39

Posted: July 19, 2016 in Health
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Happy Sweet 39 To Me!

Well another year has come and gone. And tonight I sit here, after a wonderful day of celebration, evaluating the past year and contemplating the year to come. As you may or may not know, I battle depression. I was working at a job I greatly enjoyed until the depression began to win: I have spent the past few months healing. One of the effects of depression is the loss of interest in stuff, even in the things you once loved greatly, like reading and blogging. But with time, support, and medication, my interest in life is coming back. I have a lot of book reviews to catch up on, some good and some not so good.

I have great hopes that being 39 is going to be the best yet. I am extremely lucky to have a family that loves, supports and encourages me. 

I just finished reading a mediocre novel set in the American Old West. It seemed to me that the setting was more of a cartoony idea Old West than anything researched for any length of time. I made the comment in my Amazon review that the novel was as much Historical Fiction as the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess was. Oh sure it was set in the past, and there were historical events and people that showed up, but does that really make it Historical Fiction? So I thought I would toss this question out to the universe: are there criteria a respectable author must meet to classify a book as Historical Fiction?

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Xena: Warrior Princess

Reading Star Wars novels has long been a guilty pleasure of mine; they are fun, and they feed the Geek. And Lost Stars was delicious!  Sure it’s marketed as a YA novel, but there is a lot of great Star Wars goodness throughout.

For fans that know Episodes 4, 5 and 6 well, you will enjoy the weaving this story does between established events in the movies. The characters are placed in pivotal roles on the Death Star, Hoth, and Darth Vader’s lead Star Destroyer, the Executor.

Two young folks, Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, from an Outer Rim world meet Moff Tarkin when he visits their planet. Coming from different social classes, their friendship is frowned upon. As the years pass, their bond deepens and they develop a mutual love of flying. Knowing nothing but loyalty to the Empire they both strive to enter the Imperial Academy, and are accepted.

Over the years, Thane and Ciena realize the Empire had become twisted and corrupt. Where Thane expresses his willingness to leave the Empire, Ciena holds tightly to her oath.

“…this isn’t about whether we’ve kept faith with the Empire. It’s about whether the Empire has kept faith with us.” – Thane to Ciena

After witnessing the destruction of an entire planet from an open hanger bay on the Death Star, and the enslavement of entire species, Thane’s disillusionment with the Empire evolves into disdain. Some may call it the Force, others pure chance, but Thane and Captain Wedge Antilles cross paths. And just like that Thane finds himself flying for the Rebellion.

Even on opposing sides, Thane and Ciena can’t seem to sever their bond. What will happen when they find themselves in direct combat?

A great read for a Star Wars fan!

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The Batman Arkham Knight book by Marv Wolfman is the novelization of the video game which released in June of this year. I’m not sure which is more geeky, playing video games or reading books about them. Either way, I accept my status in the geekdom. So anyway, Marv wrote this book capturing all of the gameplay in novel format, and much more. You get inside Batman’s head in a way that you can’t experience playing a video game, you feel the depth of his fears and desperation to save lives. This is not your parents’ Batman story, people are dying in Gothem City and Batman is losing control.

The Joker is dead, but his legacy continues; he has infected Batman with his blood which is changing Batman and driving him mad. Jonathan Crane, aka the Scarecrow, has developed a fear-inducing toxin that he plans to spread across the city. Those infected are terrified beyond all reason, and will do anything to escape the terrors they see…including tearing each other apart. Lives are being lost in vicious attacks. And then there is the Arkham Knight, working with the Scarecrow but with a vow to be the one to kill Batman; this mysterious figure knows everything about Batman, from his identity and history to the way he fights and all his weaknesses.

Just another day for Batman. But it’s not just another day. It is the worst day of his life.

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This Batman story is exciting and tragic. A must read for any Batman fanatic.

I had the very great fortune of interviewing Patty G Henderson, author of beautifully – dramatic lesbian historical fiction novels. Her characters are elegant and sophisticated,  draped in velvet and lace but with an iron will and determination. It is so easy to fall into places that Patty has created, whether it is a grand ball or an estate which has fallen into disrepair.

Patty is a master at spinning a Gothic Historical Romantic tale, and I am so happy to have discovered her works. I first interviewed her on bookkaholic.com back in December of 2014, and she graciously accepted my request for a second interview for my very own blog!

