Thursday, February 28, 2008

An Interview with *drum roll*.... Jaclyn Moriarty

Hello, everyone. Now I get a turn to interview another charming author for your viewing pleasure. Read on (if you dare) and you will find the 10 questions that Aella and I asked the lovely Jaclyn Moriarty.... and some occasional commentary from yours truly (that's in red).

1.) Did you enjoy writing any of your books more than you did the others?

Sometimes, particular characters' voice seem to rush onto the page, surprising me with the things they say. So, that makes writing more enjoyable. That's what happened with the Emily-and-Charlie sections of The Year of Secret Assignments, and with most of Bindy Mackenzie. Also, I wrote four different versions of The Spell Book of Listen Taylor (an earlier version is published as an adult book called I have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes), and it always seemed to take me into a kind of dreamworld. I loved writing every single draft.

But I think my favourite is going to be the one I'm writing at the moment. Its working title is Shadowgirl, and, so far, I'm having the best time I've ever had writing a book. (Superstitiously speaking, that's a dangerous thing that I just said.)

Oh yeah, you'd better knock on wood, or throw salt, or something!

2.) What do you think is the real reason that most teens don't read for leisure very often?

Their minds work faster than pages turn.

Well, some of them do... but some don't... *points out passing girls who giggle and shriek "OMG lyk this PURSE!"*

3.) What was the most intense thing you ever did to procrastinate novel work?

Have a baby.

Ok, you win.

4.) E-books. What say you?

Okay. But I don't want to read them myself.

5.) Growing up on those rainy days when there wasn't anything to do but read from the collection on your shelf (library's closed), what would you have picked up first?

Any of the Mary Poppins books; and The Phoenix and the Carpet by E. Nesbitt.

6.) What did you want to be as a kid? Were you always on the tracks to being a novelist?

The first thing I wanted to be was an author. Then I wanted to be a school teacher, a flight attendant, an astronomer. For a while I wanted to be a concert pianist, but I have absolutely no ear for music, no sense of rhythm, and I almost failed all of my piano exams. So I became a lawyer.

7.) Okay. Choice making time. Maelstroms, tempests, or whirlwinds * jeopardy music plays lightly *?

That depends. Am I watching the maelstrom/tempest/whirlwind from somewhere safe, or am
I right in the middle of the maelstrom/tempest/whirlwind? If the latter, how powerful is the maelstrom/tempest/whirlwind? If very powerful, I think I would be safest in the middle of a tempest. I could take cover somewhere, whereas, if I was in the middle of a maelstrom/whirlwind, I would be in trouble.

You're right, getting in the middle of any type of big storm (from blizzards to sandstorms) is not a good idea and we here at the Maelstrom would never encourage anyone to seek out said storms and try to harness their energy as a component in a world domination plot... not that I've done that or anything *shifty eyes*

8.) Do you have any wisdom to impart upon the aspiring authors who doth be reading this?

Try not to over-analyse things, the way I did with question (7).Try not to write in the style of
question (8). Try not to show your writing to people who tear it to pieces. Try not to fret if you find you are always changing directions in your writing. I think changing directions is a good thing.Try not to fret about getting published. You have plenty of time. Try to read unusual things such as poetry and science books and biographies. Try eating grapes and peaches while you are writing.

Yumm... grapes and peaches are delicious....

9.) If you could be any kind of animal, what would it be?
Well, I think I would choose a bird of some kind because then I would be able to fly. I think I would like to be some kind of colourful parrot that flies around chatting with other parrots and eating berries and nuts. To be honest, I would do a lot of research, if this was a serious option, to make sure I chose precisely the right kind of bird (eg not one that people are likely to shoot; one that has a beautiful song rather than a squawk; not one that eats worms).

10.) Have you heard of the Super Awesome Project? Shhh.... It's a secret.
And yet, here you are referring to it in a question.

Good answer. Oh, by the way, said Super Awesome Project is no longer known as the Super Awesome project...but it's still fairly secret....

Thank you very much for answering our questions Ms. Moriarty, and I hope you all enjoyed the interview.

From the Shadows,

~Medeia Senka~

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Shiny covers...

I admit it. And not without some level of guilt on my part. I originally picked up this book because the cover was shiny. There. It’s out in the open and I feel positively wretched about the entire thing.

The Hunter’s Moon was a surprise to say the least. I opened it under the impression that I would be finding one of two things. Either the underlying angst of an urban fantasy or the archaic wording of a modern novel trying too hard to bring back a feeling of the past. But O.R. Melling’s book did neither. Instead, it carefully took the oldest legends of the “Good People” and attached a razor.

