Note: I don’t do this very often, but Suzy is a wonderful and kind person as well as a very good author. :)
Agatha Trout didn’t even know she had a Great Aunt Petunia, so imagine her surprise when she finds Petunia left her a corner shop in her will. But it’s not just any old corner shop – it’s a corner shop that needs something unique, something the town of Frambleberry has never seen before. Influenced by her confident best friend, Coco, Agatha is soon convinced that there’s only one way to go: an adults-only sex shop.
While some of the townspeople are clutching their pearls in horror, others are open to the new experiences this shop offers. But not everyone in Frambleberry is convinced. Will the women soldier on in the face of violent threats or will their fears get the best of them – and their new venture – before it even gets off the ground?
Born in England and raised in Portugal, Suzy lives with her childhood sweetheart Michael, two crazy dogs and a cat.
Shortly after completing her studies, Suzy worked as a trainee journalist for a local newspaper. Her love of writing developed and a few years later she took the job of assistant editor for the region’s largest English language publisher before becoming editor of a monthly lifestyle magazine. Early in 2010 however, Suzy became a full time author. She has since written several books: Raven, December Moon, The Lost Soul (The Raven Saga), Daisy Madigan’s Paradise, The Ghost of Josiah Grimshaw, The Temporal Stone, Looking for Lucy Jo, We Stand Against Evil (The Morgan Sisters), Forever Fredless, And Then There Was You, Stormy Summer and her latest, Aphrodite’s Closet.
In 2015 she launched her popular 40+ lifestyle blog which continues to go from strength to strength, while just over a year later, she trained to become a yoga instructor. Suzy continues to write, blog and teach yoga in one of Portugal’s loveliest settings – the Algarve.
It’s no secret that 2016 has been a rough year for us all: in so very many ways the world got a bit worse. There are lines from a poem (What They Did Yesterday Afternoon) by the extremely wonderful poet Warshan Shire which describes this year perfectly:
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
Anyway, I think the only sane response to all this is to try to make the world a better place, each in our own small or larger ways, as we are able. Not in a hippy-dippy buying-the-world-a-coke kind of way, but in small acts that bring a little brightness back into the world. Feed some people. Spend some time talking to an older person who is lonely. Carry a sign. Donate a few bucks to an organisation who does good in the world.* Since I’m an artist, I can offer my art.
Dreams are important. Positive role models are important. Being able to read a book or watch a movie and see a main character like yourself represented is important. Experiencing a story that draws you into someone’s world who may be very different from yourself is important because once you connect with them it is much harder to see them as “other,” as someone to be feared. Diverse characters are important.
So what I’d like to do is offer a free book cover for one person with a story featuring a diverse main character. Yeah, full-on SJW stuff on my part…and why not? I’ve never seen being a social justice warrior as a bad thing. Goddamn right I’ll stand up for women, or people of colour, or LGBTQ folk because I’m a decent human being and not an asshat. Maybe I’m more of a social justice mage or priest, but whatevs…
I’ll do a post tomorrow with the details. :)
I’ve always loved characters who break the mold of what a main character normally is. For instance: Christopher, the central character in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is written beautifully. The rules and limits of his world as someone with severe Asperger Syndrome are very apparent, but the book isn’t about that – it’s a tense, frightening and absolutely brilliant mystery.
Mary Sues don’t exist in the real world. We’re all flawed individuals and most of us are a lot stranger than the people around us, even those who love us, actually realise. I want to read characters who show this, who are different and completely individual in their flaws and dreams. I would think that sometimes this takes a certain amount of bravery on the part of authors, who have to risk controversy and loss of readership (“I don’t want to read about a main character who is a sociopath.” “I don’t want my children reading a book where the main character is gay, or a drug addict.”). I was luckyt enough to come across two books recently with very different, and extremely well-written, main characters.
Chasing the Star Garden by Melanie Karsak was one of the books that I bought recently, intrigued by its steampunk setting. It was a great story, a rowdy adeventure that mixes airship racing, steampunk inventions, archaeology and ancient gods, and a great race. All great fun, but it is the main character who sets this story apart. Lily is a broken girl in a lot of ways, still enmeshed in the things that were done to her as a child. She is an opium/laudanum addict with a penchant for casual sex and bad relationships due to her history of abuse.
