Generation Next

Sunny FrazierReturning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, offers some suggestions to today’s emerging genre authors.

sunny69@comcast.net

http://www.sunnyfrazier.com

http://www.oaktreebooks.com/

By the time this blog is posted, I will have returned from a trip to Southern California to speak to junior college students at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut (the largest junior college in the country). This is my 5th visit to the campus. I’m to lecture on genre fiction, do a workshop on platform building and take pitch sessions for Oak Tree Press (I’m acquisitions editor).

How did I find myself in the position of educator? Oddly enough, it started because I rejected the creative writing teacher’s mystery. Too literary, I said, give me a few corpses. Instead, he gave me an invitation to speak to the students on the merits of genre fiction.

For some time, educators have looked down on genre writers. Or, at least that’s how we felt, much like the proverbial red-headed stepchild. Popular fiction isn’t so popular in the classroom. Prose and poetry aspires to be art. But, in the “real” world, it’s genre fiction that sells. Any writer who declares with a straight face that he/she doesn’t want to make money from their efforts is either exceptionally idealistic or plain crazy. Writing is hard work!

I hope I wasn’t too harsh with the truth this weekend. My message is that literary magazines are fine, but the readership is sparse. Nobody is asking young writers to dumb down their ideas for the unwashed masses, but it’s important to be accessible to the average reader. I plan to tell them to look at what people outside of college read. Or, better yet, what are their own “guilty pleasures?” If it’s fantasy, then write in that genre.

I’m sure I assured these college students they aren’t too young to have a career as an author. This is not a generation expected to “pay their dues.” Where Angels FearThese kids have had an electronic childhood and are far ahead of older writers who are stumped by computers and fearful of Face Book. If ever a group had the best tools available for writing, it’s this wired generation. What they need are mentors.

Working in their favor is their youth. I’ve just heard of a genre labeled  “New Adults.” It’s not Y/A but writing aimed at the 18-30 market and written by that age group. There’s no faking a youthful voice and contemporary jargon. I know I can’t write the stuff. Agents are on the lookout, scouring the self-pubbed manuscripts to find the next Twilight series.

I feel my role is to give students information they need to utilize the tools they have. To tell them how the game is played and open their eyes to the industry outside the classroom experience. To make the world of publishing less scary. To put a human face on a shrouded business.

And their teacher? John Brantingham’s next novel had a high body count and Oak Tree published Mann of War, much to the delight of his students. This mild-mannered poet jumped into the mystery genre with both guns blazing. I call him “Professor Jekyll” and I never know what he’s “Hyding.”

Book Reviews: The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins, Good Bait by John Harvey, Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson, A Cup Full of Midnight by Jaden Terrell, and Chance of a Ghost by E.J. Copperman

The Lost OnesThe Lost Ones
Ace Atkins
Putnam, June 2012
ISBN: 978-0-399-15876-6
Hardcover

Quinn Colson first appeared in The Ranger, and now, in this follow-up novel, faces a couple of situations that really put him to the test.  As sheriff in a northern Mississippi county, he has to apply not only the skills he learned in the army, but a lot of common sense and a certain amount of diplomatic talent.

First, a high school friend recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan now runs a local gun shop and shooting range.  Colson suspects him to be the source of U.S. Army rifles which turn up in the hands of a Mexican gang.  Meanwhile, a case involving an abused child leads Colson to discovering a bootleg baby racket.  While raiding the place where the babies are being kept before they’re sold, Colson and his deputy, Lillie Virgil, discover that the two cases somehow converge.

As the investigation progresses, lots of action takes place, sometimes reminding the reader of an actual military operation, led by General Colson, rather than sheriff Colson.  The characters are colorfully drawn, and the dialogue is vibrant.  The novel is sort of a cross between an old-fashioned western and a modern day crime novel and reads well, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2012.

