Archive for the ‘words’ Category

I have finished reading my second novel for 2022, Fire & Shadow, by T.G. Ayer. Tee and I became friends through Facebook years five or six years ago. We both have kids who have undergone open-heart surgery and have Congenital Heart Disorder. We swap tales of our parental fears and woes. My niece is a big fan of T.G. Ayer’s books, and I knew Tee was successful as she is a ‘bestselling USA Today author.’ However, I had not read any of her work. In 2020, I attended an author event and shared a table with Tee. That was the first time we met face-to-face and we had such a fun day, chatting for hours. Tee is as beautiful and engaging as her considerable body of work. I bought the first volume in her Hand of Kali series, Fire & Shadow, and finally got around to reading it. So here we are.

Fire & Shadow is an urban fantasy for the YA market and is the first in a series of seven books. We meet Maya Rao. Our teen protagonist is an average Indian-American teen, balancing the cultural differences between the expectations of her parents and the need to fit in at high school. I found it insightful to the modern dilemma for children of traditional cultures. Maya juggles the beliefs of her Indian family with her modern ideas, and anyone can empathize. While her parents adhere to the old belief systems, Maya doesn’t believe in the Indian pantheon. She wants to forge her path in life. Having grown up in California with a lot of personal freedom, she largely views the tales her parents shared with her of Hindu folklore as nothing more than superstition.

Maya’s parents are relatively easy-going. The difference is that her father teaches martial arts and has taught her to fight. When a boy attacks Maya at a party, she accidentally incinerates him with a stream of fire. This act of self-defense brings her into the world of Indian Mythology and is when the story kicks into high gear. Maya starts to see and smell monsters, or rakshasas. After confessing the incident at home, her parents reveal that she is the reincarnation of a devoted follower of the goddess Kali. Maya is “The Hand of Kali” and can wield fire. It also brings others into her life. For example, Nik, the boy she has had a secret crush on, ‘the forbidden fruit,’ the goddesses Chayya, Kali, and Varuni, as well as the god of the underworld, Yama. The fabulous cast of characters includes Maya’s best friends, Joss and Ria, one a white American neglected by her parents and the other an Indian whose father rules her life with iron discipline.

I liked the heroine and her plausible rebellion against the constraints of her upbringing. I admired her feisty nature, the way Maya pushes the limits with her culture, and with what is expected of her once she discovers she is the Hand of Kali. I also liked the glimpse Fire & Shadow gives us of life inside an Indian household. Fascinating. Reading romance is not my preference. I appreciated that the romance between Maya and Nik only adds to the heroine’s journey, serving to enhance the narrative without ever being at the expense of the story development. The lovey-dovey stuff takes a back seat to the action and the plot. Thank you, Tee.

At the start, I was curious to see how a friend writes, and happily, I was impressed. A natural storyteller, who has a way with words, Tee strikes a balance between the dark content and humour, which had me seesawing from horror to guffaws.
‘I’m so dead when I get home. Maya’s dad had the nostrils of a shark – he could smell lies, fear, and alcohol within a five-mile radius. So dead.’
The book had a solid plot, a sense of steadily building tension. Fire & Shadow is pure entertainment. The descriptions of characters and setting are on point, and you can picture everything. At times genuinely scary, it kept me on the edge of my seat. I learned urban fantasy romance can be a riveting read. Now I understand why my niece is a fan. I admit I found a number of errors that were missed by the editor. I can’t complain though, as a few mistakes slipped through the editing with my trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, too. When you are self-published these things happen. No biggie.

According to her bio, T.G. Ayer was born in Durban, South Africa. Having sat and conversed with her, I know that the red tint in her dark hair comes from Irish blood also in her ancestry. Tee started by penning poetry before she moved on to writing fiction. The lightness of touch which comes through Fire & Shadow continues in her bio. Tee tells us her heart is torn in two between her homeland of Africa and New Zealand, so she ‘shall forever remain crosseyed.’ LOL. She lives in Auckland, is an active member and speaker with the Romance Writers of New Zealand, and has two grown-up daughters.
My rating: Four out of five stars.

