Books, Recountings

yes, i am judging these books by their covers

I’ve owned most of The Pit Dragon Chronicles by Jane Yolen for at least three years. I’ve read the first one, it wasn’t EXACTLY my cup of tea, and I wasn’t keen on reading the rest.

So I decided to pretend that I have – and to recount them to you. Guessing the plot from their front covers. You’re welcome. It is chaotic. There are plot holes probably. You have been warned.

*** My apologies to the author and any fans of these books ***

Dragon’s Blood

AKA THE ONE I DID READ

This is a book about a dragon fight club in a world not unlike Jakku and I’m not here for that. A dragon fight club is simply depressing. Dragons? In a fight club? Controlled by humans? I cannot allow it. How awful. How tragic for these mighty beasts!

I read this book and was very frustrated with Akki, the female character. She was too … she was too much. That’s what she was. Sometimes reading about girls who are stubborn and mysterious ALL THE TIME etc etc tire me out. It wearies the brain. Strains the nerves. Beats me why, but there we are.

I think the hero, Jakkin, is going to be a misogynist, but the girl will Teach Him Not To Be. Also, there is a dragon that he’s bonded to. Yes, I know. Very shocking. Totally unexpected. Also, I hate the front cover because the dragon looks like the kind of dragon who tells dodgy jokes and expects you to laugh at them and is probably a relative of Jar Jar Binks but worse.

It’s not a bad story. In fact, it might be someone’s favourite book. If it is – forgive me … and maybe don’t read the rest of this post?

Heart’s Blood

AKA THE ONE I HAVEN’T READ.

So, at the end of the last book, Akki had left, leaving Jakkin with his bonded dragon, Heart’s Blood. However, Jakkin’s having difficulty sleeping. Because he misses Akki, and he’s allergic to beans. (However, he bought far too many beans from a trader and they’re all he has to eat. So. Fun times.) To stop the insomnia, Jakkin reads books to his dragon. They’re all romances.

(His local library is very limited and all the trainers of the pit dragons adore romance novels.)

Heart’s Blood is a bright dragon. She figures out that maybe if she gets Akki back to Jakkin then maybe Jakkin won’t use her to viciously fight her own kind. Because of the power of love.

(Heart’s Blood is a pacifist and hates fighting her kind in the ring. Night after night she slays them. It’s getting to her. She’s Too Old For This.)

Anyway, Heart’s Blood decides to heck with this and sends a Dragon Letter to Akki. Akki doesn’t get it, mainly because a) Heart’s Blood can’t write and b) dragons don’t have a postal system.

So. That plan fails.

Until one fateful day when Akki turns up. She needs Jakkin, it’s all very mysterious and she says that TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE and suddenly they are being chased in the dark. They crash into something and BOOM! PLOT TWIST! IT’S HEART’S BLOOD!! Dragons don’t have mail but they have devious plans and dragon-speak telepathy! (Heart’s Blood forgot about that when she tried to write a letter.)

(Heart’s Blood could never be accused of being particularly bright.)

Heart’s Blood captures them in her wings and cackles evilly. (Though Heart’s Blood has taken a dragon vow of silence so she could be choking silently. That’s a possibility too). Jakkin and Akki don’t know Heart’s Blood is evil though – they think they are safe – but then they turn around and see what is chasing them AND IT’S …

We end the book on a cliff hanger. I have several crucial questions:

  • why has Heart’s Blood turned evil? Has the blood shedding gotten to her? Has she snapped? WILL THERE BE REDEMPTION?
  • who is chasing them?!!
  • why does Akki need Jakkin?
  • why is the climactic scene on the front cover of the book? Geez! No one thought that through.

A SENDING OF DRAGONS

AKA I HAVEN’T READ THIS ONE EITHER

First of all, none of the questions I asked were answered. A METAPHOR???

Okay. I know what we’re all thinking: Heart’s Blood keeps Akki and Jakkin as slaves to feed its offspring.

It is another SURPRISE! METAPHOR! Something about dragons taking princess only Akki and Jakkin aren’t royalty but shush, don’t tell Heart’s Blood that. (She isn’t aware of the precise nuances of the feudal system. She also doesn’t know it exists.)

