Review: Sparks

Sparks+Front+Cover+eBook+finalSparks by Maren Anderson (July 2019 Not A Pipe Publishing)

Romance, monsters, and magic … for grownups? Yes, please!

It’s a treat to find a good fantasy novel aimed at adult readers. Sparks is just such a book. Nothing against YA, which I love, but I like the idea of someone with life experience and responsibilities encountering magic in the midst of an otherwise ordinary life. I also enjoyed the setting: contemporary West Coast farm country, not the usual venue for tales of monsters and magic.

Rosie, a widow in her late 30s, owns a ranch where she boards horses and offers riding lessons. She loves her life but she’s deep in debt. She has plans to train five mustangs, which will help pay the bills. But first she needs to build a round pen, and the only good place for it is occupied by a century-old cowshed. A cowshed that does not want to be torn down. Things are complicated further by the arrival of Patrick, a handsome stranger with a beautiful horse and a mysterious past. Skeptical, unsuperstitious Rosie has a big adjustment to make as genuine magic enters her life, and not only from the cowshed.

The book has a nice balance of humor, romance, and suspense as Rosie and Patrick team up to figure out what is in the cowshed and how to get rid of it. Things get worse before they get better—much worse for some characters—until the surprising, satisfying conclusion. Recommended for fans of fantasy romance, mythical creatures, and horses.

Now on pre-order! Releases July 30, 2019

Hardcover HERE

Trade Paperback HERE

Kindle Edition HERE

Square Pig in a Round Hole-June 15, 2019

Square PigNaming a band is an act of concentrated creative expression. Square Pig in a Round Hole exists to reward five favorite band names each week. Winners are (usually) listed alphabetically.

Selection is wholly unscientific and subject to whim, with a bias toward wordplay, humor, and local flavor. In most cases, I won’t know anything about the bands at the time of selection. Thanks to the Seattle Times club listings for abundant source material!

Wizard Girl cover imageI’m in a bit of a tizzy because the cover of my next book was revealed this morning. Wizard Girl (Daughter of Magic Book 2) will release from Not A Pipe Publishing on July 23. E-book is on pre-order now with paperback and hardback to follow soon. Learn more here.

I hope these bands rock as much as this cover. As I went through the listings, nothing was speaking to me until the last page, where I encountered five great names on one bill. I think this is the first time that has happened.

Against the Raging Tide

Heroic brooding outsider drama.

Antlerbag

Murse for a moose (because he doesn’t have hands to hold a handbag).

Earth to Ashes

I’m reading this as a statement about climate change, like that Bill Nye video where he set a globe on fire.

Felony Flats

Old West town at the end of the line, entirely populated by criminals who have created a supportive community for themselves.

Stranded by Choice

In another break with tradition, I’m including a band I’ve featured before in order to cover the whole bill. On June 17, 2017, I wrote: “Love the double meaning. Are we stuck because of too many options, or intentionally moving to a deserted island?”

 

One last thing before you go: I share highlights from this blog in my quarterly author newsletter, The Storypunk Report, as well as news of what I’m writing and reading, and other goodies. Click the link to check it out and subscribe here for future issues–the next one is out in July and will be full of exciting news.  (Or just follow the blog for your weekly dose of band names.)

Square Pig in a Round Hole-June 2, 2019

Square PigNaming a band is an act of concentrated creative expression. Square Pig in a Round Hole exists to reward five favorite band names each week. Winners are (usually) listed alphabetically.

Selection is wholly unscientific and subject to whim, with a bias toward wordplay, humor, and local flavor. In most cases, I won’t know anything about the bands at the time of selection. Thanks to the Seattle Times club listings for abundant source material!

Karen and Mikko at Wilsonville Festival of Arts

Blogging a day late again. I spent yesterday at the Wilsonville Festival of Arts in Wilsonville, OR, helping out at the Not A Pipe Publishing table with my friend and fellow author Mikko Azul. We each sold a copy of our own book, so it was a good day. The event continued today (without me) and I hope many of our books found their way into the hands of eager readers.

It was a beautiful day for a drive and an art fair in a nice park, but I can’t forget about band names! Here are this week’s treasures:

Bad Camper

Broken-down RV? Or a careless human who failed to bear-proof their food?

