Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Broken Angel by Sigmund Brouwer Day 2

The novel Broken Angel has a lot of viewpoint characters. I have to admit I had trouble keeping them straight. As well, several chapters were letters that Jordan Brown wrote to Caitlyn to explain what was going on. The novel opens with one such letter:

We had agreed--the woman I loved and I--that as soon as you were born, we would perform an act of mercy and decency and wrap you in a towel and drown you in a nearby sink of water.

But in the motel room that was our home, the woman I loved died while giving birth. You were a tiny bundle of silent and alert vulnerability and all that remained to remind me of the woman.

I was nearly blind with tears in that lonely motel room. With the selfishness typical of my entire life to that point, I delayed the mercy and decency we had promised you. I used the towel not to wrap and drown you, but to clean and dry you.

As I lifted your hands and gently wiped the terrible hunch in the center of your back--where your arms connected to a ridge of bone that pushed against your translucent skin--I heard God speak to me for the first time in my life.

He did not speak in the loud and terrible way as claimed by the preachers of Appalachia where I fled with you. Instead God spoke in the way I believe he most often speaks to humans--through the heart, when circumstances have stripped away our obstinate self-focus.

From this letter (I just posted about two-thirds of the letter), we move into the prologue, and from that, into the story's present.

I'm not fond of letters such as this as story-opening devices, though I must admit the opening paragraph caught my attention. Did you catch what Caitlyn's big secret was in that letter?

One of the viewpoint characters, the purely evil bounty hunter Mason Lee, was easy to keep separate in my mind from the others. I am not fond of suspense stories to start with, but Lee's character seemed cliche evil, and watching him set up his torture chamber also felt like a device to show us his depravity--not in an original way. I'm interested what other bloggers who may like suspense better than I do may have thought of Lee's presence in the story.

Sigmund Brouwer is the author of 18 novels for children and adults.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Broken Angel by Sigmund Brouwer

Speculative fiction covers a wide range of stories, and Brouwer's recent novel, Broken Angel, is fairly far out on the edge of suspense and intrigue for a reader like me.

This is one author's extrapolation of what might happen in the future if genetic manipulation is allowed free rein. In the future Sigmund Brouwer imagines, the country of Appalachia separates from the United States to protect its people within the confines of the Church. What happens in that land is anything but pure. Jordan Brown has fled to Appalachia to protect a child, but once she reaches puberty, he realizes that she has to return Outside--that her secret will never be safe. She has to be set free to become all she was meant to be.

Jordan makes the ultimate sacrifice to create a way for Caitlyn to escape Appalachia, to build an *underground railroad* for her with messages along the way. An agent from Outside has learned of her special characteristics and joins forces with the Appalachian government to prevent her escape.

What is Caitlyn's big secret? We'll talk about it tomorrow. Meanwhile, check out what other bloggers are saying: Brandon Barr, Justin Boyer, Keanan Brand, Jackie Castle, Karri Compton, CSFF Blog Tour, Stacey Dale, D. G. D. Davidson, Janey DeMeo, Jeff Draper, April Erwin, Karina Fabian, Mark Goodyear, Andrea Graham, Katie Hart, Timothy Hicks, Christopher Hopper, Joleen Howell, Jason Joyner, Carol Keen, Magma, Margaret, Shannon McNear, Melissa Meeks, Rebecca LuElla Miller, Nissa, John W. Otte, Steve Rice, Ashley Rutherford, Hanna Sandvig, Chawna Schroeder, Mirtika or Mir's Here, Sean Slagle, James Somers, Donna Swanson, Steve Trower, Speculative Faith, Laura Williams.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Writing Workshop--Thinking Sideways

A few weeks ago I signed up for a six-month writing workshop put on by multi-published author Holly Lisle. She's the gal who founded my writing home-on-the-web, Forward Motion, and I've been following her weblog A Pocket Full of Words for the better part of six years now.

I've watched from the sidelines as she's pitched novels, sold them, written them, revised them. I've watched the misses, too. The pitches that didn't sell, the books that were hard to write. I've seen the determination and drive that characterizes Holly and her absolute willingness to be transparent with us all. I've bought several of her writing clinics from Holly Shop, and while not every one of them has clicked with me for every project, I've learned a LOT from her in various formats over the years.

