Friday, December 20, 2013

The Woodlands by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

The Woodlands, by Lauren Nicolle Taylor, is a YA dystopian novel that I happened on just by chance and really enjoyed, though the ending demands the sequel:  The Wall.  See the author interview for a story description and more information.

First, my grammatical issue: The novel contains many sentence fragments with only the "–ing" form of the verb, as if the clause should have been attached to the previous sentence.  Example:  "I burst into the Class on the first day.  Bleary-eyed, wiping my nose with my sleeve, smearing snot across my face."  Fragments can be powerful and punchy, but these just aren't.  They leave the reader waiting for the rest of the sentence.  It gets distracting after a while.

There are also several points which the author beats into us, over and over.  They would have been stronger if they'd been more subtle.

Otherwise, the writing is very good and draws the reader into the story and the characters. The plot is creepy and exciting and feels fresh for a dystopian novel.  Joseph, the love interest, is a little too perfect, but he's what we all want, so it's fun to read.  The other characters are interesting and distinctive.  I like Rosa's inner struggles and her defiance, which is much of the time so realistically undirected.  The setting and the world building are also good.

What I LOVE about The Woodlands is the way the society in this book has taken something good like racial tolerance and intermixing, and turned it disturbingly on its head.  The leaders encourage people not to see "own kind" but "all kind."  Sounds good, right?  They manipulate things to get as much interracial marriage as possible.  But this has turned into the same thing they were supposedly trying to avoid.  Cultural uniqueness is squashed.  Pure races are seen as inferior.  There's still racial prejudice and oppression, just aimed differently than it used to be.  Very, very profound.

The Woodlands is a good read, and thought-provoking.  I recommend it.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Author Interview with Lauren Nicolle Taylor

Author of The Woodland Series

In The Woodlands, Rosa's father plays an important role in the formation of her character, but then only mystery surrounds him. Are we going to hear more about Rosa's dad in the next book?

The mystery of Rosa’s father does unravel slowly and in more detail over the course of the series. If you want to know more, read The Wall and find out! :-)

 What made you decide to set your story in Russia?

Three reasons. Firstly, my love affair with woodland creatures; I wanted to write about wolves and bears, so I chose a country where those animals could be found. Secondly, when I pictured the story I saw fierce, snowy winters and tall, heavily wooded forests. Thirdly, The Russian wilderness is extremely remote and it seemed the perfect setting for a society to establish a new settlement far removed from any reminders of the world before.

 Dystopian novels are very popular right now.  What's your favorite one written by another author?  What's one thing that sets yours apart from the others?

I love Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi. The world she creates is so vivid and brutal. Her characters are edgy yet heartfelt. I love the romantic element: Two strong people who don’t warm to each other immediately but are drawn to each other despite their differences.

As far as what sets mine apart, an aspect of my book that is very important to me is most of the characters in The Woodlands are of mixed race as one of the prime philosophies of Woodland society is the idea of ‘All Kind’. ‘All Kind’ is the term used to describe the perfect Woodland citizen whose racial characteristics are blended to the point that you can’t tell their origins. For example, Rosa is half-Indian, half-Spanish.

How has your life experience influenced your novels?

I draw a great deal of inspiration from my own experiences when writing. I’ve found the dystopian genre a great way to explore hard issues in a slightly removed fashion, making it more accessible. It was cathartic for me to write using my own experiences, one step removed, about teenage love, first time pregnancy and young motherhood.

Can you tell us a little about your experiences working with Clean Teen Publishing?

This is my first publishing experience but I have to say it has been a very positive one. The advantage of Clean Teen has been the lack of waiting. So far every decision from cover art to edits has been extremely prompt and downright speedy! This meant I went from unpublished to published author in one month. The other thing I would say about this indie publisher is the approachability and personable nature of the staff. I can ask any question and have my answer within the hour. I also had input and final approval over the cover art which was important to me.

 What are you writing now?

I’m currently revising the third book in The Woodlands Series, The Wounded, which will be released early next year. Expect some more twists and turns, crazy action scenes and intriguing new characters.

I also plan to write two novellas, one from Rash’s perspective and one from Deshi’s in the New Year.

How can fans contact you?

Fans can contact me a number of ways:

Via Facebook

Via Twitter

And via my blog

The Woodlands Series by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

(Young Adult Mature- Dystopian Romance)
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing

Rosa never thought she’d make it to sixteen...