It’s not marketed as a YA novel (probably for obvious reasons) but it reads that way – and I do mean that as a compliment. For me, YA is about trying to find out who you are in a largely confusing and sometimes terrifying world, which is why I enjoy it as a genre even at my age. Unapologetically drug-addicted heroines are obviously an issue for acceptable YA themes, however, and even though she finds her inner strength along the way it still wouldn’t be an easy choice for parents to accept.
“It all begins on one of the worst days of Lily’s life. She just lost the London leg of the 1823 Airship Grand Prix. To top it off, a harlequin fleeing from constables shoved a kaleidoscope down her pants, told her to fly to Venice, then threw himself from her airship tower. What’s a girl to do? For Lily, the answer is easy: drink absinthe and smoke opium. Lily’s lover, Lord Byron, encourages her to make the trip to Venice. Lily soon finds herself at the heart of an ancient mystery which has her running from her past and chasing true love and the stars along the way.”
All in all, a great read for steampunk lovers and people who like their characters flawed, sassy and real.
In Discretion by Reesa Herberth is another book that I read recently, this time from Netgalley.
“Thanson Nez thought his career as a Discretionary would take him to the stars, not strand him on a space station at the ass-end of the Empire. Thanks to his last client, he’s carrying a secret he can’t get rid of fast enough, but his oath to the guild means a swift, painful death if he shares it. Already desperate for help, he runs into yet more trouble: his ex, and an explosion that paralyzes the station moments after their uncomfortable reunion.
Kazra Ferdow, Station 43’s communications officer, is almost as blindsided by the return of his first love as he is by the sudden loss of power and life support. The station is a floating graveyard in the making, and something is turning its inhabitants into savage killers. Fighting human monsters and damaged tech, Kazra and Thanson must put aside their past long enough to try to save everyone.
The more light they shine into dark corners, the more Thanson realizes how many people might die for the secrets locked in his head—and what he’s willing to sacrifice to make sure Kazra isn’t one of them.”
Thanson Nez is a Discretionary, which I kept thinking of something very much like a Firefly-esque companion. Basically, he is both a very expensive prostitute and also a spy (or a blackmailer). His latest assignation lands him in a life-threatening situation after an explosion has torn apart the station where he was and life-support is running out fast. He is accompanied by the lover of his youth from his home planet, Kazra Ferdow, who is currently in charge of security on the rapidly-failing space station. Initially tense, the two men find they still have the deep connection that they shared as teens, and they are still living out the consequences of their shared past.
I probably wouldn’t give this a full five stars (if I was into rating books), but it is still a very solid, enjoyable read. I loved Thanson. The fact that he is a gay male prostitute doesn’t mean that he isn’t also a tough, resourceful, strong main character perfectly at home kicking ass in a suspenseful science fiction book. Despite the whole “sleeping with people to discover proof of their secrets” thing, he’s a sympathetic character, well-rounded and written with nuance. I think the growing (or healing) relationship between the two men could have used a bit more depth, but then again I’m not really a fan of romances. If I want a space opera, damn it, I want adventure, not heart-fluttering. This delivers in spades.
So, there you go. Two very different characters, both with enough quirks and flaws to make them unique. I recommend both books.
Let me tell you a story about my mother. We’ve always had a very fragile relationship due to my headstrong attitude as a teen coupled with her conversion as a born-again Christian when I was fourteen. Turbulent teenage years do not mix well with someone who thinks that you are a bad person who is on a slippery slope straight to hell. In any event, my sisters all won gold stars for being good little churchgoers and I took my black marks and ostracism and the time my mom called her pastor to come and exorcise me (true story) to my sullen little teenage heart, living for the day when I could finally leave – which I did two weeks after graduation, giving up all dreams of university. It was the first time I ever saw my Dad cry.
But I’m not bitter. :)
Anyway, back to my review, which should be about the book and not about me. A year or so before my mother died of ALS I came home to visit, and she had a movie that she wanted both of us to watch. That movie was Under the Tuscan Sun, loosely adapted from the memoir by Frances Mayes. If you haven’t seen it, it is the story of a middle-aged woman who makes an unexpected purchase of a Tuscan villa during a holiday in Italy, and her misadventures in adapting to her new life. It’s uplifting and very romanticised, as one would expect, and I was quite touched that my mother (the woman who actually thought I’d been possessed by demons) thought that it related to my life in England.
