Monday, October 15, 2012

Agatha H. and the Airship City

I picked up Agatha H. and the Airship City based on the synopsis and customer ratings. I was disappointed. I know this story is a graphic novel turned book, and that this was the second in the series (I didn't read the first book). The authors, Phil and Kaja Foglio, first wrote the graphic novel, then produced the novel. You definitely cannot jump into this story in the middle and expect to understand the story. In fact, if you haven't followed the graphic story, the novel is drastically flattened.

Attention Grabber

Steampunkers will be drawn to this story. Dirigibles, mechanical constructs, and scenes filled with rust and random parts abound. The story revolves around those who posses the "Spark" - something of an inherited ability found in the 'royal' families.

Writing Style

I enjoyed the style of writing employed for this story. The phraseology was a bit overdone. I enjoyed the word play, but after awhile it takes the reader out of the flow of the story. You spend a good deal of attention trying to follow the wording, but by the end of the sentence or paragraph, you have to go back and figure out what it said. Distracting!

Character Development

I was most drawn to the monsters, which I found out were a late addition to the story. If it hadn't been for their quirkiness, I would not have been entertained. The other characters lacked depth. They were all very superficial with one sentence definitions that did not develop, sufficiently, later.

There were disjointed things and events that should have been integrated more smoothly into the story. Agatha builds all these things that she doesn't know she built, but they don't come back to the story until the very end. She has this ability to control people and critters, but that is never clarified. Why does she have that ability? What are the possible implications of those little robots? Why is she always showing up in her bloomers? I understand the use of bringing elements around at the end of a story to tie it together, but this was rough. It had more of the feeling of a rushed cramming of things together in too few pages.


There are a lot of distractions that bumped the reader out of the flow of the story. The pace is jerky. It's fast in the wrong places. I kept having to page back to re-read segments because the story does not carry you along.

The beginning of the story is about some men in a wasteland. It sounds very interesting, but then the story jumps to a city and the men in the wasteland are never mentioned again, except almost as an aside. I realize that there are bits and pieces that float in and out of sequential novels, but the story for each novel should stand alone. That is my personal preference, and it caused me to not enjoy all these untidy loose ends.


This book ended. The story did not conclude, it just stopped. I'm sure that was a design to get the reader to buy the next in the series, but it was a big turn off for me. I found myself toying with some of the unique properties of the story but applying them to a different tale in my mind. If I had it to do over, I would have started with the first book, and followed along. As it was, I was too exhausted trying to follow the quirky structure (like one letter per line of a poem!) to want to go back and pick up a multi-book story.

If you are already into the series, I have no doubt you love it. There is a graphic novel component of this story-line that might intrigue you, too, and it's probably the best point to start.


This review is my own opinion. I would love to hear your reaction to this book or series, but please be conversational if you choose to respond. Thank you!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It's 70 + 7

We had a writing exercise tonight that scared me. I mean, down in the center of my grammatically correct heart scary. Here it is:

Write two sentences – one must be 70 words long and the other exactly seven words. Oh and they have to comprise a paragraph.

Here's what I came up with:

The color etched its way across the frozen indigo sky like a sinuous snake edging through brush on the trail of the elusive soft kiss of dawn, coming to his mind like the number 3, eroding all memory of the last trace of human warmth; draining his heart of every thing that was his soul, every dear piece of happiness, even the last glowing breath of heat in the earth. It was a good day to die.

I was afraid of the run-on sentence, the ever linked by semi-colon drudgery. I was plagued so much by the concept that it was like learning to fly the way Douglas Adams described it in his treasure of a compendium - you try to fall to the ground and miss. While my grumpy self-editor was distracted with the affront of this challenge, my inner self got busy scratching out a convoluted tale. I kind of liked it. 


Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Bouquet

Writing Exercise Write an action scene with a romantic twist. Time limit: 13 minutes.

“Julie, I'm gay! I can't jump for the bride's bouquet. They'd laugh me out of this town!” I felt perspiration streaming down my back, threatening to blossom in an unflattering way. I fanned myself with the limp napkin and tossed back my champagne.

