Catherine Stine's IDEA CITY

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

After a month of Hitchcock-style events...

Sometimes you get that perfect, thoughtful review by someone who totally gets your book. In the middle of a dreadful month of apartment floods, five weeks of no hot water and gas for cooking due to a gas leak, no Internet and other Hitchcock-style horrors, I got one of those reviews that made my heart stutter with delight. Indie Ebook Reviews had actually posted in April what I'd just stumbled across. It was like digging up that perfect, golden potato under the soil. Because Ms. Glass so got it, I will post it here:

In the world of YA fiction, the paranormal romances Twilight inspired have recently been replaced by an outbreak of dystopian fiction – with Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games leading the way and Scott Westerfield’s Uglies and Ally Condie’s Matched close behind.  Catherine Stine’s Fireseed One taps into this trend, although its slightly retro cover signals she is steeped in traditional sci-fi and not just an arriviste to the genre.

Also differentiating it from those other recent hits is the fact that the lead character is male – 18-year old Varik – although he is soon joined by the feisty Marisa Baron.  The novel is set in 2089, with the US a lethal ‘Hotzone’ full of ‘refugees’ who the propaganda channel known as ‘the stream’ insists are dangerous. Varik’s father, a marine biologist, has been murdered leaving his son in charge of his sea-farm and valuable seed-banks, which are the world’s main food supply.  When he catches Marisa stealing seeds and his crops are struck with the plague, Varik sets off with her on a quest that leads him into the Hotzone to find the ‘fireseed’ his father is rumored to have created, learning along the way that the lines between good and evil are more blurred than he thought.

The vision of the future Stine creates – of a world divided into have and have-nots by climate change and utterly dependent on GM crops – is convincing.  The book has a strong satirical slant, with interesting things to say both about the way the media demonizes refugees and how advertising penetrates every corner of our lives – each news update from ‘the stream’ ends with an ironic sponsor’s ad, devastating news of riots being: ‘brought to you by Restavik Chophouse, where the boar is better than home-grilled and the ladies drink free on Saturdays.’

Shin Kaskade, Tech Wizard
by Catherine Stine
The writing is strong, using the present tense to create freshness and full of vivid verbs.  It is the little, specific details that make this world so three-dimensional.  In the first few pages we get the horrific, cinematic image of Varik’s father’s corpse (‘famished viperfish had gouged his hands’), along with tender details that really nail the father-son bond (‘I’ll miss our docksides fish fries, our midnight boat rides…our poker games for abalone.)  Varik’s trendy friend Audun has a ‘shark-tooth earring’.  A firestorm burns the sky with ‘molten arteries of light.’  Stine has also created a believable slang for the teenagers, with Varik exclaiming ‘yummo’, ‘fry me’ and ‘burn it’.

I do think there’s one plot hole – if the entire world is dependent on Agar as a food-source, why would it be left in the hands of one nice, ordinary seeming biologist and then his disinterested 18-year old son?  This was, ultimately, a bit unconvincing – especially when Varik leaves the last feeble Agar plant in the hands of his best mate who seems more interested in baking scones.  A brutal regime which uses propaganda to stamp out sympathy for the starving would surely be a bit more hands-on about its supply chain!
...It’s a great young adult book though, with a sweet central romance and lots of inventive thrills.

Review by Evie Glass

by Catherine Stine
To celebrate, I am offering a signed paperback copy of Fireseed One at a huge discount--$5 (includes postage)--to anyone who emails me at kitsy84557 (at) gmail (dot) com.
Or, if you prefer, order an ebook, on sale at B&N or Amazon for $0.99, and I'll send you a signed copy of an illustration from Fireseed One.
Offer good for two weeks (Through Aug 15).

Now, to do a power visualization that Con Ed will come turn on our gas and hot water!

Cheers, Catherine

Monday, July 23, 2012

Interview with YA author Amy Kathleen Ryan, about Spark, Book #2 in her Sky Chasers Series!

