Monthly Archives: September 2013

Passion’s Sacred Dance, a book of the Harshad Wars: a book review

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I’m going to share a secret with you that maybe I shouldn’t, but I feel that full disclosure is important. I rarely see beta readers talking about these things publicly, but I have no shame, and more, I have no desire to for secrets. From the beginning, I loved the idea of this series Juli is writing. What’s not to love? You have romance. You have myths walking among humankind. (Anyone familiar with my writing and my reading preferences will know how much this is my favoritest thing ever). You have a battle between good and evil that isn’t about God and the Devil, which seems to often be the dichotomy that people default to. You have pagan deities somewhat on stage, and they are not the default bad guys. (I don’t mind, necessarily, pagan gods being the baddies, really I don’t. Our gods are not automatically sweetness and light because they are gods, ya ken? But I do prefer folks who write about the pagan gods as baddies to at least be pagan friendly and not use them as so much fodder. When you write about Artemis, try to remember that there are people who have loved and do still love and worship her, even while you make her into your villain. Pipe dream, I do ken) My secret is: though I loved the idea of this series, and though I saw wonderful, wonderful things planned out for this particular book, my first read through that particular incarnation of it?

I wasn’t sure that Juli was still going to keep talking to me after I sent her my notes on it. We run risks, right, when being beta readers. Because the books are not our books, and we need to let go of that, and yet so much about Stacy bothered the heck out of me. I wasn’t cruel or mean, but I am honest as I expect my beta readers to be with me, and so . . .

I haven’t looked at the story since, and I knew that was many revisions ago, and I knew that Juli had set herself up for a very difficult task.

Stacy Macken is at the end of a long line of women born to be stewards of sacred ground. Not every female in her line, but regularly enough that the legends have survived in familial memory. Still, at the beginning of Passion’s Sacred Dance the legends are just that: stories told in the family, quaint tales of bygone days that have little place in Stacy’s current crisis, as she tries to hold on to her museum in the face of foreclosure. Maybe, once or twice in her past, she dreamed about becoming the next steward; maybe she had fantasies about the mythic warriors that would come to help her defend the land she was in charge of; maybe those fantasies got a little carried away from time to time. But seeing her beloved museum and its ties to the history of her family and the history of her Florida town threatened leaves no time at all for fantasies.

And then in walks Aaron Fielding, a man Stacy barely knows and yet — as it happens — is inexorably drawn to. Strange things happen when he’s around, things that cannot be explained away. In those spaces where Stacy knows herself, she knows this is what, and who, she’s been waiting for. At the same time, she finds it hard to believe in the legend when the legend is walking and talking, real as you please, in her waking world, and legends centuries old can only tell you so much about what to expect now. The battle looms large on the horizon, but a battle over what, exactly? And what does she, proprietress of a small-interest history museum, have to offer? Even more, why are the Harbingers gunning for her? Can she trust Aaron to keep her best interests at heart, or is he more distraction than help, with his half answers and disarming charm?

I shouldn’t have doubted, in the least. Reading Passion’s Sacred Dance has been a delight. Juli manages to convey both Stacy’s steadfast conviction and her skepticism, at the same time, in a very believable manner. How often do we want something so badly that, once it falls into our laps, we hardly dare to believe it can be ours–and find out we really don’t want it?

So Stacy finds herself, and she doesn’t quite know what to do about it. Strong, brave, handsome warriors. An age-old responsibility that scares the daylights out of her. A passion for her life’s work that will lead her into danger. A doggedness that will hopefully see her through the coming battle . . .

Passion’s Sacred Dance is the first of what will be a multi-book series from Juli D. Revezzo. (Trust me; I know these things. I’m connected. 😉 ) It is a wonderful debut novel, a well crafted story that mixes Celtic myth and folklore with Floridian history, that pits good against evil and holds the fate of the world in its hands. I heartily recommend this book — and not just because I adore Aaron. Yes, I have a weakness for mythic warriors, it’s true. Especially Northern warriors. Celtic is almost Scandinavian, right?

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Passion’s Sacred Dance is available for Kindle now and will be available in print this November through Wild Rose Publishing.

