Shannon’s review of World of Shell and Bone… #skfalls #amreading #amwriting #indiepub

Product Details

As usual, as I review a book I just finished, I do my research on the fly. As I pulled up info on the author of World of Shell and Bone the first thing that confuses this blonde Irish girl is the name of the author. Under Goodreads it’s Adriana Ryan but on the cover it’s S.K. Falls. So, I went to S.K. Falls site (http://www.skfalls.com/posts/world-of-shell-and-bone-book-tour/) and she has it “tagged” as Adriana Ryan but the author is S.K. Falls.

*sigh* S.K. Falls is the author – so says my little pink-clad Kindle.

But – before I crack open the book and give away my personal thoughts on the story – I just want to touch base on the book’s cover. It’s pretty. It’s eye catching. Shit, it’s down right awesome! I’m a sucker for an enticing book cover. However, as I gaze at the beautiful girl covering her nakedness, all sexy and mermaid-like with green fields and russet trees in the background…I have to say that it really doesn’t match the story. But, it did it’s job and caught my eye. Way to go Ms. Falls/Ryan.

I learned this was an indie/self-published dystopian novel just before I purchased it the other day. And I was intrigued seeing as how I’m also about to venture into that world. I’ve not read too many indie pub books and there’s a reason for that. Most suck. However, I applaud the effort and bravery of indie publishing but most indie authors are not getting proper editing, thus, their grand ideas that could have been grander…suck. (Just spend a few bucks and hire a qualified editor to get that baby shipshape, okay?)

In Goodreads I gave World of Shell and Bone 4 stars. Ms. Falls earned it. The storyline and plot and arc were mesmerizing, original. Much of the prose was beautiful. For example the lead character, Vika, has a fleeting vision of her missing little sister, and compares her to the stories of people star gazing in order to see meteors (there are no stars in her city due to the pollution*): “If I stand motionless, I can see her out of the corner of my eye. She is like a broken meteor, blazing from one corner of the room to another, her long hair trailing after her. She is the afterimage of my childhood.” Wonderful visual, right?

*spoiler alert*

Well, the first, umm, 50% of the book kept me hooked. Vika’s transformation from “coward” to gutsy gal is seamless. She’s really not the mindless robot her dystopian government or fascist mother molded her to be. Shale (the “Husband”) is a unique character. Sensitive, dutiful and passionate.

Now, the story hits a bumpy road when they are about to move forward with the Asylum rescue. The writing seems to get bogged down, as if the author’s fingers had been injected with Novocain. The sentences get shorter, seemingly careless. The visceral emotion is missing. And some minor grammatical issues stood out (i.e. quotation marks missing at the beginning of paragraphs in continuous streams of dialogue and some issues with show vs. tell).

Now, on the whole, I really enjoyed this book. It’s important I stress this as I’m about to tear a few things apart. And I’m not trying to be mean, because it’s clear Ms. Falls is highly talented and I’m expecting her future work to be much more improved.

Deep breath, here it goes:

First, I had a problem with the present tense usage. Most first person POV is written in past tense. It’s easier on readers and, honestly, easier on the writer. Now, that’s just my personal opinion, and the present tense usage did not detract from the overall story.

But the items that did detract from the story were the glossed over sex scene, the lack of emotion during critical scenes and the timeframe/timeline issues.

You all know I’m wild about wild sex scenes and I’m nutty about gentle (read PG rated) sex/love scenes. There’s no hard and fast rule that every romance (I’m calling Shell and Bone romance but it’s probably closer to fantasy) has to have smut and steam. And I’m okay with that. But the build up between Vika and Shale was so sweet that when they came to do the deed and three lackluster sentences later Vika proclaims they were “utterly sated” I whipped my head around and squealed say waaa? at my dog.

The emotions fell flat toward the last half of the story. All that beautiful prose early in the book was missing during a lot of scenes that should have been filled with angst.  No emotion/visceral during the rape scene, no emotion/visceral response during the beating (I didn’t even know she got beat up until another character said something). She’d never seen stars before and ends up in a desert with clear skies…how come we never get her impression when she looks at the night sky?* We, the reader, lose a little bit of love for Vika when we can’t “feel” what she’s going through.