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Good BaitGood Bait
John Harvey
Pegasus, January 2013
ISBN 978-1-605-98378-3
Hardcover

There are two main story lines, and two cases for the cops to pursue, in this newest novel from John Harvey.  The first is the murder in Hampstead Heath of a 17-year-old Moldovan boy, assigned to DCI Karen Shields and the Homicide & Serious Crime team.  The second falls to DI Trevor Cordon of the Devon and Cornwall Police in Exeter, when a woman he’d known is killed under the wheels of an oncoming train, whether suicide, accident or murder is unknown.  Though not strictly his problem, he takes time off the job to investigate it, as the woman in question was known to him from years back and is the mother of a girl who, though many years his junior, he knew and by whom he was intrigued all those years before. There is the tantalizing question of whether or not these two events are connected.

This is, of course, at least nominally, a police procedural, and quite a good one, although the multitude of characters, both ‘bad guys’ and good, were often difficult for me to keep track of.  But of course, being a John Harvey novel, it is much more than that.  That title, for one instance, is, typically of a Harvey protagonist, the title of a jazz tune of which Cordon collects every known recording, from Miles Davis to Nina Simone to Dexter Gordon.  It is also a character study of the lead cops, entirely different from one another:  Karen, a black woman from Jamaica, and Trevor, fifty-ish, with an ex-wife and a grown son from whom he’s been estranged but who he believes is now living somewhere in Australia.  The author philosophizes about what makes these cops tick:  if it’s “the mystery, the need to see things through to their conclusion, find out how they’d been put together, how they ticked.  Wasn’t that one of the reasons people became detectives?” and about “missed chances.  Roads not taken. Relationships allowed to drift.  Always that nagging question, what if, what if?”  Another terrific Harvey novel, and recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2012.

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Watching the DarkWatching the Dark
Peter Robinson
Morrow, January 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-200480-2
Hardcover

The 20th entry in the wonderful Inspector Banks series by Peter Robinson opens with the shocking killing of one of Banks’ colleagues, a decorated detective inspector, on the grounds of St. Peter’s Police Convalescence and Treatment Center, where he was a patient.  The Major Crimes Unit, or Homicide and Major Inquiry Team, as it was now known, operating out of Eastvale, is assigned, the investigative team once again including DS Winsome Jackman (“all six feet something of her”), DC Gerry Masterson, and DI Annie Cabbot, Banks’ close friend, who is just returning from a convalescence after having survived her own brutal wounds and subsequent convalescence in events described in a prior entry in the series.

Because there had recently been a hint of police corruption, Inspector Joanna Passero, of Professional Standards [the equivalent of the American IAB], is assigned to work with Banks.  Their working relationship, perhaps understandably, is an ambivalent one, at least initially.  Very shortly, another murder takes place, and there are indications that the two killings may be related.  Another angle that comes into play is a six-year-old cold case involving Rachel Hewitt, a 19-year-old English girl who seemingly “disappeared off the face of the earth” in Tallinn, Estonia, a case that had haunted the dead inspector for the intervening years, having been involved in the investigation at its inception in Tallinn.

The author expertly juxtaposes the lines of investigation, with Annie and her colleagues handling the Eastvale aspect of the case, and Banks the second killing, which appears to involve illegal migrant labor activities, ultimately taking him to Estonia, though he is warned not to get diverted by the Hewitt case.  Following his instincts, as always, Banks is determined to do his best to bring closure to the girl’s parents if at all possible.  A complex plot, carried off in smooth fashion, in a book that is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2012.

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A Cup Full of M idnightA Cup Full of Midnight
Jaden Terrell
Permanent Press, August 2012
ISBN: 978-1-57962-225-1
Hardcover

Jared McKean, 36 years of age and now a private detective after seven years with the Nashville Metro Police Department, has gone, as he describes it, from “uniformed patrol officer to undercover vice officer to homicide detective to outsider.”  Now he has his most important client ever:  his nephew, Josh.  Josh and his sister, 14-year-old Caitlin, are as close to him as anyone in his life, the boy feeling closer to him than to his own father. Lately Josh’s life has been in a state of upheaval, having not long ago come out of the closet and left home to live with Sebastian Parker, known as “Razor,” the sociopath who’d seduced him [a man in his late 20’s to Josh’s 16]. After the latter’s murder a few days before, Josh had attempted suicide, and now ‘hires’ Jared to find out who killed Razor.  No simple task, since he seems to have engendered hatred in most everyone whose path he crossed.  In what appears to be a ritual killing, he had been slashed to death, emasculated, eviscerated, and his body placed on a pentagram, surrounded by occult symbols.

