Book Review – The Snow Queen’s Shadow

Disclaimer: As with all my reviews there is the possibility of spoilers, though I work my hardest to avoid them when I can, I feel spoilers are appropriate when it comes to critiquing at times.

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More Than Shadows Here

Back when I read the third book of this series, titled Red Hood’s Revenge, I absolutely loved the plot and design of this world. In fact the premise is highly resonant to my series with the focus on faerie tale characters after their faerie tale has already occurred. Just like my series, it gave more tangible life to faerie tales and made the characters more into people with a story to tell rather than some metaphor or shell to insert whatever a person wanted. Even better with this series though, was seeing a non-white lesbian character as the main focus. Literally all the same things I’ve been attempting with my books.

And so I will say easily that I am heavily biased to this series because of how many things in it connect with something I’ve already written.

The Snow Queen’s Shadow is the fourth and final installment with Jim Hines’ faerie tale princess series. And it tackles something huge, but also both unexpected and expected for a series like this: love. Not just the romantic kind but love between a mother and child, love between friends, and loving someone when it is literally the hardest thing to do, because that person isn’t making it easy at that moment.

But that isn’t what it is all about. So let’s start somewhere at the beginning of the storyline. We start with the known but painful death of a character which leads to Snow White trying to bring this character back to life. And if anyone has read modern works, bringing someone back from the dead never turns out well. Instead the spell backfires on Snow White and soon we have family turning on each other and most of all, Snow White going rogue after wrecking the queendom, and leaving behind a present for Talia.

If anything I would call this a retelling of the famed Snow Queen series of tales, more so than the sadly disappointing (from a folklorist standpoint) Disney movie: Frozen. This episode offers some fun twists and interesting dynamics that could have gone so very wrong with the creation and death of some characters, but instead became something sweet and surprisingly possessing a Happily Ever After.

In fact, one of the best moments comes with a quote that is now my motto: Happily Ever After is a choice. Sorry Jim Hines, I might steal that line, I love it so much. The best part is we don’t have the only main non-white character die at the end and we even get bliss for her too! Although at a price she will always carry with her. But overall I couldn’t help but enjoy and suck up this entire book. It’s everything I could hope to create myself. If I had known about this series before I started my books I probably would have given up on mine because my first book has so many similarities to unveilings in this last book.

Now that I’ve started though, I feel like I’m continuing where Jim Hines left off. Because it does need to be continued, there is always more to tell in the faerie tale universe.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely we will see more of this series from Jim Hines, since we were lucky to even get the four books out of it that we did. But maybe one day. Until then, much of the story focuses specifically on Talia and her love of Snow and how that is resolved I couldn’t possibly have imagined until I read this. It was a perfect ending for Talia being so love-sick over Snow White.

Overall though, this was a well done story, and a fitting conclusion to a series like this that didn’t sugar coat things. People died, but happily ever after lived on as best it could. It was a realistic ending to such a heavily fantasy story. And if I’m putting such a focus on Talia and her love, that’s because this whole story came to exist because of Talia. It was because of her crush that the story had to keep going til this fourth book. And I absolutely loved that Talia even brought back the use of the Red Cape she obtained from Red Riding Hood in the previous book.

As for my imps, they actually liked this tale better than the Red Hood’s Revenge one. It had more depth and power behind it, possibly because it was a closing out to the series. Still because the book covers all the main categories my imps are concerned with, we see all five imps enjoying it.

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Five out of Five Imps

Absence and Upcoming

Hey everyone!

So I took a leave of absence from my blog to take care of writing up some new works which I plan to publish with Kindle. Most of them are short works, or novellas, but it still adds work to my list which will help me get known. Writing all my short works for this blog has been great but it also didn’t particularly provide much for me. So we are going to see what a bunch of cheap but fun stories will do on Amazon and see where that goes.

Additionally I’m still working on two full novels which have been taking a considerable amount of my time. This has left getting around to blogging just… problematic. Blogging was always a writing exercise for me, doing it daily to keep up with the writing so I wouldn’t stop writing all together. Unfortunately since I’ve been doing a lot of freelance writing for work lately, I have been doing my blogging just not on this blog!

