Thursday, April 30, 2009

Silver Phoenix - My review

I haven't read a book, apart from for research purposes, since last July. So, I decided to take a bit of a break from writing and read Cindy Pon's 'Silver Phoenix', which was released this week. Since I've got this blog I thought I might as well put it to good use and attempt my very first book review.

Bear with me.

Thanks to my Dad's extensive travels in the Far East, I've always been interested in Oriental culture and I was born with itchy feet. I got lucky, I've been to China. I've read a couple of Fantasy novels with Asian roots, neither of which I can remember much about, sadly. I only recall that they were bleak and dark. I won't forget 'Silver Phoenix' in a hurry. Reading this novel is like stepping into a Chinese painting. The descriptions are delicate, beautiful and elegantly crafted. Cindy Pon's imagination knows no bounds as she brings Chinese legends to life, from the gorgeous dragon to hideous demons. All of them spring to life under the author's brush strokes. Even the meals are lovingly described. The heroine, Ai Ling is impulsive, brave and, most of all, believable, in that she is not out of place. She's not a modern girl superimposed onto this fantastic backdrop. Likewise, the hero, Chen Yong; strong, courageous and loyal. The story is well paced and flows smoothly. There are no draggy bits, just quiet pauses that give the reader a chance to sit back and enjoy the scenery, whether it's a quiet courtyard alive with flowers or the magical gardens of the Golden Palace of the Immortals.

I really, really could not put it down. Now that I'm finished, I want to read more. I can't wait!

The Unbreakable Child

Today marks the first birthday of AbsoluteWrite's Purgatory thread. Our group of aspiring writers, writers in limbo, writers who bite their nails and writers who are published encompass a wide range of categories, from Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, YA, Historical Fiction, Romance and non-fiction. Writing is a solitary past-time and Purgatory is the perfect place to go when one's in-box is full of crickets, rejections and spam. We cheer each other on, offer sympathy and post dreadful pictures of David Bowie in Labyrinth. Our members are scattered to the four winds but we all meet up, at least once a day, in Purgatory. It's kept me sane.

In the non-fiction category one of our members, Kim Michele Richardson, launched her book 'The Unbreakable Child' at the beginning of April. It is Kim's story and it is a remarkable one, written by an amazing woman. It is a story that needs to be told. If you happen to stop by this humble blog and read my pithy offering for today, make sure you pay a visit to Kim's web site.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Silver Phoenix

Today, as well as being 'Teaser Tuesday' for Absolute Write's Purgies, also marks the release of 'The Silver Phoenix', the debut novel of Cindy Pon. My copy is waiting to be read; it will be the first book I've read since I started writing again last July. It's high time I took a break and Cindy's book will be the perfect "break book".

Cindy first posted the 'Purgatory' thread on the Absolutewrite Forum on April 30th last year when 'Silver Phoenix' was out on sub. It seems serendipitous that her book should be released this week. Since then, the Purgatory thread has become a haven for those of us in literary limbo: Waiting for agents to fall in love with our words; waiting for feedback on revisions; waiting for editors to say "yes"; waiting for Publishers to say "Yes, please", etc. etc.

It gives me great pleasure to post this trailer. It's gorgeous. If you want to visit Cindy's brilliant blog, here's the link:

Good luck, Cindy. You really deserve this day.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Teaser Tuesday Five.

Here's another extract from 'A Kestrel Rising'

The cold winter sun was beginning to slide towards the west, across the Old North Road, before the planes began to return. Ilona had made it to the runway’s edge in time to see them circle before their final approach. The throaty drone of their engines was the only sound in the afternoon silence. She shivered as she stood beside the bus, hands in the warm pockets of her airman’s jacket, as, one by one, the planes touched down. She shielded her eyes from the glare of the sun and looked at the final plane, because Ian always seemed to be the one bringing up the rear. As it began to descend towards the runway, she watched the nearest wing carefully and smiled to herself as it dipped towards her, like a bow. That simple, secret gesture touched her more than any kiss. She wanted to wave wildly but, instead, she waited until the crews began to emerge from their planes and started her drive to pick up her weary passengers.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Teaser Tuesday Four

A change of scene this week. This is from my World War II novel, 'A Kestrel Rising'.

