Friday, August 5, 2011

Redemption on the River by Loren DeShon

What’s your favorite genre? I’m partial to young adult books, but I’ll read just about anything. One of my favorite authors is Ann Rinaldi. She writes young adult historical fiction novels and got me hooked on historical fiction pretty early on. Most of the HF I buy has to do with Shakespeare or early modern England, but what else would you expect from someone with a master’s in Shakespeare? Loren DeShon contacted Hazard Editing few weeks ago looking for someone to critique his HF novel, Redemption on the River, and I was pleased to accept the assignment.

Redemption on the River takes place in 1848 on the Missouri river. The story follows roughly eight months in the life of a young man named Silas as he travels up and down the river. Have you ever noticed that the worst times of your life are the most dramatic? The most interesting stories usually come out situations that cause deep pain. That’s certainly true for Silas. His life prior to this book was spent on the family farm, moving through life rather uneventfully, getting by and following the normal course for a man in his town. Then, after a freak accident, he knows it’s time to leave the farm and escape the memories haunting him there.

The problem with that idea, as I’m sure you know, is that memories never stay where you put them. Silas gets on a riverboat, makes some friends, and learns about splurging in the “big city.” His friends have his back as he learns to fight and uses those skills to save his life. He meets a family with a beautiful daughter that takes his breath away, usually when she’s berating him. Every time he thinks he has a bead on the people around him, he finds out he’s wrong. So much happens to Silas that I’ve barely scratched the surface summarizing the plot of Redemption on the River, but I don’t want to give away too much. What you really need to know about this book is that it’s good.

One of the things that impressed me the most was the obvious research DeShon put into his story. Silas learns to gamble on the riverboats, so the reader learns to gamble to. I may know the basic rules of poker, but I surely don’t know what playing poker was like on a riverboat in 1848. I don’t know how DeShon found the sources for his research, but he covered everything from how to play to how to cheat. He wove in “suckers” and slang, bringing the gambling rooms to life in my mind. I could smell the smoke and the fear of the slaves brought up from the hold as collateral for their master’s bets. He wrote in dialects so that I could hear the difference between the rich Southern gentlemen and the polished Brit, the slave and the mountain man. He even included real historical figures and challenged me to find them. I’ll admit that I failed at finding most of them, but maybe you’ll have better luck.

Unlike most books, Redemption on the River doesn’t have a cheap ending. There’s no “happily ever after” or tying up of loose ends. Yes, some of the loose ends get tied up, but, like in real life, the most important ones are left hanging. All you get to know is that Silas makes a choice and takes the first step to follow it. I love epilogues, but I didn’t miss it in this book. I liked knowing that his story was longer than the last page of the book.

Redemption on the River hasn’t been published yet, but I look forward to seeing it for sale. When it is, go buy it. Even if you’re not crazy about historical fiction, Silas’ story is entertaining, full of danger, love, questions of morality, and gambling. The only thing missing is a Fire Swamp full of Rodents Of Unusual Size.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Renegade by J.C. Fiske

One of the best things about my editing job is that I get to read books that I wouldn’t normally buy. Renegade by J.C. Fiske is a great example of that. I am definitely not the target audience for Renegade and I probably wouldn’t have noticed it on an e-book shelf, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to read it. Renegade revolves around a community of warriors called Renegades with a focus on a young man named Gisbo. Gisbo was raised in another community and had no idea he was destined to be a Renegade. When he leaves his childhood home and becomes a Renegade, he finds the friends and support he never had before as he learns how to fight and think.

Renegade is a YA novel and I suspect one has to have a Y chromosome to really appreciate it, but us ladies can still find good things in it. For example, the author clearly has a great respect for women. The Renegades include women in their ranks, unlike another group of warriors called Strifes. Gisbo’s mentor, Falcon, tells Gisbo that the Strifes are missing out because women, while not as strong as men, bring their own strengths to battle and provide balance to male strengths. Renegades form their own relationships and it’s entertaining to read about Gisbo’s first romantic encounters with the opposite sex. Poor Gisbo has no idea how to deal with the games 14 year old girls play, but it was funny to watch him try. I also enjoyed seeing five Renegades clean an apartment to avoid the wrath of one woman. Yes, we women have power. Grr.

As a person who believes in spirit animals, I loved how Fiske worked animals into the book. Every Renegade warrior has a Boon, an animal that is a physical representation of their inner self. Of course, as I read the book, I thought about what my Boon would be. I would be disappointed if my Boon was anything other than a bat. You can imagine my squeals of excitement when a blind Renegade later in the book reveals his Boon is a bat (although bats aren’t blind.) Gisbo’s Boon is a beautiful white wolf named Fao and she kicks some butt from the first page we meet her.

