Monthly Archives: January 2015

This & That & CAT AND MOUSE

I have things I was going to tell you about. Marmalade, and Charles Dickens, and watching the last episode of Season 1 of Once Upon a Time and what I think of it. But we’ll leave that for later, because right now the big excitement is that it’s only two more days until Cat and Mouse is available for actual sale in actual, um, virtual, um, online book stores.

Steve was complaining that he hadn’t had enough screen time recently, so I let him and Horatio model the print copy of Cat and Mouse. He was also complaining that there aren’t enough bears in my writing, and I’m sorry to say this book is no exception. Not a single bear in sight, in this or in Seventh Son. But of course, there’s cats, so that’s where Horatio comes in. Well, a tiger is a cat; so even though there are no tigers in Cat and Mouse, only domestic cats, I thought he’d be a suitable advertising model.

The picture also gives you an idea of the size of those two. Some friends who’ve met Steve in real life were surprised at how small he is. He’s a Gund, only 9″ (22cm) on his tippy-toes, 6″ (15cm) when he’s sitting – but I guess his screen persona comes across as much bigger. He’s a large bear on the inside.

So here they are. Doesn’t Cat and Mouse look lovely?

Steve, Horatio, Cat & Mouse

But there’s one more thing I had to share with you. I just got this awesome comment on my “Clean Air” post from the other day. You know the one where I rant about rude, inconsiderate, pushy salespeople with tunnel vision about their product? Here’s the comment, verbatim:

“it is great to see about air purifier . how many people know about air purifier we should know about air purifier this the mean thing so everybody should know about air purifier you can check about air purifier here [spam link]”.

I liked that comment so much, I left it up, with the guy’s name and links removed (wouldn’t want to risk even the slightest chance of giving him any business from his spam). Gotta love it when spammers make your point for you.

So, just a couple more days, and you can have Cat and Mouse in your sweaty little hands – umm, on your sweaty little Kindles and Kobos and iPhones and computer screens. The hardcopies will be a bit longer in coming; I’ll let you know when I’ve got some on hand for locals to buy from me directly, or you can order it yourself from Amazon US or Europe (Amazon Canada will take longer).

Life, the Universe, This and That and Cat and Mouse. Steve and Horatio say hello.

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Filed under blogging, books, Cat and Mouse, Seventh Son, The Septimus Series, this and that

What SEVENTH SON Is Not

SeventhSon_CVR_XSMLThe other day someone asked me, once again: “Did you write Seventh Son?” Well, yes, yes I did. However, that’s actually not what they’re asking. They don’t want to know if I wrote a fantasy novel called Seventh Son; it’s something else they have in mind. And so, to answer that question, let me enlighten you about what my SEVENTH SON is NOT.

My novel is not the source text for the movie Seventh Son that is coming out next week (well, in North America it is; the release date is February 6th). The film has been several years in the making,  and stars Ben Barnes (heartthrob!) in the lead role. The source book (or, as they put it, “inspiration”) for that movie is actually not even called Seventh Son, but The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch (original UK title: The Spook’s Apprentice), and it’s written by Joseph Delaney.

Another book my Seventh Son is not is the 1987 novel of that title by the great Orson Scott Card. His book is the first in his series The Tales of Alvin Maker (which he still hasn’t finished, as far as I know).

Hmm, now that I look it up, it appears there’s another work called Seventh Son I was unaware of – a 1926 silent film from Germany. I’ll  have to check that out; maybe Youtube has it.

So, just for the record: none of these stories are mine. And I’m not ripping off any of their ideas, either. In fact, I had written the text and decided on the title of my book before the forthcoming movie was even filmed; and didn’t read the Card book until several years later. Really, what all these stories, mine included, have in common is the old folklore trope that the seventh son of a seventh son has special powers – magical ones, generally. And that’s about all that’s similar, other than the title.