The novel is a cautionary tale of disenchanted youth and the Goth sub-culture, “vampire wannabees.”  I was initially – but only initially – unsure whether this was a book for me, agreeing with the protagonist when he says “I didn’t believe in magic spells or voodoo curses.  I didn’t believe in vampires or witches or things that go bump in the night.  The only monsters I had ever seen were human.”

This is the second in the Jared McKean series, following the terrific Racing the Devil, and it doesn’t disappoint.  Jared’s “ex” hits the nail on the head in explaining why she couldn’t stay married to him, citing his career choice:  “It’s not what you do; it’s who you are. You’re a hero waiting for something to die for.”  Jared is a fascinating protagonist.  Still on good terms with his ex-wife [now re-married and in her ninth month of pregnancy], they are both devoted to their eight-year-old Down Syndrome son, Paulie.  He shares a ranch with his best childhood friend, Jay, now battling AIDS, and his three horses:  Dakota, the rescued Arabian; Crockett, the Tennessee Walker; and Tex, the palomino gelding Quarter Horse. As the investigation continues, several suspects emerge, and Jared’s investigation puts his life, and that of his nephew, at risk, and he becomes even more relentless.  Well-plotted, the book has more than one heart-stopping moment.  It was a very good read, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, January 2013.

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Chance of a GhostChance of a Ghost
E.J. Copperman
Berkley Prime Crime, February 2013
ISBN: 978-0-425-25168-3
Mass Market Paperback

Alison Kerby returns in the fourth Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series by E.J. Copperman.  Alison, a single mother in her late thirties, runs a guesthouse in her childhood hometown of Harbor Haven, on the Jersey Shore, inhabited by her and her precocious ten-year-old daughter, as well as Maxie Malone, Alison’s resident Internet expert, and Paul, an English/Canadian professor turned detective, both of whom have lived there since before their deaths.  It would seem that Alison and her daughter, as well as her mother, are the only ones who can see the ghosts.

At Paul’s urging, Alison had obtained a private-investigator’s license, and her services as such are sought by her mother’s own ghostly friend, who wants Alison to find out who killed him.  While his death six months previously was deemed to have been of natural causes, he is convinced he was murdered.  The investigation morphs into a search for the ghost of Alison’s father, who died five years ago, but whose ghost has been strangely absent of late.  She is aided in her efforts by her mother, her daughter, her best friend Jeannie, and her present [living] houseguest, who is a retired cop and delighted at the opportunity to do what he did best, and misses a lot, as well as by Paul and Maxie [who Alison refers to as her  two “non-breathing squatters”].

As with every book in the series, this newest entry contains the same unbeatable combination:  a terrific plot and great if quirky humor [if you like that sort of thing – and I do!!].  I particularly loved the line about the heating system in Alison’s ancient Volvo, which was “roughly as efficient as the United States Congress, which is to say it made a lot of noise but got very little done.”  The protagonist’s slightly bemused attitude toward the apparent fact that ghosts actually exist, and that some people could see/hear them, seems perfectly reasonable.  This book, as were the earlier entries in the series, is thoroughly delightful, and highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2013.

Book Review: The Last Temptation by Gerrie Ferris Finger

The Last TemptationThe Last Temptation
Gerrie Ferris Finger
Five Star, August 2012.
978-1-4328-2589-8
Hardcover

Moriah Dru, the heroine of the second book of a series featuring Moriah and Atlanta Police Detective Richard Lake, has her own P.I. agency and often works for the court. Her specialty is finding people, especially missing children. In this instance, that of a nasty divorce/child custody case, a woman and her teenage daughter go missing in Palm Springs, California. Dru is sent to find them and to bring young Linley Whitney home to her custodial father.

It isn’t long before Dru discovers this is not a routine case. Is Linley’s mother, Eileen, alive or dead? If she’s dead, did Bradley Whitney have his wife killed? Why? And then, more importantly, just who is Bradley?