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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Maya drew her fire again. This time it came smoothly, like a silky liquid, summoned with her mind, and conducted through her body. ~ T.G. Ayer, Fire & Shadow


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I have finished reading my first novel for 2022, Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman. It felt exciting to reach a tally of nineteen books read in 2021, compared to thirteen in 2020. We’ll see if I can do better this year. And what a way to begin! After seeing British author, Neil Gaiman interviewed live last year, as part of the New Zealand Readers & Writer’s Festival, I bought his book, Norse Mythology. A big fan of myths and legends, the title drew me in.

Norse mythology refers to the Scandinavian mythological worldview that was commonplace during the time of the Viking Age (c. 790- c. 1100 CE). In 2017, Neil Gaiman released his version in a collection of short stories. Though neither original nor new to most of us, Neil reimagines the time-honoured tales in a way that recaptures our attention all over again. In reality, the old Viking myths are gory, tragic, and sometimes incomprehensible. You need a strong stomach. Even so, Gaiman makes them approachable to a new generation. He presents these raw, brutal, bloody tales and makes them cool.
The novel way the author gets around the oral tradition of Scandanavian storytelling is by presenting most of the stories from the point of view of an unnamed narrator. Through frequent addresses to the audience, the narration evokes that feeling of listening. Clever stuff.
In the “Introduction,” Neil Gaiman explains three things: the cultural and literary significance of Norse mythology; the difference between the traditional representations of these gods and the way they have been reinterpreted in popular culture; and the sources used. He also explains how he fell in love with the legends and his passion for the subject matter comes through loud and clear. “The Norse myths are the myths of a chilly place,” concludes Gaiman, “with long, long winter nights and endless summer days, myths of a people who did not entirely trust or even like their gods, although they respected and feared them.”

Gaiman explains that long before the Middle Ages, the Germanic people believed in two types of Gods, the Aesir and the Vanir. Complete with a creation myth that has the early gods killing a giant and turning his body parts into the world, arrayed beneath the World Tree Yggdrasil, and the eventual end of the known world in the Ragnarök, the Nordic mythological world is complex and mysterious.
Given the timeless quality of Gaiman’s writing, he seems to be the perfect fit for a book of Norse mythology. With its influence on Marvel’s movies, heavy metal music, and J.R.R. Tolkien, the references to the mighty Gods of Asgard, who came complete with their doomsday, have become a part of daily life. It’s instructive and fascinating to have a popular author unpack the mythology for a modern audience, already familiar with the main players.

“Many gods and goddesses are named in Norse mythology,” Gaiman informs us at the beginning of his book. “Most of the stories we have, however, concern two gods, Odin and his son Thor, and Odin’s blood brother, a giant’s son called Loki, who lives with the Aesir in Asgard.”
The author fashions these ancient stories into an overall story arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. It is a truly unique worldview and an alternative perspective to modern religions. Okay, you could learn all the same information through reading it on Wikipedia but where’s the fun in that? You’d miss Gaiman’s deft turn of phrase and fairytale flair.

Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman is an author of novels, short stories, graphic novels, comic books, and films. The first author to win the Newbery and Carnegie medals for the same work – The Graveyard Book – Gaiman has so far authored classics in almost each of the genres he’s interested in, primarily being fantasy, horror, and science fiction. For example, the comic book series The Sandman was one of the first graphic novels ever to be on the New York Times Best Seller list. In addition, several of Gaiman’s novels – such as Stardust, American Gods, and Coraline – have been adapted into successful movies or TV series. How many books has Neil Gaiman written in his illustrious career? A fan had stacked them up, and apparently, the pile reached over 7 feet. In other words, his output has been prodigious. Long may he write!
This book, dare I say it, is deserving of becoming yet another Neil Gaiman classic.
My rating: Four out of five stars.