The entire book is a deep Dragon Discourse as Heart’s Blood Tells All to Jakkin about the history of dragons. It’s a Moby Dick length book. With entire chapters on scale care. The only shame is … Jakkin doesn’t understand Heart’s Blood because of the vow of silence thing, and Heart’s Blood doesn’t know sign language.

It’s a frustrating book, but also very deep.

We conclude the series with the protagonists sitting around the fire, Heart’s Blood falls asleep after her discourse is finished. When she wakes up – it was All A Dream. More specifically, Jakkin’s dream that Heart’s Blood was stuck in because of the whole mind bond thing.

With a roar of rage Heart’s Blood eats Jakkin.

As if she would take a vow of silence!


If you have read this series – drop a comment down below and tell me how VERY CLOSE I WAS TO THE ACTUAL PLOT. I think I must have hit the nail on the head.

Yup.

For sure.

On Writing

i kidnapped suzannah rowntree for an interview (again)

Guys! Guys! I did it again! I kidnapped Suzannah Rowntree for ANOTHER interview – marvel at my prowess! Gasp at my skill! Today, we have a veritable feast of scintillating conversation, conspiracy theories about the Crusades, hot tips on researching historical novels and A BOOK ON OFFER AND ONE FOR FREE.

Right now, as you inhale (yes! INHALE!) this post, I shall be in Italy. What I’m doing in Italy, I’m not terribly sure – it’s the day before we’re leaving and I haven’t got a full itinerary ready yet. The hotels are booked but … as for the rest? Who knows. It’s going to be an adventure ‘fo sure.

So while I’m in Italy, Suzannah’s in Australia and you are seated (comfortably, I hope) in a country which I’m certain is lovely … let’s dive in and cross-examine have a nice chat with Suzannah …

Your current series Watchers of Outremer is set against the backdrop of the Crusades, what drew you to this time period?

I’ve always been in love with medieval history, but I was never really interested in the Crusades until I read Ronald Welch’s book Knight Crusader, a classic YA novel dealing with the battle of Hattin and the subsequent Third Crusade – think Richard the Lionheart versus Saladin.

I already knew about Richard and Saladin, of course. What I had somehow missed until then, was why the Third Crusade happened. The reason was that Saladin had just come within an ace of destroying a Frankish-ruled kingdom based in Jerusalem which had occupied the Holy Land for nearly a century since the First Crusade. The main character of Knight Crusaderwas a Frankish boy whose family had lived in Palestine for generations, and who had never even seen Europe. My brain exploded, because I’d always had the impression that crusading was something you went home from.

Why did some of them stay? How did they build this incredibly diverse and unique culture? What was life like for them? What was their relationship with the locals, whether Syriac Christians or Arabic/Turkish Muslims? All the stories I grew up reading about the crusades mostly focused on what happened when you got home from them. None of them focused on what life was like for the people who had roots there, either as Franks who decided to settle down and raise families and build something lasting or as people who had always lived there and were experiencing this unexpected new state of affairs with overlords from across the sea. “Someone should write a story about this,” I thought. It took a while to realise that I was going to be that person.

Little known conspiracy theory about the Crusades – GO!

Ha! OK: who ordered the murder of Raymond II of Tripoli? In the mid-1100s he was knifed by Assassins within view of his gates as he was returning from escorting his wife Hodierna and sister-in-law Melisende, who was ruling Jerusalem as its queen, a short way on their road south.

Hodierna was a famous beauty who inspired the songs of troubadours as far away as France, and one of them was even said to have sailed to Tripoli to die in her arms. Raymond was terribly jealous of her and kept her locked up, which turned their marriage sour. So she was actually leaving him at the time…but when Raymond was knifed, messengers caught up with Hodierna and her sister, and Hodierna then returned to Tripoli and ruled it until the young heir, her son Raymond III, came of age.

So…did Hodierna order the hit on her husband? Some people certainly think so. In fact, I doubt this is true: at the time the Assassins didn’t usually act as hitmen for hire, and Hodierna was already leaving Tripoli with her powerful sister, destined for a comfortable life in the neighbouring kingdom – she didn’t need to kill her husband to get free of him. Much more likely, Raymond was killed by the Assassins in revenge for his allowing the Templars to build a fortress in the mountains of Lebanon, near the Assassin stronghold.

They say that history repeats itself – do you see any repetition in what happened with the Crusades in today’s age?

