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The End of Last Year

Well, I didn't make my goal of 365 books before December 31, but I managed a happy total of 230. If you want to see what filled up my reading year, check out my GoodReads page!The reviews for December's reads will be coming, but it's been a very hectic - and exciting! - time in life right now, so thanks for your patience. In writing news, I'm making progress on my next book - yay! It's still in the (very) early stages, so my writing focus will be on that instead of here, but don't disappear! I will be posting updates as well as previews for books that haven't been published yet, and of course reviews for anything I get a chance to read that's already on the shelves. Reading goal for the year - 150 books Writing goal for the year - finish the first draft of my new book. Hopefully this won't take all year, but with a full-time job and all the other craziness in life right now, I'm giving myself plenty of time.

New Book by Meg Cabot

Book 5 in the Heather Wells series, The Bride Wore Size 12, was recently published on September 24. I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy and figured it would be good to share my thoughts with you. I've never read a book by Cabot before, but getting into this one was surprisingly easy. She does a great job of hooking new readers and giving just enough backstory to the characters so that I don't feel lost or like I'm missing something crucial that happened in a previous installment, and she does so without infodumping. That said, I think veteran Heather Wells followers would get quite a bit out of the developments in this book as well.

The Bride Wore Size 12 is what most people would call chick-lit. I tend to call it fun fluff, because it's entertaining and worth a read, but doesn't require much brainpower and really, there's not a lot going on. Yes, there's a murder mystery (which I gather is common for Heather at this point), but it's not scary or a thriller or, really, intense in any way. Which makes this book perfect for a light read.

For anyone afraid of getting chick-lit cooties, I promise there is no creepy-style "romance" here (or I as well would be fleeing). It's a fun mix of a light whodunit with a dash of romantic comedy.

I have to go now; I need to find the rest of this series and see if the beginning is as good as this latest edition.

 

 

As always, I receive no compensation from author or publisher for any reviews, publications, etc. related to any ARCs. My opinions are wholly my own.

 

Don't forget about the book giveaway! I'm ending it at midnight, September 30, 2013, so give me those "bad book" suggestions!

 

Trivia Corner:

Shel Silverstein wrote our last quote in his book Falling Up, which I must have read about a thousand times as a kid. For multiple reasons, I remember the entire Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda poem, and I still love it.

Next up: "Raise him well, because his power will eventually be mine."

Books of August

Busy, busy month for me this time! Family came to visit, and my sister decided to stay. (Ok, we already knew she was going to be moving here. Actually, that's one of the main reasons my family came to visit - to help my sister move into my spare bedroom.) It was hectic and exciting - and as excited as I was to get to see my sister more, I think my hubby was even more excited. Really! At work we're coming up to the end of our release cycle, which means ultimate crunch time for all of my deadlines to make sure everything is good to be released on time. Between those two major events, I sadly only got half of the books finished for the month that I should have. And, ultimately, a late review. But I did get the word out about the Help for the Haunted giveaway I'm hosting, which is perhaps more exciting. (Don't know what I'm talking about? Become informed and maybe win a book!)

And now, my story devourings for August.

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips - 2.5 stars. I really wanted this to be more interesting. As a long-time fan of mythology (especially Greek), I was excited to read this book, but I realized quickly that it was not going to be anything superb. The various gods behaved like a bunch of whiny college frat boys; there weren't even any cool "god-power" moments because all the gods are losing their powers so they can't use them for fear they'll disappear. Athena had at least an inkling of what was really going on, but they turned the goddess of wisdom into the goddess of so-smart-I-can't-use-normal-words, so none of the rest of the gods understood what she was trying to say. Wisdom and knowledge are not the same thing, but apparently no one told Athena (or Phillips). The main mortal characters weren't exactly enthralling either. In fact, they were downright dumb. If I suddenly met a woman named Artemis who said her family members had names like Apollo and Zeus and Aphrodite, I would at the very least note that this family is Very Obsessed with Greek mythology. How can no one have put this together? Sigh.

The Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to Fear by Robert Kirkman - 1 star. This was just disturbing. And I mean that within the context of zombie-horror-survivalist storyline. Yes, I realize that when the world is infested with zombies, bad things happen. But The Thing that happened in this volume was so gross and so upsetting that I don't think I'll be continuing with the series. The Thing could still have happened in a slightly different way and I would have been ok with it. Not happy, certainly, but I would have understood. Again, zombies. But the way in which The Thing happened completely turned me off to the entire rest of the series.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (audiobook) by J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale - 4 stars. The pensieve storytelling was really cool. And we finally learn something else about Voldemort besides how evil he is! I liked how Harry was actually not always right about his new book. (Yay!) In other news, I don't think I'm that sad that I can't Apparate. It doesn't sound pleasant.

The Road to Balinor by Mary Stanton - 3 stars. This is the first book for the children's series Unicorns of Balinor. I read them a lot as a kid and loved them all... but reading them as an adult I found some things that just made no sense at all. I will still love these books as a bunch of awesome childhood memories, but in fairness, I think there are better children's books out there. Example: If Chase is so special and important, why in the world did Anne and Frank lease him out? That makes those two the dumbest Balinor citizens in the history of ever. Also, they are incapable of subtlety of any kind. Either that or they have goldfish brains. That's the only explanation I can think of for their constant "milady" slip-ups.

Sunchaser's Quest by Mary Stanton - 3 stars. Book 2 of Unicorns of Balinor. I'm going to be honest - I'm not going to write up a unique review for all of the books in this series, because they are so short (which is fine for children's lit) and they all blended together immediately. Overall: Lori is annoying and dumb, with occasional moments of sincerity and redemption. Finn is fun. There were entire sections that made no sense at all (apparently the animals can't be carnivorous because that's evil?) and times where I just wanted to shake everyone and tell them to wake up and smell the obvious. Even taking into account that, as an adult, I can figure out what's going on in kid's books pretty easily. :) But, I still loved them as a kid, and I'm still keeping them.

Help for the Haunted by John Searles - 3 stars. Possibly 3.5. I liked the main character quite a bit. The book is 1st person POV and Sylvie has some really interesting insights. The flow of the story worked fairly well, once I got into the groove of the more conversational, flowing-thought narrative Sylvie often presented. I laughed at the Dot incident and have officially decided I will never name a child Penny because it is now entirely too creepy. Overall the book felt like it was trying to be a mystery while wrapped up in a coming-of-age story about Sylvie, which would have been great except that it didn’t quite deliver. Still, the ending was good – it was just something I literally could not have figured out based on the rest of the book, which defeats the “mystery” aspect, I think. I’d pin this as part coming-of-age, part thriller narrative.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (audiobook) by J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale - 4.5 stars. The end of an era. It would have been so much better without the epilogue.

The Blood by D. J. MacHale - 2.5 stars. If this book had ended about halfway through, I would have given it 3 or possibly even 4 stars. But things just started springing up from nowhere. The entire series has been talking about the Morpheus Road and its three parts: the Light, the Black, and the Blood. And suddenly, this fourth piece shows up and is really where things are supposed to end? And why was the Black so... lacking? This was supposed to be the uber-scary, hellish place where the eternally evil literally lived and suffered forever, and the freakiest thing that I remember was the little prison cell where the other Big Bad was stuck - and that really only gave me the creeps because I'm claustrophobic, not because it was particularly scary. The Black was a big disappointment. Also, there was a fairly cheesy (but amusing) crossover nod to MacHale's other big series, Pendragon (of which I have read exactly one book and decided that was enough for me). I would still recommend the other two books in this series, but I don't know that I would bother reading this one. Actually, The Light (the first book) stands really well on its own anyway.

Valley of Fear by Mary Stanton - 3 stars.

By Fire, By Moonlight by Mary Stanton - 2.5 stars. Lower rating because it takes Forever before the first challenge gets issued, and then the second one comes and goes in a matter of a few pages. When I read this one as a kid, I didn't even realize it had happened and I finished the book still waiting for the second challenge.

Search for the Star by Mary Stanton - 3 stars.

Grim Tuesday (audiobook) by Garth Nix - 3 stars. The second installment of the Keys to the Kingdom series. It was much more enjoyable than book 1. I don't know if that's because the backstory is out of the way, or if it was the altered experience of listening to the audiobook vs. reading the printed copy, or what, but I've decided to continue the series in audiobook format. Suzie and Leaf are both extremely cool, and I hope Arthur figures that out pretty soon.

Secrets of the Scepter by Mary Stanton - 3 stars.

Night of the Shifter's Moon by Mary Stanton - 3 stars.

Shadows Over Balinor by Mary Stanton - 2.5 stars. Even reading this the first time when I was little, I was mad at the ultimate showdown. The entire series was building up to this - it should have been awesome! But instead Entia gets whipped in a paragraph and suddenly everything is over. Uh, what? I will forgive the very end (where they Still haven't found Ari's family) since I think there was supposed to be one more book in the series that never got published. :(

Trivia Corner:

"The building was on fire and it wasn't my fault." - This is the opening line of Blood Rites, Book Six of the Dresden Files. I love this series, mainly because of all the awesome situations like this. If you haven't read it, please go do so and spread the word! :)

New quote: "Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas all ran away and hid from one little Did."