When Eileen’s blood is discovered at her present husband’s house, Dru has almost too many suspects to chose from. Cross-dressers, perverts of all sorts, an Indian princess, a fake Frenchman, a policeman named Dartagnan.

The book is full of action and suspense; the mystery will keep you guessing. The settings are good, the characters better. I’ll be reading more by Gerrie Ferris Finger.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, April 2013.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Review: Nissa by Bethany Lopez—and a Giveaway

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Nissa by Bethany Lopez
Publication: April 23rd 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy

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NissaNissa
A Contemporary Fairy Tale
Bethany Lopez
Bethany Lopez, April 2013
ISBN 978-1478283102
Trade Paperback

From the author—

At 900 years old, Nissa is finally ready to follow her mother’s path and become the best Fairy Godmother she can. She’s not thrilled when her first assignment turns out to be a teenage human girl with self-esteem issues, but she knows she has to start somewhere. Her  assignment has dealt with bullies since her freshman year and they haven’t let up. If Nissa can’t help her regain her self-confidence her  future is bleak.

To complicate matters Nissa experiences all the signs that she’s met the being fated for her. This impossibility distracts her from her purpose. After all, fairies and humans aren’t meant for each other. How can her heart believe otherwise? Can Nissa successfully complete her first assignment as a Fairy Godmother? Will the fates allow Nissa and Levi to be together? And even if they do, will Levi believe Nissa once she reveals the truth?

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Everybody needs a little fluff in their lives sometimes and Nissa filled the bill for me just fine. There’s no heavy-duty story here, just a refreshing little tale of romance made more interesting (to me who doesn’t really like to read romance) with the addition of fairies. Nissa is a charmer and, if there’s anything I would have preferred in the story, it would have been a higher sense of tension. Brandon is very unlikeable but, otherwise, there really is no one to bring conflict even though bullying is the issue. If anything, the rest of the characters, especially Vicky and Levi, are just a bit too wholesome and sort of perfect.

Nissa is labeled as young adult fiction but really may be better suited to the middle grade audience. Except for one rather white-washed scene, there really is no reason for the younger teens not to read this and I think they might enjoy it more than the older set.

Ms. Lopez has a fine eye for details. For example, Nissa and other fairies have a high concentration of zinc in their skin, thus preventing sunburn. Also, a fairy’s right hand tingles when she (or he) meets “the one”. It’s this creative quality that really appealed to me the most, followed closely by a very nice aura of pure fun.

There are some construction flaws, such as incomplete sentences that are not part of dialogue and contractions where they don’t belong such as the constant use of “I’ve” when “I have” would be appropriate. Also, at one point, Levi asks if he might someday meet Nissa in Ireland, implying that’s where she lives, but there had been no earlier mention of Ireland being her home nor any indication of her having an Irish accent. In fact, we’re told she’s from the Redwood Forest in California and that she “will remain in California” for her first mission so why is there any reference to Ireland?

When all is said and done, despite any shortcomings, Nissa gave me an afternoon well-spent enjoying a few hours of entertainment and that’s a good feeling, isn’t it?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2013.

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About the Author

Bethany LopezBethany Lopez was born in Detroit, Michigan, and grew up in Michigan and San Antonio, Texas. She went to High School at Dearborn High, in Dearborn, Michigan, which is where she has set her Young Adult series. She is married and has a blended family with five children. She is currently serving in the United States Air Force as a Recruiter in Los Angeles, California. She has always loved to read and write and has seen her dream realized by independently publishing her novels through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

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A Person From Porlock

Jeanne MatthewsJeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press.  Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust.  Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels.  She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband, who is a law professor, and her West Highland terrier, who is a law unto herself.  Her Boyfriend’s Bones, the fourth book in the series, is scheduled for release in June, 2013.  You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at www.jeannematthews.com.

In 1797, having taken two grains of opium to relieve his rheumatic pain, Samuel Coleridge dozed off and had a marvelous dream.  As soon as he woke up, he began to write it down.  He had penned fifty-four exquisite lines when he was distracted by a knock at the door.  The intruder was a person from Porlock who detained him with some rigmarole about a horse.  Or so Coleridge alleged.  In any event, when he returned to his writing, the dream had vanished from memory.  He never finished Kubla Khan.

