Review: Fractalistic by Gerardo Delgadillo

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Gerardo Delgadillo and I were in a writing group together for several years, so when he sent me an ARC of his latest book, Fractalistc, I was excited to read it. I’m glad I did, because Fractalistic is a fascinating book—part scifi, part bildungsroman, part romance, with a lovely dash of Mexican culture that makes the setting vivid and interesting.

After moving to Mexico with her parents, Winter Gutan had been hoping the local alternative medicine doctor would cure her mother’s illness. When her mother does not survive his controversial treatments, Winter’s life spirals in despair.

In particular, I loved Fractalistic’s colorful and engaging cast of characters. Winter, the main character, has all the intensity and passion of a traumatized and confused teenager, in a good way. She’s deeply flawed and makes mistakes, but she’s also kind. I know that this is a small part of the book, but I loved Winter’s kindness to animals, including the dog she decides to adopt, and her sweetness to a crying child at one point in the story. Winter’s friends (or the classmates from her school who become her friends) are just as interesting, and have complex lives of their own. Even her love interest, Rafa, turns out to be way more than the hunky soccer player he seems at first. Meanwhile, grief and pain threaten to overwhelm Winter’s father, and the depictions of his drinking and descent into misery felt as vivid and painful as a fresh cut.

I thought the plot was also engaging, and it kept me guessing about people’s motives and their secrets through most of the book. Winter is distrustful, and with good reason, since many of the people close to her aren’t being very honest.

Overall, I really loved this book! The author’s depictions of Mexico are so real you can practically taste the churros, and I found myself wanting to attend a Mexican soccer game more than I’d ever have expected. I loved the characters and their relationships, and the story kept me guessing. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in YA, light scifi, or light, sweet romance. Fractalistic is available for preorder now, and comes out July 9, 2019!

Guest Post on Reads and Reels, an Author Interview on Altered Instinct, and a Giveaway!

This has been a busy month, but I’m really happy that I managed to write as much as I did (with the kids on summer vacation, no less!). In particular, I’m really proud of the guest post I wrote for Reads and Reels on “Religious Allegory in Netflix’s I Am Mother.” I watched the movie with my husband, and like the best type of scifi, it really stayed with me. I was turning it over and over in my head, trying to figure it out and find more meaning. I found I had to write about it to help myself understand it on a deeper level. So watch the movie, then read the review and let me know what you think!

Netflix’s “I Am Mother” is a thought-provoking science fiction thriller about AI and the human survival after an apocalypse. It’s a tense movie, full of uncomfortable juxtapositions and difficult questions about AI, our relationship to technology, and perhaps about the nature of Mother-Daughter relationships everywhere. What’s more, on a closer look, it offers haunting religious imagery and a disturbing allegory.

I’m also happy that I was able to do an interview with a blogger and writer I really respect, Leo McBride from Altered Instincts! Check it out, and while you’re there scoop out Altered Instincts, which is a really interesting blog about scifi and fantasy. In fact, he may not remember, but one of my first ever reviews was on Altered Instincts, for my short story “Earth is for Earthers” which first appeared in Red Sun Magazine and is now also in my book Sapience! So double thanks, Leo!

Twitter is a wonderful place. Okay, okay, it can get a little crazy at times. But it's through Twitter that I met Alexis Lantgen. She's a science fiction and fantasy writer of short stories - so she's kind of following the same path as me.

I’m also happy to announce that I’m running an Amazon giveaway for my newest book, Saints and Curses! Sign up for a chance to win a free book! It’s going until July 4th, so hurry!

My books are also listed on the Book of the Day website now! Here’s the links for Sapience and Saints and Curses.

Thank you for reading, and remember, if you like my books or my writing, sign up for my newsletter below!

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Five Very Short Stories: SciFi and Horror!

Of course, I’m still writing tons of very short stories, or #vss, on Twitter, These stories came from the prompts for #vss365, #scififri, and #satsplat!

Explosions

She hired glitterbots for their five-year-old's birthday party, and timed the bright explosions of pink sparkles for when her daughter blew out the candles. Everyone clapped when they went off. Except for one of the neighborhood dads, who sobbed in a corner, shaking.

Not My Fault

It's not my fault. She shouldn't have dressed like that, just begging for it. Girls like her deserve what's coming to them, if you ask me. I mean, that Dora the Explorer backpack? That cheeky gap-toothed smile? What's a man supposed to think?

Mining

Typical mining practices might disrupt the fragile ecosystem of Proxima 5. Instead, Xan had developed a network of modified plants whose roots could pull metals to the surface. An iron farm, he thought, as he disentangled the first muddy clumps of ore.

