Review: This Tender Land

This Tender Land

This book came to me at a perfect time. I was trying to figure out why I so disliked a different book featuring a traveling group, and found the answer in a few things This Tender Land did right. But first, here is a description of the book right from Good Reads:

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Who is Joaquin Murieta and Why Had I not Heard of Him?

Joaquin Murieta's drawing
Do we even know if he had a wild eyed look?

It’s a real question. Why is this bandit, who terrorized people throughout 1850s California, a new discovery for me? Murieta is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. He hides behind the tale of Zoro. He lived on somewhat fictionalized in plagiarized magazine and radio serials. Countless westerns used his life as a model for their honorable bandits. But he himself is lost to time.

Did I not pay attention in school? Did I simply miss a museum display? Are the street names I pass every so often just generic? Is Rancho Murieta named after him? That would be ironic; a gated community named for a man who illuded all capture and fences.

I set out on a quest this year to read more books by people of color. I want to know what’s out there and to support their voices. The difference between speaking up for somebody and supporting somebody who is already speaking is a whole nother story, but an important one. And yet I get stuck, stuck in this endless loop of wanting to read really old books. So I bought some books by people who are alive (next on my list) and then I set out to read the 1854 novel The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta by John Rollin Ridge (definitely dead).

What drew me to this book

I studied the political factions of the Cherokee Nation for my writing and I knew a signer of the Treaty of New Echota had a son who wrote a novel. I didn’t care what it was, I wanted to see it, and to see how the events of his life crept into his writing. Ridge’s father knew he would die for signing that treaty and he did, supposedly right in front of the children, so you know…already there is tension.

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Book Reviews: Necessary Sins and Lost Saints, from the Lazare Family Saga

What does over two decades worth of research get you? An artful and brilliant series with the ability to put the reader right into the past. I have the privilege of receiving advanced reader copies before each release so far, and it’s hooked me from the first page. Since this is a saga meant to be read in order, I’m putting my reviews of the first two books here in order.

Necessary Sins

As soon as I read the first chapter, I knew this book would tear at my heart and make me want to reach through the pages to slap a couple of characters. The author dives right into the mind and life of each character, period prejudice and all, giving a vivid experience of the times and culture. Heroes are conflicted. Villains live up to their labels. Every scene, character, and phrase drives the story forward with relentless irony. 

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Burnout

I’m reading books faster than I can review them, and although I’m excited about the next book review post, I feel like I need to address something: burnout and poor health. It plagues every profession, so let’s dive in.

Sad duck
“My spirit is not well today.”
More silly drawings are on Instagram @dapplewrites

Sometime in October, an old problem reared its ugly head. I crashed and burned and threw everything off-kilter. I didn’t write a darn thing. My Tsalagi language learning stalled and I couldn’t bring myself to talk with my learning buddies. My social media posting schedule stopped. Clients resorted to texting me when I didn’t see their emails because looking at the screen me sick. Add on some extreme anxiety and GI problems, and I was ready to disappear. Luckily my husband won’t let me do that, lol!

While I work with my doctor and neurologist to figure out what is causing these “silent migraines” and put them to bed, I am planning for the next battle. Humans are not always great at taking care of themselves and it can happen again.

The Bus Factor

I was doing too much and when I stopped, chaos ensued. How many people can get hit by a bus before everything goes to chaos? In Bernhard Schroeder’s book Simply Brilliant, he explains that you must set up securities so that basic stuff gets done when you’re not around. So what does that look like for me?

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Book Review: Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier

I don’t want to give away the ending but the beginning words say it all: “There is no scatheless rapture.”

13 moons

The main character remembers his life as an orphaned, bound boy to a merchant who trades with the Cherokee Nation pre-removal from their homelands. As he adjusts to his new situation, he learns a great many things: who to avoid or trust, how to communicate, how to show respect, how to keep his horse from being stolen, the value of each item in trade instead of money, random coins and their values, etc. He also gained an adopted Cherokee father and learned a great deal about love and loss. I’d say that really, the entire book is about value, whether it’s people, relationships, lost love, or land. It’s also about growing up and growing old, and how perspective changes with age.

Frazier twists in good humor, foreshadowing, difficult decisions, contested stories, and masterful settings with ease. It is from a white boy’s perspective, regardless of who Will spent his life with and how his views meshed with his new family, and the author makes that clear within the story.

Some surprises

I found a couple of surprises in the style that I am comfortable with now, but wasn’t sure about at first. Every single thing I might consider an oddity has a specific purpose and just…works.

  • There are no quotation marks for dialog. At first this bothered me, but I thought about it. There is an indication that somebody has started speaking, and after that, do I care? Not really. It just kind of flowed.
  • I didn’t notice the shift between past and present tense until the end.
  • Despite a few reviews criticizing details gotten wrong, etc., I didn’t care. Yes, there were a few things I’d researched extensively and could spout off a thing or two about what “actually happened”, but in these cases did the average person in the POV character’s situation know any better? Probably not. Hindsight is 20/20, and history buffs have a lot of hindsight to help them pick apart fiction books.

I’d never read a Charles Frazier book before, and I think this one is a great first! I bought it to read in tandem with the section printed in Cherokee syllabary (Tsogadu Nvdo), but I realized I couldn’t wait that long to read it, so I will turn back when I can understand more Cherokee words.