With a shaky sigh, Ilona opened the door and climbed out, already feeling the tears begin to gather and burn. She remembered so much and he was all around her in the silent tumble of stones. She stood in the hollow where they had lain and looked up at the cloudless sky. It was a flawless summer day. He was very near and she felt the lightest of touches on her cheek and thought that she heard her name whispered with longing. She opened the book and read the poem aloud. It was too easy to remember Ian’s voice, reciting it to her in the small, warm hours of the night, and up here, after a long and languid hour of lovemaking. Her voice was tight with the tears but she spoke the words as loud as she could. When she finished, she swept the dried fragments of heather into her hand and waited. After a few moments, the breeze rose, swirling around her and she held her hand up and opened it, tossing the faded blossoms into the air. They were caught up in the breeze, spiraling upwards at the moment that a kestrel swept past, it called out as it swooped towards the stones and then rose again, following the specks into the open sky. She could barely see it through her tears, “Goodbye, my love,” she whispered, “I love you, but I have to say goodbye . I need to move on, I have to honor my promise.” She did not expect an answer, “I’m so sorry, darling. I miss you so much,” she sank down onto the carpet of heather, covered her face with her hands and wept bitterly among the bees.

Give me a break, people!

There seems to have been a lot of heated complaints by disgruntled, wannabe writers over the last few weeks. Their heart-rending screeds are scattered all over the blogosphere. I have read many of them with my tongue wedged firmly between my teeth because most of these bloggers are so convinced that they are Wronged, that there's no point in telling them otherwise. I've only been querying since the end of January and haven't met with much joy. Yes, it can be dispiriting and depressing when I get served a rejection e-mail with my morning coffee, especially on the weekend (please, Mr or Ms Agent, save the bad news for Mondays, where it belongs) but you won't see me railing against the cruelty of the publishing industry on this blog (not yet, anyway). If I've learned anything in these past few months it's that it isn't worth getting my knickers in a twist about rejections. If I crumpled like some of these sensitive little souls every time I received a rejection, I'd be in a padded cell by now, writing my stories with crayons. I also can't help but think that if the sour grapes brigade spent as much time polishing their manuscripts and their queries as they do whining about the lack of appreciation for their masterpieces, they may get further than the Pit of Doom and Misery.

Yes, I know, I know, what I've written is nothing new but, hey, it's Monday, I'm dawdling over a love scene and I felt like having a rant here, rather than flaming on other peoples' blogs. Normal service will resume tomorrow if I can find something good to post for Teaser Tuesday.

Peace out.

Now, where did I put those crayons?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Teaser Tuesday three

“Madame,” Anya stood in the kitchen doorway, “There are two men here.”

Natalia glanced out of the window and wondered how that could be possible. The blizzard had risen at dawn and a fierce, bitter wind hurled snow against the steamed glass, “You’re not telling fairy stories again are you Ana?” she asked.

“No, Madame. Madame Tanya is crying with one of them and the other is asking for you.”

She stared at the girl as the knot inside her uncoiled, “Did he say what his name was, Ana?” she asked, softly.

Anya giggled and ran away, squealing with laughter, her quicksilver footsteps fading down the hall. Natalia returned to her chopping, wishing that the fairy tale was true.

“Natasha?” his voice was faint, a hoarse whisper colored with relief.

She set the knife down and wiped her eyes, wishing that her longing did not summon up ghosts.

“Beautiful girl,” The longing in his voice was like the twist of a knife, boot heels whispered across the floor.

Natalia turned around, “Aloysha?”

This apparition cast a thin shadow in the lamp-lit gloom of the kitchen and smiled behind a few days growth of gingery beard. Alexi held out his arms, “Are you just going to stand and gawp at me?”

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Another Teaser Tuesday

After breakfast, they stood in the yard while Sergei started the lorry. Tatiana was weeping as she watched him. Natalia looked at her hands and tried to find the words to say goodbye. After months in his company, she did not want to say those words. There was too much uncertainty in the future and she had learned that goodbyes were not always a temporary thing.

“Promise me something, Natasha.” Alexi’s voice was serious.


“If you feel like there is danger here, you will come back to Petrograd?”

“Won’t that be dangerous?”

“Just promise me, please.”

“I will, I promise.”

The engine finally spluttered into life and the cab rocked as Sergei climbed in.

“I guess it’s time we said goodbye,” Alexi told her.


He took her face between his hands and kissed her, crushing her lips and leaving her too stunned to do anything other than respond in kind. He sighed against her mouth. His fingers curled into her hair as she held him and sought a way to keep him there. She was numb with regret for the months that had passed without knowing that he could move her with something as simple as this fierce kiss. She did not want to forget the scent of his skin, or the way his hand trailed away from her cheek as he stepped back. She trembled and caught her breath, knowing whatever she said would be inadequate.

“Goodbye Natasha.”

“Goodbye Aloysha, please be careful.” Her voice shook.

He climbed into the lorry, “Don’t worry, I will. Don’t forget me.”

She managed a weak smile, “Never,” she replied, meaning it.

The lorry lurched away, bouncing down the track. Natalia’s fingers strayed to her bruised lips and she looked at Tatiana, “Why did he do that?” she asked, still shaken.

“Because he loves you,” She replied simply and walked back into the house, leaving Natalia staring, blankly after her.