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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Before the beginning, there was nothing – no earth, no heavens, no stars, no sky: only the mist world, formless and shapeless, and the fire world, always burning. ~ Norse Mythology


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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

January 5 question – What’s the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?
I guess I regret turning down two offers from publishers. When I was first starting out and was submitting my children’s manuscripts to editors in New Zealand regularly, there were two yes replies. However, I turned them both down. One said they would publish my picture book, Free Wally, but they wanted to change all the characters’ names. What can I say? I was young and green. My creative soul felt they were going to tamper with my “artistic integrity” by changing the details. Therefore, I said no thank you and imagined I would easily find another acceptance for the story. Yet, I never did. It was the one and only offer I received for that book.
In the 90s a different publisher said they would release my middle-grade fantasy, The Scrifs and Stirrits, but they would only pay me a 5% royalty fee. In those days the going rate for royalties was 10%, and I was miffed. Why were they offering me less? I turned down the offer, thinking I wanted to be paid the same as everyone else. But I never found another publisher for that story so never got the chance.

Looking back at those decisions now, it’s easy to laugh at the folly of youth. What did it matter if they changed the names or paid me less royalty rate? I would still have had two books released by traditional publishing houses behind my name to help me stake a claim to this writer’s life. Instead, I hang in the wind of self-publishing and take the financial/emotional/mental hit of being Indie for every book. As a wide-eyed beginner, I did not know that getting any acceptance at all was fantastic. It took many more years of submitting my work to realize that acceptances are few and far between. And these days there are even fewer publishers accepting unsolicited work.
When I released my trilogy in 2020, I did a bit of research to see how many traditional publishers there were left in New Zealand. If I had wanted to submit my stories for consideration, there was only a handful of children’s publishers still accepting unsolicited manuscripts and after reading the t’s and c’s, my stories would only have been suitable for two of them. Two options? Pitiful. The current situation is very different from what it was when I was young and sending my stories to editors all over the country. I had no idea then how good I had it. But hey, hindsight is 20/20.

Therefore, if I could go back and change one thing about the past, maybe it would be rejecting the publishers’ offers. Or maybe it wouldn’t. Because I did overcome that obstacle. Early on, I made that mistake. Yet, I learned a lot through the years of “failing” that followed. They say if you change one thing about the past it alters the course of history. Would I want to mess around with the perfect plan for my life? Probably not. Maybe I was supposed to go it alone. Becoming an Indie is diabolically hard but it does have its rewards. I made all my own choices about covers, style, and everything for The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, which was satisfying. I’m proud of my trilogy. For the cover art, I collaborated with my nephew, Si, who is a consummate artist. We had such fun in the creative process, brainstorming and tooling around with options. I didn’t have to compromise his vision or question my choices. We had no interference which is a blessing only bestowed upon the self-published.

Looking back now, I have the satisfaction of knowing I did it my way, and there’s something pure in that. I cherish the books I’ve put out into the world so far. Would I have been able to say that if I was under the wing of a publisher? Or would the end result be something mutant and divorced from the original vision? With my name on the cover. No. The more I think about it, the more glad I am that I turned down those offers back in the day. I set myself on course for putting out books that authentically belong to me, and my creative intelligence is my service to the world. It will live on long after I’m gone. No, I’m convinced now I did the right thing when I was young.
So in a roundabout way, I have come back to the first question. What’s the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
What about you, what do you regret most about your writing?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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Every story I create creates me. I write to create myself. ~ Octavia E. Butler


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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to yvettecarol@hotmail.com

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

This month’s optional question: In your writing, what stresses you the most? What delights you?
The most stress I’ve been under in my entire life was the six months I spent last year doing the final edits on all three books in my trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. I believed they were ready to go. At that point, the books had gone through their paces. I’d polished all three with the help of my critique group (twice). I put them through my online editing suite with prowritingaid.com, then paid a professional proofreader and a copy editor. But, a funny thing happens when the actual deadline for publication stares you in the eye. Suddenly all the remaining issues that escaped detection up to that point gained a spotlight.
When I read again from book one, line by line, word by word, I found so many tiny errors that it became alarming. That’s the thing with checking copy, the intensity of focus required to question each word in an 80,000-word manuscript is almost a superhuman feat. Times that by three (volumes), and you start to get some idea of the Herculean task. It seemed like every time I made it to the end of a manuscript, thinking, right that one’s done, I’d re-read and find more errors. I began to fear I was losing my mind.