Coleridge couldn’t have realized that when he laid the blame on a nameless person from Porlock, he was launching a legend that would cloud his reputation for three hundred years.  The story didn’t ring true.  His fellow writers suspected that he’d already become stuck on Kubla Khan and the person from Porlock was just a lame excuse for writer’s block.  This opinion gained currency when Coleridge claimed that a distracting “letter from a friend” prevented him from completing his philosophical exposition on the nature of imagination.

Over time, dozens of writers have made the person from Porlock into a kind of literary inside joke.  In Valley Of Fear, Arthur Conan Doyle had Sherlock’s thoughts interrupted by a man from Moriarty’s organization calling himself Fred Porlock.  In Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov has a man check into a motel and register as A. Person, Porlock.  Neil Gaiman and Aaron Sorkin have made sly references to the visitor from Porlock, and Douglas Adams wrote a story in which Coleridge discovers in his dream how to build a time machine.  Detective Dirk Gently must travel back in time to the village of Porlock to keep Coleridge from remembering the dream and communicating the knowledge to space aliens who would use it to destroy the world.

In the Inspector Morse TV series, Morse is solving a crossword puzzle when Sergeant Lewis walks in and disturbs him.  “Damn!” shouts Morse.  “Seven seconds off the record if you hadn’t come barging in like that.  It’s the person from Porlock, that’s who you are.”

“No, sir,” replies Lewis, missing the allusion.  “Newcastle.”

A person from Porlock has come to mean anything that distracts someone from inspired creativity.  On March 1st, I had something a bit more aggressively distracting than a knock at the door.  A burglar kicked my door off its hinges, smashed into my house, and stole my computer with all of my manuscripts and photographs and contacts.  The computer, like an external, adjunct brain, was the repository of all of my creative endeavors.  It contained nothing so beautiful as the Kubla Khan, but there were some publishable bits.  At the risk of sounding whiny, the loss has been damned inconvenient.  Give me a person from Porlock any day of the week instead of a robber from Renton.  At least Coleridge didn’t have to buy a new front door which, it turns out, ain’t cheap.  But compared to the bad luck of some other authors, his person from Porlock and my robber from Renton were minor setbacks.

Edna St. Vincent Millay lost the only copy of her Conversations At Midnight in a hotel fire on Sanibel Island, but she didn’t complain.  She recreated the entire work from memory.  At the Gare de Lyon in Paris, Ernest Hemingway’s wife Hadley went to buy a bottle of Evian and left a suitcase filled with the originals and carbon copies of his early writings unattended.  When she returned, it was gone.  Hemingway never cited “a Her Boyfriend's Bonesthief in Paris” as an excuse for not carrying on with his novels.  T.E. Lawrence leapt aboard a departing train and forgot to grab his 250,000-word, five hundred page autobiography recounting his experiences in the desert and his military strategy.  It was never recovered, but he didn’t whinge.  He sat down and rewrote the whole thing.

The poet Robert Pinskey thinks that writers secretly yearn for distraction.  “Few people can write without procrastination, time-wasting, whining, and avoiding,” he says. But not many of us want to own up to being slackers.  In January, I finished Her Boyfriend’s Bones, my fourth Dinah Pelerin mystery, and I’ve been seizing on every excuse not to start a fifth.  I hang out on the Internet.  I e-mail people I haven’t spoken with in months.  I play Scrabble on Facebook.  The spring sunshine and wafting cherry blossoms are a particular temptation, luring me outside for long walks.  When I return and glance at the accusing blank page of the blog I’m supposed to write, I feel a sudden urge for a peanut butter sandwich and then maybe a nap.

It seems that “a person from Porlock” can appear in many forms.  Maybe Coleridge was warning us in Kubla Khan.

“…Beware!  Beware!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!”

Maybe he saw a vision of the future and the seductive power of television – Al Pacino’s crazy eyes and wild hair in that movie about “Phil Spector,” or Holly Hunter’s witchy mane in “Top of the Lake.”  Or maybe…

Oops!  Gotta go.  Somebody’s knocking at my new front door.