I also had a hard time with the timeline. I thought she was in the middle of menstruating when she and Shale made love for real. And the next thing I knew she was having morning sickness and was 4 weeks pregnant. And then she was at the camp and she was 6 weeks pregnant. I don’t know, but the events didn’t match up with the passage of time.

I’m done beating Ms. Falls with my wet noodle.

In closing, all I can say is that I’m super proud of S.K. Falls for being a gutsy girl and self-publishing this entertaining novel and (hopefully) she has widened the bumpy indie-pub road for the rest of us inspiring indie authors.

Go forth, Ms. Falls/Ryan, and claim your success.

Farewell, Ms. Stackhouse…..#amwriting #sookie #trueblood #authors #amreading

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

(3.5 stars – Goodreads)

Dead Ever After was a comforting Sookie Stackhouse book. Slow, steady and nearly predictable. I, unlike many out there from what I’ve read, enjoyed who she ended up with. I always suspected “he” would be her choice. All in all, this seemed to be the most slow-paced book in the series. As Dead Ever After was the final book, I guess I expected more FLASH! BAM! ZING! and ZAZZLE!

As I read it, I could almost feel Ms. Harris’ anguish to complete this story and put Sookie in a good place so they both could get on with their lives. I know Ms. Harris wrote it the way she wanted and I admire her for that. However, I do wish there was a bit more KA-POW!…but I wasn’t unhappy with it.

In the May 2, 2013 WSJ article, How to Kill a Vampire, I was stunned to learn how so many fans reacted to the ending. Some taunted Ms. Harris, some threatened to commit suicide. Really? Well, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got bullied for having killed Sherlock Holmes and was forced to bring him back. So I guess when you have a solid fan-base, said fan-base can get a bit passionate.

Link to WSJ article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324482504578453062428371352.html

Fans are important but in the end it’s the author who has the story in their head and it’s their job to be true to themselves and get the story right. And if fans don’t like it, well, I guess there’s always Fan Fiction, right E.L. James?

Farewell, Ms. Stackhouse. Relax, Ms. Harris. You both deserve a break.

 

The Big Bang Theory Hyperventilation Observation #amwriting

I have a hypothesis. Actually, I’ve conducted an experiment which supports my hypothesis. It’s all highly scientific. Warning: Do not attempt this at home, you may pee your pants or fly off the treadmill. Or both.

The question: If I attempt to jog on the treadmill while watching any episode of The Big Bang Theory, will I black out?

The result: One will hyperventilate from lack of oxygen due to ensuing fits of laughter caused by any episode of The Big Bang Theory…especially Howard Wolowitz and his Skyped conversation about Space Camp Training.

The Big Bang Theory Hyperventilation Conundrum

But the best…and I mean the BEST way to work out on a treadmill with a convenient television in front of you is to watch Alaska State Troopers while listening to Depeche Mode’s 101 Live at Pasadena Rose Bowl (1988).

Hot. Damn.

Okay, if you are a straight dude, switch it up with Game of Thrones and Foo Fighters Greatest Hits.

Personally, all I can say is, watching big, muscular Troopers pull drunk drug dealers out of cars/woods/houses will send my pulse a racin’ every time. And the solid, rhythmic beats from DM flows through my earbuds like water cascading over a lush, tropical fall. Greatest way to make an hour fly by.

In conclusion, I shall quote a very, very smart man. “Send more underwear!” – Howard Wolowitz

Tight, Taut, Traumatic TENSION!

I just read a remarkable article on Kristen Lamb’s blog about writers pushing their character’s comfort levels and forcing them to become uncomfortable – in turn, this tension transforms a good book into a great one.

http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/talk-is-cheap-for-great-fiction-drive-the-demons-to-the-surface/

Now, uncomfortable really is an understatement. When you (the reader) think the story is just thumping along toward a happy conclusion and then all of a sudden someone poisons the water well with a gray, bloated corpse you start flipping the pages and absorbing the pain and terror and you become anxious to find out who the bad guy is and if they get caught. Tension.

In my new novella series, The Market and Center of the Universe (both coming this summer), my protagonist, Teagan O’Leary, is in a new city and starting a new life. She’s lost weight and trying to overcome her verbally abusive ex-husband’s, well, abuse. She struggles with her body image, her new loneliness and just plain old fitting in.