“Come on, Tara. Everyone knows you're a dyke, but you can still play the game.”

“I just don't know anyone here. It's embarrassing!” I lined up with the other girls in their satin gowns, perfectly coiffed hair and dyed-to-match shoes. “Besides, it's not a fair competition – I'm in trousers!” She shoved me forward.
The bride stood looking at us all, jostling each other for the best position. “Y'all ready?” Tiffany turned her back to us, and launched the periwinkle bouquet over her head. There were 30 ladies in the battle, but it looked like more than 100 hands grabbing for the flowers. The bundle was popped and bounced like a beach ball. It began to come apart. Hands were grabbing the trailing ribbons, pulling them in different directions.

I saw it coming my way, and though I didn't really want to catch it, I couldn't resist reaching for it. I grabbed it and a hand that was already there. It was like grabbing raw electricity. I couldn't let go, but I didn't want to stay in touch, either. Time slowed, sound died, and I returned to earth clasping a pale porcelain hand. I brought the bouquet to chest level and stabbed my eyes at the face that belonged to that cool, delicate hand.

She was stunning. I was having trouble breathing. I had never seen anything quite so captivating. I was mesmerized by those China blue eyes with a frame of auburn locks. Suddenly, there was a burning sensation in my shin, and it accompanied an immediate intensification in sound and motion. I looked down at the bouquet I no longer held. Time resumed its normal pace. I looked up into the quirky smirk on her face. I hopped sidelong into a nearby chair. Blood trickled from the gash her stiletto heel left in my shin. I sucked in a sharp breath and looked after her. Her taunt of “Not for you, lesbo,” followed in her wake. She was already gone, but a ribbon from the bouquet lay coiled around my ankle.

“I told you so,” I said to Julie as she bent to blot up the blood. “I told you it was a stupid idea!”
“Yeah, you told me. But we are so gonna laugh about this over drinks tonight!” Her grin was wicked and I couldn't suppress my laughter.

I hope you enjoyed this little story. See you soon with another prompt!

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Another 13 minute writing exercise. I find it interesting to look back and see two stories in a row with blood in them. Hmmm - I wonder what that says about me. 

Prompt: Wings

Seamus saw blood. It was dark and sticky and it covered the feathers on the back porch. He stooped to pick up a discarded wing, unfolding the feathers and holding them up to the light. It was nice to know they would have meat tonight, but he hoped Shanna didn't make it into stew. She made everything into stew – even the tender brace of bunnies he'd snared two nights before. Stews stretched their meager supplies, though. He couldn't argue with that.

He dropped the wing carelessly, not bothering to watch it flutter to the ground, lifeless. He pushed open the door while shrugging off his canvas bag. It was empty of food, so he carefully placed the 6 shells he had for his shotgun in it before hanging it on the nail on the hall wall. He heard laughter, tinkling and bright. It shot a smile to his lips before he could even acknowledge Tany was here. Tany was hilarious! She was also cute and a great hunter. He walked into the mud room, pulling off his tattered gloves.

He stepped into the living area, feeling the blush of the heat from the fire roaring in the pit. He looked around the room at faces he had come to love in the past 6 weeks. It was amazing how they were sworn enemies back then, but now they had come together as survivors. Petty disagreements and land ownership were things of the past. Nothing mattered but getting through each day alive. There were so many empty chairs already. The thought tightened his smile, and the light went out of his eyes. Sweeping a glance across the group, landing a moment on Tany brought it back.

Their eyes met briefly, and he saw her spirit buoyed as well by that brief contact. He dipped his head and eyes in case she could read his desire. He didn't want to be obvious – there were no guarantees and this wasn't the time or place to be thinking of starting a family. It wasn't just the fire that tinted his cheeks red.

This was fun. There were several different takes on the prompt from our group of writers. I love seeing diversity. Give this prompt a try, and let me know how you do. I'd love to read your work!


