Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Glass Demon: Review by Club Fantasci

Club Fantasci held its April Hangout on Friday to discuss the Glass Demon by Helen Grant. You can watch the discussion by hosts Dionne Lister, David Lowry, Kriss Morton and myself below.

Reviews by each of the hosts will be available on the Club Fantasci website. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads

May's Book of the Month is Waylander by David Gemmell and you can join us for the discussion on Friday May 31 7:30pm CST.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: A Review by Ciara Ballintyne

What would you do if the fate of the world hung on a child, aged six? Would you make the hard decisions to subject the child to the trials necessary to give that child the capabilities, together with natural intelligence, to actually save the world? Could you?

Earth has been twice invaded by giant insectoid aliens. Casualties were horrific. We were outnumbered and outgunned. The first time we nearly lost. The second time we were saved by the genius tactician Mazer Rackham. Now we are preparing for the third invasion, and while our technology has advanced, so will have the ‘buggers’. Our hopes rest on a pre-emptive strike to the buggers’ homeworld, but we have no commander.

Ender is a Third – a third child in a world where couples are allowed only two. The government had great hopes for his older brother, Peter, but found him too cruel, too ambitious, to lead their fleet. Their hopes switched to his sister, but she was too gentle, and so, in hopes of a child with the qualities of both Peter and Valentine, the government authorised the birth of Ender.

Monitored almost since birth, Ender is taken from his parents at the age of six and sent to a school for talented children destined for great careers in the space fleet. While they make no secret of the fact they hope he will command the fleet in the attack against the buggers’ homeworld, Ender is subjected to incredible pressure in order to force him to learn to think his way out of almost any impossible scenario.

The majority of the training at the Battle School is mock training in zero gravity conditions between groups of other students, where tactics more than brute strength rule the day. Isolated, friendless, and made a target for bullies, Ender nevertheless demonstrates his ability to out think almost any adversary, defeating enemies or making them his allies. Each time he rises to the top, the instructors change the odds, change the stakes, and make the situation almost impossible for him to win.

He is advanced ahead of his age, made to prove his value to the older students, and then, when he does, he inevitably alienates some. When he gains acceptance, he is pulled out of his unit, made the commander of his own unit, and left to sink or swim with too many rookie ‘soldiers’. When he nevertheless turns them into an effective fighting force, the odds are stacked against him when the instructors stage daily battles, and then twice daily battles, instead of allowing the usual rest period.

While the training seems nothing short of cruel, and some of the instructors express concerns they may ‘break’ or ‘ruin’ Ender, if one looks closely you realise that the training is nothing more or less than actual simulated battle conditions. There is no mandatory rest period between battles in war. There is no guarantee that one will always have the upper hand, or that one will always have the best soldiers. A commander must make the most of what he has to still produce victory, and it is this for which Ender is actually being trained.

Will he succeed? At the age of eleven, is he capable of leading a space fleet to war… and winning? Should he even be placed in that position, made responsible for the lives of soldiers? While I, as a mother, mourn the loss of the childhood he never had, I can recognise that Ender’s youth makes him more flexible, more durable, than an adult might be. He comes with no pre-conceptions, no skills or beliefs to be unlearned, and has that resilience so common to children. While an adult might break under the pressure, a child may only bend, and so Ender bends, and is moulded into the tool that is needed.

But the moral question remains. Should a child be taken and moulded into a tool, at great personal expense of that child? Can such actions be justified to save the whole of humanity?


But what if you don’t even know if the enemy is coming? What if, maybe, the enemy has learned the error of its ways and has no intention of invading and attacking enemy space? What if it is now us who are the invaders?

I thoroughly enjoyed the direction in which the book led me, the questions it posed, and sharing Ender’s journey and personal dilemmas. While the book is written, at times, ‘simplistically’, and employs ‘telling’ in some cases instead of ‘showing’, it appears from the introduction that Orson Scott Card did this deliberately, believing it made the book more accessible to a wider audience. Perhaps he was right, and perhaps the style of narrative was appropriate for a protagonist aged between six and eleven anyway.