Electrified by pure panic, I stretched the working hours of the day longer and longer. I had freaking deadlines to meet. I got up earlier, went to bed later. I stopped doing the less essential things, like housework, gardening, exercise, and eating. To publish a novel as an Indie, the layout, cover design, printing, and PR, need to be booked months in advance of the launch date. The printing, likewise. My designer is particularly busy, and if I wanted any hope of releasing the book on the date advertised, I knew the date we would have to start working on it. That was my deadline.
My youngest son asked me, “When is this going to be over?” I gave him the death stare. He said, “You’re no fun anymore.” And he was right. Knowing the kids were suffering added stress, but I was knee-deep in the quagmire, and the clock was ticking. I had to slog on night and day until I thought I would combust.
Six painful, exhausting months later, in September 2020, I released my trilogy.

Party. Celebrate.
A collapse in relief.
A few days later, my brother said, “I know you’re not going to want to hear this, but I’m halfway through reading The Last Tree (3rd book in the series), and I’ve found an error.” No, I did not want to hear that. I was so beyond repair, so frazzled and burned out, I walked away from my laptop for six months and did no creative writing at all.
The youngest son asked with trepidation, “Are you going to put out another book?” Just between you and me, I am still undecided. I told myself I’d write my stories and keep them all in the bottom drawer where stories go to retire. I already have a plastic box in my room full of manuscripts from the last 40 years of penning fiction for children. I may just keep adding to that and die happy.

That was March. I took a pen and paper and sat down to write a new story. And that’s where the delight part kicked in. Like a soothing balm to my weary soul, the sheer joy of creative writing began to fill in the cracks and heal the tears. The bliss of writing a new copy is unequaled. To gambol about in the meadows of my unfettered imagination without the specter of publication hanging over me is akin to stepping back to the giddy glee of childhood. No restraints. No rules. No pressure. Just the daily outpouring of my collaborations with the muse in the heady blooming fields of my mind.
Realigned with my purpose and the delight is effortless. Inspiration needs no electric current. No data. No technological interference. Just a pure connection with life. Just daylight and fresh air. Just time to dawdle.

Give me time to daydream.

Nine months later, I am part way through writing a new children’s series. I’m in the zone. The genesis draft of any story is always the ecstatic part for me. The thought of publishing the result makes my knees knock, so necessarily, there is still no plan to publish the result. At least not yet. I might feel burned out as an Indie, but I have learned in this life “never to say never.” A faint maybe will have to suffice. I’m writing. That’s the main thing and always will be the main thing.


What stresses you most about writing? What delights you?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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You only fail if you stop writing. ~ Ray Bradbury


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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to yvettecarol@hotmail.com

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

This month’s optional question: What’s harder to do, coming up with your book title or writing the blurb?
For me, for sure, it’s writing the blurb. A title is short and pithy, a soundbite. It can fly in on the wind and be dropped into your lap as the muse wings by. I like to use the wind metaphor. It’s one I borrowed from Elizabeth Gilbert. In speaking about writing during one of her TED talks, Elizabeth mentioned a friend who said ‘the muse came by on the wind.’ Whenever this author was out on her farm and ‘heard the wind coming,’ she would run for the house to get a pen and paper so she would not miss the words or lose the fleeting grace of the inspired thoughts. I liked that idea. Though I heard it years ago, I still use it frequently.

As for the title of a story, I never worry about it. Because I know that sooner or later, the muse will blow through and gift me something. If I’m paying attention and act quickly enough to catch the inspiration I can jot it down. Simple, huh? Not.
The blurb, on the other hand, is more complex. It is a short passage of text on the book cover, a teaser that invokes the entire story. It’s like the precis of the precis, and it has to be dynamic. For many readers, the blurb is the deciding factor on whether to open the book or not.

The author needs to get the tone right. There are parameters to keep in mind: the blurb needs to tell the reader about the book; it must give insight without spoiling the surprise; the blurb must elicit interest without making false promises. It must cajole, persuade and entice. Some blurbs I edited more times than the stories. It’s not the sort of paragraph that wings in with the breeze. Nah. A blurb is the sort of copy that gets worked to within an inch of its life. And then changed again two years later.