Giveaway: Help for the Haunted

I have a brand new copy of Help for the Haunted by John Searles that is just waiting to live in one of your home libraries! If you would like to enter my giveaway contest, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me what is the worst book you have ever read. (Please don't read into that question as a reflection on Help for the Haunted - seriously, I am trying to start a collection of bad books to read.) I will pick a winner at random from all the entrants (which book you "recommend" does not affect your chance of winning) and once I have a winner, I will let them know.

You don't have to pay for shipping or anything. You will, however, need to provide me with an address to which I can send you your new book! (I will arrange this with the winner - I don't think anyone wants to post their address on a public website. :) )

Want a quick, spoiler-free review before you enter?

My thoughts: 3 stars. Possibly 3.5. I liked the main character quite a bit. The book is 1st person POV and Sylvie has some really interesting insights. The flow of the story worked fairly well, once I got into the groove of the more conversational, flowing-thought narrative Sylvie often presented. I laughed at the Dot incident and have officially decided I will never name a child Penny because it is now entirely too creepy. Overall the book felt like it was trying to be a mystery while wrapped up in a coming-of-age story about Sylvie, which would have been great except that it didn't quite deliver. Still, the ending was good - it was just something I literally could not have figured out based on the rest of the book, which defeats the "mystery" aspect, I think. I'd pin this as part coming-of-age, part thriller narrative.

I hope you give me good "worst books ever" and that you all enjoy Help for the Haunted - looking forward to mailing this straight-from-the-printing-press copy to someone! :) And if you don't win, there may still be time to enter the sweepstakes giveaway on Searles' website.

 

As always, I receive no compensation from author or publisher for any reviews, publications, etc. related to any ARCs. My opinions are wholly my own.

 

 

Trivia Corner:

“It was all imaginary, anyway – not real. It was only in the fairy tales that people were called upon to be so brave, to die for one another.” - Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. I read this book in grade school and loved it. It's a children's story, told by a young girl living in Denmark, during WWII. I've read and re-read this book numerous times - I know it was the best assignment I can ever remember.

Next up: "The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault."

Books of July

July was a heavy manga month, but I mixed it up with a variety of full-length novels (one of them written by a fictional character!). I've also decided to call out when I have an ebook copy of something - I'd already been calling out audiobooks, and I think it will be interesting to see how many books I read are purely digital versions. This month held one. As always, check out GoodReads for other books I've read, books I own, books I want to read, etc. If you want to friend me, send me a message saying you read this blog! I'm also always open to book suggestions/recommendations.

 

The Dead Zone by Stephen King - 3 stars. Ok, it's official - I'm just not a Stephen King fan. The premise of this book was great - a man who can touch things and see their future, but at a cost - but I just wasn't held by the story. In fact, the end felt really flat to me. I wasn't expecting a happily-ever-after by any means, but the entire story felt like I had just read an overly-long magazine article, with no satisfying conclusion. I may pick up a more recent King novel and see how well I like it, but on the other hand, there are plenty of books out there that I know I will like more. I do have an audiobook copy of 11/22/63 so I will at least give that a go.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (audiobook) by J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale - 5 stars. An intense addition to the HP series. Harry gets on my nerves at some points, but he's also a 15-year-old boy, so I guess that's to be expected. :) I love hating Umbridge. And the ending is just fantastic.

Black Butler, vol. 2 by Yana Toboso - 4 stars. In the Black Butler volumes of this month, we solve the Jack the Ripper case, gain a rather annoying character (who thankfully grows up a bit before too long), enter a curry contest (that was entertaining, but not exactly riveting), and finally get some more peeks into the dysfunctional relationship between Ciel and Sebastian. Also, Ciel has to masquerade as a girl, which is hilarious. Overall the series is solid and the main characters are intriguing - I think the biggest block I'm hitting right now is that I'm too used to Shonen-style manga, and Black Butler definitely isn't that. The art is absolutely beautiful!

Black Butler, vol. 3 by Yana Toboso - 4 stars.

Black Butler, vol. 4 by Yana Toboso - 3 stars.

Black Butler, vol. 5 by Yana Toboso - 4 stars.

Song in the Dark by P. N. Elrod - 5 stars. This book blew me away. After surviving a particularly gruesome experience at the end of the last book, Jack is now reeling from what happened and what he did to survive. His mind is fractured and he's terrified of himself and of staying close to anyone, not knowing what he might do. Charles and Bobbi, the two people most important to Jack, work extra hard to help Jack work through his trauma, but the strain is higher than ever. On top of that, Jack's other friend Gordy is still out of commission and Jack is running Gordy's mob until further notice - yet another stresser put on Jack, and Jack's relationship with Bobbi. Things Jack has come to take for granted ever since waking up as a vampire are twisted and broken... and with Jack feeling more cornered and horrified than ever, there's no bigger threat than leaving him alone. Some damage can't be undone, even for a vampire...

Something About Sophie by Mary Kay McComas - 4 stars. This was an advanced reader's copy I received from the publisher (William Morrow). Of course by the time I'm writing this, the book has already been out, but that just means you can go read it. (I should note that I don't receive any kind of incentive or compensation from anyone for any of the ARCs I review.) Anyway- this book was far outside the kind of novels I typically read, but I found it rather enjoyable even so. The main character (Sophie, an adopted young woman) travels to a small town at the request of a dying old man to hear his last words, but he dies before telling her. She then discovers that he left her something in his will - which is odd, since she's never met the man before in her life. She soon figures out that he knew something about her birth mother, but has no idea what. From then on, she's on the hunt for answers- both about her adoption and the murders that have started popping up in town. Add a heavy helping of romantic interest and you have Something About Sophie. It was definitely more about family and romance than murder mystery, but if that's the genre you love, this book will be a good edition to your library. The one thing that stood out as bothersome to me was how quickly Sophie went from "I know I'm adopted, but that's fine. My parents love me and I don't need to find my birth parents- I must have been made from love, and that's all I need or want to know" to "Everything MUST be about my birth mother and I MUST find out everything!"

I'm not adopted, so I can't say I have first-hand experience with this. There are a few people close to me who are adopted, and I haven't ever noticed this kind of instant shift in their thought process. I'm thinking Sophie was really trying to convince herself that she didn't want to know about the people who gave her up, and when she had a lead, she stopped trying to bury her feelings. Either that, or that part just got too rushed when McComas was writing it.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - 2 stars. I waited a while to write this review, and I'm still not sure how I feel about the book. Amy is a sociopath and Nick is an asshole; Go is the only "good guy" and I wasn't terribly convinced by her, either. I wish we could have met Nick's mother, but the only view of her we get is from Amy's diary. These people are very disturbed. There's no happy relationship here. Amy's parents seem creepily engrossed in each other, to the extent that they don't realize what's going on in the rest of life. Nick uses Go, who takes it like always because she's his twin sister and that's what family should do, right? Nick uses ... whatever-her-name-was because he's angry and horny and wants to be in charge of something (come on, man, I lost my job to the stupid internet because Real Writers won't make the transition over from printed to digital information). Nick and his father despise each other. Nick and Amy... there aren't even words for how f***ed up they are with each other. Amy uses Desi, Nick, and every single person on the planet Because She Can. Seriously. Structurally, this wasn't surprising, either. I did actually enjoy having the unreliable narrators, because there just aren't a ton of books out there that tell stories that way. But the "big surprise" was no surprise to me - I was just glad we'd officially acknowledged it. Really the most annoying thing to me was how casual Nick was about his cheating. And yes, there was a part of me that wanted the darker thoughts of Nick's to actually come true, because then I wouldn't have to keep hearing about them. I have no idea what emotion this book was trying to evoke. I got disgust, frustration, and impatience. And after reading more about Flynn herself and her motivation for writing this, I have no intention of reading anything else by her. Or seeing the movie of Gone Girl. Something this nasty doesn't need visualization. Hey, I think I figured out how I feel about Gone Girl now... I can't remember a single part I actually liked for its own sake.

Heat Wave by Richard Castle - 4 stars. This really felt like it was written by Richard Castle (who, if you don't know, is a fictional character who stars the ABC show "Castle"). It was like a peek at an extra episode of the TV show - which, since I love the show, I thoroughly enjoyed. I was a tad disappointed when the author used a bizarre phrase to describe something, only to use it again one paragraph later (things like that pull me right out of the story). But Nikki was fun and Rook was amusing, and the mystery was good. For a fictional author, Castle did a good job. :)

Naruto, vol. 11: Impassioned Efforts by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars. Lots of Naruto this month! Intense battles, old enemies clash and new enemies arrive, the Will of Fire ignites in the hearts of the new Konoha shinobi. The legendary Sannin are together again. Students learn fantastic new justu. Akatsuki arrive and bring torture - a teacher falls. Orochimaru ensnares the Third and the Shinigami comes for them both... I've watched the anime a few times and even knowing how some things turn out doesn't take away from the excitement in each volume!

Naruto, vol. 12: The Great Flight by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.

Naruto, vol. 13: The Chunin Exam, Concluded...!! by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.

Naruto, vol. 14: Hokage vs. Hokage!! by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.

Naruto, vol. 15: Naruto's Ninja Handbook by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.

Naruto, vol. 16: Eulogy by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.

Naruto, vol. 17: Itachi's Power by Masashi Kishimoto - 4 stars.

Naruto, vol. 18: Tsunade's Choice by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.

Naruto, vol. 19: Successor by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.

