Friday, October 16, 2015

Funny Story

So, I've been writing a lot lately. Just not *here.*
Here. ------>
In my little travel journal.

Frankly, poetry has felt very therapeutic lately. No, not that self-indulgent angst-fest that I wrote when I was a teenager. This isn't all complete drivel, but let's be honest, feeding creativity is healthy.
Anyway, part of the whole writing process is making a choice: keep it private or try to find a good home for it. I've been trying to home most of my work. Not the total drivel. It gets to live and die on my OneDrive.
Submitting writing involves cover letters. I hate them. You hate them. We all hate them. They always make me feel like a mouse squeaking at the wall. So yesterday, amidst a high stress moment of trying to not sound quite like a mouse, I decided to go an entirely different direction.
I swept caution back into the closet and asked myself what I would want to read if I were on the receiving end, and ended up dancing down the path of whimsy.
It was more or less polite nonsense, but nonetheless, I slipped it into the envelope (yes, honest to goodness envelope, like it's 1989) with more calm than I'd ever felt submitting anything.
I smiled and thought "even if they don't like my work, they'll enjoy the cover letter."

I don't know if I'll be bravely whimsical on subsequent cover letters, but man, just this once? It felt good.

So, before I go about shooting myself in my writing hand with future cover letters, what do you do to make you feel good about your cover letter?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Magician's Lie

Spellbinding. The Magician's Lie weaves an interconnected tale as fragile and as convincing as any of the great illusions of the Edwardian era. Steeped in tight historical detail, grandiose architecture, and the art of prestidigitation, Greer Macallister masterfully enchants her audience with the tale of Arden, an illusionist whose freedom and life will hinge on a private performance for a lawman in a rural Iowa sheriff's office during the tired hours of the night.

A story as abusive as it is beautiful, The Magician's Lie is filled with grit and opulence, pain, sorrow, and the countless heartaches that hinge on the word "if." Written with a pace that reminded me of The Night Circus, The Magician's Lie rivals The Prestige in terms of human drama played out on the stage and immaculate storytelling.





I received an e-ARC of this book through NetGalley.


Monday, December 22, 2014

The Beginner's Bible

The Beginner's Bible: Timeless Bible StoriesThe Beginner's Bible: Timeless Bible Stories by Kelly Pulley
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Some stories cross over well into this brightly illustrated adaptation that has been watered down for kids. Some, on the other hand, are disturbingly reduced and lose the moral nuance that make the stories worthwhile to begin with. My five year old liked it, and we finished it in three nights. If you're looking for a fast way to familiarize kids with some of the less interesting tales of the Bible, with none of the pesky details that might set them off to having ideas and thinking, then this is a good starter.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sneezy the Snowman

My son came home with a couple books this year following his annual school Christmas party. I feel fairly confident they aren't formally calling it a "Christmas Party" these days, it's probably the "Winter" or "Holiday" party, but it's the Christmas Party. Maybe next year I'll send Yule Logs (Swiss Rolls) to keep it inclusive.  Anyway, one of the books he came home with was Sneezy the Snowman by Maureen Wright.
It has cute illustrations and a nice message about trying again when met with catastrophe after a fun afternoon's work. Stories about being solution oriented thinkers are generally good, but the whole "if you're uncomfortable, just eat ridiculous amounts of ice cream" message probably isn't particularly healthy, and I say this from two feet in the fat acceptance no-body-shaming camp. Really, that much ice cream is not the solution. A different jacket might have been.
Also, when reading it aloud, it feels like a book that teeters at the edge of needing a rhythm and rhyme scheme, yet doesn't achieve one. For this, I can't rate it well. My son received it as a gift. He likes it because
I want to like this story because the notion of a sentient puddle asking to be rebuilt puts me in mind of the 2013 Doctor Who Christmas Special, and I do like children's stories that edge up on the creepy, but alas, the ice cream thing just kills it for me.
the snowman sneezes and is cold. It's a funny notion. I suppose from an inclusive standpoint, it gives kids an opportunity to think about people who struggle to get by in the environment into which they were born, for instance, people with grass and pollen allergies. Let's face it, a snow man should be able to handle the weather that matches his natural body temperature.