However! I will be working on my book reviews again because I’m keeping up with reading books all the time and I’d love to get around to writing some more again. So over the next week you’ll not only see book reviews on here, but also on a few of the sites I’ve done book reviews with.

Some of the books have lesbian components, others don’t. It’s just kind of mish-mash of different works. The majority of it falls under fantasy or fiction at least.

So I can’t wait to show those off at least.

As for my serials. I actually decided to see about finishing them off and just turning them into Kindle books. I might include more of the chapters on this site, but we will see. I will still be including the fairy tales I’m writing because they are fun and it will take a large amount of them to make a full kindle book that is worth it.

I think that covers everything for now. I am writing, it’s just all been behind the scenes which doesn’t offer much here.

But more is coming soon!

Soulmates and the Power in us All

I believe in something. I believe in the power we possess. The power of belief. It topples Gods and changes worlds. It’s an inner power that doesn’t belong to anyone, but you. It is your personal power, which grows the more you use it to overcome the problems in your life. But it doesn’t shine until you use that power for someone else.

Then… then you will know the power of belief.

I speak of this power that is in us all, because no one quite realizes how powerful it can be to believe in others and make sure they know it.

A simple act of belief can change a person’s world.

And that is exactly what I do.

I’ve done it for years. And I gave it multiple names over the years but they all mean the same. The best one I placed to it is a soulmate. But not the kind everyone thinks.

Have you ever met someone and knew the moment you met them they would be important to your life. Or maybe, you’ve just been drawn to them so much, that you have to interact with them. Even if you are shy, even if you normally wouldn’t connect with someone like that?

Maybe you have felt that, or seen it. Or maybe you’ve thought about a person who was your first kiss, or saved you from being hit by a bus. There is just some quality about them, you can’t quite place. You don’t know why, you just know they had to be there. You don’t know why you were drawn to them, you just were.

That feeling, the kind that has no words, that you can never place. Is the soulmate feeling. They are the people who come into your life, and change it.

That’s what I am. It’s what I’ve always been for others.

I come into people’s lives when they needed belief most. They needed someone to believe in them. And to tell them that. I show them the power that belief can bring and then they move on.

I never mind it. Because if they didn’t move on from me, then it means they still aren’t using that power of belief. They aren’t using their inner power, or the power I gave them by believing in them.

I have been a soulmate for so many people. Gave my power to many. And every day I see more. More people with that unspeakable quality surrounding them, that tells me they need belief. They need someone to believe in them, so that they can re-ignite their own belief.

But have I been doing this too long? Have I given my power to others for so long that their power doesn’t work on me? Or is it because no one gives me their power?

Each of the soulmates I’ve met have drawn my power but it’s never returned. Or I never feel it. So I go on, giving my power to others, draining me.

Because, at the very least, I can feel their change. I can see what it does to them. To have someone believe in them.

I’ve given sanity to people who thought they lost their minds.

I’ve given love to those who thought they had no heart.

I’ve given courage to the ones lost and afraid in the dark.

And a home to those who never knew home is not a place.

And for that. I’ve been called a wizard. A magician. A shaman. A monster. And a con.

A magician. I like. For I do command a power. A power many do not. A power many have forgotten.

And as a magician I know my job. To make people believe. For only a magician can show people there are things to believe in. People to believe in. And just how much believing in it can make a difference. Or how much believe can make a difference in them, no matter what they believe in.

So, do you believe yet?

Identity as a Writer

I’ve struggled with identity all my life.

Who am I?

What am I?

Those two phrases I’ve uttered more in my life than even ‘What the Fey’ or ‘book’. And at first I used to think it was because I was still searching for myself. Trying to find out who I am, and what I’d do with my life. But over time I started to realize that wasn’t what I was doing by asking those questions.

No matter how much you go on a life journey to try to find who you are, you will never discover yourself. You will, however, discover perspective. A journey to find yourself puts you in the mindset to be evaluating your life, while also getting entirely new perspectives along the way. But never once do you ‘find yourself’. In fact we need to get away from that idea entirely. Because you were never lost, you never needed to be found buried under all those dirty clothes.

