Thursday, September 29, 2011

Goldilocks and the Three Books

Imagine Goldilocks rumbling through the Three Bears' house. She's bored and in need of something to read. She flips through the family-shared Kindle (because bears are too poor to afford multiple e-readers):

1) Finds a Stephen King book: "This is too scary!"
2) Opens a Nicholas Sparks book: "This is too mushy!"
3) Discovers Carl Sagan's Cosmos buried in a collection: "Now this is just right!"

After filling her tummy with Mueslix (hey, they may be poor bears, but they're health-conscious), and sipping some chamomile tea while trying out the different recliners, she finds herself getting nappy and looks for a place to sack out. Shortly after which the bears walk in and---

(Okay, that story needed to be brought into the 21 century, but I digress...)


After a long night flopping around on my bed because the springs were digging into my bones and waking up more tired than when I went to sleep, I figured it was time for a new mattress. I've been contemplating one of those squishy memory foam ones. The Tempurpedic commercials have infiltrated my brain, you see. So of course I posed the question to my buddies on Facebook (because, next to Google and Wikipedia, that's the best place to gather collective wisdom).

Opinions ranged wildly. From "Love mine!" to "I felt like I was being swallowed by a marshmallow." After having my neck readjusted because I ended up sleeping with my head craned at an impossible angle towards my left shoulder one night, my osteopath said mattresses are an entirely individual matter. Just go with what's comfortable to you.

This made all too much sense. Heck, my husband thinks the firm support of the floor provides a restful night's sleep. Yeah, and I used to think it'd be a blast to be on Survivor until I realized that after sleeping on a bamboo mat on the ground for a few days I'd probably be so sleep-deprived that I'd go postal. Then after getting voted off because I couldn't cooperate with the resident Svengali, I'd watch the show and see myself muttering unintelligibly and wonder who that person who was wearing my face and clothes and using my name.

I'm still undecided on the mattress issue, but it made me think of how individual a lot of choices are. What's perfect to one person is anathema to another. And books, because they often provoke strong emotions, are a prime example of why we can all have distinct reactions to the same thing.

Recently I read a book that stirred some very poignant emotions in me and made me stop and think about life a little more deeply. I loved the dry humor the author used in telling the story, the little snippets of events that played into the bigger picture and the journey of self-discovery the main character traveled. So when I went to leave a review, I was surprised to see how some readers had a very different reaction - as in, they 'just didn't get it'. Had they been sitting in the same room, I would've been tempted to turn around, give them that creased brow look with a slight sneer and say, "How can you not 'get it'? This book is subtle genius, deeply philosophical and emotive. Were you expecting pyrotechnics, car chases and super models?"

But I'd never do something like that. Ever. Because what I do get is that we all have different needs in what suits us - whether it's books, movies or beds. What's right, brilliant and memorable to me will be the opposite for someone else. Everything's relative. The person who loved a book/mattress was right. So was the person who hated it. Offer me a Pepsi and I'll tell you I'd rather go thirsty (no offense, Pepsi fans). I'm a Coke girl. It's my elixir of youth.

This is why when I'm browsing for books, I skim reviews and while I may find them helpful, I never depend on them 100% for picking out my next read. I look through them for specific points that may appeal to me or repel me. If one reviewer goes on and on about how they hated the battle scenes, that's an automatic sample for me - because I LURV battle scenes. If one reviewer gushes about how much they loved the intricate detail - well, that may not be an automatic delete for me, but I'll keep it in mind, because I find too much detail a snooze. I want action, emotions, and characters that grab me by the throat and make me pay attention.

As for picking out books, mostly I rely on the blurb and sample. If I'm still sucked in at the end of the sample, then I buy.

So, Goldilocks had it right. She tried things out herself and came to her own conclusions. I do think the bears would've appreciated it if she had asked permission first, though. ;-) Meanwhile, I'm going to drift over to the furniture store, try to dodge the commissioned salespeople by avoiding eye contact and moving quickly, and test out some mattresses.

Happy reading,

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sarah Woodbury - On Turning Medieval Drama into Fiction

Today, I'm happy to announce a guest post by fellow historical novelist, Sarah Woodbury. I asked Sarah to tell us why she writes about medieval Wales and how the political intrigue there features in her books, including her latest release, a medieval mystery entitled The Good Knight.


"Wales in the middle ages has been a focus of my research and passion as an anthropologist, writer, and amateur historian for the last ten years. One of the joys of working within this era is the extent to which history is stranger than fiction. Medieval Wales provides a wealth of opportunity for story-telling, with all the drama and excitement a novelist could want—without even having to make it all up.

The Good Knight is set against the backdrop of the rule of Owain Gwynedd, one of the most powerful and stable monarchs of north Wales in the middle ages. He was fortunate to have ruled during a time in which England, which had been trying to conquer Wales for a hundred and fifty years, was torn apart by the rivalry of two claimants to the throne: King Stephen and Empress Maud. Owain, in the fine tradition of Welsh royalty, took advantage of the strife in England to consolidate his rule and bring the other Welsh dynasties under his control.

