Separation Pre-Orders

When writing both a fantasy series and a science fiction series do not try to edit one while writing the other. Switching gears between genres and styles like that was hard.

Rose From the Ash was released this past spring and once that was out of the way I could focus on finishing the drafts for Separation – book two in the Underground Series.

Focus is definitely what this book needed. I had started and stopped so many times the different pieces did not fit together at all. So much of it had to be rearranged and rewritten.

But it got done. And now the e-book is available for pre-order. We will officially be celebrating the launch of the ebook at the Twilight Madhouse Launch party on August 1 (the book goes live on August 8th so there will be a week yet of pre-orders). We’ll be launching the paperback at C4 in October. And with a little luck I’ll have book 3 completed by then as well.

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Review: Wendigo Whispers

Wendigo Whispers is Alex McGilvery’s first thriller and it is officially being released today. Set in a fictional small town in Northern Manitoba, the story follows Leigh and her husband, new-comers to town, as they unravel the mystery that is plaguing the failing town.

The town was once prosperous, until the ore in the mine ran out and the big money left town. Things have been sliding downhill ever since. You meet a lot of very interesting characters in this town, some quirky, some friendly, some dangerous, some just misguided.

The main character, Leigh, hears voices and is on some very potent medication. This makes her both a sympathetic and empathetic character. She’s passionate and dedicated to her class (she’s a teacher).

The story features a lot of Cree culture. Now, I’m not an expert in any form of Native American culture but I do have family and friends who are Native American and it seems that Alex has done some research and has certainly treated the Cree characters in his story with respect.

The story itself walks a fine line between traditional thriller and supernatural tale. There are little side stories woven into the novel making it a story about the town and its people, not just Leigh vs the bad guy.

I read this book in one sitting, I could not put it down. I stayed up way too late just to finish it, and I’m glad I did. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, and to reading more of Alex’s works.

Wendigo Whispers is available TODAY so if it sounds interesting to you, you can be one of the first to read this gripping tale. I know I give it 5 stars.

Review: P.A.W.S. Argentum

Argentum is the second book in the P.A.W.S. series by Debbie Manber Kupfer. P.A.W.S. is a contemporary paranormal series set mainly in St. Louis with parts of the book taking place in Europe and New York.

The cast of this book his huge but the main character is Miri Katz, a fifteen year old Jewish girl who can change into a cat with the help of an ancient amulet that has been in her family for generations. She is living at a secret facility that is part base part school part research facility in Forest Park with most of the cast.

There is the leader of their location, her son (who is also Miri’s romantic interest), a half dozen werewolves, a kangaroo exchange student, Miri’s roommate (another cat shifter), an ancient bird shifter (who may be friend or foe), and several side characters who are staff or students at the facility. As well there are three or four human characters and two or three “bad guys”. Plus about a dozen side characters in other locations.

The large cast wouldn’t be a problem but the story arc in this book branches and instead of closely following JUST Mirir’s journey you are now involved with a half dozen intersecting arcs, many of which are actually lengthy flashbacks. These chapters are interesting and full of their own tension and plot but there is no real clear distinction, no date at the beginning of a chapter, nothing to tell you if you’re in flashback or not. This wouldn’t be bad if they were short – a few paragraphs – and you were slipping in and out of memory with the characters, but some flashbacks are chapters long. And some of the flashbacks were very recent which made keeping the current timeline straight a little difficult.

The book felt long. There was a lot going on but I think the looking back nature of the book made it feel slower than book 1.

I will say that I liked the Canadian exchange student who was so un-Canadian it was refreshing. This author does not fall back on stereotypes.

I am curious to see where this series is going so the flashbacks haven’t turned me off the story. I think that they could have been shorter, hinted at, and that she might have taken those lengthy flashbacks, made them more showing and less tilling, and released a series of short stories instead. But they were interesting.

3.5 out of 5 stars from me.