Great question! Yes…and no? 

In one sense, people are always people, and the things they worry about and the way they act doesn’t change a great deal. In another sense, the Crusades were in so very many ways, a manifestation of the most unique things about medievalism. 

My focus, when I’m writing the novels, has been more on faithfully depicting the people as they were rather than drawing parallels to today’s political or religious motifs. That said, one beta reader for The Lady of Kingdoms (Book 2) told me she felt convicted about ethical fashion after reading about textile workers being kept as slaves. That had never crossed my mind, but it’s true that patterns of oppression and exploitation persist in today’s world. Another contacted me to say that the way some characters complacently referred to the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem as a particularly holy entity with God’s special favour, was uncomfortably close to American exceptionalism. Well, obviously, I’m not American and I don’t think that way about either my own country or about America! But when she pointed that out, I couldn’t stop seeing it. The temptation to presume that one’s own tribe has some kind of special divine status that will excuse the vilest deeds is one that humanity across the centuries is prone to.

But I think it’s also important to emphasise that the Crusaders have very limited relevance to world politics today, especially since they have become mascots for things, like white supremacism and racially-motivated terrorism, that would be totally alien to their worldview. Crusaders were primarily religiously motivated in a way that people just aren’t today. They couldn’t care less about banning burkas (their women also wore black veils) or shariah law (scholars believe that Muslim law courts in the crusader states were able to apply a limited form of shariah), and the crusader states spent far more of their time in negotiation or peaceful coexistence than they did in war. It’s preposterous that the Christchurch mosque shooter, for instance, described himself as a “Templar”! To be a Templar, you had to take an oath of poverty, chastity, and obedience to what was at the time a very conservative religious/military institution that answered directly to the Pope. In a nutshell, while there is a growing discomfort today between extremist Islam and extremist white supremacy, it would be false to trace this directly to the crusades. Although both take inspiration from the crusades, they are both drawing on romanticised and weaponised mythologies more than real history. 

Do you have a favourite stage of the writing process? If so, what is it? 

Absolutely my favourite stage is when I’ve written the darn thing and people are telling me how much they loved it.

But my second favourite stage would have to be the drafting process – when the words are flowing and I’m living intensely through the story and feeling super excited about it. There’s a lot of drudgery on both sides of that, but it’s hard to beat the sheer joy of creative flow.

What’s your LEAST favourite stage?

The last few revisions are always the worst. You’ve done all the work and you just want to move on to something new, and you have all these beta readers and editors getting nitpicky about details and every tiny change seems to take immense quantities of blood, toil, tears, and sweat, to coin a phrase. I call it the Grumpy Stage.

What’s your favourite book of 2019?

Haha, you know the answer to this one: M.L. Wang’s The Sword of Kaigen.It’s an Asian-inspired indie fantasy that caught me completely unawares and blew my socks all the way off at the start of the year. It hasn’t exactly been all downhill since then, but I think it’ll be a long time until a story sweeps me away like that again. The heroine is to die for, and it’s one of those books that simmers on a slow, intense burn for pages and pages before erupting into something utterly breathtaking.

[Honestly – that was one of my favourite books too. Can’t thank you ENOUGH for the recommendation.]

What’s a top tip for researching a historical novel?

Don’t wait until you’ve answered all your questions to start writing. But also, start early and don’t stop researching until the book is done. Everything you read will give you inspiration and guidance at every stage of writing and editing.

It also helps to be honest with yourself upfront that you’re guaranteed to make an embarrassing mistake somewhere. It’s OK. It happens to everyone. 

What’s happening soon that you are excited about?

Well, Book 2 in this series, The Lady of Kingdoms releases on the 26thof November! I’m particularly thrilled about this one because it’s probably my favourite instalment of the whole story (which will be 9 books long, DV). Multiple beta readers have told me that it left them feeling slightly giddy. So if you’re up for a mild literary intoxicant, don’t miss this one! It has celestial dragons and people getting assaulted with textiles! 

Thank you, Suzannah for stopping over. Of your own free will.

On a side note – I highly recommend signing up to Suzannah’s newsletter. With juicy tales from history and banging book recommendations, I quite enjoy them.

Suzannah Rowntree lives in a big house in rural Australia with her awesome parents and siblings, researching and writing historical fantasy fiction.

