Zoë Writes

An Australian author living in Norway

Category: Books (page 1 of 2)

Who is Selina Carr?

Amidst the flurry of activity that is NaNoWriMo, I am taking a moment to talk about the other project that has been keeping me busy in the last couple of months, and to introduce you to a writer friend of mine by the name of Selina Carr. Hi! She’s me. I’m her. And we’ve written a fairytale that is about to be published in a stunning hardback book at the end of November by Tenebris Books (if you’ve read my other posts, you’ll know about my connection there). Willow, Weep No More is a book of traditionally-inspired fairytales and fables that aim to capture the magic of classic fairytales while exploring the themes of inner beauty, wisdom and strength.

Yesterday was the cover reveal, and as you can see, it’s a thing of beauty. As is the rest of the book—believe me, I’ve read it many times already, given that I am the editor. But why would I credit some non-existent person with writing the story I contributed? There are lots of reasons writers adopt a nom de plume, but my reasons were two-fold:

  1. I have some ideas floating around in my (very full) brain, and some of them are for readers much younger than those I currently write for under my own name. The Eidolon Cycle contains a lot of death, some fairly horrific violence, and as such I would never recommend it for anyone under the age of fifteen or sixteen. So, if I later wrote something intended for ten year olds, and a ten year old loved it and went looking online for something else Zoë Harris had written, he or she would find titles intended for a much older reader. If I ever do write something for younger readers, I will do it under the name “Selina Carr”, and the story in Willow, Weep No More under that name would be fine for someone of that age to read.
  2. The second reason is ego. No, not to promote it, to deemphasize it. This book is very important to me, and I want it to be viewed by potential readers for what it is, and that is not a platform for me to publish my own work. I was torn about whether to contribute anything at all for exactly this reason, but I love fairytales so much I just couldn’t not write something for it. So, while it is a great thing to put my name to something I’m incredibly proud of, I didn’t want to do it at the expense of the other authors and illustrators who have contributed so much wonderful work. It is my imprint’s first publication, and I want it to be taken seriously, and judged on the merit of its contents. It can’t be “The Zoë Book and other stories”.

So, if I don’t want to confuse my readers, and I’m not about ego, why am I telling everyone who reads my blog? For starters, anyone who knows me personally will crack my code in seconds (Selina is my middle name, and Carr is my partner’s surname). But really, it’s not a secret meant to be kept under lock and key. It’s a branding distinction in the first instance, and an exercise in humility in the second. I truly do want my friends, family, and anyone who is interested in what I do to know about this book, not only because I want to hear their thoughts on my own contribution, but because I want them to read the other stories in the book—stories that are beautiful, poignant, enchanting and full of all the wonder one would expect from a classic fairytale anthology.

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Non-Compliance: The Transition

Releasing on 30th September, Paige Daniels’ latest book, Non-Compliance: The Transition is the second book in the Non-Compliance series (the first being The Sector, which was released by Kristell Ink in 2012).

This was another of my editing jobs, following on from The Reluctant Prophet’s release last month, but it was waaay outside my usual genre choice. I don’t remember the last time I read a science fiction book, and even then it was probably on the more literary side (something like Never Let Me Go or The Time Traveller’s Wife most likely). This book, however, has a more pulp feel (and I mean that in the stylistic way, not as an insult) – though I have to say I’m uncomfortable slotting it anywhere exactly, being as it is not purely a pulp sci-fi, nor romance, nor dystopian novel, but some combination of the three. And the combination works.

It was a pretty easy editing job; there really wasn’t much that needed my help. My role seemed to be more akin to brushing the lint from the shoulders, straightening the tie, giving an encouraging pinch to the cheek as the book takes a deep breath and heads for the bookstore shelves. So thanks, Tina, for saving me the headaches. I do, however, wish I’d counted how many times I deleted the word “that”, you know, just for kicks.

What struck me about this book, and I admit I have not yet read the first in the series, was the unapologetic nerdiness of Shea Kelly, the main character; the author manages to give us a smart and sassy – yet nerdy and self-deprecating – heroine, without resorting to the clichés and tropes normally associated with these types of stories and characters. Shea is human, she’s real, and if you’re not her, you know someone like her.

