It’s Another Book!!

CatMouse_CVR_XSMLAnd here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for: IT’S ANOTHER BOOK! CAT AND MOUSE, Book 2 of The Septimus Series, featuring further adventures of Catriona, Guy, Bibby, and Sepp – and introducing Cat’s best friend Nicky! Also introducing a whole lot of mice, a number of cats (one of them with only three legs), and more people who are going to be pretty important – but I’m not telling you too much about them yet because that would be giving things away.

Here’s the official blurb:

A 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?

This book is now available:

on Amazon.com and .de for Kindle and in print

Amazon.ca for Kindle (print hopefully coming soon)

Smashwords for all other ebook formats

Createspace in print

CAT AND MOUSE – go get it now!

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.

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!

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.

Check It Out: AS FAST AS YOU CAN by Lee Strauss

Instalment #2 in the “Check It Out” postings: As Fast As You Can by Lee Strauss! It came out yesterday; episode #1, Run Run Run, is free.

As Fast as You Can – episode #2 of Gingerbread Man in A Nursery Rhyme Suspense is OUT NOW! 

 

 

Smartphone

smartphoneI have arrived! In the Twenty-teens, that is. That’s right: I got a smartphone. Hey, come on, it’s just 2015; I’m only about five years behind the times.

Okay, okay, I was never an early adopter – the only reason we got a computer when we did (1996, refurbished machine with Windows 3.1. I know, right?) was that I happen to be married to a nerd who figured it would be useful for business purposes sometime down the line (it was). And then we got on the Internet in 1997 because we signed up to an online homeschooling program that loaned us a fully-loaded computer complete with dial-up net connection. I can still hear that crreeech-bip-bip-bop-beep-bip sound of the modem when it was dialling. The password was an eight-letter string of gobbledigook which we memorised because we had to type it in every time we went online, for anything.

Other than that, the earliest adoption of new technology was my Kobo ebook reader – I got that in the fall of 2010, when ebook readers were the new & hot thing. And the only reason I got it then was that I wanted something other than a computer screen to read pdf’s on for school (I was still in undergrad at that time). Turned out the Kobo is lousy for pdf’s, but great for reading actual books – so I got sucked into using new technology sort of by a side road.

That’s what happened with the smartphone, too. I’ve had a cell phone for a year or two longer than the ebook reader, but it’s always been just a little flip phone – you know, a cellular telephone. It made phone calls. Ever heard of those? You talk into this hand-held device. With words, in your voice. Audio. That’s about all that phone did; you couldn’t get Google Maps on it or anything. Oh, it did have an alarm clock. And you could do texting on it, for a given value of “texting” (t-de-wx-t-ghi-mn-g, like that). Actually, it’s the texting that made me want to get a new phone; I just wanted some method of doing that more easily, as there are some friends who are most readily reached that way.

So with some birthday-gift money I had, I got myself the next-to-cheapest not-flip-phone my provider was offering, and well, it’s a smartphone. With, you know, Android and stuff. I didn’t even really know what that meant, and had no idea that those not-flip-phones come with (ooh, aah!) wi-fi, so you can do all that smart stuff even if you aren’t paying through the nose for a data plan. That’s right – I can do smartphoney things, even though I have no phone data plan, just some pre-loaded minutes on the phone that allow me to call home to find out if we need milk, or if we already own a copy of Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. I can use my cheap phone minutes for dumbphone activities while I’m out, and do all those browsery smartphone things at home or wherever there’s free wi-fi.

So there I was, all of yesterday, learning smartphoney skills. The first apps I downloaded, of course, were e-book reader software (Kindle and Overdrive). Maybe I’ll finally get around to reading A Tale of Two Cities, in waiting rooms and what-not, if I have it in my pocket on the phone – that book has been on my to-read list for several years now. I should see if I can download it to the phone – or is that upload, if it’s coming from my computer? See, I don’t even have the terminology straight…

Once again I’ve been pulled through the back door into adopting new technology. I got a device for one purpose, and found it could do cool other stuff I hadn’t really looked for. And once you get used to the cool new technology, you don’t want to be without it. Well, mostly. Fancy cable TV, we’ve adopted and then un-adopted several times so far; it was just not worth it. The smartphone, though, I have a sneaking  suspicion will be a keeper, even if it does mean I can no longer look down my long luddite nose and feel superior because I can make do with a flip phone. But you have to make sacrifices somewhere.

Life, the Universe, and My New Smartphone. Welcome to the Twenty-Teens.

Blank Brain and Winter Birds

birds (1) I’ve got a serious case of blank brain right now. I just haven’t come up with anything wise, witty or weird to say on here – or at least haven’t been able to remember it long enough to put on screen (I had one or two really great blog posts plotted out – at 3:00 AM when I was lying awake with insomnia. Alas, they have vanished into the abyss of post-insomnia early morning sleep). So that’s why there’s been a bit of a dearth of postings here lately.