While not the usual type of book I read, I ripped through Ender’s Game in two days, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to read more in the Ender series in the near future. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Mystical Staurolite—tears of fairies—in the epic fantasy romance Staurolite by Marsha A. Moore

Today Marsha A. Moore is joining us to talk about the mythology lying behind her latest book, Staurolite


In my new release, Staurolite, the fourth book in the Enchanted Bookstore Legends, I’m expanding and developing the foundation of the magical lore of my fantasy world. The characters find themselves needing the world’s ancient wisdom to solve their own present day problems. The basis of this ages-old magical power is a group of four mystical gemstones that parallel the four Chinese elements of nature: air, earth, fire, and water. These stones serve as four powerful keystones which, together, can empower the good Alliance to overcome the threatening attacks of the evil Dark Realm.  There is one controlling master gemstone, the Staurolite, which gives this fourth book its title. 

When I selected the gem that would be the master stone, I researched attributes that would make it an empowering symbol. Commonly called Fairy Cross or Fairy Stone, it was once believed to be created by the tears of fairies. It is shaped in an actual cross, with twined crystals that intergrow at nearly 90 degree angles.

Magically, is a grounding stone that assists in connecting with other worlds, including the fairy realm. This is an excellent stone for use in widening one's inner vision and awareness of other realms. For this reason, lore tells that Staurolite was considered to be a representative of all four elements of nature: air, earth, fire, and water. It was believed that a person who possessed this talisman could cause the elements to do his/her bidding. 

In addition, it was believed that the 90 degree cross represented the crossing of the spiritual and physical planes. After the arrival of Christianity, these stones were popular with those who entered a crusade. 

Many people now carry them as good luck charms. Staurolite is also used as an aid in discarding destructive habits, stabilizing the emotions, and bringing a feeling of protection, safety and security.

In my Enchanted Bookstore Legends, as a representative of all four elements of nature: air, earth, fire, and water, the Staurolite gemstone was a perfect choice for the master of the four keystones corresponding to those elements. In the series, each of the ancestral Scribes played important roles associated with one of the four keystones. In Staurolite, Lyra McCauley, the present Scribe, pieces together ancient wisdom about the properties of the Staurolite and how it controls the four missing keystones. The Guardians of the Alliance realize her magical power corresponds with the fifth and strongest element, quintessence, the pure and concentrated essence of a substance. This element parallels the master Staurolite gemstone. Lyra alone is capable of commanding the Staurolite to regain the lost keystones. But can she find the Staurolite soon enough to beat the race of time against increasing ravages of death and horrors from the attacking Dark Realm?

Staurolite: Enchanted Bookstore Legend Four by Marsha A. Moore

Lyra McCauley, current Scribe of the Alliance, is the only one who can decode magic hidden in the recently retrieved ancient texts written by her ancestors, the first four Scribes. Information in those writings can help Lyra locate the four missing keystones, which will restore power to the Alliance and allow overthrow of the Dark Realm. With peace restored, she and her beloved, Cullen, could finally marry.

Time is short with the Black Dragon’s Dark Realm increasing attacks to avenge the death of his heir. Many innocent lives are lost. Alliance residents are forced into hiding. Magicals and blue dragons follow leadership of the Imperial Dragon and the other three Guardians into battle to defend the Alliance.

While Lyra unlocks the ancient magic, she opens herself up to scribal powers from her ancestors. She alone can fight the deadliest of the Dark Realm’s forces—the cimafa stealth dragons—but at a cost. The energy flux threatens her health and ability to learn where to find the missing keystones. Can Lyra overcome this shrewd tactic of the Black Dragon to decimate the Alliance?