My book is a light romantic fantasy (well, yes, they’re all fantasy stories) about a young woman named Catriona, who looks into a turquoise pottery bowl and suddenly finds herself whisked off to a magical medieval village called Ruph in which the – you guessed it – seventh son of the seventh son has just gone missing, and she has to figure out not only how she ended up where she is and how to get out of that predicament, but what’s been happening in this town. I call it a Cosy Fantasy – you know, like a Cosy Mystery, but in a fantasy environment.

Card’s and Delaney’s stories are much more classical fantasy. Delaney’s would probably classify as Sword and Sorcery – well, definitely the sorcery bit (there’s a very nasty witch); while Card’s is the alternative-history variety – a different 19th-century USA with magic. The stories are darker than anything I would ever write; actually, they get darker yet as the series progress – I gave up on Delaney with the second book, and on Card with about the third volume. They’re well-written books, but I don’t enjoy reading that sort of thing, let alone writing it.

However, “dark” is a matter of definition. Both Delaney’s and Card’s “Seventh Son” stories are also Young Adult novels, at least these first books in the series are, in that the protagonist, the seventh son of the seventh son, is a young boy – twelve years old in the case of Delaney’s Tom Ward, even younger in the case of Card’s Alvin Maker. So what I call “dark” here is really very mild, by fantasy standards – it probably wouldn’t even warrant the term for most readers (yeah, well, I’m super-sensitive. So sue me).

And that’s another thing my book is not: a YA novel. My Catriona is not a teenager, she’s twenty-eight; and the Seventh Son in question is not a twelve-year-old, but right around Cat’s age, too. But that’s not to say that YA readers wouldn’t enjoy the story; in fact, I have it on good authority (i.e. word of mouth/keyboard) that several of them already did.

Incidentally, the movie that’s coming out is not a YA, either. The screen version of Tom Ward is most emphatically not twelve years old – in fact, Ben Barnes is over thirty. I have a feeling the movie might not have a whole lot to do with Delaney’s book. But whether it’s dark or not, I’ll have to go see that film; gotta check out the competition, dontcha know. But more importantly, while I’m a big fan of BB’s, there’s another young actor in that movie I can’t wait to see on the big screen: Lilah Fitzgerald, who plays Tom’s little sister Cate – I’ve met her in real life, although she probably doesn’t remember it (she was quite small then). Her mother is a friend of mine.

When I first heard that a movie with the title Seventh Son was coming out, I seriously considered changing the title of my book (I was going to go back to Septimissimus, which was its working title). But then I thought, No. I picked it first. Actually, Orson Scott Card picked it first, and they didn’t ask his permission about the movie title, as far as I know. Titles aren’t copyrighted, you can use whatever you want. And the basic idea we’ve all named our stories for is something none of us can claim credit for – the originator of that trope is lost in the mists of folklore.

So there you have it: Life, the Universe, and What My Seventh Son Is Not.

Incidentally, speaking of BB – a little side-track-advertising here: there’s a Ben Bauer in Cat and Mouse, the sequel to Seventh Son.  You know, just sayin’ – book release is in just five days! You can pre-order the ebook right now!

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Filed under books, Seventh Son, The Septimus Series, writing

Is It A Book Review?

Wow. So here’s one of the biggest compliments I’ve received on my writing yet. Especially because it’s coming from Desi, who, in spite of the self-deprecating style in which she talks about her writing, is one of the best writers I know – I stand in awe of this woman, people. Of her academic work (she knew how to use “ontological” in a sentence years before I did, and can cite Foucault without batting an eyelash. ‘Stuffy academic bylines’, my foot!), her sheer bloody determination (check out her latest fiction project – it’s on her blog, in bits and pieces), and her incredible gift for Showing rather than Telling in her fiction (again, read her latest project – it’s called NP on her blog). To think that I had something to do with getting her back into the writing groove makes me feel incredibly proud. Yes, she’s a real-live writer, too, and it has been an incredible privilege to get to beta-read her work. (But just as an aside, it’s true, I do not have Viva Puffs and coffee for breakfast. We won’t talk about the snacks of ham-and-creamcheese rollups and the gallons of tea that get consumed during the course of my writing, though.)