Book Review: Echo by Alicia Wright Brewster—and a Giveaway

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Echo by Alicia Wright Brewster  
Publication: April 25th 2013
by Dragonfairy Press 
Genre: YA Sci-Fi

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EchoEcho
Alicia Wright Brewster
Dragonfairy Press, April 2013
ISBN 978-1-939452-11-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

The countdown clock reads ten days until the end of the world. The citizens are organized. Everyone’s been notified and assigned a duty. The problem is . . . no one knows for sure how it will end.

Energy-hungry Mages are the most likely culprit. They travel toward a single location from every corner of the continent. Fueled by the two suns, each Mage holds the power of an element: air, earth, fire, metal, water, or ether. They harness their powers to draw energy from the most readily available resource: humans.

Ashara has been assigned to the Ethereal task force, made up of human ether manipulators and directed by Loken, a young man with whom she has a complicated past. Loken and Ashara bond over a common goal: to stop the Mages from occupying their home and gaining more energy than they can contain. But soon, they begin to suspect that the future of the world may depend on Ashara’s death.

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The phrase “hit the ground running” takes on new meaning in Echo and this is absolutely not a bad thing. Most of the time, we have to wade through a lot of worldbuilding and character development before the story actually gets going good but not this time. Ms. Brewster has wisely let the central premise take root immediately and, after all, why not? Would you want to putz around forever if your world was going to end in just 10 days or would you want to buckle down and get to whatever has to be done to stop the apocalypse?

I love the idea of a second Earth that was supposedly colonized by the very people who want a second chance at taking good care of their home planet and yet… their good intentions may all have been for naught. Or have they? If the Elders can rewind time repeatedly, might they find a solution to the problem in one of those timelines? If not, is it a given that they will rewind those ten days on an endless loop? Can you imagine the havoc that could cause in everyday life? The author takes the reader on a journey of despair and hope and redemption and, inevitably, heartbreak.

Ms. Brewster is such a good writer with an engaging cast of characters, whether they be good, evil or somewhere inbetween, and her storyline is one of the most creative I’ve seen in young adult fiction in quite a while. Ashara is very likeable, largely because she’s a strong person, not just a strong woman, but she also has some vulnerability, particularly when it comes to Loken. Ah, Loken, what a fella! Don’t get me wrong, though—Ash can be downright whiny at times and definitely difficult to cope with but that’s OK, it’s normal. And let me count the ways I love Rey.

One last thing I must mention is the cover. I could be dead wrong on this but I *think* the model is a woman of color. I can’t help questioning myself because I can’t find a mention of it in any other review I’ve located so, if I’m seeing it wrong, I apologize. The large traditional publishers have done a woeful job of promoting protagonists who come from non-white cultures, to the point where they have been known to deliberately have a white model portray a person of color as though no one would notice. They seem to think sales will be hurt if the cover art shows a black or Asian or whatever model and they apparently don’t recognize the value in (1) having a non-white girl or guy on the cover and (2) actually having a model who reflects the character. Anyway, if I’m not dreaming this up (which is always possible), Ash has “light-brown skin” and several other characters have varying degrees of brownness so I applaud Dragonfairy Press for doing what’s right.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2013.

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About the Author

Alicia Wright BrewsterAlicia Wright Brewster is a mild-mannered lady of average height and above average paranormal obsession. By day, she works in an office. At night she is an author, an electronics junkie, and a secret superhero.

In her virtually non-existent free time, she loves to read, watch movies, and eat food. She is particularly fond of the food-eating and makes a point to perform this task at least three times per day, usually more.

Author Links:
Website: http://www.aliciawb.com/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5616191.Alicia_Wright_Brewster
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aliciabrewster
Twitter: https://twitter.com/aliciawbrewster

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The winning name will be drawn on the evening of April 30th

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Book Review: Forty Days by Stephanie Parent

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Forty Days (Neima’s Ark #1)

by Stephanie Parent

Release Date: 02/10/13

Readers looking for a traditional, religiously oriented
version of the Noah’s Ark story should be warned that

Forty Days may not appeal to them. The novel will,
however, appeal to lovers of apocalyptic fiction,

historical fiction, and romance, as well as anyone who’s
ever dreamed of having a baby elephant as a pet.

