Anne’s No Rules Friday 11

Poem inspired by Jen’s The Flight.

Take-off

We race into the wind
It twists my loose hair into raven knots.
My sciathán‘s hooves beat a rhythm
Against the packed earth.
Thump-thump
Thump-thump
Freedom is a heartbeat.

My mount’s warm and sturdy
Her muscles bunch under my thighs.
Heather and clover dance
Through the air.
Snap-snap
Snap-snap
Kyanite’s feathers unfurl.

We leap into the sky
I twine fingers through her ivory mane.
Mist cools my face in a caress
As we rise higher.
Thump-thump
Thump-thump
Our hearts beat as one.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Stay tuned for Julie’s No Rules Friday in two weeks.

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Anne’s Book Club 11

TheStrangeMaidcover

The Strange Maid by Tessa Gratton (summary from Goodreads.com):

Fans of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, and Maggie Stiefvater will embrace the richly drawn, Norse-influenced alternate world of the United States of Asgard, where cell phones, rock bands, and evangelical preachers coexist with dragon slaying, rune casting, and sword training in schools. Where the president runs the country alongside a council of Valkyries, gods walk the red carpet with Hollywood starlets, and the U.S. military has a special battalion dedicated to eradicating Rocky Mountain trolls.

Signy Valborn was seven years old when she climbed the New World Tree and met Odin Alfather, who declared that if she could solve a single riddle, he would make her one of his Valkyrie. For ten years Signy has trained in the arts of war, politics, and leadership, never dreaming that a Greater Mountain Troll might hold the answer to the riddle, but that’s exactly what Ned the Spiritless promises her. A mysterious troll hunter who talks in riddles and ancient poetry, Ned is a hard man to trust. Unfortunately, Signy is running out of time. Accompanied by an outcast berserker named Soren Bearstar, she and Ned take off across the ice sheets of Canadia to hunt the mother of trolls and claim Signy’s destiny.

My Thoughts on THE STRANGE MAID and an interview with author Tessa Gratton:

Full disclosure: I’ve been reading Tessa’s prose since 2008. I’m a huge fan. I had the pleasure of listening to her recite a few pages from Beowulf in Old English. The memory still gives me elf-kisses. As an English Literature major, Beowulf was one of my favorite projects. Grendel by the late great John Gardner is one of my favorite books. Both play a part in this sweeping tale. Norse mythology, monsters, love, and layers abound in THE STRANGE MAID, the second book in the United States of Asgard series.

What is truth? Is truth the words we write or say, or is it the meaning behind those words? Is it both? Is it neither? Signy Valborn can see a rune in another’s eye and know their truth. But these runes change, just as our truths change given the situation we find ourselves in. Signy’s given a riddle from Odin: The Valkyrie of the Tree will prove herself with a stone heart. After years of trying to figure out what it means, she meets Ned ‘the Spiritless’ Unferth who tells her he knows the answer. In his eye she reads Truth, while in her own she reads several different runes.

Ned is key to helping Signy both figure out the riddle, but also all the meanings of the runes. Even the one given to her in the form of a scar on her palm has layered meanings. The fact that Signy not only needs the help of others but asks for it, makes her a very realistic character. Her thirst for battle and madness in a world that’s tamped down those ideals into politics and order seemed perfectly logical. (Maybe I’m more than a little mad myself.) The relationship between Signy and Ned was a slow, believable burn. And the riddle is resolved in a beautiful and unique way that left me very satisfied. Although, I’d love to see another trilogy set in this world.

“… the troll mother’s marble skin captures all the dying light, and her shifting muscles are a kaleidoscope of color, like the northern lights dancing against her stone flesh.”

Though the entire story stands-alone from THE LOST SUN, several characters visit the pages of both. As a reader, I’m always fascinated to see how characters we loved in one book are perceived by other characters in a new book (or point-of-view). It plays on the theme of truth. Your truth is not mine. Your perception is not mine. So, what is truth?

Wouldn’t it be great if we all had a destiny to follow, no matter how difficult it was to tease out the riddle of it? Maybe that’s exactly what we’re doing.

What was the seed idea/scene that set this story in motion for you as the author?