Friday, July 20, 2012

The Color Of

It's time for another writing exercise. Have you tried these yet? I find them very relaxing and invigorating at the same time. Again, the limit was 13 minutes.

This prompt was to write a piece that was inspired by a color; but with the twist that you cannot mention the color in your story.
It was dark. Pain was global. I couldn't reach through the fog to find anything else. Just pain. It took a lot of focus just to breathe. I delved a little deeper, set my focus, and reached out. Beyond the pain was a sticky substance on the floor. I reached a little farther. I could feel the edge of metal in the concrete. That must be some sort of frame or support for the room. It was sticky too.

I tried to twist my hand to grab that sliver of metal. I slipped on the sticky substance. It wasn't tacky, but slick now. I raised my fingers to my nose, and sniffed. My hand smelled of iron and protein, like raw hamburger. I really wanted some light, just so I could see. I thought about that for a minute. If I could see, would it paralyze me with fear? Maybe. So maybe, I didn't need to know what color this liquid was. Maybe I needed to put that out of my head completely.

My hand slipped and pain shot through the dark like a knife of white light deep in my skull. I was injured, and I kept forgetting. Probably, that was the result of a brain injury. Still, I could not bring the recent events to my consciousness, and I couldn't figure out just where I was. I lay still, letting go of the thin rail of metal in the concrete.

I focused on my breathing, and pushed the pain as far back as I could. It felt like trying to push the canvas away from a collapsed big-top at the circus. I rested, then pushed again at my mind. My fingers rubbed the liquid, acknowledging the viscosity of the liquid that was both sticky and slick. It was like honey mixed with transmission fluid. Again, I pushed conscious thought down and tried to probe my memory.

Sudden light filled my mind. Hot, explosive light seared away every dimension of what I hoped to see. I paused, breathed, then tried again more slowly. The events came clearer. There was a jeep. We were driving... where? To Inchon. Of course! We were on our way to bring supplies to a forward aide station. The big cross on our hood decried our duty and was our promise of safe passage.

We heard a whistling sound that had a certain keening edge to it. Incoming mortar! Our driver reacted to the sound more than what he thought he saw. He swerved left, meeting no resistance and seeing no actual threat, he jerked back to the right. We met the mortar there, just against the rock cut next to the road. The noise was so loud it extinguished itself. I don't know how long we lay waiting for help. I didn't remember being picked up or transported, but here I was. Alone, so far as I could tell. Wondering what color this liquid was, here in my makeshift prison. I knew what color it would be. I didn't need the light. It was blood red.
Pick a color and see where it leads you. I hope you'll find these little assignments fascinating!

Ta for now,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Running the Sky

Here we are dearies - the studio and an illness (or 3) have kept me away from sharing the writing exercises with you. This exercise came in the form of a visual prompt. It is an elevated walkway in the rainforest canopy of Borneo. I'm not posting the actual photo because I want it to be clear it isn't mine. Click here if you'd like to see it. Now, here's my story.

It was running day. She hated running day. Hated it. She was the best from her village though, so every running day she was picked to do it. Run the letters between villages. She pulled on her shoes, putting each toe into it's little glove-like sleeve, and cinching them tight. She did love the little details of her run. The way she felt every little thing through her skin-thick shoes. The way the air moved through her hair when she ran. The monkeys squealing to their mates about her coming through the canopy. The chatter of bugs running away from the vibrations as she made her way along the trail.

She stopped by the ministry to pick up the satchel with all the precious missives that needed to make their way to people of other villages. She had never received a letter herself. She wondered what it must be like, opening a small parcel, turning over a small card. She didn't get to stay long enough to find out. She just dropped the bundles and continued on to the next stage. Mail ran early in the day or late in the afternoon, depending on what came in to the central depot and how urgent the request was. Fortunately, if she ran one mail stop, then someone else would be selected to run the second. But she mostly ran the route every day.