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Forty Days is on sale this week only for only $.99!  Go get your copy!

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Forty DaysForty Days
Neima’s Ark: Book One
Stephanie Parent
Stephanie Parent, February 2013
Ebook

From the author—

The entire village knows Neima’s grandfather is a madman. For years the old man has prophesied that a great flood is coming, a flood disastrous enough to blot out the entire earth. He’s even built an enormous ark that he claims will allow his family to survive the deluge. But no one believes the ravings of a lunatic…

…until the rain starts. And doesn’t stop. Soon sixteen-year-old Neima finds her entire world transformed, her life and those of the people she loves in peril. Trapped on the ark with her grandfather Noah, the rest of her family, and a noisy, filthy, and hungry assortment of wild animals, will Neima find a way to survive?

With lions, tigers, and bears oh my, elephants and flamingos too, along with rivalries and betrayals, a mysterious stowaway, and perhaps even an unexpected romance, Forty Days is not your grandfather’s Noah’s Ark story.

OK, let me get rid of the bad stuff first. What did I not like about Forty Days?

Um, well, let me think…oh, yeah! It’s too short.

Yep, that’s all I can come up with—it’s too short.

Forty Days is exactly the reason I often don’t like novellas, novelettes, short stories, what have you. If I don’t connect with the story or the characters or the writing, the truncated offering is a good thing because it means I haven’t spent a lot of time on something I didn’t care for. On the other hand, when I DO really buy into it, I’m so disappointed that it ends much too soon. I want it to go on and give me so much more.  So, yes, I didn’t like that this book is too short because I just loved it and I didn’t get enough.

Stephanie Parent has taken a story people all over the world know and crafted a world around it that is believable and, for me, makes the core story come alive. The Noah’s Ark tale means something different to everyone; to me, it’s the quintessential biblical allegory meant to make sense of an event that would have been overwhelming to the people of the time. We know that a horrendous flood almost certainly occurred. Did it cover the entire earth? No, not in a literal sense, but isn’t it interesting that the Noah’s Ark story exists in such similar forms in so many cultures? It’s easy to understand that the people directly affected would have seen this as a divine event and would weave their own explanations for it. It’s also believable that this event could have been the catalyst for belief in a single God.

Another thing that I like about Ms. Parent’s treatment of the basic tale is her acknowledgement that the taking in of the pairs of animals could reasonably only have meant those animals known to live in the immediate area or within trading distance. That would still be an inordinate number of species but it’s at least more manageable than to believe two of every living creature were taken into the Ark (except, of course, for the unlucky unicorn). I also definitely appreciated Ms. Parent not shirking the unpleasantness that would be inevitable on a closed container of humans and animals.

The characters in Forty Days are all so normal, so likeable—or not—just as people usually are and I found even those who are violently opposed to Noah truly understandable. The members of his family, though, are who really bring the story to life because you can’t help knowing that you’d most likely respond to him in the very same way, tolerating his craziness because he is the patriarch but hoping that his madness will somehow go away so they can return to a comfortable co-existence with their neighbors.

Neima is a girl it’s easy to love. She has the expected teenage angst going on but she loves her family and only wants to be happy and accepted by the community for herself, not ostracized because she’s the granddaughter of a crazy old man. She has one friend, Derya, who can look past Neima’s family failings while her relationships with Jorin and Kenaan don’t resemble the common love triangles found in so many young adult novels, something I appreciated. I’d much rather go along with her on her “journey” as she finds what her heart really wants. Best of all, though, is Neima’s relationship with her father and how it changes as Neima has to accept that he is not perfect.

This first volume of the Neima’s Ark duology ends in a real cliffhanger but I’m grateful that we don’t have long to wait for the second book, Forty Nights, due out in June. I can barely wait and that reminds me of one other thing I don’t like about Forty Days—I have to wait two months for the conclusion.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2013.

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About the Author

Stephanie ParentStephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC and attended the Baltimore School for the Arts as a piano major. She moved to Los Angeles because of Francesca Lia Block’s WEETZIE BAT books, which might give you some idea of how much books mean to her. She also loves dogs, books about dogs, and sugary coffee drinks both hot and cold.

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