Now throw a handsome, secretive man into the mix. During the day, James Lightbody is a warehouse manager at the store where Teagan works. But by night, he’s an up and coming rock star.

And for some reason Teagan can’t quite grasp, James is pursuing her.

Teagan has to fight her instincts and make the decision to either hide and lick her wounds or agree to meet this tall, dark, sexy rocker at the local bar where his band is playing.

Now if it were me, I might stay home and eat ice cream and watch The Walking Dead instead of taking that chance. Actually, I did do something like that once when I was invited to a party back in my singles days. I was shy, new to Seattle and scared as shit.

Shannon number 2But then I was invited again – luckily my sweet co-workers were persistent and overlooked my bashfulness…not to mention I was hella cute and fun. So I hitched up my big girl panties and went. Alone. And I had a blast mingling and making new friends.

Fiction is full of tough decisions that we may never be brave enough to make. But we (the reader) need to dive into a story that’s going to make us squirm, make us cringe, make us wish we had the balls to face the scary challenges the courageous/terrified/timid characters are facing.

Please take a moment to check out Ms. Lamb’s article. She references one of the greatest dystopian stories EVER (The Road by Cormac McCarthy) – and I got serious chills recalling the basement scene from the book (the movie is good but the book…aw, yeah). Tension.

On Dublin Street: 5 Stars from this Irish Girl…@SyoungSFauthor #ondublinstreet #downlondonroad

Portrait of young  coupleOn Dublin Street, by Samantha Young http://www.samanthayoungbooks.com/

I’m giving On Dublin Street 5 stars (Goodreads) because I cried. Three times. I can’t believe a romance made me cry. Three times. I can put the blame on PMS but I really think it’s Samantha Young’s fault.

While I’ve never known suffering like Joss had, I felt her pain and loved her snark. I loved that she was always truthful with herself if not with anyone else. Young had me at the prologue and, while there were a few bumpy moments (more just technical stuff like occasional grammatical/punctuation errors that stood out), I couldn’t put the book down.

I loved the cat and mouse build-up and then the tension after Joss and Braden got together. That’s what makes this a 5 star romance in my mind. Tension, and the fact Braden was the perfect male. Sexy, sensitive, tough, patient, honest. Mr. Perfect is who we crave and Ms. Young delivered. Speaking of such, I think the sex scenes could have been a little more visceral and drawn out, but that’s probably just my smutty-side talking out her butt. **Go smutty-side!**

Anyway, this was recommended to me by one of my new Goodreads friends and this is book #2 that she’s recommended that I’ve really enjoyed. So, thank you Stevie.

From what I’ve learned, On Dublin Street is Ms. Young’s debut contemporary romance. I’ve not read any of her historical novels yet but…I’m thinking I’m gonna have to soon. Lucky for me (and for all of you), Ms. Young just released a new contemporary romance, Down London Road. http://www.samanthayoungbooks.com/ I shall read this after I purchase another box of tissues.

 

 

5 Things to Make this Irish Girl Dance a Jig…

So…I apparently had some time on my hands today (not really but I needed to make time for you, my friends). In case you hadn’t noticed, I changed up my blog a little in preparation for my new novella series launch. Look for the first two novellas to be published this summer (The Market and Center of the Universe), and the third novella (5th & Pike) in fall.

In the mean time, here’s a short list of things that would send this spunky Irish girl into a jig (possibly in public, but more likely in the privacy of my living room):

5. George R.R. Martin completes the next Game of Thrones book before I hit menopause. (I’m really not that old…jus’ sayin’)

4. Psycho fans of the Sookie Stackhouse books: leave Charlaine Harris alone. NOW. Get over yourselves. It’s her story. It’s Sookie’s ending. And if you don’t like it, go sit on the Space Needle and spin. (P.S. I am buying Dead Ever After this weekend, can’t wait and I will respect Ms. Harris’ work). Click link to read WSJ interview: http://t.co/56KnEYlJnw

Bendict3. Benedict Cumberbatch, Henry Cavill and Jeremy Renner really need to come to Seattle and work on my overgrown backyard. And I mean the grassy space behind my house, sickos. I’ll provide the iced tea and sun screen and watch from my balcony. I may give an order or two but I’m sure they can handle it.