She peeked into the satchel, and saw only 3 bundles. Maybe she would be back in time to go diving with her friends. She pulled each bundle out. The first was the next village down the road, the second went to the fourth village, but the last package was the very last stop. No chance she would be back in time to play. That was just her luck. Darn. She picked up a skin of water, a packet of nuts and two bananas. That was one perk of running the mail. She got extra food this way. It was really important, she knew, because there seemed to never be enough to ration around to all the hungry mouths. She tipped back a cup of coffee, enjoying the almost hot burn as it went down her throat. She stepped out into the cool morning air, adjusting the band on the satchel and stretching her legs and arms gathering in every last morsel of oxygen her body could hold.
She took a few tentative steps, then started to trot. Soon she was flying along the wooden boards, her hair streaming out behind her. The nearest monkeys called to their neighbors, as if saying "The time has come!" She ran, enjoying the feel of the muscles and the comfortable whoosh of air in and out of her lungs. This was made just for her. She never felt bad about delivering the mail, even in the worst of weather. Yet she always found it so hard to get going.

Her mind drifted, images of her friends, and her family waiting below. She knew they would still be snuggled in their beds in the cool morning air. She came to the first rounder, and took the right hand side. Each tree was different, and so the rounder path was longer on one side or the other. She knew them by heart. She could run this in her sleep.

There was only the lightest of dew today. Her feet felt the grooves in the planks of the trail. She knew when she stepped on a knot, or a nail or even just a leaf. Her shoes had cost her father a month's pay, so she treasured them. She imagined that the shoes knew how important and vital they were to her, and seemed to help her get the most out of her senses.

The path was sturdy. She knew some of the village kids had trouble coming up to the canopy, but it was the only safe way to travel between villages now. The local drug lords fought turf wars between the village borders, so the only safe way to go was by canopy paths. She spent most of her days up here - watching the birds, following the paths of the monkeys swinging from branch to branch, talking to the security guards and getting news from all around their mountain and valleys. It was very stimulating - much more so than working on baskets or cooking if she stayed down in the village all day. She was too old to go to school now, but didn't have a job, either.
I'd love to hear what you think of this. Remember, it's a writing exercise - we only had 13 minutes to complete it with no prep time. It's incomplete, but one day it may evoke a full novel. 

Try your hand at it - if you want to share, link me to it in the comments. I'd love to see what you come up with!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Returning from War

Our weekly writing prompt (from May 31): Husband returning from war, seeing his wife for the first time. Time limit: 13 minutes.

She stood. There was a circle, and she stood within it. She understood what would happen if she stepped outside that circle, but she never saw anyone stand for so long. She should have left the baby with her sister. He was crying, and soiled, and hungry. She did not want to nurse, right there in front of everyone. Once you step into the circle, well, you couldn't leave. It would condemn the entire village.

The village. They never knew her husband. Yet they stood with her. Most of them were direct kin of hers on one side or the other. That didn't mean they liked her or approved of her husband. She knew that. She'd been on both sides of that line for other women waiting for their man, or their father.

It was muddy. It had been a particularly wet spring. She had put on her best clothes, but needed to borrow a bigger shift because her breasts were so swollen. The tartan blanket she wrapped around them had collected so much moisture from the mist that she felt certain it would drag her to the ground. She was not willing to give in to the weight. Nor would she surrender to the mud that squelched against her boots. Boots – that was laughable. She had something that approximated boots, so long as you didn't look too close.
She did have a little something other girls who claimed a man lacked. She had a ring. It was hammered out of a piece of mail her husband had taken on the field of battle. They said he had given away many of them, but she chalked that up to pride. They wanted to cast him in shadow because he had chosen her. She was more than a whelp to a camp follower, she was a bastard, to boot. She wanted better for her son – their son! And she would see it done if she had to stand here for a year!

Her grip slipped on her boisterous son who was not only squalling, but kicking as best he could. His father had been away for a full turn of seasons, and his son was quite strong. Most said he would succumb when he was late, and small and it was dark winter. They said he wouldn't last when the runs hit the entire village. She nearly did, but she made sure he was fed.
Here she stood. Full with pride, dying with questions and knowing the eyes that lay upon them would drag her down into the muck and crush her. She stood. The sun burned away the mist. She thought she saw a figure cutting through at the hill's edge...