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter One of I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen and Giveaway


M9B-Friday-Reveal
Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing the first chapter for

I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
I Heart Robot
Sixteen-year-old Tyri wants to be a musician and wants to be with someone who won’t belittle her musical aspirations.
Q-I-99 aka ‘Quinn’ lives in a scrap metal sanctuary with other rogue droids. While some use violence to make their voices heard, demanding equal rights for AI enhanced robots, Quinn just wants a moment on stage with his violin to show the humans that androids like him have more to offer than their processing power.
Tyri and Quinn’s worlds collide when they’re accepted by the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. As the rift between robots and humans deepens, Tyri and Quinn’s love of music brings them closer together, making Tyri question where her loyalties lie and Quinn question his place in the world. With the city on the brink of civil war, Tyri and Quinn make a shocking discovery that turns their world inside out. Will their passion for music be enough to hold them together while everything else crumbles down around them, or will the truth of who they are tear them apart?
add to goodreads
Title: I Heart Robot
Publication date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Suzanne van Rooyen
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Excerpt

Tyri

If today were a song, it'd be a dirge in b-flat minor. The androids cluster around the coffin, their false eyes brimming with mimetic tears. They were made to protect and serve their human masters, to entertain and care for us. Now, just one generation later, we toss them in the trash like nothing more than broken toasters.
The androids huddle in a semicircle, four adults and a child droid with synthetic curls. They all look so human; their grief real even if their tears aren't. The two male-droids are even good looking in that chiseled, adboard model kind of way. They're a little too perfect. With their machine strength, they lower the cardboard box into the dirt and the child droid begins to sing. His exquisite voice shatters like crystal in my ears, heartbreaking.
Asrid and I shouldn't be here—the only two humans amongst the machines—but I loved Nana. I loved her before I knew better than to feel anything for a robot. It doesn't matter how attached you get. A robot can never love you back, regardless of how human their advanced AI might make them seem.
“Why're they burying it anyway?” Asrid mutters beside me. My friend doesn't wear black to the funeral, refusing to acknowledge the passing of my nanamaton, an android that always seemed more like a mom and less like an automated child-minder.
“Should be sending it to the scrap heap. Isn't this against regulation?” Asrid's face scrunches up in a frown, marring her impeccable makeup. She’s a peacock amongst ravens, and I’m a scruffy crow.
“Nana was like a mother to me. I'll miss her.” Tears prick the corners of my eyes as the coffin disappears into the earth, and the droid keens a eulogy.
“I know you will, T.” Asrid gives me a one-armed hug.
Svartkyrka Cemetery is losing the battle to weeds. Human tombstones from back when there was real estate for corpses lie in crumbling ruin covered in pigeon poop. No one gets buried anymore—there's no space and, anyway, it's unsanitary.
“Can we go now?” Asrid hops between feet to fight off the chill. Autumn has shuffled closer to winter, the copper and russet leaves crunching beneath our shoes. The leaves look like scabs, a carpet of dried blood spilling into the open earth. Fitting for my nanamaton's funeral, but robots can’t bleed.
“Sure, we can go.”
Asrid wends her way toward the parking lot as I approach the grave. Nana loved yellow anemones, said they were like sunshine on a stick.
“Hope there’s sunshine where you are now, Nana.” I drop a single flower into the ground and wipe away the tear snailing down my cheek. Why Nana chose to permanently shut down and scramble her acuitron brain, I can only guess. Perhaps living in a world controlled by groups like the People Against Robot Autonomy, PARA for short, became too much for her.
“Sorry for your loss,” the child droid says in a tinkling voice.
“Thank you for letting me know,” I say.
“She would've wanted you to be here.” The other nanamaton, gray haired and huddled in a trench coat, doesn't meet my gaze.
I stuff my mitten- covered hands into the pockets of my jacket and hunch my shoulders against the chill. You'd think the universe might have had the courtesy to rain given the sullen occasion, but the sun perches in an acid blue sky.
“Tyri, you coming?” Asrid shouts from the gate, remembering too late that we're supposed to be stealthy. Government regulation stipulates cremation for humans and scrap heaps for robots. If the authorities discover us committing metal and electronics to the earth instead of recycling, Asrid and I will be fined. The robots will be decommissioned on the spot.
