Book Review – Karen Memory

Title: Karen Memory

Author: Elizabeth Bear

Format: Hardback

Year Published: 2015

I’m pretty sure I first heard about this book on John Scalzi’s blog (or at least, that’s what made me add it to my hold list at the library). I started it and was somewhat dismayed at the POV (first-person– you all know my feelings on that by now), but because it had been getting great reviews, I kept going and soon had forgotten that it was written in first-person.

Karen Memory is about Karen , a “seamstress” (read: prostitute) who finds herself embroiled in a series of adventures when prostitutes start turning up dead. Karen launches herself into the investigation, working with Marshall Bass Reeves who has been tracking the murderer across the United States and the Territories. (One of the most refreshing parts of the whole book was that there was no romantic angle between Reeves and Karen – in fact, Reeves continually holds steadfast to his wife back home.)

While the prostitutes are being murdered, the Hôtel Mon Cherie is being threatened by Peter Bantle, who wants to control all of the city and has a beef against the proprietor, Madame Damnable. To make matters worse, Bantle has a mind control device that he isn’t shy about using – not only on Karen and the other girls, but on their customers, and on potential voters.

The main issue I had with the story is that you have two connected but distinct storylines – the threat to the Hôtel Mon Cherie by Bantle and his men and the threat to the prostitutes by the serial killer. This means that when all of the characters are acting together, sometimes it’s hard to see why this benefits both sides. You get all of the adventure – the nightly escapades, the roof adventures – which benefits one side, but not necessarily the other. Once the storylines start to dovetail, however, my quibble with that goes away.

Populated by all sorts of people – from Asians to blacks to transpeople – the world is rich and intriguing. Karen’s not incredibly racially aware, but when she missteps and is corrected, she takes the correction well, showing that she is far more naive than she is prejudiced. The steampunk (did I mention this book had steampunk?) is just an accepted part of the world. Karen talks about the contraptions but doesn’t do so in a “look at this strange thing” way but rather in a “oh that’s so cool that you did that” way.

Although Karen is a seamstress, the book contains very few racy moments – let alone scenes – and Karen’s love interest is another woman, who has escaped from Bantle’s captivity. The fact that Karen prefers girls is simply accepted by the rest of the House and is a refreshing thing to see in a story, especially given the time frame the book takes place in.

One of the reasons I think the first-person POV worked for me in this book was because the story was obviously being told as something that had already happened – the first line of the book (“You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I’m gonna tell you anyway”) sets this up – and this gives Karen the ability here and there to add more information that she may not have known at the time, but that she learned at a later date. The epilogue brings it all back around and shows us why we’re reading this book.

4/5 pages – If you like a story with fascinating characters, a refreshing narrator, and a sweet but not too saccharine love story, this is the book for you.

Advertisements

Writer Wednesday – Jeffrey Cook

1. Who are you? Jeffrey Cook. I’m an author living in Maple Valley, WA – about 30 miles from Seattle.

2. What type of stuff do you write?
I’m the author of the Dawn of Steam series. Dawn of Steam will soon be a trilogy (third book coming in March) of epistolary format (letters and journals), Regency-voice alt-history/steampunk novels, set from 1815-1819.
I’ve recently added my first YA title as well, the YA SciFi story Mina Cortez: From Bouquets to Bullets, released through Fire & Ice YA Press.
I’ve been published in the anthologies Steampunk Trails (volume 2), Avast Ye Airships (released in March), and Free Flowing Stories.
Finally, I’m currently working on a YA Fantasy series, The Fair Folk Chronicles, while finishing editing on the third Dawn of Steam novel.

3. What do you want to pimp right now?
The Dawn of Steam series has been my passion for the past two years, researching, getting voices right, getting the language and historical references right – and the tale is nearly finished. Rising Suns will end the story of the crew of the airship Dame Fortuna (for now. Books 4-6 are in planning, but won’t be written for some time.) – as they explore the world, and delve into conspiracies of the post Napoleonic War-era world.

4. What is your favorite book?
My single favorite book is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Lots of competition after that, including Shogun, The Lord of the Rings and The Lonesome Gods. But Frankenstein remains my favorite.

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
I am also a gamer (table top and live action rpgs), a sports fan (go Seahawks!), an animal lover/dog owner (The anthology I’m heading up, being released in March is a charity book, benefitting Washington State’s PAWS animal rescue.), and an advocate and organizer for other local small press and independent authors.

