A Magnificent Farewell

A five-star review of J. P. McLean’s Wings of Prey, the concluding book of The Gift Legacy. 

I was reading the last book in The Gift Legacy with enjoyment mixed with that specific sadness we sometimes feel when the time comes to say goodbye to our fictional friends. Since Book 1, Secret Sky, I’ve been so absorbed with the story and its characters that, at one moment, they had stopped being fiction and moved into the place of my intimate reality.

Writing the last book in a series can be tricky, but J.P. McLean did it with the ease, elegance and skills of a gifted, genuine storyteller. Sometimes authors struggle to maintain the same quality level of the individual books within a series, but she avoided every trap and maintained the high standards she’d set with the first book. All the key elements in each of the installments, including Wings of Prey, are consistently up to the mark: the plot, the characters’ development, the settings, the dialogue, the tone, the voice… It’s a marvelous achievement, even more so since The Gift Legacy series is, in fact, one story, focused on the same characters and a singular, although multifaceted, main conflict.

The Gift Legacy is one of my favourite urban fantasy series; I’ve said this more than once. It stands shoulder-to-shoulder with some pretty big names. Not only that, but I can list, off the top of my head, quite a few well-known authors of well-known fantasy series who, unlike J.P. McLean, have dropped the ball at some point. The Gift Legacy as a series, as well as each of its six parts, possesses a fine balance and inner harmony that keeps all its pieces seamlessly together. The lines between the magical and the real are melted in the best posible way – the magic is so conceivable that it feels real, and the reality is often beautifully magical.

In the end, it was one particular aspect of that inner equilibrium in Wings of Prey that makes my departure from J.P. McLean’s words easier. The inevitable end was counterbalanced with a great, satisfactory closure.

The six books of The Gift Legacy are definitively keepers. I will read them again. I highly recommend this series to everyone who loves (urban and other) fantasies, but not only to them. The reluctant and unsure fantasy readers (adult, I must add; these books are too sexy for YA readership) may easily change their mind about this genre after reading J.P. McLean’s books.

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The Final Flight

Thank you, J. P. McLean  for this incredible journey!

Wings of Prey has launched. The 6th and Final book in The Gift Legacy is now available.

Source: The Final Flight

 

 

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The Empire Strikes Back

I passed the initiation, and now I’m a full-fledged author – I got a mean, vicious and spiteful review. Back in October, an Amazon Customer (referred to as AC in the rest of this post) shared her opinion of Once Upon a Night:

“If I could give this zero stars, I would. The writing was unbelievably awkward and forced. There was zero character development and terribly written sex scenes. The Cinderella cliche was forced into the story at the worst point. I would not recommend this to anyone.”

This wasn’t the first critical review I got, but, unlike the others, this one irritated the hell out of me. I even entertained the notion of reporting it to Amazon and asking them to consider removing it. My friend talked me out of it. I realized she was right: I’m not Erin Brockovich, and this is not the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. This is the almighty Amazon and its indisputable policies and policing.

This ugly and absurd rant was like a mental heartburn; I couldn’t get rid of it. My above-mentioned friend suggested a remedy for this. “Check her other reviews,” she said. So I did and found out that AC reviewed only three items: two books and a decorative tree. The other book fared better than mine, ending up with a frustrated outburst (the AC was still reading it when she wrote the review), and 3 stars. The poor tree suffered the same destiny as my novella – one star and the comment, “If I could, I would give this zero stars”.

I started laughing, and the spell broke.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

During my Voracious Readers adventure, I got about 500 requests for downloads, resulting in about 60 ratings and 40 reviews on Goodreads, fourteen on Amazon.com and nine of Amazon.ca. Not all of them are 5s and 4s. I got three and two star ratings/reviews, even one star. Some readers complained that the book was too short, some didn’t find the plot believable, quite a few didn’t approve that the main character was separated and not divorced… But these comments weren’t malicious. I appreciate them; I can learn something useful from them, and I will take them into consideration for my future stories. Readers’ opinions do matter, and we should listen to them.