There is an expectation that the blurb is in line with the style of the story. If the book is a horror, the word choice and imagery need to chill. A cozy mystery needs to elicit knowing smiles and whet the curiosity. Comedy should make us titter. Blurbs should match the content.
However, some folks try to cheat by simply setting out a string of questions. Whenever I read a book cover like this, it feels like a cheap marketing ploy. *Note: do not piss off your potential readers. An author needs to be careful about posing a list of questions. A little more finesse is required. A blurb must lure the reader in without sounding like a bald advertisement.
If the blurb doesn’t say enough, the reader may walk away, but on the other hand, if it says too much, the reader may also be turned off. There is a fine line to walk between the two.

What to do?

Copy the greats. That’s what I do. I always look to my role models in children’s literature for tricky jobs like writing blurbs. Look at this excellent example, for Martin the Warrior, by Brian Jacques. The blurb reads: Badrang the Stoat dreams of becoming Lord of the East Coast. After two long seasons of killing and conquering with his ferocious army of weasels, ferrets, foxes, and rats, it seems as if nothing will stop him. But Badrang hasn’t bargained for the bravery and fighting spirit of a young mouse called Martin – a mouse who refuses to bow to the deadly tyrant and who will stand up for his right to freedom at any cost. This blurb does it all in three sentences, does nothing wrong, and manages to elicit reader engagement without asking a single question. It’s perfection.
Only the greats can make it look easy. The rest of us continue sweating.


If you’re a writer, what do you find harder, the title or the blurb? Or, if you are a reader, which do you respond to the most when it comes to choosing books, the title or the blurb?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. ~ Milton Berle


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I have finished reading my seventeenth novel for 2021, Fire and Ice by Shannon Hale. Book four in the Spirit Animals series, which Scholastic has marketed as an ‘epic multiplatform fantasy series.’ It is a book and a game. Readers only need to use the code at the end of each book to play the online game. The series of novels follows four young heroes, the Greencloaks, Conor, Meilin, Abeke, and Rollan. Thankfully, they receive the help of legendary spirit animals in their mission to save Erdas from the Conquerors.
In the beginning, Gerathon, the menacing Great Beast, is at large, massacring people. Our four young protagonists are off to the land of icy tundra in search of the Crystal Polar Bear talisman. They must do what others fear to do, seek out the polar bear Great Beast, imprisoned in an ice cave for the safety of all. Despite receiving little help, the Greencloaks find their way to the polar bear and then deal with the repercussions. They escape and eventually fight for their lives against the Conquerors.

If you ever wanted to read a book where the odds are twenty to one against the heroes, this is the book for you. The situation starts dire and gets steadily worse until the final act. Fire and Ice is book four, after Blood Ties, Hunted, and Wild Born. I’ve read book two, Hunted and reviewed it, and I enjoyed that book far more than this one. I thought Maggie Stiefvater helped us feel closer to the characters and led us through a real adventure to the outcome. Whereas Shannon Hale seems focused on building tension and conflict points, and the character development and the story suffers in consequence. I felt apprised of the odds stacked against them and very little else. The experience is akin to becoming wired, as the tension mounts and with hardly a spot to sit and rest.


Many folks preferred this book to book 3 in the series, calling it an improvement. What I liked about Fire and Ice was the absence of any notable adults. All decisions, actions, and even the fall-out of the bad decisions are the responsibility of the child protagonists. You feel for them in horrendous situations. In this book, we meet a new child character, Maya. Maya’s spirit animal is a salamander which is unusual. A salamander does not seem helpful, then its element of warmth and fire comes in mighty handy when the team starts to suffer from the cold in the frozen wastes. The addition of Maya to our group begins to make sense. The five learn to work together and rely on one another, which is an appropriate moral in these times.


Shannon Hale is a fine writer. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, the United States, she is the New York Times best-selling author of six young adult novels. Shannon won the Newbery Honor book Princess Academy, is a multiple award winner Book of A Thousand Days, and the highly acclaimed Books of Bayern series. She co-wrote the hit graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge and its sequel, Calamity Jack, with her husband, Dean Hale. They live near Salt Lake City with their four children.


I enjoyed this book for the most part, although I prefer books set in warmer climes.
My rating: Two and a half stars.