Bent Self

A human, being a vertebrate, is already a bent fish. So is this doubly bent, or straightened out?

Mechanical Plague

The invasion has begun. I welcome our robot overlords.

Rachaels Children

I like finding Biblical references in the club listings, though this is not a cheerful one. She is weeping and refuses to be comforted, for they are no more. (Coincidentally, this passage came up in this week’s study/conversation with my dad and brother, so I couldn’t not pick it.)

Rainbow Kitten Surprise

Here’s something cute and colorful to lift our spirits! Just be careful of the little sharp teeth and needle claws–that’s the surprise.

 

One last thing before you go: I share highlights from this blog in my quarterly author newsletter, The Storypunk Report, as well as news of what I’m writing and reading, and other goodies. Click the link to check it out and subscribe here for future issues.  (Or just follow the blog for your weekly dose of band names.)

The Supernormal Legacy, Book 3: Emerge

EmergeThe Supernormal Legacy, Book 3: Emerge by LeeAnn McClennan (Not A Pipe Publishing, 2019)

Emerge, the third book of this trilogy, turns up the heat on main character Olivia Woodson Brighthall. In book 1 Dormant, she belatedly manifested the supernormal abilities she had rejected as a child after the death of her mother and began training with her cousins to hunt monsters and fight bad guys. In book 2 Root she grew in skill and confidence and embarked on a road trip with her cousins (and normal friend Anna) to rescue her friend Ben from the terrorist organization Mountain of Ash that killed her mother and brainwashed her cousin Emma into joining them. Book 3 finds Olivia in the Ashers’ clutches, far from home, her powers suppressed, and only alive because the head terrorist wants her blood to make an enhancement serum.

The suspense never lets up in this volume. Olivia endures torture in the form of altered memories as the villain seeks to power up her blood. Escape attempts are foiled as Olivia and her friends gradually learn what Mountain of Ash has in mind for the inferior normals of the world, and for the supernormals who seek to protect them. It’s a nice touch that Olivia agrees with Mountain of Ash on one point: supernormals should be able to use their powers openly. She does not agree with their cruel, destructive methods and is hurt when friends seem to go over to the dark side. Although the final battle is a pulse-pounding shocker with terrible losses, the book pulls off a poignant but hopeful ending.

If you don’t find it on the shelves of your favorite independent bookstore, ask them to order it for you, or purchase online here:

Get it at Barnes & Noble HERE. They support indie authors and have hosted Not a Pipe Publishing’s signings at multiple locations.

Get it on Amazon HERE.

Get it at Powell’s HERE.

 

Review: Don’t Read This Book

Don't Read This BookDon’t Read This Book (2019 Not A Pipe Publishing) by Benjamin Gorman

At once hilarious and heartbreaking, this novel uses fantasy monsters and rollicking comedy to make sophisticated philosophical and political points about identity and meaning. A tall order that Don’t Read This Book fulfills, and then some.

The story is set in our familiar world, but with one difference: all the monsters and magical creatures of myth and legend are real, hiding among humans … and preying on them. They have long ago formed a governing body with rules that prevent the various creature factions from attacking each other. They meet annually in Las Vegas for a convention. Bel (vampire) and Nando (werewolf) are buddy cops, tasked with capturing and punishing monsters who break the rules. But now they have a new unofficial assignment: rescue a kidnapped human writer and keep her—and her manuscript—away from the necromancer who would use this book to destroy modern civilization.

It would be a spoiler to reveal why he believes a novel could do this, but it has a lot to do with what gives life meaning and how that differs depending on who you are. Lena, the writer in question, exists at an intersection of identities: Black, Latina, lesbian, Millennial…Oregonian. She begins the story full of doubt and fear but under the influence and protection of her unlikely rescuers, she rediscovers her voice and power. Her heartbreaks and triumphs felt real and I couldn’t help rooting for her.

In addition to Las Vegas, Gorman makes good use of real-life settings in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, and France for scenes of narrow escapes and monster battles. Also like the real world, his monster population includes literal internet trolls, flinging flaming poo and thriving on chaos. Most real of all, it takes all the good guys working together to achieve their goal. Still, my favorite character and the true hero of the piece is Josef, a faceless clay golem who punches Nazis. Go, Josef!