Sentient

"Don't be absurd. Coral doesn't have sentience."

"Have you ever asked them?"

"No, why would I?"

"Haven't you heard them? You know they sing at night."

"Of course they don't! That's the sound of the wind and the waves."

"Just remember, they tried to negotiate."

Jed’s Rehydrated Burgers

Jed was not the first person on Mars, or the first to climb Olympus Mons, or even one of the first wave of colonists. But he did open up the first bistro in space! He proudly put up a sign for Martian potato fries and the best rehydrated burger outside Earth's orbit.

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Review: On Becoming a Novelist

I picked up John Gardner's On Becoming a Novelist the last time I went to the library. Unlike most books on writing, this one doesn't try to teach you how to write, or offer any definitive ideas on the creative process. Instead, it reads like a thoughtful meditation on the nature of creativity, inspiration, and the writing process. Amidst the plethora of advice targeted at writers today, this book is notable for its lack of definitive advice beyond, "do what works for you," and "don't quit." I found that one of its most endearing qualities.

Gardner, a brilliant novelist and creative writing teacher, begins by noting that few, if any, writing teachers can tell which students will ultimately become successful writers. He considers the difficulty of the task of evaluating a youthful writer, especially considering how much success ultimately depends on a writer's dedication to the craft ad refusal to give up or withdraw. He offers a critique of the most common methods of teaching writing and the inane, repetitive, and often destructive advice heaped on young writers. For example, the "write what you know" trope that so many creative writing teachers push ignores the fact that fiction is based on the imagination. While it's true that characters and settings need to feel vivid and real, writers can use their imagination and their sense of empathy to create whole new worlds and populate them with unique characters. Rather than "write what you know," Gardner advocates writing honestly and avoiding overly optimistic ("Pollyanna") or overly cynical cliches. He reflects that all great art is about finding and sharing truth, and we make poor artists when we can't see or understand what's true about human nature.


Gardner is at his best when he tries to capture those elusive and brilliant moments of creative flight that all artists have in their best work. Indeed, the writing process he describes is about capturing those dreams as closely as possible, then meticulously going back over the work to make sure it communicates the writer's intention. I loved his description of the vivid, creative dream-like state of creative inspiration--it comes closest to the feeling I get when I know what I'm writing is good, or when I'm playing music and everything just falls into place.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who needs an antidote to all the writing advice that gets heaped on you the second you start talking about writing. Gardner notes that there are many kinds of writers, and everyone of them has a different process. What matters is that you work to perfect your craft, keep yourself honest, and hone your sense of observation.

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Five More Mixed Genre Very Short Stories

Yes, I’m still writing tons of very short stories, or #vss! I wrote these for #vss365 and #satsplat!

Let Go

The phantasm of a smile flickered across her face. I took her hand.

"There's hope for us, I love you."

Her eyes were bitter. "It's too late. I wish you the best, but I'm going."

"But..." the word dies on my lips. She looks light, relieved. I let her go.

Craven

I try to force it down, the sick feeling, the craven impulse. I'm watching as they bang him against the locker, laughing. We're friends at home but not here. I force my mouth open to say something, anything that would end the torment. But I don't. I look away.

The Hidden Book

Agnes wiped the grime of a century off the cover of the book hidden in Mrs. Culpepper's pantry.

"Potions Moste Potente," it said, "And Recipe for a moste Excellent Victoria Sponge." Now Agnes would win the bake-off for sure!

Sacred Fire

Ana built the fire in a secluded grove of moss covered trees. Ash, oak, and rowan, then the sacred herbs, then a later greenwood to make the white smoke. She watched the tendrils rising into the night sky, carrying her question to the gods. She waited in silence.

For Love

Lana rode down the muddy village roads. Smoke rose from the square, but no screams yet. She drew her sword; the crowd parted. Lana rode to the pyre, sliced the ropes binding Gwen, and pulled her onto the horse.

"I knew you'd come," Gwen said with a kiss

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Joanna White, Author of "Shifter," Discusses How She Develops Her Writing Ideas

In today’s word, many people want cheap books with excellent writing. Standards are high, and everyone wants something new to entertain them. Since no one wants a cliché, as a writer you have to be really creative to keep your readers on their toes.

How do you do that?

Well, ideas don’t come from nowhere. Every idea in any book that’s ever been written has come from something at some point. So if you like an idea but it’s really cliché or overused, how do you make it different?

First off, make it your own!

I’ll use the example from my book Shifter, which has shapeshifters. It’s been used many times; it’s an extremely popular genre for readers, especially werewolf romances. Really overused in my opinion. So how do you change this idea and make it your own?