I was in grad school and took a class in Old English. As I fell farther into the poetry of the Anglo-Saxons and their neighbors the Vikings, I realized how much modern US culture still shares with them. War and religion and politics are still intertwined just like in Viking and A-S literature. So for this series, it was a thematic spark, it was a desire to create an alternate world where I could play with my thoughts and feelings about American Warrior Culture in particular.

You studied Beowulf—and even translated your own version— at university, but outside of required reading for study, how much research did you do to create the United States of Asgard?

Oh, for another guest post I counted 43 books I bought specifically for USAsgard research over the past 5 years. I’ve read at least parts of all of those books, and most of most of them. I did some traveling around the USA, too, though most of my location inspiration came from family road trips when I was a kid.

If you lived in the United States of Asgard, which god/goddess would you belong to and why?

Odin, unfortunately. 😉 He’s the god of poetry and sacrifice, in addition to having a fluid sexuality and a violent streak. It’s not a coincidence most of the USAsgard stories I’ve told revolve in some way around Odinists. I’m writing about those themes because I have so many questions about them myself. As a writer, the link between creation and violence really fascinates me.

THE STRANGE MAID is the both the prequel and the sequel to THE LOST SUN (2013) with a completely new main character, Signy Valborn. Why did you choose to structure your trilogy this way?

I never intended for this to be a trilogy. Originally I was writing short stories in this world for my story blog (www.merryfates.com), then the story that became THE LOST SUN was born, and it truly functions as a stand alone novel because I didn’t know if I’d write more. When I decided to expand, I imagined a 5 book arc. For a lot of reasons that didn’t happen. THE STRANGE MAID was always book 2, and what will be Book 3 used to be pieces of book 5. I took my ideas for the middle books and am writing novellas using those ideas and characters.

Basically: I am a messy writer. I go where the story leads me, and in the case of THE STRANGE MAID, that was a sprawling timeline that forced the book to be both prequel and sequel.

One of my favorite Songs of New Asgard short stories is Date with a Dragon-Slayer.

“This infinitely exciting tale’s twist and turns highlight the characters’ missions as they decide which identity to choose: hero, martyr, or villain.” (School Library Journal) What are you working on now?

I love that SLJ review! Thanks for quoting it. 😀

Right now I’m working on a bunch of things. I’ve drafted what I hope will be my next novel (a stand alone dark fantasy), so I’m writing some novellas in the USAsgard world, and two other secret novels. ONWARD AND UPWARD!

Thank you so much, Tessa, for letting me take a peek at your process! Tessa is also the author of BLOOD MAGIC, the novella CROW MAGIC, and THE BLOOD KEEPER. If you enjoy love, family, and fate, then you should definitely check them out!

* I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tessa Author Pic Fall 2011 2MBAbout the author: Tessa Gratton has wanted to be a paleontologist or a wizard since she was seven. She was too impatient to hunt dinosaurs, but is still searching for someone to teach her magic. After traveling the world with her military family, she acquired a BA (and the important parts of an MA) in gender studies, and then settled down in Kansas with her partner, her cats, and her mutant dog.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitter | Tumblr | Goodreads

Buy THE STRANGE MAID (Book 2) Today: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Buy THE LOST SUN (Book 1) Today: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

“The Song of the Wandering Aengus” By WB Yeats Inspires Audrey

The Song of Wandering Aengus © Copyright William Butler Yeats, 1899. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the Creative Commons License.

The Song of Wandering Aengus © Copyright William Butler Yeats, 1899. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the Creative Commons License.

Maidens of the Sea

Summer break should be devoted to something big. Not like photographing every sunset, finding the perfect shade of nail polish, or seeing how many times you can watch The Fault in Our Stars and still cry big, but something really important. Like finding out what happened to Vanity Harrison.

I was two weeks into break and no closer to the truth, halfheartedly studying her house with my grandfather’s faded binoculars through a break in my curtains, my feet dangling off my bed, Fatty Fred happily purring on my back as he cut my lung capacity in half, when Mrs. Harrison drove up her circular driveway in the red convertible looking more like a Hollywood ingenue than a grieving mother had any right to. She parked in front of the elaborate Greek columns lining the exterior of the entryway and went inside. Just like normal. Just like she had everyday since she woke up and found Vanity gone.