Please welcome the fabulous author, Amy Kathleen Ryan. She's talking about the characters in Spark and about writing. First, a short synopsis of Spark:

After a desperate escape from the enemy ship, Waverly has finally made it back to the Empyrean. The memory of home has been keeping her alive for the past months… but home is nothing like she left it. Forced to leave their captive parents behind on the New Horizon, she’s returned only to find that Kieran has become a strict leader and turned the crew against Seth. What happened to the Kieran she thought she knew? Now Waverly’s not sure whom she can trust. And the one person she wants to believe in is darkly brilliant Seth, the ship’s supposed enemy. Waverly knows that the situation will only get worse until they can rescue their parents – but how?

Before they have time to make a plan, an explosion rocks the Empyrean, and Seth and Waverly are targeted as the prime suspects. Can they find the true culprit before Kieran locks them away… or worse? Will Waverly follow her heart, even if it puts lives at risk? Now more than ever, every step could bring them closer to a new beginning – or a sudden end.

And now, she answers some questions:

Tell us a little about the main characters in Spark
There are three: Waverly, Kieran, and Seth, and they all have very different ideas about leadership. Waverly is kind of a humanist, and believes in a secular form of government, though her traumatic experiences on the New Horizon make it hard for her to find a balance in her approach. Kieran believes that people need to be inspired, and he uses religion to do it, usually to great effect, though sometimes he gets into trouble. Seth is more of a pragmatist than the other two. He’s also ambitious, but he comes from an abusive upbringing, which has polluted his moral compass greatly.

In what ways have they changed from Glow?
They’ve all been traumatized, and they’re all reacting to what happened before. Seth made a lot of mistakes after the initial attack on the Empyrean, and now he’s trying to put things right, though he has little hope that he’ll ever live down his mistakes. Kieran is terrified that Seth will be able to stage another mutiny against him, and he starts to cross the moral line to ensure that he stays in power. Waverly is probably the most changed of all of them. She’s got a lot of anger about what happened to her on the New Horizon, and that anger comes out of her in explosive, dangerous ways. These are all good people, but they are fallible, and they’re living through events that would be difficult for anyone to overcome.

Give us your favorite line from your protagonist:
Seth to Waverly: “I don’t care anymore that I’m not good enough for you.”

From an antagonist: Anne Mather to Kieran: “If you think a bunch of kids can overcome a seasoned adult crew, you’re deluding yourself.”

An emblematic, teaser paragraph: Whatever Max had done, whatever those sounds had been, Kieran would surely blame Seth for the whole thing, and would likely use it as an excuse to keep him in the brig forever. If those booming sounds were bombs, and Seth was blamed, everyone would believe he was a traitor. And what would Waverly think of him then? Seth had only one choice: he had to find Max and turn him in. He had to prove to Kieran, Waverly, and everyone else that he had not done this. And somehow, he had to do it without getting caught.

How is it writing a trilogy? Challenges? Fun aspects? 
The biggest challenge for me is all the loose threads that can be left dangling from one book to the other. The third book has been the most difficult to write, because there is so much to tie up. I want to be balanced about it, though, and not leave everything too perfectly “pat.” Knowing how to do that without leaving readers hanging has been tricky.

What keeps you going when inspiration flags? Fear of failure!

What truly inspires you?
Honestly, reading a great book. I get more ideas reading that at any other time.

Best words of advice you ever received?  From my teacher Jeffery Renard Allen: “People in MFA programs all have talent, but hardly any of them publish because they don’t have the will.” In other words, you have to persevere and work very hard if you want to be a writer.

Worst? This person shall remain nameless: "Don't worry about promoting your novel. That's your publisher's job."

Can you offer some writing advice to aspiring and new authors? It’s good to have raw talent, but you still have a lot to learn. Take writing classes, go to conferences, start a critique group. You have to have an ego, but you can’t let it get in your way. Learn to take criticism or you’ll never improve. For most people it takes years to hone their craft enough to get published. Get started now.

Which do you enjoy writing most: action, romance, setting or dialog?   I really enjoy writing dialogue between two intelligent characters that are working at odds with each other.