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”–Winston Churchill


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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to yvettecarol@hotmail.com

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

October 6 question – In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?
LOL! I draw the line in so many places there is hardly anything left on the table! One of the keys to writing for children is figuring out how to look at the world from a child’s point of view. When I started, that was one thing my critique partners would always say. ‘This sounds like an adult thinking/talking.’ ‘Your child protagonist seems to be an adult.’ I have worked on it for years to figure out the child-friendly view. One of the things Beverly Cleary attributed her success to was that she ‘had never grown up.’ Cleary maintained a powerful connection to the child view and what they’re interested in that made her able to connect with a vast audience of appreciative readers.
Along with writing at the this age level for a children’s author comes the responsibility to keep the language clean and the topics suitable.

In the first draft of my debut novel, The Or’in of Tane, I had written a romance between the characters of Henny and Dr. Milo Mahiora. My friend and then editor, Maria Cisneros-Toth, pulled me up on the romance and kissing scene. She said, “No, no, no. Not in middle-grade fiction.” I cut the scene out, removing the whole romance. To my surprise, I discovered the story was the better for it and I understood Maria was right. I have not crossed that line since.

In the last few years, I have read the occasional middle-grade novel that has included romance, and it has struck me afresh why Maria told me no. The effect is a shock. It’s not appropriate for kids whose lives still involve bouncy balls, bikes, and games of Go Fish. Yes, okay, kids are exposed to all kinds of things via social media these days. But that doesn’t give license to authors to introduce elements to 8-12-year-old readers that we would be uncomfortable with our children reading. That gave me a gauge for the level of what should be off-limits. What would I want my children of similar age reading? Age-appropriate fiction.

I draw the line at romance in my genre, either reading it or writing it.

As for topics, there are so many contentious subjects these days. The list is endless. Writers fear they might say one wrong thing and attract a backlash. There is a strong sense of staying within the confines of what is deemed politically correct. I have a friend who writes urban romantic fantasy. She included one of the mythical gods from religion in her book and received death threats. This sort of thing naturally scares authors.

At the same time as wanting to stick within the limits, I also feel strongly that the ultimate choice about topics and language should remain in the hands of the individual. In my opinion, the worst thing that could happen to our society would be for the artists to lose their freedom of expression or creative license. I’m mindful of that sublime quote by Jane Yolen, ‘Good stories are dangerous. Dangerous, anarchic, seductive. They change you, often forever…they challenge our vocabularies and our history. Sometimes they challenge our comfortable morality. And sometimes…they challenge our most basic assumptions.’
What about you. What sort of language or topics are off-limits in fiction?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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“No one is born a writer. You must become a writer. You never cease becoming, because you never stop learning how to write. Even now, I am becoming a writer. And so are you.” —Joe Bunting


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I have finished reading my sixteenth novel for 2021, Gods and Warriors, by Michelle Paver. Frankly, I was curious. I kept seeing this author’s name every time I was out buying books. Paver featured in every new and secondhand book store as well as gracing our library’s shelves. Who was this new author?
I’m always looking for middle-grade fiction to read my son with special needs as part of our bedtime ritual. Man, I was not ready for Paver. I was unprepared for the shock value in the opening pages of Gods and Warriors. Paver hits the ground running. In the first five paragraphs, our protagonist, Hylas, has an arrowhead buried in his arm. We learn his sister is missing, his dog is dead, and he is running for his life. By the fifth page, the Crows hurl a boy’s body down the slope in front of Hylas, ‘it was now a terrible thing of black blood and burst blue innards like a nest of worms.’

This unexpected element of shock and gore made reading Gods and Warriors to my nineteen-year-old son, who has the equivalent mental age of a twelve-year-old, a bit awkward. I ad-libbed at random to cover the frightening parts, which seemed more suitable for an older audience. For some more sensitive middle-grade readers, I fear they would suffer nightmares for weeks. If you are an actual middle-grade reader, I warn you to read through your fingers.
Our hero, Hylas, is a 12-year-old goatherd. As an Outsider, the Crows are hunting him and his kind. The terrifying Mycenaen warriors are ‘a nightmare of stiff black rawhide armour, a thicket of spears and daggers and bows. Their long black cloaks flew behind them like the wings of crows, and beneath their helmets, their faces were grey with ash.’ While hiding from the Crows in a tomb, Hylas finds a dying man who gives him a bronze dagger (a priceless gift to a simple shepherd) and speaks in verse about his fate. Hylas takes the dagger and carries on to try to find his sister. Along the way, he meets Pirra, the daughter of a High Priestess, who is also on the run, trying to escape a forced marriage.