When being unique puts you in danger and speaking your mind can be punishable by death, you might find yourself fighting to survive. Rosa lives in The Woodlands, one of eight enclosed cities where the lone survivors of a devastating war have been gathered. In these circular cities everyone must abide by the law or face harsh punishment. Rosa's inability to conform and obey the rules brands her a leper and no one wants to be within two feet of her, until she meets Joseph. He's blonde, fair skinned, blue eyed and the laid back, ever-grinning, complete opposite of Rosa.  She's never met anyone quite like him, and she knows that spells danger.

But differences weren't always a bad thing. People used to think being unique was one of the most treasured of traits to have. That was before the bitter race war decimated most of the planet, leaving the Russian wilderness as the only scrap of land habitable for survivors. Now, the Superiors, who ruthlessly control the concrete cities with an iron fist, are obsessed with creating a 'raceless' race. They are convinced this is the only way to avoid another war. Any anomalies must be destroyed.

The Superiors are unstoppable and can do anything they want, after all, they are considered super heroes by the general public. But not everyone see's them this way. When they continue to abuse their power by collecting young girls for use in their secret, high-tech breeding program, they have no idea that one of those girls has somehow managed to make friends even she didn't know she had. And one man will stop at nothing to save her.

THE WALL by Lauren Nicolle Taylor
(Young Adult Mature- Dystopian Romance)
Book 2 in The Woodlands Series

Joseph, wake up, wake up, wake up.

She says it over and over. It’s her plea, her prayer, her mantra. But life doesn’t stop while he’s sleeping. Rosa’s been thrown into a new world, with new rules, and a philosophy that sounds too good to be true. She’s also sure they didn’t rescue her out of the goodness of their hearts.

The Survivors must want something from them… but what?

The Wall finds Rosa eagerly entering a new life, yet struggling to keep the demons and ghosts of the past from dragging her backwards.

She’s left so many people behind and isn’t sure how to start over.

There’s freedom in the Survivors’ world, more than she’d ever dreamed of, but there’s also secrets. The darkest of which pulls Rosa headfirst into a trauma, forcing her to reevaluate her past and pushing her to make a choice that may destroy the tenuous, sewn-together family she’s built on the outside.

Will Rosa make the right choice… or will she lose everything she has fought so hard for?

Excerpt from The Woodlands:

The helicopters were stationed at the rim of Ring One, just inside the low, sandy-colored wall that surrounded the center podium. They were waiting, crouching like black angels ready to lift us from this place, this hell, into an unknown world. A Guardian in black uniform with gold trim walked to the front of the choppers and signaled for us to come forward. Another one threw the bags in the cargo hold as he read from his list. Three girls and eight boys. Joseph’s name was not on the list. I felt a flood of relief that was washed away by panic. I was barely holding myself together as it was, seeing him was liable to make me fall to pieces. But he was supposed to be here.

Paulo’s hand was on my back, pushing me towards the helicopter like I was an uncooperative apple on the conveyor belt. I was trying so hard to muster up some courage. Today I was leaving the only home I had ever known. I would never see my mother again. I felt the anxiety rising, the crushing pain of the separation I was about to suffer. Suddenly the grey- washed town didn’t look so horrible. It was home after all, I guess. I told myself it was fear that was making me feel this way. It didn’t help.My mother, who had been quietly following us around like a dazed puppy, pulled me to her in a tight embrace. She whispered, “Sorry,” in my ear before stepping back, fists clenched, showing the appropriate restraint. Some other mothers were crying and holding their children as the Guardian wrenched them away and led them onto the aircraft.

My mother’s face was my own, the way she moved mirrored my own movements and mannerisms, but that’s where the similarities ended. Although raised by this woman, I was nothing like her. For the first time, I saw things from her perspective. Getting into trouble all the time, never showing Paulo anything other than contempt. I must have been such a frustration to her.

They called my name. Paulo put his hands firmly on my shoulders, holding me in my place. His intense stare was impossible to look away from. “Don’t shame your family,” he spat at me. And with that, he made it easy to leave. I could feel the blades starting to move, my hair whipping around my face. I stripped away the fear and anxiety, leaving a girl that was fierce, empowered by his hatred.