Under the Tuscan Sun was about a rich writer affluent enough to decide on a mad whim to move to Tuscany. I, on the other hand, moved to England with the husband whom I’d met and fallen in love with in the States. We managed to buy a terraced house in the North (or Midlands) area of the UK. We scrimp and save and turn off lights. We did all of our house improvements (such as they are) ourselves. It is cold, drafty and an elderly lady was beaten to death in her home by children just up the street from us. It isn’t Shameless, but it sure as hell isn’t Tuscany.
I was very touched that she thought it was though, and watching that movie together made me feel much closer to her.
At Least You’re In Tuscany is a very different book. It is the story of following your dreams, taking a chance, and what happens when you are not a rich writer with tons of cash, friends and resources. It is about the difference between your dreams and the actual reality of moving halfway across the world without a safety net. In the end the author is successful, and we cheer her on through the entire book. She isn’t immediately welcomed into the hearts and homes of the quaint and quirky stereotypes that populate the other book; she does make some friends, but it takes a long time and she realises that she’ll never be totally accepted as one of them. The section about her very lonely, hungry Christmas spent with her elderly dog is very touching, and if you’ve ever tried to retain a shred of hope when sitting down there at cold rock bottom you’ll be able to relate.
And always, her motto for herself when things get darkest and misfortune strikes, is “At least you’re in Tuscany.” No matter how bad things are, how poor she is, and how infuriating Italian bureaucratic red tape turns out to be…at least she is finally there.
Running through the novel is an intense love of an adopted country, a passionate desire to belong to a place very foreign to you – which is something that I can somewhat relate to. Granted, moving to England is much less of a shock than moving to Italy, but I’ve still felt the wonder of actually being here and also the pain of missing everything and everyone back home.
Tilly, the young heroine of the story, is strong-willed and resourceful, determined to solve the mystery of Frost Hollow Hall. Haunted by the vision of the heir of the Hall, who saved her from drowning beneath the ice of the frozen lake where he died, she resolves to unravel the circumstances around his death. I loved the character of Tilly, from the bleakness of her impoverished, broken home to the backbone that she shows when she manages to obtain employment as a housemaid at the big house, determined to play detective and solve the mystery. The spookiness of her nocturnal forays into the house, chasing a spirit which is obviously not at rest, were full of tension – as a child it would have really given me the shivers in places.
The book is about love both hopeful and hopeless, sadness, and loss. There are so many losses in the book, both in Tilly’s threadbare world and also in the big house. It is also about redemption and healing, quite beautiful and moving without being cloying.
The only thing I wasn’t as charmed with was the colloquial dialect in places. I think that is difficult to handle well without irritating the reader, and every time she she said “I in’t done” whatever, it brought me out of the story a bit. But that is sincerely my only negative about this book – aside from that small thing, it was well-written, believable and very suspenseful, quite a charming book.
The gates to Frost Hollow Hall loomed before us. They were great tall things, the ironwork all twisted leaves and queer-looking flowers. And they were very definitely shut.
Tilly’s heart sinks. Will’s at the door of their cottage, daring her to come ice-skating up at Frost Hollow Hall. No one goes near the place these days. Rumour has it that the house is haunted . . . Ten years ago the young heir, Kit Barrington, drowned there in the lake. But Tilly never turns down a dare.
Then it goes horribly wrong. The ice breaks, Tilly falls through and almost drowns. At the point of death, a beautiful angel appears in the water and saves her. Kit Barrington’s ghost.
Kit needs Tilly to solve the mystery of his death, so that his spirit can rest in peace. In order to discover all she can, Tilly gets work as a maid at Frost Hollow Hall. But the place makes her flesh crawl. It’s all about the dead here, she’s told, and in the heart of the house she soon discovers all manner of dark secrets . . .
Frost Hollow Hall is a thrilling historical fiction debut. Told in Tilly’s unique voice, it is a tale of love and loss, and how forgiveness is the key to recovery.
I loved this book and found it both utterly charming and a fast, entertaining read. Steampunk elements were handled well, with just enough explanation for the reader to have an overall view of the tech without being bored by a nuts-and-bolts explanation of how things work. It features the classic steampunk character: the plucky girl adventurer. This is not a bad thing.
Emilie is who I wanted to be as a child. My fantasies may have centred more upon running away to join the circus, but any adventure involving running away and doing dangerous things in exotic lands would have worked. She is perfectly written as a girl standing on that precise point between childhood and adulthood, an occasionally gauche mixture of awkward child and capable adult. She barges in where she doesn’t belong, embarrasses herself occasionally and lets her bravery carry her through perilous situations. Lovely!