Death's Hand (ebook) by S. M. Reine - 4 stars. I was pleasantly surprised by how good this book was. There was quite a bit of tension and no clear-cut "I am the good guy" which was really interesting. There are two parallel story lines going on, split across chapters - one in the past, and one in the present - both involving the same characters. It would have been much easier to follow this with a hard copy of the book, but I own a Kindle edition and I sometimes got confused as to "when" I was. But the two story lines did an excellent job of both increasing the tension and interest as well as showing why, in the present, the main characters (Elise and James) do what they do. I'm looking forward to the rest of the trilogy!

 

 

Trivia Corner:

Last post's quote was "Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?" which is from Sabriel by Garth Nix. I adore the entire Abhorsen trilogy (of which Sabriel is the first). I have a boxed set and have read them so many times I've cracked the spines in several places. I think I may upgrade to nice hardcover editions soon. My book-buying process usually is to purchase a paperback copy (unless it's one in a series of which I already own multiple others in hardcover), and if I end up reading it so much that the paperback copy falls apart, replace it with a nice hardcover that can withstand multiple readings. And being stuffed into suitcases and purses.

For your guessing pleasure, the next quote is, "I make cherries jubilee and I volunteer for dragons and I conjugate Latin verbs - or at least I would if anyone would let me!"

June Reads

June was an awesome month for reading - everything was good, nothing below 3 stars! I would speculate on how July will be, but since it's nearly over, I'll just hush up and let you get to the reviews. :) As always, if you want more, check out GoodReads. (I will say that one or two reviews are cut-and-paste from my reviews over there, but that's because I wrote them here first and didn't want to write up a separate one for GR. Any time I review a book on GR first, I will still write up a new review when writing these posts - helps keep my thoughts honest about the books I read, and see if maybe I've changed my mind without realizing it in the meantime.)

 

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare -5 stars. I didn't realize there were more than three books in this series, and I was nervous about reading this one after the way everything seemed tied up and over at the end of the third book. But, having liked them, I gave it a go - and it was fantastic. This isn't a pretty little YA paranormal romance. Decisions that were made, deeds that were done, have serious consequences, and this book is all about dealing with them and figuring out what to do afterward. A good reminder that things are never perfect, and in fact they can go pretty badly, even from a good intention.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (audiobook) by J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale - 4 stars. Do I really need to give this a review? It's a solid book in the HP series. A few of my favorite characters are introduced here - Sirius and Lupin.

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley - 4 stars. The main character, Myfanwy, begins her story with no memory, surrounded by a circle of dead bodies, and a letter from her former self telling her that someone is after her. The way her amnesia was handled was very interesting. The letters and notes Thomas (the old Myfanwy) left was a neat trick - this way we got to avoid the over-used "flashback" pieces along with a ton of infodumping. The end, however, needed some heavy editing help: the story built itself up well, came to a great climax, and then fell apart in the last 20 pages. Way too much relatively useless exposition. I think it's supposed to be setup for the next book, but it should just have been cut from this book and made the beginning of the next one.

Wish You Were Here by Rita Mae Brown and (Sneaky Pie Brown) - 5 stars. Written by a cat. Narrated by a cat and dog (third person POV). Fun murder mystery novel for anyone who ever wonders what goes on inside their pets' minds. I'm going to thoroughly enjoy this series.

Grave Mercy by R. L. LaFevers - 3 stars. Not as much fun as I'd hoped it would be. Starring an assassin nun, said to be the daughter of Death himself, this held so much promise but just failed to deliver the thrills. The story was decent and solid, but there weren't any big twists or surprises that a half-awake reader couldn't see coming. I might continue the series, but there's definitely better stuff out there.

The Andalite Chronicles by Katherine Applegate - 4 stars. Finally, a book that doesn't automatically assume that the Andalite race is infallible. Elfangor rises from cadet to Prince and learns firsthand what the "backwards" human race has to offer. This story sheds some interesting light on the Animorphs and makes the series much more intriguing.

Bleach vol. 25: No Shaking Throne by Tite Kubo - 5 stars. In the four Bleach volumes I read this month, Ichigo realizes he can't run from his inner demons. Orihime has a confession to make with time running short. Ishida uses a loophole to his advantage, and the group sees Las Noches for the first time. A strange little Arrancar meets them in the desert-like plane. This story is moving along!

Bleach vol. 26: The Mascaron Drive by Tite Kubo - 5 stars.

Bleach vol. 27: Goodbye, Halcyon Days by Tite Kubo - 5 stars.

Bleach, vol. 28: Baron's Lecture Full-Course by Tite Kubo - 4 stars. Small note - Kubo has some of the strangest titles ever. I love them.

Naruto vol. 7: Orochimaru's Curse by Masashi Kishimoto - 4 stars. In these four volumes of Naruto, we survived the Forest of Death and proceed directly to the preliminaries for the third and final round of the Chuunin exam! Lots of character development scattered into the one-on-one battles. We see Kakashi get a little freaked out (which cannot ever bode well), and, at long last, one of my most favorite characters in the series joins the scene: Jiraiya!

Naruto vol. 8: Life-and-Death Battles by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.

Naruto vol. 9: Turning the Tables by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.

Naruto vol. 10: A Splendid Ninja by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde - 5 stars. Fforde is a great writer. I think the biggest problem I had with this book was actually the blurb on the back cover that is supposed to get you pulled in to the story. In this case, it was all about what happens when a character gets pulled out of her novel and into our (ok, a parallel version of our) world, and how Thursday (the main character) has to deal with it. But that wasn't really what the story was about - that didn't even happen until almost the very end. It was more about Thursday trying to prevent that from happening and seeing what kind of tools, powers, and friends were available to her, and who was chewing up all her attempts to set things right. Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed the book and have Fforde on my short list of "I need to read everything written by these authors". I just want the blurb changed. Maybe this is a sign that I should stop reading them...

Cold Streets by P. N. Elrod - 5 stars. Holy crap. I don't even care about the plot (which was still good, by the way) - this book was all about character. Jack may be a vampire, but he's not immune to the things that haunt us as humans. I was expecting another dramatic escape (as these types of novels have commonly given) but it was so much better. You want to talk about serious consequences? I cannot wait for the next book!

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (audiobook) by J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale - 5 stars. Still HP. Still love it. Although there are some things I still want to know - why did Moody have to wait until the end of the year? All this time, Voldemort is so antsy to get at Harry - there was never anything that gave a reason for why they had to wait until the end of the year. The only reason I see is because there needed to be time so that there would be a book - but a couple of added lines would have fixed things. Voldemort had to wait because that's how long the process took to complete. Something. But I still love this book - I think it is my second favorite after the first book.

Black Butler vol. 1 by Yana Toboso - 3 stars. I've seen the anime for this series - season 1 sticks to the manga more or less, while season 2 goes off and does its own thing. I loved season 1, so I figured the manga would be good, too. Luckily, that kept me going through this volume - it's a pretty slow start for a new series. Although there are some funny bits and a really cool action episode when Sebastian visits an Italian mobster. I especially liked the line, "Allow me to return these to you." Trust me, in context, it's funny and freaky. :)

And Then You Die by Iris Johansen - 3 stars. For loving the other books by Johansen as much as I did, it took me a long time to get around to reading this one. And when I did, I kept inadvertently making excuses not to finish it. I'm not sure why - there wasn't anything wrong with it. I actually liked it quite a bit. But Bess annoyed me, and it's not easy to finish a book when the main character ticks you off. Her decisions seemed shallow and selfish even while she was claiming them to be because of her love for her sister and the unlucky baby girl they rescued. And the conflict between Bess and Kaldak was weird - and pretty straight-forward (which I don't think is a good thing when trying to describe a conflict). Still, this was Johansen's first attempt at a thriller/mystery after so many successful romance novels, so I expected it to be a bit rough around the edges. And knowing that I like her later works more convinces me to keep reading her stuff. I like watching authors grow.

Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin - 4 stars. Now here was an interesting concept. I can't really discuss it at length without giving away a major spoiler point. But I will say what I can - I picked this book randomly off my list of vampire books I hadn't yet read and gave it a go. I will definitely be reading more in this series. I'm intrigued by some of the concepts, I liked the storytelling, and I liked the slow reveal of character development and backstory instead of holding everything back and then infodumping on us (seriously, does anyone like getting dumped on?). I took issue with one mechanism employed near the end of the book - the reasoning for why Jaz is still standing - although it was better than having her secretly turn out to be a vampire who just didn't know it (again - seriously, how could you be a vampire for any length of time and not know it?). Even so, I'm excited for the sequel.

 

 

Trivia Corner:

Last post's quote was "Home, James!" and is from a little book called The Wednesday Witch, written by Ruth Chew. I must have read it about a thousand times. I actually borrowed it from the library and lost it on a vacation, so of course I had to pay the library for the book - and then I found the book, about 6 months later, caught in a fold on the inside of my suitcase. So then I became the proud owner of a somewhat battered, and very loved, copy of The Wednesday Witch. I still have it, and it's still awesome.

So... what book is this quote from? "Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?"

May Reading

Writing is coming along, more slowly than I'd like for now with a few other things having been added to my plate. I have a solid outline and some good chunks done for my story about Jonathan Harper, vampire and artist. I also got the kinks worked out with a writer friend of mine about some possibilities for Akitis' story, and I'm very pleased to have the green light for that! Writing Akitis is probably one of my favorite characters right now. I've also gotten a few more scenes done for a very new story that has bullet lists and character sketches littering my hard drive. No news on Fire in the Blood yet, but I'm still hopeful for Kallizar's story to be published. As always, the effort continues and in the meantime, I keep busy with other things.