6. What link can we find you at?
http://www.authorjeffreycook.com/  and  http://www.amazon.com/Jeffrey-Cook/e/B00IRMC3H6/ (for reviews, book info, etc.)

Guest Post:

This is a little bit of a combination of “Advice I’d give new authors” and “Best advice I’ve gotten.” I’ve learned a lot from a lot of people who have been writing much longer than I have, quite a few of whom are much more successful. Some of that advice is useful, some of it is not. Some is consistent, some contradictory. Here’s the three pieces of advice I’ve found that’s very consistent, and that I’ve adopted, and do my best to pass along:
As a new writer, write. It seems simple, but there’s more to it than that. A lot of people have great ideas, but never get that book out. A lot of people write until they hit writers block. Or until they get another job, or whatever, and then stop. Write every day, for 15 minutes. Do not make exceptions. If you’re serious about your craft, you can find 15 minutes. If you can do it for 3 weeks, no exceptions, you’ll likely find it becoming habit, and find ways to rearrange your schedule to get the time in. The writing doesn’t necessarily have to be on your book, or on anything serious. If you’re blocked up, spend it editing, or writing an outline for that other idea – but make the time every day to put words down on the page, or fix the words you already put down.

Second, when you’re getting ready to publish: There’s a lot of really, really good stuff out there in self-and-small-press published material. There’s also a lot of rushed-to-print garbage. And the latter gives all of us a bad reputation that’s hard to shake. The more good, professional looking material there is out there, the easier it gets for people to consider buying other small press and self-published books. If you spend money on only two things, make it an editor and a cover artist. Regardless, unless you are really, really good at either self-editing (a rare skill. Some can do it, most can’t.) or visual art, have someone you know and trust do both. Do everything you can to put out a clean, edited, professional looking product. Plenty of people say “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But people do. And in some ways, should. A quality cover tells people the author cared enough about their book to put time and thought into it.
Doing this will both help you, and a lot of other authors out there. Speaking of which…

Third and final thing: other authors are your best resource. Talk to them, learn from them, network with them, leave reviews for them, buy their books if you can, and otherwise make use of this resource. Plenty of authors see others as competition, and try to sabotage them in hopes it will somehow help their own career, or out of jealousy. Don’t do this. There is a lot of material out there – in the long run, your best bet for getting noticed comes from networking, having people who want to read and review your work, and shared fanbases.

Writer Wednesday – Jackie Gamber

JackieGamberTourBadge_450X300

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
With Jackie Gamber, author of the Leland Dragon series

Tell us (briefly) about you…
I’ve been a soldier, a secretary, and a stay-at-home mom, gone rogue into writing professionally.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
My published works include poetry, short stories, novelettes, and novels in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the genre-bending blends of them. I’m also an indie screenwriter/director, with four produced short films.

…and what you’re working on right now.
Since I’ve just finished “Reclamation”, book three of my Leland Dragons trilogy, I have a few more novel projects in the works; a steampunk fantasy, a SF-romance, and a paranormal-lit about a twin whose sister has died, and begins journaling as a tribute. I’m also writing my second full-length screenplay entitled “The Mark”, as well as other short film scripts.

What are your earliest book ­related memories?
I remember the Scholastic book program in school where I could peruse the book catalogue and order books that would come a month or so later right to my classroom. I always started with a “one of everything” sort of list, and then had to whittle down to one, or two – sometimes for 99cents! Also, I could describe in detail the layout of my town’s library. It used to have a clawfoot bathtub that I would spend more than my fair share of time in, with huge stacks of books beside me. I love libraries.

What are your three favorite books?
Just three? This is always a tough question for me to answer! I have favorite books for different reasons, but I have to say “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, and “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
When I read fiction I read one at a time. Non-fiction books could be as many as three or so, back and forth. Right now I’m reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain, about introversion in an extravert culture.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…forget about everything else. I even get irritated when I have to pause to use the restroom.

To re­read or not to re­read that is the question.
I re-read all the time! I don’t keep every book I buy because my bookshelves couldn’t possibly hold them all. I’m selective in that I only keep the ones I know I’ll go back to again.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
In my profession, I get a lot of recommendations. I don’t have enough time in the world to read them all, unfortunately. But I will, if it’s from a reader source I trust and the story sounds like my kind of thing. That’s really how all readers find books, mostly—word of mouth.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very likely! I do it all the time. Speaking of which, have you read “The Midwich Cuckoos” by John Wyndham?