Are you playing along? I'd love to read what you are inspired to write. Link me up!

Thursday, May 31, 2012


This is my own writing. Since my move, I've not been able to focus well enough to do book reviews or critiques. I have, however, been able to do some very short writing exercises, and I thought I would share them. Now, I trust you all to keep my writing my own, so I lay claim to these words as my own. Kindly keep in mind we had a limited time to create these writings. This one was about 15 minutes.

Writing prompt:
a sweet kiss
a tender waltz
horrible warning

My Story:
Rupert was innocently crouched in the bushes beside the gazebo when his sister, Tam, and her boyfriend of the week, Craig, came out of the back of the house. 
Rupert was smoking cigarettes he'd lifted from his father's pack earlier as Dad lay sleeping in his recliner as NASCAR roared on the TV. He looked down at the girlie magazine he'd borrowed from his brother's mattress. He sure didn't see the attraction, but they had nice advertisements for cars and motorcycles. 
The screen door slammed as Tam and Craig strode through the rose bushes and mounted the steps to the gazebo. Rup ducked down a little, and covered the lit cigarette, cupping the smoke and hoping they were too focused on one another to notice the smell. He contemplated running, but he knew he would make way too much noise to escape unnoticed. 
Tam put her iPod into the cradle. It started to broadcast something slow and southern, exactly the music that was fingernails on a chalkboard to Rupert's ears. He shook his head as Craig encircled his arms about Tam's waist. They began to slowly turn, exchanging caresses and kisses while moaning. 
Rupert watched for awhile, then glanced back to the magazine that had fallen open. It was a photo of the strange things adults would do without clothing. He looked back at his sister, and was immediately struck with a vision of her and Craig in those poses. It was a visceral reaction, really. He shoved the magazine away screeching like a girl, dropped his lit cigarette onto the magazine which promptly burst into flames, and went tearing through the roses and into the house. He swore he would never, ever, ever again look at a magazine, smoke a cigarette or spy on his sister again.

So there you have it. A fast rendition of what the short prompt brings to mind. If you have constructive criticism, I would love to hear it! I hope you have a wonderful day! 


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hunter's Run

Here is a great story I read lately.

Published Jan 2008, HarperCollins Publishers, 320 pp.

Running from poverty and hopelessness, Ramón Espejo boarded one of the great starships of the mysterious, repulsive Enye. But the new life he found on the far-off planet of São Paulo was no better than the one he abandoned. Then one night his rage and too much alcohol get the better of him. Deadly violence ensues, forcing Ramón to flee into the wilderness.

Mercifully, almost happily alone—far from the loud, bustling hive of humanity that he detests with sociopathic fervor—the luckless prospector is finally free to search for the one rich strike that could make him wealthy. But what he stumbles upon instead is an advanced alien race in hiding: desperate fugitives, like him, on a world not their own. Suddenly in possession of a powerful, dangerous secret and caught up in an extraordinary manhunt on a hostile, unpredictable planet, Ramón must first escape . . . and then, somehow, survive.
And his deadliest enemy is himself.

I absolutely LOVED this book. The first few chapters are a little difficult because you have to adjust to an almost foreign thought process established by the entity Ramon stumbles upon while surveying for minerals in the outback.

This clever tale weaves together so many things of human existence - what would you do if you were cloned, how would you respond if you were the original life form, and you met your clone? There are a few areas of unnecessary redundancy, but those are easily overlooked without pitching you out of the flow of the story. There are a few items, like the chupacabra that is more reptilian than animal, it just takes a little tweaking of the imagination. You simple declare that this is reality for this story because the plot, action and dialogue carry you along so easily. The final bit leaves you open to a twist, and I'm not going to issue a spoiler. Trust me, if you like sci-fi and the element of self-examination, potential recreating your life, and a little games-manship - you are going to love this story. Plus, George R.R. Martin is a big part of the writing style!

I hope you check it out. Until then, Ta!