The Watchers of Outremer series began with A Wind from the Wilderness (on sale for just 99c this month!) and Children of the Desolate (free on the author’s website).

Life

bloggers, blogging [part two]

Part One was here. This is Part Two (WHAT! IT IS?). I’ve spent a long time on the blogosphere, mostly stalking people. Here are a few more of my victims …

THE PENSLAYER

THE AESTHETIC + ‘SHE LIKES SUTCLIFF TOO?!!!’ ONE

When I was a teenager, I was slightly in awe of Jenny Freitag, because a) she was an author (A PUBLISHED AUTHOR!), b) she dripped with intellectual greatness (my humour and writing has ever been … none-intellectual. I have since learned to accept myself), and c) she read Rosemary Sutcliff’s books.

Freitag’s book The Shadow Things was the first book I bought from a blog I’d followed. (My logic was: she likes Sutcliff, therefore, her books might be flavoured with some Sutcliff-y things.)

(And it was.)DistortedBitesizedIndusriverdolphin-small.gif

I still read Jenny’s blog, but mostly I stalk her instagram where there are kittens + babies + and a beautiful aesthetic. (Which, FYI, is not pronounced as ‘anaesthetic’. Yes. I’m glaring at myself in the mirror.)

BLOG STATUS: active, still slayin’ and that instagram tho’

HOWEVER IMPROBABLE

THE ‘I HAVE TO CLICK BECAUSE OH MY WORD THAT POST TITLE’ ONE

I’d be reading a blog and if they’d have a ‘blog’s I follow’ bar down the side and followed this one? I’d have to click on Jack’s posts. Every. Single. Time.

Oh yes. I was clickbaited before it became a thing. I am a hipster clickbaited chick (?). And you know what? It’s been years now, but when I go back to my blogger homepage and I see her posts? I still get drawn in.

She uses quotes, you see. And I can’t resist a good quotation.

ClassicForthrightBufeo-max-1mb.gif

BLOG STATUS: ‘What if we covered his nose and mouth” “That’s called murder.” [Actual blog title] [DO YOU SEE WHY I HAVE TO CLICK?!!]

MIRRIAM NEAL

THE ‘I BLAME HER FOR EVERYTHING’ ONE

georgette heyer
this, but maybe tripled …

I think it was Mirriam Neal’s blog that introduced me to Heyer. I blame her. Oh, do I blame her. I own a bloomin’ awful lot of Georgette Heyer’s books, have blogged about them, obsessed about them, decided to marry their heroes, quoted them, and consumed a biography and a book about Heyer’s regency world.

To sum up – Mirriam Neal has cost me a pile of money and I regret NOTHING.

And because I have no intelligence or worry that the Heyer Happening could happen again, I still follow her blog. C’mon, it’s interesting – and it’s not like when I discover a new author I buy all their books, is it? Is it?

BLOG STATUS: active, taking my life and bank account into my hands each time I click on her blog. [I’m kidding.] [I’m not.]

JUSTWAYTOOBOSS

THE ‘LIKES K-DRAMA TOO’ ONE

I think Faith first commented on my blogspot blog. (THANK YOU, FAITH) And for some reason still reads this blog – for which, of course, I adore her.

But when I stalked her – I found, to my delight, that she too liked k-dramas (!!!!!!!!). I haven’t watched a k-drama since last Christmas – but Playful Kiss, The Devil Beside You (yes, I know – not a k-drama, but a t-drama?) and Fated To Love You will always have a special place in my heart.

(And also that drama with Mike He and the bread and amnesia and the song ‘Ideal Garden’ that I love. But … I can’t remember what that’s called.)

And MY WORD isn’t Jang Hyuk’s laugh the absolute most hysterical thing you’ve ever heard?

Obviously, Faith’s blog is not allll about k-dramas – she has excellent taste in books too – but this has given me the opportunity to ramble about them, so thank you.

BLOG STATUS: active, tempting me to throw my life aside for a little while and dive into another drama.

PAPERFURY

THE ‘HOW THE HECK DOES SHE DO IT?’ ONE

Cait writes books in a flicker of an eyelid, devours books like the bookdragon she is, and blogs almost daily.

She’s really quite funny, is obsessed with cake and dragons, and also has just got a two book deal. So a huge congratulations to her.