“I’m so sorry,” I whisper to the androids before turning away. Their artificial gaze follows me, boring into my back sharp as a laser.
“Botspit, I'm hungry. I could gnaw on a droid. Where're we going to lunch?” Asrid ignores the dead and grieving as if none of it exists.
“I think I'll just go home.”
“Come on, T. I know she was your Nana but she was just a robot, you know.”
Just a robot! Nana changed my diapers. My first day of kindergarten, Nana held my hand. When I came home from school, Nana made me cocoa and sat helping me with homework. Nana cooked my favourite dumpling dinner every Wednesday and made me double-chocolate birthday cake. Nana taught me how to tie my shoelaces and braid my hair. The day I turned sixteen, Mom decided we didn't need Nana anymore. She should've been decommissioned then, but Nana disappeared the day before Mom's M-Tech buddies came to kill her core and reprocess her parts.
“She was more than that to me,” I say.
“Ah, you're adorable.” Asrid casts nervous glances across the lot. Satisfied no policemen lurk behind the bushes, she slips her arm through mine and drags me through the gate. The wrought iron is warped and daubed with rust. Marble angels stand sentinel, broken and stained by time. One misses a nose, and the other has lost a wing.
“You didn't say anything about my new bug.” Asrid pouts when we reach her vehicle. The hoverbug is neon pink, matching her shoes, handbag, and the ribbons holding up her blond hair. The 'E' badge that stands for Engel Motors looks more like a spastic frog than the angel it's supposed to represent.
“Is it meant to smell like cherries?” Even the plush interior is unicorn puke pink. I put on my sunglasses in case all that color stains my eyes.
“Yes, in fact.” Asrid flicks a switch and the engine purrs. “Slipstream Waffles.” She assumes that monotone voice she always uses when addressing machines.
The last thing I want is to sit on sticky vinyl in a noisy waffle house, indulging in sugar and calories served by permanently smiling droids on roller-skates.
“Take me home to Vinterberg.”
“Tyri, don't annoy me.”
“Sassa, Don't patronize me.” I give her the glare she knows better than to argue with.
“Vinterberg,” I say again and Asrid heaves a melodramatic sigh.
“Be boring. Going home to make love to your violin?”
“Why ask when you know the answer?” Nana's coffin lowering into the ground replays in my mind to a soundtrack in b-flat minor.
“How does Rurik put up with being the other love of your life?”
It's my turn to sigh. Rurik doesn't really put up with it or even understand why I love music so much. But then, I don't understand why he gets so hung up on politics, and I definitely don't understand why he didn't show up for Nana's funeral when he knows how much she meant to me.
“We manage.” I stare out the tinted windows at the darkened scenery whipping past.
The hoverbug takes the quickest route, zipping along the street ways that skirt the chaotic center of Baldur. The jungle of concrete and steel thins out into a tree- shrouded suburb studded with modest brick homes. Rurik calls my redbrick bungalow quaint, and it is, complete with flower boxes and a patch of green lawn out back. It’s nothing at all like his dad's slick penthouse, all glass and chrome with a panoramic view of the city. The funny thing is, Rurik used to live right next-door till his mom had the affair and his dad became a workaholic, transforming the family business into an automotive empire.
The hoverbug slows and lands in my driveway.
“I'll call you later,” I say before disembarking.
“You heard anything yet?”
“No, but tomorrow is the last day so I'll hear soon.” I'm trying not to think about why it's taking so long to hear back after my audition for the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra.
“You'll get in T. I'm sure of it. You're brilliant.”
Asrid's words make me smile despite the morbidity of the day. She waves and the hoverbug zooms off, leaving me in the rustling-leave calm of Vinterberg.
I press my thumb to the access pad and the front door hisses open. Mom's at work like always. Taking off my coat and shoes, I whistle for Glitch. She pads into the hallway, her face lopsided from sleep. She stretches and sits down with a decisive humph as if to say, 'Well, human, I'm here. Now, worship me.' And I do.
“Hey my Glitchy girl.” I fold my cyborg Shiba Inu into my arms and sweep her off the floor. Her mechatronic back leg sticks out straight and stiff, the rest of her soft and warm. She licks my ear, one paw on my forehead.
“Good afternoon, Tyri. Would you like some refreshments?” Miles whirs out of the kitchen into the hallway. He's nothing like Nana, just a bipedal mass of electronics and metal with assorted appendages capable of mundane tasks. He doesn't even have eyes, only a flashing array of lights. Despite Mom designing a new generation of androids for M-Tech, we can't afford the new model housebot. Maybe it's better this way. I don't feel much for our bot, but I dubbed him Miles. It seemed to fit.