 

2. Snow Patrol and Gaelic Storm need to do an album together. Or at least a song. I do believe they are in/near Santa Monica, CA as we speak? And then both bands need to come to Seattle and perform at The Moore Theatre (giving me front row center seats as a thank you for my brilliant idea) or, even better, come and perform in my newly landscaped backyard. It’s huge and we have a forest behind our fence = great acoustics. I’ll provide the Guinness of course.

1. Learning how to market my upcoming novella series – I’m doing serious research people. My story(ies) are fucking awesome – if I do say so myself. And the first one is currently with my editor who will help kick it into stellar perfection.

Here’s an unedited excerpt from The Market – A Teagan O’Leary Novella to whet your appetite (note, it was formally published under the title Winter Twilight as part of the Snowbound Hearts Anthology with Still Moments Publishing – they have reverted the rights back to me and I have changed the story a bit to make it more emotional and exciting.

The Market by Shannon O’Brien:

The overhead lights dimmed. On the stage, the bar manager tapped his finger on the mic. “Let’s give a round of applause to Seattle’s own Mofo Mojo!” The fervor in the room grew exponentially, and then, as the audience watched the band members take their places on the stage, it quieted.

James stepped to the center microphone, his guitar lose in his grip. The filtered spotlight bathed him like an ethereal angel. Behind James and to his left, Johnny plucked his bass guitar. Several beats later, Stan picked up the rhythm on his drums. James raised his head and chills danced up and down my spine when he began to sing, a slow song with mystic lyrics. His voice was deep and hypnotic. When he reached the chorus, the rhythm sped up, commanding, his hand a blur as he strummed his guitar. The chords of his neck strained and he scanned the room. He was reaching out to everyone. And we were reaching back.

The song ended with a long note hanging in the air. Two quiet beats passed, and then the crowd roared, screams and piercing whistles breaking through the applause.

A dozen songs later, each implausibly better than the one before, the band announced they were taking a break.

“So, what did you think?” James asked when he returned to the table.

Glancing around, it was impossible not to notice the patrons staring at us. James was on the cusp of brilliance and I still wasn’t clear why he was interested in me. But he deserved an honest answer. “I think you guys need to work harder on getting that manager.”

His cheeks were flushed from the performance, his eyes crazed with adrenaline as they raked over my face and the swells of my breasts.

“You’re so goddamned beautiful.” His lips turned down at the corners, creating a humorless frown. “You don’t know how bad I want to kiss you right now,” he murmured and looped a strand of my hair around his finger.

The sounds of the bar vanished as I felt my body slant into him. His sweat and spicy cologne swirled around me, making me salivate. He licked his pouty lips and lowered his head, his eyelids heavy as his face came closer, closer, closer…until we jerked back at the same time when the chair next to me was kicked away from the table.

Johnny sat down with two beers. He gulped one and clanked the other down in front of James. James scowled and slid the glass over to me. “I said three.”

“I’m good.” I pushed it back, leaving a foamy trail on the table. Grave tension seeped into the air and swept away our enchanted spell.

“Teage,” James said loudly, “I’m sorry my friend is such an asshole. I’d tell you he’s just in a bad mood, but sadly, this is normal for him.”

Johnny glared at James before he jumped off the stool and walked away. James rolled his eyes and shook his head. “He’s been acting strange for a couple of weeks now. I’m not sure what that was all about.”

I smeared the wet streak with my index finger. “Maybe he’s jealous?” 

The silence at our table grew, made palpable by the raucous sounds around us. I forced myself to meet his gaze and make sure I hadn’t inadvertently inserted my foot into my mouth. But he just stared at me, his eyebrows knitted together with affectionate concern.

“You may be right. I don’t know. But no matter.” He flicked his hand, as if erasing the events with one gesture.

Stan, the stout drummer, and George, the baby-faced keyboardist, stumbled over with fists full of beers, trailing a line of buxom girls. A glassy-eyed brunette wiggled up to James but he brushed her off and scooted closer to me until our thighs touched. “Our break is almost over. I saw you came in a cab. Can I drive you home?”

I nodded, happy I would get some time alone with James and also disappointed that the magic of our near first kiss was gone.