In reading news... I'm at 101 books read this year, which is very cool as that's already more than I read during all of 2011. Sadly, I'm 56 books behind schedule to make my goal of 365 by Dec. 31, but I maintain hope. And so, here are the books I read during May.

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare - 3.5 stars. Ok, so I lied in my previous post regarding this series when I said I was reading the final book. Somehow I got the impression that it was only a trilogy, and the ending of this bok (#3 in an ongoing series) certainly seemed to close things up nicely. The ending felt very solid and the series could have ended there, easily. That said, I'm looking forward to what the next book does with the situation. Would have been a straight 4-star review if the foreshadowing had been subtle in some way, but since it more or less bashed you in the face, big parts of the Big Reveal fell flat. Still a good series- excited for more.

C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton - 3 stars. Much better than the previous book. I actually cared about the characters and the fact that we knew going into the story that one of the characters was going to die (seriously not a spoiler- the first intro page tells you this person is dead) made it easier for me to connect with him and want to see justice. The end was rough and more confusing than the other two books, which doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in continuing the series. We'll see.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (audiobook) by J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale - 5 stars. I've read the books, listened to the unabridged productions (I love Jim Dale!) and seen the movies, and I really just love the story. There's great character development and just a lot of fun going on in this first book.

Nearlyweds by Beth Kendrick - 4 stars. Fun, quick read. (And yes, I enjoyed a piece of chick-lit. Surprising, but it does happen.) This tells the story of three couples who all get married by the same pastor, only to find out that the pastor has died days later- without having signed their marriage licenses. As each couple is already having serious problems, they have to decide whether the relationship is worth saving, or if they are going to go their separate ways. I'm fairly certain I had some life lessons snuck upon me while I was reading this, but it was cleverly disguised by humor and fun, so I will accept it. Adam dearest, if you are reading this, I did not question our decision to get married, and if our paperwork had been bad, I would have married you again in a second. :)

The Black by D. J. MacHale - 4 stars. This is the second book of a trilogy. It tells the same story as book 1, but from Cooper's perspective instead of Marsh's- which is a big deal, considering the circumstances. I found it very clever and thoroughly enjoyable, building on what we learned in book 1 and filling in the other side of things, while still pushing the overall plot forward to the Final Showdown that I assume will happen in book 3. Really looking forward to reading the end of this trilogy!

Individually Twisted by David Pickering - .5 stars, and even that is generous. I read this on a bet with a friend, who prefaced it with "this is probably the worst story I have ever read. You must read it so we can discuss its badness." The only good thing I have to say about this is that it was short, so the torture didn't last long. The structure was crap, the characters were laughable and couldn't even hold continuity with themselves, and there was No Plot. Really. There were times when it seemed like something *might* happen to the kids, but nothing ever did. Supposedly written to be a warning against letting your kids do drugs, this "book" not only failed to deliver a warning but actually ended with the message that if you go sell drugs, you can be millionaires and retire at the age of 20. I kid you not. Do yourself a favor, people (two, actually): don't do drugs, and don't read this book. Ever.

Naruto vol. 6: The Forest of Death by Masashi Kishimoto - 4 stars. I don't want to give any spoilers for ongoing stories, so reviewing the manga volumes I read is going to get more and more vague. This book has Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura in the middle of their Chuunin ninja exam in a dangerous place called the Forest of Death. They run into one of the main antagonists of the series, a rogue ninja named Orochimaru. and Sasuke and Naruto both get more than they bargained for, and Sakura steps up.

Vampire Knight, vol. 1 by Matsuri Hino - 4 stars. I'd never heard of this series and came across it randomly, and I'm glad I picked it up. The art is gorgeous and the story seems promising- there's a boarding school with two groups of students: the day class and the night class. The day class is regular kids, and the night class is all vampires. The day class doesn't know this; they've been told that the night class is made up of the "elite" students. The story centers around a girl named Yuki and her friends- Zero, fellow human and guardian of the students keeping the two classes separated, and Kaname, vampire who saved Yuki from a rogue vampire when she was young. There was a twist at the end of this volume that I saw coming a mile away, but I'm definitely going to continue the series.

Red, White, and Blood by Christopher Farnsworth - 4 stars. Loved this one. Cade grows a lot, which is pretty cool considering he, as a vampire, doesn't change in a lot of ways. The enemy was fantastically creepy and reminded me of someone straight out of the TV show Supernatural (which is also excellent, by the way). The ending was solid and made me angry that the next book isn't out yet. I'm actively watching for it now. If you are squeamish, do not read this. It gets pretty grizzly.

Mister Monday by Garth Nix - 3 stars. It's a Nix book, so there was no question about whether to read it. Overall, it has promise, but the symbolism gave me whiplash. I plan to read more, if only to spend time in the awesome world Nix has created (his strongest point, I think) but I don't know when book 2 will make it to the top of my "on-deck" list.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (audiobook) by J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale - 5 stars. I still love this world. Lockhart really annoys me (as well he should). The Chamber part was also excellent. One thing that I've never understood is how Hermione, as smart as she is, managed to confuse a cat hair for a person's. :)

The Dark Sleep by P. N. Elrod - 4 stars. Book 8 in the series, and it spends a lot of time on the supporting cast, letting Jack step out of the limelight for a bit. We learn a lot about Escott, something I've been dying for since we met him. The story itself was great, but there's one part - just a few paragraphs - that kept this from being a 5-star review. Jack is a former journalist, now trying to write and someday publish a fiction novel. Fine. But Elrod took a few paragraphs to basically say, "look how hard it is to write something cool that will get picked up by a publisher! It's so much work. It takes a lot of perseverance and the author should really get a pat on the back for being so determined and pushing through the struggles." That really annoyed me. Yes, it's true that it can be hard to write something good, and even harder perhaps to get it printed. But that's what writing is about - what any kind of art is about. You create it because you want to, you polish it because you care and you want it to be the best it can be. When you present a piece of artwork, you want people to notice how nice it is. You don't then pull out the fifty failed attempts and shove them under their noses to tell them how hard it was to get right. Effort is behind-the-scenes stuff. Or at the very least, if you want to talk about the process of creating it, you find an appropriate time - and the middle of a novel is not the place for telling readers how hard it was to get the script done.

Anyway. Aside from those paragraphs, it was very good.

Bleach vol. 22: Conquistadores by Tite Kubo - 4 stars. I'll combine my review of all three Bleach volumes here. Basically, Ichigo is having some serious problems with his Hollow, and the Visoreds know it. Then some new enemies drop in from Hueco Mundo and go after the scouting Soul Reapers, breaking into  five different battles across the night sky of Karakura Town. Arrancars are tough, and these ones are led by the even tougher Espada 6, Grimmjow (who, incidentally, is one of my most favorite characters to date). The Soul Reapers realize they are in some serious crap, and Ichigo finally realizes what must be done to save himself.

Bleach vol. 23: Mala Suerte! by Tite Kubo - 5 stars.

Bleach vol. 24: Immanent God Blues by Tite Kubo - 5 stars.

Reached by Ally Condie - 3.5 stars. The introduction of the plague saved this book from the brink of oblivion. Just by the nature of the other two books in this trilogy and the way things were heading, it was obvious that not one of the main characters was in danger of dying, so that killed a lot of the suspense. But the way the plague was introduced, and the explanation of the viral growth and mutation, was very cool and accurate and brought something new and interesting to the table. Overall, a stock ending to a stock YA storyline. Worth reading once if you are looking for something to pass the time, but I think there are better things out there.

Sushi 101: The Fundamental Ingredients, Techniques and Concepts of Sushi by Cooking Penguin - 4 stars. This rating comes from ease of use, not from actual book formatting. This book can get away with being more conversational because it's a short little ebook on the how-to of sushi-making. Being a big sushi lover, I was happy for this book's existence, because I now know the basic ingredients and needed preparations to try making a few maki rolls at home. Yum!

Up next I've got plans to continue with the Harry Potter audiobooks, as well as a book called The Rook by Daniel O'Malley that's on the agenda next for my book club. Bleach, Naruto and other manga will also continue, and beyond that, I intend to keep on raiding the library. I also have some advance copies of novels soon to be released for sale that I have on the schedule to read and review. For more info on any of these books, or to see what I've said about other books in the past, check out my GoodReads read shelf. Anything read this year has a review along with it. Feel free to send me recommendations, either on here or through GoodReads messages - I'm always looking for new books! (And if you have a horrible book like Individually Twisted you think I would enjoy tearing apart, let me know- just be sure to warn me that it's terrible or I may question your sanity.)

Feast to Follow Famine

Help yourself to whatever you want: I've prepared a smorgasbord of tasty tidbits from my reading and writing efforts this past month. Heck, have some of everything! Writing:

- I got my first official rejection letter. Considering I didn't think I would get any notification at all unless I was accepted, it was a nice surprise. I've put that submission away and am working on my synopsis before I submit to my next candidate. Onwards!

- Synopsis work is tedious, scary, and absolutely necessary. It's been eating a lot of my time, and, like most writing projects, never seems to have much to show for the amount of work until very late in the game. But at least I know where the ending is, and that makes it easier.

