New Year dawning??

Yo! So after that spam of reviews, let me say, Happy New Year! I’m way more active over on Patreon lately, news-wise. It’s a bit easier to post there and people are invested in me being as transparent as I can be about what I’m up to. However, my website is good for more concrete posts and updates, so I enjoy it for that aspect. It’s not so easy to catalogue things over there however, so I like to post those sorts of things here especially. For now, neither are made entirely redundant.

So, it’s officially been the first week of the new year, and what have I been up to, you fail to wonder? Well, I fell ill right at Christmas, so I’ve mostly been sleeping and in bed and just generally being an invalid. And reading! I’ve been trying to force myself into a new (okay, a renewed) era of reading. I have an idea of what I want to read this year, minimum-wise. I’d like to read the other six Harry Potter novels, reread Kelly’s two Nyra novels, read at least one of my friend Tom’s Ember tales like I meant to do last year, and possibly get through a Durarara!! novel or two. It’s a big catalogue for someone who rarely does any reading, but I have my hopes. For now, I start with The Waters of Nyra Vol. I. The newest editions of both volumes are bloody GORGEOUS and I’m so jealous. It makes me very very much want to renew my search into artists to do my own covers for other works in the future. Hers have a vintage feel, invoking in me memories of old, bent-up, yellowing books in musty bookshelves of my childhood, and that is excellent. I’m opting to read the physical copies this go round, because it’s going to be rarer and rarer I get to read physical volumes of anything, you know?

Now, borrowing this list from Patreon, here is the most up-to-date inventory of my works as of the first; it’s only outdated for 2121: The End of Syfe, which I already got back to work on a bit at a time.

[“Jinn Trilogy”]
Between the Lines: 1,512 words (Sci-fi)
(Delving into Jinn’s background via a friend who knew him “in the before times”, features advanced technology and a lack of positive social interactions. The main character is outfitted with an experimental AI named Junpei.)
Efficiency: 7,664 words (Sci-fi)
(A man wakes up to find himself bound and under a rusted scalpel of someone who insists they should be recognized. On the run from he doesn’t know what, he is told someone named Jinn just might be able to help him. Whether he likes it or not, of course.)
Viral Genetics: 3,357 words (Sci-fi)
(Jinn employs a veritable army of working Joes, but Erik has a name, and a specialty–and a goal.)

[“Outwards” Stories]
Behind the Moon: 9,730 words (Fantasy)
(Ed slips through a shadow in the middle of the night and tumbles painfully into another world.)
Beneath the Wind: 28,578 words (Fantasy, Romance)
(Venswick is in danger; Ed’s presence has drawn dark eyes upon its luscious land.)

[The Redford Verses’ Stories]
2121: The End of Syfe: 57,449 words (Fantasy, Sci-fi)
(The ex-patients of Redford are struggling under the burden of righting the worlds they know before the end of 2121. The worlds are all under siege, and not everyone is coming out on top.)
Love Burns: 120 words (Fantasy)
(Zackary Ezrael Tyke thinks about his closest relationships.)
The Truth About Judais: 185 words (Fantasy)
(Lilania is a lively spirit, always open to new experiences. When she befriends a visiting rogue named Ezrael, a very important bond forms.)

[“The World Tree” Stories]
Spanners: 31,509 words (Fantasy)
(Penny and Shaun are tasked with studying the Spire, and when they can’t help but activate it, it naturally breaks. Or kills them. These are the most logical possibilities, unlike Shaun’s simple suggestions that they’ve found themselves in the past or Asgard or both.)
The World Tree Detective Agency: 1,246 words (Fantasy)
(Loki is being punished for something they didn’t do, as usual, but this time the gods have decreed that Sigyn be captured until Loki show some results. Enter The World Tree Detective Agency, Loki’s pet project.)