An(other) Interview with Juli D. Revezzo

We are celebrating! Yes indeed! And what are we celebrating? We are celebrating FREE BOOKS. Legitimately free non-pirated books, to boot! (Stealing books is bad, m’kay?)

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You may or may not have guessed by now, but I’m enthusiastically excited over the release of Passion’s Sacred Dance, the first book in her Harshad Wars series. You shouldn’t have to guess; I’ve been writing about it enough lately.

Juli was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for me about . . . well. You’ll see.

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Passion’s Sacred Dance, book one of the Harshad Wars series, is the first of your available work that was published through a publisher, rather than an indie release. It is, as you and I both know, not even remotely the first book you’ve penned. How does it feel to have this book out?

It feels awesome! 🙂

The Harbingers are awful scary — menacing and powerful, if a bit dim. How many nightmares did they inspire in you during the writing of this book?

Oh, quite a few. But they seem scared of the fact that I can run them through with a loaded harshad if I want to. (hehe)

Without giving too much away, Stacy manages to both believe what’s going on and also can’t quite believe it’s really happening — a bit of the wanting something to be true so much that, once it is, she can’t believe that it really is. You’ve managed to portray this state of hers superbly . . . um. That’s not a question. So, the question is: how much work was that, to get it *just* right? (Maybe it can better read: how did you not kill her instead?)

How did I not kill her? It was very, very close there for a while. I just looked at it like this: There ultimately comes a time in everyone’s life where they feel like this. Can’t you think of a time or two where you knew something was going to happen but, gods above, if you could prevent it from happening you’d much rather do that? That’s what I tried to show in her and it was, as you know, a delicate balancing act to get it right, and get her head out of the sand. It may’ve come from the fact that my dad was an old soldier. His stories just always seemed to end up saying that, you know it’s coming, just pick up the damned grenade and throw it. Because you’ve got two choices: Stand there and let it kill you or do something about it. That’s what Stacy does. In her case, she just wanted to know everything about said grenade first. *lol*

Is the second book done yet? *innocent look*

Not yet. Almost. Its first draft has been much more work than the first. There’s a lot more research and, dare I say, worldbuilding that’s going into it.

What was your inspiration for this book, and the entire series?

For the book, I heard a Megadeth song, “Foreclosure of a Dream” in my head and saw this woman walking out of a bank looking like she’d just lost the world and so I wondered… hmmm….What’s this? Then also, I was reading a lot of Celtic myth at the time. The story of the Second Battle of Mag Tuired suggested an ongoing battle set at Imbolc, and they just meshed. Nicely, I think. 🙂 The series came about when Stacy’s ancestors started telling her how far back into history the battles went and I got jazzed about writing those time periods. 🙂 I have an art history degree, and also am an armchair historian, so this seemed fun, what can I say?

What’s on your reading pile right now?

I’m reading Sheepfarmer’s Daughter by Elizabeth Moon, The Captive by Joanne Rock, and Seducing Sigefroi by Vijaya Schartz. So, some fantasy, some romance, plus a couple things about Medieval history for the other books in the series, and even a bit about horses for another novella I’m working on.

You are a networking goddess — how do you manage to keep all the various CFSs and networking places straight?

I’m a packrat? 🙂 I’ll usually send myself any links I find in Google or other search engines for future use. If it’s a call for submissions and I have something ready or inspiration for something, I’ll sometimes get it out PDQ. If not, I write the deadline on my calendar and get to work if the inspiration strikes. When the submission is out, I jot it down in my notes/diary or in a computer file usually saying where I sent it, when and what it was I sent.

Any other projects you’ve got going on?

Aside from the follow up to Passion’s Sacred Dance, I’m working on a novella for The Wild Rose Press, a paranormal romance about a disgraced fairy godmother. 🙂 Which has been a lot of fun to write. I hope that will be out early next year but at this point, I can’t say a time for sure. I’m also working on the follow up to my first indie paranormal fantasy novel The Artist’s Inheritance. It’s called Drawing Down the Shades and I hope to have it out by the beginning of next year. We shall see. I’m also working on a few other Victorian-set stories. I’m always noodling around on something. 🙂

Thank you for hosting me today, Jolene!