Review: The Prussian Lieutenant

The Prussian Lieutenant was originally written in German by Karl May in 1845. It was translated into English by Robert Stermscheg in 2009. The English translation is available digitally and in print through Amazon.

This was our July pick for the Steinbach and Area Book Club.

This is a whopper of a book. 379 pages at a 6×9 trim size. I loved the feel of it. A good, solid book is so satisfying. And the font is not large so if you like larger print opt for the e-book.

Set during the German-Russian occupation of Paris in 1814, it was “historical” fiction when it was first written, and even more so now. In comparison it would be like someone today writing a book set in the 1980s, maybe not quite historical yet but certainly “retro”. As a work of historical fiction it falls in the same category as other classics (such as Emma, Pride and Prejudice) which were contemporary when written but have been on our shelves for so long they have become historic. These books offer us a unique view into the past. In some ways it is clearer, more accurate, and in other ways far more vague. Who among us would explain in detail how something day-to-day works? Like bathrooms or e-mail? Similarly Karl May would not have included such mundane details for his contemporary audience. Robert Stermscheg has done a wonderful job of clarifying such details for us in the translation notes included in the book (notes which I did not include in that 379 page page-count).

The story centers on Prussian Lieutenant Hugo von Lowenklau and his adventures in Paris. He rescues Margot, a young Parisian woman and becomes entangled with her step-brother, Captain Albin Richemonte. Helping Hugo are Margot’s mother and Lowenklau’s superior officer, one Field Marshal Blucher. Albin has the assistance of Baron de Reillac. This cast of 6 is the core focus of the book, other characters mainly being lower ranked soldiers whom the main six cross paths with and a few other minor officials.

The small cast size makes it easy to keep everyone straight and you become intimately involved with each of them. You feel a deep connection, positive or negative, to each.

This is, at heart, a love story, but is full of intrigue and humour. Blucher is by far my favourite character and he adds so much lightheartedness and intensity to this story.

In some ways this book feels cliched, but you have to remember that it was written before whatever other book it is reminding you of. Like other books of its time-period, it is BEFORE cliches were cliched.

It took me FOREVER to read this book the first time. I would read a chapter or two and set it down, but it was never out of my mind. It just took me that long to unpack and digest the level of detail in this book. And yet the pacing was remarkably balanced. The tensions in the plot were resolved with ingenuity on the part of the characters. Motives remained consistent to the characters’ personalities. The time period was authentic and so rich in detail that you felt you were there.

Robert did an excellent job of keeping the steady pace and authentic feel of this story while making it easy to read and understand. His notes were helpful and interesting.

5 out of 5 stars to both Karl May and Robert Stermscheg.

Saying Goodbye

Today we are burying my grandfather.

He passed away quite suddenly towards the end of January when it is cold and icy here and the ground is too hard and too covered in snow to bury anyone really. So he was cremated and the lovely wooden box has sat at my grandmother’s since then. The service has been held.

Today we gather together as a family – his nieces and nephews, his children and grandchildren and great grand children – to lay him to rest, to say one last goodbye.

It’s been six months. It’s still surreal.

I had to tell my children in January that he was in the hospital. A few days later I had to explain to a seven year old and a five year old that their Poppa was gone. They cried but seemed to handle it all right.

After the funeral we went to the apartment for dinner and visiting. When it was time to go the kids wanted to say good-bye to Poppa. Only it wasn’t Poppa they’d seen around all day, it was his older brother.

We went to visit about a month after the funeral. My kids still call it Nana and Poppa’s apartment.

In April or so my son started crying and he set my daughter off. They missed their Poppa. Out of the blue. He must have remembered something and the missing hit him again. I told them it was all right to cry.

In June a TV show I was watching made me cry – the old man in the hospital bed looked too much like my grandfather. All of June my daughter has been missing her Poppa. She told my husband she wished she could have had one last piece of cake with him.

I can call to mind his face and his voice as clear as day in my mind. I should be able to call him up, invite myself over for lunch, and hear him say “Well, let me just check with Nana first,” before telling me to “Come on over”.