You can purchase Staurolite here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CCW98P2
Excerpt from Staurolite:
From Chapter One: Ancient Scribal Magic

Lyra propped her head with an elbow against the low library table and rubbed her eyes, paging through the last chapter. She rearranged her weight on the floor cushion and twisted the end of her long braid.
The Tortoise Guardian’s wide, craggy cheek brushed against her forearm.
She jotted a few lines in a notebook and carefully closed the cover of the ancient copy. Her gaze rested on the faded embossed symbols—The Book of Dragonspeir authored by Elisabeth Walsh, the first Scribe.
“Good work. We’ve previewed two of the lost volumes you recovered. One more remains.” The Tortoise retracted his head halfway into his shell. “Take a break. My neck is aching.”
“I want to keep going and skim Scribe Brigid’s book too.” Lyra flipped through her notes.
The heavy wooden door to the lair library banged open. In two strides, the Imperial Dragon stood before them. “We’re under attack! Cimafa stealth dragons have stolen auras of a high order wizard and souls of three non-magicals. They also killed one of our blue sentry dragons.” His flared nostrils were ringed with fire and seeped smoke. A yellow color of concern flashed in the irises of his eyes.
“How?” Lyra rolled off the plush floor cushion, forced her stiff legs to stand, and grabbed her wizard’s staff. “I thought they only went after higher magicals?”
“Attacks from the Dark Realm?” The Tortoise pushed his front legs against the table edge to lift his shell higher.
The Head Guardian nodded. “They’re attacking in small groups for increased strength. Several pairs and trios have simultaneously flown over our Alliance before retreating to the Steppe of Ora into Silva Nocens. Those four people were taken in different places all over the Alliance during the past thirty-six hours. One cimafa attacks the victim, while the others fight our blues. Several sentries are required to battle one cimafa, and we don’t have enough squadrons. They typically sneak over our borders singly to pursue auras that will boost their power—higher magicals, like you said, Lyra. Never have they purposely attacked non-magicals.”
“Can the Guardians fight the cimafa better than sentries?” Lyra asked.
“Yes. We can do more by using our auras, but I will not ask the other three to fight. I’m on my way out to join a patrol, since I’m the most capable. Losing a Guardian would be a tremendous danger. To break the balance of the four elements would seriously harm the strength of the Alliance.” He clasped his foreclaws against his massive chest. “Even I must use control; the great expenditure of Guardian power required to kill a cimafa would temporarily weaken our governance. The blues primarily fight with physical strength, hurling lightning bolts. Unless injured, they can recoup quicker. I alone have the advantage of using both magical and physical means in battle.”
“Do you want me to help?” Lyra asked.
“No. It’s best for all if you continue your studies to unlock the clues from each Book of Dragonspeir. That will reveal a way for the Alliance to overthrow the Dark Realm. As the Scribe, you are the only one who can read the hidden magical code in those texts.” The leader turned toward the door. “I’ll check with you later, when I return.”
“Head Guardian, are the higher magicals helping?” Lyra’s voice caught in her throat. “Is Cullen safe?”
He stooped to miss the upper arch of the door threshold and glanced over his shoulder. “Most are riding the senior sentries to offer additional strike force. Sire Drake will accompany Yord in my squadron.”
Lyra stepped forward, but the Imperial Dragon gave her no chance for discussion, bolting down the stone corridor with tremendous strides. She stared after him, immobilized by the shock of his news and concern for her love. After all that she and Cullen had risked and accomplished, hoping to reach their goal of living together…this didn’t seem possible. Moments ago, a happy life seemed within their grasp. She stared at the gray stone floor, dumbfounded. Their future together, once again, hung by a thread. Her mind filled with a blur of their hard victories won over the past year.

You can purchase the previous books in the series here:

Author Bio:
Marsha A. Moore is an author of fantasy romance. Much of her life feeds the creative flow she uses to weave highly imaginative tales. 