“Would you like some refreshments?” he repeats.
“Tea and a sandwich.” I carry Glitch into my bedroom at the back of the house. Glitch leaps from my arms, landing on the bed where she curls up in a knot of black, white, and tan fur amongst my pillows.
Still in my black lace skirt and corset, I stretch and flex my fingers. Twisting the cricks from my neck and rolling my shoulders, I ease out the graveyard tension. My violin lies in a bed of blue velvet, waiting for my touch. With the strings in tune and the bow sufficiently taut, the instrument nestles against my jaw as if I was born with a gap there just for the violin. It completes me.
I warm-up my fingers, letting them trip over the strings as my bow arcs and glides. Then I'm ready to play: Beethoven's Kreutzer violin sonata in A major, Nana's favorite. Glitch's ears twitch back and forth. She raises her head to howl but thinks better of it, yawning and curling back into sleep.
The frenzied opening of the sonata segues into a melancholy tune and in the brief moment of calm, my moby warbles at me. I have mail. I try to ignore the distraction and play through the screeching reminder of an unread message, but it might be the one I've been anticipating.
Vibrating in my hand, the moby blinks at me: One unread email. Subject: BPO audition.
“This is it, Glitchy.”
She raises her head as I sit beside her. One hand buried in her fur, I open the email. The words blur together, pixelate and run like wet ink across the screen. Disbelief makes my vision swim. I have to read the message several times over to make sure I haven't misunderstood.
“Codes! I got in.” Blood warms my cheeks as I whisk Glitch into my arms, spinning her around before squeezing her to my chest. She does not approve and scratches at me until I drop her back on the bed. Miles enters with a tray of tea and neat triangular sandwiches.
“Miles, I got in! I'm going to play for the junior BPO. This is amazing.” I'm jumping up and down.
Miles flashes orange. “Could not compute. Please restate.”
“I'm going to play for the best junior orchestra in the country. This could be my chance to break into the scene, to meet all the right people, and make an impression!” My one chance to escape the life already planned for me by Mom. The last thing I want to be is a robot technician.
Miles keeps flashing orange. “Apologies, Tyri. Could not compute, but registering joy.” His visual array flashes green. “Happy birthday!” He says in his clipped metallic voice before leaving the room.
I clutch the moby and read the email another ten times before calling Mom. I reach her voicemail, and my joy tones down a notch. I don't want to talk to another machine, so I hang up and call Rurik instead.
“Hey, Tyri. Now's not a good time. Can I call you back later?”
“I got in,” I say.
“To the orchestra?”
“Yes!”
“That's great.” He doesn't sound half as happy as I am.
“Thanks, I'm so excited, but kind of scared too—”
“T, I'm just in the middle of something. I'll call you back in a bit, okay?” He hangs up, leaving me babbling into silence.
Deflated, I slump onto the floor and rest my head on the bed. Glitch shuffles over to give me another ear wash, delicately nibbling around my earrings. I should've known Rurik would be busy getting ready to go to Osholm University. Getting a scholarship to the most prestigious school in all of Skandia is way more impressive than scoring a desk in the Baldur Junior Orchestra. Still, I received better acknowledgment from the housebot than my boyfriend. I call Asrid.
“Hey T, what's up?” Asrid answers with Sara's high-pitched giggle in the background.
“I got in!”
“That's awesome, except I guess that means more practicing and less time with your friends, huh?” Asrid sounds genuinely put out, as if she’d even notice my absence when Sara's around. Codes, isn't there someone who could just be happy for me? Maybe Mom’s right, and I am being selfish wanting the “Bohemian non-existence” when I could have a “sensible and society-assisting” career in robotics.
“Sorry, I . . . thought you'd like to know.”
“I'm happy for you, Tyri. I know it's a big deal to you. Congrats. Seriously, you deserve this considering how hard you practice,” Asrid says, and Sara shouts congratulations in the background.
“Thanks, Sassa.”
“Hey, our food arrived. Chat later?”
“Sure.” I hang up and reach for my violin. Nana would've understood. She would've danced around the living room with me. She probably would've baked me a cake and thrown a party. Determined not to cry, I skip the second movement of Beethoven's sonata and barrel straight into the jaunty third. The notes warp under my fingers, and the tune slides into b-flat minor.
Two days until the first rehearsal. Maybe I’ll be able to do something different with my life; something that makes me happy instead of just useful.
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Suzanne van 