When we go to visit he should just walk out of the office and offer my kids juice and cake and their favourite TV shows.

And when it doesn’t happen I remember. Then it feels real. Then it hurts again. But sitting at home most days, it’s not real. I don’t think about him in past tense yet.

Will it feel real now?

Somehow I don’t think so.

Local Business Review: 10 Acre Woods

10 Acre Woods is a petting farm, community resource center, animal rescue, located on Highway 15, east of Anola Manitoba. This family run farm offers a children’s outdoor education program, community craft and vendor sales, community BBQs, goat yoga, swimming with ducklings, and a unique site for birthdays, photo shoots, and even weddings.

They may be small but they are dedicated. When you book for a birthday that is the only booking they take for the day so you have the full attention of everyone working that day, you aren’t rushed, and you aren’t crowded. They are hands on, knowledgeable, and friendly and are concerned with the safety of every visitor and their animals.

They have goats, sheep, pigs, ducks, geese, an alpaca, Guinea fowl, a turkey, rabbits, peacocks, pigeons, and chickens. The Guinea fowl eat wood ticks so that is one thing you don’t have to worry about when you visit.

Their children’s program is called Trackers and they run both a spring and fall session. The program costs $50 per child for a 10 week session and the kids learn to interact with the animals, identify plants and bugs, and make nature based crafts.

The petting zoo costs $5 per person but once you’ve paid you can go in and out all day. This is nice because the kids get bored or overwhelmed and need a break (which is why they also have a large play structure) and you don’t need to worry about “getting your money’s worth” before walking out of the gate. This is really great if you’re attending a vendor sale as a vendor. I was able to bring my kids along and they could just run about on the play structure or go in to see the animals. There are electric fences in some places so parental supervision is advised (my kids were in Trackers so they already knew their way around).

Goat yoga is an experience I haven’t tried but it’s getting rave reviews. Thick mats are provided to protect your yoga mat from the ground and then you do your yoga outside, with an instructor, in the pen with the animals. The baby goats get right in your face as you’re stretching.

This is a great place to visit with the family and if you’re in the area I highly recommend the Trackers program.

Review: The Otherworld

The Otherworld by Lynette Ferreira is a series of short stories available on Kindle. These are bite-sized, abridged chapters from a 3 book series which is due for publication July 2018.

Book 1: The Book of Eudemon – The story starts with Jenny waking up in a house she doesn’t remember faced with two girls she doesn’t know – only within pages she’s acting like she’s been there all along. Apparently in Strangely this is normal behavior for new-comers. No one knows where they come from or why but they have this period of “wtf” and then it’s like they’ve been there all along.
The story brings together four girls, Jenny, Zara, Emily, and Abby, plus Abby’s boyfriend, Chris.

Book 2: The Wishing Well – This picks up the morning after Book 1. The biggest reveal is that The Changeless (mentioned in book 1 but not explained) have large black wings and that Jenny has them too. Jenny has a premonition but she’s not supposed to use her powers. Of course there is little to no forewarning of what the powers are or how they will manifest.
Jason, someone else from Town Hall, re-assigns Jenny to be his assistant and use her premonition powers to grant wishes or deny them – to people on Earth.

Book 3: When Time Stood Still – Again, this picks up the day after the previous book. Emily discovers her power in this book and Abby goes missing. We’re finally starting to build some tension but it feels forced because of the abridged nature of the chapters.

Book 4: Dream Walker – This picks up only an hour after the previous “chapter”. In this section Zara discovers her powers. We finally start getting pieces of the back story given to us. The paranormal element of this series is centered on demons, angels, and various levels of heavens and hells.

Book 5: Once Upon a Time РThis is entirely a flashback to Jenny’s time before Strangely.

The premise of the story is interesting but I found the chapters too abridged for my tastes. They serve as a good introduction to the story and the characters but not the setting. If you like a quick, teasing read these are great. If you prefer something a little longer and a little more in depth I suggest waiting for the full series to be released.