A Cat & His Box: 25,319 words (Sci-fi, Humor)
(Fel is officially a runaway–alongside their three friends and Dingy, a Spacelot, which happens to be some sort of two-tailed space-faring feline with a witty AI named Noire in the mysterious Box, a special ship with a special trait, which, if you couldn’t guess, is that it was stolen.)
The Community: 5,712 words (Sci-fi)
(Zan and Wicket are from different Sectors–different worlds, really–but Zan doesn’t see what the big deal is about sharing his space with her. The Community has its regulations, however, and the consequences are not so kind.)
Dark Blood: 10,625 words (Thriller, Horror)
(Cindy is shy and new to the island, and the council just doesn’t seem to care for her very much. The resident goof seems not to mind her though, and so they try a thing called friendship. And then she’s attacked.)
Dreamscape: 7,165 words (Drama, Romance)
(John is desperately trying to smuggle Elise out of the country, before she can be hacked open and exploited by the government he worked for. John is now unemployed.)
Duality: 2,613 words (undisclosed)
(I cannot talk about this project under penalty of death or disappointment, I’m not entirely sure which.)
Just Business: 6,483 words (Romance)
(Alice is recruited by a secretive organization to do work. Nothing terribly specific, and her coworkers are not the most forthcoming.)
Purity: 152 words (Fantasy)
(J is under arrest when the world suddenly decides to dissolve all around him.)
The Silver Coin: 836 words (Romance)
(The caravan is on the move, and Ariana can hardly fend for herself. That’s where Dimitri comes in, with his infamous silver coin, and their migration for survival twists into a knot.)
What Lies Beyond: 4,678 words (…)
(A series of questionable events that I have lived through.)
Winter Red: 53,662 words (Thriller)
(Melinda escaped the noise of the world, only to find herself in the hands of a serial killer. But when he doesn’t murder her immediately, and slowly teaches her the tools of the trade, is it trauma or fate that guides her own hand?)
(Untitled Drabble): 682 words (Supernatural, Romance)
(Clein and Thom have a symbiotic relationship. Clein gets to fulfill his social needs outside of having a pack, and Thom can possess him on the regular. It has its benefits.)
(Untitled Sherlock Holmes): 631 words (Mystery, Thriller)
(Watson has seen Holmes through many a case, but he isn’t sure he is willing to stand by his friend any longer.)

~Lils

In Which, Nyra Learns the Importance of Friendships

S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.

So when The Waters of Nyra: Volume I flew onto the scene, I made sure I gave it as thorough a review as my inexperienced brain could. I’m a little delayed in giving its sequel, The Waters of Nyra: Volume II, the same treatment. But, as I’m sure other self-published authors are aware, a review is better late than never! While Nyra’s story as a whole is a continuation between two volumes (this is its completion, for the record), this is still Kelly’s second venture into self-publishing itself.

Allow me to take a moment to address a grievance I’ve seen people take with Volume I, as well as other stories written in this method: not everything will be answered to your liking. Volume I very clearly ends in a critical moment, a held breath, a cliffhanger. I was surprised to learn that some people reading it were expressing frustration with not knowing what was going on, with not knowing answers to questions laced throughout Volume I’s telling. It… it’s a two-part story, an adventure that, I might add, is clearly not done. That people expect total fulfillment in such a situation is startling, but I can only assume it has something to do with some sort of sense of entitlement to all knowledge involved. They must prefer episodic content as opposed to long-term plots, I think. It leaves me with a curious sensation. But, as always, to each their own!

For those who stick around to find out, Volume II kicks off right where Volume I ends. And I daresay it was worth the minor wait. Nyra is still imprisoned by her herd’s hopeful-saviors, the Zealers. She shares this prison with Olieve, a blind Zealer with a rather curious, difficult personality that I think holds supremely well throughout this story. Through her, we are educated about the Zealers’ own troublesome situation. Theirs is a divided herd suffering from a feud spawned by Nyra’s own herd of Agrings; split into the Sorjas and Raklisalls.

Immediately as the tale begins anew, Kelly builds on the history of Nyra’s world, all the while building the personality of this new character. The characters she creates are not images of perfection, physically or mentally. They have faults, they slip up, make mistakes, suffer from inflated egos–and some of them manage to stumble their way into a more rounded, learned and experienced existence. Considering that younger people can easily read this tale, the characterization is a wonderful gem, allowing them to enjoy a good story and learn subtle lessons about how to carry oneself through strife, how to negotiate and socialize in less than ideal situations, and so much more. It sort of feels like we’re losing touch with that aspect of ourselves, and I’m glad Kelly has a touch for writing it.