Add something else you love into it. For me, it’s dragons, so I did shapeshifting dragons, rather than werewolves. It’s been used a few times but not to the point of overuse like werewolves. Maybe you love history, so you could add shapeshifters into a specific time period of history you’re really passionate about. Or maybe you love fashion—try to imagine shapeshifters in that industry. Whatever you love outside of writing, make it apart of your story to add a layer of depth to it that no one else has done!

Second, combine ideas.

Now this one may not work for everyone but hear me out. Say you love an idea—again, using an example from my book Shifter—a girl doesn’t know about the existence of shapeshifters but falls in love with one anyway. How would you take that idea and make it different? Other than adding your own spice to it—aka, he’s a dragon shapeshifter, instead of the typical werewolf—you can combine it with lots of other ideas you like.

In this example, we can take the idea that she doesn’t know about shapeshifters, but they have influenced her life before. There is also the “hard to accept factor” so I can combine that with the idea that she ends up being okay with it. Maybe you like cowboys and want to incorporate that, or you like the idea of a hostage situation, or a forbidden love. When you start combining ideas, eventually, the original idea becomes less of what it started off and the more complicated it gets, the more it becomes original to you. That’s why ideas in any book don’t seem like they’re taken from other things (well, sometimes). It’s because they’ve been combined with new ideas and the writer’s own original twist to create something brand new.

So the next time you have a cliché idea that you really like, do not count yourself or your book out yet. It may just take some creative thinking and a lot of idea tweaking to make it so much better. 

About Johanna’s book, Shifter:

Beroan is a shapeshifter, part of the dragon clan. His clan’s Alpha, Sirath, wants to watch the world burn.

For ten long years Sirath has attacked villages, killing thousands of humans and burning towns to the ground. Beroan has had enough, but his resistance will only end in suffering.

Nsi is a human living in a small village with her grandmother and cousin. Her ignorance about the existence of shifters won’t protect her for long. Her family was killed in a dragon attack when she was younger, and now dragons have come again. Now she will stop at nothing until the dragon shifters are stopped, to save humans from suffering the same fate as her family.

Together, Nsi and Beroan will risk everything to save humanity from Sirath. 

Johanna’s Books:

Hunter (Valiant Book 1)

Shifter (Valiant Book 2)

Joanna’s Social Media:

Facebook: facebook.com/joannamariewhite

Twitter: twitter.com/joannamwhite

Website: https://www.joannamariewhite.wixsite.com/mywebsite

Joanna White earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing for Entertainment at Full Sail University. The Valiant series is her first published work, which first started off on Wattpad. She lives in Missouri with her husband, where she continues to work on more books. Writing has been a passion since she was ten, when she wrote her first book. Ever since then, writing has become her life outside of her family, God, and being a nerd.

Thank you, Joanna, for being a guest writer for Lunarian Press!

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Book Review: G.M. Nair's Duckett & Dyer: Dicks for Hire

I picked up a copy of G.M. Nair’s Duckett & Dyer: Dicks for Hire because I met him on Twitter, and he seemed very funny! Also, I happen to love scifi/fantasy comedies like Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and anything by Terry Pratchett, so I was excited to read one by a new author. I’m so glad I did, because Nair’s book is a joy to read. It’s funny, but it also has moments of great drama and pathos, and I loved the characters.

It took Michael and Stephanie nearly an hour of walking before they spotted a lone cab searching the edge of suburbia for a fare like a grandparent canvassing a toy store for a "Nintendo Playstation."

Michael Duckett and Stephanie Dyer seem at first like the most hilariously awkward/incompetent duo to ever fumble their way through a cosmos spanning mystery. But one of the things I loved about the book was how they grew and developed as the story progressed. They both come to reevaluate their lives and their friendship in meaningful ways, Even side characters, ones we barely meet, seem to grow over the course of the book. What’s more, while the story has plenty of moments of zany comedy, there are moments of poignancy and depth that I loved. As the book progressed, Nair gave both Duckett & Dyer a level of self-awareness that lead to some very thoughtful, sweet moments.

Overall, I really loved this book. If I had any criticism, it’s that the set up was a little long, but the payoff was so great it was totally worth it. Like the best comedies, it has a kind and compassionate heart, and like the best scifi, it has a fascinating and engaging world. I can only hope that G.M. Nair is working on a sequel, because I can’t wait to read what happens next!

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Five More Science Fiction/Fantasy Very Short Stories

Here are some more of my scifi/fantasy very short stories, usually written for #vss365 or #satsplat. I hope you enjoy them!