Review: When the Leaves Fall

When the Leaves Fall is a short story written by C.A. King.

The story is written in limited 3rd person from the point of view of Ralph. This made the beginning of the story very awkward as you weren’t sure who or what Ralph was.

The ending of the story was bittersweet and heavy with lessons.

There was nothing wrong with the writing itself, no obvious errors, but this wasn’t a story I’d pick up to read normally.

I give this story a 3 out of 5 stars.

I’m sorry for the short review but I don’t want to give away any spoilers for this story.

Local Business Review: Driven 2 Sew

Driven 2 Sew is a quilt and craft shop located at 354 Main St in Steinbach Manitoba. The owner, Sherri-Lynn Parent is a fourth generation (at least) quilter. As well as selling quilting supplies and both ready-made and custom ordered quilts Driven 2 Sew offers the following services: long arm sewing machine services (if you are a quilter and want to use the big fancy machine), quilting classes, sewing lessons for home school families, and various quilted items such as make-up bags, wallets, notebook covers, coffee cup cozies, coasters, and more.

Driven 2 Sew is also home to Evangaline’s Creative Comforts which sells receiving blankets, hats, and other handmade items and offers alteration services, and a soap maker who has a variety of scented, unscented, and vegan soaps, body scrubs, and bath bombs.

With all this, Driven 2 Sew has also found space to host the Authors of Manitoba Steinbach Book Nook. They have one corner of the shop set up with shelves featuring the works of over 2 dozen authors from across Manitoba. They also host the Steinbach and Area Book Club on Monday evenings.

Sherri and her co-workers are fun and friendly. They know a lot about fabrics and sewing and quilting patterns. They love to talk and they love to teach. This store is truly welcoming, both to customers and clients, and to local crafters and authors. They are always adding something new to the display.

This is a strong example of a small, community-minded, business that is giving back in every way possible.

Review: Locally Authored Cookbooks

On June 19th the Steinbach and Area Book club held a potluck dinner to preview 3 locally authored cook books.

Recipes and Memories by Yvonne Ediger
Laura Reeves Guide to Useful Plants
Grandma June’s Gluten Free Cook Book by June Heibert

Recipes and Memories:
A collection of family favourites. Each recipe has a colour photo and a story of why it was important to Yvonne and her family. Yvonne put this project together as a sort of memoir in food before losing her battle with cancer. There are cookies, cakes, pies, dainties, main dishes, soups, stews, and sauces in this book. We tried the baking soda biscuits (easy and delicious), the ground beef wellington (also easy but a little dry when served without sauce), the zucchini carbanara (flavourful but the timing on the recipe can be tricy), and the all time favourite lemon bars (sweet, tart, and light). The only down side to this cook book is the binding (standard paperback binding, not coil bound). The book sells locally for $15 with $4 being donated to St. Boniface hospital in Yvonne’s name. Books ordered from Amazon (print or e-book) see 100% of the royalties donated to the hospital.

Laura Reeves’ Guide to Useful Plants:
Part field guide, part cook book, part craft book, and part personal reflection on a local environment that is obviously much loved by the author this book is a real treat. With colourful pictures and fun anecdotes this guide book is great for adults and families. The plants are listed in alphabetical order and are clearly marked if they are edible, useful, or poisonous. The best times to harvest, what parts to harvest, and where to find the plants are also included. This is a wonderful local resource for anyone in Maniotba or similar climate regions who want to get out into nature more or want to naturally source some of their diet.

Grandma June’s Gluten Free Cook Book:
When members of June’s family were put on gluten free diets there wasn’t much by way of a Gluten Free Aisle in the grocery store so she converted as many family recipes to gluten free as she could.
We tried the breaded chicken which used potato chips instead of bread crumbs (any flavour chips can be used but its’ a very expensive recipe because of the chips), and the cream cheese cookies (though we converted it back to regular flour and found that made them dry).
The book included many family favourites such as meatloaf and dinner rolls.