I liked this book so much that it makes me wish that my daughter was young again so that I could buy this for her in hopes of her own dreams of danger and derring-do catching fire. Take risks, follow your dreams and damn the consequences.
Highly recommended overall as an entertaining, classically cinematic book with great characters and high adventure.
Note: I am trying to catch up on reviews. This is one I had written some time ago on Netgalley, but at the time you couldn’t go back and see your reviews so I couldn’t post it here after publication.
Global DRM-Free Epub Ebook
Robot Trading Company
Other Books in This Series
Emilie and the Sky World (March 2014)
Martha Wells: WWW | @marthawells1 on Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest
“Far away, in the meadow, shadows flickered in the Mirror’s Maze, as if parts of someone’s life, yet unborn, were trapped there, waiting to be lived.”
– Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes
The Mirror Maze was the most dreamlike part of the Carnival. It lived one level underneath the main midway area in the forgotten deep runs of the Underground. There was a very ornate sign hanging above the tiled archway leading down to the maze, and its bright gilded curlicues and rich paint belied the dim hallway that led down to the maze.
Arriving in the maze was like entering a dream which starts innocently, but gradually darkens to nightmare. The first room was charming, a rotating room with multiple mirrors that spun to tinkling music as though one had stepped into a kaleidoscope, or walked through the small door in the centre of a carousel into its reverse world. Light shattered into shards of light and spun through the room, showering over the upturned faces of the entranced visitors to the maze. The small crowd laughed, entranced, and then wandered through side passages into the maze.
There was a room furnished in opulent Victorian style, brocades and velvets and thick red oriental carpet underfoot. The mirrors in this room, however, reflected dark things moving in the shadows that one could only see out of the corner of one’s eye. Looked at directly, they disappeared into comfortable normalcy but as soon as one looked away the shadows rose, stalked, grew behind uneasy visitors.
A long, dark room was filled with tall, thin shards of mirror that rose into the darkness of the ceiling like a forest of cruel trees. The mirrors were set close, at odd angles to one another, forcing the person traversing the room to weave their way through the mirrors, each reflective surface circumnavigated leading only to more of them until the whole became oppressive and disorientating. This was an unpleasant room, and most preferred to traverse it as quickly as possible, breathing a sigh of relief upon reaching the other side.
A young couple could be seen slipping into a small side room, presumably in hopes of finding a corner quiet enough for a stolen kiss. This room featured an assortment of various distorting mirrors of the type that can be found in most travelling carnivals and the boy and girl posed in front of several of them, laughing.
“Oh, look! How thin we are.”
“And this one…my dear, you’re fat as a goose!” She pretended to slap him and he caught her wrist, placing a kiss upon the back of her glove. His arm around her waist drew her closer, daringly close, as they moved to the next mirror.
This mirror showed two strangers, two older people. Since it is impossible for the young to believe that they will eventually become old, it took them several minutes to realise that they were looking at aged versions of themselves and gradually their laughter turned to appalled silence. His thick hair had thinned and receded, and his eyes showed the pouchiness of dissipation and excess. He looked mean and small, like a man who had forgotten kindness. She looked at a woman who had aggressively attempted to retain a fading youth, with bright hennaed hair and rouged cheeks which could not hide the frown lines that rode parallel between her eyes. The tight-laced corset couldn’t hide the thickened middle, and her bright lips turned down at the corners in disappointment and resentment. The older couple stood together like a couple who had spent decades making each other miserable, blaming the other for missed opportunities and unrealised expectations.
Silently the young couple left the room, no longer interested in stolen kisses. They didn’t hold hands, as though each believed that the other could pass the contagion along that would someday turn them into the person in the reflection. The next couple entered, laughing.
The NaNoWriMo first time author contest for 2012 was tough. Both manuscripts were excellent reads, and boy are you in for a treat when both are finally published! In the end, though, we could only choose one, which was a tough job when both were so very good and both manuscripts were so different from each other. Seth Swanson wrote a gripping, immersive tale in Impervious, while Janna Jenning’s A Grimm Legacy was pure twisted fairytale fun. In the end we chose the latter because it was simply closer to being a finished project. Both manuscripts, however, had me eagerly looking forward to picking them up in the evenings and finding out what happened next; chosing just one was quite difficult.