The magic of art and nature often spark life into her writing, as well as watercolor painting and drawing. After a move from Toledo to Tampa in 2008, she’s happily transformed into a Floridian, in love with the outdoors. Marsha is crazy about cycling. She lives with her husband on a large saltwater lagoon, where taking her kayak out for an hour or more is a real treat. She never has enough days spent at the beach, usually scribbling away at stories with toes wiggling in the sand. Every day at the beach is magical! She’s been a yoga enthusiast for over a decade and is excited to be taking part in a Kripalu yoga teacher training program during 2013. That spiritual quest helps her explore the mystical side of fantasy.

You can find more information about the author here:
Photo credit of Staurolite: By Elade53 (Kolekcja - Lech Darski) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, 8 April 2013

Interview with A Wrighton - Author of The Dragonics & Runics

Today I’m welcoming A.Wrighton to my blog. She has been imagining flights of wild fancy since before she could figure out how to tie her shoes. Her love of writing, creating, and imagination has led her through a life full of flights of fancy and amazing adventures. Following her creativity's calling, she earned honours in a BA in English as well as honors in a MFA in Creative Writing.

A. Wrighton writes sci-fi/fantasy (her passion), historical fiction, character-driven fiction, romance, and suspense. She also writes feature screenplays, TV spec scripts, and the occasional short film. Residing somewhere in the beautiful Ventura County, she still claims and loves her native city of Los Angeles. She lives with her amazing family and two dogs and often finds herself writing in little neighborhood joints - a cup of coffee or tea at her side.

Thanks for joining us today. Can you tell us what genre you consider your book(s)?

My main genre is fantasy/sci-fi if you’re looking at the overall spectrum of all of my books. If we’re just talking the Dragonics & Runics Series – it’s a bit more complicated. I’ve never been one to colour inside the lines and that shows in my writing. Most of my work is actually a hodgepodge of genres – whatever it takes to best tell my story – so pinning down just one specific genre is hard. Yes, that can work against me but I have always put story ahead of all else. It’s why I write. The Dragonics & Runics Series novels are a mix of political fantasy, steampunk, high fantasy, adventure, and romance (who doesn’t love a good romantic intrigue, eh?)

Honestly, I think some of the genre lines are a bit artificial. Growing up, I always considered a good fantasy would naturally include adventure and romance. In fact, fantasy, to me, was always the playground where you got to play with elements of other genres.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Jane Austen & Ernest Hemingway are tied. Jane has taught me to really get behind characters, make them as real as possible and to be brutally honest with my reader when I portray the characters in all facets, especially emotional ones. Hemingway taught me to put up or shut up and that the art of word-smithing – picking the right words concisely – is an amazing skill to have. I’m still learning, but I love when people can get a feel for Austen and Hemingway in my work. It definitely makes me smile and go – good, it’s working then.

My bad, I’ve not read either, which I know tends to be frowned on. Oops.

What are your current projects?
I have the rest of the novels in the Dragonics & Runics Series in various levels of completion as well as a Sci-Fi novel that is in development. I’m toying with turning another concept into a graphic novel with a few illustrator friends and I am a part of the creative team and lead writer on a soon-to-be-released web series called Things Left Unsaid. I also have a feature film screenplay that I am going to start putting out there soon.

Heavens, you’re one busy bee! Do you write an outline before every book or project you write?
In one fashion or another, yes. I write in segments – usually out of order – in clips or scenes. To help organize and streamline the plot, I have a general outline that I adhere to for ordering and flow. Is it rigid? Absolutely not. Does it look the same from before I started writing to when I’m in editing mode? Not even close. But I do outline in a combination of timelines and old-fashioned “OG” fluorescent note cards.

I don’t believe an outline should resemble the finished product, either. A good writer is flexible enough to follow new ideas as they arise, but I also find an outline helpful for continuity and ordering.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
Part II of the Dragonics & Runics Series (the title will be announced on my Facebook in April) picks up where Defiance: Dragonics & Runics Part I left off – you’re back with the Resistance struggling to put together the pieces of the Prophecy before the Council destroys you and everything you’ve worked towards. You’re going to see a lot of the same characters as in Defiance but get introduced to a few more – and learn quite a bit more about some characters who, in Defiance, might not have caught your full attention. Lots of surprises and, unfortunately, a bit more in-depth look into the struggle between the Rogue Dragonics and the Council. Bottom line – nothing is for certain – things and people can and will change, so you best be careful!