What is the most important theme of book one? Book Two? 
From GLOW, I hope people take away that when religion and politics mix, things get extremely volatile. Religion is about the black and white, good versus bad, right versus wrong. Politics is about gray area and compromise. For that reason, the two aren’t very compatible.
When reading SPARK, I hope people will be forgiving. All my characters make mistakes, and they compromise themselves terribly. I think I’m trying to show that when people are hurt and angry, they don’t always make very good choices. The important thing is for people to admit their failings and try to be good people.

Care to share a hint of what’s to come in book three?
Waverly and Kieran will have to learn to deal with their enemies on the New Horizon. They’re in close quarters with them now, and they’ll both find that they’re being used as pawns in a dangerous game. Seth is a fugitive, and he’ll try to help topple the power structure from the outside, though he’ll find he’s not as powerful as he thought he was.

Where can readers find you on the web? 
My website and blog and on Facebook

Where can people buy Spark, and your other books? From indiebound, Amazon & B&N

Amy Kathleen Ryan is a graduate of the Creative Writing for Children MFA program at the New School in New York City. She lives in Colorado with her family. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

M. Pax's Backworld's Book 2 is Out!

I'm happy to announce that M. Pax's newly published sequel to The Backworlds is now available! Craze and his friends continue their adventures in Stopover at the Backworld's Edge.
See what role chocolate plays this time!

The interstellar portal opens, bringing in a ship that should no longer exist. It's a battleship spoiling for a fight, yet the war with Earth ended two generations ago. The vessel drops off a Water-breather, a type of Backworlder thought to be extinct. She claims one of Craze’s friends is a traitor who summoned the enemy to Pardeep Station. A betrayal worse than his father’s, if Craze lives to worry about it.

Available for all ereaders from:

Amazon / Amazon UK / B&N / Smashwords
(iTunes and Kobo will be available shortly)

If you haven’t read The Backworlds yet, it’s available as a free read from many outlets. Click HERE for links.

Inspiring the words M. Pax writes, Mary spends her summers as a star guide at Pine Mountain Observatory in stunning Central Oregon where she lives with the husband unit and two loving cats. She write science fiction mostly and has a slight obsession with Jane Austen. Visit Mary's blog here.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Don a Superhero Cape and Drink Magic Blue while you Ponder the Booker Awards and Gut-busting review of 50 Shades of You-Know-What

A few of my students during downtime,
donning superhero capes
and drinking magic blue flying potion
Photo by C. Mittelhauser
I'm back from teaching overseas. What a great experience! My students were smart and curious and hard workers. They excelled at the writing prompts I gave them. I missed being able to post as much as I normally do, as the Internet on the Greek Cycladic islands was spotty at best. But I'm back in the swing, and happy to see that I've been granted a Booker Award "For those who refuse to live in the real world" (but prefer to live in books) from the fabulous Kelly Hashway. I am also delighted that the equally-fabulous Candilynn Fite is offering my Fireseed One novel as the prize for her flash fiction contest, which you can enter here, through July 20th. What a great community we have!

The Booker Award states that I list my five favorite books. ***I'm tweaking it to add the option of listing five books you read this summer. Here are five books I read:
The Soulkeepers by GP Ching (inventive world, interesting mesh of Christian myth)
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (sensual, clever concept)
Point Omega by Don DeLillo (love, love, love DeLillo! He's the writers' writer)
The Backworlds by M. Pax (funny space opera with a lovable, bumbling antihero, stay tuned for Idea City's hoopla for the launch of her book #2, on July 23rd)
Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson (Had to reread this master of raw, heartbreaking prose)

To receive this award, your blog must focus at least 50% on books and aspects of writing. I awarded it to:
Mina Lobo's Some Dark Romantic (new adult fiction)
Susan Gourely/Kelley's Susan Says
Sarah Negovetich's at Sarah Nego Writes
Michael Offutt

Before you jump off, please leave a comment, but first read Katrina Lumsden's funniest ever review of Fifty Shades of Grey (with equally funny animations to illustrate points). No, I haven't read it, nor would I, but you've all heard about it, and I'm sure you're curious! She starts her review with "What the h*ll just happened? Did I really read that? Oh, my g*d, I did! I did read that! click here to read review.