Cowardly Gwen is more than eager to see her cousin Finndahbair (pronounced Finn-a-veer) in Ireland and begin their planned road trip. But for both girls there is an underlying mission and that is to experience the lore of the Emerald Isle for themselves. Little do they know that the strange occurrences following their travels will lead up to Finn’s kidnapping by the Fairy King. Gwen must pass several devious tests placed before her by the conniving court of Sídhe and form allies both immortal and human to bring her to the ultimate understanding of her task as the sacrifice of the Hunter’s Moon.

The description and writing in this book was beautiful, and in turns, humorous. The glimpse behind the veil is told in simple speech that envelops all time and romanticizes even the most modern of minds. But details such as a crazy driver of a leprechaun and clever allusions to familiar myth balance the story. Another thing greatly enjoyable is the character development, primarily in Gwen. There is certain strength in her character that relates to the capabilities in everyone.

Sadly, there were some instances of cliché young lurve that marred the last 50 pages or so of the story, even in the face of epic battle with the Hunter himself. There is also the chance that some will not attempt to soldier their way through a mire of product placement and irritating “girl talk” found in the very beginning.

So, shiny cover and all, I set upon this novel 4.5 out of 7 Lightnings. Despite its shortcomings I will risk the other books in the series and see if the pitfalls in The Hunter’s Moon can be repaired. Wish me luck.

Somewhat nervous,

*Aella Siofra*

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Creepy Glass Eyes...

After reading this, I doubt if I will ever be able to look at a doll without shuddering somewhat. Although not one for scary books ,I thoroughly enjoyed the eerie sensation of reading this. Sweet Miss Honeywell's Revenge by Kathryn Reiss never sacrifices quality for blood-baths and sufficiently surprises throughout its plot. Enough so to cause its nearly untimely death when my pulse needed a break. I had to put it away... in a sack... in a drawer... in a different room.

Isabel Thorne, more commonly known as Zibby, can't quite put her finger on what frightens her about the new doll house. Perhaps its the strange way she came by it, marked at the exact price she had in her pocket and sold to her by a woman no one recognizes. All the same, once she has signed on the contract of sale, the beautiful creation and its accompanying set of dolls are hers forever. Quite literally. Always accompanied by the eerie doll in the gray dress, danger begins to follow the Thorne family. For the scenes of play are warping into reality and the greatest disaster of all has yet to occur.

In the early 1900s, Primrose Parson is too grown-up for her beloved nanny and is turned over to a governess. Mean-spirited and controlling, Sweet Miss Honeywell demands obedience and an end to Prim's pranks and tricks. But the girl is indomitable and snarky (new favorite word), taking out her frustrations by playing with the custom doll house given her by inattentive parents. And when Honeywell's domineering actions become too much, one prank will end a life and begin a nightmare to last more than a century.

With plenty of unexpected occurrences and happenings,
Sweet Miss Honeywell's Revenge did not disappoint. Even the vile governess has more to her than meets the eye, the novel outlining her loves, clouded past, and the twisted result. With all the darkness, stormy nights, and history of a good ghost story it unfolds to provide a tale that will make your palms sweat at either noon or midnight. You'll also think twice before you laugh on the next time you think your stuffed animals just moved.

BANG!ZAP!KACHOW!! 5 out of 7 lightningz.

Shivering and Packing Away My Porcelain Dolls,
*Aella Siofra*

Monday, February 4, 2008

Her Fearsomeness, Esther Friesner

What is this?!? What is this, you may inquire? Why, it's an interview! A shiny, exciting, joy-inducing interview right here on the Maelstrom. Now to you foolish mortals unfamiliar with Ms. Friesner I would have to ask you to scroll down a bit and read our review on Nobody's Princess. Surprise surprise, she wrote that book, and the sequel which is coming out on April 22nd (a bit of shameless advertising). So without further pomp, circumstance, or mindless rantings I give you our review with that Spartan glory herself, Esther Friesner (plus some victorious occasional commentary by Aella).