“Don’t worry, Paulo, I’ll stir it up, make a little noise!” I shouted through the wind. The Guardian that let me sign up was watching me, probably regretting his decision. My mother was standing rigidly, her handmade skirt billowing as the air churned around her, her hand outstretched, pleading. I could see it in her eyes—please Rosa, don’t cause more trouble. She couldn’t stop me, no one ever could. Paulo was already walking away, his back to me. Behind my mother stood a man, one blue eye, one brown, smiling. He lifted his hand to wave. I raised my hand, confused. The chopper lurched awkwardly and I was knocked back into the cargo hold.

“Sit down!” the Guardian snapped at me. I quickly found a spot and strapped myself in. The others were staring at me, eyes wide. The Guardian tapped the pilot on the shoulder. “Wait, there’s one more.”

He bounded in, bag in hand, and casually threw it on the pile and scanned the seats. There was plenty of room on the other side but he squeezed his bulky form between me and the boy I was sitting next to.

Suddenly we were in the air. When the Guardian wasn’t looking, Joseph slipped his hand over mine. Warmth calmed the agitation I felt, like pouring gold over lead, glowing. We stayed that way the entire ride. Eyes forward. Impossibly trying to anticipate what may lie ahead. 

About Lauren Nicolle Taylor

Lauren Nicolle Taylor is a 33-year-old mother living in the tiny, lush town of Bridgewater on the other side of the world in Australia. She married her high school sweetheart and has three very boisterous and individual children. She earned a Bachelors degree in Health Sciences with Honours in Obstetrics and Gynecology and majored in Psychology while minoring in Contemporary Australian Writing.

After a disastrous attempt to build her dream house that left her family homeless, She found herself inexplicably drawn to the computer. She started writing, not really knowing where it may lead but ended up, eight weeks later, with the rough draft of The Woodlands.

In 2013, Lauren Nicolle Taylor accepted a publishing contract with Clean Teen Publishing. Her first published novel, The Woodlands, was released on August 30, 2013. Currently, Lauren has finished her manuscript for the second book in the series titled: The Wall, as well as partially completed the third book in the series which at this time is unnamed.

Where to find Lauren: Blog / Facebook / Twitter

More from Clean Teen Publishing:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

On Writing Comedy--Guest Post by Jillian Kleine Der Lowe

Hi all!  Here's a guest post from Jillian Kleine Der Löwe, who writes comedic fantasy.  Her book, Wicked, is free until December 19th on Amazon, so head on over there!

On Writing Comedy
by Jillian Kleine Der Löwe

I know that I cant get through reading a book if theres no comic relief whatsoever. Furthermore, I really cant get through a book if it doesnt have a decent blend between offbeat and quirky humor, sarcasm, satire and wit. Writing comedy comes just as naturally to me as breathing and I think that many authors can add another dimension into their writing if they too embrace comedy in all of its glory. Laughter truly is the best medicine Better even than an apple a day. A rapier-like wit can leave you giggling on the floor just as it can also implode the best laid plans of mice (and perhaps even some men too).

If youve never written comedy before, you dont need to go far for inspiration! Just watch some primetime television and youll be bombarded by the puns of the day on shows like Modern Family or 30 Rock. Why not turn to current events? The Daily Show and Colbert Report have got you covered! What about a blast from the past? Nothing beats a good ol Mel Brooks film Or an Airplane! Thats comedy at its finest.

The best part is that you can add comedy into any genre! RomZomCom Zombie gets girl. Zombie loves girl. Zombie loses girl. Zombie gets girl back again. Try adding comedy into a genre where it has never encroached before And lo and behold You have the newest IT thing Comedy + Whatever Genre You Choose ( Especially If Its Never Been Done Before ) = One Pie Of Awesomesauce Covered With Whipped Cream, Chocolate Ganache And Sprinkles!

Jillian Kleine Der Löwe originally dreamt of being a time traveler... Either that or the Supreme Empress of the whole entire bloody Universe. Since, those jobs are not yet available until she defies the laws of physics... She's settled with being an author

Amazon Sales Page

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Battle for Brisingamen, by Harmony Kent

The set-up of this book intrigued me:  Strange undersea artifacts, unexplained maritime phenomena, scientists and ship captains as main characters.  The book continued to be very imaginative, but it turned more Tolkienesque and lost a bit of its beginning uniqueness.

I found myself very distracted by the numerous comma splices, especially the ones where the punctuation made it hard to interpret.  Example:  "The dwarves and Irina were already running at full pelt, feeling useless he followed as fast as he could."  At first I thought "feeling useless" modified Irina and the dwarves running, so I had to stop and read it again.  This structure tripped me up over and over.