Instead, you create yourself. Based on knowing what identities ring with you the best. The ones that feel right. And the ones that you might lose or gain along the way. Regardless, you never find yourself. Instead you are constantly, at every moment, creating yourself. Everything you do, think, and say leads to a further development of your identity and the longer your life goes on the more you start to become solidified in that identity. And not just you, but everything everyone you come into contact with and what they do and say to you also determines your identity.

I think this needs a better explanation though.

Identity Determined By Others

When I speak of others around you having an impact on your identity, there are multiple pathways to go.

The first is what they tell you is your identity. These are when someone reinforces an identity on you, like someone in customer service saying sir or ma’am. Or a friend telling you that you are ‘So butch’.

The second area has to do with other people’s interpretation of an identity. You might have heard these before: ‘A real man does…’ or ‘All writers do…’.

I particularly want to stress this second area because it’s frequent and damaging. No matter what you think about any particular identity whether man, writer, painter, cook, butch, gay, etc, there is no determining factor for that identity. There is no ‘fake’ version of that identity. There may be people who assume that identity for various things, all of which may not be the best of intentions, but there is no fake or real.

There is no fake geek girl. There is no fake man. There is no real geek guy. There is no real woman. All of these things are a black and white mindset. Just because someone doesn’t fit your idea of what an identity like ‘geek’ means. Does not mean they are a fake. It doesn’t mean anyone fitting your idea of that identity is real, either. They just are.

And yes, you are absolutely free to think whatever you want. But the moment you voice your thoughts to people around you, it no longer just becomes a thought. It becomes a reality. Sometimes an all to damaging and detrimental reality to people.

Think of it this way. What if, all your life you had always thought of yourself as a writer. And then one day someone comes along and says ‘Real writers drink coffee’. But you don’t drink coffee. You never liked the taste of it. Suddenly, you start to wonder whether you are a real writer, because you don’t drink coffee. And then you see more people, saying ‘Real writers don’t use adverbs’. But you look at your work and it’s littered with adverbs and now you are freaking out, because ALL ALONG you had never been a real writer.

You’re entire identity is shattered. Because people out there decided to voice that they think this particular group of people can only fit in that particular group if they do this specific thing.

Definitions and Connotations

We have another word for it. A definition. Except, when it comes to identity. To who and what you are. There are no definitions. There are only connotations.

Your identity is entirely based on what a word means to you, and what a word means to other people. And definitions of a word have no place in an environment where what matters is what the word means to you. Definitions can’t tell you how happy to makes you feel to hear someone call you an author for the first time. Definitions can’t tell you what to call yourself when you fall in love with a girl despite still loving boys, all except that one girl. Definitions can’t tell you all the hidden meanings of a single word when it’s applied to a whole group of people. Definitions can’t tell you all the stigma and beauty attached to a word you call yourself. Definitions can’t even tell you when people in your life are going to tell you that you are a fake, even though you do fit the definition of the word.

It’s all connotations. It’s all about perception, and connotations.

So next time, before you say: “Real -label- does -something-”. Remember, how would you feel if someone said something similar about a piece of your identity that you hold dear, and you didn’t fit it?

My Open Letters – To the Editors… All of them

Thank you for the work you’ve done with my words

Tidying up all the woulds and shoulds and countless areas of grammar and syntax

You have no idea just how much frustration you have saved me

Even if it meant frustrating you

I understand that sometimes starting a sentence with an ‘And’ is bad

Or that changing from past tense to present tense can be taboo

I also understand that without your work my writing is at times

Entirely unintelligible and confusing.