And despite this book exploring a romantic relationship between Shea and her tough-guy counterpart, Quinn, the book doesn’t have one of those Princess Bride moments where you think, “Wait, wait, hold on! Are you trying to trick me? Is this a kissing book?”. The romance is woven into the story as effortlessly as the technology; you notice it when you’re supposed to, but it doesn’t make you wrinkle your nose.

Although it worked for me as a standalone, I do feel the need now to go back and read Non-Compliance: The Sector, just to find out what lead up to everything in this book. I’d suggest you do the same. Get out there and get yourself a copy of book one, you’ve still got time to read it before the release of Non-Compliance: The Transition comes out on the 30th.

Oh, and yet another triumph with the cover art by Ken Dawson. Awesome.

The Reluctant Prophet

The Reluctant Prophet by Gillian O’Rourke is the latest fantasy release for Kristell Ink, and became available to purchase on the 1st of September. Here’s the pitch:

There’s none so blind as she who can see . . . 
Esther is blessed, and cursed, with a rare gift: the ability to see the fates of those around her. But when she escapes her peasant upbringing to become a priestess of the Order, she begins to realise how valuable her ability is among the power-hungry nobility, and what they are willing to do to possess it.
Haunted by the dark man of her father’s warnings, and unable to see her own destiny, Esther is betrayed by those sworn to protect her. With eyes newly open to the harsh realities of her world, she embarks on a path that diverges from the plan the Gods have laid out. Now she must choose between sacrificing her own heart’s blood, and risking a future that will turn the lands against each other in bloody war.
The Reluctant Prophet is the story of one woman who holds the fate of the world in her hands, when all she wishes for is a glimpse of her own happiness.

I don’t usually do book reviews on this blog, but I agreed to host Gillian as part of her blog tour because I had the pleasure of editing The Reluctant Prophet. Yes, I knew Esther when she was carrying a bit of extra weight, wasn’t quite clear on the direction her life was taking, and had a bit of a problem with waking up – she always seemed to do it with a start. But after a month of bootcamp, Gilly and I whipped Esther into the dazzling creature you can now purchase from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Smashwords, the Apple iStore, Barnes and Noble… well you get the idea.

So rather than review the book, I thought I’d share a bit of insight into what it was like editing what was originally a beast of about 140k words. It was quite the hack-and-slash-fest, let me tell you. Poor Gilly had to watch while I callously recommended cutting out entire chapters, entire characters, rearranging scenes, motivations and more. Of course this makes it sound like the manuscript was a right old mess, which is not true at all. In fact, all it needed was tightening and sharpening, and this is completely normal for a first novel.

Gilly handled the whole process like a champion, and I was so excited to read her revisions as they came, and watch as the story really came together in a more focused way. Esther suddenly came alive; she let me get close to her, and I finally got a sense of who she was and why I should care about her. Reading through again, now I feel rage when injustice beats her down (which it does, constantly), feel that her enemies are my enemies, and cheer whenever she succeeds, though heaven and earth are always working against her.

The themes this book explores are those of love, faith, loyalty and, at its heart, sacrifice, and what I noticed most throughout the editing process was these themes becoming clearer and more important to more of the characters. But Esther is no martyr; she’s ferociously strong-willed, despite her tiny stature and disadvantaged position. There are echoes in The Reluctant Prophet of those in our own world who would be used by the powerful for their own gains, and Esther sets a great example for standing her ground when it is most important.

I wish Gillian all the success possible with her first novel, and I look forward to seeing more of her work as the series progresses. Well done, and congratulations on a job well done!

Darkness versus horror

Dark fiction is gaining momentum as a genre in its own right, but is often mistaken for, and confused with, horror. I, like an increasing number of readers and writers, am fascinated by dark fiction, whereas I almost never read horror or watch horror movies – but what is the difference, really?

