Addicted to Writing? I won’t tell if you don’t…

As you may have noticed, it’s been a couple weeks since posting here at Self-Published Gold (SPG). I offer three excuses: nice outside weather, water parks, and writing. Does that mean I’m using writing as an excuse not to write (on the blog)? Maybe. Don’t judge ;). Plus I’m starting to get a tan—kind of. Working in the garden and swimming will do that.

cheron-drawing Anyway, the point of this (short) post is this: what keeps you from building your online presence? As already revealed, I like to spend lots of time outdoors and lots of time pounding away at the keyboard on my latest novel. The process of getting out and about in the online communities is tricky for me and my associates here at SPG since we’re all people persons—not to diminish online contacts in any way, it’s just different. Different enough that I’m throwing this post out as an invitation for advice from all of you since I need all the help I can get! Please help me with tips and advice on how to better move among online writing circles in the comments section below!

saylind-drawing In the meantime, I’ll be working on my newest novel idea and finishing up some character portraits…still need to get the collars and shirts done, as you can see, but they’re coming along alright. Perhaps in addition to my gardening and writing I’ll get some art tutorials in too. I’m a bit rusty from my artsy heydeys of high school.


Story Blip: A Review of The Light Keepers by Mande Matthews

Astrid is a young woman with incredible power, isolated from all save her mother, Isla, and her protector, Balin. Even her voice escapes her, which is where the trouble lies.  Astrid can enter the shadowwalk and view people in other locations. Because she is mute, Astrid cannot sing to the Mother – the source for the power of light – for protection against the evil Shadow. Without that protection the Shadow will know Astrid’s location and could destroy her easily when she to enters the shadowwalk. But entering the shadowwalk is the only thing that comes naturally to young Astrid, and the visions provide the closest thing to companionship she can have. Isla’s strength is waning and soon she will be unable to conjure the ward. Astrid must learn to sing to the Mother despite her physical inhibition or face the danger of the shadowwalk alone.

The Light Keepers is a short story proceeding Mande Matthews’ ShadowLight Saga. Calling it a short story may be an exaggeration, though; I’d say it’s more of a teaser. The story ends before a full plot can develop. Instead, this prequel sets the stage for the saga by introducing the world and providing history on a principal character. It does its job, though. I was intrigued enough to be indignant when it ended.

Matthews spins the tale as if we are already familiar with her world and yet does not leave the reader confused. She introduces unfamiliar concepts but provides enough information in the next paragraphs to explain them. Similarly, most questions brought up in the text are answered. The ones that are not will most likely be answered in the saga. The overall quality of her writing is above average, but not impressive, and here’s why:

Hiccups occur with characterization. Astrid is not as deep as I would hope for a protagonist. I know that she is lonely, but I don’t feel it. Isla, Astrid’s mother, is also flat because there is not much interaction between mother and daughter. Balin, Isla’s warrior, is the easiest to understand. He lives for one purpose: to love and protect Isla, which extends to protecting Astrid.

Because of the generally smooth storytelling and my interest in the saga, I give this prequel 3.5 stars. Well done, Matthews.


Move Over, Vampires! A Review of Everblue by Brenda Pandos


Cover courtesy of

Vampires are cool, but I always thought it was creepy to fall for a creature that drinks blood for sustenance. I mean, really. However, mermaids and mermen are a totally different story. That’s what Brenda Pandos’ book Everblue is all about, with a healthy dose of adventure thrown in. Now on to the good stuff:

Everblue clocks in at 305 pages and is aimed at a younger YA audience; I’d say 12- to 16-year-olds. It’s written from two points of view: regular high school student Ashlyn Lanski (Ash) and home-schooled teenage merman Finley (Fin). Ash is best friends with Tatiana, Fin’s twin sister. They grew up together on the shore of Lake Tahoe.

Ash is the high school swim captain and has a secret crush on Fin, not knowing he’s a merman. He knows that one kiss from his lips would seal them together for eternity, so he tries to avoid a relationship. Most merpeople avoid all contact with humans, but Fin and Tatiana love living on land. There’s just one problem: the mer king is ordering merpeople to start preparing for a war with humans and has a hidden grudge against Fin’s parents.