What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Anything with the Dragons. I love, love, love, love dragons. I always have. Even back when I was an awkward little thing taking painting classes in 6th grade, I painted dragons. My love of those mythical beasts shows in every Dragon I write – they are all unique with as different personalities as their human counterparts. Later in the series, I have even more fun with the Dragons… at the expense of the humans.

Ooh, a woman after my own heart. Remind me to tell you about my dragon coffee table one day, the centrepiece of my collection!

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

Toughest criticism was probably that I focus too much on developing my characters that it gets lost on the reader. It’s not necessarily a bad criticism but it helped bring into focus that I need to always remember to bring balance to character development and other aspects of writing. I was so grateful for the reminder at the time that I went back and re-evaluated my creative process. This was all during my MFA program and it made me such a better writer for it. Every writer needs to take those hard-to-swallow comments and squeeze the good out of them. The professor that had said it – an award-winning writer – came back at the end of my program and complimented me on my adjustments. I ended up taking the highest award in the program and a direct award from that professor. The head banging on the wall was worth it then. Even the stomach-wrenching choking moment I had for – oh, a few months.

I think it’s safe to say not all the character development (or worldbuilding, which is character development of another kind) that a writer does will show up in the book. Some of it we do so we can know our character better, or to draw upon if needed, but what we need to remember is just because we made it up doesn’t mean it has a place in the finished book.

What has been the best compliment?

My best compliment is that people can see where I take them. They can see my characters, their surroundings. They can hear their voices, smell the surroundings and taste the food. That they can really imagine themselves in the story. That’s a huge compliment because that’s how I want my reader to be when they read my work – I want them immersed in the story’s world so the plot and characters mean that much more to them.

Ah cinematic description! I remember getting that compliment from an editor. I even remember the scene she referred to. The compliments are so much nicer than the criticisms, but unfortunately we need the constructive feedback so we can improve.

Do you have a day job as well?
Don’t we all? I’m a mom and I work full time at a lovely company in the entertainment industry. It keeps me running and busy 80% of my day, and I fit writing in whenever and wherever I can. One day, hopefully, I’ll reach that level where writing can be my day job, but until then I’ll keep my nose to the grindstone (so to speak).

Oh yes, we’re all in that boat! For a bit of fun, if you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?

Wolf. Hands down. And not a werewolf… I would hate the whole changing under the moon thing. There’s just something majestic and beautiful about the wolf – especially their loyalty and sense of duty.

You surprise me. I would have said dragon! What would I find in your refrigerator right now?
Blueberries, strawberries (I live in Ventura County, you can’t blame me!), yogurt, cilantro, chicken, mango, leftovers, homemade pizza, some of my pasta sauce, cheese, and pickles. Oh, and some turkey and egg whites. I also think there’s some mystery leftover in the back, but we’re going to ignore that for the moment…

Mmm, strawberries. I’m jealous. The season is about over here in Australia. If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?
Elizabeth Bennet. I’m a Darcy fan. I want to see him walk out of the fountain all wet and stuff. Am I right, ladies? That… and I’d also like to stick it to Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mr. Collins.

You’ve lost me... I only have a vague notion that he's from

Pride and Prejudice. Please don't shoot me - I suspect there are many who would totally agree. Thank you for sharing your time with us today.

If you would like to know more about A. Wrighton, you can find her at:

You can find A. Wrighton’s books at:

Dragonics & Runics Series Website: www.defythecouncil.com

Defiance Book Trailer: http://bit.ly/dandrvideo
Defiance on Amazon: http://bit.ly/dr1amazon
Defiance on Kindle: http://bit.ly/dr1ebook (other ebook formats coming in June!)

Things Left Unsaid – a web series: www.facebook.com/thingleftunsaid

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