Book Club Finish – The Wen by Nyall Robert Frye

[Ya know, this is a day late because I failed to hit the “publish” button last night. Sorry.]

Well, for this novella, let’s discuss genre. Over on LinkedIn, where these posts are shared, we discussed whether or not this novella is truly horror. One review on Amazon stated it wasn’t. (You can see more of this over at the Book Club Start post on my LinkedIn account).

And while this LinkedIn reader agreed that it wasn’t horror, he still thought it was a good read. Especially as the story wrapped up in a novella and he doesn’t have much time to read.

I think novellas have made a comeback, not just because of ebooks, but because folx don’t have the time to read like they used to. Our lives have sped up so much and we have so much to do every day.

But, on to genre.

What makes a book horror? I’m probably not a great judge of what is horror, since I don’t usually read horror, and since I liked this novella, maybe thats a sign it isn’t?

Wikipedia defines horror as a “genre of speculative fiction which is intended to frighten, scare, or disgust”. It can invoke fear and repulsion. It further explains there are two type of horror: psychological and supernatural.

By this definition, I would consider The Wen to be horror, a mix of the two subgenres (I won’t go into detail as that would be a spoiler, and I do hope you go read it.)

Now…is it Stephen King level horror? No. But I tried reading Cujo back in high school and couldn’t. Thats probably why I don’t consider myself a reader of horror. 

This one, I could read. And yes, I experienced a bit of fear and revulsion in the end. That anyone could be.. like that…(ooh…no spoilers).

Now, I also read Maverick Heart by Pamela K. Kinney, not realizing it was in the horror genre, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Now I should have known, since that’s what she writes.. but I digress.  I’ve also been told my Dhampyr novels (as E. G. Gaddess) are horror. I never knew that when writing them.

So let’s consider intent, as that is a part of the Wikipedia definition. Did the author intend for the story to invoke fear and loathing? I think so, or it wouldn’t be labeled horror. And it did this successfully with me as I read it. With other readers, it did not as that is something they mentioned specifically.

Now I definitely think this story is solidly in the realm of speculative fiction. I think that’s where most of this author’s stories fall. (I have read others by Nyall Robert Frye.) Speculative fiction is a broad, overarching term that encompasses a wide swath of genres, so I’m not certain that helps anyone define a specific genre.

It isn’t science fiction, nor is it fantasy. It isn’t magical realism or alternate universe. It is set solidly in today’s world, with today’s science, but hints at something supernatural.

There is a solid psychological aspect to this tale. There is violent murder. One man playing with the mind of another. Someone doubting their sanity at times. This manipulative character is what caused me to feel revulsion, so yeah, psychology plays a big part in this story.

The supernatural mythology presented in the telling of the story would mean it’s not a pure psychological horror, bleeding over into the supernatural horror. Which is why I think it overlaps the two subgenres.

Maybe the big defining part of whether someone would consider this horror or not is how much other horror they read, and what other books they are comparing it to. As someone who reads only a little horror and has only done that recently, I consider this horror. Maybe it’s accessible horror? Horror light?

Is genre only in the mind of the reader? What do you think? Please share your comments.

Book Club Start – The Wen by Nyall Robert Frye

The Wen by [Nyall Robert Frye]

Our next read is actually a novella – The Wen by Nyall R. Frye (you can get your Kindle copy here). Things are getting busy job-wise for me and my husband, and I’m starting back on Write Night podcast now that it has a slightly different taping schedule (hosted by Travis Tavern Talk; find all his streaming info here).

I have read this author before – he seems to specialize in shorter formats – and enjoy his work immensely (yes – I have also acted as his editor). But I don’t edit stuff I can’t get behind or don’t enjoy. Even if we’re bound by blood.

I hope you enjoy this quick read, and meet me back here on March 6 for my take on his characterization and wade into the horror genre.

Book Club Finish: A Timely Revolution

I hope you got to finish book 1 in this series by Tempie W. Wade. Alert, there may be spoilers here if you haven’t, so proceed with caution.

Let’s continue discussing character; especially the advice that you have to like a main character from the beginning to keep reading.

I didn’t like Maggie. She is young and a bit selfish when the book starts, and frankly, she pisses me off. However, the time travel aspect kept me reading long enough to discover that Maggie grows and develops into someone I start to like by the end.

Writing wisdom states that a reader needs to connect with a character and like them to keep reading. This is an example of how to not do that, and succeed. Maggie matures in this book, and though is sometimes a bit of a “Mary-Sue”, in the end that makes her mistakes much worse.

This is an author who did her research into history, but then gives us characters that our modern sensibilities can relate to. Hint hint: I mean Gabe. You want to know more about Gabe, read the book.

Not just the main character, but side characters (like Gabe) who I hope will stay with us through the series. I mean, there are 5 more books after this one!

I hope Maggie keeps developing and growing, and that I learn to not just like her as a character, but grow to love her. I think that is definitely in the cards.