Nyra is forced to accept that the previous book’s hard journey is nowhere near the end of her task. For now, it is not about the physical journey, but the psychological. During her stay in the Zealers’ territory, there is much nervous action and still more characters with curious personalities. Then it’s the return journey, fraught with just as much peril as before, to face down the Sperks and free Nyra’s herd. Unexpectedly, we find that many, many more dragons that we expect benefit from Nyra’s struggles.

While I do start these entries with a spoiler-tag, I do not set out to openly spoil major plot points. As such, since the points I’d absolutely love to discuss are integral to the overreaching plot of this tale, I’m going to refrain from speaking on them. But Oharassie makes his return, and that’s absolutely smashing. He remains my favorite character, not for a fault amongst the rest, but for his peculiar brand of assistance. Plus, I can’t help but love aquatic dragons!

The most pivotal, important choice in the writing of this story to me is that Nyra’s original problem, the captivity of her herd, isn’t solved by the Zealers of legend, but rather, by the fruits of her journey. There is something particularly admirable in this, and, quite frankly, it is my favorite aspect of both volumes. Her journey is made more meaningful; without the strife, the connections, and her growth, the Agrings may have never known freedom. There is happiness, there are grey characters (“purple dragons”) who do not fit in with their own kind, and–important to myself, personally–there is no character killed off solely for the sake of dramatic tension. The characters are used to their fullest potential, meeting their fates and overcoming adversities. The ending events are ultimately satisfying, safe for younger readers while at the same time proving realistic for more mature minds. A delicate line to dance that I think Kelly is quite excelled at.

There is also a matter of messages or potential discussion points. There are plenty. The most important of all is the ability to rely on oneself, but not to forget the kindness of others. So much of Nyra’s journey was rooted in a twisted truth, but the only way to move on and resolve her problems was to make a new truth. If only more of us were so willing to learn and adapt, like dearest Nyra. I absolutely recommend this reading for younger kids; if you don’t think them old enough to understand, read with them! Take the time to teach them words, explain situations to them. This story is ripe for enjoyment for both parent and child, or sitter and child, or friend to friend, or child to adult! Seriously. Reading is an absolutely beautiful thing, encouraging the imagination, growth, and complex thought, and Kelly’s writing certainly supports all this and more. I’ve seen whispers of her writing future fantasy and sci-fi stories, and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. For little Nyra, however, there is the promise of peace, with a world of potential.

Interested in The Waters of Nyra? It can be purchased here.

Feel free to visit Kelly at her own site, while you’re at it!

~Lils

In Which, Nyra Learns the Importance of Story-telling

S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.

The Waters of Nyra is an interesting thing for me. For one, it is a friend’s endeavor. For another, I helped push it through the doors, the end result being the pretty little book sitting beside my desk. One day it will see a mate, and I will possibly have the answers to some very curious questions. Until then, book one.

Something I did not admit to at the time, but saw little reason to worry Kelly about: I tend to be critical over a friend’s writing. Over any writing. If the writing style is a broken mule, if the grammar looks like a smithy dwarf tried to form a haiku, I shudder and look away. I often turn to simple story-telling with friends, because it’s safer. They may not excel there either, but at least I don’t strain my eyes (I’m nearly legally blind as it is). That being said, The Waters of Nyra is not poorly written. Yes, it made me feel like I was in sixth grade again–but for a simple, private joy, not some irksome crime against literature (I jest, by the by. Writing in itself is a joy that is free to be experienced by all–the crime is expectation). It was in sixth grade that I ran across my first Brian Jacques story, my first discovery of Redwall. Until then, my experience with animals being characters in books was limited to Aesop’s Fables. I’m not particularly sure if I’d actually read The Chronicles of Narnia by this stage (though I know I’d seen the BBC adaptation several times over). Mind, these are all books I still own and read. I adore them. One of the simplest joys of my childhood was escaping into the mind of a beast. It’s with this in mind that 2121 has characters like Vegas Star. I enjoy them. So to be told that Nyra was a draggling, in a society of dragons, wasn’t the least bit troublesome. To discover that opening the cover was like stepping into my childhood again, was just plain disturbing.