Until April 19, 2019, you can pre-order your copy (and consider getting one for your local library) using the Kickstarter here! Or ask for it at your favorite independent bookstore, or order from Amazon here.

Square Pig in a Round Hole-March 23, 2019

Square PigNaming a band is an act of concentrated creative expression. Square Pig in a Round Hole exists to reward five favorite band names each week. Winners are (usually) listed alphabetically.

Selection is wholly unscientific and subject to whim, with a bias toward wordplay, humor, and local flavor. In most cases, I won’t know anything about the bands at the time of selection. Thanks to the Seattle Times club listings for abundant source material!

I’m on vacation!!! Next week I will be heading down to Portland for the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference. I have never been to this kind of event before; I expect it to be overwhelming but fun. In addition to hobnobbing with my fellow wizards at workshops and presentations, I get to sign books with (and attend a panel by) other Not A Pipe Publishing authors, at least one of whom I will be meeting in person for the first time. The only downside: I will be away from the blog next weekend. Fortunately, this week’s crop of band names is strong enough to carry us through till next time. Catch you in April!

Be Forest

A gentle command to be one with nature, this also sounds like a superlative preposition denoting a point earlier than which one cannot go.

Delicate Steve

Only a man secure in himself would call himself delicate.

Fell from the Ship

A most poetic euphemism, previously unknown to me. I chose it from the listings on Friday afternoon, intrigued by the implied action and drama. Friday night, we watched two short films that came with the Blu Ray of Orphée by Jean Cocteau (La villa Santo Sospir and a filmed interview with Cocteau). In one of them, he spoke of old friends who had passed on. Whatever he said in French was subtitled “fell from the ship.”

Fragile Weapons

The legendary sword that shatters when used with less than pure motives.

Hand Habits

Could be nervous tics, like nail biting, finger drumming, or hair twirling. Could as easily be practiced behaviors, like instrument fingering, ball handling, or drum rudiments.

 

One last thing before you go: I share highlights from this blog in my quarterly author newsletter, as well as news of what I’m writing and reading, and other goodies. It’s called The Storypunk Report and the first issue is out! Click the link to check it out and subscribe here for future issues. Next one comes out in April. (Or just follow the blog for your weekly dose of band names.)

Square Pig in a Round Hole-March 2, 2019

Square PigNaming a band is an act of concentrated creative expression. Square Pig in a Round Hole exists to reward five favorite band names each week. Winners are (usually) listed alphabetically.

Selection is wholly unscientific and subject to whim, with a bias toward wordplay, humor, and local flavor. In most cases, I won’t know anything about the bands at the time of selection. Thanks to the Seattle Times club listings for abundant source material!

When I started this blog back in 2010, it had nothing whatever to do with my fiction writing beyond a personal bias toward sci-fi and fantasy themed band names. That changed when I happened to spy a sign on a local mini-storage with a burned out O. ST RAGE seemed like the name of either a superhero or a rock band, so I made it both. That turned into my first published novel, a garage-rock fairy tale titled The Gospel According to St Rage. The book is now in edits for an updated, enhanced second edition from Not A Pipe Publishing, due out later this year along with its sequel, Barbara and the Rage Brigade. I’m having so much fun working with these characters again! Read to the end to subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and keep up with news about these and other books. Or just follow the blog for your weekly dose of band names, such as these fine examples:

Alfredo Ghosts

Who ya gonna call? Obviously, your favorite Italian restaurant.

Bodies on the Beach

What kind of movie is this, bikini dance party or disaster? OR BOTH!? Beach Blanket Tsunami.

Mansionair

Cash poor, house rich.

Prying Free

Oysters, mussels, hard hearts and closed minds about to open.

Spendtime Palace

Sounds like an oddly translated name for a vacation resort or kids’ TV show. (The listings lost a comma, so for a moment I thought there was a band called Ceramic Animal Spendtime Palace, which was like the too-long psychedelic band name of my dreams. Turns out I featured Ceramic Animal on September 1, 2018.)

One last thing before you go: I share highlights from this blog in my quarterly author newsletter, as well as news of what I’m writing and reading, and other goodies. It’s called The Storypunk Report and the first issue is out! Click the link to check it out and subscribe here for future issues.