As much as I do understand this and need it

There are a few areas of writing that you seem to not understand

And I feel it necessary to help you learn them

Just as you helped me

I speak of all the times I’ve turned a noun into a verb

Such as grammar into grammaring, and many other verbings

Or the times I’ve used a verb as an adjective or adverb

Like devouring into devourly

And don’t even get me started on all the words I created

By combining one word with another

to produce something like confuzzled which is

Confusing and puzzled

I know everyone might not know these words

Or understand why I’ve changed one into another

But it’s how the words came out and

Nothing is wrong with them

In fact my decision to use different spellings of words we all know

Like Moar and Lurvly from More and Lovely only prove

That language is evolving and growing and most of all…

Changing

We may have rules around language

But how I use it is up to me

If I want to make new words or new meanings for known words

Why can’t I?

Who told Shakespeare he couldn’t make

Those thousands of words he added to his plays

And more importantly, exactly who would he be

If he listened to them?

I know I’m not the greatest writer

Or even have the best grasp of all that language has for me

Or that I’m remotely of the caliber to edit other’s work

Like you

But I do know language and its creative power

I do LOVE language and all it offers me to explore

But most of all…

I enjoy it.

So I have to ask:

Do you?

My Gay-Girl Goggles

This is one of those posts that I’m likely to link back to a few times. Kind of like a write and forget thing to then link back to when people ask about my identity.

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Over the years I’ve had a lot of people put down my identity, try to rewrite it, accept it but not understand it, or just flat-out accept it. I’ve had girlfriends that call me their girlfriend, and ones that call me their boyfriend, and even one that called me partner. My mother calls me her daughter, but my aunts call me their nephew. And this is just a few of them that doesn’t count all the times I’ve had ‘Dyke or Fag’ yelled out the window at me as a car passes (or worse ‘show us your boobs’).

Over the years I’ve jumped around with how to explain my identity, from using as many identity affirming words as I can, to simply saying that’s who I am. But nothing has better been a means of expressing what I feel than my gay-girl goggles.

What I mean is not only do I consume media specifically meant for, marketed to, picked up by, or made for Lesbians and Bi women (essentially Lesbian-centric) but I also consume all media and look at it with my gay-girl goggles. I see the subtext between Chloe and Rebecca in Rooted, or freakin die of happiness when Annie and Liza finally get their reunion in Annie on My Mind, or squee with excitement at seeing the adorable moments between Tara and Willow in Buffy, and even cry horribly while smiling at love-confessing moments between Katie and Emily in Skins. (I’m tearing up just thinking about that last one)

And that’s not even touching all the moments I can think of that made me desperately want to see two of the girls in a cast get together even though it would never happen because it was a ‘bunch of straight people (or men) writing it’.

My point around all this though has to do with my consumption of media. I never was much of a reader. I slogged through the first Harry Potter book, years back when it first came out. Even TV and movies I was never big into. I just didn’t care about it all. It was boring, repetitive, or just didn’t catch my interest.

And then I found the show Skins and Buffy soon after and I started consuming TV shows with craze because there it was… something I showed emotion for, something I CARED ABOUT in media. Something that quite honestly resonated with me. Today I’d probably put it up to something everyone feels when they first meet that one character that makes them go ‘THAT’S ME!”.

Skins with Katie and Emily (specifically Emily) was the first show I was really able to connect with, and specifically those characters and their arc. I just was indifferent at the time to the majority of the other arcs. They didn’t matter cause I could connect with those two! It’s like looking at everything in a gray-scale and then suddenly there were two people with color; vibrant colors that I just had to follow.

And I followed Katie and Emily straight into Buffy, and on to Rubyfruit Jungle in books, and once I had read Rubyfruit Jungle and some of Jeanette Winterson’s work… well then I was insatiable when it came to reading. I grabbed up everything I could, then put a lot of the ‘heteronormative stuff’ down. At the time.

It was after enough of reading and watching all these characters that I started to see it everywhere and go back to those heteronormative stories and books. It wasn’t just the canon girls that were interested in girls. It was all the girls that I could find any subtext for! Probably one of the biggest ones for me was Illyana Rasputin from the Marvel Comics series. I read a lot of subtext with her and Kitty. I mean they are SOULMATES. Like literally soul mates, as in, part of Illyana’s soul would go to Kitty when shit hit the fan. No joke. And don’t get me started on how Kitty going out with Illyana’s brother only confirms this more in my mind.