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Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions, Juli!

Sanctuary Farm is out!

My new short story Sanctuary Farm is now out, along with the whole, awesomes Autumnal Issue of Eternal Haunted Summer. Once again, Rebecca has done a fabulous job at getting material out there for us, and to us, and you really out to hop over and take advantage of her hard work and generosity.

She also wrote a review for The Fairy Queen of Spencer’s Butte and Other Tales, which has me squirming in my seat and blushing quite a bit. A helpful review, too — because the critiques address the fact that I need to not let things (like formatting tables of content for example) scare me into not doing them, and also reminds me that just because things are obvious to me, they may not be obvious to others. I’ll admit that I formatted the eBook before I actually read many eBooks, so eformat aesthetics were not something I had much experience with. (FQoSBaOT is going to be getting a revision in the future to fix those things, just not until I’m into an editoral phase. Right now, it’s all about Born of Flame, you understand).

I also want to push C.S. MacCath’s The Ruin of Beltany Ring, which is also reviewed in this issue. Read the review, but more importantly, go and buy a copy of the book. You won’t be disappointed.

Library haul, or, why I love research

Because it’s a topic that’s on my mind, I’m realizing how much of my wealth of random, almost useless knowledge has come about because of my writing. I am one of those people who knows a little bit about a whole lot of things, a whole lot of seemingly unrelated things, and the relationship is clearly because of my writing. At least, it owes a lot to my writing.

Volcanoes play an important part in my current WIP. My knowledge about volcanoes is very likely grade-school level, but I’m working on that. Specifically, I needed to brush up on the composition and geology of the Cascade Range and its volcanoes, so last weekend I trundled off to our local library.

Aside from picking up Anton Strout‘s Alchemystic and the second (or first) of Ted Dekker’s, I went specifically seeking out Fire Mountains of the West — whose unexpected map changed a foundational bit of the WIP. This book was written so that the lay person could read it and understand it, and so far, it’s been an interesting read. Admittedly, I haven’t gotten far, because I’m trying to get the books that are due back sooner read first, and I’m in the thick of a fiction read.

But, I also discovered, and am completely dorking out over Eruptions that Shook the World. I’m only on the first chapter, still, and it is dense, you see, but reading it has made me realize or appreciate more, what writing does for me. Because, ultimately, this book will, if anything, add nuance and flavor to my story, but it won’t be immediately apparent to anyone but myself. I will spend hours reading this book — likely many, because it is dense, you see.

The world is exciting to explore, and my brain is a sponge that wants to know everything . . .

So, I haven’t written since Monday . . .

And that’s okay, because I’m still up on my word count, by a lot. Lots of stuff going on this week, a lot of it mostly annoying health crap either on my end or on Beth’s, and we’re muddling through. I’ve read instead (you’ll see those reviews coming up in the next week or so), and at the same time, issues with the WIP have been working themselves out. Because my brain doesn’t stop when I’m not writing, though I have trained myself to not go too far ahead and thus burn myself out on the story.

In the past, my cycle with writing has been a lot like my cycle with other things, especially exercises that help strengthen my back. I go through a period of need. My back flares up, or my not writing makes me antsy and anxious and short-tempered, because of the pressure of all the things I have to write and have not. I start doing the exercises that I know help, or I start writing. The pain goes away, or the word count gets steady. And then, I decide I’ll skip a day, and then it’s another day, and then it’s been a month, and my back is out again.

Ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

With my word count up, I could be tempted to skip a writing day. With my writing days pared down to one day, possibly two a week (wherein at least on the one day I have roughly six hours to write) the temptation to skip a day is pretty much gone. I can’t wait to sit down and get some words in.

I should track the ups and downs, word-count wise, as I go. I’ve only been tracking the words gained. During my next session, I know that a good half of what I wrote last Monday is going to be altered and/or cut, and I’m not upset about it, because I know what happens, instead, and because most of what I’ve written so far has stayed. I think I’ve got ~ 2k that was written and then went away. So, that’s roughly 10%.

I’ve got busy weekends coming up during the remainder of September, and the last Monday I have commitments to go fawn over sheep instead of writing, so I’ll have to be sure to get that writing in at some other time. Having one or two writing days a week also invites flexibility to scheduling.