The answer is as subjective as any attempt to define a literary genre, but I can at least explain where my personal line is drawn. To me, horror is more graphic, more about describing horrific scenes in great detail so the reader can smell the blood, hear the sound of a knife sliding into flesh, and feel the thrill of revulsion. I have a lot of trouble reading books with scenes such as these, and they cause me terrible nightmares – I don’t personally understand the appeal, if I’m honest. Dark fiction, however, looks more into the minds and intentions of its characters, and in this way can be more disturbing without necessarily being gory at all. It is more subtle, where the threat of what a character is, or might be, capable of is actually more frightening than the deeds themselves. This is often demonstrated by the mere suggestion, or even anticipation, of horrific acts, but it leaves far more to the imagination of the reader.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there is a growing fascination with dark fairy tales, which leads us right back to the works of the Grimms, Perrault and other classic collections. This darkness in fairy tales relates to my description of dark fiction in that these traditional tales there rarely offer any detailed description of horrific acts; in fact they are often dealt with in a singularly matter-of-fact way. Terrible, gruesome things happen in traditional fairy tales, and it is, in part, this element that has always fascinated me. Here are some examples:

  • In early versions of Cinderella (or Ashenputel), the ugly step-sisters were convinced by their mother to cut off parts of their feet to fit into the lost shoe, in order to marry the prince.
  • The queen in Snow White was punished by being forced to dance in hot iron shoes until she fell down and died.
  • Bluebeard is a serial killer who murders his wives and hangs their bodies in a secret room in his chateau.
  • The Big Bad Wolf has his stomach cut open and its contents replaced with heavy stones, which cause him to fall into a well and drown.
  • Rapunzel’s prince falls from her tower and is blinded by the thorns on which he lands.
  • In the Norse Askeladden story of his eating contest with a troll, Askeladden convinces the troll to slit his own belly open, which he does (and dies, of course).

These are just a small sample of the many horrific things that occur in traditional fairy tales, and yet they are not told in a particularly gruesome way, which in my mind has always made them all the more disturbing. Let’s face it, half of this stuff is carried out by the heroes and heroines to punish the wicked, so we are left feeling like these atrocities are just desserts. That’s pretty messed up, when you think about it.

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Launched

On Friday I attended my first book launch and signing along with my fellow OIWG members (that’s the Oslo International Writers’ Group for anyone not familiar).  We launched our first anthology, North of the Sun, South of the Moon: New Voices from Norway at Café Fedora, and with sixty or more supporters looking on, we shared readings from the book and raised a tidy sum for the Norwegian volunteer organization, Utdanningshjelpen.

My reading of one of my two stories from the book, Far North, True North, was unfortunately cut short by a dead camera battery, but here’s the part that survived:

Being asked to sign books was both a surprise and an honour – there were many more people who wanted their copies signed than I ever expected, with some people even asking for extra copies for their friends and family members. My fellow authors and I got such a buzz from seeing so many enthusiastic readers pick up our book, but truly the best part of the evening was when Felix from Utdanningshjelpen told us his story, and how he came to found the organization.

Felix Omondi Osok comes from Kenya, and grew up an orphan in the city of Maseno. But he was lucky: as a fourteen year old, he got a job as a project assistant with “Rotary Doctor Bank” where his dedication and determination was noticed. Felix received a lot of support from his grandparents, but it was difficult for him to gain enough money to finish school. Two doctors from the Doctor Bank decided to support Felix with extra money so that he could continue his education. Today, Felix holds a masters degree from Oslo University. Through Utdanningshjelpen, Felix helps children in similar situations to his own, of which there are all too many.

We hope that the money we are raising through the sale of our book will help support the education of children in developing countries, so that they may find their own voices.

OIWG

Bree Switzer reads from her piece, Maggie’s Farm

The paperback version of the book is now on sale at Amazon:

http://amzn.com/1909374539 or http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1909374539

E-book released

North of the Sun, South of the Moon: New Voices from Norway is now available for Kindle and other ebook readers! The paperback is just around the corner, but if you can’t wait, here are the ebook links:

Amazon (Kindle)

http://amzn.com/B00CTU0KH2 (US)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00CTU0KH2 (UK)

Kobo

http://bit.ly/18pnW5G

Apple iStore

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/north-sun-south-moon/id650166540?mt=11

Barnes and Noble (Nook)

http://bit.ly/11tQTuf

Smashwords (EPUB)

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/316919

Remember, all profits go to Utdanningshjelpen, a Norwegian volunteer organization helping children and young people in developing countries fulfil their educational potential.

