For those of you who do not reside in our delightful state, I assure you, adding the words TEXAS Edition (caps required) to anything makes it better. At least for Ford Trucks and several brands of chili, apparently. In this case, adding TEXAS Edition means I will be reviewing the works of three fantastic authors who happen to share the 268,581 square miles of land that I call home. I know what you're thinking; Texas? What do they write about, cowboys? Football? The Alamo? I assure you, Texas authors have talent. Whether their current state of residence has anything to do with their talent or not, each of these authors is worthy of a TEXAS Edition of Write On! and you should give them each a look.
J. Leigh Bralick
To start, I should mention that when it comes to traditional fantasy, especially the works of Tolkien, I'm not the biggest fan. Okay fine, in will admit it, I dislike Tolkien. There, go ahead and take away my nerd card. Down a Lost Road is the first book in the Lost Road Chronicles and it is clear from the beginning that this book is not only a traditional fantasy, but it also makes several mentions of Tolkien's work. And I loved it. I loved it enough to buy the rest of the series, which I also loved.
Down a Lost Road tells the story of Merelin Lindon, a teenager whose father disappeared a few years before the story begins. When the story opens, she's just trying to figure out why the shopkeeper at her local convenience mart is acting peculiar. Not long after that, she's transported to a different world. Here, she learns that her father knew of this world and had been looking into their forgotten history. And thus begins what turns into an epic adventure spanning three books and several different and dangerous territories of this new world.
World building is probably one of the hardest parts of writing fantasy. Add a made up language and the author needs to tread very carefully lest they lose their audience's interest. Bralick does this effortlessly, which is what compelled me to keep reading even after the story shifted from the real world. She expertly lays out the new world without cutting away from the book's action, and there is a lot of engaging action. I'm talking, I really should have gone to sleep several hours ago type of engagement. Down a Lost Road is currently free for Kindle, so you have no excuses for not giving it a try.
As I have mentioned countless times before, I have no clue what I am doing on Twitter. Fortunately, Bridgett Kay seems to have a better grasp than I. For whatever reason, she decided to follow me one day and seeing that she was a real person, I followed back. When I did, I happened to notice that she was offering her book, Mephisto Waltz for free, so I clicked the link and decided to give it a look. Being neither science fiction or fantasy, it wasn't my typical read, but the description grabbed me.
The story follows teenager Miranda Rothschild, who is coping with the suicide of her twin brother when her parents decide to move to a coastal town in Texas. Here, Miranda meets a new group of friends, including an intriguing girl named Clara. Miranda is described as a late bloomer, but soon we learn that it isn't that she isn't interested in dating boys because she hasn't developed, rather because she hadn't yet discovered her true sexual identity. Miranda's family, who are rather religious, decide that the best course of action is to send her to a camp where she will be cured of her homosexuality. As you can imagine, this does not go well.
Aside from being well written and engaging, I was pleased to see a young adult book that covered this subject. That anyone in this day and age would think someone's sexuality was something that needed to be 'cured' is preposterous, but a tragic reality. This story will make you emotional. Sloppy emotional. But for $2.99, you can afford the tissues, ice cream, or teddy bear you may need to cope with your feelings.
Because I enjoyed Mephisto Waltz, I also read Kay's other book, Gemini Song. This is a space opera, which you should know by now is an addiction of mine. Like Waltz, Gemini Song is well written. The story is incredibly complex. Kay manages to build not just a world, but a whole galaxy as well as an alternate timeline from which this story emerges. This book as well, is just $2.99 for Kindle. No tissues required, but you may find yourself longing for a space ship or maybe your very own space pirate to captain it.
I am breaking my own rule here. It's a rule you might not even be aware that I had. You see, I set up Write On! to feature independent female authors. Kind of sexist, I know, but that was the point. We tend to be on the receiving end of sexism, especially in the field of sci-fi and fantasy. But... I couldn't write a TEXAS Edition and not include our generation's Austin based Douglas Adams incarnation.
Douglas Schwartz was kind enough to offer blog interviews to all of us struggling authors and I took him up on this offer. While perusing his blog posts, which were quite odd in a good way, I decided to check out his book, Checkered Scissors, which is also quite odd in a very good way.
Checked Scissors follows thirtysomething Edwin Black as he navigates from a layoff to a successful business owner, through a less successful relationship, and to his ultimate demise at the hands of a body snatching demon who haunts Ed's CD changer, but that's just the beginning of Ed's story. In between we also get to follow Max, a portable pool salesman and owner of the titular scissors. Well, former owner. The scissors are stolen when Ed accidentally reveals that they can do more than simply cut swimming pools. The point of the story, I believe, is to get the scissors back after they fall into the wrong hands.
If you're confused, that's okay. I might be inclined to say don't panic. It becomes clear that Schwartz is inspired by Adams, which leads to a refreshing take on absurdist fantasy that is packed full of Easter egg-like pop culture references yet can still be enjoyed by younger readers. My only complaint is that there will be a sequel, but it is not out yet. The Kindle edition is just $2.99.
See, I told you we have some great talent down here! Go read a book!