Hylas befriends Spirit the Dolphin, who has lost his Dolphin pack. And Hylas has a conflict with his best friend Telemon, the son of a Mycenean chieftain, who is torn between wanting to be a good friend as well as a good son.
What I liked about this novel were the Bronze Age setting and the mythological elements. Although I did feel confused at times by the mysterious “higher” powers: the Goddess, the Earthshaker, the Angry Ones, the ghosts. They were referenced, feared, placated with gifts, yet, they were never fully explained or seen. They provided a vague background threat that sometimes sprang forward to scare the pants off us. However, on the plus side, it was cool the way Paver included the different customs around the Greek Islands in the Bronze Age, depicting the unique ways people worshiped and lived. Paver evoked the time and era with ease.

What I didn’t like was the sometimes shallow feeling to the characters. I didn’t like the head-hopping, especially when we were given Spirit, the dolphin’s point of view. Though a fan of anthropomorphism, it has to be done a certain way. I found the sudden switching from Hylas into the mind of a dolphin a step too far. The other three characters showed great promise, especially Telamon, but they weren’t developed enough for my liking. The issues presented were different for each character, Hylas to find his sister, Pirra to escape her marriage, Spirit to find his pack and help Hylas, Telamon to please his father and his friend. Yet, none seemed truly compelling. At the end, none of the characters achieves their goal except for the dolphin, Spirit, who saves the life of his friend Hylas again and again then finds the other dolphins at the end. I thought the writing was competent. The problem was the story had no grand goal to get behind. It felt like eating junk food, you enjoy it for a moment but once you’re finished, you feel unsatisfied.
Michelle Paver was born in 1960 in Malawi, Central Africa, moving to the United Kingdom at the age of three. She earned a degree in Biochemistry from Oxford University and became a partner in a law firm. Paver’s books reflect her lifelong passion for animals, anthropology, and ancient history. She is most well known for her bestselling Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series.
As for Gods and Warriors, I won’t be seeking out the sequel.
My rating: One and a half stars.

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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A classic children’s book…superb writing. ~ Anthony Horowitz

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I have finished reading my fifteenth novel for 2021, Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins by Carlos Fuentes. It was one in a pile of books I picked up while visiting my sister on Waiheke Island in the upper north island of New Zealand. We popped into the Salvation Army shop. I drifted into the books section and walked out thirty minutes later with two bags of books! That always happens. I got the lot for ten bucks. You’ve got to love that.
Usually, I stick to reading within my genre of middle-grade fiction, but I will also buy anything that takes my fancy. Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins sounded so quirky. I thought, what is that about? And I recognized the author.

The book consists of five short stories. In the title story, a kind and happy husband discovers the true nature of his marriage. ‘As though he has walked through a mirror and found that the life held in the glass was not his own at all.’ ‘…you repeatedly seem to shudder awake, you think you’ve opened your eyes, but in fact, you’ve only introduced one dream inside another.’ I would try to precis the stories, but I fear that might be beyond me. From a doll coming to represent a human woman to a story narrator in bed with a ghost, the stories pitch you from the boat into a dark swirling morass of imagery and ideas in which there is no life raft. There is no way of making sense of the stories contained within this book. The stories located from Savannah, Georgia to Glasgow, depict the moments in life when worlds collide, and they are fittingly chaotic.
Carlos Fuentes Macías (1928 – 2012) was a Mexican writer. He also served as a diplomat in 1965 in London, Paris (as ambassador), and other capitals. Though he became one of the best-known novelists of the 20th century in the Spanish-speaking world, he found the time to teach courses at Brown, Princeton, Harvard, Penn, George Mason, Columbia, and Cambridge. The author of thirty works, his first book, Aura, was published in 1962. He published Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins, in Spanish, Constanciay otras novelas para virgines by Mandadori Espana, in 1989.