  1. When you were growing up did you have a particular heroine, either fictional or no, who you looked up to?
    • I don't think I had -one- particular heroine I looked up to when I was growing up, though I did have a number of these. I loved Pippi Longstocking because she was unique, independent, and even though she had to take care of herself, she didn't let the day-to-day chores get in the way of having fun. I always enjoyed the fantasy novels of E. Eager like HALF MAGIC and KNIGHT'S CASTLE, which includes all of the girls in those books.
    • I love Anne from ANNE OF GREEN GABLES and Eloise from (of course) ELOISE and the sequels, but for some reason I did not discover these books until I was in my late teens! It only goes to show you that just because something is called a "children's" book does not mean (-way!-) older readers can't enjoy it.
    • In real life, my mother was most definitely a heroine to me. She was a teacher in the New York City public school system for decades, getting her job during the Depression when times were hard and competition for the few available teaching positions open was fierce. She treated others with kindness, fairness, and insight. If I turn out to be half as good a person as she was, it will be my greatest achievement.

2. E-books (*cough* scourge *cough*). What say you?

    • I like deadtree books better than e-books, but I know lots of people who prefer e-books. It's a matter of taste and preference, which is always a great Mystery. (Really, it is. I mean, were you aware that some people don't like -bittersweet chocolate?!- More for me, but still. . .go figure.)
    • I find it more easy on my eyes to read a book than to read text off a screen. I also feel much better knowing that if I lose a book I won't berate myself as much as if I'd lost an expensive e-book reader. And some books are simply beautiful works of art.
    • My choice: traditional books. Everyone else, make your own choices.
    • One more thing: Whether you prefer traditional books or e-books, always obtain your reading matter legally and ethically. It's like old Miz Higginbotham's Homemade Pies, the best pies ever in the history of the universe: If you filch them instead of buying them, old Miz Higginbotham is going to -stop making them- altogether because old Miz Higginbotham can't cover the mortagage, the taxes, and her health insurance payments if no one -pays- for those pies! And then where will you be? Pieless. And up to your nostrils in bad karma.

Karma is a tricky tricky thing *nods sagely*. Don't mess with karma. Example A: It is sure to be a major karma slap-down if you read e-books. There.

  1. Currently, do you read any YA novels? Is there a particular author who you enjoy?
    • This isn't the best time to ask me about reading other YA authors' works. I'm so busy working on three new novels of my own that most of my reading time is devoted to research. (Though I admit to enjoying -manga- when I get the chance for a work break).
Manga is fun. Bleach, Death Note, Emma, Full Metal Panic, Clover, Yotsuba&!, Azumangah Dioh *ramble*...

  1. After your success with Nobody’s Princess, can you tell us what it was like to get your first good review? Or your first bad one, gods forbid?
    • I've been publishing stories since 1983 and novels since 1985, so it's hard to remember what it was like to get my first good review. It was probably a major "You LIKE me! You really LIKE me!" moment. I'm just happy that the first was not the last. Who doesn't like to have her work appreciated?
  1. Where do you find inspiration for your work? The Himalayas? Your basement?
    • Inspiration is -everywhere-. Including during a dentist appointment. And sometimes, believe it or not, from typos. That's where I got the idea for another of my YA novels, TEMPING FATE. (I tried to type the phrase "tempting Fate," missed typing the second "t," and a book was born!
The only good thing I can recall about dentist appointments is those little disc-like floss containers. You can tie things very securely with that waxen tooth tool *suspicious grin*...

  1. Choice time! Sparta or Troy (is that even a fair question)?
    • It. . .must. . .be. . .SPARTA!" (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
  1. Have you done anything crazy to procrastinate work on either your first title or its follow up (mark your calendars folks) Nobody’s Prize?
  • I am not very good at procrastinating because I work on more than one writing project at a time. That way, while I'm procrastinating work on one book, I'm doing work on another.

  1. However fan-girl-esque (ugh) this may appear we have to inquire. Will there be a third book on Helen’s exploits? Or is there something else brewing in Friesner-land?
    • NOBODY'S PRINCESS and NOBODY'S PRIZE (which is coming out in April 2008) are it for Helen's story, but the good news is I am now writing two more YA novels for Random House about young Nefertiti! No titles have been decided on for these books yet, however I'm also writing a YA historical novel for Penguin Books called BURNING ROSES.

Nefertiti goes hand in hand with Egyptian lore. Which is almost as fearsome as Greek myth.