The point of that though is that somewhere along the line, I totally and completely developed my gay-girl goggles. This view of the world that I read into areas way more than I probably ever should, and then squee when they actually come true. I’m not the only one that does this. There’s billions of Fan Fiction to prove that. And I even wrote some of it. And there’s also show recaps and various posts like the ones Autostraddle does that look at stuff with those gay-girl goggles.

It’s a common mentality because when you look at anything in the world you are looking at it through your specific bias. You put more weight on the way those two girls are holding hands because when you were holding hands with a girl there was more weight in it. There was a deeper meaning with all those hidden subtexts. So of course you look for it when you see it in other areas!

And to me, saying that I consume, enjoy and connect with lesbian-centric media more than any straight media (or specifically straight male centric media) I’ve touched only goes to tell me further that I connect with that identity more than anything else. I see the world through my gay-girl goggles because I’ve been through the world as a gay girl. I’m not always gendered as a girl, but then again there’s a lot of lesbians out there who aren’t gendered as a girl either all the time. Especially when you are more ‘tomboyish’ like me.

And the more I’ve gone through the world. The more I realized I’ve been on the edge of androgyny for so long that if I wear vaguely ‘girl’ like clothes or make my boobs more prominent and someone still says ‘he’, I simply say ‘I’m a girl, jerk’ and they correct themselves. Seriously. It surprised me the first few times I did it and it actually worked. But it does. Because there’s been enough girls in the world now that have had to say a similar thing.

So I’m grateful for that. And grateful for my gay-girl goggles. Because they give me something I can actually point to, I can actually say that this is my identity. And it doesn’t make me any better or worse than anyone, it’s just MY way of explaining my identity. It’s my way of saying ‘I feel this way’ because it’s how I’ve experienced my life. It’s the meaning I’ve placed in my life and quite honestly the only meaning that ever matters is the meaning YOU give things.

Even though I’ve been told by some lesbians before that I was weird for liking things like L word and Rubyfruit Jungle. Because they thought I was a guy. They kept wanting to affirm back to me that I shouldn’t like those things, that I shouldn’t connect with those things when its the only areas I’ve connected with. It’s like tasting chocolate for the first time and not knowing how you had gone your whole life without it, and then having someone come along and say you can never eat chocolate because it is only for people. And then you try to explain you ARE a people! or you slink away in sadness because they were just one of many people who told you the same thing, and clearly you aren’t a person because everyone else says so.

It’s like that.

The Genre of Your Novel

I used to hate trying to place my novels into a specific genre. And I’m not the only one, I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with how to properly record what their book entails. Some people may have no problems, because they can look at a book and just instantly classify it. Others may classify it but then not realize they only gave it the general genre.

One look at any site that allows people to get books like Amazon or Smashwords, and you’ll see there are far more than just: Romance, Sci-fi, Fantasy, and Mystery. There’s actually different levels of classification, and sub-classifications for some genres. In fact, there’s a total of three main values that are used.

1. Fiction and Non-Fiction

2. Categories and Sub-Categories

3. Adult, Young Adult, Children, and New Adult

This means each novel has way more classifications than just being a YA Sci-fi novel. And there are still areas I’m not factoring in since I’m focusing on novels, like being classed in the short story, anthology or novella sections.

Fiction and Non-Fiction are an easy area to start.

Non-Fiction

There tends to be some lee-way in Non-fiction as long as something is at least based on real events it can still be considered Non-fiction work (But occasionally falls in the Literary Fiction category). But largely most non-fiction falls into areas like text-books, books about history, and academic kind of works. Essentially you should be learning something about the real world when you pick up a non-fiction book.

Fiction

Fiction and sometimes called ‘Speculative Fiction’, falls into the areas where what you are writing is crafted from your mind or someone else’s. It’s always something that didn’t happen in the real world, but some fiction will take place with a setting that is identical to the present day real world or a future timeline of our world, which can make for interesting situations like the book Wreck of the Titan written 14 years before the Titanic sank and actually tells the story of an unsinkable ship that hits an iceberg in exactly the same place as the Titanic hit an iceberg.