This is awesome.

An Interview with Rebecca Buchanan (Celebrating Pagan Fiction)

Last week I presented an idea and, in return, I’ve gotten a fair amount of nibbles. Scheduling and interest will determine how frequent these posts are, but for now I’m happy that there is interest other than just mine own. I am also fairly thrilled that my first interviewee is none other than Rebecca Buchanan; her work and her obvious passion for storytelling was a big part of my wanting to create this series to showcase pagan fiction. Thank you, again, Rebecca, for taking the time to answer these question and to talk shop for a bit.

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JD: What is your pagan tradition/path?

RB: I am Hellenistai, meaning Hellenic polytheist. I honor the Greek Gods and Goddesses. I consider myself a revivalist, rather than a reconstructionist, as I have adapted ancient practices to modern life. I also occasionally honor Deities outside the Greek pantheon, too, such as Isis and Anubis. And I have a strong interest in other traditions. I may focus on the Greek pantheon, but I find other Deities and mythologies *fascinating*.

JD: How does your particular paganism or spiritual path influence your writing?

RB: My spirituality has a *huge* influence on my writing. Actually, one could say that it is virtually the sole focus of my writing. My poetry is devotional in nature: I’ve written hymns and prayers to Deities as varied as Adonis, Bragi, Epona, Hapy, Ishtar, The Kathirat, Kuan Yin, Nemesis, Pomona, Rosmerta, Skadhi, and Zeus, to name a few (and *boy* are there a lot of Gods out there!).

It’s the same with my short fiction. While I write in a variety of genres and sub genres — fantasy, magical realism, horror, science fiction, et cetera — they almost all feature the Gods and Goddesses in some way. The Deities may appear in person, or influence events from behind the scenes, or the story may focus on a devotee.

And, yes, I am currently working on a novel, when I have the time. 🙂 It’s an alternate history romance, set in an alternate San Francisco which started as an Athenian colony. There is a gigantic statue/temple of Athena on the island we know as Alcatraz. And lost treasure. And shapeshifters. And the Romans are coming!

JD: Was it a conscious decision on your part to write about pagan topics or was it a natural outgrowth of ‘writing what you know’?

RB: Hhmmm. A bit of both. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Even as a child, my writing featured powerful, magical, numinous beings. My earliest tales were (very bad) Mary Sue fairy tales and myths, with thinly-disguised versions of myself as either the powerful fairy woman or Goddess, or the beautiful warrior princess who saves the day. *eyeroll*

Once I made the conscious shift to polytheism, my writing became much more deliberately focused on the Gods and Goddesses, their myths, and their ancient and modern devotees. It’s actually kind of hard for me to generate a story idea which does *not* center around one of those elements.

JD: Do you view your fiction as religious fiction, in that it has either a didactic or an inspirational purpose?

RB: It depends on the audience. 🙂 I hope that Pagan readers will find the stories both inspirational and entertaining; I hope they realize they are not alone in their devotions. As for non-Pagan readers … I seriously doubt my stories will suddenly inspire someone to begin honoring the Gods; rather, I hope they are entertained, and do not feel like they have wasted their time or been letdown.

JD: There is an abundance of pagan-friendly stories on the market these days, especially with the rising popularity and ease of independent publishing. Do you find there is a difference between material written by pagans about pagan or pagan-friendly stories and material written by non-pagans about pagans or pagan-friendly stories?

RB: Oh, definitely. In the overwhelming majority of cases, there is a noticeable difference in attitudes towards the Gods, polytheism, mythology, folklore, devotional practices, the environment, and even death in books written by Pagans versus those written by non-Pagans. Pagan authors come to the material with personal experience and a respectful awe of/belief in the Gods. That is reflected in the stories they tell. Most non-Pagan authors treat the Gods as characters, as tools to further the story the author wants to tell; and, too often, Pagan characters are just caricatures. It is also blatantly obvious when a non-Pagan author fails to do her/his homework, for instance, getting historical facts and myths wrong, misrepresenting the Gods, and so on. (Making the Deity associated with death or war the villain, for instance, is a big pet peeve of mine; it’s just lazy writing!)