Renegade reminds me a lot of a YA warrior version on Atlas Shrugged. If you know me at all or have read my profile, then you can probably guess that I just gave Mr. Fiske a huge compliment. If you are like me and have read and loved Atlas Shrugged, I cannot imagine that you wouldn’t like Renegade. You’ll probably want to buy Renegade for every young man in your family. The community that the Renegades live in is a valley in the mountains protected from the outside world by an illusion screen. Sound familiar? What’s even crazier about that is that Fiske hasn’t read Atlas Shrugged yet. Don’t worry, I’m still working on getting him to read it. One of the other similarities is that Renegade gets a bit preachy sometimes (no 30+ page speeches, though). I agreed with just about everything Fiske preaches, so I enjoyed those speeches. If you don’t agree with him, then you probably won’t enjoy the philosophy Renegade espouses.

Renegade is officially for sale and available here:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shauna Granger

Do you ever wonder how people get started in their jobs? I don't flatter myself enough to believe that a great following of people are drooling over my "How I Got Started Editing" story, but some may wonder, so I'll share.

Once upon a time, my favorite cousin got married to my favorite cousin-in-law. At their wedding, I met my new CIL's best friend. Her name is Shauna and she's a writer. A month or so after the wedding, Shauna remembered that I'm a writer wannabe and she offered to trade books for editing.

And then my world changed.

I loved editing her book. She was fun to work with, liberal with her praise, and actually thought I was good at editing. One would hope that, after years of higher education, I would have decent grammar skills, but I didn't have a ton of confidence in my editing ability. I just read a lot and edited based on what I've learned from reading. Nothing made me feel better than finding an inconsistency or pointing out where she needed more or less information and getting her to say, "Gah, why didn't I see that?!" One day I asked her if people actually get paid for this. She sent me a link to an editing agency and I shot them an email. Two days later, I was an official freelance editor!

Shauna has written a series of YA fantasy books and I have had the pleasure of working on all of them. Earth is available for sale on kindle and amazon now and I loved reading it. Her characters are Elementals, meaning they can control an element. In Earth, someone new to town to performing blood magic and trying to unleash hell. Shayna, Jodi, and Steven, along with some help from a local witch, are the ones left trying to stop a menace the police can't catch. Perhaps that isn't fair, but what can you do when you're given special powers? Seriously though, her book is better than my summarizing skills. You can follow her blog here:

On top of being a kick ass author and a pleasure to work with, Shauna has become my friend. It never ceases to amaze me how relationships can be formed over the internet. I read articles all the time about how people don't connect anymore because they're too busy sitting in front of computers or they go on tirades online, forgetting that real people with real emotions read those tirades. These articles always forget to mention the beautiful people putting their hearts on their online sleeves and connecting to people across the country.

I guess the moral to Shauna's story (or her story thus far) is to reach out and connect with someone. I'm not saying my life would be a black hole of suck if Shauna hadn't reached out to me, but it wouldn't be the bright, sparkly rainbow of joy it is now without her. The best part about it is that she's grateful for me too! So go email that person you want to talk to, go apply for that job you want, go try that hobby that you've always thought looked cool.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Being Human by Patricia Lynne

One of the books I had the privilege of proofreading recently is called Being Human by Patricia Lynne. This is her first book and I’ve already asked her to keep me informed about anything else she puts out, even if I don’t edit it. The book revolves around the after life of a vampire named… well, I probably shouldn’t tell you his name. In his world, to know one’s name means that you have power over them. In fact, there’s a young woman he tells his name to and then corners her friends, demanding they tell him her name so that he can counter her power over him. This vampire is turned at 15 years old and the book follows him for roughly 20 years after that event. One of the things I loved the most about Being Human is that the book covers the 20 years in five segments with time gaps in between. Lynne didn’t get cornered into the idea that she had to explain every moment of his life and let herself tell his story through the major events.

I love vampire books. Given the choice between a modern vampire novel and a classic novel, I’d pick the vampire book. Actually, I’d probably grab both and run away before you tried to take one away, but let’s run with the original decision. Like most readers, I hear vampire novel and think, “Vampire meets human girl, falls in love, and spends his after life trying to protect her from everything that tries to keep them apart.” Being Human has a bit of that kind of story in it (for those of you who can’t stand the idea of missing your vamp/human love story), but that isn’t even close to the majority of the story. One of my biggest complaints about standard vampire stories is that I want to know, “Why this girl?” Usually the answer is something like, “She smells good. She’s unusual.” Being Human has a better answer. You’ll have to read the book to get that answer, but trust me, it’s good. It’s understandable. And it’s really, really human.