Another confusion arose from the lack of commas before the names of people addressed directly.  "We must leave Dirck" is entirely different than "We must leave, Dirck."  Or, in the more famous example:

Other than the comma issues, the work was well edited and nearly free of errors, with some very nicely written passages.

I really cared about Gemma, Dirck, Aarte, and Irina, whose personalities and desires were very clear to me, and whose happiness I wanted to see, but some of the many other characters blurred together.

I enjoyed the creative descriptions and explanations of vampires and rangers.

The ending was very well structured and satisfying.  If you like action scenes and epic fantasy, try this book.  


Buy The Battle for Brisingamen now on Amazon:

Warning:  explicit adult situations

Thursday, December 12, 2013

My story to appear in Spark Anthology

I just sold my story, "Sand and Fire," to Spark Anthology!

When most of the colonists die in space on the long trip to New Eden, the remaining few carry on--some more enthusiastically than others.  But by-the-book optimism may not solve every problem they face in their new home.    

If you like "Sand and Fire," watch for other connected stories about the twenty-five colonists on New Eden.

"Sand and Fire" is scheduled to appear in Volume IV, the Jan 2014 speculative fiction issue..

If you want to check it out or pre-order (the e-book version is only $1.50 if you order now), go to Spark Anthology.    

Monday, December 9, 2013

Trust Your Readers

I blog over at Writers on the Move, and today's post is the first in a series about the importance of trusting your readers.  Part one:  the danger of showing and then telling. 

He was angry.

He slammed his fist against the table, stood up, and threw the telephone at the wall so hard the paint chipped.  

Showing and then telling:
He slammed his fist against the table, stood up, and threw the telephone at the wall so hard the paint chipped.  He was angry.  .
Give your reader some credit for figuring it out.  For more examples and advice, check out my post.  

If you're a writer, Writers on the Move has a lot of great information on writing, publishing, and marketing.  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Mini Blog Tour--Far-Knowing

I'm doing a mini blog tour next week for Far-Knowing, my YA fantasy.  Check out these links on the appropriate dates (or any time afterwards) to see my guest posts, author interviews, and book excerpts, and to support the generous bloggers who are hosting stops.

December 8—  Gothic Ballerina—Guest Post
December 10—TheBook Drifter—Excerpt
December 11Inkand Paper—Author Interview and Review
December 12Forceof Nature—Author Interview

by Melinda Brasher

After the Chaos Mage traps their mentor within a deadly spell, two apprentice mages set off to find and defeat this menace to the kingdom. But how can these inexperienced young women possibly track down and battle the sort of man who destroys villages with summoned wind or fire just for fun? They've learned no aggressive magic and never tested themselves against a real enemy.

Kallinesha, still an apprentice after seven years, struggles against her lack of raw magical power, compensating instead with discipline and study. Daughter of the High Commander, driven relentlessly by the duty in her blood, she knows they can defeat the Chaos Mage and safeguard the kingdom.

Ista, a commoner and daughter of a city baker, harbors no such delusions. But after only three years of study, her power burns much brighter than Kallinesha's. The task before them terrifies her, but she loves her mentor too much to let her waste away under the Chaos Mage's spell. Not if there's the slimmest chance of saving her.

The two have never been able to get along while studying magic. Will they be able to work together now when so much is at stake?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Slated, by Terri Terry

Slated is a YA dystopian novel, taking place in England.  I love the premise.  Juvenile delinquents have their memories erased so that they can become good citizens again.  Kyla, the main character, thus doesn't remember who she is or what she did or how things work in this world that's new to her.  Lots of creepiness ensues. 

Quibbles:  It could have been a bit more subtle, and no one ever uses contractions in dialogue, which makes it sometime sound stilted.  The ending left me a little unsatisfied, without enough mysteries answered, and with a big cliffhanger.  However, since it's the first of a series, the cliffhanger works if you can wait for the next installment.  

Point of honor:  I loved watching Kyla re-discover things about the world and learn to fool her mood monitor.  The relationships within her new family are intriguing..  The story brims with suspense without resorting to lots of violence—something that's getting more and more rare in our car-chase-bloody-murder world.  And, as I said, the premise rocks.  I'm still thinking about it, and I read it months ago.