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RS: You’ve been writing since the late 60s, and in that time you have authored numerous novels in various genres; from paranormal mysteries to lesbian Gothic Historical Fiction. Have real-life events influenced these transitions in you work?

PGH: I just want to say that Rachel truly plans her interviews for the individual author and her questions are thought provoking and unique. As for your question, I wouldn’t say that any of my real life events play any part in my fiction. I am strictly a pure fantasist…by that, I mean that I like to create complete worlds, tales and characters that have as little to do with me and my mundane world as I can possible make them. I write and I read for entertainment. I’m not looking for deep meaning or brutal reality and current day problems and angst in my books and stories. I think a little bit of me sneaks in there, but no author can deny that a little spark of them plays a part in the writing process. But mostly, my life has little to do with anything I write. It’s all just pictures and tales that collect in my fertile imagination and then explode into a book. I want to take readers to a different, bygone era or take trip into the world of the paranormal and solve a mystery along the way. Escapism. That means anything but true life scenarios and current affairs. But even our fantasies are what make each of us unique.

RS: The gift of writing demands something from the author; it draws on one’s emotions, and even takes a physical toll. Throughout history there are examples of authors succumbing to these demands. Have you ever found the need to write to be overwhelming and consuming?

PGH: Never overwhelming and most definitely not consuming. I’ve never felt the absolute need to write, and certainly not to where it consumed me. My writing has always been a very measured, joy-filled experience. If the tale in my head is pressing to be written down and told, then I’ve done so. To be honest, if I didn’t feel that the current market almost demands that an author publish at the very least, a book a year just to remain visible and viable, I would probably write at a much more leisurely pace. If I feel pressured to write, I end up…not writing. As an indie author, I can choose whether or not to impose a deadline. I find that if I set a deadline for myself, I will definitely not keep it. A wall of creative rebellion immediately goes up. Being a bit rebellious in nature, I am mostly bohemian in my approach to writing and the writing life.

RS: Like any other task, good writing requires work and dedication which are fueled by a passion to create. As with any intimate relationship, this passion can fade over time. Have you ever reached a point in your writing career where you have lost the passion? How do you navigate stagnate waters?

PGH: What a timely question, Rachel. I’m at that point right now, I’m afraid. I’ve been buffeted around hard in the last several years. After my mama passed away in 2010, it really has been a struggle to find passion again….for anything. Struggling financially and with my health, my writing took a hit. Writing became more of a “must do…should do” kind of thing, and if you see from one of my responses above to another question, I don’t function well or feel I can create in that kind of mind frame. I’ve always wanted to write. I’ve been writing since the 1960s, on and off. There was always an eagerness….stories wanting to be told. I had the confidence to tell them and publish. You have to have confidence in yourself and your skill as a writer to publish, especially in today’s cutthroat publishing market. It’s a struggle for me today to put any thought or find motivation to writing. I’ve hit an all time low. I do feel my passion for writing has waned. It’s a bit frightening, especially when in my head, there are at least two projects I truly want to finish, yet I fight off that desire each time I think I want to write something. I’ve never really had much of what some authors consider writer’s block, at least until now. Is this what it feels like? I always thought writer’s block was where the author just ran out of things to write or say. I still have stories, I just fight writing them down. Kind of like fighting with two versions of myself. Writing…creating…takes much from the inner self and if you aren’t centered, I believe creation suffers. I haven’t figured out how to navigate through this tough lull in my writing, but I wake up each day hopeful I can ignite that spark again.

RS: Writing is an incredibly personal act. You are creating something you wholly believe in, something that is a part of you. And then you have to put it on display to be judged. When you first began writing, was it difficult to share your work with others? Has this changed over time?