What do you look for in a good book?
To me, a good book is full of believable characters that get involved in their own tale.

Why do you write?
I write because I’m a storyteller. I resisted the notion for years, but the truth is that I see life, and the world, through metaphor and symbolism. I’m always asking, “But what does that really mean?” and “What makes a person think like that?” It’s in my nature.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I have a knack for looking at others’ stories, and seeing why what they think they’re saying isn’t actually being communicated that way. If I wasn’t a writing, I’d be an editor (although, I do both, already). Outside of words, though, I’d be working more with animals; at a zoo or a rescue, probably.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
To be honest, I don’t exactly know the mechanism that whirrs into motion from observation to idea. But I spend a lot of time watching the world, and studying it, and trying to figure it out. Somewhere in there, inspiration happens.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
I’ve gone through dry periods, and times when I’ve set down my pen, so to speak, for the greater good of other responsibilities. I’ve struggled with how to find readers, how to prove to my contemporaries I’m not a hack. I’ve battled my demons that terrify me, and there have been days I’ve almost decided to just stop, because the desire to be heard is too hard to carry into an industry of cacophony.

I’ve lived with writing, and without it. What I’ve learned, is that I turn too inward, and become bitter and miserable, unless I believe in a world where writing happens, and that I can be a part of it.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My husband and two kids (my children are grown, now) have always been my support system. Beyond that, it’s hard to say. The stigma that science fiction or fantasy isn’t real writing lingers.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
I wouldn’t wish a stereotype on anyone. Human beings share commonalities, of course, but I like to think my job as a writer, and fellow human, is to bust stereotypes, not feed them.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
The writing industry is in a stage of rapid, almost violent, evolution. What used to be “the way” just isn’t anymore. Authors are writing books aimed at other authors for “how to do it the way I did” and a new one emerges practically every week. The biggest challenge I see for writers today is holding on to their own conviction, and their own ideals, while everyone is shouting into their face that their doing it wrong.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Some mistakes take a long time to make themselves known. My perception is that I may have trusted the wrong people a little too much, or a little too long. Sometimes, I haven’t trusted enough.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I’ve always said it’s a life goal of mine to write a book that one day is banned!

How do you deal with your fan base?
I don’t think of myself as having fans. But I love readers! I have so much in common with fellow readers. In the end, that’s what I am, anyway; a book lover who can’t resist writing a few of her own.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
I’m a pretty transparent person—or at least, I aim to be—so I’m not sure how surprising I am! Although I do tend to get a reaction of disbelief when I share with people how introverted I am. They say “You’re not shy!” But I am incredibly introverted, nonetheless. And I’ve spent an inordinate number of years figuring out it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Jackie Gamber is the award-winning author of many short stories, screenplays, and novels, including “Redheart”, “Sela”, and “Reclamation”, Books one through three of the Leland Dragon Series. For more information about Jackie and her mosaic mind, visit http://www.jackiegamber.com

And meet Jackie elsewhere on the world wide web at:
https://www.facebook.com/AllotropeMedia
http://www.amazon.com/author/JackieGamber
http://www.twitter.com/JackieGamber
http://www.facebook.com/jackiegamber

Book Review – Dreadnought

Dreadnought
Cherie Priest
Paperback, 2010

Dreadnought is the followup to the incredibly popular Boneshaker, possibly Cherie’s most famous novel.
I love Dreadnought. It’s easily a 5/5 book. So when I found out that there was a sequel, I got really excited.
Dreadnought starts in Virginia with Mercy Lynch, a war nurse getting a couple letters. One tells her that she’s a war widow, the other is from her long estranged father, requesting her visit him in what we know as Washington state.
The book is part alternate history, part Steampunk and part Dieselpunk, with a smattering of western and a groaning of zombie thrown in for good measure. It’s an interesting combination, but I wasn’t disappointed in it.
See, in this book, the Civil War has been going on for about fifteen plus years. Texas was its own republic, with its own problems because of Mexico. Mercy gets her letters and military widow pension and for some reason, decides she needs to cross the country to visit her father, since it was his dying wish.
She then embarks on… pretty much the worst trip ever.
The dirigible she’s on crashes into what becomes the front lines of the war and she loses her suitcase. Every town she gets to, her red cross cloak – worn to help her get safe passage no matter who controls the territory she’s in – seems to draw her business. (At one point she even gets almost bit by one of the un-dead/un-humans.)
After what seems like an eternity, she makes it to Memphis and the Mississippi river, which she takes north to St. Louis before boarding the Dreadnought on a trip west. But that trip is frought with peril, too. The back and front of the train are carrying secret cargo and blocked off. Raiders and another train are coming in to attack, and somebody on the train keeps sabotaging the cars, disconnecting them in motion.
Also, 500 Mexicans are missing and that causes quite a bit of trouble in her trip.