The book received mixed reviews. The deconstructionists of the world heralded Constancia as a miraculous conception and a great example of the ‘imagination unbound.’ The great unwashed masses, of whom I count myself one, reviled the book, like a big shiny house to which we did not possess the key to get in. There are no story structures, nothing to grasp, no compass or road map through the forest of words.
I would not go so far as to say what some of the critics said. I wouldn’t call the book ‘the ravings of a madman,’ or ‘a senseless mess,’ or ‘UNREADABLE.’ But I will tell my ultimate truth, and that is I couldn’t finish it. It’s not often I can say a book has beaten me. This one did. It is one of the few books I have put down halfway through and walked away from. I literally could not take another word of such nonsense. Magical Realism. Definitely. Not. My. Genre.
My rating: No stars. But I will give it two groans.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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As a literary fiction style, magic realism paints a realistic view of the modern world while also adding magical elements, often dealing with the blurring of the lines between fantasy and reality. ~ Wikipedia

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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

September 1 question – How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?
Without question, success is holding the book in my hand. I guess that is because I wrote stories for half my life before I published a book. Although I started writing fiction at age 17 and had a story and an article published in other people’s books, I didn’t produce a book until I was 50. I think the moment I laid eyes on that first novel is engraved forever in my memory. I was so excited, taking numerous photos and bombarding social media. It was unbelievable, overwhelming and the satisfaction was complete.

To me, it felt like the ultimate vindication and success because the road to publication had not been a straight one. An idealist, I had expected the publishing side of being a writer would be as much fun as doing the writing. Find an agent, grab a great deal with a publishing house, and make lots of money. Easy. In the 80’s I found myself an agent, and I carried on writing children’s stories, thinking the agent would take care of finding homes for my books. Four years later, he still had not sold a single manuscript. I fired the agent and started sending the manuscripts out myself. After many nibbles, I had one story, a re-telling of the folk tale, The Ice Queen, accepted by a traditional publishing house. I waited a year, then they returned the manuscript, saying they had been unable to fit me into their schedule. No way.
Another year I had one of my picture book manuscripts, Free Wally, accepted by a publisher in Wellington. But they wanted to change the names of all the characters. I couldn’t handle that! Give me money, do all the work of publishing, fine, but change the details of my creative progeny? No deal.

I carried on writing (and illustrating) and sending out stories, finally gaining another acceptance for a picture book, The Unsightly Wet Nightie. Whoopee! I thought. Then I read the fine print. They were only offering me a 5% royalty fee, which at the time for authors was usually 10%. I said, No dice.
A year later, I entered my story, The Or’in of Tane into an international writing competition. The prize was the publication of the book. I waited, revisiting the website day and night, waiting for news of who had made the shortlist. The publishers released a statement, saying if you had not heard back from them, you had made the shortlist. Happy dance! I had not heard back and was euphoric. A month later, the shortlist then the winner and runner-up were announced. My name did not appear. When I followed up on my story, they told me that due to the time difference between here and there, my competition entry had arrived a day later than their deadline, and they had disqualified me.

Meltdown. Tears for days. Gloom and doom.
Was I beaten?
Well, initially, yes.
Then I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and decided to take my fate into my own hands. For the first time, I seriously considered going Indie. I began to venture online and learn about self-publishing. And the rest, as they say, is history. I did the spadework and self-published my trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, in 2020. Talk about a moment of triumph. The books were well received, gaining a 9.8 out of 10 ratings by one popular book reviewer.

Every time I see those books on the shelf, I get a thrill.

Holding my book in my hand, that spells success to me. Because I know what it took to get here and all the years of solitary blood, sweat, and tears that went into this. Self-publishing is hard work. However, that’s the buzz, isn’t it? Hard work makes you feel good.
It has been fulfilling to produce something my kids and grandkids can hold in their hands. Now, I leave physical books sitting in libraries and on bookshelves and lodged within the hallowed halls of the National Library of New Zealand. To create is the best, and then to share that creation is ‘reason I am here’ material.
When you take things into your own hands with your career, the world is your oyster! How do you define success as a writer?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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Regardless of your genre, your task is to get your book in front of readers. ~ Jaq D Hawkins


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