When it comes to those quasi-reviews like the one I got – pick up your shield and sword because there is a way to strike back. We can’t argue with our reviewers, of course, but we can fight other unfair, mean and nonsensical reviewers – with fair, intelligent, and sensible reviews. Leave comments if you feel that a reviewer was wrong or nasty. Tell them reviews are not only a matter of personal liking or disliking. Each book has to be put in some kind of literary context. A book can be great even if we don’t like it. Tell them what a review is and what it isn’t. 

Today, for example, I saw a gigantic review of one of my favorite paranormal novels. The woman wrote a Coles Notes booklet! She not only revealed the plot (without the spoiler warning, which is a basic courtesy); she analysed the characters, setting, names, everything. Yes, she gave the novel the deserved 5 stars, but this was not a review. It’s a boring essay readers don’t need and should not read if they want an authentic reading experience.

When it comes to indie-authors (because I know how much it takes to publish a book), I follow Thumper’s advice – “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”.  (The writers who have publishers, earn money and have all the support are fair game. They’re not alone.)

Anyhow… I started this post with the worst review I’ve ever gotten. I’ll  strike back with a  one among many that really matter. The rest you can find on the book’s page here.

“… I don’t usually read short stories – I prefer reading full length novels – but the novella sounded interesting and I am trying to branch out in my reading adventures. I am so glad I did! I thoroughly enjoyed both stories! Although short in length, both stories were packed with emotion and sizzling romance. I love that the stories were loosely connected through the characters. The first story had more of a romantic, sensual feel to it and the second story was simply hot, hot, hot! Wow! This author is a talented story-teller and I really enjoyed her writing style. I can’t wait to read more from this author. And maybe in the future – a full length novel? I hope so!” (Judy)

 

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Maxed Out Blogger!

A great post on personal blogging policy…  Thank you, Audrey, for the tips.

Audrey Driscoll's Blog

I’ve been blogging since May of 2010. Almost a decade! For the first few years, I was pretty much talking to myself. Since 2015, I have observed a steady increase in numbers of likes, comments, and follows, probably because I’ve done a fair bit of liking, commenting, and following myself. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

I’ve decided, for what it’s worth, to document my blogging practices, as much for my own benefit as anyone else’s.

I’m now following 117 blogs, and sometimes I’m overwhelmed. My policy, as per my About page, is that every time someone whose blog I’m not already following likes a post, I visit that blog and read a few posts and/or the blogger’s About page, if they have one. When one of my posts gets a few dozen likes (which is great!), it can be hard to keep up. Posting only once or twice…

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Bertrada the Narrowfoot

On character names, pen-names and pen-homelands.

Finding the right name for my characters is one of the most challenging — and exciting — aspects of writing. Finding a pen name is an ordeal, but more about that later.

Some character names are easy to decide on. In fact, some of the inhabitants of my novels and stories had their names before I started writing. Like Jack, the hero of my first, soon-to be-reissued novel. A local author once opened my book (The Two-blood Legacy), peeked

© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons The statue of Queen Bertrada by Eugene Oudine (1848) at Luxembourg Garden, Paris.

inside and said, with scorn, “Jack? Why such a plain name?” I just shrugged, not knowing what to say. It doesn’t happen often, but arrogance and rudeness can make me speechless. I didn’t have the opportunity to explain that, for me, Jack was just the right name for a wholesome, handsome, courageous and down-to-earth man.

Her name is Astrid, and it perfectly fits her brilliant, logical mind and the volcano of passion beneath her cool demeanor, but my critic didn’t see her name, or perhaps he did, but found it plain, too. Some other names that I used in my books are Ariel, Ella, Arnaldur, Eamon, Morgaine, Rowena, Ahmed, Callie, Takeshi… and he saw only “Jack”.

Some other characters changed their names numerous times. One of them started her journey as Heather, then she was something else, then finally Violet, but I changed her personality during the re-writing, along with her name, so it made sense.

It also happened that I wanted to change a name, but it was too late – the nomen had already become the omen. It was as if that character truly liked his/her name and stopped me from changing it.

