Borrowed Magic Giveaway!

SLSiegeBookCover6x9_MEDIUM copySLBorrowedMagicBookCover6x9-1

So, Siege has been out fora week now, and I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who helped make it a success. It’s still in the top 20 on two of Amazon’s free lists and in the top 100 on three others!  If you still haven’t downloaded it, click on the “Where to Buy” tab at the top of the page and it will link you to all the places it’s available.  And it’s FREE (except for Amazon international, which still hasn’t price matched it yet.  But it’s only $.99 or the international equivalent)! And remember Borrowed Magic comes out a week from today!!!!

Also, I wanted to announced two things.

First, as soon as Siege gets 20 honest (yes, be honest) reviews on Amazon, I’ll post the entire first chapter of Borrowed Magic on my website (right now it’s just the first 3 pages). Because I know you all want to see Philip! (If you cross post the review on Goodreads, then I will love you!)

Second, I’m doing a Goodreads giveaway of 3 paperback copies of Borrowed Magic! It’s open for entries until January 31, 2016. Here’s a link to my website where the Goodreads widget right at the top of the page will take you right where you need to go to enter: http://www.sharilamertbooks.com.

Thanks again!!!

Book Recommendation: Melina Marchetta (@MMarchetta1) — Finnikin of the Rock, Froi of the Exiles, Quintana of Charyn, and Jellicoe Road

ImageImageImageImageOk, so that’s a lot of cover photos.  And they’re all Fabulous!  (Well, I haven’t read Quintana yet because it hasn’t been released in the United States, but still…)

The first three (Finnikin, Froi, and Quintana), are part of a series called the Lumatere Chronicles.  They are right up my alley because they’re fantasy and romance all mixed together.  Here’s a blurb for Finnikin from Amazon:

Finnikin, son of the head of the King’s Guard, has been in exile for a decade, after the violent takeover of his birthplace, Lumatere, by a usurper, followed by a curse by a priestess that has effectively shut the kingdom off from the outside world. He meets a mysterious young woman, Evanjalin, who claims that Finnikin’s friend Balthazar, heir to the throne, is alive, and sets in motion a complex and stirring series of events that lead Finnikin to confront his destiny. Evanjalin uses her ability to “walk the sleep” of others, or share in their dreams, as well as her own boldness and sense of purpose, to push events to a climax so that Lumatere can be freed. This novel begins at a slow burn: there are many details to absorb, and the well-drawn maps are a necessity. Then, suddenly, the action turns white-hot and the intricate plot plays out at a pace that keeps readers mesmerized. This is fantasy grounded in a kind of realism seldom seen in the genre.

Froi is one of the more minor characters in Finnikin, but his story is still intertwined with all the main characters in Finnikin.  Froi’s story is both tragic and tender, and the book is wonderful.  Quintana, the other main character in Froi, is the conclusion to the trilogy (as far as I know), and I truly can’t wait to read it.

Jellicoe Road is an entirely different kind of book — at least on the surface.  It’s a contemporary story about high school aged kids that all come together every summer.  Here’s a blurb from Amazon:

Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn’t a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.

In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.

Ok, honestly, I’m just impressed they could compress the entire book into those two paragraphs.  But in all honesty, this is an incredible book.  Emotional and heartbreaking.

Now, I said Jellicoe was a completely different kind of book.  And it is, on the outside.  But here’s where Marchetta is just brilliant.  Her books tell stories of people, of human emotions, and despair.  Jellicoe may be more contemporary, and the Lumatere Chronicles more fantastical, but at their heart, they tell stories about people.  You will love the characters, cry with them, and ache for them.  The next chapter you will want to strangle them, to yell at them what they should do — or shouldn’t do.  And you will truly want them to succeed.  Sometimes you will understand why they react a certain way, sometimes you won’t.  But it’s ok because it’s real.  It’s how people are.  It’s how we’re made.  And that’s why I think Marchetta’s books are so popular.  They tell truths.  Sometimes hard truths, sometimes hurtful truths, but truths.