RUINS

The stone pillars are ancient, their edges softened by layers of moss. Gnarled black trees that surround the ruins, hiding them away with dark foliage. Zaid lifts a branch. There's a girl asleep on a flat stone, golden hair flowing around her, a crown on her lap.

CAVE

She found it deep in a cave, its body so massive and ancient she had thought it part of the rock. It opened one yellow eye and stared into her. She froze. Its scales had hardened into stone, its wings looked like stalactites, but its inner fire burned hot.

FOREVER DREAMS

"I'm joining the Lotus eaters."

"You'll dream forever and never wake up again. Why, Silda?"

She looked off into the distance, a thousand yard stare. "I'll see them again in dreams."

He put an arm around her, tears on his cheeks. "Stay and we'll make new dreams."

DRONE

The drone was smaller than a pocket watch, and it could fly or skitter along the ground like a mechanical hamster.

"What are you going to do with that?" the recruit asked.

"Information is power," she said. "If we find the name of his mistress, we can turn him. Or her."

CRUCIBLE

"Death is the crucible and it forges us into someone, or something new," the witch said. She stirred her cauldron. "That is why I cannot do what you ask, my lord. The lady you knew is gone. Who can say what she has become?"

"Do it or join her," he hissed.

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Review: The Seventh Bride

The Seventh Bride is a fantasy novel by T. Kingfisher. I discovered it while reading an essay about realistic fantasy heroines, and I loved it so much I read the whole book in one night. It's that good. It's a creepy, terrifying story about a young peasant girl who finds herself caught by a rich, powerful noble, who's also a deranged sorcerer. 


What makes this story fascinating is the heroine, Rhea, a 15-year-old miller's daughter. She's not particularly pretty, though she works hard at the mill and knows a great deal about flour. So it's a mystery to her why a rich nobleman, Lord Crevan, who she's never met suddenly decides he wants to marry her. In fact, Rhea's tempted to refuse him when he makes a show of asking her and her family for her hand in marriage, even though that would be unthinkable. But Rhea is ever practical, sensible, and kind, and she knows that an angry Crevan could destroy her family if she dared to tell him "no." Yet the more she discovers about the selfish, cold, cruel man she's about to marry, the more horrifying the prospect becomes. Especially when (spoilers) she discovers the shocking fates of Crevan's six other wives.

A brilliant re-telling of the "Bluebeard" fairy tale, The Seventh Bride captures the horror of the original story, but Kingfisher creates a wonderful character in Rhea. With only a hedgehog for a companion, Rhea defeats her evil captor in part by befriending his other wives and treating those around her with compassion. It's noteworthy that unlike most novels about a young woman in danger, The Seventh Bride makes it clear that Rhea and the other wives have done nothing wrong and do not deserve the punishments Crevan inflicts on them. He justifies his cruelty, even convincing one of his victims to serve him. Yet practical Rhea immediately recognizes his weak excuses, and takes comfort in the fact that she's done nothing wrong except somehow attract the attention of a maniac. Her attitude is a great antidote to the enormous amount of victim-blaming we see in our culture.

I enjoyed this novel from beginning to end, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy or dark, twisted fairy tales. While the book has a youthful heroine, Rhea has the voice of an old soul, and the violence and horror of the story make it more for adults (or at least very mature young adults). It's such a great read, I'm hoping to read more books by its author, T. Kingfisher, soon.

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Reviews, Book Spotlights, and Author Interviews for Saints and Curses!

I’m so happy that Saints and Curses has been getting some excellent reviews and ratings on Goodreads and Amazon! In particular, I’m really happy about this review from Killian Wolf.

This Anthology is like opening up a portal and dipping into different magical worlds all in one book. Alexis Lantgen does it again in her newest Anthology, Saints and Curses, with her ability to weave magical worlds, so detailed, that you could almost hear the music playing from within the pages, or taste the food being served at a festival.

If you’d like to know more about how people are liking Saints and Curses, check it out!

In addition to an excellent review, I did another author interview at Meet the Author by Camilla Downs.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

My family went on an incredible trip to the Redwoods National Park in California. Seeing the redwood forest–they’re the tallest trees on Earth, and it’s impossible to convey their majesty. It was the most magical place I’ve ever been, and I loved it. I want to go back again someday, and show the redwoods to my children.

Last but not least, I’m happy to have a book spotlight for Saints and Curses on Timothy Bateson’s Website! Thank you once again, Timothy!

My author copies for Arlingcon—I’m so excited to get them in!

My author copies for Arlingcon—I’m so excited to get them in!