“Gah! This is pointless, Fred.” I rested my chin on the edge of the bed, my arms hanging like weeping willow branches to the floor, and dropped the binoculars on the ground. I wanted to turn over and stare dejectedly at the ceiling, but I was at Fred’s mercy and he seemed pretty comfortable for the moment.

There was a soft knocking on my door before my dad pushed it open. I rolled my eyes. Luckily, he could only see my feet and Fatty Fred.

“Hey, honey.”

“Dad, you’re supposed to wait after you knock. What if I was naked?”

“It’s 10:30 in the morning. Why would you be naked?”

continue reading …

Jen’s No Rules Friday

This poem is inspired by Audrey’s Nymphs and Satyrs

Water is nothing and everything.

Rain falls for gravity only, and how it loves the fall,

waves crash at the mercy of the moon, over and over and over again.

Love slipped through my fingers

like nothing

and everything.

He rests at the bottom of my waterlogged heart.

There is no moon to pull him back,

no gravity to steady my hands,

and I am trapped here

in nothing

and everything.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Stay tuned for Anne’s No Rules Friday next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jen’s Book Club

I’m going rogue and reviewing a movie adaptation of a book that I already reviewed. The Fault in Our Stars, anyone?

So I said a couple months ago that this book made me ugly cry with the best of them, and allow me to inform you: the ugly crying was audible throughout the theater on this film’s opening night. The girls across from me were basically in shambles before the credits finished rolling.

So it was sad.

I don’t know what we expected.  Seeing a heart wrenching storyline portrayed in real life was nothing short of devastating, but ALSO let me tell you that this movie was the most accurate book to movie adaptation I’ve seen to date.  The characters were cast spot on, the dialogue was 90% verbatim from very pages I cried onto, and the emotion was raw just as spectacularly translated as it was under that famous cloudy cover. And oh, it’s humor was not lost on me.

I laughed. I cried. I cried harder. I was thankful for waterproof eyeliner. And despite the tears and the wadded popcorn scented napkins (a product of my wringing hands), it was absolutely beautiful. And of course, I plan to go again.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Stay tuned for Anne’s Book Club post next Wednesday.

Audrey’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club

Author Interview: Aaron Michael Ritchey

& Review of Long Live the Suicide King

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Long Live the Suicide King by Aaron Michael Ritchey (summary from Amazon.com):

Seventeen-year-old Jim JD Dillinger knows exactly how his miserable suburban life is going to play out. At least drugs added a little chaos to his life, but after almost losing his soul, JD knows he has to quit. Now clean, he figures he has another sixty years of plain old boring life followed by a nasty death. JD decides to pre-empt God by killing himself. However, once he decides to die, his life gets better, more interesting, and then downright strange. New friends. Possible romance. And donuts. Lots of donuts. Once the end is in sight, every minute becomes precious.

My thoughts:

First of all, I’m so excited to have had the opportunity to interview Aaron. We met a couple of years ago at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Aaron had just released The Never Prayer, a YA paranormal romance with angels and demons and a girl who isn’t sure which is which, and I had just started writing a YA paranormal romance with angels and djinn (which I might actually finish someday). I thought The Never Prayer was well written and an emotionally compelling story (yes, I cried), so when Aaron released his new book I had to read it.

Ok, not going to lie – I cried during Long Live the Suicide King too. Aaron’s sophomore novel is filled with amazing side-kick characters, like Ingalora Blute and 1066, and I really loved how funny JD is, even in all his suicidal angst. It’s very well written and is an original story with a couple of unexpected twists. There is a lot of heart in this book, which is what keeps you going when it gets dark. As you may have guessed, there’s a lot of talk about suicide in the book. There’s some conversation these days about how we need diverse books especially in MG and YA (check out #WeNeedDiverseBooks) and hopefully that conversation will get bigger and bigger. And the diversity goes beyond gender, race, and religion, to sexual orientation, disabilities, and illnesses. Every book can’t be about mean girls and crushes. If you have ever had suicidal thoughts, a friend with suicidal thoughts, or lost a loved one to suicide (or yes to all three like me), this can be a difficult read. In the end, it’s the truths in the book that make it a fulfilling read.

So without further ado, my interview with Aaron:

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