♥ ~ky

Friday, March 16, 2012

How to Make a Golem

Welcome to my blog! I am so happy to start sharing reviews with you. I will be reading a wide expanse of genres, and run the gamut from children's books to adult fiction. About the only things I won't read are erotic novels and chick-literature. I may even sneak the occasional non-fiction title in here and there. If you are a fan of chick-lit, check out my partners-in-crime, er reviews, linked on the right.

Don't you just LOVE that cover? The minute I saw this, I could NOT tear my eyes away. Even though it is a  YA read, I just had to know more. Bits of the cover art, by the way, appear inside, decorating each chapter.

How to Make a Golem and Terrify People
by: Alette J. Willis
Published by Floris Books, UK, 2011, ISBN 978-086315-840-7
Released in the USA January 2012
Young Adult, Gothic Literature, 240 pp. $9.95 US (Amazon)
Winner of the 2011 Kelpies Award
The Author
Alette J. Willis is new to the world of children's books, but an accomplished author of several adult short stories. She grew up in Canada, but recently moved back to her British homeland. She volunteers as a storyteller at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. Clearly, she strives to know the setting of her stories by spending time thoroughly researching the elements she uses in her tales. She is a teaching fellow and researcher at the University of Edinburgh.

The Setting
The neighborhood, school and hillside Willis uses in this story are as important to the story as the characters. She takes great care to immerse the reader in the sounds, smells, and textures of Edda's world. Willis draws on her experiences of living in Edinburgh, and her volunteer work at the Botanic Garden. The woods where much of the story is focused are sketched in enough detail to allow the reader's mind to construct a clear picture. I felt like I had climbed the stairs of the tower, walked the paths in the woods, and been shushed by the librarian at school.

The Story
This darling story chronicles the struggle of a young girl, Edda, facing her fears as she embarks on her journey making new friends and dealing with uncomfortable situations. She takes interest in a rather odd boy, Michael, who joins her school the day after her world was shattered by a robbery in her home. Michael promises Edda that they can bring a golem to life to watch over her home. Can they?

Bullying is a central theme in this story, but it is handled deftly by the author. She examines the surface effects of bullying, and delves deeper by showing how Edda cracks the bully's armor. Eventually, she even begins a tenuous relationship with her bully once she discovers he is living in an adverse home setting.

This story arrives at a time when our societies are struggling more openly with events and effects of bullying. I think Willis does a fine job of unfolding the fear and presenting options of diffusing such situations. She also puts the spotlight on the inevitable heartbreaks in childhood friendships.

Willis draws vivid details that connect you instantly with the characters. You immediately mistrust Michael Scot, and instantly connect with Edda Macdonald as she teeters on the edge of growing up. You really do dislike Euan, and almost grumble when he shows up in a scene. You suffer with Edda when a spat separates her from her best friend Lucy.

The title was the first thing that caught my attention. It might seem a little scary to young readers, but they needn't worry. The kids explore their fears, look to each other for encouragement, and find ways to learn that they really are stronger than they think. I think it would be suitable for most 10-year-old readers, and older. The kids in the story are age 13.

This book deals with a magical monster considered Gothic in nature without sinking into actual horror. It also acknowledges how talents, especially in children, can cause their own terror when exposed to a public eye. Two of the girls must execute their talents under stressful circumstances, and emerge much stronger. That is something that spills over into adult lives. I found myself feeling relieved and proud of their actions.

In this tender story, Willis' characters develop their independence, explore their fears, learn to trust one another, and solve relationship issues. She gives clear voice to the emotional rollercoaster of peer pressure, self-doubt and finding acceptance. Edda struggles to find her place of shelter amid life's storms. Throughout the book, she opens doors on subjects that will tempt the reader to learn more about the subjects once they are done reading.

So there you have it - my very first book review. I'm so glad you stopped by - feel free to leave questions or comments. Let me know if my reviews provide you with enough details, or if you have suggestions on how I can improve. Have a happy day!


Ky Sanders, author, artist, reader, explorer, bunny mom