In doing so, however, he engendered animosity among the other lords of Wales—and within his own family. With two wives, multiple mistresses, and a dozen sons, many of whom fought among themselves for power and favor, he created a legacy that would last until the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd at the hands of the English in 1282.

And made him a fulcrum of murder and mayhem in the middle ages."


The Good Knight (A Medieval Mystery)

Intrigue, suspicion, and rivalry among the royal princes casts a shadow on the court of Owain, king of north Wales…

The year is 1143 and King Owain seeks to unite his daughter in marriage with an allied king. But when the groom is murdered on the way to his wedding, the bride’s brother tasks his two best detectives—Gareth, a knight, and Gwen, the daughter of the court bard—with bringing the killer to justice.

And once blame for the murder falls on Gareth himself, Gwen must continue her search for the truth alone, finding unlikely allies in foreign lands, and ultimately uncovering a conspiracy that will shake the political foundations of Wales.

The Good Knight is available now at Amazon, Amazon UK and at

Happy reading,

Friday, September 16, 2011

Artemis Rising, by Cheri Lasota

Myth and legend unite in Cheri Lasota’s hauntingly beautiful debut novel, Artemis Rising. Even with such an intricate plotline, this book is a highly engaging read that will sweep you away with its lyrical passages.

The story begins as Eva’s mother is mentoring her in the pagan rites of the goddess, Artemis. Eva takes the name of the water nymph, Arethusa, and thus consigns her fate to the myth surrounding the nymph, who was pursued by the river god, Alpheus. But Arethusa’s father, a strict Catholic, discovers them and ships them off to the Azores. Soon, Arethusa finds herself the object of attention of the ship owner’s son, the darkly handsome and possessive Diogo.

When a storm wrecks the ship, Arethusa awakens in the arms of her shy rescuer, the soft-spoken Tristao. Now parentless, Arethusa must suffer the derision of her fellow orphans. Diogo soon appears at her bedside and Arethusa begins to believe that he is her Alpheus.

Soon, another legend arises in Arethusa’s life – the tragic romance of Tristan and Isolde. While struggling to unravel these two ancient tales and their often disturbing correlation to the events in her own life, Arethusa searches for the strength within herself to discover her own destiny.

While it’s easy to get wrapped up in the myth and legend that Lasota has so skillfully laid out here, this book is surprising in both its depth and its message. It gets even more intense as it nears the end. The characters are solid and true. Most of all, Arethusa is a unique heroine of uncommon strength who will have you rooting for her all the way. Artemis Rising is a love story unlike any other, making it even more memorable.

Happy reading,

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Dragons

I have shamelessly stolen my son's artwork (from when he was about 14) for this blog post. I hope he won't mind, but I'll find out soon enough. When he was a Buddha-bellied tyke with a bowl haircut, he had a fascination with dinosaurs and dragons. So when we moved into our rat-infested, cob-webby house, which we had blindly bought at a sheriff's auction, I figured after emptying and gutting the place I'd decorate my kids' rooms in a way that was uniquely them. My daughter got a mural with blue sky and green rolling hills dotted with sheep and horses. In my son's room, I stenciled a chair rail border of 2" high green, fire-belching dragons.

Those tiny dragons were there for ten years. Until this past spring, when we discovered he had allergies. So we ripped out the carpet, put in new wood floors and I woefully painted over those dragons - all 68 of them. There was something very symbolic about the process. A rite of passage not only for my now 18-year old son, but for me, as well.

After we packed him off to college, friends would ask, "Don't you feel like an empty-nester? Miss your kids?" Well, yes... and no. He was so stoked about going, how could I possibly have regrets about it? People used to ask me something similar when we raised puppies and they went off to their new homes. "Aren't you sad to see them go?" Um, do you know how many piles of poop 10 8-week old puppies make on a daily basis? Okay, kids can be messy, but not in that way.

The point is, I know if I've planned my litter, socialized it and done my best to hold out for good homes, things are going to turn out just dandy. I'll get reports for years from beaming owners about the fabulous things their dogs have done. If I've raised my kids right and given them the good sense to be able to go out into the world and make their own way, it's actually kind of exciting to nudge them from the nest, see them take wing and know that in time they're going to be okay. They might even do good things and make me proud.

It's like that with writing books. I labor over them for years. Eventually though, I have to let them go. I'm about at that stage with another one. I alternate between feelings of apprehension and excitement. What if someone hates it? What if someone loves it so much they want to make a movie out of it? Part of me wants very fiercely to keep it to myself and stay safely connected to the characters so I can go on living in their world. But a bigger part of me knows there comes a time when I need to trust in the universe and share it with readers.

The difference between kids and books is that there's always another book to write. I've run out of kids. And I have so many more books to write...

Until later,