Of course, what’s in the forefront of my otherwise blank mind right now is my stories. The sequel to Seventh Son is actively in the works, and coming really soon! It’s largely a winter story, and was much easier to write at this time of year than Book #3, which is set around Summer Solstice. Maybe I should take a quick trip Down Under, and just live in summer for a while to keep that story moving forward. Any New Zealanders want to send me a plane ticket and put me up for a few weeks?

birds (3)Speaking of winter, I’ve been watching the birds bickering over seeds on my balcony bird feeder. And I got to wondering: how can they even survive the winter? At the beginning of December for several days in a row we had a cold snap where it was -15° C (in °F, that’s, umm, really really cold). How can those tiny little bodies make it through those temperatures without turning into little frozen lumps? But from what I could tell, they weren’t particularly bothered; they just puffed up their feathers a bit more than normal and became birdie puffballs instead of birdcicles. And then there were the ducks on the lake: the water was forming a rime of ice, and the ducks were still merrily paddling around in the unfrozen bits. That’s crazy – hasn’t anybody told them that warm-blooded creatures should have their feet freeze off in ice water?

Maybe it’s because they don’t know that that they can survive it. That was the theory I heard a little boy proclaim once, when I wasn’t all that big myself, about how birds can survive sitting on power lines. He was wondering aloud why they didn’t get killed by the electric power surge, and then he came to the conclusion that maybe it was because they didn’t know that by rights they should. From my superior vantage point of the ripe old age of seven or eight I was feeling vastly amused at his infantile theories (although I didn’t have anything better to offer, I figured that probably wasn’t it). But now I’m starting to wonder if he didn’t have something after all. How do birds survive the winter? It’s quite a miracle. And yes, I know there are wise explanations which are only a click of a Google button away – but really, when you think about it, it’s just simply astounding. Quite wonder-full, in fact.

Life, the Universe, Blank Brains and Winter Birds. Wishing you (and the birds) a good move into the New Year!

winter sunset
Midwinter Sunset

Luddism and Ebook Readers

booksI ran across another one of those articles the other day. You know the ones – “Social Media Are Destroying Our Connections To Real People!” “Computers Rot Your Brain!” “If You Don’t Feel Guilty About Your Use of Technology Yet, Here’s Why You Should!” This particular one is entitled “Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books“, and takes a dig at ebook readers. Granted, this article is a lot better than the last one I read on the subject, which cited a study that said we read differently on a screen than on a page (we skip around on a screen, as opposed to the “linear” reading we do on a static page), and then concluded from that that you shouldn’t read books on your Kindle (because a Kindle has a screen). D’uh. Apparently the authors of that particular article haven’t ever actually looked at an ebook reader, particularly the e-ink ones like Kindle or Kobo – it looks exactly like a paper page, you don’t scroll or jump around visually. Just line after line of text, and then you “flip the page” with a touch of a button or a swipe of your finger.

Anyway, this article I read this morning actually has some interesting info: they’re citing a study that found that paper readers had a better recall of the timing of events in a story than Kindle readers. The researchers speculate that it’s because a Kindle always feels the same, no matter where you are in the story, whereas in a paper book you have the tactile feedback that tells you how many pages are left to read – so you know that when the detective ran across the red herring, you still had half the book in front of you, so it obviously wasn’t close to the end of the story.

Sure, it makes sense. And all those articles do have a point. However, have you noticed something about them? All of those pieces of writing decrying the evils of technology are on the Internet. Guess what? You won’t be able to read that article about the evils of reading on a screen on anything but a screen. That video clip about how social media cut us off from real people went viral – on social media.

There is a certain amount of hypocrisy about all of that, wouldn’t you say? And what’s more, it has an all-pervasive flavour of Luddism. “Everything Was Better in Ye Olden Dayse”, that sort of thing. “If it’s new, and especially if kids like it, it must be bad.” And that’s an attitude that is suspect right from the word Go. I’m all in favour of doing things the old-fashioned way (I made grape jelly without commercial pectin the other day, and was thrilled when it turned out), but that doesn’t mean that the new way is inferior and to be avoided. That’s Luddite alarmism, is what it is.

See, the fact about that article is that while it claims to give “Great News For People Who Read Actual Books”, what it really does is give Bad News to Ebook Readers. It sets up reading on paper as superior to reading on an ereader – and for what? Probably just so that paper book readers can feel smug, and ebook readers feel guilty.

I’m sorry, I have no use for that kind of snobbery. It doesn’t really do anybody any good, least of all us bibliophiles. Of course I love my paper books, I’d never be without them. (In fact, I built me a new bookshelf just a few days ago. No, getting rid of enough books to make them fit the existing shelves isn’t an option. Sorry.) But my Kobo is also a great way to do reading. In a little package the size of a thin paperback I have about 250 books stored – I don’t think I can fit that many hardcopies onto my new shelf, and it’s three feet wide and four feet tall. If I want new books, in some cases I can get them instantly. For example, just the other day E. L. Bates recommended a series I hadn’t read, and when I went on my library’s website, it turned out to have the first of the series available as an ebook. In five minutes I had that library book in hand, even though it was Saturday night and my local library branch wouldn’t open again until Tuesday. Thousands of classics of world literature are available for free from places like Project Gutenberg and the MobileRead website, and many more brand-new books from self-published authors on Amazon and Smashwords.

koboSo stop it with the Luddite reading snobbery already. Ereaders are a fantastic way to get at more reading material, to carry it around with you, to expand your reading horizons. They’re not inferior to paper books, they’re just different. A new way to indulge your love for reading. That’s something to celebrate, wouldn’t you say?

Life, the Universe, and Ebook Readers. Where are you getting your daily reading dose today?