Next steps for both books:
- Each will receive detailed beta reader feedback
- Each will receive a cover
- Each will receive proofreading after the final draft
Congratulations to both authors. Watch for these two…they are going to produce some kickass books.
In the end it was difficult to choose a winner in our NaNoWriMo first time authors giveaway. All of the entries were amazing – I could see them all as published novels, and wished that I could read each of them in their entirety. With five of us voting, we had two votes each for A Grimm Legacy by Janna Jennings and Impervious by Seth Swanson, as well as one vote for one of the other writers with a great story…so difficult to choose! We called it a split decision between the main two and decided that we would read fulls from both and choose a final winner from there. Both Janna and Seth will receive covers and feedback on their stories.
And what stories they are. Two very different books, but both great reads. I was really looking forward to the moments that I could steal to curl up with them and if I’d actually bought them I would have considered it money well spent. You are all in for a treat!
Following the inital post regarding this giveaway, I would like to update everyone on our contest for first-time authors and fellow crazy people who participate in NaNoWriMo. This has been posted on the community forums.
Self-publishing can be confusing for first-time authors, many of whom don’t have the money to hire professional help or the knowledge or skill to do it themselves. It can also be difficult to find good beta readers – we all know how useful the “Omigod, most amazing book ever!” feedback is from friends and relatives. :) A bad cover can help to sink a book, as can a lack of proofing and editing. What we want to do is give something back to the NaNo community by offering our help and services to one person. If there is enough response to this, it may become a yearly contest.
The winner will receive:
- Beta reading and feedback
- Proofreading and copyediting
- A professional book cover
- A Createspace print template
- Interior formatting
- Facebook and Twitter graphics to tie in with the cover
- Marketing/PR advice
- Blog tour
- NaNoWriMo “winners” of the most recent National Novel Writing Month.
- First time authors (first time to actually publish a novel).
- Any fiction novel up to 150k words. (Less is better – I had second thoughts about this one, but it’s already on the forums and I can’t edit it.)
- Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Horror. (These can be YA or adult.)
- Prospective authors must submit a synopsis and the first chapter of their project for consideration. If the chapter is short, submit two.
- Post on this thread if you are interested in participating and we will contact you. (The NaNoWriMo site will show validation of participation for the most recent year and total words for your project.)
- The judges will chose a winner based on the submitted material.
- Winners will be chosen on April 8th, 2013.
Huge thanks to the following people who have volunteered their time, advice and services. (If you are interested in helping out, let me know.)
Judi Rohrig: Editing
Honored with the 2004 Bram Stoker for Excellence in Non-fiction for editing and publishing HELLNOTES, a weekly International electronic and print newsletter that served the horror communities, I also edited an anthology called STONES and served as editor, project coordinator, and marketing director for Lone Wolf Publications. My stories have appeared in MASQUES V, Cemetery Dance magazine, and several anthologies published by Daw Books. My story, “Tunes from Limbo, But I Digress,” will be included in the SHADOWS OF THE NEW SUN, a Gene Wolfe tribute anthology, to be released by Tor in August 2013.
Rabia Gale: Beta reading and feedback
Rabia is the very talented author of Rainbird and Mourning Cloak, as well as several short story collections. “I break fairy tales and fuse fantasy and science fiction. I love to write about flawed heroes who never give up, transformation and redemption, and things from outer space.”
Andrew Toynbee: Beta reading and feedback, proofreading and edit
Andrew is the author of A Construct of Angels. “A Construct of Angels pulls you in from the first page. I couldn’t put this book down…Lots of humor tossed in with a fast paced plot that has you flipping the pages to find out what comes next. The highest of compliments I can give an author is: The words disappeared and the scene played out in my mind. A Construct of Angels did just that for me.”
Kellie Sheridan: Marketing and PR advice, blog tour
Kellie is the author of Mortality and a marketing professional in the publishing field. “I am the author of Mortality, a YA zombie story set in a possible near future when the second wave of the zombie plague has destroyed our world. I’ve become a bit of a zombie addict in the past year and wanted to put a new YA spin on a genre that has been going strong for decades. Mortality will be available in both digital and print formats in Spring of 2013.”
Ravven: Beta reading, book cover art, POD template
I am a professional artist specialising in book cover art. (Hit the jump for examples of covers that I have done.)
Qwerty & Quill
Phil Worthington is a professional copywriter, award-winning Head of Creative, printer and book designer who has offered ebook and POD interior book formatting services.