So now that my fan girling is over, I do have a few caveats.   First, with Jellicoe.  I have a number of friends who have given up early.  I totally get that.  The book is very confusing at first.  There are characters from the past and scenes with them, and then there are a group of characters in the present.  Sometimes it’s hard to keep them and their histories all straight.  I kept having to turn back pages to remember who did what.  If I knew someone was picking this book up for the first time, I’d recommend keeping a list of the characters and one thing that will allow you to remember who they are.  If I remember right, during the first part of the book, you don’t even necessarily know which group is past and which is present.  Just write the names down and then add past or present later.  And sort the characters into the two groups they interact in.  It will make it a lot easier.  But my best advice for this book:  perservere!

As for the Lumatere Chronicles, the caveat is for my more conservative readers.  Sex is a theme in both of the books I’ve read.  It’s not that it’s an erotic book or has sex scenes strewn throughout (I think one in each book without a lot of detail), it’s just that sex is a reality in Marchetta’s world.  In Finnikin, it’s a kingdom struggling to go back to their homeland.  They’re exiles.  They’re lost.  They find love where they can.  And the love story in the book is truly magnificent.  In Froi, it’s even more than that.  There, the kingdom of Charyn has been under a curse for 18 years.  No child has been born during that time.  It has been prophesied that Quintana (a last born) will bear the next king and the father will be another one of the last borns.  You can see where that might go.  Added to that, in both of the books, there are characters who were raped or “kept” by the king.  So you can see how sex is a theme.  However, there is nothing too graphic or descriptive.  I just wanted you to know going in.

I love all of these books (enough that I have an actual hard copy of them all).  I think the stories are amazing, the characters are so real it hurts sometimes, and the love stories are beautiful (and hard and fought for).

Book Recommendation: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

So, I’ve been gone a long time.  Too long.  In my defense, I have been working on my book.  The draft I finished is now beta read, revised, and completed.  I’ve even queried it.  I’ve had a fantastic response but no agent or publisher yet.  I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll hear something good soon.

But my writing career is not why most of you come to this blog.  It’s really for book recommendations.  Since I may have a bunch of new traffic, let me explain what I do.  I don’t really review books.  I feel like it’s so subjective, and often I can’t exactly put my finger on why I did or didn’t like a book.  I can only tell you which ones I did like and would recommend.

I’ve read A LOT of books over the past year.  Some of them I’ve already posted about.  But one I haven’t (and that really deserves it) is Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas.  LIke a lot of the books I read, it’s a fantasy.  But this one truly is different.  Not so much magic.  A lot of beauty in the world and the culture and society created.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince.  Prince Dorian offers her freedom on one condition:  she muust act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assasins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council.  If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating.  But she’s bored stiff by court life.  Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her…but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her the best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead…quickly followed by another.  Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim?  As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Great, huh?  Well, it gets even better.  Maas wrote four novella prequels to Throne of Glass.  They are:  The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, The  Assassin and the Desert, The Assassin and the Underworld, and The Assassin and the Empire.  And I have to say, I almost enjoyed the novellas more than the actual novel.  Now, you could read the novel completely separate from the novellas, but I think if you read the novellas first, you’ll get a much better understanding of Celaena.  (Plus, they’re awesome!)

Throne of Glass is one of my favorite books of the year.  If you like fantasy, and a bit of a love triangle, I think you’ll really enjoy this one.

Why you still have to cut your favorite parts…

So, I’m revising part of my latest book.  I’m trying to delve deeper into the characters and their world without giving a bunch of backstory or too many details.  I don’t want it to get boring.  I don’t want to lose my readers. 

However, in that process, I have to cut passages I LOVE.  This go around, one in particular is causing me grief.  And yet, it doesn’t feel right where it is.  The story flows better without it.  Although, I’m still trying to find somewhere to put it.  We’ll see…

Anyway, I loved this particular passage so much I thought it needed to be printed somewhere, so here it is for your reading pleasure — or not.  🙂

“Only a hardness around his eyes and an edge to his voice gave any indication to the depth of Philip’s emotion.  Maren felt a chill pierce her.  She wasn’t sure what scared her most:  the intensity of the hatred she sensed from Philip, or the other feelings she knew he’d buried beneath his too-calm exterior.”