Book Review: Cherokee Editor

Most who knew Boudinot described him as a sensitive (in a good way) and caring man. Many later described him as a traitor to his nation. After reading this collection of writings, along with Perdu’s notes, I see that he had simply lost touch, if he even had it, with the average citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

Cherokee Editor: The Writings of Elias Boudinot, edited by Theda Perdu

Early Years

He was born as “Buck” Watie in Oothcaloga (present-day Calhoun) Georgia. Those first years went by very different from his father’s growing up years. The Watie family departed from matrilineal traditions by using his father’s name, and lived and worked very individualistic lives instead of collective lives traditionalists cherished. He and his cousins John and Nancy Ridge attended a mission school, and further distanced themselves from traditions.

Not long after the first mission school, he met a man who impressed him very much, Continental Congressman Elias Boudinot. The elder Boudinot was also the American Bible Society president and pushed the theory that American Indians were one of the lost tribes of Isreal. Buck Watie took Boudinot’s name, not an uncommon practice of the day.

Boudinot joined people of many tribes and nations from all around the world and attended the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, CT. He met his first wife and caused a great stir about marrying out of his race, to point of death threats and his fiance being burned in effigy by her own brother. He concluded that no amount of assimilation would make his nation equal in the eyes of the whites he thought he could trust.

Political Years

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At the Editor. Now what?

I handed over my manuscript to an editor a little while ago, thinking I’d have oodles of free time to do other stuff. But what have I been doing? Let’s see…

  • I read nine books, which is quite an improvement
  • Successfully avoided blogging 😉
  • Realized I spent too much time on social media and cut back a little
  • Did market research and decided self-publishing was a better bet for what I have to sell
  • My house is still dirty
  • I had a language learning crisis in which I had to switch curriculum and it killed my momentum, but I’m getting there
  • Beta read a little faster
  • Started a book cover and gave it to a designer to make pretty. I figure if editors use editors, I can use a designer, right?
  • Tried to make a synopsis five times, gave up and tried back cover copy five times. Gave up and wrote this blog

I feel like I should have an outline for another book by now, or finish my marketing plan, but I have to decide which to do first. Maybe I’ll write book reviews for a while and procrastinate some more!

How do you procrastinate from even your favorite activities? Why?

Chasing Aginili: “My Older Brother”

Syllables for Aginili

This is my four-month journey of how I got from using “Big Brother” to Aginili, and is an example of why learning a language instead of using “found” words is beneficial/aggravating.

I am learning Tsalagi/Cherokee over the next few years to build up a prequel novel to Fodder for Pigs. It will also enrich my current novel. At your leisure, read this full post about why I chose to do this.

I wanted to find a suitable replacement for Big Brother’s “name”. The term “Big Brother” has many unneeded connotations exclusive to TV show names, political statements, etc. He just needs to be a protective, though grumpy, older brother.

He will not give his actual name because he doesn’t want people, particularly ones he doesn’t like, to use it. That would disrespectful and sort of embarrassing for him. I began to put my feelers out for a new term that encompasses who he is and what he does.

My naive self thought I had the answer

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Author Newbie Tag 2.0: When Pigs Fly

pigs flyingSpare time is like riding unicorns through rainbows while pigs fly about my head. It never seems to happen except when I neglect my household. Well, get ready for some spare time I’ve made. Maybe you can read it while watching your own pigs fly. I’ve been challenged to participate in #Authortalktuesday. I think that sounds fun! I can’t wait to meet everyone else and see your stuff. Please link in the comments.

This is part of the author newbie tag 2.0

1. What’s your book’s pitch? If you have multiple works, choose your favorite!

Oh my…well, I’ve pitched my book Fodder for Pigs enough times. I may as well take a stab at a new approach: the antagonist’s view.

“Joseph pines for when he had everything: a great job, close family, and a new bride. She betrayed him. One by one everything fell through his grasp. He exists in turmoil and wretchedness.

Only revenge will do.

The man who took it all away from him is within his grasp, yet he must savor this. He’s been preparing for decades, priming what child should have been his into a tool for revenge. He’s in too deep to turn back. Too many have died for this moment.

Now is the time.”

2. If you were a book, how would you pitch yourself?

Don’t Read this Book: a Collection of Life’s Most Awkward Moments. Continue reading

Author Interview: Monique De La Uz

8 Words coverWhat I love about the writing community is that every once in a while I meet an author or two that has a heart of gold. I know several of them now. These people have a genuine desire to pour their hearts out onto a page and help others do the same, in whatever capacity they can. We share in the excitement of finishing a draft, critiquing each other’s work, seeing each other succeed, and sending our new friends off into publishing land. I can’t do them all justice in one blog post, but I can share their beautiful minds!

Monique De La Uz is a debut Psychological Thriller author. I’m proud to have been part of the critiquing process and to have watched her grow by leaps bounds. Her riveting book, called Eight Words, comes out on August 8th, 2019. Let’s dive in!

Monique, in a few sentences, tell us about your book

My novel chronicles a woman’s journey in trying to save a student whom she teaches. He has no one and she wants to help but when her mentally ill brother accuses the relationship of going further than mentorship, she risks losing everything. She spirals down a path that jeopardizes her own mental health. Caught between her future and her family, she must decide if telling a vengeful truth and secret might be her only way out of this nightmare. Continue reading