  1. Maelstroms, tempests, or whirlwinds?
    • I'm going to say "tempests" because you can always fit one in a teapot and I like tea.
  1. Have you any wisdom to impart upon us before you go *weep*? On writing, life, gorgons, or anything else you see fit.
    • Advice? Here's a sample:
    • Never confuse snarkiness with real wit.
  • Never forget how to laugh, especially at yourself. It will get you through some really rough patches.
  • If you want to become a professional writer, make sure you keep your eye on practical matters as well as on the writing itself. You -will- need a day job. You -will- need health insurance. You -will- be able to write more if you are not frantically worrying about having enough money for necessities, and the more worry-free time you have for writing, the better your writing will become.
  • If you're going to pay someone else to publish your work, you might as well just take your work to the local photocopy shop and hand out copies on your own. It's cheaper. Or you could just remember the mainstay rule for professional writers (and those who wish to become professional writers) namely:
  • Money flows TOWARD the writer.
  • Getting your writing to come out right will not always be easy, but working on -getting- it right will be satisfying. If it isn't satisfying, maybe this isn't something you want to be doing.
  • Believe it or not, there are people out there who want to be published but who don't want to do what it takes to be writers. It doesn't work that way unless you are major paparazzi-bait.
  • It's possible to be serious without being grim. It's possible to to enjoy a dose of silliness without being completely inane. And--I do not care how mushy this may sound--it's possible to enjoy life but it ought to be -mandatory- that we do something, however small, to make life just a bit more enjoyable for others.

My grandmother used to tell me to "Stop being, snarky." So that's what it means...hmm...

  1. Say you had the opportunity to push someone off of Olympus and take his or her or its spot as a god or goddess. Who would you choose?
    • I'm feeling lazy, so I'm going to say I'll pick Hebe. She's the cupbearer of the gods, which means all she has to do is keep pouring the nectar. That's a pretty cushy job! I'll bet she gets to listen in on all kinds of -really- divine gossip. She's also married to Herakles (Yes, Disney got it wrong. What were the odds?) which must make her immortal life -very- interesting, to say the least.
I knew something was wrong about that whole "animated" version. Meg just wasn't cool enough for Herakles. Nowhere near it.

The end.

Thank you again for deigning to speak with us, Ms. Friesner. 'Twas an experience never to forget. Of course I must rate this interview at a 7 out of 7 Lightnings (How very appropriate.)!! Expect more tempestuous excitement from the Maelstrom soon. How could you expect less?

Constructing a Toga
and From the Shadows
*Aella Siofra*
and ~Medeia Senka~

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A Review from Medeia.... you're shocked, I know

So, finally Aella has convinced me that reviewing a book for our book-reviewing blog might be a good idea. So here it is a review for The Alchemyst by Michael Scott.
The Alchemyst tells the story of twins Sophie and Josh Newman, typical teens who have gotten themselves some typical jobs at a typical coffeshop and a typical bookstore. So this is where things get un-typical. Sophie is working in the typical coffeeshop when she smells something strange. Rotten eggs and mint. Disgusting. She notices a black car pull up in front of the shop and a bunch of creepy looking guys step out. One of them looks straight at her and walks into the bookstore across the street, where her brother works.
Josh returns from the basement of the shop only to find four intimidating men glaring at the owner, Nick Fleming. Josh is also hit with a wave of the vile mix of sulfur and mint. Suddenly he finds himself in the middle of a magical battle between Nick Fleming and these strange men. The men are looking for a book called the Codex and Nick does not want them to find it.
Sophie and Perenelle (Nick's wife who was in the coffeshop at the time of the fight) rush into the bookstore. Nick manages to escape his attackers with Sophie and Josh, but Perenelle is kidnapped and the Codex (save for the last two pages) is lost.
Now the twins are hurled into a world that they do not understand. They discover that Nick Fleming is actually the famed Alchemyst Nicholas Flamel and that he has been alive for hundreds of years. They meet one of Nick's allies, Scathach ( a vampire-like member of the Elder Race) who is a fearsome warrior. Sophie and Josh also find out about a prophecy told in the Codex concerning twins of the sun and moon who could either save or destroy the world.
Now, they rush into danger on their way to Awaken Sophie and Josh's powers. They encounter many mythical creatures and a few goddesses as well (Hekate of three faces, the wicked crow goddess Morrigan, and the terrifying Bastet of Egyptian mythology) while also trying to escape Dr. Dee (the leader of the weird guys in the bookstore, who works for some mysterious forces).
I enjoyed reading this book and especially liked the integration of the mythology of various countries. I would have to give this book a comfortable 5 out of 7 lightnings *thunder crashes in background*

From the Shadows,

~Medeia Senka~

P. S. What is it with all of the book pictures being on the left?