Writing…and rewriting…and rewriting…you get the idea…

So I know I mentioned a little about this last time, but writing is more revising than it is writing a first draft.  I wrote my entire first draft in four months.  I’ve been revising for two years since then.  Remember that almost one year of that was kind of a joke because I had a new baby, but still.  The only good thing in all of that?  The manuscript is so much better.  I’ve had agents request partials.  I mean, that’s at least something.  I’ve also had beta readers really like my writing.  That’s something, too.  And I’ve gotten lots of great feedback that has made the book even better.  The characters are more developed, the plot isn’t far-fetched, and the pacing is good.  Hopefully this will one day land me an agent.

One other thing I’ve been working on is the first paragraph of chapter one.  One of my beta readers liked how she read it (which is the one I have posted), but thought it could be even stronger.  Another beta reader doesn’t like the kind of openings that are vague and kind of omniscient.  You tell me.  I’ll post three possibilities for a beginning and you can leave a comment about which one would hook you in the best.

Option 1:  “Ethan should never have agreed to this.  It was one thing to engage in a friendly round of swordplay with Lord Andrew, his closest friend.  It was another thing entirely to accept Lord Malcolm’s challenge — not one of his closest friends.  And yet here he was, facing one of the best swordsmen in the kingdom.”

Option 2:  “Some things were secret for a reason.  Ethan knew that.  Perhaps better than anyone.  It had been engrained into him like a slow, constant drip of water from the time he could remember.  And yet, he’d still betrayed the most secret knowledge of all.  He’d revealed too much.  Simon would know — even if no one else did.  Ethan squeezed his eyes shut for a brief second and steadied the hand on his sword.  Whether he liked it or not, things were going to change.”

Option 3:  “It had started like any relatively normal day.  Ethan had reluctantly agreed to meet Andrew for a round of swordplay.  He’d walked into the awe-inspiring hall, without feeling the least bit of awe.  He was accustomed to the smooth, stone walls, the shafts of light from the early afternoon sun streaming through the high, narrow windows, the swords neatly arranged in racks, and the groups of men standing in small clusters, some talking, some practicing intricate patterns.”

Anyway, let me know what you think.

Two paragraphs, that’s all I ask…

I needed to work on something new for a bit and I had a moment of inspiration, so I wrote the first two paragraphs of a completely different book I want to write.  I might not even finish it now.  (I do want to finish my trilogy first, even if it’s just a rough draft.)  However, I do want your opinion.  Just click on the “New Book” tab at the top of the page.  Do you like it?  Would you want to read more?  Too much back story or just right to leave you needing to keep going?  You tell me!!

Four books I’ve read (Book Reviews: The Graveyard Book, Forest of Hands and Teeth, Fragile Eternity, City of Glass)…and writing I haven’t done enough of…

Have you ever been talking with people, reading blogs, searching amazon, or just searching books in general and you keep running across a particular book or author?  Well, that’s how I was a few months ago.  I kept hearing about Neil Gaiman.  Now, I’ve read stuff by him before and I liked it a lot.  However, I recently tried reading “The Graveyard Book,” and I just couldn’t get through it.  I tried, and I really had nothing else to do because of the new baby, but I just couldn’t finish.  I was interested through the first few chapters, and then I just couldn’t get myself to read it anymore.  I stuck it through about a third of the book and then gave up.  Now, this rarely happens to me.  Even books I don’t love, I almost always finish.  So, nothing against Mr. Gaiman (like I said I’ve read other books of his and like them), but I just couldn’t get into his latest.

Another book I’ve read recently is “The Forest of Hands and Teeth,” by Carrie Ryan.  I had read the cover flap of this one and had heard about it from a number of sources.  It sounded interesting so I tried it.  My overall view is that it was really interesting.  I didn’t realize before I started that it was kind of a zombie book, but that didn’t really bother me once I got used to the idea.  I actually kept picking it up to see what would happen next (even when I had other things that I should have been doing).  I read the book in less than two days because I really really wanted to see how she would resolve the ending.  And here is my only criticism…there wasn’t enough resolution for me.  And it wasn’t just that the ending wasn’t fully resolved to my personal liking.  There were little things throughout the book that I felt were left hanging, things I would have loved more explanation for.  And this might be entirely just me.  I like resolution.  It doesn’t have to be a  happy white picket fence ending, but I do like resolution.  And there was some…just not enough, at least for me.  Still, I would highly recommend this book if only for its creativity and originality.  The characters are great and their growth through the decisions they make was fascinating.