[Addendum: 25/02/2015 – Desi took her blog offline temporarily, so I can’t link to it any more. But here’s her post the way it was on her website:)

Is It A Book Review?
Posted on January 25, 2015 by Desi Valentine under Writing 

I have friends who are writers. Like, real-live, actual writers whose publishing credits include real-live novels instead of stuffy academic by-lines and who do not have Viva Puffs and coffee for breakfast while caressing the covers of their brand-new notebooks. They tolerate me, these friends of mine. I would like to think that, when we see each other face to face, they will tell me if I have coffee breath or bits of chocolate showing at the corners of my mouth. Also, they send me their books to beta-read or soft-edit in advance of having a professional editor give it the ol’ fine tooth comb treatment.

I’m not sure there is a higher compliment.

And this is how I know these friends of mine are real-live writers. They take their work seriously enough to have it beta-read, and edited, and edited again before sending it out into the big wild world with professional cover design, registered ISBN, and probably a tear or two for the little bird all grown up. Unlike me, who (as you may have noticed) publicly slams out emotive quasi-gibberish before slipping down to the dungeon with a variety of chocolate products, a French press, a grinder, and a locally roasted case of black-and-tan coffee beans… and maybe a garden hose like that kid in the attic in Dirk Gently: The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul…. I wonder if I could sell my husband on that.

Anyway, having talented, tolerant friends like these means that I get to read their books. And though I generally don’t do book reviews, and actually never give Goodreads ratings for books by friends for reasons having to do with ethics and the bizarre propensity for Goodreads’ users to rate books they haven’t actually read, I invite you to check out my friends’ work:

Angelika Offenwanger and I met in university, and she was instrumental in getting me writing again. I’d taken a two decade-long sabbatical after a bad experience with an unethical publishing house, and through chatting with her I sort of found my way home. She writes light fantasy that could also be called cozy mystery, and she’s really good at it. Her fun, fast, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny Seventh Son can be found at Amazon, SmashWords, Kobo and Scribd. The cover reveal for her new book, Cat and Mouse, was posted to her blog last week.

Angie West and I met through the We Blog blogging community. She was the first author to seek my opinion on her work, and the first to really open my eyes to the editorial freedom indie publishing makes possible. We lost touch while I was drowning in school and she was focused on a fast-growing list of new projects, but I have long regretted not mentioning her work to more people. She writes darker, more graphic, but still hilarious fantasy, horror and romantic mystery novels of which I’ve enjoyed Incubus, Shadow Cave, and The Fifth Hour.

There are a few other folks in my circle with novels-in-progress and new releases coming up. I’ll tell you about them once I’ve finished hammering out the draft of my WIP and emerged, pale-faced and trembling-limbed, from my chocolate-sticky and coffee-stale writing corner dungeon. In the mean time, do check out Angie’s books, and do get your hands on Seventh Son. I’m not a good enough friend to recommend them if I didn’t think they were worth reading.

Which means I shouldn’t expect them to tell me about the chocolate on my face, right?

Thanks for reading, everybody. I hope you’re having a great Sunday!

D.

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Filed under Cat and Mouse, Check It Out!, Seventh Son, The Septimus Series, writing

Prince Charming vs. Edward Ferrars

(We interrupt our current spate of information about the forthcoming release of Cat and Mouse to bring you these rants – uh, sorry, messages. Advertising will resume shortly.)
(SPOILER WARNING: this contains details of Season One of the Once Upon a Time TV series, and of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. But seeing as I’m way behind the times in my viewing of OUAT, it’s all seriously old hat anyway. And if you don’t yet know the plot of S&S, you need to get a life. But don’t say you haven’t been warned!)

fairy talesSo as I mentioned the other day, I finally got around to getting Netflix and watching Once Upon a Time. As of yesterday, we made it up to episode 11, so half-way through the first season. Yes, yes, I know, you’re all way ahead of me and watched this stuff three years ago when it first came out, so you know all about it and have long had these discussions and thoughts. But just bear with me as I give you my reactions to the show as I watch it.