PGH: I started my writing career by creating my own comic book hero and the story behind his life and super power. I had no shame or thought of rejection. I did a crude a drawing and sent on to DC Comics. I was all of maybe 15 years old or so. I was filled with youthful exuberance and naivety. I waited for DC Comics to call me or write and offer me a comic book with my own character! Needless to say, I never got a phone call or a letter. I got wrapped up in other things and then began writing dark and fantastical poems, which lead to short stories. I met with great success and was published in various semi-pro fanzines like Paragon and Moonbroth. In the late 70s, I put away the typewriter and lived my life without writing. I did a little watercolor painting, but didn’t find the passion for writing again until the mid 90s. I wrote a vampire tale inspired by many visual images in my head and a desire to tell a tale of a female lesbian vampire that was a bit different from the norm. At that time, so many vampire tales were male-centered. SO DEAD MY LOVE was my first novel and first published novel as well. That led to the Brenda Strange Paranormal Series and most currently, my Gothic Historical Romances. I’ve always enjoyed sharing my work with readers. But anytime you put your creation out there for mass consumption, you should have a ready coat of armor to take all the incoming blows of negativity. There will be reviews which attack your writing talent. Others will attack you personally. In today’s publishing world, you aren’t just marketing your books, you’re putting your own self on the block. Your face becomes a brand that you must peddle in order to be successful. Sometimes, the arrows pierce the armor you fought so hard to forge. For me, as I age, as I find finishing a book more and more tedious, the negativity is striking too close to the heart. I find I am no longer as sure or confident as when I was 15 years old, and I begin to wonder if it’s all worthwhile anymore. Ah, to have some of that exuberance and naivety just about now.

RS: You have authored several lesbian novels; not exactly main stream, and won’t be for many years to come. But even in the main stream literary world there are banned books. Many great works challenge readers to open their minds to the world around them, and it scares people. What kind of emotion does banning books spark within you?

PGH: The word “banned” has no place in a modern democracy. As for books, personally, I wouldn’t be caught reading anything like “50 Shades of Gray” or erotica. That’s just not who I am. However, what gives anyone the right to impose their personal beliefs, likes and dislikes on anyone else and take away the freedom from other people enjoying it? Banning books has unfortunately been with us for a long time. We can only fight it by continuing to break open all channels of available places to find books and for writers not to be intimidated from writing the books they want to write.  Books that are banned will be sought out and read by those wanting to read them. There will always be those that seek to create a world they can control. They will try to put fences around freedom of reading choice. We can only hope that it will only create more of  a demand and hunger for the very literature they seek to ban. But the wonderful thing is that we, as a society, have evolved. There is no iron fist preventing us from sharing all kinds of literature. My books are lesbian, but any reader can enjoy them. I think lesbian literature has put itself in a tiny box. There is no reason why lesbian books cannot and should not be marketed in the mainstream. Readers have choices. We have the freedom to choose. I would love to see more lesbian authors market to both mainstream and lesbian markets. Jump out of that box!

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A new challenge for the year has been met: A book set in the future. Ender’s Game was first released as a short story the year I was born, 1977. Author Orson Scott Card then reworked the story into a novel which was published in 1985, winning both the Nebula Award and Hugo Award for best novel. In 2013 it was adapted to the silver screen.

Set in Earth’s future, after a second thwarted invasion by an insectoid species called “buggers”, humanity is desperate to find the next military hero to lead the fleet against the possibility of a third invasion. The Battle School has been established to train children in the art of war, with the belief that children can learn and adapt faster, and have a greater capacity for innovative thought. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is one of these cadets. At the young age of 6 Ender quickly rises to the top of his class; Colonel Hyrum Graff pushing him harder than any other cadet, isolating him.

At the age of 10, Ender graduates from Battle School to Command School. He learns when to be ruthless and hard, and when to be lenient and to listen – he becomes a good commander, the best commander humanity has ever seen.

While the main players of this novel are children, it is far from a YA story. Ender’s Game is straight up classic military science fiction, and it is enthralling. I didn’t do this novel justice with this brief synapses,  but I didn’t want to give too much of the story away.

If you love strategy games, you will enjoy this read.

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I’m a bit behind in my book reviews.

Posted: August 18, 2015 in Misc

Well folks, I am quite behind in my updates. Some things, no matter how much you love them, just get set aside when battling depression. Even reading can become impossible. I liken my depression to the The Nothing from The Neverending Story – it consumes everything, destroys all that is beautiful and good, and with it comes a terrifying monster.

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But with help, with medications, therapy and loving, patient support, the good days begin to outnumber the bad ones. It will always be there threatening, and you never know when the bottom may fall out, but each day is a new day that could also bring laughter. For today, in this moment, I feel really good. And so, I can write.