Perhaps you’re wondering a little about the stories in the book. Hey, I understand. It’s all very well to buy a book because the proceeds go to charity, but would you actually read (and, more importantly, enjoy) the thing? Not everyone reads short stories, or poetry, or non-fiction essays. It’s hard to know what to expect. So, to help ease you into our little world, here is a hint of what you’ll find inside…

In Go North, Young Man, Brian Talgo reveals the serendipitous trail of true events that led him to Norway from the United States, and in Orientation, Audrey Camp overcomes the disorienting effects of her first two weeks in Oslo by mapping out the new city she calls home. My short story Far North, True North, presents two contrasting definitions of north for someone born far south of the equator. In Tolerance, Chelsea Ranger tells the true story of Lizhong “Frank” Li, a Chinese refugee to Norway who was imprisoned for his beliefs and tortured by his own government. Mauricio Ruiz gives us Estrellita, a short story about a desperate woman who takes advantage of the Norwegian custom of leaving babies to sleep unattended in their strollers outside cafés. Bree Switzer’s short story Maggie’s Farm is the story of a woman searching for a way to let go of her pain. We explore the rich history of Scandinavia in Turn, Turn, Turn, Anna Maria Moore’s short story inspired by her mother’s childhood in post-WWII Sweden. Going back in time a bit further, Evelinn Enoksen gives a chilling account of a band of Vikings making their way home after a battle that has almost wiped them out in Frost.

I hope this small taste has inspired you to take a look at the book. I’m so proud of all the authors, and am amazed at the combined effect these stories have when collected together in a single volume.

North of the Sun…

If you’ve been wondering where the fairy tale posts have gone, it may appease you to know that they’ve taken a temporary backseat for a very good cause. I have been busy editing, proofreading and polishing fourteen great stories for the upcoming Oslo International Writers’ Group anthology, North of the Sun, South of the Moon: New Voices from Norway.

Today I’ve been working with fellow group member Chelsea Ranger to arrange our launch party. The e-book is set to launch on the 17th of May, to coincide with Norway’s grunnlovsdag (Constitution Day), with the paperback to follow in time for the party on the 7th of June. Profits from sales of the book will go to Utdanningshjelpen, a Norwegian charity which supports students in developing nations. The wonderful Anthony and Nicole from Cafe Fedora have offered to host the event at a steep discount, with the extra money raised from ticket sales to go directly to the charity.

The anthology has been written to two themes: Adaptation and North, and the pieces themselves range from short fiction to non-fiction to poetry. Some are uplifting, while others explore the darker side of human nature, but all together they make for a fascinating and thought-provoking read.

Book cover

The featured image on this post, The Wanderer, was painted by another talented OIWG member, Brian Talgo, and will grace the cover of the book, with the design by Ken Dawson. The book will be published by Holland House. And I can now reveal the actual cover:

I’m so excited to share these stories with you, and especially proud to be doing it for such a worthy cause.

I have two stories in this anthology, one a short fiction piece called The Social Animal, and the other a fictionalised account of real events, Far North, True North. These will appear alongside the fiction, nonfiction, and poetry of seven of my talented fellow OIWG members:

Audrey Camp

Chelsea Ranger

Brian Talgo

Mauricio Ruiz

Evelinn Enoksen

Bree Switzer

Anna Maria Moore

If you’re in Oslo, you might like to join us at Café Fedora for the launch party on the 7th of June. Here are the details:

Date: 7th June 2013 at 7:00pm

Place: Café Fedora, Frognerveien 22, Oslo

Price: 200 NOK per person

Food and drinks are included in the ticket price, and you will also hear the authors give readings, have the opportunity to buy the book and/or donate directly to Utdanningshjelpen, as well as be in the running to win a signed copy of the book.

Tickets are limited, so please buy yours today! Café Fedora’s owners, Anthony and Nicole Juvera, have made it possible for all tickets sold for the launch event to support the charity, too. The Oslo International Writers’ Group is open to writers of all kinds in the Oslo area. We meet once a month. Find us on Facebook if you’re interested in joining. We are always happy to welcome new blood, and you don’t even have to bleed–I mean read–at your first meeting!

Gilded Destiny

Another fellow Inklings Literary Agency client, Nola Sarina, is releasing the first of three novellas in her dark fantasy VESPER series, and to celebrate is giving away a copy of the e-book, along with customised temporary tattoos and a bookmark signed by the author herself.

GILDED DESTINY – a Vesper Novella by Nola Sarina

A woman’s memory returns when she falls in love with the monster who took it from her.

Calli tattoos her skin to fill the holes in her memory, thanks to an accident that left her mind damaged and empty. But a nasty encounter with a fired employee leaves her in the arms of her unlikely savior: Nycholas, a predatory, serpentine Vesper on the run from his brutal master.

Nycholas’ clandestine world holds the secrets to mankind’s origin and survival . . . but he only wants one thing before his time is up: a few colorful nights with Calli, the fragile, tattooed, human woman he pursued and saved.

The more Calli learns about Nycholas, the more her own darkened memories return to her. Despite her haunted past, she loses herself to passion and desire with her immortal captor.

Now, Calli must overcome the demons of her past, or allow Nycholas to kiss her memories away and spare her the trauma of loving a doomed immortal. But each choice comes with dire consequences – some that endanger not only herself, but her family as well.

GILDED DESTINY is the first of three novellas in Nola Sarina’s dark fantasy VESPER series, represented by Michelle Johnson of Inklings Literary Agency. Follow Nola on Twitter @NolaSarina and on Facebook or her blog for awesome announcements, giveaways, and upcoming info about the second Novella in the series!

Nola is a mother, wife, writer, and giggle-a-holic, living in Canada and raising a pack of kids. In her spare time she can be found geocaching, guzzling coffee, or tending to her garden. Her VESPER series is on submission by her agent to publishers, along with WILD HYACINTHE, a paranormal romance co-authored with Emily Faith.

Click here for Nola’s VESPERS giveaway.

Aloud

At the January meeting of the Oslo International Writers’ Group, we decided that we would introduce readings this year. Previously, we have read each other’s work ahead of time and given critiques at the meetings, but now that we have a year behind us and we know each other quite well, it felt like time to break away from paper and share our work out loud.

Being the one who suggested it, I volunteered to go first, having brought along one of my pieces for what is currently being called The Oslo Anthology (we’re still deciding on a proper title). It was the first time I have ever read my work aloud to a group, and I was unusually nervous – public speaking doesn’t usually bother me, but this is a group of truly talented writers whose opinions I value and respect, and although they are unceasingly supportive, I didn’t know what the reaction would be.

I had originally intended to read a small section of the story which related to the wine we were drinking (a Hardy’s wine from the region of South Australia I grew up in, and in which part of the story is set). But when I’d finished the first part, I was quietly reluctant to stop – it had felt good to read it out loud, and I was enjoying hearing the story myself, in an odd way. When I paused, the group stayed silent for a moment, one or two sitting with their eyes partially closed, as if savouring the words the same way they had savoured the wine. And then I was suddenly surrounded by smiles and nods, followed by eager requests for me to read on. What more encouragement could I need? I continued.

What followed was everything a writer could ask for: laughter, gasps, and at the climax, a cheer! Then, when I’d finished, that same savouring pause . . . Then applause, bigger smiles, bigger nods. My story is based on an experience I’d had when I first moved to Norway, and these people are, as well as fellow writers, almost all expats, and they related. Success.

I went out of that meeting on a real high. But that was nothing compared to the high I experienced at last month’s meeting; three of my colleagues shared their work, and it was good. Really good. And let me say now, I am usually not a fan of poetry – but the two poems that were read were so honest in such different ways; one was lyrical, abstract and almost dreamlike, the other grounded, real and painful in its honesty – yet both left me with images and feelings as if I’d been right inside the head and heart of the readers. Then a third piece was read, this time a work of fiction, disturbing in both content and tone, written from the point of view of a twelve year old child, being lead into certain death by people she trusted. I was both sickened and grimly fascinated.

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Charming

My fellow Inklings Literary Agency client, Elliot James, has a book coming out in September with Orbit, and to celebrate the release of the cover art, Inklings is giving away a galley copy of the book:

CHARMING by Elliot James will be released in September 2013:

John Charming isn’t your average Prince . . . He comes from a line of Charmings — an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to shotguns and kevlar, he was one of the best. That is — until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn’t change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar . . . Right?

Look for more Charming stories to be released soon by Orbit Short Fiction, too!

Want to win a galley copy of Charming? Simply share this blog post on Twitter, with the hashtag #Charming. At 12:01 a.m. Tuesday March 12th, Inklings will put all the #Charming tweets in a hat and draw for the winner!

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