Did you like Maggie from the start? Why? Or why not? Let me know in the comments.

Book Club Start: A Timely Revolution by Tempie W. Wade

We’ve finished our first book, and if you need to make a comment on that one, visit yesterday’s post. I focused a bit on character, and we can keep discussing that first book while we read this one.

Our next Indie Book Read will be A Timely Revolution: Timely Revolution Series Book One by Tempie W. Wade. Let’s see if we can finish this book by Friday, Feb 5. From what I can tell, if you like romance and magic and history, this is one you won’t want to put down.

This book was the WINNER OF BEST HISTORICAL FANTASY OF 2019 in the American Book Fest American Fiction Awards.

Can’t wait to dig in and read. Should we focus on characters again? Comparing with our last read? Or focus on world-building?

Let me know in the comments if you have a preference. 🙂

Book Club Finish: Beliefs and Black Magics

Did you finish reading Travis I Sivart’s first book in the Portals series, Beliefs and Black Magics? I hope so, because there are some spoilers ahead.

I want to focus on #characters in this book.

My personal is The Kid (Jen). In our world, she is older, dying, but in this magical world she is young, spry, and can do magic. I think I found in The Kid a bit of whimsy that I can relate to: I am getting older (though not as old as Jen!) and sometimes wish for my younger self, but with my knowledge and wisdom intact. As The Kid, Jen gets to live that out.

Cover of Portals Book One: Beliefs and black Magics by Travis I Sivart

I find her characterization real. Her thoughts and emotions match those of an older woman who has lost and is ready to let go. It gives The Kid a hint of recklessness from Jen that matches what might have been The Kid’s own personality.

That the book has three characters from our world learning to experience a different, magical life in an alternate world, all with different backgrounds allows the reader to experience a wide range of emotion, from a character not sure they want to be in this world, to one reveling at their new strength and abilities.

The fantastical qualities of this alternate world are not short-changed by all that character work and development by the author. This world, in all its magical, and sometimes evil, glory, is as much a character as the three heroes. The villains are fleshed out, too, with backgrounds almost as tragic as the heroes.

What did you think of the hero characters in this book?

How about the villainous characters?

Do you have a favorite? Why are they your favorite?

Leave a comment letting everyone know.

And don’t forget to visit the book club page to join up so you can suggest books for us to read.

Book Club

Amazon’s latest venture is Book Clubs, and for some reason, I got early access? That’s what it said anyway. The platform will be opened up to everyone later this year. Anyway – I set up a book club today. If you want to join me, click here: DreamPunkers Book Club. You just need an Amazon account; I think that will change in the future.

I plan for the book club to read indie and small-press published sci-fi and fantasy books (I mean, that’s what I write, so…), but it isn’t just about my books. I know quite a few indie authors, and their books are just fantastic, so I want to read them, and why not read them with you?

When we’re done (I haven’t added any due dates yet, but I will as we get moving through the books) we can come back here and I’ll post my thoughts on the books and you can share yours, too.

The first book we’ll be reading is Portals Book 1: Beliefs and Black Magics by Travis I Sivart. The premise for this adult fantasy series is that folx from our world, when on the cusp of death, are transported to a fantasy world and into the body of someone who just died in this world. I think it’s a bit like D&D on steroids, but there is a continuing story line through the series. There are already three books in the series, and they link to other books the author has written, so if you like it, it looks like there will be more when we’re done.

When you join the book club, you can suggest books for us to read in the future, all I ask is that they be sci-fi or fantasy and indie or small press. If we get too many suggestions (like that would be such a horrible issue to have, right?) we’ll come here and take a poll to decide what to read next.

Coffee Daze

I’m a coffee drinker. I like it strong, with creamer and sugar, especially with a hint of vanilla. My favorite creamer right now is Carnation Simply Bliss; it’s natural ingredients and not too sweet.

Even though I like cream and sugar in my morning wake-up cup, I still like it to taste like coffee.

So, when an author friend of mine, who also hosts a Twitch stream told me he had a branded coffee, I had to go and buy it. Just to try. After all, it’s coffee!

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from it, especially when it was a medium roast. I usually get a dark roast (you know, so it still tastes like coffee with cream and sugar in it).

But…it holds up to cream and sugar.

Here it is:

And if you want to try a cup, you can purchase it here: https://customlabelcoffee.com/products/vwwyxllbrlhdrdmlbwwrwjjh?variant=34405426069637?ref=TravisTavernTalk

Mourning Haiku

So on Monday, a friend let me know she was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in the lungs and is foregoing treatment. She is older, and I can understand her decision.

My husband’s grandmother made the same decision when she was diagnosed over a decade ago with breast cancer at 82. She lived for a few more good years, without going through the sometimes painful and stressful treatment.

My mother, who died a couple of years ago, was only 62 when she received her diagnosis and nearly died–and her decision to undergo treatment was made by my brother (for the record, I would have made the same decision in that instant). We had six more years to spend with her, but the treatment was almost a year long and brutal for her. Her last three years was very hard as the initial treatment to save her life was radiation on the brain, and eventually caused early dementia.

