, however, kill intruders with it, so please feel free to break into my house any time between now and when I return it to the library.

Actually, with that I will start with my regular ongoing JKR rant.  It’s like, she had immediate awesome success, and then her editors decided they couldn’t possibly ever edit her for content or length.  Just let her ramble on and on forever.  With this one, depending on your version (UK/US, Hardback/Paperback), you’re clocking in at somewhere between 650 and 750 pages.  For a children’s book aimed at 12-14 year olds (supposedly.  The first one is RL5 according to Schoolastic, who grades those things in the US.  If she grew with her audience, a year at a time, like she says… ).

Okay, so, book 4 starts with an unfortunate incident in which the Dursley’s fireplace sort of explodes, followed by incredibly awesome seats at the Quiddich World Cup.  And tents that are bigger on the inside (Ahem, this is also the movie that featured David Tennant – make that bigger on the inside thing be exceptionally awesome, please and thank you.) where they camped in glorious style.  And with Krum taking the snitch but losing the match for Ireland, the festive atmosphere turns un-festive when somebody summons the dark mark.  Voldemort’s mark.

Now then, in my argument over stuff that should be edited, that paragraph was 200 pages in the book and about 15 minutes max in the movie.  Not that much happened for 200 pages.  But hey, we’re a quarter of the way through the book and haven’t made it to Hogwarts yet.

At Hogwarts, we finally get another sorting ceremony (oddly enough, because none of the characters of the new class seem to matter much), and we get a wonderful announcement that the Tri-Wizard tournament has returned.  Also, Mad-eye Moody is the new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher, and Snape glares and Draco et al are still annoying gits.

As the book progresses, Hermione is all up in arms about house elf rights and starts SPEW in an attempt to free them and get them salaries and better treatment.  It’s a bizarre side story line that, while it manages to further explain the differences in muggle/wizard lives, it does little to advance anything in the book.  But it wastes about 100 pages.  Honestly, I think it’s only in there because there wasn’t much going on for a lot of the year.

Between start of term and the Tri-Wizard Cup, we get a few faked homework assignments, a skrewt that blasts stuff out its rear end that affects human flesh, and an ongoing hatred of Harry Potter, extended because his name has come out of the cup.

We also meet Cedric Diggory, who is quite possibly besides Cho the only Hufflepuff student we ever really get to know.  And Rowling wonders why Hufflepuff gets a bad rap.

Blah Blah Blah.

Here’s the thing.  As a weapon or a doorstop, I’d give this book a five in a heartbeat.

But it’s a CHILDREN’s book, and it’s the size of Texas.  And *almost nothing happens*  We get one quiddich match (the cup), a dance at Christmas where Hermione *gasps* wears a dress because she’s a girl, and the Tri-Wizard where Cedric dies and Voldemort is revived with Harry’s blood.  Mad-eye turns out to not be Mad-eye and we’ve gone back to needing a DODA teacher come next year.

The story could have been told in about 300 less pages, and the book would have been better for it.

And the truth is that I was bored.  I read it quickly (just a few days while reading other books), but there wasn’t nearly as much quality for the quantity as that much of my time deserves.

All things considered (and the fact that the movie did this so much better – and I don’t generally like comparing movies and books), I’m only giving it a 2/5.  Moving on.

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (HP3)

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: JK Rowling
Format: Hardcover
Published: 1999

Our book starts quite eventfully at Number Four Privet Drive where Harry has been forced to endure a rather unpleasant houseguest – a relative of the Dursley’s who wants nothing more to abuse him, and who, of course, gets away with it. He tries to behave. Tries to do what he can to endure, but ends up accidentally inflating her and leaving her to float as he packs his things and rushes out of the house a week or so too early to go back to Hogwarts.
While outside, he gets picked up by the Night Bus, a large, purple bus (according to my Lego set) with two employees – the driver and the, um, steward? – and brass beds and crystal chandaleers. Harry pays a few coins to get a bed and gets driven to Diagon Alley, the only wizarding place he knows other than school, and the one he’s sure to be safe from the Dursleys at.
Several things happen, including some that make him once again paranoid (because, you know, when Voldemort is out to get you, the whole world is too. Ahem.) and he’s more than happy to spill all the information he knows to Ron and Hermione as soon as he can. Most of this conversation is told in the inn that he ends up staying at alone (because all 13-yr-old boys should be left alone at wizard inns) and then more later on the train to Hogwarts (yay, they made it this time!) while in a train car with the new DoD teacher. Because, this being Hogwarts and all, the teacher is sleeping, so he could never be listening in. (Note, no, he didn’t listen in, but this was Hogwarts, and that was out of character for everyone involved.)
As the story progresses, we have to deal with Ron and Hermione fighting, her new cat who is trying to eat Ron’s rat, and some new force ready to kill him. Cause, you know, He’s Harry Potter.
It would seem that some horrible terrible criminal, Sirius Black, was out to get him. And although no information is given to Harry about him, he manages to overhear just enough to be dangerous about it.
Add in Hermione having too much homework, Hagrid having some dangerous terrible creature that can kill you, the Malfoys being, well, Malfoys… You know, all the stuff that happens as much (actually more) than breathing in these books.

You’ve probably read the book already, but in the off chance you haven’t in the last dozen years it was out, I’ll skip the spoiler for the ending.

Overall, I think this is easily my favorite book out of the first three. We miss the sorting hat again, but Rowling really managed to balance general life at Hogwarts with Harry the chosen one and his band of scoobies. Even though I have a stack of books here, I couldn’t wait to get to this one and read it in a couple nights before I could continue on.

I still think there are a few fundamental flaws with Rowling that she never really did overcome, and this is book three of a series = which actually proves the old notion that for some reason one is good, two is crap, but three is awesome – so I’m going to give it a four out of five. Easily readable without the rest of the series, but do you really want to own it if you don’t have the rest?

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