Just upfront, let me say that I do like this show (if I didn’t, I wouldn’t keep watching). It’s a really interesting twist on fairy tales, particularly the modern part of the story; the premise of the series is very innovative and well realised. So take what I’m about to say with a pinch of salt – it might sound like a big rant, as if I despised the show, but if I didn’t actually like it, I wouldn’t bother putting thought into it. But if I think, by definition I think critically, and not infrequently find something to criticise (which are not the same thing by any means).

So here’s one of the things I was thinking: I’m finding myself increasingly annoyed by Mary Margaret and David, aka Snow White and Prince Charming. Oh, they’re cute and all, and of course I want them to be together, and I know that it’ll come about – they are, after all, S.W. and P.C., and even someone who hadn’t written a big fat grad school paper on their story would know how it’s supposed to end. So, yes, of course their love story has to end happily, else what’s the whole point of retelling the fairy tale?

But what’s getting to me is the way they conduct their relationship. Oh, don’t give me the “It’s only a fairy tale; don’t take it so seriously” line. They’ve put these characters in a ‘realistic’ setting (for a given value of the term), made them modern people like you and me; the whole point of this series is for us to identify with them and feel as if we’re them, for the duration of the movie. So let’s just establish right off the bat that for what I’m talking about here, these characters are real. During those fifty minutes I’m watching the episode, they exist, and they need to be taken seriously.

And taking Mary Margaret and David seriously, I’m seriously shaking my head at those two. Okay, so he wakes from his coma, and deeply falls in love with the woman who’s woken him, or rather, rediscovers his love for her from a previous life. But then his wife shows up – that’s right, the woman he is married to. And he goes back to her – in fact, repeatedly chooses to go back to her (it’s one of the plot points I find tedious, his repeated decision to stick with his wife only to promptly go make sheep’s eyes at MM again – once or twice would be fine, but after about the fourth time I’ve had it with that idea). He’s got a commitment to one woman, reaffirms that commitment, has memories of his love for her – and then breaks that commitment over and over by going after the woman he has stronger feelings for. Meeting her at the coffee shop every morning at 7:15. Organizing a romantic picnic with wine and stuff for her by the bridge where they first met. Smooching her right out in the middle of Storybrooke’s Main Street (in full view of the evil eye of the witch, of course. Duh-duh-DUM!).

After watching that particular episode yesterday, I was assailed by a powerful craving for a dose of Sense and Sensibility. If you’ll excuse me, I’d like some Edward Ferrars, please (in print, Hugh Grant, or Dan Stevens, doesn’t really matter). You see, it’s the same story­ – but Edward makes a very different choice. He’s made a commitment to one woman, back in the past before he woke up from his coma (well, not really, but in another part of his life when things were very different). Now circumstances have changed, and he finds himself having powerful feelings for another woman, one who is his match, who is the woman who can make him happy, and who loves him back with the same passion – his ‘true love’, in fact. Edward and Elinor belong together; they are right for one another. But he has made a commitment to Lucy. And even though his love for her is only a memory while his feelings for Elinor are more and more powerful, even though being faithful to Lucy garners him very serious economic and personal disadvantages, he sticks it out. And that is what makes Edward into a hero.

And over here, we have James Charming, Esq. He’s made a stronger, more binding commitment to Kathryn than Edward has to Lucy (although whether Regency engagements and Post-modern marriages are about on par commitment-wise is a point worth considering). But he chucks it all because there’s those FEELINGS he simply cannot RESIST (press back of hand to forehead, strike manly chest with fist).