Categories and Sub-Categories

These are also known as your genres. And they are no small amount, in fact the genres only seem to grow more and more as time goes on. Not only are there tons, but you can also have multiple categories. Your book could be both sci-fi and fantasy, or detective and urban fantasy, or romance and literary and lesbian. The combinations are immense and even with many combinations you may still not entirely cover all the markets you are trying to touch.

My book is currently placed in the Lesbian Fiction and Fairy Tale Fantasy sections. But could also fall under Action and Adventure, Mystery, Folklore, Humor, and Horror and Gay and any combination of those. And that’s just the ones I can think of with a quick glance.

Mostly, Fiction Categories would fall under: Action and Adventure, Erotica, Historical, Horror, Comedy, Literary, Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal, Gay & Lesbian, Women’s Fiction, etc.

Non-fiction Categories are a bit more vast, since they often get broken down by subjects like sciences, math, food, history, business, self-help, spirituality, travel, arts, technology, and the list goes on.

Sub-categories for these are often just ways to break them down further. Fantasy might have the sub-category of ‘urban fantasy’ to denote the types of fantasy books that are meant to take place in the real world with fantasy elements.

Age Groups

Strangely enough we have this idea that most books need to be categorized into age-groups, and usually this ties into the genre. Some people consider YA to be a genre in itself, regardless of whether fantasy is also a component. This is why age-group of the target audience is a factor in large for the whole genre.

The groups are easy too, or so you would think.

Adult covers all the books directed toward anyone who would be over 18. This would include books like Erotica.

Young Adult covers all the books for pre-teens to Teens. Usually focusing on characters or readers in middle school or high school.

Children’s covers all the books from the time kids start reading until you get to the more complicated chapter books.

Some people have been considering New Adult as a genre that fits in between Adult and Young Adult, to represent the audience that would enjoy both young adult and adult books. However New Adult is actually a new sub-category that popped up in the Romance category that covers all those books for College aged kids, since there’s been an influx of those lately. New Adult is always focused on romance though (for now we might see it start to switch in a different direction if more people use it to represent college-age across all genres.

The Difficulty

The major issue I had with all of this was not a matter of deciding what areas I wanted to put my book under. I knew exactly the topics it covered. The issue was with the labeling of the book itself. My book wasn’t written for Young Adult, but when the book came out it still actually fits into a young adult area AND an adult area. But one of my bigger issues had to do with whether I should label my book as ‘Lesbian’ or not. It has a lesbian main character, but when I wrote the book my goal wasn’t to focus on the character being a lesbian it was just an aspect of her when it came to her sexuality.

There still ended up being some forward moments of her sexuality making a big appearance, but for the most part you can read the first quarter of the book without even realizing the main character’s sexuality (unless you just assume that her crude demeanor means she just has to be a lesbian). So I was afraid to scare away people who might be interested in the books but not interested in female-female romance.

Somewhere along the way though, I realized that the categorization and genres are not meant for the writers. They are for the readers. And there are A LOT of readers looking at Lesbian works (not all of whom are lesbians). So I realized if I wanted my book to be collecting the audience that would matter, the audience that are LOOKING for queer main characters I would be stupid to not categorize my book in Lesbian fiction. So I changed it and started promoting the book as a queer work (As there are bisexual, gay, lesbian, and trans characters in the books).

I’m glad I did, but realizing I needed to set the genre for the readers that will most likely enjoy it helped me focus the work a lot better and even improved my marketing potential. My book, if anything, has GAINED more marketing exposure by changing it to a Lesbian work, rather than Fantasy as it had previously been set. Precisely because there are fewer books in that area compared to fantasy (which is also a sad thought).

Age group I am still trying to come to terms with since I’ve received emails from an assortment of age-categories in readers. So that one is just going to have to stay open. Maybe some day I’ll do a specifically young adult series on the same main character’s adventures when she was growing up. I’ve considered it.

So remember, your genre choices are for your readers. What types of readers would enjoy your book the most? Not what type your book is.

No matter what though, I really hate having to label my books too.