The bigger love story in Being Human is the love story between the vampire and his human twin brother. I’m not a twin, so I don’t know anything about the bond between twins, but I’ve met enough twins to believe in it. This bond extends beyond death for these brothers and ties the vampire to humanity in a way that is unique among vampires. Most of the vampires in this book kill their families, no matter how close they were to them in life. After being turned, the only thing vampires care about is survival. That means that the sleeping human in the other room is fair game and they don’t feel any guilt about feeding from their gene pool.

In Being Human, vampires don’t retain memories of their human lives. They know how to walk and talk and they have instincts that teach them to hunt humans, avoid the sun and Vampire Forces, and survive, but they don’t understand why humans do the things they do. Well, that’s not entirely true. The vampire in this book understands why humans walk for exercise, because it keeps them healthy and helps them survive, but not why they walk for pleasure. One of my favorite scenes in this book is when the vampire is taught how to brush his teeth. Do you ever think brushing your teeth is weird? I don’t. Lynne wrote the scene in a way that kept me in the book, but made me step back and think, “Wow, that is a strange practice. Spreading goo over your teeth to make them smell better.” Almost as strange as people going to school dances where no one dances.

Being Human is almost ready for publishing and I highly recommend you buy it as soon as it is. You can follow Lynne’s blog here:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Begin Again

As seems to be all the rage in our internet driven world, I feel the need to be sucked into blogging. What should I write about though? How about what I do with my days, which is mainly work. I work two jobs, one as a freelance editor and one as a hotel front desk clerk. I love editing, it's my favorite thing to do, but the health benefits and steady paycheck from the hotel are too good to pass up. So, for now, let's leave this introduction as is and I'll be back soon with some fun stories from the third shift and editing world!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mid-day meditation

It's been a few days since I've posted, but that doesn't mean I've forgotten my challenge. I have missed a few days due to travel. I don't like anyone to see me meditate (I think I look silly) so sharing a room with my mom wasn't very condusive to meditating. I made sure to meditate today, though. I had a dinner date with my family and, since I tend to be a little quiet and withdrawn during family meals, I decided to try to get happy before the dinner. I got to the restaurant early and spent 10 minutes in my car smiling and focusing on the sound of the rain on the roof. I love the sound of rain, don't you? It was very relaxing. I think I succeeded in my goal since I was pretty smiley when I went in the restaurant (even after being soaked). Unfortunately, things went downhill kind of quickly. I felt a little insulted moments after greeting my family and that kind of ruined my good mood.

I have been trying so hard lately to release the woman I'm in love with. She needs to gain some self-confidence and self-esteem and I can't help her with that. I have tried, but it's something she needs to do herself. No one can make her believe she's beautiful and worthwhile. So, I've been trying to let her go into God's hands. I believe God can reach her heart and soul where I can't, so whenever I think about her, I pray for her. I've been praying a lot. I think it's a good thing, though. God and I don't talk often enough. Praying for her problems prompts me to pray for my own release and I think God's the only one who can truly change my heart, too.

Between the meditation and the prayer (and the talking to her less), my heart has been a more restful place. For the most part. Money problems are getting me down and family problems always bog down my spirits, but I am trying to focus on the future and the positive. I'm going to share a poem with you tonight. It's Shel Silverstein's The Land of Happy.

Have you been to The Land of Happy,
Where everyone's happy all day,
Where they joke and they sing
Of the happiest things,
And everything's jolly and gay?
There's no one unhappy in Happy,
There's laughter and smiles galore.
I have been to The Land of Happy-
What a bore!

What a great reminder to you and me that life's most entertaining moments are not found in peace and happiness. The pain of the trenches and crawling through metaphorical mud make much better stories. No matter how much you're hurting in whatever life is throwing at you and no matter how much you wish for a life without pain or drama, just remember that what you're living through will make a great story, today or tomorrow. A life without pain is boring. Friends bring pain, pets bring pain, family brings pain. Money, food, cars, houses, all things can bring you pain. But without those things and relationships, what would our lives be worth living for?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Smiling as a chore

Today was my first day meditating. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to keep the place silent or not while I meditate (or even if there are rules). I put some music on. It helps me keep my brain quiet. Ladysmith Black Mambazo. I like the fact that I can't understand the lyrics. Life has been really stressful since yesterday, yet I am oddly cheerful. My Jen is in the hospital and I was pretty much scared numb yesterday. Today I found out that I've probably lost my job. It was only something to keep money coming in while I work on my books, but I still need the money. I figure I probably have to record my stress factors while I examine whether or not my experiment is helping me.

Smiling for 10 minutes straight is painful. I'm not used to smiling for that long non-stop and my face was hurting afterwards. My back was hurting too, but that's just because of my bad posture. I am feeling more cheerful and smiley now. Not a lot, but it's nice to feel a smile on my face that doesn't want to go away. I like it :)