So my comments. First of all, if you didn’t read Boneshaker, you can totally read this book. There are a few comments that relate it back to the first book, but if you hadn’t read them, you wouldn’t have caught it, and honestly, it didn’t really matter – they tell you enough to have played along on your own.
If you have read it, you’ll like how they tie in some things that are going on. I actually am really looking forward to reading the next book. I want to see how they link the stories together since they’re so different.
With that said, the book spends quite a bit of time – as in most of the book – with Mercy stuck on some form of transportation. While this isn’t that bad, it’s a little tedious after a while. I’m sure it would have been for Mercy, too, what with the trip taking weeks by train. But it does limit what can happen. For instance, on the “weeks and weeks” she spends on the train west, the only action we can get is her sleeping or playing cards or walking between the moving train cars.
And that was another thing. This was supposed to be a special train, all souped up and everything. Based on train speeds of the time and the way the book implies Mercy’s time on it, I question why the train trip took so long.
Also, this may be a weird comment, but the fact that Mercy and I share a last name was a bit distracting. I can’t fault the author for it, but I will say that it pulled me out of the story a few times, especially since they generally referred to her by last name instead of first. I didn’t include that in the rating, though.

Even with the book’s problems, I can’t help but wonder what is going to happen in the next one. So considering it’s #2 of 4 (I think), and I can’t stop thinking about how this is going to hook to the first one and continue on, I am going to give it a four out of five. It doesn’t stand as well as the first one on its own, but you’re definitely going to be sorry if you miss out on some of this stuff.

Writer Wednesday – Nick Valentino

I met this guy a couple years ago at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. It’s a mainstream festival, giving just a little of everything and making books a little more accessible to the general public. And there was Nick. It was my first intro into Steampunk – this guy on the midway, and his girlfriend now wife – and I haven’t looked back. I’ve been waiting for his new book for a couple years now, and this interview since the blog opened, but he wanted the two to coincide. Without further ado, here he is.

 

 

 

 

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…

My name is Nick Valentino, I live in Gig Harbor Washinton with my wife, Elizabeth. I lived in Nashville, Tennessee my whole life until last year when we moved here. I wrote the steampunk novel, Thomas Riley and now the second book in the series, Thomas Riley and The Maelstrom which are published by ZOVA Books. I’ve also written a bunch of steampunk short stories. The Black Dress which appears in Kerlak Publishing’s Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells anthology, Ten Thousand Years which appears in Echelon Press’ Her Majesty’s Mysterious Conveyance anthology, Engine 316 which appears in Kerlak Publishing’s Dreams of Steam anthology, Bedeviled which appears in Dreams of Steam II and Double Crossed at Gray Raven Mill which appears in Steampunk Tales Issue #7. Currently, I’m working on three projects, the third installment of the Thomas Riley Series, a twisty zombie book called Tribes and a Steampunk Roll Playing Game for the Harsh Realities game company with Elizabeth.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
When I was young I really didn’t like reading much. I remember slogging through summer reading for school until I went to a party and heard some people talking about Weaveworld by Clive Barker. I decided to check it out and from there I fell in love with books and storytelling.
What are your three favorite books?
Ooh, wow… That’s kind of tough. Let’s go with this.
Watership Down by Richard Adams is probably number one. I just love the characters. That story has a lot of memories for me from my childhood and I still relate to it to this day.
The Thief of Always by Clive Barker comes in at number two. I am a slow reader and I finished this book while listening to Tori Amos’ Winter ep over and over in twenty four hours. That’s when I discovered I loved reading to music as it gives everything a “4th dimension”.
Coldheart Canyon again by Clive Barker is number three. It’s an amazingly creepy story full of Hollywood history and old rumors that give haunted houses a new identity.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I can only read one book at a time. I’m a shamefully slow reader, clocking in at a sloth-like twenty pages an hour. Right now as terrible as this sounds, I’m still reading my wife’s book, Bound By Blood, (which is under her old name, Elizabeth Darvill) on my Kindle. It’s an awesome action packed story by the way. It was called a “post apocalyptic Underworld” and it really is.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
like to lose myself and when I’m done, hours have passed.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question. 
Absolutely re-read. And re-read again and again and again… until you hate the story.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?