I should qualify that statement by acknowledging that there are exceptions. It depends on the skill of the author — and sometimes the religious affiliation of the author is not entirely clear. MR Sellars, the author of the Rowan Gant mysteries, identifies as Pagan; Erynn Rowan Laurie, author of fireflies at absolute zero, is a Celtic Reconstructionist; H Jeremiah Lewis, author of Strange Spirits, is Hellenic; and Starhawk is part of the Reclaiming Tradition. On the other hand, I have no idea as to the spiritual affiliation of Kevin Hearne, the author of a great urban fantasy series The Iron Druid Chronicles; the same goes for Zoe Archer (The Blades of the Rose series), Kelley Armstrong (urban fantasy), Elaine Corvidae (fantasy and mystery), Seressia Glass (paranormal romance), Kylie Griffin (Goddess-oriented fantasy romance), or a host of other writers.

And … um … I should also add that just because a Pagan-friendly story is written by a Pagan does not make it *good*. I’ll take a tale rich with complex characters from a non-Pagan over a piece of drivel by a Pagan any day.

JD: Where do you hope to see the future of pagan fiction go?

RB: I want to see it grow, not just in quantity but also in quality. I want more, better stories. I want short stories, novellas, novels, anthologies, literary journals and poetry chapbooks. I want great stories by out-of-the-closet Pagan authors available not only through small press publishers, but also through the big time publishers. I want to be able to buy great Pagan stories directly from the authors at conventions and off their personal websites, but *also* find them on the shelves of libraries and mainstream bookstores.

JD: Who are your favorite pagan fiction authors and/or what are the titles of some of your favorite pagan fiction works?

RB: Oh, gosh, where to begin? When it comes to out-of-the-closet modern Pagan authors, I highly recommend

Andrew Gyll, author of Shadow Gods and Black Fire;
Galina Krasskova, who writes mostly nonfiction, but she has published some poetry pieces;
Erynn Rowan Laurie, especially fireflies at absolute zero;
H Jeremiah Lewis (aka Sannion), especially Echoes of Alexandria and Strange Spirits;
P Sufenas Virius Lupus’ anthology, The Phillupic Hymns
Lykeia’s poetry collection Hymns From the Temple;
Douglas A Rossman, especially his Theft of the Sun anthology;
Ruby Sara edited two terrific anthologies entitled Datura: An Anthology of Esoteric Poesis, and Mandragora: Further Explorations in Esoteric Poesis;
Starhawk, especially her children’s book, The Last Wild Witch.

Circle Magazine contains some great poetry and short fiction every issue, as do Parabola, Pentacle, and witches&pagans.

There are also a few Pagan-friendly works that I highly recommend:

Aphrodite’s Kiss by Julie Kenner;
The Artesia graphic novels by Mark Smylie, an epic fantasy series starring a witch warrior queen;
The Blades of the Rose by Zoe Archer, which is a great 19th century magical Tomb Raider-esque series;
The Children of Odin and The Golden Fleece by Padraic Colum and Willy Pogany;
Earth Mother by Ellen Jackson and Leo and Diane Dillon;
Greek Myths by Ann Turnbull and Sarah Young;
A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects by Catherynne M Valente, as well as her poetry collection Oracles;
Medusa Jones by Ross Collins;
Omens by Kelley Armstrong;
Rain on the Mountain and Tyrant Moon by Elaine Corvidae;
Seducing the Jackal by Seressia Glass;
The Tomb of Zeus by Barbara Cleverly.

JD: Lastly, tell us where we can find more about you and your available work?

RB: I blog semi regularly at BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature at PaganSquare. I edit Eternal Haunted Summer, a Pagan literary ezine. I am also editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the publishing arm of Neos Alexandria; most of my short stories and devotional poetry appear in those anthologies (I am particularly proud of “Alexander’s Heart” in The Shining Cities, and “Black Leopard” in Written in Wine). I’ve also published stories on Bards and Sages Quarterly, Cliterature, and Luna Station Quarterly. I keep an up to date list of my publications at Eternal Haunted Summer so check back regularly for — I hope! — new listings.