- In the wake of finishing FITB, I've been dabbling with quite a few other stories. Consequently, I don't have another big work in progress yet, but I am enjoying working on the handful of smaller things. They all have outlines (some very sparse still) and plans for being their own novels... but I forgot how much fun it is at the beginning of a story to just go into "random creative mode" and let the story do whatever it wants, and screw the outline. Characters tell you a lot more about themselves when you don't keep them tethered all the time.

- I am trying to incorporate more writing into my day job (I'm a software Quality Assurance tester) - primarily this means writing more wikis and the like for my team. Nothing at all like fiction storytelling. But who knew? I really like writing wikis. :)

Reading:

- I'm only slightly behind schedule to meet my 2013 goal of reading 365 books. I tried to add the tracker widget to this site, but I can't because apparently WordPress doesn't play well with java. Ah well. If you're interested, it's on my GoodReads profile.

- Want to see my reviews for the books I've been devouring lately? I post them all on GoodReads. (Yes, I am addicted to that site. Yes, you should be also.) I review every book I read, although with some of them (like the graphic novels) are more of a spoiler-free summary of that installment. I hate it when things get spoiled for me, so I do my very best to write spoiler-free reviews for everything. GoodReads also has this handy little html tag for hiding spoiler comments in a review, so if I do decide there's something spoilery worth calling out, it will be hidden until you click the "show spoiler" link. (Edit: There's been a few problems with the above link, so here's the steps to get there yourself. Go to my profile. Click on my Read shelf. Sort by Date Read so the most recent date is at the top. Any book with a Date Read in 2013 will have a review. I make no guarantees for dates prior to that.)

- Libraries are one of the greatest things in the world. I get all of my "impulse-shopping" out whenever I go to the library, because I don't actually have to spend money. The last time I went, I needed to pick up two books that were on hold for me. I walked out with a stack of books so tall I could barely see over it. I even had to put one book back because I just couldn't hold any more. My friend told me it looked like I'd robbed the place.

- A random sampling of some of the books I've been reading lately: Animorphs (my first time ever), The Walking Dead, The Devil in Silver, The Light... you know what? They're all on GoodReads too. Suffice to say that I've picked up and read some books I never would have thought about reading (like The Secret Keeper, a historical fiction novel) because of my library wanderings, and others (like Down the Rabbit Hole) at the recommendation of my friends. Genre-wise, I've been picking up a fair bit of YA- found a few really good ones (All These Things I've Done, City of Bones) and a few annoying-beyond-belief ones (Confessions of a Murder Suspect, Masquerade). I also raided the mystery section and now have some of the alphabet mysteries by Sue Grafton, as well as The Dead Zone by Stephen King (how embarrassing, I nearly spelled his name wrong!). Continuing of course to read some of my favorite authors, like Garth Nix (Confusion of Princes) and Jim Butcher (Cold Days from The Dresden Files), but I also think I have found one or two more authors to make it to the level of "favorite" - Jasper Fforde, Iris Johansen. And lastly, I even picked up some audio books, both narrated by Jim Dale. As one of my friends mentioned in her review, I would listen to Jim Dale read anything, even the phone book.

In Short:

- Writing is hard work, and still amazing.

- Reading is good for the soul.

- Libraries are the best things ever. Go there now.

- I should be paid to advertise GoodReads. (Kidding. But seriously, if you like reading at all, check them out. Send me a message!)

FITB: The Beginning

Meet Riat, Aeva, and Kallizar for the first time in this clip of the first one thousand words of Fire in the Blood. “Stand up, boy, and don’t make me tell you again or you’ll have my sword at your back!”

Riat tried to straighten his sore muscles, but they rebelled and he winced involuntarily. It had been a long, hard march to get to the slave markets, and it was only the beginning of a long and miserable day. He had no misconceptions about it being otherwise. Riat was twenty-three, and after eleven years in the slave trade, he knew exactly what was coming.

The trader glowered at him and drew his shortsword. “I said stand up!” he snapped, slapping the flat of the blade hard against the base of Riat’s spine.

“Careful, Maakus,” called another man from a few feet down. “If you hit it too hard, no one will want it.”

Riat, who had been knocked to his knees by the blow, did not know whether to thank the Sorcerer who had spoken or hate him even more. Not that it mattered.

Maakus grumbled but sheathed the sword. “Fine.” He grabbed Riat by the hair and yanked him to his feet, ignoring the young man’s cry of pain. He stared into Riat’s dark blue eyes with a creepy-looking smile. “Guess you owe Sorcerer Danis, now, slave.”

The Sorcerer grabbed Maakus and pulled him to the side. “Hush now. Here comes your first customer of the day.” He stepped away, adopting a pose of feigned indifference. His presence at the slave markets was required by law throughout all of Varaetí: a Sorcerer must be present to ensure fairness of deals and prevent stealing of slaves – or attempts at escape. But Danis had become a good friend of Maakus over the years, so he rarely did anything that would result in less money for the trader.

The customers did not know, of course. They knew that Sorcerer Danis was from the king: the tattoo on his left wrist proved him to be a registered member of King Steph’non’s protective network of Sorcerers. Of course he would be doing everything in his power to ensure fairness to the citizens of Varaetí.

Riat looked around dully for the first customers, wondering what kind of slaves they were after. It was an older man, which meant Riat was probably safe for now… although he didn’t envy the girl that would likely end up with him.

The man bought a tan-skinned brunette in the end, somewhere in her late teens. From what Riat could see, she did not appear to understand a word of what was being said, which meant she was probably from Fyan, the country across the sea. Riat looked down as the man, smiling too widely, took the girl by the arm and pulled her away.

Not long after, Sorcerer Danis suddenly stiffened. “Maakus, look sharp,” he hissed quietly. “We’ve got a Sorcerer on the way. A powerful one.”

Maakus grinned. Sorcerers were his best buyers. They loved to use slaves for all kinds of magical experiments.

Riat knew this, too. Please, Ri’hannon, he begged, praying to the god of mercy, please let the Sorcerer pass me by.

However, even as scared as Riat was, he could not look away when the Sorcerer entered the market. She was eerily beautiful, with short, auburn hair and pale skin that was just colored enough to hint at foreign blood somewhere in her line. Of more interest was the glow that seemed to emanate from beneath her skin. It was faint, but still there. Her clothes, Riat could see by a glance, were well-made – fine silk and soft leather, dyed a striking mix of red and black. He had done work for a tailor once, a few years back, but nothing like this.

Beside her, Riat saw a girl – a young woman in age similar to Riat. She had the fair skin of the Vaerish and Riat knew she was no relation to the Sorcerer. Her hair was much lighter, her stature much shorter than the tall Sorcerer.

Riat watched as the Sorcerer bent and whispered into the young woman’s ear. A friend, perhaps? Or a friend’s daughter? Riat latched onto his curiosity, using it as a guard against his fear.

Unfortunately it evaporated when the young woman pointed at him. The Sorcerer nodded and began to approach him. Why, why did it have to be me? Riat mourned silently, trying to look as useless as possible.

The Sorcerer came right up to him and then did something incredible. She knelt down and looked into his lowered face. Riat tried to hunch away without looking like he was doing so, but his sore muscles prevented him from bending that far.

“Hello, young man.”

Riat looked up without meaning to. Had he heard her correctly? Her words had a lilt to them, telling Riat that Vaerish was not her native tongue, but it was not enough to make him confuse that greeting. Then he saw her face and nearly fainted.

It was not terrible, or scarred, or filled with malice. On the contrary, the Sorcerer’s oddly pale skin gave her a strange kind of beauty. Her jaw was strong and her mouth was curved into a gentle smile. But her eyes quickly captured all of Riat’s attention. They were light grey, which was odd enough. But the truly frightening thing was the flames that burned behind them. They flickered and danced quietly, having no apparent effect on her whatsoever. Was she crazed? Taken by a spirit? Or was this merely a trick she had used in order to frighten him? Magic could do anything. He had seen Sorcerer Davis do some terrifying things on more than one occasion.

The Sorcerer blinked her frightening eyes once, and Riat realized something else: these eyes were kind. They held a look of kindness.

“Can you understand me, young man?” the Sorcerer asked.

Riat swallowed. “Yes, Sorcerer,” he whispered.

“Then could you please tell me, young man: what is your name?”

Riat was completely bewildered. She had asked him a question, not issued him a command. Moreover, she had asked for his name. No one, ever, had done that.

He tried not to hyperventilate. “My name? My name is Riat, Sorcerer.”

The Sorcerer smiled again and extended her hand to him. “Hello, Riat. My name is Kallizar, and I am here to buy your freedom.”

***

Kallizar waited a moment for her words to sink in.

Beside her, Aeva tried not to look uncomfortable. She remembered the slave trade all too well, having run away from it only one year ago. Running into Kallizar had been an accident, but it had been the best thing to happen to her so far. She hoped this Riat would be able to say the same thing.

Kallizar glanced at Aeva. “Stay with him while I go take care of… business.”

“Still in one piece, Kallizar,” Aeva warned quietly.

Kallizar ignored her and walked coolly up to where both Maakus and Danis stood, trying to look as though they had not just been in a heated discussion over what they had overheard.