It’s all a time issue with me. I’m very likely to read a book that’s been recommended to me. I love a fresh new story. While there’s so many copycat books out these days, there’s also a cornucopia of vastly original stories. Like everyone, I have a crazy life and my biggest problem that I really need to work on is carving out more time for reading.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I do it all the time. I often to use my blog for promoting other authors, especially my friends no matter what genre. It’s great fun to help spread the word about some great authors.

What do you look for in a good book?
Clever twists, surprises and characters that I want to be or that I wish I had written.

Why do you write?
I have to be creative. I was in a band for a long time and anyone that knows me, knows that I have to be doing something somewhat creative all the time. I do stencil art from time to time, I like to experiment with fun forms of art (I really want to get into tee shirt making as a hobby). Anyway, I have to be doing something all the time or I get kooky. Once I left the music scene, I channeled my energy into writing, and once I was published, I traveled my butt off for the book. It was a never ending cycle of writing, planning, traveling, promotional material, posters, banners, blog tours, postcards, newsletters, email blasts… the list goes on and on. I’m happiest when I’m perusing something creative and my cornerstone is writing.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I was a decent baseball player quite some time ago and if I’d gotten the bug, I think I would have tried to do that with more vigor but I became more obsessed with music in those formative years. I guess I’m a bit old for that now so if I wasn’t a writer right now I think I’d be some kind of artist and basically do the same thing I’m doing now just with spray paint and stencils.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A lot of my inspiration comes from things in my childhood. Movies, stories, my only-child entertaining myself brain. I love things that have a deeper meaning and secret hidden treasures. I like the Samurai/Asian aspect of Star Wars. I love the endless Easter Eggs of the show Lost. I love the raw emotion, the passion and the detail in every Hayao Miyazaki movie. These are things I strive to do in my own work. I want to write with a deeper intent. I want you to feel the characters and I want it all to be rife with secrets so the inquisitive reader can learn and understand more. Almost every character in the Thomas Riley series has secrets hidden in the words. It might be in a name, or a number, you never know. I like to leave little gems that can be discovered with a little research.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
Writing has taught me (or better put, is teaching me) that maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I can get pretty twisted up in worrying about what I write and how well it’s written but in the end when you open that book and see it in actual print, it’s a wonderful sight and it often feels like I didn’t even write it. It’s a great feeling.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
They all take it pretty seriously which is nice. I’m a persistent person and I expect a lot of myself and I think that’s how most people in my life see me. So when I do something everyone expects me to hustle as hard as I can no matter what it is. I like being over the top.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true? 
Haha actually I think most are true although I feel like they most are all good things. Writers seem to be nerdy (in a wonderful way), they are passionate people and they are goal oriented. A lot of writers seem to be generally kind souls and they are often at least slightly introverted. Basically what you get from these stereotypes are shy but super nice people once you get to know them. Of course there is always the flip side to that. There are the arrogant writers, the one that think that since they wrote a book that they are better than others. Sure you’ll meet those people but honestly it’s kind of rare.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out? 
It’s really hard to just say one. I guess it depends on the writer. For some it’s completing a book for others it’s meeting their goals like getting their work published. I guess something that’s universal is getting attention for your work in an environment where there are literally hundreds of thousands of books that come out every year. I guess that’s not really answering the question… For writers starting out I feel like the biggest challenge would be getting the book done and doing well enough to get published. It’s very hard to get the attention of people that will back you and publish your work.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Oh man, yes. Too many to name and a lot of them are horribly embarrassing. I was not classically trained as a writer. I graduated college with a History degree so yes I wrote a lot of papers but I was never really taught to write professionally. So

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I’d actually be excited about just about anything. I guess if I could pick a fantasy I would say write for a Miyazaki movie or a feature film.

How do you deal with your fan base?
My fan base is awesome. Seriously, everyone that seems to like my work or that approaches me at cons has been so incredibly nice and good to me. It’s a great feeling and I’m looking forward to reconnecting with them with the second book.