In the sequel, Guardian of the Realm, he is Brian and she is Elizabeth. My colleague would probably roll his eyes. But, this is what they are; they cannot be anything else. They told me what they wanted to be called, and they knew why. Brian is possibly derived from a Celtic word for ‘noble’, and he is, above all, a brave and honourable man. Elizabeth is a timeless name, outside of any limitations of style and fashion, rich, appealing, equally suitable for queens as for peasant girls. The name of the most beautiful woman that ever walked the earth, an Old Testament name and the name that almost every European country has a variation of. Elsbeth, Erzika, Elizabeta… My Elizabeth’s Russian piano teacher, Ms. Nikolaevna, always calls her “Yelisaveta”.

The story of how Elizabeth Chatwin got her middle name is also interesting.

Bertrada… Oh, how I love this name! Elizabeth’s mother was a scholar, a medievalist. One of her research subjects was early medieval women, among them the Frankish queen Bertrada of Laon, wife to King Pepin the Short and mother to Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman emperor and the greatest of all Carolingian rulers. A powerful grey eminence and woman of formidable diplomatic skills, she would help Charlemagne to unify Francia (most of western and central Europe) after his brother’s death and thus lay the foundations of the first European union. I couldn’t find out whose statuette she is holding in her left hand, but my guess would be Charlemagne’s.

A medievalist mother would indeed grace her daughter with such a powerful and beautiful name. It suits Elizabeth so well. She IS Bertrada, as much as she is Elizabeth. My novel had already been written when I noticed something peculiar: without any intention, I put in the same book a Bertrada and a fictional descendant of another Holy Roman emperor.

For the purpose of the story, I didn’t need Elizabeth’s middle name at all, but I loved it so much that I decided to keep it and mention it now and then.

Fabulous resources for names are books on baby names. For names a few generations back — census records, military records and ship lists. For specific names (from certain periods) — various web sites. When I started writing my first book, I found a website with wolf names from different countries and languages. I often check http://www.20000-names.com as well as https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com, with dozens of different name categories. Recently I’m exploring nordicnames.de, in particular, for Finnish names in search of the holy grail – my new pen name.

Why a Finnish name? Well, I am a self-proclaimed Finnish citizen. It’s not only because I like that country. Tired of 20+ years of answering the same question about my country of origin and my accent, when someone asks me now where I am from, I say, “From Finland.” After an, “Oh, nice,” there is not any further conversation. People don’t know much about my “pen-homeland.”

I’m leaving you with Elizabeth’s own musings over her middle name.

“… I’d thought Bertrada was a pretty name until, at the age of twelve, I’d learned that the woman I was named after was also known as Bertrada the Broadfoot. For the next four or five years, I’d lived in sheer terror that my schoolmates would somehow find that out and tease me. They hadn’t; medieval history had never been a favorite pastime of most school-age kids. Besides, my feet had turned out to be small and narrow, a fortunate fact I had been ready to prove on the shortest notice. It hadn’t been necessary however, and after those dreadful few years, I’d started loving again my old, beautiful and powerful middle name…”

Until next time, yours (this is my pen name only for this post)

Auli Lehtonen 

 

 

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2018 … A Year of Reading – Part 1

A huge thanks to Susan Toy for her recommendations. I’m honoured that Once Upon a Night is among them. I had the pleasure of reading, reviewing and recommending, through my book lists, her two Bequia Perspective Books – Island in the Clouds and One Woman’s Island.

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

I didn’t set out to do this, but 2018 turned out to be a perfect storm of reading for me! I read more books during this past year than I believe I have in any other year before. And I enjoyed my time reading, too. It never felt like work at all, because I didn’t set a target number of books to read. I just kept reading books as they came to me … either from my own shelves, or given to me by other readers, or won in giveaways, or – the way I received most of what I read – borrowed from the library!

I didn’t enjoy every book I began reading, and I didn’t keep track of those I abandoned, but I do know there were quite a few. Some were highly praised and award-winners, but I discovered they just weren’t for me.

I read a large…

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Happy New Year!

Read them, write them, buy them, borrow them, lend them, review them, recommend them… love them!

Wishing you all another year of great books!

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

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