Maakus cleared his throat and smiled. “Welcome, Sorcerer. I take it you have found something to your liking?”

Kallizar gritted her teeth. “The boy named Riat. What is his price?”

Maakus had to look down the line to see which slave Kallizar was referencing. “Seventy gold Daari.”

Danis paid no attention whatsoever to the following bout of haggling. He was much too preoccupied with the Sorcerer herself. Her power was immense! He could see it in her eyes as well as sense it around her. The flames of her magic roared in her eyes, and they burned with a strength he had never before seen. The flames in his own eyes were barely visible. He swallowed his jealousy quickly. If this Sorcerer was so strong, she could likely do anything she wanted – including make his life very good, if this sale went well.

When she handed over a large pouch of gold, Danis could not help but stare, his heart suddenly pounding. The Sorcerer’s left wrist was bare. She had no tattoo.

She was not registered.

Kallizar returned to Aeva’s side. “Riat,” she said gently, addressing him, “I have paid your price. You are no longer bound to Maakus.”

“Am I now bound to you, Sorcerer?” Riat asked. He smiled a very little bit. Perhaps this Sorcerer would be nicer than the rest.

Kallizar shook her head. “No, Riat. You are no longer bound to anyone. You are free.”

Aeva smiled at Riat. “It sounds crazy, but it’s true. She did the same for me.”

Riat was not so sure. “Then why are you still with her? Why didn’t you leave?”

Aeva shrugged. “Where else would I go? Kallizar has given me a home. She gave me more than I could have gotten if I had tried to go somewhere else. I’m safe with her.”

“Then if you’re not looking for a slave,” asked Riat, “why did you come to the slave market, Sorcerer?”

The seriousness in Kallizar’s gaze made Riat feel almost crushed beneath its weight. “Because I know that terror.”

Kallizar: Fire in the Blood

I've spent a lot of time with Kallizar's story. Submitting it was the scariest and most exciting thing  I have ever done, and I'm happy for the experience. I'm also happy that I was able to take a good long look at my work and decide what would be the best for it. In the end, I decided to cut it down from a trilogy to a stand-alone novel. The vast majority of the book was the script from Book 2, but is now entitled Fire in the Blood. (I'm not going to go back and edit previous posts that refer to the old trilogy setup, but I have changed the categories and tags around a bit to make things easier to find and to reflect the new changes.)

For a while, I thought this would just be a novella-length story about a Sorcerer named Kallizar who worked as the Court Sorcerer for a kingdom and uncovered a plot about one of the nobles trying to take over the throne. As I kept working on it, more and more craziness started popping up with Kallizar's history and suddenly she informed me she had major history with a guy named Tavius - apparently he used to be her student, but when he started messing around with twisted magic Kallizar kicked him out. The entire "noble taking over the throne" arc pretty much disappeared as I let the other characters just kind of take over the story.

I can't remember how it all ended, but I know there were far too many characters and not nearly enough continuity to hold it together as a novel. But I'd written the entire thing, beginning to end, and I'd even had to get out a second notebook. Exciting! I was about to be a sophomore, and I'd actually finished a story I had started.

During the rest of high school I didn't work on Kallizar's story much, but I did bring her to life when I went to the Michigan Renaissance Festival. That was a blast. :)

Fast forward a bit to college. I had clips and bits from dozens of characters and stories, but Kallizar was nagging at me. Finally I sat down and re-worked a bunch of her story to get her to shut up, and decided most of what I had written in high school was crap, but there were some really neat ideas that I could branch out with. I grabbed a brand new notebook and started scribbling, and by the time I was ready to graduate, I had the rough manuscripts for two books in a planned trilogy ready to be typed out and edited, and the basic outline for the final book.

Go forward another year or so and I have a day job and almost no time to work on refining my scripts. But eventually I get the first one done and have a friend (another writing geek) read it over. Terrifying. More terrifying because in going through it before I hand it over to her, I keep thinking how unhappy I am with the script. Some things just don't seem to want to fit right. But I suck it up and let her read it anyway. When I get it back, she tells me basically what I already know, which hurts like hell but drops a realization at my feet: I already have a story I'm happy with. The script from Book 2 is rough, sure, but I don't think of it and want to bury it in the sand. It's got strong characters and a much better flow than the first script. And good news - Harper Collins just announced that they are taking unsolicited manuscripts from new authors for the first time in over ten years! It must be time to sit down and make a decision: what do I want from my writing career? Am I going to hang on to old ideas I had just because I put a lot of work into building them, even if I'm not happy with the result? Or am I willing to value that work for what it is (mostly good practice), use it as a reminder that I'm still - and always will be - growing as a writer, and to take the initiative to put my best foot forward?

Clicking that Submit button was terrifying. But I'm glad I had the chance. Having that opportunity, and that deadline, forced me to look at the work I was doing and really turn it into the best story it can be... and if that means cutting it down from a planned three books to one, then great. Maybe I will come back to Kallizar and company with some short stories to fill in the non-essential but fun pieces that are now gone with the death of Book 1. Who knows?

In the meantime, I'm going to keep looking forward and take these moments as opportunities for self-evaluation. I'm excited for all the stories I've yet to tell.

FITB: Lee and Z

The manuscript for EUD (Book 1) is currently out to a friend for proofing. The manuscript for FHBB (Book 2) is finished, but I'm still in the first round of revisions. It's exciting, seeing the two big binders on the shelf with print-outs of my novels. Hopefully soon they'll be in real bound-print format. For those of you who don't know anything about FHBB, here's a fun introduction (taken from the script) to one of my favorite characters. And Lee takes great pride in his pirate slang, so he better not hear you mocking him. For those who do know more of this story, here's also the first mention of Z being uptight. I suspect The Glass may make an appearance in a future post to share this wonderfulness with everyone. :)

***

Even below decks, Kallizar could hear the shouts of the Saphira’s crew mixing in with the jeers of the pirates. One particularly loud man’s shout was audible even above the din. “Run an’ hide, ye cowardly Vaerish dogs! Cap’n Freeman’s come to get ye!”

“You won’t take me without a fight!” Captain Cath screamed back.

Someone laughed, and then Kallizar lost all traces of understandable conversation to the roar of the battle.

It did not last long. The merchant men, hopelessly outnumbered, were subdued in minutes. Some of them died, screaming or cursing, but Kallizar tried to ignore it. All that mattered was that Aeva and Riat were safe.

“Search the ship. Cap’n wants to make sure everyone’s up to see their cap’n dispatched,” a female shouted, causing a round of coarse laughter from the pirate crew.

Kallizar brought her magic to her hands. If they thought to take her quietly, they were mistaken. If Kallizar had her way, they would not be taking her anywhere.

Heavy footsteps thudded down the stairs. A huge, muscled man came into view, his eyes darting expertly around. When he saw Kallizar, he grinned. “Ye gonna play nice or is Lee gonna have to make ye come up?”

Kallizar recognized his voice as the man who had shouted the insult about the Vaerish dogs.

The man, seeming to get a better view of her, suddenly furrowed his brow. “Ye look awful too pretty to be a part o’ that rubbish crew,” he said. “Ye sure ye be on the right ship?”

Kallizar was completely confused by the man’s statement. “You mean, I should be on your ship?” she asked, not letting her defenses down.

The man laughed. “My ship?” he chuckled. “I’m not the cap’n, and the Fury not be me ship. But I have me place. Cap’n Freeman seems better than this what ye got yerself here.” He arched an eyebrow at her. “Or don’ ye know that this ship here belongs to one o’ the crummiest, scummiest, evilest cap’ns still sailin’?”

Kallizar did not know how to respond, so she said nothing.

“True, true,” he said with a shrug. “Creepin’ Cath an’ his two-timin’ trades.”

“Lee! Ye get killed down there, or what? By the Gods, ye take forever!” the woman called.

Lee rolled his eyes. “Zandra, gettin’ all uptight,” he explained to the surprised Sorcerer. “But I guess she be right. Come on, then.” He gestured for Kallizar to follow him.

“No.” Kallizar was mildly entertained by Lee’s nonchalant behavior, but she was not going to simply leave Aeva and Riat and follow him up into the middle of a bunch of pirates who were, doubtless, less casual than this one.

Lee frowned. “Come on, lass. I know ye be smart or ye wouldn’ be still standin’, talkin’ to me. Ye would have screamed or fainted or some other somesuch nonsense. I know yer not afraid, an’ I know why, too.” He pointed at Kallizar’s lightning. “Ye have the magic in yer blood. But I got a secret for ye.” He winked. “I’m not afraid of yer magic.”

Kallizar tried not to let her growing surprise show. “Do you have a proposition, or are you merely going to chat me to death?” Kallizar asked him. “Either fight or leave me alone.”

Lee smiled. “Those be bad choices, Sorcerer lass. I’d love to let ye stay, but I have me orders, and the Cap’n doesn’t take well to people not obeyin’ his orders.”

“Then I guess we’ll have to fight. How does your captain take to having dead crew members?” Kallizar retorted.

Lee shook his head. “Truth be told, I would take it much worse than the Cap’n if ye killed me,” he said, “but the Cap’n would still take it pretty bad.”

Kallizar shot a bolt of lightning at Lee’s knee, aiming to stop him without killing him. Gods help her, but she liked the man.

***

Show and Tell

"They're more like guidelines, anyway."    --Pirates of the Caribbean

 

Rules for writing. They're useful, they're good, and on occasion, they're best when broken. One that I particularly love to break (sometimes by bringing that phrase crashing down around someone's ears, giggling madly in time with the fragile little pieces hitting the floor) is "Show, don't tell." And really, I love to break it so much because I hear it everywhere, without the slightest bit of context, which makes me wonder whether the people saying it are, in fact, informed and trying to help, or whether they just have heard the bit-quote before and feel the need to put in their two words' worth.

In lieu of me regurgitating someone else's words here, I'm instead going to point to a blog written by a long-time favorite author of mine, Patricia C. Wrede, where she clears up a lot of issues with the over-quoted writing rule. She has my gratitude. :)

Please enjoy - and remember, if you hear crazy laughter, cover your head.

Victory!

It's an auspicious day, everyone! As is obvious by my lack of recent posts, I've been very busy lately. But it was all for a good cause, because the proofing of Even unto Death is finished! I am very excited to have hit such an important milestone in my life and writing career. The total count came out to 440 pages, and I also hit another personal goal: I broke 100,000 words! Best of all, I can honestly say that I'm happy with the results!

I'm going to be swamped with work (yes, I have a day job) for the next few months, so unfortunately I won't likely be able to do much with EUD right away. But it feels so great to have gone through the entire script and polished it up so that I feel good about the vast majority of it! There are still some sections that need help, but I'm hoping my volunteer proofers can help out with that. And soon it will be time to go agent-shopping!

Thank you to everyone who has supported me, given me advice, and kicked my ass when I was being pokey-slow about working on EUD. Writers are hard to put up with, I know.

If you're wondering whether this means the end of my posts... Nope! There's still lots to do with EUD and Immortal Flames, not to mention all the other characters and stories that I've been bouncing around on here - and on paper. I'll be writing for a long, long time. :)

Why Are the Flames Immortal?

Once, in a time before, there lived a man with fire in the blood. And when his time had come, that fire turned to stardust and fell throughout the earth. These flames buried themselves deep within the humans, sinking down and blending into their very souls. So well-hidden were they that the humans barely knew of their existence... until they felt the heat in their children's children's blood. A rare thing, for one to be born who could feel the strength of these flames burning in their own blood. But once, twice, in a family strong with these flames, would come one who could go beyond simply feeling the heat. Every once in a great many times, one would be born who could harness that power. And thus magic, the immortal flames, live on in the blood of the Sorcerers.

ABCs from EUD

No plot spoilers, just a few names that might not have been mentioned yet. Enjoy! A is for the After - the place all souls must go at the moment of death.

B is for Blood - it's important in more ways than one.

C is for Cade - Kallizar's loyal servant and friend.

D is for D'arrynt - Kallizar's home town.

E is for Enladi - the ocean that separates Fyan and Varaeti from the next closest countries of Fyan and Patal. And E is for Even unto Death, the first book in the trilogy.

F is for Fyan - Kallizar's home country and the setting for most of EUD.

G is for Gharot - the Patalian emissary.

H is for Hirom - son of King Fawlen and Queen Seriah, and the Crown Prince of Fyan.

I is for Itamn - a village in the northernmost region of Fyan.

J is for Jarrin - younger brother of Li'ra and the youngest of Kallizar's servants.

K is for Kallizar - the Honored Sorcerer of Fyan, an eccentric and honorable woman and the star of the Immortal Flames.

L is for Lubek - the huge country to the northeast that is trying to acquire a Sorcerer from Fyan for themselves.

M is for Mahliz - the Court Sorcerer of Fyan and a powerfully loyal man. And M is for Mikael, Commander General of the Fyanish military and Prince of Fyan.

N is for No'om - another of the tiny villages up north in Fyan.

O is for Olimon - a small town about a day's ride from Xuun, with very good house wine.

P is for Pirate - Pirates are common in the Fisian Sea, living in the island cities known collectively as the Free Ports.

Q is for Queen - The rules of Fyan dictate that there must always be a ruler from the royal bloodline, but whether that is the king or queen is irrelevant. Daughters, nieces, and sometimes sisters have been named Crown Princess and have inherited the rights of Queendom upon the old monarch's death.

R is for Rosa - the wife of Mikael and one-time friend of Kallizar. She is the only person to live on the South Wing of the Palace (with the royalty) without being a member of the High Court.

S is for Seriah - current queen of Fyan runs much of the less-glamorous aspects of maintaining a country because she has a good head for the complex paperwork.

T is for Tan'jeht - a poison deadly to Sorcerers because of its magic-destroying attributes.

U is for Uther - a friend of Kallizar's in Varaeti.

V is for Varaeti - the country across the Fisian Sea from Fyan. Once connected as a single island, the now two separate island nations have gone from friends and allies to enemies barely holding on to a dying cease fire.

W is for Worship - Worship is an essential part of life. The Prophets of Ri'hannon and Lillith are well-respected and protected in Fyan, and they can hear the voices of the gods and use boons from the gods to do miraculous things that even magic cannot replicate.

X is for Xuun - the capital of Fyan and the location of the Palace, as well as the national trading headquarters.

Y is for Year - at the beginning of EUD, the year is 1078 A.R. Kallizar is 90 years old.

Z is for Zahn - High Prophet Zahn is the head of a temple in Xuun that is dedicated to both gods. He is a quiet and devout man who will not hesitate to help someone - regardless of that person's worldly affiliations.

Country Stats: Fyan

Stats and facts about Fyan, Kallizar's birthplace and the main country/setting in EUD. Full Name: Fyan

Flag: foreground - black image of a merchant trade ship accompanied by a large sea serpent (called a Doni'i); background - forest green, solid color

Location: East of Varaeti, separated by the Fisian Sea. An island nation that has the Fisian Sea on its western coastline and the Enladi Ocean on its remaining sides.

Capital: Xuun

Largest City (per capita): Xuun

Official Language: Fyanish

Government: Monarchy

Current Monarch: King Fawlen (son of the previous monarch) and wife Queen Seriah. Heir is Crown Prince Hirom.

Rules for Succession of Throne: Current monarch chooses an heir, typically a son or daughter, although nieces, nephews, or other family members have been named in the past.

Origin: Hundreds of years ago, the island nations of Fyan and Varaeti existed as one larger island nation (name lost). After a magical explosion forced the two sides of the island apart and caused the surrounding Enladi Ocean to come rushing in (creating the Fisian Sea), the now separate islands became the independent nations of Fyan and Varaeti.

Currency: Coin-based  economy. Unit of currency - Jii (singular), Jii'n (plural).

Calendar: Months based on the lunar cycles of the two moons. Years based on the number of years after the Rift (the explosion that rendered Varaeti and Fyan two separate island nations).  Commonly abbreviated AR.

Land Area: Rough approximation puts the square mileage at 306,000.

Total Population: Unknown. No formal census has ever been conducted. Rough estimates put the count at around 4 million.

Religion: Nearly all the population engages in worship of the Moon gods- Lillith, god of Wrath, and Ri'hannon, god of Mercy. Prophets of these gods are given high standing in the country, and people who denounce the gods and worship are often dishonored and outcast from society.

 

Have other questions about Fyan? Post them in the comments and let me know!

To Read: The Looking Glass Wars

I was on a plane trip recently - not very long, and I'd be busy once I got where I was headed - so I only packed one book: The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. It was great! But I was sad when I was finished with the book and I still had another leg of the flight to go... If you don't know anything about Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, you will enjoy this book. (Series, actually, but I've only read the first one so far. Have to borrow the second from a friend tomorrow!)

If you don't particularly enjoy Alice in Wonderland, you'll probably enjoy this story even more. The tag on the front of the book reads, "Fantasy just declared war on reality." I mean, what more do you need?

Beware the card soldiers!

Well, here's a few more tidbits in case you remain unconvinced:

The Mad Hatter is actually a great warrior and staunch protector of the Queen of Wonderland. His name is Hatter Madigan (and he is fantastic).

Alyss is not insane or dreaming. Nor is she named Alice. But she does have a powerful imagination (and I've yet to meet a writer who isn't a sucker for that).

There is art in the book (center section). Very well done art.

There is a timeline that charts the events of Wonderland in correlation with the events in our world. Also fantastic.

The Cat.

Beg, borrow, or steal buy a copy and enjoy a light but engaging read in the real Wonderland.

And then come tell us what you thought. I'm excited to hear!

Lost and Love

I got lost. Not just a little lost, pull-over-at-the-gas-station-for-directions lost.

Very, very lost.

My life kidnapped me back in March and just now dumped me back on Earth. Hence the long gap between updates. However, during that time I was able to work on a few things (several, actually, but only a few that pertain to writing/reading/creative stuff) - which means I can start posting again!

...Assuming I can reset my password. I'm writing this in Word at the moment, waiting for the confirmation email to show up in my Inbox so I can get logged on. Hopefully my life won't decide to kidnap that, too...

 

In the spirit of last week, during which time I attended a cousin's wedding, I have a new question: What is the fiction book that best captures the feeling of a new marriage? I'm talking about all the preparation, dealing with unhappy or unsupportive friends/family, the excitement, the nerves, and the rush of wedding-induced insanity often labeled bliss. :) Are there any characters that you remember standing out because of how they dealt with a marriage (their own or someone else's)?