Anything else we should know?
My second steampunk adventure novel, Thomas Riley and The Maelstrom, came out yesterday on ZOVA Books.
Order signed copies here http://thomasriley.bigcartel.com/
Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Riley-The-Maelstrom-Volume/dp/0615794742/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1371788096&sr=8-6&keywords=Nick+Valentino
Learn more at these locations:
Blog:
 http://nickvalentino.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/hazeltherabbit
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SirThomasRiley

Writer Wednesday – Jackie Gamber

TourBadge-AnthologyExtravaganza

 

 

Let’s start with the basics.  Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…

I’m a stay-at-home Mom turned professional writer, with a love of books and tea and snuffling, short-snouted dogs. Our current family friend is Lady Ursula, a dignified and lovable English bulldog.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I’ve published numerous short stories, poetry, a novella, and novels. Most of my stories have involved an element of science fiction/fantasy/the paranormal; I think because that’s where I get to break some rules and rewrite society’s expectations. It’s fun to examine life through the eyes of an alien, or a mythical creature, and to examine why, in our everyday life, we either believe or don’t believe the things we do.

…and what you’re working on right now.
Currently, I’m in the editing phase on the third and final book of my Leland Dragon series, entitled “Reclamation.”

What are your earliest book-related memories?
One of my earliest book-reading memories is “My Father’s Dragon” by Ruth Stiles Gannon. I’m certain that had a long-lasting effect on me, although I can’t say for sure how that all works. I never woke up one day and decided to write about dragons, but Kallon Redheart, a main character in the Leland Dragon series, definitely introduced himself to me as one, and I couldn’t have written him any other way.

What are your three favorite books?
I have so many favorite books, but I like them each for different reasons. First, without a doubt, is Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” for its redemption and hope. Shelley’s “Frankenstein” -it’s so much more than the cult movies make it out to be. And Wyndham’s “The Midwich Cuckoos” for his utterly charming way of telling a chilling tale. I’ll stop at three, but I could go on and on!

How many books to do you read at any given time?  What are you reading now?
I sometimes have 2 or 3 books going at one time, if I’m reading non-fiction, which I do when I’m involved in my own writing projects. I think because it fires different brain cylinders. Most non-fiction reading of late has been related to how-to’s on screenplay and such, but in my stack of to-be-read fiction are Asimov’s FOUNDATION and Philip K. Dick’s A SCANNER DARKLY, among others.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…become utterly lost to the rest of the world. I might as well be invisible!

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
Re-read, and re-read, over and over. Some of my favorite books are so worn around the edges they’ve become soft as fabric.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Very likely! Word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to discover new authors and new stories.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I recommend books all the time! I even do something called “Booktasting”, where I pair a book (usually a classic science fiction novel, but not always) with a certain tea you should drink while reading. It started out as something I was just doing for fun, for myself, since I love both reading and tea. But then tea drinkers, or book readers, began asking me about it, as well as authors, who were interested in knowing what tea I might choose for their book, and I decided to start sharing my Booktastings with the world. It’s been so much fun!

What do you look for in a good book?
I like a book with characters I can root for and a good conundrum I can help them figure out.

Why do you write?
I began writing very young. The trickier part of that question is the answering why–it’s a bit like trying to figure out why some kids climb trees, or collect marbles, or play with dolls, or paint, or play video games. I seemed to be an observer-type and I wrote out poems and story bits to process through what I was seeing. Or feeling. I’ve always been intrigued by mysteries, and writing is one way I explore that.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I would be a baker; it’s one of my other life dreams. In fact, I’ve recently started working in a bakery, in addition to writing, so I’m working my way through my bucket list, slowly but surely.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My writing inspiration comes from everywhere, because people are everywhere! I tend toward character-driven fiction, which draws on the “why”. Why does a person feel the way they do? Why do they act a certain way? What about their life could create their fears, their hopes? In my attempts to fill in the blanks, stories emerge.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
Writing has taught me that I can persist as much as I need to, after all. If I can wrangle one thing, I can surely wrangle another. I keep piling dreams on top of aspirations, on top of goals (even becoming a baker, too). I came a little late into this “believing in a dream” life. Took me a while to unhinge my baggage and step out into a brave new world. Deciding I was going to write “for real” was a first step in finding out what I’m capable of.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My family has been my best supporters. On days I didn’t think I could keep going, my husband helped me hobble along. And having my two kids be proud of me has been terrific incentive to do my best, and keep on keeping on.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
The writing life is not the glamorous, celebrity-filled life so often shown in movies. It’s a job like a plumber, or a farmer: I go back day after day, and get the words down with a lot of labor.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
The publishing industry can be pretty brutal on a sensitive soul. Publishing is a business like any other, and yet its product is subjective art, and so how does combining the two make success? It’s a mystery, both to those inside and outside the publishing world. There are no formulas, and no real repeatable patterns, especially with all the publishing options and changes that have rocked the industry for the last few years. A huge challenge is getting noticed among the din, and getting read.