The Wikipedia page for Season One of the show says that “Unable to deny their love, David and Mary Margaret soon begin a secret relationship…” Unable to deny their love, my foot! Mr Princely Hero Guy, kindly take a page out of the book of a plain country gentleman, who’s so boring that generations of (ignorant) readers have considered him a bit of a wet dishrag. Prince Charming can slay dragons, but obviously he can’t keep himself under control. And Snow White is no better – she can wield a spear and kick butt with the best of them, but can’t hold a candle to a sampler-stitching, water-colour-sketching Regency lady when it comes to keeping herself from acting on her feelings – actions that seriously hurt someone else (Wikipedia again: Mary Margaret and David’s relationship “upsets Kathryn” – no, really? You don’t say).

In fact, Once Upon a Time not only teaches, but incessantly flogs, harps on, and hammers home the Marianne Fallacy: if your feelings are really strong, you cannot resist them. They sweep you away, and there is nothing you can do about it. If you are, in fact, doing something about it, resisting that rush of emotion, then your feelings must not really be strong in the first place. If you can keep yourself from falling into the arms of your girl in the middle of Main Street, then she’s probably not your True Love. That’s where the Marianne Fallacy morphs into the Disney Fairy Tale Fallacy: True Love, we all know, is the highest power there is (cue the dreamy voice of Giselle from Enchanted: “True love’s first kiss – it’s the most powerful thing in the world!!!”). So if you do have strong feelings for someone, if you have found your True Love, it is your moral obligation to pursue that relationship, no matter what the cost to you or, more importantly, anyone else. Who cares if there is a wife waiting in the wings to whom you’ve just promised to try to make this marriage work? She cannot be allowed to stand in the way of True Love.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course I’m rooting for David and Mary Margaret, and want to see them together sooner rather than later – just as I would hate Sense and Sensibility if Edward and Elinor didn’t get their Happily Ever After. And for that to happen, the guy has to get away from the girl who’s wrong for him. But what gets my goat about David and Mary Margaret is that he doesn’t make an effort to get away, but pursues his True Love anyway, and she encourages him in it. Edward is faithful to Lucy while he still has a commitment to her, even though he does everything he can do honourably to get out of the engagement so he can act on his love for Elinor. David keeps telling Kathryn that he’ll try to make the marriage work, that he’s still committed to her – and then does the exact opposite. I’m sorry, I just can’t respect that – that particular hero has failed to establish himself on a proper pedestal for me.

Marianne learns the error of her ways, lets herself be persuaded out of her fallacy, and the end of the book has her patterning her values on those of Elinor and Edward. I’m not sure how much hope I hold out for David and Mary Margaret to do the same, to be honest and make a clean break with Kathryn and apologise for their treatment of her. Oh, of course they’ll wind up together properly. And maybe the next few episodes will even show them having some insight into their behaviour as less than healthy and honourable. Who knows? It’s a fairy tale; strange things are possible.

Life, the Universe, and Two Very Different Heroes. Let’s see what the next few episodes bring.

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Filed under books, fairy tales, Jane Austen

Introducing: CAT AND MOUSE!!

Here’s the announcement you’ve all been waiting for with bated breath:

Coming soon, Book #2 in The Septimus Series, CAT AND MOUSE: the ongoing story of Catriona, Guy, Bibby, Nicky and Sepp! It picks up right where Seventh Son leaves off, so you don’t have to miss even one day of their adventures.

And here, for a sneak preview, is the cover (which was, of course, designed by the awesome and talented Steven Novak):

CatMouse_CVR_XSMLA silent young boy, a man like a rat, and a plague of mice—Cat has her work cut out for her.

It’s hard enough for Catriona, an ordinary modern woman, to get used to living in a magical medieval world, even without having mice pop up at every turn. Good thing Cat isn’t as squeamish about rodents as her friend Nicky, who has her own issues to cope with back in the regular world. What does the man with the twitchy nose want with young Ben, Nicky’s ward? And does the mouse plague back in Ruph have anything to do with the new apprentice Cat’s husband has taken on—the boy who won’t speak?

When I say “Coming Soon”, I mean within the next two weeks – look for the big release on February 1st!

Just ten more days! Look for it in an online bookstore near you!