When she began brainstorming a full workshop, I was intrigued, though I wasn't sure I could afford to take it as the various price points were debated. When registration finally opened at just under $300 for the six month program ($47US payable via PayPal every month), I jumped at one of the few remaining seats. And I'm so glad I did.

How to Think Sideways has been worth every penny from the very first lesson. Holly started off by looking at the things that prevent many folks from giving their all in any circumstance, writing included. From there we began clustering, which is something I've resisted doing as I just thought my brain didn't work that way. It was hard at first, but because I loved Holly's recommendation of Scrivener so much, I decided to download the free trial of Inspiration as well. It's a mind-mapping tool that allows you to associate words in any number of ways. Not only words, but many can be swapped out for clip-art and photos, to grab ahold of the more visual part of the brain.

Using the skills we had begun to learn in clustering, our next task was to *call down lightning* in the form of three viable story ideas that we would be excited to write. If you've been reading much here, you'll know I've been struggling with this for several months. And while I don't currently have THREE solid ideas, I did come up with two pretty decent ones. The fourth week taught us how to refine those ideas into something we couldn't bear NOT to write.

(Yes, this is making focusing on Tempest a bit difficult, but I'm managing some words every week there, too!)

I'm really quite excited for the next few weeks as we take those ideas and learn how to transform them into novels. So far the experience has been better than I'd hoped for, and we haven't yet begun to touch on the core reason I, at least, signed up for the course.

The core reason? The thinking sideways part. Holly's good at convoluting and twisting the plots of her stories so that they are very hard to put down. If I can begin to learn how to do that, this course will be a total success. Right now, I'm very optimistic about the five months yet remaining.

She's currently planning on repeating this workshop, and I'd encourage anyone who wants to write tighter books to consider signing up.

Merciless by Robin Parrish

Merciless is the culmination of the Dominion Trilogy by Robin Parrish. The Christian Science Fiction Fantasy blog tour reviewed book one, Relentless and book two, Fearless. I took part here and here and here.

All that to say that while I've read the first two books and enjoyed them, especially the first one, I haven't read Merciless yet. I've had it on my TBR for over a week and somehow got the dates mixed up with another book I was reading for review. Sadly, I should have read them in reverse order as it turns out the other book isn't due until next week. Sigh. That is SO like my life this week.

So, what's the series about, in a nutshell? Random people who discover they have superpowers, then find each other, and then find out where their powers came from--and why they have them. The world as we know it pretty much came to an end as Fearless closed. Merciless looks to be post-apocalyptic in nature. And the first few pages, which I've read, look to put this novel in the category of reading that is not suitable for bedtime. At least not for wimpy Vals!

You can read the first chapter here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Haven't been posting much

I guess there are a few reasons. One is that you all don't seem to be answering much!

Life is quite randomly busy. Home is busy because there is a hyper puppy who ALWAYS needs walking and attention, a garden that needs weeding and harvesting, a daughter and son-in-law who are considerably less demanding than the puppy!--but still there. I've been going to Aquafit Tuesday and Thursday evenings as Hanna is teaching. I enjoy it, but it does shoot the whole evening all to pieces. I've got book tours coming up and almost no time to read.

There've been stressy health issues in the extended family, my own recurring back and hip pain, a hubby working too much over time, and an electrical breaker that keeps shutting off in my kitchen.

At work there's been a transient camped out between the store and the building next door (moved on, with aid, this morning), lots to juggle in ordering and freight, and it seems to have been the week for bizarre and random questions.

Writing-wise, I'm slowly getting words on Tempest, teaching a workshop at Forward Motion, and signed up for a six-month paid class offered by author Holly Lisle called How to Think Sideways. Right now it's a challenge to think at all: frontwards, backwards, let alone sideways.

I needs a vacation. How come December is so far away?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Brody Goes Camping!

A little puppy I know had a great time camping. We spent three days at Frozen Lake, a little lake site with a primitive camping site (outhouse and a couple picnic tables) in the Flathead region of BC, just on the Montana border. Two and a half hour of non-pavement driving, and roads that went from good gravel to washboard gravel to pot-holes to rocks to dirt to dirt with grass growing up the middle. Very dusty and bumpy, but good fishing at the other end. Apparently that's what it is all about!

For Brody, he just wanted to romp and play with the kazillion other dogs that met at Frozen Lake for the weekend.

I did get him to stop a couple times, long enough for a photo or two. You'll find more photos at Facebook (and my hubby's Facebook).