How do you deal with your fan base?
I don’t really think of myself has having fans; more like fellow readers with whom I can share my love of stories. We all have something to say, and something to share. I share with words, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to do so, and to have my words, hopefully, touch someone.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
…I’m a gamer, when I have time for it! I was one of the first kids on the block to get Pong (for Christmas, about a hundred years ago) and I’ve enjoyed video games ever since.

Anything else we should know?
I have lots of exciting projects on the way! In addition to Book Three of the Leland Dragon Series, I’m also writing a steampunk fantasy novel. I’ve written a feature length paranormal thriller screenplay, as well as several short film screenplays based on my published stories. I also edited a special issue of the dark fiction magazine Shroud, due out in the coming weeks.

Jackie Gamber is the award-winning author of many short stories, screenplays, and novels, including “Redheart” and “Sela”, Books One and Two of the Leland Dragon Series. For more information about Jackie and her mosaic mind, visit http://www.jackiegamber.com

And meet Jackie elsewhere on the world wide web at:
https://www.facebook.com/AllotropeMedia
http://www.amazon.com/author/JackieGamber
http://www.twitter.com/JackieGamber
http://www.facebook.com/jackiegamber
http://www.lelanddragons.com

Book Review – Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker

Cherie Priest

2009

Trade Paperback

 

Oh.  So *that’s* what all the hype was about. 

I’ve heard about Boneshaker for quite a while now, and it’s always been somewhere over there on my reading list.  From what I heard, I knew it as one of the better known books in the Steampunk movement, but I didn’t really understand what that meant. And now that the trend is to slap a few gears on something and decide that it counts, I decided that I’d wait until I was in the mood for that, or just gave in and read the darn thing already.  What I ended up doing was a little bit of both.

Anyway, I picked the book up from the library, and didn’t really know anything about it other than it was Steampunk.   When I started reading, I realized that merely calling it that doesn’t do it justice, because there’s just so much involved with the story, and Priest does an incredible job of putting us right in the middle of it.

The story switches back and forth between two main characters – Briar and Zeke.  Briar is the daughter of the infamous Maynard Wilkes and the widow of the criminal Levi Blue.  Blue was responsible for the blight that tore Seattle apart.  Briar spent her life trying to get away from the stigma of the men in her past while saving the last person in her life that mattered worth a damn, her son.

Except for one problem.  While the Blight has been running off unchecked for sixteen years, merely walled off and ignored by the untouched parts of the city, Ezekiel – Zeke – has been growing up without a history and has now run off unchecked right under the wall and into the mess.  Totally unschooled and thus unprepared for whatever he would find on the other side.

You can’t fault the boy, really.  His father single-handedly destroyed half the city, and his grandfather was the legend of a jailbreak.  All he wanted to do was clear his father’s name and understand his past.  He thought he’d be gone for ten hours – that’s how long his gas mask would last.  He was wrong.

Actually, he was gone for so long that his momma had to come save him.  There are some interesting characters they meet along the way, too.  Minnericht (is he or isn’t he Levi Blue?), Lucy, the half-armed (and I’m not talking weaponry) barkeep, Chinamen, airboat captains and crew, the rotters…

But in the end, this is a story about love and perseverance.

For those of you who are shaking your heads, saying you won’t read Steampunk, no matter what I say, really, you need to.  Because this is the type of story where you can strip away a few details and your story works in any world.  You could easily change the airships and some of the visuals and set this story in a modern world.  This is why I like it – the essence of any good genre piece is that it stands away from the genre as well.

No wonder this is one of the go-to Steampunk pieces.  No wonder it’s said to be the best book Priest has ever written.  No wonder I’m giving it the full five page rating.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: