Friday, December 7, 2012
VBT: Giveaway, Review & Guest Post by Shelly Holt Author of Tasting Fire
Big stories versus small stories.
How big the stage? As a reader, I've read science fiction stories like Robert Reed's Sister Alice, in this well written book, the stakes were the entire universe. I've also read stories that touched my heart like the 2012 Newbery honor book, Inside out and back again by Thanhha Lai, that was very much a small personal story of one little girl and her family during and after the Vietnam war. Both wonderful books, but on very different scales.
I used to like the T.V. Show, Stargate Atlantis, the key words being used to. I stopped watching it after every single week Dr. Rodney McKay would save the universe with his brilliance. It wasn't actor David Hewlett's acting, he is a fine actor. No, it was the fact that every week they reached the ultimate drama threshold. After saving the universe, what can top it? Nothing at all. As the small human stories disappeared, the quality of the writing diminished and I stopped watching. What does this have to do with romance books? Well, a lot actually.
Using magic as a plot device also sets the size of the stage in a book. Don't get me wrong, when it's done correctly like the immensely talented J.K Rowlings in her Harry Potter series it works wonderfully, and character and plot development didn't suffer in the slightest. Unfortunately, not all writers have the talent and success of J.K. Rowlings. Many authors and publishers do, however, attempt to duplicate the success of the Harry Potter series and have flooded the market with witches and warlocks, vampires and angels.
I remember when I decided I was going to try my hand at writing, I wanted to read all of the last few years of Newbery winners to learn about plot structure, character development and all of the important components that go into a good book. I went to my local library and to my dismay discovered they had not a single current winner of the Newbery awards on the shelves and very slim pickings of past winners. They did have however many, many YA books on vampires, witches, angels ect... To her credit the local librarian did order the book I mentioned by Thanhha Lai for me and when it came in I was able to read it.
This trend disturbs me greatly. Not because I personally have a problem with the supernatural as a subject, but because our young people are becoming accustomed to mediocre writing and desensitized to the small stage in a story. Their drama threshold has been damaged because of it. Dead isn't always dead, not if you're a teenage witch and a magic spell will fix everything. When I was in school, I was reading Judy Blume, John Dennis Fitzgerald, John Bellairs, S.E. Hinton. All strong writers who didn't resort to gimmicks to plot their stories. They wrote small human stories for human beings to read.
You might think this is a strange blog for a writer whose debut novel is listed as paranormal romance. Yes, it is, but it also explains to my readers on why I chose the genre I did. Yes, my work is grouped under paranormal romance, but on closer inspection it really isn't. There was no magic in my story on purpose. There is a scientific reason (bacterial infection) that merged the DNA over thousand of years of human beings and varies animals, which gave rise to the legends and folktales of shape-shifters on many continents all over the world. I wanted to force myself as a writer to develop a strong plot and well defined, three dimensional characters. I felt personally, if I used the crutch of magic, I wouldn't have been able to accomplish my goal. However, I still have to compete in a market saturated with magic, which has raised the drama threshold of so many readers.
I'm very proud of Tasting Fire. It does indeed play on the big stage, but not at the expense of the small human stories inside.
Thank you Shelly for writing such an interesting guest post for us! :D
My name is Shelly Holt and I live in the middle of the harsh and unforgiving Mojave desert. I write my stories looking out of a window that shows sweeping desert views. Outside is a barren and severe landscape, yet inside my head lives a world filled with exotic shape-shifters come to life, pulled from the pages of myth and legend, ready to entice and seduce any reader brave enough to take them on.
It's funny, I never wanted to be a writer! In 7th grade English, we were given an assignment. We were told to write an original poem and turn it in the next day. I was determined to turn in not a good poem, but a great poem. I spent the whole night working on it instead of watching my favorite show, The Waltons. (Hey! it was 1980.) I turned it in the next day. Apparently, I succeeded a little too well and was accused of copying it from a book. (1980 remember, no internet yet). The teacher stated and I quote "this is too good for a seventh grader, where did you copy it from?" Well, I didn't write for 30 years after that. In my 40's, after a life changing move to rural Nevada as a caregiver to my father, I realized I needed a way to earn a little money on the side. I did some research on the internet and read all about a certain little book, about a certain little college student and a handsome billionaire with some ahem! (issues.) I decided after reading that book, I could do that, and Tasting Fire was born. I'll admit it's been strange revisiting a talent buried deep inside for so long, forgotten, but apparently not lost. It's been an important journey and one I am quite thankful for and excited to see where it takes me.
P.S. Mr. Jordan, I really did write that poem!
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Shape-shifters have always walked the earth. Shrouded in myth and folklore, hiding in the shadows, watching and waiting. Advances in modern science are now about to reveal them to the world. Kai Tenzin is the self appointed leader of the Pari people. He and his kind evolved from the most reclusive predators on earth. They live and hunt in the most fearsome and rugged terrain known to man, the Himalayas. Kai leaves his small village where the mountains touch the heavens, determined to do anything to protect his people. When he is forced to enlist the aid of the beautiful American scientist Dr. Rae Hales, the last thing he expects to find is a woman who will ensnare his heart and endanger them all. Their action-packed adventure will take them around the world to discover the truth behind the legends and reveal the future of humanity.
Purchase it from Amazon.
Want more? Here's an excerpt for you because you asked so nicely. :D
The short ride to Kizhi island was exhilarating on the open hydrofoil. Kai helped Rae off the boat as it docked at the seven mile long island. The tour group followed their guide off the dock and onto the island. They listened intently as the guide in stilted English advised them that the site had become a world heritage site in nineteen-ninety. There were more than eighty pieces of wooden architecture that made up the outdoor museum’s collection. The guide then gestured for the large group to follow him. The tour group was led up to a magnificent structure. The center piece of the collection that was known as The Church of Transfiguration.
Rae felt as if she had stepped right into a storybook. The guide started his official recitation on the history of the structure “the Church of Transfiguration has twenty two onion domes. It was built during the reign of Peter the Great. No nails were used in the construction and it was created by using interconnecting wood pieces only.” Kai stood back taking picture after picture of the breathtaking silver domes. The guide then indicated for them to enter and put his finger over his mouth to indicate silence.
As Kai and Rae walked in they could hear why the guide silenced them. A trio of singers were performing a deeply moving mass. Behind them a gold leaf Russian icon painting glinted in the light that was streaming in through the dusty windows. The effect transported the tour group back in time. They were now in a time before digital cameras, before cell phones, to a time when the Tzars ruled Imperial Russia with an iron fist.
This was a very different type of shape shifter story. I enjoyed it though.
My favorite part of this book was the descriptive scenery. I've never traveled out of the US. :( I find it fascinating to hear about different places and cultures. :D
This book had more of a scientific spin on the whole shifter thing and while there were some steamy moments, they were not as numerous as they are in many of the other shifter books.
If you like science, history, or hearing about distant lands, you would probably enjoy this book.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
Shelley will be awarding a $20 Starbucks GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour! Make sure to leave a comment to enter the giveaway. To improve your chances, leave comments on the other Blogs too! You can find the complete tour schedule here.
I'd love to know what you're thinking. Please leave a comment!