Rooyen
Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When not writing, she teaches dance and music to middle schoolers and entertains her shiba inu, Lego. Suzanne is represented by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency.
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
The book will be sent upon the titles release.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Grow a Little Fruit Tree

Beautifully illustrated, and designed with remarkable attention to aesthetics, this is a  delightful combination of information and art. Moreover, the concept behind the book is so simple and seductive: grow a little fruit tree. Grow fruit. Grow it small. Keep it manageable.  That's the sort of thing that makes a reader think- yes, I can do that.

Dealing with the necessary steps involved in growing a small fruit tree, as well as the reasons why one would want to- after all, over producing isn't really going to do you any good, is it? Small trees take up less space, and are easier to both care for and harvest. Filled with charts, diagrams, and decades of experience and anecdotes that will help any gardener remember that an 8' tree really does in deed get larger than one can reach on one's own, if left to it's own devices, Grow a Little Fruit Tree is the perfect guide to growing fruit at home.

I plan to add this to my permanent collection of books on espalier techniques, as it has long been my intent to turn my unused patch of yard the other side of the garage into a small fruit tree orchard. Grow a Little Fruit Tree makes me feel like I have the information I need to do it successfully. The detailed pruning instructions and pictures alone make this a wonderful addition to any gardening library, but like I said, I'm partial to a book that discusses espalier technique.

Beyond being informative, Ann Ralph's writing technique is both accessible and entertaining. Her tone is conversational and a real love of growing fruit trees comes across in the ink. Of course, it all boils down to whether or not I learned something. As I said, I've been looking at growing little fruit trees for quite a while, so it's a subject I've been studying for a while now, and yes. I learned pollination techniques I hadn't yet found in other books on fruit trees, and more about pruning than I knew when I opened it up.  It was well worth the read.

I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to review an e-ARC of this title through NetGalley.

Monday, December 1, 2014

before i go


This was a devastatingly good novel. Colleen Oakley cuts through the space between  the reader and her characters until their sorrows become one. With deft prose, Oakley uses the extremely mundane

and familiar to craft a tale which hits all too close to home.

What makes this book resonate is the humor with which Oakley writes. When it is dark and painful and your reader's heart is bleeding on the floor, Daisy will, with oh so realistic attention span, become distracted by something incongruous and hilarious by juxtaposition.

Uplifting, reaffirming, funny, heartbreaking, and intimate, before i go hurts, heals, and leaves the reader with hope, but mostly, it's just a downright good read, so long as one can read through the tears.

I admit, I found myself on the edge of actively crying while reading on the elliptical at the gym. I held it together until I was home, and reading on the porch swing, where no one would notice the quietly crying woman behind the overgrown yucca, still clutching her e-reader.

My only qualm with this book is that Colleen Oakley wrote the characters with too much blood in their veins: so much that I felt I was losing a friend along with Daisy's best friend and husband. It hurt. It hurt like wiggling a loose tooth. Of course a book about a woman setting out to find a new wife for her husband while she copes with her terminal diagnosis is going to be a tear jerker, but I didn't expect to care as deeply. Brava, Colleen Oakley, brava.