And maybe I'll throw this one in, too, since it's waiting not-so-patiently: Is there a character that "in your other life, you'd like to marry"?

I'll start off the answer to the last question - When I was little, I was convinced that I would grow up and marry Robin Hood (the fox from the Disney film). I still love him. Luckily, my husband (who is not Robin Hood) accepts this. :)

Reason for Delay: Murder in Mesino!

After nearly two weeks of silence, local city guards and investigators have finally disclosed the reason for all the secrecy surrounding the city of Mesino, Fyan: Murder. "We wanted to keep it quiet so there would not be a riot," says local guard Sergeant Hannoth. "There were too many details we hadn't - still haven't - figured out."

Sergeant Hannoth went on to say that the guards pulled in all investigative students and writers right away to help examine the scene. It seems that there has been no luck determining the culprit behind this heinous act, and that the only person currently connected to the scene is the victim: a long-time Mesino resident, Tyron, son of Val and Irine.

The last person to see Tyron alive was his friend Amari, daughter of Garon and Pira'a. The two of them were at Takik's Tavern to have a drink to the health of the Honored Sorcerer Kallizar in honor of her birthday. Amari claims she and Tyron left the tavern together and then went their separate ways home. Tyron never acted oddly or gave any indication that he was being followed or threatened. "He was hoping the Honored Sorcerer might pay a visit to Mesino soon and he hadn't seen her in a long while," Amari told the Sergeant.

After a long discussion (including the fact that the people of Mesino, and all of Fyan, deserve to know the reason behind the sudden silence in the writing coverage of world events) we here at the University of Exploration and Investigation have managed to gain a copy of the events that happened just prior to Tyron's death. We present it to you so that you may know the facts, and remind everyone that the criminal is still at large. Be careful and take no risks. If you suspect anything or have any insight, you are urged to talk to your local city guard at once.

 

***

Tyron drummed his fingers on the tabletop idly. “Guessing she’s not coming back anytime soon after all,” he said.

His friend, Amari, laughed. “Who, the barmaid? We just sent her off. ‘Course she won’t come ‘round again for a bit.”

The man flicked his fingers at her. “No, not her,” he said impatiently. “The Honored Sorcerer. Same as what I was just talking about.”

Amari snorted. “What? Why in the Gods’ names would she come back to a two-bit tavern like this one? I think you’ve had enough of that.” She reached for her friend’s mug.

Tyron slid his drink out of her reach. “Hey now,” he protested, “this isn’t the drink talking. I’m thinking you’ve had enough, if you can’t even remember our Sorcerer.”

Amari took a swallow of her own ale. “What’s to remember?” she asked, not unpleasantly. “That Sorcerer hasn’t been to Mesino since I can remember.”

Tyron sighed. “Ah, right, I forget you’re that much younger sometimes. But you know the stories! Kallizar, the Honored Sorcerer – the pride and joy of Mesino. She lived here until the late King Tijak called her to Xuun.”

“And that was forever ago, and she hasn’t been back since.” Amari sideswiped the conversation. “Bet she’s never looked back.”

Tyron almost looked hurt. “Mesino is her home,” he stated. “Kallizar may not have been able to come back yet, but she will. She still sends letters to the families what helped raise her, years and years ago, you know.”

“Really?” Amari’s eyes showed something, but whether it was interest or disbelief, Tyron couldn’t tell. “I thought that was decades ago.”

Tyron nodded. “It was – although only a few since she left for the Palace.”

Amari couldn’t resist. “So, how do you know she still keeps in touch? I don’t suppose you have one of those letters.”

Tyron laughed. “No. My family was down the street from her place, though. My parents got to know her pretty good. But Jeshin here’s got one of the letters.”

“Jeshin? Isn’t his family all firefighters?” Amari asked.

“Yes indeed. Important thing to have nearby an untrained Sorcerer with uncontrolled magic. Jeshin’s family put out more than a few accidental fires our Sorcerer set.” He chuckled.

Amari gave up on the indifference. “I wish I could have met her.”

Tyron punched her lightly in the arm. “She’s not dead, fool,” he reminded the girl, “just busy at the High Court. In fact, I was talking about her because her birthday’s coming up tomorrow. She’ll come ‘round when she can, I’m sure. She always said she loved Mesino.”

Amari smiled and raised her mug. “To Kallizar, our Honored Sorcerer, then,” she said.

Tyron grinned. “I’ll drink to that.”

***

Of Mercy and Wrath

Prophet Aleki nodded. “I understand your skepticism, Sorcerer Ian,” she replied. “But these strangers have not come for your blood, or mine. Their quest is a different path, and Ri’hannon has given me a message for them.” “Then they are here,” Ian said.

“Indeed,” Aleki agreed, “and if you spill their blood inside this temple, you will answer to Ri’hannon for your mistake. And he will not look kindly upon you for it.” The Prophet’s voice had taken on a chilly undertone. “Now go. I swear to the Gods, if you let these strangers be, they will not harm you. Their vengeance is not for you.”

 

Lillith, the God of Wrath, and Ri'hannon, the God of Mercy, share rule over the mortal world. They created the After as a realm of their own, a place where they could safely watch over the mortals and, once those mortals died, where they could interact with the spirits.

The Gods are powerful beings, but their power only reaches the After. To influence the human world, the Gods listen to the prayers of their Prophets and grant them boons - shards of the Gods' powers that the Prophets can then use. Prophets can sometimes hear the words of the Gods, if they are focused and quiet enough, but ultimately they can use the boons for whatever they so choose. Most Prophets feel closer to one God over the other, and Lillith and Ri'hannon agreed from before the beginning that they would not ever attempt to sway one's Prophet to the other's cause. A few Prophets maintain contact with both Gods; this requires a lifetime of dedication and balance and focus, and few are able to achieve the calm necessary to use boons of both Wrath and Mercy. Those who do become known as High Prophets and are held in extremely high regard.

Because of the Prophets' presence and the obvious powers of the Gods' boons, there is no doubt that the Gods exist and are watching the human world. Therefore, finding anyone who staunchly disbelieves the Gods' existence is near impossible... and those few who have been foolish enough to question the Gods soon find themselves in the After, where they come face-to-face with these powerful beings.

The Gods are very much equal in power and knowledge, even though the details certainly differ. For example, if Lillith gave one of her Prophets a boon to strike down a human, but Ri'hannon gave one of his Prophets a boon to protect that human, their power would cancel out and the human would be unaffected. Also, while they are not all-knowing, they are immortal and exist outside the human flow of time, which has given them hundreds of thousands of years to study and watch the human race. Their knowledge of an individual family or person may certainly differ, but their overall wisdom concerning the mortals is equal.

The humans know only what they have learned from the Prophets (and they have learned only what they have heard from the whispering of the Gods). They know that Ri'hannon is male, holds the place of Mercy, and has reserved black as his color (signifying deep love, peace, and rest). They also have attributed the blue moon with Ri'hannon, which has a softer light than its red counterpart. Ri'hannon, upon learning this, was amused and has even been seen walking the After in deep blue tones.

People have also learned about Lillith. They know she is female, holds the place of Wrath, and has reserved white as her color (signifying the purity of fury and pain). They have also associated her with the red moon. Lillith was pleased at the choice and it has since become her tradition to wear red when she is calm. The more angry or excited she becomes, the paler the red gets until it turns a blinding white. This applies to her clothes as well as her hair.

Perhaps the most important thing the humans have learned (beyond the proof that the Gods very much exist) is the meaning of oaths. When a person says they swear to the Gods, Lillith and Ri'hannon hear that oath and will be watching to make sure that oath is upheld... and woe to the one who breaks that oath. Many people made quick oaths to Ri'hannon to bail them out of a tight situation, banking on his mercy to get them out of the oath once the danger had passed - forgetting that the God of Mercy can just as easily withhold his mercy as he can give it. Ri'hannon may have a longer temper than Lillith, but his anger is just as dangerous.

 

Fun Facts (that no humans know!):

Lillith and Ri'hannon are lovers. They have been together since before the creation of the After, and care deeply about the well-being of each other. They have no concept of marriage.

Most of the time, both Gods look human. They have learned that the mortal-souls which find them in the After are much more comfortable speaking to a being with a recognizable build. However, they have been known to don wings and claws on occasion.

Although they exist outside the human flow of time, the Gods do have a basic understanding of it. They mark the passage of time in the human world accurately, and do not bother looking to the human future, since the humans' decisions are constantly shifting it anyway. Since they are immortal, both Gods are essentially of the same "age," although between the two of them, Ri'hannon is slightly "older."

There have been talks between them about the possibility of swapping roles for a single human day, where Ri'hannon would become the God of Wrath and Lillith the God of Mercy. In spite of the entertainment factor, however, they are too concerned as to what the long-term conditions might be to actually try this.

As Gods, Lillith and Ri'hannon have complete control over everything in the After - including the paths of all the mortal-souls in it. Those mortals who have earned anger from both Gods are punished until Ri'hannon and Lillith come to an agreement that they may be let out into the rest of the After (which is a rare occurrence, since by nature Mercy and Wrath tend to disagree). However, they are often extremely frustrated by their inability to directly influence the mortal realm. Such frustration has even branched out into wishes to travel to the mortal realm to get things done... but since their Godly powers were never meant for the human world, they would likely become trapped as a mortal on earth - a thought which keeps them firmly in the After, despite the inconveniences.