There are several points in favor of Everblue, namely that Ash, even though she has a crush on Fin, is not completely obsessed with him. She enjoys the company of other guys at the school and lives a normal life. Also, Pandos does an excellent job writing the story from Ash’s point of view—I was really able to get inside her head! I also enjoyed the lore and history of merpeople and the way their world worked. It wasn’t perfect but it made sense and it was consistent.

The novel also includes intrigue and fighting among the merpeople, but the violence doesn’t escalate to gruesome levels. This was refreshing because a lot of YA novels nowadays go for shock factor (case in point: Hunger Games). Pandos kept it realistic and tense. Anyway, keep this in mind in case you’re looking for something edgier, but for those who enjoy a good, clean YA, this is it. The only issue I had with the book was how rapidly the chapters changed perspective; at times I think Pandos could’ve had 2 or 3 chapters from one character before moving to the other, but that’s just me.

This book deserves 4.5 stars. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

“Harry Potter and the Natural Twenty” By Sir Poley

Happy Tax Day, for all of you American readers out there. Don’t forget to thank a public employee for all of the hard work that they do for you. Anyway, on to the review for Harry Potter and the Natural Twenty by Sir Poley.

Ah, fanfiction. Commonly used for up-and-coming authors to get their voices heard without going through the rigmarole of original worldbuilding. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of this meta genre, though I recognize how useful it can be. This is nowhere more true than in crossfiction (crossover fanfiction is where two disparate literary universes meet in someway). Or so I thought.

Lately, though, I’ve found that a well-written fanfiction piece can be every bit as good as an original piece. Take Harry Potter and the Natural Twenty. As the title would suggest, it’s a crossover between J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeon and Dragons games.

The Natural Twenty is something of a parody on D&D: Milo, an eleven year old adventurer who took the Wizard class is somehow summoned into the home of a Deatheater living near Hogsmeade. Milo has to adjust to a world where the very rules of the universe are different from what he’s used to (though he still uses his original rules)–and Hogwarts has to adjust to him.

If, like me, you are only vaguely aware of D&D’s mechanics and lore, don’t worry. This story is still mostly understandable. The only thing that took me back is realizing that something like 1d6 means rolling a six sided die. Otherwise, Sir Poley does a decent job of explaining the rules and his tongue-in-cheek humor will make the explanations fun.

The Natural Twenty stands at thirty-four chapters and, according to the author, is twice as long as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (aka Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), which this fanfiction follows.

I highly recommend reading the Harry Potter series before reading this, however. As a fanfiction, this story does not enjoy the same level of world immersion that enriches the original.

Vintage Shabby Chic meets Cross-Cultural Tension: A Review of The Dress by Sophie Nicholls


Cover courtesy of

Rather than attempt to write something clever, I want to start with a short excerpt from Nicholl’s book to show you just how gorgeous her prose is: (scene is daughter, Ella, thinking about her mother Fabbia’s singing)

“Sometimes Ella would surprise Mamma singing to herself in the kitchen, the soft upper notes that seemed to shimmer in the air and the harder sounds that came from somewhere deep in her throat in a way that Ella couldn’t imitate, no matter how much she practiced in front of the mirror. Fat, blurred words and long words with drawn out sounds that mingled with the steam from the saucepans so that, when Ella swallowed Mamma’s thick stew, the one with beans and garlic, she liked to imagine she was eating the stories of her ancestors.”

Incredible. That’s all I have to say about that.

The Dress is a story batting low at 211 pages but full of lyrical goodness. The plot is simple: a mother and daughter move from England to New York to start a new life. Fabbia, the mother, loves vintage clothing and opens a shop where she can work her everyday magic in sewing and alterations. Her daughter, Ella, struggles to fit in as she deals with the new surroundings, puberty, and her mother’s fanciful personality.

I’d compare this book’s feel to that of Sandra Cisnero’s House on Mango Street, though The Dress deserves even more props. It creates a magical, melt-in-your-mouth feel that’s lightly sugared with the cultures of Tehran and New York. I love how Fabbia has an Iranian background that subtly colors her perceptions of the world around her. Fabbia’s perceptions clash with her daughter Ella’s impressions in the big city world of New York and her attempts to fit in with the other teens.

Fabbia’s and Ella’s struggles to adjust to life in America and the social mores of the affluent elite paint a brilliant picture of coming of age for both mother and daughter. They move beyond petty and sometimes even ugly human behavior directed at them by neighbors and so-called friends and learn to let others in.

Honestly, this is the first self-published novel that without reservation I give five bright, gold stars. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.