All right, now for a book I’ve been waiting for.  I just finished “Fragile Eternity,” by Melissa Marr.  I’ve blogged before about this series.  I loved the first one, I liked the second one.  And…I loved the third one.  This latest book got back to the main characters introduced in book one.  It also escalated the conflict between the faerie courts.  Old friendships cracked, new ones were forged.  Alliances were constantly shifting and sometimes strange.  And it was great.  I couldn’t put it down.  Ms. Marr has created such a great world that’s fun to delve into.  It’s both comforting and scary at the same time.  “Fragile Eternity” really brought everything to a head and I can’t wait to see how everything is resolved in her next book of the series.  As a writer, I’ve had so many thoughts on how I’d resolve this one (do any of you other writers do this, think of endings you’d write to other people’s books?).  I’m excited to see how she does it.

Ok, I know this has gone on way too long, but I have one more.  This is another book I’ve been waiting for.  It is the third book in the Mortal Instruments trilogy by Cassandra Clare.  It’s called “City of Glass.”  I know this series has gotten mixed reviews, but I have really enjoyed it.  The world she’s created is so imaginative and yet you can almost believe it really exists right alongside reality.  I also love the characters she’s created.  They are real, flawed, and likeable (most of the time, which is just as it should be).  Ms. Clare has taken urban fantasy (which I’m starting to get a little tired of because it seems like everything is UF these days), and applies her own twist.

Now about my own writing.  I’m actually really excited.  I haven’t written much, but I’ve had the greatest idea.  There’s always been a part of my book, and it’s the critical set up and introduce everything part, that I haven’t been totally satisfied with.  I’ve left it alone because I didn’t know what else to do.  All that stuff had to be in there and I just didn’t know how else to do it.  Well, I finally figured it out.  I think the book will start off quicker and trickle the back story out bit by bit instead of a big dump of information.  Much, much better.  Maybe now, when I send out a partial, it won’t come back.  I hope maybe this has been part of my hangup with getting someone to read enough that they just can’t put it down.  Here’s my fingers crossed.

My Beautiful Daughter…oh, and some books I’ve read.

Wow, what a month.  First, I was tired and miserable the few weeks before my daugher, Adrianne, was born on April 24, 2009.  Now, I’m just kind of tired.  I haven’t been able to do much writing lately, but I have done some reading (but more on that in a minute).  I know it has nothing to do with writing, but here are a couple of pictures.  The first was taken the day Adrianne was born, so I’m not looking so hot, but what do you do.  The second is just to show you how cute she is (at least I think so).

IMG_0105IMG_0165

On the reading front, I have read a few interesting books while I’ve been getting back to a normal schedule.  The first seris is The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare.  It’s entertaining and an easy read.  On a little deeper level, I read “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins.  This book is definitely more of a thinker and I really enjoyed it.  It reminded me a lot of “The Lord of the Flies,” except I think I liked it better.  Anyway, for anyone who wants to read a great book about how people react to and approach extreme situations, this is a good one.

3,000 words…

In the past few days, I’ve written over 3000 words on book 2.  Even more significant, I’ve gotten past a scene that I haven’t known exactly what to do with.  I finally just knew what needed to be done.  It’s still pretty rough, but at least I know who’s feeling what and how the events got to where I wanted them.  Now I enter the section of the book I only recently decided on.  It’s going to be tricky.  I’ve always known the middle would be.  The beginning almost wrote itself.  The ending I’m actually excited to write (because it explains a lot of unanswered questions — past and present — and really sets up well for the third and final book).  But the middle…the middle is full of building tension, guesses by the main character on what he should do next, and build up to a battle.  The trickiest part is going to be making sure everything plays out in an orderly and logical way.  The characters have to respond to what’s prestened to them in a way that makes sense.  They can’t go off to battle without a good reason.  They must take risks, but only ones that are realistic.  The hero has to struggle.  The relationships between the characters have to grow.  And all that happens in the middle.  I guess I have a lot of work to do.  I’m even tempted to do a real general outline and write the ending first, but who knows…