But one day, I will find out how she does it. One day. The answer probably has something to do with dragons and I am 100% okay with that.

BLOG STATUS: active, HOW DOES SHE DO IT I AM BOGGLED.

mental2-b.gif

Books

in celebration of unbroken bones

As I (somehow. Miraculously, I suspect) have arrived home merely bruised and with all limbs intact. I’ve decided to place all my novellas for free. Right here. Right now. For five days. If you want to describe the amazing way my books have changed the way you tie your shoe laces, the goodreads link will be placed here too.

coverproperourintrepidkindle

Our Intrepid Heroine [aka, Where It All Started]

There are three things that you really ought to know about our Intrepid Heroine: Firstly, she cannot pronounce ‘felicitations’. Secondly, a unicorn is following her about. Thirdly, she’s on her way to kill a dragon.

A dragon that has killed an entire flock of her father’s sheep, three goats and one pig.

And a frog.

Throw in a command from a King, a knight (or two), and a mysterious Hooded Person of Unknown Gender and this dragon had better watch his scales.

Kindle // Goodreads

OIH2frontcover

The Curse of Cackling Meadows

All she really wanted was to return home. A curse, a carrot and a unicorn later and our Intrepid Heroine is on her way to finding out just why Cackling Meadows has been beset by so strange a curse.

Accompanied by a unicorn with sensitive nostrils and a Songster whose name isn’t Hector, she will discover that princes, curses and even dragons aren’t always quite what they seem.

Kindle // Goodreads

Our Accidental Adventureouraccidentaladventureaqua

One moment they are sailing across a sheltered bay for a camping trip, the next they are surrounded by fog and end up in the Caribbean.

Or are they?

A highly improbable adventure, in which fishermen wear suits, English gentlemen aren’t quite what they seem and three siblings can’t tell friend from foe.

Kindle // Goodreads

Books, Life

interview: blue cats and paper crowns

papercrownsfrontcover.png
that cover art tho’

This post is a little late because, like Ginger in Paper Crowns, I’m off on an adventure I hadn’t quite expected. All right. I don’t suppose that America is quite like the world of fae, but … an adventure is an adventure, yes? Though, alas … mine lacks one very hilarious blue cat.

Today (or this evening, whatever the case maybe) I am very happy to present Mirriam Neal, who’s stopped by for a quick chat …

As always, the crucial question must be asked first: do you prefer tea or coffee? [or neither?!] Coffee. Always coffee. Black coffee in a large, irregular mug. I will never turn that down.

What has your writing journey been like? It’s been like most journeys – full of ups and downs and unexpected turns. When I started writing short stories about unicorns as a twelve-year-old, I never imagined I would end up as a published author. It’s been rocky, but always amazing.

How was the experience of writing Paper Crowns different to that of writing your first book, Monster? It was hugely different. Day and night different. Black and white different. Monster was blood, sweat and tears over several years; Paper Crowns was like eating dessert and took all of a month to finish (although all the editing added several months onto that). 18076372Monster hurt to write, but Paper Crowns never did. I guess that’s the difference between writing a novel on bioethics, and a faerie-tale for all ages.

Do you have a favourite scene in Paper Crowns? What is it? [NO SPOILERS! :D] I don’t have a favorite scene, actually. I really enjoyed any scene with Azrael, and any scene with Salazar, and any scene with Ginny and Hal together. They’re my favorites.

What’s a book that you’ve recently enjoyed reading? I recently read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and it falls right into the ‘life-changing’ category.

Would you rather share a meal with someone from a musical who would sing. about. everything. you. did (‘she’s frowning at the salad / oh yes, look / there’s a slug in the saaaaalad!’) OR a supervillain with one facial expression (a death glare) who may, or may not have slipped arsenic in your beverage? Assuming I have to actually finish this meal, I choose the supervillain. At the very least, a supervillain would be an interesting dinner partner. (And I may or may not have spent years building an immunity to arsenic.)

If you could have any fictional creature as a pet – what would it be? (Personally, I’d have a dragon. If it was tame.) A dragon with the ability to shapeshift into any form it likes. Is that cheating? (I don’t care if it is cheating, actually.)

mirriamneal
future shapeshifting dragon owner

you may find thingy things here:

// Paper Crowns // My Review of Paper Crowns // The Author //