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Filed under Cat and Mouse, Seventh Son, The Septimus Series, writing

Clean Air

Air purifier sales guy at the door, wanting me to listen to a sales pitch.

Me: “You know, I’m really not interested in your product.”

Him: “You’re not interested in air purification?”

Me: “No. I think I’m good with what I got here.”

Him: “You’ve already got an air purifier installed?”

Me: “Nope.”

Him: “Then you don’t have clean air!!”

Me: “We just open the windows.”

Him: boggles at that concept.

Me: hands him back his ‘free promotional gift’, and sends him away…

Well, there was a bit more to the conversation than that, but this was the gist of it. The guy really shouldn’t have said that about not having clean air unless we have his product installed, and shouldn’t have been so patently shocked at the concept of getting clean air from outside (you know, that big place where there is trees and lakes and mountains and stuff, right there in plain sight). If it hadn’t been for that, I might have felt far more guilty for not listening to him and might have let him and his trainee buddy come in the house and waste my time.

As is, I felt sufficiently stupid for having falling for their line in the first place and given them my address to come bother me at (a.k.a. deliver the ‘free gift’ which I ‘won’ in their ‘draw’). Stupid enough to be very rude to a fellow who phoned me just afterwards with the “I’m from Windows Customer Support” lie. I had an almost knee-jerk reaction, just spat out an irritated “Oh never mind!!” and hung up on him in mid-sentence. I mean, I don’t do that sort of thing normally – I always at least wait until I can get a word in edgewise. But today I was just too fed up.

I hate it when someone makes me be rude. Although really, that’s about the only possible reaction to the rudeness of being called up and lied to with the sole purpose of getting at my money (which is not much better than theft, when it comes down to it). Still, I hate it, and it makes me feel bad.

However, I think I need to just take a deep breath and get over that feeling. Excuse me for a moment while I step over to the balcony door, open it up and take in a big lungful of that impure stuff out there. If I don’t come back, you’ll know I expired from all the oxygen generated by those dirty trees in the vicinity of our house.

Life, the Universe, and Clean Air. Quite enough for today.

clean air

Can’t you tell how dirty the air is outside my windows?

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Filed under life

Formatting and Stick Shifts

I’ve been spending the last couple of days formatting the new book (yes, you’ll hear about the details really soon, I promise!). And I’m exhausted.

It’s not the formatting itself that’s so tedious and tiring – once you know what you’re doing with that, it’s relatively painless. But that’s the key issue here: once you know what you’re doing. See, I did all the formatting for Seventh Son on my dearly lamented little white Macbook. And it had a copy of Word for Mac 2004 on it, which I knew my way around in. But after the Mac packed it in, I had to move everything over to PC, which included buying a copy of MS Word 2013 (that being the only version of Word currently available). Sigh. I do still have Open Office on the PC, but I’m not terribly familiar with that either – although it’s better than the new Word which seems like a completely different piece of software than what I was used to.

The whole experience has been rather like having your trusty little automatic car die on you, and having as your only option for replacement a stick shift, which you don’t know how to drive. And you need to get to that appointment in town right now, with lots of traffic lights and stops that give you the opportunity to stall that car – GRRRK Ka-klonk.

But what it comes down to is that you just need to keep trying it. After you’ve restarted the car about five times, you’ll learn to keep your foot on the clutch; and after you’ve changed your book’s interior file about four times and re-uploaded it to CreateSpace, you learn where to click in order to deal with those widows and orphans (solitary last lines of print that land on the next page all by themselves). And even if it feels like you haven’t got much accomplished in the day, you really have – you’ve learned something new.

So I think I can call it quits for tonight, and reward myself with another few episodes of Once Upon a Time – yes, we finally got Netflix, so I’m actually able to watch the series from its beginning. I’ll tell you what I think of it some other time.

canada geeseAnd by way of illustration, here’s a flock of Canada Geese, doing their, you know, Canada-gooseish thing. I’m sure it’s significant to this topic somehow.

Life, the Universe, Formatting and Stick Shifts. The book will get there eventually!

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