I am a vivid person. Call it the schizophrenia, the intelligence, or the just plain weirdness, my brain is one big ball of concentrated experiences. So when I read the first few lines of The Waters of Nyra, a new experience took form. Slowly, the smells and awkward noises of my middle school library lifted away and were replaced by fresh coffee and my cat’s dusty fur. I was intrigued by the lack of “bad” writing. It wasn’t just the lack, it was that it was rather good. I’d never seen Kelly’s writing before to have an idea of what I was getting into, I’d only known that we had enjoyed some of the same things.

What I enjoyed about this was simple. It was a world. It was a world through the eyes of a young one, soon to be not-so-young–a world of discovery, beautiful and painful all at once. There were dragons, yes. There were multiple races of dragons, in conflict with one another, as any other society of beings tends to be. There were very dark things lurking so close–the implications behind Thaydra’s missing wing an early warning. Nyra’s people were an oppressed people, but as a child living under the oppression, it was all Nyra knew. The gap of thought between generations is clear and well-written for such a difficult topic. As a reader, you experience the story through Nyra (almost entirely, as far as book one is concerned), and she, in essence, has blinders on. When they are removed, violently, she is forced to go on a journey of growth and discovery, both physical and mental. Her world expands. She meets other dragons, other creatures. She is alone, and she is not alone.

Something struck me early on as critical, and it only comes into play at the very end of the book. Nyra herself observes that the glowing orb of light in the Green Spot to be similar to the one the elder Fuhorn takes out during their secretive Gathering, the orb with such significance. The orb that is proof that will save the Agrings. The orb is a physical representation to them of hope, much like a written pact. If only someone can escape their oppressors and send word to the Zealers for help. …So what of that second orb? The Green Spot was special, yes, but I wanted a reason.

Kelly gave me a reason. Not through explanation, not through talking it over with me, but by crafting a plot point that resounded hard with something that was told to Nyra early on: they tell the stories so that the young may know. So that the information is not lost. But stories always have a minimum of two versions. Not only did I enjoy the revelation of this moment, of its execution, but I enjoyed it for what it was: the promise of something altogether unexpected. It left me with the distinct understanding that The Waters of Nyra‘s second half would be something I’d have to discover in the second half. This is not always the case with books, and it was refreshing.

My favorite character (and yes, I do feel the need to stress characters when I review–I read for characters), was a swiftly made choice. Oharassie. Sure, the Xerfexes had my attention, beings so different from Nyra while still in essence being the same thing–dragons. But Oharassie had a quality to him that I find endearing in these sorts of stories: the wise. He was unobtrusive, quietly quirky, friendly, a parent and a friend. He didn’t force anything on Nyra, but simply nudged her. Nyra would not have liked the forcing. I was left with the distinct impression that she needed someone like him then, and that therefore was a relationship I wanted prolonged. I enjoyed Nyra. I speak of her briefly in a previous review I’d written, but it’s because I have simple thoughts towards her. She is enjoyable. She is believable. She is coming of age, a dragon, a born slave, named after her land, in essence, for the concept of freedom and future promise. She acts out, she misbehaves, she is punished. She loves, she pouts, she misunderstands. She is a very full creature, and hardly a disappointment to be the reader’s eyes as she makes her way.

For all that this story was up against in my weird little grey matter platter full of concepts and biases, The Waters of Nyra warmed me. It was made its place in my heart, and I read it in six hours in one sitting, missing sleep without a care. Sleep can come later. The land of dreams is very much a book of its own, and I will open it when I am good and ready, and I was not. That is the sort of book Kelly has written. In short, reading Nyra wasn’t a task. It was an experience. An exercise in something that I’d long forgotten, had banished to the realms of “books I loved as a child”. The books that, no matter how many times I move, are the first things packed, carefully, lovingly. If you know me, you know I lose a lot when I move. I refuse to lose these things, these physical, relivable memories.