 

Zee Brain, She Is Working Again (sort of)…

Whew! I kinda fell off the face of the writing world there for a bit. The holidays and renovating an old house seeped into my blood and my writing bug seeped out. But…I’m back! And I really, really, really want to get going on the final edits of the ghost story I’ve been working on.

However, last week I became motivated out of the blue. I had stolen a quiet moment to re-read A Storm of Swords when a friggin’ lightning bolt seared my brain. Really! So I jumped up, ran to my laptop and I’ve sat on my butt ever since, writing a new and fresh book (fresh for me, at least). I’ve created a wonderful character and a new world inspired by Katniss Everdeen, Arya Stark and – dating myself here – Cathy Dahl (if you don’t know who she is, I’m not gonna tell). These are strong young women whose lives had been turned upside down, yet they powered through their physical, mental and environmental tests the best way they knew how. I’m having a BLAST!

So…I guess I’m still procrastinating. But, hey! I can tell my writing technique has improved immensely – so that’s a positive. And maybe that’s why it’s such a challenge [read torture] to keep editing my first book. It has three years of my on-going writing trials and tribulations weaved in which makes it that much harder [read teeth-gnashing-anguish] to correct. The weight of my Irish guilt also presses on my shoulders given there’s a wonderful agent out there waiting for me to send my full manuscript to her. I know, I know, I’m not even Catholic but the guilt is strong. Good thing we Irish are so damned lucky!

“The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof shit detector.”
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

 

This Irish girl is back at it…whew!

Happy New Year! So far, 2013 has blossomed into a crisp white canvas yearning to be decorated with light and love and success. The possibilities for everyone to start fresh and create a wonderful new year is invigorating.

I’m back editing my paranormal adventure novel! Yea! It took me almost all of December to work my way through one chapter, the holidays took the wind out of my writing sails. But the boys are back in school, the hubby is back at work and I’ve completed my line edits for the next chapter and just began the changes. Writing never felt so good.

My goal: finish the edits by the end of January and get my polished manuscript out to the agent I met at ECWC ASAP. While I still have to sneak away to paint the 100-year-old house we are renovating and take the wee-ones to the dentist, my mind and body are back in the game.

And speaking of games…Way to go Seattle Seahawks! Woot! Woot! 2013 is going to rock😉

Downtown Seattle from Queen Anne 1

Gary, if you’re reading this, you need to do more songs like your Crazy In Love cover on SP’s next album. Seriously.

It’s the day after Christmas. The boys are playing with their new PS2 and I just got done cleaning up from last night’s holiday dinner and thought I’d take a moment to have some down time. All I needed was a fireplace, my dog and Snow Patrol. When I put on my new SP Up To Now CD (thank you Santa Jeff!), lounging on the couch became impossible.

If you don’t ever listen to Snow Patrol, if you hate them and call them “Snooze Patrol”, well A) you need to lose the attitude, and B) you need to check out their version of Crazy In Love (by Beyonce).

CLICK HERE: http://t.co/z9xqczfT

As I hopped and danced around the living room, my neighbors drove by and gaped at me and the mailman just shook his head. But yours truly just hit replay and bounced around until the ornaments on the nine foot Christmas tree swayed and jostled with a life all their own.

Sometimes you just gotta fuckin’ dance like no one can see you.

Horror stories should be in print…not in real life

I love horror stories. Give me a creepy villain and an every-day Joe/Jane in a tension-fueled novel and I’ll let my imagination run wild. I love writing about frightened victims turning into brave warriors and battling the bad guy or evil creature. I love diving into another world.

But I hate it when the horror enters the real world. When demented men turn violent and attack innocents. I hate witnessing the pain and confusion on the faces of friends and neighbors of the slain on the television, knowing that I’ll never understand their suffering but crying right along with them. I hate when my chest strains when the photos of the beautiful little children and courageous adults flash across the screen.

The only – and I mean only – bright side to the recent terrors is that the United States and D.C. are finally having serious policy debates regarding gun control and mental health issues. I’m praying that the anger and disgust remains strong long enough to see the debates through to create positive changes.

I love reading and writing horror stories. I would like books to be the only place where evil dwells. It would be nice, huh?

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