I am eternally grateful for those extra years, though.

This news from my writing friend threw me. It is hard losing folx you love. I’ve lost more people to cancers, friends and family alike, than I ever thought I would when I was younger. I’ve lost a younger friend who battled breast cancer three times (I found out from the newspaper); three women from my church (two more who survived–so far).

My grandfather said once that it was hard to read the obituary columns when you recognize the names you see more than you don’t. I now know what he meant, the feeling he felt.

I don’t read obituaries. Not anymore.

And as I’ve discussed before, I write when I mourn.

This is a little different, as I’m mourning before she’s gone. Which may be easier–I know I have things I should say, and though she does not want visitors (talking causes coughing which causes pain), I have written some emails to her, expressing my joy at meeting her, reading her writing, and eating her wonderful Japanese cooking.

I’ve also let her know that I will deeply miss her and that my heart is already aching for her.

So, here is her poem:

For Midori

My aching heart hears
one last gasped breath of friendship
and you will be gone.

Sayonara

Blasts from the Past

Or maybe I should say, a poem (or three) from the past.

I was going through some boxes long packed away in the attic, trying to figure out what could go and what I wanted to stay, when I found some old journals from when I was a just-graduated high-school teen. I wrote (or tried to write) poetry back in those days, and even got a bit of recognition for them.

It was…emotional…reading some of these. They made me remember the awkward, angsty teen that I was. She was nice enough, but sometimes very depressed.

I even found a journal from when I was in my early twenties, newly married, then I lost my grandmother and had a baby. [Whew!] I’ll share some of these poems on a different day–the feel of these is very different.

Here you go!

Teardrops (December, 1987)

Drops on the windowpane
teardrops from heaven
falling silent and gentle
or violent with great wracking sobs.

~I added to this poem in February of the following year. I must have been feeling better by then about whatever inspired that first stanza.

Flowers growing in the meadow
–children of the Earth–
sprouting defiant and sure
or hesitant and wary like a child.

~I’d like to say this was an anomaly, these angsty bits of thoughts that might mean something, but this is a lot of what I wrote back then. I know it sounds like a cliche, but I think I wrote a lot of these poems to express the roiling emotions I didn’t know how to deal with. Not sure it worked…but I’m still around, so it must have done something for me.

Untitled (September, 1988)

all alone;
a solitary figure;
dwarfed by life’s problems;
overwhelmed

defeated;
a solitary figure;
bows under the pressure
enveloped by the passing tide

no one sees,
a solitary figure
disappear from the path
gone forever

never remembered;
that solitary figure;
hermited away
in solitude

of a kind–not happy

~Heavy stuff. Reflecting back, I don’t remember anything weighing on me that bad, but life is different as a teen. Everything is big and bold and in your face, especially the bad stuff. It can feel like things will never get better.

And then, there is this cute ditty that follows. I know the inspiration for this: an argument with my English teacher about what a poem meant. I stated that a poem means different things to different people, because the symbolism held in an image is not exactly the same for everyone. I damn-near failed his class, I think. And honestly, think about this: an image of a circle will not mean “eternal love” to the child of a single parent whose best friend’s mother is going through a nasty divorce. The image of a circle does not necessarily bring to mind a wedding ring! And if so, it might be tarnished!

Anyway…enjoy!

Ode to my Poem (September, 1988)

I wrote myself a poem, just the other day.
Funny thing about it, I didn’t know what to say.

So I searched my heart to its very core,
wrote down these words and nothing more.

It is such a sweet little thing; only I understand,
its deep and soulful meaning, written by my hand.

[My journal has this little note to myself in it after: I wrote this and it made me feel so good because it is good!]

A (cautionary) Tale of Two (maybe more) Ice Creams

I like ice cream. I’m not sure I can say EVERYONE likes ice cream, but a vast majority of us do. And for those of us who do, we usually have a favorite. Mine is vanilla — I like it plain, but I also like that I can add other flavors to it.

Now, I have a particular style (natural creamy) that I like best, as well a a favorite brand (Tillamook — I like their cheese, too).

Now, I would not say that I am a brand freak, but there are some things that I am brand loyal to, and for different reasons (Tide laundry detergent is one, because it is the only only I KNOW I will not have a skin reaction to). Tillamook creamy vanilla ice cream is one of them.

The hubby has his own items he is brand loyal to, but ice cream is not one of them. And for some strange reason, during this time of self-isolation, he has been buying ice cream on his way home from running errands. I know he thinks he;s being kind, providing me a comfort food. I mean, he’s been buying creamy vanilla — because it’s what I like and I know his favorite is strawberry or black cherry if he can find it — but in every brand but Tillamook. (Hubby quote ~ Do you know how expensive that is?)

Yes, yes I do. And it is worth every penny.

If there anything you buy brand name that you think is worth the extra cost?