An extra tidbit since I find it important to my experience with this book. When Kelly sent me my copy, I found in its pages a gift card. This flustered me, because it was too much a joy to be involved to actually need such a thing, but one can’t insult another’s kindness, either. So how could I make this gift, this experience, even more memorable to me (and worth the extra effort for her!)? I spent a few hours considering my now greatly reduced library. I lost my Redwall series in a hurricane, but that was twenty-two books (much apologies if I’m off in that count) and there were smaller, equally memorable series that needed help.

There is a dedication in 2121: The Redford Files in regards to my best friend, Britt. The girl who explored these worlds with me, growing up. The girl who would never get to read my own creation. Before she died, she was making an effort to fill her library of these very sort of books, wasn’t she? And she had borrowed a few of mine, to read, while she did so. Animorphs. Growing up, we each owned every other ten books. Between us, we owned the series. It was she who discovered it, she who showed me books one and two when I was in fourth grade. She had picked them up at the Scholastic book fair. And they changed something in my mind, something in the ways I regarded words. That was the starting point for me. Well, jump forward over a decade, and I own the full series, short two books, which Britt owned. I would get them one day, I reasoned. Dangerous words for an out of print series, but the internet has made such words less painful. She had borrowed the chunk she was lacking for several months, but finally returned them to me. I noticed The Sickness was missing. A very singular book, as far as the characters’ experiences go. Book 29. So I texted her this fact, alongside my little note of love. She didn’t respond; she never responded to things anymore. It was the last one-sided communication I had with her in life. Fast forward a year, and what is left of her belongings is being sorted out. Much of it stolen or ruined in rain. I hoped to find that book, so ironically named. I did not, but I picked up the two books I was missing from my collection before. Still playing the sharing game, even in death.

Yes, I would finally fill that gap. Book 29 would return to its place, and I would, for the first time in my life, own the complete collection of Animorphs. I could associate such a triumph with this book, this new experience. What I’ve known of Kelly has always been a wonderful, kind spirit, friendly in ways that that particular group of kids were. All this drama aside, I’d made a decision. Used books online come fairly cheap, aside from shipping costs. What else? Ah, Everworld. A friend in high school had once given me book 2 of the 12 volume series (K. A. Applegate, same as Animorphs). It renewed my fervor for words at the time, of memories in words. I had never read that series, but it was just as endearing, engrossing, as her other. I’ve since read them through libraries. Book 1, you will come to me. One day, the other ten. But for now, book 1. Shipping costs are adding up. What to finalize the deal? Feeling, having associated Kelly’s book with my terrible love of Animorphs and Norse (and alien) gods, it would only be fair to look at two particular hard covers that elude my grasp. Sure, I own The Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but the version I own is aged, highlighted, and generic. One day I’d like to own one with that damned goofy face. But it cost too much, so I set my eye on the next task. The one that I can never seem to be satisfied with. The Chronicles of Narnia. I owned a complete volume once (paperback), that mysteriously vanished, as things are wont to do when you’re crazy and/or move a lot. It took years to replace, and when I did, it was simply because of a pricing error that saved me forty dollars. I was not satisfied with the books themselves. Where were the original arts I remembered? They were as much a part of the books as the words, back then. I found a copy, and my head spun. Two dollars. The next price tier was fifty. Someone was (supposedly) selling this particular volume I wanted, for two dollars, in (supposedly) good condition. Nevermind if it lacked its dust cover, never mind if it was just a paperback masquerading. It was two dollars and a chance. I took the leap of faith. I received that dusty old hardcover, with its red ribbon, its dust cover, its colorful old drawings and maps. I received the book I had been looking for years for, for two dollars.

Whatever Kelly’s experience has been over the years of writing The Waters of Nyra, of setting it aside, of deciding to finalize the experience, of sharing that with me, this was my experience with this book. Because the experience isn’t always just reading the words. You don’t escape the clutches of the worlds you learned to love just by closing the door, closing the cover. Narnia taught me that much. And the best thing about this book? It’s only the first leg of Nyra’s journey.

Interested in The Waters of Nyra? It can be purchased here.

Feel free to visit Kelly at her own site, while you’re at it!

~Lils