Cover Reveal: Taming Shadows by Fiona Skye

One of the great things about self-publishing is that we learn by doing.

Author Fiona Skye released a novel called Faerie Tales about a year ago, and while she
was quite satisfied with the novel itself, she wasn’t entirely happy with either the title or the
cover. Unwilling to let it stand, she came up with a new title and engaged the talented
Rachel Bostwick to make a new cover, and here it is:

Four years ago, she changed the world.
To be fair, it wasn’t entirely her fault.

See the book trailer:
(This book was previously published under the title Faerie Tales.)

Art and trailer by Rachel Bostwick:

Book reviews

Review: Hard Luck (Book 1 of The Saga of Menyoral)

Click Here. Buy This Book. Seriously. Now.

4 stars of 5

No one element in this book is astonishing, but calling that a negative would be like taking a bite of an incredible new cookie and saying, “Meh. It’s just another cookie. Flour, sugar, butter and some other things. Same as any other one.” Some things are more than the sum of their parts. Some cookies are so good that I keep the whole jar in my lap and refuse to share it with anyone, not even Beloved In-House Reader.

This book is that kind of good.

It being a book and not a cookie, belly-selfishness does not apply. I am eager to share. Hard Luck is a big bucket of good old-fashioned fantasy fun, and more than that, it is more than just that. Holy wow, is it more. I love this world and the characters M. A Ray has created for it.

Fantasy stories do not have to be about originality, especially not ones that are coming-of-age stories about unwanted outsiders finding a place to belong and setting out on the path to become a shining star. Especially not fantasy stories about unwanted outsiders who have a hidden heritage/destiny that they will have to take up. There’s a reason those tropes are so popular. They touch on emotions and conflicts that speak to almost everyone. They made a great foundation.

The trick is building something interesting on the bedrock foundation–creating a world that is complex enough to feel real and  creating a hero who has struggles that make sense. M. A Ray does that, and then presents the result in prose that is deceptively simple and yet shifts seamlessly with the perspective of the characters.  Every detail revealed as the plot develops adds to the reader’s understanding that there is much more to every situation than meets the characters eyes. The world-building is right where it should be: in the background. The past is where it should be: in stories and asides and comments. The action moves along fast enough to hold interest, but with plenty of room for characters to interact and develop.

If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you know I am not inclined to gush. I am a nitpicker, and a detail-noticing critical reader of the most demanding kind. Hard Luck has structural flaws that usually drop me out of a story the way cutting the cords of a parachute sends a skydiver plummeting to the earth. It contains indie-publishing foibles that usually bother me the way the sound of fingernails on a blackboard bother other people. There are issues, yes, but I would have to give it 6 stars out of 5 if it didn’t have those flaws. I liked it that much. Seriously.

Sometimes–rarely, oh, so rarely– a story comes along that is so much itself, so solidly designed and so beautifully presented that I stop noticing little things like too-exuberant use of adjectives, weird paragraph structure, odd name choices, and grammar hiccups.

This is one such book. The first few pages did not spark my interest, because prologue,  but then, a few paragraphs into the main story, I stopped reading. I immersed myself in the words and rolled around in them like a cat in catnip.  I stopped reading and started living the story along with the characters. That doesn’t happen often even with books that are polished to a much higher technical standard. It was an amazing experience, and that’s not even the best part.

The best part? There are two more books, and each one gets better. Oh, yeah.


Dreams & Ideas & Other Musings

Sometimes I can recognize the inspirations for my dreams, other times they are delightfully random. This one falls into the second category.

This one begins with a crowd of friends & acquaintances in my backyard, all recognizable as such, so I expect Big Strangeness. First, dream geography rarely intersects reality sharply enough for me to say, “it looks like my backyard.” More often I just know it’s my backyard despite total physical dissimilarity. Second, I don’t have enough friends to make up a crowd, and few acquaintances visit my home even when invited. Dream crowds are usually composed of a Bunch of People whose identities are simply Known; they have the comfortable feel of friends, but sadly I never meet them in waking life.

Immediately after this dream begins, precisely four squares of my patio collapse in the course of a huge earthquake that fails to cause any other damage to my large quiet neighborhood of tree-lined streets and expensive houses.

That’s when I know it’s going to be a really entertaining dream.

The falling patio squares crush one friend’s witchy mother-in-law. What this woman was doing underneath the patio tiles in the first place is a conundrum best left to my unconscious, but dead she is, and the sinkhole has a slippery rim of hard grayish slate or shale; the exact composition is a matter for some discussion. The death of the MiL is quickly dismissed. The earthquake and the sinkhole have our attention, as according to the news on the TV, which we can hear outside even tho’ it’s in the basement, the cave may be Important. Dream news is much more timely than real news.

Of course I Make the Brave Gesture of entering the cave first. What are dreams for, if not to exercise one’s curiosity? Paul (Dream Paul, who looks nothing like the man I love, but who is, nonetheless Paul) wants to go, but he has to stay on top and talk to the police, who are Interested in what’s going on, and who are Calling Higher Authorities.

Despite the sinkhole’s creation as a straight-down drop, the slope is much more like a limestone canyon carved by water, and it’s lit by a diffused foggy yellow light like a darkroom. Of course it’s lit. This is a dream. Only Real World Caves lack illumination. Hollywood caves have mood lighting. Why can’t mine?

The bottom of the cave goes on for a long way past my patio. Who knew my backyard was such an interesting place? Once I get down the rocky steps and around a corner, I can see bones. Lots of bones, all laid out in perfect fossil skeletons of interesting critters like mammoths and long necked sea beasties and little bird-like critters. I can’t see all of them clearly due to my flashlight’s limited range. (darn that dream lighting….)

the most exciting find: a chunk of glacier that juts from the cave wall nearest my house. (Well, why not? It’s a dream cave. No one says it has to be governed by petty laws of physics.)

Preserved bodies are starting to emerge at the periphery where the ice has begun to melt in the warmth. (Did I mention it was summertime? We were out on the patio after all.) I recognize a mammoth and a couple of prehistoric people and fish right away.

Everyone becomes greatly excited, because fossils mean research and celebrity and riches for all of us. Then Rhyan points out that we might have a problem. See, while I was concentrating on looking at all the bones and bodies and such, I failed to notice the live prehistoric Neanderthals sneaking around behind me and climbing up out of the cave.

The cave people aren’t hostile and they’re not stupid even if they are Neanderthals. They aren’t interested in us; they run away into the neighborhood, which is now a city in that twisty-scene-changing trick dream geography can play.

The earthquakes and other Unnamed Disasters have wreaked havoc on the buildings here. Much worse than at the house. We all, as a group, track down the Neanderthals, since we somehow know exactly where they’re going: a park. With swingsets and slides and suchlike.

Turns out, once we catch up to them, that they speak modern English. (Of course they do. Why not?)

Apparently we need to remodel our house to make them happy. So…we do. We get the Neanderthals settled back in their cave, and everyone helps work on the house and the yard, and after everything’s Fixed and the Scientists are done examining the cave, we close up the patio tiles, and the Neanderthals go away with the scientists.

I have no idea what happened to the dead mother-in-law. Kinda bugs me, but not really.

Strange, strange, strange.


It’s Real!

I completely underestimated the exhilaration quotient of seeing my novels published online.

Mind. Blown.

I will have to ponder why it’s affecting me this strongly. There’s no objective difference in the works themselves. They’re just as good (or bad) as they were three days ago.

And yet. And…yet.

So cool.